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Best Films of 2016: Part 2 – Individual Achievement

Best Director

Robert Eggers – The Witch

Honourable Mentions: Denis Villeneuve – Arrival; David McKenzie – Hell or High Water

Best Actress

Amy Adams – Arrival

Honourable Mentions: Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch; Hailee Steinfeld – Edge of Seventeen

Best Actor

Denzel Washington – Fences

Honourable Mentions: Chris Pine – Hell or High Water; Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis – Fences

Honourable Mentions: Helen Mirren – Eye in the Sky; Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures

Best Supporting Actor

Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Honourable Mentions: Woody Harrelson – Edge of Seventeen; Patrick Stewart – Green Room

Best Ensemble Cast

Everybody Wants Some!!

Honourable Mentions: Fences; Captain Fantastic

Best Original Screenplay

Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

Honourable Mentions: Richard Linklater – Everybody Wants Some!!; Robert Eggers – The Witch

Best Adapted Screenplay

Eric Heisserer – Arrival

Honourable Mentions: August Wilson – Fences; Rhett Ree & Paul Wernick – Deadpool

Best Cinematography

Bradford Young – Arrival

Honourable Mentions: Jarin Blashke – The Witch; Trent Opaloch – Captain America: Civil War

Best Production Design

Ryan Warren Smith – Green Room

Honourable Mentions: Mark Tildesley – High Rise; Craig Lathrop – The Witch

Best Visual Effects

Robert Legato, Visual Effects Supervisor – The Jungle Book

Honourable Mentions: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Arrival

Best Sound

Arrival

Honourable Mentions: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Jungle Book

Best Stunts

Ben Cooke, Stunt Coordinator – Assassin’s Creed

Honourable Mentions: Robert Alonzo & Phillip J. Silva, Stunt Coordinators – Deadpool; Mickey Giacomazzi, Sam Hargrave, Florian Hotz &Spiro Ratazos, Stunt Coordinators – Captain America: Civil War

Best Score

Justin Hurwitz – La La Land

Honourable Mentions: Clint Mansell – High Rise; Jed Kurzel – Assassin’s Creed

Best Song

‘Drive it Like You Stole It’ from Sing Street

Honourable Mentions: ‘City of Stars’ from La La Land; I’m So Humble’ from Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

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Best of 2016 – Film: Part 1

10 Best Films of the Year

  1. Arrival

    Arrival was exactly the movie we needed at exactly the right time. We have been offered so many dire, apocalyptic visions of alien contact, in the form of invasion, that it was… well, truly inspiring for director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer to approach the concept from a place of hope. There’s a quiet, unassuming quality to Arrival that reassures the audience that even though it appears, at face value, to be frightening, there is ultimately nothing to fear. Amy Adams delivers a stellar performance that impresses without being showy.
  2. The Witch

    The Witch‘s selling point is the mood. It’s a horror film, but in the classical sense. It’s as tense as they come. And the way writer/director Robert Eggers is able to layer everything together to create such a gorgeous film is damn fine filmmaking. If one aspect of the process didn’t work, it would have thrown everything else off. If one performance was out of place, if the cinematography didn’t quite work. But everything was on point.
  3. Hell or High Water

    What’s great about Hell or High Water is that it doesn’t reinvent the Western. It sort of wanders through the first act unremarkably. But the deeper we get into Taylor Sheridan’s script, the more Ben Foster, a career-best Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges unfold the story, the more they pull you in. They build characters you really care about.
  4. Everybody Wants Some!!

    It’s no secret Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused is my all time favourite film. There’s a brilliance to the film where nothing happens, and everything happens. Much like D&C, Everybody Wants Some!! is about the characters growing. There’s no hero’s arc. There’s no goal to accomplish. It’s just here are these guys in the first week of college. No one does character pieces like Linklater. And the cinematic world is better for it.
  5. The Nice Guys

    I can’t pin down exactly what worked best with Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, but it’s a whole lot of everything. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was the delicious appetizer in his meta-sans-the-wink examination of comedy noir, while The Nice Guys was a fantastic main course. Black plays like a less bleak, not quite as a dark Coen Brother. He toys with your expectations of storytelling, of comedy, of mystery thrillers, and delivers some damn fine cinema.
  6. Captain America: Civil War

