Archive for the ‘ Lists ’ Category

Snitch (2013), directed by Ric Roman Waugh

Dark Skies (2013), directed by Scott Stewart

In the spirit of my recently implemented Tueday doubleheader nights at the cinema, I caught up with a couple of the big openings from last weekend.

And was I in for a night of lingering disappointment, let me tell you. But not without some highlights.

First up was Snitch, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s first real attempt at “serious acting.”

Side note: Two of the trailers before this Rock movie were other Rock movies coming out shortly, the new G.I. Joe flick and the new Fast and Furious flick. At least Snitch isn’t a franchise Johnson has just been plugged into.

Snitch is something of a failure as the morality-based issue film that it tries to be, but it works rather well as an old-school one-man-against-a-bunch-of-badies low-key action film. Actually on that level it works surprisingly well.

There’s a number of reasons for that. For one thing, despite his physique and movie star status Johnson is rather good as the everyman caught in a bad situation. He plays it well. There’s a great scene early in the film where he tries to set-up some corner drug dealers and ends up getting his ass kicked. Not only is it refreshing to see The Rock get his ass kicked, it’s also enjoyable to see how well Johnson plays a vulnerable character. Turns out the man can act.

The film also works well as a believable, down-to-earth action movie. There’s no outrageous action sequences. At no point does Johnson hang from a helicopter or drive a car into a blimp or whatever. But there is a whole load of tension building to an excellent car versus semi chase sequence that is thrilling as hell while never seeming overblown or outrageous. It’s even filmed well, which is like finding the Rosetta Stone this day and age.

Where the film gets into trouble is as it tries to mean something. When Charles Bronson took out a bunch of street hoods in Death Wish you yelled “F-yeah Charles Bronson” because you hate criminals too and everybody is happy. In this film we’re supposed to be angry about minimum mandatory sentences for first time drug offenses, but I don’t see how getting the audience to root for Johnson taking out a bunch of hardcore drug dealers is supposed to garner sympathy for this.

Because regardless about my “real world” opinion on this issue, by the end of the movie I was firmly in the pro-justice, anti-drug dealer camp. So the last blurb about how unfair stiff sentences are didn’t exactly make my blood boil. All I thought is that if they keep Omar and Juan Obregon off the street then God bless them.

But if you can look past that, Snitch is a solid, well made thriller that’s actually highly enjoyable. Also Barry Pepper is in it. I always feel the need to point that out.

Dark Skies could have been a solid sci-fi/horror movie if again it wasn’t for some weird politics going on. Unfortunately that aspect is far harder to overlook with this one.

The movie is about a family that starts having strange things happen to them in their house. Familiar? Things bump in the night. Somehow their kitchen gets reorganized in a less-than-helpful way. The kid starts acting weird. Dad sets up video cameras to record everything going on in the house. Familiar?

The film is also from the same producers as Insidious and Sinister, so you know from the start how this is going to go down. Things will get creepy, they’ll escalate and then there will be a big, likely disappointing, finale. But those films, especially Sinister, were actually quite good. Dark Skies is less than great.

Dark Skies throws a slight curveball by having aliens in the mix. I liked the sci-fi aspect as something different. I also thought Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton were great leads. There are genuine scares in the film. I believe it has the basic elements of a potentially highly entertaining scare show.

But then it gets all weirdly right wing, family values, judgmental on us and totally lost me. Spoilers upcoming.

The finale of the film involves the family having to do their utmost to stay together as a family unit. On the Fourth of July. While Stars and Stripes Forever or something like that is playing on the TV. After buying a shotgun and boarding up the windows. And then what’s the reason that doesn’t work and a kid gets abducted? Because he watched a few minutes of a crappy porno earlier in the film.

I mean, if I’m going to get abducted I’m at least going to watch porn with good production values and better music. Just saying.

So while the buildup has some punch, the payoff falls completely flat because it’s ridiculous and preachy and, let’s just say it, a little xenophobic. I mean, I know these aren’t pleasant Mexicans just hoping for a little landscaping work, but the whole tone of the last act reeks of “board up yer windows and get yer guns cause them aliens are coming.”

You could have this payoff and not end up with this tone, but the whole Fourth of July thing sets an undeniable agenda. And it’s one that I’m not comfortable with.

