Best of 2013: The Movies

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Who doesn’t love lists?

We here at Pop-Break were raised on lists. We love them like we love bears, Keanu Reeves’ surfer movies and all things pop culture.

So as we do every year, we present to you our personal favorites in film, music (albums and songs) and television.

Daniel Cohen (Film Editor, Senior Editor):

1. Her: Let’s see, if you took When Harry Met Sally, As Good as it Gets, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, (500) Days of Summer, and Pinocchio, added in an extra coat of drama and put it all in a blender, you’d get Her, directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation). I hate when critics say, “Oh, this film is so important. It must be seen.” I don’t want to be that guy…I really don’t. But Her is one of those movies that actually fits the bill. Jonze basically takes the concept of WALL-E, but rips out the kid friendly atmosphere, making it hauntingly realistic. It’s a movie set in the future, but is it really? In a society run by iPads, iPhones, iEverything, Her represents a not so far-fetched future where dating your computer is almost as common as dating a human being. But aside from the subtext, this is just a beautifully written film with a perfect performance from Joaquin Phoenix. When you leave this movie, you will walk out with a gauntlet of emotions. It’s beautiful, sad, hilarious, unnatural, gripping, hopeful, and without question, the thinking man’s movie. And while voice over/motion capture performances such as Frank Oz (The Empire Strikes Back), Robin Williams (Aladdin), and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings/Rise of the Planet of the Apes) have all garnered Oscar talk in the past, I’ve always taken the side of the Academy on this one…you just can’t do it. It’s not a full performance. But after Scarlett Johansson’s voice over as Samantha, this may have been the one to finally convince me. Johansson gives a performance for the ages.

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2. The Place Beyond the Pines: When I reviewed The Place Beyond the Pines back in April, I said if it doesn’t end up being the best movie of 2013, then we’re in for a hell of a year. As it turns out, 2013 was an incredible year for movies, but Derek Cianfrance’s emotionally and riveting three part epic almost held up as the champion. This film just has a certain gravitas about it. It’s gritty, visceral, and just plain tense in ways you don’t expect. I love great dialogue as much as the next person, but what Cianfrance does here is take film back to it’s bare essentials, expressing power through sheer imagery and visuals. The use of a photograph, puking in the back of a truck, and most haunting of all, crooked cops messing with a baby’s crib. While it’s hard to give award recognition to any of these performances just because of the way the film is structured, everybody was off the charts awesome – Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane Dehaan, and the best damn performance from Ray Liotta you will ever see. When it ended, I just sat in the theater in total awe, and that’s why in a competitive year, it still holds up as one of the best.

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3. Man of Steel: “You’re not just anyone, Clark, and I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason. All these changes that you’re going through, one day…one day you’re gonna think of them as a blessing. When that day comes you have to make a choice. A choice of whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.”

This is what Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) tells his son Clark, only a kid at this point. When used appropriately, the mythology of superheroes can be something powerful and epic. While we see many of them portrayed as goofy cartoons and set-ups for shared universes, when they do hit, they hit hard. We experienced that with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and we have it here again with Zack Snyder’s magnificent Man of Steel. Snyder and Co. make changes to the character for the better. We all love the Christopher Reeve Superman…who doesn’t? But this time, Clark Kent isn’t the flawless protector right out of the gate. He earns the right to be Superman, and at the end of the film he is forced to make a choice that only he can make, saving the world in tragic fashion with his bare hands. I found that far more interesting then spinning around a planet really fast with zippy white lines. I urge people who hated this film to give it another chance. The filmmakers and the actors (Henry Cavill in particular) make this a grand superhero film in every sense of the word…it’s spectacular.

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4. The Wolf of Wall Street: Watching The Wolf of Wall Street is simply watching a master at work. When you look at director Martin Scorsese’s filmography, the argument can be made that he is the greatest director who ever lived. His track record speaks for itself, but his consistency is even more impressive. He’s been pumping out greatness that spans over five decades…yikes. After getting Hugo out of his system in 2011, Scorsese returns to basics and delivers his best film since 2006’s The Departed, for which he won his first and so far only Oscar (I still can’t believe that). It’s also his fifth team up with Leonardo DiCaprio. While there are certainly great supporting roles from Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, and Kyle Chandler, this is Leo’s show. He gives you comedy, physical comedy, drama, intensity, and everything else that is required from a great actor, and all in this movie. But enough waxing poetic about Scorsese and DiCaprio. This is simply just a wonderful film, and from the first ten seconds, you’re already in movie heaven. It has an energy to it that’s equally addicting to that of its characters. And while this isn’t Scorsese’s best movie, it’s without question his funniest.

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5. American Hustle: Whether it’s drama, comedy, musical, horror, dramedy, or whatever else…for me, characters are always the most important element to a film. If the story is ho-hum, if the visual effects leave a lot to be desired, I can forgive nearly all of it if the characters are compelling. While there is nothing ho-hum about American Hustle, it’s the characters who are flat out addicting. Their quirks, their styles, their insecurities, these characters are pure entertainment. Everything from Irving’s hair to Rosalyn’s disdain of microwaves, I ate it all up. Kudos to Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence, but especially director David O. Russell, who truly does bring it all together. He shined with last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, but in my opinion, this was even better.

