Month: May 2015

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2014: Year in Review

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 The three best movies of this year were films that did just about everything right. These were terrific masterpieces of cinema. The movies were Whiplash, Locke, and Guardians of the Galaxy, in that respected order.

Whiplash was a powerhouse movie of outstanding performances, a dark character study, and a story that kept you surprised as it constantly moved down new paths. JK Simmons gave the performance of his career, and won a well-deserved best supporting actor oscar. Miles Teller was great too, and I really like that this kid is building up his credibility before appearing in the new Fantastic Four movie, (both Whiplash and the Spectacular Now were great.)

After Whiplash comes Locke. What a film. A crowning achievement in how much they were able to accomplish with so little. This is one of the most experimental movies I have ever seen. The entire film takes place in a car with one single character on screen. Other than that, it’s just voices on the speaker phone. And yet the movie comes alive due to a riveting screenplay with some truly wonderful dialogue. It’s amazing how captivating this film turns out to be.

Next comes the big blockbuster of the bunch. Guardians of the Galaxy. The new Star Wars of sorts. Certainly the Star Wars of the superhero universe. It’s the movie that proves that Marvel can do no wrong (although some of their movies aren’t great, such as Thor 2.) This film has fantastic action, humor, characters, and storytelling. And who could forget the music? It all comes together in a movie that is visually spectacular. This is the movie that announces Chris Pratt as a new A list star, and the biggest thing to come out of 2014.

After those top three, the next movies on the list are great, but also slightly flawed. Gone Girl is next and while it is incredibly suspenseful, the movie does go on a little too long. Something tells me the more I see this movie, the more it will drop to a lower spot on the list. That’s because it’s a mystery and the problem with all good mysteries is that once you know how it ends and how things are going to turns out, the excitement and suspense will never be there the same way again. Sometime a movie has enough going to overcome that (Like The Usual Suspects and L.A Confindential,) but more often than not, the twist is what makes the movie so special.

A movie that is terrific in a completely different way is The Grand Budapest Hotel. This one is an artisitc gem. It’s one of those films that works on all levels, meaning that even when the dialogue isn’t especially brilliant, the atmosphere and beauty of the scenery or movement or camera shots makes up for it. The story isn’t spectacular, but this is a comedy and in most comedies it’s the humor that counts. This is no exception. The laughs are there and so are the thrills including a ski chase or hotel hallway gun fight that are both fantastic.

X-Men Days of Future Past is one of the better movies in that series. It just has such a winding storyline that connects to tons of other films in the series while at the same time giving us something very creative and new.Tthis is the time travel movie of the X-Men universe. Just like the 2009 Star Trek, that used an alternate reality and jump on the timeline to change the whole world of the movie, X-Men Days oF Future Past uses the same strategy. That means characters and events in the X-Men history were all altered. And the action was pretty great too. Just the Quicksilver stuff alone was terrific.

22 Jump Street is the rare comedy that is as good if not better than the original. It’s pretty remarkable, actually. Birdman gets points for creativeness, being filmed in what feels like a single, long tracking-shot. The camera never stops moving, and it turns out to be a pretty amazing trick.

Captain America: the Winter Soldier is one of the most impressive things imaginable. A superhero movie that has come out over ten years since the craze began (14, actually, since it all started with X-Men in the year 2,000), and is absolutely one of the best there is. Sure, it’s not in the top two or anything (Batman Begins and Iron Man hold those spots on my list), but it’s up there as not only a great superhero flick with fantastic fights and action, but also a cool mysterious conspiracy plot.

The Lego Movie is a good bit of fun. It’s one of those movies that is filled with clever jokes and hidden meaning ideas. It’s a superhero story of sorts in a Matrix kind of way about a guy who is prophecized to be amazing, but seems like just an average joe. Call it Kung Fu Panda meets Star Wars. The results are pretty spectacular. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room for it on this year’s list.

That’s because the final spot goes to John Wick, the best action movie in years. It’s a surprise that Keanu Reeves is back at it again, but he’s been looking for the right action movie to hit over the past few years now (appearing in 47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi). It is this movie, John Wick, which turns out to be his big winner. The movie did so well that there is already a sequel in the works. This is a revenge thriller done right, complete with great stunt and fight choreography.

