Down my Alley

Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Movies of 2010

Since most of my friends see my movie reviews, I've decided to post my top 10 flicks of the year. By my tally, I've seen somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 films released in 2010. The rules for being considered for this list are quite simple: 1) A 2010 theatrical release, and 2) I've seen it (either in the theater or on DVD).

Before we get to the main course, let me get your whet your appetite with my honorable mentions. These are 3 movies that I really enjoyed, but for one reason or another, just didn't quite crack the list. They are: Predators, The Book of Eli, and The Expendables. I gave each of these films 3 1/2 stars (out of 5), but since my top 10 all received 4 stars (or better), they are on the outside looking in.

Here's the Top dramatic reverse order... (Ranking. Film (release date) - rating out of 5)

10. Red (Oct 15) - 4 stars

For a film that uses an aging cast and a plot that's been done before, it stays fresh and fun for the majority of the film. Great chemistry in the cast and a truly fun film from start to finish.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (Nov 19) - 4 stars

Really good set pieces and enjoyed watching the characters really grow up. It's really the sudden ending and a bit of a lull in the middle that drags down the film a bit. It does make me want to see how the story will end.

8. The Town (Sept 17) - 4 stars

A very solid drama that mixes in some action packed robberies along the way. Reminiscent of Heat, only better (in my opinion). Pacing is pretty decent, which is always the difficulty with this type of film.

7. Inception (July 16) - 4 stars

Christopher Nolan solidifies his standing as an excellent director. This mind-trip of a movie is well made, interesting, and thought provoking. Most high-concept movies don't do much for me, but this one kept my attention.

6. Green Zone (March 12) - 4 stars

Matt Damon shines in this film about the Iraq war. Really draws you into the search for answers with a realistic take on war. Makes for a good war and political intrigue movie.

5. The Crazies (Feb 2) - 4 stars
An edge of your seat intense movie that captures the zombie feel without actually having zombies. Excellently pulls off the small town feel and the atmosphere is equally superb.

4. Shutter Island (Feb 19) - 4 stars
Atmospheric thriller that really keeps you guessing at what is going on. Pretty solid ending. Side note: Leonardo Dicaprio's second appearance on this list (Come a long way since that crapfest that was Titanic).

3. The Social Network (Oct 1) - 4 stars
A really interesting tale about how Facebook came to be. A great script and outstanding acting really make for an amazing film. It's crazy in just how little time a concept can go to being an integral part of many people's lives.

2. The A-Team (June 11) - 4 stars
I simply did not have a more fun time at the movies this year than when I saw this one. Great action, characters, humor, and a good all-around time. If you like entertaining action films, this is an absolute must see.

And the number 1 film of 2010....

1. Toy Story 3 (June 18) - 4 1/2 stars
Not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as the first 2 entries in the Toy Story universe, but an excellent movie. A phenomenal story, and it holds together extremely well from start to finish. Really gives a sense of nostalgia and makes you feel attached to a group of cartoon "toys".

There you have it. All-in-all a pretty good year for movies. Here's for hoping next year might be even better.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Top 10 Movies of 2009...

Well, it's that time of year for top 10 lists. First up is my top 10 movies of the year. By my tally, I've seen somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 films this year. The rules for being considered for this list are quite simple: 1) A 2009 theatrical release, and 2) I've seen it (either in the theater or on DVD).

Honorable Mention:
Family Guy - Something, Something, Something Dark Side - It gets honorable mention for being hysterical but not truly a theatrical film. Really worth the watching if you like Family Guy or Star Wars...even better when you are like me and really enjoy both.

So here it list organized as follows: Number. Film (release date) - rating out of 5

10. Pandorum (Sept 25) - 3 1/2 stars
A pretty solid film about a crew that awakens to find their ship in a state of disarray. Entertaining and pretty much sticks to what it aimed to be. One of the better sci-fi films of the year.

9. The Hangover (June 5) - 3 1/2 stars
A comedy that hits on more notes than it misses. Some of the situations that the characters find themselves in are quite hysterical. There is enough that doesn't quite work and a "plot" that drags just a little too long holding this film back from being great.

