Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Note from the Author

I know that in January I didn't write a single review on a current film and until a movie worth reviewing comes out I won't be writing one. So until that time we continue on with our lists and profiles on actors and perhaps February will spark something new this month. Hope anyone who is reading this blog is digging it and I hope that I get some requests on what to write about.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

LIST OF THE MONTH: From Comics to Celluloid

Top 30 Comic Book/Graphic Novels to Film

I don't think we will be getting a movie or TV show that I can be bothered to talk about for a bit so for now we must tough it out with another list.
I am a huge fan of Comic book and Graphic Novels. So when Hollywood decides to sink their talons into one that I hold dear to me I get a bit touchy and like to know that it is in the hands of a director who knows how to tell a story and knows how to handle the hopes and dreams of devoted fans. So without too much blustering and bitching lets get to the list. Also old chums their are massive spoilers ahead.

30.30 Days of Night: Director: David Slade Writer: Steve Niles Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster
The issue:
Literature is a complicated thing to transfer to film especially when you are trying to bring the feeling of a place to life and take the emotions that someone is having in a book and putting them on the screen. The setting of the small town in Alaska with the cold isolation that you get from the first time you watch 30 days of Night is expressed so wonderfully with this film by director Slade.
What makes Slade such a perfect candidate for this film is that he knows how to get past all the big budget stuff and tell the story of these people on a small level. A comic or a graphic novel past all the powers and explosions is about people and everyday problems.
With this movie you have two people who are deciding if they want to stay together in the midst of this whole trauma.
The scene above in the link is the best example of why this is a wonderful interpretation because of how fantastically unreal the characters seem and yet you feel like these vampires are more real then that Twilight crap you have seen. This also brings up the wonderful point that comics and graphic novels are just that graphic and we get to see that in this bloody slaughter.

29.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Director: Steve Barron Writer: Kevin Eastman Cast: Corey Feldman, Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, James Saito
The issue:
A real kids movie that comes from a real adult comic book. Most people don't know that the Turtles friendly pun humor is not the way it is in the comics that they are more foul mouthed and have more of a pension for bloodshed.
The reason this film works is because of how it walks the line between the light and the dark and never really chooses a side. On one hand you have this story of four brother turtles who love pizza and telling jokes. On the other hand you have this violent crime syndicate run by a man who is dedicated to hunting down the turtles and taking his final vengeance on their master. This film plays very well in the Comic book world with bad one liners from our heroes and ridiculously over the top fights but we also keep the idea that death plays a very real part in this world.
The link above shows us the final fight sequence and we get a nice telling of why this film is much darker then given credit for.

28.From Hell: Director: The Hughes Brothers Writer: Alan Moore Cast: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane,
The issue:
I dig Moore's style of taking real life events and bringing a very different take on them. He is a man who knows what he wants to put to paper and some times directors know what they want those sheets to look like on celluloid. The Hughes Brothers have a very clear idea with what they want to see in this adaptation about the most brutal series of unsolved murders in London.
Depp plays inspector Abberline who is put on the case and quickly discovers that he is not just investigating a series of murders but that they have meaning to them. I love the way the Hughes brothers direct certain scenes of this film especially the dream sequences. The lighting is very much of a comic book done very much in shadow with the green lighting distorting peoples faces to show that the scene is almost other worldly.
I couldn't find a scene that really brought out the best of this comic book element so watch the trailer and see what you think.

27.Iron Man 2: Director: Jon Favreau Writer: Stan Lee Cast: Robert Downey Jr. Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson
The issue:
A sequel is a difficult thing to accomplish especially when the first was such a massive success. Iron Man 2 does get some things right and some it has problems getting past.
You start off with going from the very end of the last one and not missing a minute. I like this because everyone who saw the first is not treated like a johnny come lately and is brought right into the thick of it with the characters they already know. If one thing can bug me about a movie watcher it is those who don't know the back story and are expected to be caught up by the filmmakers. Don't get me wrong subtle hints and jokes to the previous films are fine but we don't need twenty minutes of flashbacks to show us how the characters arrived at this point. Iron Man 2 does a nice job of this and lets you get right into the next chapter of the film.
The story is well told as well we find Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) living the life of Iron Man and himself at the same time. He has become the biggest thing on the planet and the only thing that can stop him is himself.
I won't go much further then that in the films plot suffice to say that it does have problems with what some sequels in comic books movies have which is being silly and making fun of obvious things that we are all saying but not needing to show.
Iron Man 2 does have some wonderful moments and really should be looked at not as less of a film but a stepping stone to a third and hopefully all together decent trilogy of comic book films.

26.Batman: Director: Tim Burton Writer: Bob Kane Cast: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger
The issue:
There is a reason Nicholson gets billing before Keaton in the opening credits of Burton's 89 masterpiece that brought us as close to the killing joke as we may ever get. It is funny how Burton started off with such an amazing ability to direct a film but over the past five years has spiraled down into pure crap. I wonder why that is? I could do an entire post on Burton worst to first but we are talking about Batman.
This performance from Nicholson is nothing short of amazing. If you watch him before he falls into the vat of chemicals and then you see him after that you realize what acting is and what great makeup can do to enhance a performance. I don't want to put out that Keaton doesn't give a solid performance as the Dark Knight but it is just so overshadowed by this massive Nicholson element.
Also you feel that every deatil of this script was overseen by Burton from the way the sets feel like they are sort of this painted on backdrop to the way we see the close up details in the smaller sets. This film is a wonderful example of when you have nice guidelines to follow and put your own creative spin on them.
The scene above is the only one that fits why this is such a great comic book movie. It is the entrance of the Joker into the film. It plays so like a comic in the way that you don't see the character until the absolute highest moment of tension. I could easily see this being set to paper and not a single thing being cut because it is not on film.

25.Creepshow: Director: George A. Romero Writer: Stephen King Cast: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King, Tom Savini
The issue:
I really enjoy reading a good Horror comic. It's weird to say that because I only read them because I enjoy a good scare and it seems that literature can do that better then a film can because I can envision in my mind what it is that is in the box and it is far more terrifying then what can be put on film. In Creepshow however they do a nice job of bringing these tales to life with a real sense of gallows humor to them. I am a big fan that these little shorts are also a who's who of actors and you can see where some people got their starts and also see others doing something very different from anything else you see. The third story "Something to Tide You Over" is a wonderful example of how to put a horror comic on the screen. It dosen't have any over the top monsters or weird unbelievable plot turns it has a simple idea revenge. It also has Nielsen doing one of his best non comedic roles. He plays it semi hammy but also with this real vicious side to him. You can almost see the character on the pages leaping off into the screen.
I have linked up the first part of the film above you can watch the entire thing on youtube so enjoy.

24.Batman Mask of the Phantasm: Director: Eric Radomski, Bruce W. Timm Writers: Alan Burnett Cast: Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Mark Hamill
The issue:
I didn't think this was a great film when it first came out in 1993. I thought there was too much talking and not enough of Batman busting some heads. I watched it several years later with an appreciation for the what a flashback can do to enhance a film I realized that I was watching the first of what DC would later begin to release as small animated movies. This in a lot of ways plays more for adults then kids. It is about revenge and the madness that only the world of Batman can bring us.
I really like this because they bring us a new villian and at the same time we get a new unseen foe. What the writer also did very well was bring back the crown jewel of their voice cast with the Joker playing a very intricate role to bring this wonderful animated film together. I linked up the first part of the film on youtube enjoy and see why animation sometimes out does real life performances.

23.Men In Black: Director: Barry Sonnenfeld Writer: Lowell Cunningham Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Florentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub,
The issue:
A different kind of comic book and funny how unknown it was until it became one of the biggest films of 97. This film plays like a classic comic book with the idea of a professional hero bringing in a young ward and training him to be the next hero in a long line. I really dig the chemistry between Jones and Smith because Jones plays it like the classic square jaw hero and Smith plays it more like a modern day plays by his own rules hero. This makes for such a good pairing because of how the two must deal with not only each other but also the villain in the film.
This is the second point of why this film plays like a comic book because the villain follows the classic example of a man who is turned into something not so human by one thing or another and throughout the film begins to show signs of the monster he is becoming. D'Onofrio should have gotten some sort of an award for this wonderful and wacky performance that he lays out.
The final reason this movie plays in the Comic realm so well is because of how it takes technology and gadgets and turns it on its ear.
The clip above is a great example of how wonderfully funny it can be and keeps it self on the comic edge at all times.

The Mask: Director: Chuck Russell Writer: Michael Fallon Cast: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Greene, Richard Jeni
The issue:
Carrey was born to play this role no doubt about that but Chuck Russell is the reason that he pulls off more then he would without excellent direction and some amazing special effects. This was the first time that I ever took notice of a movies use of special effects. The other thing I noticed was Diaz in what might be the sexiest role I have ever seen her in.
The story centers around a lowly and lonely bank employee who one day finds a magical mask that turns him from wimp to champ in five seconds. It does play like a comic movie or even more so a Saturday morning cartoon. The way this movie plays so over the top is fantastic and also boasts one of the greatest showdowns between hero and villain who has taken the heroes powers. The clip I'm putting up is from the great dance scene that shows a much funnier super power.

21.Watchmen: Director: Zack Snyder Writer: David Hayter Cast:Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson
The issue:
They said it was the unshootable graphic novel. They said that casting it would be impossible. They said that it was going to be a huge failure no matter how you look at it. They didn't count on Snyder being at the helm of the project. Snyder is one of the most talented directors working today. He is responsible for the remarkable remake of Dawn of the Dead and the visual masterpiece 300. In Watchmen we get the story of an alternate reality where Nixon is president in the 80's and the world has and is inhabited by superheroes who are amongst us everyday. We come into the story with the Keen act very firmly in place which states that superheros are outlawed. This should have been a long drawn out movie that no one except hardcore fans would have loved but somehow Snyder manages to bring this wonderful cast of performers together and brings us a unique look at the world that most have only seen on paper.
The scene I'm putting up is the Intro to the film and is a fantastic example of what putting Comics to celluloid is about and how to tell a back story in only a few minutes.

20.300: Director: Zack Snyder Writer: Zack Snyder Cast:Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham
The issue:
It's odd that both of Snyder's films go back to back. He is a very interesting director in how he can get the most graphic images and the most beautiful images in the same film. The story is that of 300 Spartans who march to meet the entire Persian nation. They are outmatched 1000 to 1 and there is no hope of victory and yet they hold there ground like true warriors and die a warriors death.
This was the first time we ever really noticed Snyder's ability as a director and it was certainly the first time we saw Butler as a leading man and all around bad ass. The movie is a visual masterpiece and really can't be flawed in any visual sense. It doesn't hold up as well the second time and you feel that the story drags upon second viewing. The clip I'm putting up is that of the last stand of the 300 spartans. It really shows the transfer of comic to film very well and also we get a great sense of how a story is told in monologue.

19.The Incredible Hulk: Director: Louis Leterrier Writer: Zak Penn Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson
The issue:
In 2003 Ang Lee brought us one of the worst comic book films with Hulk. Critics said that he had killed the character before he could even be born. Others said it set the comic book movie back ten years. We then have a new film come to the scene from french director Leterrier who brings us a new and way more interesting take on the jolly green giant. Norton tones down the over top acting that Eric Bana couldn't seem to get under control. We also get a realistic seemingly plausible hulk that you could buy into seeing in the real world. I think why this one works better then the first is because they tone down the camp and turn up the drama. The other thing that this film succeeds at is giving the supporting cast something to more to do then just look dumbfounded when the hulk shows up. Roth really gets to do some great villain work and really gets to play with the transformation from man to monster. I'm putting up the cameos from the film because it really shows us how much fun a comic book movie can be and where we could be going with the marvel universe. So watch the movie. You wouldn't like me if you didn't watch the movie

18.V for Vendetta: Director: James McTeigue Writer: The Wachowski Brothers Cast: Hugo Weaving , Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt
The issue:
I went into this film with the fear that the Wachowski's were going to butcher a classic and make me hate them even more. I walked out with two of my friends asking how can we possibly not go see that again. I saw this three times in the cinema and was entertained every single time. The film takes an alternate take on London and being under a dictator like rule. The London is dark and grimy and everyone is living in fear of their government. From the shadows of this government comes an anarchist who is bent on bringing the government down and creating a new system. This mysterious character known only as V brings an amazing screen presence to this film with the fantastic voice casting of Weaving. He plays the character so well both crazy and right at the same time. The thing that also makes this work is the performance we get from Portman who does hold up a good chunk of the movie. What Vendetta bring to the table is that like the shark in Jaws we don't see V all that much he is the background setting up thing and waiting for the right moment to strike. This movie is pretty close to the graphic novel has a few changes to it for the purposes of time. I really enjoyed how well it plays and the very comic book dialogue that the characters spout. The clip I pulled from this one is the introduction of V to Portman and in a larger way the audience.

17.Blade: Director: Stephen Norrington Writer: David S. Goyer Cast: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, Udo Kier,
The issue:
Oh sure Norrington did helm one of the most disappointing adaptations of a comic book in 2003 with LXG. Before he went soft and let the studios cut his nuts off with their PG-13 ratings he really took a great comic book character and turned out one of the darker comic book movies with the 1998 adaptation of Blade. The story of a half man half vampire who has all the strength none of the weakness is a wonderful idea and Norrington brings it home so well. The plot involves Blade hunting down vampires and trying to make New York a safe place. He is drawn into a plot with a new vampire known as Deacon Frost (Dorff) who wants to raise an ancient vampire god to return the world to the vampires.
What each blade movie has done so well is that they have taken Snipes as the action side of the franchise but mixed in an equally talented acting based supporting cast. Dorff is the perfect opposite to Blades tough guy side. He isn't tough or big or physically intimidating but he does have intelligence on his side. This is what makes him such a formidable foe. The movie is wonderful and really isn't afraid of the gore or the violence which keeps it running at a smooth pace.
The clip I put up is of the opening scene which really does a nice introduction of our hero and the thing that he is facing down throughout the movie.

16.American Splendor: Director: Shari Springer Berman Writer: Harvey Pekar Cast: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis
The issue:
This is such an interesting slice of life comic that really is ripped from life itself. So much so that we actually get some face time with the real guy. Giamatti does such an amazing award worthy performance by literally becoming Harvey Pekar. It is sometimes hard to recognize which is character and which is real life Pekar. The film is sweet in that very real life problems Pekar encounters are downright hilarious. The animation throughout the film is very nice because of how it interwoven itself into the film is very clever. I really can't say much more then see this very real and very well made movie. The clip is the trailer because the film is not really a film that can be summed up in one part just watch and enjoy it.

15.Road to Perdition: Director: Sam Mendes Writer: Max Allan Collins Cast: Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daniel Craig
The issue:
It seems that sometimes really classy directors get involved with very obscure comic book projects. Mendes who did American beauty took on this small comic book project about a small town in the depression and a family who's father works for the local mob boss. In the comic Hanks is only known as the Angel of death. Mendes tuned down the over top comic like moments and made this into a dark drama but kept some things that could still be considered comic like. The character Law plays reminds me very much of something you would see in a graphic novel.
This brings me to why I like this movie so much and after all this time find is so watchable is that it gives a fair share to both heroes and villains and in some cases forces you to sympathize with the villains. Throughout the film you become so used to both sides that it is difficult to see which side is which by the end of it. The clip I put up is massively filled spoilers and is the end of the film so please watch the whole thing first. Suffice to say that it really shows a nice way of doing a final scene to a comic in a film sense.

14.A History of Violence: Director: David Cronenberg Writer: John Wagner Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello Ed Harris, William Hurt The issue: This film builds so like a comic book with the final confrontation between good and evil. It also plays in the side of a man leaving one identity and taking on another. This film also boasts an amazing performance from Harris as one of the better henchmen of all time.
What this film does like so many comic books do is that it takes a character who wouldn't normally be a hero and forces them into that situation. Mortensen plays his role so well as almost a Bruce Wayne on the outside but is really a Batman on the inside. He does this so well and eventually we get to see the real him for a short time its a wonderful performance but unfortunately it is dwarfed but the reveal of the villain.
Hurt gives this performance that is half psycho and half businessman. You can't get the images out of your head that he speaks of because of how well he describes what it is he wants you to see.
Cronenberg is the perfect director for this film because he knows how to do violence in that way that a graphic novel shows but also he keeps it just real enough not to be overdone. How do you ***k this clip up?

13.The Punisher: Director: Jonathan Hensleigh Writer: Jonathan Hensleigh Cast: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Kevin Nash, Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijin, Roy Scheider The issue: We are getting into some of my favorites and while this little bit of bloody fun didn't crack the top ten it does hold up as one of the few comic book movies my father and I saw half of at 1opm and then watched the whole thing when it came on again right after. My dad was not only cheering for our hero but also laughing uncontrollably at some scenes.
The film tells the origin story of one of the darkest characters in comics history. Jane stars as Frank Castle an Federal agent who's family is gunned down by a mob boss (Travolta) seeking revenge on Castle. The only thing the fail to kill is Castle who survives and vows to punish all who are involved in his families death.
The reason I dig this film so much is because they play it like an old western with the hero and villain not seeing each other until the very end of the film in a glorious shoot out scene. Something else that really plays to the films strength is how great some of the secondary characters are and how they support both heroes and villains in their goals that they are trying to accomplish. The sub villains that are sent to deal with the Jane are nothing short of fantastic.
The scene I put up for your enjoyment might be one of the most pure examples of a movie entering a comic book. It is nothing too showy or too action packed but it does show what a perfect casting choice Jane is for the Punisher. It also shows how great a simple one note villain can be if he is directed the right way. I hope you like the clip I'm going to show it at your funeral.

12.Superman: Director: Richard Donner Writer: Jerry Siegel Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Margot Kidder The issue: If the tagline to this film doesn't get you pumped then I don't know how you can get behind what may be the best performance by an actor portraying a superhero.
Christopher Reeve was just an unknown actor who they thought was a decent choice to play the man of steel. If only the people knew at the time how successful he was going to be by leaving his mark on society in this iconic performance. Also watching this film you realize what amazing special effects they had back in the day. The first time you see Superman fly is nothing short of amazing and just how real you feel it looks and how badly you want to be able to fly yourself.
For this one I didn't put up a clip I put up the score to the film by John Williams because I mean if nothing else it really shows what a hero should be played into when you are watching a film. enjoy folks and I know you will believe a man can fly.

11.Spider-man: Director: Sam Raimi Writer:Stan Lee Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons The issue: This is another origin story that is nearly done perfectly. This is also is a film where they might have one of the most accurate retelling of an origin story. If you read the original comics you can see how close Raimi came to showing us how Spiderman rose up to be this hero we all know and love. I love Spiderman as an idea because unlike other heroes he isn't tough from the get go he doesn't have much of a reason in the beginning to be a hero he is a normal guy.
I really enjoyed how they did the special effects in this film because it is one of the most important parts to the character and his alter ego. If Spiderman doesn't look good swinging through the sky then we as an audience can't buy into 90% of the action scenes. Thank god we were at the time when the web slinging scenes were able to be done correctly.
The battle between hero and villain is maybe my one complaint about this film because I can't possibly get past that stupid mask that the green goblin wears They picked a wonderful person to play the bad guy but we never get to see him do any acting under that power ranger mask. I put the trailer up as the clip because it shows a nice smattering of all scenes from the film.

10.Kick-Ass: Director: Matthew Vaughn Writer: Jane Goldman Cast: Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloe Moretz, Nicholas Cage The issue: I really enjoyed this film last year. What makes it such a great comic book film is that they make it so violent and over the top but also they get the humor of the film and make it work so well with how great and foul it can be. The movie is about a nerdy kid who gets hit by a car and becomes pretty tough to any injury. He takes his new found "power" and becomes a hero proving that even the most common people can be a hero. It's too bad they called this movie Kick-Ass because it should have been called Hit Girl. The young and very talented Moretz steals the show as the ass kicking violent Femme Fatale who is just hell bent on killing any and every man woman whatever who stands in her way. I loved how much this comic just plays so well to its strengths and leaves all the extra at the door. I put up the clip of hit girls first fight and good lord is it worth a watch so hope you enjoy the clip.

09.The Crow: Director: Alex Proyas Writer: James O'Barr Cast: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Ling Bai, Ernie Hudson, Jon Polito The issue: This is such a dark comic book movie that most people don't realize it is a comic book movie. It is so very much a product of its time in the way that it feels like a nighties comic book film and yet it plays very much in the darker elements. It does feel like your looking at a very raw first film by a director who is hell bent on breaking all the rules and not apologizing for a second of it.
The story of two young lovers murdered by a street gang on devils night and one year later the boyfriend rises from the grave to exact vengeance on the gang who took him and his lady's life away. Director Proyas comes out with such a wonderful character driven story and gives us a fantastic performance by the late Lee who in this we see could have given us a wonderful actor if not for his untimely death.
I put up the clip from the first time we see the crow interact with one of the members of the gang. Watch how the scene where he leaps off the building and laughs and tell me it doesn't feel like it was ripped right off the pages of a comic.

08.Sin City: Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller Writer: Frank Miller Cast: Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Josh Hartnett, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Bruce Willis The issue: Just look at the cast and tell me you aren't interested in looking into this gem from the very talented Rodriguez. He sets up three stories that interweave with one another and never overpower and in many ways complement each other. This is also one of the finest Ensemble casts to come together with such a large project. Also everyone nails their parts with such precision. The reason it is cast so well is that the writer and co director Frank Miller is also the creator of the world. It plays so well in both hard boiled cop and at the same time this very dark Gothic horror. The scenes are beautifully shot in black and white with some hint of color which makes the film pop at just the perfect times. I love how it also is acted like a noir film with everybody over playing their parts just a little. This is the film that looks the most like its comic book predecessor. Some of the scenes feel like they were ripped right from the page.
I put up the opening to the film because it has some real great acting and it was the first thing Rodriguez shot to convince Miller to let him adapt the novel.

07.Batman Begins: Director: Christopher Nolan Writer: Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer, Cast: Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe The issue: In 1997 Joel Schumacher brought us Batman and Robin. Warner Brothers saw this and it was the end of the Batman franchise for eight years. In 2005 a very new and practically unknown director who had some success with his first two films was rumored to be bringing his version of the caped crusader to the big screen. Upon hearing this everyone and their mother rushed out to rent his second film that had come out five years earlier. We saw that with Memento he was capable of telling a story but we were wondering could he be tasked with bringing the the Dark Knight back to the character that we know and love not some over muscled jerk with bad one liners and nipples on the bat suit.
In 2005 we received our answer with the first of Nolan's Gotham trilogy Batman Begins. What Nolan has done so much better then any director before him is he has taken us back to the beginning and shown us where the character of Wayne came from and where he went to become the worlds greatest detective.
What drives this film is Nolan's ability to take everything you know about the character and world of Batman and make you forget everything you know about it. This is a truly great achievement by him and his team.
The cast is also nothing to laugh at Nolan goes right for character actors to fill the most important roles in his film. He also brings us Christian Bale and shows us how to make someone play both Bruce and Bat without overshadowing the other. This film almost breaks out of the comic book genre and goes into a hard nosed crime movie. He also turns down the camp of first few films and brings us a twisted look at the mean streets of Gotham city.
Nolan is so talented with bringing about the best of a good situation and has shown us that their is a place for this masked vigilante in today's modern world.
The scene I have picked out is the end of the film so be aware spoiler galore but I feel it shows the relationship between Gordon and Batman that we never got to see. Where as in the past we had Batman almost ordering Gordon around now there is a mutual respect and alliance being formed.

