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Created Jan 15, 2013 08:56PM PST • Updated Jan 26, 2014 03:33PM PST

The Great, Really Great & Perfect new movies I saw in ’13: i.e. the new movies I graded 4, 4.5 or a full 5 beams out of 5.

The final count of 35 tops the 32 from 2012 by three. Hmm, which trio were they?

Average

  • Really Great
  •  
  • 79 Points
Title Released Trust Weighted Summary Viewable
1st 12 Years a Slave
2013 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Solomon Northup has just become an iconic American hero, some fifteen and a half decades after he lived. Americans from this day forth will know his name like they know Patrick Henry’s or Harriet Tubman’s.

That’s not all. The movie that brought his memoir to us just joined the short list of supremely important American history films, alongside Saving Private Ryan and Lincoln up on the cinematic Mount Rushmore….

Full Review »
Added Oct 31, 2013 11:20PM PST • Updated Nov 01, 2013 10:45PM PST
2nd Gravity
2013 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Gravity isn’t the point, zero-gravity is. However, its title is the only thing underwhelming about Alfonso Cuarón’s benchmark movie. Everything else in Gravity overwhelms. For instance, the vertical line of a sunrise coming around the massive planet looming below some intrepid astronauts is so familiar, yet so full-screen immersive, it creates a wholly new kind of cinematic experience. Imagine that.

The best movie of the year – so far – sets a new standard in outer space adventure, doing so by eschewing silly hijinks and toning down the dialog to something approximating reality. Or s…

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Added Oct 06, 2013 01:39PM PST • Updated Nov 01, 2013 10:45PM PST
3rd Her
2013 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Her is set in Los Angeles by way of Shanghai – palm trees, beaches and lots and lots of super tall towers. People barely engage with other people. They engage with cybots: robotic cyber-beings purringly delivered.

Scarlett Johansen turns in the sexiest performance of her career as Samantha, a cybot who just thought of her name a nanosecond ago. Sweet, saucy and seductive, ScoJo’s mouth turns out to be her sexiest organ.

Siri inspired, Spike Jonze created, Her hits several cinematic erogenous zones: important • SciFi • romance.

  • Important Jonze uses Siri as a jumping-off poi…
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Added Jan 20, 2014 11:25PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
4th Inside Llewyn Davis
2013 Perfect 66 Points
_100

The Coen Brothers latest is one of their best, strong praise indeed for the creators of classics that include The Big Lebowski, Intolerable Cruelty and Miller’s Crossing. Yet their evocation of a fictionalized early Sixties folk scene is pitch perfect. Star turns, outstanding songs and more than a few laughs elevate Inside Llewyn Davis into their pantheon and easily make it one of the great movies of 2013.

Hear the whistle blow 500 miles, Inside Llewyn Davis is in the pantheon now, away from home no more.

Oscar Isaac cut…

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Added Dec 25, 2013 12:17AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
5th The Way, Way Back
2013 Perfect 86 Points
_100

The Way, Way Back is the perfect summer movie from this Summer of `13. It opens and closes with a painfully awkward teen in the late, lamented way-way-back of a 1970 Buick Estate Station Wagon.

In between he spends a life-changing summer at the beach house of his Mom’s asshole boyfriend, played to loathsome perfection by a never better Steve Carell. Fortunately he gets taken under the wing of Sam Rockwell’s carefree water park manager, allowing the boy to break the bad man’s spell by learning from a good man. This avuncular triangle is composed of staggeringly strong performances fr…

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Added Jul 15, 2013 09:48AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
6th Mud
2013 Really Great 86 Points
_100

Joe Morgenstern declared Mud an instant classic in the Wall Street Journal. Not sure why, but hell yes.

You almost want to ding Mud for being such a classically terrific movie, but damn if it doesn’t play out as monumentally cinematic yet nearly natural. Kind of a crime caper involving bounty hunters and vendettas, it never resorts to the double-cross. Instead it unfurls one single-cross after another, most of them dramatic jabs, some uppercuts. OK, the one ding is Mud’s smoking, more about which later.

