Yesterday I began my list of my Top 10 Movies from 2010. Here now are numbers 5-1!
5. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work – This documentary totally took me by surprise and completely changed the way I look at Joan Rivers. As the cameras follow Ms. Rivers for a year of her life, we see the struggles of this aging comedienne who wants, above all else, to keep working, working, working. The film gives one ample opportunities to analyze just why Ms. Rivers is so intent on remaining in the public eye, whether that be by doing stand-up in clubs, hawking merchandise on the Home Shopping Network, or appearing on Celebrity Apprentice. But whatever one’s conclusions, positive or negative, I found it impossible not to be astounded by this woman’s endurance and stamina. The film is well-crafted, and presents what I felt was an extraordinarily well-rounded picture of this iconic and polarizing figure. (Click here for my full review.)
4. Toy Story 3 — One of these days the folks at Pixar are going to make a bad movie (I’m afraid it might be Cars 2, but we’ll see…) but for now I can only relish in their unparalleled recent win-streak of amazing films: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, and now Toy Story 3. This movie is simply deliriously entertaining. It’s incredibly funny and also extraordinarily poignant. While the ending certainly isn’t tragic, I nevertheless found it to be devastatingly sad. It’s a wonderfully emotional climax to the story of Woody, Buzz and the gang, and pretty much every note is exactly perfect. The voice cast is stupendous, and the animation is absolutely beautiful (as are the 3-D effects). Pixar, my hat is off to you. (Click here for my full review.)
3. Black Swan — I’ve been an admirer of Darren Aronofsky’s work for a while now, but this film made me a fan for life. I couldn’t believe I’d ever go see a film about wrestling, let alone love a film about wrestling as much as I did Mr. Aronofsky’s last film, The Wrestler (click here for my review). And I DOUBLY wouldn’t have believed I’d ever go see a film about ballet dancers, let alone have been as head-over-heels in love with one as I am with Black Swan. The film is magnificent. Natalie Portman dazzles in the lead role of Nina Sayers, the young dancer cast in the lead role of Swan Lake, who just might be losing her mind as she struggles to take her dancing to the next level. The film is viscerally intense, with an escalating what-is-going-to-happen-NEXT mania that builds to a … [continued]
I’m a big, big fan of Adywan’s fan-edit of the original Star Wars, so much-so that I consider it to be the definitive version of that film. I am chomping at the bit for the release of his upcoming edit of The Empire Strikes Back! Here’s a fascinating interview with this dedicated fan.
Cars is my least-favorite Pixar film, so I don’t have an enormous amount of excitement for the upcoming Cars 2 (despite Pixar’s being on an incredible winning streak). However, this recent announcement has raised my anticipation level significantly!
This is a fascinating read: A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist.
It’s nice to see that Ira Steven Behr, one of the key creative masterminds between Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the Trek series) is still getting work as a show-runner (even if this new show Alphas doesn’t interest me that much).
New trailers! Here’s a glimpse at Terrence Malick’s long-in-the-making new film, The Tree of Life. I don’t know quite WHAT to make of the film based on that trailer, but I am definitely intrigued. Here’s a trailer for a new film called Hanna starring Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, and Saoirse Ronan. I’d never hear of it before seeing this trailer posted on Hitfix, but it looks interesting. Lastly, here’s a trailer for Kevin Smith’s new Horror film Red State. That’s right, I said Kevin Smith’s new HORROR film. I have NO IDEA whether this is going to be any good, but I’m certainly interested, and happy that Mr. Smith is moving beyond his familiar brand of talky raunchy comedies. Not that I have any problem with his talky, raunchy comedies, mind you!!
Speaking of bad-ass, here’s a funny piece from JoBlo called 10 Bad Ass Villains Who really Weren’t.
It’s not that the folks at Pixar are incapable of making a bad movie. (I, for one, never cared for Cars.) It’s just that it’s so very very rare that they do. But after watching the marvelous Toy Story 3, it’s easy to believe that Pixar can do no wrong.
It’s been eleven long years since Toy Story 2. One can perhaps be forgiven for doubting that even the mad geniuses at Pixar could recapture the magic of Toy Story after such a long hiatus. But I am pleased to report that Toy Story 3 continues Pixar’s powerful winning streak. It might not be quite the masterpiece that Toy Story 2 is (that film still stands as one of my all-time favorite movies), but I found it to be relentlessly entertaining and deeply moving.
