03 January 2010

EDITORIAL - Favorites of the Decade

It seems to be a movie lovers duty to write up some 'best of the decade' list. There's some folks who have done a splendid job, even going so far as to make a 'best of the year in this genre' category and all that jazz. Above and beyond the call of blogger duty. I don't have so much time on my hands as of late, and I haven't seen a lot of much-loved decade movies (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, etc.) so my lists would be not all that analytical or critical. So, I'm just gonna post my favorite films of the past decade. Some will be uber-dumb, some will pretty stellar, but without further ado, my favorite movies of the decade (with perhaps the worst coming up later):


Unbreakable (2000) - At 10 years of age when M. Night Shyalaman's sophomore effort hit screens, I thought this was a wretched bore and I hated this long, slow-moving flick with all of my youngling passion. That initial impression lasted for years until I finally sat down with the recently-purchased-for-a-cheap-price Vista Series 2-Disc Set and watched it. Well, surprise, surprise, it's one of my favorite movies of all time, and the most extraordinary film in M. Night's resume, as well as a phenomenal 'origin story' for a superhero. It's 2-hour running time really flew by Star Trek (2009) style. It boasts excellent writing, excellent pacing, excellent performances (phenomenal, really; Bruce Willis & Sam Jackson's finest), excellent cinematography (the shot near the end of Willis appearing/disappearing via flapping curtains), and a beautiful score by James Newton Howard. Suffice it to say, I'm one of the very few people in the world with fingers crossed hoping M. Night will grace the screens with a sequel; the possibilities and rich story-lines are endless.

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) - Oh boy, I love this movie! Indeed, Pitch Black was atmospheric, moody, and introduced us to the ultimate awesome anti-hero, Richard B. Riddick, but Chronicles is just a marvel to behold. Saddled with a $105 million budget, writer/director David Twohy expanded the Riddick universe, introducing the badass Necromongers, led by the equally badass and prophecy-stopping Lord Marshall. From the moment the end credits rolled back in '04, I was hooked. I love everything about this movie - the writing (especially Riddick's dialog), the story, the music, the cinematography, the imagination, the epicness, and the performances. I understand that in comparison to Pitch Black, Riddick isn't normally preferred, but for me, it hits all the right cords and buttons, and is the ultimate Andy Movie. I've watched it innumerable times, and I can honestly say, I never get bored.

Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
- I'm noticing a lack of Star Wars on people's list, folks. What's up with all the Star Wars nonlovin'? This concluding chapter in this epic space saga is marvelous. Okay, okay, let's forget about Hayden Christensen & Natalie's Portman abundant lack of chemistry, or some of the teeth-gritting dialog, and look at the overly proportioned positives: the epic duel between Anakin & Obi-Wan on the volcanic Mustafar, Palpatine being all Darth Sidiousy, Mace Windu gets his ass whooped at the last second, Yoda wields a lightsaber in a battle that's far more impression than the laughable Episode II duel, composer John Williams has never been better at his craft, beautiful CGI space battles that really 'wows' a person, and simply a gut-wrenching, emotional story of two 'brothers' who are forced to fight to the death, and the wrong decisions they make. Epic, beautiful stuff.

Oldboy (2003)
- Park Chan-wook's 'Vengeance Trilogy' is some pretty emotional stuff. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is arm-hair-counting slow, but with a awesome payoff; Lady Vengeance is a journey, especially by the hour mark; but none reach the levels of violence, emotional turmoil, and beautiful casting than Oldboy. Thank you, everyone who has ever recommended this movie. This is definitely one of those movies you must experience in order to understand all the hype. Your jaw will be successfully dropped.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
- Bourne Identity was good; Bourne Supremacy is pure and simple perfection. Under the guidance of director Paul Greengrass (United 93), the Bourne franchise obtained a immediacy and intensity to every shot, scene, and performance; Bourne was no longer a robotic ass kicker as he was in the first one - he became a ass-kicker who was fighting for his life, and we came along for the ride and felt every emotional beat (the murder) and every intense hit to & fro. Plus, the role of Bourne has to be one of Matt Damon's finest performances. For me, my interest in this guy's career wouldn't be nearly as strong if it wasn't for these three movies. Action movies really don't get greater than The Bourne Supremacy (well, maybe Bourne Ultimatum).

American Wedding (2003)
- I've said it before: American Pie is my Breakfast Club; it's my teen movie that I relate to the most, and I find to be superior to many other teen sex comedies (the next best one is 2008's Sex Drive). With the first two movies -not as much with the third - there was a genuine emotional storyline where all the characters undergo some sort of transformation or evolution. Yes, the first film was about a group of teens vowing to get laid by prom night; but there was a bit more to it. Perhaps it was the script (?) or, more likely, the gut-bursting hilarity of the phenomenal cast, but these films kick ass. American Wedding gets special notice on my list because, similar to Chronicles of Riddick, I can watch it over and over and love it every time; the jokes don't stale, and the high and low points of both series carriers Jim and Stifler have never been funner or enjoyable. I doubt you'll see the Pie franchise on anyone else's list, but I just love the series, and I would be doing it a disservice not including it on a favorite list of some sort.

