Monthly Archives: January 2010

Top 10 Films of the 1990’s

Now that I have made my list of best films of the 2000’s I’d like to show you my list of favorite films from the 1990’s. I think you will find that the first few films mentioned are romantic, sort of heartwarming movies while the last few are ¬†incredibly violent films filled with lots of ideas. It was a decade in which both violence and love thrived on the big screen, I say we celebrate both types of films.

10. The Lion King (1994)

Seriously? Damn right, seriously! The Lion King is the first film I remember seeing in the theatre so it holds a special place in my heart. It’s a breathtaking children’s movie that has as many adult fans as it does kids. Here is the incredible first scene:

9. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The reason I like The Shawshank Redemption is the reason I think most people like this film, the relationship between Tim Robbin’s character and Morgan Freeman’s. There is also the uplifting and inspirational story that holds your attention without receding into tedium. Though I tend to dislike most films that are “inspirational,” this one is just too good to dismiss.

8. Titanic (1997)

Again, seriously? Oh yeah. It’s easy to make fun of Titanic. Admittedly the dialogue is cheesy, the acting can be corny and James Cameron’s unabashed smugness might turn you off. Let’s be honest though, to say that you didn’t in the very least enjoy Titanic means you are probably lying. It’s nearly impossible not get caught up in the love story of this film and of course its epic climax. Cameron showed the world what “spectacle” really means.

7. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Call it a chick flick, I don’t care. Tell me Saving Private Ryan is better and I might agree though I haven’t seen that movie in over 10 years so I can’t give you an honest opinion. Shakespeare in Love is hilarious and very clever and the cast is fantastic. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in Shakespeare will enjoy this film and even if you don’t, you’ll still find it amusing.

6. The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix is the perfect action film – it’s incredible visuals and unrelenting violence are backed up by the most surprising of things – a plot. Even greater, the plot deals with the enslavement of man and his desire for freedom. There are so many ideas in this film, it would take much too long to list them here. Let’s just say that in 1999 we were given the option of choosing the “red pill” or the “blue pill” and I’m glad we chose red.

5.  Braveheart (1995)

Say what you will about Mel Gibson but that man knows how to make a movie. Braveheart sweeps you up in its Celtic score, its romance and its blood soaked vision of freedom. Braveheart is the ultimate under-dog movie, one in which the oppressed rise up against their oppressors and show us what courage once meant.

4. Fargo (1996)

This film is nearly perfect in my book. The story is truly captivating, the cinematography is brilliant, the score is mysterious and catchy, the script is funny and memorable and the acting is superb. William H. Macy is fantastic but somehow Frances McDormand shines through in one of the best female roles on film.

3. Pulp Fiction (1994)

What more is there to say about this one? It changed the way I looked at films and how films can be made. Tarantino showed us that the mundane and the explosive can be equally important. He also helped create 3 of the most memorable film characters ever.

2. Fight Club (1999)

Has any movie ever made soap look so disgusting? This film is burned into my brain and each time I see it I find new meaning. I won’t tell you what it all means because a) I’m not quite sure what it all means and because b) you have to figure it out yourself. David Fincher has made an incredibly unique, beautiful, vulgar and complex film that asserts the importance of living and denounces material possessions. Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter and Edward Norton are brilliant here.

1. American Beauty (1999)

This movie does no wrong. The cinematography, screenplay, acting, score, every piece fits together to create an incredibly well constructed film. It is hilarious and depressing at the same time. Just like your life it will move you and make you laugh. Unlike it though it has brilliant camera work and actors who could play your life better than even you could. Indeed, it is spec-tac-ular.

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Do reviews affect what movies you see?

Movie reviews, like reviews for most things are tricky. Everyone has an opinion and each person will find different movies funny, moving, beautiful, powerful, etc. I have one friend who says he doesn’t care what professional film reviewers think. Often when I recommend a movie to him and tell him about the great reviews it has gotten or awards it has received he’ll scoff. On the other hand, I have other friends who will see a movie once it has gotten a lot of “buzz” and great reviews. I like to get a general idea of a film’s reviews before seeing it. I usually trust (and agree with) Peter Travers of Rolling Stone and his reviews do affect what movies I see. On the other hand some movies I go see regardless of how bad its reviews are because bad movies like Pringles and Oreos are addictive. So how about you, which movie reviews affect what movies you see (if they affect your decisions at all?)


