Sunday, January 8, 2017


Greetings, Movie Fans!

Alright, now to bring this list to a close for another year.

Here are the final five films from my Top 10 of 2016!


Musicals today may be a lot different than they were during the Golden Age of cinema when romances and dramatic-comedies would break out randomly in professional song and dance choreography. Not to make light of those films, it was called the Golden Age for a reason, but the cost to make a film these days being what it is and most classic musicals never clocking in under two-and-a-half hours, it makes sense to have music that's integrated into the overall story structural rather than as a flashy diversion. If there's one director that has this new perspective down to a science, it's John Carney. After breaking into the limelight with the outstanding "Once" back in 2007, and his not-quite-as-good follow-up "Begin Again" from 2013 that showed Carney could handle a much bigger budget and cast, he returns back to his simpler craft with "Sing Street", an absolutely excellent tribute to 1980's punk rock. What's even more impressive is that while Carney made sure to bring in some heavy-hitters like The Cure, The Jam, and Duran Duran, a bulk of the musical numbers were originally made specially for the film. It was obvious to me that "Sing Street" was a winner when it had me smiling from beginning to end. Highly recommended!


Nothing draws me into a horror film faster than when it makes a mission out of rolling up its sleeves and delivering relentless suspense like a cold pair of hands grasping firmly around your neck. Stephen Lang continues to beg the question as to why he is still so underrated in these roles, the moral ambiguity forced upon the audience was a genius way of keeping up engagement, and the classic rundown house in a decimated neighborhood served as the tasty frosting on the cake. I have heard some say that activities that went down during the Third Act left them jarred and out of the said suspense that got them there in the first place, but from this angle, having that in the film brought even more gravity and terror to the circumstances rather than simply having the characters escape or not escape. Just when I thought the home invasion sub-genre had become more or less exhausted, Fede Alvarez breathed life into the medium and certainly leaves me excited for what he has coming next.


While "Rogue One" may not answer any questions as far as the future installments of Star Wars and the direction that they are taking the overall story arc for the new trilogy, it does answer two very crucial ones just the same: Yes, Star Wars does appear to be in good hands with the Disney Empire (pun intended) when it comes to turning out high quality films, and most importantly, filled the biggest plot hole that has plagued "A New Hope" since its release. Not bad for a single installment in a franchise with perhaps the loftiest expectations in Hollywood. Honestly, it would have been plenty if "Rogue One" had passed as worthy supplement material for Episode IV, and not only did it do that, but it is a feature that I feel will be a standout moving ahead. Terrific action sequences, capable casting, and just enough winks to the target audience to create exciting word-of-mouth, "Rogue One" made me feel like the kid that used to watch the original trilogy on a regular basis back on VHS. I couldn't ask for much more than that.


How the hell is Laika not a household name by now? You know a movie is great when it can blow you away with its imagination and immensely impressive stop-motion animation, and simultaenously piss you off when nobody went to see it and it barely re-cooperated its budget. Seriously, Illumination can rake in hundreds of millions of dollars this year on a lazy hack-job, but "Kubo" goes by mostly unnoticed. There are no words.

Ok, end of rant.

Laika already had me hooked from the get-go with "Coraline", and then "ParaNorman" only solidified the studio as a legitimately talented bunch of filmmakers. To attempt to describe what makes "Kubo" such a great movie, outside of an addicting story and score, would be doing it a grave injustice. Do yourself a favor and go watch it already.

And finally, my favorite film from 2016 is:








All Hail, Horror!

It's about goddamn time.

Naturally, "Hush" does draw many comparisons to "Don't Breathe" and vice versa, and perhaps there is a level of exploitation at play in both films with the "victim" being physically disabled, although the screenwriters mapped it all out in a tasteful enough way by not making those characters helpless, so it would be rather difficult to levy a complaint against it. What was so smart about "Hush" is that while Maggie was entirely deaf, the audience could still hear her movements and thus making her attempts at survival that much more suspenseful. Lean and well-crafted, not only was "Hush" my favorite film from 2016, but also one of the biggest surprises. Netflix doesn't always score with its original material, though if this is the type of horror they plan on churning out, count me in!

I hope you all enjoyed my Top 10 Films of 2016 list!

For more movie reviews, news, and announcements, please do check out my A Journey Through Film Facebook page. (

Thank you for reading!



Greetings, Movie Fans!

The time has finally come to reveal my ten favorite films from 2016. As I alluded to in my Top 5 Most Disappointing List (if you have not checked that one out yet, please do so!), this was a tough list to put together this year. Don't get me wrong, that's a wonderful problem to have. I would much rather painstakingly comb through a long list of nominees, weed them down to 10, and then struggle to put those in a satisfying order as opposed to having two or three clear-cut winners with the rest being used as glorified filler.

I thought about putting all ten here at once, though that could admittedly get a bit lengthy, so I am going to split the list in half. 

Now, with plenty of material to go through, let's do this thing! Here are the first five films for my Top 10 of 2016:


Perhaps once in every other blue moon, a remake so good will come out that it's not only a genuine pleasure to watch, but somehow also manages to improve upon its own source material. Case in point, I present you Exhibit A: Jon Favreau's "The Jungle Book" - an awe-inspiring visual spectacle that few others off the top of my head have managed to pull off successfully, and that's only the beginning. There's no debate that the original 1967 animated feature had plenty of qualities to love about it, including but not limited to, some very colorful characters and infectious song writing. It's also highly recognized as one of the final movies Walt Disney saw through before he passed away, so despite its numerous flaws like occasional recycled animation and a noticeable lack in plot, the original "Jungle Book" has always gotten a pass. What made this new imagining so smart is that Favreau and his crew of filmmakers recognized these issues and filled in the blanks by adding considerably more depth to the story, some darker themes particularly in regards to Shere Khan's character arc, whilst still remembering what made the original fun in the first place. The green screen effects are noticeable in rare instances, though outside of that, it is nearly unbelievable this whole thing was made in a Los Angeles studio and not the lush jungles of India. Highly recommended!


