Vikings take on aliens after a spaceship crashes to Earth in Scandinavia. The three bold words is all you need to know. Fun-packed sci-fi historical action flick.
39. Jennifer’s Body
Most folks took a piss on this movie. That is largely undeserved. The target audience should not be horny late-teen males, but of the same sphere as Twilight except with more… bite. Diablo Cody’s dialog is a long train wreck of Barbie Doll vernacular, but past that the allegorical connections for female teen relationships is something that approaches poignant. The film is not helped by pedestrian direction and populist hate for co-star Megan Fox.
38. The Fourth Kind
Honest advertising would have done this film a world of good. Instead Universal decided to lie and fake news stories, pretending events in the movie were real, to try and manufacture The Blair Witch Project level buzz for the film. It’s unfortunate because the film works quite well as a tale of fiction – more scary that Paranormal Activity anyway – but all the buzz fell dead with the fuge of misdirection surrounding its release.
37. Red Cliff
John Woo’s return to Asian cinema takes the classic historical route in a dramatization from the Records of the Three Kindoms text. Woo is subdued in this film and tells pretty much a straight story. The set is impressive and the story is interesting and linier, but the costumes and acting both seemed to be a little off – like some budget restraints played a part. I happened to see the 2008 film in full thanks to a friend of mine that sent me the commercial DVD and a srt sub title file. That movie and a second part released in Asia this year were combined into one movie called Red Cliff that was released in the Western world. The non-Asian version is a bit tighter on edits, but some actors I believe were substituted and the second half of the film is rushed. That may be because I saw the first part unedited and then the two movies combined. Either way, Red Cliff is worth a look for Asian cinema, John Woo, or historical movie fans.
36. Sleep Dealer
Bleak dystopian sci-fi from Mexico of all places. The story is strong and possesses classical dystopian and anti-corporation themes from the last 60 years of sci-fi. I would call this a hard science psychological fantasy. The cinematography is beautiful and the dim-drenched world in which it takes place becomes haunting while watching.
Just like Crank for the most part. The plot is bizarre and the whole thing stretches the limits of the most generous credulity, but then one realizes that in many ways, the Crank stories are the origins of a new super hero. When viewed as such, the movies are goofy fun.
34. The Tournament
One of those direct-to-DVD gems that comes along more and more often these days. This movie stars Ving Rhames and a bunch of people of whom I have never heard. The action is a bit of a throw-back and comes fast and furious. The plot is gloriously ludicrous and the violence is near the top of the charts. The Tournament is a blast to watch and finale is straight from the 1980s style of bang-boom action filmmaking.
Jimmy Page, Edge, and Jack White. If thinking about those three together does not make your soul bounce, then skip it.
A re-make of Wes Craven’s home invasion classic. Ok, listen up: Better than the original . I love Craven and think for the most part his movies should be left alone, but this needed an update. The story remains largely unchanged, but the style, graphic presentation, and pace all needed a re-working and got it in this re-make. I think of it as a companion to Craven’s original. Sara Paxon stands out as the attacked teen.
31. I Love You, Man
I admire the aim of the movie to make a sentimental bromance . I think men are psychologically blackmailed into hiding their emotion for their best male friends. The trend is alarming because it not only reeks of homophobia, but also promotes a level of detachment that can carry over to all types of relationships. I Love You, Man is a bromance about two men that become best friends and move through the awkward beginnings of their male relationship. It is touching and whimsical and makes me, a man, wish that maybe I expressed to my buddies just how I feel about them.
Roland Emmerich hates us all and yanks the carpet of the world out from under us again. 2012 Probably works the most because of John Cusak’s bizarre over-the-top and cartoonish turn as a sci-fi writer who lucks his way a number of times into not dying with the majority of Earth’s population. Every character is the embodiment of a cliché archetype and serve only as the backdrop to the mostly spot-on, though occasionally terrible, special effects. I love disaster movies hence the somewhat high ranking of this movie on my list.
29. Halloween II
I only recently saw the director’s cut of this movie and it may well have been better than the theatrical release. I believe that director Rob Zombie has a unique vision for horror, but I also think he needs to explore other genres. I do not believe he is mature enough as a filmmaker to pull off the right amount of subtly, style, vision and mesh it with thematic elements in a compelling narrative — yet. However, Halloween II is better than I thought it would be. I knew going in that I should expect more psychological mambo-jumbo while getting inside of Michael Myers’ head. That is what Zombie delivers as the movie tells the simultaneous stories of Myers’ continued demons; the descent into the maelstrom of his sister “Boo,” Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton); and the eventual meeting of the two. Malcolm McDowell is basically thrown away as Dr. Loomis. The most chilling aspect of the movie is show
Orphan is of the evil child genre and hits the genre notes dead-on. Young Isabelle Fuhrman is creepy great as the bad seed and Vera Farmiga gives a startlingly good performance as the “mother.”
