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The Midway Report on 2013 at the Movies

June 3, 2013

By John C.

The Crash Reel PosterWe are nearly at the halfway point of 2013.  Although there are still close to seven months of films left to be released, this is the perfect time to look back at some of the good ones that we have already gotten, and the stellar standouts that made it all worth it.

For me, the first big standout to be released in 2013 was Only The Young, a touching portrait of adolescence that actually premiered at Hot Docs last year.  This film also kicked off what has already been an excellent year for documentaries, including the emotionally powerful and incredibly inspirational Charles Bradley: Soul of America, which we actually just reviewed over the weekend.

There have been several good movies, including the entertaining fantasy Jack the Giant Slayer, the amusing animated film The Croods, the enjoyable dramedy Admission and the nicely acted sports drama 42, which became a genuine success story at the box office.  Director Steven Soderbergh delivered what he claimed to be his last theatrically released film with Side Effects, a smart psychological thriller filled with unpredictable twists and turns.  Matthew McConaughey delivered a knockout performance in the touching coming of age film Mud, and Jessica Chastain proved herself as a box office star with the surprisingly affective horror film Mama.

There have been a lot of small gems this year, including some excellent ones that came out in April.  The most impressive thing about the small Canadian film Hit ‘n Strum was Kirk Caouette, who did multiple duties behind the camera, while providing the excellent soundtrack and giving a believable performance as a homeless busker.  Lou Taylor Pucci was excellent playing a young man with autism in The Story of Luke, an incredibly entertaining film filled with many wonderful and touching moments.  Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder also opened after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, a beautiful film that offered a deeply felt look at romantic and ultimately spiritual love.

The bigger films have also provided several standouts.  The blockbuster season got off to a strong start in March with the immensely entertaining Oz The Great and Powerful, a loving homage to the 1939 classic.  Although Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness are still lighting up the box office, they are also among the best of the year.  A smart blockbuster that played as a top notch action film, Iron Man 3 had another excellent performance from Robert Downey Jr., as he brought the iconic character to even deeper places.  Just like the brilliant franchise reboot back in 2009, Star Trek Into Darkness was an effortlessly cool summer blockbuster, that was carried by excellent performances and actually managed to surprise us with multiple twists in the expertly written plot.

Baz Luhrmann’s glitzy big screen take on The Great Gatsby became one of the most interesting box office success stories of the year, earning Warner Bros. a respectable amount of cash, despite receiving mixed reviews.  Although I respectfully disagreed with a few of the stylistic choices, for the most part this was a good movie with excellent performances that served as a surprisingly faithful adaptation of a great book.  This makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the underperformance of The Hangover Part III, which seemed like a safer bet for Warner.  I actually strayed from the critical path to recommend the entertaining threequel, which served as a satisfying close to the series, by daring to be different.

To switch gears entirely and bring things back to the starting point of my article, I also saw a lot of great stuff at Hot Docs, including the entertaining opening night selection The Manor and the excellent Audience Award winner Muscle Shoals.  There were far too many standouts to mention them all here, so you can read my complete wrap up of the festival right here.  But I would like to specifically reiterate my love for When I Walk and The Crash Reel, two deeply moving documentaries about learning to accept an unexpected disability, that instantly became personal favourites.  I still find myself thinking about both of these films practically every day, and I have no doubt in my mind that they are among the best of the year.

I have also found myself writing about some current music over the past little while, and would rank Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, She & Him – Volume 3 and The National’s Trouble Will Find Me among the best albums of 2013.  There are still a couple films from earlier in the year that I have to catch up with, but these are some of the highlights of what I have seen so far.  When all is said and done in about seven months from now, I think 2013 will emerge with some genuine standouts, and a list of favourites that is a lot easier to narrow down and put together.  Now let’s all just sit back and enjoy the rest of the summer movie season, before the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Looking Ahead:  Some of the big summer films that I’m anticipating include This is the End (June 12th), Man of Steel (June 14th), Monsters University (June 21st), The Lone Ranger and Despicable Me 2 (July 3rd), Pacific Rim (July 12th), The Conjuring (July 19th), The Wolverine (July 26th), Elysium (August 9th) and The World’s End (August 23rd).  I’m also looking forward to some of the smaller films like Before Midnight and The Kings of Summer (June 7th), The Bling Ring and Frances Ha (June 21st), The Way, Way Back (July 5th), Blue Jasmine and Fruitvale Station (July 26th), The Spectacular Now (August 2nd), Prince Avalanche (August 16th) and Drinking Buddies (August 23rd).

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