10 Biggest Surprises Of 2013

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2013 was a great year for films. I’ve highlighted my top ten films in another article. This article is dedicated to the top ten biggest surprises of 2013.

I’m talking about the films that looked like complete garbage, but ended up being kind of good and in some cases really great. I’m talking about films that managed to overcome not just production problems, but marketing problems too. Films that came out on top (in my mind) yet might have gotten passed over at the box office or wrongly critiqued by my fellow colleagues.

These ten films below aren’t listened in any specific order. I’m also not calling them ten great movies, but movies that aren’t as bad as people are saying and movies that I honestly think you should check out at some point in time. My excitement varies movie-to-movie, but below are ten movies that surprised me and then some.

Jack the Giant Slayer

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Bryan Singer hasn’t done much these days. Seriously, the idea of him directing an action/fantasy with a crappy title like Jack the Giant Slayer (once titled Jack the Giant Killer, before numerous delays) made me cringe and the poorly-cut trailers didn’t do the film any favors either.

But somehow, the film overcame all of the obstacles set in front of it and managed to be an entertaining way to kill some time. I’m not calling Jack the Giant Slayer a masterpiece, but I am calling it a good film, that’s full of action and adventure.

It’s funny and sometimes a little dark for its PG-13 rating. Kids might consider it too violent, while adults call it too tame, but I found it to be an enjoyable ride, with a highlighting performance by the rising young star Nicholas Hoult.

Click here to read my review.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of my all-time favorite animated films. It’s bursting with creativity and heart and it’ll make you laugh until your stomach hurts. Most of this was due to a pair of directors that went on to make the hilarious 21 Jump Street and the upcoming 22 Jump Street. I’m talking about Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

They stepped down for Cloudy 2 and handed it off to directors Kris Pearn and Cody Cameron and the result is something that’s just as imaginative and silly, yet still full of warmth and heart. Sequels rarely hit those same beats as the original films, especially animated sequels without their original directors, but Cloudy 2 manages to do everything right and continue the wild and crazy stories of Flint (voiced by Bill Hader) and his friends.

I’m not quite sure how they did it, but Pearn and Cameron managed to recapture that same magic stirred up by Miller and Lord, while also adding to it and paying even more tribute to classic films. Bravo.

Click here to read my review.

Thor: The Dark World

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I loved Thor. Absolutely loved it. Which meant that Thor: The Dark World had me worried. Comic book sequels mostly always miss their mark (see Iron Man 2), so hiring TV director Alan Taylor to widen the scope of one of Marvel’s most cosmic and large characters had me clutching my seat and hoping for the best.

And he delivered. Thor: The Dark World just might be my favorite Marvel Avengers film yet, up there with Thor as one of the most action-packed and yet fantasy-heavy affairs that even comes with comedy too.

Sure, Natalie Portman‘s importance to the series weakens, but Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston prove yet again just how committed they are to their characters and to bringing them full circle over the course of three films (including The Avengers).

If this is the type of care that the Marvel big wigs are dedicating to their universe then I say keep on bringing the sequels.

Click here to read my review.

The Internship

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I know I’m going to get a lot of heat for this one, but I liked Shawn Levy‘s The Internship. Pairing Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson together again after their success in Wedding Crashers was a genius idea. Throwing the film’s PG-13 cut into theaters when there was a much better “Unrated” cut for Blu-ray was the biggest mistake ever.

The theatrical cut definitely feels a little too friendly, like it’s holding back the good stuff and that’s because it is. The cut released on Blu-ray is much more in tune with what we’d expect from Vaughn/Wilson and is the cut that you should seek out if you haven’t seen this movie yet or have seen it, but feel like it could have been better.

I’m not saying that The Internship is an instant cult classic comedy, but I am saying that it’s pretty darn funny and not worth any of the harsher criticisms that have been assaulting it ever since it barely made it into theaters. I don’t get how people can hate on such a decent comedy.

Click here to read my review.

World War Z

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Brad Pitt‘s mega-budgeted zombie film, which looked like the most generic piece of CGI shit ever, just so happened to be kind of decent. Marc Forster directs World War Z with a sense of scope and terror that surprised me, especially for a PG-13 horror film that has had nothing but trouble getting to the big screen.

I’m not calling World War Z perfect, but I am calling it a perfectly fine summer action film that probably doesn’t do the source material enough justice, but does provide enough tense thrills and well-filmed action and suspense to warrant a rental at the very least.

Click here to read my review.

