Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top 10 Favorite Animated Movies as a Kid

I don’t talk about animated films a lot on this blog, mostly because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it more difficult to connect with them emotionally. But there certainly was a time when I adored and lived by cartoons. Here are the 10 animated films I cherished most as a child. Hope you enjoy my picks, and be sure to share yours as well!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top 31 Things I Love About The Departed (that no one talks about)

Call me cynical, but I honestly didn’t know if Martin Scorsese had another film in him as compulsively addicting as The Departed. The Wolf of Wall Street proved me wrong, but really, I can watch The Departed anytime, anywhere. It simply never gets old. During a recent viewing, I thought it’d be fun to track a few things I love about the film that don’t get mentioned much. Enjoy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 5 Leonardo DiCaprio Performances

Leonardo DiCaprio had that hard thing to do. You know, that thing where you’re the most famous young actor in the world, but want to be taken seriously. That thing where just one wrong role could ruin your career. Thankfully, DiCaprio has consistently made excellent character choices, bringing to life one fearless and commanding man after another. While he’s currently killing it in The Wolf of Wall Street, I thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the best work he’s done yet.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

A few days ago, someone asked me to describe The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s new epic about a real man who got filthy rich by screwing people out of money. I was speechless. I stammered, I stuttered – I simply couldn’t describe the film. And then it clicked. “Remember the drug binge at the end of Goodfellas? ‘Jump Into the Fire,’ the coke, the chopper, the coke, the accident, the coke?”

“There are scenes like that in The Wolf of Wall Street?” my friend asked.

“No, the entire film is like that. It never stops. Even when it settles down, it still zooms.”

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hours

Hours before the worst of Hurricane Katrina wrecks havoc on Louisiana, Nolan Hayes (Paul Walker) and his very pregnant wife barge into a New Orleans emergency room. Their baby girl is born successfully, but will need to rest in an incubator for the next two days until she can breathe on her own. Due to complications during the delivery, Nolan’s wife did not survive. Devastated in his grief, Nolan now has to raise a child that he, admittedly, has no idea how to raise.

The storm hits. Hard. The power goes out and the hospital is evacuated. In order for Nolan to keep his daughter alive, he has to furiously crank a generator every three minutes. Three minutes of life at time, all while battling human and natural disasters, and his own increasing exhaustion.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 10 Best “Rotten” Films of 2013

Yesterday, my blogging buddy Alex Thomas posted a great list on his site, Time for a Film. His list of The 5 Best “Rotten” Films of 2013 brought attention to films from 2013 that have received a “rotten” score on the film review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. I loved Alex’s list for a few reasons, mostly because at a time of year when people are posting lists of the Worst Films of the Year, Alex approached it from a different angle. He highlighted seemingly “rotten” films that he genuinely liked. I respect that. And upon doing a little research, I realized I’ve also enjoyed quite a few “rotten” films this year. Hope you dig my picks, and be sure to tell me which “rotten” films you’ve liked in 2013!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In Character: John C. McGinley

You can’t not love John C. McGinley. As one of the most consistently hilarious characters actors in the business, there is no role that McGinley can’t bring to life with his unique humor. But McGinley’s craft certainly extends beyond chuckles. There’s a particular depth that McGinley frequently brings to his characters that I find captivating. Occasionally, you don’t know whether to laugh at the guy, or feel sorry for him. I’ll never tire of exploring the many facets of McGinley’s work.

Her

The world is always a little different when viewed through the lens of Spike Jonze. He’s taken us inside the mind of John Malkovich, made orchids poetic and terrifying, and caused wild things to come vividly alive. His latest film, the enchanting, revelatory and all around perfect, Her, may contain his most profound vision yet. It’s a film set in the future, but the unique way it handles loss and love proves timeless. The film is all consuming, and once we’re engulfed, Her never teases to remove us from its gentle grip.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 10 ESPN 30 for 30s

I’m not a sports guy. Never have been. As a spectator, I’ve always felt my time was better spent watching films than sports. Despite this (or rather, because of it) I do love a good sports documentary, and ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has certainly made some excellent ones. I’ve managed to watch every released 30 for 30, and here are my 10 favorite. Please note that this list includes films distributed under the ESPN Films Presents banner as well. Also, with the exception of Survive and Advance, every film listed here is currently available on Netflix Instant.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis

There’s a moment midway through the new Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis, when the title character comes to a literal crossroads. I won’t say where Llewyn Davis has the opportunity to go, but whether he veers his car slightly right, or continues straight ahead, his life will be forever altered. It’s a choice. A moral dilemma. Go this way and explore something new. Go that way and remain stuck.

