Posts Tagged ‘top ten

06
Jan
10

Top Ten Movies of 2009

What a year it has been for movies. From a film for fanboys (“Watchmen”) to a teeny-bopper supernatural romance (“New Moon”), from a Jarhead visiting a world of blue people (“Avatar”) to ugly aliens visiting our own (“District 9”), from man’s continuing struggle to against the machine (“Terminator Salvation”) to the machines having taken over and a scientist’s soul divided into mini-creations trying to survive (“9”), from the return of 80’s cartoons as live action (“G.I. Joe”) to the return of 80’s horror (“The Stepfather”) and everything in between (there were TWO movies about mall security cops), it truly has been a year.

As far as film goes and in my own opinion it’s been a tough year. One can blame the economic recession/depression for monetary aspects, but it’s been an overall success for the Industry for the year. This year was more about the aftermath of the 2007-2008 writers strike than any other single factor.

It was difficult making this year’s list because the overall feeling from watching movies this year was “meh.” I enjoyed quite a few movies, but the indies seemed to have peaked the year that “No Country for Old Men” saw release and the blockbusters haven’t held the caliber of “Iron Man” (although “G.I. Joe” was more fun than “Transformers 2”) Another problem with constructing the list was that three of my favorite films I saw this year (“Frost/Nixon,” ‘The Wrestler,” “Gran Torino”) were limited release 2008 in cities such as NY and LA and therefore had to be struck from the list.

Here, in order of release/when I viewed them, are my Top Ten movies of 2009 and my thoughts:

“Star Trek” – “Alias” and “Lost” creator JJ Abrams was given the keys to Kirk and Company and made a fun and enjoyable movie that was truly a reason to go to the movie theatre. Chris Pine channeled a bit of Shatner while Zach Quinto did a spot-on Spock. Some have called it “Star Trek for Star Wars fans” and that may have a bit of truth to it, but it doesn’t take away from being a solid, enjoyable film.

“Up” – If this year had a theme it would be “films that other people thought shouldn’t work but did.” “Up” was being crucified before it got to the theatres. I saw an article where “Wall Street” experts were predicting it as a failure for Pixar. The result? A heartfelt, beautifully colored solid story about a former balloon salesman uprooting his house for the ultimate adventure of his life taking along a stowaway who needs a father figure. It may not have the technology of “Avatar” but the story was original and solid and Pixar up’d their technology work with the brilliance of their color palette.

“The Hangover” – A movie I probably would not have watched had it not been for the free screening. The initial WB test screening went so well they ordered a sequel, which I had never heard of happening before. My brother and I went to a PACKED screening at the Commerce Crossings theatre two weeks in advance. Walking out of the movie my brother gave it the best endorsement I’ve ever heard for a movie: “I would pay to see that again.” So would I.

“District 9” – Following “Moon,” (which gets Honorable Mention) director Neil Blomkamp took racial prejudice in South Africa and changed it to alienation of aliens. Shot on a limited budget and handheld/doc-style, it was an innovative sci-fi film and one that should raise the bar for doing science fiction films.

“Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino threw everything but the blender into this one: a hodge-podge of war films, exploitation, film geekness, and World War II. This film ran the risk of being exclusively for those who love films and/or Tarantino and while that concept may seem to be running on fumes, and trust me it has its faults, overall it tied together at the end. It’s not “Kill Bill” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the Tarantino catalog.

“Capitalism: A Love Story” – One of the most personal of Michael Moore’s films and his best since, “Bowling for Columbine.” It got snubbed for next year’s Academy Awards and that just goes to show Californians DO love their money…

“Paranormal Activity” – Most likened to being this decade “Blair Witch,” this really IS the little movie that could. Done for $15,000 and shot in one location this preyed on those times when you sit in a house, alone, and hear the creaking of the floors, strange noises, etc. This is a film that works best on people who have imaginations, as opposed to those who enjoy the “idiotic group of college teenagers going out to an abandoned shack” formula. I caught a late showing on a Tuesday night and couldn’t get the final scene outta my head. On DVD next week!

“The Blind Side” – So I had to put another “heartwarming” movie on the list. It wasn’t groundbreaking and you could tell the smarminess from the get-go, but I enjoyed the film. Not everything I watch has to be earth-shattering or socially conscious; sometimes it’s nice to fit in an “uplifting” movie.

“Me and Orson Welles” – Charming, amusing movie rooted in its when and where. I am not a big fan of Orson Welles as a person or his personality, but Christian McKay did such a spot-on job with playing Orson Welles it’s uncanny. It was great speaking with Ed Hart about this one; it truly deserves to be recognized. I wish it luck.

