Category Archives: Movies

My Year in Film: 2014

I know you’ve been waiting for this.

Once again, I’ve reviewed all the movies I saw this year. I always aim to see at least one new movie per month. This year I barely met my goal with 13 movies seen.

There were definitely a few that I really wanted to see but didn’t. Those neglected pieces of cinema include: Foxcatcher, Interstellar, Obvious Child and Whiplash.

Overall, I had a lot of fun at the theater this year (and, yeah, I know; I say that every year). There were a couple notable disappointments, but I’m quite satisfied with my experiences.

Also, You know (or should by now) how the Internet works. There are spoilers.

The Lego Movie

This is ostensibly a kids movie, but I know a hell of a lot of adults who loved it. Believe me, I was surprised. The Lego Movie might be the one exception to the rule when it comes to movies based on toys. That rule being they’re terrible.

I’m looking at you Battleship. 

The movie is bright and flashy and well animated. It also has an infectiously fun theme song performed by Tegan and Sara. On the surface, it’s a pretty easy sell to kids.  Honestly, that’s probably all that was expected of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (co-writers and directors).

But they didn’t stop there.

Instead, they got an incredibly talented and funny voice cast with the likes of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, etc…

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Poor Captain America.

This movie would have stuck with people more had Guardians of the Galaxy not been released the same year. With that in mind, this was a really solid entry for Marvel.

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Casting Call: More Video Game Adaptations

A while ago I wrote a post in which I played casting director for yet-to-be-made movie adaptions of video games.

It was a lot of fun so I thought a write another post on some of the games I excluded previously. Hollywood could definitely use my help.

Mass Effect 

Like Bioshock, Mass Effect has an engrossing story, interesting characters and a detailed, atmospheric world.  If done right, it has the potential to become the next great sci-fi series.

Ideally, the first movie would cover the events of Mass Effect 2, which is the best game in the series. Sam Worthington should play Shepard. Movies such as Terminator: Salvation and Avatar have already proven he can do the sci-fi/action thing, and he bears striking resemblance to Shep.

Scarlett Johansson should play Miranda. She had a similar role as government spook in The Avengers and we know she can wear the hell out of a jumpsuit.

Straighten her hair, change her name and you have Miranda.

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The Top 5 Action Films of the 2000s

I’m painting with broad brush strokes here, but if there’s a masculine counterpart to the romantic comedy in film, it’s the action genre. Like romantic comedies, the characters are often one-dimensional and the dialogue is terrible… but with the added bonus of explosions and some gratuitous nudity.

However, when done right, action films can be entertaining and engrossing pieces of cinema.

*I’ve excluded superhero films such as The Dark Knight and fantasy films such as Lord of the Rings because at this point they’re basically their own genres*

Gladiator (2000)

I saw Gladiator  in the theater when I was like 14, and it blew my mind. It confirmed my suspicion that Ridley Scott has some sort of the deal with the devil. After making, Blade Runner and Alien he could have just called it good. But then he made Gladiator. 

It’s the type of film that is rarely done well–a detailed historical drama mixed with a smart and purposeful action scenes. Russel Crowe, a man not known for his gentle demeanor, and Joaquin Phoenix, a known weirdo, are perfectly cast as Maximus the vengeful gladiator and Commodus the creepy emperor.

Also, that scene is how I feel continuously writing free content on the Internet.

4. Snatch (2000)

Of his body of work, Snatch probably epitomizes Guy Ritchie’s style. Per usual, it focuses on a variety of London lowlifes and gangsters whose previously unrelated lives become intertwined.

The large ensemble cast, including Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Vinnie Jones and Benicio del Toro, deliver smart, fast dialogue. But it’s more than fast-talking limey hoods. It also delivers great action sequences, such as the bare-knuckle boxing matches, and plenty of humor.

There’s not a sophisticated or verbose way to put it: this film is just flat-out cool.

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I Don’t Carry a Gun; I Drive

Another column I wrote recently:

I love the film “Drive.” There’s a lot to love about it: The synthesizer-heavy soundtrack, Albert Brooks playing a heavy, Ryan Gosling (ladies), Gosling’s satin baseball jacket, the cinematography, etc…

I like all that, but the title says it all. Deep down, I know I love “Drive” because of the cars, the chase scenes, the stunts, the act of driving. It’s precisely why I will tolerate, even secretly enjoy, ridiculously over-the-top movies such as “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Death Race.”

I’ve always enjoyed driving, and I suspect it’s due to childhood road trips with my family. In a country whose identity is so tied to Manifest Destiny and rugged individualism, a car, driving, represents independence. It represents potential and opportunity.

There’s something unmistakeably American about a road trip. One only has to look at American classics like “Easy Rider” or “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac where the road trip is raised to an almost mythical status.

That sort of reverence is possible because this country has the luxury of space. The great expanse of land we call home allows one to make a several-hour, or several-day, trip without running into the border of another nation. We can travel 3,000 miles, coast to coast, and still call where we end up home.

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Tony Scott’s Top 5 Movies

I know I’m late on this, but I haven’t had a chance to post it. I wrote this piece (there are some edits for this version) for my paper’s entertainment section last week. Enjoy!

Director Tony Scott, brother of Ridley Scott, was one of the most accomplished filmmakers of the last several decades. Tragically, he took his own life earlier this month. He may be gone but his films remain.

They are a testament to his talent, particularly in directing action films. He leaves behind an impressive catalog of work. These are five of his best pieces.

Spy Game (2001)

Spy Game was an underrated thriller revolving around CIA agents operating in China during the early ’90s.

CIA agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is captured in China on the eve of a major trade agreement between the U.S. and China. Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), the agent who recruited him, must rescue him to avoid an international incident.

It was quite clever spy movie at a time when people had mostly forgotten about 007 and the word “spy” was synonymous with Austin Powers, a caricature of the genre.

Man on Fire (2004)

The original Man on Fire was released in 1987, and Scott’s remake exceeds it in almost every aspect. It follows a former CIA agent John Creasy (Denzel Washington) as he guards a wealthy Mexico City business man’s daughter, “Pita” (Dakota Fanning).

Pita is kidnapped and the rest of the film is a pretty straight forward revenge tale. However, Scott’s stylized approach, dark tone and Washington’s performance, as well as bit parts by Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke, keep it from being a cheap Get Carter knock off.


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