Monday, May 31, 2010

top 100 films of the 2000s: 70-61

70. Punch-Drunk Love, 2002, USA
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson

There is no question at this point that Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the true young American masters of cinema. By the time he was 29, he had already completed two epic movies that many people considered to be classics and it shouldn't come as a surprise that he was emotionally drained after Magnolia came out. Then he shocked everyone when he announced he was going to do a project with Adam Sandler. From Boogie Nights to Magnolia... to an Adam Sandler movie? Boy were we so naive back then. Little did we know what the type of potential he saw in Mr. Sandler and he turned out the best performance of his career. Critics loved it, audiences didn't get it, but audiences don't get a lot of things. Though, at first, Punch-Drunk Love seemed like a lesser effort from PT Anderson because of its short running time and deceptively light tone. But Punch-Drunk Love really isn't that light, it's certainly not a comedy. Multiple viewings reveals itself to be a movie that is rich with details. Punch-Drunk Love is a nice change of pace to Paul Thomas Anderson's heavy filmography. You still get the work of a true talent as he fills nearly every scene with so many little, rich details that you can't possibly catch them all in one viewing, but it's also fairly easy to swallow compared to his other work.

69. Tsotsi, 2005, South Africa
Dir: Gavin Hood
Cast: Presley Chweneyagae, Terry Pheto

Tsotsi is a very intense movie from beginning to end, it's also wonderfully directed by native South African Gavin Hood. Tsotsi tells the story of a very troubled, violent, dangerous young kid who unexpectedly winds up having to take care of a newborn baby. After being introduced to all the horrible acts this kid commits with his friends, the movie takes a big left turn once the baby shows up. But Hood knew better than to change the tone of the movie completely, which makes it that much scarier and more intense. This is a powerful film that affects you emotionally and sticks with you long after you've watched it.

68. Ratatouille, 2007, USA
Dir: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
Voices: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm

Of all the Pixar movies, Ratatouille is perhaps the one that has the best, funniest all-around story. There's a lot to love and be entertained by in this movie whether its the main rat, Remy, or his unlikely human friend Linguini who is quite literally manipulated by Remy into making very delicious dishes for the restaurant that Linguini works at. Another great thing about this movie is the cute little love story between Linguini and a female chef Colette. The romance between the two really is handled quite well. And it gives the movie an extra level of sweetness. Not only does is this a great film, it also makes you kinda hungry so don't watch it on an empty stomach.

67. Michael Clayton, 2007, USA
Dir: Tony Gilroy
Cast: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton

Tony Gilroy's directorial debut, Michael Clayton, contains perhaps George Clooney's finest performance as a law firm's "fixer" who is sent to remedy a potentially disastrous situation between a lawyer and the company that's being sued. Also containing strong performances by Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton" shows us the ins and outs of corporate cover-ups while remaining interesting throughout its run-time. Unlike Up in the Air, George Clooney's character Michael Clayton is less about his own life and more about fixing other people's lives. He's the man you go to if you are seemingly stuck in a bad situation. But Michael Clayton's brilliance is the way we see Clayton himself wind up in a path that could lead to his demise as well.

66. Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009, USA
Dir: Wes Anderson
Voices: George Clooney, Meryl Streep

Part of the reason why I wanted to wait til now to make this top 100 list was so that I can put a movie like Fantastic Mr. Fox this high on the list without doubting myself. But the fact of the matter is Fantastic Mr. Fox really is a quasi-masterpiece in stop-motion animated filmmaking. It's also essential, 100% Wes Anderson from beginning to end. Wes Anderson has somehow managed to transfer his world into this animated children's tale without changing too much of the overall story. Sure, the animals speak in American accents which apparently drew the ire of... some people... who... care about that stuff. But it all works and it also happens to be a very funny movie, perhaps Anderson's funniest so far. The jokes work on children and adults alike, unfortunately parents preferred to take their kids to junk like Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 instead of this wonderful enlightening tale. I know I would've loved this movie if I was a kid, it's right up my alley.

65. The Prestige, 2006, USA
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale

The Prestige's twist-laden story is fun to watch the 2nd and 3rd time after you already know where the twists are because of how much attention Christopher Nolan pays into all the details. The overall effect of the movie isn't immediate, but you know that after you've seen the film for the first time that it's a really smart, well-made and acted movie. It's quite impressive to consider the fact that Nolan made this right in between making two Batman movies and he showed how even more brilliant he could be when he works with his own material. Some may claim that it doesn't perhaps live up to his best work, but if it's not right up there, then it's damn near close.

