Top 10: Best of the Decade 2010-2013

  1. CloudStrife84
  2. Mike

The 10 best movies made between 2010 and 2013.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 2011,  PG-13)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
Spellbinding finale to one of the greatest film series ever made! In this concluding chapter of the Harry Potter saga, we're invited to a showdown of truly epic proportions. Not since The Return of the King has a fantasy film been this grand and exciting.

Old and new alike, even the smallest of characters gets their time to shine, as wizards, giants and all manner of magical creatures clash together in fiery engagement. And as for the deciding dual between Harry and Voldemort, let me tell you it couldn't have been any more perfect.

Truth be told, I was really taken aback. I just never expected it to be this amazing. Especially not after being so let down by the previous two installments. But gone now is sigh-inducing teen angst, and back is the magic I thought to be forever lost.

Emotionally omnipotent and breathtaking in the action, it's a battle of wills you won't soon forget. So as a last word to the captain of this great vessel, I just like to say the following: All is forgiven now Mr. Yates, for finally getting everything right. You started out good, became weak in the middle, but then eventually pulled out every ace in your pockets. And what a phenomenal redemption at that!
Les Misérables 2012,  PG-13)
Les Misérables
Grandiose, powerful, epic and altogether magical! Adjectives run short, as I'm in my euphoric condition grasp for words to do justice to what I've just experienced. Far from the first adaptation of Victor Hugo's original novel - which saw its first light in 1862 and has since then generated countless productions in theatre and film alike - but a more sumptuous and definitive version I don't think we'll be seeing in many a radiant moons.

Staged in the aftermath of The French Revolution, we follow Jean Valjean, a scrawny, emaciated prisoner who is released on parole after 19 years of hard labor, for stealing a loaf of bread. Despite his newly acquired freedom, however, he soon returns to thieving and breaks the terms of his parole.

An act of compassion from one of his victims becomes the turning point. He seeks redemption, starts a new life and works himself up to a position as a mayor. Ever on his tail, however, is the relentless Inspector Javert, a man who lives for his unyielding devoir and cares for little beyond the thought of clapping Jean Valjean in irons again.

From the king who could not speak to revolutionaries singing their hearts out, Tom Hooper once again demonstrates that he has a flair for stirring up the most profound of human sentiments. All the more vivid and potent in regard to the amazing production design, where decadence and virtue see eye to eye and battle until the streets runs red. Beautiful, arresting and not seldom with the eyes getting misty.

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who went through extraordinary physical transformations in preparation for the film (Hathaway lost 25 pounds for her portrayal of Fantine and it's said that Jackman went without water for 36 hours to achieve Jean Valjean's haggard appearance), shine brighter on the starry sky than perhaps ever before. Hathaway, in particular, bares her very soul in a heart-wrenching performance, for which I'm sure she has an Oscar in the bag. And sing they can indeed - numerous accounts of goosebumps on my arms can testify to that.

Timeless in its themes, and with a pleasurable dose of burlesque humor brought by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as a penny-pinching innkeeper couple, we are blissfully gifted with a masterpiece of a musical, that triumphs in a crescendo of tears, laughter, pomp and grandeur. And one that with the exception of a rather one-noted performance by Russell Crowe as Javert, delivers everything I could have ever hoped and more beyond.

