Archive for the Best of… Category

The Best Movies of 2013

Posted in Best of... with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2014 by Steve Mesa

The year 2013 has been an exciting and intriguing time in cinema. While some movies early in the year got my attention as little gems waiting to be discovered, the last two months are been fantastic. Almost every movie I saw during that period was worthy to recognized as one of the best films to come out this banner year. Every year, it is my duty to put together a list that recognizes the outstanding work of filmmakers whether it is a big-budget blockbuster adventure or a small independent film that is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by others. This year also saw the return of some Oscar-winning directors who are proving that like fine wine, they are getting better with age. Continue reading

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The best films of 2011

Posted in Best of... on December 28, 2011 by Steve Mesa

If there is a thing to say the movies of 2011, it would have to be that this year in movies was far better than last year. Some of the highlights from the films of 2011 include superheroes ready to assemble for next year, odes to silent movies, director Woody Allen’s return to comedy and the epic conclusion to a decade-old film franchise. This is just the tip of the iceberg as I pick the lucky ten movies that have made my annual list for the best films of 2011. Continue reading

Best films of 2010

Posted in Best of... with tags , , , , , on December 25, 2010 by Steve Mesa

The year 2010 was far from being the best year for films. However, the films of 2010 offered many things for moviegoers from a mind-bending thriller and a live-action video game movie to a tale of a ballerina chasing perfection and a story about the survival of a young man isolated in a canyon. These films and others were among the lucky ten movies to make it to my annual list for the best films of 2010.

10) True Grit

Fans of the 1969 John Wayne film might have cried foul when it was announced that Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men) would remake it. However, the Coen Brothers decided to adapt the Charles Portis novel, which focuses more on the character of Mattie Ross instead of Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn, a one-eyed, tough and sometimes drunk U.S. Marshal. When her father is murdered by the cowardly Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), Mattie hires Cogburn (Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges) to find Chaney, but a Texas Ranger named LaBeouf (Matt Damon) is also determined to find Chaney and bring him back to Texas for the murder of a senator. True Grit manages to become one of the best Westerns to be made in recent years thanks to the great performances from Bridges and Steinfeld, an outstanding screenplay from the Coen Brothers and Roger Deakins’ amazing cinematography.

9) 127 Hours

Director Danny Boyle reunites with the technical crew from the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire to tell the story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), who was trapped under a boulder in for five days and decides to resort to some extreme and desperate measures in order to survive. 127 Hours becomes a one-man showcase for Franco for the majority of the movie. He delivers an engaging performance that is likely to award with his first Oscar-nomination. Another highlight of the film is the breathtaking cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak that not only shows off the vast and majestic Utah desert that Aron travels to, but the claustrophobic and disillusioned perspsective from the point-of-view of Aron.

8) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

British filmmaker Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) directed and co-wrote his third full-length feature that is an ode to comic books and video games, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In the movie, a young Canadian slacker (Michael Cera) who falls in love with the woman of his dreams (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but he must fight and defeat her seven evil exes that include an egotistical action star (Chris Evans), a pretentious bass player (Brandon Routh) and a sleazy record producer (Jason Schwartzman). What made the movie enjoyable was the casting of the main characters that includes Cera as Scott Pilgrim, Winstead as Ramona Flowers and newcomer Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. This film is one of the most entertaining movies of the year with the fight sequences, the great soundtrack and hilarious screenplay as Wright directs another unique film that captures the look, feel and essence of O’Malley’s comics.

7) The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech tells an uplifting and fascinating story that is set in 1930s Britain where King George VI needs to overcome the stammer in his speech, which would become quite problematic when he needs to deliver speeches. In order to overcome it, he hires an Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), who uses unorthodox techniques in order for George find his voice. In this film, the stellar cast ensemble deliver great performances from Firth and the amusing Rush to Helena Bonham Carter, who does a wonderful job as the future queen of England and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill. While this film is likely to collect Oscar-nominations, it almost guaranteed that Colin Firth will be awarded the Best Actor Academy Award.

6) The Fighter

The Fighter could have been another ordinary boxing movie that would have been predictable and filled with Rocky clichés. However, director David O. Russell reteams with actor Mark Whalberg for thier third film together to make an entertaining and refreshing story about “Irish” Mickey Ward (Whalberg), a boxer from Massachusetts. With his crack-addicted brother (Christian Bale) who use to be a fighter and his mother (Melissa Leo) putting pressure on Mickey to keep fighting for the welfare of his family, Mickey manages to turn his life around to put himself on the path to championship glory. While Mark Whalberg, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams deliver tremendous performances, Christian Bale turns in a tremendous performance where the Academy could award Bale with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

5) Toy Story 3

Not a lot of “threequels” that live up to the success of their last two predecessors, but Toy Story 3 manages to do that with the return of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and some new characters added to the mix. In their new adventure, the toys find themselves in a day care center filled with unruly tots where they are imprisoned by the toys-in-charge that include a strawberry-scented teddy bear. Pixar has done it once again as their films keep getting better and better, especially with their latest masterpiece. The film is a fun ride for all ages with introductions to new characters and a great screenplay that supports the movie.