64. Volver, 2006, Spain
Dir: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Penelope Cruz

Easily the best aspect of Volver is watching Penelope Cruz. Not only is she drop dead gorgeous in this movie but, with Spanish cinematic great Pedro Almodovar's help, she reveals herself to be one hell of an actress. I know, personally, I was definitely impressed with her performance. But obviously what keeps this movie together is Pedro Almodovar. Almodovar is such a clever storyteller and the look and style of his movies are just beautiful, bright, and colorful. This is a touching movie about a relationship between mother-daughter that was seemingly left on the rocks when the mother (played by former Almodovar regular Carmen Maura) dies. But when Cruz's character Raimunda discovers that the ghost of her mother is living in her sister's guest bedroom... that's when the movie really takes off. Yes, I know how ridiculous the plot to this movie is but that's Pedro Almodovar for you. He makes movies with stories that are really unlike anything you've seen before and they contain great performances and brilliant direction. What more could you want?

63. Road to Perdition, 2002, USA
Dir: Sam Mendes
Cast: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman

Here's another movie that contains very gorgeous cinematography and great performances, this time with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. Hanks and Newman, for perhaps the first time in their careers, play the bad guys. They play two hitmen, one of whom, Michael Sullivan (Hanks) is a man who has been trying to hide the true nature of his profession to his son. But once his son finds out what Sullivan does for a living and once its found out that a hitman is hired to kill Michael Sullivan, that's when it all really goes to hell. Anyway, another Sam Mendes movie that contains great performances with actors successfully playing against type and the look of the film is just beautiful. Shot by the late Conrad L. Hall who posthumously received an Oscar for his work.

62. Munich, 2005, USA
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig

With Munich, Steven Spielberg once again showed his more artistic and darker side to his filmmaking. Here's a man who has continually weaved in and out of big budget summer blockbusters while at the same time making really brilliant thought-provoking movies that shows everyone just how great of a director he is. The film is about a group of Jewish men who are assigned to retaliate against the people who created those heinous acts in the 1972 Munich Olympics. The movie is dark, suspenseful, and it contains strong performances from Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, and Ciaran Hinds. And... yes, there is that one very strange, nearly unforgivable sex scene which intertwines Eric Bana having sex with his wife and the actual events that occurred in Munich. Why Spielberg chose to edit the sequences in that way, we'll never know. But the REST of the film is very well-made, let's leave it at that.

61. Shaun of the Dead, 2004, UK
Dir: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

Topping the bottom 40 movies of this list is Edgar Wright's first and greatest movie Shaun of the Dead. While the movie starts off slower and more casually than Hot Fuzz, the setup and subsequent payoff to this movie is probably one of the most satisfying and hilarious things that I have ever witnessed on screen. The movie has since been described as a "zom-rom-com" which is exactly what it is. Wright, never the one to take genres seriously, turns both the zombie movie and romantic-comedy right on its head. Once again, it takes quite the professional to make all of those elements in this movie work, and Edgar Wright proves that he is up to the task. And quite brilliantly, may I add.

top 100 films of the 2000s: 80-71

80. 21 Grams, 2003, USA
Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cast: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts

Iñárritu's sophomore effort 21 Grams is a very intense and detailed drama. Like with his first film, Amores Perros, 21 Grams centers around a complex multi-story non-linear plot that centers around three people who are affected by a car accident. The movie features great performances from Naomi Watts, Benicio del Toro, and Sean Penn as they play the three main characters as we take a look into their lives before and after the accident. But 21 Grams reveals its brilliance slowly and steadily, much like Iñárritu's first film. But Iñárritu does not shy away from his scenes carrying a certain emotional weight to them. This film, while treading in the same territory as his first film once again displays the amount of talent that Iñárritu and his writing partner Guillermo Arriaga have.

79. Minority Report, 2002, USA
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow

One of Spielberg's finest films of the new millennium and one of my favorite Tom Cruise performances, Minority Report is one hell of a chase based on a Phillip K. Dick short story and is about a Precrime officer named John Anderton (Cruise) and his attempted escape from being accused of and persecuted for a crime he has yet to commit. Minority Report is really one of the few summer blockbusters of the last decade that goes beyond merely being popcorn entertainment - even though it certainly passes that test - it's a smart sci-fi/adventure/thriller with a great cast and of course has possibly the greatest ever mainstream Hollywood bigshot director working behind the camera. Minority Report entertains, enlightens, and thrills throughout all of its 145 minutes.

