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!


Inebriation

08/19/2010

While there are many parodies on the tubes that take on Inception’s famous trailer, this one by Atomic Productions is the best. And by the best, I don’t mean it doesn’t suck; it’s really well done.

(YouTube Link)

via Bits and Pieces


In the Movies: Elevator Shafts

08/14/2010

Shane Gorski under Creative Commons

Settings in movies tend to be places the average person doesn’t spend a lot of time in, be it a beach in the South of France, or in outer space, or elsewhere. The exotic nature of a particular scene stimulates the imagination, and pulls the viewer in deeper. Our interest perks up when the characters on-screen find themselves in strange locales; and one of these locales is the dreaded, beloved, and mysterious elevator shaft.

Found almost exclusively in the action/thriller genres, scenes involving elevator shafts take us into the forbidden area above and below the cars we generally ride in when traveling tall buildings. While it’s true that the concept of a mechanical lift has been around for centuries, modern elevators (and the dangers associated with them) sparked the imaginations of filmmakers since the days of black and white. And although the typical elevator shaft is not a grandiose space that would allow for such dramatics as Hollywood would like us to think, many timeless classics have portrayed them as such.  Let’s take a look at some.

Death by Shaft

In John Farrow’s classic, The Big Clock, Charles Laughton’s character Janoth plummets to his death when he steps into an open shaft; this is after killing his accuser, so it’s justified. Things don’t end up so satisfying for Emilio Estevez’s character in Mission Impossible‘s opening sequence, as the car he’s hiding atop takes him to the top of the shaft, where he meets a steely, gruesome end.


There’s even a horror movie starring Naomi Watts about a killer, evil, possessed elevator called The Shaft: YouTube Link

Surviving the Danger

20th Century Fox

Detective John McClane is pretty well-versed in dispatching the villains he encounters via elevator shaft. Whether he’s dropping C-4 down the Nakatomi Plaza’s well, or battling a henchwoman in a power station’s, he definitely “dies hard” in a hostile environment.

20th Century Fox

The opening of Speed features a breathtaking rescue effort as a group of office workers are held hostage in an elevator car, Dennis Hopper’s madman ready to blow the cables at a moment’s notice. Enter Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels, who go into the shaft above the imperiled car and save lives in a most excellent fashion. Director Jan de Bont was the cinematographer for Die Hard, and the influence shows in this taut sequence.

Artisan Home Entertainment

Narrow escapes are plentiful in each movie about an unstoppable cyborg trying to kill the Connors, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day includes many, including this scene where the T-1000, having just missed the elevator going down with his prey aboard, deftly opens the doors and jumps down onto the top of the car. Multiple stabbing attempts later, he oozes into the elevator after failing to kill his quarry… again.

Other examples of surviving the danger include Backdraft, and I assume Salt. In the former, a firefighter is rescued from a burning shaft, and the latter ostensibly has Angelina Jolie eluding her pursuers in some acrobatic way. What can I say, I haven’t seen it.

Use it or Lose it

Some films have a scene in an elevator shaft for utilitarian purposes. There’s not a lot of danger, and nobody dies. The characters just need to use the shaft in order to do something.

Universal

In Sneakers, River Phoenix’s Carl uses the shaft to navigate into a service duct, where he can manipulate an office’s security measures. He spends about five seconds in the shaft, but there it is.

And finally, a scene involving an elevator shaft unlike any other.

Warner Bros.

Without giving too much away, this scene from Inception is hands down the most creative use of an elevator shaft I can think of. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt’s Arthur puts the shaft, the car, and the cables into a cinematic spin that completely makes sense… once you’ve seen the movie a couple of times. :)

Okay, here’s where I turn it over to you, reader. What did I miss? Sound off in the comments.


Pimp My Limbo

08/10/2010

via Sean Bonner


Saito

08/03/2010


More Awesomeness From Inception

07/27/2010

(YouTube Link)

Besides the obvious link between Edith Pilaf and the actress Marion Cotillard (Mal) somehow interweaving through the fantastic plot, YT user camiam321 noted the superb connection between Pilaf’s song and the Hans Zimmer theme also playing throughout. This is one well thought-out movie, damn if it ain’t.


Inception: The Debate Continues

07/26/2010

Spoiler alert, again.

