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And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2012 list!  I hope you enjoyed the rest of my lists.  You can follow these links to see my Top 15 Movies of 2012: click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.  Click here for part one of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012, and here for part two.  And finally, you can click here for part one of my Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2012, and here for part two.

And now, my final list: the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2012!

10. Great documentaries for not-so-great films: Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises Both of these films disappointed me when I saw them.  The Dark Knight is an extremely well-made film and a great super-hero epic, but it’s a big let-down after the magnificence that was The Dark Knight.  And Prometheus was just a catastrophe.  Nevertheless, the blu-rays of both films contained terrific feature-length documentaries.  Prometheus’ special features are particularly compelling — the 220-minute documentary “Furious Gods: The Making of Prometheus” (directed by Charles de Lauzirika) is extraordinary.  Is it crazy to be so interested in the behind-the-scenes stories of two films that ultimately disappointed me?  Maybe, but I loved these glimpses behind the curtains.

9. Jay and Silent Bob Get Old: Tea-Bagging in the UK Every few years, Kevin Smith releases a DVD collection of some of his Q&A  sessions, and I always gobble them up.  None have topped the original An Evening With Kevin Smith DVD from 2002, but Mr. Smith’s skill as a spinner-of-yarns is unparalleled, and I adore listening to his lengthy, raunchy, hilarious answers to the audience’s questions about his life, his film-making, and all sorts of other details of his personal life.  (I even saw Mr. Smith live, in Boston, a few years ago!)  This latest DVD is a recording of some of the “Smodcast” podcasts that Mr. Smith recorded with his “hetero life-mate” Jason Mewes, on tour in England.  These shows are nowhere near as great as some of the previous Q&A DVDs — I like Jason Mewes, but I think Mr. Smith is much funnier solo — but these shows are still a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the frank, friendly interplay between Mr. Smith and Mr. Mewes.

8. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 — This animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal comic book from 1986 is one of the best of Bruce Timm’s recent direct-to-DVD animated films.  With solid (though not spectacular) animation and a phenomenal voice cast, I was very impressed … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Lost in La Mancha (2002)

March 14th, 2011

In August of 2000, director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys) began work on his film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, an adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, starring Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis and Jean Rochefort.

You don’t recognize the name of that movie?  You don’t remember ever seeing it in theatres?  You’re having trouble finding it on Netflix?

That’s because the film does not exist.  Despite years of preparation by Mr. Gilliam, months of pre-production (in which sets were constructed, props were created, costumes were made), and several days of actual shooting on the film with the main cast, an accumulation of catastrophes resulted in production being suspended, and ultimately halted indefinitely.  Despite all the work that had been done and the money that had been spent and the film footage already in the can, the movie was never finished.

Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe thought that they were filming a behind-the-scenes featurette for the eventual DVD release of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.  When the project fell apart, they decided to edit together the footage that they had shot to create a look at a movie that almost was but wasn’t.  The result is Lost in La Mancha.

For anyone interested in film, this documentary is a must-see.  It’s a fascinating case-study of the fiendish complexity of mounting a film production and the many, many things that can go wrong, thus sending a project undertaken with the best of intentions by all parties involved hurtling screamingly off the rails.

I wish I could say it’s shocking to me that acclaimed director Terry Gilliam has had so much trouble, over the years, finding funding and support for many of his projects.  Sadly it’s not shocking at all.  But it does remain bitterly disappointing.  Mr. Gilliam is one of the finest directors working today — a true film visionary in every sense of the world.  I might not love all of his films (they’re all so idiosyncratic and weird that some appeal to me far more than others), but all of them are clearly the work of a master craftsmen.  And yet, while most of Mr. Gilliam’s films probably possess behind-the-scenes stories of debates and battles over budgets and content and many other aspects of the making of the films, at least at the end of the day those movies exist!

It’s pretty sad that, despite literally years of working on his Don Quixote movie (at one point in pre-production, Mr. Gilliam comments with a smile that he’s been on the project for about a decade) that was, in many ways, a passion project for … [continued]

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The Top 10 Movies of 2009 — Part One!

