Slammers! Top 5 Summer Blockbusters

I saw a lot of movies this summer and have been very busy with a new job. This is why I have not written a review for all the movies I went to. Starting May 6th until this last weekend I went and saw 12 movies in the theater. You do the math with the current ticket prices…JEEZ! This is an expensive habit.

During the summer I try to really focus on big summer blockbusters, I love art house films and romantic comedies, but during the summer I really want to get my money’s worth out of at least two of my senses. All the movies I did see fit in this category; big, expensive, A-list actors/directors, and they all made a lot of money. To tell you the truth it was a really good summer, I can honestly say only one of the movies was awful, another few were okay, but the other eight were good or really good.

I have been thinking and examining my top 5 and they have changed here and there, but this final list is really where I feel the most comfortable and feel like I can justify an explanation.


5. Tie!!! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. First time ever I have had a tie, but this is truly a tie. First HP, I loved this movie, it made me cry and gave me other emotional responses that reminded me of being a kid. That being said, it was not this one movie that did it for me, it was combination of 7 other films and 7 books that made this one movie so great. Second, RotPotA, this movie will most definitely win an Academy Award for visual effects, WETA is the absolute best in visual effects right now. Not since Jurassic Park have I been so in awe of animal CGI. Again, this movie could not be as good as it was if not for my childhood love of the “Apes” series. As a kid my favorite one was Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Rise is just a reimagining of, and a really good one. Both these films have sentimental connection to me that was unrivaled this year, but it was because they are a part of something much bigger than just one film.

4. Thor. This is in the Top 5 because I had very low expectations, I would say I even dreaded going to see and was happy that X-Men was coming out a couple weeks later. You know what happened, it blew me away. It was not the best comic book hero movie ever, but it was better than a lot of them, and Thor is a really boring comic book character in my opinion. This movie was fun and exciting and a great fit into what Marvel Studios is doing right now. As will all the current Marvel films, the casting is what sold it. Everyone in the cast was believable and not too over the top, and Kat Dennings could have been way worse. This movie exceeded my expectations, which is nearly impossible these days.

3. Super 8. This movie was nearly flawless, which is what everyone should expect from J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg. It was a throwback to the late 70s and 80s movies that launched the latter to the top of Hollywood. It was mysterious and fun and exciting and scary and just so good. It was not your typical alien movie and the alien didn’t end up being E.T., it ate people, but the whole story was not about the alien or government. This movie was about people in a different era and their problems and hopes and dreams, and how they define those individuals in an extreme circumstance that makes them reflect on themselves and the people who are in their lives. Great film can’t wait to watch this with Jack and Nora when they are older.

2. X-Men: First Class. At the beginning of the summer I would have said this will be the best movie of the summer, and it nearly was. I love X-Men, the comics, toys, cartoons, movies, and books, all of it. The X-Men are my favorite, by far, comic book characters. So of course I loved this movie, but so did most of you. It was because it was a different take on what we had seen before, it was not set in present day, didn’t have to conform modernism. It was a 1960s movie with 2011 special effects! I have been a fan of Matthew Vaughn for a while now, everyone should rent Layer Cake and Stardust, and I think this is best film, followed closely by Kick-Ass. He has this relaxed cool thing about his films and actors like Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy fit right in and sell it so well you forget they are acting. I think Vaughn may have revived Kevin Bacon’s career too. This movie is so good, after a couple of viewing it has overtaken X2 as the best X-Men movie made.

1. Captain America: The First Avenger. Like with Thor, I was a little weary when I first heard about this film. Then I heard Joe Johnston was going to direct it, and after Jurassic Park III, I was not too thrilled about that. I was completely wrong; Johnston went back to his roots and made hands down, the best movie of the summer, and most like a Top 5 of the year. It had the perfect combination of action, story, special effects, romance, humor, and Tommy Lee Jones. Like X-Men, it was a period piece that worked fantastically. I will say I am worried about how Cap’ will fair in the modern world because typically, comics, that can sometimes get boring. This movie was both cool and up to date, yet still reminded me of the movies I watched as kid (probably because Joe Johnston was art director of The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark). With as good as every movie Marvel has made, yes I liked Iron Man 2, I am very excited for next summer and the reign of The Avengers.

What were your favorite movies of the summer? I really want to know…seriously.

P.S.- I apologize of the X-Men: First Class poster, it didn’t realize they never made a good one.


Marvel out of 10


After watching Captain America: The First Avenger earlier tonight, I had thoughts. Here is a list of live-action movies released in the U.S., starting in 1998, based on Marvel Universe characters. They are in chronological order and ranked out of 10 and based solely on my opinion of the films. If you are in need of an explanation, please comment.

