Can you believe that 2013 is half over? Of course that also means that the movie year is half over. So keeping with Keith & the Movies tradition I’m going to look at 5 phenomenal movies from the year so far. It’s been an up and down year in the theater in 2013 loaded with big budget pictures and box office draws. And I’ve still yet to give a 2013 film 5 stars. But fortunately some of them have been quite good so it was pretty easy for me to come up with my five favorite. Now considering the number of films to hit the big screen so far I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But for my money these five movies are most certainly phenomenal.
#5 – “MAN OF STEEL” – This newest Superman installment has been met with a variety of mixed reviews but I found it to be an overall success. Minus a few so-so new approaches and the steroid-driven finale, “Man of Steel” really won me over with its beautiful visuals, the fresh new tone, and some really strong performances from the likes of Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and yes even Henry Cavill. But perhaps my favorite thing was that it brought Superman back after the previous film’s mishandlings. I know that many people have problems with “Man of Steel“. Personally I loved it and I’m completely onboard for wherever the franchise decides to go next.
#4 – “WORLD WAR Z – “Honestly I can’t believe I’m typing this. Yes, “World War Z” was one of my most anticipated films at the start of the 2013 movie year but over time my interest grew to skepticism. But man was I surprised. I know this is another movie with some serious mixed reviews, but I loved that it knows what it wants to be and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. I also think it harkens back to when good storytelling was essential. It mixes a nice script in with several breathtaking set pieces as well as a grounded and committed performance by golden boy Brad Pitt. Sure it mutes itself for the sake of a PG-13 rating but I’m certainly not going to fault it for that, especially considering how much fun I had with it.
#3 – “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” – Yet another big-budget summer blockbuster. And yet another movie that really surprised me. I was pretty vocal about my tepid response to the first film of the “Star Trek” reboot from director J.J. Abrams. Naturally that influenced my level of excitement for its sequel. But boy, talk about being pleasantly surprised. I’ve seen “Into Darkness” twice now and my love for it is solidified. Sure, there are moments where it still doesn’t feel like a Star Trek picture. There are also moments where Abrams tries to do a little too much. But I loved it and I think it’s a solid step up from the first movie. Filled with glorious special effects, cool Trek homages, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
#2 – “TO THE WONDER” – “The Tree of Life” was my very favorite film of 2011 so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I was anxious to see the next film from Terrence Malick. It came in the form of “To the Wonder” a sweeping lyrical romance using the same signature style and technique that fuels my love for Malick. This stirring and emotional story of new love, fractured love, and lost love moves with the grace of a ballerina. Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem each fit perfectly within Malick’s poetic puzzle and I found myself captivated from its first opening sequence. Some have seemed to struggle with this film but I think it’s brilliant and it’s made all the more stronger by a second viewing.
#1 – “MUD” – Talk about carrying the weight of some high expectations! “Mud” was my most anticipated movie of 2013. I’m a huge fan of Jeff Nichols and even though he has just two other movies under his belt, his style and voice resounds with me. In “Mud” he gives us a deep-fried southern gothic tale that’s akin to a modern day Huck Finn. Nichols’ impeccable eye and regional familiarity create a gritty and realistic setting that I was instantly lost in. His story is equally engaging and the renaissance of Matthew McConaughey continues with yet another great performance. Only a few small missteps keep this from being a 5 star masterpiece. But it’s still another beautiful piece of cinema from a director who has become a favorite of mine.
There are my five top movies of the year so far. I know many will disagree. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know what I missed and what I got right. I would also love to hear your choices as well.