Tim’s Thirteen of 2013

So ends 2013, just like that! What a year! We have continued to grow and do so much here at The Mind Reels, and we’re hoping for an even bigger year next year! So I decided to throw together a list of the movies I most enjoyed this year, the ones that got to me, the ones that made me love movies, and the ones that made me think. Are they the best films of the year? That’s not up to me. I just know that for me each of these movies was a fantastic cinematic experience, and that’s why I go to the movies…

Here they are, the 13 theatrical experiences that made my year.

5-25-775-25-77 (Patrick Read Johnson) – As soon as I heard about this movie, I wanted to see it. This film sounded like a film that was specifically tailored to me. A dreamer, longing to fit in and but be something more, and the biggest cinematic event on the horizon. You can read my original review here, and I cannot wait to see this film again. This on going back through all the titles below, was my singular most favorite experience in the theater this year. Amazing!!

The film is still making the festival rounds, and if you are lucky enough to be able to attend a screening, do it, and where your love for movies, sci-fi and geekdom proudly, because this is your movie. You will recognize parts of yourself, and your friends up there on the screen, and it resonates so beautifully with who I am.

I cannot wait to have a chance to see it again. I’m at the point I think where I’m going to beg Patrick for a copy to watch repeatedly ad infinitum (OH PLEASE, Patrick, PLEASE!!!).

Check out my original review here.

wpid-TheHunt.jpegThe Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg) – This one I got to see while I covered the Bermuda International Film Festival, which meant I got to go home, and see movies… perfect. This is one of the films that made me think, made me feel. It’s not always the easiest watch as Mads Mikkelsen’s character of Lucas has his life ripped apart by a small town because of the accusations of a little girl (Annika Wedderkopp).

Watching how everyone turns on him, making his life a complete ruin, is infuriating and frustrating. Everyone just automatically believes the little girl, talking about things she’s seen and done.

The performances are powerful, and without fault. It’s a strong film that showcases Mikkelsen’s incredible talent, and watching his character change and transform with everything he goes through is believable and heartfelt.

A fantastic watch!

Read my original review here.

hobbitThe Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson) – I love Middle Earth, I can lose myself along the winding roads, among the Misty Mountains, spends days in the Shire, and I have walked into Mordor.

The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in The Hobbit trilogy is a stronger film than it’s predeccesor (though I like it as well), the pacing and action move along and we find ourselves meeting the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his career as an unlikely burglar.

Gorgeous sets, costumes, locations and actors against a musical score by Howard Shore, makes for another strong entry in the stories of Middle Earth. But then, sadly, it all wraps up next year with the final film.

Still, for me, there is nothing cooler than watching Ian McKellen as Gandalf stride across the big screen.

I think it’s almost time to go back and watch them all again. Check out my original review here.

iron-man-3-international-posterIron Man 3 (Shane Black) – I’ve loved the Marvel Movies, since the first Iron Man, I can take or leave almost all of them before that. Now that they’ve created this massive, cross-film world, it’s always fun to go back and visit.

And when I heard that Shane Black was writing and directing this installment of the Iron Man franchise, having loved his and Robert Downey Jr.’s work so much in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I was practically giddy with excitement.

This time around Tony Stark (Downey) takes on the mysterious Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) as Alrdich Killian (Guy Pearce) works on the Extremis Project.

Picking up shortly after where The Avengers left off, it finds Tony in a tough place emotionally, and through the film he works through it, as all heroes do, while taking on the villains. This time around Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets to save the hero and of course, with Shane Black’s dialogue and direction there are some awesome moments.

I can’t wait for the next Marvel installment that excites me this much!

sak1Sex After Kids (Jeremy Lalonde) – I’m very happy to recognize the fact that my friend Jeremy has made another film that ended up being one of my favorites of the year.

A fun, quirky film with an epic cast, a number of whom Sue and I are fortunate enough to have interviewed and call friends, the film chronicles the ups and downs of relationships after a child has come into the picture.

Amanda Brugel practically steals the film, and Kate Hewlett and Mary Kronhert’s relationship is a gorgeous thing to watch.

Funny, sexy, and with Lalonde’s usual ear for fun dialogue, I felt this one far outstrips his previous film, which I adored, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard.

It’s still making the rounds out there, and if you can find one to watch, please do! Check out my look at it here.

Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting to see what the talented Lalonde comes up with next…

Network_PosterThe Network (Eva Orner) – A fantastic documentary that I got to see screened at the Bermuda International Film Festival, as well as being able to have a brief chat with the amazing director.

The Network follows the development of the first media group to grow and blossom in Afghanistan. It’s amazing to watch how these young people come together, not for glory, not for money, or media fame. They come to work there to make their country a better place, to help it through its growing pains.

They created news programmes, television shows, educational programmes…

By turns hopeful and heartbreaking Orner has made a fantastic doc that looks at Afghanistan in a way few of us have seen it, watching from the outside, and it opens one’s eyes about what is actually going on there, and the people who are trying to make their world a better place.

A gorgeous film.

