Posts Tagged ‘James Franco’

Top 10 of 2010!

January 5, 2011


And here we are again!  Another year down and another slew of movies to comprehend and compare.  Unlike the last few years, 2010 brought a cavalcade of competent cinema that was absolutely unprecedented.  I was fully unprepared for the likes of the last few months and the intense entries into the Oscar season that began to give way as the year came to a close.  Now, as always, I’m certain that this list will be viewed as juvenile and haphazard (story of my life) but these are MY top 10 movies of the year.  I wish I could watch all of these entries over again to more properly gauge my level of enthusiasm and their prowess, however, I will stand by every one of these entries and will fight you to the death for any of them!  (Though I will admit, I give major kudos to originality and ingenuity in form over traditional cinematic bravado)  Let the ranking begin!

10.  127 Hours

Danny Boyle does so much with so very little.  In this masterful retelling of the infamous expedition-gone-wrong of Aron Ralston, Boyle makes the story of a man trapped in the desert for five days into a life-affirming, absurdly inspirational tale.  Boyle deserves immense credit for taking  a cinematically antithetical story and turning it into one of the most captivating of the year.

9.  Never Let Me Go

Mark Romanek made a big splash on the screen this year with this film, which delves into themes of humanity, fate, and despondency at the hands of one’s own demise.  All against the backdrop of a beautifully filmed, beautifully performed script.  Never Let Me Go reaffirmed Andrew Garfield’s, Carey Mulligan’s, and Keira Knightley’s prowess all in one fail swoop.

8.  True Grit

Being the second Coen brothers movie I have ever ACTUALLY enjoyed, True Grit put multiple stereotypes of mine to rest.  I was concerned about ANOTHER overly hyped Coen flick, I was concerned about another update of a classic western, and I was concerned about a story with a cliche, precocious, young female protagonist who comes across as seemingly unflappable.  But when you realize that the Coen’s entire body of work details the lives of larger-than-life characters that are seemingly unflappable, you begin to forgive this mini masterpiece for its very few flaws.

7.  The Kids Are All Right

Easily one of the best pieces of acting this year, the raw talent in this film makes me question how more fuss wasn’t made over it.  Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are irreplaceable in this comedy about the inner-workings of family and the importance of love, understanding, and functionality in the face of adversity, stress, and life’s constant ambiguity.  Did I mention that the performances are incredible?


6.  The Social Network

One of my more traditional choice for the year, Fincher’s techno-epic about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is truly as efficient as the hype made it out to be.  With a spot-on score produced by Trent Reznor, and cinematography that would make lawn-mowing a fascinating, IMAX-worthy venture, the film is almost incapable of NOT delighting audiences.

5.  I Love You Phillip Morris

Ironically, this may be the most contested movie on this list, as it does have its fair share of tonal anomalies and inconsistencies, however, Phillip Morris simply cannot be overlooked as one of the most adventurous and insightful picks of the year.  It takes risks and utilizes techniques just as well as 127 Hours and The Social Network, both.  It merely uses them in different regards and for different outcomes.  Not to mention that the performances are absolutely fabulous.

4.  Kick-Ass

Again, this film can be RIDICULOUSLY tonally inconsistent at times.  It can even leave viewers borderline disenchanted and at a loss.  But for fans of the genre, and just movie geeks in general, Kick-Ass lives to deliver both a send-up of the entire superhero canon, as well as overtly-indulgent entry in and of itself.

3.  Toy Story 3

If you would have told me that a three-quel to one of the biggest Disney franchises of all time would make my top 3 of ANY year, I would be forced to furrow my brow at you in extreme doubt, but Toy Story 3 is one of the most adroit offerings that Pixar has put out since…well, I guess since Up.  Still, it speaks incredibly highly of a studio that is capable of making sequels to films without losing any of the magic and without giving in to any sense of pandering or desperation.  Pixar should literally be a class that all film executives at EVERY studio should have to take.

2.  The Fighter

Going into this movie with little to no expectations of what I was about to see gave way to easily one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences of this year.  David O. Russell truly knows how to make an incredible film, both critically and for mainstream audiences.  Visually arresting, with performances that are EASILY Oscar-worthy (I’m looking at you, Christian Bale and Amy Adams) this entry came out of nowhere and proved to be my second favorite of the year AS WELL AS my technical #2.  The film simply cannot be denied as a masterpiece on multiple fronts.