Full review still to come so I'll approach this a little more sparingly, but what I will say is that the new Nicolas Winding Refn's stylish horror-thriller is a immersive combination of dizzying and subtle visuals, a jarring '80s style score, purposefully understated acting to perfectly match its themes, and last but certainly not least, a certain level of grotesque that chills to the bone. We all know there are some films out there that have quickly polarized audiences and critics alike for one reason or another, but after finally get to watch them, it is hard to understand as to why or what the big deal was. "The Neon Demon", on the other hand, polarized its audience and it's completely understandable; this movie is not for everybody. I'd be willing to wager that even those with a casual interest will find their patience put to the test, but for fans of Refn's previous work and those that are up to the challenge, they might find a lot to love here, too. 


Speaking of divided audiences, no other horror movie this past year came close to effectively doing just that quite as starkly as "The VVitch". It is rather ironic in its own right considering that the film starts off with pitchforks and exile, because it takes a brave soul to assert to a crowd of horror fans that it deserves to be recognized as a great film. However, before I'm asked to pack my bags and get out of town, allow me to say that I absolutely recognize and appreciate the naysayers side of the story - a lack in truth in advertising. The initial trailers gave the impression of a dark and dirty scarefest set during the glory days of Salem, and what we got alternatively was a slow-burning, Gothic tale drenched in religious zeal and paranoia. Now, I will not agree to the proclamations that "The VVitch" isn't horror at all, because that only makes me wonder if the same movie is being talked about. The creepiness is consistently lingering beneath the surface of this film, and with the aid of some wonderful directing by newcomer Robert Eggers, this was a superbly atmospheric piece of art. I have since then gladly added this to my collection and look forward to watching it again in the future.


A better Avengers film than "Age of Ultron"? Definitely. A Captain America sequel that surpasses "The Winter Soldier"? Unfortunately not. Be that as it may, "Civil War" was nonetheless one of the best blockbusters of the year, and now that 2016 is all said and done, the king of the summer movie slate and a satisfying ending to Cap's trilogy. Despite some of the apparent flaws of "Civil War", is anyone really going to contest how just how kick-ass that airport fight scene was? If anything, it should keep the faithful MCU masses intrigued as the familiar chapters of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Thor appear to be coming to an end in the near future after the conclusion of "Avengers: Infinity War", and the Universe as a whole starts to move into more unfamiliar territory with Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, and The Inhumans. Outside of that, there's not a lot to say here. It's an action-packed thrill ride filled with Hollywood superstars that look all-too-natural in their respective roles by now. Chalk up another win for MARVEL.


Yes, that's right. Every once and a while a Top 10 list gets a cheat, and this is mine. Despite being too very different films from Disney Animation that I highly enjoyed, I could not for the life of me pick one over the other. I loved the characters and social commentary from "Zootopia", and was equally impressed by the music (yes, I feel it does rival "Frozen"), animation, and lore from "Moana". Due to the spacing of their releases, I have had the benefit of seeing "Zootopia" multiple times now, while "Moana" I've only seen once, so a winner could edge itself to the top over the coming months when"Moana" gets its bluray release, though I certainly do not anticipate much of a change. Both collectively prove that creative irons are still burning hot at Disney, and I believe there is every reason to think this winning streak is going to continue for quite some time yet. 

I hope you enjoyed the first half of my Top 10 list! Please stop back to see final five titles!


Saturday, January 7, 2017


Greetings, Movie Fans!

As you can see, I did not get around to these lists last year. I was late getting to a vast amount of titles from 2015, and by the time I did I deemed it to be far beyond an acceptable deadline; in a way, that kind of sucks because there were easily enough great films from last year to make one. Who knows? Perhaps I shall one of these days.

Moving on . . .

So, hey, how about that shit-show of a year we all called 2016, huh? Not to make light of anybody passing away from this world, but I honestly would not have been shocked if Vegas had started taking bets on "Who's It Gonna Be Next?" in Hollywood (or did they?). Regardless of how long one's particular grieving period is, over time we all start to recognize that, even though it's not always easy to see, there was good to go with the bad. Outside of yet another mediocre summer blockbuster run (I say "summer", because in Hollywood it is about nine months long now), 2016 had a pretty impressive and enjoyable catalog. Impressive enough, in fact, that my Top 10 for 2016 was one of the most difficult ones I have put together in quite some time.

HOWEVER, you see the title here, so before counting down to the gold, first comes the obligatory sewage bath.

To be clear, and as I have stated in the past, these are not likely the worst films of 2016; far from it, I'd be willing to wager. I'm sure there are some real gems out there that movie-goers wouldn't even use the theater tickets as toilet paper. You see, those types of films are the ones my gut instinct tells me to stay away from, so I rarely end up seeing the year's garbage. That being the case, my "Worst" list each year comes from films that I felt could have and should have been decent movies, only to just, well, not be, at all. For me, those kinds of movies are significantly more painful to the cinematic soul than films that suck so bad you can almost get a laugh out of the whole deal.

So with that brief introduction out of the way, it is time to let the fun begin!

Here are the Top 5 Films from 2016 that, to me, were the Most Disappointing:


Horror movies are finally starting to get exciting for me again. There are some fresh new faces making their way onto the scene that actually "get it", and by that I mean can take a modest or low budget and turn it into something more than mind-numbing and shameless cash-grabbing crap. 2016 had one of the best-looking lineups so far this side of 2010, and "Lights Out" was looking at first to be one of those. I want to feel bad for putting this film on the list at all because it was not all terrible; the acting was decent, the story was lacking yet passable for modern horror, and the big baddie had some due credit for being creepy enough. The major flaw that derailed the whole feature for me is how quickly obvious it became that there were no smaller ideas or diversions to back up the big rule the movie set for itself - the lights are going to go out and bad stuff is going to happen, most likely from behind *insert jump scare here*. The saddest thing of all is there were a few glimpses of some really cool avenues to explore, but by the time the film started to do that, it was over and too late for any real redemption.


