Last year I posted the first of my annual top ten lists for films I watched during the year, but I hadn't worked out all of the kinks. Here's a link to last years' best batch and a note on those that didn't make the cut:
THE GOODS: TOP TEN FILMS OF MY 2009
This year I've included theatrical releases that I saw during the year, which could include movies that were released in late 2009 that I didn't see until 2010. Hardly much difference there, but this also means movies released this year that I didn't see until they were on DVD, digital download or the like are also on the list.
Here we go:
10) THE CRAZIES --Great acting by Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell highlight this remake of the cult Romero film. A hopeless voyage through a small town in the middle of a mini-apocalypse. You know you're in a Romero movie when you're trying to escape from something and a completely different threat shows up just when you think you're free. It's just crazy enough to make my top ten list.
9) SPLICE --A well made and genuinely freaky look into the world of gene splicing. A scientist couple played by Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody play Victor Frankenstein and, as per usual, the creation ain't what they had in mind. Equal parts ALIEN and SPECIES, it gets extra creepy when the creature matures. This one reaches my Top Ten by a DNA strand or two.
8) SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD --An excellent and quirky story of love and video games. Good, quick-witted fun with a manga twist. The quality of movie Youth in Revolt should have been. Michael Cera is great here again. It's a bit start and stop, but this is one movie where the action and comedy mix perfectly--complimenting each other, really. Scott Pilgrim defeats the rest of the list and slides into the list of ten at number eight.
7) CRAZY HEART --Easily one of the better films of the year. Jeff Bridges eats up the role of a down and out drunk country singer/songwriter trying to woo a woman half his age. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the single mother/reporter who becomes involved with the the charismatic singer. Tragic and uplifting stuff all at once. A well told yarn of love and lust, recklessness and responsibility. This one sings it's way onto the list with a the sass of a coal miner's daughter.
6) MACHETE --There are B-movies and then there are grade D-movies also known as SCHLOCK! This one went for the schlock and got it with gusto. And who ever heard of schlock with a political and social message? Any movie where a guy is so bad ass that he looks at a gun in one hand and a machete in the other an just tosses the gun away while in the midst of a shoot out with a dozen or more bad guys is my kind of film. Machete hacks it's way through the jungle of other films to reach my ten best list.
5) TRUE GRIT --You'd think that Jeff Bridges as the brash and bold Marshall Rooster Cogburn would be the real reason to watch this Coen Brothers retelling of the novel, but it is Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross who, with forthright logic and sheer force of will steals the show. Matt Damon is also comfortable in his role as a flashy and braggadocious Texas Ranger who both rides with and in competition with Bridges' Cogburn in pursuit of the murderer of Mattie Ross' father. The murderer is played well by Josh Brolin, but really he has only a small part to play. It is Steinfeld as the stubborn and supremely intelligent Ross who moves all of the pieces on this chess board. It's a very strong film that feels epic enough that the experience of watching it seems too short. It's not one of the Coen Bros. best pictures ever, but in this year it fits right into my ten best.
4) THE TOWN --Ben Affleck blew me away with GONE, BABY, GONE and so I went into THE TOWN with high expectations. This movie lived up to those expectations. While not a better film than his first, it is in the same neighborhood. A suspense filled romantic thriller, the movie focuses on Affleck's character, a bank robber who falls for a possible witness in one of the jobs his crew pulled off. Jeremy Renner plays his life-long partner in crime who goes too far on occasion and John Hamm is great as the FBI heavy who is desperate to end the robberies. Rebecca Hall is superb as the witness who falls for Affleck and comes, very slowly, to realize who she is dating. A fine film that makes the list.
3) THE SOCIAL NETWORK --There is a reason David Fincher is one of the best directors working today and I believe it's the seamless way we enter the worlds he creates. ZODIAC is one of my favorite movies and it is not because I like the material very much, not because the acting is spot on, not because it was shot in such a way that made San Francisco a character in the story--it's the overall combination of these things blended together in such a way that you forget you're sitting in an air conditioned theatre on a rainy day and that you have to pick up some groceries when the movie ends. The Social Network works in much the same way and the performance by Jesse Eisenberg seals the deal. It works on all levels and is also one of the best movies I've seen this year.
