With the power of the Quantum Realm, we’re going back. in. time! (Not even sure if that’s how it works don’t get mad.)
I’ve had a vociferous time writing these CinemAce articles and have really enjoyed the feedback and ensuing friendly debates born out of them. So, I’ve turned back the dial to 2013 —when Blackberry’s held onto dear life and Twitter was still reserved for famous people— and proudly present to you my 2013 CinemAce Rankings!
It was a good year. No F’s were given. Barely.
49. Gravity; D-
Visually it’s absolutely incredible, but I think I fell asleep multiple times in this 90 minute movie.
48. Oblivion; D-
About a half hour into the Tom Cruise movie, I’m wondering when something is going to happen. Another hour later and I’m still wondering. It’s a beautiful movie and I love the post-apocalyptic genre (boy do we need a real Ultron), but Oblivion is woefully uneventful and also manages to do nothing with Morgan Freeman.
47. Pacific Rim; D+
Pacific Rim definitely packs a punch, with numerous humongous fight scenes between unearthed monsters and building-sized robots. It all looks good but Guillermo Del Toro’s big budget affair checks all the “corny” boxes of acting, dialogue and story along the way.
46. 2 Guns; C-
2 Guns oozed with Hollywood talent. With Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg at the leads, accompanied by Bill Paxton (RIP), Edward James Olmos and James Marsden, the movie doesn’t lack signature faces. It does lack a comprehensive narrative and is saved from the depths of cinema hell by said cast.
45. Dark Skies; C
A memorable moment or two, especially a particular window scene with Keri Russell, and an intriguing alien premise.
44. The Iceman; C+
Led by the stoic jawline of Michael Shannon and the charismatic wig on Chris Evans, The Iceman is full of great character beats by the leads, but lacks much beyond that in terms of story and interest.
43. Her; C+
I imagine being a ridiculously sexy AI in Her helped Scarlett Johansson land the Best Buy gig. Joaquin Phoenix is fantastic, as anyone named Joaquin best be, but the movie is pretty slow-moving.
42. American Hustle; B-
A superstar cast of actors who have all been in superhero blockbusters: Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Bradley Cooper (Rocket Raccoon), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Christian Bale (the goddamn Batman).
It’s a good movie with good acting, but frankly, Jennifer Lawrence brings me down. Perhaps it’s the heightened sense of self-importance that rivals Messiah himself. She’s one of the few weaknesses of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is the best X-Men movie Fox has managed to deliver. I got off track.
41. The Great Gatsby; B-
It’s a sight to behold, with incredible CGI backgrounds and beautiful set design. Tobey Maguire is excellent, as is Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of a star-studded cast. Acting isn’t our problem here, rather a long-winded plot and a questionable creative decision to heavily feature Jay-Z and rap music into the old story. Craig Armstrong’s score is another positive, though, old sport.
40. Ender’s Game; B-
Like Hunger Games (stay tuned), Ender’s Game was a book I got to read in school and enjoyed! Wish I could say the same for The Hobbit. (Or for that matter the Lord of the Rings movies.)
I think almost-Spidey Asa Butterfield is a good actor. Maybe even great, He’s likable and talented, I just don’t buy him and his double-digit weighing persona as a fortifiable lead. I do buy Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley as Hyrum Graff and Mazer Rackham, respectively.
39. Insidious; Chapter 2; B-
Expanding on the characters and story from the successful first installment in 2010, James Wan returned to direct and went even further into the…further…to spin another solid scary movie. Big fan of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne.
38. Now You See Me; B-
Like The Hunger Games, Now You See Me has an all-star cast that shines brightest with its senior members. In fact, the younger members are dangerously unlikable. A cool twist ending but the plot gets a little too crazy, even for me.
Fun fact: Ruffalo starred in the film for Louis Leterrier who directed Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. To think you almost didn’t have that information!
37. Kick-Ass 2; B
After the huge success of the first Kick-Ass, which is one of my favorite comics and movies of all time, Kick-Ass 2 had the unfortunate task to go at it without director Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn moved on from the hit Mark Millar comic to work on a movie with Millar’s new project Kingsman. No complaints…at all.