I know, I know - how could this be considered disappointing? How could something that was clearly dead long before it crash-landed have had nearly enough positive expectations to end up on this kind of a list? Well, there is that "nostalgia" word that gets thrown around a lot. I will gladly admit that when the news first broke and the first few images of "Resurgence" started to appear that my pulse picked up a few paces. Let's all be honest with each other here, while the first "Independence Day" is one the purest definitions of junk food for the heart and mind, it is so blissfully "'90s" that it cannot help but come up in almost any conversations surrounding that decade of film. Hell, I mean, sure, it has started to show its age in some places in terms of special effects, though for the most part, it still holds up very well; and knowing how far that technology has come the past twenty years, I could not help having some optimism for the sequel, especially with Emmerich returning to helm. Nevertheless, all that anticipation was flushed in an impressive hurry once it was revealed that a certain original cast member wasn't going to make it because he was busy making a hardly less shitty movie coming out that same year, followed shortly after by a plot that looked to be effortless and dumb even compared to most new blockbuster standards. So, needless to say, when I finally got around to seeing "Resurgence", my Bar of Hope was set just above the moldy cellar floor, and by some cruel act of the cosmos, this tub of boiling feces still somehow managed to trip over said bar and face-plant into the concrete. Literally, the only good thing I could come up with to say about this thing is that, yeah, the alien CGI did look pretty cool, but not one thing more. I could try to touch on the big pieces of the bad side, though I think it might be faster for you to just watch it; though, seriously, don't watch it if you've spared yourself this long.


I acknowledge that crime dramas revolving around drugs and drug families have been done to absolute death over the years, however that does not mean that these films cannot be good if they have all the right pieces.

Let me check the list on that:

1. Director Brad Furman - credits include "The Lincoln Lawyer" (I have heard decent things) and "Runner Runner" (Uh oh. Red flag.)

2. Stars include Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, and Benjamin Bratt. (Should easily make up for #1)

3. Set in the 1980s during the reign of Pablo Escobar. (Neat!)

Hey, two out of three, I like those odds! Wish I knew ahead of time that ratio turned out be Furman's bad movies versus good ones. Ugh, I am still stumped to this day with the level of talent lent that "Infiltrator" turned out to somehow be one of the most boring watches I would have all year. The cast, to their credit, did try to make it work, but with a script and plot that was so achingly by-the-book that I could have called out loud what was going to happen and when, that is a crystal clear sign that the filmmakers did not have the wits about them to take advantage of what they had. Honestly, there's just no excuse.


Remember that aforementioned actor that was too busy to return to the "Independence Day" series?

Well . . .

Nothing seems to strike doubt into the hearts of movie-goers these days faster than terms like "re-shoots", or such phrases as "Rated R downgraded to Rated PG-13", or "Warner Bros. fronting another live-action DC Comic adaptation." All joking aside, if there was one film that Warner honestly could not afford to fuck up this past year, it was "Suicide Squad", and yet, here we are, so good on ya, WB. My initial thought after the final credits rolled was something along the lines of "Eh, you know, it could have been worse", and I absolutely hold that to still be true, even with the ever-collecting evidence over the past few months suggesting that if all slicing and dicing the studio morons had done prior to release didn't happen that the end product still would have fallen short of anything spectacular, because David Ayer has proven to be competent as both a writer and director. At the end of it all, we may never know what Ayer's true vision was for "Suicide Squad", though that hasn't stopped the rampant conspiracy theories that Warner Bros. is paying him to lie because they fucked up. Regardless of all that, what we got stuck with is a clearly manipulated mess that should be have been chock-full of interesting characters and backstories, and a blast to watch in general, but instead ended not being any of those things. I believe my maintained intrigue throughout was to see if it would somehow still finish cleanly, or go down in an epic ball of flames. Sadly, neither one of those happened, and the result is another DC disappointment that will likely be forgotten in no time at all.

And the #1 Most Disappointing Film of 2016 is:









I feel I said more than enough in my full review, so I'll simply boil it down to this:

Biggest. Misfire. In. Recent. Memory. 

I will still defend that "Pets" is still barely good enough for the youngsters to get something out of it, but I am likely not going to leap at the opportunity to join them. To be honest, this movie pisses me off more with each day that goes by. To have a sure thing set on your lap and unabashedly waste it in order to get by on the bare minimum of cute animals and one-liners makes me want to boycott Illumination altogether (if only I didn't have a cursed soft spot for "Despicable Me"). Given their competition, it dumbfounds me how they thought getting away with something like this was remotely feasible, yet economically speaking, they totally did get away with it, so what the hell do I know? I mean, other than the sure sequel I'll be happy to skip?

Thank you all for reading!! I hope you enjoyed this list of roasts and will return for the actual Top 10 good stuff!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

MrMoviesETC's TOP 10 FILMS of 2004

Greetings, Movie Lovers!

Welcome back to another week of Top Ten as I go through the films that I enjoyed the most from 2004.

I acknowledge that I've done my share of complaining during this countdown project, particularly while going through the 2000s. The theme of grievances have been that, while each year during this decade has had great films, the selection has been annoyingly slim all the while keeping in mind that I have obviously not seen every film ever made and there's always the chance there are some excellent films that I have yet to come across ("Ray" and "The Terminal" come to mind).

Upon doing some research, it also appears that 2004 was not an exceptional year financially for mainstream Hollywood. Of course, a successful box office doesn't mean squat anymore as to whether a film is actually good, but as an example, the two largest domestic summer blockbusters in 2004 were "Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Dodgeball: An Underdog Story" - I'm not against either one of those movies, but that does say something, doesn't it?

Simply put, I had a mighty struggle putting this Top Ten list together. I had enough trouble filling all ten gaps that I considered changing this singular post to a Top Five. I'll additionally admit that since it was more laboring to put this thing together, it was difficult to even get excited for it. I did not have a solid #1 as the Top Three are easily interchangeable, though it is important to keep in mind that I do enjoy all ten of these movies or else I would not have even bothered to put this together.

