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.

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Excelsior! Top 5 Favorite Comic Book Heroes

With two comic book hero movies out already and two more on the way later this summer, I wanted to throw my two cents in. Not all are great, but so far so good this summer. Go out and see Thor and X-Men: First Class

Some people think comic books are for kids or just for nerds. I strongly disagree. I could write a very long paper about the history of art and how it is storytelling and so on. I think this is becoming less common thought. The recent popularity of summer blockbusters that include comic book heroes is opening up a new audience of readers from all walks of life.

This is a list of my top 5 favorite comic book heroes, and after this summer all will have been seen in a love action adaptation. These may not be the best or most popular heroes, but they are the ones I read the most, I watch the most, and if I could be any one of them I would in a heartbeat. These guys also have something that some other more popular characters do not, they are all cool. Really cool.

5. Wolverine

James Howlett was born in Canada in the late 19th century. When his mutant power manifested and he ran away, he was unsure of his future. Over the years James killed, loved, and lost. He worked for the Canadian government and eventually for the Weapon X program. The program grafter his mutant bones claws with a near indestructible metal. His mutant healing power helped him survive this process. The Weapon X program also wiped his memory and he fled the experimentation with no memory and took on the name Logan. He had run ins with the Hulk, Spider-Man, and eventually joined Professor Xavier’s second generation of X-Men. It was under Xavier that he learned to control his rage and that he was ultimately a protector and avenger. He would eventually become a major part of the Marvel Universe.

Wolverine was a childhood favorite of mine. He was an antihero who kicked butt and took names. He wasn’t most powerful mutant, but he was rough and had passion. His constant loss and rage made him seem more real then a lot of comic book and cartoon heroes. The fact that he was manipulated most of his life and is now on a path of revenge is exciting and worthy. He was Jason Bourne before Jason Bourne even existed. His place in the Marvel lore is steadfast and he is loved by many. Hugh Jackman has played him nearly perfectly (I even liked origins). I am excited to see Wolverine grow and become even more interesting.

Suggest readings:

Wolverine (1982)

Wolverine: Weapon X (1994)

Wolverine: Enemy of the State (2005)

Old Man Logan (2008)

4. Batman

Born into wealth and love, Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of him. He vowed to rid crime and evil from Gotham City. He has never and probably will never accomplish this mission, yet he still continues to fight. Batman is a symbol to instill fear into the evil and corrupt. He is a detective, hero, friend, and lover. He has a hard time with emotions as seen with his many sidekicks who take the mantle of Robin. His only tie left to his parents is his faithful butler and dear friend Alfred. Batman is the dark knight and caped crusader who will never stop living by the code he holds dearest: Protect the innocent.

Kids either liked Superman or Batman; I was definitely a Batman fan. He had cooler villains, he wasn’t indestructible, and he all kinds of cool gadgets. Batman has gone through many changes throughout the years, but he has always been mysterious and level headed. Of all the comic books and all the movies and cartoons and superheroes out there, Batman seems the most possible. I think that is a major draw with his character, you could realistically grow up to be like Batman. I think it is also important to point out how important his villains are. Mainly the Joker, he defines Batman. The compliment each other perfectly, one is a crazy person who kills on a whim and loves chaos, the other is a crazy person who dresses in all black, solves crimes, and always tries to achieve order.

Suggested reading:

The Dark Knight Returns (1986)

Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)

Batman: The Long Halloween (1996)

Batman: Hush (2002)

3. The Green Lantern

Hal Jordan was a test pilot. He became the greatest hero in the universe. He was the first human chosen by a green power ring to become a Green Lantern, he was chosen because he had the potential to overcome great fear. He joined the Green Lantern Corp and saved the world and universe many times over. Jordan is one of the many heroes who becomes consumed by evil and then comes back from the darkness to be the ultimate hero. When his home city was destroyed by Mongul, he became enraged when the Guardians of Universe (masters of the GLC) and he gave into fear and unleashed the entity Parallax. While consumed by this evil he went on a rampage to remake the universe in his image. Fortunately he was stopped and exiled until he used his power to reignite the sun and ultimately redeem himself.