The sequel to the 2010 film doesn’t have a lot of things that made the first one special. It actually sticks remarkably close to the source material, which is absolutely batsh*t crazy. The comic sequel was insanely over-the-top, even for the risqué Millar. So I can’t really blame the movie for following suit.
But the liberties you can take on the page don’t transfer as well to the big screen. Also, the Kick-Ass/Hit-Girl relationship gets a little more serious than I would have liked. Sometimes BFF’s is enough. Also Jim Carrey is fantastic.
36. Man of Steel; B
“From the producer of The Dark Knight trilogy…” I really don’t think Christopher Nolan had much to do with Man of Steel. Maybe the first half minus the inexplicable circumstances surrounding the death of Pa Kent.
The origin of Superman is the movie’s strong point, doing a fine job of setting up his journey from Krypton to Earth and going through Kal-El/Clark’s childhood. Michael Shannon is also a great General Zod, respecting the former role of Terrence Stamp. But once Superman is born, the movie goes full goth.
Nolan’s Batman trilogy thrived off of the “dark” tone. Batman is a dark, vigilante character. Superman is the beacon of hope. That doesn’t mean we want rainbows and cats needing saving from trees, but the movie’s fateful ending —coming after almost 30 minutes of fighting— is unbearably brutal for Superman or pretty much any comic book hero. And to end with a “Superman is hot” joke…sigh.
35. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; B
If not for J-La, the Hunger games sequel is probably higher. It’s a problem not to like the lead and it’s not like Josh Hutcherson or Liam Hemsworth are brilliant either. The rest of the cast, the elder statesmen and women, are the best parts of all four movies. Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland dominate the screen every time they’re on it.
34. Star Trek Into Darkness; B+
While we’re buying and selling, I absolutely adore Benedict Cumberbatch and his weird face. He has another movie on this 2013 list that didn’t do so hot, but I love because of him and his fake Australian accent. (We’ll get there.)
However, I have to sell him as Khan. The middle entry of the modern Star Trek trilogy is my least least memorable and least favorite of the bunch. Still has the benefit of Michael Giacchino’s incredible score.
33. Side Effects; B+
I love the idea here from Steven Soderbergh. Tackling the medicinal obsession society possesses is a brilliant idea. It’s just a little too ambitious and ends up being far more confusing that it had to be. Reminds me of Split in the sense that it took a relatable, realistic premise and got a little too crazy. Still, I absolutely love Jude Law and his previous team-up with Soderbergh, Contagion, is one of my all-timers.
32. Olympus Has Fallen; B+
Laughably unrealistic and totally ridiculous, which is usually enough to completely lose me. But Gerard Butler is on his absolute A-game, as is Aaron Eckhart who plays a President named Asher, which I obviously dig. The action is insane and the plot packs a lot more emotional than you’d expect, which helps the movie extend itself away from its own chaotic self.
31. Lone Survivor; A-
The first of four fact-based movies director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg made (Patriots Day being my favorite, Deepwater Horizon is decent and I never saw Mile 22). Lone Survivor ignited the fruitful partnership between the two and is a humbling experience. Ben Foster is underappreciated.
30. The Fifth Estate; A-
Not very well-received, the “based on a true story” motion picture about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stars the aforementioned Cumberbatch and future MCU pal Daniel Brühl. It’s very similar to The Social Network and Snowden, not as good as the former and better than the latter (in my opinion’s).
29. Mama; A-
Felt like this one flew under the radar, but Mama is scary and has an engaging plot, something you can’t always say for a scary movie. Derelict houses and abandoned children are a helluva pair.
28. World War Z; A-
A sequel is supposedly finally arriving this year, with the valiant David Fincher directing and Brad Pitt returning, which I’m excited about. Like I said regarding Oblivion, I love end-of-the-world movies. Zombies? Even better. Absolutely love I Am Legend, Zombieland and stay tuned for Warm Bodies. (And don’t even get me going on The Last of Us!)