“Avatar” – I initially thought against putting this in the Top Ten but Cameron’s attention to detail and use of 3-D technology make this one to be seen. It’s not a great story; in fact, you’ve already seen it as “Dune,” “Dances with Wolves,” etc. The attention to detail and world of Pandora that Cameron created are what sets this above the others.

There are others that deserve mention (“Moon,” “Zombieland”) but these were the ten best for the year (that I watched). Feel free to give your comments. Happy holidays and see you at the movies!

Chas Andrews

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06
Jan
09

Ten Faves from ’08

I don’t know about you, but I was disappointed.

 

If the question is, “What did I expect from the films of 2008?” my answer would be, “A better film year than 2007.” Not to say that 2007 was bad; the tail-end of it made up for most of that year. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of 2008.

 

“Indiana Jones 4” (aka “Indy Gets an X-File”) was ludicrous if not insulting. And speaking of “X-Files” the return of Mulder and Scully to the screen was warranted, but the story wasn’t. “Speed Racer” could’ve been more fun, “Prince Caspian” could’ve used more characterization and plot. “Untraceable” was among those movies that couldn’t have been saved, period.

 

However, it wasn’t all bad. “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” proved that superheroes can rule the day, if not the box office (although “Hellboy 2” was underrated). Pixar pixel pixies made mechanics emotional with “Wall*E.” Robert Downey, Jr. didn’t just make “Iron Man,” he made “Tropic Thunder” as Kirk Lazarus, an Australian method-actor who undergoes pigmentation-surgery to portray a black Sergeant in Vietnam. And “City of Ember” was the best and most-overlooked kids’ movie.

 

In alphabetical order, here are my Ten Faves from ’08.

 

bank_job1“The Bank Job” – I caught this one on DVD. After I finished watching it, I kicked myself. This movie was interesting, fun, and a great throwback to the Seventies.

 

 

 

 

city_of_ember“City of Ember” – Thoughtful, well-made post-apocalyptic kids’ movie. I was surprised.

 

 

 

 

 

dark_knight“The Dark Knight” – This movie is entirely on a different plain of filmmaking. Kudos to Christopher Nolan on doing such a great job and to Heath Ledger, who gave one of his best performances ever (and his last).

 

 

 

 

hellboy_two“Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” – Fun fantasy film from Guillermo del Toro. I really enjoyed this one. “Hellboy” is beginning to grow on me.

 

 

 

 

iron_man“Iron Man” – A great popcorn blockbuster movie to begin the summer with. Robert Downey Jr. was nothing less than perfectly casted. Jeff Bridges had fun being the bad guy.

 

 

 

 

leatherheads“Leatherheads” – Another overlooked movie. George Clooney spent years trying to bring this one to light. It’s funny, quirky, zany, screwball… and made football interesting.

 

 

 

 

son_of_rambow“Son of Rambow” – British indie about kids who learn to make film, not war. Great fun and a tribute to filmmaking (moreso than “Zack and Miri”).

 

 

 

 

transsiberian“Transsiberian” – Emily Mortimer steals this movie from Woody Harrelson and Ben Kingsley. A great follow-up to “Session 9” and “The Machinist,” also directed by Brad Anderson.

 

 

 

 

tropic_thunder“Tropic Thunder” – I initially thought this was shallow at first, but repeated viewings on DVD make this one even better.”I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!”

 

 

 

 

wall_e“Wall*E” – Wall*E is the story of the little robot that fell in love. Environmental and biological themes abound but don’t get too preachy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all, folks. See ya at the movies in 2009!

-Chas

08
Jul
08

Predicting the Box Office, Part II

Part I was a quizzical look at the Studios “search for more money.”

 

Welcome to Part II.

 

Have the Studios lost or gained for the summer of 2008? A lot of this is based on expectation. For example the new-kid-on-the-block Marvel Studios raked in money hand over fist with the release of “Iron Man.” In three days it took in $102 million; not bad.

 

Warner Bros. flooded money into “Speed Racer;” something to the tune of $250 million ($150 mil for the movie, $100 mil for the marketing). Unfortunately “Speed” lost gas quickly. It’s opening weekend it made $18.5 million and has so far accumulated $42.7 million. I don’t think you can blame it on the current fuel prices.

 

Disney packed a punch with its release of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” Opening at Number One with a take of $55 million, “Caspian” held pretty well against its competitors and stayed in the Top Ten for a good month+. So far it’s made $138 million.

 

“Dr. Jones” set the summer’s 3-day box office weekend total. While $126 million is a lotta moolah, the Studio was disappointed it didn’t rake in its “projection” of $150 million. While it had a bigger opening weekend than “Iron Man,” it currently trails Tony Stark and company cumulatively by $5 million.

