2013 is here! We survived
and Monkey Christ
I hope you all have a wonderful year ahead of you.
This was a cool year for movies! The list you see is the final version of the list. To see a progression of how I came to this list, simply read the subsequent articles leading up to the Oscars in Feb 2013.
The venom and hate spewed at this film astounds me. I have read the books by Burrows, and I thought the film was ok. The action was good, actors did a fair job, and it was a decent, if flawed, adaptation of the original work. I walked out happy to have spent a couple hours in Barsoom!
Beasts of the Southern Wild
It did very little for me. Its tough to pick on a little kid, but she did not deserve an Oscar nomination.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D
What a money grab this was. With all the time and effort supposedly devoted to the transfer of this film into 3D, I was hoping for a bit more. Unfortunately, it suffers the same fate as all the post-conversion 3D films- blurred action, tough to see darker scenes. Luckily I like the film, which is why it did not score lower.
This could have been a great film. “Machete” showed us that Danny Trejo is a movie star, and is capable of greatness. When I first saw a trailer for this tale of an old man who beats up a few skinhead jerks and becomes famous, I was more than intrigued. It starts off quite well, but devolves into action movie nonsense by the end. Shooting off one-liners while in a car chase between two motor-coaches sounds cool, but was ultimately without substance. A good film, but not great.
The Three Stooges
I enjoyed this return to the world of the stooges. The cast was excellent, the humor in tune with the originals. The Farrelly brothers did a great job with this. Plus it had Kate Upton in it. Lets refocus here. Kate Upton….
Sacha Baron Cohen strikes again! This time as an Anti-Semitic dictator of a fictitious African nation. Great humor, but without the edge of Borat or Bruno. I appreciate Cohen moving away from “mockumentary” style filmmaking, but he needs a little more polish.
The Amazing Spider-Man
I really like this movie, but did not love it. In many ways it was a truer representation of the comic book version of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. In other ways it was a huge diversion from the comic, particularly in the origin aspect of it all. One thing that must be acknowledged is that Andrew Garfield is a far superior Peter. Emma Stone brought a lot more to the plate than Kirsten Dunst. This film just needed to bring a little more into the story than was present. I understand what they were trying to do, and they largely succeeded, I suspect the sequel will bring it all together.
Get the Gringo
I only saw this one recently, and I was very surprised by how good it was. Mel Gibson is a pariah in Hollywood these days. He is trying to get back on top, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for him. What he delivers here is a top notch action film in the vein of his fantastic “Payback”. He is a criminal in a Mexican prison unlike any prison I am familiar with. The acting was great, the story interesting, and it was shot well. You don’t need much more than that.
A joy ride of a film. Packed with muscles, guns, and more inside jokes than you would believe is possible. We saw Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Chuck Norris tear the screen up with their awesomeness. A good time at the movies. Far superior to the first.
Wreck it Ralph
This was a fun movie about the “secret world” inside arcade games. The voice acting was good, and the animation up to the Disney standard. The humor was there, and morals were plentiful for the kiddies. A decent Disney film that could have used a few more “Arcade game worlds” to suit my tastes.
Comic Con IV: A Fan’s Hope
The best documentary on San Diego Comic Con. If you want an understanding of why I have travelled across the country 8 times for this convention- this movie holds the secrets.
Casa de mi padre
How the hell do I review this insanity. It is a tongue in cheek look at the Mexican Telenovellas starring Will Ferrell speaking nothing but espanol. They explain his bad Spanish accent as him being “a little slow in the head”. It was funny, but strange.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
If Casa de mi padre was tough to explain, how in the holy hell do I even begin with this one?! It’s almost not even a movie! Sadly, I did enjoy seeing their schtick though- thus the honorable mention. Here is a video clip:
There were a lot of movies that would have beaten the three selections here. I fortunately did not see most of those films. What makes these the worst is that these were films that I was really anticipating. Potentially great films that went awry, and that pisses me off.
