Jan 8 2016

Top 10 movies of 2015

Sean Stanley

This was the year of the quasi-remake… more like the rebirth.  Several large franchises, even the biggest franchises of all time, folded out the same blueprints as their originals, but with new twists.  And fans were happy.  They didn’t feel like they just got the remake of Point Break or some other terribly foggy notion.  An old boxer came out of the woodwork for a friend’s estranged son, dinosaurs got all computer-graphic-y, directors self-referenced themselves, space had daddy-issues, and a female badass tore the barren wasteland of the apocalypse a new one.

Still gotta see a few from this year, most notably The Revenant… but until I also see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Beasts of No Nation, Room, Anomalisa, Carol, and a few others, this list is subject to change.  For now, without further ado, my favs from 2015:

Honorable Mention:

The Seven-Five – Cops in Brooklyn in the 80s taking dirty money, and telling all.  Extremely entertaining.  Dealer Diaz is a stand-out.

 

10. Straight Outta Compton – I had fun.  And Cube’s first performance of Gangsta Gangsta is awesome.

9. Inside-Out – Pixar’s best this decade.

8. Sicario – Great cinematography by the endlessly impressive Roger Deakins, and Benicio’s best performance in years.

7. The End of the Tour – reporter David Lipsky goes to interview David Foster Wallace on tour for his colossal book, Infinite Jest.  Segel and Eisenberg are both good here.  The building of the relationship of the two is very good.  Says a lot about who we are vs. how we’re presented.

6. The Big Short – A surprisingly entertaining ride for the end of the economy.  Bale rocks it.

5. What We Do In The Shadows – Best comedy of the year, with perhaps the best line, “it would be like eating a sandwich, which would be much more enjoyable if somebody didn’t fuck it first.”

4. Steve Jobs – Sorkin and Fassbender deliver powerhouses here.  Jobs was a dick, but sometimes it takes a dick to get jobs done.

3. Ex Machina – the best sci-fi film I’ve seen in ages.  Looks great, great performances, flips ya for real.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road – Step the hell out of the way, George Miller is back with a vengeance.  This movie makes me think this year was the year of revisitation for revitalization.  As this movie is not entirely unlike The Road Warrior, Jurassic World went back to the Park with a slight update, The Force Awakens to bring back the fans of yore with what they loved, wound the scars of the last series, and not without an added dash of newness to keep them salivating, Rocky came back to the life in Creed thanks to Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, and The Hateful Eight even has Tarantino doing the full circle on his career back to the drawing-room burn of Reservoir Dogs, but with a whole new context and level of execution.  All of them, if not improving on the original, at least show growth and resuscitation to their respective elders.  That said, Fury Road is the best action movie of the year.  Everyone works.  100% pure adrenaline, indeed.

  1. The Hateful Eight – Tarantino doing what he does best, and the most enjoyable movie for my money that I saw this year.  A treat for Tarantino fans.  With an incredible score, enveloping both Morricone and Kurt Russell once more with the depths of Winter.  Jennifer Jason Leigh is a powerhouse in this film.  A great ensemble, and a great time at the movies.  A slow-burn of a first half, met by an explosive second-half, that keeps you guessing the entire time.  Bravo Tarantino!  Can’t wait for the next one.

hatefuleight

 


Jan 8 2016

Top 10 movies of 2014

Sean Stanley

Not without the tardiness drops the best of 2014, but hastily and without seeing a plethora of this year’s films, my 2015 list is coming up momentarily.  Just catching up on the years… that said, having waited awhile before posting this list results in my not really remembering what the best of 2014 was… but from my recollection, here we go:

10. Nightcrawler – Jake Gyllenhaal makes this.  With Zodiac and Prisoners, that’s 3 Gyllenhaal performances I dig.

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Damn dirty apes come up with a good sequel.

8. Edge of Tomorrow – The Groundhog Day of action movies is actually good!

7. Guardians of the Galaxy – After an entire summer working everyday, this was what I did with my first day off, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.  My favourite opening sequence of the year.

6. Inherent Vice – Felt more Pynchon than PTA, and I’m still trying to make heads of tails of things here, and am going back fore more.

5. Only Lovers Left Alive – Jarmusch’s best in some time.  Great hypnotic quality, great music, and DETROIT!

4. Boyhood – Go Linklater go!

3. Birdman – Go Alejandro go!

2. Foxcatcher – Wow.  “Mother didn’t care for horse meat!”  Man was this intriguing and well executed.  Great performances all around.

