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Monthly Archives: January 2013

It’s that time of the year to put out the annual top ten list. After much scrutinizing, I finally feel like I’ve seen everything I need to fill out my top ten. Links to the films I’ve previously written a full review of are provided…I will start with the 6 honorable mentions I have this year, in no order:

The Honorable Mentions

…These honorable mentions are the films that were in consideration up until the last minute but just barely missed the cut.

The Top Ten
  • 10. Rust and Bone
  • Powerful. Heartbreaking. Superbly acted. Rust and Bone tells the triumphant story of man’s will to survive against all odds

  • 9. The Impossible
  • A fascinating true story of a family determined to survive a devastating natural disaster. This is a disaster movie that puts Roland Emmerich to shame, in both special effects and human emotion.

  • 8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • A refreshingly charming coming of age tale. Somewhere, John Hughes is watching this film and smiling.

  • 7. Django Unchained
  • A brutal, blood-soaked revenge tale from Quentin Tarantino. Wildly entertaining and hilarious. Revisionist history at its best.

  • 6. Cabin in the Woods
  • I shouldn’t say anything about this movie. It is really good.

  • 5. Safety Not Guaranteed
  • A great little indie/sci-fi film. An exploration of what it takes to trust someone rejected by society and believe in the impossible. Tremendous emotional payoff at the end.

  • 4. Zero Dark Thirty
  • Completely mesmerizing from start to finish. Outstanding acting and directing. The best and most tense final act of a movie you will see this year.

  • 3. The Dark Knight Rises
  • Blew me away. Obviously not as good as The Dark Knight but what is? If you say The Avengers, you’re wrong. Nolan has completed the perfect Batman trilogy.

  • 2. Life of Pi
  • Gorgeous, profound, visually spectacular and the best film I’ve seen in 3D to date. Life of Pi  has it all. Come for the adventure, and stay for the enlightenment. Ang Lee’s best.

  • 1. Cloud Atlas
  • Six different stories weave their way through this epic tale and seamlessly connect both plotwise and thematically. Groundbreaking editing. So beautiful and ambitious. An absolute blast to watch. The best movie of the year.


Here’s a bunch of random mini reviews of films that have come out this holiday season…

  • Seemingly marketed as an Anne Hathaway vehicle, she doesn’t have nearly enough screen time
  • Has Russell Crowe had a good performance since Gladiator ? Terrible acting and worse singing from him here
  • Weird “wide angle lens” shots of characters faces during musical numbers
  • None of the songs were pre-recorded which lessens the quality; the actors vocal imperfections are really noticeable
  • Difficult to become invested in all of the side characters

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms

  • Astounding lead performance by John Hawkes, undeniably deserves this years Best Actor Oscar
  • The story here isn’t particularly engaging and it does start to drag at a certain point
  • The chemistry and supposed romance just do not exist between the 2 leads, which is the main failing of this movie
  • The subject matter isn’t particularly fun or entertaining to watch play out
  • Despite the grimness of the subject matter, the film can be very funny and light

FilmFire review:
3/5 forms

  • Great acting from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence
  • Robert DeNiro’s return to his Meet the Parents style comedic chops
  • The set up for the final act of the film is a bit too convenient
  • Cliche cliche cliche……………
  • It may be an unconventional romantic comedy, but it ends in the most conventional possible place it could have

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms

  • An interesting twist on mobster films, playing on the themes of “America is a Business” and “Every Man for Himself”
  • Great colorful side characters played by James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta and Vincent Curatola
  • Intense scenes of brutal violence may turn some away
  • Incredibly stylish, entertaining and not subtle at all
  • The message is pounded home so often, it ends up being much too heavy handed

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms

  • Incredible opening sequence/hook that sets the pace of the film
  • Very intriguing and mysterious plot that is fun to figure out along with the character
  • Tom Cruise doing his best Tom Cruise performance (essentially a flawless and magnetic hero with great one-liners)
  • Best car chase sequence of the year
  • A nice little down-to-earth and workmanlike action film

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms

  • A heartwrenching and devastating story
  • Mesmerizingly raw performances from the leads, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts
  • Intense and brutal with plenty of touching and tender moments to balance the tone
  • Beautifully shot with incredible seamless special effects
  • A powerful and triumphant look at the survival instinct of human nature

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms

  • Charming, sweet and funny. The best “John Hughes-esque” film to come out in years
  • So many great character moments really help put the audience in the mind of the introverted teenager at the center of the film
  • Fun cameos by Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Mae Whitman, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack & Kate Walsh
  • Terrific performances by the 3 young stars – Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller
  • An expertly crafted coming of age story; surprisingly refreshing and heartfelt

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms

  • Opens up conversations about many important topics, most notably the success of using torture as a practice to obtain information
  • There is a pace and urgency present in many scenes that, with a lesser director, could come across trivial or boring; really showcases Kathryn Bigelow as one of our best working directors
  • Maintains such an incredible level of suspense despite knowing exactly how the film ends
  • Jessica Chastain’s lead performance is the best you’ll see this year from an actress
  • The last 45 minutes of the film are truly mesmerizing

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms

It’s bold, it’s beautiful, it’s a sheer delight… and a more disciplined approach might have made a masterpiece out of it.
-Rob Vaux,

Tarantino’s spaghetti western of the American South is an untamed blast of stylishly rendered, outrageous entertainment.
-John Wirt, The Advocate

A new Quentin Tarantino movie is something I always look forward to and Django is no exception. Not all of them hit the mark for me, but they’re always interesting at the least and borderline genius at best. Pulp Fiction has been one of my all time favorite films since I first saw it and his others typically find a place in my yearly top ten lists. Django Unchained will most likely do the same.

If Inglorious Basterds is Tarantino’s revisionist history masterpiece, Django Unchained  is him getting the rest of the revenge out of his system. This is a brutal, blood soaked hero’s journey and Quentin, as usual, gets the last laugh – whether it be Kill Bill‘s Bill or Hitler and the Nazis (Basterds) and now to slavery and plantation owners in Django. Let’s just say the slave owners don’t end up faring too well in this film.

It definitely would have been interesting to see Will Smith play Django, as was once rumored before the cast was finalized, but Jamie Foxx is flat out awesome as the character. For a relatively quiet performance, Foxx is great exuding all the slow burn, built up intensity that Django unleashes.

I’m curious as to what makes you so curious.

I like the way you die boy.

Django, the ‘D’ is silent.

Kill white folks and they pay you for it? What’s NOT to like?

Leonardo DiCaprio breaks the mold and plays the first major villain of his career as plantation owner Calvin Candie, and he is exceptional. Cristoph Waltz, once again puts on an absolute show acting under Tarantino’s direction, playing bounty hunter/Django’s mentor Dr. King Schultz. Quentin builds the perfect amount of tension between the two characters during a few extended scenes and it really pays off.

Not only is Django a violent revenge fantasy against slavery, it is also one of the laugh out loud funniest movies of the year. That sounds strange coming from a movie that deals with such sensitive subject matter but Tarantino is a master of weaving humor and lighter moments among the brutality.

Though not as masterful storytelling wise as Inglorious Basterds  was, Django Unchained  is a wildly entertaining entry in the revenge genre from Quentin Tarantino. An outstanding cast of characters (Even Samuel L. Jackson shows up as one of the more interesting supporting characters you’ll see this year) make up for a bit of unevenness with the plot. The usual lengthy dialogue scene or two show up here, but don’t slow the pace down as much as you’d expect. See it.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms