Thursday, January 02, 2014

Top 20 Movies of 2013 I've Seen in the Second-Half of the Year (+Top 10 Movies of 2013)

It’s time again for my personal ranking of the movies of the previous year.  If you have noticed, this second-half edition for top 2013 movies is a “top 20” list.   Remember that the movies to be listed here are movies I’ve seen in the second-half of the 2013, hence, movies I’ve seen after I have written the first-half edition (which you should check out first if you haven’t read it yet) regardless of whether they were released in the first or second half.   So with a top 20 this time, I have more room to cover more of the movies I’ve seen in the crowded second half. 

Then from among the movies listed in the first-half edition (which you should read first) and this second-half edition, I will be picking out my “Top 10 Movies of 2013” in the end. 

Of course, per usual, it’s unavoidable that I missed a couple of 2013 movies.  I have two in mind that would be very likely in the top of my list IF only I have seen them: Captain Philips and Frozen (especially this).   

Let’s get the ball rollin’…


This was an animated film adaptation of the captivating comicbook storyline, “Flashpoint”, by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert.  The story is about how Barry Allen, the Flash, unbeknownst to him, changed reality when he saved his mother from being murdered.  By saving his mother, he set off a “butterfly effect” chain of events that changed the status quo of the universe as he knows it: e.g. Bruce Wayne was the one that got killed instead of his parents, Thomas Wayne became Batman and Martha Wayne became the Joker; Barry Allen never gained his Flash powers; Aquaman and Atlantis is at war with Wonder Woman and the Amazons, with Europe as their battlefield; Kal El’s ship has been discovered by the U.S. government instead of the Kents and has been imprisoned in an underground facility ever since he was a baby; etc.  The central character of this tale is Flash, as he attempts to return the universe back to its original reality.  The aftermath of all of this, same as with the comics, is the reboot of the DC animated universe into the “New 52” (ugh).


A group of friends, now adults, reunites to re-attempt a pub crawl covering 12 pubs in their hometown, which they had first attempted 20 years ago, in their youth, but failed.  But along the way, they uncovered an ongoing secret alien invasion in the town, in which the residents are being replaced by android doppelgangers. 

This could be my least favorite in Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”, but it was still a fun mix of hilarity, suspense, and action. 


See?  It’s possible.  The Filipino movie industry can create a fresh, engaging, well-written, well-acted, and thought-provoking film.  It has flaws, but overall, OTJ is the most brilliant Pinoy film I’ve ever seen since Mistah

It’s so good that Hollywood is even thinking of re-making it.   But I don’t think that’s a good idea.  In my opinion, OTJ only works because the cultural, political, and socio-economic condition it was set on is actually a Filipino reality.  It is so real, hence, it was so emphatic.  Now, against an American backdrop? I don't think it would have the same impact.

My only annoyance in this film is how terrible Gerald Anderson’s acting is at times.  It seems, in front of my eyes, he’s becoming “Budoy” when he’s acting out naivety and green-ness as a rookie hitman.  Maybe it was just because Anderson spends so much screen time with Joel Torre, who delivered a powerful performance; that Anderson’s lesser quality as an actor stood out as he pales greatly in comparison with Torre.   


The Wolverine is indeed an upgrade from X-Men Origins: Wolverine but it was not at all superb.  It has several memorable and entertaining action scenes but the overall story is totally dumb.  Hugh Jackman’s perfect depiction of Wolverine on screen nonetheless made the movie worth watching. 

Moreover, the movie’s post-credits scene – Magneto and Prof. X confronts Logan – has started to lay down the elements that could spark the explosion of Fox’s attempt to establish their own Marvel Cinematic Universe that would revolve around their X-Men properties.   It hasn’t made any concrete connections yet and there are still a ton of questions left unanswered (which X-Men: Days of Future’s Past will hopefully bring closures to) but the fact that Fox is indeed endeavoring for something big and ambitious with their Marvel-licensed brands – perplexing and mysterious they may be at this point – brings intriguing excitement.  


