The top 20 movies of 2013

By Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 02 2014 12:06 PM | Updated as of Jan 03 2014 07:30 PM

According to my record, I had written 151 movie reviews in 2013. That is a big increase from the 84 I wrote the previous year. I have been more aware of schedules of local indie film festivals, which really made a big impact in 2013. Several local films made it into my top list this year.

The top 20 movies of 2013 1
A scene from "On the Job"

This year marks a milestone for my blogging because my movie reviews are now being picked up and posted on! As of this writing, a total of 58 of my reviews have made it on the pages of the most popular local news website. Among my most read reviews published on were those of "The Conjuring" and "10,000 Hours."

For this list, I had not included the 23 articles written about films which had been released in 2012 or earlier, but I had only seen in 2013. These were mostly the Oscar-winning films released in December 2012, but only hit local theaters in 2013.

Potential Oscar-winning films of this year which will only be shown in 2014 locally are also not included here, like "American Hustle," "12 Years a Slave," "Her," "Nebraska," etc.

Honorable mentions:

20. "Now You See Me"
19. "Mga Anino ng Kahapon"
18. "Tuhog"
17. "Sana Dati"
16. "Before Midnight"
15. "Man of Steel"
14, "The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug"
13. "Frozen"
12. "The Conjuring"
11. "Ekstra"

Here are the 10 best films of 2013 that I have seen and written about:

10. "Ilo Ilo"

To help with the household chores and to take care of son Jiale, a middle-class Singaporean couple decide to hire a maid from the Philippines, Teresa (Angeli Bayani). It was a huge challenge for Terry to get integrated into the family system and into Jiale's troubled life, but she eventually does. But as the Lims (Yeo Yan Yan and Tian Wen Chen) experience escalating monetary woes, they need to make an important decision about Terry.

The actors were all subdued in their acting, which makes the performances so realistic. You can feel that the intentions of the film and its director Anthony Chen were only modest, but the sincerity is very palpable, and that is what makes the film connect so well with its audiences. 9/10.

9. "Oblivion"

The setting is the future after aliens have destroyed the Earth. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a technician who fixes drones or "Wall- E"-like flying robot police gofers of that time. A female crew member of a pod that crash-landed named Julia (Olga Kurylenko), and a band of human rebels (led by Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) gives Jack an insight on his real nature

Writer-director Joseph Kosinski really had a good story and he tells it very well indeed. He knows how to maximize the talents of his crew to create this audacious yet reflective sci-fi masterpiece. 9/10.

8. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

In celebration of the 75th year of the Hunger Games, previous victors (one male and one female) from each district to fight in another games to the death called the Quarter Quell. Being the only female victor of District 12, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was an automatic contestant, and the odds were stacked against her favor. How will the results of this special edition of the Hunger Games affect the revolution already catching fire outside the Capitol walls?

This film tackles serious political topics very well, simplified for its young target audience, but not in a way that insults more mature viewers. This is a perfectly-made bridging film by director Francis Lawrence. It stands very well on its own merits, as much as it guarantees that the next two films in the franchise will be blockbusters. 9/10.

7. "10,000 Hours"

As his warrant of arrest was being served, Sen. Gabriel Alcaraz (Robin Padilla) was able to elude authorities led by Gen. Dante Cristobal (Michael de Mesa) with the help of an aggressive news reporter Maya Limchauco (Bela Padilla). He manages to make his way to Amsterdam to hide out, but back home, his wife Anna (Mylene Dizon) and children bear the consequential backlash of his controversial escape. The title "10,000 Hours" refers to the number of hours Alcaraz was on the lam.

This was a very well-crafted Filipino film of a quality that is rarely seen. The technical aspect was flawless, impressively by an almost all-female behind-the-scenes crew. Bb. Joyce Bernal assuredly assembles and delivers to us a final product of such fine quality that elevates her craft high and above all the rom-coms she is more known for. 9/10

6. "The Great Gatsby"

A man named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo di Caprio) moves heaven and earth, building his immense wealth from practically nothing, to be with Daisy (Carey Mulligan), the woman he adored. Unfortunately, Daisy had married wealthy Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) because she believed rich girls cannot marry poor boys.