 

“Sex and the City.” I was really floored that this movie didn’t do better than it did. Opening weekend it made $56 million, beating out “Indy” by $1 million (in its second weekend). I was expecting “SATC” to make at least $100 million; every woman in my office area was planning on seeing it. Maybe it would have made more money if it had gone to Cable and was on Pay-Per-View. HBO would’ve raked in the cash…

 

In a summer that has fuel prices skyrocketing and pools shutting down, what do you do with the kids? The answer: go see “Kung Fu Panda.” This is the “little movie that could.” Studios had no expectations whatsoever on this kids flick and were pleasantly surprised (or dismayed) that its weekend box office was $60 million. That was higher than the opening for “Made of Honor,” “What Happens in Vegas,” “Speed Racer,” “Prince Caspian,” and “Sex and the City.” “Panda” continues to martial the art of box office earning with $193 million.

 

“The Happening” was released against “The Incredible Hulk.” This is a prime example of either not having enough faith in a movie (releasing it against something you KNOW will make money) or having too much faith in a movie (releasing against a movie that you think you can top). Either way, “The Happening’s” box office wasn’t happening; it made $30.5 million (but that was better than “Speed Racer’s” opening) The “Hulk” smashed the abomination of “The Happening,” taking in $55 million. Its current take is $124 million.

 

Another TV show-to-movie, “Get Smart,” was a disappointment; $38 million the first weekend. While it has climbed up to $100 million, it’ll probably make its profit from DVD sales and going to Cable. Meanwhile, “The Love Guru,” has crawled under the carpet making less than “Made of Honor’s” first weekend with $13 million. Ouch.

 

A kids movie versus a graphic novel-based movie. I was thinking that “Wall*E” would’ve kicked the box office for $100 million, but I was off. Taking in $3 million more than the opening for “Panda,” at $63 million the Earth’s last remaining robot did pretty well. “Wanted,” directed by the guy who did “Night Watch,” and “Day Watch,” held its own, taking in nearly $51 million. Going up against a kids movie, that’s impressive.

 

Which leads me to our stopping point: the July 4th weekend. With fuel and food rising and rising in cost, an unstoppable war, unemployment increasing and a nation standing on the edge of Depression, what can you count on? A blockbuster Will Smith Fourth of July movie. That movie: “Hancock.” Critics panning this movie didn’t stop everyone from seeing it; $66 million in three days. I was disappointed in the fact that I saw a commercial claiming that “Hancock” made $107 million. That took 5 DAYS to do. “Iron Man” made $102 million in 3 days…

 

Watch for Part III, where we’ll look back at July and Part IV where we gage summer’s final results. Until then, here are your Top Ten Lists:

 

Top Ten 3-Day Weekend Openings for Summer 2008

 

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull              $126,917,373

2. Iron Man                                                                             $102,118,668

3. Wall*E                                                                                $63,087,526

4. Hancock                                                                              $62,603,879

5. Kung Fu Panda                                                                    $60,239,130

6. Sex and the City                                                                   $56,848,056

7. The Incredible Hulk                                                              $55,414,050

8. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian                              $55,034,805

9. Wanted                                                                                $50,927,085

10. Get Smart                                                                           $38,683,480

 

 

Top Ten Cumulative Box Office Totals for Summer 2008

 

1. Iron Man                                                                             $311,758,000

2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull              $306,428,521

3. Kung Fu Panda                                                                    $193,221,867

4. Sex and the City                                                                   $144,891,325

5. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian                              $138,780,000

6. Wall*E                                                                                 $127,196,028

7. The Incredible Hulk                                                              $124,841,395

8. Hancock                                                                              $103,877,446

9. Get Smart                                                                             $98,100,652

10. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan                                         $94,773,156

 

 

 

Will “The Dark Knight” strike a blow to “Iron Man?” Will “Hellboy 2” raise any hell? Is there any truth out there for “The X-Files?” And hey, how about “Tropic Thunder?”

 

Stay tuned for Predicting the Box Office III !

 

To be continued…

11
Apr
08

The Best of Hest: 10 Iconic Charlton Heston Films

As some may know, actor Charlton Heston passed away on April 5, 2008 at the age of 84. With regards to his craft, I have sifted through his 126 films and now present to you the Top 10 Charlton Heston films in order of appearance.

 

 

The Ten Commandments (1956)

 

Straight out of the Old Testament, Heston portrays the life of Moses. His nemesis: Ramses, played by Yul Brynner who inhibits the classic cinematic antagonist. Throw in Edward G. Robinson as Dathan and Vincent Price for good measure. Biblical filmmaking has never gotten better than this.