To enjoy this movie, one has to be already a fan of Dragon Ball Z who is used to and accepts the absurdity of it, thinks of it as one of the greatest anime ever made, hates Dragon Ball GT, and has always wanted another movie set in the Dragon Ball Z time period and that would have the same Dragon Ball Z quality.  I am one, thus, I have no trouble liking this movie.  This has everything every fan loved about Dragon Ball Z back in its heyday. 

This movie features arguably the most powerful antagonist (but is not necessarily evil as other Dragon Ball Z villains like Freeza and Cell) that the Z Fighters has to face: Lord Bills, the God of Destruction (while several Dragon Ball Z characters have been introduced before that have power levels that allow them to singlehandedly destroy a planet, Lord Bills can destroy a galaxy with no effort).  The only chance that Goku and friends have is to figure out how to summon the legendary “Super Saiyan God.” 


I’m not at all satisfied with this movie.  I’m not saying that this movie is bad.  It was nonetheless entertaining and action-packed.  But it lacks the special kind of kickass quality that made Hunter X Hunter an exceptional manga.  And it does have several slow, dull moments.  Heck, even Hisoka and Leorio, my two most favorite HxH characters, almost bored me here.  The character that has the most kickass moments in this movie is not even one of the main protagonist but Nobunaga, the ronin member of the Phantom Troupe.  Still, with the manga in another lengthy hiatus right now, I’ll take what dose of Hunter X Hunter I can get.    


When it seems that there are just too many zombie movies existing already, making another one tiresome, World War Z actually brings something different to the game – which made this zombie flick still worth watching.  This film has no resemblance at all with the book it is based on except for the title, but it was still able to establish a smart premise and story without having to rely on its book source (which is considered one of the most definite and greatest zombie novels ever written).  This movie is far from perfect, but it still worked.  It also helps that the lead character, played by Brad Pitt, is easily likable and notable – a unique zombie-fighting protagonist. 

13.) RUSH

Rush is an exhilarating biographical sports drama about the rivalry of legendary drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One season.  The movie features gripping performances from the two leads, intense race scenes, and impressive production values.    Niki Lauda even praised it for its authenticity; he was quoted:  “When I saw it the first time I was impressed. There were no Hollywood changes or things changed a little bit Hollywood-like. It is very accurate. And this really surprised me very positively.”  

Though I find the first one funnier, cleverer, and having a better story, this sequel still offered big laughs and an entertaining narrative.  And, just like before, most of those laughs and entertaining highlights are due to the Minions. 

11.) R.E.D. 2

R.E.D. 2 contains all the charm that made its predecessor one of my favorite movies back in 2010.  It’s funny, badass, and action-packed. 

And once again, John Malkovich’s character, Marvin Boggs, is the most interesting character among the bunch, though he’s unfortunately a bit toned down compared to the first movie.  Would love more of his antics in the next movie (if there will be). 

Helen Mirren’s character, Victoria, however, is a lot more badass in this movie.  The regal Helen Mirren as an action hero still blows me away.  She’s natural when kicking butt.    

Next to those two, Bruce Willis’ character, Frank Moses, is almost unremarkable.  But he still has great moments, considering he’s the lead.  The moment he escaped detention and coolly picked out one-by-one his assassins was my most favorite action-sequence in the movie.        

Lastly, between this and his role as Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe, Lee Byung-hun seems to be a legit sexy badass.  He is hands down my favorite Korean actor right now.  Would love to see him in bigger roles in the future.  (Dear Marvel, please consider giving him for the role of Shang-Chi, if you have any plans of bringing the Master of Kung-Fu in the big screen.)    


I was actually not expecting it to be good.  I thought that it was going to be mediocre at most.  But I was wrong.   The Croods is a heart-warming, thoughtful, and hilarious animated movie.  It’s about a family of cavemen that was compelled to travel towards unknown lands to survive a changing, hostile planet.  The movie humorously tackled the themes of brawn vs. brains, embracing change, and some family tropes.       


Since I haven’t seen Frozen (as of writing), which everyone is clamoring accolades about, my choice for best animated movie this year is Monsters University.  Really.  While others are complaining about how Pixar is losing its creativity, I, however, tremendously enjoyed this movie.  I think that this was even better than Monsters, Inc.  The setting and story situation of Monsters U worked better for me than what Monsters, Inchad.