3: Red Tails
George Lucas has been making this movie for over 20 years. On paper, it is everything he has been wanting to bring to the screen since the 70’s. The Star Wars space battles were based on WW2 dog fights. This film is about WORLD WAR 2 DOG FIGHTS. What the hell happened?! The dialogue was not particularly good. The editing bizarre at times. The special effects were quite good- great even, but they don’t guarantee a good film. This film had some great actors who were utterly wasted. When the TV version of the Tuskegee Airmen is superior to the multi million dollar extravaganza, its time to hang it up. I suspect this had a lot to do with Lucas’ decision to sell Lucasfilm.
It was a chilly and stormy night in New Hampshire. The cast of “Cherry Valley”, myself included, sat around our Director’s living room to have some dinner and watch a movie or two. The Grey, starring Liam Neeson was the choice of those present. What followed was a very bizarre 2 hours. I cannot fault the actors, they were all extremely good- especially Neeson. There just reached a point where a wolf was eating a corpse, and Neeson, seeing this- dives at the wolf screaming “You Mother Fucker” and starts fist-fighting it. This was the point that co-star Anna Rizzo and I acknowledged that this movie was ridiculous. Once again, I get where they were going, but the final scenes, and especially the after credits scene, was more laughable than poignant.
1: Wrath of the Titans
Holy Hell. I was one of the 7 people that enjoyed the first movie in this series. I eagerly anticipated a return to the world of Greek Mythology, especially for an original tale! What followed was horror. Hades became a good guy, ALL the gods died. Poseidon, played by the great Danny Huston, dies right off the bat like a chump- giving this actor nothing to do…again. It was all a jumbled terrific mess of a movie. I have rarely been so let down.
Lets interject here with an examination of one actor- Liam Neeson. What happened man?! Titans and Grey made this list, but he released two other films that probably would have been on it- Taken 2 and Battleship. Why hast thou forsaken us!?
Now, the good stuff::
This is one that is popping up on SO MANY “worst” lists. My suspicion is this: people went in expecting ALIEN 5,6, or whatever the hell number they were on. What they got was a smart, well written, better acted, hard Science Fiction film. This is not about Aliens eating people and causing terror. Alien did that perfectly well. This is something else entirely. It is a meditation on the origins of human life, whether human life is successful and should flourish, or whether we are a failed experiment that should be destroyed. It was so good, that I am shocked that any reasonable person could not “get it”. I highly anticipate the sequel.
Now THIS is more like it. THIS is Judge Dredd. True to the comic, through and through. We never, NOT ONCE, see Judge Dredd without his helmet. Judge Anderson is present, without a Rob Schneider in sight. The abomination that is the Stallone Dredd is forever wiped away. This film, besides being watchable and well written, was also one of the best shot films of the year. It definitely featured the best use of 3D I have seen since the realD explosion.
10: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I loved my return to Middle Earth. ‘nuff said.
9: Hunger Games
I covered this pretty thoroughly In a previous post. In short- It is the anti-Twilight. A film about a STRONG young woman, who finds the strength within herself to survive…despite any odds. This was a really great movie.
8: Zero Dark Thirty
A terrific film making exercise. Well written, well acted.
7: The Dark Knight Rises
Equal to The Dark Knight in every way save the performance of Heath Ledger. It was a good “Final Story” for Batman. I watched this at its premiere in one of the theaters that was screening the trilogy. Seeing them all, in a row, really drives home the link these films share. They work together thematically. It is a complete story by one of the better Director working today.
6: Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson being Wes Anderson. Terrifically cast, and well directed.
Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal. Deserved the Oscar.
4: Les Miserables
Fantastic adaptation of the musical. Memorable as all hell.
3: The Avengers
There are no words that can express the joy of seeing an unapologetic COMIC BOOK MOVIE on the big screen. This IS the Avengers. It hit all the right notes. It was what comic book fans have been dreaming for decades. One review stated that it was as if Joss Whedon travelled back in time and filmed my imagination when I was 9. A real achievement.
2: Django Unchained
I just wrote up a glowing review of this one, just scroll down the page! Seriously, it is one of Tarantino’s best. He is a master at the height of his powers.
This is it baby. This is possibly the best Bond Film ever made.
It featured a unique story for the series, which i thought really gave the actors a chance to shine, as well as create some gripping adventure. I feel this completes a trilogy of sorts with the previous 2. It finishes the origin story of James Bond which began in Casino Royale. At the start of the film, Bond is finally over the death of Vesper and is finding himself. This is the final construction of “Casino-Bond” into 007, as we knew him.
