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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of the 2000’s

10) “Timecrimes” Nacho Vigalondo’s first feature film is my second favorite time travel movie of all time. A warning of the possible downfalls of human time travel.
7 out of 10 stars

9) “Children of Men” I may be in the minority, but I far preferred this Alfonso Cuaron dystopian thriller to this years critically acclaimed “Gravity”. Clive Owen gives what I believe is the best performance of his career.
7.2 out of 10 stars

8) “The Science of Sleep” – Beautiful and imaginative are the two best words I can use to describe Michel Gondry’s 2006 film starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a man who inverts his dreams with reality while trying to win the heart of his next door neighbor (Charlotte Gainsbourg). 7.5 out of 10 stars

7) “District 9” – Neill Blomkamp burst onto the scene with his 2009 tour de force. A movie that is as powerful in it’s narrative as it is breathtaking in it’s cinematography.
7.8 out of 10 stars

6) “Moon” – Sam Rockwell carries 90% of the weight of the plot (the other 10% being carried by the disembodied voice of Kevin Spacey) and he knocks it out of the park! This movie launched him to the top of my list of most under-rated actors in Hollywood.
7.8 out of 10 stars

5) “Upstream Color” – Shane Carruth’s long awaited follow up to the masterful “Primer” did not disappoint. Not only that, it further solidified him as a director that is sure to have plenty of awe-inspiring films in the years to come.
7.9 out of 10 stars

4) “Inception” – This surreal thriller baffled and thrilled audiences and critics alike. A sci-fi epic on the same level as “Blade Runner”, it is sure to go down as an all time genre classic.
8 out of 10 stars

2) “Primer” – My all time favorite time travel film and the second Shane Carruth film on the list is the superior of the two… by a hair. The absolute perfect mind-bending, low budget, sci-fi masterpiece. Mr. Carruth may have a long career of making brilliant films ahead of him, but it will be tough to top his debut film.
8.4 out of 10 stars

1) “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – One of my personal all-time favorite films. Charlie Kaufman’s story, in the more than capable hands of Michel Gondry, is beautiful and touching. Creating two characters (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet each turning in amazing performances) that the viewer can’t help but care about. To date, it is the quintessential sci-fi film of the 21st century.
9.1 out of 10 stars

Top 10 Darkest Children’s Movies

10) “All Dogs go to Heaven” – We start the list with a movie that depicts a dog (Charlie) going to hell and sinking into a lake of lava. That scene alone would be enough for “All Dogs go to Heaven” to make this list, but the dark factor doesn’t end there. There is gambling, smoking, drinking, and the eventual death of the main “Good” guy. Plus, what was with that creepy alligator in the sewer?

9) “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” – Any movie that is based on a Roald Dahl book is bound to be dark, and Wonka is no exception. The entire film has a generally creepy vibe to it, but what puts it on this list is the boat scene. That scene terrified me as a kid, but it scares me even more now that I am old enough to see it for the hellish acid trip that it is. The oompa loompas have always freaked me out a little too.

8) “The Never Ending Story” – My mom likes to tell a story about how when I was a young child, I loved watching this movie but was scared to death of G’mork the talking wolf assassin who is chasing Atreyu through Fantasia. The whole scene where he tells Atreyu about the nothing being the dispair of man kind, and how he is trying to help it by killing him (Atreyu) scared me so badly I would hide behind the couch until it was over. I also don’t know of anyone who watched it as a kid and didn’t cry when Artax dies.

7) “The Secret of NIMH” – Another story from my childhood: “The Secret of NIMH” was the first movie my parents ever took me to see in the theater. I got so scared that I dumped my large sprite, in it’s entirety, on my dad’s lap. This is a kids movie that’s main story centers on animal experimentation and torture. If that’s not dark, what is?

6) “Bambi” – Do we even need to discuss why this movie is on this list? This along with “Finding Nemo”, “The Lion King”, and “The Land Before Time” are all examples of film makers deciding to handle the topic of a child’s parents dying in a rather ungentle way.

5) “Up” – I still don’t think I have gotten over the beginning to “Up”. I have only ever cried actual tears in three movies. This is one of them. Great film, but wow… that is one depressing way to start a kids movie.

