2010 Movies: Best and Worst

01/03/2011

I really don’t like to admit to feelings like this, but 2010 was quite a disappointing year in cinema. At first I could only think of two movies I saw in theaters that I’d consider awesome; like they would still be as enjoyable in ten or twenty years. But I managed to remember three others to round out a top five, yet passionately submit another top five of the biggest disappointments.

My Favorite Theatrical Experiences of 2010

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

via IFC

It’s completely ridiculous, and simultaneously awesome. As someone who grew up playing video games in arcades, it really bounces off my sensibilities well. It helps that I, unlike some of my friends, actually like Michael Cera’s style.

4. Toy Story 3

Pixar/Disney

Do I really need to write anything about this definitive conclusion to the super-successful Pixar’s trilogy? I laughed, I cried, I was thoroughly entertained.

3. Metropolis (Remastered)

I saw this newly restored version of the film I’ve postponed seeing for years in the beautiful throwback theater Cinema 21 in Portland. It was 3 hours of utter transfixed engagement.

2. Let Me In

via io9

I actually saw the Swedish original after my spontaneous decision to see this American remake. Both are equally good, but I have to give kudos to director Matt Reeves for incorporating such riveting mise en scene the likes of which I haven’t seen since Slingblade.

1. Inception

Warner Bros.

Call me a fanboy, but Mr. Nolan once again proved that the hype was worth it. A truly imaginative adventure executed so brilliantly, even the Hans Zimmer soundtrack was a plot point of outstanding significance.

And now……

My Biggest Disappointments of 2010

5. The Losers

Meh.

4. The Expendables

I got that it was supposed to be what it was, but it could have been so much better than it was.

3. RED

The trailer showed all the important parts about this movie, except for the part where it’s strictly for old people who laugh at old people jokes.

2. Iron Man 2

Am I right?

1. Tron: Legacy

It’s been 12 years since I first heard a rumor about a Tron sequel (back then it was called Tron 2.0), and while I liked the effort put into this sequel-thing, it was filled with flaws. From the main character to the obvious Star Wars ripoff, there were many objections I felt as I watched this mess onscreen, in annoying 3-D. Namely this: How did Kevin Flynn manage to eat food all those years? They dine on pig and salad… where does that come from?

Honorable Mentions

True Grit – Just the Coens being Howard Hawks; no objections, and Mattie was memorable.

The Social Network – Another perfect role for Eisenberg, and a fun ride of a movie, albiet completely relevant as Zuckerberg takes Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.

Unstoppable – I like trains, and Ethan Suplee. Oh, and Denzel and Captain Kirk were great, too. Loved the subtle hat-tip to Runaway Train there near the end.

Machete – Whatever your opinion of immigration may be, just always remember — “Machete don’t text.” LOL, guilty pleasures rock!


Fritz Lang’s Fully Restored Metropolis

07/15/2010

I’m still buzzing from the cinematic experience I had last night. As promised, I caught one of the last screenings here of the 2010 restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. There is so many layers of awesome to digest, and it’s about damn time I feasted on this, the greatest silent film in history.

First of all, seeing this in Portland’s Cinema 21 was a huge factor in the enjoyment. The theater is a modernized version of an old town cinema, with one glorious screen (cloaked and bathed in red before the movies start), friendly mature staff, and relatively cheap refreshments.

Secondly, the film is a recent restoration including 25 minutes of footage from the original film thought to be lost. It was damaged, but digital technology improved it for inclusion. The result is pristine shots interspersed with grainy scenes, but it’s a minor, understandable annoyance. One whole action scene is part of that footage, so that must be exciting for those who’ve seen the chopped up version.

For 2.5 hours, I was transfixed, my eyes agog at the brilliant cinematography, my ears delighting in Gottfried Huppert’s sweeping score, and my mind slipping into this imaginative, allegorical story with ease. I’m thrilled to have this one in my “Seen” pile, and can’t wait to see it again.

Check out the Official Website for more info and photos like the one above (Kino International)


The Incredible Melting Man on MST3K

05/20/2010

auritone has a nice set of favorite moments from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. The only two I’m familiar with are The Starfighters and Mitchell. But this one I was unaware of, even though I’m familiar with the film they riff on.  Here’s a movie I actually wanted to see, because back then, all you had was a newspaper ad, and the title pretty much sold the viewer.

I never did see it, but this is some good MST3K stuff right here.

(YouTube Link)

Check out Miss Cellania’s inspirational post.


The Fisher King Is My Kind of Romance

05/03/2010

Like many (if not all) Terry Gilliam movies, The Fisher King is odd. Spectacularly odd. The script is brilliant in its storytelling, the performances are realistic, yet grounded in a kind of character world where normal people fear to tread. And yet this speech Parry (Robin Williams) gives to Lydia (Amanda Plummer) drips with universal romance.