  1. Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes’ best since Tenenbaums makes for the best film of the year.  Fiennes is perfectly cast.  Dafoe is great as always.  Nobody makes European American films like Wes… perfect dioramas.  A great culmination of Wes’ bag of tricks.

the-grand-budapest-hotel-5

 


Dec 11 2014

BEST MOVIES OF 2013

Sean Stanley

It would be ridiculous to post a best of 2013 in 2015, so I figured I better get this out now… with the best film of the year singled out, and the rest in no particular order, as It’s been a while since I’ve seen some of these and they’re a little hazy.

1. Spring Breakers – caught the US premiere of this at SXSW 2013 and it was explosive. After waiting in the longest line-up I’ve ever seen for a movie (approx. 7 blocks), the movie opened with one of the best openings ever, and the crowd ate it up like a rock concert in full force. The movie is a hilarious spring break fever dream. Harmony, Franco and cast were there. And when asked why he did the movie, James Franco declared, “Sprang Break forever”. A brawl broke out on the streets of Austin later that night, and the guy I was with shouted out, ‘Sprang Break’, and from across the brawl, someone responded, ‘Sprang Break Forever!’ – it was a catchphrase not even two hours after the movie screened.

springbreakers

The rest of em, in no particular order:

– Cutie and the Boxer – great documentary about a couple who are both artists.  Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.
Prisoners – Gyllenhaal and Jackman both impressed me in this. Damn good thriller… good ending.
Her – Joaquin and Jonze together? Ok! That video game character was amazing!
The World’s End – this gets better every time I see it… dialogue is trump-tight.
This is the End – rewatchability factor on this is huge. Michael Cera steals the movie.
Mud – great backwoods flick with The McConaughey.
Big Bad Wolves – a great darkly comic white-knuckler.
The Wolf of Wall Street – DiCaprio nails the speeches, overall very funny, if a little sloppy and long. & they need to cut the Foo Fighters cue!
The Place Beyond the Pines – thought Cianfrance really stepped up his game here.  Dug the Gosling and Cooper stories.
Rush – why weren’t people talking about this movie?!? Best race car movie since Days of Thunder. Daniel Bruhl was amazing!
Gravity – remember being wowed by this visual feast in the theatre. Haven’t seen it since… felt more like a ride than a movie.
Inside Llewyn Davis – Bob Dylan baby. Llewyn is the cat.
Nebraska – a solid little picture with great scenery of middle America.
Clear History – I’m a sucker for Larry David.


Sep 14 2013

Best Movies of 2012.

Sean Stanley

Late? Kinda. Latest best-of list ever? Perhaps. Well, turns out I never did a Best of 2012 list… I thought about it a bunch, but never put finger to keyboard, so to speak. I recall thinking I’d see more flicks from the year (i.e: Holy Motors) and the list would solidify into its concrete positions, but alas, 2012 remains a wonky year for me… I’m really looking forward to 2013’s list, as I have several noteworthy films already. That said, here we go, the best of 2012:

10. Goon – Seann William Scott delivers. It’s not only one of the best comedies of the year, but one of the best hockey movies ever.
9. Bernie – had been too long since we saw a strong Linklater live-action outing. And it has Jack Black’s best performance in a decade.
8. Silver Linings Playbook – I have a soft spot for David O. Russell.
7. Killer Joe – William Friedkin’s best since the 70s.
6. Ted – classic comedy.
5. Cabin In The Woods – fresh take on the Evil Dead genre.
4. The Master – a damn magnetic piece. Joaquin for performance of the year.
3. Moonrise Kingdom – Wes’ best live-action since Zissou.
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild – debut of the year. Wonderful, Malick-like, and wholly original.
1. Django Unchained – QT having fun in the western genre turns out to be the most entertaining movie of the year. Great dialogue, great firecracker set-pieces… Waltz for supporting actor, indeed. Great to see DiCaprio in the Tarantino world as well. He is a rambunctious sort.

django-unchained-poster-mike-butkus-02


Sep 1 2013

Movie of the Day: The World’s End

Sean Stanley

Well, the summer, like the carousing hurrahs of yesteryear, it came and it went, and with it took the hopes of Superman fans, the awe of Pacific Rim fans, and the money of Iron Man fans. I was enjoying it and not blogging so much, but here we are now, and there should be more Movie of the Days (i.e: This is the End, Place Beyond the Pines)… and maybe they’ll come… for now, Wright, Pegg, and Frost are back to finish what they started, The Golden Mile, The Cornetto Trilogy. After a blistering debut with Shaun of the Dead, and a wonderfully orchestrated follow-up in Hot Fuzz, this time the gang sets out on a dozen-long pubcrawl in their hometown, something they never accomplished in their youth. Not unlike the other flicks in the Cornetto trilogy, The World’s End comes on with the comedy and ice cream, and ends with the blood, so to speak. Smoking, drinking, it’s a great night out with aging and reluctant friends who just need a little warming up. Wright is as tight and exuberant as ever, though a little more restrained and not as hyperactive as, say, Hot Fuzz or Scott Pilgrim (that said, the Scott Pilgrim-ness of Scott Pilgrim wouldn’t apply to this film at all). The dialogue is sharp and funny and moves fast, and Pegg owns it. Perhaps not the best of the trilogy, but a damn worthy addition, and certainly one of the better movies of the year.

