StonedMagician99's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews


+ One incredible performance, two great ones, palpable atmosphere, fantastic cinematography, and a wonderful ending.

- One or two plot contrivances, two mediocre performances

Overall: my third-favorite Shyamalan film, and the one that truly marks this once-revered filmmaker's return from revilement.

Sinister 2
Sinister 2(2015)

I'll try to make this short and informative:

+Creepy atmosphere
+Good acting
+Provides some good expansion on the mythology established in the first film
+Likeable main character...

-...who is substantially less likeable than Ethan Hawke's character
-Extremely clunky dialogue scenes
-Some very obvious plot contrivances
-Excess of horror-movie logic
-Too many dumb subplots

Overall: definitely a few steps down from the 2012 original, but far better than the Tomatometer would have you believe

Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

In this film's defense, despite being a sequel made a full nine years after the original, and even despite doing absolutely nothing new, it still feels somewhat fresh. There really isn't much else like Sin City, but that also means that there's only one film to compare it to, and this one is worse.

For starters, it just isn't paced as well. Unlike the 2005 original, A Dame to Kill For switches between action and dialogue rather erratically, mitigating much of the narrative impact the first film had. And although much was made of the fact that two of the subplots were created exclusively for this movie, they don't gel at all with the comic-based ones, leading the first one to feel inconsequential and the second tacked-on.

The acting and visuals are commendable, and the atmosphere is undeniable, but that's not enough to wholly redeem this somewhat disappointing sequel. It's not bad by any means, but I was expecting a whole lot more.

Into The Storm

Movies about inclement weather are probably never going to be masterpieces, but at least Twister showed some restraint. Into the Storm generally feels like a theatrical version of Discovery's Storm Chasers, but with said storm being so spectacularly over the top that any semblance of realism (and therefore suspense) is lost.

I mean, it's one thing to have three tornadoes in the same vicinity. It's another to have one of them pick up the fires of a burning house and become a gigantic column of flame (also, since tornadoes are formed by the joining of hot and cold air, wouldn't an overabundance of the former cause the storm to cease to exist?). And THEN they join forces and combine into one superstorm (seriously), and begin to pick up jumbo jets and rip trees out of the ground by the roots.

I'll admit that it all looks pretty cool, but that's about it. The less I say about the dialogue, the better. This is not recommended.

Guardians of the Galaxy

It never ceases to amaze me: since 2007, Marvel Studios has never gone a year without releasing at least one film, and the vast majority of them have been quite good, despite the juggernaut studio continuously taking chances on various directors (many of whom had less-than-stellar resumes). And this year has perhaps been the best yet, with the masterful The Winter Soldier coming out back in April, and now this. And while Guardians of the Galaxy isn't the best Marvel film this year, it's damn good nonetheless.

Since this group of heroes is easily the most obscure of Marvel's lineup to be put to film, the closest cinematic comparison I can make is The Magnificent Seven in space. And though the plot isn't quite as interesting as I just made it sound (it basically serves as a way to tie together most of the post-credits sequences of prior films in the MCU), the rest of the movie is good stuff, with fine performances, a witty script, and plenty of colorful visuals. WIth only Sin City remaining, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fitting sendoff to a summer that has simply not been full enough.


Even putting aside the ridiculous premise, I didn't really have that much faith going into Luc Besson's latest. The French action legend hasn't made a truly good film since La Femme Nikita back in 1990. That being said, he hasn't made any terrible movies since then either, and this somewhat dubious trend continues with Lucy.

As is the case with most of Besson's work, anyone with half a brain will be able to follow the storylne with little trouble. Lucy unintentionally ingests an experimental drug. This raises her mental capacity to ridiculous heights, effects-driven hijinks ensue. Pretty standard stuff really, and the leaps in logic are so glaringly obvious that ignoring them quickly becomes a distraction (why push cars out of the way you could simply fly over them?).

Granted, this fact does not seem to go unnoticed by the film itself, as several welcome moments of self-awareness manage to slip themselves organically into the storyline. But even knowing of its inherent flaws is not nearly enough to save Lucy from its cliched, high-concept plot and bring action.

The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge (both Anarchy and its prequel) had so much potential. The premise was excellent, seeming ripe for making a thriller filled to the brim with commntary on classism, distribution of wealth, and the effectiveness of law enforcement. Unfortunately, writer/director James DeMonaco seems content to just go straight for the violence, and leave the messages out to dry.

While the first Purge film was a relatively straightforward home-invasion movie, Anarchy is an action-thriller, with bigger scale, a bigger cast, and bigger ideas. The scale part actually works pretty well, showing how society in general reacts to twelve hours of lawlessness. And though it makes for some truly disturbing imagery, as before, the violence and gore still end up taking the stage.

And that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, except that, as in the first film, DeMonaco seems to be a tad timid when it comes to showing truly horrific acts. Take out most of the obscenities, and this film would have had a chance of being PG-13. If the events depicted in Anarchy really happened, people would do far worse than just kill each other, But no, DeMonaco seems content to just stick with highly standard action and horror fare, rather than truly pushing the envelope. Which is a shame, really, because that push could have been all that was needed to help this series realize its full potential.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

The 1968 Planet of the Apes is regarded as a science-fiction classic, combining sharp satire and Charlton Heston with one of the most well-known twist endings Hollywood has ever seen. The sequels only got crazier (and worse), and once time travel got involved, you knew that it had to stop. Then in 2011, the series got a much-needed fresh start with Rise. And now the sequel is finally here, and it is quite possibly the best film in the entire eight-film series.

During the credits of Rise, there was a little sequence involving the implied spread of a virus known as the simian flu. By Dawn, that virus has all but destroyed the world, reducing the human population to around a tenth of what it once was. In San Francisco, the human colony there is running out of power, and asks the apes to allow access to the nearby dam, thus allowing the two sides to live separately, but peacefully. Of course, it's never that easy.

Due to a string of events which I will not spoil here, the good acting, phenomenal visual effects, precise direction, and almost-Shakespearean script come together in a smart, visceral blockbuster that will surely be remembered as one of 2014's best films.

Deliver Us from Evil

Scott Derrickson's previous film, Sinister, was one that I hold in very high regard. It had a great story, haunting visuals, and terrific sound design. His next horror project, the police drama/Exorcist hybrid Deliver Us From Evil, does not reach the high mark set by its predecessor. But it is a suitably entertaining, if heavily cliched, horror adventure that should provide a fix for genre fans parched by the lack of scary movies this summer.

The events that unfold are inspired by the experiences of real-life former NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie, who served as an associate producer on the prooject. And while certain aspects are undoubtedly Hollywooded up for the silver screen (the final scene in particular, though thoroughly mesmerizing, requires a much higher suspension of disbelief than others), the cop side of the film mostly helps to keep the other half grounded in reality. But despite this, as well as raw and unyielding performances from Eric Bana and Edgar Ramirez, the cliches hanging out almost everywhere drag the film down, rendering it merely passable, if well-crafted.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

The second and third Transformers films were awful. There's no getting around it. Lacking any self-awareness, and full of cringe-worthy scenes, both Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon rank among the worst films ever made.

So imagine my surprise when I was watching Age of Extinction, and was actually enjoying myself. It's not a great movie, of course (and it's arguably not even good). But compared to the last two films in the franchise, it's practically a masterpiece.

But that's not to say that it's very dissimilar its predecessors. The human characters are still less human than the robots, the dialogue is dubious (though the ratio of action to dialogue is considerably higher this time), and it can get visually confusing to decipher what's happening onscreen. But these are flaws that the other three movies had as well, and Age of Extinction easily tops all but the first one in terms of pure quality. I had fun, and that's more than I can say for my experience with Michael Bay's last six years.

22 Jump Street

Comedy sequels are unusual beasts: on one hand, they have to be about as funny as their predecessors, enough to justify their existence. But on the other, if the humor strays too far from the original, it gets harder to call it a sequel.

Such is the dilemma faced by 22 Jump Street. Seeing its huge box office haul, it's probable that those who wished to see it have done so already. However, for those who haven't, you'll get almost as much enjoyment from watching the first one again. Yes, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are still a great class act, and there are plenty of great comedic moments. But too many of those moments are recycled, and starting to get a bit stale. In this regard, the film is funnier than it perhaps should be, but this is barely enough to keep it afloat.

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

This really shouldn't have happened. Edge of Tomorrow started out as All You Need is Kill, and the first anyone saw of it was a fairly ridiculous-looking shot of Tom Cruise running towards the camera with a giant explosion in the background. The director didn't inspire confidence either (Doug Liman's prior big-budget film was Jumper. The less said, the better), and the premise (Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers) seemed domed to fail from the beginning.

But it didn't, and what we got instead is a funny, uncommonly intellignt sci fi-action film that tells an engrossing story while never taking itself too seriously. The time-loop concept is used extremely well, never repeating footage. It knows that we've gotten the gist already, and to only show what we need to see. It's the rare blockbuster that gives its audience's intelligence the credit it deserves.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Of all the Marvel franchises, the X-Men films have been the most erratic, alternating between, great, and mediocre with seemingly every pair of movies released. This trend was bucked when The Wolverine was released last year, and this continues with Days of Future Past, quite possibly the best film in the decade-plus-old series.

Rather than any of the actors, the story is the main star of the show. Flashing between two timelines, Wolverine is sent back in time to prevent an apocalyptic war from ever beginning in the first place. It's engrossing stuff, despite the inevitable leaps in logic and ignorance of one of the basic elements of time travel (which I will not get into now). It all culminates in a riveting and spectacular final sequence that tops anything any of the prior films have pulled out of their sleeves. This is the best X-Men film to date, and gets a full recommendation.


Even if you've never seen a Godzilla film, you know the name. With it comes memories of nuclear destruction, giant monsters, and that godawful 1998 travesty of a movie. This is the first Godzilla film (American or otherwise) in ten years. And now, with a colossal hype train behind it, the king of the monsters is finally back. Was it worth the wait?

Alright, maybe it's not REALLY worth a decade, but the new Godzilla is a damn god film nonetheless. The only major flaw is its slow start. And when I say slow, I mean very, very slow. Sure, a nuclear power plant collapses and the presence of the to-be-revealed creatures is hinted at, but just be prepared for some long stretches of dialogue before anything really picks up.

But once it does, it becomes abundantly clear that Godzilla is arguably the best monster movie of the new millennium. The visual effects are spectacular, and the sound design is sufficient to shake the seats in the theater. It's an experience like nothing else.


It seems like movies based on events described in either the Old or New Testaments are a mixed bag. On one hand, they're stories that everyone has at least some idea about, so the built-in audience is fairly high. But on the other, more often than not, they tend to treat their subject matter as a way to preach to the audience.

Thankfully, Noah does not preach, but chooses merely to tell the story, which is ironically the film's biggest flaw. We all know how this tale begins and ends, as well as a good deal of what's in between. So even though the events that aren't depicted in the source material serve to make the world seem that much more real, they also feel relatively inconsequential in comparison to the whole. And as a result of all this, the runtime feels slightly excessive. But the visuals are stunning and the performances are strong, and in some ways, that's enough.


It seems that psychological horror films are making a comeback, with Sinister, Insidious, and The Conjuring managing to make more money than any gore-based screamfest. This renaissance continues with Oculus, easily the best haunted-mirror film ever made.

The worst aspect of the film is how scary it isn't. It's atmospheric, to be sure, but I cannot recall any point where I was leaning forward out of my seat. Everything else, though, is quite good, and well worth the time of any horror fan.

But the best part is the story. Elegantly told in the parallel timelines of the present and flashbacks, the mind-bending tale of what's real and what isn't encourages repeat viewings to glean all the secrets from its twisted core. And it's twisted, all right; I don't know what parental violence against their children looks like in real life, but I'd imagine it looks pretty damned close to this. So if you're one who's easily rattled by that sort of thing, you can feel free to pass on this one. But you'll be missing a fiercely original horror flick that is guaranteed a few sequels.

The Raid 2
The Raid 2(2014)

2012's The Raid was one of the most efficient action films ever made, eschewing deep characters and story in favor of numerous action sequences. And the only reason it was made was because the writer/director, Gareth Evans, was unable to secure funding for his first-choice project.

As it turns out, The Raid 2 was that project. After the success of the first one, and a few story changes to integrate the surviving characters, Evans has finally made the movie he always wanted. And it shows.

The Raid 2 is superior to the first in almost every way. The story is far more intricate this time, a tale of two major crime syndicates teetering on the brink of war. The action scenes have been enhanced as well, bigger in scale than anything in the first movie, and considerably more brutal. Suffice it to say that the squeamish need not apply.

The Raid 2 is better written, better acted, and better filmed than The Raid, and is the best action film I have seen in recent memory. I will be very, very surprised if The Raid 2 doesn't end up in the list of my top three movies of 2014.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I was not the biggest fan of the first Captain America film. It looked great, and featured some fine acting, but it lacked some of the energy that had characterized Marvel movies up to that point.

Cap's second standalone film improves in almost every way. When there isn't action there's suspense, both of which are managed very efficiently. Though it's hard to talk about this movie without spoiling the plot, it can and must be said that it's hard for me to imagine any of Marvel's Phase 2 films having this much of an impact on the canon.

Rather than being a straight-up actioner like its predecessors, The Winter Soldier is a successfully hybridized action-thriller, with mysteries and cold stares abound.

All this adds up to what is arguably the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, possibly even beating The Avengers or Iron Man. Guardians of the Galaxy, along with every other MCU film between now and 2015, has some mighty big shoes to fill.

Need For Speed

Movies based on video games don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to quality. The best of the bunch can be described as okay at best, and the worst ones are generally listed among the worst films of all time. Need for Speed certainly doesn't buck the trend, but it's definitely better than the vast majority of its brethren.

I'm a big fan of the game series on which this film is based. The plot (a race across the country to clear one's name) is taken straight from The Run, one of the better games in the franchise. It makes for some genuinely cool stunts, some visceral destruction, and the occasional race. But where this movie falls horribly short is the dialogue. This movie has more than its fair share of cringe-worthy lines, which not even the perfectly competent acting can cover up. For those unable to bear the wait for the seventh Fast & Furious movie, this is an okay stopgap, but nothing more.

300: Rise of an Empire

The first 300 is famous for being one of the most divisive films in history, polarizing critics with its sumptuous visuals, relentless violence, and sometimes-dubious script. Now, the better part of a decade later, the series is back, and it hasn't changed much at all. If you enjoyed the original, you'll probably like this one. If not, steer clear.

That said, I enjoyed Rise of an Empire more than its predecessor, for two main reasons. The first is that I didn't know how it would end. Even before 300 came out, people knew about Thermopylae and the futile last stand that happened there. It made it too difficult to invest in the characters, and essentially forced me to sit drumming my fingers until their inevitable death. This was, fortunately, not the case here.

The second reason is Eva Green. Best known for her breakout role in 2006's Casino Royale, her performance in Rise of an Empire ranges from terrifyingly understated to unintentionally comic, and steals the spotlight at every opportunity. But even she cannot hold up this movie by herself, since the film, for all its merits, relies on little more than its visual effects and art direction.


For whatever reason, Liam Neeson has decided to make himself a new action star. Since this decision was made, most of the actioners he's been in have been, at best, slightly above-average. NonStop, from the director of Unknown (another Liam Neeson action film), is no exception.

The setup is actually a fairly interesting one. Neeson, an Air Marshal, boards a flight on which someone will die every twenty minutes unless he gives the unknown perpetrator $150 million. The claustrophobia that comes with the setting works well for this type of film, and there are no fewer than fifteen passengers that are presented as potential terrorists. People begin to drop without any apparent cause, the absurdity of the plot growing in direct proportion to the body count. Though the atmosphere is impeccable, the revelation of the cause and reason of the killings is just... stupid. There's really no other word for it. Overall, it's another slightly-above average Liam Neeson action movie.

3 Days To Kill

Luc Besson, the famous French action aficionado (and writer of 3 Days to Kill), has never been known for making his films especially deep. This is, after all, the guy who made The Transporter, Lockout, and last year's The Family. He's good at action, not so much at dialogue or storytelling.

The same holds true here. 3 Days to Kill tries to be several different things at once: a family drama, a love story, and a spy thriller all in one. But these many facets fail to come together into something good. It's made fairly well, and the acting is serviceable all around. But the plot is so cliched that it quickly becomes a bore, to a degree that the family-relationship sections come off as more eye-rolling than they should.

And really, there's not much else to say. It's a competent film built on the foundations of hundreds that have come before. And if you don't mind watching a few of those again, give 3 Days a try. But if you don't, I don't blame you.


Unlike most people, I don't hold the 1987 original in very high regard. It's true that it had something to say, and was plenty well made, but any semblance of a message got lost in the over-the-top violence. As to whether I prefer this newer, slicker, tamer version? I'd have to rewatch the original, but for now, I'd say that I do.

The plot is pretty much the same: cop is almost killed in the line of duty, thinly-veiled clandestine corporation rebuilds him in the name of liberty and justice for all, etc. Really, there's not a whole lot more about the plot (or the rest of the film) without veering into spoiler territory, but there are one or two twists and turns that, while utterly predictable (even to those who have not seen the original), are acted and presented well enough. The action is sleek and spare, never reveling in the bloodshed the way its predecessor did, so points for that. But at the end of the day, it's really just another actioner that genre fans should see, but everyone else should merely consider.

The LEGO Movie

Who doesn't love Legos? For more than a century, kids and adults alike have been transforming these humble blocks into whatever they can imagine, from X-Wings to The Tower of Babel. And while these toys have been transmuted into art, literature, and video games, they had not yet been depicted in film (at least, not theatrically).

Well, their time has come at last, and the result is a wildly imaginative and thoughtful film, with all-star voice talent and breathtaking animation. Making excellent use of the various Lego product lines (this is probably the only time you'll see Han Solo and Batman in the same movie), The Lego Move tells a charming tale of how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, all the while providing slapstick gags and in-jokes to hilarious effect.

This film's major flaws are those that are common among animated features: its silliness can get excessive at times, and some gags are used too many times to retain their comedic value. But overall, this is a very good movie, and one truly made for all ages.

Lone Survivor

Peter Berg has an unsteady track record, to say the least. Having directed such masterpieces as Hancock and Battleship, I wasn't exactly bursting with confidence when I saw his name on the bottom of the poster.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Though Lone Survivor is unquestionably heavy-handed in its message and storytelling, it is also an emotional, visceral look into one of the U.S. military's most infamously botched operations.

As you could probably tell from the title, only one of the four members of SEAL Team 10 is left standing by the end. But in the time I saw them, it was a bit too difficult to really care about them. Sure, each one had their own charm, but none of them (even Mark Wahlberg's character) really felt like people; just weapons that happened to misfire in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

For what it's worth, however, the film is well-written, and the final fifty minutes are nothing short of spectacular. Just don't walk in expecting Saving Private Ryan.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I really can't remember the last time I went to see an action film in the theater. It's a genre that has just fallen out of my interest, as they all seem to be the same combination of bland writing and been-there-done-that violence. Based on what I knew of the plot and the names behind it, I expected Shadow Recruit to be a smarter-than-average, but still by-the-numbers take on the famed Tom Clancy character. I got what I expected, and not much else, really.

To its credit, Jack Ryan makes a pretty good first impression. Chris Pine (Kirk from 2009's Star Trek), Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh directing, and the writer of Schindler's List. What emerges from this pool of venerable talent is, at heart, just another action-thriller, with the requisite fistfights, car chases, and race against the clock. It's all very well-done, to be sure, with fine performances and some snappy dialogue punctuating the occasional monotony. Fans of the genre or source material, or just the casual filmgoer, will have a good time. But it doesn't come without a cost.


It's not too often that a film comes along that is capable of being described as truly original, but Her is one of those rarities. Mixing romance, (barely) science fiction, and stinging social commentary, Her is a truly unique experience, and will stay with you as long as any blockbuster.

The premise is relatively high-concept: a man falls in love with his artificial intelligence OS. Simple, really. But it's not nearly as ridiculous as it might sound. In today's world, humans interact more with technology than each other. Surveys have shown that in the U.S., the preferred method of communication is texting. Are we getting tot eh point where we value technology as much as our fellow man?

Her doesn't have the heart to answer these questions. It just tells a story that happens to ask them, set in a wonderfully postmodern world of glass towers, polished wood panels, elegantly practical architecture, and a lovely color palette. Her is a great film in almost every way, and is easily one of the year's best.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Second only to Tim Burton-Johnny Depp, the DiCarpio-Scorsese partnership is the most well-known in Hollywood, dating all the way back to 2004 with Gangs of New York. So while The Wolf of Wall Street may not be their best collaboration, it's definitely the pair at their most playful, which shows in every scene.

The actual subject matter is anything but. In the late eighties, stock broker Jordan Belfort (whose autobiographical book is the basis for the film) managed to sell millions of stocks at premium prices. And when the stocks crashed (as planned), Belfort and co. reaped the rewards while the buyers suffered financially. He left dozens almost penniless. But hey, he had millions upon millions, a hot wife, a fancy car, and a multiacre mansion, so who cares?

The FBI did, incidentally. Though they should probably have gotten involved sooner, rest assured that Belfort does eventually get what's coming to him, though this is admittedly the least entertaining part of the film. I'll put it this way: this is the most hard-R movie I've seen in a while. But in spite (or perhaps because) of this, it is also hugely entertaining, with enthusiastically flamboyant direction and what is perhaps DiCaprio's finest performance yet.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Frankly, there isn't all that much to say about Peter Jackson's latest epic. If you have yet to see An Unexpected Journey, absolutely do so before going out to see Desolation; it'll make more sense that way.

Fans of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy will find some nice nods within the movie; Legolas, Sauron, and giant spiders are all back, and serve to tie the Hobbit trilogy closer to the LotR films, something the final film in the series will surely spend a good amount of time doing.

The Desolation of Smaug is overall a darker, more serious affair than its predecessor, with less time spent on slapstick and more on exposition and action. Weta Workshop makes An Unexpected Journey's visual effects look conservative; Smaug in particular is a masterpiece of digital design and animation, and is easily the most realistic and fearsome dragon ever put to film.

So really, if you have seen the prequel, this is a superior film in more than a few ways. If you have not, both films are well worth the combined 5.5+ hour runtime.

American Hustle

At the tail end of what has been an undeniably great year for movies, American Hustle is a fabulously entertaining mix of great performances, energetic direction, and black humor. Director David O. Russell has made what is arguably his best film yet, and considering that his previous works include The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, that's a remarkable feat indeed.

A semi-fictionalized account of the ABSCAM scandal of the early eighties, Hustle follows an overly-ambitious FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who enlists the help of two expert con men (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) to expose a corrupt mayor (Jeremy Renner). What follows goes from being a relatively small-scale operation to roping in the American Mafia, a handful of state representatives, and a US Senator. All of which is presented with an abundance of wit and charm, brought on by the perfect cast and sharp script.

Ultimately, despite the merest hints of incoherence, American Hustle is easily one of the year's best, a film that can be enjoyed by practically anyone old enough for the subject matter.

Out of the Furnace

It's always sad to me when a film manages to attract a great cast, and squanders a good amount of its potential. It has happened before, of course, usually with movies like Valentine's Day and Movie 43. And though Out of the Furnace squanders less of that potential than some, it's a shame to see the talents of Christian Bale, Forest Whitaker, and Woody Harrelson applied to such one-note characters.

From the writer and director of the Oscar-winning Crazy Heart, I expected better than this leaden, safe revenge thriller. None of the characters spend any time doing anything other than growling and glaring at each other, so that eventually everything starts to blur together into a tedious collection of scenes that fail to congeal into a whole.

But it's not all bad news. The film is well directed, and appropriately gritty, and though the actors are hugely overqualified, they do well enough with what they're given. But this isn't enough to make Out of the Furnace anything other than a gratuitously slow and predictable movie that thinks of itself as being more than it is.

Marvel's The Avengers

Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. The AVengers is the ultimate culmination of all those movies, which ranged in quality from slightly above-average to excellent. In my review of the first Iron Man, I called it the pinnacle of Marvel cinema. It has now been topped.

The story goes that after Captain America, the Tesseract ended up at the bottom of the ocean, and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled it out. Now Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants it, due to its inherently unlimited power, which will give him the ability to rule with an iron fist over all of Earth. Unless the Avengers can get past their differences and stop him.

I have recently come to the opinion that director and screenplay heavily influence acting (this may be a bit late to realize this, but whatever). It certainly seems to be true in this case. Joss Whedon is apparently great fun to work with, and his writing talent is well-known. Both of these might be reasons why each actor performs better in this movie than in previous Marvel films. The highlights are Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, each playing characters with hidden emotional depth that boils to the surface in the most commendable of ways (especially the latter actor, for obvious reasons). Though this trio leads the pack, said pack is composed entirely of very strong performances, something not usually seen in ensembles, but which Whedon pulls together with the greatest of ease.

Joss Whedon originally signed on for this project in April of 2010. He threw out former writer Zak Penn's screenplay and replaced it with his own. No disrespect to Mr. Penn, but I sincerely doubt his version was better-written than this. Whedon's script shines brightly in nearly every conversation, each one punctuated with his trademark, never-miss humor. ANother thing Joss is known for is the characterization he imbues his writing with. From Buffy to The Cabin in the Woods, Whedon has never created a character that is anything less than compelling, a rule that still applies, even to a cast as large and star-studded as this. Interestingly (and wisely), this doesn't feel like Joss Whedon's The Avengers. This realy does feel like Marvel's The Avengers, with Joss's cherry on top. The characters still match perfectly with their prevous cinematic versions. The character development is so strong, in fact, that in battle, none of the characters feel like more superpowered thugs; they are actual people, fighting for their lives and humanity.