4) “Pinocchio” – Another very melancholy kids movie from the early years of Disney. The scene that puts it here is definitely the one where all of the bad kids turn to donkeys and start freaking out. That scene gave me nightmares as a child, and I swore that I would never drink beer or smoke cigarettes when I grew up. At least Disney didn’t include more dark events from the original book. I mean could any of us handled watching him eat Jiminy cricket?!?

3) “Watership Down” – Another movie that I was terrified of when I was a kid, but for some reason kept re-watching. As an adult I can see the strong parallels to fascism in the story, but as a kid all I knew was that these poor rabbits were being brutally picked off one by one. For years I wanted a pet rabbit, just so I could save it from the terrible existence I was sure they were all leading.

2) “Grave of the Fireflies” – Probably one of the most depressing movies ever made period. The two kids go through so much, that by the time the soul crushing ending comes along you are already emotionally drained. There is a powerful message, as with all films by Studio Ghibli. The only thing I took away from watching it was sadness.

1) “Return to Oz” – Dorothy returns to find Oz completely destroyed, meets some interesting characters, and decides to help return Oz to the magical kingdom it once was… Then this movie get’s really… really ceepy. If the head-swapping witch (Mombi) isn’t enough to terrify kids, the wheelers certainly are! I shudder just thinking about them.

Top 10 Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen, But Definitely Should

10) “Fishtank” – Michael Fassbender has become one of my favorite actors to watch, and this movie is a big reason why. The story is of a teenage girl, living an underprivileged life, finding herself emotionally and sexually. It is beautifully shot and exceptionally acted by the entire cast. Fassbender though is the star of the film and doesn’t disappoint.
Score: 7.8

9) “Dogtooth” – Although it was nominated for best foreign language film, many people have never even heard of this movie. Simply put, this is one of the most unsettling movies I have ever seen. I won’t give away any of the plot, because it is best to watch without knowing anything. It is an amazing movie though and should be seen by all lovers of cinema.
Score:8

8) “Thirst” – Chan Wook-Park directed this film about a priest who contracts a disease that makes him a vampire. He then must wrestle with his hunger and his desire to stay morally true to his faith. In a genre that has been extremely overdone over the last 20 years, this is a rare treasure.
Score:8

7) “Wristcutters: A Love Story” – A film featuring a brilliant story of a guy who’s girlfriend commits suicide and goes to a purgatory-like realm reserved for people who offed themselves. Zia (Patrick Fugit) then kills himself in order to go to the realm and reunite with his girlfriend.
Score: 8

6) “Lo” – A truly bizarre movie about a guy who is trying to rescue his girlfriend, after she has been kidnapped by a demon and taken to hell. This film is pure originality and while some scenes will leave you scratching your head, at the end you will realize that you just watched one of the more insane, odd, unique movies you’ve ever seen.
Score: 8

5) “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” – A wealthy man is a victim of a terrible accident which leaves him paralyzed, in this incredible tale of perseverance and strength of character. Beautiful on every level of movie making. I cannot say enough about this film!
Score: 8.8

4) “Bellflower” – Another movie unlike anything you have ever seen. There are two story arcs at work. One is about two friends building a car for to weather the apocalypse. The other is a brutal story of love, betrayal, and growing as a person. See this movie ASAP!
Score: 9

3) “The City of Lost Children” – A mad scientist tries to achieve immortality by kidnapping children and stealing their dreams. This movie started my love for Jean-Pierre Juenet. It is gorgeous film that is pure imagination and creativity. It should be seen by everyone.

Score: 9

2) “Shadow of the Vampire” – E. Elias Merhige (“Begotten”) wrote and directed this dark vampire flick starring a creepy as ever Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck. The story is a re-imagining about rumors surrounding the making of the grandfather of all vampire films, “Nosferatu”.
Score: 9

1) “Let the Right One In” – Okay I realize that there are three vampire movies on the list, but I stand by my selections. If there are any three you should see, it is these three. Most impressive is “Let the Right One In”. The cover for the dvd has a quote from a critic that reads “Best. Vampire. Movie. Ever.” And it is correct. It would not be overstating to say this is as close to a perfect film as I have seen in the last 20 years.
Score: 9.8

Top 10 Sequels

10) “Back to the Future 2” – I don’t care what other critics say, I love this movie! It is so much fun and leads perfectly into the third installment. Who can forget the hover board, flying cars, and double ties?!?