8. Avatar (Dec. 18) - 3 1/2 stars
Definitely the prettiest movie I watched all year. Really, a visual treat. The story falls flat though. You should be slapped if you don't figure out the direction of this movie pretty quickly. Also, if you feel like you heard that ominous, things are going well music have...note for note from Enemy at the Gates (really lazy, James Horner, really lazy!).

7. Watchmen (March 6) - 4 stars
I was by no means a die-hard fan of the comic, so my expectations weren't as high as others. However, I did find it to be a pretty solid film. Looked great and was pretty entertaining.

6. Angels and Demons (May 15) - 4 stars
A quality movie (better book) that was actually better than the first film with these characters and director (aka the DaVinci Code). Better pacing and Tom Hanks getting a haircut made for the improvements.

The Top 5...with visual aides....

5. Taken (Jan 30) - 4 stars
The best pure action movie of the year. Liam Neeson really holds his own as an action star. Not much on plot, but does some pretty clever things following a man's search for his daughter.

4. Harry Potter: The Half Blood Prince (July 15) - 4 stars
A very excellent installment to the Harry Potter franchise. My biggest complaint was the ending. A great build-up really was wasted (not sure if that's how the book played out), but it brings the film down just a bit.

3. Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (Oct 30) - 4 stars
While not as good as the original film, the sequel does most of the same things and is still superbly entertaining. This is gratuitous violence done hopefully the third film doesn't take as long to come to fruition.

2. Star Trek (May 8) - 4 stars
A spectacular film that makes Star Trek relevant again. Really entertaining and all the casting really shines through. Immediately after watching, your thoughts really go what's going to happen next for this crew....I guess, we'll wait and see.

And the best movie of the year is...

1. Zombieland (Oct. 2) - 5 stars
One of the easiest decisions to make was putting this film at number 1. It was entertaining, superbly hilarious, a couple of awesome characters, and zombies. Now if only the DVD will hurry up and get out...then we can make Zombie Day II happen!

There you go. You'll probably get games of the year and ...well, who knows what else. Stay tuned and stay frosty!

Monday, December 07, 2009

My Top 50 Movies...10-1

Ok, here we are at the finale of the list. I must apologize that I lied last time, my favorite 80's movie does find itself in the top 10. For the final time, I cheat on the trilogy thing (did you guess what trilogy this is?). There are lots of things that go boom on this final list. Each film on this list is outstanding in its own right and as such, gets each gets a picture.

Enjoy the list...My Top 10...

10. We Were Soldiers (2002)The best movie about Vietnam ever made. Mel Gibson portrays a great leader and the action is outstanding. The back-and-forth between Gibson and the Vietnamese leader on tactics is pretty sweet. Awesome action highlights this great war movie.

9. Saving Pvt. Ryan (1998)The best WWII movie I've ever seen. The first 30 minutes is a fantastic achievement in cinema. Several great battle sequences surround the solid story.

8. Die Hard (1988)The best Christmas movie ever made...and my favorite film from the 80s. This movie really set the tone for all action movies to follow. Even today, action films and lead characters are often compared to this film and John McClane (as portrayed by Bruce Willis). Yippee-ki-yeah...

7. 300 (2007)Historical accuracy is overrated (as you will note by a couple up-coming films), but awesome ass-kicking action is not. There is very little that isn't wicked cool about this film.

6. Gladiator (2000)This movie is probably one additional large-scale battle away from the number 1 spot. A great lead character and sweet action hit all the right notes in this historical fiction movie.

5. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)The only film of the prequel trilogy to make the top 50. Honestly, Episode II just missed...but I digress. This was an outstanding film that I actually viewed multiple times in the theater. With so many loose ends to tie up, I wasn't sure this film could succeed, but it did. And the final lightsaber fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan is just amazing.

4. The Dark Knight (2008)It might well be nostalgia that keeps the other 3 movies ahead of this one. I also saw this one several times on the big screen and multiple DVD viewings. I cannot think of a single bad thing about this film. Heath Ledger as the Joker may be one of the best performances ever...haunting really.