Blade (1998) – 6.5

X-Men (2000) – 6.0

Blade II (2002) – 7.5

Spider-Man (2002) -6.0

Daredevil (2003) – 5.5

X2: X-Men United (2003) – 8.0

Hulk (2003) -6.0

The Punisher (2004) -4.0

Spider-Man 2 (2004) – 8.0

Blade: Trinity  (2004) – 6.0

Elektra (2005) – 2.0

Fantastic Four (2005) – 6.5

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – 4.5

Ghost Rider (2007) – 6.0

Spider-Man 3 (2007) -4.5

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) – 7.5

Iron Man (2008) – 8.0

The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 7.5

Punisher: War Zone (2008) – 4.5

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – 7.0

Iron Man 2 (2010) – 7.0

Thor (2011) – 7.0

X-Men: First Class (2011) – 8.25

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 8.5


American Empirical Theory: “It’s a theory, it’s probably wrong”

One of my favorite filmmakers is Wes Anderson. There are a broad number of people who feel the same way; unfortunately at this point most of them are “hipsters” who see his films as clever and cool. Most of these people do not understand how much he was influenced by J.D. Salinger, Francois Truffaut, and Woody Allen.

All that said, to express my great love of his films, every single one of them. A few have a lasting impact on my life. The thing that is wonderful about Anderson is that he can appeal to such large audience, people who like British pop music, who like comedy, who are into fashion, etc. He really is a master at his craft; he is involved in the writing of, direction, editing, acting of all his films.

Now to the theory. American Empirical Pictures is the production company started by Wes Anderson, thus The American Empirical Theory. Over the years I have run into many people who “love” Wes Anderson films, this is great. The theory states that most people, who know Anderson’s movies, typically prefer their first experience to the other similar experience. Whichever Wes Anderson movie a person sees first, it usually ends up being their favorite. I know this to be true for me, I saw Rushmore for the first time in 2002, and this is still my favorite film by Anderson. Rushmore spoke to me on many levels including private school, perceived exclusion, misguided energy, etc. It also started my love of Jason Schwartzman and reignited my love of Bill Murray. My wife saw Bottle Rocket before any other Wes Anderson movie and this is her favorite. On Christmas Day 2004, my cousin Jered and I went to see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, his first Wes Anderson film; as far as I know it is still his favorite. A recent conversation with our friend Jessica revealed that The Royal Tenenbaums is her favorite Anderson film, and it was her first exposure to his films. I find that only about 50% of the people I talk to about this theory have seen every single Wes Anderson film, so it is obviously not scientific. As with any theory, there are exceptions, some people I have talked to have a different favorite Anderson film then the one they first saw. I believe them. If you do, by any chance test this theory, you will find that the vast majority will say that The Royal Tenenbaums is their favorite; this is because it was and is the most popular and widely known of all the Wes Anderson films. This is a situation that the popularity is justified; Tenenbaums is a fantastic film that has many characters inspired by Salinger’s Glass Family, which I love.

I think the thing that stands out to me is that it is the experience of seeing a Wes Anderson film for the very first time that makes thevery first time that makes the impression on people. It is new and exciting and refreshing, like listening to The Beatles for the first time, or your first bite if ice cream. You have never seen artistic expression like it and now you are hooked. Tenenbaums was a movie with Luke and Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, and Bill Murray, these actors are typically slap stick comedy guys, and this movie was not that. People still loved it and thought it was funny.

 

P.S. Sorry about the lack of any The Fantastic Mr. Fox footage, I could not find any that I liked.


Girls with Gumption: Top 5 Favorite Actresses

I believe that other then my mother, women in movies helped me narrow down what I should do to become a good man. It helped me realize what kind of woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. This may sound sad, but I do not mean women like Jessica Alba, Katherine Heigl, or Megan Fox. These are the women I try to avoid. I mean the women I admire and make me laugh. I found my leading lady and each of these women helped with that.

There will be some that people think are missing; I can hardly stand Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, or Laura Linney. They just bug me in almost everything they are in. I see where people call them great, but I disagree. These are the women who stand out to me the most.

5. Cate Blanchett – Regal, funny, beautiful, etc. Blanchett has so many great qualities it is no wonder she played Queen Elizabeth twice. Most people know her for either that or for her role as Lady Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While these are great parts, I love her for her roles in The Missing, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Aviator. These movies stand out to me because she shows strength and courage in The Missing while being in a desperate world. Her comedic timing and chemistry with Bill Murray is flawless in The Life Aquatic and I hope Wes Anderson uses her again soon. The Aviator may seem an odd choice because she was only playing Katherine Hepburn (who will come soon), I think she played it perfectly and was by far my favorite part of the whole movie. I will stop there.

