The best sports movies are able to communicate how rivalry and competition drives the people who make playing games their life. Rush, which is based on the true story of the rivalry between Formula One race car drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) in the 1970s, has a terrific competition at its center, a sport that's extremely dangerous. However, the rivalry never really becomes tangible until about halfway through the film, when Peter Morgan's script decides to focus solely on the year 1976. Until then, the film is a mess, swapping back and forth between the two drivers without any of it feeling important. But when the film kicks into high-gear, it's a terrific thrill ride. Howard stages the racing scenes with great tension, and Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography is gorgeous at times. However, it's Bruhl who almost single-handedly carries this film. He's been doing great work for years, but Lauda is the first role that most American audiences are going to see him in, and he brings great humanity to a man who was known for his cold calculation. On the track, Lauda was laser-focused; too bad Rush couldn't follow suit. C+
World War Z (dir. Marc Forster, 2013)
*By the way, I was a big fan of Max Brook's original novel, with its oral-history structure and interest in the cultural and geopolitical aspects of such a situation. I realize that that could have never worked as a summer tentpole studio film, but one day - maybe 20 years from now or something - it would be an interesting concept to revisit this as a television miniseries, perhaps as a series of faux documentaries.
Iron Man 3 (dir. Shane Black, 2013)
Mud (dir. Jeff Nichols, 2013)
The Sapphires (dir. Wayne Blair, 2013)
Captain Phillips (dir. Paul Greengrass, 2013)