For Your Consideration: Kick Ass

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Kick-Ass (R)
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mark Strong
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Kick-Ass is probably the most underrated movie this year. I think a lot of people passed it off as silly nonsense with a profanity-ridden young girl as the hook. I give this movie a lot more credit than that. This is probably the most fun 2 hours you can have with a movie. Understandably, this movie is not for everyone - there is an extreme amount of violence, sex and of course, language. So if you can't stomach a little girl spilling blood and launching f-bombs, this is most definitely not the right movie for you. But for the rest of us shallow people, Kick-Ass is one of the best superhero movies I've seen. The characters are actually quite believable and real, even though some of the story is a bit fantastic (jet pack gatling guns!). But the best part of the movie is summed up in the title - it kicks ass! I could watch this movie over and over - the action is great, there's laugh-out-loud moments and it's just fun to watch. The scene where Big Daddy and Kick-Ass get captured and Hit Girl has to save them is one of the most beautiful and strangely haunting scenes I've seen in an action movie. It's a perfect blend of slow-mo, lighting, choreography and music. And the movie sets the stage for an even bigger story for the sequel (which is in the works!), which should be excellent. You can't get a better action movie than this one.

That's my top 10 for 2010! If someone had to twist my arm and get me to rank them, I'd have to put them in this order:

10. True Grit
9. Toy Story 3
8. Easy A
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
6. Inception
5. 127 Hours
4. The Town
3. The Social Network
2. Kick-Ass
1. Black Swan


Twofer Thursday: The Social Network and Zombieland

Twofer Thursday:
Offering up a new release and a complimentary older movie for the upcoming weekend. I have pretty good taste, so you should just follow my advice.  

The Social Network (R)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield
Director: David Fincher
I've already touched upon what I like most about this movie back here. To sum up: it's a great movie and will probably still be considered great long after this year. It's an instant classic and further cements David Fincher as one of Hollywood's elite directors who knows how to make a damn good movie.

Zombieland (R)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
Director:  Ruben Fleischer

This was one of the movies I saw during Project 182. It was amazing back then and still is now. If you consider for a moment that Zombieland is what it would be like if, in an alternate universe, Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg's genius had only been interrupted by the inevitable zombie onslaught. In fact, the movies are more closely related than you think: Columbus (Eisenberg) in the movie goes so far as to say "You want to know the best thing about Z-land? No Facebook status updates. You know, Rob Curtis is gearing up for Friday. Who cares!" This was noticed by Maggie and I only imagined it made her spit out the current beverage she was consuming at that time.I would tell you more parallels between these movies, but you'll just have to watch both this weekend to scout them out! (Or maybe that's all I got and I'm too lazy to think about any other possible connections. Who knows!?! You'll just have to play along!) So, anywho, Zombieland is great than for no other reason than the Bill Murray cameo. It's up there as far as cameos go in movies - right next to Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore and Lance Armstrong in Dodgeball. It's funny how this movie was originally intended as a TV series, but they couldn't sell it. Now The Walking Dead is the new hotness and Zombieland, I believe, is getting a sequel. Cool beans for zombies everywhere!

For Your Consideration: Toy Story 3

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Much like True Grit, this is one of the outliers on my top 10.

Toy Story 3 (G)
Voiced by: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
Director: Lee Unkrich

Despite all the disappointments from 2010, there was a solid slate of animated movies that were far superior to a lot of live action movies (How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Tangled, Legend of the Guardians). Toy Story 3 is by far the best of them and is most definitely the best in the series. The movie wraps up all the toys' stories quite nicely and there's just a lot of fun with this one. The movie takes on a Great Escape-vibe and it works perfectly to tackle the underlying issues of the whole series - What happens when you're abandoned by those that you love? It's a very scary scenario if it wasn't all cute and about toys. But the movie finds deeper meanings in these adorable characters. I've even read a quite plausible Toy Story 3 Holocaust metaphor. Whether intended or not, it's hard not to argue that Toy Story 3 has a lot of depth to it. And that's what makes this movie fit in the Top 10 - I don't think I've ever felt more attached to any sort of animated characters as I do Woody, Buzz and the whole crew. The ending is gut wrenching and bittersweet. Not only because it's the end of Andy's relationship with his toys, but it's our ending with this franchise. Oh, I'm sure they'll try to make a sequel, but to me, this is the most fitting way to end their stories. Pixar has made it known they will only work on sequels when they deem the story completely necessary, but it seems they've already broken that vow with the Cars sequel. (Lightning McQueen dress up as a car super spy? Really, Pixar?) Sigh. The only bad thing I have to say about Toy Story 3 is the ending that seems to drag on forever! It's a bit over the top and I rolled my eyes a few times when they seemed to have been saved only to land in a much worse predicament. Just end the movie! Despite that tiny flaw, it's a wonderful film and completely deserving of the moniker "#1 Animated Movie of All-Time."