So, without further delay, here is my Top Ten list of 2004:


Plainly put, if you're not a fan of Metallica and/or documentaries, there's no reason that you lend anything resembling a care to this film. In my position, I cannot say that every single song and every single album that Metallica has ever made has stimulated me without fail; however, when they do hit the mark for me, it's generally long lasting and something I can and will revisit numerous times. It's hard for me to decide convincingly whether or not "Some Kind of Monster" was always intended by the band or if it was a circumstantial marketing damage plan in the less-than-stellar response their 2003 album "St. Anger" received universally. I'm not one to absolutely loathe that effort entirely as I can still appreciate the title track and maybe one or two others, but outside of that, it is a challenging album to tolerate. The documentary goes into the band's inner turmoil during the creation of that record as James Hetfield was struggling intensely with drugs and the group itself trying to get around only being a 3-piece at the time. Even if it is a simple chronological telling of one of the biggest bands in metal music history hitting one of its lowest points, the documentary is exceptionally well made and is all but guaranteed to please the fans of the group. It was certainly a pleasant surprise for me, and one I wouldn't mind revisiting every now and then.


In what I still consider to be Richard Linklater's best body of work to date, this second installment in the "Before" trilogy finds Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meeting again after 9 years from the conclusion of their first chance encounter in "Before Sunrise". You're not apt to find a more simple or human approach to a story about two strangers that became lovers, went their separate ways, found each other again only to find that their sparks still burn brightly despite all the changes that have occurred in their lives, and have it somehow be entertaining. Linklater can take a lot of the credit with his breathtaking choices of location and intimacy, but it's really Hawke and Delpy that propel the films to be what they are. Hollywood plays the sugary "everything works out" card all too readily in romantic comedies, but Linklater keeps this mood grounded as, while the two leads would like to pretend that their lives hold no ground on their romance, they additionally cannot sustain such naivety and that reality will force their relationship to show its true colors. After having seen "Before Midnight" this past year, I wouldn't call "Sunset" my favorite out of the series, although it is a balanced and necessary progression in a charming love story.


Whether being a fan of Johnny Depp or not, I've always been surprised at the lack of conversation surrounding "Finding Neverland" - a story based around J.M. Barrie (Depp) that has been struggling to get his plays to take off in the local theater, and then by happenstance, comes across the widowed Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four children. After bonding with the family - the boys in particular - Barrie begins to find inspiration for his play about Peter Pan. Of course, the circumstances are not that simple as they never tend to be, as Barrie's ex-wife and Sylvia's mother begin to feel uncomfortable about Barrie's constant presence with the family. That's really the bare bones of it all as far as the story, but the magic in "Neverland" is truly afforded by Depp's performance (one of his more down-to-Earth ones, at least), and the story's equal ability to be uplifting at one moment and completely heart-wrecking in the next.

The story of Peter Pan has always been rooted in imagination, and I feel "Finding Neverland" captured that essence in a way that is accessible. The only way I can think of why a person would undoubtedly despise this film is if they were lacking in that imagination.


As much as I appreciate the "Kill Bill" films for what they are and what they mean to the Tarantino library, I will go out on a limb and say that neither film comes close to being my favorite from said library. I think they are a great deal of fun and gave Tarantino a means to flex his need for creative over-the-top imagery, but all in all, I find myself placing them still below "Django Unchained", "Inglorious Basterds", and "Reservoir Dogs", seeing as I could watch any of those movies on a whim, whereas I need to be in the right mood to watch "Kill Bill". Nevertheless, "Vol. 2" was one of the best action films of 2004 in my opinion, even though it did not focus nearly as much on action as "Vol. 1" did. The latter focused on initial revenge rage of Kiddo and any of Bill's henchmen getting chopped to bits for crossing her path; "Vol. 2" exercises the more personal side when the actual confrontation with Bill takes place and she finds it more difficult to cut him down than she would have initially thought. Overall, it provides a satisfying conclusion to the story, and while it cannot boast the same acting level as perhaps "Basterds" or "Django" can, Tarantino does bring enough cut-throat polish to this closer to make it memorable.


It's hard to believe that a full decade has gone by since this film's release, and really the last time that anyone took Jim Carrey seriously. That is sort of depressing to me in a way as I grew up on Carrey's style of comedy, and while this effort is rooted almost purely in drama, it shows that the man does have range. It's almost as if Hollywood knows his kind of slapstick isn't as embraced as it once was, and now they can't figure out what to do with him. I'm still not entirely sold on his romantic chemistry with Kate Winslet in this film, but, to me, that really is non-impacting in the grand scheme of the story about two ex-lovers trying to forget each other, and, guess what, there's a piece of technology that can do that. I did attempt to watch "Sunshine" once back when it was released and couldn't really get behind it. I felt the characters were too strange and the story didn't make any cohesive sense, but hey, young and dumb back then, what can I say? After giving it another try, I (clearly) enjoyed it much more and found that I or anyone that has ever suffered heartache could relate to it. In all honestly, the story and its interesting use of visuals really are not that complicated; in simple terms, the present times are moving forward and the flashbacks are moving in reverse to symbolize the literal destruction of memories. Expectantly, it turns out that wiping the mind clean is not nearly that simple, but I will not risk going into spoiler territory from there. What you need to know is that it's a well-made film with a good message and acting to boot.

5. SAW

Yeah, so what? These lists have never always been about the best films ever made, but the films I enjoyed the most during that year, and "Saw" happens to be one of my favorite horror films and also my favorite horror anthology. My only regret is not seeing the original in the cinema so I could say that I was there from the start; sadly, I did not make it until "Saw III". I do admit that these films deserve to be labeled more in terms of junk food than anything else, but I like the twists that they contain regardless of how goofy or nonsensical they are, and Tobin Bell could not have been more perfect to play the role of Jigsaw. Slashers and gorefests are not what I consider to be my cup of tea when it comes to this genre, but at the same time, one has to admit that the kills and devices in this movie and ones that follow are amicably effective. Additionally, I always talk about suspense when it comes to horror, and while "Saw" may not keep that cranked up in full on a consistent basis, they do have enough of it to make them feel superior to most modern horror in that respect. There's not much else I can say, really. I will continue to watch these movies in the years to come, and will gladly get on board if they decide to pick the series back up again for more releases.


I could not really decide whether to put this in front or behind "Saw", because even though the two are absolutely nothing alike, the both were about even on my enjoyment scale. Riffing off of the classic Romero zombie classics, "Shaun of the Dead' showcases why Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are a comedy force to be reckoned with. There's really no way to describe it other than the two comedians have that "it" factor when it comes to their chemistry. The story itself, while self-explanatory, was a perfect fit to show off the two leads' capabilities. I think one of the best jokes of the movie was in the beginning where the modern world is shown as being so mundane that they don't even notice at first that the undead are starting to walk among them. Once the thrills do begin in earnest, between the one-liners and the physical humor of the zombie kills, "Shaun" becomes, at least for me, a laugh-per-minute riot. This one comes easily recommended!