Top Ten of 2014

1. Whiplash

2. Locke

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

4. Gone Girl

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

6. X-Men Days of Future Past

7. Birdman

8. John Wick

9. Captain America: the Winter Soldier

10. 22 Jump Street

2014 Full List

 

 

 

Movies missed:

Selma

Still Alice

Under the Skin

While We’re Young

2013: Year in Review

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2013 was an interesting year. It was the year of the accopalypse comedy, giving us both This Is The End and The World’s End, (both similarly titled and both in the summertime.) The best part is that they were both very good films. This was the year of both The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle, two very different movies that came out at the same time of the year, and were clearly connected. That connection was simply Martin Scorcese and Robert Deniro. American Hustle was meant to be like Goodfellas and other Scorcese movies. It accomplished its goal and even added comedy into the mix along with everything else. On top of that, the movie featured Scorcese’s former go to man, Deniro, in a small role. Meanwhile, The Wolf of Wall Street featured Scorcese’s current go to guy, Leonardo Dicaprio, and was directed by Scorcese himself. The movies were both about con artists or guys who ripped people off and had the FBI out to get them.

And then there were the unique movies that couldn’t be put into any of the usual categories. Movies like Blue Jasmine and The Way Way Back. One was a depressing yet wildly fascinating drama, and the other a heartfelt coming of age summer story. These were all incredibly likeable movies featuring all-star casts in smaller roles. From Sam Rockwell in tThe Way Way Back to Andrew Dice Clay in Blue Jasmine, these films were perfectly cast with actors hitting it out of the park. Cate Blanchet even won an oscar for Blue Jasmine and boy did she deserve it.

In some of the more familiar genres, we got a great thriller with Prisoners and a throwback animated movie with Frozen, that was clearly a tribute to the older Disney films of the nineties, complete with musical numbers and fairy tale atmosphere. And then there were the final two spots. At least three movies got kicked off the list, not quite making it into a final position. those films were Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, and Side Effects. All good films, but none of them great. Instead, The Heat proved to have real comedy chops that got funnier with each repeat viewing (just like Bridesmaids), and Man of Steal proved to have enough style and flavor to make it pretty intriguing. That movie was too long and maybe a little too dark, but it was packed with creative ideas and powerful emotion. Just like The Way Way Back and Blue Jasmine, this was a movie where casting really made a difference. Kevin Costner, for example, in a small role, was dead on the money, playing the human adopted father of Clark Kent.

At the end of the list, the final three spots were reserved for movies that definitely had their flaws (Man of Steal – way too much destruction at the end, and The World’s End – too much time spent on the Lamp ending,) but were overall pretty great.

1. Prisoners

2. This is the End

3. Blue Jasmine

4. The Wolf of Wall Street

5. The Way Way Back

6. Frozen

7. American Hustle

8. The World’s End

9. The Heat

10. Man of Steal

2012 Year in Review

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1. Silver LiningsPlaybook

2. Django Unchained

3. Moonrise Kingdom

4. The Avengers

5. The Cabin in the Woods

6. 
 Argo

7. The Amazing Spider man

8. Wreck-it Ralph

9. Hitchcock

10. Seven Psychopaths

2012 was unfortunately not a great year for movies. It was more of a year where people jumped on board things that weren’t anything special and pretended that they were amazing. I’m talking about movies like Lincoln or Beasts of the Southern Wild (both nominated for bes picture, if you can believe that.) Of course, this all came at the end of the year, and there is plenty to talk about from earlier on.

The year started with movies like The Grey and Chronicle. Those movies weren’t anything special, but they also weren’t half bad, the way most January movies tend to be (compare that to the January movies of this year, 2013, Broken city, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, and Gangster Squad.)

The first really good movie of 2012 was 21 Jump Street. That movie was written by Jonah Hill, and like the rest of the Judd Apatow team members for writing and starring in their own movies (Seth Rogen, Jason Segal), Hill scored a very funny movie here. it was followed by a few other movies that were okay, like Wrath of the Titans, and it all led up to Cabin in the Woods,the Avengers, and Moonrise Kingdom. All in late April or early May. Both Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers were written and produced by Joss Whedon. He’s the guy who also directed The Avengers movie and really gets the most credit for how that movie turned out. Good as that film was, Cabin in the Woods is even better. This was certainly Joss Whedon’s year.

Moonrise Kingdom was a mid-year entry by filmmaker Wes Anderson who hadn’t really been relevant for a while. Anderson’s last three movies (The Life Aquatic, the Darjeeling Limited, and the Fantastic Mr. Fox), weren’t nearly as good as his first three (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and the Royal Tenenbaums). It was Moonrise Kingdom that was going to set the stage for how the third part of Anderson’s career would be going. the movie turned out to be a lot of fun, and right at home with those first three films, about a kid who acts like an adult and is full of himself, as well as his own, creative ideas.

There were other decent movies out at the start of the summer, but none that were that memorable. Ted was funny, but not really any better than 21 Jump Street. Snow White and the Huntsman was cool with all of it’s visuals, but in the end it turned out to be the same old cliched kind of a movie that appears everywhere we look (hero makes a rousing speech to get the knights to go to war at the end.) Prometheus and Savages and Men in Black 3 were all just okay. None of them was truly bad, but at the same time there wasn’t a one of them that was anything special at all. At least they were all a lot better than the Hunger Games, which is another one of those movies like Lincoln and Beasts of the Southern Wild, that I think everyone just fell in love with because everyone else was in love with it. People stopped thinking for themselves this year and it became a disaster.