And then the kid gets abducted because he watched pornography once. Just had to reiterate that. I hope it sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me. Let’s hope that’s not the aliens’ overall agenda or else the entire population of North America might soon find themselves abducted. Think about that the next time you logon. I guess one group of told-you-sos might remain. Maybe the makers of this film.

So two films that hit unfortunate road blocks, but I think Snitch at least made it through with only a misdemeanor ticket. It shouldn’t have to do any time, but I guess you never know with these mandatory minimums. Damn government. But Dark Skies deserves the slammer for tricking us into swallowing its us-versus-them, Holier-than-thou high-ground finale. For shame.

Snitch and Dark Skies are in cinemas now.

CineFile’s Top 10 Films of 2012

I feel like I say this every year, but 2012 wasn’t exactly the best year in movies.

To be honest, I had trouble picking my top 10. There didn’t seem to be any clear frontrunners. I’ll stand behind every movie on my list as being a great one, but I don’t have the same gushy sense of joy about my list that I usually do.

With three 3D movies, one reboot, one prequel and a Spielberg film on my list I worry that something has gone wrong (and also that I have a lot of words to eat).

There’s been some talk this year about ‘the death of cinema,’ and while I don’t believe in that terrible fate, I do feel like modern cinema is a bit lost. Two of the most exciting movies to come out this year, The Master and Killing Them Softly, were beautiful and rich, but lacked soul, or even a point. I would easily describe four or five films on my list as “bleak.” They are well made, touching movies that illuminate our modern lives, but dear Lord, that’s something to worry about.

The great Mos Def (that’s right) once described hip-hop as a reflection of the society that breeds it and not “some giant livin’ in the hillside.” It’s the same deal with cinema, always has been. Looking at the vast majority of new releases it seems we are all a bit lost and more than a little down. Even the good movies seem to agree. This year bleak was beautiful, the beautiful bleak.

Here are the 10 films that I feel either best avoided that, or did it the best:

(Please note: there are films that haven’t come out yet, such as Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty, that could have likely made the list. Alas I do not have the privilege of attending film festivals or getting screeners.)

10. Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell

In the midst of all the doom and gloom this year, Silver Linings Playbook showed you can make a romantic, happy-ending Hollywood movie and do so in an intelligent and highly enjoyable manner. Plus Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence exude the stuff from which movie stars are made.

9. Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee

Life of Pi is pure movie magic. Ang Lee’s wonderful adaptation of a book loved by everyone in the world but me is a visual wonder that dazzles while it delights. With perhaps the best use of 3D in a movie yet, Pi’s tale of a lifeboat, a tiger and the existence of God is a lush, loving smile of a film, something we needed this year.

8. Take This Waltz, directed by Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley should be declared Canada’s greatest treasure and just get it over with. This has been her year up here, with both this film and her personal doc Stories We Tell coming out, and she deserves it. Take This Waltz is absolutely heartbreaking, but it’s also honest and, in its honesty, beautiful.

7. Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott

Prometheus gets my exalted title of greatest flawed masterpiece of the year. With this Alien series prequel Ridley Scott showed all the new kids how great filmmaking, filmmaking with ambition and purpose, is done. Even with its flaws, Prometheus offered one hell of an enthralling, eyes-wide-with-wonder experience.

6. The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb

At least one film on the list had to be the result of a childlike joyful time at the movies. None did that better than this reboot of a movie only 10 years old, of all things. Many will disagree with this choice, but with killer 3D (that crane sequence was astounding), great movie-star performances and a commitment to doing formula right, the film was, well, amazing.

5. The Grey, directed by Joe Carnahan

In the midst of winter darkness, The Grey felt like the most honest movie I had seen all through those cold months. Sure it was marketed by showing Liam Neeson lining up to punch a wolf in the face, but The Grey was a thriller of an adventure movie that never sugarcoated its overarching subject: death.

4.  The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Terence Davies

The Deep Blue Sea is probably the most breathlessly dramatic and emotionally gripping film of the year. Invoking a tone of repressed emotion, the movie tells its sad, troubled tale of divorce and adultery with the sort of calm, steady, subtle beauty that only the English manage so well.

3. Oslo, August 31, directed by Joachim Trier

Speaking of bleak, Oslo, August 31 is a riveting look at addiction, within the context of a generation, and a city, struggling with the disappointments and difficulties of maturity. Intensely crafted and acted, it is a hard film to watch at times, but there is poignancy to be found in its main character’s troubled view of a world he can’t understand and yet can no longer escape.