For I dreamed a dream of a musical so transcendent, that it would resonate in memory for years to come. Evocatively and without hesitation, I now profess that dream as beautifully fulfilled.
The Artist 2011,  PG-13)
The Artist
What can I say about this wonderful film, that critics and fellow movie-goers haven't already captured in their written acclaim? Well, from a personal standpoint, and as someone who has never before experienced the great wonders of the silent film era, I was both delighted and overwhelmed by how much a movie so muted, can speak in such in tremendous and emotional volumes. From its very first moments, I was absorbed into this black-and-white sensation of a film, and never wanted to leave as it came to a close. Everything has been done so impeccably, so elaborately beautiful in its very essence, that you feel nothing but admiration for the cast and crew behind its making. Director Michel Hazanavicious has succeeded in the near-impossible; bringing back a classic format, that hasn't seen the light of day since 1929. A mesmerizing homage, that not only re-captures the techniques flawlessly, but entertains, moves and sweeps you off into a state of pure awe and inspiration. Yes, The Artist is every bit as amazing as they say. Deserving of all its praise and worthy of all the Oscars that are bound to come in its way. A fantastic, original and incredibly uplifting tour-de-force, that makes everything else in the repertoire look like the work of untalented hacks. A standing ovation and hats off into the air, for this magically brilliant masterpiece, that leaves you as speechless and lost for words as its gifted performers.
The Dark Knight Rises 2012,  PG-13)
The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan's epic conclusion to The Dark Knight saga, is everything we've come to expect from him and a worthy finale to one of the greatest film trilogies ever made. Right off the bat (pun intended), its absorbs us yet again into the chaotically beating heart of Gotham and its citizens. Rather slowly so in the first half, but it still captures your full attention as beautifully as before. Highly anticipated and hyped up beyond belief, there will be the inevitable comparison between this and The Dark Knight. With the predecessor setting the bar so unfathomably high, the question we all ask is how could it possibly top or even match said masterpiece? Well, as I initially suspected, it doesn't. That isn't to say it's full of guano though, for although falling marginally short of perfection, this is nonetheless a grand and awe-inspiring spectacle. A majestically crafted ending, that breaks the long-enduring curse of the disappointing third installment. For where movies like Spider-Man 3 and The Matrix: Revolutions missed the mark, The Dark Knight Rises gives the superhero threequel a good and dignified name. Okay, so we may be one Joker short in the deck, but that's no reason to despair, because Tom Hardy as Badass Bane and Anne Hathaway as The Catwoman, are more than welcome additions to the cast, excelling in their respective roles to supremely satisfying results. Truth be told, I had some worries about Catwoman feeling too cheesy or out-of-place in this more grounded Batman universe. But she actually fits really well into the plot and emits strong and meaningful rapport with our Caped Crusader. And once they roll out the big guns in the awesome third act, you'll have a hard time maintaining your breathing, as sequence after sequence of jaw-dropping action, leaves you thrilled, ecstatic and emotionally stirred. A bat-tastic, full-throttle display of cinematic fireworks, that - best of all - uses a minimum of CGI and focuses on the raw power of old-school artistry and all its talented thespians involved. My hat off to Christopher Nolan, for elevating the superhero genre to such unparalleled heights. May his phenomenal trilogy forever be cherished and serve as a paragon for generations to come. For as the story now comes to a close, it's a bittersweet departure into cinema legend, that makes it sad to see our Dark Knight go. But as I always like to phrase it: better left on a high, than milk the franchise dry!
Star Trek Into Darkness 2013,  PG-13)
Star Trek Into Darkness
Nerdgasms abound as the consistently brilliant J.J. Abrams takes his seat again in the captain's chair, thrusting us at maximum warp with this thrilling new chapter to his well-received reboot. Expectations were naturally high, yet I never dared hope that it would be tantamount to its extraordinary predecessor. It is a sequel after all and follow-ups, no matter how virtuous the director, always ring those bells of uncertainty.

Color me flabbergasted though, as Abrams has gone two for two with another stellar accomplishment. In some ways a lesser film, in other ways a better one, but when all is said and done, it ultimately arrives at the same ecstasy-brimming payoff. Of course, the honor and glory of this isn't solely J.J.'s to bask in. He's but a captain of this shiny vessel and it would be nothing without the visionary efforts of his outstanding crew.

The freshness in seeing young talent in old iconic roles, may be a distinction attributed to the 2009 film alone, but it's still such a fantastic joy to behold the well-defined, and now more viscerally charged dynamics of this amalgamation of strong personalities. The womanizing, cocksure Kirk. The calculative Spock, ever pulled between the great ambivalence of logic and human sentiment. And then Scotty and Bones of course, whose comedic remarks add sturdy laughs to the otherwise intense and pulse-pounding atmosphere.