Things started to get interesting at about the midpoint of the summer (really the midpoint of the year). The movies that should have been good weren’t and the movies that had no reason being any good were. I’m talking about the way that the Dark Knight Rises was lousy, and yet was the movie with more potential than anything else around. And while that movie didn’t meet expectations, the Amazing Spider Man did. That movie was surprisingly well-made and interesting. I say surprisingly because the director only made one movie before, (500 Days of Summer), the lead actor (Andrew Garfield) only starred in one movie before (the Social Network), and it was way too soon after the last Spider Man trilogy to be rebooting the franchise. Yet it worked.

Another movie that should have been a lot better than it turned out to be was the Bourne Legacy. It looked like Jermey Renner was a good choice to take over (and to be honest, the problems weren’t his fault), but the movie itself fell way short of the other Bourne films. That’s really because of the writing which couldn’t decide if it wanted to be it’s own thing and stay away from the other Bourne movies or wanted to be an exact clone and just copy their formula. It was an absolute mess. By the time the fall began, two thirds of the year were over and there were only five good movies to talk about. The Cabin in the Woods, the Avengers, the Amazing Spider Man, Moonrise Kingdom, and 21 Jump Street. That meant in the final portion of the year, the fall and start of winter, there needed to be 5 other good movies just to have enough for a top ten list. Luckily there were.

Argo was an instant classic and became one of the best movies of the year. Silver Linings Playbook was even better, knowing down the pins as both a black comedy and a psychological drama. The new Quentin Tarantino movie, Django Unchained, didn’t disappoint either. That movie might have been a little too long, but it was still filled with clever dialogue, intricate plotting, and some wild action.

Finally, there was Looper and Zero Dark Thirty. Both movies were good and almost great. Zero Dark, like Django, was just a little too long. It was always interesting, and powerful, but not nearly as gripping as director Kathryn Bigelow’s last movie, the Hurt Locker. and Looper had a lot of cool ideas to it, but also in many ways felt like something we had seen before. We’ve seen plenty of time travel movies, and today it’s always going back in order to do something, not just going back for fun. In Looper, it’s not the main characters going back, but other characters (the target) who the main characters need to kill. It’s a pretty cool take on the genre, but still ends up feeling kind of familiar.

I’m really happy about Argo and the Avengers and Silver Linings Playbook and the Cabin in the Woods. Other than those four movies, however, everything else felt like it was good, but not great.

My number five movie of the year is Moonrise Kingdom, and even that film isn’t quite as good as Wes Anderson’s earlier trilogy. it is certainly miles better than the last three films he made. Between him and Tarantino with Django, we had some great filmmakers turning in some awesome work. Even Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, might not have been on the same level as his Lord of the Rings films, but it was still pretty cool (Certainly the best of his three Hobbit films.)

Most disappointing of all was how much Christopher Nolan dropped the ball with his final Batman movie. Thankfully the other two superhero movies of the year (the Avengers and the Amazing Spider Man) picked up the slack and made up for Nolan’s lousy entry in the genre.

To end on a positive note, I’m glad that Silver Linings and Argo recieved the attention they did. Those were the two great movies of the end of the year, and Joss Whedon’s two films were the two great movies from the start of the year. Everything else fell somewhere in the middle, both in terms of where in the year it was and also in terms of how good or bad it was.

