The BEST and WORST Films of 2013... So Far!

Is this the worst summer of blockbusters in a recent age or is it the best? Are “Man of Steel" arguments worth losing friendships over? Is "Southland Tales" a masterpiece as posited by generation revisionism or is it the mess critics took it for initially? Will you dare to give your money to villain mensch Adam Sandler over hero Guillermo del Toro? Debate rages on in 2013 over a variety of topics as is par for the course in the opinionated world of movie criticism and discussion. And yes, as we glance down at our watches, we realize it’s basically the midway point of the year. We already looked at what a handful of us thought were the Best Film Of The Year... So Far, and so in the Peter Travers school of thinking, we thought it might be worthwhile to look at the worst films of the year so far on a Wednesday hump day.

While “Best” was examined by a few core Playlist members (despite what you think of the hive mind, consensus is difficult to achieve around the water cooler), we thought we’d approach our Worst So Far list a bit differently and let each writer speak for themselves so you know where they stand (frankly, some of us don’t want to be standing next to Erik when you throw tomatoes at him). And so, that’s the drill: a quick, down and dirty look at what each of us (or those that participated anyhow) feel is the worst movie of the year so far.


After Earth

There is nothing worse than a 13-year-old boy (except maybe a 13-year-old girl, coming from someone who once was one). Placing an unsympathetic adolescent at the center of your big-budget sci-fi film is a cinematic crime roughly on level only with casting the largely untalented Jaden Smith as that 13-year-old. But it isn’t the younger Smith who deserves much of the blame for M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth.” As the icy (and enigmatic!) General Cyper Raige, his father Will somehow manages to be less charming than his son, which is a feat in itself for the usually magnetic actor. The elder Smith is also responsible for the film’s story, which follows the young Kitai Raige as he tries to save himself and his injured father after their spaceship crashes on a futuristic, deadly version of Earth. Smith gets extra demerits if he also came up with the characters’ names, which sound like something out of particularly bad fanfic. There should at least be some nerd joy derived from the technology when you set a film this far into the future, but I was too busy puzzling over the universe’s biggest plot holes and required leaps of logic to get excited over the Raige family’s fancy knives. I may have gone to a high school that taught Creationism as a science class, but even I could recognize that the earth’s evolution was a bit fast– and impossible. “After Earth” tells its unlucky audience that the planet evolved to kill humans with plane-sized eagles and giant baboons, but we’ve been gone for a millennium. How would that specialization happen in our absence? There are more issues, but I wouldn’t want to put more thought into dissecting the film than Shyamalan and Gary Witta put into writing it. - Kimber Myers

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

I know I’ve already had plenty of fun beating up on the truly insipid “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” so much so that it seems overkill to do it again... but it’s definitely one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, not to mention in 2013, and, it’s just too much damn fun not to do it again. I will say upfront that the two things H&G: WH has going for it (aside from an abundance of punctuation) is that it’s never boring and its ridiculousness never feels overly earnest, the death knell of other incoherent messes like “John Carter.” That, and Gemma Arterton’s leather pants. Arterton and Jeremy Renner play the blood-thirsty titular sibs, burdened with a script that makes them sound like particularly foul-mouthed mentally handicapped children. With very few exceptions, anytime you see “written and directed by” on a B action movie, there’s a very good chance it’s going to suck, and this is no exception, as clearly there was no one else around to check Tommy Wirkola’s absolutely inane sense of storytelling. There’s no sense of time or place or geography, since Hansel and Gretel appear to have been hired by this village to help with the witch problem, but oh, oopsie, it’s the town they grew up in, which they don’t figure out for two-thirds of the movie, the dumb dummies. Renner, seemingly bewildered as to what he is doing there, has all the charisma of a moss covered log, even while getting busy with a witchy lass in a forest pond. Arterton tries really hard, but she spends much of the latter half of the movie acting against a giant CGI troll named Edward and announcing out loud everything she has done, will do, and is thinking. Oh, and let us not forget the lady punching, which seems like the sole driving force of this movie. Sure, the villains are witches, and witches are ladies and villains are punched, but it’s pretty disconcerting how many times Arterton gets her pretty bell rung in this flick. By the time it climaxes in the witch showdown (led by an over-the-top campy Famke Janssen), the amount of stunt women getting punched in the face gets a little icky. Presented in what should be called Shitty-3D-o-vision, if you’d like to spend under 90 minutes having wood shards and F-bombs hurled in your face, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is the film for you. Who ARE you? - Katie Walsh


Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke has been fond of saying that "Before Midnight" is the conclusion to the lowest-grossing trilogy in the history of motion pictures, which makes us wonder just how much the "Police Academy" movies made. Hawke's statement also both heightens and diminishes the colossal accomplishment of these three amazing films. Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" seemed like something of a lark, a charmingly experimental love story co-conceived by its two leads (Hawke and Julie Delpy) that was so miniaturized in size that it could have been the final word on whatever it was the three of them were trying to say (something about emotionally messy connections and the kind of impromptu way that two people can fall in love). The sequel, "Before Sunset," was more technically ambitious and emotionally raw – it unfolded almost in real time, like the most achingly beautiful episode of "24" you could ever imagine (it also has one of the great final lines in the history of movies). But somehow "Before Midnight" manages to blow them all away – this is the love-struck couple in middle age, when things have become thorny and complicated and sometimes unbearable. That Linklater, Delpy and Hawke are able to pull this off at all is kind of incredible, but the real magic lies in the way that the movie never feels like a grind; you may squirm but you never want to leave your seat. The air of romanticism that's braided through these movies still remains, but it's been dulled and worn down by time. After watching "Before Midnight" it's hard to get into something like "Iron Man 3" that's all dazzle, no soul -- so it may be the conclusion (for now) to the lowest-grossing movie trilogy of all time, but "Before Midnight" is undoubtedly one of the most creatively successful.

Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach's last couple of movies ("Margot at the Wedding," "Greenberg") were so glum and dour that they gave off the sensation of physical weight; they literally dragged you down. So it comes as something of a surprise that "Frances Ha" is such an effervescent bubble – a fizzy pop confection that's equally indebted to the French New Wave, Woody Allen and the collection of soul and disco songs sprinkled throughout the soundtrack (has a Hot Chocolate jam ever been put to better use?) Inspired by Baumbach's co-writer/muse/girlfriend/star Greta Gerwig (in a truly breakout performance), "Frances Ha" investigates the incredibly specific emotional space between two female friends and the way that life, cresting the 30-year-mark, seems to become less about hope and promise and more about compromise and concessions. It's a movie about easing into adulthood in a city (New York) where everyone thinks that they're still eighteen. Captured in timeless, velvety black-and-white, "Frances Ha" is a movie so effortlessly joyful that it almost bounces across the screen. As a struggling dancer dealing with the dissolution of her longtime relationship, a fractured relationship with her former best friend/roommate, and a series of creative endeavors that never seem to pan out, Gerwig's Frances is someone who pinballs through life without much thought. You get the impression that she would devolve into one of Baumbach's surly, self-centered misanthropes if she ever slowed down long enough to evaluate the situation. Thankfully she never does.

"Blue Is The Warmest Color"

While we’re not yet sure of the details of the U.S. release of Abdellatif’s Kechiche’s “Blue is the Warmest Color," we’re fairly certain its Palme d’Or win and near-deafening buzz should see distributors Sundance Selects strike sometime in 2013. It’s a film that deserves as wide an audience as possible in spite of its forbidding length; a hugely powerful work of great empathy and insight that features a performance from Léa Seydoux that would probably have been the most talked-about coming out of Cannes had it not been overshadowed by that of the film’s lead Adele Exarchopolous. Exarchopolous, feeling like she’s come from nowhere, is in every single scene, the unflinching center of our attention and identification throughout, and Kechiche weaves the film around her so unobtrusively that you almost don’t feel his presence (except possibly in the film’s laudably graphic but nonetheless overlong first lesbian sex scene) -- surely a mark of an exceptional skill. We’ve been a fan of the director’s previous work (the drably-titled “The Secret of the Grain” is anything but drab, and a great favorite) but here he finds a previously unmatched depth and resonance in the simple charting of a first love from its initial giddy, heady heights, through a realistic and relatable relationship to its end, and the messy way one of us always stops loving the other first. That central relationship may be same-sex, but the film is profoundly wise about how it feels and what it means for your sense of self to be in love, no matter who the object of your affections. It gives it a universality far beyond any reductive categorisation.

Rest of the ( BEST ) and ( WORST ) entries at thei r respective sources.

Already at the second half of the year! And not surprised "The Place Beyond The Pines" was on both lists because it was a pretty divisive movie overall. In any case, how was your moviegoing experience so far in 2013, ONTD? Do you have your own best and worst films?
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