If it's crap ... We'll tell you
DISCLAIMER: I would like to say that due to my unfortunate location and inability to see so many of the other big movies that came out this year due to time or place, these are the movies that I've seen this year and that I've enjoyed the most and were released this year.
10. Super 8. Despite the ending being a bit of a whimper, I must admit that this movie was such a great thrill ride of a mystery that pays a beautiful tribute to the classic Spielberg films of the '80s. Imagine a darker version of The Goonies mixed in with a darker version of a movie like E.T. and you'll get a good idea of what this movie is. Not only is it a tribute to classic science fiction and classic Spielberg but it's just a loving tribute to the kind of classic Hollywood blockbuster that would make Jaws proud. There is a scene that involves a train derailing when it's traveling at full speed and the amount of carnage and destruction that it leaves behind that will leave your jaw on the floor! I'm not even kidding! It's got an intriguing mystery, the best child acting you could see right now, a sense of danger and adventure, stellar visuals, and even that little bit of movie magic which reminds you why you fell in love with certain movies as a kid and I'm willing to bet that this movie will be a primary influence to many little kids who are going to the theatres right now who will want to pursue filmmaking in the coming decades.
9. Thor. This is a movie that could've easily gone horribly wrong and yet it didn't for some reason. That reason is Kenneth Branagh who is having quite a little comeback year as an actor and a director with this film and his highly praised performance as Sir Laurence Olivier (one of Hollywood's legendary actors) in My Week with Marilyn. Since Kenneth Branagh had managed to be the man who brought Shakespeare back to the big screen in the '90s, the insightful heads at Marvel Studios made a very wise decision in getting him to take one of the most ridiculous superhero concepts and to ground it in a way that feels like it would make sense in today's modern world and that is something to be commended for! Chris Hemsworth makes his rising star one to be reckoned with and he really makes his performance as Thor one that will be very hard to top for any actor that may follow him in this role and for that I give him serious props and I must say that Tom Hiddleston gives an amazing career defining performance as Loki! Either way, these two leading men make the most of their parts and it's clear that their careers are taking off at a great speed especially now that The Avengers will be coming out in five months time! This has an amazing all-star cast, a tight and clever script, a compelling story that makes the best out of Joseph Campbell's Monomyth, amazing visuals, engaging fight scenes, and a brilliant blend of the sensibilities of Richard Donner's Superman, the works of William Shakespeare and even The Lord of the Rings to bring you a superhero that's unique! If you're looking for a great time with a new hero in the modern day that offers a mixture of both fantasy and science fiction, you can't get any better than this!
8. Rango. This is most definitely the weirdest movie I've seen in quite a while but sometimes the weirdest movies are the ones that will surprise you most. I never should've doubted this movie and it's my fault because when you put Gore Verbinski (the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) and Johnny Depp together, chances are good that you'll get something that's at least worth checking out even if it's just out of curiosity. Even though At World's End kind of sucked due to trying too hard to conclude everything on a scale that was just too large for its misguided storyline and overpopulated cast of characters, this movie was drastically smaller yet still keepng a big scale and that is why this movie was such an improvement over Verbinski's last Pirates film. Johnny Depp brings another side of his wacky persona in and he makes Rango one of his most beloved characters in my estimation and everyone else in the vocal cast does a superb job as well. I also loved how this paid tribute to the classic Clint Eastwood Westerns but that it also told a story that was very much its own. There's almost nothing else I can say about this movie without getting really weird in trying to describe what it's about and how great it is so you should definitely see this! This is the animated film of the year!
7. X-Men: First Class. One of the most surprising reliefs I've had in a long time! I thought this movie was going to be doomed from the very start since it was announced 13 months before its release date because how can you make a good X-Men film in just 13 months? I had hated X-Men Origins: Wolverineand had grown to dislike X-Men: The Last Stand so I was very cynical about this film even with the involvement of Matthew Vaughn who did a brilliant job with Kick-Ass. Thankfully I was blown away by how he had managed to convince the studio to do a movie that actually saved X-Men from going down the drain ever since Bryan Singer left after X2! The smartest way to approach this film was to make a Shakespearean "bromantic" tragedy with a feel similar to Batman Begins in terms of its story and tone and this movie did just that by getting two of the best actors of their generation to play the leading men: James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. These actors had huge boots to fill with the absence of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto but they pull it off like it was just another day at the office and they actually made the characters richer and more interesting than they ever were with the original actors which is saying soemthing. It's got a slick, sexy style, a compelling and tragic story about friendship and it really accentuates what makes X-Men so great and that the mutants of any world are not to be cast aside lightly.