V for Vendetta (2005)
- This adaptation of a Alan Moore graphic novel is perfect. Really, honestly, God testify perfect. Directed by James McTeigue (Ninja Assassin) with a script by the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix franchise), V for Vendetta is one of the best political/action/romance stories of all time. V, the dark, cloaked figure with a Guy Fawkes mask voiced by Hugo Weaving; Evey, the innocent young girl who confronts her fears head on, performed majestically in a Padme-forgiving performance. The editing is swift, the music is intense, the writing is the thing of beauty, and every actor involved gives their A Game. Again, one of those movies that gets better and better with repeated viewings; V for Vendetta is 'da bomb-diggity.

Hot Fuzz (2007)
- Totally superior to Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz actually features some brilliant jokes and concludes with a shoot-out melee that kicks Bad Boys IIs' ass over and over. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost (not to forget Edgar Wright) were at the top of their game, and made a brilliant comedy that never gets tired.

Batman Begins (2005)
- The ultimate origin story. Christian Bale. Liam Neeson. Gary Oldman. They revived a franchise and made me love Batman again. Magnificent.

The Dark Knight (2008)
- The ultimate Batman story. Heath Ledger. Gary Oldman. Aaron Eckhart. Jonathan & Christopher Nolan. James Newton Howard & Hans Zimmer. These are the people who brought the most beautiful hero movie of all time. That's the best word for it - beautiful.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
- Yep, I'm one of those people. I love the first Matrix (1999) as much as the next geek, but there's just something about Reloaded that grabs my attention like no other. I re-watch the scene between Neo and the Architect a lot (fast forward through the Trinity bits), become engrossed whenever Neo kicks some Agent/bad guy ass, and enthralled by the philosophical speeches and talk of prophecy and destiny. It's the, er, 'calm' before the storm, the Matrix franchises' Empire Strikes Back where everything seems hopeless once their moment of hope goes bye-bye. Plus, how can one not love the Burly Brawl sequence? Hugo Weaving, I love you.

Clerks II (2007)
- I would argue that Kevin Smith is the one director who is able to mix comedy, drama, and three-dimensional characters 100% effortlessly and still come out with a movie that immensely entertaining and intelligent. I'm sure there's plenty screaming 'Negatory!' and citing Judd Apatow as #1 Comedy Man in the Business, but Funny People was dreadful, and Knocked Up didn't fare any better, either. That man simply doesn't know how to blend components together. Smith seems to write these characters, emotions, and situations as easy as breathing air. This sequel to his freshman film is not only superior to it, but is absolutely sublime in every way. All the characters evolved (even Jay and Silent Bob), the story was marvelous material, and the jokes were near the chest-bursting variety.

Star Trek (2009)
- Just read my review. You'll get the general gist.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
- I was initially going to list Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) as my favorite Harry Potter pick (the cinematography is beautiful, and everyone gives fine performances), but I've watched Order a lot this past year (work has it on rotation). The simple reason I chose this amongst the current six is, well, it's by far the strongest. I believe the moment that I keep coming back to is when Harry is in Dumbeldore's office after having his vision of a snake attacking Mr. Weasley, and Harry demands in a yelling voice, "Look at me!" That's the moment when I re-affirm my conclusion this is the strongest installment yet. The script has never been tighter or emotionally gripping, and Daniel Radcliffe gives a performance that outshines every seasoned actor in the picture. And, well, the battle at the Ministry is just freakin' AWESOME!!!

The Last Samurai (2003)
- Surprisingly, I've seen this on a few lists. Directed by epic tragedy dude Edward Zwick, Last Samurai hits my list because it's simply a beautiful film (and yes, I realize I toss that word around a lot). Tom Cruise gives a marvelously understated and strong performance, as does the always reliable Ken Watanabe. The music conveys every emotion onscreen perfectly, and compliments it ten fold. The cinematography perfectly captures the beauty of Japan and its culture. The story, albeit unoriginal, is told in such a fashion that it's entirely forgivable (Avatar, anyone?). The Last Samurai is just one of those movies I will defend as much as I can against critics and Cruise-haters.

The Mist (2007) - I didn't expect much walking in; just to have fun, is all. When the end credits rolled, I walk out of one of the best, intense, beautifully written & directed films I've seen in my young life. Frank Darabont, thank you for making this. It was wonderful. And, yeah, I'm one of those people who love the ending.

The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
- Few dig the sequel as much as I do, but I love the hell outta this one. Curse of the Black Pearl is by far, and unarguably, the strongest, but this one maintains that level of firm character development, problem after problem, chest-burstin', floor-fogglin' laughter, and wonderful performances. And again, composer Hans Zimmer brings on the talent. Plus, any movie that features a sea monster - in this case the Kraken - gets a kudos from me. Dead Man's Chest should also be notable for it's marvelous fully-rendered CGI character, Davvy Jones, brought to life by Bill Nighy. Not even Gollum or King Kong reached the levels of realism as our good friend Davvy. And finally, the last 40/30 minutes - some of the most moving, fun, awesome stuff I've ever seen.