Every character in question seem to get a beautiful and often heart-rending moment, as to further develop their bonds and consequently, our own emotional ties to them. Friendships strengthened through hardships, which makes it so much more than just a blockbuster to still your cravings for epic action with. Add to these powerhouse traits a sensationally guileful antagonist, played with ominous perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch, and it's safe to say you've gotten your money's worth many times over.

Full of surprises, easter eggs and throwbacks to Star Trek's illuminative past, Abrams really has a flair for catering to our nostalgia. Best enjoyed unspoiled, I'm not gonna delve into specifics on what these nods and references are, but it's a goodie bag all right and a delectable treat for us who have taken part of prior adventures.

You need not be seasoned in Trekkie lore, however, to indulge in the wonders and awe-inspiring scale of this big-budget spectacle. And when I say big, I'm talking the proportions of a supernova. The sheer detail that has gone into it, whether it be the interiors of the Enterprise or the exteriors of a futuristic London, is truly breathtaking. An incredible, accolade-worthy job by all parties involved.

As an avid Star Wars fan, it fell naturally to me study every scene in terms of what J.J. can bring to my beloved galaxy far, far away. For certain, it's no small endeavor that he has chosen to take upon himself, but let me tell you, after seeing this and once again confirming his unfading enthusiasm, it is with the greatest of confidence I say that they couldn't have picked a better director for the task.

I love what it means for the future of Star Wars, now that George Lucas has made his deal with Mickey Mouse and taken a more appropriate back seat. Perhaps, by the end of 2015, we'll have forgotten all about midi-chlorians and the "meesa meesa"-uttering abomination that was Jar Jar Binks. An uplifting prospect indeed, to which I must now ask someone to Vulcan nerve pinch me to make sure I'm not dreaming.

At any rate, that's two years from now, and presently we have this mind-blowing crowd-pleaser, which logic mandates I'm going to repeatedly enjoy until such times come to pass. So beam yourself to the theatres for a visual extravaganza, and be reminded of the greatness ahead as Abrams boldly goes where few directors have gone before. His designated mission: To save a universe from disgrace and restore a magic deemed forever lost at the hands of Darth Lucas. No easy quest indeed, to which, and behalf of hopeful fans all across the galaxy, I say:

May the Force be with you. May the Force be with us all.
Marvel's The Avengers 2012,  PG-13)
Marvel's The Avengers
Joss Whedon's epic superhero spectacle is everything I could have ever hoped it to be and more! Where most directors would settle for a run-of-the-mill money-maker, Whedon has gone beyond our collective dreams, pouring all his heart, soul and talent into a creation that can only be described as a godly entity of the comic book world. It's to Marvel's great universe what The Dark Knight is to DC's. An all-around stellar achievement, that brings out the best of all its characters, with great humor, warmth and phenomenally directed action. I mean, I knew it would be good, but I wasn't quite ready for this thoroughly mind-blowing experience. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johanssen and all the rest - there's not a performance in here that isn't absolutely smashing (quite literally in The Hulk's case). And what amazing chemistry between the lot, if not to rank it as utter perfection! The way they work together as a team, poking fun at each other's differences while uniting their various strengths in bona fide comradery, makes not only for grandiose entertainment, but also scenes of pure poignancy, when the common cause leaps into true friendship, involving audacious derring-dos and heart-gripping sacrifice. Action-wise, it's a real powerhouse as well. I have seen some breath-taking battles through the years, but nothing could have prepared me for the awesome showdown of the film's monolithic third act. State-of-the-art visuals, coupled with an incredibly thrilling soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat suspense, leaves you with minimal room to catch your breath and goosebumps so frequent, it feels like the bumps on your skin are gonna stay permanently in that state. Additionally, the film boasts a strikingly cool villain, in the form of the powerful demi-god Loki, played with intensity and malice by a terrific Tom Hiddleston. Easily the best film of the year so far and an extraordinarily stunning crowd-pleaser, that will have you laughing, applauding and overwhelmed with all possible emotions. And that's just to give the sum of it. In the details dwells so much more, and a movie so wealthy in excitement, that you never want it to end. Blockbusters as fantastic as these only come out once every 5 years or so, and it's definitely gonna give Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises a run for its money. An auteur's vision realized; filled to the brim with fireworks for the eyes and intellect alike. Yet no words can truly it do justice. Like the great arts and wonders of the world, you just have to see and experience it for yourself.
Ted 2012,  R)
What a phenomenal year for Seth MacFarlane! First he reaps huge success world-wide with this live-action debut (returning his investment with a 170 million dollar profit in the U.S. alone) and now he's been asked to the great honor of hosting the Oscars next year. The man is clearly on a roll and deservedly so! Epically hilarious and with cameos I only dreamt possible in my wildest dreams, Ted isn't just the funniest movie of the year - it's the single greatest comedy I've seen since Borat in 2006. I mean, just the fact that Patrick "Picard" Stewart has lent his voice as the narrator, how awesome isn't that? If I'm sounding giddy like a little school boy, it's because I practically am. I wish I could let you in on all the details as to why, but in consideration to those who haven't seen it yet, I want to leave the best gags unspoiled. What I can say though, is that if you were ever a fan of Family Guy, you're gonna love this movie! And even if you're not, you'll probably end up enjoying it anyway. A high-concept laugh riot, it starrs Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, who as a boy was granted a magical wish that made his teddybear spring to life. Immediately becoming best friends, or "thunder buddies" as they say in their own words, they're still thick as thieves well into John's adult years. However, with the novelty long gone of the sensational talking cuddly toy, Ted's pot-smoking, wild living and overall bad influence on John, becomes a little too much for his girlfriend Lori (the gorgeous Mila Kunis), who progressively experiences it as a strain on their relationship. John must make a choice: his girlfriend or his best bud, which sets the premise for this extremely twisted fairly tale, that is part rom-com, part satire and 100% out of control. As can be expected from the mind of MacFarlane, there's a lot of pop culture references and moments of sweet nostalgia. Younger generations (let's call them "Biebers" for the sake of getting my point across) may fail to relate to the shenanigans surrounding the cult classic Flash Gordon, and frankly, I couldn't care less. This is a love letter to those who still remember the wonder years before the Internet, when happiness wasn't the next Iphone or expansion to World of Warcraft, but could come in the shape of something as simple and uncomplicated as a teddy bear. Okay, in this case a perverted and foul-mouthed little furball, but still, the message remains endearing! For if you look past the toilet humor and politically incorrect vulgarities, you'll find that Ted, above all, has lot of heart and soul. More surprising yet, I haven't seen Mark Wahlberg this enthusiastic about anything since his golden days as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. Seriously, not a single frown in sight! On the other hand, who wouldn't be begeistered about the idea of getting some make-out time with Mila Kunis. Now there's some motivation to go to work if any. In any case, I absolutely loved this unorthodox and outrageously funny fantasy romp, which appealed as much to the inner kid in me as my older, less innocent self. If MacFarlane wasn't knighted a comedic genius before, he certainly will in regard to this no-holds-barred masterpiece. Because after laughing myself to tears for nearly 2 hours on end, it's with excitement in my veins that I'm looking forward to whatever kind of crazy he'll cook up for us next!
A Royal Affair 2012,  R)
A Royal Affair
Period dramas, as many of us know, can be a double-edged sword. Although rarely bad, they tend, on occasion, to get lost in their own sense of importance; advocating costume work and talky politics, as opposed to telling a good story. A Royal Affair holds no such shortcomings. In truth, it is the most profoundly moving history piece I've seen in many years. Comparable to grand epics like Braveheart and Amadeus, which, I should emphasize, is not a parallel I draw lightly. Every quivering lip, every lustful gaze. Not a moment rings false in Nikolaj Arcel's harrowing account of a love story so powerful, that it would change the fate of an entire nation. Set in the latter half of the 18th century, it stars Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as Caroline Mathilde, who becomes queen of Denmark, as she moves away from her royal residence in England to marry King Christian VII. But whatever optimism she had for an agreeable life with him, soon dies away as Christians turns out to be an emotionally unstable man-child, with a psychologically unsound Peter Pan syndrome. Not unlike Mozart, only decadent, selfish and with little care for his newly arrived queen. All the while, the cultural movement that would later be known as The Age of Enlightenment is quickly spreading through Europe, now knocking at the door of Denmark as well. However, where Caroline admires the philosophies of free-thinking reformists like Rousseau and Voltaire, the Danish court stands firmly against it, banning all literature associated with those ideas. Sunk in melancholy, with her husband the king growing ever more insane, she accepts the only purpose she has left, as in giving birth to a future regent. But then, just as hope seems lost, everything changes. A German intellectual, Johann Friedrich Struensee, is employed by King Christian as his personal physician. Played to the hilt by an outstanding Mads Mikkelsen, Johann and Queen Caroline find an instant attraction to each other, which flourishes into a full-out love affair, as dangerous as it is passionate. I've seen quite a few period films in my days, but none have left me so stirred as this lavishly crafted masterstroke of a film. Lacing groundbreaking historic events with the forbidden desires of the two kindred spirits, it creates intrigues of such potency that you invest yourself completely. Having lived in Denmark in my younger years, where I also met my first love, made the experience all the more close to home. Filled with warmth, humor, elegance and splendor, A Royal Affair was even more fantastic than I had hoped. The way Johann's and Caroline's affections for each other brought freedom to an entire country is inspiring beyond words. Their sacrifices also remind us how the liberties we enjoy today ought not to be taken for granted. There were, after all, those who paid for it dearly in blood, sweat and tears. Tears are what I came to shed as well, as an effect of its devastating character fates. I won't go into any exact details here, in order to avoid spoilers, but those who have seen it or know their history, will understand what I'm referring to. A majestic, audacious and beautifully acted drama, which bares itself like few other films, with a transcendent depiction of one of history's greatest love stories. Truly a must-see, if only to be swept away by the vulnerable, heart-rending performances of its two leading stars.
Life of Pi 2012,  PG)
Life of Pi
Divine on so many levels, my experience with Life of Pi is a lot like eating at my favorite Indian restaurant. First there is the appetizer: a light, but delectable salad to introduce you to what's coming and get the stomach going. Then there is the ambrosial main course, but instead of the usual mixed sizzler of pork and lamb, entailing a side dish of garlic naan bread (mm, my mouth is watering something bad now just writing it), it's a buffet combined of the visual spice of Avatar, the powerful survival themes of Cast Away and the complex human-animal relationships of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. And yet, the parallels fall short of capturing its entire spirit and essence.

