These films are in no particular order as I find it very hard to list any of them from 1 to 10, as each has their own merits that overtake each other in different categories. So, I present to you my “Top 10” in alphabetical order.
1. The Avengers
What an amazing feat the folks at Marvel have undertaken. Looking at films as issues of a comic book, each intersecting one another allowing the dense and rich world it pocesses in paper form to explode on to the big screen. After seeing what they’ve done with their universe it only gives me hope that others will latch on to it and try to think of their properties how we, the fans, think of them.
I must admit I was a little worried when I saw the first trailer for The Avengers. How could anyone, even someone as great at ensemble as Joss Weadon, manage to contain so many big characters in one film? As the credits rolled I was both giddy and embarrassed. How could I have doubted someone as talented as Mr. Weadon? Allowing for equal time, and equal part in the main story, what we get is a band of misfits that any comic fan can be proud of in cinematic form. The action is great, and never distracting (just look at that unbelievable single shot in the climax of the film that shows everyones geographical placement with such elegance it almost passes you by.) Every studio even contemplating a superhero film should look and learn from The Avengers, as it’s top form on all levels.
2. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Another film in the Weadon-verse that contains all the giddy elements of The Avengers, but takes them from horror genre instead. What starts off as a simple teenager against monster movie, suddenly evolves in to a smart, fresh, and all around fun genre bender.
The performances are great, especially Bradley Whitford, but it’s the references that makes the film so much fun. It’s essentially a mishmash of every great horror film we all grew up with, but used in a way you’d never expect. I’ve watched it a few times now, and each time I see something new, and to me, that’s the sign of a truly great film.
3. COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE
It was a really great year to be a geek, and this documentary shows you just how important it is to stand true to your inner, and outer, geek. Taking a step behind the camera, Morgan Spurlock spends a weekend at the greatest fan convention in the world, following a group of geeks as they make their way through the massive event. Mixed with “expert” commentary by people like Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Guillermo Del Torro, Joss Weadon, and pretty much every other “high level” geek on the planet, the film does an excellent job of explaining what it means to be a fan without ever poking fun. I saw the film at TIFF, in a packed audience of fans, and it was truly an amazing experience. You could feel the love of fandom, and the joy it is to be a geek!
4. DJANGO UNCHAINED
Tarantino just keeps getting better with every film. Django takes the Spaghetti Western, applies the Tarantino style, and becomes one of most energetic films of the year. The story of a freed slave on a journey to find his sold off wife, the flick is full of great action and great performances. You really get the sense that everyone involved with the film was having a whole lot of fun making it, and that’s why any of its faults seem to melt away as the film plays out.
How do you make a film about time travel without getting caught up in all the inherent problems of a time travel story? Looper manages to do it by never taking the time to explain any of the “science” behind time travel, opting only to show a few sequences that visually explain what’s going on, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks. That’s the genius of the film, and what should be analyzed by anyone who wants to make a time travel story. The performances are top notch, even though Bruce Willis is just playing himself (I assume that was the point), and the direction smart and simple. I was most impressed at the actual story of the film, completely omitted from any of the promotional material. There’s more family than sci-fi to it, and that aids in its simplicity. With striking visuals, and smart filmmaking, Looper certainly stands out as one of the years best, but also one of the genres best.
6. MAGIC MIKE
I know what you’re thinking, the male stripper movie is good? Let it be said, you should never judge a book by its cover! Sadly, I think a lot of people passed on this one due to its subject matter, even though it actually plays a small part in the actual film. Magic Mike is full of great performances, and that’s what makes it so good. Soderbergh does an apt job with the shooting of film, though it feels almost too simple in its direction. Maybe that’s its beauty. While Matthew McConaughey is the real stand out in the film, it’s quite shocking to see that Channing Tatum is a really good actor. He creates a character you care for, and want to see succeed in the end. I hope that anyone who passed up seeing the film in the theatre will give it a shot on home video, because it deserves to be seen. It’s a funny, sad, and ultimately engaging film that will take you by surprise. What more could you ask for in a film?
7. THE MASTER
70mm! What more is there to say about The Master than that? The performances are big, and certainly bold in many instances, and that’s probably why P.T. Anderson chose to shoot the film on the big screen format. In this day and age, when film is on its way out, it’s really commendable to see a filmmaker choosing to shoot on a format that most people have no concept of. I saw this film at TIFF, on a near 70mm screen (sadly Toronto doesn’t have a true 70mm screen anymore), and boy was it captivating. Hopefully the film will come back from time to time, giving people a chance to see it in the format it was intended (as long as a few 70mm projectors hold out) because anyone who sees the film on Blu-Ray will sadly be missing a huge part of what makes this film so great.
8. MOONRISE KINGDOM
Many people care little for the Wes Anderson style, and that’s something I’ve never been able to understand. Mr. Anderson has an incredible grasp of both direction and character, and that’s what makes Moonrise Kingdom so great. The story is sweet, and the performances great. The film centers primarily on the story of two kids who have run away from home, and boy are these kids ever great! The sequences that take place by the waters edge are the real stand outs for me, feeling very much like every french film I’ve ever loved. Moonrise Kingdom is a really charming film, and one that will stand out in Wes Andersons already fantastic career.
9. THE RAID: REDEMPTION
If The Raid had been made by an american studio it would have been total shit. Thank god it wasn’t, because what we get is a real stand out in action cinema that rarely comes around. There’s very little set-up before the action begins, and that was a wonderful directorial choice. Gareth Evans, and everyone involved, knew exactly what this film was, and that’s why it succeeds so well. To me, the film felt very much like a video game, with each major action sequence acting like a level and boss to be defeated before the story could continue. The fighting is hard hitting, and never watered down. In an age of CGI and special effects, it’s really wonderful to see a film like The Raid do away with much of that and opt for real choreography. Fans of action will see the effort and love put in to each of the fights, and will undoubtedly grin from ear to ear because of it!
Bond is back! After a very lackluster previous outing with Quantum of Solace, many felt that Bond would fall in to the same rut that it did during the Brosnan years. Thankfully the producers listened to fans and gave us a film any Bond lover can be proud of. The action sequences are phenomenal, and the story is great. Javier Bardem is an excellent villain, and will certainly go down in history as one of the best. The real beauty of the film is its use of many of the more “campy” elements we’ve all grown accustomed to in the Bond series, but taking them and creating a reality to them. It’s great to see Q branch back, but in a more high tech form. I hope that they can keep the ball rolling with the next installment, because if they can, the Craig era will come out as a definite second to the films Sean Connery made at the outset of Bond.
Honorable Mention: Side By Side
I say this with much reservation, as I felt that Side By Side, a documentary about the evolution of digital cinema, was very much an infomercial for Red Camera. That being said, it’s really interesting to hear the view points of pretty much every great filmmaker working today explaining why they either love, or hate, digital cinema as a shooting and presentation format. Being a staunch believer in 35mm film, I was saddened to hear people like Martin Scorsese become so impassioned with digital shooting. That to me is a knife in the back for film. I would recommend the film to anyone who is interested in format, as it’s quite revealing and does an excellent job at explaining the differences between digital and film. I would also suggest taking a look at another film, These Amazing Shadows, for a lesson in why 35mm film is so important as a shooting and preservation format.
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