Damn the haters! Damn the truth reports! Damn the makers of Dramamine! I don’t care if Captain Phillips isn’t the most accurate account of what happened on the Maersk Alabama. Paul Greengrass delivered one hell of a nail-biter with this film. The cast was excellent, spearheaded by Tom Hanks in a superbly understated performance, as well as newcomer Barkhad Abdi as the pirate leader. Like Greengrass’s other harrowing real-life award contender United 93, Captain Phillips put the viewer on deck with the action, and while I knew how the events unfolded, I remained on the edge of my seat until the very end.
Like Captain Phillips, this is a gripping film with excellent performances. Not only does Sandra Bullock command the screen throughout the film (often being the only person on screen), director Alfonso Cuarón takes us through a maze of survival with brilliant special effects, nerve-wracking pacing, and beautiful cinematography. I know Neil DeGrasse Tyson gave the film what-for on Twitter after seeing it, but for Earth lubbers like myself, it was as realistic as I could imagine.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Forget the crap that Ben Stiller usually stars in (I’m looking at you, Little Fockers). His directing efforts are usually top notch. This update to the 1947 film offers a slick look at dreams and reality. Reminiscent of the excellent Stranger Then Fiction, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a feel-good movie that reminds us it’s okay to put a feel-good movie on your best-of-the-year list.
Spike Jonze can always be counted on to deliver a different film. In a world of technology, making a movie about technology often results in overblown special effects and unrealistic sci-fi gadgets. Yet, Jonze uses his canvas to show us an understated film about human emotions. This love story between a man and a machine offers possibly the most realistic human relationship ups and downs I’ve ever seen committed to screen.
With my other four favorites end-of-the-year award-bait movies, I felt the need to highlight a movie that was just fun as hell to watch because it was fun as hell to watch. Guillermo del Toro’s tribute to kaiju monster movies may not have great characters or great acting, but it has giant freaking robots beating the snot out of giant freaking monsters. And Charlie freaking Day. Pacific Rim delivered some of the greatest action set pieces of the year, with love and respect to the genre it was honoring. To quote Screen Junkies’ “Honest Trailer,” I agree that it was “the summer’s guiltiest pleasure that’s either the most awesome dumb movie ever made or the dumbest awesome movie ever made!”
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