Check out my original review here, and see it if you can.

alphee_of_the_starsAlphee of the Stars (Hugo Latulippe) – The Hot Docs film festival here in Toronto always has a number of gems that resonate with me, but of all of them that I saw this year, and I got to see a bunch, Alphee of the Stars touched me the most.

Little 5 year-old Alphee suffers from a rare genetic disease known as Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, and her family, after the local schools recommend a program for intellectually challenged children, pick up and move.

For 2 years, they leave behind Quebec and live in Switzerland, embracing a slower pace set by the needs of their daughter. A gorgeous film filled with hope and love, chronicling the growth of this wonderful little girl, as well as the family around her.

Perhaps we could all take a cue from her, instead of constantly rushing about, we should learn to slow it down a little, enjoy all of the moments that life has to share, and be with the ones who are most important to us.

You can check out my original piece here.

pacific_rim_ver12_xlgPacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro) – Giant monsters fighting giant robots directed by one of my most favorite directors, what’s not to like? And seeing it in 3D on the IMAX screen, does it get any better??

del Toro’s film is a big love letter to his own childhood, and rekindled a lot of my own as well. The invasion of Earth is underway, but it didn’t come from the stars, it came from a rift deep in the ocean, through which giant monsters emerge.

To combat them, giant machines are built, for two pilots, and then the mayhem begins.

With a fantastic cast including favorites Idris Elba and Ron Pearlman this film taps into the sheer joy of movies. This is a popcorn movie in the best way, giant-sized entertainment, with great sequences, fun moments, and fantastic visual effects.

I walked out of this one pumped and ready to watch it again! I’d expected to like it, I didn’t realize I was going to love it.

Check out my original take on it here.

wpid-BeyondTheHillsPoster.jpgBeyond The Hills (Cristian Mungiu) – This is another fantastic film that I saw screened at the Bermuda International Film Festival.

Based on a four volume, non-fiction work about a supposed possession at a remote monastery, the film explores the concepts of love, faith, and the way the old world and the new world clash in the modern world.

The two leads, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan shared the best actress prize at Cannes, and the film also nabbed best screenplay at the same festival.

It’s starkly and beautifully shot, and the subject matter is harrowing and heartbreaking, as these two women, who grew up together, who loved one another, find themselves on opposite sides of a religious divide, and the consequences that befall them both.

Clocking in at just short of 3 hours, this one wraps you up, and captivates you, a fantastic cinematic achievement.

See my original look at it here.

Europa-Report-2013-Movie-Poster1Europa Report (Sebastian Cordero) – This one I think is my favorite film from this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival Spotlight series. It had the most realistic portrayal of space travel since 2001, and had a story of fear and discovery on the most likely place to have life in our solar system, currently, Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

Filmed through a series of mounted cameras on suits and on the ship itself, it is a found-footage film, but it raises itself beyond that into actual pure science fiction as humanity gets out there, explores, facing and challenging the unknown to learn and become.

I love films like this, and it was so easy for me to buy into the reality of it on the big screen, now that it’s available on Netflix, I am totally watching this one again very soon.

I love when movies approach the thought of space exploration and contact in a realistic and believable way, it just fans the flames within me that wants to see us out there, exploring, becoming more than what we are now, changing those we meet, as they change us.

Contact. The idea is mind-blowing…

My original review is here.

conspiracyThe Conspiracy (Christopher MacBride) – Starring Aaron Poole (who along with Laura de Carteret and Christopher Macbride recorded a fantastic chat with Sue and I, which was then mysteriously lost…) this film taps into a level of paranoia I haven’t felt since The X-Files.

Two documentary filmmakers get caught up in an international conspiracy. When the subject of their documentary, a conspiracy buff (Alan C. Petersen) disappears, Aaron (Poole) and Jim (James Gilbert) find themselves getting drawn into a web of intrigue as connections between historical events and a group called the Tarsus Club begin to arise.

Unsure of what to believe the two are followed by black SUVs, menaced, and informed… until an opportunity presents itself to infiltrate one of the Tarsus Club’s gatherings.

And there things get even more sinister.

A well crafted paranoid thriller that poses as a documentary and successfully blurs the lines between fact and fiction, and makes you wonder how close to the mark some of the film actually is…

My original look at it can be found here.

worlds-end-poster-2World’s End (Edgar Wright) – The final installment of the Cornetto Trilogy mixes genres as well as the previous installments, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This time it’s comedy and sci-fi as a group of friends attempt to complete a pub crawl that they didn’t finish in their youth.

Simon Pegg plays Gary King, who thinks his life has done nothing but go down hill since his days in high school, and is attempting the pub crawl, The Golden Mile, as a last shot at reclaiming his former glory. He wrangles in his former friends, all of whom have grown apart, including Nick Frost and Martin Freeman, and make a run at, discovering at the same time, that the location of their pub crawl has in fact been taken over by alien robots.

The dialogue is hilarious, there are actually some poignant moments as well as a kick-ass soundtrack.

While this entry marks the end of the Cornetto Trilogy, I sincerely hope that Wright, Pegg and Frost continue making films together. They are an unbeatable trio, and so much fun to watch what they come up.

