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Closing in on midterms, RN&R's movie critic reviews the grades

We're just about to the halfway point of the movie year. Yep, that's right. We are more than halfway to the Christmas releases. Start saving because that gift-giving madness is just around the corner. Get me what I want. I will take no excuses. I have given you ample warning, so stop wasting your money on iced coffees and start saving for me!

Back on the subject of movies, it's been a mixed bag thus far, for sure. There's some rather nice cerebral fare, and a couple of efficient blockbusters, but no real contenders for Movie of the Year as of yet, although I have a few of my own favorites.

Biggest disappointment for me personally would be Man of Steel. I was, quite frankly, counting on this to blow me away. Instead, we got some weird-assed, dull movie that should've been called The Passion of the Superman. It's all that duality of Christ stuff, including the major beat down at the end, minus Mel Gibson's psycho watchful eyes and the sight of a cat o' nine tails ripping meat off of some dude's torso.

But the underwhelming Man of Steel isn't the year's worst, not by a long shot. There's plenty of junk worse than it, as you will see on the list below. With only six months under the cinematic belt, I actually had trouble whittling down to a list of 10 bad films. There are a lot to choose from.

The rest of the summer still looks promising with big blowouts like World War Z and Pacific Rim. I will say there have been too many summer nights at the movie theater where I have been yawning rather than being thrilled. Pick up the pace, Hollywood. Pick up the pace.

The best so far

1. Mud:

Face it, a lot of us wrote off Matthew McConaughey a couple of years back, especially after that Surfer, Dude movie. This movie, featuring his best performance yet, caps an amazing comeback. As a troubled river rat living in a boat up a tree, pining for the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon), McConaughey has given us the year’s best performance to date.

McConaughey’s year isn’t over, either. As the new trailer for Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street reveals, he’s going to be trading lines with DiCaprio on screen this fall.

2. Before Midnight:

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) hooked up for good in Paris after Before Sunset. That’s the good news. The bad news is that one of cinema history’s most romantic couples is having some troubles 18 years after meeting on that train. (Of course they are … so goes life.)

The duo is just as captivating in their third—well, fourth if you count their cameo in Waking Lifescreen matchup. When they head to a hotel for a romantic night, oh, man, do things get complicated. In a summer of Supermen and fast cars driven by marble-mouthed assholes, this is one of the best tickets.

3. The Place Beyond the Pines:

Director Derek Cianfrance follows up his brilliant Blue Valentine with an epic about the sins of the fathers. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are on fire in this movie.

4. Stories We Tell:

Director Sarah Polley's documentary about her own origins is a must-see example of how powerful true stories that cost few dollars are often a better watch than the latest Hangover movie. Polley mixes recent interviews with archival footage. She also does very realistic home movie reenactments that blend in quite nicely, making her the rare director who can pull that sort of thing off. The movie has not played Reno yet, and probably won’t, so rent it when you can.

5. The Great Gatsby:

Other critics jumped all over this, but I had a great time with Baz Luhrman's crazy, bombastic take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic. Leonardo DiCaprio reigns supreme as the title character in a film that makes surprisingly good use of 3-D.

6. This Is the End:

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's directorial debut is a blast. Rogen and the likes of James Franco, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride play themselves during the Biblical apocalypse. Rogen and friends deliver on the deranged promise of the premise (see full review, page 22).

7. Warm Bodies:

Another apocalypse comedy, this one involving zombies. A zombie coming back to real life thanks to the warmth of love sounds stupid, but turns out to be surprisingly heartwarming.

8. Sightseers:

A British couple, still in the ecstasy of early dating, hit the road for an RV trip, and bad, bad things happen. This dark comedy didn't play in Reno, but will be available for home rental soon.

9. Star Trek: Into Darkness:

Even though I was slightly annoyed by Spock yelling the villain's name and the part with the tribble, J.J. Abrams delivered what stands as the second best Star Trek movie ever made—the best being his first one.

10. Iron Man 3:

Shane Black directs Robert Downey, Jr. in a different, darker Iron Man, and it works quite beautifully, thank you very much.

The worst so far

1. The Host:

Aliens come to our planet and inhabit our bodies with the apparent mission of boring us to death. Saoirse Ronan, a decent enough actress, probably thought this would be a Twilight-sized hit, but it wound up being a shred grenade in her career. Her name is pronounced “Sasha” but when I read that spelling, I hear “Swarr-ease” in my head. I’m an idiot.

2. The Internship:

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite to suck Google's big, dirty, greedy dick.

3. Spring Breakers:

James Franco redeemed himself after this piece of shit with This Is the End, but I’m still a little sore at him for letting this happen. This is a shoddily produced droning satiric misfire that thinks it’s all-too-clever, but it’s not. It’s lazy, wasteful filmmaking at its most wretched. So, yeah, I hate this move.

4. Gangster Squad:

Ryan Gosling is terrific in this year's The Place Beyond the Pines, but he delivers his career worst work as a squeaky gangster who plays with his lighter a lot in this ridiculous dreck that features Sean Penn at his scenery mulching worst.

5. After Earth:

M. Night Shyamalan continues to embarrass us for once liking his earlier moviemaking. Seriously, having once liked Unbreakable is like a dirty secret you shouldn't tell anybody at parties lest you want to be ostracized.

6. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone:

Jim Carrey is the only thing slightly tolerable in this mundane excuse for a movie about magicians in Vegas, a movie that feels like it's about 20 years too late.

7. The Hangover Part III:

What looked to be a return to form for the Wolf Pack winds up being the worst of the franchise and one of the year's biggest disappointments. This was a one-movie-and-out premise. I saw director Todd Phillips holding hands with director M. Night Shyamalan during this year's “Hey, We Used to Be Good Filmmakers!” pizza party at a Godfather's in Sparks.

8. Identity Thief:

I would really like for Hollywood to find projects for Melissa McCarthy that exemplify her tremendous comic talents and dramatic ability rather than casting her as a crazy clown. She deserves better. She's Oscar-worthy. Give her some respect.

9. A Good Day to Die Hard:

I had liked all of the Die Hard movies, including the much-maligned fourth one, before this thing kicked and scratched at my eyes and ears.

10. The Purge:

A great premise, and Ethan Hawke really scared is usually a good thing. Alas, this is just a movie about people getting attacked in their house and doing a shit job of protecting themselves.