78. Match Point, 2005, USA/UK
Dir: Woody Allen
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Johnathan Rhys Meyers

Woody Allen marked a very necessary comeback with one of the best films of 2005, Match Point. For the earlier part of the decade, it seemed like Allen was in a bit of a repetitive rut, but something about moving across the Atlantic apparently gave him new inspiration especially with the casting of Scarlett Johansson. It's a movie that reminds me most of the 1989 drama Crimes and Misdemeanors which is another Woody Allen film, of course. Match Point is about a man who finds his social and financial status on the verge of collapse once he begins having an affair with a former lover of his best friend and brother of his current girlfriend. With Match Point, Woody Allen showed that he still had a lot to offer to the cinematic world and it gave him his first box office success in nearly 20 years.

77. Hot Fuzz, 2007, UK
Dir: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

Edgar Wright's balls-to-the-wall hilarious send-up of buddy cop action films gets funnier every time you watch it. The reason for that is how much attention to detail is done within the film. Edgar Wright does such a phenomenal job that you can laugh at this film in so many ways. The key to parodying a particular genre is to get knee-deep in it and that's what Edgar Wright does. This film, first of all, works as a crazy, violent, buddy cop film as itself. Then you add in the sight gags, superfluously quick and slo-mo shots, and just the downright absurdity of the overall plot. Seriously, once you realize where this film is going, it just makes you love the film that much more. Edgar Wright is one of the few filmmakers I can think of whose sense of humor is just as cutting-edge as his camerawork. He's a really talented filmmaker and his movies are hilarious. That is one deadly combo.

76. Up in the Air, 2009, USA
Dir: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Anna Kendrick

Edgar Wright's Canadian look-alike Jason Reitman has deservedly taken the #76 spot with his charming, mature comedy-drama Up in the Air starring the omnipresent George Clooney. This is the ultimate George Clooney character... smart, witty, sexy, charismatic... but there is an inherent sadness, loneliness, and vulnerability to his character that makes him especially likable in this movie. Here's a man who gets paid to fire people, meanwhile he lives his life hopping from one airplane to another. It's an endless cycle for Ryan Bingham (Clooney) and at the end, you're not sure if that's the man he'll always be or if he'll attempt to break that cycle. Up in the Air also contains very lovely performances from Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Reitman is one of the smartest young filmmakers out there and the most underrated aspect about him is how much he gets from his actors. After three films, you can't help but expect great acting, smart script, and overall professional and solid filmmaking. The man is a pro and he's not even 35.

75. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, 2003, USA/New Zealand
Dir: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen

Why do I feel as if I should defend myself for placing an LOTR film at number 75? And the fact that there's only one LOTR film in this whole list? Yeah, that's definitely the case here, but that's not because I'm a hater or anything. I actually really respect and admire the LOTR series, but the third film was the only film that ever really stuck with me long after viewing it and I'd probably rank it a lot higher if it wasn't for the fact that it never ends. But Return of the King ends the epic story of Frodo and friends in a very satisfying, if not, somewhat tiring way. Peter Jackson's masterful camerawork also needs to be praised as he did great justice to the LOTR trilogy.

74. Amelie, 2001, French
Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Audrey Tatou, Mathieu Kassovitz

Amelie is just a beautiful film to watch, there's no other way of getting around it. Then you have the lovely Audrey Tatou playing the naive and charmed title character. It really is hard not to fall in love with Amelie's kindness, innocence, and playfulness and it's no wonder that the film struck such a chord with audiences and critics alike back in the early half of the decade. The luscious cinematography makes this film even harder not to look at. It's just an overall wonderful film although it has sort of lost its way with me over the past few years. But that's just a case of me liking some other films more and kinda forgetting about this wonderful gem. But I remember how much I loved this film when I first saw it and it's still worth embracing.