Despite the horrendous batch of summer “blockbusters” that we had to suffer through, 2009 was actually a pretty darned good year for movies!  I’d been feeling otherwise, but when I looked back through my notes about all the great films that I saw this past year, I had a hard time narrowing down my Top Ten list!

As I did before beginning last year’s list, I should mention that, despite the rather large number of new movies that I saw in 2009, there were plenty of heard-they-were-great films (or films that otherwise seemed interesting to me) that I wanted to see but just didn’t get to.  These include The Hurt Locker, Moon, Pirate Radio, Broken Embraces, A Single Man, An Education, Me and Orson Welles, Invictus, The Road, and The Lovely Bones.  Might one or more of those films have wound up on this list, had I seen them?  Who can say!

So, without further ado, let’s dive into my List of my Ten Favorite Movies from 2009!

Honorable Mention: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus — I was just tickled by every moment of this wonderfully weird trip into the mind of Terry Gilliam.  Heath Ledger’s final performance is delightful and enigmatic, and the trio of actors who stepped in to complete his role after his tragic death (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell) are all absolutely wonderful, as is the great Christopher Plummer in the title role.  Read my full review here.

10.  Coraline — I’ve got three animated films on this list, but they could not possibly be more different from one another.   Each is a magnificently unique creation.  In Coraline, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy story is brought to breathtaking life by gorgeous stop-motion animation.  Coraline is an intelligent but lonely little girl whose world is uprooted when her parents move into a strange new house.  When she discovers a small, secret door that leads into an alternate world where she meets far happier and more doting alternate versions of her parents, Coraline is delighted and entranced.  But all is not as it seems, and the young girl will need all of her wits to escape from the web into which she has fallen.  Dangerous and dark, this haunting tale is sweet and scary in equal parts.  I can’t wait to see it again.  Read my full review here.

9.  Watchmen — I’ve seen this film so many times already (in a variety of different cuts) that it’s hard to believe it came out this year!  Zach Snyder’s gloriously ambitious attempt at adapting Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ magnum opus Watchmen has its flaws, but even after many repeated viewings I remain dazzled … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus!

January 13th, 2010

When unsuspecting passers-by step through the magic mirror in Doctor Parnassus’ traveling imaginarium, they find themselves transported into a world in which their innermost thoughts and desires are brought to life.  Watching The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, I feel as though I have been treated to a similar experience: a trip inside the very mind of writer/director Terry Gilliam.

It’s pretty astonishing to me that Terry Gilliam has only directed seven films since Brazil back in 1985, and only thirteen feature films in his entire career.   (I’m including in that count Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed, and Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, in which he directed the opening short film, The Crimson Permanent Assurance.)  Mr. Gilliam has had an extraordinary string of bad luck, over the years, in his attempts to make the movies he sets his heart on making (click here for more information on his doomed effort, at the start of the decade, to bring to life his film version of Don Quixote, which was to star Johnny Depp), which in part accounts for the sparcity of his films.

Therefore, any new Terry Gilliam movie should be a source of much rejoicing.  And yet, I much confess that I have not actually seen the three films that Mr. Gilliam has directed since Twelve Monkeys in 1995: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Tideland (2005), and The Brothers Grimm (also released in 2005).  I’m not sure why, exactly.  Something about those three films just didn’t appeal to me.  But ever since first reading about The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus a few years back, I was excited and intrigued to get a gander at what Mr. Gilliam was putting together.

As in many of Mr. Gilliam’s films, Parnassus has a twisty plot that would be extraordinarily difficult for me to really explain to you, nor am I all that sure that I should even try.  I will tell you that Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) has apparently been engaged in a thousand-year duel with the devil (Tom Waits) over whether mankind’s imaginations or our more prurient instincts represent the dominant force in our nature.  Their latest wager involves the fate of Parnassus’ young daughter Valentina (Lily Cole).  Hard times have befallen the aged Parnassus and his small troupe, which includes the wise Percy (Verne Troyer) and the young Anton (Andrew Garfield).  It seems that, in our modern world, Doctor Parnassus’ traveling imaginarium doesn’t attract anyone’s attention or interest any longer.  But things change when Lily rescues an enigmatic and amnesiac young man named Tony (Heath Ledger) from an attempted suicide.  Will Tony help Doctor Parnassus, or wind up destroying him?

Heh.  … [continued]