Sunday, May 31, 2009

The All-Time 100

Its been a couple of years since I updated may Top 100 movies.  Nothing truly drastic has changed; mainly The Dark Knight is awesome, there are a handful of movies that I saw in the last couple of years that pop in between 50 - 100, and I love Layer Cake and it needed to be bumped up.  All movies are 10 out of 10 unless otherwise noted, some 9s are listed ahead of 10s because I sometimes argue with myself.

  1. The Godfather
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  3. The Godfather: Part II
  4. Star Wars V - The Empire Strikes Back
  5. Kill Bill: Vol. 2
  6. Se7en
  7. Jaws
  8. The French Connection
  9. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
  10. Braveheart
  11. Gladiator
  12. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  13. The Shawshank Redemption
  14. Saving Private Ryan
  15. Star Wars IV - A New Hope
  16. Alien
  17. Pulp Fiction
  18. The Dark Knight (new)
  19. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  20. Goodfellas
  21. The Departed
  22. The Hustler
  23. Drunken Master
  24. Battle Royale
  25. American History X
  26. Rocky
  27. Die Hard
  28. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  29. Unforgiven
  30. Jurassic Park
  31. The Maltese Falcon
  32. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  33. The Usual Suspects
  34. Hero
  35. The Sting
  36. Drunken Master II
  37. The Killer
  38. Chinatown
  39. A Better Tomorrow
  40. The House of Flying Daggers
  41. Schindler's List
  42. Hard Boiled
  43. Rear Window
  44. Bonnie and Clyde
  45. Gangs of New York
  46. Good Will Hunting
  47. Heat
  48. No Country for Old Men (new)
  49. Spider-Man 2
  50. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  51. Iron Man (new)
  52. Juno (new)
  53. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  54. Seven Samurai
  55. The Insider
  56. Tombstone
  57. Children of Men
  58. Michael Clayton (new)
  59. X2
  60. Oldboy
  61. Leon: The Professional
  62. Syriana
  63. Black Hawk Down
  64. Munich
  65. Glory
  66. The Wild Bunch
  67. Batman Begins
  68. Lady Vengeance
  69. Back to the Future
  70. Blade Runner
  71. A History of Violence
  72. Into the Wild (new)
  73. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  74. Rounders
  75. The Princess Bride
  76. The Shining
  77. Traffic
  78. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  79. The Silence of the Lambs
  80. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  81. Training Day
  82. Midnight Run (9)
  83. Batman (9)
  84. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  85. Taxi Driver
  86. Enter the Dragon
  87. Boyz N the Hood
  88. Whale Rider
  89. Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (9)
  90. Layer Cake (new and 9)
  91. Letters from Iwo Jima (9)
  92. The Aviator (9)
  93. Lethal Weapon (9)
  94. Vertigo (9)
  95. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
  96. Iron Monkey (9)
  97. Apocalypse Now (9)
  98. Pan's Labyrinth (9)
  99. Wall Street (9)
  100. Boogie Nights (9)

Drag Me to Hell

Not being a fan of the horror movie genre, I usually ignore whenever a new cookie-cutter slasher flick is released.  But whenever a movie gets as good of reviews as Drag Me to Hell, I take notice genre be damned.  In fact I enjoy it when there is a must see horror film because it always feels new to me.  Because of this, Drag Me to Hell was well worth the price of admission.

A movie having the ability to scare the shit out of me is not that high a praise.  I jump out of my seat all the time.  Its like the chair is electrified.  So my praise for Drag Me to Hell is not because it made me jump a whole bunch of times instead I felt that it was actually able to accomplish scaring the piss out of me without resorting to over-the-top torture porn.  Most of it was the usual its very quiet, there is nothing to worry about, this is a normal scene, and HOLY SHIT WHAT WAS THAT!?!  But Sam Raimi is able to wring as much creativity as possible from this recipe.  He can be downright disgusting.  Every single time the crazy-eyed gypsy shows up something horrifying is about to appear on the screen.  The amount of substances that Raimi had inside that woman’s mouth has scarred me for life.  Plus all the scenes with the demon haunting Alison Lohman were masterfully done by Raimi.  Its just shadows and noise but it worked as well as I have ever seen before.  Even though the movie was more interested in making the audience jump, the story was tied up beautifully with the conclusion.

