Monday, January 14, 2019

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2018

Well, faithful readers, the Earth has made another trip around the sun, which means it's time for yet another post about my favorite movies that I watched for the first time this past year, regardless of the year they were released.

It seems as if this is the only time I'm ever going to update this blog, doesn't it? Well, the truth is, most of my creativity is currently being used for a podcast I host called Baconsale. In fact, on the latest episode, I not only talk about my favorite movies, I also talk about my least favorite. Give it a listen, won't you?

However, unlike other years' lists, such as 20092010201120122013201420152016, and 2017, this year's list is about 2018, which is totally different.

Shall we begin? Okay, then....

10. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War does a good job of taking moving parts from the 18 previous Marvel films and putting them together into one, cohesive machine. Each superhero gets his or her chance to shine, and Thanos holds his own as the antagonist. This movie can't really stand on its own, but is has an epic feel, as well as enough humor and action to keep fans of this cinematic universe entertained.

9. Ready Player One (2018)
Ready Player One is more than just a nostalgia-fueled adrenaline rush. It has heart, a compelling story and ideas that don't seem too far from reality. The fact that this movie has amazing visuals and more Easter eggs than you can possibly catch in one viewing doesn't hurt, either. This film is a lot of fun for any fan of pop culture, and the book is even better!

8. I Confess (1953)
I Confess is a riveting drama with a powerful performance by Montgomery Clift as a man having a serious moral and theological crisis. O.E. Hasse also does a wonderful job as the antagonist, needling Father Logan (Clift) when he feels he has the upper hand. Aside from a few minor missteps, this is a top-tier thriller from Alfred Hitchcock.

7. I, Tonya (2017)
I don't know if I buy everything they're selling in I, Tonya, but I sure enjoyed the way they presented it. This movie gives a different perspective on the story we all heard about back in the 90s in a way that keeps you engaged and entertained. Allison Janney is horribly delightful, and Margot Robbie disappears into the role of Tonya Harding. This film is dark, funny and absolutely fascinating.

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
One of my favorite things about Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri is that I had no idea what was going to happen. The cast is full of complex characters with evolving motivations and the story is unique and compelling. Also, despite the serious subject matter, this film is darkly comedic. Well done, Martin McDonagh.

5. Paddington (2014)
Paddington is a surprising delight. This movie has a charming quality to it that keeps you smiling almost the entire time. It's also quite clever, entertaining the adults just as much as the children. I was never really a big fan of Paddington Bear as I was growing up, but this film made me want to give the franchise another chance.

4. Upgrade (2018)
Upgrade surprised me. It’s an interesting mix of action and sci-fi horror, but it also has a pinch of comedy, which I wasn’t expecting. The clever cinematography and editing keep you engaged, and Logan Marshall-Green (who is NOT Tom Hardy) is able to carry the film mostly on his own. It’s a darker movie, but it’s also refreshing to see an original science fiction story.

3. Game Night (2018)
When it comes to dark comedies, Game Night plays its cards right. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams make a great team, and Jesse Plemons is absolutely hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud much more than I thought I would. The fun twists and turns do require some suspension of disbelief but, then again, so do most role-playing games. If you're in the mood for a laugh, I'd definitely recommend rolling the dice and watching this movie.

2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
When I first heard they were making a sequel to Jumanji, I was against it. However, upon seeing it, I was pleasantly surprised. This is an entertaining movie. It builds on the original movie, but it can stand on its own, and the film creates a new set of obstacles for the heroes to overcome. Plus, it features plenty of action and laughs. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a sequel done right.

And my #1 movie that I watched in 2018 was....

1. A Quiet Place (2018)
Wow! This film is intense! A Quiet Place is a smart and ambitious horror film unlike any I've seen before—and I've seen a lot of scary movies. It's consistently suspenseful, and it has a strong emotional core due to powerful performances from the cast. Listen, even if you're not a fan of horror, you should still give this sci-fi drama a chance. It's definitely worth watching.

I'd also like to give an honorable mention to There Will be Blood (2007), Lady Bird (2017), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Greatest Showman (2017), Train to Busan (2016), It (2017), Paddington 2 (2018) and Searching (2018). These are the ones that stand out in a cinematic year that, well, wasn't that good.

Well, that's all for now. Like I said, listen to Baconsale if you want to hear my most-hated movies of 2018, as well. So until next year, faithful readers, keep on doing stuff and enjoying things. . .

Man, I really gotta come up with a better closing catchphrase.

Monday, January 15, 2018

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2017

First, there was my subjective film list of 2009....

