The Flix List: Top 10 Movies from the first half of 2013

This list is rather late as we’ve already passed the halfway mark of the year a few weeks ago. As you know, because of personal circumstances, I had to take a blogging/movie-viewing hiatus for a while, so I missed a few screenings of what could’ve made my list: Mud, The Bling Ring, World War Z, etc.

In any case, my list contains a couple of movies that had been released last year internationally, but I included it here as I’m using the USA release dates. Now, when I say ‘top movies’ it’s sort of a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Rewatchability is a factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types (for me anyway), but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

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10. Disconnect (full review)

10DisconnectThis film seems to have been overlooked as I barely saw any promos or articles on this one. It’s certainly not an easy film to watch as the subject matters are VERY unsettling: cyber-bullying, teen pornography, etc. I said in my review that I felt drained at the end of the film as there’s barely any humor injected here to break up the intensity. But I’m glad I saw it, and I was quite impressed by Andrea Riseborough and Frank Grillo, two actors I hope would get more roles in Hollywood.

9. Monsters University (full review)

9MonstersUI was a big fan of the original so even though the idea of any sequels is iffy, it was a lot of fun to revisit the delightful characters of Monstropolis. Mike Wazowski remains one of my favorite Pixar characters of all time, so right away I was fully invested in his journey. Pixar delivered once again in crafting a heart-warming story that’s nostalgic and relatable. The campus life is full of mirth and riotous fun, but not without emotional issues we humans can easily identify with.

8. The Angels’ Share

8AngelsShareKen Loach is no stranger to social commentary in his films and this could be his lightest one yet. By ‘light’ I don’t mean frivolous however, no siree, there’s a great deal of turmoil and mayhem surrounding the protagonist Robbie (played brilliantly by Paul Brannigan despite his lack of acting experience), but it’s also a story of hope and second chances. Oh, and it’s also hilarious! I was so fortunate to be able to interview screenwriter Paul Laverty who wrote this Scottish comedy gem. Do yourself a favor and rent this movie!

7. Iron Man 3

7IronMan3I was ready to dismiss this movie but you know what, somehow Tony Stark & co. managed to still be quite entertaining. I’ve listed 10 reason why this movie beats my expectations, as Shane Black deftly crafted a fish-out-of-water plot that gets the flamboyant billionaire out of his comfort zone. I for one enjoyed the ‘twist’ of the story, plus the humor and spectacle all come together to give us pure escapist entertainment. Of course, one’s enjoyment depends how jaded you are with superhero movies. I for one think there’s still enough juice left in this installment to entertain.

6. Stoker (full review)

6StokerMost of FC readers know I’m not one for disturbing movies, but there’s something so mesmerizingly beautiful about Chan-Wook Park‘s English language debut. It’s incredibly atmospheric and nearly every frame has such a delicately eerie quality that lingers long after the film’s over. Superb performances all around, especially Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. The latter played against type to great effect, so I’m glad he ended up getting cast here instead of Colin Firth. Highly recommended for fans of cerebral thrillers.

5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (full review)

5ReluctantFundamentalistThis is another tough film to watch but one that I’m glad I put it on my watch-list. I saw this during MSP film festival, and it’s one I don’t mind seeing again. Mira Nair takes a controversial subject matter of terrorism with care, as in essence the film is more about the Pakistani protagonist Changez living in a world rife with fear and suspicion. I was hugely impressed by London-born Riz Ahmed in the title role, portraying a deeply-conflicted who’s highly intelligent and charismatic. Even though there’ve been films of this subject done in the past, this one manages to set itself apart as it tackles a story that’s not often explored but certainly worth telling.

4. Star Trek Into Darkness (full review)

4StarTrekIntoDarknessJJ Abrams managed to make me interested in the Star Trek universe, which is quite a feat in itself. The strength of this movie is the zippy and fun tone, boosted by the chemistry of its cast and eye-popping special effects. Of course I have to mention the excellent casting of Benedict Cumberbatch, who somehow manages to still upstage the already-awesome Enterprise crew led by Chris Pine with his decidedly theatrical performance. It’s one of the funnest movies of the Summer to be sure, for sure I’ll be getting the Blu-ray 😀

3. The Kings of Summer (full review)

3KingsOfSummerI went in to this movie pretty much blindly as I only read the quick summary on IMDb and not knowing any of the cast. Well, it turns out to be a delightful surprise that I knew it’ll end up in my Best list of the year! This is a Summer film that offers a humorous but meaningful diversion from the loud tent-pole movies, with gorgeous nature scenery truly celebrates the beauty of the season. There have been countless of coming-of-age films out of Hollywood, and I think this directorial debut from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is an excellent addition in that sub-genre!

2. Man of Steel (full review)

2ManOfSteelWell, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that this movie would be in my top 5, right? 😀 It took me a while to process it the first time I saw it, I mean the scope of this movie is massive. But the more it sat with me the more I appreciate it, despite the CGI-overloaded third act. Superman is a tough character to crack, figuratively and otherwise, but somehow Chris Nolan, David Goyer and Zack Snyder managed to create an imaginative origins story full of spectacle but also full of heart. I love how the relationships between Kal-El and his Kryptonian and earthly parents are explored in great depth here. The casting is top notch all around, led by the first Brit in the role, Henry Cavill, who’s more than up to the task to provide of strength and vulnerability. Given my undying love for Superman, Man of Steel certainly did not dampen my love for this Kryptonian hero.

