Posts Tagged ‘Pixar’

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

_Mother

_Tangled

_Despicable Me

_Catfish

_Blue Valentine

_Animal Kingdom

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Best Films of 2009

February 9, 2010

I realize how late this is, and I apologize.  But with the Academy Award noms in full swing I am finally being forced to lay decree to the year of 2009.  To tell the truth, it has taken me AT LEAST this long to catch up on most of the material in 2009 (and I’m still quite behind).  While I was initially going to give in to the popular kids and stack-rank, I decided that this year had too many excellent selections from extremely broad-ranging categories.  So, I decided to list the best picks that fit together and then list my number 1 and 2 favorite movies of 2009.  Yay for experimenting with narrative!  This list is of my absolute favorite flicks of the last year, complete with basic defenses of each selection. In the year that ended up being dominated by a record-breaking work of spectacle over ten years in the making, I seek to highlight some of the very positive advances in story that may have been overshadowed, both at the box office and overall.  So, without further ado…

_In the Realm of Innovative Story and Character:

Adventureland, (500) Days of Summer, Up in the Air,

Adventureland holds a special place in my heart.  While Mottola’s story is nothing revolutionary by any means, the overall style of the narrative itself along with the sincerity and charm that he managed to bring to the  characters all combined to create an encapsulating story about love and post-grad fears.  The acting is quite spot-on with Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds, and Martin Starr playing post-teen angst and confusion with actual commitment and conviction.  Adventureland really plays like what a John Hughe’s movie would exist as in the decade of “returning to naturalism.”  While Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Matt Bush play more slap-stick roles in an effort to keep the movie buoyed between overwhelming depression and light comedy, the characters are overall so well-written and played so close to life by the actors that sympathy can be garnered for any, one character at any given time.  Despite infidelity, lying, false bravado, and apathetic sexual encounters, every character is so completely engrossing and thoughtful that the audience identifies with them and keeps from objectifying them.  An early win in the year for character and story, Adventureland did poorly at the box office and failed to garner an abundance of critical praise.  While skimmed over for its simplistic plot whimsical style, the piece is a great character study in the lives of young, idealistic people at a cross-roads in their lives.

Marc Webb’s first feature, (500) Days of Summer, is an awesome example of how narrative can be the crux of the story.  And while that may seem like an obvious statement, the point I’m trying to make is that Summer’s story is best told through the seemingly random sequence of narrative segments that we view to discover the rise and fall of the story’s main relationship.  I don’t want to give anything away, but everything about Summer is perfect.  The characters are completely attainable and relatable while still keeping enough of an essence of individuality to keep you guessing as to how the story will pan out.  Summer also takes full advantage of surrealist storytelling to make a common romantic rendezvous into something that both genders thoroughly enjoy.  Elements of the surreal keep most detractors of the genre ensconsed while the heart of the affair provides more than enough drama and romance for the die-hard followers of the style.  Summer may be, in effect, the first truly unisex romantic comedy.

Initially, when I was stack-ranking this list, I had included Up in the Air as the number 3 film of 2009.  Reitman constantly impressed me with a gorgeous story and an intriguing message that added the perfect piece of punctuation to the end. Clooney’s performance was dazzling, as well, as he carried the story on his back and managed to upend the “anti-hero” archetype by story’s end. As it is, Reitman ends up displacing all archetypes in Up in the Air, opting instead for turbulent characters that accomplish more in 109 minutes than most characters do in entire television seasons.  Expertly written and expertly directed, Up in the Air helped me wash the taste of Avatar out of my mouth as they were released around the same time.