    Civil War is as damn near a perfect superhero movie. We get the best aspects of the genre all rolled into one film. The modern era god myths. The political and social allegories. We get fantastic performances, a wonderful, intricatly crafted story. One thing the Marvel films struggled with early on was serving the universe, while still being a great film in their own right, but Civil War perfects that.
  7. Green Room

    Jeremy Saulnier crafts beautiful, tense thrillers. Green Room is a beautiful bottle-episode thriller. He film’s an aesthetically pleasing film that locks its characters in a box with wasps and kicks that box. Every step of the way, Saulnier ups the ante, but it doesn’t feel over the top. The film goes precisely where it needs to go each and every time, and it’s anchored by great performances from Patrick Stewart and the late Anton Yelchin.
  8. Kubo & The Two Strings

    The first thing you notice about Kubo & The Two Strings is how gods damn beautiful it looks. The major animation houses have a great technical appreciation of creating animation, but Kubo focuses on the art of it. Yet where Kubo excels is the amazing family story that’s told. A boy and his family. A son and his parents. Kubo is a glorious marriage of masterful storytelling and gorgeous animation-as-art.
  9. Fences

    Not to downplay Denzel’s directorial efforts, but this film belongs to the writer and actors (which, Denzel also is among, so he doesn’t escape praise-free). August Wilson adapted his own stage play for the film (though the screenplay was unfinished when he passed over 10 years ago, and was finished by Tony Kushner), and all of the adult cast members reprise their roles from the Tony winning Broadway revival. What we’re treated to is a powerful character study in Troy’s role as a father, a husband, an employee and a black man in 1950s Pittsburgh. Denzel delivers one of his career best performances, then Viola Davis walks on set and puts him to shame.
  10. Midnight Special

    I’ll preface this by saying that there were certainly better films this year than writer/director Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special which could occupy this 10th spot. But I loved this film on a level that it didn’t feel right not including it in the top 10. And really, any of the honourable mentions below could also occupy this spot, but this is one I didn’t feel got a lot of love over the year, getting lost in the shuffle. Which is too bad because it truly is a remarkable film. Netflix gave us a great modern take on the kid-adventure flicks of the 80s with Stranger Things. We got that in the cinemas with Midnight Special. It’s a less whimsical look at E.T. or Flight of the Navigator. Not as dark as Stranger Things. But still a great small scale sci-fi flick  with great performances from Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon and the kid, Jaeden Lieberher.

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10 Films to See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers

I don’t have any reviews for this weekend. I went to a Renaissance Faire, hung out with friends and family, and I didn’t particularly want to see The Lucky One (It’s Nicolas Sparks, so it’s probably stupid, and was dragged out 45 minutes longer than needed to be by a previously unmentioned terminal disease related subplot) or Think Like A Man (looked OK, like Tyler Perry without the pandering stereotypes, but… I wasn’t interested).

So with no reviews, time for the stock filler of a TOP TEN LIST! Top 10 Films To See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers. Those are obviously the big ones, everyone already knows about them, everybody will probably go see them. I will. I hope you do, too. You don’t need to be told about them. Here are the films that aren’t those ones that you should see this summer. It’s all releases, May through August. May starts the summer movie season, if not the solar season.

Chernobyl Diaries – May 25th

I’ve made quite a bit of fun at the expense of Oren Peli. And in my defense… not all of it’s completely undue. From the ret-conning of the Paranormal Activity plots as the sequels progress, to the lather, rinse, repeat method those films utilize to churn a new one out every year… But I was quite taken with his TV show The River, and am disappointed we won’t be getting more (though Netflix has expressed interest in picking it up and releasing new episodes). It was less of a “found footage” and more of a “Well… it was a film crew, so they shot everything.” And there was more of a narrative arc than Paranormal Activity. Which is why I’m looking forward to Chernobyl Diaries. There’s an actual plot driving this horror offering,  his crew is opting for the handheld look over the found footage look. Handheld usually means shaky-cam, which I’m definitely not a fan of. But there’s just something about Peli and his brand of horror that I can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s that it brought us out of the torture-porn era. I don’t know. But I like his stuff, and I’m actually looking forward to this one.