1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

If you ever wanted to confirm my absolute geekiness, look no further than this #1 pick.  Is it a stereotypical selection?  Sure.  Is it a smidge over-praised by moi?  Perhaps.  But I simply don’t care.  Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World was easily my favorite movie of the year and easily one of my top 10 favorite films of all time, as well, perhaps even top 5 (I told you I was willing to acquiesce that I may be a bit blind to this movie).  Everything about this movie takes the extravagances of previous cinematic treasures and expounds upon them.  I challenge you to find a faster-paced, funnier, better-choreographed film that speaks so directly to an entire culture and properly adapts six graphic novels into a story under two hours long.  Did that sentence just blow your mind?  Well that’s how you feel for the entirety of the movie, even after the tenth viewing.  I know from experience.

P.S. And to be fair, here is a list of the most-talked-abouts that I have yet to see:

_The King’s Speech

_Shutter Island

_Waiting for Superman

_The Town

_Fair Game



_Despicable Me


_Blue Valentine

_Animal Kingdom


Film Reviews!: 127 Hours

January 4, 2011

Danny Boyle has a knack for this thing called “making films.”  He’s one of the few directors who is capable of fully integrating the “crowd-pleasing-epic” and the “critical success”.  And all my jumbled, mixed-up grammar aside, he has an incredible ability to tell a story succinctly, while packing in as much cinematic extravagance as possible.  His work stretches the boundaries of storytelling while managing to not alienate anyone in the audience.  In Boyle’s latest, 127 Hours, the director of Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 28 Days Later, utilizes many of his signature techniques to keep a film that could have potentially been disastrously boring into an absolute masterpiece.

The “based-on-a-true-story” premise that 127 Hours is hinged upon gives rise to a fascinating tale.  A mountain climber, Aron Ralston, tumbles into a crevasse during a routine expedition.  His arm becomes lodged in between a boulder and a canyon wall.  Trapped between a rock and a hard place (1. I couldn’t resist, and 2. That’s actually the name of Ralston’s autobiography) Ralston is forced to ration his food and water supplies and ponder his escape/entire existence over the course of the next five days.  While the story itself is quite captivating, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to cinematic undertakings.  The crux of the adventure takes place in a desert canyon where Ralston basically re-evaluates his life and does everything in his power to break free of his imprisonment while inflicting as little damage upon himself as possible.  While this story makes excellent fodder for a book, where the author can extrapolate and work tangentially on how he felt and where his mind would wander during moments of excruciating pain, desperation, and anxiety, it’s difficult to convey such thematic devices in the world of cinema when your protagonist cannot move a single inch from the spot he’s anchored to.  All this just to say that a lessor director would not have been able to convey half of what Danny Boyle did with this story in this medium.

It’s the inventiveness of storytelling that truly makes this film such a raving success.  Boyle takes chronological economy to an entirely different level with his distribution of time to specific aspects of the story.  He spends the first fifteen minutes of the film setting the stage for the eventual accident that would change Ralston’s life forever, while simultaneously giving us a perfect dose of insight into Ralston’s character as a thrill-seeker and a competent outdoorsman.  The last ten minutes detail Ralston’s escape and his eventual rescue at the hands of a couple from the Netherlands after he rappelled down a 65 foot drop…with one arm.  What we are left with is roughly 70 minutes in the center of the film where Ralston is left to his own devices as he attempts to free himself from his stone prison.

A combination of dream sequences, moments of reminiscence, and actual attempts to free himself make what could be an awfully dull, painful ordeal (for the audience, nyuk,nyuk, nyuk) into a thrilling stretch of cinematic brilliance.  While Boyle makes use of every cinematic technique in the book, from daydreaming, to Ralston narrating for himself, to Ralston even speaking directly to his handycam that he brought along, in a confessional-style, one-man interview, no part of the story ever feels forced, disjointed, or out of place.  Boyle seemlessly interweaves these cinematic elements without losing sight of the tale at hand and without any obvious attempt of indulgence.

The score manages to echo the sentiments of the story well, without becoming a burden.  Boyle’s use of sound brings the stark reality of Ralston’s dire situation across the gap of reality as Ralston continually drifts in and out of consciousness.  Sound, more than music, aids Boyle’s vision, with one of my favorite devices consisting of the scene in which Ralston begins to sever his arm.  While a horrifying experience to watch, regardless, hearing the static, electronic buzz whenever Ralston hit a tendon became an actual device to make the viewer physically recoil.  creating a visceral reaction with a mere sound effect, a good director does make.  Finally, the score of the movie does so much to aid the climax of the film, that by the movie’s denouement the  you realize that you are being coaxed out of the summit of the climax by the score itself.  While the visuals onscreen do plenty to celebrate the ending of this film the way it should be, the musical accompaniment is what seals the package together.