Of course, superhero movies aren't usually known for their characters. The special effects department really outdoes itself in this film. From the netherregions of outer space to the showdown between Iron Man and Thor, visually the film never fails to dazzle. The action sequences are filmed and edited with a sort of grace, with Whedon's signature shaky-cam and midshot zooms thrown in occasionally for good measure. Unlike most movies, the action scenes are not edited in quick shots. The camera rotates around our heroes as they kick extraterrestrial ass, and various other tachniques are employed to keep action shots as long as possbile. Though unconventional, this ensures that the action is just as absorbing as the dialogue, and works well to this effect, allowing both of those aspects to support each other. This attribute is extremely hard to come by in movies, but where you can find it, treasure it.

Upon leaving this film (which I only did after the final credits had rolled), many of those leaving with me were laughing and talking animatedly about this film, recallign various ecenes and how the quality fared in relation to other comic book films. My opinion is that this is the second-greatest one of the bunch, second only to The Dark Knight (story and thematic depth beat witty banter and numerous explosions any day). However, for those simply looking to be entertained, right now, you simply can't do any better than this.

12 Years a Slave

British director Steve McQueen (not that one) has made three movies, each being harder to watch than the last. He takes subjects that inherently feature as showcases of man's potential cruelty. His last film, Shame, featured Michael Fassbender as a man for whom the act of sex holds no appeal, no matter how he tried to rectify it. 12 Years a Slave, though not as painful, is no less powerful. As with Shame, it features an incredible lead performance, this time by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He plays Solomon Northup, a born-free black man who was kidnapped off the streets of Washington D.C. and sold into slavery.

In addition to the performances, the main stars are the art direction and score. McQueen has a clear eye for striking imagery, but only when he finds time for it amidst the atrocity. Hans Zimmer, the composer who made his name with The Dark Knight and Inception, brings just the right amount of menace to the film's soundtrack, and ends up as one of his more understated works. So while 12 Years is certainly not for everyone, it's something everyone should see.

Thor: The Dark World

The first Thor film was something of an oddity, possessing much more of a comedic element than Marvel's other cinematic offerings. This gave it personality, and made it the better of Marvel's two 2011 films (the other being Captain America). The sequel, though by no means lacking in the laughs department, takes a darker approach to the continuity, with considerably more action than its predecessor. The acting is still commendable across the board, but it is Tom Hiddleston who delivers the breakout performance, perfectly showcasing the pent-up rage Loki has against the world that has exiled him.

This time, Asgard is under seige by an ancient enemy known as the Dark Elves. The action has a sort of stormtroopers-vs.-Ewoks vibe, as the Dark Elves cut down the sword-wielding Asgardians with energy-based projectile weapons. While it's obvious that Asgard will not be destroyed this early in the storyline, it does indicate that forthcoming Marvel tales might not be as light as they were in the past.

Ender's Game
Ender's Game(2013)

The novel this film adapted is seen a classic, considered by some to be the greatest science fiction novel of all time. The last time I read it, I was too young to really understand what was going on, so when the movie was announced, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look into the story again.

Though the film is no classic, it's held up by solid writing and performances. While Hailee Steinfeld is a bit disappointing (never thought I'd say that), Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford remain eminently watchable, both bringing the appropriate amount of charisma to their respective roles. It's also well directed, and you can see director Gavin Hood invisibly manipulating the sometimes dozens of characters and objects on screen with a delicate deftness.

While Card's story shines through, the transition from pages to the screen feels a bit haphazard. The plot is rushed along, hurrying through dialog in order to reach the occasionally drawn-out action sequences. It's by no means incoherent, but more focus on the characters (and perhaps a longer run time) could have gone a long way.


Just because the themes present in Stephen King's debut novel are timeless doesn't mean that they should be presented in multiple films. Brian DePalma's 1976 version is generally considered to be a horror classic, so director Kimberly Pierce had a lot to live up to.

The new version does do a few things differently, the best example being the renewed focus on Carrie. The 70s adaptation paid equal attention to all sides, which resulted in insufficient time to actually get to know Carrie as a character. The remake does not make the same mistake. While there are of course some scenes that focus on her antagonistic classmates, all events of importance are seen squarely through Carrie's eyes. A little extra character development goes a long way here. The fact that Chloe Moretz delivers a better performance than Sissy Spacek doesn't hurt, either.

That being said, the pre-prom drama is simply not as compelling as the original, despite the more focused screenplay. I quickly found myself growing bored, impatiently tapping my foot in anticipation of the defining moment. But once that moment is reached, the film truly outdoes itself. But by then, it's too little, too late.

Captain Phillips

It seems that director Paul Greengrass has a singular gift that hugely benefits his decision to stay exclusive to the thriller genre. That is that he uses a shaky-cam style of cinematography with traditional cameras to create the illusion that Hollywood (and by extension, us) is there in the middle of the events. It draws you inextricably into the film, almost making you part of it. It's a trick that has never failed him.

But what makes Captain Phillips such an extraordinary thriller is how much attention is paid to the villains. Newcomer Barkhad Adbi delivers a great performance as Muse, the leader of the pirates. He is shown as being out of his depth, and once the hijacking of the ship goes awry, he is not angry, but afraid. There are those back home who would see him dead if he returns anything less than filthy rich. So when Phillips offers him the entirety of cash on the ship ($30,000), Muse knows why that is insufficent. This leads to a relentlessly intense film that escalates to a standoff between a small US Navy fleet and the four pirates in a lifeboat. It is the best thriller to be released in years.


Many blockbusters, no matter how good or bad they are, rarely feel at all personal. Gravity, however, is different. It's a feat of technical wizardry, of course, but setting the film in space was quite possibly the only way for director Alfonso Cuaron to tell the story he wanted to tell.

Cuaron doesn't present space as a place of infinite possibility like Star Wars. He doesn't define it by the danger it might hold, like Ridley Scott did in Alien. Instead, he does something ingenious: he uses space as a blank canvas; a completely neutral background on which he paints his characters in vivid detail. After a while, the fact that the characters aren't even on Earth simply stops registering, and elegantly gives way to various situations that test the astronauts' capabilities to their limits.

Gravity is a remarkable achievement, and one of the year's best. There are more technically advanced movies in 2013. Some are also smarter. But none have yet achieved such a perfect balance of the two.


Prisoners is not a film that you leave saying "that was a good time." After a few minutes of tranquility, it becomes relentlessly bleak, quickly making the leap from a nice Thanksgiving dinner to detective work, torture, and suicide in a disturbingly deft fashion. Prisoners reminded me of the old David Fincher films, of the ilk of Fight Club and Se7en, with gradually unraveling plotlines told through cold and subdued cinematography.

In a few ways, this is really just another thriller; a multitude of shots of people frantically hurrying about, and an antagonist's motivation that comes off as laughable. But there are plenty of movies that put tired cliches to good use, and Prisoners is one of them. In spite of all this, there is a handful of great performances at work, with Jackman in particular portraying a man barely holding on with chilling efficacy. It's not without its share of blemishes, and plays it a bit too safe in its depiction of the subject matter, but Prisoners is a dread-inducing, pure thriller with enough twists and turns to satisfy.

Insidious: Chapter 2

I believe that part of what made the first Insidious such a talking point was that noone saw it coming. Like Paranormal Activity before it, it came out with a minimalist advertising campaign that only showed enough to get people interested. However, standards have changed since then, and on the heels of the director's The Conjuring comes Insidious: Chapter 2, charged with the unenviable task of shouldering the weight of its predecessors.

The main fault of the first Insidious film was that it got more unbelievable and less scary as it went on, culminating in a kinda ridiculous final act taking place in purgatory as imagined by overexcited horror buffs. Chapter 2 is at least more consistent in its quality and believability, with no jarring shifts like the one described above. However, what is has in consistency and story, it lacks in scares. While there are certainly some chilling moments, they are nowhere near as frequent as they were inthe first film. This is somewhat disappointing, because James Wan is certainly capable of packing a higher number of scares into the same length of time. And with more subtlety.


Almost a decade has passed since Vin Diesel last inhabited his starmaking role, the insanely tough, incredibly dangerous ex-con Richard B. Riddick. 2000's Pitch Black kicked off the series (and its lead's career) with an entertaining, if derivative, sci-fi horror flick. 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick, while visually striking, was neutered with its PG-13 rating and bafflingly incoherent storyline. This third entry gets back to basics, and in some ways feels almost like a reboot of Pitch Black, and one that comes with all the pros and cons that distinction implies.

This time around, Riddick has been abandoned on an unnamed planet that is teeming with dangerous creatures that sleep by day and hunt by night. In a bid to get offworld, he activates a distress beacon, hoping to steal one of the investigating ships. Of course, bounty hunters arrive first, and what ensues is a claustrophobic mash-up of Mexican standoffs, hard stares, and bloody carnage. Like Pitch Black, the story here is minimal, action maximum. If this appeals to you, check it out. If not, simply don't bother.

The World's End

After seven years, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have returned to finish the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy. Starting in 2004 with Shaun of the Dead and continuing with 2006's Hot Fuzz, the beloved series has finally come full circle. But was the wait worth it? In short, yes. Like its predecessors, The World's End is gleefully violent, distinctly British, and thoroughly entertaining.

The film follows five friends who choose to retry a pub crawl they attempted two decades prior, only to find the town they come back to infested by robots. What follows is a disarmingly emotional and funny film whose writing puts any modern American "comedy" to shame. The chemistry between the large number of cast members really sells the idea that they have been friends for thirty-plus years. The result of all this is a film that starts out hilarious, before taking a darker turn in the middle, and concluding in a spectacular fashion - and never slows down. I left the theater immensely satisfied - and with the thought that I might have seen the best film of the summer.

You're Next
You're Next(2013)

At one point in You're Next, a character gets a crossbow bolt through his left shoulder blade. Blood soaks his shirt as the other characters frantically try to stop the bleeding and debate whether or not to put it out. During all this, the audience, myself included, is laughing and clapping.

Rather than being sadists, this was just a group or horror fans, who (probably) weren't laughing at the pain the characters were being subjected to. Director Adam Wingard manages to infuse so much raw energy into the proceedings that it's almost impossible not to be intoxicated by it. This is made even more remarkable by the fact that the film tends to take its time. Plot twists and kills are doled out with equal restraint; it would be all to easy to simply pile one on top of the other until the script has exhausted itself. Though the film follows standard home-invasion tropes, it manages to not take itself too seriously. It's not the scariest, or even the bloodiest, horror film of the year, but it's sure as hell one of the most entertaining to come along in a good while.

Lee Daniels' The Butler

The Butler is probably the most hyped film of the year. People started paying attention when it was announced that Oprah would play a major role, and it only went uphill from there, with an all-star cast including Terrence Howard, Alan Rickman, Robin Williams, and John Cusack, to name a few. This, along with the director of 2008's Precious, set the stage for a film that many assumed was destined for greatness.

They were right and wrong. In many respects, this is one of the best films of the year. The performances (for the most part) are impeccable, and does more than any other aspect of the movie to draw you into one of the most volatile periods in American history. On the other hand, the script seems to constantly leapfrog between genuinely touching and laughably cliche, leaving the film in the uncomfortable position of being unintentionally at odds with itself. Overall, while this movie will surely walk away with a good number of nominations, whether or not it has earned them is, unfortunately, highly debatable.

2 Guns
2 Guns(2013)

In the world of today's action movies, one has to do something different to stand out. While the chemistry between the two leads is certainly solid enough, it's insufficient to support the entire film, which comes alarmingly close to buckling underneath the number of cliches it employs.

Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington play a pair of guys who are skilled in the art of killing and are completely interchangeable. Sure, one works for the DEA and the other for the military, but that doesn't change the fact that the differences between the two are literally skin-deep, though their banter is often witty and entertaining enough to be noteworthy.

Now, the plot. This is where things start to slide. The events depicted in the film all hinge around a single important one: the duo robs a bank in order to destabilize a drug cartel. While this sounds simple enough, it quickly escalates into a jumbled mishmash of conspiracy, double-crossing, and third (and fourth, and fifth) parties trying to get their hands on the dough. Try to follow along, and it is all to easy to lose track as to who's who amid the bullets and threatening stares.

The Wolverine

The X-Men series has had more than its fair share of ups and downs, with quality ranging from near-embarassing to a shining example of the genre. With Hugh Jackman's Wolverine being the most well-known character from the franchise, this is the second film focusing exclusively on him. The first of these, Origins, gave little to no insight into Wolverine's character, instead opting to stand back and observe the man going through the motions that many superhero origin stories require.

The Wolverine, directed by 3:10 to Yuma's James Mangold, is in many ways at the opposite end of the spectrum. Taking place after the events of 2006's The Last Stand, Logan is haunted by the memory of Jean Grey, the love he was forced to kill at the end of that film. The fact that Wolverine does not age is fairly common knowledge, and here it is explored more as a curse than a blessing.

This is all well and good, but The Wolverine takes something of a nosedive in the last half-hour, which sees the plot almost spiral out of control with a final revelation that left a bitter taste. The rest of the film, however, remains a satisfyingly introspective take on one of cinema's most well-known superheroes.

The Conjuring

A good psychological horror film requires a very delicate balance of most of the major film disciplines (writing, directing, cinematography, etc.); tip that balance even a little, and the whole thing can collapse. Despite some hokey dialogue, James Wan's The Conjuring is a gorgeous, low key frightfest that is guaranteed to induce feelings of unease and dread.

The actual premise is nothing new: a family, terrorized by a spirit of possibly demonic origin, enlists the help of paranormal detectives (or demonologists, ghost hunters, or kooks) to rid themselves of their torment. While the fact that The Conjuring is based on a true story adds a bit of weight to the proceedings, it is not enough to counteract the blandness of the plot or the sometimes corny dialogue.

That said, all the major flaws of this film have now been covered. Virtually everything else about it, from the precise direction and incredible cinematography to the outstanding set design and haunting imagery, is world-class, making The Conjuring a landmark in modern psychological horror.


With Pixar losing steam with each film it puts out, the playing field is more level than ever for competition to fill the gap left by the once-great animation giant. Unfortunately, despite its imaginative premise, Turbo is simply too flawed to succeed where Pixar failed, failing serve up anything more than tired jokes and animation cliches.

One thing that animation has to have a lot of is action, otherwise it being an animated film is rather unnecessary. And while there are of course a few snail races, too much time is given over to dialogue and lame jokes, all of which could have been accomplished without the use of CGI. Every characteristic about a snail one could think of is used as the butt of some joke or bout of ridicule, from eye stalk length to shell size and pattern, and none are very funny. And while the voice acting is competent (Samuel L. Jackson is as distinctive as ever), there's nothing this film does that's notably good or bad. It's a thoroughly average snail tale that, while it will appeal to the child demographic, offers nothing of interest to any other.

Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim(2013)

Whenever Guillermo Del Toro directs a film, chances are that it will be noticed. In the past, he was best known for his pair of Hellboy movies and the masterful Pan's Labyrinth. However, the former were kind of like buddy cop movies crossed with Lord of the Rings, while the latter was an intimate, character driven fantasy and coming-of-age film. In his entire career, Del Toro has never made anything like this.

The premise is simple: gargantuan, extradimensional monsters are laying waste to the world's coastal population centers. To fight back, humanity creates equally large robots to push the beasts back. It really doesn't get much more basic than than that.

Clearly, this is not a film meant to be analyzed or possess some deeper meaning. All it is - and all it delivers - are old-school thrills meant to fulfill a 12-year-old's greatest fantasy. As such, the characters are strictly one-dimensional, caricatures copied and pasted from a thousand other movies. While some may find this off-putting, keep in mind that the characters are not the focus of the film. That position belongs to the robots, monsters, and scenes involving robots fighting monsters. And to that end, this film is an unqualified success.

Evil Dead
Evil Dead(2013)

Well, the moment that Deadites have been waiting for for years is finally here, and everyone's wondering: does the remake (produced by none other than Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert) live up to the high standard set by the original two films from over twenty-five years ago?

The answer: Hell yes.

The plot and setup is nothing new; a small group of young adults visit an abandoned cabin, and unleash an evil presence from a book they find therein. And yet, because this is a reimagining of the film that pretty much started this trend in the first place, the generic-ness of the plot is entirely forgivable. The filmmakers were not trying to reinvent the wheel with this one. However, one thing that people seem to constantly be misunderstanding is that the remake was never trying to copy and paste The Evil Dead (humor and all) into a modern setting. Fans of the original can claim otherwise all they want, but the 1981 film featured undeniably humorous undertones, whether intentional of not. And this masterfully executed remake has been heavily criticized for not doing the same.

What is commendable about Fede Alvarez's feature debut is that it takes itself as seriously as it does. There are no geysers of blood erupting from the architecture, no possessed hands smashing dishes into the heads of their former owners. Instead, the film ops to make itself as realistic as its story and subject matter allows. For example, these are not five happy-go-lucky kids going on a "vacation" to a remote cabin in a desolate forest. Instead, there are four normal people there to support a fifth, who recently lost her mother and has become a drug addict. The entire cast does a pretty good job, but the breakout member is Jane Levy (who plays Mia, the lead character), expertly infusing desperation into a performance that is truly remarkable.

And yet, despite the commendable performances, I hardly think anyone is buying a ticket because of the actors involved. No, Evil Dead fans are the target audience, and one of the things the original was famous for is being one of the goriest movies ever made (for its time, at least), and the new Evil Dead continues that grand tradition. I believe that this film's level of violence is as high as can be without veering into over-the-top territory. Truly horrific things are done to the human body, many of which are guaranteed to make you cringe, and all brought to life by what are easily some of the best makeup and gore effects ever put to film. No CGI here, folks, only good old fashioned practical effects that are utterly, terrifyingly convincing. Just to give you a small taste of what one can expect, there is a scene in which a howling, possessed girl is set on fire by her sobbing father, who tops it off by exploding her head with a shotgun. All this occurs within the first five minutes of the film, perhaps a way to prepare audiences both physically and mentally for the atrocities that lie ahead.

Finally, the plot deserves to get a word in edgewise. While there is one major contrivance, it is certainly a plausible event, given what had happened prior to it. Other than that, there is little depth here, though there is certainly more backstory than there was in the original. Ever since the first teaser was released, certain shot have had people questioning its status as a remake, and whether or not it may in fact be a sequel to the 1981 original. I can say this: aside from a tiny handful of visual nods (as well as the very familiar-looking cabin), this is still a debatable question, and one that I am sure will be answered in the already-confirmed sequels.

So, the verdict. It's possible that some might wonder why I didn't give this a higher score. Well, I don't really think the film earned it. Deserved it? Possibly. But I am trying to be as objective as possible, so it gets what it gets. I will say that, as a big Evil Dead fan, that this film gave me exactly what I wanted. It neither exceeded nor fell victim to my expectations. It's a rare thing that a film delivers exactly what you want out of it, but Evil Dead did. This is a must see.

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas(2012)

Many, when it was announced that the 2004 novel Cloud Atlas was getting a film, cried out how "unfilmable" said novel was. Well, unfilmable or not, it has happened. The Wachowskis have teamed up with famed German writer/director Tom Tykwer to deliver what is unquestionably one of the most ambitious films ever produced. It stretches a single ensemble cast across six separate stories, which run the gamut from comedy to horror, from romance to hard sci-fi, and take place from the late 19th century to the mid 24th. That sentence alone should give you some idea of what kind of film this is.

What I could also tell you is that each of the six stories is absolutely enthralling, and the connections between them tenuous (with one exception, which makes itself obvious during the film). I could also say that somewhere along the way, I ceased my attempts to connect the dots, and slipped into a kind of trance, in which I simply witnessed the film in front of me rather than think about it. This is a movie of breathtaking scope and awesome imagination, of fine acting and seamless technical quality. Looking at it only skin deep, this is nothing less than a masterpiece.

However, penetrate any further and you will need to think, and think hard, about what is transpiring on the screen before you. You will need to understand, though not believe, some fundamental qualities of spirituality to appreciate some of the film's many messages and ideas. This is a movie that begs to be interpreted, dissected, and analyzed. And the viewers who find it rich and artful will be matched only by those who see it as pretentious and impenetrable.

However, whichever side you take, you will find something to enjoy, be it the sumptuous art direction, the thematic depth, or the commendable performances. Whether this film is good or bad is all but irrelevant. Once you leave the theater, know that you have witnessed what is possibly the most important film of the year. In a year when movies like Paranormal Activity 4, The Avengers, and Taken 2 are topping the box office, here is one blockbuster that dares to break new ground. And that is, indeed, something to be celebrated.


I've never thought much of Ben Affleck. He was in that awful Daredevil movie, Armageddon, and Paycheck. All in all, not exactly the greatest resume for any actor. But then he made The Town, and my opinion changed dramatically. Here was a well-written, smart, suspenseful action thriller set in my native Boston that also happened to be the best heist movie in years. But I thought it was just a fluke then. Argo proves, without a shadow of doubt, that not only is Affleck capable of acting, but of directing as well. And not only does he pull off a feat of Hitchcockian suspense, but he makes what just might be the best film of the year.

Argo takes place in 1979 during the Iran Hostage Crisis, during which the U.S. Embassy was stormed by political extremists and all but six Americans taken hostage for over eighteen months. The film follows Tony Mendez (Affleck), a CIA extraction specialist charged with escorting the six out of Iran safely. He ultimately chooses to create a fake film, and cast the six Americans as some of the production crew. From this point forward, the suspense is continuous, somehow never, ever pausing for a breath. The crew nearly starts a riot for photographing a storefront. A political protest blocks their only exit. The pictures of the six are reassembled by the Iranians, and are recognized to be missing. One of the men can't remember his fake credentials. The entire operation is cancelled while Mendez and co. are still in Iran. Not even the occasional jab at the Hollywood mentality can lighten what is a heavily emotional film.

The writing is absolutely superb as well. Each character is a fully realized human being, with hopes, fears, and doubts about their survival. Each one reacts differently to their situation, a remarkable feat that makes each one a unique character, rather than a bunch of differently-colored flags that must be returned to base. In addition to simply being a superb experience, the historical aspect is very well realized. This is not a film about the Iranian Hostage Crisis; this is a film IN the Hostage Crisis, right down to the smallest details, from the post-Star Wars sci-fi craze to Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.

Of course, I will not reveal whether or not the entire caper succeeds, but know that there as much hope as doubt throughout the picture, making success and failure seem equally plausible. Political thrillers everywhere have a higher bar to leap. Trust me when I say this, people: this is a good one.


Too often now, science fiction means a futuristic setting populated by millions of computer-generated pixels, with storytelling taking second fiddle to visuals. Rian Johnson, however, knows how to tell a story, and this shows in every second of his newest flick, Looper, a smart, time-traveling action film that embraces the inherent impossibilities of time travel and uses them to tell a surprisingly compelling tale This film is something else.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, a hit man for the 2070s mob who kills his victims by ambushing them after they travel backwards thirty years in time to 2044. Of course, this all changes when his future self (Bruce Willis) arrives from the future, looking for the infant version of a future tyrant called the Rainmaker. More than this, I will not reveal, as the way the story and dialogue unfold deserve to be left unspoiled for any potential viewer.

A very cool dilemma, though, is explored in the event in the film of "closing the loop." If Old Joe came back from the future, doesn't that mean that he's already experienced these events? Never mind. As he says in a restaurant, "I don't want to talk about time travel. We'd be here for hours drawing diagrams with straws." And that they would. But somehow, the screenplay almost manages to avoid the idea of time paradoxes altogether, but remains complex enough to allow viewers to figure out the story as it goes along. Very few films can keep you guessing the whole way through, but Looper pulls it off effortlessly.

Unfortunately, there's really not too much to say about this film without going into the story, but it is filled with colorful characters, high-octane action, and one of the smartest sci-fi scripts ever written. If you're a fan of smart science fiction, you owe it to yourself to see this film. There's really not much like it.


I haven't seen the original Judge Dredd, but it's apparently awful. Stallone isn't wearing the helmet on the cover of the DVD, it's not very violent, and is just overall absurd. Apparently. Dredd is the polar opposite. It's one of the most violent films I have ever seen, doesn't pretend to be what is isn't, can be truly funny when it wants to be, and is extremely impressive visually. This is a film meant to entertain, and, as long as you can stomach it, will do exactly that for each of its ninety-six minutes.

Dredd (portrayed by Karl Urban's chin wearing the iconic helmet), couldn't embody totalitarianism any more if he tried. The first criminal he "tries," he gives two choices: life in jail or a bullet to the head. He cannot be negotiated with, does not show pity or remorse, and and can kill scores of men without hesitation in the name of the law. This, of course, never changes throughout the film, so it is down to a young psychic (Olivia Thirlby) to be the arc-worthy character. While it is somewhat interesting to see her go from guilt-ridden young girl to killing machine, that's not hat this movie is here for.

What it's here for is to provide audiences with some of the most brutally spectacular action ever seen in cinema. The plot is as follows: Dredd and co. vs. an entire skyscraper's worth of bad guys. Said bad guys are in the business of distributing a drug called "slow-mo," which does exactly as its name suggests. This provides a good excuse for some absolutely beautiful slow-mo shots of everything from water splashing to heads exploding. After the first half-hour or so, the film becomes little more than a visually arresting ballet of blood and bullets. This is an action film in the truest sense, and nothing more.

There's really not that much left to say about it. If you can't stomach gore, don't even consider going. If you don't find spectacular violence entertaining, don't consider going. If neither of these apply to you, you won't be disappointed.

The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne trilogy was a masterful trio of films, each one featuring a great many spectacular yet plausible action sequences woven together by an engrossing storyline. The Bourne Legacy, co-written and directed by series writer Tony Gilroy, reverses that relationship, trading action for dialogue and vice versa. The first forty-five minutes or so consist mostly of exposition for a plot that tries to say too much in the time it is given.