2. Flight, directed by Robert Zemeckis

I’m a Denzel fan, but mainly in that I like watching him yell at people and being all Denzel. He does a little of that here but it’s also the performance of the year and a career. With its mature look at alcoholism wrapped in the story of a plane crash, Flight was both one of the most entertaining movies of the year and one of the most touching.

1. Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg

In the midst of all this cinematic misery nothing sounded worse than another doe-eyed smaltz fest from Steven Spielberg, especially with the travesty called War Horse fresh in my mind. But I’ll be damned if old Stevie didn’t pull out a surprise and turn in the most compelling, well-wrought, and yet non-insultingly inspiring movie of the year. Lincoln reminded me that society can, at times, and with a full recognition of its complexities and shortcomings, come together to do something wonderful and important.

Special mention:

Hit & Run, directed by David Palmer and Dax Shepard

A forgettable film, no doubt, but also one of the best times I had in the cinema all year. I know my own particular love of car chase movies skews my view, but Hit & Run to me was one of the best written, most enjoyable films of the summer and a step above most of the other overinflated Hollywood rubbish to come out this year.

Worst film of the year:

Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton

The latest (and, thankfully, last) Twilight was probably a worse experience to watch, but I knew that it would be even before going in. But I had hope for Dark Shadows, and then when Burton turned out the most boring, unfunny, flat-falling film of the year, my disappointment level was high. Dark Shadows was painful to watch, as much for what it was as for what the pairing of Depp and Burton used to accomplish (Ed Wood, Sleepy Hallow). Simply sad.

 

 

The 10 Greatest Films EVER MADE

Film nerds of the world unite!

Sight & Sound, the magazine put out by the British Film Institute, released last Wednesday its once-per-decade list of the Top 10 Greatest Films of All Time.

This is the list to end all lists for cinephile types (which, as the blog name suggests, I consider myself to be one of), even though really, deep down, we know lists are silly. But Lord, are they ever fun.

Sight & Sound determines the greatest films ever made by polling critics, academics, distributors and, for a separate list, film directors. Each person polled submits their own personal opinion of the top ten and then the films with the most votes make up the list. Simple.

This might sound like, oh, neat, whatever, to someone not interested in criticism, but for some of us who take this stuff too seriously this is an exciting event. It’s a respected list, put out by a respected institution, but more importantly, because it only comes out once every ten years it holds some weight.

Even though it’s just a fun list, it’s something some of us take a little seriously. It reflects shifts in cultural perspectives, it tracks the way we collectively think about and judge film history, which is also a history of our culture. And it speaks volumes (or at least a pamphlet) about how we interact with cinema.

Okay, enough highfalutin nonsense.

Without further ado, here’s the list, for those who haven’t seen it:

1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
3. Tokyo Story (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)
4. La Regle du jeu [The Rules of the Game] (Jean Renoir, 1939)
5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
7. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
8. Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1927)
10. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)

So there it is, the ten greatest films ever made. Or are they…?

I think the first thing somebody who doesn’t know much about film history would say is ‘I haven’t heard of most of these movies.” For sure they would know 2001, and then maybe Citizen Kane, The Searchers and Vertigo. But Man With a Movie Camera? I doubt it.

There’s nothing wrong with the list delving deep into film history, in fact that’s one of the best things about it, but this list, to me, came out shockingly dry and academic. Don’t get me wrong, I love many of the films on this list, but to me the list missed an opportunity to update itself and recognize the importance of some more modern, populist movies.

(Warning: this could turn into a long essay. I’m just realizing that now.)

Here’s just one reason this didn’t happen: In 2002, as a combined entry, The Godfather and The Godfather Pt. II earned a number four spot on the list. This year Sight & Sound decided to no longer allow multiple entries of a series to count as one vote. Therefore people would have to vote for either Godfather or Godfather Pt. II.

Seeing as both are brilliant, that split the vote and The Godfather earned spot 21 on the top 50 list, and Pt. II came in at 31.

This seems a shame to me, not only because I think The Godfather is one of the 10 greatest films of all time, but because it was one of the few modern era movies that had a chance of making the list.