This film is a vast improvement over the 1974 film. The use of flashbacks in this current version to show us more about the history of Gatsby as a boy and young man was really helpful to understand where he was coming from. You will really notice director Baz Luhrmann's touch in the lavish and opulent parties that Gatsby held in his West Egg mansion and in the musical soundtrack department. 9/10.

5. "Rush"

During the 1976 F1 season, the very serious Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) was leading all the way on total points until a devastating event threatened not only his crown, but his life. Can Niki summon enough will to fight the mortal odds and recover in order to race to the finish, or will the charismatic James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) just be handed the cup of his dreams on a silver platter?

Even if I did not know Lauda and Hunt, I was drawn into their story complete with all the ingredients of epic action, drama, and romance. Director Ron Howard does not lose control of his material as everything fell in its right place in the gripping final cut of the film. 9/10

4. "On The Job"

Mario (Joel Torre) and Daniel (Gerald Anderson) are convicts who are being sneaked out of prison and hired as hitmen by a powerful highly-connected syndicate. After they bungle a job to execute a policeman, the secure web of protection around them begin to unravel as an idealistic NBI lawyer Francis Coronel Jr. (Piolo Pascual) and a maverick but sincere policeman PO1 Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez) threaten to throw this assassination ring wide open up to its highest levels.

The technical aspects of the film are outstanding, particularly the cinematography and the film editing. The atmosphere created by director Erik Matti was very tense and exciting. The suspense was heart-pounding as the pace is frenetic, and you would not know what will happen with succeeding scenes. This film is NOT predictable. 9/10

3. "Badil"

In a small island barangay in Samar on the day before local elections, Mang Ponso (Dick Israel) is working hard to ensure his candidate, the incumbent Mayor Del Mundo, wins by making sure their sworn supporters vote as they promise. Because of Ponso's physical disabilities brought about by a recent stroke, his eldest son Lando (Jhong Hilario) has to fill in his father's duties, exposing him to the seedy underbelly of local grassroots politics, where MONEY does all the talking.

The script of Rody Vera was so well-written, so gritty, down-to-earth, natural, and educational as well. Director Chito Rono proves that even with a limited budget of P1.5 million from the Film Development Council of the Philippines, one can create a film with beautiful cinematography, exciting editing, artistic depth and national significance. Now that is a true Master. 9/10

2. "Star Trek Into Darkness"

The key scenes between Kirk and Spock were essayed so well by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. I enjoyed the interaction and the cooperation among the crew, each with their own talents. Simon Pegg (as Scotty) and Karl Urban (as Dr. Bones) particularly stand out. The antagonist is a super- soldier first known as Harrison. Upcoming actor Benjamin Cumberbatch portrays this super-villain with amazing screen presence and convincing menace.

Director JJ Abrams has come up with a movie that will satisfy both old and new fans of this revered franchise. It covers all aspects of "Star Trek" that makes it the long-lasting popular favorite that it is: the teamwork, the adventure, the action, the drama, and yes, the humor, all are still definitely there. 10/10

1. "Gravity"

"Gravity" tells of the unenviable situation experienced by medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and her astronaut mission commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) when an accidental disaster caused by a shower of satellite debris destroys their space station, leaving them floating in deep space.

Director Alfonso Cuaron has created a masterpiece that knows when to move for excitement and when to stop for meditation. We enjoy the breathtaking ride through the dangerous outer frontiers. We also get to look inwards to the essence of our own minuscule humanity in stark contrast to the vastness of the universe. We will feel agoraphobia and claustrophobia at the same time while Stone and Kowalski struggle to keep themselves alive. 10/10

This list was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."