Man, I don’t think I’ve seen Alison Lohman since Matchstick Men.  And for a role that can degenerate into a chick constantly screaming, Lohman is able to add some depth and humor throughout the movie.  Plus she guts a kitten and I have to reward such ridiculousness.  Its always fun to see Justin Long even if he is keeping the humor in check for this role, he still took his shots when he could.  I already mentioned the disgustingness of the crazy-eyed gypsy so I need to compliment Lorna Raver for making me nauseous.  The only one that was missing was Bruce Campbell.

Drag Me to Hell was the rare horror film that I actually anticipated then loved once the credits rolled.  It was nice to see Sam Raimi jump back into the horror world that he has been absent from for the last couple of decades.  Plus I hope he chooses to turn Doc Connors into the Lizard in Spider-Man 4 because I think he can make that transformation truly horrifying.

8 out of 10       

Tyson

It is about damn time that we got a serious look at Mike Tyson.  A man that batshit insane needed to have a legit movie based on his life years ago.  Tyson even goes a step further by having Mike tell his own story in his own words.  This documentary was mesmerizing.

There is absolutely nothing better than watching 1980s footage of Tyson annihilating his opponents while he narrates about just how much a crazed psychopath he was during those days.  I could have watched 12 hours of Mike just talking about anything he damn well pleased.  His mangling of the english language is just a joy to behold.  This is not the usual tics of a person who has learned english as a second language; Tyson just puts the wrong words in the right place.  He doesn’t skip words or use the wrong tense; he just picks some random ass word out of thin air and places it where it doesn’t belong.  Or even better he uses the right words, like skullduggery, but it is so hilarious when you hear him say it that that is all that you hear when he speaks.  It was also fantastic to hear him explain why he lost all his fights.  He admits that he hasn’t properly trained for a fight since the 80s.  So he isn’t really stating that Buster Douglas, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and Kevin McBride didn’t deserve to beat him just that he wasn’t really trying all that hard.  Plus I love the fact that he admitted in the ring that he only fought McBride to pay his bills.  The other perfect moments of the documentary were when he described Desiree Washington and Don King.  The absolute vile hatred he feels towards those two people is amazing.  I hope when this comes out on DVD that there are hours of unused footage because I want more.

This review may have concentrated on all the parts of the documentary that I found hilarious but the entirety of Tyson should be seen.  This was a damn near perfect doc that told the story of Mike Tyson from his point of view and he wasn't shy about anything.

9 out 10

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Why?  Every once and awhile I try to give movies I have no interest in but are popular a shot, so there is your reason for why I am reviewing Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.  My opinion of Ben Stiller has not altered and nothing within these 100 minutes has caused me to rethink my position.  This is as forgettable a movie that I will see in 2009.

Not much to say about this.  This was the same movie as the first one, I think, I’m not sure if I have even seen Night at the Museum from beginning to end but I feel safe in assuming that this was just more of the same.  Exhibits come to life … hi-jinx ensue.  This time Stiller is not shocked and is ready to save the day.  At least there was Amy Adams to distract me.  It was also nice to see Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Ed Helms, and Ricky Gervais for all of 5 minutes each.  Not much else to talk about.  I’m sure if I were 8 years old this would have been a great time.  But the joke gets old really fast.

I just want to move on to the next movie as soon as possible.  Since I'm not a fan of Ben Stiller or Owen Wilson, this is definitely not the franchise for me.  Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian was not awful, I just don't care.

4 out of 10

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Terminator Salvation

There is only so much irrational crap I can take from a movie and Terminator Salvation crossed that line.  Until the final moments there was your basic amount of nonsense going on but the conclusion just completely killed me.  This is one of my favorite franchises (I base my entire fear of artificial intelligence on it) but whereas the first 2 movies are a couple of the greatest movies ever made; Rise of the Machines and now Terminator Salvation are just action movies and nothing else.

Let’s try to delay my angry outburst for as long as possible.  The best thing about Christian Bale is that he takes these roles so seriously.  75% of his screen-time is John Connor talking into a microphone but he damn near makes it work, except for the fact that half the time he talks like Batman and the other half he talks with a strange lisp.  Still, he is a great John Connor for the future of the franchise.  The new guy, Sam Worthington, does good work as the human/machine hybrid.  He throws in little moments of classic Terminator movements.  It was fun to see Common because it was Common not because of anything his character did in his 5 minutes of face-time.  The best casting of all was computer generated Arnold showing up.  Ah soon George Lucas’ dream will come true and humans will no longer be a necessity for live action movies.