2) BLACK SWAN --Natalie Portman stars as an up-and-coming ballerina who is chosen to portray both the white and black swan in her company's adaptation of Swan Lake. She is perfectly suited for the white swan, but the black swan is so unlike her natural way of dancing that her instructor is constantly pushing her to free herself so that she can be this seductive creature. Natalie's character goes on an obsessive journey to reach this... perfection. So obsessive, in fact, that it becomes dangerous for both her and those around her. It's slightly mind-bending as her journey pulls the viewer swirlingly into her spiral.
1) LET ME IN--Having seen the original Swedish film (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN), this movie had a lot to live up to. The original was excellent in it's take on misspent youth, young love and horror motifs. This version of the story is, I believe, superior. See my full review for the whys and wherefores: THE GOODS: COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN DAY 4 . It is, easily, one of the best films of the year.
AND NOW... the other new movies I saw this year (that I remember) with a brief impression on each...
Sherlock Holmes --Downey Jr. charms his way through an action-packed mystery and into the long line of actors taking on the role of the world’s greatest detective.
Daybreakers --What happens to the world when vampires conquer and people are becoming extinct? An interesting vampire film, that’s what.
Youth In Revolt --Michael Cera plus teen angst should equal greatness--not so much.
Shutter Island --From the years worth of commercials before the movie ever came out (it kept getting pushed back by the studio), I already knew the big surprise in this suspense/thriller, so it wasn't so suspenseful to me and it didn't quite thrill me unfortunately. Marty is usually much better, IMO.
The Book of Eli --Bad ass with a sword on a quest in a post-apocolyptic world--Denzel Washington delivers a restrained performance. This movie nearly made my top ten. So close...
Legion --Angels with guns, battling each other over the fate of humanity sounds an awful lot like The Prophecy and it is, minus the good. Tries to be Preacher, but doesn't have the brains, courage or heart.
Frozen --What happens to the human body when it faces exposure to extreme cold for days on end? The mind tends to make it do stupid things.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief --A fun romp through twisted mythology and more fun than that Clash of the Titans remake.
The Wolfman --There’s more chemistry between Del Toro’s Wolfman and Hopkins’ father figure than there is for Emily Blunt’s character. Still and all, a valiant attempt at updating the Universal classic.
The Runaways --Diary of a band doomed to go up in flames living too far out on the edge that didn’t quite seem to have much to say.
Hot Tub Time Machine --Great potential lost on me as I slept through it for the most part.
How To Train Your Dragon --Easily the best of the Dreamworks animated films(Monsters vs. Aliens being a close second), this was loads of action with a great message. Still doesn't reach the level of the best of Pixar though.
After.Life --What happens when you wake up in a mortuary and the mortician tells you you’re dead? Christina Ricci must decide if she believes Liam Neeson or her own senses.
Date Night --Odd mix of action and comedy as a tired couple tries to make a go of a night on the town and get caught up in all kinds of crazy.
Kick-Ass --One part ultra-violence, one part coming-of-age comedy--it just doesn't garner list-worthiness.
The Losers --Quite a bit of fun, another mix of comedy and action and this one gets the balance right. Jason Patrick rules as the quirky villain.
The Good Heart --A slightly too sticky story of love and friendship between a brash bar owner and a homeless kid he takes under his wing.
The Human Centipede --Just a plain unpleasant movie to sit through and it still doesn't make practical sense for this kind of thing to have even worked on animals, let alone people. Easily the most disturbing and pointless movies of the year. And yet I HAD to see it.
Iron Man 2 --Too much with the comedy and not enough look at how Tony was doing the actual work of converting his tech to non-military or at how he was at holding onto a relationship. Good bit of action as well--it's just that all these guys in armor can be repetitive. Downey Jr. was still excellent.
MacGruber --The love scenes (that's right, multiple!) are, in and of themselves, worth watching this whole flick for. Very funny movie.
Survival of the Dead --Easily one of the least of Romero's zombie tales. Two crazy families battle over whether it is better to leave the undead walking around or to put them down for good.
Get Him To The Greek --Funny, but not as funny as it should be. A solid comedy about a washed up rock star and the fan who only wants to help him get back on top.
Winter’s Bone --If you think gangstas all live in the inner city, then you don't know back woods Ozark folks. When her drug slinging father goes missing, it's up teenaged Ree Dolly to find him or her family will lose their home. The dark journey she must take is a harrowing one involving the different criminal families and bitter rivals. Jennifer Lawrence is unflinching in her portrayal of Ree.
Jonah Hex --Josh Brolin in the title role and John Malcovich as the villain were both great moves by those in charge of this movie. Too bad they didn't have a script to measure up to the talent and the purity of the original material this movie was based on. I knew it was going in the wrong direction as soon as I saw the shiny silver (think X-Men movie logo) lettering in the adverts. This movie should have been a dirty, grimy, bloody tale of the spaghetti variety.
