Top 10 Movies of 2005

Solid movies from 2005. All are easily re-watchable and have improved with age.

10.  Hitch  (4 stars)

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9.  Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith  (4 stars)

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8.  Two For the Money  (4 stars)

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7.  Munich  (4 stars)

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6.  Batman Begins  (4 stars)

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5.  Prime  (4 stars)

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4.  A History of Violence  (4 stars)

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3.  The New World  (4 stars)

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2.  Cinderella Man  (4.5 stars)

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1.  Brokeback Mountain  (5 stars)

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While Crash (2005) won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2005, I know I’m not alone in championing Brokeback Mountain as the better film of the two. I like Crash and have given it 3.5 stars out of 5. But in my opinion it’s not in the same league as Brokeback. I’m definitely due to re-watch Crash since I haven’t seen it in over 5 years and I’m curious to see how it stands up now, almost a decade later. But I know that Brokeback Mountain stands up extremely well because I’ve re-watched it several times over the years, most recently in its upgraded Blu-ray format, where it really sings in terms of its cinematography, sound, music and production design…not to mention Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performances. I didn’t love Brokeback initially as much as I do now. It’s a subtle, dark and sad movie that’s hard to really love at first. Looking back on Ledger’s sadly short career though, this is the performance I wish he had earned his acting Oscar for. I think it’s his best performance, with his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) next, and then as William Thatcher in A Knight’s Tale (2001).

The bottom line is that director Ang Lee made Brokeback Mountain at a time when nobody really wanted a mainstream “gay” movie, let alone a “gay cowboy” movie starring two straight leading Hollywood men. He broke down the walls of what a good love story could be, making Brokeback a movie that can appeal to anyone of any sexual orientation. It’s a testament to Lee’s incredible craftsmanship and commitment to telling great stories that he went around all the stereotypes that could have made this film a disaster, and focused instead on the characters of Jack and Ennis, humanizing them and helping us expand the boundaries of true love.

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Top 10 Movies of 2012

Even though we’re a month into 2013, it usually takes me that long to catch up with and finish the movies from the previous year, as well as wait for them to be released in my local theaters. I like to see all the movies that I want to see and that I feel I should see (from critic’s POV’s) to fairly weigh in on my Top 10 Movies of any year.

I rate and rank movies both from my perspective and the perspective many critics take of what movies are important and relevant to cinema as an art form and “should” be seen by others. But to try and rate and rank movies without my personal bias for or against a film, as frivolous as that may be sometimes, seems like a completely fruitless exercise. At the end of the day, movies are EXTREMELY PERSONAL to each and every human being, and there’s no way to be some sort of unbiased critic picking “the best” movies for any other person or for the cinematic art form as a whole. So this Top 10 is and always will be my Top 10.

As of the writing of this post, I’ve seen 67 movies released in the U.S. in 2012, most of them in the theater on the big screen. And here are my Top 10 from that selection:

10.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower  (4 stars)

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9.  The Master  (4 stars)

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8.  Robot & Frank  (4 stars)

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7.  Skyfall  (4 stars)

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6.  The Hunger Games  (4 stars)

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5.  Safety Not Guaranteed  (4 stars)

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4.  Argo  (4 stars)

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3.  The Impossible  (4.5 stars)

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2.  The Dark Knight Rises  (5 stars)

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1.  Zero Dark Thirty  (5 stars)

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I’ve been torn between Zero Dark Thirty and The Dark Knight Rises as my #1 movie of 2012 for the last month. Flip-flopping back and forth between the two. And that’s the main reason this post is coming out now, seemingly so “late” in the season. The Dark Knight Rises was the only film seriously vying for the top of my list since I saw it twice in July. I kept waiting and waiting for a “better” and more “serious”, “critically important” movie to top it. It seemed like I shouldn’t have The Dark Knight Rises at the top of my list for so many reasons: it wasn’t as great as the two in the trilogy before it to most people (although I like it the best of the three), I’m 39 years old and shouldn’t love a superhero movie so much, I’m a serious dramatic character-driven movie fan, etc. But I flat-out loved the experience I had of seeing, hearing and feeling The Dark Knight Rises in digital IMAX twice this past Summer. It simply grabbed me so viscerally and emotionally and never let go. I still need to watch it a third time in my home theater to see if it holds up as well on the small screen. But on the big screen, it’s hard to beat in so many ways!

I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty twice on the big screen as well. And the last 30 minutes of that movie are some of the best in movies, period. And now I’ve settled on Zero Dark Thirty as my #1 movie of 2012 because I think it has one little thing going for it that The Dark Knight Rises does not: the real history of the events at the center of the story (regardless of their supposed level of accuracy). While both movies have incredible villains at their core, there’s some kind of gravitas to ZDT’s hunt for Bin Laden in response to the terrible tragedy of 9/11. It just grabs me as being so relevant to my own life and the lives of everyone on the planet, which took a dramatic turn for different because of that event. The Dark Knight Rises is very relevant too, in a more abstract way. But over time, I predict Zero Dark Thirty will be a movie I choose to re-watch more than The Dark Knight Rises, and that is always a factor in ranking my films, as “arbitrary” and personal as it may be.