73. Anchorman, 2004, USA
Dir: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell

With a silly movie such as Anchorman, you might wonder how a film such as this could possibly have a place on this list. It's so dumb, sophomoric... but the most fitting word for this movie is just plain hilarious. There's a reason why people still quote this movie left and right, it's because it's funny as hell and it hasn't stopped being funny no matter how many times you watch it. Anchorman was the first full-length collaboration between McKay and Ferrell and it is, by far, their best. But what also makes this film work is the great supporting performances by Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Christina Applegate. I think part of what was so successful about this film was that it relied heavily on improvisation. That makes for some spontaneously hilarious lines that are peppered all throughout this film. If you can't laugh at anything in this film, you might want to call a doctor.

72. About Schmidt, 2002, USA
Dir: Alexander Payne
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates

Alexander Payne proved in the first half of the 2000s that he is filmmaker that everyone should start taking more seriously. After his bitingly satirical films Citizen Ruth and Election, Payne took a step in a whole other direction with About Schmidt. About Schmidt is a wonderfully quiet, carefully constructed character study featuring one of the greatest actors of his generation who is living life more helplessly as he gets older. Like Reitman did with Clooney in Up in the Air, Alexander Payne provided Jack Nicholson with the perfect role at the perfect time. It showed audiences a different side to Jack. He's not just a mean, crotchedy old man. He's a man who hasn't fully come to terms with the fact that he's getting old. I think this film really struck a chord with me personally because I fear of the idea of one day being a retired 60-something old man living a life that I feel I can't really control and missing my youth on a daily basis. Alexander Payne, with Nicholson's character, attacks the helplessness of aging and makes you realize that this is the road that we all are eventually heading down towards. It's kinda depressing, but it's done in a very enlightening and tender way.

71. Sin City, 2005, USA
Dir: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke

It's pretty much well-known these days that Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are like the best of friends. And Rodriguez has certainly made his share of entertaining films. But, Sin City was the first film that really ever sniffed at Quentin Tarantino's level. It's a beautifully shot film as Rodriguez is one of the few masters at shooting with HD cameras. Top that with just how closely the movie stays within its source material while also justifying its transition into the big screen and it all adds up to a great film. Sin City is the closest Robert Rodriguez has gotten to making a truly great, classic film. And it's all done in typical Rodriguez fashion. Also memorable to note is Mickey Rourke's greatly underrated performance in this film. Sure Aronofsky showed the true depths of Rourke's talent, but Sin City showed a piece of that as well.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

top 100 films of the 2000s: 90-81

90. Rescue Dawn, 2006, USA
Dir: Werner Herzog
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn

Perhaps Werner Herzog's most mainstream film is also one of his best films of the past 10-20 years. Rescue Dawn is straight-forward in its approach and features a fine performance from Christian Bale as a prisoner of war in Laos during the Vietnam War. It's also surprisingly a positive film about wanting to survive at any cost. The depth in which Dieter Dangler (Bale) goes through in order to survive is just so great to watch. What makes it even better is that it's all based on a true story, sure Herzog may have been a bit liberal with the facts, but it all made for a great film. A great film that seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle since it has been released.

89. Sunshine, 2007, UK
Dir: Danny Boyle
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis

A brilliantly made sci-fi/thriller with great visual effects directed by one of Britain's best directors working today, Danny Boyle. A film about a group of astronauts sent to revive a dying sun, it's really the first film to really be about the sun. It provides some interesting twists and interpretations within the sci-fi genre and while the final act of the movie is a bit surprising and even a bit off-putting for some people, it still makes for a great thrill ride. I will admit, however, that third act almost kills it for me as the first 2/3 of the movie is absolutely perfect. With that into consideration, I still think it's a film worth cherishing and so its spot at number 89 is perfect to me.

88. Revolutionary Road, 2008, USA
Dir: Sam Mendes
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet

A finely acted film by two great talents, Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Of course we all remember them as being the love story that is the centerpiece of James Cameron's Titanic, but in Revolutionary Road, their romance isn't quite as smooth and wonderful. The lush cinematography, fantastic acting, authentic '50s set pieces makes this a wonderful film to watch unfold. Sam Mendes shows just how much of a talent he is at working with actors because, honestly, for both Leo and Kate... this was a very tough film to pull off. Leo and Kate's characters are at each other's necks for a majority of the movie but manage not to turn this movie into a melodrama.

