About the Post

Author Information

Robert Cartagena is a boxing correspondent for SFBay.ca. He graduated from SF State in 2011 with a B.A. in journalism and spent more than a year contributing monthly articles to The Hudsucker, an online magazine with a blog twist. He has a passion for sports journalism -- particularly boxing -- as well as film reviews. He also enjoys blogging and aspires to be a professional actor one day.

Robert’s Top 10 Films of 2013

Image Credit: Getty Images

As another Christmas season comes and goes, one more annual tradition is right around the corner – New Year’s Eve, of course!

When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night, we bid our final goodbyes to the year that was and officially welcome the year 2014.

This year has been quite an eventful one for me, and like previous years, film played a significant role in it. Of course, as an avid moviegoer, I went to my local theater to check out the films that were on my 2013 hit list. Now there were quite a few that I didn’t get a chance to see and I still hope to see them, be it on On Demand, Redbox, etc. But those films I did see left me satisfied for the most part, though some either disappointed me or were not as good as I thought they would be.

I must admit that 2012 had to have been my best year in terms of movies as I saw more movies last year than I have during any year recently. But 2013 did have its fair share of good to great – even surprisingly good – films, and that’s why I want to take one final trip down memory lane and acknowledge the ten films that left quite an impression on me.

10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Picking up where 2012’s An Unexpected Journey left off – with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the 13 Dwarves continuing their quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug – The Desolation of Smaug has that true Lord of the Rings feel, making it a stronger sequel than its predecessor. The film jumps straight into the adventure once it begins and sets a quick and clever pace, culminating with a brilliantly built-up confrontation with the mighty Smaug (voiced brilliantly and sinisterly by Benedict Cumberbatch). Along with its thrilling action and dazzling visuals, I personally enjoyed the performances from Orlando Bloom (reprising his role of Legolas from the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Luke Evans (as skilled archer Bard) and the beautiful and fierce Evangeline Lily as lady elf Tauriel. Though it ended on yet another cliffhanger, The Desolation of Smaug left me with a more satisfying viewing experience than An Unexpected Journey and has set the stage for an epic conclusion when The Hobbit: There and Back Again hit theaters next December.

9. Machete Kills

While this next sequel didn’t break boundaries in the action genre, it still made my list because it was a deliriously entertaining action film. Veteran actor Danny Trejo once again takes command as ex-Federale Machete, whose latest mission finds him attempting to thwart a madman who has a high-powered nuclear missile directed at the White House. Machete Kills had its share of flaws – including a plot that became completely absurd towards the end – but made up for it with its colorful cast (including blonde bombshell Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio) and insane grindhouse-style action you would expect from director Robert Rodriguez. Though it failed to surpass its 2010 predecessor, Machete don’t fail when it comes to entertaining this avid moviegoer.

8. Man of Steel

Zack Synder’s highly-anticipated reboot of the Superman franchise is powered by Henry Cavill’s commanding performance as the titular hero. Flashbacks are key in telling Clark Kent’s backstory and how he came to grips with his powers, ultimately culminating with his inevitable battle against General Zod (played with great command by Michael Shannon). While it may lack the “it” factor that could separate it from other films in the superhero genre, Man of Steel still soars high with its strongly-paced narrative, eye-catching visuals (particularly on the planet of Krypton) and supporting cast, including the lovely Amy Adams as ambitious Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark’s adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. Like Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the Iron Man films, Cavill’s embodiment of Superman establishes him as a hero we can believe in.

(Read Tania’s review of Man of Steel here.)

7. Fruitvale Station

First-time director Ryan Coogler delivers a cinematic triumph that is driven by remarkable performances from Octavia Spencer and breakout star Michael B. Jordan. This powerful and moving account of the final hours in the life of Oakland native Oscar Grant III is one of the most intense and emotional experiences you will ever witness on screen, especially during its final 15-20 minutes. While some information may be omitted and one or two scenes made solely for the film, you cannot help but try to put yourself in the shoes of those people who surround Oscar as such tragic events unfold, all while admiring the emotion being displayed on screen from certain cast members. The final shot, however, is guaranteed to leave you stunned and silent as the closing credits roll, as you take in everything you just witnessed and ask yourself just what if and what could have been.

(Read Karen’s review of Fruitvale Station here.)

6. 42

Director Brian Helgeland’s homerun biopic features a fantastic performance from Chadwick Boseman as baseball icon Jackie Robinson, the first athlete of color to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The film also effectively brings the issue of racism around that time to life, including a stirring confrontation between Robinson and Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman that becomes hard to watch at times due to such racial tension. In the end, 42 pays homage to not just Robinson’s first year with the Dodgers, but also certain trials and tribulations that ultimately broke the color barrier for fellow athletes of color. And while Boseman deserves much credit for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson, it shouldn’t overshadow the great performance Harrison Ford delivers as team executive Branch Rickey.

