Top 10 Films of 2014

There are still so many films from last year that I need to catch up with (i.e. Nightcrawler, Two Days, One Night, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything, to name a few), but I couldn’t resist sharing my current top 10.

Honorable Mentions: Blue Ruin, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Babadook, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, John Wick

#10 – Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills [2014]
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Top 10 Albums of 2013

Last year was full of unexpected comebacks in the music scene — Daft Punk, Boards of Canada and My Bloody Valentine all put out new material for the first time in years — and it resulted in one of the best years in some time. Here are my personal favorites:

Honorable Mentions: Bonobo – The North Borders, Gold Panda – Half of Where You Live, Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go

10) !!! – Thr!!!er
!!! - Thr!!!er
9) Moderat – II
Moderat - II
8) Kanye West – Yeezus
Kanye West - Yeezus
7) Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
6) Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
5) The Field – Cupid’s Head
The Field - Cupid's Head
4) Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
3) Disclosure – Settle
Disclosure - Settle
2) The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
1) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Individual tracks from each album:
!!! – “Slyd
Moderat – “Versions
Kanye West – “Blood on the Leaves
Boards of Canada – “Jacquard Causeway
Fuck Buttons – “Brainfreeze
The Field – “Cupid’s Head
Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Night Time
Disclosure – “White Noise
The National – “Don’t Swallow the Cap
Daft Punk – “Lose Yourself to Dance

For once, I actually agree with the Grammys. How about you? What are your favorite albums from last year?

Top 10 Video Games From 2012

For the first time in years, I did a decent job keeping up with the latest video game releases. There were still many that I missed, but this is the first time I have been able to put together a top 10 list during January. This was a great year for video games, especially when it came to narrative-driven experiences.

Honorable Mentions:
Journey
Dyad
FIFA 13
Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Mass Effect 3
10) Mass Effect 3
This is The Dark Knight Rises of the Mass Effect trilogy, especially in terms of divisiveness. I loved it despite mixed feelings about the ending.

Trials Evolution [XBLA]
9) Trials Evolution
Pretty much the perfect sequel. Expands upon the original in every way possible.

Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]
8) Sleeping Dogs
A strong contender for my new favorite GTA-style game. Gotta love the Hong Kong setting, too.

Mark of the Ninja [Xbox 360, 2012]
7) Mark of the Ninja
This could very well be the best stealth game I have ever played. Finishing a level without being seen always feels like a huge triumph.

Max Payne 3
6) Max Payne 3
If ever there were a game that feels like an action movie, this is it. Hell, it’s better than most of Hollywood’s recent action flicks.

Hotline Miami [PC]
5) Hotline Miami
The violence is hard to stomach, but the gameplay is so addictive that I kept coming back for more. Best soundtrack of the year as well.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
4) XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I’m usually not a big fan of strategy games, but XCOM locked me in and didn’t let go. Easy to learn, difficult to master, but always fun.

Spec Ops: The Line [Xbox 360]
3) Spec Ops: The Line
On the surface, this appears to be nothing more than a standard third-person military shooter. But then the story kicks in, and it’s impossible to get out of this descent into madness. Arguably the best narrative ever found in a shooter.

Borderlands 2 [Xbox 360]
2) Borderlands 2
The original Borderlands was one of the breakout hits of 2009, and the sequel delivers everything that worked so well in an even more refined experience. I can’t stop looting.

The Walking Dead: The Game [Xbox 360, 2012]
1) The Walking Dead
The most emotional experience I have ever come across in a video game. An unheralded art of storytelling in a medium that so badly needs strong narratives.

What I Missed: Far Cry 3, Lone Survivor, Torchlight II, Diablo III, Hitman: Absolution

What did I miss? Do you agree with these choices? If you have your own top 10, feel free to share in the comments!

Top 10 Films From 2012

The “best of” lists have been well underway, and it’s time for me to join in on the festivities. I wanted to wait until I saw a few of the most recent heavy-hitters, and now I feel confident enough to put together my own top 10. This has been a great year for film, and I could have easily stretched this out to a top 20, or even 25. For the sake of consistency, I am sticking with a top ten.