One of my theories of why I didn't like "The Wolf of Wall Street" quite as much as everyone else seemed to is because I had happened to "The Aviator" merely months prior to "Wall Street", and in some ways, it kind of felt like deja vu - Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio as a character that knows the recipe to success, yet either via drugs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, has a mental breakdown all the way into the abyss. I suppose the big difference is that one of the characters (I won't say which) is able to come back from the dark, while the other is not so lucky. Don't misunderstand me, both films are expertly done and are entertaining on high degrees, although if I had to choose, I'd probably go with "The Aviator" for the sole reason that it's easier for me to sympathize with a character that cannot ultimately help his situation as opposed to someone on an unapologetic path of self-destruction. While the supporting characters did matter in "The Aviator" since some of them could take credit for helping Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) over the cliff, this is completely DiCaprio's vehicle, and in this film similarly to "Wall Street", he takes the role by the reigns and goes crazy with it. I appreciated as well that Scorsese knew well enough to continually bait the audience that perhaps there is still hope for Hughes, only to watch it wither away again in another bout of hysterics. This film definitely tests its audience, and it will be the viewers that can digest everything crammed in this 3 hour ride that will get the most out of it.


You know this movie is good when, 11-years-later, the general pulse of the Pixar fan crowd is still that "we want an 'Incredibles' sequel!". If the current MCU march is anything to base the theory on, it shows that superhero films can continue to be successful due to the seemingly endless possibilities they hold, and hell, "The Incredibles" came on the scene before superheroes were cool again. Inevitably, you can count on Pixar to bring this action comedy into the family dynamic, especially since this group of heroes are a family trying to live a normal life in a world where superheroes have become outlawed. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) does what he can in that dynamic but cannot help but chomp at the bit when he's presented an opportunity to put the mask and suit back on. The story still holds up strong today with its message of staying together as a family and facing adversity even if the adversaries are the people that used to praise you. Even at 11-years-old, the animation quality remains to be a marvel to look at (especially on blu-ray), and some of the scenes are so glossy, they almost appear to be realistic.

I'd say this movie ranks in about the middle if I were to rank all the Pixar films; however, that doesn't say a whole lot as I still find #15 on that list to be watchable.

At last, my #1 film from 2004 is:






As I mentioned in the preamble, I could have swapped a couple of these films around and made an entirely different list, but I think I settled on "Sideways" for my #1 pick because I realized that I still consider it to be one of the biggest surprises of that year. What I mean to say is that I knew it would be good because it had the formula to be good; what I didn't expect it was how great it would turn out to be thanks mostly in part to the performances of Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. The premise is that Miles (Giamatti), a depressed and unsuccessful writer, offers to take his closest friend, Jack (Church), on a road trip down the countryside to get a taste of wine country as a sort of Bachelor party for Jack whom is soon to be married. Raymond assumes that it will be a relaxing, leisurely trip, while Jack clearly has other plans to hook up with multiple women before he settles down for good. Miles tolerates this behavior initially as it really isn't his problem, but the easy going success of Jack's ventures begin to grade on Miles and their friendship as a whole. The dynamic of "polar opposite" friends has been done before in Hollywood, yet somehow this take on it felt different and fresh. Again, I think that it is a testament to the performances that Giamatti and Church give and how well that chemistry really works on screen. I personally felt it was a wonderful romantic dramedy and was no less deserving of the #1 spot than any of the other films on this list.

Thank you as always for reading! I hope you enjoyed this week's post.

See you next for my Top Ten films of 2003!

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

MrMovieETC's TOP 10 FILMS of 2005

Greetings, Movie Lovers!

I hope everyone had a great week and were able to watch some great films along the way.

This week, I will be tackling my top films of 2005 - a year that kind of feels like I missed as far as cinema goes. I viewed a decent chunk of them, sure, but there are a handful of popular titles that I have not made it around to yet. Simply put, if you happen to check out this list and there's a film that you feel should easily be on there and it's not, I would likely agree with you that it should be there but I cannot currently comment on it. In my defense, I had also only turned 20 in 2005, and let's just say that my cinematic tastes were still in development. I still stand behind some of the movies that I saw back then, and, a couple of them have made this list - so there's that.

I won't waste any more time here, so let's get started:


I'm not at all familiar with the comic that "Constantine" is loosely based on, so my affinity for this film has nothing to do with that in case you're wondering why I would hold a movie like this to a high enough regard to make a Top Ten list. I can vaguely recall my draw to seeing "Constantine" in the cinema - which was I still being on a Keanu Reeves high from the Matrix films, and the premise about angels and demons was easily in my wheelhouse (10 years later, it still mostly is). In case you're unfamiliar with the story, the titular character Constantine has been tasked with policing the demons of Hell and making sure they are not breaking the rules and having too much fun at humanity's expense. He additionally accepts the job because he attempted suicide (and failed), so he believes his soul is claimed by the Devil. After a lung cancer death sentence, he assumes that performing exorcisms will get him back in God's good graces. I wouldn't say the performances, even by Reeves, are particularly outstanding in this film, but I find it to be too much of a good time to dismiss. It moves at a slick pace and the climax is fairly entertaining as well. I've watched it multiple times since 2005 and still continue to enjoy it.


It is not very often that I give a film such high praise based almost solely on eye candy, but c'mon, "Sin City" is that and much more. I think the ensemble cast members work well together when they cross paths in the narrative and a majority of them bring an entertaining game. I wouldn't go so far to say as the different stories reach a level of perfection or cohesiveness that completely work, but to bring something from the Frank Miller arsenal with such style has to be commended by itself. Instead of being a typical violent and gory comic adaptation, it takes those characteristics and mixes them with a color palette that really was one of the first of its kind.

There's really not much more I can say about it, because either you're well aware of what "Sin City" is by now, or else you found it so drastically unappealing that you could not care less. I've yet to watch it on blu-ray, although I am looking forward to it as I'm sure its vibrancy will look nothing short of awesome.


