Inside Pulse » Up A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 16:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » Up Michael Giacchino To Score Cars 2, M:I 4, Super 8 & More Thu, 14 Oct 2010 10:00:38 +0000

Michael Giacchino is quickly becoming one of my favorite film composers. Between his work with J.J. Abrams on Lost and Star Trek and his Pixar work on films such The Incredibles and Up (for which he was an Oscar for Best Original Score), he’s shown he’s able to whip out amazing score on a quick schedule. It was his theme for Cloverfield, though, that won me over completely.

Most recently Giacchino provided a beautifully haunting score for Let Me In that surpassed the original Let The Right One In score in nearly every way. Now, thanks to a Variety profile on the composer, we know we’re in for a long future full of musical cues by the talented Giacchino. Among his upcoming projects include Andrew Stanton’s John Carter of Mars, John Lasseter’s Cars 2, J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible 4. He’ll also be adapting John Williams’ classic Star Wars themes for the newly revamped Star Tours attraction at Disneyland.

Other projects include Monte Carlo, a new film starring Selena Gomez, and Live With It (formally titled I’m With Cancer) starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt.

If you are a fan of Giacchino’s work, make sure you check out the Variety profile. It’s a great read where the composer talks about his beginnings and his role as a storyteller. If you’re not already a fan of Giacchino, here are some great snippets from his past work:×120.jpg

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Andy Fickman Attached to Boy Scouts vs Zombies Thu, 16 Sep 2010 10:00:33 +0000

Production Weekly is reporting that Andy Fickman, the director of The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain, is attached to direct the horror/comedy Boy Scouts vs. Zombies, a spec script written by Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuiki.

Nothing is known about the film at this point — not even the studio that would be producing the project — but the movie (if it even gets made) could be a ways off. Fickman was also just recently named as the director of TMI, the new comedy staring Anna Faris. The Kristen Smith and Marc Klein scripted film is about best friends who, after sleeping together, realize they know each other too well in order to maintain a relationship. Ryan Reynolds was attached at one point to co-star but is now listed only as a producer.

If I had to put my money on which film will get made first, I’d say it would be TMI. The movie has a star and and studio (Universal) attached — which is more than apparently Boy Scouts vs. Zombies has. In fact, I’d say the only thing Boy Scouts vs. Zombies has going for it right now is a potential law suit headed its way.

The Boy Scouts of America is an organization that tightly guards its brand name and trademarks. Only a handful of films (Follow Me Boys (pictured above) and Down and Derby to name a few) have been allowed to prominently feature the Scouting name, uniforms and ranks. Most movies are forced to feature a thinly veiled parody or homage of the organization in order to skirt around the laws.

If the BSA didn’t allow the Disney/Pixar movie Up to feature the Boy Scouts, what chance does a horror comedy have?×120.jpg

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The Wizard of Oz, A Big Winner at the DVD Critics Awards Mon, 09 Aug 2010 16:00:05 +0000 The Lollipop Guild may have not been present to sing the praises of Warner Home Video’s The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition, but the sentiment was no doubt felt as the catalog title topped the winners list of the Sixth Annual DVD Critics Awards presented by Home Media Magazine.

Out of fourteen categories The Wizard of Oz won three of the awards that cover the best home video releases of 2009: Best Catalog Title, Best Blu-ray Disc and Title of the Year. Actually, for catalog title it shares the honor with another Warner film celebrating its 70th anniversary, Gone With the Wind. Both titles had elaborate sets, coming housed in boxes filled with hours of bonus material and additional collectibles.

Best Theatrical Title went to Paramount Home Entertainment’s hit movie Star Trek. Paramount also took the Best Kidvid Title for DreamWorks’ Monters vs. Aliens.