4) Kick-Ass

In a year where Iron Man 2 failed to meet expectations, Kick-Ass managed to become the best comic-book movie of the year that features unlikely and different superheroes. An ordinary New York teenager and rabid comic-book fan wears a wetsuit in order to become a vigilante by the name of Kick-Ass. While he becomes an internet phenomenon, other superheroes like Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moritz) are viciously taking down criminals who work for a local mob boss (Mark Strong). The main highlight is the performance of Moritz as Hit-Girl, who moves with the agility of a ninja and cause violence and mayhem to criminals. The film lived up to its name as the story, the dialogue and performances pays tribute to the comic books genre, while making it a humorous and action-packed look at superheroes set in the real world.

3) Black Swan

In four films that he has helmed, Darren Aronofsky has directed Ellen Burstyn and Mickey Rourke to Oscar nominations for Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler. Third time might be the charm when Natalie Portman might be awarded a Best Actress Oscar for her best performance to date in Black Swan. In this psychological drama, the film is centered on a ballerina (Portman) in a New York ballet company who slowly becomes insane when he is given the dual role of the White and Black Swan in a production of Swan Lake. Not only is she stressed about her role in Swan Lake, her domineering mother (Barbara Hershey) and sexual advances made by the artistic director (Vincent Cassel) of the production, but she fears her role might be endangered by a new dancer (Mila Kunis). This beautiful but mind-blowing movie also reunites Aronofsky with his cinematographer Matthew Libatique and composer Clint Marshall.  Everything from the production design to the editing makes this film a technical masterpiece.

2) Inception

With movies such as the mystery-in-reverse Memento and The Dark Knight, writer-director Christopher Nolan has established himself as one of the premiere storytellers of his generation with his latest film, Inception. A skilled thief (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has the ability steal secrets from the dreams of others, assembles a team of specialists when is hired by an energy magnate (Ken Watanabe) to implant an idea into the subconscious of his business rival (Cillian Murphy). This mind-bending film is one of the best movies of the year as it takes you inside the world of dreams unlike any movies you have seen before. The movie features one of DiCaprio’s best performances, along with a great supporting cast that includes Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy. Nolan’s direction and the film’s special effects all deserve Oscar nomination as this film is a contender for next year’s Best Picture category. To better understand the concepts and ideas of the film, it is suggested to watch the movie gets a second time and it always gets better with repeat viewings.

1) The Social Network

The Social Network may seem at first like the film will only focus on the invention of Facebook, but it becomes something much more than that. The movie pinpoints the moments of the creation of Facebook when Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) initiates an idea to develop a social network in which becomes exclusive to Harvard students at first, thanks to the funding from his close friend (Andrew Garfield). When Facebook becomes popular, lawsuits and deceptions occur as different perspectives from characters are told through depositions. David Fincher’s direction, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay and the performance from the cast makes The Social Network the best movie of the year that not only tells the story of the invention of Facebook, but a tale of friendship, betrayal, greed and jealousy.

Honorable mentions: A Prophet, Blue Valentine, Exit through the Gift Shop, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Ghost Writer,  How to Train Your Dragon, I Am Love, The Kids Are All Right, Let Me In, Please Give, The Kids Are All Right, The Secret in their Eyes, Shutter Island, The Town, Waiting for Superman, Winter’s Bone.

Best films of 2009

Posted in Best of... on January 7, 2010 by Steve Mesa

A decade has past us as 2009 ends and 2010 begins, but let us dwell in the past year as we saw the reemergence of acclaimed directors, such as Sam Raimi, James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino, step up their game in terms of filmmaking and making their latest films more enjoyable then their last movies. Not only are the veteran directors are making a name for themselves, there is also an emergence of new filmmakers with fresh takes on familiar genres such as romantic comedies and science fiction.

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Great actors in villainous roles dominate decade on film

Posted in Best of... on December 2, 2009 by Steve Mesa

Narrowing down the thousands of great performances on film from the past 10 years is no easy feat. Nevertheless, the following performances stood out above the rest, portraying unforgettable characters both real and imagined.

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‘Final Destination’s best kills