 

 

 

Touch of Evil (1958)

 

If you’re a film noir person like me, this is on your must-see list (right after “The Maltese Falcon” and “Sunset Boulevard”). Heston plays Ramon Miguel ‘Mike’ Vargas (yes, a Mexican) who is recently married to Janet Leigh and is investigating murder in a Mexican border town. His nemesis: Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), the epitome of police corruption. I can’t recommend this film enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ben Hur (1959)

 

Taking a few cues from the Ten Commandments, this time Charlton is Judah Ben Hur, a rich Jewish prince put into slavery by his Roman friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd). What follows are the trials and tribulations of regaining freedom and vengeance. Oh yeah, and some impressive chariot racing.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

El Cid (1961)

 

Heston is the titular character El Cid /Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, the Spanish hero who drove the Moors from Spain. Also stars Sophia Loren. How can you go wrong?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Dundee (1965)

 

Cinema has had its fair share of megalomaniacs, from Charles Foster Kane to Daniel Plainview. One of the most overlooked of them is Major Amos Charles Dundee (Heston). It’s the post-Civil War years and a band of Apaches raid Army bases in Texas. Dundee decides to go after them, inducting a group of Confederates (headed by Richard Harris) and ignoring protocol by going into Mexico. Heston is great in a role that’s equivocal to Captain Ahab going after Moby Dick. Other reasons to watch the film include the supporting cast of Richard Harris, James Coburn, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Brock Peters, and Slim Pickens. Of note, this was the first major film from director Sam Peckinpah.

 

 

 

 

Planet of the Apes (1968)

 

The Hest is George Taylor, one of three astronauts that crash-land on a planet where simians rule and humans are the hunted. If you’ve never watched the original, make yourself do so. While current pop culture has given away the ending and every line has become part of American vernacular, there is something about sitting alone and watching this on your own. While Heston came back for a few minutes for the sequel, he did that for the paycheck. This is THE version of the film, unless someone makes a version closer to the book (where the apes had technology, like helicopters).

 

 

 

 

The Omega Man (1971)

 

In the second incarnation of Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend” story, Heston takes the role Vincent Price played previous, except this time he’s up against the mutations caused by biological warfare whom have came together and called themselves the ‘Family,’ headed-up by Paul Koslo. Most notable about this movie (aside from the amount of times it’s been referenced on the ‘Simpsons’ or what the new ‘I Am Legend’ ripped from it) is the scene where Heston is driving down the streets of abandoned L.A. He stops, grabs his machine gun, and starts firing at a mutant. Classic.

 

 

 

 

 Soylent Green (1973)

 

The year is 2022 and the Earth is overcrowded, which doesn’t bode well for the already overcrowded New York City and Detective Robert Thorn. When a murder is linked to the obsessive food Soylent Green, Thorn investigates and finds out the deadly secret behind the new food. Also stars Brock Peters and Edward G. Robinson. Go ahead. Tell them, tell them all.

 

 

 

 

 Airport 1975 (1974)

 

I’m guessing they were going for a later date of release… Besides that Heston is Alan Murdock, a man who takes control of a 747 after a small plane collides with it, rendering the flight without a pilot. Somehow, they must land that plane! Also stars Gloria Swanson, Karen Black, Linda Blair, and Dana Andrews (no relation to me).

 

 

 

 

Earthquake (1974)

 

It’s still 1974 and Heston takes a shot at another disaster film: “Earthquake.” In it he plays construction engineer Stuart Graff, estranged from his wife Remy (Ava Gardner) and is having an affair with the widow of a co-worker (Genevieve Bujold). One of the eponymous disaster flicks of the Seventies, it also stars Richard Roundtree, Victoria Principal, and Walter Matthau.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable mentions:

 

While Heston’s ‘leading man’ status waned around the late Seventies/ early Eighties, he became a supporting actor in the Nineties. His bit parts included:

 

Almost an Angel (1990)

 

He played God to Paul Hogan, but went uncredited.

 

 

Wayne’s World 2 (1993)

 

When Wayne (Mike Myers) is doing his homage to ‘The Graduate,’ he replaces Al Hansen (‘Bad Actor’) for Charlton Heston (‘Good Actor’).

 

 

True Lies (1994)

 

Heston is Spence Trilby, who overlooks the organization Ah-nuld works for. Oh yeah, and he wears an eye patch.

 

 

In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

 

I put this one in here not so much because Heston was in it, but it’s a fave movie of mine. Heston is the boss of a publishing company who’s looking for their star author, Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow). If you a fan of horror/ H.P. Lovecraft, check into it.

 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your own Hest-Fest.