Best Movies 2007

(1) No Country For Old Men (Joel Coen)

Coen Brothers movies have always had a kind of ambiguity but none more so than in their masterpiece No Country For Old Men. Just like all the movies in my top 3, it is a difficult effort to grasp but one that shows its brilliant colors the more you think about it. The Coens craft a cat and mouse game that is exhilarating and gripping that the films 2 hours fly right by. It helps that the performances are top notch starting with Josh Brolin as Llewlynn Moss and Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh (pronounced Sugar) a movie villain for the time capsule. The climax featuring a speech from Tommy Lee Jones' Ed Tom Bell is a head scratcher to say the least but the more you look, listen and feel the sheriff's words the more you might find the film's true mystery lingering in his words. Pay attention.

(2) There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)

The first time I saw Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, I was so overwhelmed that I felt pummeled by the film's images and woozy camerawork. The second time around it was a little better but the third time around I knew this was a masterpiece of the highest order. It's epic running time flashed before my eyes because of the filmmaker's wizardry and Daniel Day Lewis' landmark performance as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview. The film starts off as a piece of silent cinema as our main protagonist pours heart, soul and all his strength to find the oil that will make him the evil human being that he shall become. It is a film about the industrial age but more importantly about family and how Plainview shuns off the orphaned boy he came to take as his son. Flawed but incredible.

(3) Zodiac (David Fincher)

A movie about obsession. A movie about an true unsolved case that lead to obsessions for both the film's characters and us the audience. I wasn't wrong in stating that the three best movies of the year were also frustratingly brilliant depictions of male obsession. Here, Fincher paints a vivid picture of a time and place in 60's San Francisco when the Zodiac killer was looming free with the police not having reasonable idea who it might be. The film gives us clues but they don't necessarily lead to hard proved evidence is any sense of the word. What Fincher is interested in is the atmosphere of dread that was happening in California at the time. He should know it, he was a kid living in the area when the murders happened. He stages the killing scenes based on evidence and witness testimonials. His Zodiac is a movie to keep you up nights.

(4) Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)

There is nothing that meets the eye in Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton. Surprise after surprise infuses Gilroy's drama, which is populated by great tuns from George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and an incredibly evil Tilda Swinton. Clooney tries to find the backstabbing, corrupt happenings of a law firm and the reason why he is a killing target everywhere he goes. It's an electrifying performance but more importantly a compulsively watchable, entertaining film in the same vein as the great political thrillers of the 1970's. Here's a film that can get you mad and entertained at the same time. In other words, old school filmmaking at its finest.

(5) Ratatouille (Brad Bird)

Brad Bird's Ratatouille is a great Pixar movie. It has the charm that Bird has always used in his work (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, TV's The Simpsons) yet it's also a film that is greatly influenced by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in its acrobatic, synchronized set pieces- many of which take place in a restaurant kitchen. The visuals are hallucinary and need to be seen in the biggest screen you can find. Entertaining and highly artistic, here's an animated movie from an animated company that keeps puhing the genre's conventions to its limits and giving us brazenly incredible product.

(6) Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet)

Leave it to old school filmmaker Lumet to give us a scathing look at how the ties can bind and -of course- unbind. The violence in this film is unflinching and the characterizations even more so. Ethan Hawke and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's brothers are nothing more than losers trying to find a get rich quick scheme to fit their needs. The heist goes wrong and so does everything else, which 0in true Lumet fashion- does go into very Shakespearean territory. Lumet, 83, hasn't lost his touch for cinematic flair nor has he lost his touch for churning out some great movies. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead is a great movie.

(7) Superbad (Greg Mottola)

Here's a Dazed And Confused for our generation. In Superbad, Mclovin' steals the show and a new cinematic classic character is born. The kids in Superbad just want to get laid. Is that too much to ask? Their adventures -or actually misadventures- to get de-virginized are what makes the movie so damn good. They are losers yet we root for them in all their loser-isness because they are so gullible and, in a way, innocent in the way they look at life. The same can be said of the cops they befriend (played hysterically by Seth Rogen and Bill Hader) a bunch of losers that try to have a little too much fun in the job. The party that climaxes the film is hilarious and the final note touching. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldbeg's screenplay hits all he right notes.

(8) American Gangster (Ridley Scott)

How can a film starring Denzel Washington as the first black gangster, Russell Crowe as the cop that chases him and directed by Ridley Scott turn out to be any bad? This is knockout Hollywood entertainment by professionals that know what they're doing every step of the way. The screenplay might hit familiar territory but there's something incredibly exciting in watching Crowe and Washington playing cat and mouse games with one another and to learn about the biographical accounts of this true to life story of the drug empire Frank Lucas built up in the 1970's. American Gangster will be remembered in time.

