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Half-Year Mark: The Best and Worst Films of 2013

Half-Year Mark: The Best and Worst Films of 2013

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes in "The Place Beyond the Pines." Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Half-Year Mark: The Best and Worst Films of 2013
June 04
10:04 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

We are halfway through the year and there are already more than a handful of superb films worth mentioning. From a sweeping epic of fathers and sons to a chase across space to a porn-addicted, objectifying college student, the best films of 2013 so far have brought screenplays to life with an astonishing scrupulousness that still left room for stunning artistic expression.

As we finish out the rest of the year, what I’m most interested in is finding out which films will top the five I’ve listed below. Leonardo DiCaprio teaming back up with Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese in “The Wolf of Wall Street” seems promising, as does Ryan Gosling smashing in faces once again with “Drive” director Nicholas Winding Refn in “Only God Forgives” and Matt Damon going all “Mass Effect” on us with “Elysium.” But until then, let’s look back at what these last six months brought to the cinema world.

1. “The Place Beyond the Pines”

Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes

Gosling and Cianfrance, previously seen in 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” join forces once again in this powerful, multi-generational tale of fathers, sons and consequences. Split into three segments and spanning more than 15 years, “The Place Beyond the Pines” is a flawless character study that mixes elements of crime, teen angst and fate.

I find it extremely hard to believe that any film will surpass it for the remainder of the year. While it may not be a film for everybody, it’s a heartbreaking story with Oscar-worthy performances that will hit you and have you thinking and talking about it long after the credits roll.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” is playing in limited release today.

2. “Mud”

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan and Reese Witherspoon

“Mud,” Nichols’ follow up to 2011’s criminally obscure “Take Shelter,” is an entrancing coming-of-age tale chronicling the adventures of two teenagers and a mysterious drifter named Mud, played by McConaughey.

“Mud” had its regional premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival in April and it was easily the clear standout of the event. Not only is “Mud” an engaging story, but it also shows just how talented of an actor McConaughey really is. He’s been on a roll, building quite an impressive roster of great performances including last year’s “Killer Joe,” “Bernie” and “Magic Mike.” In “Mud,” the shirtless wonder has never been better.

“Mud” is playing in limited release.

3. “Star Trek Into Darkness”

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana

The first “Star Trek” film of Abrams’ reboot was one of the finest films of 2009. “Star Trek Into Darkness” goes even further where no one has gone before. It provides the same kind of thrills that I got when I watched “Star Wars” for the first time. Abrams was the right man for the job, and I cannot wait to see what he does when he helms “Episode VII” in galaxy far, far away.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” is playing in theaters nationwide.

4. “Don Jon”

Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson and Tony Danza

While it’s not available for the public to see until later this year, “Don Jon” is an impressive writing and directorial debut from Gordon-Levitt about people that become so absorbed in themselves that they lose their ability to interact with others on a more humanistic level. Holding its regional premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival, it’s a flick that features clever editing, explosive sound effects, witty dialogue and engaging performances, but it’s also a film that raises many of the profound issues of modern relationships.

“Don Jon” opens in theaters October 18th.

5. “Warm Bodies”

Directed by Johnathan Levine

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer and John Malkovich

With a pop-culture scene so obsessed with supernatural love stories such as “Twilight,” “Warm Bodies” is a surprise hit that rises above its predecessors.  It stands as an original and heartwarming tale with a healthy dose of comedy, well-rounded characters and flesh-eating zombies.

“Warm Bodies” is available on digital download today, and hits the streets June 4th.

Honorable Mentions: “The Great Gatsby,” “Trance,” “Spring Breakers,” “Side Effects” and “Much Ado About Nothing”

Worst of the Year: “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” “21 & Over,” “The Hangover Part III,” “Java Heat” and “A Good Day to Die Hard”

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