1. The Hunt (full review)

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Some films are so deeply affecting and impressively-made that the minute you left the theater, you knew straight away it’s going to be the one to beat in a given year. I had to sit down for a few minutes to take it in after the film’s over. My hubby and I looked at each other and we’re like, ‘WOW, that was something wasn’t it?’ Mads Mikkelsen is nothing short of outstanding as Lucas, a man on the hunt, a kindergarten teacher whose life suddenly got turned upside down as a seemingly ‘innocent’ lie runs amok in his tight-knight Danish community.

Director Thomas Vinterberg shrewd, minimalist style creates a highly tense, unsettling atmosphere that really gets under your skin. The lush and evocative cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen creates a captivating contrast between the serene-looking scenery and the increasing inner tumult within Lucas as things spin out of control. This is definitely a film not-to-be-missed, folks. Even with all the big-budgeted Summer movies that have come along since, this is one of those films that you won’t soon forget. I hope they’d get some nominations come award season.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These aren’t stellar by any means, but it was pretty entertaining, some are a pleasant surprise to me as they’re not even my go-to genre. So yeah, I’d recommend these for a rental!


WORST of the year so far:

I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid what’s poised to be stinkers like Grown Ups 2, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, Movie 43, etc. but these are pretty terrible in their own right. It’s not even worth seeing on a plane IHMO.


UPVOTE please


So that’s my Best/Worst list of the year. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀

Everybody’s Chattin’ – Vol. 26

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Happy Friday everyone! It’s the last day of May but sadly I’m still wearing jackets these days… with umbrellas in tow!! It’s been a pretty lame Spring, and it looks like it’s gonna be slow going Summer too 😦

But hey, I’ll be seeing Man of Steel is exactly 11 days, so THAT definitely puts an extra spring in my step!! I usually get bothered by the endless amount of movie marketing, and this movie has certainly been bombarding us with endless TV spots… but y’know, I don’t mind at all. I don’t think anything can dampen my excitement for this, ahah. Ok, normally I don’t post interviews but allow me to indulge a bit today with this Henry Cavill interview with Vanity Fair:


I never said this about anyone but Mr. Cavill is like the 8th wonder of the world … [sigh]…

Ok, now that I’ve regained my composure (somewhat), let’s get on some awesome posts I’ve been reading in the past week. I’m going to put a number on each of the Everybody’s Chattin’ posts from now on, just so I can keep track 😉

Kavalier & ClayWell, since Superman’s been on my mind lately, I’ll start with Cindy Buchman‘s post on this awesome book Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, which takes the story of Siegel and Shuster and loosely fictionalized their partnership and their account of creating the comic strip we know and love today. I’m gonna see if Amazon has this!

While we’re at it, Bubbawheat asked the burning question Why do superhero movies appeal to you? It’s definitely an intriguing question, one which I attempt to answer recently in my Superman & Me post, but it’s great to hear what everyone else has to say.

Cavill_ManOfSteelRich also did a fabulous write-up on how Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner’s vision of the Man of Steel has been the standard-bearer for superhero films in general for many years and inspired millions. He argued why Henry Cavill [and the new film] would need  to escape Reeve’s shadow an be compelling enough to stand on its own. I totally concur and from what I’ve seen so far, I needn’t worry 😀

Now, switching gear to a Marvel superhero, Lady Sati just recently did her review of Iron Man 3. I always LOVE her reviews with all the awesome photos and even more awesome rating system!

A film’s artistic sensibility sometimes begins even before the film itself. Michael has been featuring great Opening Titles on his blog (with this super one being one of my all time favorites, natch) and the latest one he featured is from the sci-fi mystery Contact. I’ve been wanting to see it for a while but just haven’t got around to it yet.

What I love about the blogging community is discovering day in and day out how various films affect fellow cinephiles differently. Keith and his Public Movie Defender posts are awesome as he picks movies that have been lambasted by critics [even audience alike] and serve up his own defense why he disagree with them. The latest one was on Terminator Salvation, which I happen to enjoy quite a bit despite the flaws.

WaltzWithBashirRyan at The Matinee (who was the inspiration behind this Everybody’s Chattin’ series btw) started something great with his BlindSpot series. I’ve been discovering a bunch of posts that opened my eyes to films I’ve been blind about, such as this Israeli animated feature Waltz With Bashir that Josh just reviewed.

Speaking of another indie, the one I missed out on last month due to a thunderstorm, well Terrence’s review of MUD made me even more curious about it. Unfortunately we didn’t see eye to eye on EPIC though, but still, it was an excellent one-word-title double reviews, so check it out!

I haven’t done a Birthday tribute in a while but you’ve got to check out Novia‘s heartfelt and beautiful poem to her beloved idol Cillian Murphy on his 37th birthday. I love how loyal she is to her crushes, as she remains in love with Cillian even though she’s been caught up in the British show fever 😉

For good Friday fun (or any day for that matter), check out John’s mighty creative Movie Directors’ Baseball Jerseys! My favorites are the Scorsese, Coens and Edgar Wright Jerseys!

Now, last but not least, you’d want to head over to FilmHipster to take a stab at his latest Guess the Movie & Win sweepstakes for a chance to win one of four awesome Blu-rays!


Stay tuned for my Monthly Roundup coming this weekend, as well as mini reviews of Epic, Now You See Me and other movies I haven’t got around to reviewing yet. Of course there are more Man of Steel countdown posts, one courtesy of Terrence from The Focused Filmographer 😀


Well, before you’re off to any of the links above, tell me, what’s your weekend viewing plans?

10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations

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Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really  looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:

1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.

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Shane Black on the set with RDJ

2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:

I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.

I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.

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Now, THAT’s the money shot

3. Going back to basicsbut somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.

4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.

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Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.

IronMan3_TheMandarin5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.

Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.

6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!

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7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.

The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.

8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.

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There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.

9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!

IronMan3_RebeccaHall10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.


Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.

Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.


4 out of 5 reels

What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?