Love Actually (2003) - Didn't expect to see this gem on a list, did yah? Well, it so turns out that this is perhaps one of the greatest romantic comedies in the world, and definitely one of the best that appeals to men and women alike. Featuring a stellar cast like Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Collin Firth, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and Laura Linney, Love Actually really is one of those movies you can watch again, and again, and again, and appreciate every moment of its lovable charm. There's just something to this movie that brings a broad smile to any bloke's face.

Push (2009) - Awesome superhero movie. I'm so in love with this flick I haven't even written a review for it. I wouldn't know what to say. Stellar performances from Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning, beautiful cinematography, high-adrenaline action sequences - it's just a 2-hour thrill ride and is everything NBC's Heroes should aspire to be. Absolutely 100% recommended.

Casino Royale (2006) - I didn't like James Bond. I saw most of the Pierce Brosnan installments, and found them far too cartoonish and not really worth my time. It's one of those things where a person is approached to watch a mystery movie for the second time, and they're arguing, 'Why bother? I already saw it and know what's going to happen.' James Bond was that for me. And then Casino Royale came out, and I devoured every single frame of it. I was in love. Daniel Craig epitomized what I wanted Bond to be, and it was expertly directed by Martin Campbell (to understand the importance of the director, look at the poor job of Forster's Quantum of Solace). Intense, awesome, kickass, stellar, cool, EXPLOSION, pretty girl, and a pretty damn good origin story, Casino Royale should be on nearly everyone's lists.


Battlestar Galactica (2004 - 2009) - Developed by Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as a gritter, darker, intense, more intelligent Battlestar Galactica from the canceled 'cartoony' 1970's series, BSG got a reprieve and regular non-sci-fi lovin' folks and sci-fi diehards all fell in love with Admiral Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Heilo, Sharon, Tigh, Baltar, Number Six, Sam, Chief, and Roslin through its four seasons of dilemmas, political intrigue, space battles, and fulfilling prophecies. Definitely a series not to be missed, BSG got a lot of love for its ability to address contemporary topics (e.g., the Iraq war) and delve into it with a science fiction setting. Many, like myself, applaud the program for it's entirely three-dimensional characters that continue to surprise and entertain. It may not have had the most satisfying series finale of all time (Angel, "Not Fade Away", hands down), but it was undoubtedly emotional and true to the characters.

Firefly (2002 - 2002)
- I love Joss Whedon, and I loved Buffy & Angel. His sci-fi western Firefly, lasting only 13 episodes (four of 'em unaired), is perhaps one of his finest achievements as a writer of characters, dialogue, and basically anything else any critic can think of. Firefly is, in my opinion, pure perfection in every essence. If one episode is lacking in one thing, the following will more than make up for it; there's outstanding performances from Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin, there's some amazing visual effects that rival that of Galactica, and the chemistry of the principal cast is unmatchable. There is no series I can recommend enough.

Doctor Who (2004 - Prese
nt) - BBC's Doctor Who had been going on for, er, 26 (?) seasons before Russell T. Davies resurrected it from Development Hell in '04, but it wasn't until he modernized this long-dead franchise with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor, the Time Lord from Galifrey, that it gained its audience again. Right from the first episode, Doctor Who hooked me. And then David Tennant (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) took over reigns as The Doctor in its second series (thanks to that wonderful Time Lord death-cheater 'regeneration'), and dished out one of the finest performances of a single character that I've ever seen. Accompanied by Companions like Rose, Martha and Donna, the Doctor reached heights of character depth and emotional turmoil that simply grabs you and refuses to let go. Tennant just finished his tenure as The Doctor on New Year's Day, to be followed by younglin' Matt Smith, and show-runned by Stephen Moffat (who has penned some of the most phenomenal Who stories ever) with Series 5. Now's a good time as ever to start delvin' in, but make sure you watch it from the beginning!

The Shield (2002 - 2008)
- Cop shows. There's way too many of 'em, and they're difficult to distinguish 'em. With so many of them around, how is there possibly room to be original and creative? Welcome to The Shield, the dark, gritty show that put FX on the map. Centering on corrupt cop Vic Mackey, played to nuanced perfection by Michael Chiklis (Fantastic 4), and his buds on the Strike Team in the Farmington district in L.A., the show always pushed the barrier week after week, presenting thrilling stories and performances that would literally leave you breathless. There's high and low points, but indisputably, it's fifth season is some of the strongest writing of a television show ever. And it also delivered, over a year ago, one of the most beautifully written endings to a series I've ever seen (next to, of course, "Not Fade Away"). A great, great show from the decade.

(And no, I haven't seen
The Wire)

24 (2001 - Present) - With eight seasons of America-saving under his belt, Jack Bauer is the All American Hero. He can survive any torture, agony, and obstacle. Hell, he even overcame death multiple times. Perhaps breaching the boundaries of believability, 24 nevertheless never failed to entertain throughout all these years. An awesome show. And quite the addiction. Though, it is a little sad to realize I spent seven 24-hour periods watching each season on air...



There's probably a lot more I could add, such as favorite performances and such, and maybe I'll do that, but it'll be another time. I've just spent two hours working on this, and it's time for some sleep. Goodnight, ladies and gents. And welcome to 2010!

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