The Green Lantern is by far my favorite DC character. He has cosmic power, he has a ring that can do anything, he has a dark side, and he was originally drawn to resemble Paul Newman. Of the four GLs that are part of the silver and bronze age of comics, Hal Jordan is the most complex and interesting. He stands up and fights when he doesn’t believe in something and he is willing to put it all on the line for love. His greatest enemy is not Sinestro, even though that guy is brutal, it is himself. He overcomes doubt and has some self-esteem issues. You can relate to him, even though he wields the awesome power of ring.

Suggested reading:

Green Lantern Vol 2 #9: Battle of the Power Rings! (1961)

Zero Hour: Crisis in Time (1994)

Final Night (1996)

Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volumes 1 and 2 (2007)

 2. Magneto

Survived a Nazi concentration camp, became a brother to Charles Xavier, conquered fear, stood up to oppression, devoted his life to help other mutants, brought hope to an entire race. Max Eisenhardt (Erik Magnus Lehnsherr) is a radical individual; he has many deep wounds that will never heal. His closest friend and person who knows him best is Professor Xavier, yet his beliefs and values take precedent over that friendship. Magneto has used his hate, anger, and even passion to be a reluctant figure head for Mutants across the world. He never wanted to lead, he just wanted what was right and natural, and leadership was something that he happened to be born with. His powers over the magnetic field make him an impressive advisory to the X-Men and the governments of the world. He was introduced as a villain in 1963, but as time went on, he became a friend, partner, father, messiah, and icon to a planet filled with hatred of the unknown.

Many would argue that Magneto is a hero, but I believe he is highly misunderstood. Much the way that Karl Marx, Malcolm X, Che Guevara was and are. They have an ideal world in their minds where everyone contributes equally to a greater good and no one person or group of people rules over another. Unfortunately this world will never exist, over the course of the comics, Magneto realizes this. He becomes more mature and even sacrifices himself for the cause of Xavier. If you don’t read the comics, watch the movies closely, Magneto is not an evil man, yes he murders and destroys, but he is doing what he thinks is right. Not for world domination or money, but to create a better world. Even though they are not in continuity exactly, my two favorite stories involving Magneto are Age of Apocalypse and House of M. In A of A, he is the leader of the X-Men after Xavier has died; he leads the resistance against the Mutant oppressor Apocalypse, and ultimately becomes the savior to the world. In House of M he is seen as a tyrant who lives in a perfect mutant world, but he is reluctant and when he discovers that it is all a lie, he only wishes for Xavier to be brought back and the world to be as it was. Magneto is one of the most interesting characters in the history of comics and it is because he has conflict within himself.

Suggested reading:

X-Men Vol. 1, #1 (1963)

Uncanny X-Men vol. 1, #150 (1981)

Magneto Rex: Once We Were Kings (1999)

House of M (2005)

 1. The Silver Surfer

Norrin Radd was a scientist on a distant planet that sacrificed his freedom to save that planet. He did this be offering to help the planter devouring Galactus. He gained cosmic powers beyond imagination, but lost his home and love forever. It was not until the Silver Surfer came to earth and met the Fantastic Four that he remembered his home world and that he was honorable and had a choice, he could save lives. He defied his master and gained his respect. After the Surfer was “freed” he came to call his new home. He contributed to helping save it many times. He eventually grew home sick for Zenn La and left to explore the cosmos and had a great impact for good in the universe.

I love the Silver Surfer; I love him in comics, in cartoons, and even in that one movie. He has unlimited power, he rides on a surf board, and he is completely silver! He makes Superman look lame and he is always looking to make the galaxy a better place. I love the story of the Surfer and how he made the ultimate sacrifice for love and how it wasn’t until he felt love again that he was able to break free from Galactus. He has been portrayed as a harbinger of doom, a messiah, and hero, and outcast, and as a man. He is all of these things, but none of them define him. He is the ultimate character in my eyes, I find every story involving him to be poetic and deep, he is so human without being from earth.