Honorable Mentions:
The Intouchables
Zero Dark Thirty
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Killer Joe [2011]
10) Killer Joe
“A totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story.” Yeah, it’s as great as it sounds. I will never look at fried chicken the same way again.

Take This Waltz [2011]
9) Take This Waltz
Pretty much a “love it or hate it” film, but this one struck an emotional chord within me. I can’t get enough of Michelle Williams either.

Lincoln [2012]
8) Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis deserves every bit of praise sent his way, and he anchors a well-rounded cast in a film about one of America’s most pivotal moments.

argo-2012
7) Argo
Dare I say Ben Affleck is a much better director than actor? This is a gripping thriller that manages to maintain suspense despite the outcome being well-known.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]
6) The Dark Knight Rises
I can’t think of a better conclusion to one of the best trilogies in recent times. The film flies by despite its lengthy running time, and Bane is a hell of a villain.

Indie Game: The Movie [2012]
5) Indie Game: the Movie
A documentary about indie game developers? Whaaaa-? This is actually a damn good film, one that shows a dedication to a craft where no outcome is certain.

The Imposter [2012]
4) The Imposter
The perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. My favorite documentary of the year.

Oslo, August 31st [2011]
3) Oslo, August 31st
A look at a reformed drug addict trying to fit back into society. Sounds familiar, but this film looks at addiction in a fresh new light. Joachim Trier is a director to keep an eye on.

Django Unchained [2012]
2) Django Unchained
I could watch Quentin Tarantino recreate history any time. Just as stylish as expected from the eccentric director, with an especially memorable soundtrack.

The Master [2012]
1) The Master
I’m still a bit shocked at how divisive this film has been, but no other release resonated with me this year like Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest. The trio of Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams deliver some of the best performances of the year, and the film itself will leave you thinking about it for days (or much longer).

Still need to see: Amour, Seven Psychopaths, Rust and Bone, The Impossible, Holy Motors

Any thoughts? What do you agree with? Disagree?

Top 10 “New to Me” Films From 2012

I watched a lot of movies last year — 280, to be exact. I still don’t know how I managed to pull that off, but I’m not complaining. A good chunk of that was thanks a combination of my 50 Movies Project and trying to keep up with 2012’s latest releases. Yet I also saw a large number of other films that have eluded me over the years, many of which deserve to be acknowledged. Here is a list of the top 10 “new to me” films that I saw in 2012, omitting those from the project or those released within the last two years.

Special mention:
Miami Connection [1987]
Miami Connection [1987]
We will stop this senseless killing;
We will end this evil war;
We will stop this senseless killing;
We’ll even up the score!
Against the ninja!

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof [1958]
10) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof [1958]
Careful Maggie, your claws are showing.

The Descent [2005]
9) The Descent [2005]
I’m an English teacher, not fucking Tomb Raider.

Assault on Precinct 13 [1976]
8) Assault on Precinct 13 [1976]
Detective, you run this precinct like chicken night in Turkey.

Slacker [1991]
7) Slacker [1991]
Sorry, I’m late.
That’s okay, time doesn’t exist.

popeye-doyle
6) The French Connection [1971]
All right, Popeye’s here! Get your hands on your heads, get off the bar, and get on the wall!

Before Sunrise [1995]
Before Sunset [2004]
5) Before Sunrise/Sunset  [1995, 2004]
I used to think that if none of your family or friends knew you were dead, it was like not really being dead. People can invent the best and the worst for you.

out-of-the-past-mitchum
4) Out of the Past [1947]
Baby, I don’t care.

magnolia-frank-mackey
3) Magnolia [1999]
Come on, Frank. What are you doing?
What am I doing? I’m quietly judging you.

glengarry-glen-ross-alec-baldwin
2) Glengarry Glen Ross [1992]
Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee’s for closers only.

the-apartment-shut-up-and-deal
1) The Apartment [1960]
Shut up and deal…

What do you guys think of these films? What was the best “new to you” movie you saw in 2012?

The Top 20 Films of 2011 — One Year Later

As we wrap up 2012, the “best of” lists are coming out in full swing. I am diligently working on mine (expect new posts for movies, video games and music in the near future), but I thought it would be fun to take a look at *last* year’s best films. I originally came up with a top ten in January, but there were more than a handful of films I had yet to see at that point. Now, one year later, I have seen pretty much every major picture from 2011 that caught my eye, and I can now provide a more accurate representation of my favorite films from last year. I have also expanded the list from 10 to 20, as 2011 turned out to be a pretty solid year of movies. For the sake of reference, here is a link to my original top 10 movies from 2011.