3. The Rock (1996) Simply one of the most fun movies I've ever seen. Not a strong acting job, not a believeable plot, and ridiculous action...but I love it. I can watch this movie from any point and enjoy it. From the very beginning this film gets revved up and never lets up until the end.

2. Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977+)The original trilogy is simply the best set of movies ever made. A story that is just amazing, with some of the most memorable characters put to film. What is truly amazing is the scope of the universe that George Lucas created. Personally, A New Hope > Empire Strikes Back > Return of the Jedi. I've never watched them in a row, but I have seen all 6 films on 6 consecutive nights. Amazing story...

1. Braveheart (1995)My favorite movie of all time. Despite the historical inaccuracies (which are quite abundant), I just love the film. Awesome battle sequences, some great characters, and that ending just chokes you up. I'm okay with making the King of England a little more evil than he probably was...since you need a bad guy...but what bugs me more on the historical inaccuracies is downplaying the role of some of the other Scots (esp. Mornay). Oh well, a great film that remains my favorite movie.

Well, thanks for sticking with me over the past week. Pretty impressive out-pouring of posts, eh? Now to keep it going without the series forcing my hand...hopefully, that shouldn't be a problem....especially since I have to do my annual "Best of the Year" series.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My Top 50 Movies...20-11

We're getting close to the finish of this list, but before we do, you are going to get my 4 favorite movies from the 1980's. Also, I cheat again and include a trilogy as a single entry. I'll let you know now that it'll happen one more time on the next segment of this list too.

So here we go again...numbers 20-11

20. The Goonies (1984)A great adventure story about a group of kids seeking treasure and out-running and out-witting career criminals. Hilarious and quotable...two important factors for an all-time favorite film.

19. Aliens (1986)The only improvement I would make would be to limit the role of Newt..."They come at night...mostly..." Aside from that, this is a stellar sci-fi film, and the only movie to successfully show what space marines should be.

18. Black Hawk Down (2001)
The best modern warfare movie that has ever been made. Not much on plot, but the visceral/real feel of the movie is outstanding. Really an in-your face action movie about a US mission in Somalia that goes horribly wrong. One of the best war movies ever made.

17. Ghostbusters (1984)One of my favorites from my childhood holds the test of time. Another quotable, hilarious film. Excellent characters and entertaining story really propel this one into the top 20.

16. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)My favorite Indiana Jones film, and really what they should all strive to be. The Young Indiana Jones segment at the beginning really works, and the interplay between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery is outstanding. Throw in the great Quest for the Grail idea, the movie is superb success.

15. The Matrix (1999)
An interesting and beautifully executed science fiction film that revolutionized movies. Bullet-time was unheard of before this one. A crazy idea that seemed plausible. Now, if only we can erase the sequels from our memory...

14. Serenity (2005)The "space-western" is my favorite sci-fi film of recent years. Outstanding characters, a well-developed universe, and a solid story and pacing bring the brilliance of this movie to life. A criminally short TV run (of the series Firefly) led to this film. I would love to see a sequel (or two) for this one.

13. Crimson Tide (1995)
It is really the performances of Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman that make this movie so gripping. The acting, dialogue, setting (nuclear submarine), and enough action to make this an edge of your seat thrill from start to finish.

12. Remember the Titans (2000)
Another Denzel Washington film shows up here. A great social piece wrapped around high school football. An outstanding sports movie and pretty good film about race relations.

11. The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001-03)An amazing feat of film-making. There really is not a weak point to this series...maybe the length, but there isn't much to cut. Honestly, I love the Aragon storyline so much more than the Sam/Frodo thing. My order of preference within the trilogy is The Two Towers (specifically the extended cut), The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Return of the King.

Well, up next the Top 10...have you guessed what films are there? If not, it's okay, stay tuned and I'll relieve your curiosity.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

My Top 50 Movies....30-21

The fun continues, and we are starting to get to some really excellent movies. From here on out, I could watch any of these movies at any time. The previous 20 were outstanding movies, but some require being in a certain mood. Just making this list makes me want to watch some movies...