I like to think that I am good at following narratives. However, having not seen any of the previous Bourne films recently, I admit that I knew what was happening, but not why. The whole film feels like an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle; however absorbed you may be in the process of assembling it at first, you gradually realize that some of the pieces don't quite fit together, and you wind up feeling frustrated. All this story needed was a few more connecting threads, and this could been another solid entry in this exemplary series.

While the story is a bit weak, the actors are certainly not. Jeremy Renner, though lacking Matt Damon's charm, pulls off his finest performance since The Hurt Locker. With his rugged looks and toughness, he fits his role perfectly, appearing every inch the genetically enhanced action hero he is. Rachel Weisz plays a doctor partially responsible for the genetic manipulations performed on Cross (Renner) and his associates, who require pills to keep themselves enhanced, lest they degrade both mentally and physically. It is this possibility that keeps Cross on the run, due to his need to acquire more of these pills, and the decision by higher-ups to terminate the program employing both him and Dr. Shearing (Weisz) in light of the events of the preceding trilogy.

These attempts to tie up the program's loose ends make up the best aspects of the film. The action scenes, particularly those involving Cross beating the hell out of baddies, is incredibly visceral, with pitch-perfect fight choreography and involving, if over-stretched, chase scenes. If there had been more of this sort of thing within the two-and-a-quarter hour runtime, this could have been something special. As it is, this film over-exposes one of the better storylines in Hollywood. Maybe the sequel will clear things up, but in the meantime, it's regrettable that well enough just couldn't be left alone.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight was the perfect superhero movie. I have seen pretenders to the throne come and go. Watchmen tried, but got lost in its unoriginality. Chronicle couldn't match the scale, and The Avengers wasn't nearly mature enough. The Dark Knight Rises does not usurp its predecessor. How could it? With Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance, impossible moral conundrums, brilliant screenplay, and crime epic sensibilities, it simply cannot be topped in the foreseeable future. What Rises does accomplish, however, is just as impressive: it is a worthy successor. Expectations were higher than Everest for Christopher Nolan's final depiction of The Caped Crusader. And they have been met.

The Dark Knight began with gunshots, which never ceased until the final frame. It was an expertly paced thrill ride. This is the main, and possibly only, weakness of Rises; it saves most of its action mojo for the final hour. While there are some truly adrenaline-pumping scenes early on, the beginning is mostly spent on remarkably involving, intercharacter drama. Quite a bit of it involves two of the new characters. Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), an integral member of Wayne Enterprises, is practically forced onto Wayne by Alfred and Fox. She holds his company (and Wayne himself) together when it is a hair's breadth away from bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Catwoman (Anne Hathaway, whose sexiness in this film cannot be overstated) juggles a few difficult tasks herself. She acts as Batman's love interest and part time nemesis, and steals trinkets (including Wayne's mother's necklace) to make her living. She also represents the 99 percent, fitting into the economic statements presented a bit heavy-handedly in the film. While not handled as deftly as it could have been, it works in terms of the story Nolan and co. are trying to tell, and is sufficiently close to home to infuse a disturbing undercurrent into the proceedings.

Bruce Wayne has exiled himself from Gotham, to protect the lie that hold the city together. It is truly sad to see what has become of him in the eight years between the last film and now. It makes you worry for him. And said worry is well founded. This is not a happy film, despite what the title might imply. Many people die, some of them key figures in the story. Old friendships are tested, and a few shattered. Hope is lost and found. And Batman's spine is snapped by Bane (Tom Hardy), a villain whose brute strength is matched only by his utter relentlessness. While of course no match for Heath Ledger's Joker, Hardy does a good (and decipherable) job of portraying his character. Bane has no moral dilemmas in store for Batman. His only goal is to torture the Dark Knight by razing Gotham to the ground. This he does in many a memorable scene, the best of which involves a football stadium and several tons of explosive. Further discussion of the story will venture into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that there are plenty of callbacks to prior films that tie the narrative up quite nicely.

The technical quality of the production is superb. Nolan's love of practical effects, rather than CGI, is well known, and there are countless instances where CGI could have been employed without much consequence. However, the use of real objects and people brings a visceral physicality to the film that cannot be denied. In IMAX, a large-scale showdown between police, prison escapees, Bane, and Batman makes for something truly unforgettable. As the city is gradually reduced to anarchy, the palpably desperate tone never falters, and is sustained by the knowledge that, for good or ill, this is the end. And what an end.

The Dark Knight Rises somehow feels unlike either of its predecessors. The sheer scale of the action scenes and pure seriousness of the drama ensure that it feels unique. And while the perfection of The Dark Knight may never be matched, Rises succeeds enough on its own terms to stand proudly alongside its older brother. There are no over-the-top truck flips here, no maniacal clown threatening to expose Batman's true identity. This film is Christopher Nolan's answer to the question he asked seven years ago in Batman Begins, and I now pose to you: Why do we fall?

The Amazing Spider-Man

Reboots/remakes are very controversial (let alone common) in Hollywood these days. Some of them have been welcomed (Star Trek, Casino Royale), and others not (Let Me In). The Amazing Spider Man, a reboot of the franchise begun by Sam Raimi's 2002 film, is one of the latter. Many critics seem predisposed to disregard this film, given the extremely positive response the original received. A similar thing happened when Let Me In first premiered: do we really need this movie, when the original was both great and relatively recent? The answer, of course, is no. But the fact remains that it exists, so critics should leave their grudges behind and concentrate on the film itself.

Sam Raimi's version made light work of Peter Parker's transformation. Sure, the general concepts were in place; he gets bitten by a mutant spider, develops superhuman powers (though he cannot generate the webs himself in this version), and sees Uncle Ben get gunned down. And really, that was about it. Marc Webb, known for his well-handled rom-com 500 Days of Summer, imbues Spidey's origins with considerable depth and humanity. When Parker discovers his uncle's killer sports a tattoo, he pins any crook he can find to the wall to check if they're the right one. The chief of police points out that Spider Man doesn't seem to have any agenda, and is nothing more than a vigilante. After this, Peter seemingly decides that he can do far more than simply take vengeance, and decides to take on the real menace, The Lizard.

Of Sam Raimi's trilogy, the best villain was Doc Ock, from Spider Man 2. As a character, he was fascinating, and brilliantly acted by Alfred Molina. The Lizard, whose human form is portrayed by Rhys Ifans, is little more than a miniaturized Godzilla with a plan. While Ifans plays his part quite well, The Lizard is simply not as charismatic or terrifying as Ock was. Like DOc Ock, however, The Lizard (AKA Curt Connors) is a sympathetic villain, with (initially) benign intentions that are completely understandable, and enough to pity him by the end of the film.

Peter's love interest is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a smart, pretty, resourceful young woman who also happens to be the daughter of the police chief. She and Parker (Andrew Garfield) share excellent chemistry in their interactions, which director Webb exploits to its fullest potential. Their romance seems many times more genuine than that between Parker and Mary Jane from Raimi's trilogy. Parker himself is just as likeable, and far more unsure of himself. In this version, he stutters sometimes, and seems like the type of socially awkward nerd stereotype that everyone seems know someone like. It makes him easier to relate to, and thus easier to accept as a character, adding immeasurably to the film's human side.

The other side of the film, of course, is the CGI-driven action. Sam Raimi, employed his signature style to his action, meaning that everything was complete chaos. Entertaining to be sure, but not always easy to follow. Webb anchors everything firmly in the realm of possibility (or at least as close as it can get), and there are no crazy gadgets flying through the air this time. Now, it's only Spider Man, the cops, and The Lizard. It all feels much more efficient and streamlined as a result, and becomes all the more thrilling because of it.

Overall, I would recommend the reboot over the original, but only just. Sam Raimi may not have handled the dialogue and story as well, but is much more confident and fluid in the action space. When the inevitable sequel comes around, Webb might be able to take more risks with the web-sliging and baddy-wrangling, but until then, this is a very good film that no Spidey fan, casual or otherwise, should pass up.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Timur Bekmambetov is one of the most visually focused directors currently working. All three of his most famous preceding films are shining examples of style over substance, and featured cars driving on the sides of skyscrapers and shots following curving bullets through the air. While their stories and characters could never match the sumptuous eye candy, his style has never failed him. Similarly to his World of Watches films (which involved a war between good and evil over a piece of chalk), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a movie that many could be forgiven for labeling as pulpy fun at best.

Incredible title aside, Vampire Hunter takes itself and its bloodthirsty antagonists quite seriously. There are no attempts at limp comic relief, no Lincoln casually spewing the words for which he is known, and (almost) no sexy bloodsuckers. Our sixteenth president dispatches his opponents with swift, gory efficiency, all the while looking cool while doing it. Many fight scenes manage to touch all four walls of a room (and occasionally the ceiling) before the final silver-riddled corpse hits the ground. Each major encounter tops the last, culminating in a truly spectacular clash aboard a moving train.

Of course, the entire film cannot be axes spitting skulls, and it is in these other areas that the film stumbles. Young Lincoln witnesses his mother's death at the hands of a vampire, and is taken under the wing of veteran vampire killer Henry Sturgess to learn the coveted art. Henry explains that the life of a hunter does not leave room for attachments or relationships. Lincoln, though, falls in love with and marries Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Their interactions would be more meaningful if they were better written. Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the screenplay adapted from his own novel, does not imbue his characters with much humanity. Sure, Lincoln shows emotion and wears grim expressions, but he might as well be the Terminator. Winstead, despite delivering the best performance in the film, cannot enliven conversations by herself. Neither the acting nor the writing allow conversations to fascinate or resonate.

Now obviously, this film takes a few liberties with history. The south apparently consisted mostly of vampires, and slavery was nothing but a front to provide them with ample stockpiles of food. And the vampires were not fighting for their right to own slaves, but rather for the chance to establish an entire nation of bloodsuckers. How they would divvy up any unfortunate humans over an entire continent once that happened is anyone's guess. Also, Stephen Douglas is featured in the film, is capably played by Alan Tudyk, and is portrayed as being a pro-slavery activist. Douglas exists solely to provide the political Lincoln with an opponent, and is left feeling inconsequential as well as inaccurate.

To its credit, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is full of sound and fury where it counts. Blood and death are the orders of the day, and are delivered in satisfying bursts. However, interchangeable characters and wooden dialogue prevent it from becoming anything more than a competently stylish action-horror flick.


Many of the best science fiction, not just in film but in all media, uses its generally futuristic setting to ask fundamental questions about humanity, and what it has to do with something or another. And they usually answer these questions in their own way, and these answers can be either predictable, satisfying, or sometimes both, and in the worst cases the former but not the latter. Prometheus does not take any of these routes. It instead asks questions and leaves the answers up to the audience. There is no real payoff, which is both this film's saving grace and biggest weakness.

I will proceed to talk about the plot as little as possible, to avoid any spoilers. The plot itself is actually fairly formulaic. Guys fly a ship, guys find alien life, alien life fights back, guys die. Nothing special. However, the philosophical angle is what makes this film's story a unique one. It hearkens back to the days of truly intelligent sci-fi, such as 2001 and, yes, Alien. The film asks and seemingly answers the question "where did we come from?", but the question of where our makers came from is one that will have to be answered in the sequel. This is one of the tantalizing mysteries that Prometheus drops on us, and one that I cannot wait to find the truth of.

Seemingly knowing how important this film is to those who will be seeing it, the actors have put their all into their characters, who all have just enough personality to avoid seeming like androids with differences in their programming. The one who truly steals the show is Michael Fassbender, whose performance as David the android is one of the best I have seen in a science fiction film. His movements are fast and precise, making him truly feel like the artificial person he is. Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron both bring the necessary strength to remind viewers of Ripley, continuing the series' legacy of strong female leads.

Scott has stated numerous times that this film is not meant to be like Alien, but rather as a sort of companion piece set in the same universe. In this sense,the film succeeds brilliantly. The horror elements return in full force, and are still as squirm-inducing as they were three decades ago. The action takes place in some of the most gorgeously rendered and built sets I have ever seen in a film. This is a technically incredible, so much so that it almost overshadows the story the writers are trying to tell.

This film has the definite feel of a prelude to something bigger. This is not an especially good thing, as movies with this trait tend to end in a rather unsatisfying manner. The final scene feels too much like a bone Scott has thrown to rabid fans of his 1979 classic, and those unanswered questions do not help. Despite this, I left the theater feeling like I had seen the most intelligent sci-fi film to come along in some time, and for that, Prometheus deserves to be commended.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman is a very average film. What's frustrating is that it could have been a very good one but for a few aspects that manage to balance out all the best parts. I wasn't expecting anything Oscar-worthy, but the film almost never met what I had hoped for, which was not all that much to begin with.

The first things anyone will notice are the very, very good art direction and visual effects. As promised with the opening monologue, colors are rich and vivid, making the world look every inch the land where fairy tales are born. Blood is starkly crimson, and darkness is absolute. The lands Snow White's journey leads her to are marvels of design. The Dark Forest, with branches that turn to snakes and burnt-down, twisted aesthetic, brings to mind Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Surreal dangers lurk behind every tree and under every branch, creating suspense out of the desire to know what horror our heroine will confront next. The Enchanted Forest (I cannot recall the name used in the film) is the polar opposite. Fairies flutter in brilliant yellow comets, and mushrooms grow eyes to watch in awe as Snow White passes. These locales are the most memorable, but virtually every location looks pleasantly distinct.

The latter is inhabited by the eight surviving dwarves (they are eventually reduced to the familiar seven, thanks to a well-placed arrow), who could have played a larger, more involved role. I get that this isn't Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but these guys are seriously lacking, and suffer the most from the poor script. Of them all, only the one portrayed by Nick Frost conjures anything more than a shadow of a chuckle. In hindsight, they seem to have been a rather unnecessary addition to the film, though they gain a point or two by lending an important hand in the final battle. Prince William, Snow White's friend from childhood, is never really given enough time to feel at all important, despite his skill with a bow and arrow that is comparable to Legolas. And you would never know that the Queen's brother was just that unless it was stated so many times. He is treated more like a willing servant than her one surviving family member.

Which, finally, brings me to Snow White herself. Kristen Stewart does an adequate job, playing a stronger Snow White than is generally associated with the name. Relentlessly pursuing her is Queen Ravenna, whom Charlize Theron manages to craft into a superbly evil, beautiful villainess. The Queen commands an inventive supernatural arsenal, including the extremely well-done ability to summon clouds of sharpened black pieces of metal. She needs Snow White's beating heart in order to attain immortality, presumably so she can take over the world. She sends the Huntsman, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, to catch Snow White. Hemsworth works well with what he's given, but it's all too difficult to shake the image of Thor from one's mind when The Avengers is still going strong.

So far, the film is doing quite nicely. However, in the latter half, the screenplay, which had managed to not intrude upon proceedings up to that point, suddenly begins to stumble. A love triangle is introduced (though, thankfully, not elaborated or acted upon), a limp speech is delivered, and a vapid clash between the Queen's army and its opposition is fought and won. Somehow, every main character, with the exception of the Queen, loses much of their respect and investment, delivering lines that are offensively cliched. The film ends with the emotionless, inevitable crowning of Snow White as Queen, any triumphant air sucked away by the foreknowledge of this conclusion.

The film's ambition to subvert the image commonly associated with Snow White is admirable, and succeeds brilliantly at times. But the throwaway extra characters, predictable plot, and tremendously shallow screenplay manage to undermine that effort more than handily enough for me to come away disappointed.

The Cabin in the Woods

Modern gore horror is terrible. This is a general rule that, unfortunately, too many films have chosen to follow. And they all follow the same rules, such as who gets killed when, what kills them, and how graphically it is shown. No film as of yet has bothered to ask why, though.

Until The Cabin in the Woods, helmed by Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard, and written by Goddard and writer extraordinaire Joss Whedon. Together, they have created a horror film so fresh and original, that it, quite literally, manages to transcend its trappings and become a horror film unlike any other. The closest comparison is Scream, as it too told a tale of meta-horror, poking fun at all the horror film cliches while maniacally conforming to them. However, in a brilliant twist I won't spoil here, all the rules are turned upside down, making every other horror film seem pedestrian by comparison.

Of course, all the elements that are mocked are present in full force. Sexy teens go to a remote location, get drunk, have sex, get killed in a predictable order, etc. There's the jock, the bookworm, the promiscuous blonde, the innocent girl, and the smartass stoner (the latter portrayed by Dollhouse veteran Fran Kranz). They find a creepy cabin filled with one-way mirrors, dolls and latin inscriptions. Of course, said inscriptions must be read aloud, and brings upon the five friends a whole load of blood and misery. Ultimately, past the unconventional story, this is still a horror film. There will be jump scares, blood, and sex (though only briefly). So, if you're not into that sort of thing, this isn't the movie that'll change your mind.

However, for horror movie buffs, there is something for everyone here. Every single horror trope is mocked and employed to spectacular effect. Splitting up, having sex, reading ancient text, and warnings from old men are all here, and all have consequences that are, naturally, beyond our heroes' imaginations. Unfortunately, the only real thing left to talk about is the story, which I refuse to spoil. Overall, suffice it to say that The Cabin in the Woods is the best American horror film since Let Me In.


So many romance movies come out these days, and so many of them have characters, stories, and relationships that are hopelessly difficult to care about. Who could have guessed that James Cameron, known for highly visual works like Terminator and Aliens, would create what is in my mind unquestionably one of the greatest love stories ever? If I had gone into Titanic blind, I certainly wouldn't have.

I will get the few real flaws out of the way first. Leonardo DiCaprio, as great as he is in this film, is forced to yell commands to Rose a bit too much. And the 3D is a gimmick, nothing more. However, to my knowledge, this is the only way to experience this film in IMAX, so for me at least, wearing the glasses was well worth it. Though I'm sure I am overlooking some, that's about it for the bad. On to the good.

Firstly, I hope that the rerelease of this acclaimed film will remind directors of romantically-minded movies everywhere of how to do it right. James Cameron starts the film in the present day (or at least, it was when it was released), with an expedition to the titular wreck overseen by an enthusiastic explorer (Bill Paxton). He finds a bunch of papers in a safe on the ship, and restores a drawing of a young woman naked, wearing only a necklace. This sets into motion a series of events leading to a three hour long flashback detailing Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet, played in the "present" by Gloria Stuart), and her passionate relationship with Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). I could type for hours about how well-acted, emotional, and real this pair seems. I won't, but suffice it to say that all acting awards were well-deserved.

For the bare majority of the film, Jack and Rose are in the spotlight. The length of the film actually works to its advantage, because ample time is given to see how their relationship springs, wilts, and ultimately blossoms. Jack is a lower-class man, and even he makes no bones about it. Rose is from the opposite end of the spectrum, and hates it. Jack finds he about to commit suicide over her marriage forced on her by her mother. The moments the two share really sell their relationship, enough so that the audience becomes invested as well.

Class differences are an extremely prominent issue, brought up again and again. At one point, Rose reminds a frantic crewman that only half the ship's population can fit on the lifeboats. Her husband-to-be overhears this, and replies "the better half." The rich are not painted in a sympathetic light. They are arrogant, selfish, and terrible people that throw others off just to have themselves a little more space. Cameron goes this extra mile to ensure that we are sympathetic with Rose. She is forced to walk among these horrid humans, and finally, stumbles upon someone that treats her as an equal, and in an almost husband-like manner, as opposed to her stuck-up, borderline misogynistic fiancee.

After almost two hours of engaging, superb relationship-building, the inevitable iceberg looms. This, of course, is where James Cameron's signature technical brilliance kicks in in full force. Metal is torn asunder, flooding commences everywhere, and there are many grand exterior shots showing the Titanic going down. All of which are done with excellent special effects that look as real as any of the characters in the midst of them. This is also where the movie becomes incredibly, brutally honest about what probably happened once the ship began to sink. Hundreds are shown drowning and falling, including children. The rich shun the poor, literally kicking them off lifeboats. SOS signals are sent, and fireworks are launched. And, in what could be the greatest scene in the film, four string instrument players lament the catastrophe the only way they know how. And through it all, Rose and Jack find each other through the worst of it, and stay alive until the last possible moment.

James Cameron's work in this film is truly extraordinary. He is not known for crafting compelling characters or stories. However, in these respects, he succeeds brilliantly here. In modern romance films, characters and their tribulations are about as genuine as cardboard cutouts. Cameron has created a set, populated it with characters that fill it to the last inch, and bound it all together with great attention to artistic and technical detail.

Once the credits began rolling, I heard equal amounts of sniffling and clapping. I'm sure some were doing both. I know this because I was one of those people, blinking back tears while slamming my hands together until it hurt. I left trying to sort out what I liked most about it. I haven't yet decided, but I knew then and know now that I have seen a beautiful masterpiece from the unlikeliest of sources.

The Exorcist
The Exorcist(1973)

Definitely one of the world's better-known horror films, and deservedly so. Arguably the scariest movie of all time, with an unrelenting atmosphere, The Exorcist is truly a must-see for anyone looking to have the s**t scared out of them.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Let me get my opinion of the first Ghost RIder out of the way first: it was an okay film. Great effects, slightly-above-average acting, some crappy writing, and an okay story. It was not as bad as the Tomatometer would have you believe. There were some undeniably cool moments in the first film, such as the skyscraper scene and the battle in the ghost town. It was not the greatest comic book movie, but it was far from the worst.

The same cannot be said of Spirit of Vengeance. Virtually nothing that made the original any good has remained intact over the four intervening years. I hardly know where to begin.

Ah, I know. The one area that, if anything, should have been improved from the first: the special effects. In the first film, the effects had flair; they looked cool, and were often quite entertaining to watch in motion. The directors (Neveldine/Taylor, who directed the Crank films and Gamer) carry over their gritty looks from their prior films, and what results is almost hellishly ugly. The effects lack any charm or cleanliness; everything looks dirty, messy, and boring, rather than spectacular. As a result, the many action scenes lack any sort of punch or exhilarating qualities. There are not many effects-based action flicks that I can say have truly bad CGI, but here's one. Oh, and I hate the 3D gimmick as much as the next guy, but this is an insult to it. Almost every 3D movie is better in 2D (with one obvious exception), but the magnitude to which that is true here is unimaginable.

The characters are all moronically written (more on that later), to such a degree that I actually found myself wanting some of them to die. Nadya (portrayed by the fairly attractive Violante Placido) is an annoying bitch who was on my nerves halfway into her first scene. Danny (Fergus Riordan) is thoroughly unlikeable as Satan's son, and if I have to talk about Carrigan/Blackout or Satan himself, I'll be laughing too hard to keep writing.

The writing could also have used a facelift. Granted, the first film occasionally took itself too seriously, but the tone worked most of the time. The writers seemed to agree a bit too eagerly. Ghost Rider himself takes the brunt of this criticism. Nicholas Cage clearly tries to go along with it, and at times succeeds admirably. However, the constant groans ("When I saw you I thought I was still dreaming." "Are you having hallucinations?" "No. I'm flirting with you.") will grate on your nerves constantly. Even worse is the shattering of the fourth wall. The winks at the camera (or they would be, if Ghost Rider had eyelids) and accusations toward the audience of wrongdoing are neither funny nor necessary. By his very nature, Ghost Rider is a hero meant to be given a dark film, violent and grim. Tongue-in-cheek and flat-out stupid are not what should have been. I'm not even going to bother mentioning the story, with its total predictability and ending you could see for miles, or why Ghost Rider ends up in the hospital for being shot at. This movie is bad enough as it is.


Especially for a low-budget debut film and screenplay, Chronicle blew me away. This is a film that can stand proudly among other genre giants. Complex and perceptive, Chronicle is a superhero film that seems proud to bend the rules of its genre and filmmaking style to suit its needs.

Actually, more than anything, Chronicle is a psychological study, but more on that later. The characters (who aren't that different from anyone here) come first, and thankfully, all of them are very well-played by the young stars. Andrew, the main character, is a senior in high school who has a pretty bad life at first. Beaten by his father, bullied at school, and antisocial in nature, his cousin Matt and a camera are his only companions. He uses the latter to film his daily routine, such as watching a pep rally, going to school, and letting Matt drag him along to a party.

It is at this point that (spoiling nothing)the duo and their mutual friend Steve happen upon a hole in the ground, put there by a large, seemingly alive crystalline object that disrupts the camera feed and gives them telekinesis. For the next thirty minutes, there follow some of the funniest pranks anyone with telekinesis could pull (scaring a little girl with a floating teddy bear, pushing a car into a different parking space, etc.) However, giving away as little as possible, one of the three (guess which) begins to slowly use his powers for not-as-amicable reasons, including, in one incredibly disturbing scene, levitating a spider and severing all its legs at once. Wow.

However, the psychological aspect of the film is one that is almost creepily realistic, thanks in large part to the writer, Max Landis. The dialogue sounds almost exactly like what kids their age would actually say, as do their actions (brought to life with some great special effects). If you are in your late teens, it makes you wonder whether you would have used your power differently than the characters did. It is a great example of how, if one is pushed far enough fast enough, and is given the ability to deal with his problems in unimaginable ways, something will snap. And it does. It really does.

The final forty minutes or so are dark, chilling, and bleak. Josh Trank uses the found footage concept to great effect, with the rare knowledge that there is usually more than one camera in an area at a time. Cell phone cameras, security footage, and Andrew's camera are used to maximum effect, and the telekinesis gives the director a great excuse to use conventional film techniques with digital photography. Combined with the sparse but convincing effects, it never brings you out of the story or the experience, and never feels cheesy or overdone. And interestingly, the tonal shift near the middle feels to me like a reflection of superhero movies themselves. Before the year 2000, they almost never took themselves seriously, and were all melodrama and light shows without much depth. But recently, films like Watchmen, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man have given us looks at the dark depths beyond the colorful exterior their protagonists hide behind.

Prior to its release, I wanted this to be good, but just did not have the confidence that two industry rookies could do justice to the great ideas the film seemed to possess. I was glad to be proven wrong.


Steven Soderbergh is probably one of the most diverse filmmakers today. He has made disaster movies (Contagion), brought independent filmmaking into the mainstream, and made one of the best comedy-crime thrillers ever. Now, he has decided to take on the pure action genre, and has delivered a great example of it, especially for the film essentially being a vehicle for Gina Carano.

First off, the action itself. It really is unlike many action pictures nowadays. Not everything in the room gets smashed. There are no fancy, flashy fighting movies. It feels dirty, gritty, and painful, and is very involving. Unlike most movies where you know you are looking at special effects or wire-fu, this movie stars an actual MMA fighter who knows all this stuff anyway, making all of it seem that much more real.

Overall, a great cast, led by the surprisingly good Carano, gripping action, and just-over-competent storytelling makes this a very good action flick.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

A film like this is one that I find to be unusually difficult to review. In certain ways, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a truly great film, while little more than dramatic exploitation in others. I will attempt to break down this dichotomy as best I can, because I believe that is the only way I can fairly critique this movie.

The film begins with a funeral for Oskar's (Thomas Horn) father (Tom Hanks). Oskar's anger at the lack of an occupant of the coffin is plain in his face and his voice. He clearly was incredibly distraught by his father's death in the 9/11 incident, and it is this emotion that fuels his almost-epic scale journey to find the answer to his father's last riddle. Oskar is very frequently depicted as being far smarter than most kids his age. He can recite seemingly random facts from the Encyclopedia Britannica and thinks of very creative solutions to puzzles (like using a rock as an object from every decade in the last century to solve one of his father's riddles). However, his ADHD (or something) leads him to being nervous around a rather large multitude of things, like moving vehicles, sloppy dentistry, and bridges. This of course being a bit of a debilitation, he apparently has shunned most human contact, making his very socially awkward. However, once his father is gone, he finds he must face his fears, to quote Max von Sydow's character in the film.

Sandra Bullock portrays Oskar's mother. Oskar generally shuns her, blaming her for not dying rather than his father. Though it makes the kid come off as more than a bit cruel, it is genuinely powerful, especially once htey engage in an all-out shouting match. All the while, Oskar is trying to find what a key left behind by his father fits into. He ends up racing across most of New York in this quest. Of course, the idea that it might not be safe for a twelve-year-old to be wandering NY streets alone is never brought up. But, that doesn't matter that much. Back to the good stuff. The acting is very good. Every actor, be their parts high or low, does a great job with what they are given. von Sydow, Hanks, Horn, and Bullock are constantly vying for the spotlight, as each one of them could easily steal it on their own. The acting carries the film, and it's good for the movie that it does, because this film would be sort of unremarkable otherwise.

What drags this film down is it's manipulative tendencies. At every single opportunity, it gives you an excuse to feel bad for Oskar. However, this happens so often that you eventually become desensitized to it. Oskar starts the film talking far too much, babbling on even while his partner in conversation is walking away from him. Even though he establishes that he is not the most sociable person, the fact that he is scared speechless by a conversation and so many other things makes him seem to alternate between smart and stupid.

Ultimately, though its heart is in the right place, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tries way too hard to be a frequent tearjerker. At first it works, but the impact is lessened over the course of the film enough so that by the end, you struggle to really care. This film is one that I feel will be a polarizing one, so I will leave it to fellow viewers to decide upon its quality.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Cold War was probably one of the most tense, complex times in human history. Two superpowers and a dozen smaller ones poised perpetually on the brink of nuclear war, each trying to scare the other into giving in to Communism, democracy, and many other things. It was a time of fear and paranoia, a time when wearing a red scarf here in the States could get you twenty-five to life.

This is the mood that Tomas Alfredson's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy tries to convey at every opportunity. The entire film is a tense affair filled with hard stares, double crossing, encoded messages and one of the most convoluted plots I have ever seen. Each actor plays their part perfectly, each one seeming to have been worn down by the constant vigilance their job requires. They all seem to have short tempers, and each seems to be all but actively hostile towards everyone else. They all seem to have their own agendas (who didn't back then?), and once the idea that one of them is a mole is introduced, each one is a candidate.

The story mainly follows George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman, and his investigation into this matter. Between many meetings in a smoky boardroom with the upper echelons of British intelligence, he contacts his trusted members of the organization to try to gather information about the movements of those suspected. His questionings involve flashbacks galore, some of which seemed to not matter to the overall plot in the least. Or maybe they did, and I just didn't realize it. I really cannot say for certain. This is a film that really could have used a longer running time. There seemed to be something happening nearly every second, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but it gives you no time to process the last bit of story before you're being force-fed the next one. As with many stories, I am sure all the details are presented in some way that makes complete sense. Actually, that's probably exactly the case. But having read the book beforehand (which I clearly did not) is probably a major aid in the endeavor to understand this story.

Everything else about the film is actually very well done. The acting is terrific; each actor is recognizeable, and each manages to make their character feel distinct. The atmosphere is palpable, with smoke everywhere and characters filling the screen with their brooding, suspicious faces. The cinematography is suitably bleak, with everywhere always seeming like the sun is hidden behind a thick curtain of clouds. Alfredson's direction makes for some great shots that add to the tension, reminding us of his supernatural masterpiece Let the Right One In. However, the story is the primary focus of this picture, without doubt. And when the story is this tangled, all the filmmaking skill in the world cannot completely make up for it.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The 2009 Sherlock Holmes was a relatively slow-paced, more actiony take on the world's greatest detective (sorry, Batman). Though there were a bit too many punches thrown and not enough clues analyzed, it was definitely a good time, held up by the considerable talents of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. While this pair's chemistry is back and as strong as ever this time around, most the fun is conspicuously absent.

The film's first hour or so is actually too fast. The overall plot is easy enough to follow, but the individual scenes are not. The action is edited in such a way that I actually had to work hard to follow what I was watching. Nothing memorable really happens, leaving a pretty bad first impression. One minute, a bar fight. Two later, a wedding. The transition was jarring enough that for a split second I actually asked myself how Holmes and Watson got to where they were. That's a bad sign if I ever saw one.

The villain, Professor Moriarty, is trying to preemptively start World War I by bombing and supplying various European countries with war materiel. Holmes repeats throughout the film that Moriarty is too careful to leave any clues behind. This leaves Holmes to deduce what he can from the various locales. Since a significant amount of this deduction happens at scenes of Moriarty's crimes, the villain really does feel one step ahead of Holmes, creating a more tense atmosphere than that in the first film. The suspense keeps the movie together to the same degree that the pair of leads' acting does.

Despite tripping over its own feet in the first half, the film finds its pace in the second half. The action is coherent, the story starts to come to a head, and the film stops trying to make me laugh every three minutes. Holmes starts moving in on Moriarty, and things get more deliberate. The film catches its breath. Suddenly, one can focus on little details that might or might not carry meaning, just like Holmes does, bringing you into the film in some very clever ways. The final twenty-or-so minutes of the movie are easily the best of it, with a very good mix of detective work and action that make every prior scene look amateur by comparison. However, this is certainly not enough to make up for the criminally lackluster beginning and middle.

In addition, one thing that fans of the original will definitely notice is that the soundtrack is simply not at the same level of quality as the first movie's. Especially at the title sequence, the music is a bit too overpowering, which would be fine if it was not so aggravating.

Though not a bad film by any means, A Game of Shadows is a classic example of a sequel that, despite its best efforts, simply cannot live up to its predecessor's legacy. It is worth a ticket purchase for sure, but do not expect any miracles.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I am very grateful that I have neither seen the 2009 film or read Steig Larsson's trilogy. That I came at this film with a fresh perspective I believe counted for a lot. For one, it mean that I will not have to endure criticism for comparing it to the original, thank God.

This film is a cold one. The temperature of the story's location is low, the sets are stark, and the color palette is muted. The only hint of warmth comes in a brief flashback to a simpler, happier time. Nothing like it happens before or since, and due to its significance to the story, it is a very memorable scene. However, nothing like it happens before or after. The film all but comes out and tells you that this little Swedish island has many, many problems.

And it's not the only one. Arguably even more important than the story is the female lead character, Lisbeth Salander. Apparently, many other reviewers have said this, but it will never diminish in importance. Rooney Mara delivers one of the best performances I have ever seen. While watching her in the film, I completely forgot Lisbeth was being portrayed by someone. I actually thought she was a person, not a movie character. This is how utterly convincing Mara is, whether she is investigating a murder or getting vengeance for being raped, she is always Salander. And she EVOLVES. This one of the few times in any movie I've seen where it is possible to actually observe a character's arc. When she smiles, you know she has been at least partially transformed. For the better.

Her relationship with Mikael Blomkvist (played by the inimitable Daniel Craig) is as important to the story as the the central mystery. Craig and Mara play off each other admirably, whether it be with borderline hostility or sexual attraction. As she is with seemingly everyone, she is incredibly guarded against him at first, keeping a taser in her waistband at their first meeting. However, despite the obvious physical and mental differences between them, they investigate with a dedication and passion that seems like it would be unmatched.

This investigation is what drives the unusually involving plot along. A wealthy former industrialist's grandniece was murdered forty years ago,and said man wants the mystery solved before he passes on. He says that Blomkvist will be investigating "thieves, misers, bullies, the most detestable group of people you will ever meet." Well, at least he was up front about it. His family meets all four of these criteria, including more than one Nazi and a murderer. Unsurprisingly, no one talks to anyone else. Detestable, indeed.

Gradually, Salander and Blomkvist discover layers to the mystery that hook you with ferocious efficiency. Without spoiling anything, the story has one or two major twists that anyone who hasn't read the book or seen the 2009 version will expect. I know I didn't. And the ending is an unexpected gut-punch that WILL make you feel for the characters, as well as finalizing Lisbeth's evolution from a cold, insane bitch to slightly less of one.

David Fincher has stated that if this film is successful, the sequels will be adapted back to back, with Craig and Mara reprising their roles. Please go see this movie so that this might happen. Once you do, you'll want this to happen as badly as I do. It's just that good.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol

The Mission: Impossible series has been on a quality roller coaster over its four-film run. Brian DePalma's original was slightly above mediocre, John Woo's follow-up was just bad, and J.J. Abrams elevate the series with the third installment. The latest, directed by Incredibles and Ratatouille veteran Brad Bird, lives up to its director pedigree with style and substance never before seen in the series.

In terms of storyline, this is the most audacious MI yet, by far. There is a man who wants to start a nuclear war to bring about the next mass extinction to advance life on earth. Sounds simple enough, but if you have seen the other films, you know that these are the highest stakes yet. This fact, of course, necessitates big action pieces, with which Ghost Protocol also steals the series crown. Nearly every set-piece moment in the film will stick with you long after they have passed. A jail. The tallest building on Earth. A sandstorm. A party. A server room. A parking garage. Anyone who has seen this movie and reads those words should recall these scenes instantly.

The plot is surprisingly deep, especially for an MI film. There are numerous mini-twists, many of which put major characters in a completely new light, something many "plot twists" nowadays cannot say they have done. The final one at the end is one that I certainly never saw coming, and ends the film perfectly.If nothing else, this film proves that action films are plenty capable of having substance to match the style.

And what style there is! Brad Bird's deft direction and obvious talent is clear everywhere in this movie. His skill at directing animated films has seemingly paid off in spades, because generally, in animated films, no action equals tedium. This does not feel like the director's first live-action film. It feels like he has been doing this kind of thing for years.

The final thing of note is the acting. Each of the four main characters does a great job filling their roles of genre stereotypes. There's the hero, the funny-and-smart guy, the sexy woman who's also a hand-to-hand combat expert, and the mysterious one who knows way, waaay more than he initially lets on. They're all here, but the the actors (and actress) do fantastic jobs with their roles and script, frequently making the writing appear better than it actually is. Oh, and one actor from Lost is a surprisingly important minor character in Ghost Protocol. Anyone here who has seen the show (I know you're there) will instantly recognize him.

Overall, this was an extremely solid spy thriller that is the perfect complement to something like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Loud, over the top, and bombastic, Mission Impossible is back and better than ever. You don't want to miss this. Especially not in IMAX, what with the The Dark Knight Rises prologue and all...


In all humility, Scorsese is one of the best directors of all time. His list of masterpieces includes such films as The Departed, Raging Bull, and Taxi Driver. However, almost all of his movies seem to be very similar in tone: dark and dreary. While almost every one of his films has been its own hallmark of quality, I personally wondered whether he would ever branch out and try to do something different, even if it couldn't match his more adult works.

But, skeptics can release their long-held breath, because his first family film, Hugo, is now in theaters. And, even more surprising, it is quite possibly his best film yet. It elevates itself so far above the rank and file "kiddie film" that it almost seems a disservice to call it a family-oriented one. Only Pixar has managed to successfully make movies that appeal to so many audiences at once.

The story is straightforward enough on the surface: a young boy finds a small robot of sorts and tries to fix it. However, look past the simple trappings, and you will find a movie that effortlessly captures what seems to be Martin Scorsese's persona in a two-hour long bottle. No film I have ever seen manages to distill the innocence of childhood or reverence for filmmaking so delightfully, let alone both at once. The movie has an underlying energy about it that makes it incredibly hard to stop watching. I felt like I would miss something important even if I blinked.

I really have to give it up for the three main actors in he film. Asa Butterfield manages to bring such emotion to Hugo's character that you fell something for him before he has even uttered a word. Chloe Moretz is typically terrific as thrill-seeking bookworm Isabelle. Finally, Ben Kingsley perfectly plays the part of the tortured soul, managing to make you feel revulsion, pity, and sympathy towards him as the film goes along. Kingsley has always done a good job of playing villainous roles, but he really steals the spotlight in this case.

The one true flaw of this film is, predictably, the 3D. Unlike the current 3D usage standard-setter, Avatar, it really didn't feel necessary. And it made the classic blunder of having things going towards the camera, which just screams laziness. However, it is a testament to the film's overall quality that it was that noticeable, because not many others are so seamlessly brilliant.

The best family of the year by a long shot, Hugo is a fun, energetic time that almost anyone can enjoy. And I really do mean anyone. Films like this simply do not come around very often, so enjoy it while it lasts. And chalk up another epic win for the director while you're at it. Whether you are a movie lover, Scorsese fanatic, or just feel like seeing something relatively laid-back, a RIPTA ride to Hugo will more than pay for itself.


Lars von Trier is a controversial figure in the film industry. His jokes about Naziism made him the first persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival (where this film was first shown). His previous picture, Antichrist, contained some of the most horrific acts I have ever seen in a film. Truth be told, he reminds me a bit of Mel Gibson, without the violent outbursts.

And, like Mel Gibson and his masterful Apocalypto, von Trier demonstrates that even a lunatic can make good movies. Melancholia is definitely a von Trier film, with many of his trademark techniques on display. This will, of course, make this film an extremely divisive one, and that many viewers who are just in it for thrills will be extremely disappointed by. However, those with an eye for character development and artful filmmaking of a standard sci-fi scenario will leave completely satisfied.

Melancholia, like Antichrist and many of von Trier's films before it, begins with a montage of images set to a musical piece. Each of these shots are so beautiful and artistically done that each one could easily be its own painting. The sad montage ends with a final shot of an enormous planet colliding with and destroying planet Earth.

Now, at this point, it is only natural to wonder about why anyone should watch the rest of this movie if the end is revealed at the beginning. The answer: because this is a full-on character study, rather than a disaster film. This aspect is, with scant exception, incredibly well-done. Just prior to commencing work on this film, von Trier suffered from clinical depression. Though he was able to get through it (or so he says), it is reflected almost constantly in Melancholia.

The characters are stark, vivid portraits of emotion. Kirsten Dunst, in what has to be the finest performance of her career thus far, is depressed, and honest to a fault. Though she often requires significant help from those around her, and she does not hesitate to tell them what she thinks of them and their actions, she is able to accept the coming doom, and recognize that panic will not solve anything. Her sister, portrayed by von Trier regular Charlotte Gainsbourg, seems to represent what we feel but do not want to admit. At first, she expresses the opinion that, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the rogue planet Melancholia will, indeed, hit Earth. And later, when this becomes abundantly clear, she hopes against hope that there is some shelter from the looming disaster.

The story, though simple, is told very elegantly. Justine (Dunst) is about to get married at her brother-in-law's (Kiefer Sutherland) estate. Thing do not work out, to say the least, with her inexplicably bitter mother almost ruining the proceedings single-handedly. The wedding is eventually called off as Justine is not present for the majority of the proceedings. Instead she is bathing, putting her nephew to bed, or having sex with some man whom she just met hours prior. Afterwards, Justine chooses to reside at her brother-in-law's home, where she rapidly takes interest in a planet set to pass by Earth in a fly-by. Though this does come to pass, Melancholia does eventually collide with Earth, reducing it to dust in a matter of minutes.

Despite the almost-unwaveringly grim subject matter, this film is so beautiful and poetic that it almost manages to transcend its medium, becoming an experience, rather than simply a motion picture. The handheld camera used in the first half of the film manages to create the illusion of reality, while the more traditionally-filmed second half manages to create an artfully apocalyptic expression of base emotion. Few films have even attempted such a feat, let alone succeeded in this mission. Such as it is, this superb film is well worth the $10 asking price of an Amazon rental, given that no local theater seems to be showing it.

Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North

Racism is a terrible thing. It permeates every living person, as well as most points in human history. It is, unfortunately, a natural feeling, to treat people who are different differently, often in a negative way. And no one is immune to these emotions.

However, go back 200 years or so, and you would likely find that racism was not treated as a blemish on the human race, but as a hugely successful business venture. Blacks, good, NORMAL human beings, were traded for rum, grain, and hats. They were then chained to the inside walls of ships, brought to Cuba or the U.S. or somewhere, and forced to do manual labor in service of their lazy and usually white masters. This much we already know. The film then tries to turn the tables on the viewers by revealing that the north was a haven for the slave trade back in the 19th century, and that Bristol, just down the road, was the center of the center. Surprised?

I was not. I don't know about the rest of you, but in high school, I learned that slaves were "employed" and traded all across the country, including up here. However, that is the hook of the film. The point is this: us, white, white-collar, average Americans should hate ourselves for the atrocities we committed against blacks all those years ago. But, people nowadays being what they are, that is not terribly likely. Ask the average man on the street what he thinks about slavery, and he will, naturally, reply that it was a horrible crime. It was.

However, the film stresses that people of this generation, and many future ones, should regret what happened two centuries ago. The film is dead wrong. We, students of RWU and beyond, did not do anything to warrant the sort of mass regret the movie demands. The actual movie follows a handful of modern day descendents of one of the most successful slave traders in Rhode Island. Naturally, they feel guilt over their family's crimes. They go to Africa to try to talk to those whose ancestors were there at the important time. We are clear;y supposed to feel sympathetic for those whom they engage, as they were the victims. However, the film turns that upside down, too. Depicting blacks chastising them for things they are by no means directly responsible for, the film instead makes the family more sympathetic than their so-called victims.

I am fully expecting this opinion to be a controversial one, as racism is, has always been and will be a touchy subject for almost everyone. The film does make some very good points, like how we are benefiting from slave labor as we speak, buying goods made by underpaid workers who are barely able to keep their families fed. That is terrible, and something that truly should not be. However, the fact of the matter is that the films subject matter is part of the far away past. And, as far as slavery is concerned, so are our thoughts.

The Rum Diary

Hunter S. Thompson must have been interesting company. He is famous for coining the term 'gonzo journalism,' exemplified by him in his novel (and later film) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The process involved getting hopped up on various drugs and simply throwing oneself at a story, and seeing what the result was. As you can imagine, this did not work out too well for his journalistic career, as it got him fired from a great many publications over the years.

The Rum Diary, like F&L, is semi-autobiographical in nature, and depicts the pre-drug Thompson as a seemingly hopeless alcoholic but also a well-meaning young reporter. The film is about his fictitious alter ego Paul Kemp's (Johnny Depp) battle to save a dying Puerto Rican newsrag as well as to expose the shady dealings of Mr. Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). The film starts quite well, introducing nearly every character appropriately and with expected humor in regard to each person's nature. The first half hour or so is the best part of the film.

The fact that Thompson was a drug addict was clear in every frame of Fear and Loathing. Because he was so addled with symptoms of illicit chemicals, his story, along with his mind, rapidly lost cohesion and became a blur of colorful images that as a whole made almost no sense. In The Rum Diary, it is noticeably easier to understand what is going on, but only just. You have to really pay attention to perceive the connections between the events onscreen. I initially approved the choice of writer-director for this film: Bruce Robinson. Robinson, a lifetime alcoholic himself, knew what it was like down that road, and knew precisely how to make Depp's character reflect this. Depp/Kemp consistently tells himself and other characters that he is desperately trying to cut down on his drinking habit, but clearly fails miserably.

As usual, Depp is spot-on with his performance, at more than one point inspiring sympathy for his plight, which usually spells misfortune for him wherever he goes. Depp reproduces Thompson's low mutter of a voice perfectly (as he did in the film version of Fear and Loathing), making his character come to life as well as anyone could. In this respect, it is rather unfortunate all of the other characters in the film are underdeveloped, making Depp seem like a 3D mannequin surrounded by cardboard cutouts, some of which have been a bit lost in the translation from pages to a film reel. Notable for this aspect is Amber Heard, who plays Sanderson's fiancee, Chenault. Yes, she is incredibly sexy, which is emphasized plenty in the movie. However, her character is weirdly written. Namely, if she falls in love with such an alcohol-driven man as Kemp, why was she even with Sanderson in the first place?

This is a movie to which it is difficult to assign a score. If you're trying to find a good date flick, there are many worse choices, as the romantic segments of the movie are surprisingly tender. However, this was marketed as a comedy. If you and some friends are planning on seeing this, looking for a good time, you will laugh plenty, but come away wanting more. Moment for moment, this is a very good film. As a story, it falls disappointingly short.

The Thing
The Thing(2011)

Has anyone involved with the making of this film seen Alien? What I saw in the theater made me think they did. And completely missed the point. That film is the standard for sci-fi horror, but for the exact opposite reason that this film thinks.

In The Thing from Another World (the 1951 original), the thing in question was almost never really seen (in one shot, it appeared to be somewhat humanoid). This what made it scary: your imagination can create things more horrific than makeup ever can. The 1982 version, by legendary horror director John Carpenter, showed it a bit more, but still not enough to ever get a complete picture, leaving your imagination to do some of the work.

This film does neither. It instead shows you everything about the creature, and it is not pleasant. And that is not meant as in "it's grotesque" (although it is). It is unpleasant because the special effects are so obvious, it instantly reminds you that you're watching a movie, and not experiencing it. It has a tremendous number of appendages, many of which seem to be teeth or tentacles meant to pull things into said teeth. Which begs the question: how exactly did it manage to build the huge ship that it crashed to earth in?

The idea of the movie is actually one that will be able to be told over and over given the right people making it. The constant paranoia of wondering who the one who is not human is is as close to a timeless premise as horror movies come. It is also obviously lacking in this movie. It always throws characters off on their own in a way that makes it so you know who will die and when, ruining any minute-to-minute suspense there might have been. Other than the horror of the imagination, this the one other source of fear the film could have mined. As it stands, rather than being scary, or even thrilling, it is simply boring. Not even the scenes where characters are killed off are any fun to watch. The film is all but an exercise in tedium, which is exactly the opposite of what a horror movie should be.

Going back to my Alien bit from a few paragraphs ago, in some ways, it is clear that people on this film did see it. They thought that people came for the strong female heroine (portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), or the bloody death scenes (check), or perhaps the grotesque creature design (Alien's monster seems to have had far more work put into it). All of these are wrong. The suspense is what made that film a classic, and its lack is what makes this version of The Thing the exact opposite.

The ending, however, is one of the movies very few strong points. It turned what I had thought the movie was completely on its head in a way I didn't anticipate. Other than that, though, this is a horror film that will appeal only to gore hounds. This is not a film to go see on Halloween night. Unless you prefer to sleep through yours.


"If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in those five minutes and I'm yours, no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down, I don't carry a gun. I drive."

Such are the words of the nameless main character of the film Drive, from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and portrayed by Ryan Gosling. This is a chacter without any explanation or backstory. He balances two jobs: a Hollywood stuntman and heist wheelman. Both involve driving. And that's that.

On the surface, Drive sounds quite a bit like a typical, run-of-the-mill action film. Car chases, bloody action, hot chicks, and lots of money are common sights in modern films of this type. However, Drive manages to rise heads and shoulders above its contemporaries using three things: direction, acting, and style, employing all three with an artfulness that is all too rare these days. Especially in action movies.

The director, Refn, has made quite a few films before this one, most of which involved crime of some type or another. As such, Drive is not entirely unfamiliar territory for him. This is a fact that is apparent in every frame of the movie. In no shot is there any space that is not filled with something unimportant or uninteresting. It has been edited down so that there is no dull moment, no scene that is any less than riveting. In every scene, you know exactly what is happening, and you can feel everything. The quiet scenes are filled to the brim with emotion, with all characters remaining reserved yet strangely expressive throughout the whole movie. These scenes in particular seem to have been filed so meticulously that you can see the dozens of takes it must have taken to find just the right angle.

Occupying these sections and others are actors who seem to have been made specifically for their roles in Drive.These include the aforementioned Gosling, Carey Mulligan as the tender and beautiful Irene, Albert Brooks as the profane Bernie Rose, and Bryan Cranston (a singularly phenomenal actor from the equally awesome TV series Breaking Bad) as the Driver's employer, Shannon. Every one of them bring their own flavor to their scenes, in a way making them the stars of their screen time, rather than star Gosling. Cranston infuses his scenes with a hint of desperation, as he is a man struggling to get by with his auto-repair shop business. Mulligan is a subdued, beautiful, and caring woman whose love for her son is her main (ahem) driving force in the film. Brooks is a man of overt menace, who makes you shiver even when showing off his nicer side. Gosling has simultaneously the most and least significant role in the film. He reflects the emotions of those around him, but manages to subtly twist them into his own, and conveys more with a single glance and fewer than twenty lines of dialogue than most stars manage in entire films. Whenever he is on the screen, you might be focusing on someone else, but the Driver will always be making you wonder what he'll do next.