Prometheus – June 8th

I know this is some how being branded as an Alien prequel, which is a move I’m on the fence about. I’m all for Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi, he’s directed two of the most influential films in the genre (the other being, of course, Blade Runner). I was listening to an interview with Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof, and as he describes it, it’s more a film that exists in the same universe and crosses over with plot/characters, but as a narrative, has little to do with the other property, in the same vein as the works of Stephen King or Quentin Tarantino. That is an easier pill to swallow concerning this film. More so… Scott directing a script penned by Lindelof, featuring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce… I’m having trouble finding any fault in there.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – June 22nd

Say what you will about Wanted, I liked it, as well as director Timur Bekmambetov’s Russian horror/fantasy epics Night Watch and Day Watch. But even that’s not what has me most excited about this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel (which if you haven’t read, I suggest you do. You’ve got 2 months to read it. GO! NOW!). Nor is it the phenomenal cast that includes Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Anthony Mackie. No, it’s the fact that this film is a) being made, and b) getting a summer tent-pole release. This is a property that is way on the extreme of genre works, and doesn’t quite have that broad, mainstream appeal. Not that that’s a bad thing. It just sets a (good) precedent for genre films to get a wider audience, and if it’s any good, could lead to more exciting films in the pipe-line.

Brave – June 22nd

Pixar has a lot of making up to do. Cars 2 was a positively dreadful film. It was a quick grab at cash. They had built up this reputation for lovingly putting quality films into the world, and almost destroyed that notion with Cars 2. That said… they look to be well on their way back into all our good graces with Brave, their first film featuring a female lead. It’s the closest they’ve come to Disney’s classic princess film model, but since this is Pixar, we know it will be anything but. Maybe I’m biased because I’m for anything that involves Scotland. With Brenda Chapman at the helm, who directed the better-than-it-gets-credit-for Prince of Egypt and a good strong voice cast, I think Pixar will return to glory with Brave.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – June 22nd

There’s something about a people centric, apocalypse themed comedy that just screams “WHY WASN’T THIS MADE SOONER?!” There’s something sweet and charming about the trailer that grabs me and makes me want to see it. Just to see Steve Carell and Keira Knightly play off one another would be worth the ticket price alone, but then add in the brilliant ensemble supporting cast of Nancy Walls, Patton Oswalt, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry and many more, and this a sure-fire crowd pleaser. To top it off, it’s non-franchise, non-sequel, non-book, non-unoriginal… everything the internet forums could possibly want in a film.

The Amazing Spider-Man – July 3rd

Swing the pendulum the other way from Seeking a Friend…, here comes a reboot of a franchise we last saw just 5 short years ago, Spider-Man. The first and second Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man films were what ushered in comic-book era of films. They’re still landmarks in the genre and stand as some of the best of the super-hero films. The third one was a ridiculous piece of crap that did it’s best to undo all that the first two had built up. I still don’t know how I feel about a reboot this soon after the previous franchise… but director Marc Webb helmed the fantastic (500) Days of Summer a few years back, and with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary (a particularly inspired bit of casting for Cpt. Stacy) in roles, and studying the trailer like the good little Spider-fan I am, it’s hard not to feel excited about it.

Savages – July 6th

Where 09 was the year of Sam Worthington, 2012 seems to be the year the studios are trying to push Taylor Kitsch. Two big budget action films (the bomb John Carter and May’s Battleship, which let’s say bombs, too, probably), and a stylized Oliver Stone drug drama. I’m not alone in not buying Taylor Kitsch as the next big thing, but it’ll be cool if he’s able to get a Emile Hirsch thing going. Flying under the radar, but doing consistently solid work. That’s why I’m looking forward to Savages. I like Oliver Stone, though he has been hit & mostly miss for the past decade or so. But when a good ensemble cast (including Kitsch and Hirsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman and Benicio del Toro) and solid script come together, he can actually make quite the compelling film.

