Category Archives: Review

2006 Best Movie Bracket

What was the best movie of 2006? I’m going to change the way I do this a little bit. Normally I would share some information about the year and other movies that are honorable mentions in the first few paragraphs. However, I’m afraid that most of you are clicking away before you even get to the #1 pick.  So, I’m going to start with my top picks and I’ll try to pepper in more information about the year and other possible choices throughout my reviews.

3rd – Pan’s Labyrinth

From the innovative mind of Guillermo del Toro comes Pan’s Labyrinth. It is a coming of age tale of innocence and imagination. It is a story about a young girl who is other worldly. Like a crystal vase in a sea of tupperware, she doesn’t match her surroundings. Del Toro creates a fantasy world that is draws us in and leaves us feeling like a child who just heard a fairy tale for the first time.

A warning to my more language challenged readers, this film is in Spanish. It is subtitled. I don’t see that as a problem. I would like to hear why you do if you do. The story is set in Spain in 1944 following the Spanish Civil War. So really any language besides Spanish would feel forced and inauthentic. If you claim that you don’t go to the movies to read, then that is just laziness and you need to get over it. The story centers around Ofelia who is traveling with her pregnant mother. They are moving to a fascist command centre in rural Spain led by the fiendish Captain Vidal  who happens to be the father of the mother’s unborn child. Ofelia is the type of child whose imagination feeds her energy. Unfortunately, it is also her imagination that causes Ofelia’s disconnect with the real world.

Ofelia’s exploring leads her to meet a faun. This is the Pan of the English title of the film (del Toro has told us that that is not actually the faun’s name). The first interaction between Ofelia and the faun is revealing because Ofelia doesn’t draw back in horror at the sight of this creature, in fact she seems more comfortable in his presence that with her own mother. This fantasy is her reality and it becomes ours. Ofelia learns the fact that every little girl steeped in fairy tales has yearned to hear, that she is a long lost princess separated from her kingdom.

Half of the story plays out in this ominous and sometimes frightening dreamland. However, del Toro is using the other half of the story to give us a picture of good and evil. The real monster of the film is Captain Vidal despite his normal outward appearance. Let me be quick to say that this is not a kids movie. With the young protagonist and presence of fairy tale creatures it might be tempting to present this to a child, but violence play an important part in this film showing the harsh, unwanted situation that Ofelia’s real life presents her with and blood, guts, and broken bones are all present in this reality.

El Laberinto del Fauno (or Pan’s Labyrinth) is a gorgeously detailed and styled story with characters and creatures to love and despise. Del Toro gives me hope that imagination is not dead. However, it wasn’t the only imaginative film of the year. I would also check out: The Prestige, Little Miss Sunshine, Borat, The Fountain, Paprika, Stranger Than Fiction, The Fall, A Scanner Darkly, Idiocracy, Perfume and Science of Sleep. Perhaps there is still hope yet.

2nd – Children of Men

Children of Men is a near future science fiction film based on a 1992 P.D. James novel and directed by the ever versatile Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Gravity). It is set in 2027, but there is nothing special about that date. It could just as easily be 2050, or 2019. It feels like it is just a breath away. Forget giant asteroids or alien invasions, Children of Men conveys a doomsday scenario that is realistically frightening and contemporary.

Mankind has become infertile, there has not been a new birth recorded for over 18 years. Devolving into chaos from the ticking clock facing everyone, the world has resorted to violence. Britain, the only country that still “soldiers on,” has closed its borders to the swarms of refugees (sound familiar?) Those that make it through the cracks, called “fugees,” are captured and deported. The country is now a completely totalitarian state with state police and surveillance cameras everywhere.

The war-torn atmosphere and the mayhem that seems to erupt out of nowhere convey the urgency and danger of the situation. All of it is captured brilliantly by Alfonso Cuarón and the incomparable Emmanuel Lubetzki. Without hope, people are resorting to their base instincts ad lust for survival. Theo’s quest to protect Kee becomes the only thing that matters. The revelation that she is pregnant means that she is fighting for the future of all mankind.

Clive Owen plays Theo as a very ordinary man. With the action in this film, he could have easily become a 007 knockoff, but instead we are left in the frightening mess with him and allowed to feel his fear. In the same way, it would have been easy to write the appearance of this pregnant woman as a miracle, but Cuarón never makes that mistake. It’s hard to categorize this film as either a rich thematic drama when it elevates into a high-octane action film. That is one of the best things about it. It is a great dystopian thriller that is one of the best things that we have seen from a talented young director.