 

9)”A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” – My favorite of all of the Elm Street films. It is imaginative, fun, and the first film in the series that has Freddy use his witty side (some people hate it for that, I love it). It also has some of the more fun kill scenes of any horror film I have seen.

 

8) “Batman Returns” – I have loved this movie since the first time I saw Michelle Pfeiffer in that cat suit. Seriously though, Back in the day Tim Burton made some amazing films, and this one is at the top in my opinion. Incredible sets, great action sequences, and perfectly cast villains. What else could you ask for in a comic book movie?

 

7)”Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” – I know this is too easy a pick. It is probably on every top 10 list across the internet. But, it deserves to be. Put aside the fact that it has some of the most beautiful set designs in cinematic history. Even put aside the fact that you get to watch Sir Ian Mckellan and Christopher Lee have a wizard’s duel. The battle for Helms deep alone qualifies it for this list and has to be the greatest battle in a movie this side of “Braveheart”.

 

6)”Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” – This is, in my humble opinion, the best of all three (yes I said three) Indiana Jones movies. The scene in the beginning of the movie, where a young Indiana is played by the late River Phoenix, is the most fun scene in any of the films. Great chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery also contributes to Last Crusade being one of the best sequels ever.

 

5)”Lethal Weapon 2″ – If you are looking for an action movie with great action sequences, good acting, a great plot, witty dialogue, and a kick ass sound track look no further! LW2 has all of the above, and is probably the perfect popcorn movie for those of you looking for something to watch on date night.

 

4)”The Godfather: Part II” – I know I know… A lot of people are going to say this should be #1, as it is on almost every other top 10 sequels list. For me though, it is #4. That said, it is near a perfect movie in every way. Acting, directing, it’s all amazing. For me though it needs to be watched immediately after watching the first Godfather, and not as a stand alone movie on movie night. That is why I have it where it is.

 

3)”Terminator 2: Judgement Day” – I have seen this movie at least 30 times, yet every time I see it is on tv I watch the entire thing. It is that good! I still sit on the edge of my seat when the terminator and John Connor bust his mom out of the psych ward! Just writing about it, I want to go put the dvd in and watch it right now.

 

2)”Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” – The Star Wars nerd in me really wants to put this at number one. I mean, let’s go down the list of things that are awesome about Empire: 1) The Wampa 2) The battle of Hoth 3) “This is no cave.” 4) Boba Fett 5) “I am your father!” I could go on and on and on but I will spare you. We all know it is pure awesome!

 

1)”Aliens” – “Game over man!” This may be the best sci-fi/action movie ever made. Awesome weapons and kick ass marines vs. terrifying xenomorphs? Um yeah count me in! I could watch this movie 20 times a year and still love it every time!

Top 10 Films of the First Half of 2014

10) “Chef” – John Favreau wrote, directed, and starred in this light comedy about a chef who’s career has collapsed along with his home life. So, he decides to open up a food truck in a last ditch effort to save himself and his career. Clever, fun, and witty I enjoyed this film from beginning to end. So many awesome cameos, I can’t even remember everyone who was in it. Great date night, popcorn movie.

 

9) “Enemy” – Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”) brings us this moody, deeply symbolic film, in which Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal in his best performance to date) is struggling to find himself while also looking for… well himself (a look alike he sees in a movie). A very multi-layered film that will leave more than a few people scratching their heads (think Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”). I for one loved it and couldn’t wait to watch it again.

8)”Cold in July” – Jim Mickle’s pulp noir was one of the most fun movie watching experiences I have had all year. Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson all knock their performances out of the park. Especially Johnson who is hilarious through the whole film. Great crime film that left me anxiously waiting to see what Mickle does next.

7)”Obvious Child” – I said it then (the first time I watched it), and I’ll say it now: This is going to be the film that kicked off a very strong film career for Jenny Slate. She is perfect in every aspect of this role. Her performance as Donna, a damaged yet hilarious woman who is going through struggles that countless women face every day, is spot on and one of my top performances of the year.

6)”The Raid 2: Berandal” – If I had seen this before our top 10 sequels list, it probably would have been included. This movie is the best action film since it’s predecessor. It is the movie equivalent to bungee jumping. It starts fast and keeps a dizzying level of intensity all the way through. So so much fun. With crazy choreography, and impressively well developed characters. This is what all action films should aspire to be like.

