The Best of 2013 in Movies, Video Games and Music — So Far

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is already halfway over. It has been a bit of a slow year for movies so far (as expected), but there have been huge breakthroughs in the gaming and music scenes. Here are my favorites so far:

MOVIES

This is the End [2013]
5) This Is the End
The funniest movie (and biggest surprise) of the year, hands down.

Stoker [2013]
4) Stoker
Business as usual for Chan-wook Park’s first English language film.

Mud [2013]
3) Mud
Jeff Nichols is 3-for-3 in my book. This is his most likable film yet.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]
2) The Place Beyond the Pines
This ambitious, sprawling epic is one film I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Before Midnight [2013]
1) Before Midnight
Could it be anything else? It’s so great to see Celine and Jesse once again, warts and all.

VIDEO GAMES

Hotline Miami [PS Vita, 2013]
5) Hotline Miami [PS Vita/PS3]
Only listing this at #5 since it is a port of a 2012 title, but this ultra-violent game is even more addictive on the Vita.

Guacamelee! [PS Vita/PS3]
4) Guacamelee! [PS Vita/PS3]
A Metroidvania Lucha Libre-themed adventure from the makers of Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack — it’s as good as it sounds.

Tomb Raider [Xbox 360]
3) Tomb Raider [Xbox 360/PS3]
I was never excited about the Tomb Raider series before, but this reboot hit all the right notes.

Bioshock Infinite [Xbox 360, 2013]
2) Bioshock Infinite [Xbox 360/PS3/PC]
I got goosebumps the first time I stepped foot on the city in the clouds, Columbia, and the experience never let up from there.

The Last of Us [PS3]
1) The Last of Us [PS3]
Has there been a more immersive atmosphere in a video game? This will serve as a gaming benchmark for years to come.

MUSIC

5) Mikal Cronin “MCII”

4) Kanye West “Yeezus”

3) Boards of Canada “Tomorrow’s Harvest”

2) Daft Punk “Random Access Memories”

1) The National “Trouble Will Find Me”

What are your favorites so far this year?

Movie Review: Before Midnight [2013]

Before Midnight [2013]

Before Midnight [2013]
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Genre: Drama
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Running Time: 108 minutes

This review is meant for those who have already seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. If you haven’t watched them yet, go do so before reading this review!

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset perfectly encapsulated that idealistic feeling of finding true love. Before Midnight takes that notion and grounds it firmly in reality, showing what life is like ten years down the road.

It’s not always pretty.

Surely a couple like Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) could be immune to the ups-and-downs of a long-term relationship, right? After all, so many of us fell in love with them as we watched them fall in love with each other. They seemed like such a perfect fit, and their back-and-forth dialogue felt so smooth and natural.

Before Midnight [2013]

Before Midnight shows us this couple, now living together for several years and proud parents of a set of beautiful twin girls. They are wrapping up a summer vacation in the beautiful countryside of Greece. Jesse has just dropped his son from a previous marriage off at the airport, reluctantly sending him back to Chicago to be with his mother. As it happens, Jesse is devastated at spending so much time away from his son, especially as he enters his formative high school years. The idea of moving to Chicago gets brought up in the middle of a normal conversation — Celine is immediately against the idea.

She has the opportunity to take on a new job — her “dream job” as she later realizes — and she wants to stay in France. This discussion is kind of glossed over during a long car ride, but it comes up later, as is wont to do. This one little (but big) suggestion gets under her skin, festering beneath before sneaking out in the form of little jabs and potshots.

Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can immediately relate to the quibbles between the two of them, and quite frankly it can be difficult to watch Jesse and Celine spat back and forth. This is a couple that we have watched grow over the years in the most romantic way possible, and here they are middle-aged and bickering. It’s a stark reminder that no matter how a relationship starts, it takes some major work to see it through and keep that spark going.

Before Midnight [2013]

It’s not all melancholy in the film, however. There are several moments where we see glimpses of the couple as they were once before. A long scene at a Greek dinner party brings out some great stories, not just from them but also from their friends, both young and old. While the previous films rarely shined a light on anyone besides Jesse and Celine, here we are introduced to a handful of other characters, all of whom are interesting in their own right. It’s actually kind of refreshing to watch them banter with other people, especially given that their one-on-one conversations this time are a lot less pleasant.

But that’s the beauty of this film. Before Midnight feels entirely believable, even moreso than before. Hawke and Delpy still have flawless chemistry together, and as it goes with most Linklater films, the writing is excellent. While part of me is upset that I had to see Jesse and Celine this way, I am infinitely grateful to have experienced another 90+ minutes with them all the same.

9/10