06.X-Men: Director: Bryan Singer Writer: Tom DeSanto Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin The issue: This might be the film that revamped the comic book craze in film. We have such a wonderful and diverse cast with such a talented young director that the film nearly makes itself. We have such a wonderful working dynamic with the interplay between characters both heroes and villains alike. Also the casting director deserves to work for the rest of his or her career for making what may be the perfect comic to film cast.
Each one is perfectly selected to give us that memorable performance of the iconic mutant. Of course you have your Magneto and your professor X plus all the others but when this film came out it was the role of Wolverine that needed to be executed perfectly or the film would be flawed the whole way through. Not just because he is the most likable character but because the story of all three films follows his point of view in a lot of ways. I had never heard of Jackman before this and had never seen anything he had done before but I won't say a thing but say watch this man tear up the screen both emotionally and literally.
I have placed the clip that shows the introduction to the character of Wolverine and it really is a nice example of not revealing the hero until the last possible moment. Take a look for yourself bub.

Spider-man 2: Director: Sam Raimi Writer: Stan Lee Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kristen Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, J.K. Simmons The issue: Its so strange that four of my top five are sequels to other films but in a way it makes sense because with a sequel several other things come into play. We enjoy sequels more because the story and characters have been set up so we don't need a whole lot of back story we just need to get to the meat of the story. Also with a sequel they can correct the things that might not have gone so well in the first one.
With the second installment of our web slinging friend we get a much better plot and a villain that makes the first one look downright silly.
Molina does such a fantastic job showing us how to chew scenery and play a very nasty villain who also has a soft side to him. He is far and away the best foe that Spider-man has had to confront in the three movies.
I also think the plot is much stronger because of how we know the characters so we can focus on them and not the things that are happening around them to make them the people they are.
this sequel also gives us an update in the technology so we get to see a cleaner sleeker looking web slinging. Also the Arms for Doc Oct are nothing short of eye popping.
I put up the bank robbery scene from the film because it just shows how awesome the technology has come in a few short years.

04.X2 X-men United: Director: Bryan Singer Writer: Zak Penn Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Anna Paquin Rebecca Romijin, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, The issue: This is such a wonderful sequel because the director takes the enemy that was in the background for the first film is brought into the foreground for the second installment. The enemy this time is man and to a larger degree intolerance of the mutant race. Also what I love is that the main villain this time is far more terrifying with the performance by Cox as William Stryker.
Also they bring up the action in this film. A complaint I heard from a bunch of people was that we didn't get to see Wolverine become released from the chain. In this film we get to see that several times and we also get some pretty sweet action scenes from the other characters.
I also dig that they brought in a bunch of new mutants into the thing and made them human especially the most inhuman looking one who is played beautifully by Alan Cumming.
I have to say that what really makes this a better second chapter is that we get to see too sides of the Mutants join together. The cast is so wonderful and makes me really hope that the new one coming out in June 2011 is going to follow this trend with more dialogue in between the action that actually drives the plot.
The clip I put up is the fight scene between Wolverine and Deathstrike which may be one of the greatest comic book face offs in history.

03.Batman Returns: Director: Tim Burton Writer: Bob Kane Cast:Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, The issue: I can't believe how Burton has made two really fantastic comic book films that stay so true to the original ideas that the creators of these characters had. Also what the studio did right for the first time is they let Burton takes us far deeper into the dark and make this film so much more Gothic and set in a Gotham that we are all wanting to see more of.
Burton also ups the anti this time by putting two foes for our caped crusader to thwart.
This is where I want to begin with why this is such a fantastic film and sequel. Burton had a lot to live up to with the first one and the performance he got from Nicholson. So what does is he gets two character actors who have done solid work in the past and puts them in two of the most accurate and dark portrayals of Catwoman and the Penguin. I love how you don't even recognize either actor in these roles especially DeVito with his perverted and underhanded performance.
The other thing Burton does so well is that he brings us a great set of secondary villains with the Red Triangle Gang. Each character looks very hand picked and bizarre in their own Burton like way. This movie also looks cleaner then the last one as well with the city seeming more real and not painted on a back drop. The city feels more real and you get this sense that everything is a little more expensive.
The clip I put up is a scene where Batman takes on the Red Triangle Gang. You don't really think he'll win do you?

02.Iron Man: Director: Jon Favreau Writer: Stan Lee Cast:Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, The issue: The reason this film ranks so high is because the original story takes place during the Vietnam era and the writes took the same idea and updated it perfectly not only in changing who the conflict is with but also updating the technology our lead character uses in this first installment of a wonderful trilogy.
When the role of Tony Stark was being shopped around for it was clear that only one was capable of playing this larger then life figure who would rise from wealthy arms dealer to Hero extraordinaire.
Downey is the perfect person he gets the character of Stark in all of his womanizing and drunken stumbling. Also though he shows us a side that most don't see in the character the human side of Stark who has a huge change of heart throughout this first film and brings to life this wonderful hero who is still very flawed but is also trying to atone for past sins. The other thing that Downey does with this role is that he has fun with it and never gets to over the top or lets the character slip away from him.
The supporting cast is nothing to scoff at with a very nice performance especially from Bridges playing one of the more measured villains Obadiah Stane. He plays it almost jokey and at the same time so wonderfully nasty with all his ideas being bent on the almighty dollar.
What really works for this film is that the tecnology was ready at the time and it looks so good with the suit and all the special effects that come with it.
I put up the clip of Iron Man doing some serious ass handing to a tank and showing that bigger is not always better.

01.The Dark Knight: Director: Christopher Nolan Writer: Christopher Nolan Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer Cast: Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy The issue: If you didn't enjoy this film I don't know what to tell you about how you view the world of comics and comics to film. At best I will do an average job at being able to say how much joy this film brings me and once again it stems from Nolan bringing us a fantastic script heavily set in the comic world but with many strokes of reality to it. The sequel to Begins starts off with a Bank robbery with five men entering a bank and one man leaving it. Throughout the beginning of the film we are shown this character of the Joker who our anticipation has been built up over several months before with trailers and snippets of audio we had heard. When we finally see the joker sit down at the table with the rest of Gotham's scum we are shocked into silence as he makes these mobsters look like children in suits.
Love or hate the movie everyone can not fault the performance of Ledger in his wildly original and fantastical take on Gotham's most notorious villain. What Ledger does so well with this charater is he gets little inflections down and keeps reusing them to keep the audience set with this character. Now no disservice to Jack Nicholson who gave a fine performance with his interpretation of the film but Ledger had the impossible job of erasing the Nicholson joker from peoples mind and putting in this new and all together terrifying look at this character.
Nolan deserves everything he is going to win at the Oscars this year for Inception but it is clear that this film is his masterpiece of film making. He has brought us a different Gotham completely from the first one. The first one looks like a dingy city that is about to slip into the second layer of hell. In this film Gotham looks more clean and has this feel that people are more safe to come onto the streets. This is such a magnificent technique that Nolan implies with his cinematographer. I love every frame of this film and it continues to be one of the best examples of not only comic book films but modern film making today. The clip I put up is the finest action scene shot in several years and one of the better tension builders as well hope you guys enjoy this clip and it puts a smile on that face.

Next months list will have to answer to someone else cause it's not in charge.