My original review is here.

day-of-the-doctorAnd finally there was the theatrical screening of The Day of The Doctor (Nick Hurran). While this is technically a television show, it screened for 3 days in theaters to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary, in an amazing 3D presentation, and came it at No.2 at the box office for that week. Not bad at all.

Featuring the story of a previously unknown Doctor (John Hurt), the return of 10 (David Tennant) and Billie Piper, the 50th Anniversary with Matt Smith’s Doctor, and Clara (Jenna Coleman) at his side, is probably one of the strongest Doctor Who stories to have come along in a while (no matter how much I love the show, even I can admit some of the stories of late haven’t been all they could be).

But for the 50th, they pulled out all the stops, and seeing it with an audience that geeked out and cheered, clapped and teared up at all the same moments I did. THAT is an amazing experience.

My original review is here.

What were your favorite cinematic moments of 2013 and what are you most looking forward to movie-wise for 2014?

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The Conspiracy (2012) – Christopher MacBride

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The Conspiracy is a dizzying descent through a glass darkly. A world where black SUVs have taken the place of black helicopters, and the New World Order is risen and installed in every aspect of life.

And this world is our own.

Or at least that is what conspiracy nut Terrance (Alan C. Petersen) would have us believe. That we exist in a slave state, watching our rights and freedoms stripped away as a small group of people solidify their power over us.

This faux documentary/found footage film blurs the lines of reality so well (one of the actor’s names is prominently displayed on a chat screen, as well as an email login), that one could easily succumb to the belief and paranoia that this is all really happening.

Two documentary filmmakers Aaron (Aaron Poole) and Jim (James Gilbert) aren’t so much interested in the conspiracy theories Terrance is spouting as much as they are in the man himself, making him the focus of their developing project, catching him preaching his beliefs to the passers-by, yelling at buildings and railing at people he’s sure are following him.

Aaron begins to wonder what’s worse, that Terrance is so delusional that he believes these things, or if they could actually be happening.

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When Terrance disappears, Aaron takes up the torch, leafing through newspaper clippings, trying to find the connections that Terrance saw, to piece together a different look at the world, and Jim watches as his friend begins to become as obsessive as their film’s subject. It invades his home, his life, and then he too begins to suspect that Terrance may be right.

They begin to see connections between historical events and the movement of unseen hands behind them, seeing tie-ins between conspiracy theories I knew about like those around assassinations, terrorist attacks, economic manipulation and one I didn’t, an ancient cult that worships a bull god named Mithras, which itself may have influenced and manipulated the religions that arose after it.

The first half of the film Terrance co-opts our reality quite nicely, and lays the groundwork for his beliefs, and whether you believe him or not, the evidence, theory and suppositions are laid out in a convincing pattern to facilitate that most-needed film ingredient, suspension of disbelief.

Even if you doubt parts of it, viewing with a skeptic’s eye, events chronicled through the course of the film, work very hard to persuade you, until Aaron and Jim are approached by a mysterious subject, Mark Tucker (Bruce Clayton), who penned a Time magazine article referring to a group known as the Tarsus Club, a gathering of the world’s elite, meeting, greeting, and making policy, without out knowledge.

And you sit there in the darkened theater, wondering how deep this rabbit hole really goes…?

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Then Aaron and Jim decide to go one step further, and infiltrate a Tarsus Club gathering hoping to uncover secrets and names…

Oh boy.

MacBride and his cast have crafted a wonderfully tense and engaging film, one that as soon as the credits finished rolling I was ready to sit through it again.

Using historical footage, recognizable locations (the Conspiracy Culture store featured in the film is just down the street from my apartment), well-researched subject matter, and more than a healthy dose of paranoia this film engaged and thrilled, and had me muttering worriedly at the screen as the final act of the film kicked into gear.

I have to say, I tend to worry when I hear about found footage films, because on the big screen I tend to get a little nauseous as the camera wheels back and forth, but it’s not until the final act when the camera switches to POV (to fingernail-chewing excellence during The Ceremony) and it rarely gets shakey. So thank you for that!

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Alongside Aaron Poole and James Gilbert, are other recognizable names like Laura de Carteret, Julian Richings, David Tompa, and Douglas Nyback (especially if you follow our blog or show!).

I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the music by Darren Baker. There is a music cue, in the final act of the film, that is, well, honestly, blatantly unnerving. If you’ve seen it, you know of what I speak, or if you go see it, you’ll know what I mean as soon as you hear it.

The highest compliment I can pay the rest of the crew is that I didn’t feel you were there. It felt like it was Jim, Aaron, and their tiny crew, nothing bigger than one or two folks. Also deserving of high kudos is the masterful editing by MacBride and Adam Locke-Norton, keeping the pace tight, and cutting in news and archival footage to underline a point, nice work.

This is one for anyone who loves a good thriller, and if you find the subject matter fascinating as I always have, you will be entertained, and watching for masks and SUVs when you leave the theater.

Check out the official site (and the trailer) here, Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here!

The Conspiracy is currently screening at Carlton Cinemas here in TO, check their site for other listings, and get out there and see this one (then tell me what you think!)!

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