30. Signs (2002)I've enjoyed most of M. Night Shymalan's films, but this is hands down my favorite. A believable family, well-acted, and a neat story. Very suspenseful and I love how everything comes together at the finish.

29. Toy Story 2 (1999)
An outstanding sequel that nearly trumps the original. Laugh out loud funny from start to finish. The characters stay refreshing and the story keeps it entertaining.

28. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)Rarely does a sequel surpass the original, but this is the case here. Ron Pearlman brings just as much fun out of Hellboy in this one, but the sequel really takes off the gloves in envisioning the world of the paranormal.

27. Back to the Future (1985)
A great film from the mid-80s, quotable, great idea, with perfect set-ups for all the situations. It's also the film that gives me the occasional flight of fancy of owning a DeLorean. Also, I think all cars should have the option of a Flux Capacitor.

26. Casino Royale (2006)
The movie that made Bond, James Bond, truly relevant again. After the plots and gadgets getting further and further out of whack with each successive Pierce Brosnan movie, this film introduces us to a new Bond and a more realistic setting. While it was sad that there was no Q, and some gadgets, but taking a page from the Bourne movies made for a great action film.

25. Shaun of the Dead (2004)A Rom-Com-Zom movie. Easily my favorite "romantic comedy"...probably because it's light on the romance, high on the comedy, and there are zombies. Sounds like a winning formula to me.

24. Toy Story (1995)
The movie that showed the true potential of computer generated cartoons and really got the Disney-Pixar juggernaut rolling. A great concept wonderfully realized where most of the jokes work.

23. Raiders of the Lost Ark
(1981)The film that introduced us to Indiana Jones, and showed how great a George Lucas-Steven Spielberg collaboration could be (we'll try and forget about The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). It is really the utter coolness of Harrison Ford that makes this such a great film.

22. The Boondock Saints (1999)Over the top violence, awesome characters, and funny dialogue makes for a great film. There's a lot to love, and only a few things to dislike. If you are overly sensitive to the F-bomb, you might want to avoid it.

21. Zombieland
(2009)Yep, another zombie movie, and easily one of my favorite movies of recent time. Hilarious film, awesome characters (Woody Harrelson in particular), and zombies. I'm eager for the day this becomes available on DVD and I get the oppurtunity to watch it again...and again...

Coming up next, the Top 20...I know you're excited, but keep your pants on.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Top 50 Movies...40-31

You're going to notice that I cheat in this section...and will actually do it again later...namely I include a whole trilogy as a single entry. Since it's my list, you're just going to have to deal with it. It mostly seemed unfair for a single over-arching storyline to take up multiple spots. Well, without any more intro items to cover, my list of Top 50 movies continues with...

Numers 40-31...

40. National Treasure (2004)I look at this one a little bit like Indiana Jones, the light version. The material isn't as weighty or as gritty, but still superbly entertaining. It is this light entertaining attitude that just makes National Treasure a joy to watch.

39. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
An amazing drama, with superb acting, and one of the best endings to a movie. This movie only works if you have a level of care for the main characters, and Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins hit all the right notes. One of the few good Stephen King adaptations.

38. The Lion King (1994)
One of my favorite Disney movies. Not generally a big fan of musicals, but Disney films generally are tolerable when it isn't simply a boy meets girl love story. I digress...The Lion King works for the pure evilness that is Scar, voiced by Jeremy Irons, and the awesomeness that is James Earl Jones as King Mustafah. Also, one of the coolest intros to a Disney movie with Simba's "baptism." One or two good preaching/theological points in this one.

37. Cloverfield (2007)"Peek-a-boo with a 30 story monster." An interesting idea that was fully realized here. After a short 20 minute set-up to the characters and their relationships, the poop hits the fan and an edge of your seat adventure begins.

36. Hot Fuzz
(2007)Generally, British humor isn't my cup of tea, but this group really gets it right (with another film higher on the list). Quirky characters and funny situations build the humor, all leading up to a most ridiculous over the top shootout.