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Actors Profile Part 6

January 27th Kevin Costner in...
Field of Dreams
I have to admit it I nearly cried during our final film from Mr. Costner this month. We began with a great film and I'm happy to say that we are ending it on a magnificent one that for a few moments makes you forget your watching a movie and you think your seeing magic before your eyes.
Costner plays a farmer in Iowa who has some serious issues with his father. One day while tending his crop of corn he hears a strange voice in the field saying "If You Build It he Will Cum". Costner doesn't know what to make of this until he is given a vision of a baseball field in his corn. Against all logic he builds this field and along with wife and kid the impossible happens as baseball players from the bast including shoeless Joe Jackson arrive to play in this field.
Why is Costner so good in this I have no idea but he really brings the drama in a big bad way and makes you care about every goal and every thing he is trying to do. The other thing is Costner once again is supported by a wonderful secondary cast including the fantastic James Earl Jones Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster. All of these actors play their parts well and really make Costner shine in his lead role. I can't say enough about this movie so please go watch it and see why the game of Baseball is such an important past time to all of us.
Hope you guys have enjoyed this Profile on the sometimes brilliant actor Kevin Costner and we will see you in February when we give Hanks for our next profile.

Friday, January 7, 2011

An Actors Profile Part 5

January 25th Kevin Costner in...
If there was a movie that Costner was going to win for it was going to be this epic of epics. It begins with a man wanting to die and instead finding a new life by being reassigned to the frontier. When he arrives at the front no one is at the fort and he is forced into a life of solitude with no one but his horse and a wolf he names two socks. Eventually he comes across a tribe of native Americans who come to slowly understand and connect with him.
Why this ranks amongst Costner's greatest films is because even though like most Costner films it starts off at a crawl, the crawl is necessary for you to learn to walk with this character through the struggles he encounters along his road to redemption.
The other thing that is so good about this one is that he surrounds himself with a fantastic supporting cast who really runs the full circle of emotions including the wonderful Oscar nominated performance by Graham Greene as Kicking Bird. Costner as a director does know what he wants to see and get from his performers and in this he gets a solid days work out of each one of them.
Costner Also loves to play with long scripts and maybe that is his problem as an actor that he likes to see himself on screen a lot and I think sometimes that can be a bad thing but for this I really like how he separates himself from the tribe for a decent chunk of the film it makes the film seem more believable that he has to earn his way in with the tribe.
The clip I put up is from the first few moments of the film you won't get why I put it up but enjoy for how weird and wonderful it is.
Well I have one more post to do with the Costner and I hope it turns out to be a grand slam.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An Actors Profile Part 4

January 9th Kevin Costner in...

I want to cut out my eyes and have someone step on them so that I can't even accidentally see a single frame of this abomination that is called film again. Ok perhaps I'm being a bit over dramatic but this film is bad and I don't want any of you being suckered in without knowing what your getting into. We begin with Costner heading around the barren post apocalyptic wasteland of America after something terrible has happened. He goes from place to place performing theater and getting what little food he can. He is suddenly drafted into an army by a ruthless general (Will Patton) who is bent on keeping former America set in the futile system with his band of soldiers riding about terrorizing the local towns. Costner escapes the army and finds an abandon Post Office truck and take the clothes off the body. He comes to the next town posing as a postman telling the town that the USA has gotten back on track and is becoming a nation again. The film the tells about how Costner lead the battle with the Postmen to fight the evil army Patton is leading.
The film in a word "SUCKS" and I can't say much more then that without getting mad and going into Hulk smash mode.
Once again Costner attempts to surround himself with better performers but this time none of them can out act the ludicrously bad plot of the film. Also most of them are B rate TV stars and people who haven't been in enough to hold up this terrible film. The only person who really has any sort of chops in this is Patton as the maniac general.
My biggest problem is that the film follows into so many bad cliches and scenes that you can see coming a mile off.
The film overall is just bad and has bad pacing so I don't know what else to say about this film other then WORST COSTNER FILM EVER.
Lets hope the next film we see can shuffle its way back into our hearts.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Actors Profile Part 3

January 7th Kevin Costner in...

Upon entering our third in the celebration of the Costner we come across one of the epics that paid off for him the 1991 classic tale of Mr. Hood and his merry men. This takes the franchise of Robin Hood in a much darker direction.
We begin with Robin in jail during the crusades he narrowly escapes with his new buddy Azeem (Morgan Freeman). They return home to find his lands sacked and his father murdered and called a devil worshiper. Robin quickly becomes an outlaw and takes to Sherwood forest where he bands with others and leads them to take on the evil sheriff (Alan Rickman). The story also follows Robins growing relationship with the maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio).
What is so great about this look at the legendary Archer is that even though Costner can't do an English accent to save his life he really has surrounded himself with many people who can distract from his less then convincing Englishmen. The cast is really fantastic and it was the first time I ever got to see Rickman just tear up the screen by playing a really bad ass sheriff of Nottingham.
Not only does it have some excellent drama to it the action scenes are wonderfully done. It is almost shocking that director Kevin Reynolds who also directed Waterworld is responsible for this decent adaptation of the man from Sherwood.
This is one of Costner's better films even though like everything else it runs far over two hours but unlike Waterworld you don't feel like there is much that can be cut out. I really enjoyed this one and it brought me back to my childhood so check it out and look for my next Costner film which may or may not DELIVER.

An Actors Profile Part 2

January 6th Kevin Costner in...

I was small when I first say this abomination of a film and upon watching it again at the age of 23 at least ten years later this film has not held up any better. The movie is a long conservation message with some explosions and some very bad performances. I look at this film as one of the films Costner will try to forget and one of the films they will run at 2am on TCM.
The film follows the adventure of Costner a loner simply known as The Mariner. He sails the unending sea and stops at different ports trading what he finds. At a certain port is their is a child with a tattoo on her back that is foretold to be the way to what they call dry land. Costner escapes with the girl and the woman and promises to take them to dry land. The entire time they are being followed by a group called smokers and their evil leader The Deacon (Dennis Hopper).
Why this film fails so hard like other Costner films is because it doesn't know how to edit itself down to a manageable time. It goes and goes from one battle sequence to another with small bits of annoying plot in the middle to some what connect things together.
The other thing that this film has going against it is how bad some of the acting is. Costner is on the other end of JFK and plays this character that is so uninteresting and spouts bad one liners that you don't care if he lives or dies. Also this is one of the worst Hopper Performances I have seen since Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. He plays this villain who is just silly at times.
The film is downright terrible and you feel like you are drowning throughout it Hopefully Costner brings us something better that will elevate us to a more noble movie.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

An Actors Profile Part 1

January 5th Kevin Costner in...
When I was trying to figure out how I would go about finding what actors I could do for the month I was really struggling to get a set list down then from on high I was given a gift. My friend David Benke said we should watch six movies by a different actor each month. It was this that said I had found my source of inspiration. Me and Benke had always joked about doing a Kevin Costner fest for many months but now we were put to the task of watching six of his films by the end of January. So here we go with the first of these films in the 1991 political classic JFK.

The film runs 206 minutes and for every single second you can't pull away from watching one of the most fascinating studies in what is the most talked about case in American history. Costner plays Jim Garrison the district attorney of New Orleans. He like everyone else witnessed what happened that fateful day on November 22 1963 in Dallas Texas. The film begins with the shooting and from there we follow Costner and his team in their stuggle to bring to light who shot Kennedy and why it was done.
Now it has to be said that Costner is a good actor and it shows in this film because of how he holds the audiences attention. He can't do an English accent to save his life but he can hold a nice southern twang and have you cheering for him the whole time. I also like to believe that Costner has the wonderful luck of being supported by an amazing secondary cast who can prop him up at his lesser moments in the film. The cast is dam huge and you need a talented director like Oliver Stone to be able to rangle them all in. With a cast that includes Garry Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Tommy Lee Jones, John Candy and Kevin Bacon you know that you are going to get some wonderful scenes. I have to say that Costner is the bulk of this film because of how much time he spends on screen. This wonderful performance is so well played and you feel that Garrison will do anything to solve the mystery and bring peace to the nation that is at unrest.
JFK-4/5 Stars

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Silver Screen

The Top 25 Movies of 2010

25.Green Zone: Director: Paul Greengrass Writer: Brian Helgeland Cast:Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson The story: Greengrass is a director who knows how to make a topical movie. From his work on United 93 to this recent work with Green Zone a movie about going to war for the wrong reasons. If Greengrass should keep up one trend it's working with Damon. The chemistry between these two is fantastic the way they work off each other. Greengrass knows how to get a performance out of him. I also love his genius use of hand held cameras and how he makes you go from audience members to feeling like were in the war scenes with Damon. Also we get some great real life shots from what appears to be news footage. Solid well made political action thriller.