_In the Realm of Imaginative Storytelling and Experimenting with Narrative:

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Where the Wild Things Are, and Moon,

Let me preface this entry by stating two things, outright.  Number one, I have a GREAT affinity for Terry Gilliam’s style and vision.  And number two, like every Gilliam picture, The Imaginarium has some MAJOR flaws.  That being said, the story is FABULOUS.  Gilliam has managed to weave another fantastical fairy tale together involving some of the greatest actors of our generation.  Despite a huge crisis in the way of Gilliam’s lead, Heath Ledger, passing away in the midst of filming, Gilliam had to forge ahead and finish his work with some revisions to the script and the entire story, as a whole.  The characters are magical, the story is quite fun and imaginative, and, overall, Gilliam manages to remind us what CGI should be regulated to for the time being: Images and moments that we all understand to be completely surreal, anti-realistic, nightmarish, or absurd in nature.  Not to recreate life.  While the future will eventually bring about this technology, we just don’t have it yet.  AND THAT GOES FOR YOU, TOO, CAMERON!  Er…*ahem*…Sorry, allow me to get down from my soapbox…Anyway, this breed of absurdist fantasy combined with a stellar cast of actors and a director who can pull it off, really hit the mark that 2009 was otherwise devoid of.  While the third act does COMPLETELY fall apart and actually ends up being quite dreadful, the rest of the movie made me smile so wide it actually made up for it.  Oh, and did I mention that Tom Waits is in it?

There’s nothing that I can say in praising Where the Wild Things Are that hasn’t already been said.  Jonze characterizes childhood as expertly as possible with what is, in my humble opinion, the most fitting narrative form, absurdism.  Jonze’s use of language and plot structure don’t matter nearly as much in Wild Things as the raw emotional tone of the film matters.  I have often read that the film’s emotional core drives the narrative and acts as the crux of the film, rather than any concrete plot structure or story arc.  And I couldn’t agree more.  Along those lines, I would love to see a subset of cinema better explore this exercise, as it seemed to truly work for almost all audiences and I would love to see this largely unutilized technique become a more prevalant aspect of the industry.  Just think everyone!  Wouldn’t it be great if all films endeavored for an overarching catharsis!?!

Moon was another film that was largely overlooked last year but that deserved much more attention.  Again, there is much in this movie that I DO NOT want to give away, so I will merely say that the flick’s driving force is its adherence to the importance of its tone, above all else.  Like Wild Things, Moon’s emphasis is on the tone that it establishes with its audience early on and its experimenting with its tonal shift.  While Moon’s plot is quite exciting and original, it still is not as unique as the movies overall feel and it’s emotional bearings that it constantly shifts, forcing its audience to re-assess and re-evaluate what has occurred.

_In the Realm of “Just Plain Fun” Films That Kept Me Captivated While Adhering to an Excellent Structure

Zombieland, Star Trek, District 9, Taken, and Sherlock Holmes

An uncharacteristic amount of films came out in 2009 that didn’t exactly leave me awe-struck from a technical standpoint.  Nor did they inflect any sort of reverential admiration in the way they were written or produced.  While these films weren’t exactly revolutionary in any premiere way, however, they did still manage to evoke a visceral infatuation from me that the rest of 2009 failed to:  In other words, these films were a TON of fun.  Zombieland was a simply awesome romp following Woody Harrellson at the top of his game acting like a bad-ass tutor to the likes of Jesse Eisenberg as Eisenberg experiences his coming-of-age during a zombie apocalypse.  While fairly color-by-numbers the very criticism that detractors can take against Zombieland is the main reason I adored it.  Though you know every move that’s going to be made before they make it, the characters are so enduring that you desperately WANT to see these characters make those said choices.  Nothing shocking appears in this story and that’s exactly the way I wanted it. 

Taken was much the same way.  While extremely over-the-top and ridiculous at points, Taken fully understands the realm its playing in and unapologetically pushes it forward.  Liam Neeson spends the entirety of the movie kicking ass and taking names and the movie brilliantly succeeds because of it. 

Sherlock Holmes was fairly campy (adding martial arts to nineteenth century England usually incurs the wrath of the word “campy”)  but it truly was fun to see Downey battle it out with English degenerates while matching wits and solving capers.  Honestly never thought I’d say that.

District 9 actually WAS revolutionary, but only in the way it accomplished everything it set out to, and more, with a meager budget.  While still a simple sci-fi statement on imperialism, District 9 produced results MUCH MORE efficiently and creatively than James Cameron came close to…

And, of course, Star Trek.  Everyone’s favorite and the film that is receiving the most sympathy for being snubbed at the Oscar nominations.  An incredible reboot of the franchise with a fantastic Chris Pine helming the endeavor, Star Trek was EVERYTHING I wanted out of the film, a simple-yet-exhilirating and fun ride.