As always, there were a number or great movies that didn’t make this list of 10…at least not yet! Over time, a couple might sneak in…you never know. Here are 15 other movies that were in considered for this Top 10 and round out what would be my Top 25 Movies of 2012:

11. End of Watch  (4 stars)
12. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (3.5 stars)
13. Lincoln  (3.5 stars)
14. Prometheus  (3.5 stars)
15. Life of Pi  (3.5 stars)
16. Sound of My Voice  (3.5 stars)
17. Your Sister’s Sister  (3.5 stars)
18. The Lucky One  (3.5 stars)
19. Killing Them Softly  (3.5 stars)
20. Promised Land  (3.5 stars)
21. The Bourne Legacy  (3.5 stars)
22. Flight  (3.5 stars)
23. Jiro Dreams of Sushi  (3.5 stars)
24. The Grey  (3.5 stars)
25. Lawless  (3.5 stars)

Top 10 Movies of 2006

2006 brought a really interesting mix of movies, both big and small, covering a mix of genres. Some of these movies I’ve watched over and over multiple times, enjoying them more and more on each subsequent viewing, like Little Miss Sunshine and The Last Kiss. I own most of these movies on blu-ray and like to revisit them in regular rotation, escaping in to the worlds they so nicely create.

10.  Apocalypto  (4 stars)

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9.  Inside Man  (4 stars)

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8.  Notes on a Scandal  (4 stars)

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7.  Little Miss Sunshine  (4 stars)

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6.  Blood Diamond  (4 stars)

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5.  300  (4.5 stars)

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4.  The Last Kiss  (4.5 stars)

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3. The Departed  (4.5 stars)

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2.  United 93  (5 stars)

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1.  The Prestige  (5 stars)

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It’s a tough choice between The Prestige and United 93 for my #1 movie of 2006. Both films completely envelop you in their worlds and connect with you on so many levels. It wouldn’t surprise me if these two go back and forth for the title now and then. United 93 is by far the best film about the September 11 attacks on America still to this day. It’s absolutely riveting and chilling every time, even though you know exactly what’s going to happen. British writer/director Paul Greengrass did something no American dared do, tell the story of 9-11 so that we can cathartically heal from it and understand it on a realistic level from many points of view and not just from the “Let’s go kill them there terrorists” George Bush line of thinking. That being said, The Prestige is another Christopher Nolan film that so justly shows why Nolan is simply one of the best working directors today. In the hiatus between his first two Batman movies, he popped out this magical mystery thriller with Bruce Wayne himself, Christian Bale. The cinematography, production design, acting, sound, music, editing, and every other possible facet of filmmaking is on gorgeous craftsmanlike display in The Prestige. And much like Inception, Nolan leaves us with a huge question mark at the end of The Prestige that sinks in to your psyche and never quite gets out. And each time you watch it, you get caught up in it again. The magic of Nolan is that he somehow keeps making fantastic films time after a time. He’s a real magician himself.

Top 10 Movies of 2007

2007 was a year that many movie lovers consider one of the best of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Mainly because of There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men, the two epic Americana movies that battled it out for Best Picture at the Oscars. While I cheered for No Country For Old Men to win back in the Spring of 2008, I now believe There Will Be Blood is the much better film and the one that should have won Best Picture. But regardless, both are great movies that I own on blu-ray and appreciate much more now, 5 years later, than I did back in 2007.

10.  The Invisible  (4 stars)

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9.  Elizabeth: The Golden Age  (4 stars)

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8.  Dan In Real Life  (4 stars)

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7.  Gone Baby Gone  (4 stars)

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6.  Into the Wild  (4 stars)

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5.  No Country For Old Men  (4 stars)

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4.  Fracture  (4 stars)

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3.  The Bourne Ultimatum  (5 stars)

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2.  There Will Be Blood  (5 stars)

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1.  Sunshine  (5 stars)

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I’ve really come around on P.T. Anderson’s groundbreaking film There Will Be Blood. While I appreciated it and liked it on first viewing, it’s taken the last 5 years and 2 additional viewings to really fall in love with it. If I had made this Top 10 list at this time last year, There Will Be Blood wouldn’t have even made it on the list, but now it’s sky rocketed into #2 after my purchase of it on blu-ray and subsequent third viewing. Part of my wants it to be #1 because it’s the more respected and cinematic choice, but if you ask me which movie I want to watch more, There Will Be Blood or Sunshine, most times, I’d pick Sunshine. Danny Boyle just created such an incredible “world” on the Icarus spacecraft and the one-way trip to blow-up the sun is just such a thrilling concept, that it touched the geek in me. Not to mention the audio and visual elements of the movie are simply spectacular! So for now, Sunshine remains my #1 movie of 2007.