Insidious: Chapter 2

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James Wan‘s sequel to his micro-budget haunted house horror film Insidious is not only one of those rare horror sequels that manages to deliver on all of the scares provided in the first film, but Insidious: Chapter 2 also manages to continue the series’ legacy and take it in a bold and new direction that’s completely different than the previous film.

Insidious: Chapter 2 might not be as spooky or scary as Insidious, but it’s still plenty terrifying for average theater-goers and it’s also a film that has something to say. Horror sequels usually feel like pointless projects that come with increased blood/scares/budget and no real meat on the bones, yet Insidious: Chapter 2 takes an honest stab at going deeper into the bizarre world created by director James Wan.

I loved it and I can’t believe that Wan put so much effort into this project, while also working on The Conjuring. The man’s ability to churn out such high-quality horror is impressive and something that I appreciate very much as a horror fan craving the next best scare.

Click here to read my review.

Delivery Man

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I must be the world’s last Vince Vaughn fan, because the man not only released The Internship in 2013, but he was also in Delivery Man, a sweet feel-good Holiday film that makes you laugh and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Alright, let’s be a bit more serious now. Delivery Man isn’t going to win any awards for cutting deep and leaving a lasting impression, but Vince Vaughn does a fine job blending his usual comedy with a role that requires a little more seriousness and weight.

He carries Delivery Man well past the finish line, making it something funny and charming and exactly what you’d want to watch with the family over a holiday break. I’m not going to sit here and defend the film for its unique plot, but I will say that Delivery Man isn’t nearly as cookie-cutter and bland as people are claiming it to be.

Click here to read my review.

R.I.P.D.

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Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges in a Men in Black look-alike titled R.I.P.D.? Yeah right, are you serious? Yep, DEAD serious (get it?!). R.I.P.D. is not only one of the summer’s best kept secrets, but it’s also a damn funny film, full of all-over-the-place action and humor. It’s completely batty and weird and I enjoyed almost every single minute of it.

The film’s effects are spotty and some of the dialogue is just flat-out head scratching, but the film’s action is clever, the camera movements are inventive and the teaming of Reynolds and Bridges is absolutely perfect and makes for something that I’d watch over and over if I had enough free time.

The fact that it got completely skipped over this past July in cinemas is a crime and I cannot wait for people to discover this one years down the road, in the five dollar bin at Wal Mart.

Click here to read my review.

The Wolverine

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I all but gave up on the character of the Wolverine ever since X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman will always give it his all, but most directors just don’t understand why we like the character. That is until James Mangold came in and delivered to us The Wolverine.

Finally, a slow-burn character study on the most popular X-Men character of all-time. The Wolverine isn’t loaded with pointless action or expensive set pieces. Instead, it focuses on the character and together, Mangold and Jackman show us a side of the Wolverine that we’ve never seen before.

The Wolverine is the darkest and most bleak X-Men film yet and it gives us an extreme amount of hope for the future of the X-Men movies. Hopefully this means that they’ve finally established the right tone to move forward with, because exploring such elements of the character without shoving a million faceless mutants down our throat is a breath of fresh air. I loved how much focus was given to Wolverine’s internal struggles versus his usual bad assery that’s cool to watch, but tiresome after a while.

The Wolverine‘s last act deflates everything before it and leaves a rotten taste in the mouth, but there’s still two great acts out of three. The Unrated cut on Blu-ray is even better.

Click here to read my review.

The Lone Ranger

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Disney’s biggest gamble of 2013 ended up flopping pretty hard. Gore Verbinski‘s The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer is without a doubt one of the most exciting summer blockbusters of the year. And no one bothered to see it.

Seriously, Verbinski and co. have created a fun and wild action picture that’s well shot and even better acted. Finally, Depp sinks his teeth into a character that’s not just stupid and funny, but one with a little mystery and a back story. Armie Hammer also does a fine job as the leading man, never stealing the scenes completely, but always holding up his end of the bargain.

The last action sequence of The Lone Ranger is one of my favorite scenes of 2013, showing off Verbinski’s talent behind the lens, while also showing how one makes something that’s both thrilling and fun, never too serious, but never too silly.

I’ll never understand why people took a giant dump on The Lone Ranger before it even hit theaters. At least see the film before judging it. Even then, it felt like people had their minds made up.

Click here to read my review.

Any films that you think I missed out on completely? Do you agree or disagree with my top ten biggest surprises of 2013? Chime in below and let me know.

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