There were a couple of other Science fiction or dramas that almost made this list, but came up just short. Other films to add to your watchlist for the year are, The Lives of Others, Babel, Blood Diamond, Apocalypto, Last King of Scotland, and Little Children.

1st – The Departed

This is why remakes shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The legendary Martin Scorsese with his screenwriter William Monahan have taken an okay Chinese film, Infernal Affairs, and breathed new life into it, framing it as an American epic crime drama. This is Scorcese’s best since Goodfellas and it deserves mention alongside Scorsese’s other most celebrated films Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

I don’t want to go into the plot too far. The trailer goes a bit too deep in my opinion. I will just say that it is a high stakes game of lies, secrets, and hidden identities. This is among the greatest of ensemble casts of all time. We have headliners like Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg (Oscar nominated), and Alec Baldwin turning in superb supporting roles while Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon shine under the leadership of a premier director. This was the role that skyrocketed DiCaprio into the stratosphere. He and Scorsese work so brilliantly together, this was the best work he had done at the time. This is an amazing return to form for Jack Nicholson. He relishes every moment before the camera with this diabolical confidence and intensity. I think it was criminal that he wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.

Speaking of Oscars, The Departed did go home with four awards on that night. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing. As far as crime dramas go, this is one of the best. Take note, this is a gangster film by Scorsese so there is a fair amount of violence and profanity. However, The Departed is somewhat tame in comparison to some of the director’s other films. It is entangling and highly entertaining, truly the best of 2006.

These posts are getting pretty long as I can’t help but write a full review for the film instead of just a quick snippet, so to help with this, starting with 2005, I will be posting my reviews separately and the Best Movie Bracket post will fairly short. It will link to my full reviews and will help explain why I chose one film over another.

The Lobster (2016) Sarcastic Review

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Seriously, I think you should make it a date night with the one you love. Watch as the sexy Colin Farrell woos the nearsighted woman of his dreams (Rachel Weisz) by bringing her dead rabbits. In the days of Tinder, it is nice to see a movie that gets down to the things that really matter in a relationship, like sharing the same physical malady.

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But you might ask, is this another one of those movies where single people get turned into animals if they don’t find love in 45 days. Yes, it is another one of those movies and I do agree that is a worn out plot device, but The Lobster is so much more than just another formulaic animal transformation romance. For instance, in this film single people (or loners) can be killed to extend your stay at the luxury hotel and masturbation is not allowed or you will have your hands disfigured. It is so romantic.

Continue reading The Lobster (2016) Sarcastic Review

Spielberg’s BFG (2016) Review

The BFG doesn’t waste any time getting us into the action. We are barely introduced to young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who is awake at 3am in her dilapidated London orphanage. After hearing a noise outside, she goes to the balcony and sees something amazing. She spots a giant around 30 feet tall shrouded with a cloak to keep himself hidden. As they meet eyes, she runs back inside to hide under her blanket, and we see a large hand come through the window. Less than 10 minutes into the movie, Sophie is already being whisked away to Giant Country where the giant tells her that he intends to keep her for the remainder of her life.

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Lucky for Sophie, the giant who snatched Sophie away is a Big Friendly Giant who sets off to Dream Country every night to collect dreams and spread them to households while bottling the nightmares away in his lab. He is indeed big, but as we soon learn, the other 9 giants are as much as twice as large as him and they aren’t so friendly. They eat humans, and children are some of their favorite snacks. With imaginative names like Meatdripper, Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, and Gizzardgulper that could only be concocted by Dahl. I was disappointed that Mathison and Spielberg made these supposedly menacing creatures into giant ogres who pose dwarf-sized threats.

Continue reading Spielberg’s BFG (2016) Review

2012 – Best Movie Bracket

It is so hard to distinguish between the best movies of the year and the ones that I like to watch repeatedly. Sometimes they are one and the same. I absolutely loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I have a feeling that my enjoyment of the movie is more about my personal connection than the actual worth of the film.

There are also several very good films that I consider extremely worthy of being considered the best of the year, such as; LincolnLife of PiThe Master, and Silver Linings Playbook. They are honorable mentions, but unfortunately I had to cut it down to three.

Continue reading 2012 – Best Movie Bracket

Swiss Army Man (2016) Review

How deeply should I think about a movie who’s star is a farting corpse? If that were really all it was, I wouldn’t be giving it a second thought, but any movie that leaves a theater of people alternatively cackling with raucous laughter and asking themselves what the hell they just watched is worth talking about. I did come away with one thought… From now on, I’m going to fart in front of my closest friends as an expression of love.