35. The Bourne Trilogy (2002+)
This movie is only as good as Matt Damon's performance...luckily for us, it's outstanding. One of the few times that movies are actually better than the books (in my opinion). Some of the best action movies of recent years. Within the trilogy, my preference is Identity > Supremacy > Ultimatum.

34. Jurassic Park (1993)
I was a fan of Dinosaurs as a kid...not quite to the extent of my brother, but still a fan...and this is easily the best movie featuring Dinosaurs that I've seen. The movie is a roller coaster ride, from a sense of awe, to excitement, to fear. All the while bringing the audience along for the ride. Now if only the sequels were good.

33. Forrest Gump (1994)
An instant classic that brought Tom Hanks a well deserved Oscar. One of the best movies about spanning the decades and hitting the highlights of all the major events, seen through the eyes of a memorable character. The soundtrack is pretty stellar, too.

32. Batman Begins (2005)Batman suffered a pretty cruel fate in the cinema. A decent first outing, but all down hill from there...until this film. Who knew you could make the idea and actions of Batman grounded in reality, and make it good? A very solid film that quickly engrosses the viewer.

31. Hellboy (2004)A fairly obscure comic that I knew almost nothing about, and became one of my favorites. I think I watched the DVD like 4 times in the span of a couple of months when it was originally released (rental, roommate rental, previewed purchase, with friends)...and liked it each time. Ron Perlman really outdoes himself in the role of Hellboy.

Alright, 20 down, 30 to go. Are you thinking ahead and wondering what's to come? Well, keep you pants on and stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My Top 50 Movies - 50-41

So, I guess I could apologize for my lack of posting. Not quite sure why I took the last 3 months off, but I did. I, however, was recently inspired by my brother's recent series of personal Top 50 movies (check them out at He did his over 3 posts, but I'm breaking it down in 10 movie segments (more dramatic and ensures more posts).
Here it is...Numbers 50-41.

Planet of the Apes (1968)An old school classic begins my list. It is not the stellar acting, or amazing costume design (please read with sarcasm) that makes me enjoy this film, but the general story and phenomenal ending.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
The Oscar winner for best picture sneaks its way onto this list. As you will see, my favorite films are rarely the most critically acclaimed dramatic movies. This one really sticks with you and has one of the more unique styles to tell this coming-of-age tale. A rare good decision by the academy for selecting best picture.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
I've watched all the Harry Potter movies, and am looking forward to how the story ends (haven't read the novels...don't want to ruin the films). Anyway, aside from the first two, I've enjoyed the other movies.
Goblet of Fire stand as my favorite.

Hoosiers (1986)One of the best sports movies of all time. If it wasn't for a forced love interest for Gene Hackman, you might find this one even higher on the list. This films builds throughout until you find yourself really rooting for the kids from Hickory high school.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
I really enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, TV show, and always had high hopes for the movies. Only one ever really met those expectations. Seeing Picard really unleash, seriously threatening bad guys (the Borg), and Data handling his "emotions/humanity". A cool movie.

Zulu (1964)
A quality movie that could really use the remake treatment. Seriously, the main thing holding this back is the limitations of the day in which it was made. 100 British defending a mission against 4000 Zulu warriors, not the best odds, but the reason its such a neat story.

National Lampoons Animal House (1978)
The quintessential college comedy. Many movies have tried to the capture the magic first displayed here. Very few of the comedic offerings miss, and most are outright laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)This is really the movie that is primarily responsible for my current fondness for all-things zombies. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I enjoyed the idea of zombies prior to this; however, this movie really showed what a cool zombie movie should be.

Groundhog Day (1993) One of the funniest movies out there. This was really Bill Murrary at his best (just ahead of The Man Who Knew Too Little). Who knew that one day could be so funny...over and over again.

Home Alone (1990)It was funny when it first came out, and is still hilarious today. Slapstick comedy done right, and surrounds a fairly pleasant story, too. Fairly apt for the current season too...I recommend watching this one sometime in the next several weeks. Too bad they made a bunch of subpar sequels.

There you have it...the first 10 movies. Stay tuned, there are 40 more to go.