Cedar Rapids [2011]

20) Cedar Rapids

My favorite comedy of the year, one that was unfortunately overlooked by most.

Margin Call [2011]

19) Margin Call

One of the best ensemble casts of the year. Absolutely worth watching just to see Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons butt heads.

The Descendants [2011]

18) The Descendants

A tad overrated, but George Clooney and Shailene Woodley make this immensely watchable.

Win Win [2011]

17) Win Win

Can Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan be in every movie? Please?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [2011]

16) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Yeah, this remake was completely unnecessary, but David Fincher delivered the goods here. Rooney Mara deserves all the props she has received for her performance.

The Ides of March [2011]

15) The Ides of March

Politics suck. This film shows you why. Oh yeah, and it has Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney AND Paul Giamatti.

A Separation [2011]

14) A Separation

A startling look at the dissolution of marriage from an Iranian perspective. Its title works in multiple ways.

I Saw the Devil [2010]

13) I Saw the Devil

Brutal, disgusting and unbelievably violent; in a nutshell, another badass Korean revenge thriller.

Attack the Block [2011]

12) Attack the Block

Subtitles may be required for some of its English, but damn if this isn’t one hell of an entertaining flick.

We Need to Talk About Kevin [2011]

11) We Need to Talk About Kevin

An especially difficult film considering recent tragic events, but it features a phenomenal performance from Tilda Swinton.

Young Adult [2011]

10) Young Adult

Jason Reitman can do no wrong in my book. Great stuff from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt as well.

13 Assassins [2010]

9) 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike’s samurai homage has one of the most unforgettable and epic battle scenes I have ever seen.

the-artist-jean-dujardin

8) The Artist

Although not my personal favorite, I can get behind this as Best Picture. Endlessly charming.

Hugo 3D [2011]

7) Hugo

This one is a real treat for film lovers. Brought a whole new sense of appreciation for the work of early director Georges Méliès.

Moneyball [2011]

6) Moneyball

A faithful adaptation of a terrific sports book, this is a baseball movie that can be appreciated even by non-fans.

The Skin I Live In [2011]

5) The Skin I Live In

One of the most disturbing films in recent years with an unforgettable twist.

Shame [2011]

4) Shame

Not enough can be said about Michael Fassbender’s performance of a man who has hit rock bottom with his startling sex addiction.

Take Shelter [2011]

3) Take Shelter

A thought-provoking look at mental illness with the best ending of any film from last year.

50/50 [2011]

2) 50/50

Still the biggest surprise of last year. A cancer film that manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Drive [2011]

1) Drive

Still my top choice after a full year. Gosling, Mulligan, Cranston. That soundtrack. Drive just oozes style.

Honorable Mentions: 
Tyrannosaur
Bridesmaids
The Adjustment Bureau
Everything Must Go
Tucker & Dale vs Evil

So, what do you think? Do you agree with my choices? What was your personal favorite film from last year, now that we have a year’s perspective?

Top 10 Films from 2012 — So Far

Now that we’ve wrapped up the first 2/3 of the year, we’re going to be getting into the REAL good stuff for the fall/winter. Movies seem to get their best releases near the end of each year, and 2012 also fits that mold with plenty of heavyweights coming soon. Still, there have been a lot of great releases so far this year, and more than a few should hold up on the inevitable year-end lists. Here are my top 10 favorites through August:

Honorable Mentions:
The Woman in Black — Slow-paced but atmospheric horror with a great performance from Daniel Radcliffe.
The Grey — Liam Neeson as a wolf hunter. ‘Nuff said.

Haywire [2012]

10) Haywire

Sorely underrated action flick. Worth seeing just to watch Gina Carano kick Michael Fassbender’s ass.

Prometheus [2012]

9) Prometheus

The marketing campaign probably raised our expectations too high, but this was still a fun sci-fi adventure that provided endless discussions throughout the summer.

The Avengers [2012]

8) The Avengers

Can’t ask for a much better blockbuster to kick off the summer. Fans of the comics no doubt loved this even more.