Ted – July 13th

Seth MacFarlane’s a love him or hate him kinda guy (as far as his career goes). There’s not much middle ground. I enjoy his work. Sure Family Guy isn’t the same show we fell in love with in 1999, and The Cleveland Show has been a gigantic piece of shit since day 1, but American Dad has actually gotten much better since its freshman season. And if you haven’t listened to his 2011 album “Music Is Better Than Words,” do so, right now, it’s amazing. Anyway, now we get to see how his comedic stylings translate to the big screen. I’m sure we won’t get cutaway gags, and rapid fire pop culture references, but that bawdiness, that crudeness, yet still something faintly intelligent, will all be there. And it’s Mark Funkybunchberg talking to a teddy bear! That’s hilarious. If you’re on the fence about Wahlberg doing comedy, see I Heart Huckabees (which would have been lost without him) and The Other Guys.

The Bourne Legacy – August 13th

I’m a huge fan of the Bourne franchise, as it completely revitalized the spy genre which limped through the post-Cold War 90s trying to find its relevance. What excites me is that this builds on the established story, bringing back established characters Noah Vosen and Pam Landy (David Straitharn and Joan Allen, respectively) while introducing us to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another agent in the Treadstone project who’s “gone rogue.” I’m most intrigued by the addition of both Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton, two phenomenal actors who we haven’t heard much from lately. Tony Gilroy steps up from writer to director, as he has written all of the Bourne films to-date. I’m approaching with caution, only because it lacks Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who built the franchise.

Lawless – August – 31st

Lawless

Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in Lawless

I still don’t know if it’s Lawless or The Wettest County in the World, but last I checked it was Lawless, so that’s what we’ll call it from here on out. But this is a new Prohibition Era film from John Hillcoat, longtime collaborator with Nick Cave, and director of The Proposition in 05 and The Road in 09, both fantastic and you should definitely check those out. Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce anchor a cast that also features Shia “I Hate the 80s” LaBeouf, Mia Wasikowska and recent Oscar nominees Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain. It’s got a solid pedigree, with a script from Nick Cave (who wrote a script for a Gladiator sequel I would actually want to see, see item #1). This could be one of those quite summer releases that’ll gain some traction heading into the Oscar race, let’s just hope it doesn’t get tragically left in the dust like 2011’s Drive.

New Holidays Based on Movies

Now, I’m an atheist. I don’t get holidays. Sure there are plenty of secular holidays for me to observe throughout the year like Independence Day, New Years, Thanksgiving (there’s dispute on that, but I view it as secular). But I don’t have a Christmas or Easter, a Hanukkah or Yom Kippur, a Ramadan or even a Lycaea. So I thought, what could I, an atheist movie nerd, observe as a holiday?

I put together a tentative list. The rules were quite simple: 1) the day/date had to be significant in the film. 2) The film had to be significant to me.

May the 4th is NOT included, as it’s based on a play on words, not an actual date. As much as I would like to include Star Wars…. it just doesn’t fit. Also, the anti-Empire nature of May the 4th clashes with the pro-Empire nature of Rex Manning Day.

March 24th – Breakfast Club Day

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club

March 24th becomes a day of reflection. You come to the realisation, that despite your differences with the people around you, you’re all fighting the same battles internally, and you actually grow closer because of the differences. It’s a day for the promotion of peace, both personal peace and world peace.

Traditional meals: A Captain Crunch & Pixie Stix sandwich for breakfast; a bag of chips, chocolate cookies, three sandwiches, milk, a banana and an apple for lunch; Sushi for dinner; Vodka whenever

Traditional celebrations: Dancing around a library to a killer 80s soundtrack; Hashing things out, emotionally; Venturing out to get marijuana.

Traditional songs: Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds; We Are Not Alone by Karla Devito

April 14th/15th – Askew

Mallrats

Mallrats

Askew is a 2 day affair of philosophical contemplations. You can discuss a wide range of topics, from the minutia of pop culture to expounding on your relationships with other people.

Traditional meals: Chocolate covered pretzels; Coke; Gatorade; lasagna; at least one meal must be eaten in a mall food court; Skip breakfast to play Sega.

Traditional celebrations: Skipping breakfast to play Sega; Crash a wake; Play hockey on a roof; go to the mall; watch a Dating Game rip-off; Going out on a schooner. Or a sailboat.

Traditional decorations: Magic Eye; poorly made signs written in shoe polish.