The cinematography also cannot be praised highly enough.  And while certain shots of the desert and its never-ending expanses of desolation stand alone as being breath-takingly captivating, the reason for the thumbs up is the adept utilization of the cinematography itself, not necessarily the shots that are accomplished.  Being trapped with literally no room to spare, Boyle had his work cut out for him framing a film in which all the action was to take place either in a 1 foot by 1 foot square, or in the mind of the protagonist.  But no part of 127 Hours feels stereotypical as the average memory play generally does.  To further reinforce the point, the beauty behind this offering is Boyle’s ingenuity in telling a tale, and the cinematography most notably echoes this, utilizing multiple flashbacks, differing angles and cinematic techniques, and even different cameras, as Ralston turns to his personal handycam whenever he looks to document his situation.  It’s the cycling-through of techniques, the shifting of the physical lens through which the audience views the story, that keeps the dynamism of the film alive.

And finally, James Franco must be lauded for a performance that forces the viewer to invest.  Franco does an incredible job of crafting a character who is both fully competent and fully vulnerable all at the same time.  This simple dichotomy becomes crucial to Boyle’s world-building as the audience needs to feel Ralston’s competency in order to not simply lose all hope, while at the same time feeling the exasperated desperation of the character’s seemingly inevitable demise.  Franco is able to beautifully balance these two extremes while still creating a character that is both charismatic and a delight to watch onscreen.  As with Boyle, a lessor actor would have naively rested on merely his instincts and begot a more boring alternative.

With what appears to be a largely anti-cinematic story, Danny Boyle has constructed one of the best movies of the year.  By simply entertaining multiple theatrical and cinematic constructs and from focusing on original storytelling techniques, a simple story of a trapped mountain climber manages to become an inspirational epic about perseverance and the human will.

Performance/Directing: 88/100

Score/Soundtrack: 84/100

Script: 85/100

Cinematography: 88/100

Overall: 92/100

Bitch-Fest Wednesday: Moviefone’s Top 25 Funniest People Working in Hollywood (Right Now)

March 17, 2010

I’ve got problems with this list, BIG problems.  That being said, however, what this list does at least do is compile an overarching docket of comedians who are currently winning at Hollywooding.  I’ll let you follow the link to see the list for yourself, but some of my gripes are:

*Spoilers ahead (if you actually care about spoiling a Top 25 list)*

Mostly they have to do with placement rather than actually being put ON this list.  I understand the rationale behind LISTING all of these actors, but the stack-ranking involved has left me baffled.  For Instance, I have no idea why Elizabeth Banks is #14 on this list, ahead of Russell Brand, Ricky Gervais, and Ken Jeong.  Granted, she was in Role Models and Zack and Miri, and has played a couple of laughs for the Apatow gang in the past, but can ANYONE give me a reason that she should be ahead of the incredibly talented and devoted people behind her who have been creating and performing in comedy for years?  To further bitch, how is Anna Faris even farther up the list at #11?  Funny in the Scary Movies, yes, and pretty good in Observe and Report, but how far have we ACTUALLY seen her stretch?  She has adequately portrayed slapstick-ditzy and train-wreck-of-humanity, to great laughs.  That’s basically it.  And now that I mention it, I think I’m going to copyright both of those…

In addition to ranking wrong, I feel that this list is labelled wrong, as well.  This list is compiled of strictly Film and Television actors, nowhere on this list can producers, stand-ups, or late-night personalities be found, all of which, I would argue, constitute “Funny People Working in Hollywood.”  My notable ommissions would include Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Judd Apatow, Eddie Izzard, Craig Ferguson, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Chelsea Handler, Jo Koy, Loni Love, Josh Wolf, Guy Branum, Whitney Cummings, The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Gang of writers, producers, and actors, and the list could go ON AND ON AND ON AND ON…

To wrap up, I feel that the most egregious error comes with placing Paul Rudd at #1.  I’m certain that there are some die-hards out there that will greatly take offense to that, but let’s face it, Rudd is our generation’s leading straight-man.  An important position for comedy, sure, but his range is CERTAINLY no greater than that of Bill Murray, Sacha Baron Cohen, Steve Carrell, and Tina Fey, just to name some of the accompanying members of the list.