Craig has hit his stride. Like Connery and Moore before him, his 3rd entry was his best Bond yet. I am so happy they signed him for 2 more. Craig is knocking on Sean Connery’s door as the best actor to play 007.
Javier Bardem, one of my favorite actors, plays a memorable villain. My wife Tatum was creeped out by him, which was a sign that he nailed a perfect performance. Ralph Fiennes, one of her favorite actors has a great part as a government oversight guy. She and I are split on the new Q, I liked him, she thought he was a dick (which is probably why I liked him). Bond Girl Eve was underutilized until the finale of the film, and Judi Dench gives her best performance as M.
The Opening credits were fantastic, and take on greater significance once we know the story. This was, in many ways, a return to classic bond. The Bond theme song is front and center in several scenes, as opposed to being an after-credits thing.
Roger Deakins proves why he is one of the best Cinematographers alive with his stunning visuals.
If you love Bond, see this movie. It is easily the best acted of any of them, top 3 for the series, and my favorite film of 2012.
This is a weird post to be writing. I barely watch television anymore. What I do watch, is via Netflix or Hulu. So what do I have to say about TV in 2012?
It is some of the best, and worst, ever.
The watershed moment was in the summer. After months, years even, of paying almost 150.00 a month of the top cable packages, with multiple recievers and DVR and all that junk, the wife and I made the decision to cut the cable. We joined many others who decided that the cost does not equal the benefit of television in 2012. We all know it. 99.5% of television is pure crap. The Scifi channel, now syfy, features more wrestling and reality shows about Ghost Hunting than any real Science Fiction. They dropped Dr Who from their lineup, the cancelled the various Galactica series, and Stargate, and decided that their viewers would rather watch Sharktopus 3. Discovery Channel was still watchable, but the others had descended into anarchy. TLC, the learning channel is now all crap, not one decent show to watch. Whether is is prostituting children on Toddlers and Tiaras or the adventures of the Gosslings, or the Mormon family with 19 kids, this station starts in the gutter and works DOWN when it comes to programming.
I must let you know that I was not in favor of cutting the cable. I enjoyed having all those options at my disposal. One thing made my decision quite easy- My Big Fat American Gypsy wedding. This was easily the greatest piece of garbage I had ever set my eyes upon. The wife and I watched in horror as this train wreck unfolded before us. This was the show that made my mind up for me. Cable TV was dispensable.
We cut the cord just after July 4th, and in the begining it was rough, until I discovered FREE HDTV. Yes I said FREE. The old fashioned Rabbit ear antennas can pick up all the local stations, in crystal perfect HD, better than the cable feed. One channel- MeTV plays nothing but reruns of old shows from the 60’s and 70s. In other words, it only shows the GOOD stuff. Bob Newhart every night? Cheers too!? It was wonderful. The first real test of the new status quo came with the Olympics. We watched the Opening Ceremonies and were shocked by the stupidity of the commentators. Offensive, and ignorant remarks about other nations, and humerous mis-pronunciations peppered this EDITED version of the Ceremony. Yes, edited. Americans did not see the entire program, we were instead spoon fed only what we felt was appropriate for us, with non-stop explanations of everything from the Industrial Revolution to the double decker bus. NBC assumed that their audience is uninformed and needs their hand held through these sorts of things. I recoiled and immediately sought a solution. As always, the internet provided.
It tuns out there are programs, free and legal, which can Mask your computer and fool the internet into thinking you live in Great Britain.This allows you to watch British TV LIVE and view their broadcasts unimpeded. What a difference an ocean makes. The British showed the ENTIRE Opening, with limited commentary. They had insightful commentary during sporting events. THIS was the Olympics I wanted to see.
The rest of the TV year played out normally. I watched some things via Rabbit ears, some through Hulu, and some through iTunes. Here is what I was seeing with limited, though insightful, commentary.
Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.
Best: in no particular order
A revived version of the classic tv show, one of my favorites. A true continuation of the story, featuring good writing, great acting, and plenty of drama. A hit. RIP Larry
Such a great show. It never lets you down.
Holy Moley. This makes me happy to be alive, and in an age when this can be broadcast.