Then came the lists of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

And now, faithful readers, since I know that you've all been clamoring for it, here is the official countdown list of my favorite films that I watched in 2017.*

*They didn't have to be released last year, though most of them are this time. Strange.**
**I also watched many of these films using ClearPlay and VidAngel. If you wonder why I watch edited movies, you're in luck! I wrote a post about it back in 2013.***
***Made you look.

10. Baby Driver (2017)
With Baby Driver, Edgar Wright has, once again, proved himself as one of the most creative directors of our time. And I'm not just giving him a pass because he is the man who created Shaun of the Dead. This movie is refreshingly original. It's an action/musical hybrid, complete with carefully choreographed car chases and gunfights timed to a toe-tapping soundtrack. It's darker than I thought it was going to be, but I still couldn't stop smiling the whole time during this film.

9. Hell or High Water (2016)
Hell or High Water is an intense and complicated film. I found myself rooting for Chris Pine at certain points in the story, and then, at other times, I was rooting for Jeff Bridges -- both of whom give fantastic performances. This is a slow burn movie with plenty of suspense before the explosive and emotional ending.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
From the opening credits to the final battle, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is highly entertaining. I think I like this sequel more than the original. It may be a bit silly for cynical adults, and it's a little too dark for children, but it feels just about right for teenagers. Is it a perfect movie? No. Do all the hundreds of jokes land? No. That doesn't really matter, though, because if you just sit back and enjoy the ride, you'll realize this is precisely what a summer blockbuster should be.

7. Get Out (2017)
Get Out is unique, captivating and, at times, absolutely uncomfortable. I wasn't sold on Daniel Kaluuya as the lead initially -- he seemed kind of wooden -- however, by the end, I was completely sold on his performance. And the rest of the cast adds to the suspenseful ambiance of this film. Jordan Peele has proven himself as a hilarious comedian, now he can check the box next to talented writer/director, as well.

6. Arrival (2016)
Arrival seems very plausible, which is why it works. It feels like a realistic response to an extra-terrestrial encounter. This isn't an action-packed alien invasion blockbuster -- it's a deep-thinking drama about trying to understand the incomprehensible. Amy Adams carries this movie, and Jeremy Renner isn't annoying, which was a surprise. This is slow, but smart science fiction.

5. Split (2017)
Split is not M. Night Shyamalan's best work, but it was one of my favorite experiences in a movie theater in a long time. When I realized ****SPOILER ALERT**** this movie was really a secret sequel to Unbreakable, ****END OF SPOILERS**** I was blown away. It's obvious that James McAvoy enjoys playing the different personalities, and he does a fantastic job with that role. If you like Shyamalan's earlier films like Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense, then you should avoid any spoilers and go see this movie.

4. The Big Sick (2017)
The Big Sick starts out like a standard low-budget indie movie about a comedian trying to make it big, but then it morphs into something different and better. It's quite funny, but there's also a dramatic edge to it that pulls you in. Kumail Nanjiani isn't just a goofy character, he actually emotes and makes the whole film feel more believable. This is a surprisingly impressive film.

3. Moana (2016)
Moana is a memorable movie with beautiful music (that isn't as annoying as some other, colder, soundtracks I could name) and stunning animation. Disney is hitting on all cylinders this time around. I loved the story and Auli'i Cravalho as Moana is particularly endearing. And who knew The Rock could sing? This has definitely earned a place among the Disney animated classics.

2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
I was very skeptical about yet another web-slinging reboot, but Spider-Man: Homecoming surprised me. It is much more than I expected it to be. It's fun, it's funny and it's cleverly tied in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Holland plays Peter Parker perfectly, while Michael Keaton is excellent as the villainous Vulture. This film gives me hope for the future of the Spider-Man franchise.

And my #1 movie I watched last year is....

1. La La Land (2016)
La La Land offers a stunningly beautiful portrayal of the joy of falling in love, as well as the agony of trying to follow your dreams. This throwback to classic musicals features a highly impressive opening number and powerful performances from both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. It gives us the sweet without being too sappy and shows us the bitter without being too pessimistic. Here's to the ones who dreamed up this film.

And since I can't fit all of the films I really liked in the top ten (I watch a lot of movies), here are my honorable mentions for others I enjoyed seeing for the first time this past year: Alien: Covenant (2017), Blade Runner 2049 (2017), The Conjuring 2 (2016), The Descent (2005), Dunkirk (2017), A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Justice League (2017), Logan Lucky (2017), Logan (2017), Wind River (2017) and Your Name (2017).