Traditional songs: Can’t Even Tell by Soul Asylum; Shooting Star by Golden Smog; Build Me Up Buttercup by The Goops; Susanne by Weezer

May 6th – Rex Manning Day

Rex Manning

Say no more, mon amour

It’s a day commemorating the heroes who boldly took a stance against the man and said “DAMN THE MAN! SAVE THE EMPIRE!” Remember those who sacrificed their watches, their life savings, their art to stand up to corporate music stores.

Traditional meal: A shoplifter deep-fried in a vat of hot oil; special brownies.

Traditional celebrations: Taking off to Atlantic City (or Vegas, depending on what side of the Mississippi you’re on) to put everything one roll of the dice; AC/DC party session; late night block parties.

Traditional Songs: Say No More, Mon Amour by Rex Manning; I Don’t Want To Live Today by Ape Hangers; Crazy Life by Toad the Wet Sprocket; Til I Hear It From You by Gin Blossoms; If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It by AC/DC

May 28th – Dazed & Confused Day

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused

This holiday marks seasonal change. It’s a time of change, moving from one era of our lives into another. We celebrate our accomplishments, and look forward to new challenges.

Traditional meals: Smoked or liquid lunch; Fried bacon; Top-Notch burgers (or similar drive-in burgers)

Traditional celebrations: Taking in a baseball game; Hazing rituals; Whack-a-mailbox; Pool/billiards; Party at the Moon Tower; Aerosmith concert.

Traditional songs: Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith; Slow Ride by Foghat; Anything on this list

June 5th – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller

A day of jubilation, relaxation and celebrating all that life has to offer. Take a day for yourself and your friends and family. The motto of the day is “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Traditional Meals: Ballpark hotdogs; Snooty french meals

Traditional celebrations: A parade featuring a city-wide dance/sing-along; Baseball game; Going to the top of a skyscraper; driving a fancy, expensive car

Traditional songs: Twist & Shout by the Beatles; Danke Schoen by Wayne Newton; Oh Yeah by Yello

November 5th – 12th – Enchantment Under The Sea Week

Enchantment Under The Sea

Enchantment Under The Sea

A week-long event of true reflection of where we came from. As people. Both individually and collectively. A journey through our own personal histories and how everything that happens make us who we are today. And how thankful we are to be who and where we are, knowing that even the slightest changes could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!

Traditional meals: Delicious diner food; Milk. Chocolate;

Traditional celebrations: Skateboarding through the town square; Zip-lining from the clock tower to the street below; A formal dance at the end of the week.

Traditional Songs: Power of Love by Huey Lewis & The News; Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry; Earth Angel by Marvin Berry & The Starlighters; Night Train by James Brown

December 24th/25th – Nakatomi

Die Hard

Die Hard

Beginning at sundown on the 24th, lasting through sunrise on the 25th, Nakatomi is a day of remembrance and reverence for those who would fight to keep us safe.

Traditional meals: Watered down champagne; Twinkies; Swiss cheese; Nestle Crunch Bar

Traditional celebrations: Crawling through an air-duct; Walking around barefoot; Bungee jumping off a building; driving around in a limo

Traditional songs: Christmas Hollis by Run DMC; Ode To Joy by Beethoven; Let It Snow

Traditional greeting: “A yippie-ki-yay motherfucker to you!”

So that’s it. The new holidays for all you movie nerds out there. This list isn’t comprehensive, there are plenty I missed and should be added. If you want to see a movie holiday added, let me know! (No Groundhog Day. That holiday already exists).

Mark your calendars!

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 2 of 4

Building on yesterday’s entry, the movies I’m looking forward to in the second quarter of 2011, April to June.

April

Super – I’m a fan of James Gunn, I like off book superhero stories (Kick Ass, Defendor) and a good strong cast including Rainn Wilson (who’s much better than what Dwight has become), Ellen Page and Nathan Fillion make this one of my most anticipated films of the year.

Scream 4 – Say what you will about Wes Craven’s last picture (the so-so at best My Soul To Take), the man’s a legend, and the Scream trilogy is one of the best and most consistent horror franchises. I’m looking forward to this with cautious optimism. Can it call back to true satirical spirit of the original, or will it cave in to the constructs of the genre like the third? We’ll find out in April.