And I use the term “modern era” loosely here. The Godfather came out in 1972, making it 40 years old. The newest film in the top 10 is 2001, which is, despite the name, 44 years old (unbelievably). In the top 50 there are two films from the 21st century (In the Mood for Love, 2000 and Mulholland Dr., 2001) and three films from the 1990s.

Now, I don’t have too much of a problem with this. I like that a film needs to stand the test of time to make the list, that’s important. I would be pissed if Titanic or Lord of the Rings made the list just because they have been so popular recently. And I also like that these classic films that propelled cinema forward and found inspiration in a young medium are still recognized for the masterpieces that they are.

I’m just saying The Godfather should have been on the list basically.

Of course the huge news is Vertigo nabbing the top spot from Citizen Kane, which it has held for the last 50 years. This is a good thing, not necessarily because Vertigo is the better film, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it’s always healthy to challenge the top dog. It has seemed for years that to even question whether Kane is the greatest film ever made is foolish. This opens up more of a dialogue.

Which do I think is better? Well, my list is further down.

There are three silent films on the list, which is quite something. Some say that’s because The Artist has renewed interest in silent cinema. But that’s a load of crap. Those three films (Sunrise, Man With a Movie Camera, Joan of Arc) have always been heralded by critics and academics and I can’t honestly see anyone go from seeing the sticky sweet The Artist to realizing how great the detailed, devastating but meticulously slow The Passion of Joan of Arc is.

Chaplin maybe, but even though he held the number two and three spots when the list started in 1952 he now only just cracks the expanded top 50 list, with City Lights in a three-way tie for 50. Buster Keaton too has only one film on the list, The General at 34, a shame for some. I love both, but err on the side of Keaton.

And then there’s the films on the list that make me have to admit my cinematic shortcomings. I have never heard of Andrei Tarkovsky, who has three films in the top 50. I had never seen Sunrise until the day the list came out and I went out and rented it (it’s beautiful and touching, but I’m not sure how I felt about the middle section). In total I have seen 33 out of the top 50 (or maybe 34, I can’t remember if I’ve seen Ugetsu monogatari…).

Actually though, that really excites me, because it means I have 17 (or 16) of the greatest movies ever made to catch up on. The nerd inside me is very excited.

Okay, so what would my choices have been, had I been asked. I know you’re all dying to know. Right? Anybody?

I’ve thought a lot about this and have done some re-watching of the classics and this is what I have come up with, noting that I wrote this list before the Sight & Sound poll came out, for the record (order is subject to change by the minute):

1. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
2. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
4. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
5. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
6. All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)
7. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
8. Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)
9. Star Wars: A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977)
10. George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000)

And in the tradition of Tarantino, two more:

11. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
12. Harlan County USA (Barbara Kopple, 1976)

Now, clearly some of these are personal choices, but I think that’s OK. Is George Washington really a better movie than 8 1/2, for instance? Well, I think 8 1/2, which I re-watched a few days ago, is a masterpiece, but I think George Washington is too, and it hit me harder than Fellini’s film, so I’m picking that. Including Star Wars might seem like an obvious populist move, but really has there ever been a film that has made such an impact on so many people’s lives, including my own? I can think of some that come close, but still haven’t had the massive cultural and personal impact of Star Wars.

Five Easy Pieces and All That Heaven Allows may strike some as odd choices, but those I think are unheralded masterpieces. Do I include them to give them more attention? Are they really better than Tokyo Story? Well it’s all a matter of perspective. Tokyo Story is perhaps more finely crafted and subtly brilliant, but I have always found the two films I chose to also be wonderfully personal and rich films. I took more away from them than I did Tokyo Story.

I do have a minor in Film Studies (which is where I saw many of the films on the S&S list), and I understand the choices on the list. They are all amazing films worthy of study and multiple viewings. But I guess something inside me is feeling anti-canonical and slightly more personal for this poll. Perhaps in 2022 I’ll be right on board, but for now these are my choices.

And including Vertigo and Citizen Kane isn’t just to play it safe. I love both of those films dearly and think they deserve the praise they receive.

There’s so many more personal favourite films I would love to include (oh what the hell: Breathless, Days of Heaven, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Sweet Smell of Success, Pickup on South Street, Night of the Hunter, Manhattan, The Apartment, etc.) but for now, at this time, this is my list of what I think are the greatest achievements in film-making.

So we come to the most important question: what do you think are the greatest movies ever made?

For a full list of Sight & Sound’s Top 50, and a link to the director’s list, click here.