_Most Underrated Movie of 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs along with Where the Wild Things Are proved that all you need are a handful of sentences and some childlike imagination to take an audiance on a wonderful adventure through storytelling.  The film was EXTREMELY loosely based on the children’s book in that food did, in fact, fall from the sky in both productions.  Going into Meatballs I was extremely skeptical, as I have qualms about rendering stories from pre-existing materials, especially when those materials are darling of children’s literature.  Meatballs quickly shut me up, however, with its lovely array of characters that proved to be both charming AND complex.  Each character had its own arc and structure and it truly reflected the care that the writers put into the film.  Meatballs easily made its money back, but did so gradually, and without much more than a peep from critics.  It deserves to sit as a distant second, but still tangential addition to the likes of Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are as proof that adaptations can take both successfully take artistic liscense, as well as actually produce entertaining cinema.

2. Up


Pixar rarely fails to awe, and Up is no exception. In addition to the small task of producing one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, Pixar managed to market this endeavor without giving away ANY crucial plot turns, WHATSOEVER.  Short of the “elderly citizen reluctantly takes kid on adventure in flying house” clips that we were shown, nothing that is central to the plot can be surmised from the entire advertising campaign. And the end result was a movie choc-ful of surprises.  Within the first 20 minutes of the movie I was welling up with tears, and by the end credits, my eyes were bleary again.  Ed Asner delivers a wonderful starring performance and proves that a narrative revolving around a senior citizen, a boy scout, and a flying house can captivate audiences better than any blockbuster revolving around giant, killer robots.

1. Away We Go


Completely underrated and unbelievably snubbed by the academy, critics, and end-of-the-year-list-makers alike, Sam Mendes’ latest directorial treat was absolutely wonderful in every cinematic aspect.  John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph both brighten up the screen in their melancholy world.  Conquering the mid-mid-life crisis, Kransinski and Rudolph’s characters both carry Mendes’ film as it explores our position in this life and how we, as people, come to find our meaning.  There is so much truth in this movie that it made me complete reassess Rudolph and Kransinski as actors.  After only seeing them in comedies on TV, it was so refreshing to come away from a film with MORE respect for actors,rather than less.  And while the acting is what fully sold me, the story, pacing, and overall style of the film are impeccable, as well.

Now, before anyone starts screaming about how many wunderbar flicks I left out, remember, these are my PERSONAL tastes.  It’s is SO hard to delineate what makes one film better than another.  I loved Zombieland, of course, but I feel Mottola hit more cinematic buttons with Adventureland, and besides, they are two COMPLETELY different films.  To be fair, however, I’m going to keep a tab of films that, as of January 13th 2010, I have not seen and therefore could not qualify in my list, however, I do recognize that they were regarded as “good.”

ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNND the embarassingly long laundry list of flicks that I have yet to see:

Movies I Have Not Seen So I Cannot NOT List Them:
_The Princess and the Frog
_Invictus
_A Single Man
_A Serious Man
_Brothers
_The Bunny and the Bull
_The Road
_Fantastic Mr. Fox
_The Box
_The Men Who Stare at Goats
_Precious
_A Christmas Carol
_An Education
_The Hurt Locker
_Big Fan
_The Reader

Hodgepodge

December 4, 2009

What happens when you cross this:

With this?:

Answer? You get this:

ANNNNNNNNND this:

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. Oh ho ho, that movie will be good based on the cast alone. Casting WIN! The above is payback for my recent unexcused absense. Though I will now try to further excuse it. It has been a BUUUUUUUUUUUUSY last two weeks, boys and girls. No excuse for blog-laziness, I know, but still, its been crazers these past few weeks. That being said, time for shway updates!  SHWAYDATES!  Copyright! Here is a quick list of randomness I have found around the internets that is incredibly wunderbar.

The /Filmcast: After Dark has a wonderful discussion about film criticism and whether it is a dead/dying/overtaken by noobs art. Spoiler alert for  Children of Men, American Psycho, and Blade Runner Blade Runner? Really?