87. 500 Days of Summer, 2009, USA
Dir: Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

This wonderful, charming little movie was Marc Webb's debut film and he has already made quite an impression. Topped by last decade's rising young star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and everybody's favorite indie girl Zooey Deschanel, 500 Days of Summer does everything it possibly can to win you over and manages to succeed everytime. This film about a young man's struggle to cope with a breakup really breaks down the ups and downs of every romantic relationship. In many ways, this movie reminded me of Annie Hall in that its imagination had no boundaries. It would show you many different ways to demonstrate the thoughts and feelings of the main character and by the time the musical number comes in, you just have to throw your hands up, stay in your seat, and watch the magic unfold.

86. Brokeback Mountain, 2005,USA
Dir: Ang Lee
Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal

Ang Lee's 2005 film is one of the best romantic movies of the 2000s and it happens to be about two male cowboys. Yes, this movie was the butt of many jokes for much of years 2005 and 2006 and while it may have been amusing at first, people (mostly guys) still willing to dismiss this film because it contains a love story between two men really shows just how uncomfortable and ignorant we still are when it comes to homosexuality. But never mind that, this is a great love story with excellent performances from Ledger and Gyllenhaal. I was one of those guys who was reluctant initially to give this film a chance, but I finally did a few years ago and I do not regret it. Neither should you.

85. Spider-Man 2, 2004, USA
Dir: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst

Spider-Man 2 was the film that really upped the ante when it came to big budget, superhero/comic book movies and it would be the ultimate yardstick for all the other similar genre films to be measured by. It's a film that really goes into the sad plight of a superhero like Spider-Man. Here's a guy who was still in high school when he developed these spider-esque superpowers and has since been the man everyone has expected to save them in times of peril. There are times when Peter Parker does think about giving it up for good and letting evil run amok before he finally decides that this was ultimately what he was meant to do. The movie also successfully carries on the love story between Peter and Mary Jane and keeps it from turning into a crappy love story. This was Sam Raimi's finest achievement with the Spider-Man franchise which has since been on the verge of being completely rebooted by the aforementioned Marc Webb.

84. High Fidelity, 2000, USA
Dir: Stephen Frears
Cast: John Cusack, Jack Black

This was a film I used to watch over and over again throughout my high school years because I felt I related so much to main character Rob Gordon (Cusack)... at least personality-wise. The upfront, honest on-camera narration by John Cusack's character is what makes this film work so well. You feel that much closer to Rob Gordon and his torment with dealing with the breakup with his last girlfriend. You also can't help but watch in amusement as Gordon looks back at his previous relationships, trying to revisit them only to discover that none of the problems of these relationships could have been helped... except for Penny Hardwick, he dropped the ball with that one. You also can't forget the great supporting performances provided by Jack Black and Todd Louiso. I still insist this movie features Jack Black's finest performance as he plays the hilarious Barry. Jack Black nails the elitist music buff way better than I could have imagined. The bottom-line however to what really makes this movie great is the poignant relationship between Rob Gordon and Laura which never turns into a sappy romance and always remains realistic and a wonder to watch.

83. Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008, USA
Dir: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett

Curious Case of Benjamin Button tries so hard to be a glorious, gigantic epic movie and you just have to go along with it and its 160+ minute running time. Ultimately, Benjamin Button isn't necessarily the epic that it wants to be, but it's still a great movie in its own right. Featuring great performances from Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, what really makes this movie great is the second half of the movie. This is really where we get into the heart of the movie and what it's really about which is the helplessness of time moving forward and quickly and people who have to adjust and live in the moment the best they can. Watching Pitt's character throughout his 20s/30/40s maintain his relationship with Daisy (Blanchett) is just heartbreaking to watch. People often compare this to Forrest Gump, a comparison I definitely think is worth thinking about since both were written for the screen by Eric Roth. But Benjamin Button is a lot darker and sadder and is visually a treat to watch thanks to David Fincher.

82. Up, 2009, USA
Dir: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Voices: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer

Speaking of visual treats, the first Pixar movie on this list (but not the last), Up is just such a gorgeous looking movie. Containing perhaps the most brilliant and saddest four minutes in movie history, Up really doesn't hesitate to overwhelm you emotionally. This film really demonstrates how much Pixar has dominated animated movies over the last decade. Year after year they continue to make these great movies and while the latter half of the movie is just typical Pixar affair, you really couldn't ask for more as a moviegoer. And besides, if the movie would've remained on par with the very beginning of the movie, there wouldn't have been enough tissues to supply to the audience.