An Idiot Abroad/Ricky Gervais Show/Life’s too short
Ricky Gervais is phenomenal. Karl Pilkington is a gift from heaven. Warwick Davis steals the show. If you are not watching these three shows, Idiot Abroad in particular, familiarize yourself immediately.
Game of Thrones
Almost the best show on Television, near perfection. Dinklage deserves every award possible.
Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Their 8th is one of the best seasons to date. So SO funny.
Best animated comedy, hands down.
Far superior to Family Guy, best of the fox comedies. 90% of the reason to watch is Roger.
These men give me hope for America.
Still relevant, still funny after 15 years. A minor miracle.
UNABLE TO WATCH!!! Due to not having HBO, this is a series I shall have to wait several months for. Its ok, this show is worth the wait.
Best Scifi Show on tv. Always perfect.
My guilty pleasure. Also a phenomenal show. Well acted, well written, with production value unmatched.
Best discovery of old time TV:
Kolchak: The Night Stalker
This is a show I had never seen. I finally made some time for it, and I am hooked. A great show, ahead of its time.
This is the best show on tv, possibly best show ever. Every week, we tune in to see what has become of the life of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Every week we are shocked and amazed. This is the best writing on TV, best acting too.
Here we stand, yet again, on the precipice of another new year.
I have started compiling my best/worst film lists for this year. As I went through the 24 films I saw this year, I realized how many great flicks I just never got around to seeing. I also realized how many bad movies I never saw. While the latter is normally a good thing, I feel that a regular influx of bad cinema is essential to better appreciate the good stuff. The big reason for the lack of viewings is that I have gotten far more selective in my theater going since the recession hit. I realize that I cannot see EVERY movie, but this year seems particularly bad. In 2011, there were 3-4 films I could list off the top of my head that should have been in contention, this year there are far more:
Lincoln , Moonrise Kingdom, Seeking a friend for the end of the world, Lawless, Dark Shadows, Battleship, The Campaign, 21 Jump Street, Snow White and the Huntsman, Men in Black 3, The Watch, Being Flynn, Safety not guaranteed, Cloud Atlas, Anna Karenina, Chronicle, Ghost Rider 2…
Off the top of my head. Some are good, some are bad. All are films I wanted to watch for one reason or another.
I am tempted to delay my “list” until a few weeks into 2013, but where is the fun in that? Instead I shall do this- There will be a New years eve posting, as usual, of my top 10 favorite films, as well as the clunkers. At some point in January I shall revisit the list after viewing most of the listed films (thank you redbox and netflix) for a more well-rounded listing.
I will also venture in a Best of TV list which should be amazing considering I dropped cable TV and intentionally only watched maybe 5 shows total. We will see how that shapes up.
Watch and wait!
After several days off from work for the holidays, I decided to re-enter the World of Warcraft and do some “Transmogrification runs”! What the hell is a “Transmogrification run”? you ask? Well, here it is:
As you play the game, you gather various pieces of armor to upgrade your character. At the start of the week, I looked like this:
This is pretty close to a full dungeon set, a lesser set of armor in the game. A set will typically match and look cool on your character. I was happy with this look, but It did not compare to some previous armor sets made in WoW’s heyday of the mid-late 00’s.
Recognizing this, the geniuses at Blizzard introduced Transmogrification. Transmog, as its called- or xmog, lets you change the appearance of your armor to resemble any other piece of alternate armor in your equipment bag. As most of us sold or threw away our cool armor sets back in the olden days of 2008, to recapture the look, we would have to return to older raids (large dungeons) and reacquire the armor.
I spent most of my week doing this, and now I have returned to the circa 2007 “Corruptor Raiment” set which was a personal favorite during the Burning Crusade expansion pack.
Yup. Look at how bad ass that is. All horrible looking with a glowing scythe.
Just thought I’d share my pathetic-ness with the world 🙂
Woke up this morning, had a nice breakfast with the wife, exchanged presents with my Brother Rich, and then headed over to the Rosen Home for a Christmas party. It was my Godson’s first XMAS! After this, we decided to end the night with something special and headed to the movies! Django Unchained was on the menu….
The first thing that must be mentioned is that the theater was PACKED. Not an empty seat in the house, which makes me deliriously happy. There are few experience that match seeing a well crafted film on the big screen, and if this can be called anything, it is a well crafted film.