Cinematical’s Christopher Campbell agrees, naming it one of last Valentine’s Day entries in “Our Favorite Romantic Scenes.”

Yet there are so many great heartfelt lines (courtesy of screenwriter Richard LaGravenese) in this scene that the creepiness may be overlooked. Even “I’ve got a hard on for you the size of Florida,” which may not seem romantic on its own, but which in the context of the conversation is so endearing. And “you’re the greatest thing since spice racks” is such a wonderfully weird thing to say, but who can claim to never have acted nonsensically while speaking completely from the heart?

I just love how Robin Williams plays that scene, and Ms. Plummer dials everything up perfectly.

Image via NicksFlickPicks


Unfairly Obscure: I Love You to Death

04/08/2010

In my post, Great Movies That Don’t Get Major Play, I listed five flicks that have become what I’d call Unfairly Obscure. So in that vein, and since I keep thinking of others that (other than word-of-mouth) aren’t all that well-known, I’ll just update this new category now and then.

First up, I Love You to Death. Sandwiched between Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill and Grand Canyon, this comedy wins over every person I’ve ever shown it to. Kasdan favorite Kevin Kline is an unfaithful husband to the wholesome/batty Tracey Ullman, and a cast right out of ensemble nirvana carry out his punishment: to be put out of his philandering misery.

Sample scene here featuring the brilliant William Hurt, the perfectly cast Keanu Reeves, and the tragically-talented River Phoenix.

(YouTube Link)

More River Phoenix clips at river1983.

And speaking of River and Keanu, I remember spotting Reeves walking through Northwest Portland around 1991, and tried to circle back in my car to catch up, but lost him. I had wondered about it, and if it was real, when I later learned that he and Phoenix had spent a month or so living in a house in Portland, researching their roles for My Own Private Idaho. They even jammed out with bassist Flea, and Phoenix comes across as someone very serious about his craft here, in this rare video of the creative process.

(YouTube Link)

(Poster: Tri-Star Pictures)


Great Movies That Don’t Get Major Play

02/07/2010

For some reason, cable television will always be in a rut of showing the same 40 movies each year, and that sucks.  Variety is the spice of life, and exactly what’s missing in the realm of “well-known” movies that populate channels like TBS, TNT and AMC, among others.  So, in a state of nostalgia, and an attitude of recommendation, I offer (what I think is) the most under promoted/worthy movies out there (and there’s a bunch out there).

1. Wonder Boys

I meet many fans of Tobey Maguire that only know him from Spiderman, and have never seen his earlier genius in stuff like this and The Ice Storm.  I can only conclude that this excellent character study of a film is not prescient due to the main character (Michael Douglas, no!) being quite the stoner.  Too bad the powers that be missed the message completely on this one; the scene where he throws his bag down is ultimate.

And the characters in this movie all seem to interact like a force of nature, yet are consumed by the very trappings that come with being writers.

2. The Sugarland Express

Early evidence of Steven Spielberg’s cinematic prowess can be found throughout this 1974 flick with the tagline “A girl with a great following.”  It has the intimacy of a heartfelt human drama as well as the expansive, chaotic elements inherent in 70s era Spielberg fare (many scenes from Jaws come to mind).  Based on the true story of Robert and Ila Fae Dent, Steve’s first theatrical film features the first use of a tracking shot in a car from front to back seat, and signified the beginning of a career-long partnership with composer John Williams.  It’s basically a chase movie with an uncharacteristically negative ending for Spielberg, but it’s a lot of fun getting there. (WATCH IT)

3.  The Ghost and the Darkness

Every once in a while I’ll see the cable networks showing Heat, the other excellent Val Kilmer flick made around 1996.  This one, while similar in themes of violence (albiet animal savagery, not human), is a suspenseful gem of the highest caliber.  The way the story plays off the similarities between the pair of marauding lions and the two men (Kilmer, subdued, and Michael Douglas, fantastic) tasked with hunting them down is a brilliant touch.  And yes, Douglas makes this list twice.  Dig this:

4. Fandango

For me, this was the movie that helped bridge the gap between teenhood and adulthood.  I actually broke off a part of my sunglasses in order to channel the character of Gardener Barnes, played with acerbic Texan wit and depth by Kevin Costner.  The road trip story is a non-stop adventure the likes of which are rarely caught on road trip films, filled with laughs and thoughtful moments.  The sequence where Judd Nelson’s character skydives is a perfect blend of plot twist, suspense, and score.  Everyone should be aware of this movie. (WATCH IT)