5. The Croods

This hilarious animated hit from Dreamworks Animation was undoubtedly the most vibrant animated film I saw all year. Emma Stone voices Eep, a teenage cavegirl who is eager to venture beyond her cave, much to the dismay of her overprotective father Grug (voice of Nicolas Cage). But when an unexpected earthquake destroys their cave, the Croods are forced to venture out into unfamiliar territory in order to find a new home. Along the way, they encounter teenage caveboy Guy (voice of Ryan Reynolds), whose cleverness and inventiveness ultimately threatens Grug’s position as “Leader of the Hunt.” The film’s script is extremely clever and presents great twists on certain aspects of modern living. As I mentioned, the visuals are simply amazing, with many colorful locations being brought to life in stunning animation. The father-daughter relationship between Eep and Grug has been seen in similar animated films (Brave, Hotel Transylvania, etc.) but Stone and Cage’s voice work presents it in a fresh manner. They may not be the Flintstones, but with all the humor, adventure and lovable characters (both human and non-human) you’ll encounter while watching this film, you’re guaranteed to have a gay old time with The Croods! Plus, you’ll fall in love with Guy’s “pet” sloth Belt (“Dun, dun, dun!”).

4. Fast and Furious 6

The franchise that was built on speed delivered yet another high-octane thrill ride punctuated by some of the most insane action seen in any Fast and Furious film. Fresh off their successful heist in Rio, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew – which includes the late Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges – are recruited by Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to help bring down former British Special Forces soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Things become personal for Dom when he discovers that Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), who was thought to be dead based on the events of 2009’s Fast and Furious, has been working for Shaw. The plot is very straightforward but the star power makes this sixth entry in the franchise wildly entertaining. This entry may also be the most somber due to Walker’s unexpected and tragic death last month. Though he will no longer brace us with his presence on screen, his performances in not just the Fast and Furious films but his other hit movies as well should be acknowledged as a celebration of his ability to entertain us. Because of that, Paul Walker’s legacy will live on.

3. Frozen

Disney’s latest hit serves as a testament to the films of its Renaissance era. Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen, Frozen tells the tale of Princess Anna of Arendelle (voice of Kristen Bell), who sets out to rescue her older sister – Queen Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) – after the latter’s gift of cyrokinesis entraps their kingdom in eternal winter. Like many hit Disney films, Frozen features colorful characters – including lovable sidekicks Olaf the snowman (voice of Josh Gad) and Sven the reindeer – and stunning animation that brings winter to life in breathtaking fashion. At the heart of the film lies the personal journeys both sisters endure, with Elsa trying to come to grips with her powers and Anna risking her life in order to salvage the unbreakable bond she once had with her older sister. Frozen is simply Disney magic at its absolute best and delivers two of the best original songs in recent years – “For the First Time in Forever” and “Let It Go” – courtesy of Bell and Menzel.

2. Despicable Me 2

Though this sequel lacks the originality that made its 2010 predecessor such a box office success, Despicable Me 2 is still as highly-entertaining and charming as the original. Former villain-turned-father Gru (voice of Steve Carell) is recruited by the Anti-Villain Legaue (AVL) and partnered with spunky heroine Lucy Wilde (voice of Kristen Wiig) in order to stop a new diabolical mastermind who has surfaced. The film is packed with stellar voice acting (especially from Carell and Wiig), vibrant visuals and twice as many gadgets and gags (including Lucy’s famous lipstick taser!). The clever script is also on point, emphasizing the importance of family and showcasing Gru’s evolution since becoming a father to orphan girls Margo, Edith and unicorn-loving Agnes. Of course, the film isn’t complete without Gru’s lovable suspender-wearing assistants, the Minions, who are just as lovable as they were in the first film. Plus, they completely steal the show with their gut-busting renditions of “Y.M.C.A.” and “I Swear.”

(Read Robert’s review of Despicable Me 2 here.)

1. Iron Man 3

As the first Marvel superhero film to be released following last summer’s smash blockbuster Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3 held its ground in superb fashion under the direction of Shane Black. Plagued by nightmares following the events of New York City, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is forced to confront his inner demons all whilst trying to save the world from the crippling grip of the notorious terrorist The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley). The heart of the film lies in its tale of redemption and the journey one man endures to ultimately correct all his previous wrongs. The result is a gritty and compelling superhero experience, with Mr. Downey’s performance embodying what ultimately defines a hero in life. The all-star cast – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce – is great to watch on screen as well, and Sir Kingsley delivers quite a sinister turn as The Mandarin. Iron Man 3 brings the blockbuster franchise full circle and Mr. Downey’s fantastic performance as Tony Stark solidifies that he’s the right (Iron) man for the job!

(Read Robert’s review of Iron Man 3 here.)

Happy New Year everybody! What were your favorites from this past year? Let us know in the comments below.

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