The Intouchables [2011]

7) The Intouchables

Doesn’t really give us anything new, but Omar Sy provides arguably the most entertaining performance of the year.

Cabin in the Woods [2012]

6) The Cabin in the Woods

Entertaining throughout, but really kicks into gear during the final act. A real treat for horror fans.

Take This Waltz [2011]

5) Take This Waltz

Possibly this year’s most polarizing film. I really enjoyed this one, perhaps because I could relate to most of the characters.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

4) Beasts of the Southern Wild

Easily the most unique of this year’s films, and it comes from a group of veritable newcomers, no less.

Moonrise Kingdom [2012]

3) Moonrise Kingdom

Hey, maybe there’s something to this Wes Anderson guy after all. The movie that made me a fan of his work.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

2) The Dark Knight Rises

I can’t ask for a better conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Epic in every sense of the word.

The Master [2012]

1) The Master

People will be talking about this for a long time. Guaranteed.

So, what do you guys think? Do you agree? Disagree? What are your favorites from this year so far?

The Ten Best Actors of All Time [Relay Race]

Nostra over at My Filmviews always comes up with some pretty rad ideas for blogathons and features, and his latest may be the best one yet. I had the honor of being selected by Jaina from Time Well Spent to take part in the “Ten Best Actors of All Time” Relay Race. For those who have missed it so far, here is Nostra’s description of the series:

So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors.
It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!

As a reference point, here is the order of the race so far (starting from the beginning):
My Filmviews -> The Focused Filmographer -> Front Room Cinema -> I Love That Film -> FlixChatter -> All Eyes On Screen -> Time Well Spent

I had to do some serious thinking about this list, as it is already pretty amazing. I didn’t want to have to remove any of these guys, but rules are rules. Here we go:

Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro

Daniel Day Lewis
Daniel Day Lewis

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin

Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando

Robert Duvall
Robert Duvall

Christian Bale
Christian Bale

Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio

My Addition: Paul Newman

Paul Newman
How can you not like Paul Newman? He was so effortlessly cool in everything he was in. The ladies loved him because of his good looks and big blue eyes, guys loved him because he was a man’s man and could play the confident anti-hero so well, and he was a hell of a guy to boot. Not only was he a successful actor for SIX decades, Newman was a humanitarian who gave back to a wide variety of charities. Hell, his profits from his Newman’s Own line of salad dressings (and other foods) amounted to over $300 million, all of which went to charity.

But regardless of how awesome of a human being he was, he was just as great on the big screen. I became a fan after watching The Hustler for the first time last year, and I quickly made an effort to see more of his work. My favorite performance so far remains his lead role in Cool Hand Luke, where he just oozes charisma and proves that you don’t need guns or explosions to be a badass.

Paul Newman was nominated for countless awards before finally winning Best Actor for 1986’s The Color of Money (the sequel to The Hustler). Other highlights from his long and varied career include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hud, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Verdict, and Road to Perdition.

Who I Replaced: Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks

Nothing against the guy — he has had A LOT of great roles and is one of the most charming and likable actors in the business, but I would put him a cut below the others. I feel bad for removing Mr. Hanks, but the questionable choices from his last decade of work make it a little easier for me to take him out.

Now I am passing the torch to Chris at moviesandsongs365. Good luck!

Top 10 Films From 2011

While working on my top ten list for 2010, I opted to wait longer than most to post my final results. My plan was to catch up on films I missed at the tail end of the year, so I didn’t actually post my list until March 16. I am not doing that this year. There are just too many movies that came out in the final quarter of 2011 that I missed out on, and I would rather not wait until they are out on DVD to compile a top ten.

This top ten list is for 2011 movies that I saw during that calendar year. There are noticeable exclusions that I simply have not seen yet (The Artist, Take Shelter, Tree of Life, to name a few), so I may amend this list in the next few months to include those that I missed last year. I am in full-on list-making mode right now, so here is my preliminary list of the Top 10 Films From 2011:

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [2011]

10) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Perhaps an unnecessary remake, but Fincher’s adaptation is engrossing and features powerful performances from Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

The Ides of March [2011]
9) The Ides of March

Star-studded film that wonderfully shows the backstabbing and selfish nature of politics.