81. Y Tu Mama Tambien, 2001, Mexico
Dir: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal

In the 2000s, Mexico officially put its hat in the ring when it came to making great movies and Y tu mama tambien was the movie that really showed how much talent there is south of the border. Later in the decade we would find that this was no fluke as Alfonso Cuaron has since proven to be one of the greatest current working directors and Gael Garcia Bernal has just been a force to be reckoned with in the last decade. It seems like every great Spanish-speaking film to come out in the 2000s features him. Anyway, Y tu mama tambien is a sexy, provocative, and poignant road movie. Roger Ebert was correct when he observed this movie as being about two Mexicos. The one Mexico are the three main characters and the free-wheeling, easy-going, sexual relationship that they have with each other. The other Mexico is the one they are driving by which is not quite as wondrous. There are great performances all around in this movie and if you are mature enough to handle the frank sexuality that runs rampant in this movie, you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

top 100 films of the 2000s: 100-91

100. Sexy Beast, 2000, UK
Dir: Johnathan Glazer
Cast: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley

Sexy Beast completely relies on Ben Kingsley's tour de force performance and boy does he run with it. Featuring perhaps the finest acting of his career, Kingsley plays a mean p.o.s. gangster named Don Logan who constantly goads retired gangster Gal Dove (Winstone) into doing one last job. When Gal vehemently refuses to take part, that's where hell breaks loose. But Don Logan was crazy from the get go. Seriously, you have never seen a performance like Ben Kingsley's when you watch this movie. While watching him act, you have to remember that he once played Gandhi. Yeah, that's the same guy. Unbelievable.

99. Rachel Getting Married, 2008, USA
Dir: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt

Lot of people were sort of mixed on this brilliant little gem made by the underappreciated Jonathan Demme. Demme is a master at adapting his style to suit a particular genre and he does it again here with the handheld hd camera work that gives the film a realistic, documentary feel. Combine that with Anne Hathaway's Oscar-worthy performance as the crazy, lunatic sister of the bride and you have yourself a great movie. At least, you know, in my opinion.

98. Blood Diamond, 2006, USA
Dir: Edward Zwick
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou

Edward Zwick is also responsible for The Last Samurai and Defiance during the 2000s and if there's one common thing I can deduce from all three movies, it's the word "uneven." Zwick is amazingly uneven as a director who often seems to have great material to work with but is torn between trying to tell a great story with masterful camerawork and adding in Hollywood-esque action sequences. Blood Diamond sort of suffers the same fate, but manages to be successful because of great performances from Hounsou, DiCaprio, and Connelly. I've seen this movie about four or five times and found myself enjoying it everytime. It's a movie with such great material that it plays right into Zwick's strengths and fortunately doesn't reveal his weaknesses. Blood Diamond, in particular, is a great action/thriller centered around the possession of a "priceless diamond" in Sierra Leone. This isn't an educational movie by any means and it merely touches upon the issues that Africa faces with blood diamonds, but it's still a great movie in the end.

97. Summer Hours, 2008, France
Dir: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling

A wonderful, meditative-like movie from Olivier Assayas... that's "Summer Hours." Summer Hours doesn't really have a plot and the story seems to float on by scene-by-scene. There are some scenes where we can remain in the same setting for almost a half hour and everything slowly unfolds as we come across a family that's about to have to pick up the pieces left behind by the main, late matriarch of the family. But what Summer Hours also does is pose a very interesting, thoughtful question on the meaning and value of possessions left behind. From the 75-year-old grandmother's house to her paintings/sketches and even to her unused vases. We sit there and wonder how far this family can go to save whatever remaining memories they could have of the generation before them. And the end of the movie almost feels it's making a strong ethical point with the youngest generation subsequently partying and totally taking away any meaning that the house had in the beginning of the movie. Is it really time to move on? The movie seems to say, yes, it's time to move on... whether you think it's right or not.

96. American Psycho, 2000, USA
Dir: Mary Harron
Cast: Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon

American Psycho is one of the better adaptations of a novel that can be found in this decade and a lot of that could be because of Christian Bale's great performance. People may not remember just how darkly funny and amusing (in an unsettling way) Bale was in this movie regardless of the fact that he's a psychotic killer. The movie makes light of late '80s/early '90s yuppie culture while, at the same time, containing horrific and gory scenes. While the second half of the movie never really lived up to the masterpiece that is the first half of this movie... it still makes for one hell of a ride.