And, as an added bonus, if you want to hear my worst-hated movies of 2017, you can listen to this episode of Baconsale:

Stay well, faithful readers!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2016

So, yes, faithful readers, at this point you can probably surmise that these annual countdowns are going to be the only regular posts on this blog. I have a few drafts that I've started, but life in 2016 was pretty busy for me. However, I still managed to make time to watch movies (go figure), and I still managed to piece together my own subjective list of favorite movies I watched this past year.

Now, once again, I must put a disclaimer that these are movies I saw for the first time in 2016 -- not necessarily films that were made in 2016. And I should also disclaim that I watched many of these movies using my old, reliable ClearPlay and the newcomer VidAngel. In fact, if you haven't read my previous movie lists from the past seven years, you should go back and read those for the rest of my disclaimers and header information.

For now, and without further ado, let's get into it!

10. Brooklyn (2015)
Brooklyn is a well-made film, but it seems odd to me that it was nominated for Best Picture. This movie is, essentially, a more dramatic version of Sweet Home Alabama. Nevertheless, Saoirse Ronan is outstanding in her role as Eilis, and the supporting cast is a delight to watch, as well. 'Tis a fine Irish film!

9. Nanny McPhee (2006)
I was worried that Nanny McPhee was going to be a cheap rip-off of Mary Poppins, but I was surprised how quirky, entertaining and original this film feels. It's a lot of fun. Emma Thompson is delightfully enigmatic, and the story is compelling enough to keep both children and adults interested. This movie was a pleasant surprise for me.

8. The Revenant (2015)
If you ever want to convince someone to not go camping, The Revenant would make a pretty effective argument. This film is raw and brutal and powerful, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu makes you feel like you're freezing and suffering alongside the characters as you're watching it. Leonardo DiCaprio pulls out some of his best acting chops, while Tom Hardy completely disappears into John Fitzgerald's despicable boots. This may not have won Best Picture, but it is certainly one of the most memorable films of 2015.

7. Sicario (2015)
Sicario is stressful - very, very stressful. And the scariest thing is that this film doesn't seem too far detached from reality. Emily Blunt gives a powerful and emotional performance, and Benicio Del Toro is mesmerizing as the mysterious Alejandro. This is not a movie that I can pop in anytime and enjoy, but it is a well-crafted piece of cinema.

6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War is a lot of fun. This film expertly juggles action, drama, humor and multiple character storylines in a way that makes you almost forget that this is the longest Marvel movie to date. The plot is compelling and the actors play well off of each other. The ending isn't as satisfying as I had hoped it would be, and you have to have seen at least Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron to fully understand what is going on, but overall this is one of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5. Spotlight (2015)
Spotlight is a well-made and heartbreaking film. The actors, Mark Ruffalo in particular, do a great job of expressing the range of emotions required for such a sensitive topic. Plus, the story, though hard to watch, is absolutely compelling. I'm not bothered that this won Best Picture.

4. Gran Torino (2009)
How can a film be offensive and violent, yet charming and uplifting at the same time? I don't know, but Gran Torino sure pulls it off. Clint Eastwood plays a despicable character, yet you can't help but like him. It shows what a good actor Eastwood is - even if the rest of the cast struggles. I didn't expect to like this movie as much as I did.

3. Trainspotting (1996)
Trainspotting is a frantic, bizarre, hilarious and horrifying look into the life of drug addicts. The pacing of this film grabs ahold of you at the very beginning and doesn't let go. The story pulls you along, whether you want to follow or not. Plus, through the course of the movie, you end up simultaneously loving and hating the main characters - which is an impressive feat. In short, choose to watch Trainspotting.

2. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
The best part about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it keeps you guessing. John Goodman does a fantastic job of portraying a character you don't know if you should trust or not, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a conflicted and effective protagonist. This is a clever, suspenseful and unique thriller that is definitely worth a watch.

And my #1 subjective pick for best movie I saw in 2016 is...

1. Room (2015)
Room is horrifying, beautiful and amazing. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay both give very powerful performances that deserve every accolade they've received. Plus, the story is absolutely riveting. There were parts of this movie where I was unable to breathe. This film makes you feel all sorts of emotions. It's not an easy movie to watch, but it is well worth your time.

So there you go. As my wife pointed out, these are mostly pretty hard movies to watch, so, just in cast you need a little more variety, here are my honorable mentions from this past year: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Spartacus (1960), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Gift (2015).

Until my next post, faithful readers! Or next year. Whichever comes first. We'll see.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2015

No, faithful readers, I'm not dead yet. In fact, I actually started a podcast this past year. It's called Baconsale and it's my new creative outlet I have with Kent from Showtime Showdown and Jacob from whatever he does. So I guess the blog post sabbatical continues.