Other notable performances – I’m Not There,Babel, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

4. Ingrid Bergman – When the word legend is used to describe an actress this is one of the few times I agree. Ingrid Bergman is the leading lady of leading ladies! She is soft, determined, and doesn’t let men decide anything for her! Her role in Casablanca is probably the most important role of any character before the 1960s. She is the entire reason there is a story, not because she is a damsel in distress, but because she is deeply loved by a man who has hardened his heart. She is the only person who really knows him. Plus she is witty and terribly adorable in that film.

Other notable performances- The Bells of St. Mary’s, Notorious, Joan of Arc.

3. Natalie Portman – cute, upbeat, dangerous, and amazing. Portman really is able to be so many things and be them very very well. She has played a Queen, a Lady, a rebel, and psycho. She has depth of character that was first seen in Leon (The Professional) and most recently seen in Black Swan and Thor. Her choices of roles has been meticulous, it has paid off. She commands focus and awe in epic science fiction, romantic comedies, thrilling dramas, and comic book movies. Her career will be better than any woman before her.

Other notable performances- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, V for Vendetta, Hotel Chevalier, The Other Bolyn Girl.

2. Katherine Hepburn- Smart, really really smart. Hepburn has an intelligence and air that makes you tremble and feel warm all at the same time. No woman has ever been as good in a romantic comedy as Hepburn was in The Philadelphia Story, she is sad, strong, confused, brutal, and absolutely lovable, she owns the show even with James Stewart and Cary Grant right next to her. My other favorite role of hers is in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? She is modern, motherly, holds convictions, and holds her own against Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier. I love her so much!

Other notable performances – Morning Glory, Adam’s Rib, The African Queen.

1. Kate Winslet- Master of her craft. Winslet is my favorite actress because of her performances in film, her work out side of film, and how she handles her personal life. She is classy or crass whenever the situation calls for it. She has been so much more then Rose in Titanic that I almost forget about that movie. My three favorite roles of hers are Juliet in Heavenly Creatures, Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Iris in The Holiday. These three roles are significant to me beyond her roles recognized by the Academy because they are unexpected and perfect. In Heavenly Creatures she plays a young woman who has a dangerous imagination and was obviously the acting of a future star. As Clementine we see her break out of her common casting and blow us away as an adorable, mean, neurotic to Jim Carrey’s quiet, boring, weak Joel. She was the star of the movie hands down. The less obvious choice here is The Holiday; it was one of my favorite romantic comedies of the last decade. She is so perfect in this movie, she starts out as the stereotypical lonely woman, and doesn’t take the usual path to turn everything around. She isn’t desperate, she is wonderful. Watch this movie, and you will even like Cameron Diaz…maybe.

Other notable performances- Sense and Sensibility, Quills, The Reader, Revolutionary Road.

Preview: Top 5 Favorite Comic Book Heroes


Hammer Time: Thor Review

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We don’t have a permit. Run!: Top 5 Directors who have never won an Academy Award.

I hope this sparks some conversation.

I am a firm believer that film is a director’s medium. There are tons of great directors that have literally made movies what they are today. People like Frank Capra, Michael Curtiz, George Cukor, and Alfred Hitchcock invented genres. Men such as Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, and Steven Spielberg stretched imagination and curiosity. These are men who deserve to be honored.

This is a list of people who have been making film for a while and are perhaps past their prime. Not saying they will never receive an Academy Award for directing, but the chances are getting fewer. I will not reference people like Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman, Christopher Nolan, or Darren Aronofsky. I think they still have years of filmmaking ahead of them.

5. David Fincher – He barely makes the top 5 because he has been making movies for nearly twenty years and he has only been nominated twice. I think that since se7en his films have been flawless. Of everyone on this list, he has the likeliest chance of winning an Academy Award in the future.

In my opinion Fincher’s greatest quality is his ability to create atmosphere. He has an A-list crew that can translate his vision onto the silver screen. Just look at the sets, tone, and pacing of se7en and Fight Club and you will understand what I am talking about. When I watch Zodiac I become so immersed in the story I forget that it is nearly three hours long! He creates tense situation, witty timing, and dark emotions, and then he makes a sprawling epic like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The amazing thing is that he does so with apparent ease. 

Watch any commentary on any of his films, even Alien 3, and you will learn what the modern director really is.

4. Ridley Scott – Another guy who has been nominated a few times but never grabbed the gold. I think Scott may still have a chance to receive an Oscar, even if it is just a “we-owe-ya-one”. How did he not win for Thelma & Louise! Not even nominated for Alien! No one had made the future of humanity look so grungy and real. I will not even start on Blade Runner, Matchstick Men, and Kingdom of Heaven (this happens to be my favorite Ridley Scott film).