Bravely adapted to screen from Yann Martel's bestseller - which, by the way, was said to be unfilmable - the versatile Ang Lee hasn't just beautifully brought it to life, he makes it look easy. Or perhaps better said, as easy as Pi. We should all thank our deities that it was he who got the assignment and not M. Night Shyamalan, who at one point was attached to write and direct this gargantuan project. Also Jean-Pierre Jeunet was among the considered, which is kind of ironic as many of its eye-popping qualities reminded me a lot of his work.

Adventurous and deeply symbolic, it chronicles the story of Pi Patel, the son of a zookeeper who already as a child exhibits an unusual fascination for the mysteries of life, by its many faiths and religions. As narrated from his adult and present-day self, he recounts how he became multi-religious; picking meanings and parables from the various religions of the world like hors d'oeuvres from a smorgasbord. "Faith is a house with many rooms", as he explains to a young novelist who is interested in doing an adaptation of his remarkable tale.

The most essential part of the story, however, begins with a sea voyage where Pi and his family - by initiative of his rationalistic father - leave their old life behind to settle for a new home in Canada. Along for the journey is all the animals of their zoo, in what basically boils down to a metaphor for Noah's Ark (which is just one of many religious references to discover throughout the film). Their venture soon takes a dramatic turn, however, as a storm plummets the ship to a watery grave, leaving him the only survivor in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Only human survivor that is, as he is now adrift on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. What sounds like the premise of a bad joke, now becomes an epic struggle to stay alive and afloat. You wonder who's gonna eat who, although if you've read the novel or seen the trailers, you should already have the answer.