Top 5 Tony Scott Films

In memory of the great film director Tony Scott, here are my five favorite films of his. All 5 are in my Top 100 Movies of all time. Mr. Scott is one of my Top 10 Directors of all time, a list which I’m still finalizing. But currently he’s #9 on it. He’ll be greatly missed, but his work will live on forever in the world of cinema, connecting, inspiring and entertaining people of all ages all around the world.

5. Beverly Hills Cop II  (1987)

4. Crimson Tide  (1995)

3. Enemy of the State  (1998)

 

2. Days of Thunder  (1990)

 

1.  Top Gun  (1986)

 

Growing up as a teenager in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, seeing director Tony Scott’s summer blockbuster movies were defining moments in my life and in film. We all fell in love with Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis as they did on screen in their steamy hot and feisty scenes at the Top Gun Naval Academy in San Diego. I think part of why Top Gun is my #1 is because it was the first Tony Scott film I ever saw. It permanently put every Tony Scott movie on my radar and my To Watch list. So every successor to Top Gun that Tony made is compared back to the original.

While I know there are MANY people who felt that Days of Thunder was simply Top Gun on a racetrack, I whole-heartedly disagree with the lack of love shown to this film. The depth in the performances of Cruise, Robert Duvall, and Nicole Kidman and the supporting cast are underrated to this day. But I constantly re-watch Days of Thunder over and over, year after year, because it’s simply a damn good story, even if it is “familiar”. Scott proved to me that not every movie has to be original. It just needs to tell a good story.

Enemy of the State took us into the scary world of “big brother” way before we were even aware of the impact the internet and digital technology would have on us. I watch Enemy of the State now in 2012 and I’m still blown away at the frenetic and instantaneous pace of the film and the world the film depicts. Great performances from Will Smith, Gene Hackman and an amazing supporting cast. Crimson Tide may have been the next submarine movie after The Hunt For Red October (1990), but it told it’s own unique story in a unique way, that holds up very well nearly 20 years later. One of my favorites to watch as Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman battle it out over their missile keys.

Finally, Beverly Hills Cop II was one of the rare sequels in a franchise that was as good or better than the original. For me, it’s a tiny bit better, mostly because we got to have a lot of fun with all these familiar characters from the first film. Scott gave us an incredible mix of hilarious comedy, tense action, and smart storytelling that Eddie Murphy has never been able to recapture in another role since this film.

I will greatly miss Tony Scott’s work, but thankfully there are so many great films of his to re-watch for the rest of my life. Some of my other favorites of his include Spy Game (2001), Deja Vu (2006), and Revenge (1990).

 

 

Top 10 Movies of 2008

2008 was an average year for movies. There’s really not much else to say about it. So I’ll just get to my list of the 10 best movies!

10.  Vicky Cristina Barcelona  (3.5 stars)

9.  Nights In Rodanthe  (3.5 stars)

8.  Revolutionary Road  (3.5 stars)

7.  21  (3.5 stars)

6.  Appaloosa  (4 stars)

5.  Doubt  (4 stars)

4.  Gran Torino  (4 stars)

3.  The Visitor  (4 stars)

2.  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  (4.5 stars)

1.  Jumper  (5 stars)

Jumper might seem like an odd choice for my #1 movie of 2008, but while it looks on the surface like just another visual effects driven, high-concept, big budget blockbuster, there’s really a good dramatic story interwoven within it. And I think they were just scratching the surface of it in this film, hoping to go deeper into it with a sequel. But even if they never make another Jumper, I think this film stands on its own. When I first saw it, I liked it, but not enough to propel it ahead of most of the other movies in this list. But over repeated viewings, Jumper just really won me over. It kept getting better and better with each viewing. Director Doug Liman really brought a great team together for this project and it paid off. I’m hoping he’s able to do it again.

Top 10 Movies of 2009

Working my way backwards through the first decade of the 2000’s, here’s my list of the Top 10 Movies of 2009. It was a great year for smaller movies, with Star Trek being the only “big budget” movie making my list. Every single one of these films is worth a watch if you haven’t seen them already. I’ve watched most of them several times now.

10.  Brothers  (4 stars)

9.  It Might Get Loud  (4 stars)

8.  Star Trek  (4 stars)

7.  Inglourious Basterds  (4 stars)

6.  The Hurt Locker  (4 stars)

5.  Up In The Air  (4 stars)

4.  Moon  (4.5 stars)

3.  Crazy Heart  (4.5 stars)

2.  A Single Man  (5 stars)

1.  (500) Days Of Summer  (5 stars)

I had a hard time choosing my #1 film of 2009 since both A Single Man and (500) Days of Summer are perfect (5 stars) in my own eyes. I had A Single Man as my #1 for a long time, but after repeated viewings of both, I think I’ve finally settled on (500) Days of Summer as my #1 for the year. It’s just so easy to re-watch over and over and enjoy every single time. I feel the same way to a large extent about A Single Man, but I have to be in a different mood for A Single Man. It plays better when watching it by myself. Whereas (500) Days is easy to watch with others because of its comedy. The bottom line is that both movies are spectacular pieces of cinematic craft by first-time directors. And since I went to high school with the director of (500) Days, Marc Webb, I probably am giving him the hometown “win”.