I must start by letting you know that I am certainly inclined to enjoy Quentin Tarantino films. I can easily say that if I were to make a “favorite films” list, at least 6 of his 9 films (5 of 8 depending on how you categorize the Kill Bill duology) would be included. Several of them in the top tier.
Tarantino has lost nothing as he ages. He has stated that he sees himself retiring young to avoid the downward slide in quality that many filmmakers experience. Most Directors have this problem. A select few, the greats, never lose their ability to craft superior films. I truly believe that Tarantino is in this class.
Django Unchained is the tale of a freed slave who learns the Bounty Hunting profession and goes on a quest to free his wife from the villainous Calvin Candie, slave owner….monster.
As in his last film, Tarantino took the name of an older film for re-use. Inglorious Bastards became Inglorious Basterds, and Django became Django Unchained. “Django” was one of the better Spaghetti Westerns of the 60’s. Following it’s success, it became a fad to make westerns starring “Django” as the hero. None of these films really tied together, other than the title character. They featured different actors, situations, many were terrible, a few watchable. The attraction was that Django was famous for being one of the most violent films up to that point in time (before Bonnie and Cydle, The Wild Bunch). What makes it important is not that it is gratuitous, but how is it done, and the shock of it in a film- something Tarantino has mastered at this point. He could make you feel happy, sad, orgasmic, or scared shitless just with a blood splatter. It was an obvious choice for Tarantino to make his own Django.
The cast, as always, was perfectly put together, utilizing some previous talent (The great Zoe Bell, Michael and James Parks, and others) to round out the characters.
Django is played by Jaime Foxx, who was perfection in a role that could have been tricky to pull off. This role was initially offered to Will Smith who turned it down. This was for the best I think, Smith maintains a very guarded image of himself, and this film does not fit that image. Foxx, steps in and makes it his own. Django is strong, vulnerable, vicious, absolutely believable, especially when he is acting. The only elements standing in his way as the best thing in the film are… the three supporting actors.
This might be DiCaprio’s best role. He has long since escaped the teenie bopper hell that seemed fated for him, and has grown into one of the best actors around. This is the first film that he is entirely, COMPLETELY evil as Calvin Candie. His scenes are tremendous. This is an actor at the top of his game.
Despite DiCaprio’s mastery Christoph Waltz again steals the show, this time as Dr. Schultz, the Bounty Hunter who frees Django and helps him on the quest to free his wife.
I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this man awesome. If I could identify it, and bottle it, I would be quite wealthy. I have seen 5 of his 6 films since becoming famous after Basterds. The only answer I can reason for his success is “HE IS THAT…DAMN…GOOD” He can turn absolutely any line into perfection. I don’t know what is training is, how he prepares for roles, or anything on his methods, but he has found the ideal path toward his character work. This is the actor Tarantino has been looking for his whole career I think… after the other one he found 20 years ago that is.
Samuel L. Jackson. The most prolific actor of our age. He usually pops up in Tarantino’s productions. I did not, in a million years, expect him to appear in Django as Uncle Remus from “Song of the South”. It was a genius move by Quentin, and a fantastic performance by Jackson. Not his best, that is reserved for Pulp Fiction or Unbreakable, but this is up there.
Kerry Washington plays Django’s wife Broomhilda Von Shaft (seriously that’s her name). She is a terrific actress that does not have all that much to do in the film. She is the McGuffin, the prize, the object that moves this story forward. As such, there is not a whole heck of a lot to do other than give the other actors something to react to. Despite this, she does a great job with what is given her.
Honorable mentions goes out to Don Johnson who has one of the best scenes in the film as “Big Daddy”, and to Tarantino himself who makes a cameo appearance.
Nothing need be said about the writing. Tarantino is known for his dialogue in particular and this film is not lacking his usual ability. It is heightened by the presence of first rate actors.
The Cinematography was by Robert Richardson. He is best known for his work with Oliver Stone (Platoon, wall street, JFK etc), Scorsese (Casino Shutter Island) and Tarantino (Kill Bill, Basterds) He knows exactly what Tarantino wants, and delivers it. The beautiful vistas of the West are magic in the hands of a skilled cinematographer, and Richardson brings the magic.
