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The Films of 2013: Mid-Year Report

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Top 10 Films So Far | 5 Worst Movies So Far | Still Need to See | Most Promising Films Yet to Come

As usual, the midway point of the year kind of creeps up for moviegoers. It feels like we've only started to get some entertaining blockbusters and suddenly, we're closer to next Christmas than last Christmas. Ordinarily, I wouldn't be able to write an article of any value this early in the year, since only the mostly feeble offerings of the winter doldrums have hit home video. But I've made an effort to see and review a decent number of worthwhile films in theaters this year. My 2013 movies seen count recently passed 30, which gives me enough to put together preliminary best and worst lists, while knowing that the best is likely yet to come.

In "Warm Bodies", R (Nicholas Hoult) informs Julie (Teresa Palmer) that her attempt to blend in with his fellow airport runway zombies is a bit over the top.

Top 10 Films So Far:

10. The Bling Ring - Sofia Coppola's SoCal burglary dramedy is noncommittal but good enough.
Full Movie Review

9. Quartet - A feel-good retirement home comedy. Full Blu-ray Review

8. Man of Steel - While a Superman reboot seemed appropriate, I wish Zack Snyder gave it less action and more fun. Full Movie Review

7. World War Z - Unconventional for a summer blockbuster and better than expected given the production challenges, but nothing outstanding. Full Movie Review

6. Monsters University - One of Pixar's weakest efforts and certainly their least ambitious, but still an enjoyable family comedy with superior visuals. Full Movie Review

5. The Hangover Part III - I'll have to agree to disagree with critics who torched this film, which I consider a diverting breath of fresh air following its predecessor's stale retread. The action may have outweighed the comedy, but this finale was better made than I could have expected. Full Movie Review

4. Oz the Great and Powerful - Not perfect, but plenty enjoyable. Full Blu-ray + DVD Review

3. Iron Man 3 - The kind of fun all-audiences entertainment that never goes out of style, this superhero series hasn't lost a beat. Full Movie Review

2. The Great Gatsby - Baz Luhrmann doesn't turn over a new leaf, but his flair proves to be a much better fit for Fitzgerald's great novel than suspected. Full Movie Review

1. Warm Bodies - Adding "zom" to "romcom" evidently works wonders. Full Blu-ray Review

Jurassic Park 3D - While it wouldn't be fair to assign this a number, if it was, it'd easily be #1, as it is without a question the best movie released in 2013 that I've seen. Even though the 3D addded nothing, revisiting this film was the most fun moviegoing experience from one of this year's releases. Full Movie Review

Charlie Sheen seeks professional redemption as the titular graphic designer of the independent comedy "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III."

5 Worst Movies So Far:

5. Upside Down - Creative concept and visuals, but flat, lifeless execution. Full Blu-ray + Blu-ray 3D Review

4. The Numbers Station - This generic action thriller essentially went direct-to-video, as it should have. Full Blu-ray Review

3. 6 Souls - Released five years after being shot and that's still sooner than it deserves. Full Blu-ray Review

2. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III - A terrible mess of comedy you wouldn't think Roman Coppola had in him. Full Blu-ray Review

1. Girls Against Boys - Ugly torture porn passing itself off as feminism. Full Blu-ray Review

Already Released, But I Still Need to See:

10. After Earth - I never miss an M. Night Shyamalan film, even the ones not advertised as such. It will be interesting to see if this is as bad as everyone says, because Will Smith is usually reliable, but at best the jury is still out on his son Jaden.

9. Now You See Me - While critics indicate this isn't great, I'm intrigued to see arguably the most surprising hit of the year so far.

8. Trance - The subject matter isn't terribly exciting to me, but it's from director Danny Boyle, whose five previous films have ranged from very good to outstanding.

7. Star Trek: Into Darkness - I wasn't blown away by its predecessor,
but some have deemed this sequel an improvement.

6. Mud - Its unusually robust box office showing suggests value echoing the film's near-unanimous critical approval.

5. This Is the End - Although I like most of the Young Apatow Players' work, this isn't grabbing me, so the strong reviews and formidable business are both surprises.

4. 42 - Inspirational true sports dramas rarely surprise, but most of them are pretty good. I don't see why this Jackie Robinson biopic shouldn't be.

3. Frances Ha - Noah Baumbach may not be a name known and trusted by the typical moviegoer, but I've seen almost everything he's written and directed and enjoyed most of it. This is one of 2013's best reviewed films so far.

2. The Place Beyond the Pines - Writer-director Derek Cianfrance caught my attention with his last film, Blue Valentine, and many consider this one as good.