I don't think I've even seen "Grizzly Man" since its debut in 2005, and yet it is one of the documentaries of seen in my life time that has stood more than all the rest. As with most films studying wildlife and its impact on the Earth and its inhabitants, "Grizzly Man" offers a cautionary tale - except this movie in particular has a message with a double-edge. The documentarian here is Timothy Treadwell, a researcher that spent multiple summers in Alaska studying grizzly bears. Over time, he starts to realize (mostly in his own mind) that bears and humans can co-exist in close spaces as long as there lies a mutual respect. Even if you can guess the result of that hypothesis, I won't spell it out here. What I will tell you is that Treadwell's journey is a pretty fascinating one. Anybody that has any kind of love of nature can relate to many of the emotions Treadwell experiences during his interactions with the bears - that is, until, he spends so much time away from humanity out in the wilderness that he goes, for a lack of a better term, fucking nuts.

As the film's tagline suggests, it's one thing to stand up for nature and educate the world, it's a whole other matter to try to walk in their line and not expect negative consequences. I thought Werner Herzog did an outstanding job of putting this documentary together, and if those films are in your wheelhouse, I'd highly recommend it.


I could easily place this selection squarely on the shoulders of the nostalgia factor; mainly to the tune of "Holy crap, a giant ape! Holy crap, Tyrannosaurus Rex! Holy crap, giant insect creatures!" 10 years later, well, rinse and repeat. I will admit that Peter Jackson's take on the classic monster feature had an overblown story and Jack Black may not have been the absolutely best choice for delivering the signature phrase at the end of the film following the death of King Kong (if you consider that a spoiler, my apologies). However, what the film did well, as far as action and homages to the more original films, were done really well. Not to mention that the special effects still hold up fantastically for being 10 years old and in development even longer than that. Think about it - one subject of comparison is "Jurassic Park III" from 2001. If you haven't seen JPIII for a year or two, it doesn't hold up worth a damn.

So, yeah, this blockbuster take on "King Kong" is still a lot of fun to watch, for me at least, and the climax of Kong's dual atop the skyscraper still gives me chills. Say what you will, I really like this movie.


I wasn't sure in the beginning, but after seeing "Walk the Line" for the first time, I don't think anyone could have played through the life and times of the great Johnny Cash quite as good as Joaquin Phoenix. I was (am) a fan of his work, but I had not heard of any musical backgrounds that he clearly boasted, and I have to say that he nailed the part completely. Truth be told, it's a kind of role that is really tailor-made for his type of talent - secure and confident in a dramatic role, and yet he does it so subtly that he's engaging without being over-the-top. As far as the story, if you know your Cash history, it goes steadily straight-forward: Johnny's rise to fame; his fall as a result of substance abuse; and finally, his resurgence.

Don't get me wrong, the story goes much deeper and personal than that, but those details are best left for the actual viewing experience. It's an excellent film and well worth the watch.


Perhaps this isn't quite as intellectually stimulating as some of the other films that came before it on the list, yet, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", Judd Apatow's directing debut, is still one of my favorite comedies to date. Steve Carell makes a hilarious big stage debut as Andy Stitzer, a shy yet sweetheart video game nerd of sorts that reveals to his new friends (Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd) that he has never had sexual intercourse in his life. I suppose this film could be to blame for the recent explosion of raunchy comedies, and even if that's true, this movie at least got the formula correct. There's a healthy blend of heart and humor that Apatow has made a bit of a trademark from. His streak has not always been strong, although this one has always had me laughing consistently throughout its entirety. Again, its predictable as most comedies are, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve to keep the audience rolling in the aisle. There have been a few comedies since and prior to 2005 that have come close to dethroning "Virgin", but it has still held on as my favorite.


I could be a little jaded on this one seeing as I did not view for the first time until after the tragic passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. That, and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't really know much about the life of Truman Capote outside of his most famous work, "In Cold Blood". Coincidentally, that ended up working out pretty well for me as that is what the film is based around - Capote's research into a gruesome homicide. Hoffman, of course, is a revelation in this movie as Capote. He helped create a perfect balance of vulnerability and the ever-so-slightly snobbish side of Capote that was really a facade more than anything else to cover for his own insecurity. I think what makes the film even more powerful and tragic now more than ever is the coinciding tragedies of both Capote, the man, and Capote, the actor who played him because both passed away too young due to drug-related complications. They will be missed and their talents were gone far too prematurely.


When I went to see "A History of Violence" in the cinema for the first time, I knew next to nothing about it other than it had an attractive looking cast and was reviewed as a violently-edged thriller, which was more than enough to get me in a seat at the time. From what I can recall, I don't believe it received a huge release, so to summarize, the story focuses on Tom Stall, a small town cafe owner that gets along with most everyone, except a duo of thugs that decide to burst and threaten him and his employees. After a rather impressive display of asskicking, Stall is confronted by Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), bad news dressed in a black suit that begins to tell the people around Tom that he is not who everyone thinks he is. From the well-designed action pieces to the family drama that comes as a result of them, "Violence" is a sleek, 90-minute drama thriller that is about as surprising stealthy and lethal as its main character. I love the quiet yet deadly demeanor of Viggo Mortensen as Tom; the antagonizing menace of Harris; and the no-nonsense brutality of Tom's brother Joey (William Hurt).

If you haven't checked this film out yet, I would easily suggest to do so.


You can definitely tell, even back in 2005, that the comic crowd or Batman fans in particular had not quite recovered from the deflating hangover that was "Batman & Robin", as "Batman Begins" paled at the box office in comparison to its two follow-ups. Perhaps its understandable as every successful series has to start somewhere, and for an origin story card that Hollywood seems to love to play a little too often in the past decade, "Batman Begins" is one of the best in the deck in recent memory. Christopher Nolan was still trying to make a name for himself, and what better way to do that than try to raise a beloved comic character from the ashes? Not to mention totally steering the trademark away from the comic book feel that Tim Burton left behind in the late 80s and early 90s, and turn it into a realistic, gritty, and dark outing with an intimidating punch. While I wouldn't call Christian Bale the greatest actor to wear the cape and cowl, he did take the role to heart and was easily a believable Dark Knight as far as physicality. Nolan also could not have had a better cast to round out his trilogy than Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman. Need I say more? Cillian Murphy additionally brought a lively performance to the Scarecrow, and the nightmare sequences of this film were top notch, in my opinion.