95. Little Miss Sunshine, 2006, USA
Dir: Dayton/Faris
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell

Dayton and Faris's debut movie is a sweet, funny film containing some great and memorable performances from Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, and Steve Carell. It's a film that wins you over with its abundant charm and grows on you everytime you see it. Unfortunately people sort of got sick of all the praise the movie received and by Oscar time, it was widely dismissed as an overrated film. But as time goes on, Little Miss Sunshine has proven to be worthy of the initial praise that it received. Overall, it's just a sweet, feel-good movie that can be enjoyed by anyone if they take the time to enjoy it.

94. Batman Begins, 2005, USA
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman

The beginning of what would eventually become a huge pop culture smash, Batman Begins more-than-successfully reboots the Batman story. The key to this movie working so well is how much of a great movie it is on its own. Nolan really dug deep into re-inventing and re-imagining the legend that is Batman. Christian Bale also gives a solid performance as Batman and a great performance as Bruce Wayne... Bruce Wayne is the role Bale was born to play. People give him flack of his Batman voice, but he still manages to play a good Batman despite that shortcoming. Add that with great supporting performances all around (including Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy) and it just makes it all that much better.

93. 25th Hour, 2002, USA
Dir: Spike Lee
Cast: Edward Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman

I wouldn't say that Spike Lee was "quiet" during the 2000s as he still made a lot of films, but aside from the slightly entertaining "Inside Man" and the underrated, yet just-missed-the-mark "Bamboozled," 25th Hour is really his only truly great movie of the decade. Here Spike Lee allows Edward Norton to deliver one of his finest performances as a drug dealer that is about to be sent to jail within 24 hours. The movie also manages to get away with a very riveting socio-political monologue that Norton's character makes in the middle of the movie that adds some weight to an already deep movie which contains some shots of ground zero merely months after 9/11.

92. Cast Away, 2000, USA
Dir: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks

It would appear that the 100-91 list contains a lot of great, dominating performances mainly from one actor. Cast Away is another film that works because of the great performance given by Tom Hanks. When you consider that the film is mostly just Tom Hanks on an island with his volleyball, you really gotta give it to him for managing all the way through. The fact that we actually care when his volleyball "Wilson" helplessly floats away in the ocean is stunning. Who else could do that?

91. Happy-Go-Lucky, 2008, UK
Dir: Mike Leigh
Cast: Sally Hawkins

Some people are just flat-out annoyed by the character Poppy in Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky" and I can definitely understand why. However, I was one of those people who was actually charmed and won over by Sally Hawkins's overly enthusiastic performance as I can tell she really put 100% into the role. And you know what? Poppy really isn't that insane and there are plenty of poignant and meaningful scenes with her that adds more to her character. This is genuinely a well-intentioned, optimistic person who wants others to bask in her happiness. Some people see that as a front for deep-rooted depression... should Poppy let out a sob every once in awhile? Are we, as people, meant to be sad every once in awhile? I suppose. But Poppy doesn't think so. Good for her. I wish I could be that way all the time. Anyway, Mike Leigh did a great job guiding her performance like he does with the characters in all of his movies.

Monday, May 24, 2010

CANNES results

Palme d’Or: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Grand Prix: Of Gods and Men
Best Actor: Javier Bardem, Biutiful
AND Ellio Germano for La Nostra Vita
Best Actress: Juliette Binoche, Copie Conforme
Screenplay: Poetry by Lee Chang-dong (great choice!)
Director: Mathieu Almaric for Tournee or The Tour
Jury Prize: Un Homme de Crie – A Screaming man
Short film award Chienne d’Histoire
Año Bisiesto wins Camera d’or

So, Cannes is finally over and it was pretty underwhelming overall as expected. Wall Street 2 and Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" as well as "Robin Hood" premiered to some underwhelming reviews. Although they say Wall Street 2 was a hit with American critics. Other that, some other movies that were the talk of the town included Mike Leigh's "Another Year" which was a critical favorite, "Biutiful" had a mixed reaction but high praise for Javier Bardem, and Carlos Assaya's "Carlos" was similar to Soderbergh's "Che" in that most critics praised the epic scope of the movie but felt overall it was pretty uneven. I haven't even been able to watch "Che"... don't have the time... I don't know when I'll be able to watch "Carlos"... but other than that, there wasn't anything that was rocked Cannes except for the winners listed above.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Robin Hood review

So, I wanted to at least say a few words on Robin Hood to hold people over since I'll be out of town for the next week or so.