6. Limitless. This was another surprising movie that I did not expect at all! When I heard the concept of this movie, I could not grasp what it was about and even when I saw the trailer, it remained elusive to me what kind of movie it would be but when I actually saw it, it almost took a movie like Fight Club to the next logical step into the modern day. While it's not as mindbending as that movie, it still left a damned good impression and it's probably one of the greatest motivational movies you could see at the moment because after you watch, you feel like getting up and doing something with the goals in your life. Granted the existence of this NZT pill would probably help you a lot more if it existed but this movie is still pretty great at getting anybody motivated because Eddie Morra's character arc is probably the best out of many I've seen in the past little while because his story ends in a completely different place from where it began. His encounter with NZT truly changes him and his life and for the better. This could have easily been a morality play about a man who develops pride within him and then ultimately falling because of the pride eating its way out of his body but thankfully, it takes another direction and it becomes so much more than just that. This really makes Bradley Cooper one of the best actors we have out there right now and after seeing him in this movie, he has massive potential to becoming one of the greatest actors working today and his scenes with Robert De Niro (his acting idol) make him even more fascinating to watch. This film has a wickedly smart plot and script, an excellent main character, cutting-edge visuals and direction and music that will fry your eardrums in the best possible way. If you haven't seen this movie, you need to because it's going to become even better over time.
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes. While Transformers: Dark of the Moon was the movie of the summer when it came to visuals and carnage, this movie really took the cake as far as summer blockbusters were concerned. Not only was it an amazing movie when it came to action and spectacle, it managed to pull off a Batman Begins with a franchise that was considered irrelevant and uninteresting in today's society. Sure the Planet of the Apes films were popular decades ago but Tim Burton's remake was savagely criticized and people still think that the concept of humanoid monkeys taking over the Earth sounds silly but this movie even outdoes Frankenstein when it's compared to Mary Shelley's story's themes and ideas. That is until this movie cae out because if you really thought about it, if apes were to take over, it would be utterly terrifying considering how dangerous they are or can be but what elevates this movie fro really good to great is Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar. This guy is to motion capture/performance capture acting like how Charlie Chaplin is to silent film and I recognize that's a bold statement to make but it's true. He is a modern Charlie Chaplin because when it comes to playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and then later in The Hobbit in the coming years, the titular ape in King Kong, Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin or even Caesar in this film, he has become the master of a new field in arts and technology. You may not have recognized him on the street or on TV but he's created some of the most fascinating characters and monsters in modern film history and that's just for performance capture! He's as groundbreaking as Charlie Chaplin was and yet he's given as much monstrosity as well as humanity in his characters as a classic horror movie star like Bela Lugosi or Lon Chaney, Jr. or even his father have before him. People have been clamouring for Andy Serkis to get nominated for an Oscar for this role and out of anybody, he deserves it because his performance makes this movie so much more than just another blockbuster or another Planet of the Apes movie. A powerhouse performance from Andy Serkis, dark and intelligent storyline, well-rounded characters, and a climactic showdown between the apes and the authorities on the Golden Gate Bridge are the only reasons that you should see this movie along with a whole lot more because trust me when I say this: there's a chimpocalypse coming and you better prepare for what's coming to you!
