15 Great Movies That You May Have Missed In The First Half Of 2013

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Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, Iron Man 3. What do all these movies have in common? Well, let me tell you. It’s the fact that chances are, you haven’t missed them. You’ve likely seen them all by now, as has the rest of the world. 2013 has been pretty great for film and now, as we’re just over halfway through the year, it’s time to look back and reflect on what the world of cinema has given us.

Sure, there’s the heavy hitting blockbusters that everyone knows about but how about those great films that got overlooked simply because they didn’t have a gigantic marketing budget or mass appeal? Those little gems that only got limited releases and unfortunately, weren’t seen by the masses. For every Iron Man 3 there’s a Before Midnight, an equally successful film but one that I can guarantee you, far less people have seen.

And so, here at We Got This Covered, we’re going to run down 15 great films from the first half of 2013 that you probably missed. These are all smaller films that likely flew under the radar of most but should definitely still be seen. Obviously, you’re not going to be finding any large, blockbuster films on this list. These are the movies that you probably haven’t even heard about yet and if you have, you probably don’t know very much about them.

So, without further ado, here’s 15 films from the first half of 2013 that you NEED to check out.

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1) What Maisie Knew

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Difficult to watch at times but painfully honest throughout, What Maisie Knew is an excellent film dealing with divorce and how it can affect young children. Bolstered by strong performances and an emotional and touching tale, this is a film that truly deserves a spot on this list.

Movies showcasing how children deal with divorce are nothing new, and this particular one isn’t exactly that different from the countless others we’ve seen. What sets it apart is not its story, but rather the way in which it is told. Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel spin their story in an intimate and authentic fashion and at the center of it all is little Onata Aprile, who plays Maisie.

The young actress is a revelation in the role, offering so much for such a young performer and bringing a suitably nuanced and subtle performance to the table. She’s surrounded by fantastic talent too, with Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgård also doing some of their best work in the film.

Full of complex characters and heartfelt emotion, What Maisie Knew is a winner in my books. You’ll find yourself deeply invested in little Maisie’s tale and as far as films dealing with divorce go, this is one that is rather remarkable.

2) The Gatekeepers

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The Gatekeepers is a documentary that explores the Shin Bet, (the Israeli secret service) from the perspective of six former heads of the agency.

Made up of a series of candid interviews, each former agency head speaks his mind about their experience and the most significant events that occurred during their time at the Shin Bet. They also speek freely about hot topics like torture, terrorism and their home country itself, Israel. Spliced in is archival footage of the various events they discuss and hearing them talk so bluntly and honestly is truly a moving experience.

To watch the footage of various military and covert operations taking place, with commentary by the men who were involved in their planning and execution, well, that’s something that you can’t find in many places. Some of the stories these men tell are fascinating and their viewpoints are sometimes shocking. To hear what it’s like on the inside and about some of the decisions that you have to make when you’re at the top, it’s really interesting stuff and you’ll definitely walk away with some food for thought.

For one of the most eye-opening documentaries from this year, check out The Gatekeepers.

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3) Stories We Tell

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It may seem like there’s a lot of documentaries on this list, and there are. Documentaries rarely get as much attention as feature films do and because of that, they are often overlooked by the general public, especially when they deal with subjects that aren’t very popular or well known.

Take Sarah Polley’s latest film for example, Stories We Tell, a documentary about her own family and more specifically, her parents. Through interviews, home movies and more, Polley explores her family history and discovers some fascinating revelations about herself and her family members.

It’s not so much the story here though that makes this such a great documentary, it’s more the way in which it’s told and how it unravels. Our very own Ben Kenber said the following in his review, and I think he sums it up quite well:

What’s endlessly fascinating about this documentary is how everyone sees Diane in a slightly different light. The story of her life is the same, but the details differ from person to person to where you wonder who’s really telling the truth. But here it doesn’t matter who’s more truthful because no one remembers any story in the same exact way. What matters is that the stories told here are emotionally true, and Sarah keeps us enthralled throughout as she digs deeper into her mother’s history.