The Killer Inside Me --Casey Affleck is great in his role as a Deputy Sheriff in a Texas town who goes completely wrong. Disturbing and twisted, there are some scenes in this movie that will stay with you a long time.
Toy Story 3 --Maudlin, but it was supposed to be, I guess. Saying goodbye to some of the best characters in animation over the last 20 years is hard to do, but did they have to make it so dang harrowing? If I were a kid in that theatre, I'd have been terrified for those toys. Well made, as usual, but it doesn't quite live up to the magic of the first two.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse --Easily the best of the teenage love vampire series. I find it strangely suspicious that these vampires and werewolves continue to risk their entire clans for this one human girl and yet refuse to turn her immortal when she's begging for it constantly. Edward wants his cake, but he doesn't want to eat it. What a wuss...
The Kids Are Alright --Julianne Moore and Annette Benning are perfectly cast as a couple dealing with the uncomfortable issue of their children finding out who their biological father is and wanting to spend time with him. Mark Ruffalo is well cast as the sperm donor bachelor who has to deal with these two teenaged people who suddenly come into his life. The subplot that develops, however, does stretch the story a bit too much, I think.
Predators --The formula is pretty straight forward. There are a group of alien hunters who like to use us as prey, call them Predators. Here, however, the story is turned a little bit sideways and that makes for an interesting movie. Well acted, this is a movie that knows what it's supposed to be. It works on nearly all levels, if you like this sort of thing.
Inception --While I love the idea of a group of people who invade your dreams to get to your secrets, usually for corporations looking to gain an edge in business, I didn't really think the end result was good enough for the concept. Dealing with a reality that is unreality, I was expecting these dreamscapes (hey remember that one?) to get stranger or weirder, darker or more fun. The effects that are in this movie are first class, when Paris folds it is a sight to see, but I was waiting for a more chaotic place than what we saw. I understand that part of the advantage they gain is trying to fool the victim into believing he is not dreaming, but as things go wrong I expected more.
Salt --Imagine a Bourne movie with a really sexy russian lady as the lead and you'll get what Salt is all about. Nice action and intrigue.
Dinner For Schmucks --One of those endearing comedies where we grow to love the nerdy dope as he teaches a lesson to the schmuck trying to make fun of him. Nice stuff in the mode of the great television series MY NAME IS EARL.
Get Low --Robert Duvall as a feared old coot who comes to realize how the world perceives him and decides to rectify it with a living funeral.
The Other Guys --There is a scene in this movie that made me laugh harder and longer than any scene in many a year and that alone is worth watching this one for. Another action/comedy... lots of them this year. Good stuff here, but that one scene does it for me.
The Expendables --Every action star not currently employed was recruited into this flick. This is a movie that is all formula. Every move expected, every bullet fired on cue. It works, it really works. Good clean fun '80s style.
Piranha 3-D --More blood than has ever appeared in any film. EVER! More torsos ripped in half than in any other movie. EVER! Other than that, if you've seen JAWS or even the original PIRANHA, you know the deal. A B-movie that knows and thrills in it, this one was a hoot. All that and 3-D!!! Take note OSCAR!
Going The Distance --Started out pretty good... Justin Long falls for Drew Barrymore as she's about to move away to the big city and they decide to try to pull off the long-distance dating thing. After that I don't remember much as I slept through a the majority of it.
Devil --A locked room murder mystery in which the murder takes place in an elevator. Nice setup to a pretty good supernatural thriller.
Easy A --Emma Stone as a teenager who decides to live up the rumors that have started to spread about her. She then uses the rumors as a way to earn a few bucks. A reminder of the work of John Hughes and a solid picture.
Red --Based very loosely on the comic book miniseries of the same name, Red is about a retired CIA agent who gets fingered for death by one of the bureaucrats in an incoming administration. In this movie, a handful of his former colleagues are targeted for death as well. Before long all of the collective shit hits all of the collective fans. Solid action pic with some nice touches of funny.
Paranormal Activity 2 --The original PARANORMAL ACTIVITY worked in much the same way that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT did, subtlety and tension--classic suspense. This one is a little less subtle, but it pretty much uses the same formula and is actually a prequel and sequel to the first PA. Good stuff.