Suggested reading:

FF #55-61(1966)

The Silver Surfer: Parable (1988)

Silver Surfer: Requiem (2008)


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


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.


Animation Ruling the Nation. Top 5 Favorite Animated Movies

I am a big fan of animated feature films. I would say that animated films are the reason that I love the medium today. I grew up watching Disney’s Robin Hood, The Hobbit, and An American Tail. These and many others set my on the path to become the film-loving man I am today.

The myths and legends are told through animated films. Modern storytelling to children is done through movies like the Secret of Nimh and Sleeping Beauty. Fortunately cartoon movies have grown and evolved, they have surpassed many of the live action features that come out today. Studios like Disney, Dreamworks, and Studio Ghibli have made a library of continually quality films.

Here are my top five favorites, they may not be the best, but I enjoy them the most.

5. Titan A.E. – A science fiction adventure story in the class of Star Wars, Titan AE tells the story of a reluctant hero who must save what is left of the human race after the destruction of earth. The animation, story, and characters are perfectly positioned for any kid or adult who loves sci-fi epics. The voice cast includes Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, and John Leguizamo. This movie plays out as a heartfelt, action-packed story of love, betrayal, and the human spirit.

4. The Iron Giant – The last great hand-drawn American feature is The Iron Giant. Set in the 1950s amongst beatniks and the red scare, there is a story of an alien robot who crash lands in small town USA. A little boy befriends the robot that has been damaged and is activated as a weapon when attacked by the military. The boy and his family must save the robot and help bring understanding to the community. This story resembles classics like E.T. and Close Encounters, adults do not understand how to interact with aliens, little boys who watch sci-fi television do. The voice talents in this movie include Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Vin Diesel. Brad Bird is the directing force behind this simple wonder.

3. The Incredibles – Another Brad Bird directed film, this one with the power of Pixar behind it, The Incredibles takes everything Stan Lee created with Fantastic Four and improved upon it. The story of a family of superheroes that must fight an egotistical villain, it is perfect. It is funny, exciting, and it’s about protecting the people around you by being honest with yourself. I grew up watching comic book based cartoons and am very familiar with Superman, Batman, Spiderman and the like, this movie is a wonderful depiction of that world. Great for children and adults, The Incredibles is a must see. The voice cast includes Craig T. Nelson, Jason Lee, and Holly Hunter.

2. Howl’s Moving Castle – Myazaki. In my opinion, the greatest animator of all time, he even surpasses Walt Disney. He has created such classics as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. This is my favorite of his films. It is about a girl who is transformed into an old hag by an evil witch, the girl then stumbles upon the mysterious wizard Howl and his fire demon Calcifer. They must combine their forces to defeat a growing evil. The thing this movie has more then any other animated feature I have seen is the deep fantasy that expects you to accept everything you see without asking questions. You sit in wonder as this masterpiece unfolds before you. The English dubbed version is voiced by Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Blyth Danner, and Billy Crystal as Calcifer. See this if you have the chance, but at least go add Ponyo to your Netflix instant queue.

1. Toy Story – This is the most sentimental of all the movies on this list. I hold it dear because I was Andy. I had a Wolverine action figure and a Luke Skywalker action figure that were my favorites, they are worn out and heavily used, but I still have them in the attic. I was 8 when I saw Toy Story in theaters and I remember being in awe, not just of the animation and the jokes, but of the entire story and real it felt to me. The journey of rivals becoming friends and discovering themselves in order to return their owner. John Lasseter developed the original story for The Brave Little Toaster and that eventually grew into what would become Toy Story. Pixar blasted onto the scene with a smash hit that set the bar extremely high for animated features to come, they have yet to disappoint. I plan on getting down my box of action figures soon, but for now my son is content wearing his Buzz Lightyear pajamas and being completely obsessed with all three Toy Story movies. The incredible voice cast for Toy Story includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, and Jim Varney.