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I’m not even sure how a movie like Swiss Army Man is conceived. Though I guess I should expect it from the directing duo, “Daniels” who made the crazy video for the song, “Turn Down For What.” I don’t know how they came up with the idea, but I’m glad that they did. I’m glad that films like this are being made. As sophomoric as much of it was, it was strange and unique and beautiful.

Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe turned in a couple of funny and very moving performances. This film has so much ambition for a bleak, body oriented comedy. The focus is the absurdity of the human condition. We’re led along by our gross bodies, yet we spend all our lives denying and concealing their urges. The film frequently achieves a kind of weird poetry. A shot of a pallid, waxy Radcliffe laying in a bed of clover with a turd next to his head is especially beautiful. It sounds completely absurd and unappealing as I write it here, but that is what this film does so well. What sounds disgusting or juvenile actually plays out very differently on screen.

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Underneath all of the bodily function humor, we have a very familiar story about a fairly sad protagonist who overcomes his fears and issues with the help of an eccentric and fearless friend. Filled with great pop culture references, “If you don’t know Jurassic Park, you don’t know…” and catchy music that will have you humming along, this is an emotional film that left me with a huge smile beaming across my face. I’m not sure how long it will linger in my memory or how it will stand the test of time, but I had a great time watching it. I think the ending will leave you questioning what you just saw while you laugh uncontrollably. Be sure to see it with people. This is a film that like a fart should be shared with the ones you love.

The Neon Demon (2016) Review

The Neon Demon is an uncompromisingly divisive film. The 10th feature film for Nicolas Winding Refn who has made quite a name for himself with his unique style and controversial subject matter. His best known previous film was the extremely well received 2011 film, Drive, starring Ryan Gosling. After returning to the screen with Ryan Gosling in 2013’s Only God Forgives, Refn has now chosen to make a very female-centric film in The Neon Demon. In it there is a stirring commentary on the culture of beauty in our society today.

Refn said that this film was allowing him to be born into the body of a beautiful 16 year old girl. He didn’t know what it was like to be beautiful and with two daughters, the oldest of which is 13, he wanted to explore the idea of beauty and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Some believe that Refn has gone too far and has slipped into the realm of smut in his latest film. I can see where they are coming from since there are some very extreme taboos that he plays with including cannibalism and necrophilia. However, while it certainly is not for everyone, The Neon Demon is a powerful film which has had me pondering its themes of beauty and death ever since I saw it last week.

Continue reading The Neon Demon (2016) Review

2013 – Best Movie Bracket

You will probably notice a pattern with my picks as we continue to go through this exercise. I’m looking for films that have staying power. I have as much fun as the next guy in the moment, munching popcorn to an action flick, but if you ask me for details a month or two down the road I will give you a blank stare. I love movies that impact you and leave you thinking and feeling something more than entertained.

With that criteria in mind, 2013 was a solid year for cinema with unique and captivating stories like NebraskaCaptain Phillips, Prisoners, Dallas Buyers Club, Snowpiercer, and Inside Llewyn Davis. All of those could be considered honorable mentions to my top 3 of the year.

Continue reading 2013 – Best Movie Bracket

High Rise (2016) Review

Based on the 1975 novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard, the entire movie can be summed up in the first sentence of Ballard’s novel.

Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.

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Continue reading High Rise (2016) Review

2014 – Best Movie Bracket

As I have been looking at my top films for a given year, I needed a method for looking at a large number of films for the year so that I could compare them. In my search, I came across Letterboxd. I tried Letterboxd a few years back before it had the number of users that it does today. They have made significant improvements and the user community is phenomenal. I would encourage any movie lover to keep their film diary at Letterboxd.

The site has also let me look at a number of films from any given year and sort them in a multitude of ways. Letterboxd has 12,585 films listed with a release date of 2014. This is also where the featured image comes from and where I will pull the featured image from all of my annual entries. This is to give you a chance to see some of the other films that I had to pass over to get my favorites. According to the site, I have seen 63 of those films. So with that, let’s look at my top 3 films of 2014.

Continue reading 2014 – Best Movie Bracket

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Review

With Independence Day: Resurgence, Roland Emmerich is giving Michael Bay a run for his money and solidifying his status as the Director you call if you are looking for global catastrophe.

I try to watch a movie for what it is. This is not an artful indie flick with snappy dialogue. This 20 year old cluttered sequel to the 1996 smash Independence Day is a summer popcorn movie. That usually means destruction in between bursts of vapid or humorous dialogue, Resurgence delivers according to those expectations. But for some reason, Emmerich feels the need to continually remind us that this is an Independence Day sequel instead of just making an Independence Day sequel. It seems like we can’t go more than 5 minutes without some visual or auditory clue that we are watching the child of his most accomplished work.

Continue reading Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Review