My lists for 20122011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.
Honorable Mentions: Blackfish. Out of the Furnace. SightseersThis is the End. World War Z. Mud. Pain and Gain. Iron Man 3. Thor: The Dark World. Zero Charisma. Berberian Sound Studio. Graceland. I Declare War. Man of Steel. A Single Shot. Leviathan. Upstream Color. The Hunt. Warm Bodies.
Films I Missed: Her. The Act of Killing. Frances Ha. In a World… Philomena. Nebraska. Blue is the Warmest Color. Drinking Buddies. Blue Jasmine. Fruitvale Station. Stoker. 20 Feet From Stardom. Short Term 12.


Nick on Pacific Rim:

Without any conflict of interest this film earns a spot on my “best of” list due to its uninhibited love of monsters both metal and flesh and its rare ability to show me things my cynical and jaded eyes have never seen before. As arch as some of the dialogue is and though there aren’t enough great human moments no film sent me back to my wide-eyed youth with as much care and effectiveness as this. In fact, it truly felt like payoff for a lot of time and energy spent on what were considered childish things even back in the 70’s. Guillermo del Toro delivered in a big way.

This is an important movie for genre. And one I will most likely revisit once a year until the day I die.

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: Spectacle. Immersion. Large machines with weight that moved like large machines. Vicious monsters that were both cool and scary. Distillation of hundreds of pieces of pulp, anime, and kaiju into an easy to swallow pill of bliss.

Performance to savor: Ron Perlman, bringing much-needed swagger.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “One of the big litmus test movies of this generation.”

Vital Links: CHUD Review. Buy it from CHUD and help us out.



Nick on Prisoners:

This film could have been a top five contender had it not really lost its way in the third act and taken so much truly harrowing material and made it toothless. This a film with brutal ideas and dangerous possibilities hampered by a bit of a cop-out in its latter moments. And it is very measured in its pacing. With all of that in mind it is an excellent old-fashioned procedural that strikes a balance between its leads in a way that is quite effective. Directed without undue flourish and bathed in an overcast glaze Prisoners is the kind of movie that we see much less of due to the saturation of crime stories on television. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are fantastic in a tale of abduction, loss, and all-too-real parental dangers. Plus Paul Dano gets the shit kicked out of him for two plus hours. That’s right up my alley.

Not a great film but a really good one. Especially for a guy raised on 70’s and 80’s cop cinema.

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: Truly unsettling moments. Great work by its leads. A great cast top to bottom.

Performance to savor: Gyllenhaal, though a nervous tic is played a little too prominently.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Sidney Lumet would be proud.”

Vital Links: CHUD ReviewBuy it from CHUD and help us out.




Nick on All is Lost:

A wetter, more solemn Gravity.

Robert Redford is amazing in a physical role with practically no dialogue in a role that takes decades of the actor playing wealthy successful men and shows the results of that access and prestige in the hands of a brutal mother nature. Useless.

This is the kind of movie we need more of. There’s a high concept but the approach to that high concept is devoid of marketing, narrative familiarity, and spectacle. A human story that could take place in any era fueled by a great new director (if you haven’t seen my #10 of 2011 Margin Call, you ought to), All is Lost is a movie great for a rainy day with your dad or son.

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great work from an actor and a director. Unorthodox structure and tone. An evergreen concept.

Performance to savor: Redford. And water. Water delivers a fantastic performance.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “A special little movie that will continue to be fresh decades from now.”

Vital Links: CHUD ReviewBuy it from CHUD and help us out.


Nick on Captain Phillips:

All things considered this is a much more harrowing and powerful film than anyone could have expected from the story of a man on a boat armed with firehoses pitted against poorly equipped Somali pirates. Paul Greengrass knows how to create tension as well as anyone in the business and Tom Hanks is excellent as usual in a role that allows us to new some new facets to his repertoire. Barkhad Abdi came from out of nowhere to hold his own as Hanks’ adversary in a movie that may lose a little luster over repeat viewings but one that works on nearly every level.

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great pacing. Intensity for days. Great performances. That Greengrass touch.

Performance to savor: The captor does a great job but this is all Hanks.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “As intense as a story you know the ending of can get.”

Vital Links: CHUD ReviewBuy it from CHUD and help us out.


place #11

Nick on The Place Beyond the Pines:

A brooding and atmospheric little missive from the dark and dense world of Derek Cianfrance. With a score by my beloved Mike Patton. It’s a crime movie and character study with no warmth to offer but one which allows Ryan Gosling to do a lot in what is truly a supporting role while Bradley Cooper goes through his paces as a policeman who really steps in the muck. It’s rich, a bit odd but hauntingly beautiful. .