I do agree that Scott is not always been consistent; he did direct G.I. Jane, Hannibal, and Robin Hood. These were not bad movies, but definitely not great. I will point out that his films have won Academy Awards, but he has never won.

I think Scott is still full of massive potential, and I believe he will show that in the years to come. He can make Science Fiction realistic, and then go to quirk and mystery. He can do a period piece that resonates with a generation and he has at least three of the greatest women characters in the history of film (Ellen Ripley, Thelma Dickinson, and Louise Sawyer).

3. Rob Reiner – This may throw some for a loop. Most would probably not mention him on a list such as this. I will list some of his greatest pieces; This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, and The Bucket List. See what I mean? I understand that comedy is a hard sell for the Academy, but Woody Allen won.

I could write a significantly large article about how Reiner shaped my romantic life, how he helped me connect with my parents, how he will be a directorial legend in my house. I will not do this. I will say that Reiner understand boys, very well. Stand by Me and A Few Good Men are excellent examples of how men and boys act in intense situations. He shows how men are goofy and can be jerks in This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, and The Bucket List.

I do not believe Reiner is a master storyteller or anything of that nature. He is a wizard of making characters relatable and likeable. He didn’t write The Princess Bride, William Goldman did, but Reiner made you fall in love with that movie. Even when you are terrified of Kathy Bates, you are so interested in her.

I know Billy Crystal says Reiner is an actor’s director, and I agree. If he does make another movie similar to Stand by Me, he will most likely be nominated and could even win. He is in the twilight of his career, so we will just have to see.

2. George Lucas – For people who are not “film buffs” this may seem out of place. People do not realize he did more than just Star Wars (which he will never surpass). My favorite film that George Lucas directed is American Graffiti.

Lucas is stuck in his Star Wars/Indiana Jones money-making rut. Hopefully he will go back to making timeless movies like THX-1138 and Willow (I know he didn’t direct, but he mentored Ron Howard on this one). He is a great storyteller, who unfortunately does not have anyone around him who suggests he use some self-control.

Do not get me wrong. I love Lucas and I think he is vital to film history, and my own upbringing. I have hope that he will direct another movie that has no connection to things he has previously done, he had such incredible ideas and potential.

Some examples of George Lucas as a great filmmaker are Kagemusha, Body Heat, and Labyrinth. He only produced these films, but he was directly involved in them. Two of his “protégés” are Ron Howard and Lawrence Kasdan; both have surpassed Lucas as far as directing goes.

1. Alfred Hitchcock – This may be stereotypical, but there is a reason for that. He never won! He will never win. He has the most illustrious career of any of these men, he was true innovator.

The obvious films that should be recognized are Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest (which is my favorite), and Psycho. These, literally defined the way films would be made forever into the future. He was a master of showing you the bare minimum in order to make your imagination run wild. Hitchcock never received what he deserved. He created tone and atmosphere and he worked with two of my all time favorite actors; Cary Grant and James Stewart. Even with the lack of special effects, his films felt real and thrilling. He does simple things like put you in one room for an entire movie, and you believe it. He manufactures suspense in a corn field by having a plane dive bomb and gases you, and you believe it. This is what legendary filmmakers do, and he did it best.

Other films that should be more widely recognized are Rope, Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and many more. Anytime you get a chance to watch a Hitchcock film, do it.


You are with Beleaguered Castle: Source Code Review

A simple concept. Incredible acting. Minor special effects. Appropriate pacing. These are all things Duncan Jones does very, very well.

As was seen is his directorial debut, Moon, Jones has talent. This is no surprise; he is the son of David Bowie. He uses pace, atmosphere, and characters to bring stories to life that are poignant and interesting. He has a knack for getting the most out of his actors. As he did with Sam Rockwell, he also does with Jake Gyllenhaal. The roles are not largely heroic, or cowardly, they are normal men who are in complex situations where they end up being extraordinary.

Source Code is the story of Captain Colter Stevens and his mission to discover a bomb on a train in Chicago that has already gone off. He is part of a mysterious branch of the government that uses a program called Source Code which can use the synapses of a brain that has recently died to go back to the last eight minutes of that person’s life. While going back over and over again to the last minutes of Sean Fentress’, Captain Stevens meets and falls in love with Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). All the things that happen to the main character change his perspective as he tries to accomplish a nearly impossible mission.

This film is the perfect length. It doesn’t dilly dally with tons of special effects or a hyper-complex story that no one can follow. It tells the story of a man who is not familiar with his surroundings and he is still expected to save the world. He does not accept what is right in front of him, he becomes heroic.