Also, note to self, watch this later:


Jun 6 2012

Django Unchained trailer!!!

Sean Stanley

Watch, drool, repeat. Thank you, Mr. Tarantino.


Feb 17 2012

Movie of the Day: Le Feu Follet

Sean Stanley

After a decade of wanting to, I finally saw Le Feu Follet (1963), which is the best portrait of restless youth I’ve seen since the fish rumbled. I’ve wanted to see this film for so long that it was almost a defeat when Criterion released it… in that I didn’t get to find it after such a ferocious hunt; it was just basically given to me for the low price of somewhere between 20 and 40 bones.  Notwithstanding, thank you very much Criterion, who years ago I wrote and requested put out several films, among them: Le Samourai, Blow Out, Shoot the Piano Player, and Le Feu Follet – all of which have since been released, thank you again Criterion… and while we’re thanking them, thanks again for the upcoming releases Harold and Maude, Up All Night with Robert Downey Sr, and Being John Malkatrez.  But enough waxing the Criterion canon, back to the hunt: I looked at every video store in Southwestern Ontario, you name it – Suspect, Queen, Bonanza, Flixx – everywhere.  Kim’s in New York didn’t even have it, I called.  It was a bitch to find, like California Split before the dvd… then Criterion blew up and could acquire damn near the entire Louis Malle collection.  And so I finally watched it, why it took me two years to watch it, well, it was a matter of mood, and too much shit to do in the last few years.  I’m glad I waited though because it paid off like gangbusters.  The tale of a man with a “misspent” youth, revisiting old companions in Paris.  Oozing with melancholy and the post-party doldrums, Maurice Ronet nails this ghostlike role of a leathered rogue.  I needed a kick in the teeth, and it shattered the clackers.  Alain Leroy, put him up there with the Motorcycle Boy.  He reigned.


Jan 7 2012

BEST MOVIES OF 2011

Sean Stanley

Here is a list of my favourite movies of 2011. The title of this post is misleading, these aren’t the best movies of 2011. That honour probably goes to Bucky Larson or Jack and Jill, but this is a list of what I enjoyed the most at the movies this year. After I post the list, I’ll include all the flicks I haven’t seen but want to, and after I do, they might affect this list completely.

Honourable Mentions:
50/50,
Our Idiot Brother,
Warrior,
Attack the Block,
Hobo With A Shotgun,
Pearl Jam Twenty
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

10. Hugo – Martin Scorsese delivers us film history with Georges Melies and a kid named Hugo Cabret who lives in a train station. It’s very enjoyable and one of the best kid’s movies I’ve seen. Though, probably because I love movies.
9. Conan O’ Brien Can’t Stop – I might be bias because I love Conan, but I loved every minute of this doc detailing Conan’s Prohibited-To-Appear-On-Television-Tour. Great look into the mad comic and his operations. Losing the Tonight Show could’ve been the best thing to happen to him.
8. Contagion – It was like Traffic but with diseases instead of drugs. Haha. I really enjoyed this flick and I’m glad I saw it by myself with no one coughing around me.
7. Moneyball – Bennett Miller did a great job with this… one of the best baseball movies of all time.
6. Midnight In Paris – Woody’s freshest in years… filled with classic literary giants and whimsy.
5. The Tree of Life – I’m a sucka for Malick these days. The eldest son, Hunter McCracken, and Brad Pitt were incredible in this movie. And Emmanuel Lubezki.
4. The Rum Diary – Great return for all involved, Depp, Robinson, and Hunter. Depp plays Hunter as much more serious, noble, and ambitious this time around, which is apt for the material; It’s not the riot that Fear and Loathing is… but neither is the novel. Puerto Rico looks great and there are fantastic alcohol-fire-breathing scenes to boot. I’m sure Hunter would approve of Amber Heard as well.
3. The Descendants – Alexander Payne has won me over. I enjoyed the use of Hawaii in this flick and the eldest daughter deserves many accolades. Very solid structure and storytelling.
2. The Artist – silent, black and white, simple, detailed, and joyful.
1. Drive – Finally a great crime flick… again… Refn has been creeping toward the top of my fav movie of the year list for years now (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) and has finally topped it. Great theater experience with this one – hearing kids whine that it wasn’t Fast and Furious enough for them and then having them shut the hell up when the motel scene arrives, and then hearing some kid scream ‘this is the craziest fucking movie ever’ during the elevator scene. The driving kicked ass, LA at night looked gorgeous, the pink titles were wonderful, and the soundtrack kicked fucking ass.