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Promising Films from Sundance 2010

Tonight is the opening night of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, arguably the biggest and most important film festival in the U.S. Every year tens of thousands of filmmakers, actors and fans swarm Park City, Utah to attend the world premieres of the latest independent films from some of the most cutting edge writers and directors working in the biz today. Sundance has become known for premiering and screening some of the best independent films in recent memory (Precious, Little Miss Sunshine, Garden State, Donnie Darko, Saved!, Maria Full of Grace.) The list is very long and very impressive. Just because a a film is independent though doesn’t necessarily mean it is good, in fact there are many terrible “indie” films. Nevertheless when a film is made independently, the filmmakers have more creative freedom and that I think is a good thing. Here are some films that will be premiering at this year’s film festival that you may want to check out because to quote Entourage’s Ari Gold “You don’t come to Sundance for the snow; you come for the heat.”

Howl

This film has its world premiere tonight and recounts the 1957 obscenity trial revolving around a young Allen Ginsberg, after writing his infamous poem. The fantastic cast includes some of my favorite actors (James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn).

The Runaways

This film follows Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart), Cherrie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and their band The Runaways during their dramatic rise to fame in 1970s Los Angeles. As a Joan Jett fan, I’m excited to see how the film depicts her and I am looking forward to seeing Fanning work her acting muscles again.

The Company Men

From what I gather this movie is about corporate downsizing and according to the Sundance website, the film is “a tribute to America’s unsung heroes: hard-working men caught in life’s unexpected misfortunes.” This film also has a fantastic cast including Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Blue Valentine

Director Derek Cianfrance chronicles a marriage during its stale and sad state and also shows us how it was once passionate and full of life. The fact that Ryan Gosling and Michelle Wiliams play the married couple alone makes me want to see this movie.

Get Low

Old grumpy Felix has lived alone for the last 38 years in a remote cabin. One day he decides to throw himself a funeral party and invites all the townspeople to attend. If the premise alone didn’t sound awesome, here’s the amazing cast: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek.

Please Give

Please Give is the story of a married New York couple who are planning to expand their apartment by buying the unit next door to theirs, the only problem is that they have to wait for the old woman living in it to die first. Starring the always-lovely Catherine Keener and the accomplished Oliver Platt.

The Kids Are All Right

This film follows a lesbian couple living in Los Angeles and their children’s search for their biological father. The film stars two of my favorite/ two of the best actresses working today (Julianne Moore and Annette Benning) and the great Mark Ruffalo.

Armless

John has a secret desire to have his arms cut off so he goes and tries to find a doctor who will actually do this. Doesn’t sound crazy enough? Then his mother tells his wife that he is is cheating on her, so she decides to find John – so she can cut off his balls.

HIGH school

The protagonist of this film tries to get the entire student body of his school stoned. This should be funny.

Waiting for Superman

A documentary about our failing education system.

Teenage Paparazzo

A documentary about a 13-year-old paparazzo. This sounds fascinating and disturbing.

So those are just a few of the many, many films being screened at Sundance. For a complete list click here:  http://sundance.bside.com/2010/films

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Golden Globes 2010 – Thoughts

avator-golden-globes.JPG

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Well the first big award show of the year is done and I have to say, they were pretty enjoyable, well if you like film and television that is. Ricky Gervais was hilarious, uncensored and brought a wild charisma to the sometimes boring show. I loved how he drank beer throughout the night, joked about Mel Gibson’s past behavior, made fun of Colin Farrell and Paul McCartney and kept taking good-spirited jabs at actors. Mo’Nique’s acceptance speech for “Precious” was heartfelt and Christoph Waltz acknowledged Quentin Tarantino for taking him on the ride of his life, while accepting his much-deserved award for Best Supporting Actor in “Inglourious Basterds.” I enjoyed Meryl Streep’s rambling yet charming yet poised acceptance speech for “Julie & Julia.” Overall I liked the atmosphere of “anything goes,” it made the the actors indeed look human. I liked how Felicity Huffman flubbed her lines, how Jennifer Aniston awkwardly did not know who to hand out an award to and how Arnold Schwarzenegger somehow managed to mispronounce yet another movie title (this time it was Avatar.) I also loved the tribute to Martin Scorsese. I really enjoyed how Scorsese emphasized the importance of film preservation, paid tribute to both the best American and international filmmakers of all time and reminded us of how important history really is.