I Saw the Devil [2010]
8) I Saw the Devil

Brutal, disgusting and unbelievably violent; in a nutshell, another badass Korean revenge thriller.

Attack the Block [2011]
7) Attack the Block

One of this year’s most entertaining movies, even if subtitles are almost a requirement to understand it.

13 Assassins [2010]
6) 13 Assassins

Miike’s samurai homage has one of the most unforgettable and epic battle scenes I have ever seen.

Shame [2011]
5) Shame

Not an easy watch by any means, but this is a fascinating portrayal of the depths of an intense sexual addiction.

Hugo 3D [2011]
4) Hugo

Not your typical family flick, this one is a real treat for film lovers, especially when seen in 3D (ironically enough).

Moneyball [2011]
3) Moneyball

A faithful adaptation of a terrific sports book, this is a baseball movie that can be appreciated even by non-fans.

50/50 [2011]
2) 50/50

The biggest surprise of the year, a cancer film that is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.

Drive [2011]
1) Drive

Could there be anything else at #1? Drive is stylish, cuts out unnecessary dialogue, utilizes a killer soundtrack to perfection, and boasts a stellar cast. All the makings of a best movie of the year.

Honorable mentions: Win Win, Bridesmaids, Beginners, The Adjustment Bureau, The Descendants

So, dear readers, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with any of these selections? What were your favorite movies from 2011?

Top 10 Movies of 2010

OK – so I am 2 1/2 months late with this list, but better late than never, right? It took me a long time to actually get caught up on everything I missed from last year. While there are still plenty of movies that I need to see (especially some highly-rated documentaries), I finally feel satisfied enough to compile a list. Starting with number ten…

127 Hours
10) 127 Hours
Danny Boyle + AR Rahman + James Franco = one hell of a combination. This could have been a disaster in the wrong hands, but this survival story worked out rather well.

Exit Through the Gift Shop [2010]
09) Exit Through the Gift Shop
Who would have thought a documentary about street art would be so good? The fact that no one knows for sure if this was a hoax or legit makes the film all the more better. But, seriously, who the hell is Banksy??

The King's Speech
08) The King’s Speech
I had no interest in seeing this beforehand, and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were phenomenal in this movie, and it rose to great heights when they were on screen together. I disagree with the Oscar win, but there’s no denying that this was good.

True Grit [2010]
07) True Grit
Another strong effort from the Coens, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is likely destined for great things. Loved the dark humor and snappy dialogue.

Winter's Bone
06) Winter’s Bone
Such a bleak portrait of life in the Ozarks. John Hawkes provided one of the more memorable characters of 2010 in “Teardrop” and Jennifer Lawrence shined in the lead role. Makes me want to read the book.

Toy Story 3
05) Toy Story 3
I finally caught up on the trilogy just recently, and while I would have a hard time ranking the movies, I loved how Pixar closed it out with TS3. Fun story, and I even dug the new toys.

The Fighter [2010]
04) The Fighter
More of a family drama than a sports movie, although it excels at being both, The Fighter succeeds mostly in part due to its magnificent acting. Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams and even Mark Wahlberg were all game for this one, and it made for a very memorable experience.

Buried [2010]
03) Buried
This may be the biggest example of a “love it or hate it” movie from last year. I loved Buried, and I found it to be one of the best thrillers to come out in recent years. It’s hard to believe that a movie about a man stuck in a box could be the most exciting movie of the year, but director Rodrigo Cortés made it happen.

Black Swan [2010]
02) Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky is probably my favorite director working today, and Black Swan is up there among his best work. Natalie Portman absolutely deserved her Oscar for this one. It’s a shame that the general population remembers this only for its “lesbian” scene…

The Social Network
01) The Social Network
Another example of a movie that should not have been half as good as it was. Seriously, this is a movie about Facebook! Seemingly not the most interesting subject matter, yet all of the pieces aligned to create a modern-day masterpiece. Just an excellent movie, and my personal pick for the Best Picture of 2010.

Honorable Mentions:
Blue Valentine
– Can’t say enough about Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams in this movie.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
– Lots of video game-style fun.
The Kids Are All Right
– Equal parts funny and sad, but always entertaining.