Friday, April 4, 2014

Best films of 2013

It’s that time of the year again, or at least it was back in January. Ever since I started this blog I have posted an end of the year top 10 list of films of the year. Last year my favorite film was “Cloud Atlas” and the year before that was the final chapter of the “Harry Potter” films. This year my choice of films is interesting to say the least. I have powerful character films, romanticized Disney stories, swelling action thrillers, and romantic comedies. A truly spectacular year for film as there are many films that would have been worthy of the list had there not been so many to choose from. There will be many honorable mentions at the end to showcase what other great films I liked but fell short of my top 10. Bear in mind that I haven’t seen every film that came out so it is likely that a few great films have escaped me.

10 “Dallas Buyers Club” 

I never particularly liked either Mathew McCaunaghey or Jarred Letto, but they do bring their A-game in this movie. It is surely a performance driven piece although the writing does do it a lot of favors. It doesn’t take many risks but it is an entertaining film. Watching the lead character trying to smuggle drugs across the border by pretending to be a man of the church made the film for me. If do watch this film do not expect to listen to a “30 Seconds to Mars” song the same way again.

9 “Elysium”
The follow-up to “District 9” takes many notes from it and shows us that perhaps Neil Blompkamp will not after all be forgotten, he will not be a one hit wonder, and he will not lose control of his creativity after one film. Blompkamp has his own style and from now on I will count on him to deliver films like this that I enjoy. I would like to see him tackle something other than science fiction next time however, perhaps a fantasy, or even a horror film.

8 “Captain Phillips”
Perhaps the most impressive story of the three films on my list that are based on true events, “Captain Phillips” is like 2012’s “Argo” in that they both fall into the unbelievable-but-true category of entertainment. There might not much else than that propelling the film aside from the performances but it is enough to make it to my list and it is a great film without any of the pretentious attempts that other films like it tend to go for.

7 “Star Trek Into Darkness”
It is hard to write about this film because it’s not entirely clear to me what I liked about it. The Addition of Benedict Cumberbatch to the mix playing “John Harrison” was brilliant and brought back the archetype of villains that I have missed from most recent movies. This sure was a fun time at the movies and made me feel as if I had been a Trekkie all my life. It is one of only three Star Trek movies I have ever seen but it is my favorite, and the one that I will be watching many times.

6 “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
A major improvement over the first installment, this exciting film is the one that surprised me the most. After a good, but not great, first chapter based on a bloody incredible book, I was skeptical about the film based on the second less interesting book. Thankfully everything it could, it did better than its previous film giving me hope for the next two films which are based on the weakest of the three books. We can only hope.

5 “Blue Jasmine”
Props to Woody Allen for discovering the perfect actress to play the great role of Jasmine. Allen’s scripts are always amazing but sometimes it is very hard to connect with them if the cast doesn’t click. If it was possible Allen would always play his characters but he has gotten too old to play the characters he writes and when it comes to women it’s really a toss of a coin. Luckily Cate Blanchet is more than satisfactory in the role. She carries half of the movie’s weight in her eyes and the other half in between her fingers with a drink. Seems fitting that the title of the movie is a literal interpretation of the majority of this film. It is about a woman named Jasmine who has got the blues.


4 “Her”
The unconventional romance of this film is not what makes it great, it is what makes it interesting. What elevates this film above “clever rom com” to amazing love story is the beauty that director Spike Jonze injects into the story. He uses colorful sets, unusually bright and warm camera filters for a science fiction movie, poetic music infused with synthesizers that sound like the arias of computers. This is a movie with great style and plenty of eye candy even though Scarlet Johanson is never seen.

3 “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Scorcese, doing what he does best, crafts a fast paced three hour festival of debauchery and id feeding that has so much energy it could power New York for a year. The cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and briefly Mathew McConaughey, powers through the lightning charged script with the force of a stampede. Is it Scorcese’s best film since “Goodfellas”, or am I just forgetting how good “The Departed” is?