For Your Consideration: True Grit

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

I still have yet to see a few movies that I suspect might edge out a movie or two in my fake Oscar ballot (Never Let Me Go, The King's Speech and The Fighter to be exact). When I get to those movies, I'll let you know. True Grit is one of those movies that would probably get the cut.

True Grit (PG-13)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

After what some considered their most personal work to date, A Serious Man, the Coen brothers come back with what is arguably their biggest and most accessible movie to date. I won't say they've brought the western back from the dead, but they've certainly made the genre more appealing to a younger generation. And while I really did not like the first movie with John Wayne, I knew I was probably going to enjoy this truer adaptation of Charles Portis' novel. And it certainly was worth the wait - this movie is highly entertaining. It was a lot funnier than I expected it to be. Jeff Bridges is pretty good as Rooster Cogburn, but sometimes I felt like he was hamming it up too much for the camera. But of course, the best part of the movie, much like the first, is Mattie Ross. She's more empowering in this version of the film and I feel like she won over Rooster's respect throughout the movie. She's smart and I've heard quite a few people say her performance is more rehearsed, like she's reading lines instead of acting. I would have to disagree - I'd say it's more that her character really does talk that way - she's a very educated girl that probably learned to talk through writing very formally and that's all she knows how to talk. Either way, newcomer Hailee Steinfeld gives a great performance against some truly great actors. Another great part of the movie was the banter back and forth between Rooster and the Texas Ranger played by Damon. He's pretty much an asshole with a badge, but Rooster seems to get the best of him most of the time. As for the film as a whole? It's beautiful and there's a quiet sense of menace throughout - this is not a pretty picture of the west. Things get really creepy and weird when an grizzly old man lumbers on horseback up to Rooster with a whole bear suit hanging all over him. He looks like death himself and I wouldn't have been surprised if he went crazy and tried to kill them with a battle axe or something. But that's what the Coen brothers are great at - creating awkward moments with the macabre and it pays off in this movie well. The movie is well-paced too - I never really found myself checking my phone. The plot is straightforward as it can be, so the movie's more about the characters and their journey together and the Coen brothers do a good job of keeping us entertained, whether it be some funny moments or truly riveting suspense. This is probably the Coens' most accessible movie they've ever made and it's superb. Maybe not an instant classic, but a solid movie and quite wonderful.


Most Anticipated: The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet (PG-13)
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz
Director: Michel Gondry

Seriously, this is just amazing. Not only have I already seen two movies for this year off my anticipated list, but I've seen them before they've even opened and they were free! I feel pretty good about my life right about now. Okay, I'm the asshole soaking up all this awesomeness that is my life when I should be telling you about the movie. Well, let's just say it was awesome, bro! But to begin, I will put this out there - if you are not a fan of Seth Rogen, you probably will not like this movie. He's co-written and produced as well as being the lead man (duh!) in this movie. It has his stench all over it (and I mean that most flatteringly). I really like Seth Rogen - I think people got sick of his slacker image plastered on what seemed like every movie two years ago. BUT! He's playing a different kind of slacker this time around! Plus, he's a bit more toned in this movie and I found that not jarring at all. It's not like he's Kato and jumping around in 3D, kicking ass. So, if you're on the fence about Rogen, I say give it a chance! Secondly, I feel really dumb for seeing the poster and thinking about the Donnie Darko bunny:
Because they really don't look that much alike. At all. And after I said this to Maggie while adding I just don't get what the headlights are all about, she pointed out the headlights formed a HORNET. So apparently I cannot make out pictures like a four-year-old can.