Although there were a couple of nice action sequences, nothing blew my mind.  So going into the Skynet confrontation I was on the fence for Terminator Salvation.  Sadly, with the pressure on the story just fell apart.  There were 2 separate sequences that were just unacceptable.  First off was taking the earliest version of the T-800 and making it completely invulnerable.  This was the model that was destroyed in all the other previous Terminator movies but this time around it survives having molten liquid steel dumped on top of it.  This is exactly what destroyed Arnold and the more advanced Robert Patrick in the second movie but this time around it just gets up and keeps moving.  I know you always want to establish how unstoppable the villain is but don’t contradict what happened in the previous movies.  The second and more brain numbing moment was the heart transplant that ended the movie.  Are you shitting me?  First off that heart was punched by a Terminator as a way of killing a character yet a half hour later the heart is good enough to be transferred!?  Then a trained veterinarian did a heart transplant in a makeshift triage tent in the middle of what looked like a desert.  I’m sure all the proper bypass equipment was available and operating area was completely sterile.  I hate when this shit is noticeable.

I really wish I can sit here and tell you that the action in Terminator Salvation was mind-blowing and worth the price of admission.  But I can't so I won't.  This was just an okay summer movie.  The Terminator franchise should be so much more that this.

6 out of 10        

Angels & Demons

I am so excited that a bloated overrated The Da Vinci Code gets to be followed up by a bloated overrated Angels & Demons.  There were no significant improvements; this just felt like another version of the same movie.  This franchise is shaping up to be a film version of 24, this guy is evil, cliffhanger, no this guy is evil, cliffhanger, no wait this guy is evil, cliffhanger, whew we saved the day, wait one more twist, credits.

Its nice to see after the farfetched storyline of the hidden keepers of descendants of Jesus Christ in The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons follows that up with antimatter, Freemasons, and Cardinal assassinations.  I’m glad that this franchise is staying grounded.  Once the final twist is revealed, the entire storyline is pretty damn convoluted.  This entire plan could have fallen apart every step of the way.  So much of it hinged on Langdon figuring things out at this magic point in time where he wouldn’t be able to stop it from happening but sill witnessing the death of the cardinals.  And by the end I had to turn off logic to accept rockstar pope and all the 180s the plot did in the final 15 minutes.  Years of 24 made this a lot more acceptable than it should have been; Jack Bauer has been living this movie for the last 7 years.

Ignoring his hair, Tom Hanks is great in this role.  He is not playing an action hero, just a smart guy who keeps assembling pieces of the puzzle.  Plus he throws all these moments of humor that Hanks is always great at.  I wish he would work as often as he used to.  Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, and Armin Mueller-Stahl do the best they can with what they have been given.   There is a new European actress to run around with Langdon and she does just about as well as the last one.  Good cast but no one stands out like Ian McKellan did in The Da Vinci Code.

Angels & Demons was a perfectly acceptable action thriller.  It looks good, moves fast, and has Tom Hanks.  For that alone it gets a good grade, but it could be so much more.

7 out of 10 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Star Trek

Star Trek is a movie that I had lofty expectations for but did not believe that it would reach that high a level.  Well after the disappointment that was Wolverine, getting this nice gift of a spotless summer movie reinvigorates my expectations for the rest of the summer.  Who knew it was possible to make a Star Trek movie that instead of feeling like another episode actually worked as a blockbuster.

There is a whole lot to praise about Star Trek.  All of the boxes on your summer checklist, casting, story, action, etc. can be marked.  Instead of casting lookalikes in the roles made famous 40 years ago, people were brought in would could give their own spin on these characters.  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban were standouts as Kirk, Spock, and Bones but it was the rest of the crew that surprised me.  Going into Star Trek I was looking forward to Simon Pegg as Scotty the most.  Sadly he got the least amount of screen-time but he took advantage of every second.  Hopefully that will be rectified in the inevitable sequel.  The most amusing part of the casting was that the 2 characters who were a the bottom of the pecking order in the original series, Uhura and Chekov, were given stronger arcs then anything that appeared in the earlier movies.  All of Anton Yelchin’s scenes were great but that could just be the beauty of the thick Russian accent.  And Zoe Saldana was all over the place sometimes with minimal clothing.  I still haven’t even got to Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, and obviously Leonard Nimoy so needlessly to say I liked this cast.