Next Top 5 – Appreciating the Unappreciated: Top 5 Directors who have never won an Academy Award.


Summoning Lake Trolls. Top 5 Metal Albums.

Let me start off by saying that this is not a list of the best metal albums ever, but some might agree. This is a list of MY favorite heavy metal albums. I very rarely listened to metal, this last week I took advice and suggestions from friends, I did research while being snowed in, I listened to a lot of metal albums. These are the albums that stood out.

I would like to also add that I do not consider Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Van Halen, or KISS to be heavy metal bands. They are more hard rock then metal. I believe Sabbath and AC/DC were the first instances of what metal would be, but not, in themselves, metal.

“That’s impossible, there’s no such thing as trolls.”

“Then how do you explain the dead unicorns?”

5. Ride the Lightning – Metallica Metallica’s second record was when they really became top notch musicians. The songs were more then just the fast-paced speed demons that were on Kill ‘em All. They created intricate and complex metal songs that are considered their heaviest stuff. This album is fast and unapologetic, Metallica arrived and supplanted that they were going to be around for a long time.

Recommended listening: Fade to Black, Creeping Death, Escape

4. Vulgar Display of Power – Pantera Pantera’s 1992 game-changer was perhaps the last real metal album before grunge really got big. This album is perhaps the most “mature” album on this list. It isn’t typical by any means, it is new and exciting. Much the same way Metallica really showed up on Ride the Lightning, Pantera had a stroke of genius with Vulgar Display of Power. This is one of my favorite metal records to listen to again to find all the idiosyncrasies.

 Recommended listening: Mouth for War, Fucking Hostile, Attack the Radical

3. Reign in Blood – Slayer Slayer is considered by many to the quintessential thrash metal band, maybe the best on this list. I cannot say enough about this record. As I said, I am new to metal, this one came highly recommended. It took me at least three listens to really absorb what was going on here. So many bands want to be Slayer, they are not. Tom Araya knocks away any wincing I did, he is a great talent. Outside of metal this record is overlooked too often, it shouldn’t be. It is dirty, messy, fun.

Recommended listening: Angel of Death, Jesus Saves, Raining Blood

2. Master of Puppets – Metallica Considered by many to be the greatest metal album of all time. That is a very accurate assessment. This album has everything that makes metal great; thrashing rifts, complex story, scary vocals, brilliant musicianship by all band members. This record should be the first any non-metal fans listen to. It isn’t watered down like pretty much everything Metallica did after, but it is just really, really good. I cannot emphasize how good this album is. Hopefully someday Metallica will return to form and grace us with another masterpiece, we shall see.

Recommended listening: Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes

1. Piece of Mind – Iron Maiden This is the metal album that most suits me. It is epic, literary, complicated, raw, and beautiful. The reason this album hit so close for me was that it feels constructed like a very detailed work of art. Yes, metal is definitely art. If you have any knowledge of poetry of literature, this record is perfect. If you love metal and some of the greatest vocals ever and never read, this album is perfect. With this week of really delving into metal, I understand that I love Iron Maiden. This album is my favorite metal record; it is also one of my favorite albums I have ever listened to.

Recommended listening: Where Eagles Dare, The Trooper, To Tame a Land

“We are here to make coffee metal. We will make everything metal. Blacker than the blackest black times infinity” – Nathan Explosion (Dethklok)


Top 5 Movies of 2010

To round out the first series of Top 5, I have saved the best for last. My Top 5 favorite films of 2010. These may not be the very best films, they may not all be recognized by the Academy, but I have seen a lot of movies and these accomplished their goal as well as entertained me.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

A movie about a guy in love dealing with his girlfriend’s exes has never been so funny and “epic”. Witty comedy and splashy special effects let you know you are at the movies, this film hides nothing. It gives audiences what they want, nerdy bass players kicking the crap out of Brandon Routh.