The Mud of the titl…

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Added Apr 28, 2013 02:50AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
7th Iron Man 3
2013 Really Great 86 Points
_100

Ironic Man returns for a third iteration with his emotional suit of armor in place, humorously deflecting intimacy from friends, foes, lovers and ex-lovers. OK, not all gets deflected. There are several close calls, even a few breakdowns. Hell, there are panic attacks. Hey, it worked in the Sopranos. Works here too.

There’s also plenty of high flying, super-powered action, all of it up to snuff, marvelous Marvel snuff.

Robert Downey Jr’s voice-over opens and closes IM3, with his knowing patter filling most of the rest of this very long movie. This a good thing, a very good thi…

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Added May 18, 2013 05:07PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
8th Star Trek Into D...
2013 Really Great 83 Points
_100
Best. Star Trek. Ever.

Some may grade it Perfect, understandably so. Me, I grade Star Trek Into Darkness a tick above its Great predecessor – Really Great and the best Star Trek ever.

If J.J. Abrams sees fit to include the perfect Star Trek theme music before the closing credits of his third iteration, he’ll get a Perfect grade from me then. But that’s about the only ding Abrams’ second Star Trek deserves, not counting its cheerful cheesiness, without which it wouldn’t be Star Trek.

It’s got all the virtues of Abrams’ Star Trek reboot

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Added May 18, 2013 05:07PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
9th Kon-Tiki
2013 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Officially a 2012 movie, Kon-Tiki was released Stateside in May 2013, so I’m declaring it a 2013 movie.

Thor Heyerdal and Kon-Tiki have been the coolest sounding names for well over half a century now. They certainly made an impression on me as a kid, when Heyerdal was already a longstanding legend….

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Added May 31, 2013 11:49PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
10th Captain Phillips
2013 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Tom Hanks has his best role in years as Captain Rich Phillips, yet ends up second banana to the U.S. Navy in general and the SEALs in particular. The combined effect elevates Captain Phillips to true greatness. That it is also the rare history lesson delivered while still current elevates it to a distinctly elite level.

Paul Greengrass had an unqualified success with Flight 93 and nearly has another in Captain Phillips. Both major movies deal with fateful current events in ways powerful and direct, albeit sometimes slanted.

Gre…

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Added Oct 13, 2013 09:01PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
11th Man of Steel
2013 Really Great 90 Points
_100

Man of Steel isn’t lite or frivolous, making it a disappointment to those expecting snark or bubblegum. Christopher Nolan takes heavyweight DC superheroes seriously, first producing, writing and directing The Dark Knight trilogy, and now producing and writing a gunmetal grey Man of Steel.

His vision – through a lens darkly – is as superb and substantial for Superman as it was for Batman.

Nolan keeps his 21st Century super streak intact by orchestrating a complete cinematic reboot of the original comic book superhero, e…

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Added Jun 16, 2013 06:24PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
12th The Sapphires
2012 Great 66 Points
_100

2013 release in the U.S.

Sweet soul music forms the soundtrack of this infectiously enjoyable Australian musical-comedy. Telling the truthy tale of four black girls from Down Under who performed American soul music for U….

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Added Oct 30, 2013 11:18PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
13th Gangster Squad
2013 Great 95 Points
_100

The first great movie of 2013 is Gangster Squad.

Oh great, what we’ve got here is a movie featuring a bunch of Hollywood Liberals gunning down loads of people with weapons they’d like to ban in real life, all in the name of entertainment. Only in America.

OTOH, what’s great is a richly produced, charismatically performed period-piece glamorizing Los Angeles’ glimmering period as America’s America. It’s also one hell of a popcorn movie. Munch on that.

Star power in front and behind the camera mark Gangster Squad as a polished Hollywoodized product.

Sean Penn is the ringer in…

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Added Jan 15, 2013 08:56PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
14th NO
2013 Great 66 Points
_100

Officially a 2012 movie, NO was released Stateside in March 2013, so I’m declaring it a 2013 movie. Does that make me a cultural imperialist?

So big it came down to YES or NO. A national referendum on authoritarian rule, YES or NO?

NO won, a shock to Chile, many Latinos and the world. Turns out that pop was the way to nail the wease…

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Added Mar 19, 2013 10:56PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
15th The Place Beyond...
2013 Great 86 Points
_100

Two great movies, one bad title, The Place Beyond the Pines could lose 20 ticks and still be twice typical Hollywood fare. Ryan Gosling & Bradley Cooper play two guys on opposite sides of the law, whose paths cross to lethal effect.

