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From 'The Hunger Games' to 'Mr. Banks': 13 best movies of 2013

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The biggest surprise of 2013 is just how great the movies turned out to be in the second hal
  From 'The Hunger Games' to 'Mr. Banks': 13 best movies of 2013 The biggest surprise of 2013 is just how great the movies turned out to be in the second half of the year. This summer saw one of the weakest seasons ever: sequel and remake after sequel and remakebogged down the multiplexes with lackluster and unsrcinal content, although sprinkled throughoutwere a handful of excellent films like The Spectacular Now, Enough Said, and The GreatGatsby. But the latter half of the year was certainly an eye-opener for high quality film. Almostevery week saw the release of something superb, from American Hustle to The Hunger Games:Catching Fire to Captain Phillips. In retrospect 2013 turned out to be a fantastic year formovies. Here are 13 films from 2013 that we loved and hope you did (or will) too.13. About Time One of the year's best surprises. On the surface, About Time looks like your typical, sappy romanticcomedy starringRachel McAdams, but Richard Curtis' ( Love Actually ) time travel drama is actually a beautiful andemotional story about fathers and sons and the sheer difficulty of living each day as best you can.Knockout performances by Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy. Don't let this one slip you by. Bringtissues.12. Side Effects Steven Soderbergh's final theatrical film is one more example of the director's diversity andunpredictability. With a riveting screenplay by Scott Burns, Side Effects is both a commentary onour over-medicated country and an exciting Hitchcockian thriller. Sleek, sexy and haunting with fineperformances from Jude Law, Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones, this smart and engagingdrama is pure Soderbergh and a perfect bow for the director.11. Star Trek Into Darkness  J.J. Abrams follows his 2009 Trek with this pulse-pounding adventure. Though it caused a furorwith many Trek fans, Into Darkness is the slickest and most entertaining action film of the year,boosted by Benedict Cumberbatch's juicy performance as Khan, sensational production design, anelectrifying score and a rip-roaring story. Abrams and company drop the pretension seen in manyother superhero and sci-fi flicks of the day and deliver an exhilarating old-school adventure.10. The World's End The most srcinal, off-the-wall insane comedy of the year. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frostclose their Cornetto trilogy with the best of their unofficial series. Wright and company decimatetoday's generic comedy genre by blending an awkward reunion of friends with an alien invasion,laugh-out-loud humor and sheer unpredictability -- mix those with a great soundtrack and you have yourself a wild blast of entertainment. Not to be missed!  9. The Way, Way Back This coming of age story is pure summertime delight with Liam James as Duncan, a teenager whoreluctantly vacations with his mother (Toni Collette) and her obnoxious boyfriend (Steve Carell).Unable to find his place among his family or the neighborhood kids, Duncan finds a job at a nearbywaterpark where he befriends the park's wild man-child owner, played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell. A perfect screenplay and fantastic performances, this film perfectly captures growing pains and thepure exuberance of summer vacation.8. August: Osage County  As far as fictional dysfunctional families go, Tracy Lett's outstanding Pulitzer Prize-winning play isnear the top. Meryl Streep is once again brilliant, this time as the pill-popping, boozing matriarch of an Oklahoma family who reunites for a funeral. Julia Roberts is at her best since her Oscar-winningperformance in Erin Brokovich and the entire ensemble cast is near-perfect. One of the rare filmsthis year that sports a strong female cast: Streep and Roberts are divine, but Juliette Lewis, MargoMartindale, Abigail Breslin and Julianne Nicholson all drive this great acting vehicle. Vile insults,double crossing and some serious awkward skeletons in the closet make for a rambunctious,shocking and deliciously entertaining film.7. The Place Beyond the Pines Derek Cianfrance's morality play is a brooding, immersive experience with some of the best acting you will see all year. Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling and newcomers Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohengive scorching performances. The triptych format is unique, unsettling and brilliant as threeseemingly unrelated stories unfold over two generations of characters. Packed with nail-bitingsuspense and strong, layered and morally ambiguous characters, The Place Beyond the Pines is aphenomenal crime drama.6. Prisoners Hugh Jackman gives an impressive and haunting performance as a father who takes matters into hisown hands when his daughter and her best friend are kidnapped. Jake Gyllenhaal is Jackman's equalas the eccentric detective on the case who must contend with the furious, vigilante father. Stellarcinematography by Roger Deakins and extraordinary and complex characters wading through aneven more complex situation make this brooding mystery well worth many repeat viewings.5. Gravity   Warner Bros. EntertainmentIt's not too often, especially today, to have a watershed moment in cinema, but Gravity is one.While this movie must be seen on the big screen (with superior surround sound) to be fullyappreciated, it is undeniable to see just how groundbreaking Alfonso Cuaron's thriller is. Theincredible cinematography and production design put you directly into free-fall in one of the mostharrowing movie experience you could have. Not to mention, Sandra Bullock's performance ownsthis whole film; alone on screen for the majority of the picture is no easy feat (see also: RobertRedford's superb performance in All Is Lost ). Gravity is a great achievement.4. 12 Years A Slave Few movies can leave you immobile and speechless at the end and 12 Years A Slave does both.Director Steve McQueen's visceral drama is the most realistic, gut-wrenching depiction of slavery incinema. The true story is a heartbreaking one as a free man is sold back into slavery and must fighthis way back to his family. Chiwetel Ejiofor's subtle yet astounding performance as SolomonNorthup is a marvel. Not to be missed are Michael Fassbender in his towering performance as therepulsive and cruel, but oddly the hunger games mockingjay online love-struck, plantation ownerand newcomer Lupita Nyong'o as his victim.3. The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are in top form, in fact, this is arguably DiCaprio's bestperformance to date. A spellbinding three-hour epic of egregious greed and corruption that fits ascomfortably into Scorsese's canon as Goodfellas or Casino, though not necessarily for the faint of heart. Based on Jordan Belfort's autobiography, Wolf is a more offbeat expose of the rise and fall-from-grace theme, laced with biting humor, impeccable performances by Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Jon Bernthal,Rob Reiner, Margot Robbie and Jonah Hill, whose brilliant,transformative performance as Belfort's partner in crime is one of the year's best.  2. Nebraska Bruce Dern gives the best performance of the year in Alexander Payne's drama about a confused oldman who believes he won a million dollars and decides to walk to Nebraska to collect his winnings.Gorgeous black and white cinematography provides a sobering look at the effects of the economiccollapse on small town America. An honest, humorous and heartfelt script by Bob Nelson isdelightful and alluring as it tackles entitlement and the heartbreaking journey of a father and sonrediscovering each other. With incredible performances by Dern, June Squibb, as his caustic wife,and a fantastic dramatic turn by SNL's Will Forte, Nebraska is a winner -- even if Woody Grantisn't.1. Saving Mr. Banks  Â©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are marvelous as P.L. Travers and Walt Disney in this bittersweetdrama about the making of the classic film Mary Poppins. Director John Lee Hancock effortlessly balances parallel stories as Travers' dark and troubledchildhood plays out beside the struggles in the writers' room as she, Disney and the Sherman
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