But back to the movie - it was surprisingly awesome! I remember thinking after the first twenty minutes, wow, this movie isn't that funny. And then the funny happened. A lot! I laughed quite a bit - whether it was the banter back and forth between Britt Reid and Kato or Christoph Waltz's gleefully eccentric bad guy - I couldn't help myself from laughing out loud. The movie mixes things up pretty well between the dreadfully serious action movie and the over-the-top cheesy action that first inspired The Green Hornet's roots. There's a great article from The New York Times that follows the 70-year history of the franchise. It's funny how Nicolas Cage almost ruined the movie with his Jamaican accented villain idea. Or Stephen Chow's idea to implant a chip in Britt Reid so Kato could control him with a joystick. Those movies would have been train wrecks. Thank god Seth Rogen got a hold of this movie. It's balls deep in kickassness. Michel Gondry, the eccentric filmmaker who brought the world Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, seemed like an odd choice, but he's been attached to this movie since 1997. And he's a perfect fit, because Kato-vision is pretty awesome and there are some cool sequences including a scene where the film gets cut up into tiny boxes, each showing the spreading of news by the bad guy (I'm not doing it any justice - let's just say it was pretty cool). And the action is just enough, although the ending I can't decide if it was balls-to-the-wall awesome or if it was a bit too much to swallow (Maggie would argue it was too much. And that's what she said). So...yes you should see this movie! Unless you don't like Seth Rogen. But you can skip the 3D - it's not like the movie was worse because of it, it just didn't add anything special. The credits were actually the coolest 3D part. The movie is out this weekend, so make sure it gets some love!

Rating: See It!


For Your Consideration: Easy A

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Easy A (PG-13)
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Penn Badgley
Director: Will Gluck

Yes, this is easily one of the funniest movies this year (although that's not a stretch - I can probably count on my one hand the number of comedies in 2010 that were actually funny). Not only do you have a great premise, but you have the next actress that personifies charm and wit. Emma Stone is the next it girl and she totally delivers in this movie. She plays Olive, a whip-smart girl who's in over her head in high school. But as she navigates the gossip mill, there's something more profound happening in the movie. I think we're seeing a classic John Hughes-esque teen comedy at play. Instead of the jocks versus the geeks, you have the reasoned, well-mannered versus the extremists. It's not political, just emotional - and Olive is just as guilty as taking things to the extreme as her crazy, religious classmates have done. Okay, enough of the bullshit metaphors and analogy about this movie - it's fun-nee and well written. There's a lot to love about the movie - from Thomas Hayden Church's tragically hip English teacher to those crazy parents (played by the impeccable Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) who reminded me of my friend's parents (oh man they were so cool, unlike my parents!). It's destined to be a classic - something that will be remembered as a classic high school movie, like Mean Girls or Sixteen Candles. And as much as the movie is about sex (or the illusion of it), there's something sweet about the whole movie. Maybe it has something to do with the writing or the direction. Or maybe it's just that Emma Stone has got that girl next door thing going for her. Either way, it all ends up coming together as one of the best in 2010.


For Your Consideration: The Social Network

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

The Social Network (R)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield
Director: David Fincher

What an amazing and fascinating movie. Upon first hearing that they were making a Facebook movie, I scoffed and immediately decided it was just going to be boring. But then they got Aaron Sorkin to write the screenplay, won of the snazziest screenwriters in Hollywood today. And then David Fincher, my boy, got attached to direct. And then! Jesse Eisenberg decided to bring his geek-tastic acting skills to the movie. Eisenberg is a good actor and he plays the arrogant asshole pretty well. It's pretty amazing to see how this insecure and socially awkward genius turns into one of the richest guys in the world. It's a stunning masterpiece of a movie, not simply because of the story, but how it's told. Fincher is an amazing director and this is one of his best. He's always finding great ways to frame his movies. One of the most unique parts of the movie is the rowing competition scene where he uses the tilt-shift effect to great use. Everything looks miniature and the music swells to the climax of the race. It's a perfect little scene that really has nothing to do with the main story, but says a lot about the dwindling status of the twins who are suing Zuckerberg. And the scene in the club where the music is pumping so loud that you have to lean closer to the screen in order to hear what's going on; It's this kind of attention to detail that makes this movie special. And Sorkin's screenplay crackles with snappy and witty dialogue. It's fast and fun and makes for repeat viewings with the subtitles on so you can catch everything. This is the obvious front-runner for Best Picture and it's most deserving. The story may not be all true, but it's just so fun to watch how the biggest social phenomenon of the 21st century came from one of the biggest assholes of the 21st century. And as much as I'm comforted by the last scene of the movie that depicts him as really just a lonely, sad man, I'm sure he's crying every night into his billions of dollars and sobbing after a dive into his pool of gold.