And that’s exactly where Llewyn Davis is when we first meet him: stuck. As a superbly talented but financially struggling folk musician in ‘60s era Greenwhich Village, we learn that Llewyn’s worst enemy is himself. After years of never quite making ends meet, let alone reaching stardom, Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) has grown bitter and cold toward the world. He slums around the Village, taking gigs where he can, eating scraps out of friends’ fridges, and crashing on the couches of people who still tolerate him. Llewyn is the kind of self-entitled artist who is aware of his talent, and furious that the world hasn’t caught up yet.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Top 15 Films Wrongly Nominated for Musical or Comedy Golden Globes

I really like this year’s Golden Globe nominations. For the first time in a long time, I feel that the quality of films in the Drama categories rival those in the Musical or Comedy categories. But when I gave the nominations a closer look, I was stunned to find Julie Delpy’s fiery and fearless performance in Before Midnight as one in contention for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. In my opinion, Before Midnight was in no way a comedy (and obviously not a musical) so as I was wrapping my head around Delpy’s nomination, I tried to remember other films wrongly placed in the Golden Globes’ Musical of Comedy categories. Here’s what I came up with.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

American Hustle

Everyone in David O. Russell’s cinematic reimaging of the FBI ABSCAM scandal are trying to make good on a hustle. They dress up, they speak with fake accents, they play their parts, all for the endowment of a few dollars. That’s American Hustle. A film about how a dedicated con man and his talented mistress wound up working for an overzealous FBI agent, risking their lives in the process.

Friday, December 13, 2013

In Character: Neal McDonough

I watched an interview with Neal McDonough recently in which he said he almost quit acting. After moving from Boston to L.A. several years ago, he failed to find his footing. Sure, he landed small gigs in some worthy films, but he wasn’t making a living at it. So he decided to quit. A few days later, he booked Band of Brothers, and his life was forever altered. I share this anecdote because it’s so frightening to think how easily I could have never admired the work of one of my favorite actors. 

I’ll see anything Neal McDonough is in. A prime time soap opera, a cookie-cutter action flick – doesn’t matter. If his name is on the call, I’m there. He has such a quietly commanding presence, I find it impossible not to seek him out.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top 10 Shots of the World Trade Center Post-9/11

An odd feeling comes over me when I see the World Trade Center towers appear in a contemporary film. It’s anxiousness that is (hopefully) replaced with welcomed nostalgia. The 10 films below are the finest examples I’ve found of such remembrance. This list did not consider documentary footage of the attacks or any film released prior to 9/11. All new films, all graced by a tasteful hand.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Out of Furnace Q&A with Casey Affleck & Scott Cooper

Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the new film, Out of the Furnace, which was followed by a Q&A with co-star Casey Affleck and the film’s writer/director Scott Cooper. With The Hollywood Reporter’s extremely competent Scott Feinberg moderating, the discussion ranged from the power of performance, to the bafflement of personal attacks in reviews, to what it means to hear “Thank You” from a fan.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Out of the Furnace

Towns like Braddock, Pennsylvania exist all over America. The small, dirty towns that flourish or falter based on the strength of the local mill that employs most of the town’s citizens. Braddock, as portrayed in the new domestic thriller, Out of the Furnace, is the kind of town people don’t escape from. You’re born with a broken heart and develop into a shattered dream. All you can do is try to survive contently.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Top 5 Samuel L. Jackson Performances

Samuel L. Jackson is huge. An actor with one of the highest total box office grosses ever, with numerous credits spread out over film, television, stage. He’s Samuel L. Jackson, the intimidator, the screamer, the enforcer. He’s such an iconic persona, that we often forget that the man really, truly, can act. Here are my favorite examples of Jackson’s talent, of which there are certainly more than five. So do feel free to list your favorites after you check out mine!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In Character: Bruce Dern

Bruce Dern is as grand and flawless as character actors get. According to IMDb, the man has 144 film and television credits to his name, and in tracing through them, it’s clear there isn’t a weak effort in sight. Whether he pops up briefly for one scene in a film, or steals an entire television show with his recurring character, or fills nearly every frame of a contemporary black and white Oscar contender, when Dern is on, he’s on like the best of them.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Few Words on the Passing of Paul Walker

My previous reviews of Paul Walker’s movies share a repetitive sentiment: the majority of his films “simply aren’t for me.” Why then was I struck with a curious sense of loss when the news of Walker’s death broke late yesterday? I suppose that’s one of the complex questions surrounding the public’s fascination with pop culture: why do we feel sad when celebrities die?