Over the first-half of this year, movies have given us sequels, love that has stood the test of time, super-villains, heroes, young women on the wrong side of the law, baseball, magic, and dinosaurs. There have been plenty of disappointments to be sure, but we’re going to look on the positive side for the purposes of this list. Although I’ve been able to most the movies that intrigued me I will mention I have yet to see Joss Whedon‘s Much Ado About Nothing, The Place Behind the Pines, or the surprisingly well-received Mud so I can’t speak to whether or not either would have been good enough to make the final cut. Halfway through 2013 here’s a look back at the top ten movies (so far).
10. Now You See Me
When magicians become criminals we get big heist sequences, plenty of misdirection, confused investigators, and a movie starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine that may not be able to hold us in suspense indefinitely (the first-half of the movie works far better than the second) but it is an undeniably good time. Still in theaters.
9. Warm Bodies
World War Z certainly got a much bigger marketing push, but the year’s best zombie movie didn’t star Brad Pitt. A star-crossed love story between a beautiful young girl (Teresa Palmer) and a brain-eating zombie (Nicholas Hoult) may sound odd, but the offbeat romantic comedy is more clever than you’d expect and actually gets us rooting for the zombie to get the girl in the end. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
42 might not be a great baseball movie on par with Field of Dreams (but what is?), but this retelling of Jackie Robinson‘s (Chadwick Boseman) rise to fame as Major League Baseball’s first African American player is an emotional and uplifting tale fearuting some terrific supporting performances by Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, and especially Alan Tudyk in a surprising turn as the Phillies racist manager Ben Chapman. Available on DVD and Blu-ray on July 16th.
Steven Spielberg‘s dinosaur movie has held up well over the past 20 years. Re-released this Spring in (some pretty good) 3D for the first time, Jurassic Park is still one hell of an enjoyable popcorn movie. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
6. Iron Man 3
It may not be as good as the first Iron Man, but director Shane Black breathes some new energy into the franchise and it’s leading man as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes on the Extremis virus, and a new terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) in the franchise’s third film. Downey has signed on for appearances in the next to Avengers movies, but this might be the last Iron Man movie with him as the star. If that’s the case Marvel Studios goes out on a high note. Still playing in select theaters, it will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on September 24th.
The honor of being the best animated sequel of the year belongs to Despicable Me 2 (sorry Monsters University). Kristen Wiig joins the cast as Gru (Steve Carell) goes to work as a spy for the Anti-Villain League while continuing to raise his three adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher), and Edith (Dana Gaier). A great mix of humor, action, and heart, Despicable Me 2 is even better than the original. Still in theaters.
The most divisive film of the first-half of 2013 is unquestionably Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers which casts his wife Rachel Korine and a trio of actress best known for their work with Disney (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson) as a quartet of college students whose spring break takes violent and dangerous turns when the group hooks up with a local low-level drug dealer played by James Franco. Part cautionary tale, part over-the-top black comedy, and part exploitative fantasy, Spring Breakers is one of the year’s most memorable films. Available on DVD and Blu-ray on July 9th.
Based on actual events, writer/director Sofia Coppola‘s latest film follows a group of teenagers from Calabasas, California (Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, Emma Watson, Georgia Rock, Taissa Farmiga) whose obsession with celebrity causes them to begin burglarizing several homes in the Hollywood Hills. Beautifully crafted, The Bling Ring is as much a commentary on celebrity culture as a personal look at a group of vapid and self-destructive characters who never consider the consequences of their actions. Still in theaters.
Released in select cities before the end of last year, but only finding wider release in this Spring, director Michael Haneke‘s Amour is the haunting tale of an elderly man’s (Jean-Louis Trintignant) day-to-day life taking care of his wife (Emmanuelle Riva) following her stroke. The slow-moving film doesn’t shy away from the hardship of the situation and isn’t always easy to watch, but it provides a pair of terrific performances and an honest look at a difficult situation many deal with every day of their lives. The film deservedly won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on August 20th.
I struggled a little in organizing the bottom of this list, but the number one slot was never in any doubt. 18 years after the original film, director Richard Linklater ruenites with stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy to allow audiences to catch up to Jesse and Celine nine years after being reunited in the sequel. Focusing far more on the complicated lived-in love than the romanticized version we saw in the first two films, Linklater once again follows the characters around a foreign landscape as the discuss everything from philosophy to the things that drive each other insane about one another. Hopefully we’ll get another edition to this unorthodox franchise in another nine years. Still in theaters.