For Your Consideration: Inception

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Inception (PG-13)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Director: Christopher Nolan

This is a guaranteed best picture nominee. There was much speculation heading into the summer whether this movie could deliver and indeed it does in spades. It's got a great cast, an intriguing and mind-bending plot that requires repeat viewings and one of the best directors working in the business. But make no mistake, behind the dreams and sci-fi drama, at heart this is just a good old heist movie. Cobb (DiCaprio) assembles his team to steal an idea, or rather, implant an idea, into the mind of another man - a monumental task called inception. What most people get tied up in is that awesome fight scene in the hallway. While all that's good and pretty spectacular, there's a great story and great characters at the heart of this movie. Cobb's continual guilt over the death of his wife haunts him quite literally throughout the movie. In the words of Nicholas Angel, he "doesn't know how to switch off." Without that tragic love story, the heist probably would go off without a hitch, but there's his crazy bitch of a wife, ruining things for him like sending their target into a seemingly never ending dream limbo. Bitches be crazy. Among the standouts from the movie is Joseph Gordon-Levitt being a true badass in the movie and Thomas Hardy, the next up-and-coming movie star, who steals pretty much every scene he's in nowadays. And while I adore Michael Caine and his many impersonators, I'm kind of sick of seeing him show up in every Nolan movie. Seriously, the dude is the father of "can't-hide-my-French-accent-in-this-movie-Marion Cotillard?" You might as well have hired Rihanna as the suicidal nutter. So, aside from that obvious flaw, the movie, is umm, flawless. Yeah, that's about right, I'm pretty sure that I came up with that idea.


For Your Consideration: The Town

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

The Town (R)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm
Director: Ben Affleck

The Town came out of nowhere for me. I had not even heard about it until I saw the trailer maybe about a month before it came out. This was the surprise of the year, no doubt. It's an intense flick. The actual heist scenes are filmed to perfection. Even though (Spoiler Alert!) when you know the last robbery is just plain suicidal, you can't help but sit at the edge of your seat and watch it all play out. That's great filmmaking and Ben Affleck is going to have a long directorial career long after his acting career slows down. I have long been a non-fan of Boston-based movies, but this one is an exception. There's just too many things to love about this movie - the direction, the cast (RIP Pete Postlethwaite) and the score. Everything comes together so well - the cast is amazing. I did not realize Jon Hamm could be such an arrogant asshole. And Jeremy Renner gives another great performance - he's very close to landing an Oscar. The rest of the cast is great (except Blake Lively, although I think that's more due to her role than her acting) and it's an addicting movie. Once you finish the movie you want to delve back in and spend more time with this flawed and tragic cast. I love how the roles are reversed - you're cheering on the bad guys in this movie and booing at the FBI agents. And the ending is sublime - there's no other way it could have ended without making it a lesser movie. And as intense and serious as the film is, it's just fun to watch. The action and robberies are clever and thrilling - especially the car chase scene with the minivan. Spectacular! Plus all those good looking people aren't too hard on the eyes, either. Although I will admit the sex scene between Affleck and Lively made me vomit in my mouth a little bit. Other than that? Perfection!


For You Consideration: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (R)
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin
Director: Edgar Wright

Writing about this movie reminded a lot about Watchmen. Not the plot, but its performance at the box office. Needless to say, neither film did not do so well according to expectations. But I think both Scott Pilgrim and Watchmen will eventually become cult classics and quintessential graphic novel movie adaptations. They're both near-perfect in fulfilling the requests of those hard to please fanboys. The pure uniqueness and relentless visuals of the movie alone make this a standout among the year. Not to mention it's just pure fun. Michael Cera seems to keep being typecast as the too-shy teenager, but I love him, so that didn't really matter to me. But for those detractors, he's really not the best part of the movie. It's Edgar Wright's direction and the surrounding cast that elevate what could have been just a ho-hum story about teenage romance (remember Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist? Didn't think so.) to a homage of overindulgence, ADD, video games and those lovable freaks and geeks. The film hums along at a breakneck pace, as Scott has to battle all seven of his new found love's evil exes. The plot sounds ridiculous, but once you accept the absurdity of it all, it's hard not to smile the whole way through. Plus the movie is quite hilarious! Chris Evans and Brandon Routh both have amazing cameos that deliver the funny. And! (There's so many things to love about this movie!) The music is perfect and the songs made specifically for Pilgrim's band, Sex Bob-omb, deliver that hard, crunchy punk that I think was lost back in the late 80s. I will freely admit this movie isn't for everyone (anyone over the age of 50 may well be put off by the barrage of noise and visual effects and the constant references to video games and comics), but it has a lot of heart - it proudly hangs its freak flag high.