2 “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
This year Middle Earth gets bumped up a spot and takes the runner up spot. I still consider the Hobbit an unfinished story and therefore cannot exactly comment on the entirety of the production like I can with the Lord of the Rings. All I know is that so far the two installments have done everything I have hoped for and it seems like I will eventually hold it in equal ground with the Lord of the Rings. One more Middle Earth adventure for us to enjoy.

1 “Gravity”
There has never been a film more nail biting than this one. The experience of watching “Gravity” on the big screen in 3D can be likened to being on a rollercoaster that is slowly loosing most of its nuts and bolts and you know that any second the entire thing might collapse. Many times I have wished that I can have the same reaction teenage girls have when watching horror films, squirming in their seats and clenching their fists in anticipation but I just do not get that feeling all too often. To see a film however that does that to me with almost every scene is something unprecedented and I don’t expect it will happen again that soon. Gravity is the best film I have seen all year and is a strong contender for my favorite film of the entire decade so far.

Here are some of the many films that I liked a lot but just not enough to make it to my top 10. In alphabetical order.

"American Hustle"
"Ender's Game"

"Kick-Ass 2"

"Only God Forgives"
"Pacific Rim"

"Saving Mr. Banks"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tribute to Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Is it better to burn out or fade away? It seems like all too often we are given examples to help answer that question. Marylin Monroe died at the age of 36 capturing her image and immortalizing it. History will always remember her as the beautiful blonde woman who sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. Had she not died, today she would have been an 87 year old has been who once was known for her beauty; history would have eventually forgotten her.

So is it a curse or a blessing that Phillip Seymour Hoffman should die at the age of 46 during the highest point in his career? We all die, but only some of us become immortal. Hoffman certainly will go down as one of the bests actors of his generation and whether he lived another 40 years that would not have changed.

I was very surprised to read that he was only 46 years old. I assumed that he was at least in his mid fifties, not based on his looks but based on the, impressive to say the least, body of work he had. There have been films I’ve watched where I was surprised to even see him in and still sometimes forget he was even in them. “The Big Lebowski” is a good example of that. In that film he showed so much versatility in playing the all too polite butler of the eponymous character, showcasing a great deal of talent for background roles that SHOULD be forgotten at the end of a film. In another film “Scent of a Woman” he played a student who pulls a prank and sets in motion the events of the film. He plays it calm and is not very concerned about his fate or even about the fate of anyone involved including the innocent students. Then of course in an excellent thriller called “The Talented Mr. Ripley” he played a small but important role whose job was to push the protagonist over the edge and do something rash. In all three films he did one of the most difficult jobs an actor of his caliber can do; he held back. He knew that the show wasn’t his to steal; he knew that his character was fully fledged and he didn’t need to bring anything to the film that his character didn’t already do. He respected his characters so much that some of his best work will be forgotten.

I have never seen a film were he didn’t give a great performance. Even in films like “Along Came Polly” or “Patch Adams” where it is so easy to lose control of everything, he remained a positive force for the films and performed his character like he should have.

I for one think he will definitely be missed in Hollywood as now there is one less actor we can fully trust working in the field, and that is why I am truly upset about his passing. Hoffman could have lived to the age of 100 and still have burned out when he died. He would have never faded away.

Thank you for your patience with me reader. I know it has been a long time since my last post but hopefully now that the ball is going again I will be able to deliver. Soon I should be able to post a list of my favorite films of last year, do not miss it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tim Burton Street Juggling? "Mars Attacks!" Review

Just like my favorite director Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton has invented his own genre, and same as Quentin the best way to describe the genre is to simply say his name. If I was to describe the movie “Beetlejuice” to someone who hasn’t seen it all I need to say is “It’s a Tim Burton movie”. If I was a famous movie director I would take that as a major compliment but at the same time I would be upset because that would limit me to my own style. I like that Tim has his own style because I know I can count on him to stick to it and if I ever want to see a “Tim Burton” movie I can watch one.