World War Z is beautifully shot (shoutout Israel!) and realistically executed. It drags a bit at times but has insane set pieces and awesome zombie mob CGI.
27. Carrie; A-
A remake that was justified for more than the upgrade in visual effects and the valuable practice of said VFX in scary movies. There are some things a human body just can’t do. The “scare work” in new Carrie, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianna Moore, is off the charts. Especially in the last act. Those two —as well as Ansel Elgort— carry the film. Always a worry in scary movies that have young people (looking at you 2018 Halloween ), sometimes people are put on screen to be overtly annoying. That’s…a bit annoying.
26. The Purge; A-
Not end-of-the-world per se, but a frightening reflection of humanity that warrants relative consideration. The Purge films are mocked a bit for their insane premise, but society is nearing a tipping point anyway and seeing what the world could be is disconcerting. The scariest movies to me are ones with horrific real-world applications. Also love me some Ethan Hawke.
25. The Wolverine; A-
Following the disaster that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which itself followed the tragic X-Men: The Last Stand, Marvel and Fox’s X-Men division was in a tough spot. They rebooted successfully in 2011 with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class and with Marvel’s biggest roster of mutants available to them…they decided to do another Wolverine movie.
Hugh Jackman is one of my very favorite actors (perhaps the favorite) so I’m always up for more Wolverine, who is by far my favorite X-Men character from the comics. (Magneto second.) The Wolverine was a major step up from Origins, but loses its own gritty, grounded identity in the third act.
It was a start, leading up to a third try at Wolverine in 2017 with Logan, again directed by James Mangold, who claims major studio interference when working on The Wolverine.
24. Dallas Buyers Club; A
Matthew McConaughey channels his inner Christian Bale (even working with Christopher Nolan on Interstellar next), dropping serious weight and stripping down to his bare bones. The HIV/AIDS epidemic —like most human history— is full of stories and Dallas Buyers Club is all about the lengths you’ll go to to stay alive. The lengths, and also the resources no matter where they come from. McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner are all spectacular.
23. Rush; A
Unofficial MCU team-up alert! Chris Hemsworth (current Thor) and Daniel Brühl (future Zemo) share the stage in Ron Howard’s true story adaptation about Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. I motion for Brühl to play all Austrian/German actors. All of them. Speaking of Germany, Hans Zimmer scored Rush and continues to deliver time and time again.
22. Elysium; A+
Up-and-coming sci-fi director Neill Blomkamp seemed to flame out as fast as he arrived. Not for me and I’m really bummed he never got to direct an Alien movie. (Ridley Scott didn’t want to step aside just yet.) Blomkamp helmed three movies from 2009 to 2015, with Matt Damon’s Elysium sandwiched by the incredible District 9 and fantastically creative Chappie.
D9 and Chappie hold elite rankings on my all-time list, with Elysium not that far behind. Blomkamp has a unique flare for the semi-post-apocalyptic/things-have-gone-nuts genre and I (im)patiently await his next endeavor.
21. The Kings of Summer; A+
The breakout film for both director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and young actor Nick Robinson, both would soon go on to literally bigger things. Vogt-Roberts used The Kings of Summer (not related to the incomparable Ayokay song) to earn the job on 2017’s smash hit Kong: Skull Island while Robinson parlayed the part into a key role on Jurassic World in 2015. As for the film at hand, it also has one of my favorite actors, Nick Offerman, up to his usual likable charm (despite the circumstances) and former Hannah Montana co-star Moises Arias steals the show.
20. The Wolf of Wall Street; A+
The garish Oscar community rewarded Leonardo DiCaprio with the long, long overdue flagship Best Actor Award in 2016 for The Revenant, but he probably should have had it in 2014 right here. Ironically, he lost to Matthew McConaughey, who had a bit part in the film and won with Dallas Buyers Club (just above). DiCaprio is the perfect corporate sleazeball and the creative direction of all-timer Martin Scorsese is on full display.