The style of the film is ultimately what is the most notable aspect of Drive. Colors are comic-book rich, making each object in a shot instantly noticeable. The alternating atmosphere of the film is extremely, and fittingly, jarring, with genuinely shocking violence preceded and followed by quiet, meaningful dialogue. Refn does not exclude anything: entire conversations are shown, unedited, complete with the long silences in between lines. Concurrently, the violence is unflinchingly graphic. "Viewers with an aversion to blood and brutality need not apply" is a good enough way to sum that up. However, in another masterstroke, absolutely everything feels like it means something. Some of the film probably does not mean anything. But it all feels important, a fact that will keep you riveted to this visceral, unique, and emotionally rewarding triumph.

Mean Girls
Mean Girls(2004)

After a few of my friends (who generally share my taste in movies) recommended this movie to me, I've finally broken down and have seen it. Though not as funny as it was made out to be, it was a smartly written coming-of-age comedy with some good lines and some truly hilarious situations that the competently-acted characters are thrust into.

This movie features an all-star female cast, with Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams leading the pack. Though none of the characters are particularly well acted (they always seem to be giving it either too much or not enough), they do deliver most of the good lines right, which is good, because the script is the real star here. Deftly written, it has almost enough emotion impact and can provide enough laughs to make this one of the best-written comedies I've ever seen.

There isn't really too much to be said about this film. It's good but not great, funny but not enough to be called hilarious, with some pretty good acting. That's it. You should know what to expect if you know anything about this movie.

Let Me In
Let Me In(2010)

Truly outstanding acting, atmosphere, and writing are the core elements of what makes this remake of the already-fantastic Let the Right One In just as good as (if not better than) the original. I went into the theater expecting something merely okay, with certain elements of the original but not really worthy of comparison. What I was greeted with was an intelligent, scary, and genuinely touching tale of, ultimately, what human beings are willing to do for love.

Now, I will go on record here as saying that I believe that the original film, Let the Right One In, though a bit overrated, is easily one of the greatest horror films of all time. Granted, it's not really that scary; the scares came from the constantly suspenseful atmosphere, the almost complete lack of music, and some great and touching conversations (even though the average American viewer will definitely snicker at some of the lines). It was also a revolutionary film for the vampire horror subgenre; at a time when the Twilight series was sucking the life out of people's fascination with vampires (pun intended) by treating the fact that one of its main characters is a bloodsucker as a distant afterthought. Let the Right One In strutted onto the stage with something bold, new, and adventurous...and was ignored for its trouble. Further proof that generally, money, not quality, is what motivates Hollywood.

The writer and director of this remake, Matt Reeves, is best known for his controversial Blair Witch-Godzilla love child, Cloverfield. After such a thrilling, balls-to-the-wall disaster flick, Let the Right One In is probably the last movie one would attribute to him directing, let alone writing. But, lo and behold, he has done the impossible: he has (still on the record) IMPROVED ON THE ORIGINAL. No, your eyes do not deceive you. Let Me In is superior to Let the Right One In.

Now, I know this is hardly a popular opinion, so at least finish reading this before you start complaining to site moderators. There is absolutely nothing the original film does that the remake doesn't do better. Acting? Music? Direction? Actual horror? Check, check, check, and check. I can comfortably say that this was my favorite film of 2010 (and one of my all-time , including giants such as Inception, The King's Speech, Black Swan, and The Social Network, rivaling some of this year's Best Picture nominees in terms of pure quality of filmmaking.

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as Owen, a 12-year-old boy who is leading an unenviable life in Los Alamos, New Mexico. His soon-to-be-divorced mother passes out drunk on a nightly basis, he is constantly bullied at school, and has no real friends to speak of. This forces him to spend his time doing homework, eating Now and Later candy, and spying on neighbors for occasional entertainment and boredom relief. The divorce thing is a change from the source material already, and a welcome one, as it adds more emotional weight to the boys situation, instantly making him a more sympathetic character.

One fateful night, he sees a tall, strange-looking man (Richard Jenkins) and a small girl (Chloe Moretz) enter his apartment complex. Naturally (supernaturally?), the murders begin, with an early duo of gruesome scenes that take the gore further than Let the Right One In ever did. Almost counterintuitively, the violence adds another emotional layer to the story, though one that doesn't come into play until later on. Oblivious, of course, to the fact that he is living next door to a pair of experienced killers, Owen befriends the innocent young girl; first, in a scene almost directly ripped out of the Swedish version, Abby warns him that she cannot be his friend. No reason for it, really, just that it's probably better that way. Their next interaction is one that will make your heart melt. I will not discuss it here, but suffice it to say that you know you would have said the same things, asked the same questions, as Owen does. All of which is immediately followed by Abby's first personal killing, establishing Owen's new friendship as a double-edged sword, as well as the friend herself.

The story plays out almost identically to the Swedish version for a while from here, with Owen devising a system of communication through walls so he and Abby can talk even when they cannot see each other, as well as following the exploits of the local sheriff (Elias Koteas). This is followed by the father going out to claim another victim to temporarily quench Abby's bloodlust, going awry in a well-executed car crash sequence, which leads back to the very beginning of the film.

Reeves manages some truly miraculous feats with the camera and actors around this point, even if the scenes are taken out of the Swedish original. There is one shot in particular of Owen opening the door to his apartment to visit Abby, all seen through a reflection on a TV screen displaying an old 80's intermission: "10:00 PM: do you know where your children are?" The children in question offer some dazzling performances. Chloe and Kodi have a chemistry all-too-rarely seen these days, and you can feel everything they do, even fifty feet away from the screen.

Speaking of cameras, the cinematography in this film is something to see. The colors blue and yellow feature prominently, with yellow being present when Abby and Owen are interacting face-to-face, and blue when some crisis is in progress. It's surprisingly subtle, but enough to be a noticeable device with which to tell the story. Further adding to the atmosphere is the soundtrack, a melancholy, subdued mix of strings and pianos that manages never to intrude on what is happening in front of your face. Hell, this score (courtesy of the reliable Michael Giacchino) is certainly Oscar-worthy, though the film itself is not something the Academy would notice even if it were already on top of them.

I know I've gone on a bit long with this one, but don't take my word for it. Just go rent it from Netflix and see for yourself. You might be surprised at what you find, as well as to feel that tear running down your cheek by the time the credits are rolling.

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

In an age where the term "horror movie" is synonymous with blood and guts, every so often one comes along that decides to buck the trend. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is one such movie. An atmospheric, slow-building, suspenseful, flawed masterpiece, this film grabs at the nerves and dangles them in front of the blade until those moments when it saws at them with a relentless zeal.

Guillermo Del Toro is a man known for generally imbuing greatness into any film he produces or directs. The Orphanage. Pan's Labyrinth. Hellboy. All of these have been slathered with his special sauce. This time, I have to admit, I had my doubts. With director Troy Nixey, a former comic book artist, helming this movie, I was skeptical that this guy would be able to to avoid the appearance of being a novie, first time director. Fortunately, I was proven wrong. The thing about this movie that's most flawed is not Nixey's more-than-adequate direction.

The weak point is, in fact, the screenplay, which focuses too much on the family drama, rather than the scares. Granted, the scenes between the main characters are sufficiently emotionally charged to be worth paying attention to, they ultimately do not mean much to the story. The horror scenes, however, are so damned effective, so well-done, that they manage to put the great majority of modern horror pieces to shame. You will feel your heart beating against your chest as multitudes of miniscule creatures skitter towards the protagonists with a bloodthirsty hunger. You will feel the realization as... well, you'll find out.

Though this isn't the perfect horror movie, it is a great modern example of the genre. A stark, suspenseful trip through an aboveground Hell that any horror fan cannot afford to miss.


Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter?
--Roger Ebert

These are the words I thought of when I saw this film. However, there are some things one must take into considration before seeing it. Yes, our favorite German lunkhead Uwe Boll wrote, directed, and produced this movie. And yes, most of the dialogue is improvised, meaning that Boll can hardly take credit for writing the script. However, at the same time, it is also his best film to date (it is also, coincidentally, his fist film in many, many years not based on a video game. Coincidence?). It manages to send a political message through its nonstop orgy of violence, though this message will be a bit too overt for some. So, while one shouldn't click the "Play" button on Netflix with the expectation of anything more than a massacre film (that is now a new subgenre, apparently. Thank Mr. Boll for this), you will be surprised to see just what this man has learned over two decades of filmmaking.

Source Code
Source Code(2011)

This film should probably be remembered as a sleeper sci-fi gem. I honestly didn't expect this movie to do well at the box office: It's by a director whose other film had an extremely limited run in theaters, and is remembered now only by independent film fans. However, Duncan Jones has done it again; he has managed to craft, a smart sci-fi thriller that, though more than a bit confusing, manages to tell a surprisingly human tale of terrorism, mind jumping, and how people should proactively get out there and seize the moment.

The movie's premise is one that is never sufficiently explained, but is cool enough to warrant curiosity by itself (BTW, calling this a science fiction film is a bit of a stretch, since there really isn't much "science" in it). Apparently, a man's brain will still possess enough electricity passing through it to allow someone to hijack their mind for eight minutes to relive this person's final moments. Though this is one of the most ludicrous explanations I have ever heard for anything in a movie, it allows the same tense scenario to be played out differently each time.

A former helicopter pilot (Jake Gyllenhaal) is thrust into this experience inside a capsule of unspecified origin and location, and is forced to find the culprit of the train-mounted bomb that killed the man whose memory he is reliving. This really should go down in history as one of Gyllenhaal's best roles, which he slips into like a glove, managing to be so convincing as a frantic abducted soldier and a crime-solving sleuth that you can see these emotions clearly in his eyes as he is constantly switched between these roles. Along for the ride is the deceased's love interest (Michelle Monaghan), whose cheerful innocence and ignorance of the crisis at hand remind you that this is a simulated reality, that in real life, no one was aware of their imminent demise. She is who ultimately keeps the story's human touch from slipping out of its grasp, and does so with an ease to rival Jake's.

I'm a gamer, so I've played my fair share of video games. One company's design philosophy is the "thirty seconds of fun" mantra, meaning that they try to give the player the aforementioned thirty seconds constantly throughout the overall experience. This was my first thought when I saw this film, except replace "thirty seconds" with "eight minutes." There are two stories playing out in here: one is the main train-bomb thing, and the other is inside the dome, as Gyllenhaal desperately tries to determine where he his, what his family knows about him, and who is keeping him...wherever he is. Vera Farmiga plays the officer in charge of communicating with Gyllenhaal's character, and she is Monaghan's living counterpart, reminding Gyllenhaal constantly that there will be another bomb, and that this is why he needs to find the one who destroyed the train, blah blah blah.

The parts taking place within reality are the ones meant to make you think, the parts in the dead guy's mind are to entertain, and manage to do so consistently, despite the same scenario looping about seven times over the course of the film. The way in which Gyllenhaal's character goes about trying to solve the mystery is elegant in how easy it is to relate to; he starts out not having a clue of how to go about his task, and slowly manages to work his way through various methods of detection, such as from which direction the explosion came, in which room the bomb is, calling the terrorist from the cell phone meant to detonate the bomb, and finally tracking down the actual person responsible. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Monaghan is strong, and everything about them suggests that they are the characters they are meant to be seen as, which begs the question as to whether the audience is meant to focus on the story or the characters.

Though the ending makes absolutely zero sense, it further strengthens the message that people need to get out there and live life to the fullest. This is, admittedly, and unusual message for a sci-fi thriller to have, and fortunately, is pulled off brilliantly. This movie is not one that will be made clearer by multiple viewings, which is good, because this little gem will shine in your memory for a while after you leave the theater.

X-Men: First Class

When the trailer for this film was first shown to me during some movie that I can't remember the title of, and I remember thinking, "this looks TOTALLY BADASS!"

And guess what? It is.

First Class serves as an extremely fitting double entendre of a title. The story takes place in the 1960s, with America and the Soviet Union on the brink of plunging the world into nuclear war. Erik (AKA Magneto), as we leaned way back in the first X-Men movie, is a small child taken from his parents during the Holocaust, and Charles (AKA Professor X) is a rich kid who has learnt of his ability to read minds. Both parts are played with incredible subtlety and emotion by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, respectively. Fassbender brings a perfect underscore of hidden menace that is completely faithful to the part, as everyone knows that Magneto and X go their very separate ways eventually. McAvoy, by contrast, always seems cool and calculated (to be expected of a hyper intelligent mind reader), until those few, very special scenes where he realizes he can no longer influence Erik to stray from the bad path he will inevitably take.

The plot is basically X-Men Origins, which, without the Wolverine in the title, that would be just as fitting as First Class. Erik and Xavier are recruited by the CIA to help avert the coming apocalypse. They smartly know that they of course cannot do it by themselves, but instead discover (in a truly hilarious scene), that they aren't alone before they have even begun. They use Hank McCoy's machine called Cerebro (see X2 for further information on it) to find a whole generation of mutants, though we only get to see six or seven of them. In one of the few truly good montage sequences so cliched in film these days, these select mutants are discovered and recruited by the duo to aid in their war against war.

These mutants play a surprisingly important role in the film, and admirably, none are used as vehicles for special effects showcases. Each one somehow manages to be depicted as fully characterized, fully human characters, and this is the trait whose lack is what plagued the previous two X-Men films. This exemplifies the stellar script that has been assembled for this film, with absolutely zero lines that seem campy or out of place. The same can be said of the various scenes, with each one having its own significance and meaning that helps drive the story forward.

All of this is handled deftly by director Matthew Vaughn, whose previous film Kick Ass feels entirely modest and small by comparison. When I learned that this was the director assigned to the project, I was skeptical from the beginning, because I was worried that there would be unnecessary scenes and humor just stuffed in for good measure, as was done in Kick Ass. However, I am happy to say that I was wrong. Completely. In fact, I will say, wholeheartedly, that this ties X2 as the best film in the franchise, and even tops in in quite a few respects, making First Class at the very least equal to X2.

Bryan Singer's two X-Men films paid a bit too much attention to the story, and sometimes seemed to just throw characters at the proverbial wall. This film pays equal attention to both aspects, and is a better movie for it. While it is not a subgenre definer, like The Dark Knight or Spider Man, it is a great film that should be remembered alongside classics such as these.

Super 8
Super 8(2011)

Far and away the most hyped film of the year so far, J.J. Abrams' Super 8 has, I am happy to say, lived up to its all but insurmountable mountain of buzz that it has accrued, and done so with a grace and style rarely seen in summer blockbusters.

The title comes from the old type of film found in portable video cameras, which are used by the main characters. These children, led by Elle Fanning as Alice and Joel Courtney as Joe, are filming a zombie movie for the Cleveland Super 8 Film Festival, and (as aspiring filmmakers, and as kids) want more "production value" in their film. Be careful what you wish for, right? As seen in the trailers, a pickup (somehow) derails the train they are shooting next to, and from the wreckage emerges...something I won't go into any more detail about (for fear of spoiling this movie for anyone who hasn't yet seen it.

It is from here that Abrams truly shows his mastery of storytelling. The movie follows Joe as we see him in a variety of events and emotions: grief, terror, love, wonder. All of these things are what make Super 8 the best film of 2011 so far, and how they fit in so well with the suspense, and later on, effects-driven action. Yet, through all the explosions, killings, and mysteries surrounding the town of Lillian and its occurrences, Abrams manages to keep the film feeling distinctly human, and it is this fact that allows you to empathize with every major character, as each one is portrayed as their own human being, complete with inner light and inherent flaws that lie within us all.

When this movie decides to bring the thing into the picture it does so in a very similar manner to the Abrams-produced Cloverfield, showing a bit at a time, and almost never giving you a good look at it. And when you do finally see it, it is always fleeting. Is this an attempt to heighten the mystery, or to keep people focused on the more worldly characters? I decided the answer was the former, but regardless, whichever you choose, you will leave satisfied.

There seems to be a popular sentiment that Super 8 packs too many homages to older films into its 112 minute runtime. I caught some subtle but noticeable references to E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Night of the Living Dead, among a few others. However, unlike other reviewers, I do not feel like these little things detracted from the film. Nor do I feel like they added to it; Abrams is a protege of Spielberg, and thusly, would probably create some shotsthat are so similar to ones found in some of Spielberg's earlier classics.

Like Spielberg, Abrams manages to deftly weave two vastly different types of storylines into one extremely clever hybrid, with the strengths of both, and weaknesses of neither. If you are a fan of sci-fi thrillers, or of dramas that focus on the ever-changing "human element", you owe it to yourself to experience this incredibly unique thrill ride for yourself. You should not be disappointed.

Cowboys & Aliens

As many seem to be saying, most critics just don't seem to get this movie, do they? They say things like "the genres don't mesh well enough", and that "this could have been better as a straight western." Well, kinda. The sci-fi and western aspects of the movie certainly could be meshed better, and Jon Favreau could have made a good western, sure. But as it is, COwboys and Aliens is a good, unique summer blockbuster.

The cast of the film is what you would expect: a handful of big-name actors, for star appeal right off the bat. On this front, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde certainly deliver (though Wilde could have been a bit better). Ford becomes the standard grizzled, slightly racist war veteran type. Craig plays Clint Eastwood. And Wilde is...something else (and naked).

Now, in the opening credits, you will spot four (!) credited screenwriters, two of whom worked on Lost with J.J. Abrams. However, despite there being a handful of witty lines and no shortage of laugh-out-loud moments, the script could and should have been more refined, considering who would be doing that.

One thing that is both very good and a bit bad is Favreau's direction. There aren't any noteworthy shots, mind you, but is is perfectly fine, and about as good as one could expect. However, I do have one tiny gripe: this film really could have been a good western. The last real one in the genre was True Grit, which was quite good, if a bit bland, and in C&A, the western parts are handles incredibly well, and hook you in far more easily than the sci-fi bits. Craig and Ford could have made quite a duo onscreen. They still do, but one can't help but think...

One of the final cons of the film is the story. I know that no one was expecting anything incredible (the movie is called Cowboys and Aliens, after all), but there are far too many disparate plot elements just thrown together. You'll know what I mean when you see it. And my other small gripe is the alien design. Their ships are plenty cool, admittedly, but they themselves could use a bit more work. They look like gorillas who have served under Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Overal, though, this is a compelling, entertaining, fun film that never takes itself too seriously, but fortunately, never lets itself off the rails, either. Not the ideal summer movie, but pretty close.

Captain America: The First Avenger

The next chapter in the Avengers saga has arrived. And, like Thor before it, it is dumb, big, and loud. However, this is slightly less dumb than most action movies these days, because of two main factors.

One of these is the film's style. In an uncommon twist of the comic book subgenre, this is an undeniable period piece. WWII-style dialogue, cinematography, and technology are everywhere, and could not have provided a better backdrop for the action taking place on the screen.

However, it is at this point that I think the film could use some improvement. The action scenes simply were not that compelling or entertaining. Honestly, this is the last complaint I expected to have about this movie, given that Thor and Joe Johnston's previous film, The Wolfman, both had this as their selling points. However, the dialogue was one of the finer points of the film. It was better-written than I had expected, and that's no small thing.

The other main positive factor of this film is that it has a message. Unlike the last two Marvel movies, this one has a theme that most, if not all, people can get behind: simply that, no matter who or what you are, if you try hard enough, you can make a difference. This is something that the lead actor, Chris Evans (Scott Pilgrim) exemplifies extremely well. He plays both the pre- and post-op Steve Rogers with great emotion and deftness.

Oh, and for all you Marvel fans, there are A LOT of little nods to Thor and Iron Man, as well as other (read: non-Marvel) stuff.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Ah, the end has arrived. The final chapter of the one of the most beloved and lucrative film franchises in history has come to a close at last. And what style it does this with.

The only real weakness I can identify in this film is the fact that there really is no introduction to the characters of any kind. However, I understand this decision completely, because one really must see all seven previous films to care about the characters as much as they should. If one has not seen the prior installments, then one will not like this movie as much as they should. Oh, well. Their loss.

There are a few reasons why this film is the best of the series. The directing style is probably the biggest change, with many artfully-placed shots highlighting exactly what needs to be at any given time. This is one of the last movies I expected to give a serious compliment to the director for, but I have been forced to eat my words.

The art style is the next. It is in complete and utter service to the story, as it is almost ceaselessly bleak and dark. Major characters die on both sides. Evil triumphs for a spell (pardon the pun). War has arrived in the wizarding world.

The final reason is the acting, which is easily the best of the series. Each actor and actress seems to have realized that they would never be revisiting these parts, so felt that they had to go out with a bang. And what a noise they made!

All of these elements by themselves are not what makes this film so great. None of these aspects individually are anything truly spectacular. However, the fact that all three are so consistent in terms of quality throughout the entire thing make this film a noteworthy one. While there are no standout scenes like the one in Part 1 with our trio being chased through the woods by Death Eaters, this actually speaks as to the overall quality of the final product. The reason there are no outstanding scenes is because there are never any falterings, and dips in terms of the elegance or substance of the filmmaking.

The overall tone of the film is another differentiating factor, and is one of the things that most people won't even really notice until the movie is over, that there is virtually no comic relief anywhere in the film. Instead, there is an almost relentless onrush of battle scenes which are so well done that they are worth the price of admission alone.

Seeing the movie, it is obvious how much the cast and crew cared about this series, through all its ups and downs over the decade of the franchise's existence. It is thanks to this obvious dedication and commitment that truly makes this film and landmark title. Not in terms of cinema by any means, but in modern culture. Only a handful of other films are ones I can say the same for. And if you check my other reviews, they really aren't that hard to spot.

Tactical Assault

Having just seen this film on Netflix streaming, I have to say, I would rather have sat through the first 90 minutes of Dark of the Moon again. The acting was mediocre at the best of times, and the story was atrocious. See this film for laughs only.


I know many people despise this film for both its violence and conceived misogyny. I actually enjoyed this film for its cinematography, symbolism, art direction, suspense, and disturbing shots. It's definitely a movie worth watching, though many will either not understand it or simply not even want to.


Great acting, brilliant action scenes, and (of all things) an extremely subtle 28 Days Later reference define this gritty and colorful antisuperhero film. Though a bit heavy on the sexual humor at the beginning, the jokes generally work well within the context of the script. Nicholas Cage does an exceptional job as "Big Daddy", and Chloe Moretz does equally well as Hit Girl. An exceptionally unique comic book film, and one that no comic fan should miss.


Why so many critics didn't like this movie is something of a mystery to me. Well, kinda. The characters, for the most part, were pretty weak, and the dialogue as well. But, of course, you don't go to a Michael Bay movie for the characters or the dialogue, but for the action and explosions. This movie has those in spades, and these are what makes this movie a genuine great time. Sure, there maybe should have been more scenes with those things in them, but you can't have everything. Oh, and the soundtrack is awesome, too (when there aren't any guitars involved, at least).


With a perfect cast and good direction thanks to Kenneth Branagh (who did many good Shakespeare adaptations), Thor is always entertaining in some form or another. The special effects are awesome, and the scope of the locales and battles are large enough to warrant wondrous stares at the screen. The acting could be a bit better, but is consistently good, and manages to make star Chris Hemsworth steal the screen whenever he is on it. A good start to Marvel's new Avengers initiative, and here's hoping for similar quality from Captain America.

Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch(2011)

The critics are right. They are also wrong, and wrong enough to warrant two hours of being ignored. This film's script is dodgy, the plot is predictable, the acting is pretty mediocre, and it is a movie about hot chicks with guns targeted towards 15-19 year-olds. In these respects, the critics are on to something. However, the action scenes are some of the most visually unique and pulse-poundingly...musical that cinema has ever produced. And there are so many of them that they can ALMOST make up for the rest of the film. DOn't get me wrong: the story, dialogue, and acting could all have been considerably worse, but they could also have been much better. I am recommending this film, as it is definitely worth a viewing (make sure it's in IMAX); just don't expect anything as deep as The Matrix.

There are no deep characters to be found. The deepest this movie gets is an inch. There is no great acting (though there is some good acting), and not too much plot to speak of. What this movie has, and what it does well, is action. And there is LOTS of that.

Granted, no film can stand up on only its action, which is, unfortunately, all this movie has left. But what action it is! Nazi zombies are sliced to pieces, blimps are shot down in slow-mo, and towering giants with miniguns are taken down by hot girls with skimpy clothes. It is, without a doubt, a stylish, badass piece of work. It's sad, actually, that the action scenes are the only ones where this genius shines through.

As has been discussed to death already, this is Zack Snyder's first film not based on some previously released product. And while his first attempt at true originality is a noble one, it is also, unfortuanately, misguided. Snyder does best when he already has a script to work with, a story that's already been told. He clearly does try here, and there are occasional glimpses of brilliance beneath the rest of the flaccid content of this film. There are elements of Inception, The Matrix, and Alice in Wonderland on display in this movie, and normally, one would want the strengths of all, and the faults of none. However, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the reverse is usually the truth of this film.

Fast Five
Fast Five(2011)

The Fast and the Furious series has, both to its credit and detriment, always stuck to its guns. The series has always been about one thing: racing fast cars driven by faster women (or is it the other way around?). This approach worked for the first movie because it was a different approach to the action genre, a B-movie exploitation thriller wrapped up in an A-movie shell of well-known actors and colorful special effects. After four of these movies, however, I don't think anyone will disagree when I say that the formula got more than a little old, culminating in the frankly dreadful Fast and Furious.