2011 Year End Wrap Up

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2011

Year End Wrap Up

Top Ten of 2011
1. Win Win
2. Bridesmaids
3. Midnight in Paris
4. X-men: First Class
5. Horrible Bosses
6. The Ides of March
7. Moneyball
8. The Descendants
9. Attack the Block
10. The Artist
I’ve seen just about every one of these movies more than once. It’s the multiple viewings that really tell you how a film will hold up, and which movies you can watch again and again. A truly good movie is good on more than just a first viewing. That’s the reason for Bridesmaids rising to the number 2 spot, and for Horrible Bosses making it onto the list at all (in the top 5 of the year, no less.)
Midnight in paris is good, and you can definitely watch it more than once, but Bridesmaids is hilarious, and Win Win is pretty perfect. I love the best friend (Bobby Canavale) in Win Win, who is a major reason for why the movie ends up so great.
X-Men first class is definitely one of the better X-men films, and while I don’t love the whole team atmosphere as much as I like it in X-Men and X-2, the Magneto scenes are terrific. It’s his movie and he really dominates the first half of the film nicely as he goes around hunting Nazis.
Horrible Bosses is one of those repeat viewing movies that gets funnier each time. Charlie Day in particular, really adds a lot to the humor level, and Jason Bateman as the straight man is also pretty great. Kevin Spacey is the weakest boss, but Jennifer Aniston has never been hotter and Colin Farell playing a coke head is a lot of fun.
After those five, the next five movies are good, but not great. The Descendents, for example, by director Alexander Payne, isn’t nearly as good as some of his other movies (Sideways and Election), but it is still entertaining. Especially the whole bit about Clooney deciding what to do with his land. The Ides of March is the better Clooney movie, because it moves faster and has a darker feel. The Descendents is black comedy, only it’s not really all that funny. With the ides of march, it plays no games with letting us know what it really is. The movie is a political thriller involving death and double crossing.
Moneyball is also on the list, and that’s the movie more than any of the others (well, that and Horrible Bosses,) that I didn’t really care for the first time I saw it. The multiple viewings are what got me to really appreciate the film. It is definitely a little slow at times, but the movie is smart and creative, and somehow finds a way to turn what would seem like a boring topic, into an interesting film. The topic is the management of a baseball team, and specifically using a mathematical formula to figure out which players to keep and which to send packing. There is very little actual baseball playing in the movie. It’s all behind the scenes of the organization stuff.
Rounding out the top ten are Attack The Block and The Artist. Those are the two I am most uncertain about, and could see getting kicked off the list at some point. I like The Artist for what it is… funny, light-hearted, and a tribute to silent movies. But the plot is also pretty basic and the movie is slow at times, more than it should be.
Attack The Block is definitely a film I need to see again. I saw it once, and it was pretty funny and creative, but I can’t be sure yet if it holds up under multiple viewings. So far, it seems like it belongs, but it’s definitely a big question mark for the future.

2010 Year in Review

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2010 Year in Review:

Top Ten List of 2010:

1. Shutter Island

2.The Town

3. Inception

4. The Social Network

5. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

6. Kick Ass

7.True Grit

8. The Fighter

9. Black Swan

10. Hot Tub Time Machine

The two biggest movies of 2010 were Inception and The Social Network, and both pretty cool. Inception was the closest thing we’ve had to revolutionary all year, and it did give us a whole other world that is open to possible sequels, just like the Matrix did back in 1999. We all know how those sequels turned out. Avatar, last year’s version of the it film, will also have sequels sometime in the future.
 If I’m being honest about the best movies of the year, I’m going all the way back to January, which is something the oscars never do. I wonder if they even can. They say January is the dumping ground and I wonder if it’s because movies released at that time can’t even be considered for the next year’s oscars. That’s a shame, because I thought Shutter Island was pretty great. It’s the first movie I saw all year, and I still consider it the best.
After that there’s the Town. And then Inception. Those are definitely my top 3, and as far as I’m concerned, the only really great films of the year. Then there are things like Edge of Darkness, which thrills you, but not in the same way that Inception or Shutter Island did, where you could go back and watch them again and again and see all new things.
Toy Story 3 was pretty creative, and one of the better Pixar animated movies I’ve seen in a while. Better than Up and better than Wall E. Maybe even better than Ratatouille. And I thought all three of those movies were pretty great.
Other movies on my list include The Social Network and Black Swan, both enjoyable, neither one fantastic. Those two movies both kept you feeling the tension throughout, and did not disappoint by the end. I also liked Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, a movie that was intentionally made to feel like a video game, and all the better because it embraced that. It was about our hero battling ex boyfriends who were like guardians at the end of every level. The movie had fun spoofing both games and anime.
Also on the list is The Fighter was great mainly because of the fantastic performances surrounding Mark Wahlberg. Christian Bale as the brother, Melissa Leo as the mother, and Amy Adams as the girlfriend, all gave powerhouse performances. They really brought the story to life, and I have to say, I love the way the movie made its decisions, not based on the audience and the feel good ideas, but based on what might be the reality of the situation.
Other movies on the list are Kick Ass, True Grit, Hot Tub Time Machine. These are the three guilty pleasure movies of the bunch (although most people would consider True Grit more of an art house film.) That movie has the Coen Brother’s stamp all over it, and is rich with dialogue and atmosphere and humor in ways that only they can do. Kick Ass, similarly, is a movie that bares the mark of it’s director, Matthew Vaughn, and just how creative and interesting the movies that this guy makes all turn out to be. It has fantastic atmosphere and gets the best performance out of Nicholas Cage that he’s given in years (maybe even the last great one he will give.)
Hot Tub Time Machine rounds out the list, and it just barely made it on. This is not a great movie, but it is certainly funny and creative. One of the best gags in the movie involves a bellhop who the boys know is someday going to be losing an arm. Every time he has a close call, the guys watch intently thinking this will be the moment when it happens. It’s a movie that just manages to work. The It comedy of the year, (Like Horrible Bosses is to 2011.)