Favourite Performances of the year:
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Tom Hardy – Warrior
Brad Pitt – Tree of Life
Hunter McCracken – Tree of Life
Brad Pitt – Moneyball
Sasha Baron Cohen – Hugo
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Need to see:
Melancholia, Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Take Shelter, A Separation, The Muppets, Senna, The Interrupters, 13 Assassins, The Skin I Live In


Jan 7 2012

Movie of the Day: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Sean Stanley

EMILY:
Hey hey! RE: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – David Fincher made a much more compelling film than the Swedish version. Perhaps it suffered from that typical Scandinavian restraint. The tension of the relationships was better established, and I loved how he kept letting the winter wind in! I have to say that despite a valiant effort by Ms. Rooney whom I like very much – her casting was not as dead-on as it was with Noomi Rapace. She had a hardness and a ferocity in her eyes that made it easier to believe that she was that girl – not just playing that girl. Did you like? The second instalment of the story is my favorite.

SEAN:
I SAW DRAGON TATTOO…

I’m all fucked up about it. There is a lot that I thought was great Fincher, but as a whole, it didn’t hit me like Social Network did last year. The pacing felt all wonky.

Ok, let’s start at the beginning, I avoided all versions of the story (the book, the swede version), because I heard early that Fincher was doing a version of it and I would never spoil the joys of a Fincher movie for myself. Means far too much.

Right off the bat, I got a fucking hard-on for that ridiculous Fincher music video credit sequence, set to Karen O doing the Immigrant Song. Rock. I was grinning.

Overall, I think I was just more surprised that that is the story that people were shitting themselves over. That thing was an international bestseller? I get the female empowerment, but other than that, why??? What’s so novel about that story?? It’s good, but it doesn’t seem to be something extraordinary enough to cross language barriers and have Americans get interested. Nah mean?

Now, I wonder if you know the story already that makes Fincher’s version bang on?? I thought it was clunky. And I kept wondering how the fuck this chick was so goddamn good at computers?? Where and how did this happen? I thought Rooney was fantastic. Good for her. Can’t compare to original obviously, but if the Rapace did better than that, wow. Craig was sufficient. I didn’t really buy the love story at all. I wish them getting down and dirty was more believable – the ‘hand in the shirt’ comment was the most believable part.

The first half hour of talking, followed by a scene for scene set up for a crazy-ass rape (that had girls in the audience heading for the exit) seemed very poorly paced to me. I thought they needed to blend all that together better, the impact was more out of shock than set-up. I thought relationships needed to be better paced… if that makes sense, like the ending felt like it had a lot to say and dragged on about it.

Another thing, I kept trying to figure out afterwards was why of all years of receiving dried flowers did this year’s flower set Plummer off… I think there is a reason in the film, I just lost it. And I wish the discovery of Stellan Skarsgaard was more of a revelation, like a ‘no fucking way’ rather than ‘okay, it’s that dude, which I assumed it was anyway, because he’s the only other recognizable face here’. And the only reason for these Hollywood wants is because Fincher was trying to make that anyway – it is a good piece of entertainment – so why not do it to the tits…

All of this said, it has stuck with my thoughts for the last 24 hours and I really enjoy so much of it… it reminds me the most of Zodiac… a well accomplished mystery/killer flick, but lacking that HOLYFUCKMYEYEBALLS of Seven, Fight Club, and, oddly enough, Social Network. I admire it more than I got wrapped up in it. And I’m still trying to figure out why people loved that story so much. Silence of the Lambs is far superior. Especially when it comes to wrapping up an ending.

Now, I want to go see it again on the big screen.
SS

ps: I nominate this flick for best poster of the year.

pps: Also best use of music in a movie this year with ‘Sail Away’


Dec 20 2011

Movie of the Day: The Artist

Sean Stanley

A silent, black and white, and incredibly enjoyable time at the movies. With the barrage of CGI packed noise and 3D shite that has stunk up the theaters these days, something got lost along the way, and this film, tackling movies at that brink when they broke into talkies, strips things down and makes things fresh again. Great score, and great acting from the leads (Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo) in this classic story, by director (Michel Hazanavicius), that is constantly coming up with colourful ideas.