/Filmcast After Dark Ep. 77

Cinematical has a pretty spiffy article about the ability of gay actors to openly come out of the closet and what it will mean to their career in the long run. The article focuses on Rupert Everett, which is a shame, because Everett is known in the community as a whiny, narcissistic, troublemaker and giving him any agency to represent the LGBT community is a bad idea. Make sure to read the comments below the article, as well.

Cinematical

Sundance is coming up and indieWire has a decent account of the action that is in the works.

indiWire

Though it was published over two years ago, I stumbled upon a pretty great little article on /Film that had an excellent little spiel about the proliferation of promising directors from the late 90’s and what the hell actually happened to them. Short, yet to the point, the article ponders what factors are contributing to this general content malaise and what can be done to prevent it. Funny that two years later we just now seem to be getting back to a formidable level of content across the board, rather than just waiting anxiously for the next Pixar or Superhero franchise.  Which I wouldn’t have a problem with if they each released 2 films a month.

Vintage /Film!

And finally, ANOTHER /Film article (I just love them so much) written by the always-well-versed Hunter Stephenson. A new futures trading market named the Cantor Exchange is attempting to soon go public. The Cantor Exchange will be the first system to trade futures on box office gross’. /Film has a very well written and interesting article on what this overt commoditization will have on the entertainment industry and the art of filmmaking itself.

/Film

ANNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD in smaller news…

_Zombieland 2 has been greenlit

_Justin Timberlake will star in the story of Facebook, The Social Network.

_Alec Baldwin insists that after 30 Rock he’s done acting. Personally? Not such a bad thing.

_Robert Duvall MAY be Don Quixote in Gilliam’s re-attempt at the tale.

_Spielberg drops his remake of Harvey.

_Oh, and did I mention that Comcast bought NBC Universal? No biggie, just wanted to put that out there…

Turtles, Toys, Tintin, and Terrence (Howard)

April 23, 2009

tmnt-figures-by-neca2 

It’s been a weird conglomeration of news over the best couple of days, but most of it has been PHENOM!!!

toystory

First and foremost, Toy Story 3 is done.  The movie that you will see in theatres is completed…accept for the dialogue.  /Film reports that Tom Hanks was shown a finished screener of the film before he had even begun recording.  And his response?  “Let’s get to work!”  Personally, I’m excited.  Because Pixar has an incredibly stellar track record (especially with their baby, the Toy Story franchise) and Tom Hanks has this strange propensity to choose incredamazing scripts/films.  Somebody poisoned the waterin’ hole!

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles_1987

Peter Laird, the original creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is helming a new, live-action recreation of the quartet’s adventures and he has announced that the production will feature a sort of hybrid of live-action and animation, with stuntmen in suits being enhanced by a healthy dose of CGI.  I’m not a huge fan of CGI at all, so I am a little skeptical of this, however, with the Turtles original creator at the helm, at least the story shouldn’t suck.  Right?

 tintin

Spielberg and Peter Jackson have been working on Tintin for some time now, but Empire just broke the news that Tintin’s sequel is already in pre-production.  Apparently, Spielberg has been the main man at the helm for the first episode, while Jackson plans to take over most of the directing duties for the second one.  The complete article is here.

terrence-howard

Terrence Howard is PISSED.  After being brutally snubbed by the re-casting of War Machine in the second Iron Man flick, Howard has finally verbally lashed out at Marvel.  And, strangely, Howard actually directs some choice words towards Robert Downy Jr.  For being one of the few members of the cast to receive a bonus for the film’s box office breakthrough.  While I am incredibly far from perfect and, in fact, quite vindictive myself, I must say, Terrence…Jealous much?  Story found here.

524px-mick-foley-at-signing

And to end my news-ramble, Mick Foley just recently won the TNA World Championship.  My reaction is the same reaction I’ve had for years now.  Mick…please stop.  You are an incredible talent and a definite living legend in the ring.  But you have a family who needs you and I simply don’t think that bedtime stories with Daddy will be any better if you can’t remember the happy ending.  Please, from a true fan of yours, stop, live off of your residuals, and continue to write.  You have such a literary talent and I am certain that it will become completely squandered if you take approximately three more well-placed chair shots to the head.  I’m no doctor, but I know brain hemorrhage when I see it.