NEVERTHELESS, I plan to continue to do my yearly countdown of the best movies I watched in the previous year, if for no other reason than to keep track of what movies I want to force other people to watch. It's the same type of list you've seen for the past six years. And, once again, just to reiterate, these are my favorite movies that I watched for the first time in 2015, they didn't have to be released in 2015. Make sense? Well, it does to me. So, without further ado, here is my top ten list:

10. John Wick (2014)
Every now and then, it feels good to watch a movie like John Wick. This revenge film is unapologetically brutal, and it gives us a protagonist that is single-minded in purpose and extraordinarily good at what he does. It's a simple and satisfying action flick. I could see John Wick going toe-to-toe with many of the classic action stars we already know and love and I welcome him with open arms (and a concealed side arm).

9. Ex Machina (2015)
Ex Machina is an intelligent sci-fi thriller that puts you in a constant state of unease. This film has an intentionally slow and methodical pace that creates a mood and builds suspense. It has a small cast, but each actor plays their part very well. I didn't know where this movie was going to go and I liked that. It's not one I could watch over and over again, but I wish there were more original films like this one.

8. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Gone Baby Gone is a well-directed, well-acted and emotionally complex film. It's not an easy movie to watch, but it presents its gritty reality in a way that makes it hard to look away. The actors, especially Amy Ryan, disappear into their roles and heighten the sense of realism. The film also brings up some interesting moral dilemmas that are sure to be a catalyst for conversation. Well done, Ben Affleck.

7. Nightcrawler (2014)
Nightcrawler is an intense movie. Jake Gyllenhaal's performance as the sociopathic Louis Bloom is absolutely terrifying. Most of the suspense comes from wondering just how far Bloom will go to succeed. This movie exposes a world of voyeuristic vultures running around recording other people's pain for profit. Plus, Nightcrawler is also a scathing rebuke of the ratings-hungry media as well as those who consume it. This is a well-crafted film.

6. Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash is a story without a real hero. J.K. Simmons is a terrifying villain and Miles Teller is a self-absorbed masochist. That being said, this movie is absolutely compelling. I've never been in a band and I'm not really a fan of jazz music, yet I was completely drawn in by the movie and felt all sorts of emotions - mostly fear, panic and anxiety. I hope to never encounter someone like Terence Fletcher in my lifetime.

5. Boyhood (2014)
Boyhood is a fascinating experiment in filmmaking. Watching the actors grow up over the course of 12 years is a truly unique experience. I also like that the main characters are good people - they're not perfect, but they're trying to do their best. This movie is like watching someone's home movies...if their home movies were beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. This was a very ambitious film and I'm glad I saw it. I also look forward to seeing "Boyhood 2: Manhood" in another 12 years.

4. Gone Girl (2014)
I like it when a movie can keep me guessing until the end, and Gone Girl did just that. Most of the time I didn't know where this film was going, and each new twist and turn was a surprise. You can't help but get pulled into the story. The actors all gave excellent performances, as well. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at Rosamund Pike the same way again. This movie is what a crime thriller should be.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is easily the fourth best movie of the franchise. It fits in just below the original series, but it is definitely better than any of the prequels. The acting is well done (unlike the prequels), and it offers a good mix of practical effects and CGI. This film isn't without its faults, but it continues the story in a compelling way that feels like a natural continuation of the saga. I would happily watch this movie again and I would gladly add it to my movie collection.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is confusing, it's unsettling and it's absolutely entertaining. Even though this is a sequel, George Miller has given us the most unique film of 2015. It really is like nothing you've seen before. Plus, this movie is filled to the brim with impressive practical effects and remarkable stunt work. This is an adrenaline-fueled ride through the mind of a crazy person, and I was happy to be a passenger.

And my #1 movie that I watched in 2015 is. . .

1. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
The reason that Kingsman: The Secret Service works is because it doesn't take itself too seriously. This movie is a throwback to the gentleman spy type of Bond movies, complete with fun gadgets and outrageous villains. This film is also very aware that it is an over-the-top spy movie and it embraces that fact. The dialogue is witty, the action is impressive and it just feels refreshing. It is also a bit more vulgar than it needed to be. I recommend watching it edited.

Wow. There are a lot of downers in that list. I swear I'm not depressed, nor am I a psychopath. Also, it seems as if my ClearPlay Blu-ray player (yes, I've upgraded) got quite the workout in 2015. Hopefully 2016 will bring about more quality feel-good films. But here are the movies that didn't quite make my top ten this year, although they are still quality films: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Ben-Hur (1959), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Goosebumps (2015), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), Marty (1955), Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Spectre (2015) and Wings (1927).

Until next time, faithful readers!. . .which, let's face it, may or may not be until next year!