5)”The Double” – A few years ago, Richard Ayoade made me laugh my ass off with his film “Submarine”. It was probably the best dark comedy this side of a Wes Anderson film. This year, however, he blew my mind with his new movie “The Double”. Jesse Eisenberg is incredible in this story of a man who cannot catch a break, and thinks life can’t get any worse. Then he meets his new co-worker, who looks exactly like him but is cooler, more charismatic, and just down right a better version of himself.

4)”Snowpiercer” – A very talented reviewer said of “Snowpiercer” that it is “A microcosm of society, in the tradition of Orwell’s ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’.”. There is nothing to not love about this film. Acting, cinematography, action sequences, story it is all there and it is all good.

3)”Blue Ruin” – An utterly perfect revenge film. Claustrophobic, eerie, and wonderfully suspenseful. My eyes were glued to the screen all the way through the ending credits. Macon Blair is on my short list of new actors to watch closely in the coming years. If you haven’t seen this movie, you need to.

2)”Nymphomaniac” This was very very close to being #1, and part of me sees it as that. Lars Von Trier is, simply put, a bad ass. He (along with the man who made the #1 film on this list) is one of the few directors in the history of film that seems to have no peak in what he can accomplish and how good his films are. Brutally sad, “Nymphomaniac” is beautiful, depressing, and darkly funny all at the same time. LVT once again more than lives up to the hype and controversy surrounding his films.

1)”The Grand Budapest Hotel” – Wes Anderson not only does it again, he outdoes everyone else. A director who can do no wrong. I have loved very one of his films, but this may be his best. It is every bit as beautiful and clever as we have come to expect his films to be, and maybe even more than I expected. The entire cast is brilliant, but it is Ralph Fiennes who gives the performance of a life time. His turn as M. Gustave is like seeing Peter Sellars meets Bud Abbott. This would be my pick for best film if the Oscars were today. Simply amazing.

Top 10 Performances By Child Actors

10) Kirsten Dunst (Interview With a Vampire) – The older I get, the less I like this movie. It just doesn’t hold up for me, despite a star studded cast. With that said, Kirsten Dunst’s performance as child vampire Claudia is delightfully creepy. She does a wonderful job at going from scared innocent orphan to sadistic blood-thirsty demon child.

9) Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank) – The oldest (18) of the actors on this list at the time of filming. It still needs to be said that she was incredibly fearless in this role. She stands toe to toe with Michael Fassbender and does a fine job.

8) Henry Thomas (E.T.) – This is an easy choice. I mean talk about your classics. Still though this mega blockbuster of a film relied heavily on the ability of young Thomas to interact with a puppet, and it was a monster success and a landmark in the world of science fiction.

7) Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional) – Again kind of an obvious choice. In the best hit man movie ever made, Portman was a stand out as Mathilda the free spirited young girl who’s family is killed in front of her. Another brilliant on screen transformation from scared and innocent to strong and independent.

6) River Phoenix (Stand By Me) – River Phoenix’s breakthrough role as Chris Chambers was pure magic. Had he not met an early tragic death, Phoenix would probably be one of Hollywood’s brightest stars to this day. So much emotional depth and range is nearly impossible to find much less in a kid of 15.

5) Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver) – It is odd that Foster starred in both “Taxi Driver” and “Freaky Friday” in the same year… It was her performance as a child prostitute though that is forever etched in our minds. A heart breaking character in a heartbreaking film.

4) Linda Blair (The Exorcist) – This would hands down win the number one spot if this was a “Most disturbing child actor roles” list. Still the most scarring movie watching experience of my life was watching this as a 10 year old.

3) Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) – 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld burst onto the acting scene as Mattie Ross in the Coen brothers’ 2010 remake. She delivered a smart, strong, and hilarious performance and has a bright future ahead of her.

2) Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) – Learn different languages, learn martial arts, and take archery lessons were just a few of the requirements for young Ronan in this beautiful film about a child who is the result of a government science project to create a super soldier. Still the best performance of her emerging career.

1) Lina Leandersson (Let the Right One In) – In the perfect vampire movie, Leandersson’s Eli is the perfect character. She brought incredible poise and a calm calculating demeanor that really put this film over the top as a masterpiece. One of my favorite roles (of any age) in the last 20 years.

 


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