Well, no longer. With series newcomer Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and director Justin Lin leading the pack, the series has been transformed beyond the scope of its ancestry and into the strange new world of the B-movie thriller. One of the main problems with the franchise is that they all took themselves too seriously, always refusing to let themselves go, and thus remaining chained to what had gotten the series moving in the first place. Fast Five makes the long-overdue decision to drop over the edge, and emerges as the first truly great entry of the series, surpassing even the original in terms of sheer filmmaking quality.

Justin Lin has some serios balls to change what had kept series diehards coming back. There is only one race scene, one. There are quite a few fight scenes to replace the racing, though, and these are pulled of in a gloriously over-the-top manner maatched only by the Grindhouse films begun by Robert Rodriguez. Like those films (and unlike Fast 2-4), Fast Five fully embraces its ridiculousness and just runs with it. There are far more practical, realistic ways to do just about everything in this film. It would, of course, be more realistic to stop, then board, the bus carrying Dominic Toretto rather than somehow managing to make it flip by touching a 1970 Dodge Charger. Would it be as entertaining? No, probably not.

There are many such scenes in this movie. It would take too long to go into detail on them, but suffice it to say, there are more than enough of them to make this film far and away the most entertaining of the series, as well as the funniest. Part of the fun of this movie comes from the so-bad-it's-goodness of the dialogue and stunts. Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson and Vin Diesel create a singularity of testosterone that makes any scene with them together an unmissable spectacle. And For one of the first times in cinema history, The Rock fits into his role, and becomes a truly screen dominating figure. Unlike most action movies these days, this film focuses on the characters just as much as special effects, and makes you lean forward in your seat as they get closer to death, as opposed to sitting back to enjoy the pretty lights.

This movie seems so overjoyed to be free that it seems tobe too much of a B-movie at times. There are musical notes that rise to a fever pitch just before lines are spoken, there are Mexican standoffs aplenty, and the dialogue itself is entirely too cliched at times ("We need to assemble a team"). But this adds to the humorous side of the film, making for a multitude of genuine laugh-out-loud moments that help break up the intense action scenes. Betwwen the dialogue and the explosions, the movie is paced extremely well, and never once will you be bored enough to turn your eyes from the screen, and if you do do this, then you're probably in the throes of mirth by that point.

Besides the gonzo action sequences, this films draw is the actors, as almost every major character from the past F&F film makes an appearance here. The stars fit into their roles quite well, with each one adding their own special touch to a scene, be it a joke, quip, or intimidating glare.Overall, these characters seem more human than they did in the previous films, and this helps you get investing in their conversations and actually wanting to hear what they have to say, rather than just tuning it out, waiting for the next punch to be thrown or fireball to be ignited.

Though this film has already been beaten by the likes of Source Code and Hanna in terms of quality, in entertainment value, this film will probably retain this throne for a good few weeks, at the very least. This is the perfect film to open the summer floodgates with, and should not be disregarded solely on the basis of its less-than-impressive siblings.


This movie was hyped. A lot. More than probably any other movie in history (yes, including Inception). This hype eventually piled up so high that the film itself could never catch up. But, shockingly enough, it came damned close to doing just that. Like Star Wars and The Matrix before it, this film marked the beginning of a new generation of visual effects, and like those films, delivers enough in other areas to leave an impression that was more than just skin deep.

Despite this movie's singular flaw (the script), this cinematic titan delivered more than enough thrills to compensate for James Cameron's occasionally iffy writing. It also does something that no other film has managed to do before: it truly makes you feel like you are there, in its world, and you find yourself filled with a genuine sense of wonder as you try to take in Pandora's rich flora and fauna. The quality of the special effects has been discussed to death already, but this is the factor that anchors the film, the aspect of it that was the main source of the astronomical anticipation (other than the name "James Cameron").

However, if visual splendor serves as this movie's anchor, then the ship is built mainly from two materials: story and acting. The story (or, more accurately, stories), though they have been told countless times before, seem to never fail to leave a mark on audiences, and the resonance of one in particular is felt almost too strongly today. The clash of science, commerce, and militarism make for some great scenes of dialogue and tension, and add a philosophical aspect to the film, especially taking the constant contrast between the human Pandora and Na'vi Pandora into account. Of course, the world of Pandora wouldn't be at all believable without characters populating it, and the actors fit their respective roles like gloves. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana work incredibly well together onscreen, and truly bring their roles to life with some of the most underappreciated performances of 2009.

One final part of the movie that I feel was the most unappreciated is the soundtrack. James Horner's best yet, it combines most of the best aspects of modern orchestral scores with those of traditional tribal melodies to match the setting of Pandora, and as a result is some of the most purely beautiful music anyone who cares to download the soundtrack will ever hear.

Though you only leave Pandora just under 3 hours after you arrive, Pandora will not leave you for a considerably longer period of time. While it may not have been the best film of 2009 in terms of raw quality, its emotional impact, outstanding direction, and truly spectacular eye candy easily make it one of the most entertaining.


Well, I literally just got back from seeing it, and, while my opinion has fully formed, what I actually think about this film has not, so forgive a little disjointedness in this review.

Now, as we all know, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is the story of a young girl, who lives with her father (Eric Bana) in a remote forest, being rigorously, ruthlessly trained for a mission of unspecified parameters. Her education is first seen as a shocking intro sequence of the titular character mercilessly hunting a moose. She is then treated to an attack from behind from her seet daddy, and is told that she is not ready for what she has to do, despite demonstrating extensive knowledge of martial arts, quadripedal anatomy, and four or five separate languages.

Now, the tone of this film can be summed up by the nature of Hanna's only two sources of knowledge: an encyclopedia and a leather bound copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales. This movie alternates between smart thriller and modern fairy tale, an exceedingly clever combination that mesmerizes you for the entirety of its running time. Ronan will also mesmerize, as her extraordinary talent is put to good use. She is an incredibly versatile actress, able to turn on a dime from emotionless soldier to expressive little girl in less time than it takes her to gulp down a raw egg. Surprisingly enough, you pity her, sympathize for her, and laugh with her as she stumbles through her attempts to emulate normal human life. On a dare from a girl she meets, she takes some random guy she meets on a date. When they are about to kiss, she emotionlessly states that kissing requires something like thirty-four facial muscles.

The villain of the piece is played by Cate Blanchett, who manages an effective, if not always completely convincing, evil mastermind. She always appears to know just enough about Hanna that the audience doesn't in order to frustrate us. She also has a distinctly menacing air about her, but unfortunately, fails to maintain it consistently enough to be a great addition to the cast. Eric Bana fares a bit better. He is the knowing, understanding mentor, the one who taught Hanna all she knows, and who, of course, is even more of a badass than she. He is fiercely devoted to her, further humanizing a sometimes inhuman-seeming character. He carries her weight on his shoulders, and it is a burden whose effects we can plainly see on his character.

The considerable acting talent displayed in this film is guided by the brilliant dirction of Joe Wright, who worked with Ronan on his masterful Atonement. He imbues the dialogue and action scenes with a subtle power that hooks you in the mouth and drags you through its murky depths. The action is relentlessly kinetic, and is fueled by a nearly pitch-perfect score courtesy of The Chemical Brothers (I was initially very skeptical about this particular part of the movie, given that that I know them as providers of the electronic-dance-heavy soundtrack of the Wipeout video games. Fortunately, I was proven wrong.). The cinematography is something to see. The film comes alive with color, ranging from your standard evil-lair gunmetal gray to the popping reds and oranges of a candy-shop-turned-safe-house. Yes, seriously. The sets are equally brilliant, the aforementioned candy shop, as well as the surrounding theme park, and Hanna's residential forest cabin, are logically decorated and laid out, exactly as if a former secret agent and his equally well-trained daugher were getting by on nothing but the bare necessities. Which, of course, they are.

The film's single misstep is the storyline. Now, don't get me wrong: this is by no means a bad story. But it is a somewhat tired one, which didn't so much bother me, but I know will annoy some, hence my noting of it. It is, however, intelligently told, and has a charming and unique fairy-tale twist to it that just makes it that much harder to resist.

The (literal) bottom line here is that, though of course not perfect, this is definitely the best action film to come out in 2011 so far, and probably one of the most unique for longer than that. It deserves your time and money, because this is exactly the kind of shot in the arm that Hollywood needs.

Battle: Los Angeles

Ah, now here's a film to get excited about! Trailers showing an epic-scale invasion of various cities around the globe, explosions, violence, kids getting stopped from boarding doomed helicoptors...hey, wait a minute...

I've finally identified that nagging feeling in my gut: said organ screaming out "CLICHE ALERT!!!" They always say to trust my instincts, and said instincts are screaming out to hate this piece of crap as much as I can.

However, I do not, because despite the multitude of glaring flaws this movie displays with almost childlike glee, there is one thing you can say about it: it's a visceral beast. It's mesmerizing once it picks up. But, unfortunately for this film, I'm not writing this review while I'm in the theater. I'm writing this three days after leaving it, and lemme tell ya, that mesmerization I mentioned before will be gone by the time the film ends.

For starters, why is the movie called Battle: Los Angeles? The main character (played by a very poorly cast Aaron Eckhart) and his cohorts are spirited away to Santa Monica a short while into the film! You don't even really see any battle in Los Angeles! However, I believe this film was named for said battle after the fact, because there are frequent shots of LA engulfed in flames, so I'll assume the battle has already been won. By the aliens.

Lots of things about this film are either inconsistent, unexplained, or just plain stupid. For starters, not explaining why the aliens even invaded in the first place is not always a bad thing...assuming the film focuses sufficiently on the main characters (Cloverfield, take a bow here). However, it doesn't, so it's not. It's fleetingly mentioned that they might want some resources, but that's never elaborated upon or revealed as anything other than a guesstimate. A second thing is that the alien ship and various vehicles all look like they were made by super gluing a bunch of metal doodads to soda cans. I guess that's why they're here: they either need more metal to add to their already considerable insterstellar scrap heap, or they need lessons in aeronautics. My money is on both.

Again, why is Aaron Eckhart in this film? He is a great character actor, and anyone who has seen either The Dark Knight or Thank You for Smoking will back me up on this. The problem is that there is no character for him to play, as the script (and the camera) seem more focused on flames than faces.

The action is both this movie's saving grace and Achilles' Heel. I mentioned that it was visceral early on, so that's that. But it's edited in such a haphazard way that there is almost no single cut lasting more than ten seconds. During said action, cuts are shortened to one second, making the various goings-on on the screen near-indeciperable, to the point of making it hard to watch, let alone undrstand. And, take it form me, if there's a part of a film that's hard to watch, it's either a really badly done scene or an extremely well-done (but either gory or grotesque in some way) one. This entire film falls neatly into the former category.

The Host
The Host(2007)

Though not the greatest monster movie ever made, The Host manages to provide a funny, scary, and political experience to rival that of films like Godzilla and Cloverfield. The two scientists at the start of the film seem to be trying very hard not to burst out laughing as they pour seemingly 75 bottles of formaldehyde into a river, perceiving this as the most efficient disposal method possible. Of course, the military is called in to clean up the mess, and therein follows a surprisingly moving scene where one of those two scientists tells his assistant that there is no virus to decontaminate, and then orders the main character to be killed and incinerated to ensure eradication of the nonexistent disease. It's heavy stuff, and, unfortunately, not without real-world provocation to back it up. I do not currently have enough room left in this review to talk about much else, but let it be said: if you are any degree of monster movie fan, this is required viewing.


Though not a great film by any means, James Wan's Insidious does something not many modern horror films even attmpt: try to use something other than blood to scare you, and succeeding. While the film does start to lose some of its punch once the special effects kick in near the end, this is, overall, a fun, scary haunted house movie that manages to rise above the idiocy displayed by the other pretenders in the genre.


Though disliked by some for the frequent graphic violence, this is, indisputably, a very well-made film, a dark, haunting historical-fiction epic that will stick in your memory long after the credits have rolled. Some amazing large-scale shots, eerie cinematography, and the excellent chase scene near the end are what define this piece of singular genius.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

It stands out from the absolutely incredible firts and third films due to its lesser quality in the areas of story, acting, and characters, but it is still definitely a good film. The standout new character is obviously Short Round, who serves as a never-fail device for comic relief who at some points is unfortunately forced to carry the film. Desite being pretty much all-around weaker than its older and younger brothers, Temple of Doom manages to stand well enough on its own.

Alone in the Dark

EVeryone simply must see this film. ALthough maybe they shouldn't, because it's entirely debatable whether or not this product is even a film. It just barely even fits the criteria for being one! But anyway, why everyone has to expeience this. Reason 1: one of the worst scripts in cinematic history ("I believe this map can pinpoint location." Yes, that IS an actual line from the film). Reason 2: the terrible special FX ( Reason 3: the acting is some of the worst I've ever seen from a film. The only reason this film is getting a 10% rather than a 0% is because it's so easy to simply point and laugh.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)

The brilliant cast, exhilerating action, and great cinematography do this film many favors, because other than these aspects, I didn't find it to be that remarkable. Call me crazy (I know you will), but I think that this was definitely one of the more overrated films of the year. It simply didn't resonate very strongly with me, for some reason. I know that, in terms of quality, this is one of the best films of 2010. Others will likely embrace it as a classic, just not me.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

After Star Wars and American Graffiti, and after Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, an alliance between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg seemed like it would be too good to be true. I wasn;'t because it happened, and produced one of the most iconic, entertaining, and enjoyable films in the history of cinema. Raiders of the Lost Ark introduces Indiana Jones, one of the slickest heroes of the silver screen. The eternally-famous boulder sequence will live on forever, and, ideally, so will the rest of this film. Featuring incredible performances from every actor in the field ofthe camera lens, and groundbreaking special effects for the time, this is a perpetually entertaining gem that should be viewed by anyone and everyone with an interest in film.

Schindler's List

This is a film revered for its eye-catching visual style (which Sin City owes a few favors), its flooring emotional impact, and inspirational storyline. Schindler's List has all this, and more. Great acting? Check. Liam Neeson dominates the screen with a hardened and delicate performance as Oskar Schindler. Excellent direction? Check. Steven Spielberg does a fantastic job, handling dialogue and the occasional scene of action with a deft and careful hand. Unforgettably moving, emotionally exhausting, and sufficiently staisfying, this is a film to be treasured, and to be celebrated.

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down's mission is to be a modern-day Saving Private Ryan. And though it succeeds in some respecs, in many others, it fails, coming across as a shadow of Steven Spielberg's epic. However, this is not to say that Ridley Scott's version is a bad film; quite the opposite, in fact. This is a visceral, cringe-inducing, action-packed look at warfare, rather than one that tries to focus on the characters like SPR. So while it's lack of depth keeps it from achieving greatness, it remains a riveting, occasionally moving war film that is easily worth a peek.

Shrek the Third

Uninspired and unfunny, Shrek the Third is to the firstwo as Alien 3 is to Alien and Aliens. A disservice to a fine series, this film tries to be funny by rehashing the jokes from the first two films, rather than making any attempt to make up new ones.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2(2004)

Though not as imaginative as the stellar original, and leaning a bit too hard on pop culture references, Shrek 2 is still an entertaining and funny tale that can be enjoyed by almost anyone, whether or not they've seen the original.


Funny, colorful, poignant, and well-acted, Shrek provides short, sweet amusement for anyone who sees it. Similar to many animated films these days, it manages to tell a relevant message to its younger viewers while wrapping itself in a shell that can be senjoyed by adults (in this case, a parody of many well-known fairy tales). Jam-packed with pop-culture references and sly humor, this is one animated film that is not to be missed.

Mission: Impossible III

Right off the bat, this film does something neither of the others in the series has managed: it possesses a coherent, relatively twist-free storyline. That being said, it's still not perfect (far from it). The acting is slightly above-average at best, and the plot, while straightforward if compared to the previous ones, is still your standard action fare. However, living up to the property's pedigree, the action is what ends up distinguishing this movie from the dozens of other summer action films.

Mission: Impossible 2

Though the action has been polished to a shine with John Woo's signature style, like its predecessor, this film's plot drags it down by an embarassing degree, and is even more nonsensical (and unnecessary) than the first film's. Action junkies will still find plenty to like, but those looking for a smartly designed thrill ride (or even a dumb one) should probably look elsewhere.

Mission: Impossible

The plot is ultimately too convoluted for its own good, but the action scenes are pulled off effectively, and that memorable vault scene will always retain its tension. Though tje action is what really matters for this film (it IS an action film, after all), the rest of the movie isn't pulled off well enough for it to rank among classics like the James Bond films or The Matrix. As it is, it is an adequte effort, and nothing more.

The Adjustment Bureau

Though not without its flaws, especially in the storytelling department, this film has a surprising number of positive aspects to it, particularly for being a debut screenplay and film. The dialogue is surprisingly well written, and is exchanged with great skill by Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. There are a multitude of dryly humorous moments, lightening the otherwise foreboding, mysterious atmosphere almost to a fault. But overall, this is a genuinely touching love story enclosed in a sci-fi-conspiracy shell; a combination which is executed with unexpected skill.

Angels & Demons

See my The Da Vinci Code review.

The Da Vinci Code

While nowhere near being nearly as good as the book, and the plot is stupid, this film does try. It's definitely not crap, it's mediocre. The acting is passable, and the action is as well.


Another visually stunning action epic from Chris Nolan. Leonardo Dicaprio and the rest of the cast all do a fantastic job playing their respective roles, and actually make you care about their various illicit endeavors. While the core plot is at heart one that has been done countless times before, in a manner similar to Avatar, Nolan manages to wrap it in a shell so innovative and clever that it feels original and completely creative all over again.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

A very enjoyable, loud, and hilarious action flick that stands out as one of Guy Ritchie's best films to date. The premise is a cool one, and the actors never disappoint.

Marley & Me
Marley & Me(2008)

The acting is actually competent, and the emotion factor is high. Howver, the emotion factor is the movie's only real crutch, as it's not that funny of a film (though not for lack of trying). Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are good, but it's the dog (and its death) that steal the spotlight.

Stand and Deliver

Despite a recommendation from one of my friends (who has recommended mostly crappy movies in the past), I was willing to give this movie a chance if only to see the venerable Edward James Olmos as a professor. However, I quickly learned to ignore such reasoning because this film doesn't do asingle thing you haven't seen before. The entire thing plays out like a poorly written account of Husker teaching how to subtract 2 from 2 to a roomful of robots with their "poor Latino stereotype" settings turned to eleven. Even the ending comes off as contrived, trying far too hard to move you even an inch. And the rest of the film doesn't fare much better, particularly the the incredibly aggrevating soundtrack. In short, take each individual facet of what this movie tries to do and go see movies that focus their attention on one of them rather than try to stretch it across all of them. If you want to feel inspired, go see 127 Hours. If you want a great leading actor, go see The King's Speech. if you want to witness the education of a poverty-stricken teenage hooligan, go see Good Will Hunting. If you want to like this movie, just go see Bloodrayne and compare it to this. And then go jump in front of a speeding train because you're officially incapable of telling the difference between quality and crap.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Funny and entertaining, this is a film that (were it not a piece of claymation) Pixar would have been proud to call its own. Great voice acting, typically hilarious W+G animation, and a fun storyline make this easily one of the best animated films of all time.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Finally, a video game-based film that isn't a pile of s**t! Very good special FX, cool costume design, and some good acting elevate this film far above the average video game film. Unfortunately, that isn't really saying much, as video game movies are some of the worst of all time (thanks, Uwe Boll), so a good video game movie amounts to an average film on its own merits.

Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines

Though wholly uninspired, and delivering neither the weight nor the greatness of either of the prior two, this is a well-done action flick that you should see if you're a fan of the series.

The Terminator

Though it leacks the spectacle of Terminator 2, this is still a work of mastery. The great acting, action scenes, and storyline make this James Cameron's second best film to date.

Kill Bill: Volume 2

While not quite as good as the first film, it is still a great work of filmmaking. Definitely more of an homage to older movies than the first one, though.

The Fast and the Furious

The acting drags the whole thing down very far. If the actors at least even pretended to care about the script, this would've earned at least a 70% from me. The script is smart, the action is fun, and the effects are dazzling.

The Matrix Revolutions

An above-average, effects-heavy action film. There could definitely have been worse conclusions to the trilogy, though there could also have been far better ones. The action (as usual in this series) is very well done, but the final showdown between Neo and Smith, though visually amazing, is completely unsatisfying, and could very leave you walking away disappointed. Worth seeing, but again, don't come expecting greatness.

The Matrix Reloaded

With more action than the first, some annoying new characters, and some occasionally iffy writing, this is a quite inferior sequel. However, the action scenes are just as well done as in the first, and the plot moves along fine. It's worth seeing, just don't expect anything mind-blowing.

The Master of Disguise

This movie tries a bit too hard to be funny. Even more unfortunate, it seems to have had its humor aimed squarely at 5-year-olds, and comes across as extremely dumb in the process. There is ONE genuinely funny moment, but even tis comes across as contrived and more of a laugh-at than a laugh-with moment.


A great idea for a movie that wasn't quite delivered on. The film focuses a bit too much on the drama between its two lead characters, rather than the brutal invasion that seems to be happening everywhere except where the duo happens to be. Aside from this major flaw, however, the film actually works pretty well, its good parts are very good. However, the low points are quite low as well, almost compensating for those moments of greatness.

Monsters, Inc.

An incredibly cool idea for a film, plus Pixar? Another masterpice of animation, Pixar proves that they can deliver on virtually any story they care to tell.This film will make you cheer, laugh, and cry in equal measure as two monsters gradually develop an affection for an innocent little human girl, are subsequently forced to betray their relationship, and of course choose to rescue the child from her nightmares. A wonderful, relevant tale for filmgoers of all ages.

The King's Speech

A unique (though fairly predictable) feel-good tale of a struggle of a ruler to overcome a speech impediment. While it does sound rather unremarkable at first glance, a second thought is necessary, because while this movie does fall back a few too many cliches of other films like it, it manages to be both achingly hilarious and breathtakingly moving while doing it. The acting is stupendous, and the film is ultimately a tale of the value of both perseverance and friendship.


While it begins as a refreshingly intelligent and chilling sci-fi adventure, by the end it has devolved into a conspicuously horror-like movie that absolutely refuses to gel with what came before it. The acting is good, the directing is quite good (as usual), and the premise will keep you going through the final frame.

Jurassic Park III

The inexpicably-existing new species of dinos aside, this is an extremely similar film to The Lost World. Some of the locations and action sequences are actually quite interesting (the pteranadon Birdcage sequence being among the most memorable), which at least manages to top its predecessor in that respect. However, the rest of the film isn't quite as riveting (or even as tense); you will not care whether or not anyone lives or dies, and the plight of the parents and their son is comletely unrealistic (though there could be worse reasons to return to Isla Sorna).

The Lost World - Jurassic Park

Jettisoning virtually everything that made the first one so good, The Lost World trades an intelligent, absorbing, and (most importantly) thrilling story for a dumb, bombastic, and boring one. Rather than build on the feeling of a dream come true slowly going to hell like the first film, the entire thing consists of either a group of scientists running away from (very convincing-looking) dinosaurs or a group of mercenries attacking the dinosaurs...and then running away from them. And the dino invasion of a city at the end was a completely unnecessary, out-of-left-field scene that really, REALLY did not need to be there.

Jurassic Park

As a big fan of the Crichton novel, I was a bit disappointed in the steps this film took to appeal to a slightly, shall I say, dumber audience. Faithfulness aside, this is a very well-done monster-action film (which I didn't find all that scary). The acting, however, is spot on, and Spielberg's typically great dirction polishes this to a mirror shine.

A Sound of Thunder

When I first read Ray Bradbury's masterful short story, I immediately thought "this would make a great movie." So naturally, when I first saw that this was coming out, I was immensely excited. Boy, was I in for a shock. While watching this, I was literally speechless at how bad it was. The special effects were transparent, the performances were flat, and the dialogue is terrible (ANOTHER TIME WAVE IS COMING!!!! ZOMG!!!!). Of all the book adaptations Hollywood has screwed up, this has to be one of the worse ones.


Despire the unenviable legacy that it has left behind, the original trap-horror film is easily the best of its overly crowded subgenre. The traps are twisted enough to seem like a serial killer really could come up withthem, but thoughtful enough to keep the film within the realms of realism.

Battle Royale

A slightly disturbing, endlessly joyful orgy of violence. Or so it would seem. Once your gaze penetrates the spilled blood and evicted innards, you'll find a multitude of political statements and reminders of the teenage desire to be truly independent.

Tron Legacy
Tron Legacy(2010)

Yes, as everyone has already said, the visual FX are very good; however, the rest of this film most certainly isn't. The dialogue is competent in most places, downright atrocious in the rest, and the story is your standard run-of-the-mill sci-fi drivel. But you don't see this film for the dialogue or the story; you see it for the eye candy, and while Tron: Legacy has this in spades, it simply can't make up the this film's numerous shortcomings.

Let the Right One In

The basis for the masterpiece of a remake Let Me In, the original is different in one key area: this is more of a horror movie with love story elements, while the remake is a love story with horror movie elements. With this in mind, this film manages to be considerably scarier than its younger counterpart, with the characters thrown into more disturbing situations than they ever are in Let Me In. The fact that the vampire is a boy does make the relationship between himself and Oskar seem a bit unrealistic, but this minor flaw is made up for in other areas.

The Emperor's New Groove

It doesn't really try to make itself unique in any way, but it at least manages to keep the laughs coming with great voice acting, as well as a good script that keeps it from becoming stale.

Planet Terror (Grindhouse Presents: Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror)

Completely unlike anything this side of the 80's, this is a B-movie that, in it's intentional stupidity, becomes an A-movie. The acting is great, the special FX are very good, and , of course, there is the matter of the cringe-inducing scene involving Quentin Tarantino and his manhood...