Monsters --They say this was this years' CLOVERFIELD, but there's not enough of the giant monster stuff to warrant this. This was more a road picture featuring the odd appearance of creatures who seem a lot less malevolent than the things in CLOVERFIELD. Scary more in relation to a landslide or natural disaster of another type. A thoughtful play on our changing environment and political landscape.
Due Date --Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. try to pull off the magic of TRAINS, PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES with this quirky road picture. Funnily enough, we are supposed to relate more to Downey Jr.'s character but I found myself disliking him as much as Galifianakis' character at times. By the third reel, Galifianakis is much more a likable fellow and Downey Jr.'s is more relatable. This movie doesn't get close to Candy and Martin's masterpiece, but it's good for a laugh.
MegaMind --I figured this one was right up my alley. Take the story of Superman twist it around with Brainiac's and you get a movie where young Superman gets along in the world much better and young Brainiac has trouble relating. Throw in a Metropolis-like city, a Lois Lane type reporter and even a Jimmy Olsen and you're set for comedy gold. Turns out it should also be funny. This one--not so much.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 --Lots of aimless wandering in this last of the Harry Potter novels and we seem to be joining the story about mid-way through, but it is good enough and well acted to pull the viewer in. It's just that it is the first of a two part film and I don't feel like judging this one until I see the other half to judge more fairly.
All Good Things --Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst star in the true story of the most notorious unsolved murder in New York state. It is a speculative tale of what may have happened in the lives of these two people to lead one to death and the other to cross dressing and hiding out from reality. It is fairly well made, but like the real case, has an unsatisfactory finale.
And, as the great and mighty Porky Pig would say... that's all folks!
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Way back in October I was in the middle of the task of portraying a slew of monsters from the late '50s and early '60s mags for The Goods' part in the Countdown to Halloween when I posted about a monster by the name of BOMBU. He is a witch doctor-like being of normal human height who happens to be an invading alien from another planet. The thing is that the creature who appears on the cover of the issue featuring BOMBU and the creature who is referred to on that cover as BOMBU looks nothing like that, he looks like this:
The fine folks here at The Goods checked around and as far as we could tell the creature who appears above has never truly been named or heard from again. So, prompted by a legend told by local raconteur Jeff Wooten, we put on an expedition into the very heart of the Nameless Swamp of the Amazon. He had met an heretofore unknown tribe that settled there during the dry season by the name of The Wombatu People. The story he told was theirs.
The monster was said to be over forty feet tall with claws the size of an entire person. It roamed the swamp land eating both plant and animal alike--and it enjoyed eating full grown anaconda most of all. The Wombatu People used to make sacrifices to this creature whom they called a "demon" until they realized that no matter what they offered to it, it would do as it pleased regardless.
Our photo-journalist was there in the Nameless Swamp for the entire dry season in occasional contact with us via messenger and sat-com. The creature was a ghost. It made no appearance all season long. That is, until the photo below. It was found among our reporter's things scattered in a small camp-site in the jungle. Apparently it is the only chance he had to document the thing the Wombatu People called... WOMBATU-UH-OH!
Sunday, December 26, 2010
We here at The Goods try so hard to collect material for you, the home viewer, over the year that we have a bunch of leftover stuffing and we decided it's best to unload it all here instead of having to carry it to the dump.
Here's the holiday hold-overs:
JJ aka Kid Dynomite brings home a tree only Charlie Brown could envy.
Layout of a Disney image from "The Night Before Christmas".
George Jefferson reluctantly takes up the role of Santa.
The Hoff prepares for along winter's book burning.
Land-sakes, Uncle Jesse and Daisy Duke are being held up by a trio of Santa Clauses!
The Marvel Heroes wish you all a Merry Christmas.
The Beverly Hillbillies come down to a white Christmas in their mansion and Granny wonders how all that snow got inside.
Batman sends a seasonably gay message to his nemesis.
Samantha seems "BEWITCHED" by this chimney while helping Santa.
The Brady kids wish you a happy Holidays.
Volstag plays Santa while Jane and Thor share a moment in the foreground in this Samnee drawing.
Merry Christmas from the Marvel Family!
Gary Coleman asks Santa "What you talkin' 'bout?!"
Batman swears vengeance upon the fat man with the beard!
Young Ricky Schroeder says happy new year!
All I know is that kid is happy to get that gun for xmas!
Elvira fears bears much the same way Stephen Colbert do.
Redd Foxx is KING PIMP!
Nancy Reagan and Mr. T get friendly under the mistletoe...
That's all for now...