Well ladies and gentlemen, here we are, summer movie season. This is for all the marbles. Granted two of the biggest films of the year are already behind us (Hunger Games, The Avengers) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more Hollywood spectacle to come. What follows is CineFile’s official top 10 most anticipated movies of the summer. Enjoy.

Click on the posters for the trailer

 

10) The Campaign, directed Jay Roach

I’m split on this one, because I do love Will Ferrell when he’s on, but have a hard time with Zach Galifianakis (I have to look up how to spell that every time) in most movies. He only ever seems to play idiotic men, who may or may not be gay, that we are supposed to laugh at. Still The Campaign looks like a good summer laugh, which is a great movie tradition. Plus Ferrell punches a baby, so it has to be good, right?

Out August 10

 

9) The Bourne Legacy, directed by Tony Gilroy

In some ways this is even more exciting than if Matt Damon had a new Bourne film coming out, because with this one we finally get to see Jeremy Renner as the top billing in an action film. He’s not playing Jason Bourne, but another agent in the Treadstone program that bred Bourne. Expect thrilling chases in Euorpean locales. I’m in.

Out August 3

 

8. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, directed by Timur Bekmambetov

This looks silly and awesome. As a piece of revisionist history fantasy, this movie tells the tale of Lincoln before the presidency, before the Civil War, before the assassination, back when he hunted vampires. You got that history lesson, right? This just looks like a ton of fun.

Out June 22

 

7) Rock of Ages, directed by Adam Shankman

I can’t believe I want to see this one, but you know what? It looks really good. I’m rarely a fan of modern musicals, and I must say I’m not fan of the music this movie is celebrating either, but darn it if this doesn’t just look like a whole lot of fun. Plus I like it when Cruise camps it up. This will be something different, that’s for sure.

Out June 15

 

6) Magic Mike, directed by Steven Soderbergh

Although this seems like one for the ladies (Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey look like will be shirtless for the majority of the film), this movie about male strippers also looks like it will be a flirtatious, gyrating, all-out-fun ride around the pole of a summer movie. Plus with Soderbergh at the helm you know it is in…well, good hands.

Out June 29.

 

5) Lawless, directed by John Hillcoat

I know, I know, Shia LaBeouf. He’s not my favourite either, but at least the kid tries. And here we have Tom Hardy as a moonshiner and Guy Pearce as a flamboyant lawman to make up for it. A great trailer promises a good old fashioned prohibition era gangster flick, which I can get behind. Plus Jessica Chastain (isn’t she in everything?) is in it, so all the better.

Out August 24

 

4) Ted, directed by Seth MacFarlane

Full warning: mature content advisory for the trailer.

Even I, a hardcore college fan, am getting a little tired of Family Guy, but this movie, about a man and his walking, talking teddy bear, looks freaking hilarious. Plus I can’t resist Mark Wahlberg in a comedy role, and his listing off of the trailer trash names in the red band trailer is pure gold. This is the comedy event of the summer.

Out July 13

 

3) Savages, directed by Oliver Stone

This is Taylor Kitsch’s last chance to impress this year (well, not me, but most other people), and I think he has a good chance to do it in this off-the-wall, explosive film from Stone. The set-up looks killer, Travolta looks eccentric and Salma Hayek is ready to kick ass and take names. This looks intense. I’m in.

Out July 6

 

2) The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan

This is unavoidable and even though I would love to seem cool and not care about it, I’m so flipping excited to see the final chapter in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This really speaks for itself. We all saw Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. This is the third one. Tom Hardy is Bane. Anne Hathaway is Catwoman. It looks dark and epic and intense. Will likely be the biggest movie of the year. Get some.

Out July 20

 

1) Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott

Dark Knight Rises may be the biggest, but I am ever so slightly more excited about Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi and the Alien franchise (sort of) with Prometheus. I mean, the man directed Blade Runner and Alien. Come. On. The trailer is fantastic, the buzz electric, and if you’re as big a fan of 1980s sci-fi and action epics as I am, this is the summer film for you. And it opens this weekend!

Out June 8

 

So there it is folks, my rundown of the best of the debatable best. Stay tuned to CineFile over the summer to find out if I was right, or if there were some unexpected gems that I didn’t foresee. Either way, remember to stay indoors this summer, away from that dangerous sunshine, and go see a movie. I’ll see you there.