Note: While Epic cracked the top 6 in the first-half edition, I find Despicable Me 2, The Croods, and Monster University superior animated movies to it. 


I have to admit that it feels like this movie is a little higher in this list than it deserves to be, but has benefited during evaluation because I’m just too much of a Marvel fan boy.  LOL.  Honestly, I was mildly disappointed with this movie.  It was great at most, and there were parts where it’s amazing.  But I was expecting more from it.  To me, it feels like it was lacking of “epicness.” 

I was hoping that this movie would finally establish that Thor is the one that puts the mighty in the Earth’s Mightiest Team (i.e. the Avengers), that he’s the “Superman” of the Marvel Universe.  I wanted this movie to show that when he’s not with the Avengers, Thor has the room to go all out with his tremendous lightning powers, easily obliterating his targets – great as they may be.  Hence, I wanted the threat the he will face – Malekith and the Dark Elves – to be so great that he will be compelled to do just that: show how powerful he really is.  But, in the movie, greatly threatening has Malekith had been, it was not enough to give Thor that opportunity.          

Nonetheless, evaluating the movie as it is, Thor 2 was still of great quality – especially the visuals.  But I liked the first one better.  The first one has a better story, IMO.      

The best thing about this movie is Loki.  He was a delight to watch.  His awesomeness was just exploding in every scene he’s in.    Kudos to Tom Hiddleston and his charisma for making this possible.   (I know it’s unlikely, but Marvel should think of making a Loki movie.  I would love to have that.) 

I haven’t read the book yet.  And I thought of not watching this movie until I read the book first.  Then, again, as a sci-fi buff, I’m already aware of the story and general concept of Ender’s Game anyway for it’s a part of sci-fi fans’ collective consciousness (i.e. from having conversations with those who read it and reading sci-fi articles that refer to it).  So watching it doesn’t necessarily spoil the book for me. 

There were a lot of sci-fi movies this year.  I love sci-fi and it should have been a good year for me.  But it was not so.  Movies like Elysium and Oblivion proved to be disappointingly lacking (though they had fantastic visuals, they reek of bothersome, distracting plot holes.  And they were boring at times).  And then there’s After Earth… I never finished watching it.  About thirty minutes into the movie, it was easily established how stupid the entire premise of it and how horribly bland Will Smith’s son is, that I stopped wasting my time.  My love for sci-fi, which even extends to the silly kinds, and Will Smith’s charisma couldn’t save that dumb movie for me.         

So thank God for Ender’s Game.  It was basically a straight adaptation of the book – having many of its details intact – and since the book is a sci-fi classic, the appeal and enjoyability of the movie to sci-fi fans (regardless of the Orson Scott Card-hate that exists due to his views) is guaranteed.  I’m glad this movie was made.  Love how Ender, one of the greatest boy geniuses in fiction, was perfectly portrayed on screen.   Made up for my disappointment of those other sci-fi films.     


As far as the story and characters go, this movie was unremarkably generic.  But it makes up for it by the epicness of its visuals.  Once the monstrous battle between Jaegers and Kaijus starts, every flaw of this movie was forgiven.     I’ve always wanted Hollywood to make a “mecha” movie, and this is a start, and I’m glad they did.  I hope there’s going to be more of this kind of movies (but with better stories). 


This was probably the movie I was much excited to watch this year, Joss Whedon’s handling of a Shakespearean classic (which he filmed in just 2 weeks!).  I was not disappointed.    Much Ado About Nothing was oozing with humor, cleverness, and appeal.  Everyone of the cast delivered compelling performances and did justice to their respective characters. 

My first thought was this move was going to be a modernized take on the tale.  But as I get to watch it, I found out that it wasn’t like that at all.  The airs, manner, and dialogue of the characters were still in a Shakespearean approach, but with modern sets and costumes.  It’s a brilliant concept.  Watching its execution on screen has been a refreshing, delightful, and fun experience.   