24.The Ghost Writer: Director:Roman Polanski Writer: Robert Harris Cast: Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Pierce Brosnan The story: If I can just say one thing in defense of Mr. Polanski It's that you hate the man not the art. I won't go any further into it suffice to say that Polanski has made a really intense thriller and has proven that he is one of the better older directors still working. He really has taken a much younger leading man and all together cast. He pulls this off beautifully and really does a wonderful job of building tension. He starts off with only a bit of paranoia and from there shovels it on a bit at a time until you have no idea who to trust. I have to say the Polanski did such a great job he even got me to like Cattrall and I am a big hater on those sex and the city movies.

23. Piranha 3D: Director: Alexandre Aja Writer:Pete Goldfinger Josh Stolberg Cast: Elizabeth Shue, Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry O'Connell The story:If you can't read the title then I can't help you in the the explanation. This is the most bloody film that is on my list this year. It is a huge gore fest and its in 3D. The plot is simple an underwater cave opens up setting free a ton of ancient and pissed off fish who are hell bent on wrecking spring break. A group of unlikely heroes band together to turn these fish into sushi. Not the most well received movie of the year and certainly not the most watched movie of the year but it had T&A, gore and hilarious deaths. These were the things that made this movie really work when it needed to work. I really dug the way this film was shot in that campy 3D that didn't seem to take itself seriously and just seemed to have fun doing it. Are we going to get a sequel to this movie. One can only hope and pray that something is still swimming in the water.

22.127 Hours:Director:Danny Boyle Writer: Danny Boyle Cast: James Franco
The story:I have to say that after slummdog millionaire I didn't think Boyle was capable of doing any wrong. The movie he put out this year isn't right but it certainly doesn't fall into the wrong category either. It hangs in the middle and doesn't impress nor does it offend. If anything really good comes out of this movie it is the very fine acting job from Franco as the main character Aron Ralston a man who goes hiking and becomes trapped between a rock and a hard place. Franco does a great job by keeping the audience vested in his performance and having us be with him every step of the way. I only have a problem with the way the film is shot and edited some of the time. It feels to jolted and mixed up. Overall Boyle does a nice job keeping the audience interested in a movie that by all rights should have not worked.

21.Despicable Me:Director:Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud Writer: Ken Daurio Cast: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews The story:When I first saw this trailer way back in the beginning of the year I did not care in the slightest for what seemed to be a second rate Pixar film. I then was asked by the one person who has pushed me into seeing a few movies I wouldn't have normally watched this year, My Mom. She wanted to go see it and I thought it would kill a few hours during a hot summer night. So we walked in and I sat down for what would be one of the best experiences of the summer months. I am a huge Carell fan from his work on the office to all the things funny and this is certainly a shining jewel in his crown. This story does for super villains the way The Incerdibles did for heroes. I also enjoyed this movie because the secondary characters of the minions could have be down right annoying but instead the directors found a way to spotlight them and almost have them steal the show. this movie really plays well with the idea that some people do bad things but aren't bad guys. This is one for kids and adults. We only get a few great kids films a year that also appeal for adults so take advantage of them.

20.Iron Man 2: Director: Jon Favreau Writer: Justin Theroux Cast:Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett, Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson
The story: With a cast like that how can you not be excited? the story picks up with Downey Jr. confessing to the press and the world that he is Iron Man. He continues on with being the flashy playboy and is living the life and being the worlds biggest superhero. What the public eye doesn't see is that the arc reactor in his chest keeping him alive is also slowly poisoning him as well. Downey Jr. must find a cure or he will while at the same time fend off a man who is hell bent on getting revenge for his fathers past transgressions. What this movie does so well is it takes the same idea and kicks it up to another level. This film is filled with action and some great new characters including the long awaited arrival of Iron Man's counterpart War Machine. This is the next part of the build up to the Avengers movie which will be coming out within the next two years. Make sure you stay till the end of the movie to see what Marvel is cooking up next. You will feel hammered after you see it.

19.Due Date: Director:Todd Phillips Writer: Alan R. Cohen Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifiankis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, RZA The story: It's odd that both of Downey Jr.'s movies would wind up back to back with one another. I have to say I dig this one just a bit more because the material is fresher and we get so see Downey doing some great physical and verbal comedy. He is very funny but the star of the movie is Galifiankis with the way he plays every scene to the point you are almost crying. If this rated R comedy can get my mom to laugh out loud then the rest of you defiantly need to go see it. The story is simple Downey needs to get home to his wife who is going to be giving birth soon. He gets thrown off a plain and is forced to drive cross country with Galifiankis. The plot becomes funny as hell with a few great cameos along the way. This is some great work it wets my appetite for Phillips to do the next Hangover movie.

18.Get Low: Director:Aaron Schneider Writer: Chris Provenzano Cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black The story: Its a shame that this movie came out in late October and not later in the year because of the fact that Duvall may very well be overlooked for one of his finest performances that he has ever given. I'm not saying that he will win but I don't think he will even get nominated. This is a true crime because of how much great work he has done and how wonderful and honest this performance is. The story of a man who wants to have his funeral while he is still alive. This is such a rich and wonderful script and really shows. I have to also give some great props to Murray for playing the lighter side of this movie by keeping it funny but not a comedy. See this one with someone you love or with someone you haven't seen in a spell.

17.Kick-Ass: Director: Matthew Vaughn Writer: Jane Goldman Cast:Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz- Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloe Moretz, Nicholas Cage The story: Who said the superhero genera is dead I say it is Kicking some serious ASS. I love this movie because it is such an underdog film in so many ways. The characters are rich and alive with so much power behind them that they nearly come off the screen in a explosion of violence and awesomeness. I usually don't geek out like this but Kick Ass came out in April when it felt like nothing good was going to be coming out all year. The movie may be called Kick-Ass but the film is stolen by Moretz as the bad to the bone Hit-Girl who is just an unstoppable killing machine. Now If you want to look for one of the most fun movies this year it is certainly this thrill ride that does not let up till the lights go up. In 2012 get ready for the sequel that will go balls to the wall.

16.Predators: Director: Nimrod Antal Writer: Alex Litvak Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo The story: If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I would like the Predator reboot more then the Machete original film I would have told them they were crazy and yet here we are nearly 365 days later and I have watched predators at least three times and have seen half of Machete. I really dug how well done this film was and what an enjoyable action film it was. The premise is simple, a group of strangers all deadly in their own way are set down on an alien world and are hunted by some highly skilled alien hunters. Brody leads a wonderful cast of humans who don't trust each other but don't have much of a choice in this tough situation. I love this movie because of quick it gets into the action. With barely any exposition they get into that these people are screwed if they don't stop these elite hunters.

15.Shutter Island: Director: Martin Scorsese Writer: Laeta Kalogridis Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Jackie Earle Haley The story: If ever a movie has you looking over your shoulder or wondering if you can trust your fellow movie goers that would be this little gem from Scorsese who still proves he can bring the violence and the great film making. To his credit he is working with an amazing cast who just knows how to make a film sparkle in every sense of the acting aspect. DiCaprio leads a dope cast in this story about two detectives who are sent to an island where they are tasked to finding a missing patient. What I love about this movie so much is that I knew the ending from reading the book and I didn't care because of how well crafted it was. Also the script writer did a wonderful job staying very true to the book with only taking out very minor details. I really think this movie got looked over but I guess that's what happens when you come out during February.