Stories We Tell is a unique take on the documentary genre, no doubt, and one that will surely leave most viewers floored.

4) Stoker

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Chan-wook Park may be best known for his Korean thriller Oldboy, but this year he made his English language debut with Stoker, an effective mystery/drama film that despite getting great reviews, didn’t make much of a splash and quickly slipped away.

Being a big fan of Oldboy, I was pretty excited going into this one and after the film finished, I was pretty impressed. Though the script could have used a bit of tightening up, the performances were excellent and Park’s knack for imagery and crafting dark, mysterious atmosphere was on full display in this sinister little film.

Suspicion and intrigue fill the air in Stoker, where nothing is as it seems and everyone is trying to figure out everyone else’s motives. It’s a gorgeous film to look at and one that is just dripping with tension.

Of course, there will be several comparisons made to Oldboy, which is, admittedly, a much better film. Make no mistake though, Stoker is a chilling English language debut from the talented director and one that is worth checking out.

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5) We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks

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Though not his best work, director Alex Gibney’s latest documentary is another stellar effort that is as captivating as it is fascinating. Focusing on the polarizing figure that is Julian Assange and the impact that his website WikiLeaks has had on the world, this 130 minute documentary had me pinned to my seat for the entire runtime.

Admittedly, I wasn’t too familiar with Assange and WikiLeaks before watching this film. I mean, I knew who the guy was (how could you not?) and I knew about WikiLeaks and the controversy surrounding it, but aside from the basics of it all I really didn’t know a whole lot.

Gibney’s eye-opener definitely provided a wake up call for me though as it explored the ins and outs of all the key players and events in this ongoing saga. Assange, Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, the leaks, the sexual assault charges, it’s all on display here and it all makes for some incredibly riveting viewing material.

We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks is a thoughtful and absorbing look into one of the most controversial news topics in recent memory and it is a documentary that should not be missed.

6) Before Midnight

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Maybe this isn’t a fair choice as this particular series does have quite a large fanbase, but I think it’s still safe to say that your average, everyday moviegoer probably hasn’t checked out Before Midnight yet.

Fans of the first two films (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) have undoubtedly already begun singing the praises of the third film in this now trilogy but if you’re a newcomer to Jesse and Celine’s story, then chances are you weren’t lining up at the theatre to check out Before Midnight.

Before I digress too much though, let me explain. Before Midnight is the third film in a trilogy that started back in 1995 with Before Sunrise and then continued in 2004 with Before Sunset. The series is universally adored by those who have seen it but being independent films, they’ve struggled to catch mainstream exposure.

While I wouldn’t suggest going into Before Midnight blind, I would definitely suggest seeing it. It’s one of 2013′s best films and features some fantastic dialogue that is delivered by two wonderful performers (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy). Check out Before Sunrise and Before Sunset first and given that you enjoy both, which I don’t see why you wouldn’t, give Before Midnight a watch as well.

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7) Room 237

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This one’s another documentary and though it will only appeal to a very specific group of people, Room 237 is one of the most interesting films I’ve seen all year.

Taking its name from Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film The Shining, Rodney Ascher’s doc caused a good deal of buzz in the film community when it was released but never quite got the average moviegoer talking. It takes a look at the various theories that people have about Kubrick’s celebrated film and explores the hidden meanings that many have pointed out over the years.

There is much debate, mystery and speculation in regards to the film and what it all means and to hear various theorists spell out their interpretation of things is a real treat for fans of The Shining. Though theories that range from somewhat plausible to completely going out on a limb, we hear how The Shining may be connected to the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Holocaust and more.

Whether you buy what is being said or not doesn’t matter. It’s still entertaining to hear another take on the famed horror classic and fans of Kubrick and his work should no doubt get a kick out of this one.