4. The Ides of March. When George Clooney is on, he makes all of his competitors pale in comparison! He's really turned himself into one of the best actors and directors working in Hollywood and he's come to a place where he can do anything he wants and the man's probably got so much money that he could've retired years ago. Now that he's in this place, when he sets out to do something, he puts his all into it and it shows in this movie. With his much acclaimed performance inThe Descendants and acting and directing of this film, he's proven to everybody once again why he's always been one of the hottest and most talented men in Hollywood. Clooney probably makes one of the best but also one of the most cynical and depressing films about politics that anyone will ever see. Sure it may look like he's capitalizing off of his position and his influence over his Democratic beliefs and off of Barack Obama's administration by making a film about a Governor running for the presidency but he does the bold thing and he even criticizes what's wrong with the people he's voting for (and in this case: the people who are actually running America). But besides Clooney, everyone else in the cast is fantastic but if I were to talk about anybody, it would be Ryan Gosling. The man has come a long way since The Notebook and this has been his year with this, Crazy, Stupid, Love. and Drive! Somehow he manages to evoke the kind of charisma you'd expect from Brad Pitt or Robert Redford or Paul Newman or even Marlon Brando and he just draws you into this character's struggle with operating as a young idealist in an older, more cynical environment and not becoming a victim and being swallowed up by it. While the first half kind of drags as it sets up everything, it's the second half of the film that really makes it an incredible achievement as a political thriller and it puts you through the wringer of every single negative emotion one could experience in two hours. It's also noteworthy to add that the final shot of Ryan Gosling which bookends the film is probably the single most haunting image I've seen in any film in a very long long time and it will stick with you even if the rest of the movie doesn't. Still if you're interested in politics and looking for a movie that perfectly explains the nature of today's politics and what's right and wrong with it, then this is the movie you need to see right away.
3. Moneyball. Let's face it, Brad Pitt is the very definition of a movie star. Whenever you think of certain people that qualify as movie stars, Brad Pitt shows up on everyone's list (especially when he was younger). Blond hair, blue eyes, boyish face, a wicked sense of humor, a lean but muscular build, charisma, emotional range and intellectual integrity. He's an American James Bond even when he's pushing 50 and that's what makes his performance in this film all the more special. He knows that he's getting older and that he's not hot, young stud that he used to be (even though he looks a lot better than most men at his age) and he uses that to his advantage unlike a lot of other actors and therefore Brad Pitt delivers one of the best performances of his career because of it. He's much more subtle and quiet but that's what you love about his characterization of Billy Beane. He isn't a big baseball player on the field like he was planning to be, he's the guy who sits in the back roo but makes all of the important decisions when it comes to running a baseball team in the Major Leagues. I never thought that a dramatization of Billy Beane's story as it was described could turn into a modern retelling of a story like that of Socrates, Plato and their actions concerning teaching the ways of philosophy in Ancient Greece forever changing the course of history. It's because of this that this film will remain timeless. If a film can manage to perfectly parallel Ancient Greek material and communicate the same emotions that the Greeks did in their day, then you'll have a film that will be a classic the day it is released and will continue to be one decades from now. Yes, I think that this film is a modern classic and I also think that this film has much in common with Dead Poets Society in terms of its themes, humor, and conflicts. What also makes this film so great is the odd but perfect pairing of Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill as the men who try to beat the odds with their cheap baseball team and try to break the curse of the Oakland A's (and yes, this was a true story that happened ten years ago). The script by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian is dead on, the direction by Bennett Miller is beautiful and meticulous, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill deliver restrained but Oscar-calibre performances and this movie is inspirational and ultimately heartwarming despite being left cold at the end. Even if you're not a baseball fan, this is highly recommended because it truly is an amazing film.
