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The Best Movies of the Decade [Filmmakers Bleed]
Dec 29th, 2009 by Dan

In no particular order…

Memento (2000)

Guess what readers, this post is more or less one giant love letter to Christopher Nolan. With the exception of Insomnia, this list contains every movie the man’s directed since Memento (NOTE: Insomnia is not bad, it’s just not best of the decade caliber). Memento does what Christopher Nolan is known for doing very well. It shifts time and perspective (since each time episode is essentially a different Leonard with no memories of the previous events) just as well here as in future Nolan movies like Batman Begins and The Prestige. If you’ve never seen this crazy exercise in perception and memory, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. Go rent it.

WALL-E (2008)

Pixar really has a way of making you care about inanimate objects. Toys, cars, and now a robot. WALL-E has so much charm and character that it’s impossible not to love him (although I know people who do). In what is both a cautionary tale about waste and a love story between two robots, there are genuine characters who speak maybe three or four different lines of dialogue and get the audience to care about their plight like it was an Oscar-bait drama. Pixar’s best work to date.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

You probably didn’t see Robert Downey, Jr.’s best movie of the decade, but you can bet that this movie pushed him front and center for what you might think his best movie was (Iron Man). KKBB doesn’t seem like it should be so good. Its name is kind of generic and I don’t even remember hearing about it before it came out. In fact, I have no idea how it ended up on my movie queue, but it was an instant favorite that I had to share with my roommate. Bonus points to Val Kilmer for his brilliant acting as a sarcastic private detective.

Ghost Town (2008)

My favorite romantic comedy of the decade stars a pudgy British comedian and does not feature one kiss between the two leads. Ghost Town is different, but in all the best ways. Ricky Gervais’ character experiences the same clich├ęd character development that you’d expect in a role like this, but it still feels fresh thanks to his odd sense of humour. It also features a romantic rival who is not that bad a guy and is one of the few Gervais projects that doesn’t feature extended, super-awkward scenes. Definitely worth watching.

Mean Girls (2004)

I know, it seems really lame for a guy to love this movie, but Tina Fey’s writing is so sharp that this movie can’t help but be good. Sure, it meant that we had to deal with Lindsay Lohan for a long while after, but that’s mostly done with now and we can enjoy Tina and Rachel McAdams and everything else about this movie that’s so well put together. As an added bonus to me, the book the movie was based on was written based on the behavior of girls at the National Cathedral School, a rival all-girl private school to Holton-Arms, which some of my good friends attended, so I’m glad it gives them some bad press.

The Prestige (2006)

Oh? Is it time to praise Christopher Nolan again? How often do you see a movie based on a book that is far superior to its source material? This tale of dueling magicians in 19th century England is engaging and interesting to the bitter end. Most people’s only complaints with the movie have to do with its sci-fi plot twist, but I guess it’s probably because they don’t realize that this movie is not firmly based in reality until about 4/5 of the way in. Regardless, it’s a fantastic story and all of its roles are spectacularly acted. The narrative structure is also unique and interesting as the magicians invade the personal lives of their rivals through their diaries. A definite must see.

Snatch (2000)

There’s one thing that Guy Ritchie does well and it’s gangster films, but, given the choice, I’d say Snatch takes the prize for his best work. It’s funny, has great plot twists, and great, quotable characters.

Rent (2005)

Should this even count? It may come from the ’90s and portray NYC in the ’80s, but this musical made the transition to film quite nicely, preserving most of its atmosphere and earning its place as one of three musicals on this list.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Who said that fairy tales were dead in modern society? Slumdog Millionaire is just a great movie. The narrative structure that revolves around the interrogation of Jamal Malik and his answers on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? works beautifully and the trials and tribulations of the characters make for great drama. Will you be surprised by the ending of the film? Of course not. Will you be able to resist tapping your toes to the music of the closing number? Only if you lack a soul.

Batman Begins (2005)

Talk about a challenge. Batman movies were absolutely dead before Christopher Nolan’s adaptation. In fact, I’d go so far as to blame Batman and Robin (1997) for killing superhero movies until Spider-Man came around in 2002. All it took was hiring a real director and a close look at the source material to come up with this fantastic adaptation of one of the oldest superheroes in the business. Nolan was right in getting rid of the cheese factor and trying to make the character seem more realistic than he’d been portrayed before. His choice of antagonists, Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul, were great choices in establishing a world based more in reality than the earlier movies created by using Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy and paved the way for the amazing direction he took for The Joker. Batman Begins is proof that a superhero movie can be as great as other movies.