The problem is that the style he has just cannot fit into some genres like he wants them to. “Mars Attacks!” is a terrible mess of a film that means well but fails even on paper. For starters it is a parody film, a genre that has only been done right once with “Airplane”. It then adds embarrassment to it by having such an enormous cast no one would be able to handle. Watching the film is like watching a street performer juggle too many bowling pins, he keeps dropping them and you feel sorry for him because you know he is feeling embarrassed. It is truly a pity that such talents as Jack Nicholson, Jack Black, and Michael J. Fox get wasted in a film that looks like a stupid B movie that should have never existed.

From the opening credits you see that there is an alien invasion with flying saucers. The Martians that attack look too silly even for a parody. In fact I even remember a picture of one of them being in one of my high school textbooks for some reason and when me and my friend first saw it we laughed so hard that our teacher got pissed and kindly asked us to shut the hell up. The plot then slowly evolves into a nonsensical cocktail of uninteresting stories involving the president of the United States, a talk show host falling in love with a scientist but getting her head stuck on the body of a dog, and a message towards the Martians which was either mistranslated or the Martians didn’t care and attacked anyway.

Tim Burton is not particularly known for being clever or witty with his films but he usually doesn’t dumb his movies down either. This time he makes a movie that feels as if prolonged exposure to it might cause a tumor. There might be a true sincerity in it in that Tim honestly wanted to make a good homage to science fiction B movies but it was a wrong choice from a director who I really admire and think that he is capable of doing much better.


Although I am tempted to say “Batman” I think his best film is “Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” but what do you think? Do you prefer something more like “Edward Scissorhands”? or perhaps the darker “Sleepy Hollow”? Tell me in the comments below. Remember you can comment whether you have an account or not. Please start leaving me some comments, because they have been scarce.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Movie That Convinced the World it was Real. "The Blair Witch Project" Review.

This is not a horror film; in fact it’s barely even a thriller, and it is not really that good. I believe that this film is one that most people would find bad as well but a lot of people seem to like it and I think I know why. In 2009 when “Paranormal Activity” came to my area I somehow got misinformed and believed that the film was actual found footage. The experience of watching the film thinking it was real was a terrifying experience unlike anything I had ever felt while watching a movie. When I found out that it was actually just a fictional story told in the found footage genre, I did feel a bit disappointed but I didn’t really change my mind that much about the film. I still thought it was a great movie and it was still terrifying when I saw it again. My first impression of the movie has followed me to this day. So by now you might have guessed why people like “The Blair Witch Project” so much; first impressions.  When it came out, people were told that it was a documentary with real teens that got lost in the woods. Creepy right?

But what happens when you watch the movie knowing that it is just a fictional story made as found footage? Then you have a boring movie about 3 annoying people who get lost in the woods. Nothing remotely interesting happens in this movie; NOTHING! All they do is fight about whose fault it was that they got lost, why they went there in the first place, and cry really close to the camera. I think at some point they find a tooth or something but other than that I kid you not, there is absolutely nothing going on.

It is hardly a terrible film. You can do much worse especially since the acting is good enough to convince the entire world that they are for real even though they are full of shit, and it does provide with good buildup, but the entire movie is one big buildup. Imagine if a story was about 3 people hearing a noise in a closet and then discussing what could be behind it for one hour and just when they are about to finally open it to see what it was, the story ends. That’s “The Blair Witch Project”, a long boring buildup to nothing.

I think that anyone watching this film knowing that it is fake will agree with me because it is fundamentally bad filmmaking. So people reading this who saw it thinking it was real must consider the view of someone who was not fooled by the marketing. My rating of this film is pretty generous I think, considering how little this film has going for it but I do appreciate the road it paved for films like “Cloverfield” and “Paranormal Acvitity”.