For Your Consideration: 127 Hours

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one).

127 Hours (R)
Starring: James Franco
Director: Danny Boyle

Much like Moon from last year - a film that was in my top 10 - this is a one man show. Having an entire movie dependent on a single actor and location is one of the biggest challenges a director can face. But Danny Boyle, one of my favorite directors, is well-suited for this demanding task. The biggest question people ask me is what happens during the movie? Does it all take place during his entrapment? Yes, it does. But it's not boring. In fact, Boyle does an excellent job of creating drama and tension. You know he has to cut off his arm, but what is the journey like to get to that moment? What does a man have to endure before he reaches his breaking point? These questions are answered and it's all beautifully shot. There's a sense of claustrophobia and wide-open loneliness at the same time - it's an amazing work of art. Of course, the movie practically hinges on a great performance and Franco is flawless in his execution as Aron Ralston - probably his most challenging role as an actor (right next to Franco from General Hospital!). And yes, they do show him sawing off his arm. It's gruesome and bold, but also very triumphant. There's a moment at the end when he finally literally breaks free from the rock that forever changed his life and he's stumbling out into the desert searching for civilization that Sigur Rós' Festival starts to amp up and we see him getting rescued. It's one of the most beautiful and emotional moments I've seen in a movie this year and it makes you want to stand up and cheer (the song kicks in at 4:30):


Review: No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached (R)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher
Director: Ivan Reitman

I am one for one on my most anticipated list. Not only is this a great romantic comedy, it's really just a fun and funny movie. I knew it was going to be much different from the normal romantic comedies when one of the first lines of the movie is "Can I finger you?" In all honesty, I really wasn't expecting that much sex in the movie. But there was a lot. I am not complaining - it's all tastefully (well, for the most part) done and seeing two very good looking people do it was just as entertaining as the comedy itself. In fact, the sex scenes in the movie were done shockingly good - they had the right blend of intimacy and sexiness, but nothing too invading or embarrassing to watch. It was pretty perfect. Not too shabby for a director who's last film was the atrocious My Super Ex-Girlfriend. I'm sure some people will toss this aside as nothing special, but I think this movie is going to start the new year off right. Much like Going the Distance, the movie is R-rated and is definitely targeted at the thirty-something crowd. Which I don't mind - I'm kind of in that category and the jokes were great and of course, like any good romantic comedy, it had a lot of heart and charm. Kutcher is pretty good - he's pretty much playing the straight guy to Natalie Portman's depressing, non-committal sex fiend. They work well together and I will freely admit it was steamy at times (it might have just been the theater. Speaking of which, some biznotches tried to sneak into the screening after it had sold out! There was a huge confrontation right beside where the Magster was sitting and it was awkward. They finally were told to leave and thankfully no punches were thrown!). If you liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Going the Distance and/or She's Out of My League, you'll definitely love this movie. The movie comes out January 21 and I'll gladly pony up some money to see this one again!

Rating: See It!

For Your Consideration: Black Swan

Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one).

Despite my lament over this year's lack of firepower at the theater, there were some great films that came out this year. These are my picks if I had to put in a ballot for the Oscars.

Black Swan (R)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel
Director: Darren Aronofsky

I've been really excited about this movie and I got a chance to see it before it's nationwide release. I was completely blown away. What an amazing movie, it's near-perfect in execution. From the direction, to the acting and everything in between, Aronofsky has crafted his best film to date. Here is Natalie Portman's best performance to date, too. I think what I liked most about this movie is the layers of meaning you can uncover. It makes for a perfect repeat-viewing experience. The movie's themes involve psychological issues like sexual awakening, obsession and just going plain bat-shit crazy (a highly professorial term, I know). It's part thriller and part tragedy all rolled up in a nice package. The movie's metaphorical story within a story about the play Swan Lake, seamlessly glides along with the story arch of Portman's character. The movie ends on such a perfect note (and almost eerily similar to Aronofsky's previous film The Wrestler), it's hard not to stand up and applaud and immediately go back to the ticket booth to purchase a ticket for the next show. It's a movie that will elicit head-nods from everyone when you say it's good, something that transcends it's own genre and audience to become a classic.