Your Highness – I think the best way to describe this is… Why not? James Franco and Natalie Portman are terrific actors, Danny McBride has been a great second fiddle for the past few years, why not make a raunchy Medieval comedy. Could go either way, but chances are good.

May

Thor – I applaud Marvel’s ambition in rolling out their heavy weights as one big franchise. Iron Man 2 was troubled, but still good, same with The Incredible Hulk. With a strong cast, a great director, and a relative unknown in the lead, this teeters on the brink, but I think it’ll be well received.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – I think this is what the third movie should have been, instead of one film spread out over two movies. A singular, stand alone narrative. The only thing that truly worries me is Rob Marshall replacing Gore Verbinski in the director’s chair.

The Hangover II – When The Hangover came out, it was one of those films where everything came together to be a truly funny movie, that didn’t hold back, and certainly didn’t take the easy way out. Can the crew catch lightning in a bottle again? With everyone on board for a second venture, this time to Thailand, let’s hope so.

The Hangover II

June

X-Men: First Class – The third film and Origins: Wolverine were disappointments, but with fresh eyes and talent, here’s hoping they can revive the franchise. Especially with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto, respectively.

Super 8 – The new J.J. Abrams film is shrouded in mystery, but should we expect anything less from Abrams? After Cloverfield, Star Trek and “Lost,” I’ll follow him anywhere.

Cars 2Cars is perhaps my least favourite Pixar film (not that it’s bad, just… not as good) and probably the least deserving of a sequel. Should we be worried that their production slate features only one (Brave) original film, of three (the other being Monsters, Inc. 2) to be released between now and the end of 2012? I hope not, but it doesn’t inspire optimism. But Pixar has a proven track record, and they won’t jump in without making sure the story is worth it, first.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 1 of 4

I closed out 2010 with a look back on the films that made up the year, but here are the films I’m looking forward to in the first quarter of 2011, January through March. Unfortunately, the movie calendar doesn’t start to get exciting till March.

January

The Green Hornet – I’m approaching this with cautious optimism. Sure it could end up being mostly forgettable, but Seth Rogan in a genre shift, the great Christoph Waltz back in villain mode and visionary director Michel Gondry, the stars may align on this one.

February

Unknown – I get a distinct Frantic meets Taken vibe off of this one, but both were tight thrillers and I’m a Liam Neeson fan, so we’ll have to see where this one goes. The inclusion of Diane Krueger is also enticing.

March

Rango – Gore Verbinski re-teams with his Pirates of the Caribbean crew and star to bring us this interesting animated feature.

The Adjustment Bureau – It’s a sci-fi thriller with a great cast in Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It could be a modest hit, but the trailer looks good.

Apollo 18 – A smallish sci-fi flick from Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego. It’s another “found footage” style film, but handled right, it could be the best of the sub-genre.

Poster for Apollo 18

Battle: Los Angeles – This looks like the film that 2010’s Skyline wanted to be, but didn’t because it was horrible every step of the way. Mature sci-fi has seen a resurgence over the past few years and I’m hoping this keeps the tradition alive.

Paul – The comedy giants from both sides of the pond join forces for this geek-tastic film. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost team up with Seth Rogan and director Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland).

Sucker Punch – I get the feeling that I stand in the minority as far as Zack Snyder goes, but I’m a big fan of the guy. He’s one of the most visually exciting directors around, he  has tight plots, great characters. He’s just had the misfortune of adapting properties with built-in fan bases (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) that didn’t like HIS vision. So I’m excited for his first original work.

Top 10 Films of 2010

These were the films that struck a cord with me in 2010, that I enjoyed for various reasons. Before the list, some Honourable Mentions, just missing the top 10: The Losers,  Tron: Legacy, Easy A, How To Train Your Dragon, The Crazies, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows prt 1, Iron Man 2, Catfish, The A-Team, Tangled

10- The Town (Directed by Ben Affleck; Starring Ben Affleck, John Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Hall) Even after Gone Baby Gone, I wouldn’t have pegged Affleck as a director who could deliver. But here we are. He’s 2 for 2. He was able to get some great performances out of some terrific actors, and he even elevated his game in front of the camera. We get a tight thriller that excites every step of the way, and pushes Jon Hamm more and more into super stardom.