Robin Hood was a brilliantly filmed movie with great action set pieces, it also does a great job of depicting the Medieval times quite accurately. When Ridley Scott is at the helm, you know you're going to get a masterfully crafted movie. And that is certainly what we got here.

But it wasn't a great movie, not even close. A very unconvincing love story between Robin Hood and Marian that features zero attempt at courtship and ultimately feels 100% manufactured. Well, actually, it was. It was manufactured by Marian's father-in-law and Marian was soooo pissed. But why was she that pissed really? As we find out, her husband Robert Loxley married her then left for battle a week later. She barely had time to get to know her husband and then he was gone for TEN YEARS. But whatever, the problem here is that no matter how Robin and Marian act toward each other, you know that they will end up together so why not make it more fun? It was the most boring, contrived love story I've seen in awhile with absolutely zero emotion.

The overall story/plot of the movie didn't make a whole lot of sense. Once King Richard is killed, his brother John is then made king and he goes on a complete power trip. He later is betrayed by his right-hand man who manipulated King John and has been helping the French form an invasion against England. This makes John decide to be a good king all of a sudden. But once they win the battle, which is the most ridiculous, poorly-planned battle on the part of the French, King John is once again the "bad king" who turns Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) into an outlaw because... he actually fought in the battle the French surrendered to him, or something. I understand the need for there to be an established bad guy/villain in this movie so that there could be sequels, but this particular villain is just a little bitch. He's also a complete idiot, apparently. "This is my first battle lol, what do we do?"

I don't mean to hate on this movie, it's just a lot of the story and character motivations didn't make sense and the love story wasn't very convincing at all. Max von Sydow gives a great performance as Walter Loxley and Russell Crowe is his usual badass self as the title role. Although Cate Blanchett was surprisingly wooden in her role as Marian Loxley, but I don't know if it was really her fault. Then there's Mark Strong who plays the bad guy/traitor Godfrey and was also the bad guy in Sherlock Holmes. The problem with Mark Strong is that while he looks like a bad guy, he's such a one-note bad guy that there's really not much to his characters. Once you see him, you immediately know that he's going to be the bad guy and... that's just who he is. Everything else about him is completely forgettable.

On the whole, I could see this film being enjoyable to those not too familiar to the tale of Robin Hood or even people who are fans of Medieval-type movies and are just looking for a good ol' bloody Medieval action movie. And yeah, the action scenes are exquisitely made, but they're few and far between. The problem is that there is no basic logic in these action/battle scenes and they just make for a very easy victory for the good guys. Obviously, you want the good guys to win, but I'm telling you... it was like a professional team against high school kids. The French had no chance. But how could they screw it up that badly? Even before the battle started, Robin, Marshal, and King John were all in agreement that there were a shitload of Frenchmen. Why would they decide that landing on a beach near a cliff would be a good tactical idea? Then the leader of the French sees all the English soldiers on top of the cliff and is like "oh shit." But how do you not see that coming? Even if you were lead to believe that they were at war with each other, why would landing near a cliff ever be a good idea? This is not someone who is just pinpointing problems on the movie, it's just that it took away from the entertainment for me because there was essentially no struggle on the British side. And then the icing on the cake was when Robin Longstride strikes a bow right in the neck of Godfrey who is HUNDREDS of feet away from him. Ok, I guess that proves Robin is a pretty damn good shot, but I just felt like that was a bit much. Actually, the icing on the cake was probably Marian deciding to show up to the battle with a bunch of teenage kids riding on their horses. Why would you want to bring kids to a battle? Ah whatever.

So... no, I can't really recommend this movie. I can say there is plenty to like in this movie, but it doesn't quite deliver the punch that Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe were going for.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Slowly coming back from hiatus

I apologize for such little activity over the past few weeks but I simply haven't had time to update and I have yet to see Iron Man 2. Hope to take care of that fairly soon as well as seeing Robin Hood.

Also, my top 100 movies of the 2000s is slowly taking shape and I'm about to get started on that fairly soon as well. It's really all a matter of patience. Lots of things happening in this month but once summer rolls around, there should be a lot more activity here.