The music choices, as always, elevate Tarantino’s films. What really stands out is the use of the original Django theme song by Luis Bacalov! Hearing that right off the bat, as the opening them to THIS DJANGO, I realized that I would not be let down on this front. One of my favorite Jim Croce songs made an appearance in its entirety, and I was even more impressed when I read the credits- “Ancora Qui” by Ennio Morricone and Elisa. Ennio M_F_ing Morricone! I know Tarantino has been trying to get an original piece, if not an entire score by “il maestro” without success. I am glad to see him finally nab a song.
There is not much else to say about Django without ruining the film, so I will stop.
Now, how does this fit on my “Tarantino List”?
1: Inglorious Basterds
2: Pulp Fiction
3: Reservoir Dogs
4: Django Unchained
5: Kill Bill 2
6: Kill Bill 1
7: Jackie Brown
8: Four Rooms
9: Death Proof
I will be honest, there is barely a HAIR’S width of difference between the top 6 listed above. Bottom line:
Go see Django Unchained
If you loved LOTR- you will love this.
If you hated LOTR- you will hate this.
Its really that simple. The almost 3 hour run time flew by for me. The actors were perfect, simply perfect. Martin Freeman is the idea actor to play young Bilbo. Richard Armitage hit it out of the park as Thorin, and Ian McKellan returns to what will absolutely be his greatest role- Gandalf. The other returning cast members were a welcome sight, especially Andy Serkis as Gollum, who once again captivates. There was not much time to get to know all 12 of the other dwarves, but most of them had a scene or two, with focus on a select few for dramatic reasons.
Speaking of 3D. this is also the first 3D film to that gave me no eye fatigue due to motion blur!. With all those extra frames, the blur is replaced with motion and the eyes are quite thankful!
What follows are my replies to some of the complaints being put forward by critics:
The 48 fps made the CGI look fake.
The CGI was top notch, and more realistic than ever. I feel the 48 frames helped it.
The story was boring, and not a stand alone film.
The story well constructed while being very faithful to the novel. I did not feel that it was an incomplete story. While it was obviously the first of three chapters, there is a narrative that reaches a resolution in the last scenes. It centers on Bilbo and his journey to be accepted as a member of the Dwarven Group.
The “additional material” introduced from the voluminous backstory of LOTR was unneeded and terrible.
Rather than be put off by the additional material they inserted into the story, I was fascinated by it, and enjoyed every extra second. I am only vaguely familiar with these plot points, so it was terrific to see it played out. It did not stretch out the movie to unreasonable lengths. It added only a few scenes to the final picture.
Radagast is the new Jar Jar Binks.
Radagast the Brown Wizard is not the Jar Jar of these films. please critics… He, and his rabbits, are pretty awesome. Plus who could hate Sylvester McCoy?! He’s great.
The film is too violent. Nonsense. It is no more violent than the first 3 films, and no one complained too loudly back then.
The 48 frames make the film look cheap.
This one has merit, but not for the reasons put forward by critics in what I feel is an attempt to destroy the new format at birth. Many television programs use a higher frame rate. British television seemed to use it quite a bit in the 70’s. Because we have only experienced these sort of visuals in what is perceived to be a “cheaper” format, we immediately associate it as being a lesser product. While I was taken in by the story, I was also forcing myself to be conscious of production value. LOTR films are notorious for insane attention to detail when it comes to sets and props. This film is no different. There was no cheap there. There was certainly no cheap from the actors, and it was not present in the CGI. The cinematography, particularly in battle sequences, was spectacular, and not cheap looking. Final verdict- this one is purely bias due to prior experience.
The 48 frames make it seem less fantasy and more reality- taking you out of the experience.
Obviously, there are no trolls, elves, dwarves, hobbits, rock monsters, magical elven cities, and orcs in reality. But the frame rate does give it a more realistic style. There is something to that complaint, but I feel it is completely up to the individual. Personally, it did not take me out of “Middle Earth” but instead drew me in.
Its late, that’s all I’ve got to say for now. hehe. If you have questions- shoot away! As a guinea pig for those hesitant to try it out in 48, I am happy to help answer questions. I do, however, recommend that you see it for yourself regardless. Its a good movie!