Monday, January 5, 2015

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2014

Oh, hello, faithful readers. I've missed you.

Despite the fact that I'm still on sabbatical when it comes to blog posting, I do enjoy looking back at the movies I watched in a calendar year and determining which ones were the best. If nothing else, it's fun for me to go back and see which movies I put in my top ten in past years, such as 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. So, yes, once again, this is all about me and my wants. Deal with it.

And aside from a few stinkers, this was a pretty good movie-watching year for me. So without further ado, here are my top ten favorite films that I watched for the first time in 2014 (because I don't know what movies you watched in 2014):

10. All About Eve (1950)
This is the oldest movie on my list this year. The dialogue alone in All About Eve makes this film worth watching. This movie is full of witty banter and clever quips. The acting is also very well done – making you believe these are real people and not just players on a stage. Plus, the story is dramatic and compelling. It’s not hard to see why this movie got nominated for so many awards.

9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is inspiring and creative, and I appreciate creativity and being inspired. The exotic settings and the unique soundtrack enhance the viewing experience. I do feel like it should have been funnier, though. I don't know if it will hold up during subsequent viewings, but this movie helped keep me entertained during a very long flight.

8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
From the acting to the sets to the special effects, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an exceptional film. This movie is long, but it doesn't feel watered down or stretched out - there is plenty of story and action to fill the time. Plus, Jennifer Lawrence doesn't have to carry the movie on her own. The supporting cast does an excellent job, as well. This film can't really stand on its own, but it's still a fun ride and an excellent adaptation of the book.

7. Captain Phillips (2013)
Captain Phillips is a captivating film. I've grown accustomed to seeing hostage situations in movies end with super-human characters using martial arts or something like that, so it is almost refreshing to see a regular guy just try to survive one. Plus, this film gives the pirates some humanity without making them too sympathetic. All of these elements, along with the excellent acting, make this a realistic and suspenseful movie that is well worth your time.

6. The Way Way Back (2013)
The Way Way Back is a simple and sweet film. It's a classic coming of age movie with an indie feel. This movie brings with it an honest (and sometimes uncomfortable) sense of humor as well as a heart. And it shows that the good people in the world can counteract the bad. Plus, it made me want to work at a water park. This movie is definitely one to see.

5. Frailty (2001)
Frailty is a fascinating film. It's Matthew McConaughey doing drama before Matthew McConaughey doing drama was cool. This is a very unique horror movie because it's difficult to guess which way it's going to go. Additionally, the acting, in particular Bill Paxton's character, is very well done. If only they would have come up with a better title for this film.

4. The Lego Movie (2014)
The Lego Movie is entertaining. Only about three of every six jokes land, but at least they're swinging for the fences. My kids were completely engaged in this movie, and I was happy to be along for the ride. The voice acting is well done and the animation is clever. This film could have easily turned into a commercial for Legos, but it didn't, thankfully. I would definitely watch this movie again.

3. The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring is a laundry list of haunted house clichés, but somehow it still manages to be a very effective horror movie. It's effective in the atmospheric terror, it's effective in the jump scares - it just works. This film gives you protagonists that you really care about and an antagonist that is truly frightening. Plus, the actual story of The Warrens is fascinating, as well. Overall, this is a great scary movie that I am happy to add to my Halloween roster.

2. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Edge of Tomorrow is a creative and entertaining action-packed thriller. How did this not do better at the box office? It's much better than most of the sequel-driven drivel that Hollywood is churning out these days. The premise of this movie is unique and whenever the formula starts to get tired, they change it up or throw in a new element. Plus, the performances are well done - I like seeing Tom Cruise as the reluctant, inexperienced hero. Note: If you're looking to rent this movie at Redbox, the studio is now re-branding it as "Live. Die. Repeat. Edge of Tomorrow," probably because the first round of marketing for this film failed so miserably.

And my #1 movie that I watched in 2014 is...

1. About Time (2013)
Every now and then, a film comes along that changes the way I think about life -- About Time is that kind of movie. This pleasantly unique film isn't just a love story, it's a life story. It showcases a variety of relationships that go beyond the traditional rom-com stereotypes. The story is uplifting, the acting is excellent and the humor is plentiful. This movie made me want to be a better person, and I'm very glad I saw it.

So, there you have it, that's my top ten movies that I saw in 2014. I would recommend watching any of them (though I would recommend watching some of them edited). I would also like to give an honorable mention to: Mitt (2014), Holiday Inn (1942), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Patton (1970), X-Men Days of Future Past (2014), Her (2013), The Searchers (1956), Snowpiercer (2013), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).

Well done, 2014!
. . .or should I say 2013, since most of these movies came from that year?

Oh well.