19. The Butler; A+
Like any great actor, Forest Whitaker has done some truly diverse roles. He’s a laugh riot in American Dad! as Detective Turlington, a dangerous rogue (wink) rebel in Rogue One and a stone cold boxing trainer in Southpaw. His coup de gráce is perhaps The Butler. The true story of a slave-turned-White House staple, it’s an emotional journey to see it end with the glimmer of hope that was Barack Obama’s 2008 election. Slavery is a scar on human history and I’m always interested in movies that tackle the subject.
18. We’re the Millers; A+
Speaking of Axe Cop himself Mr. Offerman…
“Don’t go chasing waterfalls.” Words to live by. Ashamed to admit Jennifer Anniston’s body helped the grade. Sorry, 2019. A well-done, consistently funny movie with excellent casting.
17. This is the End; A+
I’m gonna go ahead and spoil that Kevin Hart is killed off and killed off early. That’s the only way I like my Kevin Hart performances. Once the apocalypse has happened (darn), we’re left with a small set of actors that thankfully make the film the laugh fest it is. James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Hermione herself, Emma Watson, are all great. The utter disregard for the fourth wall, and the fact that it takes place in the “real” world, makes This Is the End even more hilarious.
16. Prisoners; A+
Before Sicario, Dennis Villeneuve packed a gut punch with Prisoners. Starring Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard as fathers who lose their daughters in a kidnapping, Jake Gyllenhaal as the eye-twitching detective and Paul Dano as the super awkward suspect, Prisoners is intense and thrilling as it gets. It’s a little too long, coming in at over two and a half hours, but it stays true to its own desperation and I appreciate that.
15. Warm Bodies; A+
Rob Corddry, who usually plays rambunctious characters (Semi-Pro, Hot Tub Time Machine) is the tenderest, most loving zombie ever in Warm Bodies. In fact, zombies are not bad, they’re just misunderstood. And hungry. Okay some are bad. Warm Bodies is a tale about a human and zombie falling in…understanding-and-maybe-love. Marco Beltrami’s music adds to an unexpectedly poignant movie.
14. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox; A+
Based on the Flashpoint comic from popular comic book scribe Geoff Johns, the animated companion to the extremely unique comic is one of the finest animated DC films. As demonstrated by the title, the Flash is the star and the premise is perfectly fictitious, requiring time travel, human lightning experiments and a heaping helping of Flash’s signature “speed force.”
Like the title also indicates, this isn’t just a Flash story. Very much like the Injustice video games (and incredibly accompanying comic tie-ins), an alternate universe where things go terribly wrong and the good guys go bad plays an integral part.
Sometimes it’s quite entertaining to see heroes tear each other apart, and this comic as well as Injustice is as dark, violent and deadly as it gets in that regard. Another big plus for me and the Bat-fans is the critical role that a certain Mr. Wayne plays.
13. 12 Years a Slave; A+
Movies about slavery and racism fascinate me. It is hard to stomach —and literally unbelievable— the way human beings have acted in this world. Of the travesties in our past, slavery takes the cake. Few movies dive as deep and is intimately into slavery as 12 Years a Slave did.
A brilliant cast led by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and Chiewtel Ejiofor as well as Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodward, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch and even Brad Pitt is in there, this movie is worthy of its all-star cast and tackles extremely sensitive material with exquisite care and effectiveness. '
12. One Direction: This is Us; A+
*ducks to dodge the hate*
The concert movie following the rise of British boy band One Direction, directed by Morgan Spurlock of all people (Super Size Me) is one of the best concert films I’ve seen. It can’t just be concerts —that would be all music— and This Is Us takes us behind the scenes for a truthful look into the lives of young men who have been thrust into stardom.
Do I feel bad for them and their absence of a”real” life? No. But the movie does an admirable job of showing the world they live in—hundreds of consecutive live shows, armies of screaming girls and a laughable lack of privacy— isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (But they didn’t all have to get so many tattoos.)
11. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues; A+
Nine years after the first Ron Burgundy film, the legend, well, continued. A lot of people weren’t happy. You know how touchy people are about sequels. I thought the second Anchorman movie was just as good as the first. On some days I wake up thinking it might have even been better. Calling it a sequel doesn’t really fit, it’s more of a continuation.
It’s just a lot more nonsense, a lot more Will Ferrell and a lot more of Ferrell’s fabulous friends (Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner). If you’re up for that, you’re gonna love it. The final act might be the most cameo’d scene ever. It’s nuts. But that’s the point.
10. Fruitvale Station; A+
Slavery is gone, but racism still exists and takes a violent toll on the modern world. One of those instances was on New Year’s Day in 2009 when 22-year old Oscar Grant III was shot and killed by a police officer.
It’s an emotional movie and when the moment of consequence arrives, you feel it in your gut. Also absolutely have to point out that this began the relationship between director Ryan Coogler and up-and-coming star Michael B. Jordan, who would go on to do Creed together in 2015 and Black Panther in 2018.
9. The Conjuring; A+
Horror guru James Wan is known for Saw, Insidious and as of 2013 The Conjuring. Now he’s known as the unofficial studio head of all the Conjuring spinoffs, having introduced the characters Annabelle in 2013 and the Nun in 2016’s Conjuring pre-sequel.
Bringing Insidious lead Patrick Wilson over to a new universe along with the extremely talented Vera Farmiga, The Conjuring is a scary movie that has scares (duh) but also great acting, script and plot. Wan is known for the scares, but it was nice to see a narrative upgrade from Insidious.
8. You’re Next; A+
Like The Strangers, one of my favorite horror films ever, I’m absolutely terrified of home invasions. You’re Next isn’t a typical home invasion, but a home is indeed invaded and hell absolutely breaks loose. Literally it is total, massive, unending carnage, with an unconventional, unsuspecting hero that kicks so many butts. What kind of name is Crispin anyway?
7. Captain Phillips; A+
Like everybody, Tom Hanks is an actor that I greatly admire. There is no question about the man’s greatness and outside of Toy Story, this is my favorite film from the acting legend. Quickly meme’ing the internet by storm due to the dynamite performance from unknown Somali actor Barkhad Abdi, the pirates in the movie are literally brilliantly casted.
Then there’s Hanks, who turns in an emotional rollercoaster of a performance, including a third act that moves a viewer intimately and shares the terrifying, tragic and real experience. Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t point out Henry Jackman’s composition.
6. The Way, Way Back; A+
Speaking of dynamite performances, this lesser-known movie from first-time directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (they also wrote the film) is one of the best of the year. Steve Carrell puts on his serious, mean stepdad hat and is great in a role you wouldn’t expect from him. Liam James plays the main character admirably, but the film belongs to the charismatic wit of Sam Rockwell.
The movie is meant to be moving and about family as well as a coming-of-age tale, but it can’t help but shine brightest in its comedic moments. Faxon and Rash are comedy guys and they give Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry and Rash himself absolutely hilarious material.
5. Broadway Idiot; A+
The making of the making of the broadway show inspired by one of the greatest albums of all time, Green Day’s American Idiot, Broadway Idiot finishes off a trifecta of musically produced movies of 2013. Green Day is one of my favorite bands ever (as well as God’s favorite band) and frontman Billy Joe Armstrong is one of the most talented human beings to walk this Earth. Rocking it since way back in 1986, generations have come to know one of the most revolutionary bands ever.
Musicians always strive to tell stories in their music -like anyone would through their artwork- but what can get lost behind Green Day’s roaring anti-establishment anthems is the stories they tell. American idiot tells the story of St. Jimmy and Whatshername. 21st Century Breakdown, another heavy inspiration for the musical, introduces us to Christian and Gloria. Few have and will ever accomplish what Green Day has. A combination of the production, candid interviews with the band members and obviously the the music make for my favorite music movie to date.