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great mood. Great music. Great work by two of the best young actors there are. Plus, it keeps ol’ Harris Yulin in the mix.

Performance to savor: Cooper.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “It’ll stick to you like swamp water but it’s a winner.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.


Nick on The World’s End:

Edgar Wright is one of the shining stars in the filmmaking world and it appears he’s only just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. The finale to the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, this was a film I really liked the first time I saw it. Then after watching it after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz I watched it again the true greatness really started to sink in. The World’s End is a deeper film than the others, no less fun or acutely aware of what corners of satire it wants to explore. As a result the movie really sinks its teeth in upon repeat viewings. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright flat out are perfect together. Their ability to mine things well beyond expectations seems to come naturally and surrounded by the best supporting cast they’ve ever had the result is fun for anyone with a brain in their head.

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: The gang back together. Nick Frost getting the best out of Pegg. Amazing editing. Laughs aplenty. The absolute best use of the word “rain” in motion picture history.

Performance to savor: Simon Pegg as you’ve never seen him before.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Watch it again. Then again. Then again…”

Vital Links: CHUD review. Buy it from CHUD and help us out.


Nick on Before Midnight:

Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy have pulled off something miraculous. The walky talky trilogy of romantic movies these three have made together somehow have taken on a greater importance and resonance than anyone could have hoped. They’re smart, fun, and a magic mirror to actors and characters aging together as we’ve watched. The last in the series is the most melancholy and sad of the three but it is honest and doesn’t sell its characters short. Required viewing.

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: Hawke and Delpy doing their thing. The filmmakers creating an honest and unflinching relationship movie that abandons the patterns and just confidently going about its business.

Performance to savor: Julie Delpy, aging gracefully and showing her character on the cusp of crisis.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “The most underappreciated trilogy of all time ends perfectly.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.



Nick on American Hustle:

It’s safe to say that David O. Russell has watched Martin Scorsese movies. Though its own animal, American Hustle has a familiar feel to it due to its use of voiceover and the way the camera moves and the edits unfold. It’s David O’ Russell riffing and it’s a blast. Christian Bale is in top form, Jennifer Lawrence gives a knockout performance, and the rest of the cast delivers as well. Even ol’ Louis CK. It’s a fun caper film that is never boring though it’s sometimes messy and familiar.

It has balls and it certainly showcases a filmmaker operating at peak capacity. Kudos for them keeping the presence of a particular actor a secret. It adds to the value of the film in a big way.

Current rating: 4 out of 5

Contributing factors: Playfulness. Oodles of style. Great performers having fun. A willingness to emulate and evoke classic films which came before.

Performance to savor: Christian Bale, somehow bringing heart and warmth to a character so oily and conniving.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “David O. Russell is in his prime and he’s showing no signs of losing momentum.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.



Nick on 12 Years a Slave:

Aside from a few pacing concerns in the third act ending in a bit of a rushed conclusion Steve McQueen’s adaptation is impeccable. It’s a beautiful, scary, touching, liberating, and classic look at life in our own not too distant path laden with fantastic performances from veterans and newcomers alike. Chiwetel Ejiofor will never again be forgotten in conversations about best working actors after this and Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o also stand out in a film seemingly built for actors. It’s a true showpiece and a look at a very familiar topic handled much differently than ever before. McQueen has always been a critic’s darling and the source of many a great film in his short career. This is his best and a film that will win many awards.

Current rating: 4.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Brutality balanced with sublime moments of humanity. A delicate hands. No cheap emotional thefts, just well-earned scenes of incredible power. Amazing performances throughout.

Performance to savor: Ejiofor, but just barely over Fassbender.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “If this doesn’t move you absolutely nothing will.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.


Nick on Gravity:

Alfonso Cuarón is already one of the best filmmakers alive. This goes to show we have no idea what will come next and what this dude is capable of. Gravity is a high concept thrill ride of a movie that doesn’t follow genre constraints or structure in the least yet still delivers a singular movie experience. It’s not deep. It’s not quotable. It’s not sexy. It’s just scary as hell and as immersive as any film in recent memory. Sandra Bullock carries the film wonderfully, oftentimes through actions that would seem benign or simply unremarkable on the page. As shared by the master filmmaker (and his son, who co-wrote the film) it’s all eye-opening and the kind of movie that brings a clunky old fashioned industry one painful step somewhere new and interesting.

Current rating: 4.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Astounding filmmaking. Total immersion. Great work from two Hollywood heavyweights. That other astronaut’s face.

Performance to savor: Sandra Bullock. Screw The Blind Side, this is her Oscar movie.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “The best argument for seeing a movie in 3-D in the theater.”

Vital Links: CHUD review. Buy it from CHUD and help us out.