The story required absolutely zero prior knowledge while still getting all the high points of the characters right.  It somehow was able to feel like Star Trek while feeling nothing like Star Trek at the same time.  This feeling may have been completely based on the use of a Beastie Boys song …  an awesome use of a Beastie Boys song.  All of the action felt a million times better than anything done in the previous 10 films.  My favorite plot point was the slick way that they undercut any complaining about the reinvention.  It’s all about alternate realities washing away any complaints.  Abrams even threw in some Alias Rambaldi nonsense with the big red ball.   There is just too much stuff and not enough room.

This is exactly what I'm looking for when the weather turns warm.  I was hoping for something good when JJ Abrams was attached to Star Trek, but this topped even my highest expectations.  Hooray for a new summer franchise that I can look forward to every couple of years.

9 out of 10

Next Day Air

Wow, Next Day Air was that next level of crap.  I was hoping it would just be a dumb comedy but instead it was classified as a comedy only because it needed to be filed away under some genre name.  The amount of times I laughed could be counted on one hand and the rest of the running time was just gangster movie clich├ęs that the writers saw in other better movies.

Seeing the names Mos Def, Donald Faison, and Wood Harris gave me hope that there would be something salvageable in this useless film, but that definitely was not the case.  The blatant false advertising of Mos Def as a significant part of Next Day Air offended me the most.  He had less than 10 minutes of screen time all of which were shown in the trailers.  I don’t care if a movie is bad but lying to me about Mos Def is just criminal.  Faison literally smoked weed for the entirety of his performance.  It was the dictionary definition of a one-note joke.  And, well, as for Wood Harris, he will always and forever be Avon Barksdale.  This would not happen to Avon.  The whole movie is a sham.

Outside of those disappointments, the nonstop best of gangster movie reenactments grew tiresome within five minutes of the title sequence.  Every serious conversation felt like it was paraphrased from previous movies.  This was somehow made even worse by the voiceover during the climatic showdown that was so out of place it was jarring.  I refuse to learn any lessons from movies as bad as this.

So, Next Day Air was a mistake.  Bad comedies are just painful to sit through.  There is no action to distract you or acting to impress you, it just flat joke after flat joke.  Hopefully this is the low point of the summer.

4 out of 10   

Sunday, May 3, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The biggest mistake I will make during this review is watching the vastly superior X2 while I am writing it.  Then again if I wait long enough FX will be showing the abysmal The Last Stand so maybe then I will look more fondly at X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Sadly, the biggest sin of Wolverine was that it didn’t offend me enough to write an angry review.  It was middling in every way.

Hugh Jackman has always been great in the role of Wolverine.  Nothing changes here other than he is built like a brick shithouse and has better facial hair than in past X-Men movies.  The biggest compliment I can give this edition is that the majority of casting was on the money.  Liev Schreiber may have been the highlight of film as a less growly and more talkative Sabretooth.  Plus his fingernails were my favorite special effect, which is not saying a lot since much of this movie came off cheap looking.  10 years later and you still can’t get the claws right?  Exchanging Brian Cox for the younger Danny Huston was a nice choice for William Stryker.  It was also sweet to see that after years and years of fan casting Ryan Reynolds was picked to be Deadpool.  My final applause goes to Kevin Durand as Blob, who the hell knew that he would come off that well on screen?  Praise does not extend to Will I Am because it is Will I Am and it was ridiculous.  Also Gambit was a bit of letdown but I don’t want to place all of that on Taylor Kitsch.  Outside of Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Stryler everyone else was just an extended cameo.  

Like I mentioned earlier nothing was offensively bad, this covers even the storyline.  This was Wolverine’s origin story and they kept it close enough to the comics that I can’t get worked up about any alterations.  Now the same can’t be said for some of the random ass characters that were thrown into the Weapon X plot.  Outside of Blob (which is not that bad since he is a villain) the original squad was fine but the Cyclops and Emma Frost inclusion was stupid.  There is so many many many better stories that can be told with The White Queen and what they chose to do was just irritating.  The choices made when it comes to Deadpool I’m still on the fence about.  Every dumbass change they made can be easily explained away if they give him his own sequel.  That doesn't mean I trust Fox to get it right the next time around.

I ended up writing more than I expected about X-Men Origins: Wolverine; I guess knowing the material like the back of my hand means lots of nitpicking.  Maybe the biggest issue of them all was that in a big dumb summer action flick, the action wasn't all that good.  If the fight scenes were awesome it may have covered the flaws but we weren't that lucky.  Disappointing all around.

6 out of 10