Let’s move on to how the outcome of the Globes will affect potential Oscar winners though shall we readers? (If anyone is actually reading this). Avatar won for both Best Picture-Drama and Best Director and I believe that it will win one of those categories if not both for the Academy Awards, though the Hurt Locker and its director Kathryn Bigelow certainly have a great shot at both of those awards as well. Mo’Nique and Christopher Waltz look like locks for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively. Meryl Streep also seems like the front-runner in the Best Actress category though Sandra Bullock, as evidenced by tonight is gaining tremendous steam. After tonight Jeff Bridges seems like the likely winner for Best Actor though George Clooney or Colin Firth could certainly upset. All in all, it was a fun beer-lubricated night that asserted the power of the blue aliens from Avatar and showed us that celebrities are more fun when they act like real human beings, not those other aliens (you know, the botoxed-self obsessed ones.)

Here’s a full list of winners.

http://www.imdb.com/features/rto/2010/globes

And here’s an interview with the “short and fat” and very British Ricky Gervais discussing hosting duties on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this week.

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Up In The Air (with George)

Actor | Authors | Directors | Producers | RolesClass | Media Products | Movies | Up in the Air | Individual | George Clooney

“This land is your land, this land is my land,” croons Sharon Jones during the opening credits but she might as well be saying, “this movie is your movie, this movie is my movie.” Before seeing “Up In The Air” I was slightly concerned that I, a young 20 year old would find little to relate to. After all, the film stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a middle age single Casanova who (when he isn’t too busy giving motivational speeches) works for a company whose sole purpose is to respectfully fire the employees of other companies. Not too many people live his lifestyle but there are characters and sentiments in this film that will without a doubt relate to just about everyone.

As the film starts Ryan Bingham is reveling in unwedded bliss, in being alone and in his constant work-related travel, indeed according Bingham, “moving is living.” His small airport-sized world changes though when Natalie Keener (played with exuberant pep by Anna Kendrick), joins Ryan’s company. She’s a woman fresh out of college who proposes that the company save considerable money by having its employees fire people through an Internet program like “Skype” instead of by actually flying out and firing employees face to face. Ryan unapologetically hates this idea but is forced to show Natalie what his job entails by flying her around the country with him and having her observe him work.

Meanwhile, Ryan meets Alex Goran, a sexy middle age woman, played by Vera Farmiga who like Ryan, spends most of her time flying from city to city on business trips. Their chemistry is undeniable and watching the two of them interact is more fun than any fight scene from “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” What is remarkable about this film is that in our age of super short attention spans, this movie indulges in long scenes, filled with dialogue, humor and subtlety. When Natalie discusses relationships and careers with Ryan and Alex, you are sucked in completely to their lives. Clooney, Farmiga and Kendrick work so effortlessly together that they seem like they’ve been working together for years in a theater troupe. Their work in this movie should garner each of them Academy Award nominations.

Writer and director Jason Reitman, whose previous work includes “Juno” and “Thank You For Smoking,” has crafted a film that like his last two efforts includes undeniable humor and style yet also speaks to our broader world with seriousness and weight. This is a movie about our failed economy, our rising unemployment, our isolation and our addiction to technology. It is also about a college grad trying to juggle relationships and work, a woman just looking for a fun time and a man who realizes that he in fact does not want to be alone. For all of these reasons I related to this film and had so much fun doing it. “Up In The Air,” is not unlike a 21st century version of “The Apartment,” it is light yet heavy, funny yet serious, somewhat slow but hugely entertaining. These days movies like this don’t get made that often.

Bottom Line: Go see this movie in the theater, it will win lots of awards and you don’t want to be out of the loop.

