Slightly earlier in the year than my last "best of...so far" list, but not early enough. There have been some good movies this year, and plenty of bad, as it to be expected. So far, these are the 10 I feel stand out above the rest -- even if just slightly.
10. Lords Of Salem
Probably the first Rob Zombie movie that I've actually enjoyed (though The Devil's Rejects did come pretty close), this is a considerably different film for the director. Instead of purely relying on trash and gore - as is the case with a large portion of his previous work - he finds a way to blend atmospheric tension and interesting visuals into the mix, resulting in what feels more like a modern take on Rosemary's Baby or The Omen than the hellish, John Waters-like nightmare I have almost come to expect from Zombie.
9. Evil Dead
Though it would be hard for me to say I enjoyed this movie, it would be impossible for me to say it wasn't, in the very least, impressive. It's minimal-to-zero use of CGI, and instead relying on fantastic practical makeup effects only serves to make the visuals very interesting and memorable. Filled to the brim with graphic violence and gore, this movie perhaps relies too heavily on its excesses for its own good, but there's no denying this re-imagining of the Sam Raimi classic is quite an experience.
8. Texas Chainsaw
Gaping plot-holes aside, I found this most recent installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise to be one of the most entertaining in the entire series. Unlike Evil Dead, the gore here isn't as much disturbing as it is entertaining in many respects. I can totally understand why people may look at this movie as an idiotic waste of time, but I found it incredibly fun to watch, and one of the more entertaining movies I've seen so far this year. It's just gory, silly, messy fun.
A really good movie somewhat bogged down by lack of focus and need for some heavy re-editing. Despite its problems, this is still a rock-solid third effort from director Jeff Nichols, who has again proven himself to be one of the strongest up-and-comers in the business. Fantastic performances all around, and an interesting central story -- it's just a shame many of the film's subtleties and themes were either lost in the shuffle, or just over-explained. Yes, this could have been better, but not much.
6. Upstream Color
A film that never dumbs itself down for the audience, thus making it extremely difficult to understand and keep up with. I would be lying if I claimed to totally grasp the concepts behind this movie, but it's the fact that it inspired me to think about it and do some research on it that makes me admire it most. It almost seems like the kind of movie that should come with a manual filled with opinions, interpretations, and various insights of what it all means. Impressive, intelligent, and (in my case, at least) in desperate need of a re-watch.
Visually speaking, this is the most beautiful and elegantly-produced movie so far this year. Shot as a silent film and given a unique setting, this adaptation of Snow White is among the most compelling versions to come along for quite some time. Much more daring, both in style and in execution, than the majority of this story's incarnations, There is really not much negative to be said about this movie. It's just really, really good.
4. Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek returns, this time with less time-travel silliness, plot-holes, and a much more awesome villain. The presence/performance of Benedict Cumberbatch alone makes this movie worth the price of admission, not to mention the added bonus of having a far less convoluted story than its predecessor. Yes, this movie has problems, and I'll be the first to admit that, but all sci/fi action blockbusters do, so there is fairly little I can find myself terribly bothered by with this. Maybe it's not a great movie, but it's still entertaining, thrilling, and very cool.
3. The Place Beyond The Pines
Essentially broken into three parts, this interwoven crime saga is slightly tedious at times, but never uninteresting. Featuring a handful of the strongest performances of the year from such actors as Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, relative newcomer Dane DeHaan, and most notably, Ryan Gosling, whose only problem in the movie is that he just doesn't have enough screen-time. Probably not quite on a level with his debut, Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond The Pines is still an impressive sophomore effort from Derek Cianfrance -- another name to watch out for in the future.
2. John Dies At The End
Creative, absurd, ridiculous, and downright bizarre, John Dies At The End feels very much like classic Cronenberg with a great sense of humor. This is another movie that is, admittedly, somewhat difficult to keep up with at times, which almost doesn't matter since it stays interesting and entertaining throughout the entire running time. This is not the kind of movie I could find myself recommending to many people, but for the relatively small audience this film was intended for, I can almost guarantee a good time. Very enjoyable, and very weird.
One of the most compelling horror movies of recent years, this is by no means a typical slasher film. Instead of relying on simple jump-scares to provide thrills, this film takes on a first-person perspective and uses it to delve into the mind of the psychologically-damaged mind of a serial killer with much more chilling success than most horror movies could ever dream of achieving. Shocking, depraved, and horrifying, Elijah Wood's performance could go down as one of the strongest the suspense/horror genre has provided since Hopkins took on the role of Hannibal in The Silence Of The Lambs. The way the film takes what could have easily become a generic slasher and transforms it into a character study of an extremely deranged killer is surprising -- not only in how well it works as a horror film, but also as a tragic drama. Gory, disturbing, and incredibly intense, Maniac is definitely my favorite movie of the year so far.
And this is the part where I would usually say some clever sign-off line or something. But I refuse. I will not say thank you for reading, and I will not say I would love to hear your opinions on my list, and what you would consider your own favorites are so far this year. I normally would, but this time I won't. And you can't make me.