Nick on Rush:

Where has this Ron Howard been all my life?

Rush is a fantastic movie. Funny, sexy, thrilling, lavish, and more. It’s mature. It’s not bland on a grand scale in the manner many of the veteran and storied filmmaker’s movie are. It has an energy all its own and like the race drivers it focuses on there’s a daredevil feel to the whole affair. It’s electric stuff and though the car scenes are terrific the best moments of Rush are where Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth are sharing a room together. It’s so much fun yet a film no one saw nor wanted to see. Time will shine favorably on this movie but there is no denying it is a classic and film that had better be a catalyst for Ron Howard in the future. It may be one of his lower grossing movies but it happens to be his best.

Current rating: 4.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Sexiness. Swagger. Great thrills. Laughs aplenty. Terrific work from two very good leading men.

Performance to savor: Bruhl, so funny and such a dick.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Every better than the Jason Patric Rush movie!”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.



Nick on Sound City:

A love story about a mixing board and the studio which housed it? Yeah, it’s damn near a perfect movie.

Dave Grohl’s documentary is fun, informative, loaded with great music, and in a way transcendent. There’s something about the way the first time filmmaker embraces this ugly place with its expensive and worn out central Neve mixing console that is bigger than the sum of the collected parts. It’s beautiful stuff and to see how many of history’s great rock albums and performers have come into contact with this hole in the wall is staggering. When the film shifts gear and the audience is privy to the creative process and impromptu jam sessions of legends? It goes from excellent to sublime.

Current rating: 4.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: History through a new lens. Great music. Great storytelling. Passion and rock and roll adulation to spare.

Performance to savor: The Neve mixing console.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “If you love music you simply cannot miss this.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.



Nick on Inside Llewyn Davis:

Even when they tone it down and deliver a less showy and easy film the Coen Brothers bring tremendous quality and freshness to the screen. Inside Llewyn Davis is a movie that isn’t built for laughs or gasps or even a tangible warm feeling to leave the theater with. Like the folk scene it covers the film is left of center and difficult to reconcile. It just has some intangible hook that is impossible to remove. It’s the two best and most powerful filmmakers giving us something we didn’t even know we needed. It’s funny, sad, weird, and softly tragic in a way that sets it apart from anything they’ve ever done before.

And as a result unmissable.

Current rating: 4.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great work from Oscar Issac. Fantastic music. Some staggeringly lovely moments. That cat.

Performance to savor: That cat. And Oscar Issac.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “The Coen Bros. continue to be the best show in town.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.


Nick on Dallas Buyers Club:

I expected a great performance from Matthew McConaughey but I didn’t expect it to be this great. Dallas Buyers Club has no right being great. The material begs for a Lifetime Movie but every single thing about the film defies the idea of a custom-made tearjerker. Jean-Marc Vallée is a director to watch forever. His eye, perspective, and ability to tell a story with freshness is amazing and in his leading man he’s found a perfect muse to pull off the unthinkable. This is a great movie. A great one.

Current rating: 5 out of 5

Contributing factors: The best directing job of 2013, hands down. Not as savvy or informed by tech as the work on Gravity but no less impressive. Every single choice is perfect. Matthew McConaughey delivers the first or second best performance of the year. Funny. Sad. Vicious. True. Great. Jared Leto somehow delivering an excellent performance. The return of Griffin Dunne!

Performance to savor: McConaughey. A raw sinewy mustachioed wisp of a man here.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “The best movie about AIDS since And the Band Played On.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.



Nick on The Wolf of Wall Street:

“What if Martin Scorsese wanted to do Goodfellas again but not as a mob film?”

Here’s your answer. From the style to the structure to the use of camera moves and voiceover this is the legend himself doing another pass on the style he created for my favorite movie of all time. This is Goodfellas Redux. The sheer audacity of this film will blow people’s minds. It’s the most vulgar, sexy, crude, drug-addled, sex-crazed movie of Martin Scorsese’s career and one that is also one of 2013’s funniest. Leonardo Dicaprio is amazing and delivers a performance that rivals McConaughey’s in Dallas Buyers Club. Great narration, the emotional gamut, and some surprising physical comedy show that this man is not slowing down in the least. Jonah Hill nearly outdoes him, which is no mean feat.

A crazy, amazing movie.

Current rating: 5/5

Contributing factors: The style. The fearlessness. The playfulness. The women. The little moments. The big moments. This is three hours of areyoufuckingkiddingme.

Performance to savor: Leo, but Jonah Hill continues to prove that he’s a much bigger talent than anyone suspected.

CHUD.com Pull Quote:“If you wanted to see how Martin Scorsese would have done Goodfellas today, here you go.”

Vital Links: Buy it from CHUD and help us out.

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