EKL

Watch this video of Reitman, Farmiga and Kendrick discuss the film with the awesome Peter Travers.

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The Best Theaters in Boston

No matter how good a film is, where you see it will affect your overall movie-going experience and perhaps even your impressions of the film itself. Movie theaters can range from “Buttery Gold Popcorn Good” to “Pee-scented, Fuzzy Screen Terrible.” Ultimately movie theaters add to and support a film like an ice cream cone does to scoops of Cherry Garcia. Here are my picks for the best movie theaters in my hometown of Boston.

Somerville Theatre

The marquee at the Somerville Theatre.

Pros: Cheapest tickets in Boston ($5 weekday matinee and $8 evening admission!) Independently run. Nice selection of current and independent films. Great concession stand that sells ice cream, beer and wine. Beautiful interior/marquee. Is the main theater used for the annual Independent Film Festival of Boston. Is used for lots of concerts and even houses the Museum of Bad Art in its basement. Great location in Davis Square.

Cons: Small seats. Not enough restrooms.

Brattle Theatre

Pros: Independently run. Fantastic selection of classic films and foreign films. Holds special events, discussions and question and answer sessions with special guests. Concession stand with tea, coffee, beer and wine. Has played host to the annual Independent Film Festival of Boston. Great location in Harvard Square.

Cons: Only one (small) screen. Rarely shows current films that are played in other theaters.

Kendall Square Cinema

Pros: Plays a fantastic selection of first-run independent films, often before any other theater in Boston plays them. Clean, spacious and fun lobby. Diverse selection of free popcorn flavorings. Convenient parking.

Cons: Out-of-the-way location makes it a hassle to walk to from the Kendall Square T-station, especially in the cold.

AMC Loews Boston Common

Pros: Huge theatre with many (big) screens. Great lineup of films, from the biggest 3D Blockbusters to the smallest indie films. Spacious lobbies filled with huge posters. Stadium seating, digital projection. Occasionally holds special screenings with special guests (I saw a free advanced screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button here with actress Taraji P. Henson present to answer questions.) Convenient location at Boston Common.

Cons: Very expensive tickets. Screenings tend to sell out soon. Can get very crowded and can be difficult to find seats. Concession stands only sell basic snacks and drinks.


Coolidge Corner Theatre

Pros: Independently owned not-for-profit theater (take that executives at Fox and MGM!) Gorgeous marquee and interior. Awesome selection of first-run independent and foreign films. Also holds special series of classic and art house films occasionally hosted by prominent industry professionals. Also hosts the annual Coolidge Award, a celebration of an important film person’s life. Past award recipients have included Meryl Streep and Zhang Yimou who both attended. Also has hosted the annual Independent Film Festival of Boston.

Cons: Matinee tickets cost $7.75 (the first showing of feature films before 4 PM)

What are your favorite theaters in other cities?

EKL

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Golden Globes Preview

We are one week away from the Golden Globe Awards, one of the most important award shows in Hollywood, second only to the Academy Awards and I feel it only appropriate to take a look at past awards shows in order to prepare you for this year’s. I always find the show at least somewhat enjoyable and like to see how the Golden Globe winners compare to the Oscar winners.

The Golden Globes should be taken with a grain of salt though since they tend to nominate some less than stellar films, for example “Dreamgirls” won the award for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical in 2006. Actors also tend to be nominated in pretty mediocre films, this year Sandra Bullock is nominated for the poorly reviewed “The Proposal” and Julia Roberts is nominated for “Duplicity.” The Golden Globes also do not have categories for the technical aspects of film like the Academy Awards do. For example the Golden Globes don’t have categories like “Best Cinematography” that I like so much. Anyway this year the Golden Globes will be hosted by Ricky Gervais so you know it should be a fun show. Here are a few of my favorite Golden Globe speeches from years past.

Kate Winslet

Sacha Baron Cohen

Meryl Streep

For a complete list of nominees click here: http://www.imdb.com/features/rto/2010/globes

Now here’s a preview of this year’s show with the hilarious Ricky Gervais. Watch him host the show on January 17th at 8 pm EST on NBC and vote on the poll following the video!

EKL

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