Posted in Best of... on September 1, 2009 by Steve Mesa

Opening on top of the box office with $28.3 million, the gory 3-D flick The Final Destination overcame the wrath of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II in the battle of the two horror franchises. For ten years, the Final Destination movies have took the premise of Death haunting unfortunate souls and turned it to a money-making franchise. The formula for these movies is this: person has premonition of a horrible accident, person freaks out that causes other people to follow him, accident happens and horrible things happen to the survivors. The excitement of the franchise is not the acting or script, but the elaborate Rube Goldberg-like ways that the survivors are killed off to make it look like an unfortunate occurrences or freak accidents. Here are the ten most elaborate deaths in the franchise, starting with the first victim in a long line of unfortunate souls haunted by the Grim Reaper.
Final Destination
Todd Wagner (Chad Donella)-The first one to be knocked off by the one who carries a sickle is very creepy because it is something that might happen to someone. Even though some liquid from a leaky pipe that follows your every movement. But that is what happen as Todd slip on the liquid and fall on a hanging wire in his bathroom, wrapping around his neck and strangling him to death in the shower.
Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer)-Not only is this one of the most unexpected deaths in the franchise, but also one of the unexpected deaths of all time. As Terry is scolding his boyfriend, Carter (Kerr Smith, she makes the mistake of crossing the street backwards without looking. A few seconds later, her face and body has a meeting with an oncoming bus that just shows up out of nowhere. I would think that Alex’s (Devon Sawa) premonition of the reflection of the bus on a store front would have clued him in.
Billy Hitchcock (Seann William Scott)- After Alex and Claire (Ali Larter) saved the life of Carter from being crushed by oncoming locomotive in his car, Billy stands by the rails of the train and scolds Carter on staying away from him. Remember what happen to the last person that scolded Carter? A piece of scrap metal from what was left of Carter’s vehicle flies off the train tracks and brutally decapitated Billy through his mouth. Alex realized that in Death’s design, if someone is saved by another person, it skips the lucky person and moves on to the next person, which happened to be Billy.
Final Destination 2
Evan Lewis (David Paetkau)-This lucky bastard not only avoided dying in a highway pileup, but also won the lottery. When he arrives in his apartment after a spending spree, Evan’s apartment catches on fire after his microwave malfunctions after he catches his hand in a sink to retrieve a newly bought ring. After nearly escaping his fiery home, he climbs down an escape ladder and slips on some spaghetti he threw away earlier. In classic fake out fashion, the ladder comes close to hitting him in the face with a resounding “Oh Shit” from Evan. That is when the ladder finally penetrates through Evan’s right eye socket. He isn’t lucky no more.
Tim Carpenter (James Kirk)-After nearly choking on a toy fish in the dentist’s office, Tim walks out the dentist office with his mother to see Officer Thomas Burke (Michael Landes) and Kimberly (A.J. Cook). Unfortunately, he was not paying attention and decided to chase off some pigeons nearby. The flying pigeons caused a construction worker to drop a window pane on poor little Timmy, folding him like an accordion in all its spectacular gore.
Kat Jennings and Rory Peters (Keegan Connor Tracy and Jonathan Cherry)-It is not enough for people being dispatched in weird ways, Death also happens to literally kill “two birds with one stone”. After getting into a near fatal accident, the remaining survivors escape unscathed except for Eugene (T.C. Carson), who was sent to the hospital. Bitchy career woman, Kat, was nearly impaled by a plastic pipe and is stuck on the driver’s side of the car. With the paramedics on the scene, they use the Jaws of Life to rescue Kat, who is taking a nicotine break. When the Jaws of Life activates the car’s airbag, Kat’s head retracts back into said pipe and impaling her through the head. Kat’s lit cigarette falls from her cold, dead hands into a stream of gasoline that ignites an explosion which propels a barbed wire fence to unsuspecting stoner Rory. It takes time before anybody knows what happened, especially Rory. It is then his body slowly begins seperating into three places.
Final Destination 3
Frankie Cheeks (Sam Easton)-Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Kevin (Ryan Merriman) narrowly escape the “drive-thru from hell” when a runaway semi crashes into Kevin’s truck, which caught between a convertible and a beer truck. The semi crashed into his truck, causing Kevin’s truck engine to propel into the head of the convertible’s driver. Unbeknownst to them, the driver was poor Frankie, who they were trying to contact in order to warn him about his upcoming fate. In the end, all Frankie got was a REAL bad headache that resulted in his brains being splattered all over the drive-thru window.
Erin Ulmer (Alexz Johnson)-You would think working at a Home Depot-like store would not have consequences on their workers. This unfortunate soul met her end at the end of nail gun after her boyfriend, Ian, is saved by Wendy and Kevin from falling sharp objects. This act causes Death to skip Ian and move on to the next person, which was Erin. One of the sharp objects propelled toward Erin, causing her to fall backward and headfirst into the nail gun. The nail gun gave Erin eleven skull-crushing piercings from the the back of her skull and penetrating through her cheek, hand, wrist, nose and eye.
Ian McKinley (Kris Lemche)-Still stunned from witnessing her girlfriend’s death, Ian look for wants payback and was planning to kill Wendy. His plan did not succeed as he confronted Wendy at their town’s centennial celebration and they were nearly get incinerated by stray fireworks. As it seem like the fireworks did not do the trick, the nearby crane with McKinley’s name on it (he was named after the town) surely did Ian in as it dropped down upon him, splitting his body in half.

The best movies of 2008

Posted in Best of... on January 5, 2009 by Steve Mesa

2008 was an interesting year for movies. This year has given moviegoers men dressed in suits fighting crime, assassins with superhuman abilities and broken old men looking for redemption. Here is a top ten list of the best movies of 2008.

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