We're almost halfway through July-- I know, right?-- and just past the midway point of the year, which means that we're also almost done with summer movie season. The blockbusters are petering out, the dregs of summer are appearing on the horizon (sorry, R.I.P.D.) and the really great movies of fall feel so far away. So why not take this moment to look back over the year so far, and pick out the movies that we actually did love?

Every writer on our movie staff picked their favorite movie of 2013 so far; in cases where multiple people wanted the same one we made them choose otherwise (you'll notice that in the write-ups), for the sake of variety. Only one of these movies is a blockbuster currently in theaters, several of them are art house efforts still playing in major cities, and one of them can already be found on DVD. So if you're not into Pacific Rim or Grown Ups 2 this weekend, check out one of these options-- they come pre-approved.

Before Midnight
by Katey Rich
It barely even feels like hyperbole to call Before Midnight a miracle. The final piece of one of cinema's unlikeliest trilogies, it's a perfectly crafted, biting and emotional love story of the kind that's almost never seen on film: a romance in its middle section. Watching a couple like Celine and Jesse argue their way through what was supposed to be a romantic night would be effective no mater what, with a script this good and performances this lived-in from Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. But we also have the benefit of the films that came before, watching the two of them fall impulsively in love in Before Sunset then reunite, older and more tentative, in Before Sunrise. Before Midnight isn't just the logical, rough-edged conclusion to a fairytale love story, but an incredible work of filmmaking all its own, proof that Richard Linklater is peerless in getting comfortable with but never easing up on his characters. If we're lucky, we'll have another visit with Celine and Jesse in 9 years. If not, we can at least be proud that a series this good managed to end with its best entry yet.

Watch the Before Midnight trailer...

by Eric Eisenberg
I don’t give away five-star reviews freely. When I give a movie a perfect rating I am calling it exactly that: perfect. And that’s what director Park Chan-wook’s Stoker is. A gothic monster movie without out any fanged or clawed beasts, the film is a breathtakingly beautiful coming-of-age story about a young girl named India (Mia Wasikowska) who unravels a terrifying mystery after the death of her father (Dermot Mulroney) and the arrival of her enigmatic Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). And every single piece of it is completely flawless.

From its use of long, flowing shots to its brilliant performances to its spine-chilling sound design, Stoker is the work of a filmmaker who has finely crafted every detail of his art and ensured that every frame is everything it needs to be. Audiences without patience for Wentworth Miller’s deliberately paced story may find themselves lost or disinterested in the movie, but really that only means that they need to be paying closer attention. Watch the flowers change their color. Listen to the sound of gurgling blood and crushed egg shells. Feel the chill on your spine as more layers of the mystery are pulled back. It’s cinematic sensory overload and everything you could want from a film.

Watch Stoker's trailer...

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