In 2012, "The Avengers" was the king of the box office. It was that one movie everyone was talking about, the one everybody felt they had to see opening weekend, and it ended up near the top of the all-time highest grossing movies list. Although no movie in 2013 rose to quite that same height of buzz or box office intake, overall 2013 was a pretty good year in entertainment. Here are my top 10 favorite movies, TV shows or music albums of 2013, and I'd love to hear what your favorites were this year, as well! :)
10. Marvel movies: Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World
Although the jury's still out on whether or not Marvel's TV show, "Agents of Shield," will ultimately prove to be a successful experiment, Marvel's movie empire continues to be one of the most successful film franchises in Hollywood. There was no post-Avengers slump this year for Marvel — both "Iron Man 3" and "Thor 2" topped the box office, and Marvel is poised for an equally strong year in 2014. Fans might debate the merits of individual Marvel films, but none of the Avengers tie-in movies have failed to be fun or entertaining. It's always great to watch Robert Downey Jr. take on the role of the snarky Tony Stark/Iron Man, and Tom Hiddleston once again stole the show as Loki in "Thor: The Dark World."
9. Pacific Rim
A case could be made that "Pacific Rim" could have been a better film. Deeper character development and punchier dialogue probably would have pushed the film higher up my list. And yet ... this is one of those films that I actually enjoyed more each time I watched it. The special effects in "Pacific Rim" may be high-tech, but director Guillermo del Toro is aiming for good old-fashioned monster movie fun with this one. And it's hard not to geek out over the concept of giant robots fighting giant alien monsters.
8. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
I first discovered Daft Punk through their soundtrack for the movie "Tron: Legacy." Their blend of electronic and symphonic styles wasn't like any movie soundtrack I'd heard before, and Daft Punk surprised and delighted listeners again this year with "Random Access Memories." As an album, it's an intriguing blend of retro and futuristic, fresh and familiar. Time magazine picked the album's most famous single, "Get Lucky," as its song of the year, and with the song's impossibly fun and catchy beat, it's easy to see why.
The CW's "Arrow," a TV show based on a DC comics character, just seems to get better and better with each episode. The show started out with a fun concept — a spoiled playboy who returns to his hometown after being stranded for five years on a mysterious island, and then becomes a crime-fighting vigilante. The show runners have listened to input from viewers, strengthening the characters and story lines throughout the first season. In season 2, it's been great to see the "Arrow," Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), his bodyguard John Diggle (David Ramsey), and the delightfully quirky IT expert Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) working as a fully-functioning team.
6. Merlin: Series Finale
Although the BBC show "Merlin" finished airing on the Syfy Channel in May, I didn't actually discover the show until this summer on Netflix. Since then, it's earned a place on my list of all-time favorite TV shows. The show is a re-imagining of the famous Arthurian legends, telling the story from the perspectives of King Arthur (Bradley James) and the wizard Merlin (Colin Morgan) as teenagers. The show does take quite a few liberties with Arthurian canon, but what makes the show so great is the characters, particularly the friendship between Arthur and Merlin. Bradley James and Colin Morgan have great comic timing and great chemistry as performers, and the show's bittersweet ending is as powerful as it is heartbreaking.
"Gravity" was one of the biggest and most exciting surprises of the year. It was both a critical and commercial success, and may be one of the best uses of IMAX and 3D technology on film. The movie contrasts the infinity of space with the intimacy of human drama, following an astronaut (Sandra Bullock) who is marooned in space and has to struggle to survive, even though she isn't sure she has anything to live for back on Earth. It's a powerful film, and it's an experience that lingers long after the credits stop rolling.
4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Bilbo Baggins faces greater dangers in "The Hobbit" sequel, "The Desolation of Smaug," an epic, exciting fantasy film that improves upon its predecessor. From a battle with giant spiders in a shadowy forest to a harrowing barrel ride down a river, the film clips along at a steady pace despite its almost three-hour run time. The highlight of the film, however, is undoubtedly the dragon Smaug, animated with flawless CGI and brought to life by the voice work of Benedict Cumberbatch. It's probably still true director Peter Jackson could have told the story just as well in two parts, instead of expanding it out to three, but I'm more than happy to come along for the ride.
3. Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
This year, "Doctor Who" celebrated its 50th anniversary in grand fashion, with a special called "The Day of the Doctor" that paid homage to the show's history and made me fall in love with the show all over again. "Doctor Who" is a decidedly quirky British sci-fi show about a time lord known simply as the Doctor who travels around the universe in a time machine disguised as a blue police box. It's been exciting to watch the show — which was once more of a cult hit here in the United States — grow in popularity. The show has sailed through its share of rough waters in the past five decades, but it manages to regularly reinvent itself, and it has become one of the most fun and clever shows on TV. Here's hoping the next 50 years will be just as exciting.
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Films don't always live up to their trailers. However, this certainly wasn't the case with "Catching Fire" — the trailers leading up to the film's release were tense, ominous and thrilling, and the film itself was even more powerful. Director Francis Lawrence wisely focused much of the film's first half on the brewing revolution in the districts; you know right away the stakes are higher in this sequel. As bow-wielding heroine Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence truly is the "girl on fire," and she commands viewers' attention every time she appears on screen. "Catching Fire" is a blockbuster that manages to be both exciting and thought-provoking, and it proves to be even better than its predecessor.
1. Star Trek: Into Darkness
It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise this ended up at the top of my 2013 list. ;) Those who know me know I'm a very vocal fan of J.J. Abrams' 2009 "Star Trek" reboot; it's what turned me into a Trekkie and made me fall in love with the rest of the "Star Trek" universe. Abrams' Trek sequel, "Into Darkness," was my most anticipated movie of 2013, and it also turned out to be my favorite. The film was a bit polarizing — fans are divided on whether "Into Darkness" is a shameless rip-off of "The Wrath of Khan" or a clever, re-imagined homage to classic Trek. However, I'm with the latter group. I thought Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were excellent, once again, as Kirk and Spock, and this time around we really get to see the strength and depth of their friendship. Benedict Cumberbatch at first may have seemed an unconventional casting choice for Khan, but he turns in a deliciously chilling performance. I can't wait to see what fresh ideas J.J. Abrams will bring to "Star Wars" in 2015.