• THE TOP TEN •
LIFE OF PI is not a book you finish thinking it would make a good movie. But, that's the sort of challenge director Ang Lee excels at. Where the ad campaign only hints at the visual spectacle you anticipate going in, it's a relief to know there's more substance than style. Also stunning is the use of 3D. Lee directs his scenes with equal parts Hitchcock composition and Cameron showmanship, with some neat aspect ratio trickery that really makes one sequence literally fly off the screen.
Zero Dark Thirty
Bigelow slyly channels Hitchcock to tell a VERY suspenseful narrative of the events leading up to the killing of Bin Laden. It's as twisty as an episode of Homeland, but with the added chill that none of this is fiction. Big things for Oscar predicted, especially Best Actress, Screenplay and Director. Best Picture Nomination is lock and load.
Tarantino always shocks and surprises, but this one's a giddy little treat. Think BLAZING SADDLES meets INGLORIOUS BASTARDS. On one hand, it's a jokey, violent homage to Spaghetti Westerns, specifically Sergio Corbucci's films (hence the title), but it's also a vicious commentary on the senseless justification of slavery in America. Christoph Waltz amazes again and walks away with most of the movie and Samuel L. Jackson is a hoot as the slyly named "Stephen."
As with his other films, Anderson takes the theme of Father/Son to whole new extremes and tells a tale fragmented in narrative and mysterious in meaning. There isn't a moment that isn't completely fascinating and Joaquin Phoenix has never been better. Themes of religion vs. science, man vs. animal, god vs. father vs. mother. It's a juicy, heavy time at the cinemas.
Past, present and future, from womb to tomb, this is a cinematic accomplishment that should have gone way worse. Some will be overwhelmed by its scope, confused by its editing and perhaps not even moved at all emotionally. All I know is that it moved me greatly. It's a beautiful film. True true.
Jack Black's best performance by a long shot and I'd say the best Richard Linklater movie since Dazed and Confused, if not his most unconventionally entertaining.
This is how you do prequels. This ain't Predator vs Alien, it's Creation vs Evolution , and a bold new science-fiction horror classic from the man who gave birth to the very best one. It is intricate in its unveiling plot, yet aloof in explanation, which only makes for an entertaining pace throughout. Best of all, you get the feeling Ridley Scott knows at its most basic level, it's a fun homage to space monster B-movies of the 1950s in the same way ALIEN was a haunted house film in space.
Completely charming Anderson overload for fans of his work, not to mention any boy that pledged to obey the laws of the pack. With tones of RUSHMORE mainly, the director reworks a lot of his own style into a period piece set in 1965 that still someone manages to come off as retro hipster greatness.
The Cabin in the Woods
Less 'Scream' in cinematic reverence, but equal parts love-letter to Lovecraft and Sam Rami. CABIN is a horror geek's ultimate dream come true. It has wit, humor and monsters. Lots and lots of surprises as the film ramps up and crescendos into one of the greatest finales in horror film history.
The American Scream
As with WORST BEST MOVIE, Michael Paul Stephenson takes a horror related subject and focuses his lens on the human and emotional connection to fandom. It's a fascinating documentary, every bit as compelling and strange as GREY GARDENS. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever loved Halloween.
• HONORABLE MENTIONS •
What it lacks in originality (Exorcist/The Ring/Mothman Prophecies/Drag Me to Hell/8mm), it makes up for in daringly spooky pacing. Not for everyone, but if you enjoy being scared out of your pants, this one has its moments. I should also mention it's one of the smartest Horror films in years.
Occasionally the Hollywood machine takes a risk and it pays off big time. Along the same lines of entrusting Jon Favreau to launch IRON MAN on the big screen, Joss Whedon succeeds with the nearly impossible task of juggling expected comic book conventions for fan boys and general audience appeal. Smartly focused on the heart of its super hero team up, and seemingly less concerned with the now cliché approach in a comic book stylings a la WATCHMEN or SIN CITY. Instead, THE AVENGERS speeds along at an action-movie pace, pauses for character development as all good stories should and has the bonus advantage of being way smarter than the average summer big budget bonanza.
Don't be thrown off by the incredibly lame advertising campaign, WANDERLUST is funny, economically paced goofiness that out-shines most of today's Hollywood comedies. Like WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, Wain pushes the premise to hysterical extremes via character ensemble. But it's the physical comedy that really brings the laughs, with some sequences teetering on classic. It's fantastic to see some of the original STATE members on screen again, but even more exciting to see Jennifer Aniston, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta (as Ray Liotta) a part of something so comedically redeeming.
Chilling and fascinating, with a touch of giddy film-school geek factor. Told visually through clips of The Shining and other Kubrick films adds a unique level to the project, which refuses to be neither straight documentary nor analysis. A must for anyone who loves The Shining.