9- Black Swan (Directed by Darren Aronofsky; Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel) One thing that can be said about Aronofsky’s films is that they are an experience. And he comes off his gut wrenching look at professional wrestling by taking  a look at the New York Ballet scene, and how the drive to be the best can drive one mad. We experience the descent Portman’s Nina goes through, in her best performance to date.

8- The Fighter (Directed by David O. Russell; Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams) Say what you will about Russell, his films tend to be love or hate, but this one is hard to hate. His last pairing with Wahlberg produced Marky Mark’s best performance, add in the drama of a boxing story (which I’m a sucker for) and the almost always great Bale and Adams, it’s a winner.

7- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Directed by Edgar Wright; Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and  Chris Evans) It was easy to miss and dismiss this film as being too esoteric, too targeted, too Michael Cera being Michael Cera (again). But what you missed with this film is one of the most strikingly original romantic comedies, and for once, Cera playing his type works in the film’s favour, as it contrasts with his adversaries. Wright consistently delivers some of the most finely crafted films, even if they are genre films.

6- True Grit (Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen; Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon Hailee Steinfeld and Josh Brolin) My approach to this film is how I approach most remakes. If they bring something new to the table, or can stand on their own merits, then there’s nothing wrong with them. The Coen brothers bringing their dark humour and bleak sensibilities to the classic (which is actually a readaptation of a book, rather then a remake of a film) western, and Bridges continues with a late career resurgence in both quality and popularity.  Of particular note, young Hailee Steinfeld, with the gravitas and talent not normally seen in someone so young, and holding her own against the likes of Bridges, Damon and Brolin.

5- Let Me In (Directed by Matt Reeves; Starring Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Richard Jenkins) Like True Grit, Let Me In is less of a remake (of the 2008 Swedish film Let The Right One In) and more of a readaptation of the original novel, and it loses none of the haunting beauty of the original. It’s a disservice to compare the two, as both are fascinating. The two children, who were both about 13 when the film was being made, carry the film, and handle the roles better than some actors with twice the age and experience.  Reeves is an emerging voice in genre cinema, and made an indelible impression.

4- Toy Story 3 (Directed by Lee Unkrich; Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack) Pixar has been on a 15 year hot streak since the first Toy Story in 95, and I’m not ashamed to say that this brought a tear to my eye (several tears, actually). Pixar never compromises story for spectacle, one thing other animation houses (including Pixar parent, Disney) have struggled with. But they are first and foremost storytellers, and give the fans who grew up with Woody, Buzz & crew a great final, closing chapter.

3- Kick Ass (Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong) The superhero genre reached critical mass and market saturation with the powerhouse of The Dark Knight and Marvel Studio’s ambitions Avengers plan, but 2010 belonged to a nerdy guy who just wanted to do good. Not since Edgar Wright’s Hott Fuzz has a film so thoroughly skewered the conventions of the genre, yet lived entirely within the confines of the conventions. Moretz delivers her first great performance of the year, and coupled with Let Me In, she should be a lock come Oscar time, and I’m looking forward to more from her for years to come.

2- The Social Network (Directed by David Fincher; Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer and Justin Timberlake) Fincher works from a script by the great Aaron Sorkin, a story that they both acknowledge is both a fictionalized and sensationalized account of mostly true events, but sometimes what actually happened needs to be jazzed up a bit. Eisenberg is the best emerging talent, breaking through in 09, and hitting his stride in ’10 to bring excitement and energy to Zuckerberg and the start of Facebook.

1- Inception (Directed by Christopher Nolan; Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Tom Hardy) I’ve seen critiques of this go both ways, but in earnest, Nolan does the near impossible: Combines the spectacle to to appease mainstream audiences, but he actually has a complex plot, interesting characters, and compelling dialog. I’ve been following Nolan for 10 years, and he’s a filmmaker who will consistently deliver. And the cast, what a phenomenal ensemble cast he put together, especially the always pleasing Cotillard.

Not on the list because I have yet to see them:

127 Hours, The King’s Speech, Winter’s Bone, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Waiting for Superman