14.The Expendables: Director: Sylvester Stallone Writer: Dave Callaham Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger The story: If you can't tell by the cast this movie kicks all kinds of ass and leaves you asking for more. This is the story of a group of mercenaries who take any job for the right money. They are asked to go to an island and help free the island from an evil Dictator. After that all you are going to get is these men tearing the place apart and the right audience yelling at the top of their lungs about how bad ass all of it is. I am huge fan of all these action juggernauts and all the ass they kick. This movie is so dam big with so much potential to suck but it worked on every level and also I have to say that the cameo's are wonderful and I must say that when a friend of yours says that his childhood and adult hood are fighting on screen you know this is a hell of a ride.

13.Four Lions: Director: Christopher Morris Writer: Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Simon Blackwell, Cast: Kayvan Kovak, Nigel Lindsay, Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar The story: This one gets my Bronson award. Last year I saw a movie that came from England that no one else saw and this year those talented people across the pond have put out a new film that was my number one for a few weeks. This is a film that plays like a documentary and is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a few years. The film follows four Muslim fundamentalists who are bent on blowing themselves up. The only problem is that they are failures in every sense of it. From scene one the four demonstrate how bad they are as not only terrorist but also at being all around bad. This cast is full of people who have never been seen before and that's what I like about it so much. It gives the film a sense of reality and makes you laugh and stop laughing for these characters all within seconds of each other. The movie also has the great ability from going comedy to drama within moments and never looking back. This takes bravery and really seems to make its mark. Check this one out guys I hope you really get a kick out of it.

12.The American: Director: Anton Corbijn Writer: Rowan Joffe Cast: George Clooney, Irina Bjorklund, Thekla Reuten The story: If ever a movie depended on a performance it would have to be the wonderful work done by Clooney as the very alone and very broken assassin for hire in The American. Our film opens on him in the woods with a woman who seems to be his lover when all of a sudden he takes her out. The film then follows him on what seems to be his last job in a small Italian village. What Clooney does so well is when he works on a movie he doesn't just show up say some lines and leave he throws himself in full on with producing and becoming the character six ways from Sunday. His performance is so straight forward that you forget you are watching Clooney and you are seeing the character he is playing. The man knows how to put out a performance and I wouldn't be surprised if he takes one of the five nominations for this years Oscars.

11.Toy Story 3: Director: Lee Unkrich Writer: John Lasseter Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty The story: In what may be the best animated film all year we get the final and almost tear causing chapter in the Toy Story trilogy. The years have stayed consistent with ours and the little boy Andy has grown up and is on his way to college. The toys are terrified of being sent to the attic. If things weren't bad enough they are taken to a daycare and are put under the paw of the head toy Lotso the bear who runs the place like a prison. I love this film because of how dark the writers took it. This film is so well made because they take into account that the kids who watched the first one are grown up and they remember that but also keep the kids happy. I have to say if any film has made me consider showing emotion in the theater it would be this one with one of the most touching ends to the year.

10.The Fighter: Director:David O. Russell Writer: Scott Silver Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo The story: We begin with Wahlberg and Bale on a couch the two are talking about the two styles of fighting. Bale explains how he stays away from his opponent in a fight and how Wahlberg gets in close and works him over with titan like punches. This from the start shows what are two characters are all about without even showing us any sort of development in story. The film progresses from their showing the once great Bale training his brother who is a talented fighter but is always being put in the middle of his family and a fight he can't win. After a vicious beating Wahlberg is forced to decide between his future and the future of his relationship with his family. This entire piece is wonderful because of the elements all mixing into one fine film. You have the wonderful relationship between the two leads which at no point seems forced or over tried. Bale is arguably one of the best performances of this year or any. The sheer jaw dropping look of how he has altered his physical appearance to become this once great fighter turned crack addict is nothing short of Oscar worthy. Bale is assured the supporting Oscar even though he should be going toe to toe with any of the lead actors this year. Wahlberg is no slouch either as the lead and real life Mickey Ward. Wahlberg does a nice job of being the glue in this film that keeps everything together nicely. The great thing about his and Bale's performances is that they are constantly working to outdo the other while still showing respect to each others artistry. The females in this film are wonderful as well Adams and Leo are going to be the front runners in my eyes so far for this years supporting actress. They show both sides of the love they have for Wahlberg and how he takes that love. the only compatition that these two have is the young girl from True Grit. Overall this is a wonderful film full of amazing performances and a story you want to cheer for from start to finish.

09.Winter's Bone: Director: Debra Granik Writer: Debra Granik Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Shelley Waggener, Garret Dillahunt, John Hawkes The story: I have seen some wonderful performances this year from new actors but not since the early work of Ellen Page in Hard Candy has a first time performance caught me so off guard. Jennifer Lawrence is this performance. She plays Ree Dolly who is forced to keep her family together after her drug dealing father splits. Things seem to be going ok until we learn that the dad has skipped bail and put the house up as collateral. It is up to Lawrence to find him or prove he is dead before the house and her family is broken apart. I have given a lot of thought and Lawrence is the best female performance of the year and she does this with nearly no help except for a wonderful secondary performance from Hawkes as her uncle. Hawkes gives the right amount of support without overshadowing her he has shown that a true character actor doesn't need to be at the center all the time. I also dug that this movie was shot in the Ozark and that most of the cast are from the area. The film feels authentic and you get the sense that everything you are seeing is 100% real with no sense of imitation.

08.True Grit: Director: Joel and Ethan Coen Writers: Joel and Ethan Coen Cast: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper The story: I am a guy who loves the brothers Coen and will see everything they do until I'm toes up. The two are so talented and never do the same genre twice. This time they take on the western and remake one of the most well liked westerns. They have done such a wonderful job paying respect and taking their own spin on the classic tale of revenge in the old west. We set our story on a girl (Steinfeld) who has come to settle her fathers affairs and hire someone to hunt down the man who gunned him down. She runs across Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) who is considered the toughest bounty hunter in the area. She hires him to help her bring the Tom Chaney (Brolin) to justice so he can hang for the killing. Damon plays Bridges fellow hunter who wants to nab Chaney for other reasons. I love how well the cast seems to jell with each other in every sense. Bridges gives an amazing performance with this unbelievable supporting cast. I love how the Coens have taken this and really toned down the script and made it more true to the book. The language to this script is so wonderful because of how it seems so eloquent and rough at the same time. This felt like a more toned down version of Deadwood. It's not as violent or vulgar but it still gets its point across. I have never seen a Coen film like this because it almost seems restrained from their other stuff. In a way it works they play it like an old fashioned western. I love that they have such respect for a classic but they know how to throw that Coen magic into the mix.

07.Kings Speech: Director: Tom Hooper Writer: David Seidler Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall The story: Once a year I get a movie that pulls on my heartstrings in just the right manner and forces me to almost or sometimes shed a tear. This year the genius of Mr. Firth along with an amazing supporting cast has caused me to examine the trails and triumphs of King George the VI as we examine his life and his long journey and rise to power. This film got me to shed some water because of how believable everyone in the cast was.
Firth first of all is going to win best actor hands down no doubt in my mind that he will be taking the statue because of the way he brings this tragic character to life and makes the audience feel for him every step of the way. When we see him struggle in the begining to give a speech you are nearly in tears watching this wonderful performance.
Next we have the wonderful Rush who is so good at providing the comic and touching moments to the film. He plays second to Firth so well and the two complement each other as both pupil and teacher but also as equals and eventually friends. Finally on the list is Bohnam Carter, who i usually have problems getting past the fact that she is usually in some second rate Burton film that does not show her real talents as an actress. With the speech she is able to chew scenery and really prove what a talent actress shes is. The story is one of sheer triumph and as far as I can say for Oscar will be one of the top ten pictures chosen to represent this year.