I may not watch this installment of the trilogy as much as "The Dark Knight", but that doesn't decrease its value.


A majority of the time, Hollywood is seemingly incapable of making a proper film based on a popular and/or classic novel; however, when tackling the timeless story from Ray Bradbury, they finally go it right. The original novel was fairly short, so sure, they had to make some creative decisions to fill in the gaps, but outside of that, the story stays true to the material, the special effects rivaled even that of the aforementioned "King Kong", and....I can't keep this up.

Give me a break, I have not done this for a while! Yes, of course, I'm not being serious. I attempted to watch this atrocious piece of sh-, no, feces deserves better than that, and I could not make it to the end credits. Of course I had high expectations due to being a huge fan of the book, but for the love of all things film, what exactly did they spend the $80 million budget on? It wasn't on story, effects, acting or anything that constitutes a film. I wouldn't recommend you watching this even for a laugh, because you won't laugh, you'll sob.

And now, my actual #1 film from 2005 is;






Despite his more comical reputation as of late, Nicolas Cage, believe it or not, does have a batch of strong dramatic performances under his belt; and in my opinion, none are more of a standout than Yuri Orlov from "Lord of War", a young entrepreneur of sorts that discovers that his big talent is dealing guns to lesser developed countries in Africa, mostly illegally. For Yuri, it's not about the money, it's about the game, and while he could walk away at any given moment, he feels too compelled to continue his work even if it costs many innocent lives. While watching him battle his own moral boundaries in hostile environments is entertaining enough, Yuri also gets the pleasure of being hunted by Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke), an Interpol agent whom lives and breathes the opportunity to bring Yuri down for good. Some of Cage's most captivating lines are from his own inner monologue as it breaks down his job and the admittance that he does cater to the scum of the Earth.

For its run time, "Lord of War" is a slow-burner, but it has just enough going on at any given moment and intriguing characters to make said time pass rather swiftly. I find this film to be infinitely re-watchable and that is why it's my favorite film of 2005.

Thank you very much for reading! See you next week for my Top Ten List of 2004.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

MrMovieETC's TOP 10 FILMS of 2006


Is it the 90s yet?

Ok, I'm mostly joking.

Greetings, Movie Lovers!

Although 2006 did see the same amount of disparity like 2008 and 2009, that's not to say there were not some good - if not great - films to behold from this year. In truth, a couple of the films on this list I could easily see myself placing in my Top 50, or even Top 20 films list of all time. Another thing I will give the slate of movies available from this year is that it does break the pattern from those that came after it. There weren't many animation standouts as Pixar's offering was "Cars", and while I do not have anything against that movie, it's not a Top 10 now nor will it ever be. The horror lineup was a little bit dry as well with some of the better ones in recent memory coming a few years after this (see previous Top 10 posts).

No, this year felt like it belonged to more the indie scene with a decent lot of comedy, drama, and even a thriller or two. Thankfully, said releases were some of the brighter outings of the year.

Without further delay, here is my Top 10 Film list of 2006:


I literally had about 5 or 6 titles that I was swapping in and out for this particular spot on the list; films that are arguably, or may not even so, better than the second chapter of the Pirates series and that I also hold to a high regard even beyond just their technical merits. A few that come to mind are "Blood Diamond", "The Hills Have Eyes" remake, "The Proposition", and "Accepted" (hey, it still cracks me up 10 years later). Why, then, choose "Dead Man's Chest"? First, I can't help but find the series interesting now as it has become the scapegoat for which Johnny Depp fans like to hurl their frustrations at and blame for his current and often repetitive on-screen persona. Perhaps that is partially true, along with Tim Burton, but I still find this film to be pretty damn good. Perfect? No, however it still has the wittiness of the original; I love Bill Nighy as Davey Jones; Bloom's and Knightley's characters haven't quite reached the agonizing level of nauseating from "At World's End", and the story is also fairly straight forward as opposed to its sequel. The special effects also deserve mentioning as they were quite impressive for that time and something one would easily expect from Disney.

Once more, sure, it does not hold up to some other films that could have also filled this spot, but it's a movie I still keep pretty close.


Most of the cinematic public did not come to know Ellen Page until she made her big indie smash debut with "Juno" in 2007. After said exposure, some, like myself, may have stumbled across "Hard Candy" - another indie film for Page, except it's not nearly as cute as a cheeseburger phone. This film sees a much darker side of Page in a (sort of) revenge flick about a 14-year-old girl (though Page was actually older) that tries to seduce a man that she chats with online and is convinced to be a pedophile and murderer. After successfully getting said man, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), to take her back to his house, the terror begins in earnest as she physically tortures Jeff into confessing his crimes.

Not only is the acting, especially from Page, outstanding in this film, but it's also such a morally polarizing feature that you cannot help and watch it all the way through. One side of it is that how difficult it is to watch the near-demented acts of Hayley (Page) on this man that was previously a stranger to her; though, on the other side of things, she presents an intriguing argument for her claims and one starts to support her cause. It's not for everyone, to be clear, but I found it to be a powerful film on the senses.


Outside of this still being my favorite Will Ferrell performance to date, "Stranger than Fiction" has a premise that I can't help but love. A writer struggling with writer's block (played by Emma Thompsen) finds herself becoming the narrator of Harold's (Ferrell) life and has announced that at some point during her story, Harold will die. As someone that lives his life highly organized and a by-the-book routine, this obviously sends Harold's world into a frightening tailspin. Anything outside of that should be viewed and enjoyed on one's own time, and as I said at the beginning, I would love to see Ferrell in more roles like this. I know it's not his "niche", technically, though this performance was one of his most sincere and shows that there is a lot more to him than the vulgar shtick that he has been made famous from. This is also not a complete drama; there are still plenty of laughs to be had on a darker basis.

Highly recommended!