5. On the Waterfront

The video above is just a taste of the awesome power of this movie.  Karl Malden’s indignation, Brando’s doubts, Eva Marie Saint’s vulnerabilty are all on perfect display here, and the entire film is an exercise in doing it right.  (WATCH IT)

But basic cable being what it is, we’ll just have to settle for the worst, and hope for the best. At least I keep seeing this one on AMC, and it never gets old…

(WATCH IT)

(Credits> Wonder Boys: Paramount, The Sugarland Express: Zanuck/Brown, The Ghost and the Darkness: Constellation Entertainment, Fandango: Kevin Reynolds)


And Now… My Favorite Sentence From Stephen King’s Epic Novel Under The Dome

01/09/2010

Are you ready?  After what John’s Kindle (echoes of Kindergarten Cop ~I’m detective John Kimble!) says is 29% of the story, and the only body count so far is the number of extraneous characters, here’s the sentence that stood out, and made me realize where Mr. King is coming from.

Like ten thousand times.


From God to Hoke

12/15/2009

The Morgan Freeman Chain of Command.  Pretty self-explanatory and good, but where’s Easy Reader?

Bigger and with a lot of advertising at Maxim.


Cool (Extremely)

12/11/2009

As winter arrives, and temperatures drop across the country, readers have lapped up Linda Howard’s novel Ice: A Novel. I downloaded it just because it seems like the kind of book to read while the freezing cold surrounds your every move outdoors.  The narrative isn’t really my style, but it’s a thrilling premise that would make a pretty good mediocre film.  Guy on leave gets sent to rescue woman from ice storm, meth heads with guns chase them through the Maine wilderness.

It’s like reading Jaws on summer vacation at the beach.  With meth heads instead of a shark.

Speaking of movies, when it gets cold like this, and I start to feel too chilled, I remember Alive.  I try to make a point of seeing that pretty good mediocre movie as often as I can, to remind myself that no matter how cold I’m feeling, I’m fine.  I’m not really cold.   Try 72 days in the Andes with very little shelter, leg broken, being buried by an avalanche, dealing with death constantly, and somehow making it out alive after all that time.

Here’s the Wiki on the true story, which was slightly padded for the film.

The others who had clustered around Roy, upon hearing the news, began to sob and pray, all except Parrado, who looked calmly up the mountains which rose to the west. Gustavo [Coco] Nicolich came out of the plane and, seeing their faces, knew what they had heard… [Nicolich] climbed through the hole in the wall of suitcases and rugby shirts, crouched at the mouth of the dim tunnel, and looked at the mournful faces which were turned towards him. ‘Hey boys,’ he shouted, ‘there’s some good news! We just heard on the radio. They’ve called off the search.’ Inside the crowded plane there was silence. As the hopelessness of their predicament enveloped them, they wept. ‘Why the hell is that good news?’ Paez shouted angrily at Nicolich. ‘Because it means,’ [Nicolich] said, ‘that we’re going to get out of here on our own.’ The courage of this one boy prevented a flood of total despair.

Update 14 December: Having read  78% of Ice, I can officially declare it a piece of crap that no one should ever read.  I also want to wish scorn on those who made this a bestseller.  I’d rather listen to Kanye, and that’s sayin’ a lot.  Ice is a bad, bad novel, and we didn’t get a snow/ice storm here anyway.  Bring on Under the Dome!


Scary Movie Season

10/26/2009

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Halloween is in six days, and this year I’m fairly worn out on typical horror movies.  Like I said before, slasher and gore, torture and mutilation, these things don’t work on a 42-yr-old man, but there are some movies that can scare me, and i still haven’t seen Paranormal Activity, so I can’t say for sure it will.

For years, I would faithfully trot out my pet Halloween movie as the main course for friends and family to scream and shudder to: Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976).  THRILL as Damien’s nanny hangs herself!  CRINGE as the photographer’s head is sliced off by a pane of glass! Good stuff, to be sure.  But it’s gotten old, so this year I’m adopting a new favorite; a movie I didn’t think I was going to like, mostly due to the odd title.

18924__mothman_lThe Mothman Prophecies is a well-told, chilling tale of the psychological bent, that creeps into the realm of truth and fact in a jarring climax straight out of Hitchcock’s wet dreams.  Based on a novel by John A. Keel, the fantastic world of cryptozoology sprung clean and new from the Richard Gere vehicle.  It’s a testament to weird beliefs that spread easily, just because someone wrote them in some book.  But now I’ve come full circle to The Omen, again.

Anyways, I can’t wait to screen this new scary favorite this week for friends and family, and hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween.



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