Everyone loves watching a great movie or TV series, so we’ve compiled some of our favorite releases from the past year that just about guy will enjoy. And for more gift ideas, be sure to check out the other categories in our Father’s Day gift guide.
The Wolf of Wall Street
It’s been a while since Martin Scorsese’s last truly great film, but the director has rebounded in style with “The Wolf of Wall Street,” highlighted by Terrence Winter’s hilarious script and Leonard DiCaprio’s brilliant turn as Jordan Belfort. You’ve never seen the actor quite like this before, and he’s in top form as the notorious stockbroker, delivering what is arguably his best performance with Scorsese yet. The rest of the cast is great as well, especially Jonah Hill in another award-worthy turn, up-and-comer Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey in a short but memorable cameo. Loud, flashy and totally obscene, the movie is like a private tour through Belfort’s excessive, hard-partying lifestyle, including easily one of the greatest sequences of the year. (Hint: it involves a highly potent strain of Quaaludes.) Though it’s a little too long for its own good, the characters are so magnetic and the dialogue so fast and funny that “The Wolf of Wall Street” is hard not to enjoy. It’s Scorsese’s best film in years, and one that will only get better with time.
It’s been six years since Alfonso Cuarón’s last feature film – the criminally underrated “Children of Men” – but his outer space survival thriller was well worth the wait. “Gravity” is the kind of movie that will likely change the way films are made in the future. From the stunning, single-take opening sequence that lasts more than 12 minutes, to the numerous set pieces throughout, “Gravity” is such a technical marvel that it looks like Cuarón shot the whole damn thing in space. Though the story is ridiculously simple, not a single second of its 91-minute runtime is wasted, extracting so much suspense from the film’s terrifying setup that the brief injections of comedy (courtesy of George Clooney’s easygoing astronaut) are a welcome reprieve from the almost unrelenting intensity. Sandra Bullock delivers one of the best performances of her career as the rookie astronaut caught up in a seemingly impossible situation, but the real star of “Gravity” is Cuarón himself, and he deserves every bit of praise for creating what can only be described as pure movie magic.
Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season
Creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss have stated numerous times that they set Season Three as the unofficial benchmark as to whether or not the show would be a success, and it’s easy to see why, because it showcases the full complexity and richness of the universe that they inherited from George R.R. Martin. The third season expands its scope even further than the previous year, with several new characters quickly making their mark, and old ones (like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jamie Lannister, one of the season’s MVPs) continuing to evolve within that moral gray area where “Game of Thrones” thrives. It also featured some of the most shocking story developments to date, perhaps none more so than Episode 9’s infamous Red Wedding, which made Ned Stark’s beheading look like child’s play in comparison and was without a doubt one of the biggest television events of last year. The audience reaction to that episode is very telling of the show’s pop cultural footprint, and when the writing and acting is this good, it’s no surprise why its popularity continues to grow.
True Detective: The Complete First Season
Few shows have had such a spellbinding effect on its audience like HBO’s “True Detective,” the gritty crime drama that feels more like an eight-hour movie than a limited TV series. That’s because everything about the show is incredibly cinematic, from the smart writing by creator Nic Pizzolatto, to the brilliant direction by Cary Fukunaga, to Adam Arkapaw’s gorgeous cinematography. This is the kind of show that requires absolute patience and trust in the storytellers, opting for a slow-burning pace that allows the characters to evolve naturally over the course of its time-jumping narrative. Unlike most crime dramas, the mystery surrounding the killer’s identity is never as important as Rust and Marty’s respective arcs, and that’s what makes it such rich and gripping television. Well, that and two knockout performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who deliver some of the best work of their careers as the strikingly different partners. They elevate “True Detective” from a damn good drama to one that will be remembered as one of the greatest shows of its time. We can’t imagine a more perfect gift for any fan of “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad.”
Thor: The Dark World
We were really big fans of the first “Thor,” so our expectations were pretty high going into this sequel, and though “The Dark World” failed to live up to them, it’s still a pretty fun film. The movie is weakened by what is easily the worst villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, and some of the supporting characters are criminally underused (like Sif and the Warriors Three), but there are some really great moments throughout. Most of what works in the sequel is carried over from its predecessor. Tom Hiddlestone continues to prove why Loki is Marvel’s greatest asset, because as soon as he enters the film, it gets a lot more interesting, thanks in part to his excellent chemistry with Chris Hemsworth. The Earth-based scenes also feature some pretty big laughs (courtesy of Kat Dennings), and the final act is an absolute blast. Granted, “The Dark World” isn’t quite on the same level as we’ve come to expect from Marvel, but it doesn’t make us want another “Thor” movie any less.
Based on the incredible true story of the 2009 hijacking of an American-flagged cargo ship, “Captain Phillips” is a gripping hostage thriller that boasts some of the year’s finest performances. Director Paul Greengrass has a knack for dramatizing real-life events (as evidenced in “Bloody Sunday” and the excellent “United 93”), and that success continues here, throwing the audience right into the middle of the action docudrama-style in order to best capture the intensity of the situation. But while Greengrass excels at creating a sense of claustrophobic tension (especially once the story moves into the lifeboat, where he really ratchets up the suspense), it’s the acting that makes “Captain Phillips” work as well as it does. Barkhad Abdi is particularly impressive as the leader of the pirates, while Tom Hanks delivers his strongest performance in over a decade in the title role. The final five minutes alone pack such an emotional wallop that we were shocked when the actor was snubbed at this year’s Academy Awards, because his work here is a stark reminder why he’s one of the best actors in the business.
Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy
The wraparound title of this trilogy sounds absurd, and the manner in which it was bestowed upon these three films – “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End” – is almost as bizarre (the movies really don’t have much to do with ice cream). What does connect them, however, are their creative talent: writer/director Edgar Wright, star/co-writer Simon Pegg and star Nick Frost (not to mention maybe a dozen other folks who play in the peripheries of these stories). These vibrant, energetic comedies showcase the sort of irreverent, whip-smart sense of humor that the Brits are so well known for, alongside absurd riffs on violence, played in an animated, over the top fashion. Yet at their core, they’re simple stories about good people learning to care for one another while banding together through their battles with zombies or cults or aliens. Simply put, they’re just incredible amounts of fun, and brimming with huge amounts of good will. “Shaun” and “Fuzz” have been around for some time, so for people who already own that pair, the final movie of the trilogy, last year’s “The World’s End,” is available separately.
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