Speaking of sincere and vulnerable roles, this one goes to Will Smith and is easily the best overall performance of his career, in my opinion. Also, whilst seeing Will with his son Jaden on screen has been the target of multiple critical ribbing, the duo works quite well in this story of a poor father trying to keep a roof over his son's head, even if that means sleeping in public transportation stations until he can make ends meet. Coming from the paycheck-to-paycheck class myself, it is not difficult to relate to his growing frustrations of missed opportunities and closed doors, all the while trying to keep an optimistic facade for his young son whom doesn't quite fully understand the seriousness of their situation. If Smith were to ever win an Oscar, it should have been for this. Forget action flicks, sci-fi comedies, and the Fresh Prince - when put in the right situation, Smith can act on a high-talent level, and you need no further proof than "The Pursuit of Happyness".


This one came as a bit of a surprise for me. Having only viewed for the first time last Halloween, I had previously put it off because I had heard good things and yet not enough from the synopsis drew me in on a "must-see" level of excitement. Be that as it may, "The Descent" was hands-down one of my favorite films from last year's Octoberthon. The acting isn't superb by any means and the characters do make a handful of the same ol' bad decisions that must be some sort of criterion when making a horror film, but what I will say is that this film nails all the right notes enough of the time to make me love it. The atmosphere already came built-in with the underground cave setting; the execution did not solely rely on jump scare tactics; and the creatures from this little slice of Hell are effectively terrifying in their own right. I also enjoyed how the filmmakers did not belittle Sarah's character as just another generic Scream Queen. She is given the opportunity to using some cunning logic to stay alive despite the obviously bleak peril in front of her.

This movie was great and could easily fit on my Top 20 Horror Films of all time. If you love some horror, check this one out!


Stylishly entertaining and scary to a degree, "V for Vendetta" is one of those rebellion-type films that I find to be infinitely re-watchable. I'm not so much saying that it's the best of its kind, as I'm sure there are plenty in its field that cast a shadow; however, Hugo Weaving's portrayal of V has become an underground icon with the sort of charisma that I will not look away from when presented the opportunity. Another reason why I would not say that "V" is at the top of its particular class because the film itself is a little cartoon-ish and the story is muddy from time to time. That being said, I've always enjoyed the action sequences, and the 3rd Act gives me chills nearly every time that I see it. Natalie Portman gives a strong effort as well, and lends a believable human side to V that might not have been there otherwise. All in all, I do not have much more to add here. The film is a straight-forward action drama with strong acting to carry its story's heavy weight.


- or - the Christopher Nolan film that somehow tends to be one of the more forgotten films in his catalog because it had the unfortunate luck of dropping between two highly successful Batman movies.

Likewise starring Christian Bale in addition to Hugh Jackman, "The Prestige" is a greatly entertaining film about dueling magicians in a quest for celebrity by seeing whom can pull off the biggest mind-bending magic trick - to the degree of life-endangering insanity. One of the more interesting aspects of the story is how it shows right off the bat that the acts are staged, which eventually leads to the two leads pressing the envelope further and further until they acquire a new, dazzling piece of transport technology from Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). Of course, the rivalry extends much further than that of the stage show to the point of being a heavy influence on each other's personal lives. I've always been a fan of Nolan's style of storytelling, and "The Prestige" is no different. It appears to be pretty simple on paper, though the 3rd Act trick appeases in ways that Nolan has always been known for.


Here's all you need to know: Alan Arkin is a loving, yet foul-mouthed and cocaine-snorting grandfather. If you have yet to see "Little Miss Sunshine", you may now proceed to do so.

If that's not enough to satisfy, this film is also a wonderfully charming dark dramedy about a broken family that decides to go on a road trip in a Volkswagen bus so that the youngest member of the family, Olive (Abagail Breslin), can participate in the Little Miss Sunshine competition. Just to give you a better understanding outside of Arkin's character personality, the family also consists of a moody teenager (Paul Dano), the mother (Toni Collette), her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her suicidal brother (Steve Carell). The movie that ensues is nothing short of golden. Based on the premise, one could argue that it's destined to end predictably, and that could very well be true, but it's still one that you should seek out to see as it can be related to by about any American family in existence.


Seriously, I still can't believe it took this long for Martin Scorsese to win an Oscar. What's funnier than that is if I were being honest, "The Departed" isn't even his best film - it is fantastic, don't get me wrong - but still not his best. Although, what "The Departed" is for sure is the right to be called one of the best films of 2006; truthfully, it's not even close to a bulk of the films released that year. The story has the signature grittiness of a Scorsese mob hit and he gets 110% from all his actors, especially Jack Nicholson in what has been his last shining performance to date; not to mention that most everyone enjoys a good double-cross plot and seeing which side of the law's fence can do it better. I feel this film additionally marks the official comeback (so to speak) for DiCaprio whom had not been able to break the Jack Dawson mindset of his fans in the past near decade and showed everyone why he should be taken seriously as a dramatic actor.

I cannot imagine that hardly any movie fan has yet to be exposed to "The Departed", but if you do land in that category - what are you waiting for?

Lastly, my #1 film from 2006:






People always talk about "love at first sight", and more appropriately in this case, "love at first viewing", and that latter phrase perfectly describes me for "Pan's Labyrinth". Not only was it the first foreign film I had ever seen at the cinema, but it was so well done that it was instantly a shoe-in for my first owned foreign film. Between the fantasy, horror, violence, and innocence, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a film that I can find little to no faults. From beautiful in one scene to brutal in the next, Guillermo Del Toro may have made a movie here that is nothing short of a masterpiece - and I do NOT use that term lightly, if ever. Following young Ofelia in post-Civil War Spain, we watch as she finds a labyrinth that holds the promise of an immortal utopia, especially in comparison to her current home life run by Vidal, her new step-father whom is about evil as he is sadistic.

I'd sincerely enjoy to go on and on about this film, and yet, funny enough, the more I like a film, the more difficult it is to talk about it without feeling like I've spoiled the hell out of it. If you're in the movie crowd that doesn't mind subtitles - Go. See. This. Movie. It has grown to be a favorite of mine, and I'll be watching it for years to come.

Thank you for reading!! See you next week for my Top 10 Film list of 2005.