At the end of Toy Story 2, Woody and the gang gave up the possibility of a lifetime of preservation (behind glass in a toy museum in Japan) in favor of a few more years being played with by Andy. Toy Story 3 follows that decision through to its painful, inevitable conclusion. Yes, Woody, Buzz and friends got a few more years being loved by Andy — but at the beginning of this film, he is all grown up and heading to college. This leaves the toys facing the prospect of either years of storage in an attic, or being taken out with the trash. Both prospects are devastating to the toys, whose main desire is to be played with and loved by a child.
Pixar could have easily kept Andy — and the rest of the characters — forever frozen in an ageless state, like Peter Pan or Bart Simpson. I could easily imagine Pixar making sequel after sequel featuring the gang’s adventures in Andy’s room, without feeling the need to allow real-world issues like the realities of time and aging to intrude on the fun. God bless the folks at Pixar, then, for not taking that route, and instead grappling head-on with the tough questions raised by the end of Toy Story 2. The result is a film that — while still absolutely hilarious in parts — I found to be surprisingly melancholy. This is not a criticism, it is a powerful complement. The artists at Pixar haven’t created another simplistic, cookie-cutter franchise-extender. They’ve produced a poignant fable that wrestles with issues that have no easy solution.
That statement leads me to consider (as I have many times since walking out of the theatre), the film’s marvelous ending. (I’m going to be vague here, to try to avoid major spoilers — but nevertheless, please beware.) I gladly admit that … [continued]
5. Inglourious Basterds — Quentin Tarantino demonstrates, once again, that no one can wring more nail-biting tension out of simple conversation than he can. What I thought would be a simple men-on-a-mission story wound up being a much more complex, intriguing tale. Filled with astounding, unforgettable performances (Brad Pitt as the tough-talking Aldo Raine, Melanie Laurent as the fiercely intelligent Shosanna Dreyfus, and of course Christopher Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, one of the most unforgettable film villains of the past decade) and some great Tarantino touches (yep, that is a Samuel L. Jackson voice-over at one point), the film is ridiculously compelling. And that ending. Ho boy. Read my full review here.
4. District 9 — With a budget reportedly in the ballpark of 30 million dollars (which, if my information is correct, is about a third of what was spent on the Alec Baldwin/Meryl Streep comedy It’s Complicated), first-time director Neill Blomkamp fashioned one of the most gripping sci-fi tales I have ever seen. The film is set in Johannesburg, almost thirty years after an enormous alien spacecraft appeared over the city. The aliens, nicknamed “prawns,” have been settled in slum-like conditions in a refugee camp called District 9. When the corporation MNU bows to public pressure to remove the aliens from the vicinity of Johannesburg, the hapless Wikus Van De Merwe (who participates in the forced evictions) finds his life turned upside-down. As a sci-fi fan I am always looking for smart, original new works of sci-fi, and this film has both qualities in spades. With jaw-dropping special effects (I am amazed at how well the alien “prawns” are brought to life), a career making performance by Sharlto Copley (who plays Wikus), some terrific action, and edge-of-your seat intensity from start to finish, District 9 is a magnificent and haunting creation. Read my full review here.
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox — A deliriously fantastic combination of Roald Dahl’s story (about a family of foxes menaced by three vicious farmers) and director Wes Anderson’s unique sensibilities, Fantastic Mr. Fox feels to me like the film Mr. Anderson has always wanted to make. He has filled the movie with his specific style — detail-filled sets and precise, stage-like staging — and the foxes are a classic addition to Mr. Anderson’s repertoire of wonderfully idiosyncratic, somewhat disfunctional families. The script is complex and sophisticated (with characters who all possess strengths as well as character flaws, and no easy answers to their dilemmas in sight), and the voice-actors (including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, … [continued]
OK, so this is about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of — Star Wars fans worldwide are uniting on a project to re-make the original film (A New Hope), 15 seconds at a time. Fans can claim individual 15 second moments of the film, recreate them in whatever for they desire (re-enactments, animation, etc.), and then the whole thing will ultimately be strung together. Wild. Click here for all the details on Star Wars Uncut, or just watch this bizarre trailer below!
After watching Julie & Julia with my wife Steph recently (you can read my review of the film here) I was interested in learning more about Julie Powell, so I tracked down her Julie/Julia Project blog and her current blog (since she ended the Julie/Julia Project blog in 2003, with only one additional post in 2004 after Julia Childs’ death). Both blogs were fun to read through after having seen the film.
Not a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t read about Ridley Scott being attached to yet another movie-in-development. I’m not the only one who’s noticed, it seems. Check out this helpful guide: Know Your Ridley Scott Projects That Will Probably Never Happen.
