American Hustle Elysium

December in Reviews

December 30, 2013Ben MK

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We may be in the icy throes of Winter, but December has proven to be one hot month at the box office. It seems like most of the studios brought out their big guns this month, and even though I didn't get a chance to review all of the highly anticipated films on my list, most of what I did review was definitely Oscar caliber. But first, a change of pace, and a Blu-ray review of one of my favorite films of the Summer ...

Elysium (Blu-ray)  (Reviewed on December 17th)
Review Score: ★★★★½
I'll have more disc reviews forthcoming in 2014, but I was thrilled to help wrap up 2013 with Elysium on Blu-ray. I took a look at the film when it was new to theaters, so I won’t retread my original review. Suffice to say, it’s a satisfying sci-fi actioner, with a little something extra to engage viewers intellectually — and the Blu-ray doesn’t disappoint either. As I wrote in my review: Elysium on Blu-ray is the complete package: a multi-faceted and entertaining film with definite replay value, a stellar audio/visual presentation and an informative set of supplements that goes well beyond the standard EPK material. Fans of sci-fi or action shouldn't hesitate to add this disc to their collection. Not to be missed.
Inside Llewyn Davis  (Reviewed on December 20th)
Review Score: ★★★★½
I kicked off the month in theatrical reviews with the Coen Brothers’ love letter to folk music, Inside Llewyn Davis; and its strong performances — both acting and musical — easily made it one of my top films of the year. As I wrote in my review: Inside Llewyn Davis is that rare gem of a film — the kind that doesn't put on any airs, sneaking up on you like a musician whose humble demeanor belies the immense talent within, only to completely and utterly blow you away with its sheer magnificence ... If you're a fan of folk music, you'll absolutely adore this film; and if you're not a fan of folk, then this film will absolutely convert you — guaranteed. Not to be missed.
American Hustle  (Reviewed on December 20th)
Review Score: ★★★★½
American Hustle started a trend that carried through to the end of the month: films based on true events. It’s one of those pics that grabs you right from the get-go with its impressive ensemble cast, wit and humor; and I suspect that many viewers expecting a much more serious movie-going experience may be pleasantly caught off-guard. As I wrote in my review: American Hustle is the real deal: a sizzling piece of filmmaking that lights up the screen with sex, humor and potent performances. It's the complete package ... From the chemistry of the cast to the sharp writing, it all gels together perfectly to form one of the best films of the year. Not to be missed.
Saving Mr. Banks  (Reviewed on December 20th)
Review Score: ★★★½
The heavy fictionalization of true events that helped American Hustle may have hindered this story of the real-life friction behind the making of Mary Poppins, as some found Saving Mr. Banks to be guilty of adding more than a spoonful of sugar to sweeten true events. But Mary Poppins fans should still find lots to like here, from the heartwarming performances to the renditions of its classic songs. As I wrote in my review: It's certainly a good time to be a Mary Poppins fan, and it's those fans who will enjoy Saving Mr. Banks the most. But for those who aren't familiar with the 1964 classic, this film might just spur you to discover what has now been officially recognized as a national treasure. Recommended.
The Wolf of Wall Street  (Reviewed on December 25th)
Review Score: ★★★★
The true Hollywood stories just kept on coming, with Martin Scorsese's epic three hour film about the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, the infamous Wall Street stockbroker who amassed millions at the expense of others. Don't be deterred by its runtime — there's not a dull moment in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Leonardo DiCaprio's and Jonah Hill's performances alone are worth the price of admission. As I wrote in my review: [The Wolf of Wall Street] is a searing, epic satire of greed and debauchery. It's a Martin Scorsese film — on Quaaludes — and it's one of the most ludicrously entertaining and exhilarating films of the year. Highly recommended.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom  (Reviewed on December 25th)
Review Score: ★★★½
I finished off the month on more of a serious note, with this timely film about the life and times of Nelson Mandela. Whether or not you're already familiar with his story, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will give you a good idea of where he came from and what made him such a great leader. As I wrote in my review: The film feels authentic in its portrayals, thanks to solid performances from Idris Elba and Naomie Harris; and the relationship between Nelson and Winnie Mandela is handled well ... it’s an inspirational and amazing tale — and a fitting way to remember a man whose legacy will be felt for many years to come. Recommended.

And so we say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014. I reviewed over thirty films this year, and it just so happens that some of the strongest films I've seen in 2013 were released this month. With that said, my official pick for the best film of the month — and my unofficial pick for the best film of the year — is American Hustle. Although it was difficult to choose between this, Inside Llewyn Davis and The Wolf of Wall Street, the sheer magic of David O. Russell's follow-up to Silver Linings Playbook — thanks in large part to its impeccable cast — is irresistible and remains unmatched.

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