Okay, I'm taking a brief break from franchising to talk about my other passion in life -- movies. If you see me at the International Franchise Association's annual conference this month, be warned – if you get me started talking about movies, you may not be able to get me to stop.
You may have had a chance to read my article in this month's issue of Franchise Times. This is the promised continuation of my annual "top 10" list. In 2013, I saw more than 200 films. In anticipation of the upcoming 86th annual Academy Awards, I thought I would share my favorites of 2013 with the franchise community.
10. We’re The Millers
One of the hazards of seeing 200+ movies a year is that you see a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of previews. And you see them over… and over… and over again. Some previews you get absolutely sick of (I’m talking to you, “Grudge Match” and “Out of the Furnace”); others are a joy to watch every single time.
Paradoxically, when it comes to comedies, the trailers that make me most wary are the ones that are really funny – the ones that I don’t mind seeing several times. You know the type: the jokes come fast and furious, and leave the audience members guffawing. Why am I so circumspect about those previews? Because, in my experience, the funniness level of the trailer is inversely proportional to the humor in the actual movie. Most of the really funny stuff is spoiled in the trailer, foisting upon the eager moviegoer the leftovers: a series of limp, tired jokes that don’t live up to the promise of this preview.
Happily, “We’re The Millers” was an exception to this rule. The preview, which was one of the few that I enjoyed seeing multiple times, didn’t spoil most of the great jokes in the movie. My favorite comedy of the year, “We’re The Millers” had all the elements of a great comedy: likeable characters, an engaging plot, and actors (particularly Jason Sudeikis) that have that perfect mixture of timing and delivery that give the lines comedic impact.
Listen, recommending comedies is difficult because so much depends on the viewer’s sense of humor, which is completely subjective. What I find funny may not be what you find funny. So don’t be angry with me if you watch this movie and don’t laugh. Also, be warned – this movie is a hard “R.” If you’re easily offended, avoid this one.
“Rush” tells the story of a vicious rivalry between two Formula One racers in 1970s Europe: the handsome ladies’ man James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the homely Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). These men, matched on the racetrack, could not be more different in personality. James is reckless and a risk-taker in life, while Niki plays it safe; but it is James’s charisma and appeal that leads, indirectly to an accident on the track that nearly costs Niki his life.
A glimpse into a world I know nothing about, “Rush” is less about Formula One racing than it is about sportsmanship and respect between rivals. Director Ron Howard is working at the top of his game, balancing the stories of these men and their lives off the track with heart-pounding recreations of the races that defined their careers. While it was not successful at the box office, “Rush” is destined to join the pantheon of great sports movies.
8. The Kings of Summer
Joe is a teenager living with his recently-widowed father, a gruff man who uses his biting wit as a defense mechanism to cope with his own loneliness. Joe and his two friends, each of whom are dealing with their own problems at home, decide one summer to run away from home and live in a ramshackle house they build in the woods near their hometown. Enjoying their newfound freedom, the boys live the summer happily in the house until a girl enters the picture, when jealousy and pettiness threatens to destroy their friendship.
My favorite movie of Sundance 2013, “The Kings of Summer” is a coming-of-age film that is both incredibly funny and poignant in a way that feels authentic and natural. It’s a fun an easy watch, perfect for movie night at home (but it’s not for young kids or pre-teens).
7. The Sapphires
“The Sapphires” is another retread of that well-known story: four Aboriginal girls, facing massive racial discrimination in 1960s Australia, form a Motown-inspired girl group and tour war-torn Vietnam playing to U.S. servicemen. What, you say you’ve never heard that story before? Neither had I. I love it when I learn something new from a movie; it’s even better when the movie is as entertaining and infectious as this one.
Often, movies that deal with difficult subjects have an atmosphere of emotional gravitas that can leave the viewer drained. It is exceedingly rare for an inspiring film about overcoming adversity to also be infectiously optimistic and fun to watch. Somehow, “The Sapphires” manages exactly that.
Roger Ebert once said “no good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” While that is true of almost all of the films on my top 10 list, “The Sapphires” was the 2013 movie that most surprised me when the credits started rolling – the 103 minute running time flew by, driven by charismatic performances wrapped around delightful musical performances that left me wanting more.