Moviefone’s Top 25 Funniest People Working in Hollywood (Right Now)

Happy “Tobey Maguire is No Longer Spider-Man Day” Everyone!

January 11, 2010

Today, January 11th, 2010, we learned that talks have fallen through with Raimi and the studios and that the director of the first three Spider-chronicles will not return to direct the fourth.  With him, he is taking the principle cast of at least Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.  And it looks like 2010 is already shaping up to be the breath of fresh air that we had all been anticipating it to be!  Maguire as a casting choice has always struck me as an irritating and awkward move.  While I obviously understand that I am in the minority on this issue, I have still never fully understood the draw that Maguire brings to the franchise.  Short of physically semi-resembling the character of Peter Parker, and having an impressive resume of The Cider House Rules and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the time of casting, Tobey Maguire plays the character of Peter Parker as everything he was not.  Quiet, one-dimensional, and purely reactionary in his civilian life.  The character of Peter Parker functions as a largely ascerbic, sardonic, loud-mouthed little punk who lucked out BIG TIME in the superhero lottery after being bitten by a radioactive spider.  In his origin story, Spider-Man is actually a bit of a primadonna.  He lets his new-found fame get to him and allows a common criminal to easily slip right by him which (spoiler alert for all of you who have never watched TV/read a comic before) leads to the death of his dear Uncle Ben.  This act alone launches him into a quest for vengeance and justice that spurs the character’s heroic, good-natured tendencies and pushes the super-hero narrative further.

Maguire is none of those things.  He is quiet, brooding, introverted, and almost inept to social conventions.  While he can be a talented actor, it is clear that Maguire had no previous connection to the character before the script and decided to dote more on Parker’s nerdiness than his actual inherent bravado and surrogate machismo.  Rather than portray the wise-cracking, originally anti-heroic Parker of the comics, Maguire crafted his own, dulled-down rendition.  Which simply didn’t work.

This has been my problem with the franchise from the beginning.  Along the way, Kirsten Dunst has always failed to capture the iconic femme fatale that Mary Jane Watson always embodied and the awkward and unsubtle mix-up of the classic storyline, i.e. Gwen Stacy coming in AFTER Mary Jane, Mary Jane marrying Jameson’s son, etc., etc., are all further problems that left me fully disenfranchised by the series.  Then, of course, there’s Venom.  One of Spider-Man’s greates foes and a treat that fan-boys have waited years to see onscreen.  I won’t even go into the shortcomings that were apparent from that endeavor.  However, that does launch me into the short list of praise that I had for the now-defunct franchise.  While it did very little right, Raimi’s three picture chronicle DID manage to produce certain elements of the story perfectly.  Mostly, Alfred Molina was a WONDERFUL Doc Octopus, and his story was quite well-done, also.  Willem Dafoe performed well as the Green Goblin and James Franco nicely assisted in his role of Harry Osbourne.  Also, J.K. Simmons is as close to J. Jonah Jameson as we will ever actually get onscreen, and I ADORE every minute of screen time he received.  And in a moment of wishful thinking, I’d like to acknowledge Topher Grace who was COMPLETELY ERRONEOUSLY cast as Venom.  While totally inappropriate as the muscle-head photographer Eddie Brock, Grace COULD have been the quintessential Peter Parker, and yet EVERYONE seems to have simply breezed over this.  Grace has the perfect dry, sarcastic wit and persona to match Parker’s fluently.  His appearance is even more Parker-esque than Maguire.  With a slightly more kinetic/frenetic dispostition, Grace would have been PERFECT for the role.  But these are all events that never transpired…

I have had an outspoken hatred for this franchise for the longest time, as I do with almost ALL superhero franchises (X-Men, The Punisher, Watchmen, Superman Returns, Daredevil, Elecktra, etc., etc.), which is fueled from my LOVE of each original franchise (did I mention that I’m a nerd?).  So this news marks a new holiday for me!  Yay!  The news that is circling the intranets is that a reboot of the franchise is now slated for 2012 (you didn’t actually think that Sony would just leave this prospect dead in the water, did you?  There’s MONEY to be made!).  So what I thought I would never see in the next ten years (the spidey-saga rebooted) I will see in three!  SOOOOOOOOO EXCITED!  As always, below is a link to /Film’s article on the subject.  And even below that is some shameless self promotion.  Feel free to comment all over about how foolish I am for not seeing the “raw potential” that Tobey Maguire has been “wowing” audiences with for the past 8 years.


Bears With Sparklers