1. Before Midnight - Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy would seem to have the perfect antidote to an industry overrun with huge franchises: a series never conceived as such which resurfaces every nine years to update us on an international relationship born out of a chance European train ride. Such personal, atypical filmmaking is tremendously easy to invest in. I have high hopes for this second sequel, which I've been looking forward to ever since it was stealthily announced.

Most Promising Films Yet to Come:

12. Thor: The Dark World (November 8) - Marvel Studios has had about one bad movie in the past five years. While this is Thor's third prominent trip to theaters in as many years, I suspect it will be up to the brand's high standards and not another rare misstep of Spirit of Vengeance proportions.

11. Inside Llewyn Davis (December 6) - The Coen brothers have made a long, distinguished career of outside-the-box filmmaking and this drama -- loosely based on Dave Van Ronk's memoir starring Drive's Oscar Isaac as a 1960s folk singer -- would appear to add to that tradition. We'll see if can also extend the siblings' recent Oscar success.


10. Nebraska (November 22) - If you're not psyched for this black and white movie about a father and son driving from Montana to Nebraska, then you probably don't know that it's Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) directing Bruce Dern and Will Forte. Bob Nelson, not Payne, wrote this film nonetheless, which will also feature Bob Odenkirk and Devin Ratray, better known as Buzz from Home Alone.

9. Saving Mr. Banks (December 13) - It seemed only a matter of time before someone made a film about Walt Disney.
No biopic, this instead dramatizes his dealings with author P.L. Travers to make Mary Poppins. While Emma Thompson seems suitable for Travers, we could use a reminder that Tom Hanks can act. That this is a Disney film could be problematic. Even if it's been rated PG-13 and has a release date that makes its Oscar ambitions clear, director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Rookie) is not enough to inspire confidence.

8. Frozen (November 27) - We don't know much about this one, but Walt Disney Animation Studios is on a roll creatively and hopefully, this keeps it going.

7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22) - I've heard Suzanne Collins' sequels aren't as good as the original novel and I'm skeptical that this one can uphold the high quality of the first movie, but may the odds be ever in its favor.

6. Monuments Men (December 18) - Seemingly destined for Oscar glory, this drama directed, produced and co-written by George Clooney will tell the story of an Allied Forces program designed to save artwork and other culturally significant items from destruction during World War II. Clooney will also star alongside Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and John Goodman, who has a real shot at appearing in a third consecutive Best Picture winner.

5. Labor Day (December 25) - Adapted from Joyce Maynard's 2009 coming-of-age novel, this drama will mark a change of pace for talented young writer-director Jason Reitman, who has had great success in comedy-dramas like Juno and Up in the Air. Set during September 1987's holiday weekend, this centers on a teenaged boy (Gattlin Griffith) and his depressed single mother (Kate Winslet) who unwisely opt to give a ride to a bleeding escaped convict (Josh Brolin).

4. The Wolf of Wall Street (November 15) - After the enchanting departure of the 3D family fantasy Hugo, Martin Scorsese returns to more typical fare in this, his fifth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio will play fraudulent stock market criminal Jordan Belfort across from the likes of Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, and The Artist's Jean Dujardin. Though I'm not sold on the subject, Scorsese is an artist whose every work warrants serious attention.


3. The World's End (August 23) - Shaun of the Dead was fun and Hot Fuzz was even better. Now, the team of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost are finally reuniting to complete their so-called Cornetto trilogy with this tale of (alien?) robots invading during middle-aged friends' recreation of an "epic pub crawl." In other words, this should be the gut-busting comedy I foolishly hoped Paul (which lacked Wright) might be.


2. American Hustle (December 25) - Having thought it over, Silver Linings Playbook is my #1 film of 2012 and The Fighter was one of my top five of 2010. Those create some high expectations for writer/director David O. Russell to live up to, but the FBI's Abscam sting operation of the late '70s and early '80s has cinematic potential and Russell is sure to draw top-notch performances from a cast that includes two actors he's helped win Oscars (Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence), two he's helped land nominations (Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper), plus Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K. Sounds like a winner.

1. Anchorman: The Legend Continues (December 20) - Will Ferrell isn't as popular as he was years ago, but Ron Burgundy is one of his most beloved creations and deservingly so. This sequel feels a little untimely, but as long as director Adam McKay, producer Judd Apatow, and the cast stay true to what made the original film so quotable and rewatchable, this should be a great time.


Related Articles:
The Movies of 2012: Ranked and Reviewed | The Movies of 2011: Ranked and Reviewed

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Posted July 1, 2013.

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