(9) The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (Julian Schnabel)

The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn't paralyzed. Despite his handicap he ends up writing an autobiographical book which inspired this move to get made. Julian Schnabel -a talented director- flourishes us with visuals that catch the eye and capture the essence of living out our small, unpredictable lives. Although the film might be pummeling, considering it is told through that one eye that isn't paralyzed, you might come out of the it with a renewed sense of hope and with the feeling that you've just seen something truly special, a kind of work of art that can move mountains and change your perspectives on things. Amen.

(10) Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton)

Tim Burton's best movie since Ed Wood back in 1994. A ghastly entertaining movie musical about a barber that slashes his clients up in pieces and sells them in meat pies. Johnny Depp is jaw droppingly good and as usual the visual flair the Burton gves us is astoundingly beautiful. A kind of gothic, darkly lit world that only Burton can achieve in his own uniquely warped mind. The musical numbers are outstanding and based on Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical of the same name.

11) The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Andrew Dominik

12) Into The Wild, Sean Penn

13) Eastern Promises, David Cronenberg

14) A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom

15) I Am Legend, Francis Lawrence

16) Live Free Or Die Hard, Len Wiseman

17) Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino

18) The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson

19) The Mist, Frank Darabont

20) Black Book, Paul Verhoven

21) Rendition, Gavin Hood

22) The Simpsons Movie, David Silverman

23) The Lookout, Scott Frank

24) Lust, Caution, Ang Lee

25) Interview, Steve Buscemi

26) The Brave One, Neil Jordan

27) Breach, Billy Ray

28) We Own The Night, James Gray

29) Knocked Up, Judd Apatow

30) Spider-Man 3, Sam Raimi

Best Movies of 2008

I might have called it the worst year in movie history or claimed the Oscars should get cancelled. Of course they didn't. And I -with hard work- found ten movies that tried to break the rules and that didn't suck. It was harder than you think. Never in my 10 years of reviewing movies on a weekly basis have I had a harder time to find diamonds in the ruff.

(1) The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)

Director Aronofsky's pitch perfect masterpiece is about the limits an artist can push himself in order to achieve his artistic goal. A breathtakingly intense drama that features Mickey Rourke's best performance in years -or of his career?- and another great turn by Marissa Tomei (looking good naked as usual). Rourke's wrestler is a man that has hit he lowest of lows in life, a man that has shunned off family for drugs and a sickening work habit in the ring. We feel for him and wish him the best comeback possible, even though in the back of our heads we know there's no chance. One of the great endings of the last 10 years in cinema.

(2) WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)

It isn't far off to call Andrew Stanton's WALL-E -along with Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away- the best animated movie of the past 10 years. This rule breaking cinematic dreamscape starts off with its first half hour without dialogue, evoking a mix of prime Chaplin and hell, even Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey. It's the riskiest thing I've seen animation do since probably Fantasia's trippiness close to 60 years ago. Which isn't to say the other hour of the film isn't as good, it's actually quite spectacular and moving in its portrayal of a harmless robot that is earth's only chance at survival. A masterpiece.

3) Hunger (Steve Mcqueen)

Now this is one of hell of a feature directing debut and rightfully won the New York Film Critics Best First Film award in 2009. Recounting the events that led to IRA prisoners going on a Hunger Strike during the 70' and 80's- it is an immensely powerful experience of the limits one can do to its body just to prove a point or political purpose. Watch out for Mcqueen's next movie, especially if it's half as good as this one. Reviewed right here & featured in a double review with -of all films- Antichrist.

(4) The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)

If you haven't heard of Christopher Nolan's superhero classic then you don't live in this planet. Nolan along with an A list cast headed by Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as a Joker to haunt your dreams triumph in this blockbuster. Many have evoked the film as a post 9/11 depiction of a world going to hell, they might not be far off as a caped crusader does bad in order for good to triumph. Ledger's joker is so real and so intense but it's Nolan's eye for detail that puts this film over the mountain. This is his dark, twisted take on a misunderstood superhero.

(5) Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)

As conventional as Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino might be, it evokes classic shades of a cinematic genre long gone dead in the woods. Here Eastwood is the racist neighbour next door who can't help but assist a Vietnamese kid in his neighbourhood who has problems with local gangs. It's a sentimental film but one with such big heart and flair that it had me at hello from it's very first frame. It's sense of humor is also dead on and a sort of relief to the dark corners Eastwood has built her. You think you know where Gran Torino is going but you really don't and it's with this unpredictability that Eastwood triumphs with his sleeper hit.