06.The Town: Director: Ben Affleck Writer: Peter Craig Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Poslethwaite The story: I have seen some awesome bank robber movies over the course of my life but none have taken a romantic element and mixed it so well with the raw side of pulling a high risk job. Affleck is really at his best in both directing and acting with this smart cops and robbers thriller. His strong directing is not only shown in the performance he gives it is also in the amazing secondary performances from all the other actors. Look at the acting that comes from Lively as the coked out woman who is in love with Affleck's character. To look at Lively in real life you would see a very attractive young lady but in this she comes across as a woman who has been ridden hard and put up wet. I really enjoyed how much the scenes of action were done with a very Heat like quality to them. They are executed like a well timed trapped and everything springs at the right moment making it seem like it all goes flawless. Another person to mention in this amazing cast is Jon Hamm who plays the FBI agent who is hunting down the crew of robbers. The entire cast is wonderful and makes this well rounded thriller very enjoyable.

05.Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: Director: Edgar Wright Writers: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright, Bryan Lee O'Malley Cast: Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, The story: So I was up till about four in the morning watching this film and I was fist pumping and cheering the entire way through it. I have never been so impressed with such a young cast of actors. Usually when I see so many younger actors I get the feeling like everyone is shoving each other out of the way to get the most camera time but with this cast everyone compliments each other so well. Every single member puts out an A plus performance with no sense of trying to it. Leave it to the very talented directing of Wright to pull this cast from being just an average group to making it one of the best Ensemble cast performances to come out this year. The story is a rather simple one. Scott Pilgrim Cera is in love with the new girl Romona Flowers. Things seem to be going fine for Scott until he is confronted by the fact that he must defeat her seven evil Exes. From their on it is one wonderful misadventure after another with several great moments coming from every member of the cast. I must give it up to Wright as one of the better directors of this year for making me forget Cera in his past rolls and seeing him as the tough ass kicking Pilgrim in this film.

04.Exit Through the Gift Shop: Director: Banksy Writer: NA Cast: Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Thierry Guetta, Rhys Ifans, Space Invader The story: This little film made it in just under the wire I was watching this when I was about two away from finishing this post and from out of nowhere this little film knocked me on my ass and showed me that I was missing a very important genre in my list. Documentary is usually not something I go for right away unless its a subject that interests me or its something that I have never heard of. In this case it was both street art is something I have seen in both wonderful and average representations. I have an appreciation for it because it is difficult to do and it is something I cannot do. The story follows Guetta a man who has a camera fused to his hand and must film everything. He becomes interested in filming artists who's canvas isn't legal by any means. He becomes obsessed with filming these artists and collecting them on thousands of hours of tape. He eventually has all of them but one. An unknown artists by the name of Banksy. He is a man who is huge in Europe for doing fantastic art that questions the world around us. Eventually Guetta meets him and the film takes an interesting turn as it stops being about Banksy and becomes about Guetta's journey into the world of art. The film pisses me off at times and makes me want to drop my jaw in sheer wonderment of how amazing these art works are. It reminds me a lot of F for Fake from the way the subject matter switches and the unnoticed transition of storyteller to storyteller.

03.Black Swan: Director: Darren Aronofsky Writer: Mark Heyman Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder The story: when I said that Shutter Island was a movie that made you look around and not trust what you were looking at I had yet to see this little piece of mind bending movie making. I have seen every Aronofsky movie and this was the first that I went back within a day of and saw again. Arnofsky is still the king of making his audience incredibly uncomfortable and keeping their eyes glued to the screen. With this film he shows us his past work with Requiem and the Wrestler and proves that he can take his elegant steady camera work and mix it with his shaky hand held work. The two styles mesh together perfectly and we see a film that can at times be a beautiful work of art and at other times be a raw look into a very unwell mind. This movie has such a wonderful sense of what it wants to be. Aronofsky plays it like a 70's Italian horror film. This works so well with the wonderful sets and the beautiful people so that when horrible things start to happen you are caught off guard. The movie centers around a young girl Nina "Portman" who is a dancer and is trying to be cast as the main lead in Swan Lake. The part of the Swan Queen requires her to dance both the White and Black swan. Nina has no problem with the White but when it comes to the Black all the pressure comes down on her like a ton of bricks. The film is mostly Portman just tearing it up with her insanely talented performance but she has a lot of help from the rest of the cast who helps her attain the levels of madness that she needs to reach. The movie builds and builds upon itself so well with multiple levels until you reach a point at which your not sure what is real and when everything stopped being real. The film is in a word Perfect.

02.Inception: Director: Christopher Nolan Writer: Christopher Nolan Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Josephy Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy The story: Sometimes you can only entrust a story to the person who created it and in this case Nolan is the only man who could have pulled of this story. Nolan is more then a director, he is three things a writer a director and a magician. As a writer he has brought us several entertaining stories over the span of his twelve years as a filmmaker. He has taken us to a world where time seems irrelevant he has brought us to the mean and dark streets of Gotham and he has shown us a world where magic exists. Now Nolan takes us into a dream. Yes I mean a dream I'm not saying that to be weird and artsy. This fine film is constructed in only a way that Nolan could create with him playing the role of guide and leading us through this story of what we perceive as reality and what we know as dreams. The story takes place in a world where technology has made it capable to enter the world of dreams and be able to obtain ideas and other such valuables from the dreamers. DiCaprio leads a team of thieves to enter the dreams of a powerful businessman and instead of stealing they are asked to implant an idea into his mind. This is the process known as Inception. This movie is so amazingly well done because of how painstakingly detailed it is. Nolan has created a world that seems so real and at the same time you feel that no place on earth is like this. The cast is simply perfect. It is another example of young talented actors helping each other out and not fighting for camera time. Along with DiCaprio this is the most rich thing Gordon-Levitt has done since Brick. It is amazing how Nolan manages to make everyone in the cast shine in their own way despite how much or how little time they put in. This is truly a work of brilliance and once again proves why I will be one of the first people to line of for Nolan's third and final chapter in 2012 perfectly titled "The Dark Knight Rises."

01.The Social Network: Director: David Fincher Writer: Aaron Sorkin Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Justin Timberlake The story: I have been bitching all year about how this is one of the worst years for movies and that nothing that great has come out this year and I look back at my list and realize that some fine work has come out but only one film can be number one. This was the film that inspired me to start writing again on the blog. If you need further proof go check out my posts on the film and also on the trailer to the film. I have spouted so much praise for this film and I have just enough left in the tank to say that this film is one of the best written best directed and best acted films to be presented this year. The film is about the invention of Facebook and is based on the speculative novel "The Accidental Billionaires." The story follows Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) throughout his brief time at Harvard and into him creating what would become what we know as Facebook. Eisenberg has been on my radar since he was in The Squid and the Whale in 2005. He gives what might be the performance of the year by playing a young man who sees all the angles and isn't afraid to take the risks in creating one of the most important websites in social networking history. I have seen Fincher get some impressive performances out of people before but before this Eisenberg was always this guy who played second fiddle and was somewhat nervous in all of his roles. Now he is still that character but his nervousness has been replaced with confidence and a take no shit attitude from anyone. The rest of the cast is also nothing short of amazing. The amount of time and effort Fincher put into this cast and tweaking everything to feel like you were watching a documentary more then a movie is impressive. Also for those big budget special effects movies who love to digitally alter people to make them look older or younger, take a page from the Fincher camp and look at the Winklevoss twins played by the same guy. This movie had so much potential to be a great film from the trailer and it delivered and didn't disappoint in any way shape or form. The academy has been pretty spot on over the last few years in giving the right director and picture out but this year it is the clear choice that this is the film that and filmmaker that needs to be recognized for its accomplishments.

Final Thoughts/Thanks:The year is almost over I am posting this on New Years eve for all those who are interested to read it. I hope I haven't left anything out and if I have you people need to call Bull on it and tell me what I am missing so I can see it and see if I agree. The end of 2010 marks a new chapter in the Moonshine review not only will movies be a huge thing in 2011 also we go to music and TV as well so for all of you who have read this little blog I say thank you. People To thank are my parents for telling me to keep writing. My new roommates who keep it quiet so I can write this blog. All those at work who I can fight agree and bitch about movies with I say thank you. See you in 2011 everyone.

Ben Kolton