8) The Kings Of Summer

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The coming-of-age comedy genre is always a gamble, because it’s one of the few genres that has to have every little moment perfect. The characters have to be awkward yet believable, the story has to be touching yet funny, the actors have to be relatable yet entertaining – every centimeter has to be polished to perfection. Essentially, we have to be transported back to some of the most awkward years of our lives, and have us love every minute.

The Kings Of Summer is all of that and more, as our three young lead actors lead audiences down an enlightened path of self-discovery and maturation, stuffed to the brim with laughs from a phenomenally noteworthy supporting cast (Nick Offerman!). The concept itself is fun enough, turning a childhood fantasy in a reality, but Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film secures itself as feel-good summer filmmaking by embracing the silliness of three boys living independently in the woods. Enchanted with enough played-up Hollywood magic, Chris Galletta’s script still manages to aim straight for that nostalgic feeling of self discovery and learning lessons the hard way.

While not the most realistic scenario, brilliant performances (especially a break-out role from Moises Arias) and phenomenally heartfelt scripting make The Kings Of Summer my favorite surprise hit of the year so far.

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9) Maniac

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Horror and Elijah Wood. Those two things usually don’t go together. But in the case of Maniac, they go together like two peas in a pod. In this remake of the 1980s film of the same name, Wood plays Frank Zito, a disturbed young man who has a tendency to kill young women and then scalp them.

Shot from the POV of Zito, the film brilliantly puts you into the mind of a serial killer, whether you like it or not. It’s strange watching the killings take place from Frank’s point of view, being in his mind as they happen, but it’s very effective and works perfectly within the film.

Wood is fantastic in the role too, giving us one of the best psycho killers in recent memory. The violence is brutal and at times, tough to watch, as this hard-hitting horror flick is definitely not afraid to shy away from a bit of blood and gore. It may not be meant for the mainstream audience, which is perhaps why it isn’t being discussed a whole lot. But for those who like their horror twisted, gritty and unflinchingly brutal, Maniac is for you.

10) Upstream Color

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Shane Carruth impressed critics and audiences alike with his festival hit, Primer, back in 2004. An ingenious sci-fi thriller, the film left many scratching their heads and wanting more from the promising young director. This year, Carruth returned with Upstream Color, an even more puzzling film that once again, impressed just about everyone.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say too much about this film without giving crucial plot elements away but I will tell you that it’s every bit as good as Primer, if not better.

Upstream Color is truly a beautiful, mesmerizing and powerful film, one that is an essential experience for any moviegoer. It may not connect with everyone due to its unconventional narrative, but if you are able to see the film for what it is, you’re in for an absolutely wonderful little treat.

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11) Graceland

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Set in the Philippines, Ron Morales’ Graceland takes place in a world filled with nasty people. It’s a dark, gritty film full of moral questions and hopelessness. But despite how heavily dark and political the film is, it’s also suspenseful throughout, with a tight story and and many twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Arnold Reyes stars as Marlon, a man who has to find his way to get his daughter and a congressman’s daughter back after they are kidnapped. Reyes’ performance drives the film with a combination of vulnerability and pain that sticks with you far after the film is over. All the performances, from top to bottom are great, but what really drives the story is Morales’ tight script and prudent directorial decisions at every turn. There’s hardly a beat to catch your breath, and that makes for a completely thrilling film.

12) The Iceman

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While it may be a bit more prolific than some of the other entries here, The Iceman is still a film that I’d bet the vast majority of moviegoers haven’t heard of, and that’s a real shame. Michael Shannon has never been better and offers up one of 2013′s best performances thus far in Ariel Vromen’s crime flick based on the life of notorious Mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski.

Our very own Matt Donato’s review of the film says it all but to re-iterate, Shannon delivers a powerful performance as Kuklinski, a hitman who claims to have taken over 100 lives. Vromen’s film makes for a chilling and gritty crime-thriller that is both fascinating in its portrayal of the titular character and also downright frightening at times thanks to Shannon’s mesmerizing ability to fully inhabit the monster that we see on screen.

