10 best movies of 2013 - Catholic Courier

10 best movies of 2013

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By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

Captain Phillips

CNS photo by Columbia

Tom Hanks, left, and Barkhad Abdirahman star in a scene from the movie “Captain Phillips.”

In the engrossing, complex and compassionate docudrama “Captain Phillips,” the skipper (Tom Hanks) of a giant container ship is taken hostage by Somali pirates (led by Barkhad Abdi). Director Paul Greengrass skillfully re-creates the harrowing maritime ordeal while keeping the humanity of all those concerned in the foreground.


CNS photo by Warner Bros.

Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman star in a scene from the movie “42.”

The uplifting historical drama “42” recounts the 1947 reintegration of professional baseball, a breakthrough made possible by the collaborative efforts of Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (a splendid Harrison Ford) and Negro League star Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Writer-director Brian Helgeland’s film is buoyed by Rickey’s feisty righteousness and by the inspiring example of Robinson’s forbearance in the face of hate.


CNS photo by Warner Bros.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a scene from the movie “Gravity.”

In director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron’s thrilling adventure “Gravity,” a Russian missile strike destroys the space shuttle and maroons its only surviving crewmates (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney). The nearness of death provokes reflections on mortality and the afterlife, which are used as steppingstones toward a resolution that viewers of faith will find refreshingly pro-life.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

CNS photo by Lionsgate

Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence star in the movie “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

The satisfying action sequel “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” follows the further adventures of the two victors (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) of a survival tournament in which youngsters from an oppressed underclass must battle to the death. In adapting the second volume in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian trilogy, director Francis Lawrence decreases the intensity of the violence on screen, and his film’s moral center is solid.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

CNS photo by Weinstein

Robin Williams and Forest Whitaker star in a scene from the movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

The personal collides with the political in the affecting fact-based drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” which tells the story of a plantation worker (Forest Whitaker) who makes his way to Washington, where he finds coveted employment on the domestic staff of the White House. Appealing performances, especially Oprah Winfrey’s complex portrayal of the main character’s wife, keep the unfolding events from feeling like a checklist of postwar history.

The Place Beyond the Pines

CNS photo by Focus

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes star in a scene from the movie “The Place Beyond the Pines.”

In the wrenching and profound multigenerational saga “The Place Beyond the Pines,” directed and co-written by Derek Cianfrance, a motorcycle stuntman (Ryan Gosling) re-encounters his ex-lover (Eva Mendes), who reveals they have a baby son. Determined to provide for his newfound offspring, he embarks on a spree of bank heists. The film offers a powerful message about temptation and relativism, as well as the role of conscience (L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).


CNS photo by Warner Bros.

Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano star in a scene from the movie “Prisoners.”

In director Denis Villeneuve’s powerful drama “Prisoners,” a seemingly decent family man (Hugh Jackman) turns vicious vigilante after his 6-year-old daughter and a playmate are kidnapped. Though it presents the facade of a thriller, Villeneuve’s film — which also features Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead detective on the case — is primarily a richly symbolic exploration of morality, the human condition and the role of religious faith in a fallen world (L, R).

Saving Mr. Banks

CNS photo by Disney

Tom Hanks stars in a scene from the movie “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Director John Lee Hancock’s fact-based film “Saving Mr. Banks” recounts the behind-the-scenes circumstances surrounding the making of the classic 1964 musical “Mary Poppins,” a process that involved an intense battle of wills between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), who penned the tales on which the movie was based. The sincerity and wholesomeness of this comedy-and-drama blend make for a welcome change at the multiplex (A-II — adults and adolescents).

Star Trek Into Darkness

CNS photo by Paramount

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto star in a scene from the movie “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Star Trek Into Darkness” is director J.J. Abrams’ snappy follow-up to his 2009 reboot of — and parallel story to — the long-lived sci-fi franchise. Dynamic, impetuous Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his seemingly emotionless first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) lead their intrepid crew on a morally fraught crusade against an intergalactic terrorist (Benedict Cumberbatch). The underlying warning against employing immoral means to overcome evil is both scripturally resonant and timely.

12 Years a Slave

CNS photo by Fox Searchlight

Chiwetel Ejiofor, center, stars in a scene from the movie “12 Years a Slave.”

A free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) living happily with his wife and children in antebellum upstate New York is lured to Washington, then kidnapped and sold into servitude in “12 Years a Slave,” director Steve McQueen’s harsh but absorbing account of America’s “peculiar institution,” based on the eponymous 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup. A searing depiction of the endurance of the human spirit against crushing odds (L, R).

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Unless otherwise noted, the Catholic News Service classification for the films on this list is A-III — adults, and their Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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