I am an enormous Beatles fanatic. Thus it is really painful for me that I have not yet had an opportunity to sample the newly remastered versions of all of the Beatles albums that were released last month. Scorekeeper from AICN’s detailed run-down of each Beatles album, and how the new versions match up against the original CD releases from 1987, has only further whetted my appetite.
CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) has been running a ridiculously entertaining series of posts entitled “Bad For Us, Worse For Them.” What is it about? Let me quote from their intro: This is a list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy, brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a mark. The whole list is fantastic, but I was particularly pleased to see that Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan merited inclusion.
Last week I had the pleasure of taking in a double-feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, re-done in beautiful 3-D. What a glorious time in a movie theatre!
It seems that 3-D is really starting to be embraced by the studios. There have been a number of big 3-D releases in the past year, with a LOT more on the horizon. (Personally I’m looking forward to James Cameron’s Avatar and, further in the future, Steven Spielberg & Peter Jackson’s collaboration on Tintin.) I’ve skipped most of the recent 3-D films since they really didn’t interest me. I did see Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf (from 2007), and while the 3-D was cool, it still made my head hurt at times, and the film itself (minus the excitement of the 3-D effects) was entirely forgettable. After that I stayed away from 3-D films until I saw Pixar’s Up this summer (read my review here), which was magnificent. The film itself was wonderful, and the gorgeous visuals were only enhanced by the beautiful, immersive 3-D.
Pixar’s big release for summer 2010 will be the long-awaited Toy Story 3, which will be presented in 3-D. To build some anticipation for the film, Disney and Pixar have re-done the first two Toy Story films in 3-D, and released them to theatres for a limited 2-week engagement this month.
Even without the 3-D, it was an enormous pleasure to re-watch those two films. I really liked the first Toy Story, and I was bowled over by Toy Story 2 when it came out — I thought it was endlessly clever, quite effectively emotional, and also totally hysterical. The Toy Story “Toy Box set” (containing both films plus a third disc filled with special features) was one of the very first DVDs I ever bought, and I watched Toy Story 2 several times those first few years.
So while I know Toy Story 2 really well, it had been quite a while since I had last seen the first Toy Story. I was really pleasantly surprised by how well it holds up. There are moments when it is clear how far Pixar’s animation has progressed (the fur on Sid’s dog, for instance, is pretty much just a solid shape, as opposed to the dynamic fur effects we’d see later on with Sulley and the Abominable Snowman a few years later in Monsters, Inc.), but over-all the animation holds up wonderfully. The characters move naturally and — more importantly — really feel ALIVE as opposed to being just nicely-rendered CGI constructs. This is helped by the genius voice-casting. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are absolutely perfect in the roles, and their … [continued]
I’ve written about a few of the films that I’ve seen this summer (click here for my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, here for my review of Year One, and here for my review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) but there are a lot more that I’ve seen but haven’t had time to write about. Hence, this first installment of my Summer Movie Catch-Up!
Let’s start with Pixar’s latest opus, Up.
Carl (voiced by the great Ed Asner) is an elderly widower, living alone in his small house. When we meet him, it seems that all of the happiness has been drained from his life, and the only thing that gives him any energy at all is his cranky refusal to sell his home to the real-estate developers who want to purchase his land.
When things take a turn for the worse, and it looks like Carl is going to lose his home after all, he comes up with a cartoon movie plan to escape — and also to fulfill one of the life-long dreams that he and his wife shared.
The trailers for this film were remarkably successful in refusing to spoil any of the wonderful weirdness that happens next, and I won’t either. Suffice it to say, after a fairly serious beginning, to my delight and surprise the movie takes several sharp left turns into loony mayhem. It winds up channeling almost as much adventure-serial energy as did The Incredibles — something I was not expecting but really enjoyed.
Much has been written about the beautiful, haunting prologue to the film in which we learn everything we need to know about Carl’s life and his relationship with his wife. Those scenes are Pixar at its very best — dazzlingly economical storytelling that is tender and poignant, and not at all the way one might expect an “all-ages” film to begin. It’s every bit the work of genius that you might have heard, and luckily the rest of the film is able to live up to the incredibly high bar set by that prologue.
I had the pleasure of seeing Up in 3-D, and it was magnificent. Before the movie started, the theatre played several trailers for upcoming 3-D movies, and those were filled to the brim with all sorts of annoying in-your-face 3-D gimmicry. But I am pleased to report that there is very little of that in Up. Rather, the artists at Pixar have used the 3-D in an entirely different way: to subtly enlarge the visual palette of the film, adding enormous depth to the visual wonders on display. As Carl and his house, born aloft by … [continued]