The Green Hornet

Unfocused, unfunny, unexciting, and unnecessary are words that aptly fit this only sporadically entertaining film. Despite some flashy visuals, and a fair performance from Jay Chou, this film is definitely an early contender for biggest disappointment of the year.


IMO, Pixar's best film yet. Great commentary on humanity, mixed into a kid's package, this is a movie that anyone can enjoy.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

The racing scenes are pretty much the only positive aspect of this film. The extremely subpar acting and stupid plot make this film really overstay its welcome. It's a movie about racing, and it's about 1/7 racing (!).


The plot is slightly interesting, but everything else about this uninspired and generally wasteful effort falls tragically flat. As per Hayden Christensen's norm, the acting fells robotic and phony, thus eliminating the one other aspect the film could have fallen back on. An overall disappointment.

The Sentinel
The Sentinel(2006)

You've seen the vast majority of this movie before, even if you haven't. The cliched and mundane plot does the film no favors, and the acting is surprisingly weak considering the cast.

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)

For the time, at least, one of the most creative works of sci-fi. Also was the most visually advanced film since the first Star Wars. Really the only con was Keanu Reeves' semi-robotic acting.

The Descent
The Descent(2006)

One of the best (horror) films I've ever seen. This claustrophobic gorefest never lets up once it starts. The dialogue is well-written, the monster effects are quite convincing, and the ending is a great twist. Neil Marshall's best yet.

Dawn of the Dead

Nowhere near as deep as the masterful original, although an extremely admirable big-budget remake (especially given that it was Zack Snyder's debut film). Definitely scarier than the original, and far bloodier. Though the writing drags A LOT later in (what's the difference between dying on the street or in the mall, again?), the pre-credits opening scenes are just as good as anything Romero has ever done. Worth seeing, just watch the 1978 original before this one.

The Book of Eli

It could have been better, but this undeniably original post-apocalyptic tale is definitely a flick worth seeing. The action is extremely well done, and the acting is good. The only major con is, unfortunately, huge, and is that post-apocalypse films have been done many times before, and sometimes better.

Dead Alive
Dead Alive(1993)

Despite the good acting, stupid (in a good way) story, and genuinely funny situations, the star is nither Timothy Balme nor Diana Penalver. The true star of this film is the gore. Following the a-bit-too-slow opening scenes, it takes up the most screen time, and more than anything else, gives the film it's darkly humorous mood (over 150 gallons of fake blood were used PER MINUTE in the final mansion scene!!??!!). You truly must see to believe.

Dr. No
Dr. No(1962)

Ah, the first ever James Bond movie. Great acting, story, characters, locales, and action. Definitely a must see (even if you've never seen a James Bond Movie).

Terminator Salvation

Similar to Black Hawk Down with robots, this war film (and yes, it is a war film) is a decent attempt to recreate the same feeling for the characters as the original duo, but fails. However, the acting (at least by the 2 leads) is good, and the action is as well. The script? Not so much.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

See my review of the first Resident Evil film, just amplify the negative aspects.


Though definitely entertaining, the plot falls short in some places. Also, there wasn't enough action, IMO. Since the action scenes were the most well-done part of the film, it would've benefited from more of them. Overall, an enjoyable fantasy/sci-fi/action film.


David Fincher has made some incredible films. This is not one of them. It's got the acting talent from the first 2, but it lacks the atmosphere, scares, and great action of the classic originals.

2 Fast 2 Furious

Really the only improvement of this sequel over the original is the cooler cars. Otherwise, this is worse in pretty much every way, especially the plot. The whole thing involving the drug lord was completely unnecessary.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)

Though the somewhat noticeable lack of atmosphere detracts from the film in a big way, the rest of the film is very competently done. Will Smith's acting is very good, and the effects are at least kinda convincing. For lovers of the book, be warned: this is an adaptation of it in none but name.

The International

The story makes almost no sense, but in my opinion, everything else about it was very good. The acting is great, the action is tense, and the detective scenes are interesting. It all, unfortunately, just fails to retain its cohesion.

I, Robot
I, Robot(2004)

I'm just going to say this up front: DO NOT see this movie just because you wanted a cinematic adaptation of Asimov's sci-fi classic, because other than the title and the 3 laws, there's no way you'd know that that's officially what this is. The acting is competent, and the action is well-done, with great special effects making everything fell like it's actually happening. However, this movie is seemingly trying to make a point, but it's never clear exactly what it is. In addition, the movie ends very abruptly.

The Kingdom
The Kingdom(2007)

Though the action scenes soar to heights occupied by Kill Bill and The Matrix, the rest of this movie is held down by a poor script and complete lack of political sensitivity.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Huh. Imagine that. A Twilight film that's not complete and utter s**t? Believe it. David Slade directs this (admittedly a bit bloated) action-romance tale, with surprisingly good results, letting this film easily eclipse (pun intended) the previous two in every significant way.


An entertaining, gory, over-the-top zombie film. Though completely different from Lovecraft's book, it doesn't really matter, as the sheer fun factor is hard to top.

Jimmy Neutron - Boy Genius

Completely over the top, funny, and with good voice acting, this is a fast and fun animation that, though definitely kiddie-oriented, manages to be entertaining to viewers of all ages.

Men in Black II

Lacking almost anything funny, the acting is still good, but the script isn't nearly good enough to hold the film up as well as the last one, and as a result feels like a tired retread rather than a true sequel.

Men in Black
Men in Black(1997)

Though definitely cheesy and funny (sorta), the acting and pretty clever script drive this film fast enough to not get bogged down by its considerable number of flaws.

The Sixth Sense

M. Night Shayamalan's best film by far, The Sixth Sense is a horror-thriller tour de force that set the standard for the term "plot twist." This, along with great acting, story, and atmosphere, this is one of the few modern (assuming you can call an eleven-year-old film modern) horror films worth watching.

The Happening

Though the first 20-30 minutes are actually quite good, the latter two-thirds of the film are incoherent garbage that rapidly fires off various scenes of bad acting and unbelievable scenarios that make the whole movie fell like it's added up to nothing.

Fight Club
Fight Club(1999)

Dark, violent, and subtly humorous, Fight Club represents David Fincher's first real step into filmmaking (Alien 3 doesn't count). With a stellar cast (that does a great job to boot), fittingly dark cinematography, and a fun premise, this a unique dramedy that begs to be viewed.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

I didn't really have a good idea of what to expect when I walked into the theater to see this film. Maybe a competent thriller, but one that would fail to strike a good balance between the human and horror aspects of itself. So, as you could expect, this film completely blew me away. Everything, from the claustrophobic sets and cringe-inducing self-mutilation to the understated soundtrack and Natalie Portman's truly showstopping performance, makes this easily one of the best films of the year, as well as one of the most unique.

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider(2007)

Full of cliches, generic dialogue, a cheesy villain, and Nicholas Cage, Ghost Rider starts off promisingly, and steadily (and not all that slowly) becomes almost unbearable by the end.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)

Another brilliant hybridization from Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz is every bit as good as its predecessor, Shaun of the Dead. More awesome comic timing, and a hilariously preposterous plot, this is another hilarious comedy that shouldn't be missed.


Yet another Kurosawa work of awesomeness. See my review of The Seven Samurai, including the one flaw, as it kinda applies to this film as well.


Gut-wrentching, nerve-wracking, tense, action-packed, and brilliant are some good adjectives to describe Michael Mann's crime epic. The intense shootouts are the highlight of the movie, along with the stellar cast and performance. Not to be passed up.

Kill Bill: Volume 1

A shockingly unoriginal film. It borrows from almost every famous B-movie and samurai film ever made. And it's awesome.

Tropic Thunder

I have to say that this was easily one of the funniest comedies that I'd seen in a long time. The acting, jokes, and poking fun at Hollywood were very well done, and the great dialogue that is exchanged constantly ensure that this film never gets boring.

Gran Torino
Gran Torino(2009)

Moving, well-acted, and a great piece of social commentary, this is one of the best Clint Eastwood films ever. Numerous pieces of hilarious dialogue keep the overall dark tone of the film from becoming overwhelming.


Arguably the most memorable Bond villain & sidekick, great acting, and the true debut of Q (I never joke about my work, 007). Definitely the best of the Connery Bond movies.

The Godfather, Part III

Though this film gets an undeservedly bad rap for being a decidedly worse film than either of the first two, it's still a good film. The acting is as strong as ever, but some odd choices mar what could have been an excellent conclusion to one of the most revered franchises in the history of film (e.g., casting Sofia Copolla and a very poor ending).

The Godfather, Part II

Though not quite as amazing as the groundbreaking original, this is a great and well-acted sequel that more than lives up to its predecessor. This one is slightly more fast-paced, and offers up some welcome insight into the histories of the two Dons of the Corleone family, which nicely throws the differences in their methods into stark contrast.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)

Back in Black serves as the introduction to Iron Man, easily one of the best comic book films of all time. This movie marks Elf and Zathura director Jon Favreau's explosive debut into the superhero subgenre. There are no poorly delivered lines to be found, and the acting is all-around stellar, featuring incredible performances from an ensemble cast consisting of Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard. Filled to the brim with clever dialogue, explosive action, and a sharp wit, the script provokes gasps and laughs in equal measure. The special effects are dazzling, and are best showcased in the scene of Stark's first time in the finalized Iron Man suit. Finally, the film wisely chose to not adhere strctly to any Iron Man comic storyline, making this a film that can (and deserves to) be enjoyed by comic book fans and non-comic-book-fans alike.


Great voice acting, animation, and characters make this another amazing work from Pixar.

The Philadelphia Story

40's-era comic mainstay Cary Grant again fulfills his laugh quota for this fantastic film. The great acting and writing ensure that nothing ever gets boring, and the all-star cast would make it notable even if it were a bad film. The Valentine's Day of the forties (except good).

North by Northwest

Another classic from the Master of Suspense, NbNW is a gripping thriller that never gets dull, and unusually for a thriller, doesn't overstay its welcome.

Arsenic and Old Lace

One of the funniest movies I've ever seen, with great acting, comic timing, and characters. Cary Grant's facial versatility makes him kinda the 1940's Rowan Atkinson, and it works perfectly with the hilarious (and occasionally ludicrous) situations the movie sets up.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Not only the greatest Western film ever made, but one of the greatest films of any kind ever made. Period. Great acting, awesome set pieces, (dis)likeable characters, and epic story.


One of the most (in)famous films in existence, Brian De Palma's tragic tale maybe doesn't quite deserve the iconic status it has acquired since its release. It is, however, one of the most brutal, profane, and just plain awesome movies you can see. The acting is great, with Al Pacino in arguably his most well-known role delivering an exceptional performance. The dialogue is realistic, and the action will rivet your eyeballs to the screen.


Though difficult to classify as either a thriller or horror film, this is an undeniably brilliant film. Modern horror, for better or for worse, would not exist were it not for this chilling, well-acted, landmark movie.

X2: X-Men United

This HUGE improvement over the first film is easily one of the best superhero movies of all time. A great plot, even better action, and great dirction make this one Bryan Singer's best film to date.


The transition of Bond into the modern era starts off well. The characters are memorable, the plot is good, and the acting is definitely better than most Bond films. The tank chase highlights the extremely well-done action scenes.

Life Is Beautiful (La Vita  bella)

Though it tries a bit too hard to be gut-wrenching at times, these are thankfully few and far between. The acting is pretty good, the humor is spot-on (when present), and the abrupt switch in both tone and setting is suitably shocking.

The Godfather

Oh, God, where do I begin? With the universally excellent acting? The intense cinematography? The tight script? The ever-shifting plot? Actually, I shouldn't start with any of these, because to do so would be an insult to the aspects that I would have to put in later. One of the few films that I can slap with the verdict of "all but flawless", this is one of the landmarks in the history of cinema, and anyone who appreciates film in any capacity will either have already seen it or is buying/renting a copy right now.


I was really looking forward to this film as a kid, and I loved it when I first saw it (it was also the first film I ever saw in theaters). However, I now realize that I loved just about any film back then. The acting, script, and even effects are pretty terrible. It ultimately proved to be the hand that slapped eager Godzilla fans around the world in the face for daring to go see it.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Like the books that inspired it, this film is surreal, entertaining, and darkly humorous. However, it easily failed to capture the "dark" part of the equation, and instead focused almost solely on the humorous. Though it succeeded in that sense, the final product just felt a bit lacking.


As with its predecessor, this simply cannot compete with most superhero films (especially considering that Spider Man 2 came out the previous year). Though the effects and action are good, the film ultimately drowns in story it tries (and fails) to tell.


Simply not up to par with the superhero films of now or then (Spider-Man, anyone?). The dialogue was corny and cliched, and the cast, though a suitably star-studded one, lacks any chemistry whatsoever.

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian

Though it tries to make itself a bigger film than the first, this is an ultimately more stupid, lesser film, that feels ripped-off from, rather than inspired by, the first one.

Night at the Museum

Though it definitely takes itself down for the kids, this is otherwise a clever, funny kiddie action-comedy that is definitely worth seeing (if only once).


Hilarious, awesomely acted, and as gory as a zombie film needs to be, this is pretty much an American Shaun of the Dead (in all the best ways).

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Though it could've been better, this is definitely one of the better films in the series. Funny, action-packed, and dark, this is a must-see for Potter fans.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

It's entertaining enough, and well-acted as is the norm for the series. However, it's ultimately too compressed to make itself coherent, and thusly fails to resonate emotionally.

The Birds
The Birds(1963)

Though still suspenseful and engaging, I just didn't find this film as good as Hitchcock's other works like NBNW or Psycho. If you have to see only one Hitchcock film, make it one of the aforementioned two. If you just want a cool, inventive thriller, look no further.

Star Trek
Star Trek(2009)

Funny, thrilling, and faithful, this origin story reboot of one of the most influential franchises of all time is one that stands above almost everything else Star Trek. Visually amazing (though a bit heavy on the artificial lens flares) and brilliantly written, every moment includes some important happening, and as a result this is an extremely exciting movie. J.J. Abram's finest film to date, and one of the best sci-fi works of all time.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

A quite good, though not the best, Harry Potter film. The acting was consistently excellent, as were the special FX (when needed). However, some unnecessary lines and scenes hold this installment back from true greatness.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pretty much all of what made the first film great is strangely absent in the sequel. The sharp dialogue, exhilarating action, and tolerable plot are all gone, replaced by creature effects, an unlikeable new cast of characters, and (despite some very memorable sequences) is an overall quite boring film.

The Hurt Locker

Though it did NOT deserve every Academy Award it received, this intense war drama is one of the best films of recent memory (and all time). With a stellar performance courtesy of Jeremy Renner, and a tight script, this film can easily serve alongside Saving Private Ryan on the celluloid battlefield.


When you see the trailers, you really want to like this film. The potential here for just pure balls-out action was visible throughout the entirety of this "film". While the special FX were perfectly fine, it's the acting and script that turn this enjoyable sci-fi romp into a near-unwatchable travesty.


I loved pretty much everything about this movie. The acting was great, it was very tightly scripted, hugely suspenseful, and the soundtrack was very good as well. Simply amazing. Too many movies call themselves thrill rides. This is one of the few for which that name is not an exaggeration.

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)

Another instant classic from Danny Boyle. The almost flawless acting from the entire cast deserves to be commended, and the tight script and Boyle's typically great direction makes this film one of the most underappreciated films of the year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The darkest and grittiest of the Harry Potter films to date is also the best of them. Great acting, special FX, and suspenseful atmosphere make this the standard for the series.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A noticeable improvement on the first two, withe noticeably better acting, and a successfully darker tone, thanks in large part to the literal darkness present throughout.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

A bit better than the first, but it doesn't really improve much on the first film. The darker mood certainly helps, and Kenneth Branagh is very good at doing Lockhart, but Dobby tends to get annoying, and he's in about two-thirds of the scenes.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Extremely faithful to the book, and with pretty good acting, this is an excellent adaptation, but a merely good movie.

Shaun of the Dead

Hilarious, scary, and awesome as hell, this is one of the very few genre hybrid films that really works. With great acting and even greater writing, this film is capable of standing proudly alongside any of Romero's.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End

Even more new characters, more of a special FX-focused plot, and more tedium make this even worse of a sequel than the previous installment.

The Goonies
The Goonies(1985)

You want to love it. Really. And it tries hard, and at times (especially during the beginning) it succeeds. But whole thing is just so incoherent that it's hard to feel anything for anyone. It's merely okay the first time you see it, but trust me, subsequent viewings will spoil all your positive thoughts you had the first time you saw it.

Get Smart
Get Smart(2008)

Just pretty terrible across the board. Steve Carrel is a plus, but none of the jokes were funny, and as a result, the movie is almost completely lifeless.

Johnny English

Thought it offered up some definite laughs, this mockery of James Bond comes off, unfortunately, just as stupid as the villain's plan (taking the throne to turn the UK into a giant Alcatraz? Seriously?).

The Chronicles of Riddick

WTF? This film had almost nothing to do with the first film, and it's thusly a bad sequel. As a standalone film, I'd give it a 50 rather than a 40, but it just makes almost no sense, is spoiled by bad acting (again), and considering the ludicrousness of the plot, takes itself far too seriously.

Pitch Black
Pitch Black(2000)

An intrguing sci-fi tale, though marred by Vin Diesel's robotic acting and predictability of the script. A pretty average film, all told, but far superior to the sequel.

The Incredible Hulk

While still lacking in some areas, this film is superior in almost every way to the 2003 version, especially in the decision to cut out that version's gratuitous melodrama. Ed Norton does a fantastic job (as usual), and this one's actually not boring!


While this film had its moments, it was ultimately just really boring. There was hardly any action. What action there was was done well, but the tedium meter is a little high for my tastes (especially for a Hulk movie).

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Though the action is enjoyable, this is a competent action flick at best, trying a bit too hard to be funny, and dragging itself out a bit too long in the process.

Live Free or Die Hard

Though obviously not as good as the original, the newest entry in the series easily does it justice. Good performances all around, over-the-top action (jumping onto an F-22, anyone?), and a delightfully campy plot easily make (made?) this one of the best films of 2007.

Die Hard
Die Hard(1988)

Easily one of those action films that defines the genre. Great acting, direction, and exhilerating action scenes make this one that's not to be missed.


Great idea, acting, and script. Sooooo much filler in between scenes though, and switching between the three main characters can get a bit disorienting. The film starts off far too slowly, does nothing with its middle, soars high in the final third, and then ends far too abruptly. Not a bad movie, just don't come in expecting something of the caliber of Gran Torino.

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

Just as gory, funny, and cheesy as the original, but missing the energy of the first one.

The Evil Dead

While genuinely scary, the gratuitous violence and gore give it an edge of humor as well. While not flawless, this is easily Sam Raimi's best film to date.

Drag Me to Hell

Sam Raimi makes a triumphant return to his roots with Drag Me to Hell, a truly scary B-movie masterpiece that succeeds on almost every level.

X-Men Origins - Wolverine

A very action-packed, very cliche-ridden X-Men film. (A bit too much of)the effort was clearly dumped into the action, and not nearly enough into the script.

X-Men: The Last Stand

Though easily the worst of the three main X-Men films, this is still an entertaining celluliod depiction of Marvel's revered Dark Phoenix Saga series.


A very good (though not great) comic book film, the story, acting, and the accuracy of the characters will surely please both comic fans and average viewers alike.


Clever, original, and demanding to be paid attention to, this is arguably Christopher Nolan's best film (though The Dark Knight puts up a strong fight as well). The spiritual predecessor to Inception, great acting and an entirely unexpected twist make this one of the best thrillers ever, as well as one of the best movies in general.


Extremely clever, visually striking, and virtually unknown to everyone but the most rabid Nolan fans, this is another masterpiece of his, and the one that ushered him into the upper echelons of Hollywood's directors.

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)

Good acting, story, a cool concept, and Nolan's signature style make this film one that lives up to its title. Easily the most underrated of his films (only a 75%?!!?), this well-told, original story is a very unique film that should be enjoyed by everyone.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

A very faithful (for better or for worse) retelling of the classic Roald Dahl novel, Tim Burton's vision of the story is visually stunning and funny, as well as being a good reminder to be careful what you wish for.

The X-Files - Fight the Future

Very faithful to the show and its story. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are as awesome as ever. There's not really much to say, except that if you're a fan of the show, it's a must-see. If not, it's still worth watching anyway, though to a lesser extent.

Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo(2003)

There's not really much to say here. It's another Pixar movie, what are you gonna expect? Great voice acting,an inspiring storyline, well-written dialogue, and some of the most fluid animation cinema has to offer? I think those were in here somewhere, but you know what? Don't take my word for it. Just go out and see it for yourself.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

This is a movie for nerds. The fact that it starts off with an 8-bit Legend of Zelda theme tells you as much. And the best thing? It never degrades itself to try to appeal to a wider audience. The numerous references to video games ("I just learned the bass line for Final Fantasy II") will only be appreciated by those who play them. The story (a do-nothing slacker flls in love with a girl who's too good for him, and he must win her affection through whatever means necessary) is one that has been featured in numerous films before this. However, it is the acting, hilarious script, great special FX, and the amazingly choreographed evil ex "boss fights" easily make this one of the the best films of the year.


Witty, thrilling, and entertaining, with a stellar cast to boot, Red is a good- not great- action comedy that delivers plenty of laughs and adrenaline rushes.


A startling message about violence and justice, Unforgiven perfectly captures almost everything that made classics like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly so good.


Easily one of the most disturbing films in recent memory, the plot resonates today as a warning of what might happen if science goes too far. The acting is great and the special FX are very convincing. This is a great sci-fi horror film in a vein between Alien and Jurassic Park.

Do the Right Thing

A powerful, overt, and inspiring film, Spike Lee's vision of a racial crossroads compresses into one city block is a story that shouldn't be missed.


"Love. You can know all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as a turn in the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells ya she's hurtin' 'fore she keens. Makes her a home."

If this film could be summed up with one line, this is it. The love that so clearly went into this movie, from the direction and acting to the script and subtle special effects, is visible in every scene, every frame, of this underappreciated sci-fi masterpiece.

Evan Almighty

This movie manages to be even less funny than its predecessor, and it just flounders in its premise. Just not very good.

Predator 2
Predator 2(1990)

Really bad acting and writing are really most of what keeps this movie from inclusion in the same league as the original (as well as the utter lack of its predecessor's atmosphere). The action and cool fight scenes are what keep it from falling flat, as well as delving into to the Predators' bounty hunter backstory.


Good acting and very well-done action are really what keep this movie going. It was suspenseful, yes, but was overall very predictable and not really scary. This is, to me, a very good counterpart to Alien. Alien was a sci-fi horror masterpiece, and this is the comparatively B-movie monster flick that packs just as much sheer entertainment as Alien.

The Social Network

One of the best scripts in cinema, brilliant direction courtesy of David Fincher, and all-around stellar performances make this movie one that will be (hopefully) remembered for years to come. This inspiring and intimidating tale of lies, greed, and carelessness maintains a polarizing atmosphere of humor and tension throughout its length, effectively keeping you hooked the entire time.

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

My honest opinion of Citizen Kane is that it is quite easily one of the greatest films of all time, in areas both narrative and technical. The story, though not told in the clearest or most direct of ways, is one that keeps viewers engaged throughout. Additionally, the narrative is almost seamlessly intertwined with the technical aspects of the film, which is, in my opinion, a major part of what makes this movie such an outstanding one. I cannot think of another film in which this is implemented with any significance, let alone with such effectiveness.

Firstly, consider the narrative pros of the film. The general plot (a man gains power and wealth, tries and fails to make the most of them, but in the end, loses it all) is one that has been retold many times, so in a sense, the film?s story is pretty unremarkable. But through excellent acting, dialogue, direction, and editing, this movie becomes genuinely entertaining, which is definitely one of the most important aspects of any great movie. The argument between Kane and Thatcher fairly early in the film, as well as that very well done marriage montage between Kane and his first wife, Emily Norton, both showcase some of the great lines in the script. ?You shouldn?t have married a newspaperman; they?re worse than sailors,? quips Kane in response to Emily?s opinion that he spends too much time working, a foreshadowing of the gradual disintegration of their marriage over the course of the film?s numerous flashbacks. Also, the single biggest plot device in the film- Kane?s enigmatic dying word, Rosebud- is also one of the great pieces of symbolism in the film. Rosebud, it turns out, is the name of the sled Kane had as a child and was seen being played with by Kane in another flashback sequence. The fact that this was his final word represents, I believe, his remembering the one time in his life when he had true control over his life.

The idea of his power (or lack thereof) is where the narrative and technical parts of the film meet in the most significant way. The multitude of low-to-the-floor shots looking up at Kane are representative of the power and mystery that are in many ways integral to the character. The use of deep focus in scenes such as the one of Kane?s childhood and the aforementioned argument between Kane and Thatcher (where Kane finally gives up the reins to his media empire), make it so that no matter where in the shot Kane happens to be, he is always the main focus of the audience, especially since he is in the center of the screen in both of these scenes. In addition, the use of the sheer size of objects becomes very important to the story. When Kane is arguing with Thatcher, at one point, he goes over to the window at the far side of the room. Though they appear to be utterly unremarkable at first, as he nears them, it is revealed that his head barely grazes the bottom sills of the windows, making him (and thus his power) seem miniscule in comparison. Also, in the scene where Jed asks Kane to work at the Chicago newspaper, Kane is for once matched in size by Jed, making them equals (at least as far as this scene goes) in both stature and power. Jed is one of the only people in the film to openly stand up to Kane.

Citizen Kane?s significance is very difficult to overstate. Its overarching story and technical brilliance enable it to impress even today. Its truly timeless message about the worthlessness of wealth and material possessions is one that will never become old or outdated. This is one film that truly deserves to be remembered, for nearly every element of this film is outstanding.