A sneaky good time is Pontypool. Another direct-to-DVD standout that takes a complete unique approach to the zombie genre. Since Romero invented the zombie genre, there have been many staples lifted from the seminal The Night of the Living Dead. One of those things is the presence of media such as TV and radio running as a commentary and plot emphasis in the background of an event. Often times it is a zombie outbreak; other times it can be aliens as in M. Knight’s Signs. Pontypool comes from the viewpoint of the media, in this case a rural Canadian radio station, as a zombie-like outbreak occurs. It is a pleasurable movie that relies heavily in the first two acts on voice acting from reporters in the field and situational tension created by events that take place off screen. The third act revs up the more typical zombie devices but by that time the viewer is vested in the movie and rides out the end in good fun.
Father Knows Best meets The Bourne Identity in this surprising thriller. Liam Neeson is becoming the quintessential actor to play badasses of all types. He has played or will be playing: A jedi master, the leader of the A-team, the guy that trained the goddamn Batman, Darkman, Rob Roy, Sir Gawin, and Lord Almighty Zeus. In Taken, Neeson stars as a highly trained spy whose daughter is kidnapped and he finds he has a limited amount of time to find her. Neeson then proceeds to kick all kinds of ass while ignoring or killing everything and everyone outside of the single task of saving his daughter.
25. Funny People
A massively misunderstood film like many in the stand-up comedy drama genre (Punchline, Lenny, Man in the Moon, The King of Comedy) Funny People can be at times funny, but more often is poignant as a tale of life and, perhaps, that meandering wall of personal growth that one sees in film all the time but rarely in real life. Funny People splits the difference with its two main characters played, well, by Seth Rogan and Adam Sandler.
24. Ong Bak 2
Understand this: Ong Bak 2 is not a “sequel” or “prequel” in the traditional film way, but is the most literal of prequels when taking into consideration most Eastern religions and philosophy. Tien (Tony Jaa) in Ong Bak 2 is an incarnation of Ting (Tony Jaa in Ong Bak) – in other words Ting is Tien reincarnated. Got it? Cool. Unreal spectacular fights and stunts highlight Ong Bak 2. Tony Jaa has learned that to become an international power house, that the real-life effective but visually repetitive Thai Kick Boxing can not be the only trick in his book. So, in Ong Bak 2 Jaa expands his martial arts showcase to include varying types of high impact and lightning quick strikes and forms. Ong Bak 2 is pleasing enough as a follow-up to Ong Bak and The Protector, but I could not help but to feel that it was a highlight film composed for international film interests to show investors that Jaa can be as dynamic as Jet Li or Donnie Yen.
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline makes the jump to the big screen in this creepy and atmospheric tale by Henry Selick. If nothing else Coraline nails the presentation of Gaiman’s fable. Though rated PG, the elements and dark, twisted landscape of Coraline can be an eerie pleasure. In the 3D version, the 3D effect is put to good use and shows how 3D can be used as a layer of presentation and not a gimmick that throws darts at the audience.
Pandorum is a real out-of-the-dark pleaser for me. There are elements similar to Event Horizon and Alien in this sci-horror movie, but Pandorum also possesses enough originality to keep its head above water. The movie is fittingly tense and claustrophobic and there is a bit of a gotcha twist at the end. Well, if it gets you. I had that part figured out less than half-way through. None the less, Pandorum is a movie that I expected nothing of and instead found a nifty and entertaining sci-horror flick.
21. Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (THBP)
Visually compelling as most of the Potter films, THBP is however the weakest entry into the franchise since the second. That is not to say it is a bad movie, but rather it stalls out the momentum that has building since the third movie in the franchise. The material for the final Potter story (to be split into two cash-milking films ) is stronger than THBP, so I expect a notch better from here on out.
20. In the Loop
One of the best comedies of the year. This BBC Films political roast is led by Peter Capaldi (Torchwood: Children of the Earth) and a ensemble cast whose unerring sharp-witted timing takes aim at UK, EU, UN, and US politics. Just about every aspect of the political system gets the hammer in hilarious fashion, but then one stops laughing long enough to realize that this satire is not too far from the truth. The amazingly sharp and biting script, great casting, and fly-on-the-wall style filmmaking makes In The Loop one of the handful of mandatory comedies to see from 2009.