4. Thor: The Dark World; A+
One of the least popular Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, the Thor sequel faced behind the scenes drama with director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones). Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) was previously attached and it seems like The Dark World fell victim to a lot of Marvel and their new benefactor Disney figuring things out.
With that said, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are great and everything that takes place in the cosmos is fantastic. Jane and Darcy and Earth get fleshed out a bit more, and I think that’s where the negative feedback stems from. More Stellan Skarsgård is absolutely welcome, though.
Even though it isn’t one of the MCU’s finest films, it has one of the universe’s best soundtracks from Brian Tyler (who scored both 2013 MCU films) and it’s hard to peel your eyes away from Hemsworth’s and Hiddleston’s chemistry.
3. 42; A+
A story that needed proper cinematic telling for many, many years, finally in 2013 we got 42. Not only is it faithful, emotional and also a lot of fun (which baseball can struggle to be!), it introduced future Hollywood star Chadwick Boseman to the world. He’s absolutely terrific as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford is equally touching as Branch Rickey.
42 masters the ability to be both a biopic as well as a feature film. The balancing act of telling a true story that is literally one for the ages, while also injecting heart and fun but not losing sight of the history and the inexplicable way the world used to behave. It’s a movie that Jackie —who just celebrated his 100th birthday on January 31— would be very proud of.
2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2; A+
Outside of Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (identifying primary subtitles, so helpful) is my favorite animated movie from the DC universe. Along with The Flashpoint Paradox, 2013 was a big year in that department. It is, as indicated, the second part of the cinematic adaptation from the historical comic of the same name. Frank Miller’s 1986 iconic graphic novel set the stage for a much darker and accepted comic book world, also helping kick off the graphic novel wave as a credible way of storytelling.
The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 comes after the groundwork of Part 1, which I don’t want to say much about because I can’t recommend the comic and/or movie(s) enough. It’s the inspiration for so many Batman, Superman and Justice League stories (for better or worse). Pitting two of our favorite heroes up against each other just wasn’t something that was done, especially with such brutality and consequences.
There’s a lot —a lot— going on in the novel-turned-movie. It’s decades in the future with an older, meaner Batman. Superman works for the U.S. government and is essentially President Ronald Reagan’s lapdog. The Justice League is no more and the world is not better for it.
Neither is the Joker. Or Two-Face (an addition to the film). Or a prostituted Selina Kyle. Or a retiring Jim Gordon. Or anyone. It’s dark, very dark, but that was the goal and it set the stage for a new era in comic books that made it okay for these fantasy stories to be told through the dark filter of reality.
1. Iron Man 3; A+
After the monumental success and achievement the previous summer with The Avengers, Marvel Studios did what a lot of people thought they wouldn’t do: continue solo movies. The universe had officially become a shared playing field, but the movies stuck to their comic roots and continued to tell solo stories without forcing team-ups to tackle every baddie. That’s not how this game works.
Iron Man 3 is looked back on with controversy, for nothing more than the way it handled popular Iron Man villain “the Mandarin.” Connecting loosely with the “Ten Rings” organization that was hinted at in the first Iron Man, it all ends up being a bit of a misdirect.
Was I initially crazy about it? No, but the acting from the main players —Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall— is so great and the story still comes together beautifully to justify the creative leap.
It was a box office killer, grossing over $1 billion which no other solo MCU movie has besides Black Panther, and it really is a fantastic movie and, to me, one of Marvel’s most fun films. Brian Tyler scored both this and the Thor sequel six months later and knocked both out of their respective parks.
Robert Downey Jr. carries the movie on his heroic shoulders, but we also get much more of Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes/War Machine/retconned Iron Patriot, something I was really happy to see. Since Iron Man 2 and 3, Rhodey has gotten the short end of the stick
Iron Man 3 only gets better for me with time. Like Avengers: Age of Ultron in a sense, the initial impression might be a tad underwhelming, especially given the expectations of every MCU movie. (Eventually they’ll make a bad one, right?) But when you look at it objectively, you’re looking at one of the best times you can have at the theater…and my number one moving picture of 2013.