Book of Shadows - Blair Witch 2

Oh, God. I understand the desire to make money by turning one of the most original horror films ever into a franchise. But here, even that is all but unforgivable. Bad acting, cheap attempts to be scary, and a worthless (and unnecessarily added) plot make this not only a crap sequel, but one of the worst films I've ever seen. And unfortunately, it's not even bad enough to make fun of.

Get Rich or Die Tryin'

Firstly, just to get it out of the way, I utterly hate rap "music", so I'm probably not the best person to get an opinion on this film from. But the acting was way below par, and the film obviously hoped to rivet audiences with sex, drugs, and violence, but it fails on all three. Finally, though it did clearly make a cursory attempt to sway viewers emotionally, it was unsuccessful in this respect as well.

The Blair Witch Project

Awesome writing, acting, and one of the horror genre's most brilliant concepts make this one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, especially with the main threat's actual existence remaining ambiguous throughout the film. Though beware of the shaky-cam (even though I loved this touch, I know many might not).

Cinderella Man

Emotional resonance, brilliant acting and direction, and occasionally wince-inducing violence make this an involving, realistic, and convincing tale of the Great Depression. Maybe Russel Crowe should work with a director who's not Ridley Scott for a spell...

Apollo 13
Apollo 13(1995)

Though it kind of overemphasizes the melodrama other than the space mission, the acting and tension make what would have been a merely good movie a great one, and easily one of Ron Howard's finest achievements.


Like Grindhouse before it, Machete showcases Robert Rodriguez's landmark talent for tasteless, entertaining filmmaking. The great acting, unique 70s feel, and buckets of spilled blood all combine into the final product of one of the most fun movies of the year thus far.

Spy Kids 3-D - Game Over

Unfortunately, this movie's sole reason for existing was seemingly to capitalize on the financial success of the franchise. Though the visual FX are quite good, the genuinely worthless plot and weak acting are the final nails in the coffin of this movie.

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

Good special FX and strong acting are really the only things that keep this movie afloat. The story is merely competent, though really, the main con of this film is that the cool concept is no longer cool or original.

Spy Kids
Spy Kids(2001)

Robert Rodriguez's sole children-focused project utterly fails to disappoint. The acting is good, the story is fantastically stupid, and the action is enjoyable (if understandably lacking in violence).

King Kong
King Kong(2005)

Improves on the original in almost every way, except for the definitely too-long run time. In all other respects, though, this film stands out as a shining example of how to successfully remake a classic.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

An awesome (if a bit long) conclusion to this epic fantasy saga.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Peter Jackson's epic vision of Middle-Earth is realized in a well-acted, great-looking film, and is the first in the film trilogy that is to fantasy as Star Wars is to sci-fi.

The Blind Side

Though the plot is predictable, and the idea has been implemented countless times before, the strong acting throughout and realistic dialogue make this a worth-seeing (though not a can't-miss) film.


One of the smarter action movies out this year, Phillip Noyce's tale of espionage and heavyhanded political intrigue feature more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout the majority of the film. The score compliments the intense action and chase sequences very well, and Angelina Jolie's performance is easily one of her best.

Survival of the Dead

The good acting and gore effects keep this film interesting. The fact that about two thirds of the cast has an Irish accent is slightly annoying, but doesn't detract from the overall product. The extremely cryptic ending sends the greatest zombie film saga of all time off with a bang.


While the cast isn't the greatest for this type of film, and the script isn't always up to par, the rest of this reboot of one of the most legendary monster movies of all time certainly lives up to the precedent set by the original (if only just). The constant chatter by the actors ruins much of the possible tension that would've let the movie exceed the first film. For what it is, though, it is a very good effort, and well worth a viewing or two.

The Silence of the Lambs

Suspense, great performances, and violence combine to form one of the scariest, most memorable movies of the previous decade.

The Untouchables

While the cast is what will draw you into the film, the riveting dialogue and action, as well as the dark tone, will be what keep you glued to the screen. Since it's completely possible that either the good or bad guys win, the suspense of discovering which will occur never lets up. A true gangster flick in every way.

Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2(2010)

Though not as good as the first, mostly due to the somewhat inferior dialogue, the action and plot move the film along at a reasonable place. The third quarter really does drag on a bit (I can't say much more without potentially spoiling something). The acting is competent on all fronts, with Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow delivering particularly strong performances. Don't come to see an improvement. Come to see a worthy sequel that (unfortunately) seems to set up a possible long series of Avengers movies.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Over the years, three of Alan Moore's graphic novels have been translated onto the silver screen (this, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen, released in this order). On the latter two, he wished to go uncredited as the source writer, because of his fear of the movies ruining their respective books. This film is the one that initiated that tradition. Most of the characters are drastically different from how they appear in the novel, some are omitted completely, and some completely new ones are added (TOM SAWYER???!!!???). In addition, the characters are far too much alike to make the loss of any one of them seem disastrous. Though entertaining and occasionally showing off some genuinely witty lines, the remainder of the verbal exchanges are pulled of with considerable clumsiness. Though undeniably entertaining, none of the depth of the novel manages to show up here.

Dog Soldiers
Dog Soldiers(2002)

Though the way the werewolves moved really couldn't have looked much worse, and a major plot thread is never resolved, the taut action and excessive gore will keep you glued to the screen. A commendable (if low-budget) debut for Neill Marshall.

Bruce Almighty

It's funny in some places, and stupid in others. Not bad by any means, but definitely not a must-see comedy.

Pan's Labyrinth

If you cross Hellboy with Alice in Wonderland, this is something similar to what might result. Visually amazing, great acting, and one of the deepest and most resonating movies I've ever seen. Guillermo Del Toro's best film to date.

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)

A great and epic samurai film whose (in my opinion) only true flaw is the almost absurdly long run time. The acting is great, the fight scenes are engaging (pun kinda intended...), and the story is good. A very well-rounded film that does nearly everything right.

The Departed
The Departed(2006)

The Departed is visceral, dark, and violent. It's also one the best films ever made. The great lead cast work extremely well together, the action is dramatic but not overly so, and the suspenseful atmosphere will keep you hooked.

The Day After Tomorrow

The fantastic visual effects and could've-been concept save this film (barely) from becoming a catastrophic failure. The dialogue is stupid, and is the main thing pulling the movie down. The acting is very average.

Independence Day

Roland Emmerich's best film is still nothing to write home about, but the scale and special effects can't be underestimated. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum make a good pair together as a fighter pilot and hacker, respectively. The plot is virtually nonexistant, but definitely worth seeing, especially if you're a sci-fi fan.


A genuinely moving, brutal film, Munich is yet another great Spielberg work. The acting is very convincing throughout, and the tension is all but guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Seven (Se7en)

Gives a sense of decay and misery unlike any other film. This is easily one of the best (and most disturbing) thrillers ever made, and is able to stand proudly alongside genre giants like Silence of the Lambs and Manhunt.

The Wizard of Oz

While I will agree that this is as close to a timeless film as anyone will get, it honestly didn't resonate with me, and thus, I feel that the movie's legendary status built up since its release is a bit gratuitous. It's still a must see for EVERYONE, though, and if you have not viewed this yet, you're an idiot.


I honestly don't know why seemingly everyone thinks this film is so bad. The acting is good (from Kevin Spacey especially), and the action is fine. While it does add a bit too much melodrama, it doesn't ruin the movie.

The Crazies
The Crazies(2010)

The best horror film to be released since The Descent. Unlike many modern remakes, which try to be scary by simply covering the camera in a red paint balloon, this film's violence is anything but gratuitous, and as such, makes it all the more shocking when it actually happens. A great ending and strong performances from the cast make this one a can't-miss.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)

I know why this installment was not as good as the other two: The fact that Sony basically forced Sam Raimi to include Venom in the storyline. If they hadn't done so, this would have been a much different (and superior) film. Other than that, though, the action is very good, as is the acting (including Dunst for once!).

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2(2004)

See my review of the first film, just with better action and acting, and again with Kirsten Dunst.


A quite good comic book film, this does just a few things wrong, but still manages to do justice to arguably the most famous superhero ever created. The one major flaw of the film is the casting of Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. The emotional weight and tension come all but exclusively from Tobey Maguire, who, unlike Dunst, does an outstanding job of playing his character. The special FX are excellent, and plot carries along nicely, and never overstays its welcome.

To Kill A Mockingbird

While it could've been a bit better, this is still an all-around great adaptation of the equally great book. The sole bone I have to pick is that in the book, a major plot thread was the mystery surrounding Boo Radley. I just didn't feel that that aspect was paid much attention to in the film. But that is a minor criticism in comparison to what this film does right (e.g., everything else).


The most non-kids-movie kids movie ever made, Up is yet another great Pixar work of genius. It deals with the themes of death, love, loss, and betrayal in more depth and with more maturity than many adult-oriented films. If you don't look beyond the pixels, however, you'll still find plenty of things to love about it. The great dialogue, hilarious situations, and (when it occurs) nerve-wracking action make this just as entertaining as thought-provoking.

The Lion King

Easily the best non-Pixar animated film EVER, and definitely the best Disney one. The acting is great, and for once, you actually care about the characters (which I did not do in Mulan).


While not great, this Disney tale is an entertaining, if a very historically inaccurate one. The comedy works very well. And who'll ever forget the training scene song?


The most atmospheric film I have ever seen, period. You never know what's going to happen next, the plot is excellent, and the dialogue is very good. Though it will tax your brain the first time you see it, it's far easier to understand during subsequent viewings.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

This ultra-80s horror masterpiece is one of the most original films in the genre. Robert Englund does a fantastic job of being Freddy Krueger, and the tension is palpable even during scenes consisting solely of dialogue. Also, for once, genuinely scary as well.

A Clockwork Orange

All I can say is, wow. Before seeing this, I'd read the book, and the movie is as close as you can get to a perfect adaptation of it. Funny, disturbing, and violent, this legendary film deserves to be viewed by everyone over the age of 17.

The Incredibles

Charming, funny, and more mature than any Pixar film to date. The acting is great, and the plot is pretty good as well. The humor is right on target, although the heroe's powers are a bit cliched.

The Wolfman
The Wolfman(2010)

While, of course, not as good as the original, this is a decent big-budget remake of a classic horror movie. Benicio del Toro does a fine job, although Anthony Hopkins (in a rare lapse), does not. Up until the last fifth of the film, the plot is competently done. However, the final battle between (spoilers ahead) Lawrence and his father was completely unnecessary, and was seeming only added to show of the effects of a smoldering severed head (end spoilers).

Shutter Island

The acting, special FX, and , most of all, the atmosphere are all very good. The script falters on occasion, and the music can get sorta obnoxious (the scene near the beginning with DiCaprio and his partner walking up the path to the facility is a prime example of this). Other than that, however, a very well-done thriller.


A visually unique war epic, 300's acting sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, and the fact that there are no themes or messages hidden behind the carnage could well leave you wanting something more. However, the scope and quotability more than make up for these admittedly minor faults.

Romeo + Juliet

With performances ranging from average to strong for pretty much every actor/actress involved, the main Achille's heel of this film is one you will notice immediately, even if you don't think of it as a negative. It is the huge clash between the time period the movie is set in and the time period the writing is set in. The Shakespearean dialogue simply doesn't work in a modern setting, and thus makes the characters feel constantly out of place.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (The X Files 2)

The acting (especially between Duchovny and Anderson) is passable, and though the plot at times gets pretty convoluted, the action is enjoyable, and I actually did want to keep watching and find out what would happen. I know I'm in the minority here, but I enjoyed this movie.

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie

Though the humor is excessively silly and thus sorta juvenile, the humor still works quite well, and makes this, ultimately, just as funny as the show on which it is based. I just have to say "Hasselhoff", and everyone who's seen this should immediately know the scene I'm talking about.

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)

One of the very few movies with virtually nothing negative about it. The acting is superb (even for a Tarantino film), the dialogue is clever ("Did you see a sign saying 'dead n***er storage'?"), and the plot is great. A redemption epic that can't be missed.


The acting of almost everyone besides Kurt Russell is kinda underwhelming through most of the film. However, the film does convince you that success against overwhelming odds is indeed possible. Unfortunately, it succeeds more as that than as an actual movie.


A great cast, along with the typical level of quality that's come to be expected of Clint Eastwood, make this the "family movie" of the year to see. It's basically a cross between a biopic and documentary, but that shouldn't keep you from seeing this one.


This film furthers the point that James Cameron is the master of sequels (just take a look at T2). The acting is amazing, and it features much more action than the original. Though not as scary as the first, this is in every other aspect the superior film.


As epic as a sci-fi movie can get without actually being epic. The acting is good, the action is suspenseful, the special FX are very convincing, and the creature design is original, to say the least. One of the scariest films I've ever seen, and also the first to successfully blend sci-fi and horror.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2)

Surpasses the original in every possible way. The characters are great, the creature design is imaginative, and the script is hilarious. Ron Perlman gives another stellar performance, and the plot is handled much better this time around.

Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2(1999)

Great acting, comedy, and characters again combine to form a very good sequel to an excellent film. The conflict between Space and West toys was overplayed a bit, but otherwise, it's just as good as the first.

Toy Story
Toy Story(1995)

Funny, clever, and involving, this is one of the few animated films that no one (young or old) should miss.


The one bad Pixar film I've seen. The acting is good, but it's definitely meant for little kids, and so lacks the underlying message that every good Pixar film has.

Resident Evil: Extinction

It's entertaining. That's about all the good there is. The plot diverges even further from the games (since when does Umbrella virtually rule the world?), and the acting is, again, quite bad.

Resident Evil

While the action is very well done, and the special FX are excellent, this film falls short in virtually every other area. The soundtrack is stupid, the acting is bad, the plot is very predictable (with the sole exception of the ending), and it was never scary in the least. Boo!

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Great storytelling, acting, characters, and action combine to form not only the best Terminator film, but one of the best sci-fi films ever. Period.


One of the stronger art styles of film, and with very good acting, this is an easy-to-recommend must-see. While very good, it's not flawless: the writing stumbles in places, and occasionally the unrealism of the fight scenes can suck you back out of its otherwise engrossing world.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

I honestly couldn't decide whether to give it a 0% or a 100%, so I took the middle ground. The only reason this has a 60 instead of a 50 is that I did actually enjoy myself while watching it.


See my reviews of Death Proof and Planet Terror. 2 good movies for the price of 1 (assuming you saw it in the theater) is a great deal.

Oh, and one final and major point: movies were orinally made for the sake of entertainment, nothing more. Because that is the case, this makes this one of the best movies of all time, because it sometimes seems that movies have forgotten what the word "movie" means.

Death Proof
Death Proof(2007)

I think many people will agree that some of Tarantino's movies are blatant homages to B-movies. Those are handles very well. However, when he tries to make an actual B-movie, it's not nearly as magnificent as Kill Bill or Inglourious Basterds. Still a good movie, just don't expect a masterpiece.

Quantum of Solace

The acting occasionally drags it down, but the action and plot are both handled very well. This would've been quite a bit better if they hadn't switched directors between this and Casino Royale.

Die Another Day

See my reviw of The World is not enough, sans the positive pre-credits comment.

The World Is Not Enough

While the action scenes are very good, the acting and plot aren't. Brosnan is good, but unfortunately, no one else is. The pre-credits scenes are great (and arguably better than the rest of the film).

Tomorrow Never Dies

The acting is quite good throughout, and the action is (again, as usual) well done (see the parking garage chase). The plot becomes extremely predictable, though it doesn't detract from the film overall.

Licence To Kill

Definitely the better of the two Dalton films, and easily the most realistic Bond film made so far. The awesome tanker-chase scene notwithstanding, there are no scenes that make this iteration stand out from the rest.

The Living Daylights

Dalton's Bond is somehow much different than Connery or Moore (in a good way). The action scenes are fun (especially the scene where Bond and obligatory female escape by sliding down a hill in a cello case).The plot is good, and the acting is above-average all around.

A View to a Kill

Definitely not a fitting film to be Moore's last Bond. The utter lack of memorable scenes or characters don't help.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Although Blofeld is inexplicably played by a different actor, this film exceeded my expectations of having an Australian actor play a British character. Also, for once in the Bond film saga, the movie ends on an unusually dark note, which I won't spoil here.

For Your Eyes Only

Again, the acting is subpar throughout, and the film is lacking in truly memeorable moments or characters.

The Man with the Golden Gun

Christopher Lee's performance as Scaramanga makes up for Moore's average one as Bond. In addition, this film introduces one of the the more memorable villains and weapons in the series (as anyone who has played the video games will know).

Live and Let Die

A good film, and a relatively original story (at least compared to other Bond films), but the acting of multiple characters leaves a lot to be desired.

P.S.: I know my reviews for the Bond films are getting extremely similar, but for the most part, they all have the same strengths and weaknesses.

Diamonds Are Forever

Definitely the worst of the Connery Bond films. While not bad, the plot is good, and the action is well done. Unfortunately, the acting of almost every character except Bond, and the stupid clone subplot, make this one a see-with-caution Bond film.

You Only Live Twice

While Connery delivers (as usual), the Japanese actors don't feel (or sound) like they care about what they're doing. But the action is very well done, and the main villain behind S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is finally revealed.


In my opinion, the worst of the Bond films. The acting is mediocre across the board, and the plot is stupid. Also, the space station base and laser gun battle feel like the movie is trying to cash in on the Star Wars aftermath, and were completely unnecessary.

The Spy Who Loved Me

The villains, action, and almost all characters are well-done. The film does introduce Jaws, and features the most exotic evil lair so far in the series. However, Roger Moore's performance drags down the rest of the film.


Another Bond classic. Though not as good as any of the previous 3, the plot is good, and the characters are well-acted. It is, however, lacking the truly memorable moments of the three prequels.

From Russia With Love

While there are some unnecessary scenes (the gypsy camp shootout is a good example), it's otherwise just as good as Dr. No.

Sherlock Holmes

While it's no LS&2SB, this is an admirable, well-done film. While Rachel McAdams' acting occasionally stutters, every other performance is stellar, Downey Jr. being the notable standout. The action is good (though not as good as it could have been), and the plot unfolds extremely well. A masterpiece? No. Worth seeing? Definitely.

Slumdog Millionaire

There's not much action onscreen, and you know that the plot can only play out one of two ways. And yet, the brilliant direction, visuals, script, soundtrack, and acting keep you glued the entire time. Every single action, no matter how big or small, carries, at the very least, considerable weight. If you're allowed to see R-rated films, you have absolutely no excuse for passing this up.

Public Enemies

A very visually impressive film, this does grab you almost immediately, and only lets go for a few minutes during some of the talking-only scenes. The acting is extremely good, with Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, and Christian Bale delivering very good performances. The action scenes are loud, with each individual gunshot feeling like it means something.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

A great end to a truly epic film saga, while the most forgettable of the original trilogy, is still just as good as either of the prior two. And, always a plus, the Ewoks are hilarious.

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Definitely the most revealing (plot-wise) of the original trilogy. The acting, action, and landmark special effects are all still top notch. And, of course, the birthplace of arguably the most iconic film line of all time.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

Arguably the best sci-fi movie of all time. The acting is superb, the effects stand up 32 years later, and the plot unfolds perfectly. If anyone over 9 years of age has not yet seen this movie, buy it and/or rent it ASAP!!!!

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

While the romantic scenes between Anakin and Padme drag, the rest of this film is awe-inspiring. The acting is good, the special effects are stellar, and the plot provides plenty of great scenes. Far and away the best of the prequels, and arguably as good as some of the originals. An extremely worthy conclusion (date-wise, not chronologically) to what is possibly the most important film series in history.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

A slight bit better than Episode I, but adds in the stupid (though inevitable) romance subplot. The action is very well handled, but is marred by some clumsily written dialogue.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

A passable sci-fi film and a bad Star Wars film, this movie (and Episode II, for that matter) exist solely as plot filler to cover holes in the original trilogy. Not bad, not great, but an alright attempt.

Reservoir Dogs

Exceptionally clever and funny writing and dialogue, spot-on acting, constant profanity, great action, and a surprising halfway-point twist, Quentin Tarantino's debut is one of the most ferocious, bloody, and just plain amazing films ever made.

Land of the Dead

This is a quite different film from the others in the series, but neverthless lives up to George A. Romero's high pedigree. The fact that zombies have acquired at least basic intelligence ups the suspense twofold. As usual of Romero's films, the social/political commentary is delivered in spades if you know where to look. Definitely woth seeing for zombie fans.

Day of the Dead

At least, IMO, the most riveting of the original 3 Dead films (though not the best). This is a much darker film than either of the prior 2, and is filled with constant tension. The makeup/gore FX are much better in this installment than either of the previous ones, and the acting and writing are convincing, as usual.

Dawn of the Dead

Popularized zombie horror. Why Dead Rising (the video game) takes place in a mall. The definitive zombie film, and remains the best horror film I've ever seen. The acting is convincing, the bleakness overwhelms, and the social commentary (if you're perceptive enough to catch it) makes you pause and think. A true zombie epic.

Night of the Living Dead

It set the new high bar for violence back in its time. The parts dealing with the Venus probe radiation cause-of-the-zombies drag a bit. A dark ending closes out the first-ever modern (read: flesh-eating) zombie film. The locally-hired actors do a better job than some "real" ones, and the actions and disputes of and between the characters are convincing (a mainstay of Romero's films).

28 Weeks Later...

While less...human than the first, definitely a good zombie film. Quite a bit more violent than the first, less scary, and more of an action movie, it's worth seeing, and a worthy sequel.

The Thing
The Thing(1982)

While a tad slow-paced in places, this is yet another horror masterpiece from John Carpenter. Quite good FX (for the time, at least), a genuinely suspenseful atmosphere, and the constant question of who is or isn't infected, this is a can't-miss if you're a fan of either sci-fi or horror.

Ninja Assassin

A psychotic, shallow gorefest in all the best ways. The generic title prepares you beforehand for the considerable lack of plot. The acting is decent, and set pieces are okay. But, you don't come to a movie with a title like this for the plot; you come for the action, which is easily the stong point, delivering plenty of "whoa" moments. While definitely a step down fro the director's previous film (V for Vendetta), it's by no means a travesty of cinema.

28 Days Later

A bold, bloody, sharp, and overall great (zombie) film. The acting is awesome on all fronts, and it is easily one of the most plausible zombie movies out there (as in, the dead don't inexplicably come back to life). The decision to use digital video was a very smart move, and one that really makes the surprisingly low amount of gore (relatively speaking) stand out.


Good for what it is, but, as a movie, very lacking. Also, completely inaccurate to the game. The whole point of the game series is the idea of the invasion from Hell. Here, they bizarrely choose to turn the overarching plot into that of a run-of-the-mill zombie flick, with a virus and infection replacing the supernatural scares of the games. An insult to the legacy associated with the name Doom.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Amazing acting and voicework. Awesome soundtrack, atmosphere, and sense of humor. A Tim Burton classic.

30 Days of Night

Not that scary. Extremely bloody. Above average acting. The wish that Sam Raimi had put as much care into this as The Evil Dead trilogy.


One the scariest films I've ever seen, and still holds up as good over 25 years later. A fine example of great filmmaking.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

While the special FX were excellent, literally EVERYTHING else is asinine. You can guess the villain halfway through, the script is hilarious (unintentionally so). In addition, they try to get you to care about the relationship between Duke and his girlfriend (whatever the hell her name is) by showing you flashbacks and memories...and fail catastrophically.

Inglourious Basterds

Historically inaccurate, unflinchingly graphic, and funny. What's not to like?

Casino Royale

Completely NOT what you'd expect from a James Bond movie: No ludicrous gadgets, no over-the-top villains, just smart action and writing. Mind-blowing, and easily the best Bond film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Funny, with great acting...mostly. Also, some of the music wasn't in proportion with the action choreography. If you must see any of this trilogy, make it this one. The other 2 drop off drastically.

Batman Begins

Easily the second best Batman film, only behind The Dark Knight. Katie Holmes's acting left quite a bit to be desired, but otherwise, awesome.

V for Vendetta

Amazing acting, visceral action, great special FX, and faithful yet creatively interperative of the graphic novel. What's not to like?

Sin City
Sin City(2005)

Teriffic acting, and excessively violent. A great Rodriguez/Miller film. A must see for comic fans (and non-comic fans, for that matter).


Funny and full of twists and turns. Worth watching once, but not many more times. Good acting.


Great acting, dirction, and storyline. An innovative monster/disaster movie hybrid. But be warned: if you see this, you'll either love it or hate it. There is no okay when it comes to Cloverfield (or J.J. Abrams in general, forr that matter).

Diary of the Dead

Definitely Romero's weakest film, though not bad at all. The biggest weak point is the acting, which is almost always overdone or underdone. But otherwise, quite good.

Street Fighter

The only reason I'm not giving this a 10% is because it's so funny to watch. The acting is so bad it's hilarious.


A very faithful, underrated graphic novel adaptation. Zack Snyder's best movie so far. Please watch this movie and read the book. Both are excellent. The acting is sublime (especially considering the fact that there are virtually no well-known actors), the visual style is eye-catching, and the action is intense. Snyder's signature slow-motion makes this feel much more like the panels of the novel playing out in rapid succession.

Saving Private Ryan

A very touching war movie, that for once depicts war as it truly is. A great drama as well as a war epic, one of the best movies of all time. Another Spielberg masterpiece.

The Dark Knight

One of the best films ever made, let alone THE best comic book based one. Epic, topical, and disturbing, the acting and writing mesh together perfectly. A fitting final cut for Heath Ledger (RIP).

District 9
District 9(2009)

The complete opposite premise of most sci-fi movies (in regards to the relationship between humans and aliens). Great acting, social commentary, and excessive violence and language. One of the best films of 2009. A huge feat, especially for being director Neill Blomkamp's first feature film.


Very original, downbeat animated film. While some sengments fell short, the work as a whole is well worth watching.