City of God (Portuguese: Cidade de Deus) (2002)

Powerful in the same ways that Slumdog Millionaire explored its slums, City of God is unapologetic in its portrayal of favela life in Brazil. Splitting up the story into arcs and showing how one man can seize power and create hell through the eyes of an outsider proved to be an effective narrative technique. This movie is heavy, but it’s also quite good.

21 Grams (2003)

Another hyper-depressing movie, this time centered around a car crash with three fatalities and the fates of the people involved: the man who killed the three people, the wife and mother of the two boys and man who died in the crash, and the man who received a heart in a transfusion. I haven’t seen it in years, but it’s quite good (far better than Babel).

Juno (2007)

Yeah, no high school kid talks like her. Sure, this movie made being a hipster seem cool and caused your friends to act like insufferable idiots. Yes, Michael Cera has gone on to be pretty annoying since this movie and Arrested Development. Beyond all that, it’s still a funny movie with witty, fun dialogue. Bonus points awarded for having Jason Bateman in it.

Garden State (2004)

While we’re on the subject of movies that spawned annoying indie-ness, Garden State did it first back during my freshman year of college. I admit, part of why I like this movie so much has to do with my trek down to Cinemopolis in downtown Ithaca, but I actually enjoyed this movie. I might have a different opinion if I watched it now, but it always seemed to me that Zach Braff didn’t overdo it here with the pretentiousness. It’s also worth stating that Peter Sarsgaard is a fantastic actor in almost everything he does and that this movie proves that Natalie Portman is not as bad an actor as the prequels might lead you to believe.

Casino Royale (2006)

I don’t care what you say, but old-school James Bond was stupid. More of a superhero than a spy, he had ridiculous gadgets and was just plain campy. I think it took Austin Powers for me to fully understand how dumb the whole thing really was. Funny thing about Casino Royale is that its reinvention of the wheel stems instead from a return to source material. The Bond of CR is a brutal killer closer to a sociopath than the suave secret agent that we grew up with. Unfortunately, the second in this new series went and screwed it all up with poor casting and poor cinematography, but I like the direction this new Bond is going and I have high hopes for the future of the series.

Up (2009)

Pixar just keeps hitting them out of the park. WALL-E was fantastic and Up came along right after to prove that a movie for children can be just as mature as a movie for adults. I won’t spoil the plot too much, but let’s just say the opening 20 minutes or so will break your heart, if you’ve got one. A truly great cartoon about a man dealing with regret and clinging to his past, but eventually moving on.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

The best way I’ve heard this movie described is “A love story that starts after the love is gone.” ESofSM does many things well as it examines the memories of this failed relationship as they are yanked away from Jim Carrey’s mind while he struggles against that very darkness he hired them to create. Another great movie that I haven’t seen in too long. I should pull this out sometime soon.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Since we’re talking about movies that deal with relationships ending, let’s push right on into a completely different type of movie. FSM is on my list because I think that, despite all the ridiculous exaggerations of the peripheral characters, the way that all of the actors interact with each other seems real. It’s a genuinely funny movie with good acting and hilarious situations.

Children of Men
(2006)

With a plot remarkably similar to Y: The Last Man in many respects, this post-apocalyptic look at a world scarred by a lack of childbirth is just awesome to watch. Fresh off the success of Sin City, Clive Owen, this time with his natural accent, stars and kicks ass in all kinds of believable ways as he escorts the first pregnant woman in ages to a research vessel. This movie makes the list more for its look than anything else. That last scene in the refugee camp where Clive Owen is chased by the military and the terrorists is stunningly shot. The end scenes also remind me a lot of Half-Life 2. Great movie.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)

Strangely enough, I’d never seen anything by Joss Whedon until I saw DHSAB. I wouldn’t quite call myself a browncoat yet, but this movie inspired me to start checking out and loving his work. Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion really need to start alongside each other in more things, because they’re dynamite on screen. This is my favorite musical of the modern age and you should watch it if you haven’t seen it.

The Dark Knight (2008)

One man is responsible for making this film truly great: Heath Ledger. His portrayal of The Joker was beyond amazing. The interrogation scene (and the rescue that follows) still gives me chills every time I watch it. Like no other man in film or comics, Ledger really understood that The Joker is a force of chaos and entropy. It really is too bad that it will never happen again due to Heath Ledger’s sad death. The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie of all time.