Both are conflicted and sympathetic. Neither is untarnished in their own lives or in the lives they pass on.

The movie is about bad choices made for understandable reasons, with the consequences of those choices manifested in the next generation. It’s also a terrific crime movie, a morally ambiguous cops-and-robbers archetypal vehicle for our scandalou…

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Added Apr 20, 2013 02:13PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
16th The Iceman
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

Pity The Iceman – the movie, not the Mafia hitman. Great mob movies are broadly treasured, even more when they’re about real guys who committed real crimes. And yet this one has flown under the radar.

6’ 4" with big Polish hands, the Iceman could take anybody and often did, mostly under orders, for money. Half sociopath, half family man, he killed over 100 working for the Gambinos and other real life Sopranos.

Richie – the Iceman – was a legitimate serial killer given his triple digit roster of victims, even if the movie shows him evincing no joy from killing, no sensory satisfac…

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Added May 27, 2013 12:10AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
17th This Is the End
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

This Is The End is the demented love child of Superbad, Pineapple Express, Cloverfield and Left Behind. Yes, that’s four parents. Who’s judging. Slyly self-referential, super sick and sock-it-to-me funny, it simply slays – comedically speaking. Roughly 40% LOL, the intervening 60% gets spent recovering from the last laugh, teeing up the next one or reeling from how wildly inappropriate the current bit is.

Making it more fun at the theater, different people in the audience LOL at different things, so you end up with a laugh riot version of The Wave. My audience at the "Century …

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Added Jun 15, 2013 03:22AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
18th The Kings of Summer
2013 Great 69 Points
_100

The Kings of Summer starts with a title so perfect it’s a wonder it’s never been used before. It proceeds to gently satire and lovingly fantasize about coming-of-age in small town America, just pre-facebook.

The movie gets regularly punctuated by genuinely funny lines, some LOL. Good thing given how arch, absurd and idiosyncratic much of it is. How arch? Satirically arch. Circumstantially surreal to get clinical.

Vowing “WHY LIVE WHEN YOU CAN RULE” begets a Huck Finn adventure in 21st century America that dramatizes the eternal dynamic of boys wanting to be men. It even includ…

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Added Jun 23, 2013 11:08AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
19th The Heat
2013 Great 86 Points
_100

The Heat brings the laughs, as it should. The nastiness too, as it must, nasty humor being the currency of today’s hit comedies. The Heat is rolling in that smack. How funny is this movie? 75% LOL. More if you can still hear between your own convulsive laughter and the theater-sized laugh party all around you.

Normal for today’s Hard R comedies, some of the shit is funny for being incomprehensible or outrageous. Fortunately the bizarre stuff mostly just gets described, albeit in the most extreme terms possible.

Most of the filth gets spewed from a female mouth, adding to the wow…

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Added Jul 06, 2013 10:10PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
20th Pacific Rim
2013 Very Good 88 Points
_100

The matchless mind of Guillermo del Toro comes through on his biggest canvas yet. His Pacific Rim is perfectly attuned to the neural frequencies of 13 year-old males. Yield to it, be one with it, drift inside its richly envisioned adolescent outlook, and the movie is a near continuous tickle. Reject it – as most females and adults surely will – and it’s so much loud, clanging crap.

It helps if you’re the kind of person who entertained a dream of being a fighter pilot. If not, the movie’s probably not for you. Of course, those two sets often intersect. Boys who want (or wanted) to…

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Added Jul 13, 2013 11:18AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
21st The Wolverine
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

The title sucks, but the movie rocks. Rox tops sux. How does it rock? Let us count the ways.

  1. Marvel spins well-wrought yarns, with superheroes defined by their foibles as much as their powers. Wolverine has love-lost and anger issues. At some level, who doesn’t?
  2. Nice that he’s facing-off mortal enemies for the fate of something less than the whole world. IOW, the antagonists and the reason they’re fighting are only at an 8 on a scale of 10, whereas superhero movies typically are turned up to 11. Nice restraint, that.
  3. Hugh Jackman’s a big time moviestar operating at full acti…
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Added Jul 26, 2013 12:57AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
22nd Blue Jasmine
2013 Great 86 Points
_100

Cate Blanchett transfixes in Woody Allen’s superior dramedy Blue Jasmine. Playing the Jasmine of the title, Blanchett goes from Park Avenue socialite to broken vixen in a performance that masterfully oscillates between elegance and rawness. That last almost assures her an Academy Award nomination.