What is your favorite found footage film? Let me know bellow in the comments. My favorite is “Cloverfield” but a close second is “Chronicle” a film that was on my 2012 best of list. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Halloween Has Come Early! "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" Review

Last year I was in a movie theatre with 3 friends of mine, 2 of them were girls and one was a guy. We were watching “Les Miserables” and towards the end the situation was as follows; I was contemplating suicide because of boredom, one girl was singing along quietly while a bit choked up, the other girl was crying like a little baby, and the other guy was asleep (lucky bastard). However that movie did have a silver lining, it taught me something that I had been wondering for years, why do I like musicals so much? The answer came to me because that movie was missing the one variable that I like about musicals, fun!

So with my new way of understanding musicals let’s talk about “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. For a movie that stars cross dressers, features a song called “Sweet Transvestite”, and has a large gay following, the movie is surprisingly masculine. A lot of people tend to dislike musicals just because they are musicals “People don’t spontaneously break into song” they tend to say while at the same time enjoying films with characters who are willing to risk their lives to save a building full of people they don’t know. Musicals are good as long as the music is good and Rocky Horror has got one of the best soundtracks I have heard from a musical. Songs like “Time Warp” “Hot Patootie” and “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” hit my ears wonderfully.

Tim Curry, And Susan Sarandon (the only two actors in the film worth mentioning) do a pretty fantastic job with the hard material. Not only do they have to act out incredibly complicated and weird roles but they have to sing too and they both do it well. Also worth noting is a funny cameo by Meat Loaf who I believe to actually be a good actor after seeing him in this film and “Fight Club”.

The film takes place mostly in one or two rooms of a scary house, evidence of its origins in theater, so that gives the audience time to get to know the surroundings as if they were another character. Everything is iconic in the film which may account for the enormous cult following this film has. Speaking of the cult following I have heard great things about Halloween midnight showings of this film so it might be worth going to one when Halloween comes along.

The plot might be simple but it is hard to understand through all the singing and dancing which makes for a very awkward experience. Janet and her FiancĂ© get stranded and go to a very creepy house where a crazy drag queen plays Frankenstein. There is not much to go on after that.  It is almost as if you are watching a concert because you are enjoying the music and you like the show but there isn’t much of a plot. It is a forgivable flaw in an otherwise very well made film.


What is your favorite musical? Remember animated films count. Mine would have to be “The Wizard of Oz” but I am a fan of musicals so many many movies come to mind when I think of that question.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I got in a car crash! "Death Proof" Review.

So I got into a car crash yesterday and to be honest I got pretty scared even though it wasn’t really a huge one. I was pretty shaken all day and felt upset even though I should have been happy I was able to walk away from it. So being the twisted cinefile that I am that got me thinking of what film I could review next that has to do with car crashes? I think I ended up with a splendid choice. Now remember do not watch this movie if you want to feel safe in a car ever again but if you like the idea then give this movie a go. You see “Death Proof” is one segment of the double feature “Grindhouse” and it stars Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, and many others. My favorite director of all time Quentin Tarantino directed the movie which is kinda poetic in a weird way if you think that if I had died in my accident I would have at least died in a way that Tarantino would find fascinating, because he clearly does by the looks of this film.

Like a lot of my reviews recently I won’t tell you the plot because that would spoil most of it. What I will tell you is that only one character ties the first half to the second half, because if you saw the two halves separately you might have thought that the second was a great remake of the first one with a small but critical change to the ending. Confused? I know I don’t blame you, but if you are into movies that look like they have been directed by Charles Manson then this is for you.

Even though it contains some heart pounding, hair rising, nail biting, edge of your seat, action set pieces, it is about 70% Tarantino-Style dialogue. Perhaps that number is too much though because the film does definitely get boring at some points. For anyone who hasn’t gotten the memo yet, Quentin is my favorite movie director so I wouldn’t say anything negative about his films unless I really meant it. The good news is that he apparently found his number and scaled it down for his next films.