Dark Knight, MGS5 [Filmmakers Bleed/Game Overview]
Dec 18th, 2008 by Dan

The Dark Knight

I saw The Dark Knight twice on Blu-Ray this week and after three viewings, this movies still undoubtably holds its own as the best movie in the summer and even fits into my top five of all time.

What Christopher Nolan did with this movie was incredible, creating a superhero movie that feels decidedly not like a superhero movie (in that nothing that happens in it is that far beyond what you’d see in any action movie), and still retains a sense of cinematic integrity and depth beyond any Batman movie before it (save, perhaps Batman Begins).

A superb piece of cinema. I cannot wait for the sequel, especially if Nolan directs again.

MGS5?

It really is a surprise, considering how much of the early life of this blog was devoted to Metal Gear Solid 4, that I haven’t mentioned this yet at all. There’s a teaser site out there about about Metal Gear hinting at some sort of new product. I would get the link for you now, but I don’t have access now, so I’ll do it later on, perhaps tomorrow. The general crux of the teaser is that it’s an all black site with an upside down exclamation point (or an ‘i’) plus an exclamation point is equal to a power sign, with the power sign part being an exclamation point. It looks something like this:

i + ! = power sign with exclamation point instead of a vertical dash

Underneath it says “A NEXT METAL GEAR IS” or some other Engrish-y sounding phrase. Speculation is rampant as to what this might be. The fact that the writing is all in green makes it look like it could be MGS4 on the Xbox 360. The ‘i’ and ‘!’ makes it look like it might be a sequel to Metal Gear Ac!d. No one knows yet and we’re all anxiously awaiting (unless the news has spread by now and I’ve missed it since I’m behind on gaming news).

A 360 announcement would be devastating to PS3 loyalists, but untimately intelligent for Konami, a company that probably loves to make money.

I’m hoping it’s for a new Metal Gear game, although I do hope that there’s no Solid Snake in it, his story is over.

Filmmakers Bleed: Casino Royale
Jul 8th, 2008 by Dan

I can still remember the buzz behind Casino Royale when it came out last year. It was supposedly a reboot of the James Bond universe, a revisit to his origins and a way to bring the movies closer to their source material, the Ian Fleming novels.

It wouldn’t have been the first franchise to do this in recent history, the biggest and most prominent example being the Batman Begins movie. The question is, could this series mimic the masterpiece that was the new Batman movie? If you put your money on a resounding yes, you’d be absolutely right.

Absolutely gone is all of the camp of Pierce Brosnan and company’s respective Bonds. I haven’t seen any of the original Bond movies, but my guess is that they were thematically similar to all of the other exaggerated James Bond movies. Not that I know what the novels are like at all, but given that Ian Fleming was, himself, an actual spy and that supposedly Casino Royale is similar to the book of the same name, my guess is that there were significant changes from the atmosphere of the James Bond novels to the silver screen.

How is the Daniel Craig Bond different? Think of it as a shift from the most absurd of all Bond gadgets I’ve ever witnessed, a car with a cloaking shield, to a movie whose most advanced gadgets are portable defibrillators and cell phones. Casino Royale is still an amazing action movie, but it feels a lot more grounded in real life espionage. Instead of being an over-the-top action movie like the days of old, it’s an actual cloak and dagger-type movie. Bond is still a charming, womanizing agent employed in Her Majesty’s service, but he lacks the “super-powers,” if you will, of the Bonds of old. He can be caught, he can be tortured, he can be hit. Someone recently described Daniel Craig’s Bond as a much more physical and brutal Bond and he had it right on the money.

Rather than delve into spoilers at all, let me just give a general overview of the plot: being a reset, of sorts, this is an origin story about James Bond. Luckily, he’s not a superhero, so we don’t have to spend all this time waiting for him to get his super powers or start being a badass. He starts the movie in employ of MI6 and raring to go, but this is, more or less, his first mission. Also worth noting is that this is the first James Bond that will have a direct sequel. Planned as a trilogy (I know…it’s very trite), the upcoming Quantum of Solace and whichever movie that succeeds it will be related in story to one another. This aspect does make Casino Royale‘s ending a bit of a letdown, but also pumps you up to see the latest flick.

So now we arrive at the question I know all of you are asking: “Is this movie worth spending some of my valuable time watching?” The real question you should be asking is “When is the soonest I can get my hands on this movie to watch?” It’s that good. Casino Royale will restore your faith in the Bond universe and should be watched immediately. Lucky for you and I, the wait for some closure on the story will be a short one, since Quantum of Solace will be released this fall. Go rent it or something!

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