(6) Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle)

Like almost every Danny Boyle movie, a mess .. but one that is so damn entertaining and visually appealing. Slumdog Mllionaire is the epitome of a crowd pleaser and the pure and exhilarating nature of cinema. Its haters refuse to admit to its entertainment value and instead keep focusing on the film's plot holes and flaws. Easy to do guys but try to look closer and let yourself be transported into a rural India full of darkness but shot with real light and colors and maybe just maybe you will understand the true value of this movie. It is no Best Picture deserving film but what it is instead might knock you for a loop.

(7) Changeling (Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood keeps churning out one great movie after another that people keep shunning off some of the smaller, more intimate fare he seems to be an expert at delivering. Gran Torino was one, Changeling is the other. One was male driven, this one is female driven as Angelina Jolie plays a woman unfairly institutionalized after her son disappears by a corrupt LAPD in the 1930's. Intense doesn't even begin to describe what Eastwood has in store for us in this picture. Jolie, looking ever so frightful behind the beauty, gives the kind of performance that is so good it doesn't even get nominated for an Oscar.

(8) Funny Games (Michael Haneke)

I was such a big fan of Michael Haneke's last movie -Cache/Hidden- that I was somewhat disappointed he decided that his followup would be a remake of his own 1998 film ! No worries, Funny Games is as resonant and provocative as ever. If the first film revealed gruesome, almost unwatchable violence this one is no exception as a family gets taken hostage in their own home by masochistic, young, preppy murderers. It's not an easy ride to take but if taken results in one of the most memorable experiences of 2008. Not to be missed and highly underrated. Michael Pitt scares as one of the psychopaths.

(9) Christmas Tale (Arnaud Deplechin)

Family dysfunction done the French way. Arnaud Deplechin's sprawling family dramedy is a focused effort that has so many characters and so many storylines in its hands that it threatens to derail. It doesn't. Instead what we get is a memorable family sketch that makes us think about our own life and sets the pace for a long but highly entertaining gem which features quite possibly the best cast of the entire year. Did I already mention it's French?

(10) 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)

Excellent, engrossing movie. Shot, as far as I could tell, with one skillfully deployed camera, every composition had to have that camera perfectly placed. It's no mean achievement to have risen to this challenge so well. There's one scene in particular, set at a birthday dinner, which is breathtakingly well done with the camera static and the actors brilliantly positioned around it managing in spite of this limitation to not only give all the necessary information, but also to do so with the maximum emotional intensity.

11) Doubt, John Patrick Shanley

12) Tell No One, Guillaume Canet

13) JCVD, Mabrouk El Mechri

14) Iron Man, Jon Favreau

15) Ip Man, Wilson Yip

16) Wendy And Lucy, Kelly Reichardt

17) The Flight Of The Red Balloon, Hsiao-Hsien Hou

18) Lakeview Terrace, Neil Labute

Elizabeth Taylor's legacy & the personal connection I have with the Legend herself

It's funny how only when someone dies do you truly appreciate the work they had done over their long, illustrious career. Elizabeth Taylor died yesterday morning at the age of 79. I knew all about her and the legend she had created through my grandmother who had been a Taylor fan since watching Cleopatra more than 47 years ago in a movie theatre. Not only was she a fan but she would always mention how people thought she looked like Taylor. I saw it too in old pictures and even as we speak she looks like older taylor. My grandmother not only looked like her in the pictures I had seen that dated way back to the 40's and 50's but she acted like her too. Taylor was a tough cookie that took nothing from nobody. She stood her ground and helped raise awareness for causes that caught her heart, most importantly the millions she donated to AIDS charities. She had gay friends that impacted her greatly, most notably Rock Hudson who died of AIDS himself in the 80's.

My grandmother -behind all the madness I see in her and the ferocious, sometimes abnormally tough character she might have- has a heart of gold that translates into giving to others and caring too much to bear. She's always talked to me about Taylor's eyes, the purple that laid in them and the rarity that came with having such awestruck beautiful eyes. She'd talk about watching Cleopatra and other films of hers. I have never been a big fan of the film myself and you won't find many film connoisseurs warming up to it either, it was a colossal flop in its day but something about it grabbed many mainstream film goers into its lovingly grandiose design -Grandma included. Everything that made Taylor a superstar was in the film, her looks were to die for and the overall grandiosity of her character on screen made for a larger than life portrayal of a biblical figure.

She was seen more as a superstar than as an actual actress by my Grandmother and that's in fact what many loved most about Taylor. The royalty that came with her and the men that went down to their knees begging to marry her (8 marriages in fact). Behind all that was an actress and not more an example than in Who Killed Virginia Woolfe? which rightfully won her an Oscar in 1967. A brave performance in which Taylor de-glammed herself and became the opposite of what Grandma envisioned of her. In the thick of things Taylor had beauty but she also had heart on screen, almost everybody will admit she had her duds but you couldn't deny the presence on screen or the formidable impact she had on Hollywood. When I got the news she died yesterday morning my heart floundered, I thought of my Grandmother and how she would take the news. A woman she had looked up to for decades was gone but in typical fashion it was as if nothing happened. Her reaction was like any other, she was sad but was more concerned with the daily trials that were happening in her own life. Elizabeth Taylor would have acted the same way.


Paul (R) ★★

Greg Motolla is one of the good young talented directors out there that not many people are talking about. His first film was Superbad, which has already become a kind of slacker classic for my generation and his second was Adventureland, a more mature effort that wasn't as half entertaining as the first one but showed great promise for what would end up being his third film, Paul. This is in fact a dissapointment in that not only is Motolla involved with the project but so are Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the two dweebs that entertained masses with Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. Don't expect Paul to duplicate the comic timing that infused those two films. For one the script is too well mannered to warrant many laughs and the naughtiness level has been toned down a notch. This all amounts to a film that really goes nowhere, hell the same could be said of Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz but those movies had a driving atmosphere that was almost catalcysmic and infectious to audiences. This is not. Which is not to say that there aren't any enjoyable moments in Paul- there are- it's just that there aren't enough and the slacker attitude Pegg and Frost are known for is not as apparent here. Seth Rogen voicing the Alien titular creature is a hoot and brings much needed comic relief here but it's not enough to prevent me from saying that I fear Pegg and Frost have been taken over by the hollywood machine. Say it ain't so Joe, say it ain't so.


Limitless (PG-13) ★★★

This movie kind of took me aback with its tripiness in prime display. In other words, I had an awesome double espresso shot before walking into the screening .. which made me relate to the main character's situation a little bit more (here played by Bradley Cooper). In essence we as human beings can safely only use 20 or 30 percent of our brain capacity, Cooper's bummed out loner writer takes an illegal drug that makes you use your brain in its entire capacity. Which I don't know about you, but truth be told in reality one would probably die of an aneurysm if such a drug existed and was taken(but who am I to look at plot holes etc.) Suffice to say the film is quite entertaining up to its last ten minutes or so when it tries to give a kind of extra satisfaction that I always hate in many mainstream movies these days. The rest of the film goes by in zip zap speed and is really just an interesting premise in a spring movie season filled with nothing but shit. The only stuff that hasn't been shit and well worth churning out your hard earned 12 or 13 bucks has been mostly foreign films that have not gotten any wide distribution around the country (Uncle Boonmee). Which leaves us with Neil Berger's Limitless which is as good a movie as you'll find in a mainstream movie house these days, which really isn't saying much but is nevertheless a reccomendation to go see this fast paced, intelligent psycho thriller.


✭✭✭ 1/2

The Social Network
Black Swan
Enter The Void
The Ghost Writer
Shutter Island
Fish Tank
Toy Story 3
Un Prophete


Winter's Bone
You Don't Know Jack
127 Hours
Another Year
The Fighter
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played With Fire
How To Train Your Dragon
I'm Still Here
The Kids Are All Right
Le Illusioniste
Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Piranha 3D
Kick Ass


✭✭ 1/2

The Book Of Eli
Four Lions
Get Him To The Greek
I Love You Phillip Morris
Jackass 3D
The Last Exorcism
Middle Men
Night Catches Us
The Town


The A-Team
All Good Things
The American
Blue Valentine
Brooklyn's Finest
Date Night
Despicable Me
Easy A
The Edge Of Darkness
Exit Through The Gift Shop
Fair Game
The Green Zone
Hot Tub Time Machine
The Karate Kid
The Killer Inside Me
The King's Speech
Let Me In
Love And Other Drugs
The Next Three Days
The Other Guys
Rabbit Hole
Solitary Men
True Grit
Waiting For Superman

The Expendables
From Paris With Love
Get Low
Grown Ups
Iron Man 2
Never Let Me Go
Valentine's Day