This movie simply displays Whedon’s versatility and genius. 


Such a joy to see the fascinating Katniss Everdeen in action again.  And this movie delivered magnificently.

Many are saying that this was one of the rare instances in which the movie was better than the book.  I can’t be a judge of that for I haven’t read the book.  But I can see where that thought is coming from.   

This sequel significantly upped the notch from its predecessor, one of the greatest movies of 2012.  There was an obvious increase in value and quality in everything I see.  Compared to the last film, characters outside of Katniss become more interesting (especially Peeta), the visuals are more splendid (Panem’s metropolitan grandeur is finally revealed), and there is much more powerful emotion in this movie.   

It was an amazing film that introduced more stakes and elements that give indication that things are still going to be more intense and kickass from here.  Can’t wait for Mockingjay.   


This fantasy film was simply fantastic.  It was a display of wonderful storytelling and exciting visuals.  And, yes, it was better than the first film. 

Everything about this movie was such a joy to watch.  Martin Freeman (as Bilbo) has continued to prove that he is lightyears more awesome than Elijah Wood (who was Frodo in the LOTR films) in playing a lead Hobbit.  Bilbo and the dwarves’ different misadventures along their journey was a lot of fun.  I love how the movie magnificently executed the barrel scene.  The inclusion of Legolas was worth it; we saw Legolas be awesome as an archer (and to a minimal extent, using a knife) in LOTR, but, here in this movie, we were also treated with Legolas’ versatility in using various weapons and close-combat.  And, as with Star Trek Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch stole the show the moment his character appeared on screen; his rich, sinister voicing of Smaug lighted up every scene he’s in as much as the dragon’s exhaling of fire. 

Just like Catching Fire, this second installment also raised the stakes for everyone and perfectly set us up for next year’s offering.   Man, the cliff-hanger ending makes me impatient for the finale.


Gravity is going to be a classic.  It was an artsy and stunning film.  The cinematography was so breath-taking that it was almost as if the movie was actually shot in space.  The story was smooth and fascinating from start to finish.  The narrative was done in a way in which it the story was “straightly” done in sequential order, meaning there were no “cuts” in scenes, but merely a succession of scenes, and it worked well; it was never boring for the acting was so engagingly powerful that even though only Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (plus one insignificant, faceless extra who was killed early on) are the only charters on screen, you will never lose interest as the movie and the actors successfully made the audience deeply invest on the characters.  Bullock even had to single-handedly carry about two-thirds of the film’s screen time – after Clooney’s character sacrificed himself so that Bullock’s character can survive – as her character will keep you absorbed into the narrative.  I think she can get another Oscar from this. 


Critics pan this movie.  I don’t care.  I loved this movie and it’s my most favorite movie of 2013.  Now You See Me feels like a mix of Ocean’s 11 and The Illusionist.  A combination of heist and magic.  It was a movie of twists, intrigues, and magical fun.  Nothing is what it seems to be, and that tiny and mundane details could prove to be important later on.  There was never a dull second in this movie.  It kept me entertained and engrossed from start to finish.   

Maybe the reason I liked this movie so much is I have no idea what the movie is all about before watching it.  I saw the movie without expecting anything.  And I was blown away. 

All members of the Four Horsemen – the main characters – were allowed to individually shine, with the unfortunate exception of the female member who was unremarkable compared to the other three.  She seemed to be a mere glorified assistant when compared to how the three male members were notably portrayed.  The three male Horsemen were all given awesome moments wherein they showcased their skills and expertise, cementing themselves as significant contributors to the Four Horsemen’s schemes.  The female did not have this kind of moment.    

There were various twists in this movie – ranging from tiny to mind-blowing, but all delightful.  But the main twist of the movie, however, was almost predictable.  The identity of the “Fifth” Horseman was almost too easy to decipher.  Why?  (spoiler) He’s that guy that the movie was seemingly trying hard of making as the guy you won’t ever expect.  Nonetheless, it was still a wonderful development. 

The entire movie is one, big magic show – full of misdirection, mystery, thrills, and wondrous entertainment.      
*             *             *


5.) IRON MAN 3

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