2. 50/50. This movie is particularly special to me and one that I hold really close to my heart. A lot of the movies that I've seen which have a person dying of some terminal disease and then ultimately dying a slow and painful death as everyone else around them suffers are ones that just beat around the bush and don't really approach the subject with any real honesty unlike this beautiful story and what's more amazing is that the screenwriter, Will Reiser, had his own battle with cancer and wrote this film as a way of coping with it and ultimately surviving it. Since this guy has goen through everything himself, he gives the first real cancer movie that I've ever seen because this movie is honest about how life is with that condition and it says that while it does suck big time to have cancer, it's not all dark and depressing because there will be times when it's okay to laugh about the situation you're in. Maybe it's okay to assume the worst will happen but to deal with the impending demise by laughing your way to the bank and maybe then, things might turn in your favor and a miracle will occur. Some may think that this might be inapporpriate but it's actually a cathartic way to experience a movie like this and if you don't believe me, a long time before viewing this movie I had a close family member of mine go through their battle with cancer and they were roughly in the same age range as Adam played beautifully by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Oddly enough, after viewing this movie, I found out that this particular family member had finally managed to win his fight against cancer when his chances looked scarce and they've remained healthy and cancer-free thus far and this movie proved to me that the fight against any struggle in life isn't over until you've won or until you've breathed your last breath and that giving up is just a fatal mistake. Viewing this movie in a theatre is also unique because for the first time in my life, I was watching a movie completely on my own in a huge auditorium and somehow it made the movie all the more personal and profound. Many people toss the phrase "you'll laugh, you'll cry" a lot but this is the first movie that really had that impact on me because for a good amount of it, every single joke works at tickling your funny bone till the point where you might miss a line or two but then at the end of all the dramatically emotional build-up, you can't help but start to cry at the end of it all because it's so emotionally draining that it was almost more than I could stand but I made it through and I was so happy that I did! Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen (who starred and produced the movie), Will Reiser and director Jonathan Levine have made a beautiful portrait into a man's battle against the hardships of life and it truly gets into your soul and your heart and leaves you with a gift that you won't ever be able to receive! If you have/had cancer, a friend or relative with cancer (which is almost everyone at some point), then it's necessary to see this film because it's funny, sad, beautiful, depressing, touching and heartwarming all at the same time and it will be a movie that will remind you why we are all here and that death is not as horrible as it may seem. For all we know, it could be just the beginning of a whole new world.
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. For those you possibly making fun of me for this top choice, you can suck it because in a way this is my top choice of the past decade! Harry Potter is one of those few once-in-a-generation type stories that comes out and resonates with absolutely everybody and it therefore leaves an everlasting impact on the audience and what separates this from all the other grand stories is that the children who began watching this at an early age have grown up not only with these characters but with the actors on screen as well. Harry's battles have been ours to fight. Ron's playful jokes have been ours to enjoy. Hermione's wit and intelligence has helped us grow to perceive the events of our lives differently. Every single character grown and developed into strong and adamant forces to be reckoned with both good and bad. The sacrifices that have been made for Harry, his friends and us have finally paid off and we have finally beaten our seemingly immortal enemy. The man who thought he could grow stronger by killing innocent people has finally been killed himself after ten long years and now it's up to us, the people who have grown up with Harry Potter and his friends, to help rebuild our world to make up for the mistakes of our parents and to restore the hopes for our children. In the grand story of our lives, Harry Potter is the story-within-a-story that's telling us the reality of our lives and what has been done and what we can do to fix it. This film is much more than just a movie, it's the culmination of the past ten years and it explains why the horrors of the past have happened. It's more or less been a test for an entire generation to see if we can prepare for a whole new world and make it into something much more than what our ancestors have laid down for us. I know this may sound a little crazy to some but I truly feel this deep down. As the many people of my generation prepare to enter the workplace or post-secondary education and into the bigger world, Harry Potter's story is finally over with his journey complete and so we need to ask ourselves if we can lead by his example in order to change the world for the better. Besides all the magic and the trolls and giant spiders, we've finally witnessed an end to one of the most humanistic stories that speaks about the human condition ever told. Harry Potter has forever changed the course of film history, history in literature, and the history of the people who have been witnesses to it but will its unprecedented impact forever change the course of human history in a sense? Only time will tell. What we do know is that the second half of the final film in this film series is arguably the best out of all of them just in terms of pure filmmaking and that practically every single aspect of this film was done perfectly. It's made the most money, it's the most critically acclaimed and it's defined itself as a pivotal moment in everybody's life positive or negative. I can't find a single flaw of this film and I guess half of it is because after ten years of working up to this ultimate conclusion, the actors and filmmakers have worked out every single bug that was left in the story and the making of these films in order to give us something truly groundbreaking. Everything about this movie works and in a perfect world, it would be sweeping all of the Oscars but sadly we don't live in a perfect world. Either way, everyone that has stuck by the Boy Who Lived has been rewarded and now it's finally time for him to rest because he of all the heroes deserves it.