Beyond the trials and tempests though, what really struck a personal chord with me was the matters of faith and inner endeavors. Juxtaposed to my own life, there was a time where I, much like Pi, was searching for the truths behind all things cosmic and earth-bound. What I discovered is that I couldn't identify myself with any one religion. By tradition, I was born and baptized as a Christian, but thankfully I lived in a family that allowed for open and critical thinking, and thus I was encouraged to form my own view and apprehension of the world.

I believe that all religions have some truth to them, but none has all the answers. For instance, I am convinced there is a spirit world and a higher power beyond our comprehension. But I don't believe in God as represented in the Bible, but in my own version of "him", as a force and greater intelligence in all things, as opposed to an old man sitting on a cloud, dealing out judgment left and right. I also, like in Hinduism, believe very strongly in past lives and that each life we live comes with important lessons, the wisdom and spiritual evolvement from which we carry into the next. I don't pretend to have found all the answers, only that this seems true in my eyes, based upon instincts and personal experiences. My mind is always open and respectful towards those who believe differently or not at all. And I think that's what I'm trying underscore here: the film's underlying message of tolerance and broader perception. It's a key most valuable, if we're ever going to find that golden balance to bring harmony to our diverse society.

I'm gonna stop there though, before this review leaps out of subject and expands into a thesis on my relations to faith. Besides, I think the 10-page essay I wrote in high school covered most of my thoughts on it. And there's so much more to this film than its compelling existentialism. Like the breathtaking visuals, which are as much a marvel to the eyes as they are to the soul. The effects conceived for Richard Parker alone is a milestone in technical wizardry. Although 86% of the tiger shots are CGI and the rest filmed with a real tiger, I honestly couldn't tell the two apart. Truly astounding, if not to say the best application of visual effects I've seen since Gollum and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes".

Grand in scope and enchanting in every step of the journey, Ang Lee has with Life of Pi created a stunningly beautiful saga, not soon to fade from memory. A tragic, touching and incredibly piece of cinematic art, which emphasizes his genuine love for transcendent and soulful storytelling. I'm literally in awe with this film, which is, hands down, his best achievement to date.

Vibrant, mesmerizing, phantasmagorical and colorful; whichever way you choose to interpret this spectacular adventure (and believe me, you will be left with a lot of thought-provoking choices), it's from any slant a gratifying magnum opus in the borderland between fantasy and reality. Not perfectly so perhaps, but what I can say with great certainty is that I - passionately and with much enthusiasm - already long to come back for another slice of celestial Pi.
Argo 2012,  R)
To act decisively, making the right call at the right time, is an art form which can mean the difference between life and death. Much in the same way that authenticity in the performances can separate mediocrity from a dynamite movie. Argo, on all levels, is an impressive epitome of the latter. With meticulous attention to detail, it re-recreates the tumultuous period that is revolutionary Iran in the late 70's. An agitated mob, infuriated by recent events involving their former and USA-friendly Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, has breached the American embassy in Teheran and taken the personnel hostage. Six of them manage to escape, but fall into unimaginable peril. Argo is the true story of the CIA-Canadian joint operation whose objective was to get them home to safety. A mission so secret, that it wasn't declassified to the public until 1997, by President Bill Clinton. Odds are grim and alternatives few. Tony Mendez, an exfiltration expert, hatches an idea so daring that it might actually work: to venture to Iran under the cloak of a phony film project (ostensibly entitled Argo) and via false documents smuggle out the Americans as part of the production crew. It's intrepid, adrenaline-ridden and not seldom with your heart in your throat. A situation so charged, that the nerves are strained to their breaking point and the air seem all but squeezed from your lungs. Surely, it's been spiced up a bit in the highly intense suspense segments. It is, despite everything, not a straight-out documentary. Even so, it thoroughly comes off as a legitimate depiction of this in many ways interesting coup de maître. Ben Affleck, now warm in his director's chair, scores his third straight bullseye. That he has furthermore assembled some of Hollywood's crème-de-la-crème (encompassing within the comically supreme John Goodman and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston) creates more than enough Argo-ments to see and relish this extraordinary political thriller.

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