This movie is directed by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. Stars Michael Cera in the title role, with a supporting cast that includes Chris Evans, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Anna Kendrick. This ensemble made for great cameos as well as awesome villains; no one steals the show while they all do.

For a generation of boys and girls obsessed with getting to the next boss and winning all the coins, this movie nails it. At the same time funny and awesome. It is Rom-Com meets Capcom.

4. Toy Story 3

I may be partial to this movie, seeing as how I was 9 when the first in the trilogy was released. My timeline fits very neatly with Andy’s, I have my X-Men and Star Wars action figures in the attic waiting for my son. I cried in this movie multiple times, Pixar can do that to grown men.

Directed by Lee Unkrich, written by the Pixar team lead by John Lasseter, this is my favorite Pixar film since Toy Story was released in 1995. This film, as with any good sequel, has matured out of the original story. Woody has grown more laid back; Buzz and Jessie are less adventurous. They all still hold hope that one day they will be played with again. It is a theme I first saw in the John Lasseter original idea of The Brave Little Toaster (1987). What if the things we cherish so much as a child have personalities and life, and what if we outgrow them?

Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, and Ned Beatty top of the cast of the masterful animated adventure. See any Disney Pixar film you can, but most definitely see the Toy Story Trilogy.

3. Black Swan

Hauntingly real and insane at the same time. Having little interest in ballet, this film made me scared of ballerinas. This movie is about a young girl who receives the part of the swan princess in Swan Lake. She performs her version of the white swan flawlessly, it is her black swan that she has trouble letting go of. In an effort to set free her inner darkness for the performance of a lifetime she opens up a side of herself she had been hiding for many years. Obsession is an understatement in this film.

Directed immaculately by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman in the title role, with Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis. As much as I love Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, I firmly believe this is Aronofsky’s best work. It is simple and to the point, yet you still leave somewhat baffled by what you just witnessed.

Natalie Portman will win the Oscar. This story of the depth of the human mind reaches a part of you that you may be aware of but do not understand. It is portrayed to perfection by an incredible cast. If you don’t like ballet, go see this movie, you may learn to fear it.

2. Inception

This was the movie I most anticipated this year. After hearing about Christopher Nolan’s idea for this film after The Dark Knight, I knew it would be incredible. A large blockbuster that is crazy-awesome that really boils down to love and loved lost.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who first bent our minds with Memento (2000). A great ensemble cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy. The best group of actors in a movie since Ocean’s Eleven.

The wonder of this movie is that it is a tragic love story hidden as a heist movie, hidden as a science fiction film, hidden as a summer action smash. You have to watch it over and over again to through all the levels, but they are there. This one didn’t surprise, but it did exceed expectations.

1. The Social Network

600 million people use Facebook, that is a BIG number. This is a dramatic retelling of how that came to be. How a self proclaimed nerd got pissed off one night and started a revolution with a friend. There can be an argument made that this may be the most relevant movie made for its time. I think so. I have a Facebook, chances are you do to. Mark Zuckerberg can be thanked for that. In the film it is balanced between loving him and hating him, but if you stop and think, you will somewhat understand him. He is a genius, he made money on it, anyone else would do the same if given the opportunity.

David Fincher makes great movies that make people think. All the way back to Se7en up to the Oscar darling The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, he loves his craft. He saturates his films with a blurry vision reality, of heightened versions of characters that we want to follow into project mayhem. The young and untested cast sold this film. The three players are Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo, and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. These three young men are guaranteed bright futures (Timberlake as an actor). The honesty they each gave to their characters made you forget you were watching actors. That is a sign of a great film.

On a philosophical, emotional, intellectual level, this movie connected with me and obviously many others. Great pace, great vision, great acting. The most perfect film of 2010.

Honorable mentions

6. True Grit

7. The King’s Speech

8. Kick-Ass

9. The Town

10. Tron: Legacy