Woody’s take on the Great Recession focuses on a younger version of Ruth and Bernie Madoff, in the wake of his unmasking. Hubris, narcism and greed make for heaping helpings of schadenfreude.

Her refined opportunism gets juxtaposed with her sister’s easygoing pluckiness, honed through a…

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Added Aug 04, 2013 12:37PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
23rd Only God Forgives
2013 Great 66 Points
_100

Blood begets blood as a Bangkok blood feud drives waves of retribution in artistic director Nicholas Winding Refn’s crime thriller Only God Forgives. Think Drive crossed with Bronson, set in Asia.

If that doesn’t mean anything to you, imagine Ryan Gosling in a savagely violent, broodingly artistic genre pic. As Jack Nicholson almost said in Prizzi’s Honor: I didn’t know whether to puke or swoon.

Swooning won, as it will for Asian action movie fans, Gosling fans and Nicholas Winding Refn fans. Indeed, reuniting leading man Gosling with …

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Added Aug 05, 2013 07:29PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
24th Kick-Ass 2
2013 Great 66 Points
_100

Kick-Ass 2 could’ve gotten by with Very Good given how beloved Kick-Ass was. Yet it reaches greatness, notwithstanding its horridly extreme edginess: Beware the crap in this movie because it is voluminous.

You end up with a bunch of LOL lines and gags, interspersed with vomit-inducing rudeness and violence. The effect is disconcerting, but doesn’t outweigh the copious cleverness and winsome performances.

Much of the cleverness comes from the High School settings. It’s been a long time since I’ve walked those halls, but most underclassmen and seniors alike will recognize the situatio…

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Added Aug 20, 2013 08:08PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
25th In a World...
2013 Great 66 Points
_100

In a world … where shallow people and male chauvinists thrive, and attractiveness drives income, there’s a woman smart enough, pretty enough and funny enough to write, direct and star in a great little RomCom.

Lake Bell’s her name and taking on the patriarchy’s her game. Well, the part of the patriarchy that operates in an obscure corner of the movie industry, the world of trailers, a.k.a. previews.

More specifically, her movie skewers the clubby world behind the voiceovers that sell coming attractions. Stentorian male voices have ruled this world since well before the Hollywood G…

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Added Aug 24, 2013 01:16AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
26th Thérèse
2012 Great 66 Points
_100

Released Stateside in 2013

Thérèse is a great film by the great Claude Miller of the great French novel Thérèse Desqueyroux, 1927. Think of it as Madame Bovary in the pine forests of Southwest France. Only Thérèse b…

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Added Sep 11, 2013 11:33PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
27th Don Jon
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

Heterosexual relationships circa 2013 get skewered in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s smoking hot opus Don Jon. The awkward title – albeit bold in its simplicity – undersells what an accomplished undertaking this is by JGL, who continues a long running ascent towards Hollywood immortality.

His high-scoring playboy would rather play with himself than with his weekly conquests at the club. Well, in addition to his conquests. Dude’s got an above average sex drive – his right hand his frequent playmate.

Don Jon is the second sex addiction comedy of the Fall, coming close on the heels o…

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Added Oct 11, 2013 12:10AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
28th Last Vegas
2013 Great 66 Points
_100

Last Vegas nails its high concept to a T, starting with the T it nails to its ass, er Las. Vegas bachelor party, geriatric style sums it up. Low-brow formula doesn’t preclude accomplished execution however, especially given major star power, considerable chemistry and ample cheesecake – Kings over Queens you might say.

I admit to being charmed by Last Vegas in part by being in generational proximity to its Medicare-eligible stars. And in being a guy, the movie being a celebration of male privilege as much as anything else. So what. Funny is funny, charming is charming and Vega…

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Added Nov 07, 2013 06:14PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
29th Thor: The Dark W...
2013 Great 66 Points
_100

A ton of fun, notwithstanding its fashionably dark title, Thor: The Dark World features great baddies, ample turnabout, strong women and one mighty powerful hammer. My theater really enjoyed it, dates even more than dudes, judging from all the female laughter. That was mostly triggered by two terrific female characters and the relationship one has with what can only be described as The Ultimate Boyfriend.

That would be Thor, God of Thunder and Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Asgard, the most bitching celestial realm imaginable. IOW, quite a catch for an Earth girl, even one played by…

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Added Nov 09, 2013 01:02AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
30th Europa Report
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

Whoa, we’ve got ourselves a great new SciFi gem, an instaclassic along the lines of Gravity. It’s imperfect sure, but Europa Report’s mashup of that new benchmark’s workaday realism, Prometheus’s something’s-out-there sensationalism and The Blair Witch Project’s found-footage immediacy makes for a potent brew.

Europa Report plays straight with Earth sending half a dozen humans on a multiyear mission to Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon. Europa

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Added Nov 14, 2013 09:32PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
31st The Hunger Games...
2013 Really Great 83 Points
_100

The silver screen has never seen a contemporary ideal the likes of Katniss Everdeen, male or female. Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to superstardom is wrapped up in her personification of this revolutionary hero, this secular Joan of Arc for our post-modern times. J.Law channels J.Arc to become K.Eve you might say.

Fortunately you don’t have to grok The Hunger Games’ deeper meanings or know the book to dig the movie. It helps to have seen the first movie, though that’s not necessary given how well told this one is. Familiar…

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Added Nov 24, 2013 02:47AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
32nd Nebraska
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

Nebraska is a triumph of character development and acting. Good thing, since the plot only goes from A to B – or from Billings to Omaha, which is further than A is from B, but not by much.

It dyspeptically portrays Middle-American lives lived as nasty and brutish. Short too? No, long and sad.

Alexander Payne and Bob Nelson, director and writer, are from Nebraska and South Dakota respectively. They know the flat terrain and stolid people well. One senses they don’t much like them. In fairness, urban drama is often similarly dyspeptic, yet Nebraska is sneakily mean spirited, j…

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Added Dec 11, 2013 11:40PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
33rd The Hobbit: The ...
2013 Really Great 83 Points
_100

The elves dominate Hobbit 2. Coolest, prettiest, deadliest – they look especially good in the nearby poster. Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas; Evangeline Lilly joins as Tauriel, Chief of the Guards; moviestars both.

But it’s not just martial elves that make this movie such a treat. Adventure beyond all reason reaches an apotheosis with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, an old fashioned adventure movie produced at stupendously large scale, with a crew of thousands manipulating gazillions of simulations to pull it off.

Hobbit: DOS is the second superior sequel of the year, b…

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Added Dec 15, 2013 02:43PM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
34th Saving Mr. Banks
2013 Really Great 66 Points
_100

Mary Poppins has a fascinating and affecting backstory. Who knew. Yet it’s not a surprise when you think about it. Then, how much have we thought about Mary Poppins? Deeply that is. We’ve watched it, each of us, first as kids, loving it like no other movie. It’s the perfect kid’s movie after all. Then again as parents, watching it time and again with our own kids. Loving it again: the songs, the laughs, the adventures, the bottomless bag, the drama. Real drama involving real kids, which then as now is really remarkable.

It turns out we never really thought about it however, espe…

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Added Dec 31, 2013 12:10AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST
35th The Wolf of Wall...
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

The Wolf of Long Island celebrates a craven criminal: a coke snorting, lude popping, reverse Robin Hood. What’s that? The biopic about the demented Jordan Belfort is titled The Wolf of Wall Street. Really? He spent scant time there. Belfort and his entire operation are Long Islanders down to their puerile pugnacity.

Martin Scorsese’s 27th movie is still easy to love. Highly accomplished guilty pleasures have that effect. So what if Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio came to bury Belfort, not praise him. Failure can be fun.

Canis Lupus Lawngylandus was and is a conman of…

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Added Jan 05, 2014 02:28AM PST • Updated May 22, 2014 12:53AM PST

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Dec 31, 2013 12:14AM
Wick

33 and the year’s not over. 2012 ended with 32.

Nov 1, 2013 10:48PM
Wick

25 at the ten month mark. Last year ended with 32. Are seven more in the offing between now and New Years?

Sep 11, 2013 11:45PM
Wick

And Thérèse makes 20. Still a third of the year to go. Could hit 30.