It’s been a long time since a film, a major Hollywood film at least, has sparked such a whirlwind of conversation about its meanings, its secrets, and trying to connect all the dots so as to traverse the maze like Christopher Nolan’s Inception has. I’ve wrangled with the details and rules set up by the movie, and it really is a maze. While debate rages on as to whether or not portions of the product are real, at this point I might as well say the whole movie is a story being played out in the mind of Amber Lamps.

NolanFans has a lot of us Totem Geeks asking, answering, and theorizing about it. As Anthony pointed out in the comments of my last post, there’s supposedly a distinction about Cobb that I’d missed, declaring distinction of dream state vs. reality.

There is one simple piece of information that proves this beyond a doubt. Cobb’s ring. Every time the movie presents Cobb as dreaming, he is wearing his ring. Every time he is presented as awake, he is not wearing his ring. This is something that Christopher Nolan did not just “Overlook”, this is actually the key to deciphering the true nature of the movie. The ring is Cobb’s true totem. And just for clarification, he is not wearing his ring when he gets off the plane until the end of the movie. Therefore the scene with his kids at the end is 100% real.

But, apparently his ring hand isn’t visible at the end. And I’d suggest that the reason it’s seen in dream states is because Cobb’s deepest subconscious feels like he’s still married. Not a totem, just a dead end in the maze. And then there’s the pleading from Mal and Grandpa for Cobb to come back to reality, not this crazy world where faceless corporate goons try (poorly) to gun him down.

Cinema Blend has had an open discussion of the questions raised, including one the commenters have yet to address:

Was Ariadne somehow aware of the numbers Fischer would come up with or did she change the hotel’s floor plan so that 491 would be below 528?
A: It seems impossible that they could have known in advance, they must have left a blank place in their design to be filled in with the numbers as they learned them. If anyone has any other theories on this, sound off in the comments!

At first blush, I’d argue that they needed Fischer to remember the numbers for the dream safe. But this, too is a dead end; Stage One Fischer uttered those numbers off the top of his head, and we never see Ariadne program Stage Two. Or does it go deeper?

There’s probably tons of blogs typing similar words right now, and understandable, as this movie has layers and figuring it all out is like navigating a plot maze, where everywhere you turn is a dead end. Saito, Limbo, Mal… the knowledge that Nolan leaves nothing to editorial chance, and therefore begs the structure of the first seconds through to Kyoto. I invite my readers to share their own ideas, even if you think it’s a straightforward dream heist movie.

Warner Bros.


One Last Job: One of Hollywood’s Most Repeated Plot Devices

05/30/2010

Universal Pictures

When writing your screenplay, keep in mind ways to make it marketable. Studios usually throw away submissions if it tends to be original, so there are some tried and true angles you can throw in to prevent this, and actually make them excited to read something familiar. One of these methods is the One Last Job.

It’s usually either a cop or a thief that makes it clear early on that they intend this job/case/score to be their last, and it always ends up being the biggest/craziest/most frustrating one of their career. Some examples are The Sting, The Killer, Unforgiven, Falling Down, Out of Sight, Entrapment, The Heist, Gone in 60 Seconds, and even Bottle Rocket taps that well a little.

But there’s one actor that gravitates to these roles more than any other, prominently featuring it in Heat (pictured above), The Score, and Midnight Run. Mr. Robert DeNiro. At about the 3:00 mark in this f-bomb filled clip he delivers the best line regarding this character gimmick… hands down.

(YouTube Link)

This works especially well if your name is Christopher Nolan, because as you see from the newest trailer for Inception, he uses it for DiCaprio’s character. “I think I’ve found a way home.” he says. “And this last job, that’s how I get there.” See, it even works when it is placed in a script that otherwise seems pretty original (if you don’t remember Dreamscape).

Warner Bros.

Click to biggify this, my favorite poster for the most anticipated movie of the summer.


The Inception Trailer Music

05/22/2010

This piece, Mind Heist, which accompanies the 3rd trailer for Inception, is actually not part of the Hans Zimmer soundtrack to the movie, but was written specifically for the awesome trailer. It was created by Zack Hemsey, and it really is a cool piece of music, trailer or no.

UPDATE:  Be sure to see this.


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