This is one of the best crime flicks that I’ve seen in a while and if you’re a fan of the genre, you’d be a fool to miss it.

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13) Trance

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Danny Boyle isn’t exactly an under the radar filmmaker, but his latest film, Trance, hasn’t received as much buzz and hype as one would have expected it to. Nevertheless, it’s still an excellent movie and one that far too many people missed out on.

Critics have said that it doesn’t come close to some of the director’s other works, films like 127 Hours and Trainspotting. And while that is true, Trance is still a Boyle film through and through and is certainly one of the more enjoyable motion pictures to come our way in the first half of 2013.

Sleek and polished, this psychological thriller features some excellent performances from its main cast (James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel) and also features that undeniable Boyle touch, which makes for a fantastic visual and aural experience.

The wonderful filmmaking aside, as that’s to be expected when you have a Danny Boyle movie, I found the story to be quite captivating. Though it blurs the lines between what’s real and what isn’t, and will surely leave you scratching your head for days to come, I thought that the execution of it all was quite good and several parts were quite clever.

Definitely not a film for the mainstream audience but a solid movie that should be checked out if you want a bit of a challenge. And if you’re a fan of Rosario Dawson.

14) The Company You Keep

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This is one of my favorite films of the year thus far and I’m shocked that more people aren’t talking about it. Robert Redford’s latest is a political thriller that features a career best performance from Shia LaBeouf, who is surrounded by some of Hollywood’s most sought after talent (Anna Kendrick, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Nick Nolte, Chris  Cooper, Redford himself and many more).

The Company You Keep is a slow burning thriller, one that demands your attention throughout and keeps you engaged for the entire time. A sharply written script and Redford’s assured direction keep things moving at a brisk pace as LaBeouf’s character, journalist Ben Shepard, chases down clue after clue until he gets what he’s after. And we’re right there with him, every step of the way.

The film doesn’t necessarily do anything revolutionary or groundbreaking, but it offers up a well constructed story with some strong performances from an all-star cast. It may or may not pick up awards buzz but either way, it’s a film we definitely suggest checking out.

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15) A Hijacking

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If I say the word “pirate,” what’s the first thing you think of? I’d put my money on some stereotypical Captain Jack Sparrow look-a-like with tattered clothing, a taste for rum, crazy hats,  a parrot friend – you know, the almost cartoonish characterization. But pirates like that don’t exist anymore, and haven’t existed for years like that – yet pirating is still a problem in today’s world. Gone are the swashbuckling pirates with peg legs, as today’s pirates are more third world nations armed to the teeth with AK-47s. There’s no rules to the sea like old pirates had – these pirates take you hostage, hold you for ransom, and don’t leave until someone pays. This is pirating in the 2000s.

For such a prevalent societal topic, you’ve probably noticed that Hollywood hasn’t had a very good portrayal of today’s pirating racket, but that’s where Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking comes in. Detailing one ship’s experience with being hijacked by pirates, Lindholm follows every moment of drama from when the pirates take over, all the way to the bitter end. We don’t just watch our hostages on the boat though. A Hijacking flips between the boat and the business who owns the boat, as a proud CEO attempts to negotiate with the pirates himself. The drama is real, the tension is palpable, and Lindholm does a fantastic job establishing the pirates as not just the evil antagonists, but he shows them as real, poverty stricken people just trying to survive.

A Hijacking presents a thought-provoking view inside today’s dangerous world of pirating, exploring the highly volatile art of negotiation while also establishing our hostage’s deteriorating state on the boat. Neither side knows exactly what they’re doing, yet our access to both the company and the boat settings makes Lindholm’s story that much more intriguing. I know you wouldn’t think a film about modern day pirates isn’t that interesting, but trust me when I say A Hijacking will have you riding the edge of your seat the entire time.

That does it for our list but feel free to comment below if you think we missed any films. Also, please note that this article was a collaboration between Matt Joseph, Matt Donato and Alexander Lowe.

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