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Matt Agosta (Staff Writer): 1. Iron Man 3, 2. Evil Dead, 3. Man of Steel, 4. Thor: The Dark World, 5. Sound City

Erica Batchelor (Staff Writer): 1. Thor: The Dark World, 2. Iron Man 3, 3. World War Z, 4.The Conjuring, 5. Now You See Me

Bill Bodkin (Editor-in-Chief): 1. The World’s End, Man of Steel, 2. This is the End, 3. Pacific Rim, 4. World War Z, 5. (tie) Monsters University, Star Trek into Darkness

Sue Bodkin (Editor at Large): 1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 2. World War Z, 3. The Way, Way Back, 4. The Bling Ring, 5. The Great Gatsby

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I don’t care, I will say it…. I LOVED THE GREAT GATSBY. The dazzling, glittering debauchery of the Roaring Twenties was made for Baz Luhrmann. The parties sparkled with gems like a billion twinkling christmas lights, and the siren song of so many carats was not wasted on a girl like me. Gatsby’s obsession with the material trappings of Daisy’s world mirrors modern day society’s obsession with celebrity culture (a theme also explored in another of my picks, The Bling Ring). Gatsby didn’t love Daisy for Daisy, he loved the status obtaining her represented. How could he love her for herself? She was a vapid, selfish, self-obsessed trophy wife, and she hung her supposed “true love” out to dry just to preserve her status. Deliciously tragic, for sure. But at least it sparkled.

Mallory Delchamp (Staff Writer): 1. Gravity, 2. 12 Years a Slave, 3. Frozen, 4. Captain Phillips, 5. Saving Mr Banks

Laura Dengrove (Staff Writer): 1. Gravity, 2. The Conjuring, 3. This is the End, 4. Warm Bodies, 5. Evil Dead

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Michael Dworkis (Senior Editor, Wrestling Editor): 1. Star Trek Into Darkness, 2. Thor: The Dark World, 3. Man of Steel, 4. The Wolverine, 5. A Good Day to Die Hard

Kelly Duncan (Staff Writer): 1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 2. You’re Next, 3. The Conjuring

Logan J. Fowler (Video Game Editor, Senior Editor): 1. The World’s End, 2. Prisoners, 3. Monster’s University, 4. Frozen, 5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Eric Gallegos (Video Game Writer): 1. Gravity, 2. It’s a Disaster, 3. The Way Way Back, 4. Kick-Ass 2, 5. Only God Forgives

Kelly Gonsalves (Staff Writer): 1. Francis Ha, 2. 12 Years a Slave, 3. Spring Breakers, 4. Gravity, 5. Her

Ann Hale (Horror Editor, Senior Editor): 1. You’re Next, 2. Maniac, 3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 4. The Lords of Salem, 5. Carrie

Matt Haviland (Staff Writer): 1. Upstream Color, 2. The Place Beyond the Pines, 3. The Counselor, 4. Spring Breakers, 5. After Earth

Brendan Hourican (Staff Writer): 1. The Great Gatsby, 2. Despicable Me 2, 3. This Is The End, 4. Monsters University

Luke Kalamar (Television Editor): 1. Iron Man 3, 2. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, 3. This Is The End, 4. Thor: The Dark World, 5. Don Jon

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Jason Kundrath (Senior Editor):

1. Pacific Rim: Forever the greatest giant monster / giant robot / sci-fi film of all time.

2. Gravity: A uniquely harrowing, edge-of-your-seat trip into outer space that will stop your heart repeatedly.

3. Frances Ha: Sad but occasionally delightful, Frances Ha uses the frame of an inevitably changing friendship to demonstrate the exhilarating and exhausting desperation of our mid-to-late twenties, as we try to make sense of the world around us and how we fit into it.

4. This Is The End: The best (and only) star-studded, big budget, sci-fi, action/adventure, thriller STONER comedy.

5. Enders Game: Didn’t actually see this one, but it inspired me to read the book which is AWESOME.

Al Mannarino (Staff Writer): 1. The World’s End, 2. This is the End, 3. Pain & Gain, 4. Man of Steel, 5. Monsters University

Asia Martin (Staff Writer): 1. World War Z, 2. Iron Man 3, 3. Lee Daniels’ The Butler, 4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 5. The Best Man Holiday

Marla Pachter (Senior Editor): 1. Stuck in Love, 2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 3. Stoker, 4. We’re the Millers, 5. Monsters University. Honorable Mentions: American Hustle, Before Midnight, and The Spectacular Now

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Lisa Pikaard (Senior Editor): 1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 2. Monsters University, 3. 21 & Over, 4. Identity Thief, 5. Last Vegas

Nick Porcaro (Senior Editor, Chief Designer): 1. Iron Man 3, 2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 3. The Wind Rises, 4. Monsters University, 5. Spring Breakers

Lauren Stern (Assignment Editor, Senior Editor): 1. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, 2. Don Jon, 3. Iron Man 3, 4. This is the End, 5. Saving Mr. Banks

Jason Stives (Music Editor, Senior Editor): 1. Gravity, 2. American Hustle, 3. Captain Phillips, 4. The World’s End, 5. Iron Man 3

Anthony Toto (Staff Writer): 1. Elysium, 2. Metallica: Through The Never, 3. Man of Steel, 4. Monsters University, 5. Thor: The Dark World

Joe Zorzi (Senior Editor): 1. The Conjuring, 2. This Is The End, 3. Prisoners

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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