This is the only movie of Tarantino’s which doesn’t get full marks for me because it is the one that went too far. Not with the violence, or the swearing, but with the self indulgence. It almost feels like he made this film so that he can watch it alone with the volume all the way up and his pants all the way down. It’s not for the faint of heart but shit if you are an adrenaline junkie, a car enthusiast, a B movie expert, or just a Tarantino fan like me then grab yourself a DVD, send any (straight) women to bed and then pop it on and you are in for a treat.


Who is your favorite director? Do you even have one? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Why Am I Reviewing a TV Show Anyway?" Whose Line is it Anyway?" Review

I know that my thing is movies. I have reviewed over 30 movies on this blog but not a single TV show. Why? Well I wouldn’t be much of a specialist if I focused on anything else besides movies but sometimes other fields produce work I admire so much it transcends my limit on movies.
I am of course talking about my favorite TV show ever: “Whose Line is it Anyway?” specifically the American version. Why do I like it so much? I don’t know, it’s not easy to explain what you like or dislike about a TV show because unlike a movie it’s not a onetime thing.  One day an episode can be great the next the episode is trash. But I suppose the best I can come up with is is that the concept is great but what really makes it excellent is the glue that holds it together. When a tv show is good but doesn’t dazzle you with anything that’s usually because it is only a set of great scenes after one another instead of a set of great scenes that are thematically or otherwise linked. Now Whose Line doesn’t have a story but it does have scenes and I know for sure that those scenes wouldn’t be the same without the gags about the points, the reactions from the studio audience, the pointless conversations between the scenes, the banter about how one was bald the other had weird shoes, the other was black, the other was fat, and of course the most contagious laughter of Drew Carey.

You might be thinking why after over a year I am only reviewing this now? Well the reason is because it is more relevant now. The show had been canceled years ago and was on reruns. There had been numerous attempts to bring something similar to TV like the shows “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show” “Drew Carey’s Improvaganza” or “Trust us With your Lives” but none of them had the charm or the aforementioned glue.  The show had a cult fanbase that kept pleading for it to come back, writing petitions, creating facebook groups (Of which I was a member) and many others. Everyone knew deep down however that it was pointless because there was no way the show could come back. But behold one of the cast members sends a tweet that the show is coming back and everyone goes wild.

Everyone was excited even though Drew Carey was not going to be hosting but the regular performers all were back. So that’s why I am reviewing the show now. It’s back from cancelation and even though there are many parts that don’t measure up to the first run, like Aisha Tyler the host, the more promotional style of show, and the lack of some of the shows recurring performers, it is still my favorite show of all time.

Its funny how things work; even though I like movies way more that TV shows I would watch a new episode of this show over any movie ever, even my favorite “Pulp Fiction”, that’s how much I love this show. I watch at least one group of clips of the show every day on YouTube and they can be ones I have seen many times before and every time I watch them I feel great. The memories I have had watching the show are so great they can bring me up from the saddest of days.

Are you still wondering what the show is about? Well you know how sometimes you say something and then within a split second someone has a joke about it? They haven’t prepared, they have just made it up on the spot! Isn’t that such a great feeling when you know the joke was spontaneous? Well that’s what the show is. IMPROV! People try to make scenes, jokes, and songs about stuff they have never heard of until just before they have to start and hilarity ensues.  They play many games on the show and each of them puts different restrictions or obligations on the performers. The game “Lets Make a Date” has 3 performers take on an identity and the 4th player has to guess who they are by asking them questions”, the game “Irish Drinking Song” has all 4 players try to sing a song about a certain topic and they have to take turns singing one line at a time”. My personal favorites are the games “Sound effects with audience members” In which performers Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie act out a scene and two audience members have to provide the sound effects (Its almost always 2 women, and they never really make decent sound effects which is why it’s always funny), and “Hollywood Director” where 3 players have to act out a scene over and over using crazier and crazier advice that comes from the 4th player. But whatever your favorite game is, there is no denying that this is a great show.


Tell me what your favorite game and performer is in the comments.