6th Annual DVD Critics Award Winners

Best Theatrical Title: Star Trek, Paramount Home Entertainment

Best TV DVD: Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series Limited Edition, Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Best Catalog Title: The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Editions, Warner Home Video

Best Nonfiction Title: For All Mankind, Criterion Collection

Best Direct-to-Video Title: Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Best TV Movie: Grey Gardens, HBO Home Entertainment

Best Animation Title: Up, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Best Kidvid Title: Monsters vs. Aliens, Paramount/DreamWorks

Best Bonus Material — Movie: District 9, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Best Bonus Material — TV Show: Lost: The Complete Fifth Season, Disney

Best Packaging: Futurama: The Complete Collection 1999-2009, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Best Collection/Multidisc Set: The Official Major League Baseball World Series Collection, A&E Home Entertainment

Best Blu-ray Disc: The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition, Warner

Title of the Year for 2009: The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition, Warner×120.jpg

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Monday Morning Critic 2.8.2010: Riffing on Jersey Shore, feeling the Oscar Buzz and talking about Robert Downey Jr in Less then Zero Mon, 08 Feb 2010 16:40:28 +0000 On tap this week:
— Rapid fire hilarity
— Oscar fallout
— Robert Downey Jr. in a hazy shade of winter
And slightly much more!

Sometimes I come up with lots of great thoughts that aren’t quite worthy of long-form sketching. So this week I’ll throw ‘em out there for your enjoyment.

Avatar a rip off of an obscure British comic? That’s what these guys say. Wouldn’t shock me, but I was ready to make a joke involving Smurf sex and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest instead of linking to the article.

— I was watching Entertainment Tonight (or one of those types of shows, they’re all basically the same) with my father when Adam Lambert was on. It was the aftermath of the Grammy Awards and the subject wasn’t who won or lost. Having someone who couldn’t even win what amounts to second rate talent show evaluate the best of the music industry would’ve been unintentionally hilarious. No, he was doing something even funnier: They were having him “critique” the fashion, picking out who looked good and who didn’t, of the women there.

While seeing a gay man critique what women looked good and which ones didn’t seems odd to begin with, the problem was that he was dressed like the illegitimate offspring of Liberace and Colonel Sanders. He can’t even dress himself, how can he evaluate the fashion of others?

And therein is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Shows likes these always have someone who looked like a blind monkey with Down Syndrome dressed them critiquing how good or bad people have dressed for the evening. It’s like Jessica Alba giving acting lessons or Ashley Simpson giving voice lessons.

— I play football (soccer to my American readers) on Monday nights on a mainly Italian team, and yet over the years I’ve never gotten a horrid nickname. Granted my experiences with Italians only come from these guys, Goodfellas and Jersey Shore but I thought I’d have been nicknamed “Rabbi Guido Sarduchovich” by now. Or at least have to refer to myself in the third person as “The Predicament” to fit in.

— Speaking of Jersey Shore, apparently Flynt Productions is hard at work with their spoof series by producing Jersey Whore, with the gal from the Sarah Palin porno as Snooki’s mother. Though it does beg the question: How does one exactly write dialogue for Jersey Whore and capture the true Guido? I imagine it’s something like this:

“Yo, let’s do this broad.” – Bobby D
“Yeah, let me gel my hair first.” – Jackie Boy

Honestly, I never thought I’d see the day when Brazilian fart porn looked respectable in comparison.

— Did anyone else think of Cyrus from The Warriors during the State of the Union speech? I was waiting for President Obama to scream “CAN YOU DIG IT?” during the proceedings. That and Dennis Kucinich would shoot him, and then blame it on Steny Hoyer. He bears an uncanny resemblance to David Patrick Kelly.

— You know what would be the meanest thing to do, ever? Break into one of those clinics for people who are trying to conceive with In Vitro Fertilization and switch out the adult magazines with really vile stuff. Like adult materials of the morbidly obese or the elderly. It would be a real measure of one’s love to make a sperm sample with only the Afghani edition of “Good Housekeeping” available as “inspiration.”

— Another thought on Jersey Whore. As they tag-team the porn star playing Snooki’s mother do you think the over-tanned, ‘roided up buffoons Flynt hires from Trenton will be fist pumping? You have to know stuff like this before you make “Guido” the next sub-genre of adult entertainment.

— The one thing I noticed about the promotion of Extraordinary Measures is that Brendan Frasier got top billing over Harrison Ford. In what reality does Frasier get top billing over ANYONE? Really, Dudley Do Right gets billed over Indiana Jones? I don’t think in anything else it would happen. They could both be in the bathroom and people would be running out screaming “Indiana Jones and his son are dropping Dukes in there.” Heck, there aren’t too many people in the world that would get top billing over Harrison Ford. He could be in the same room as the President and I’d probably be like “HOLY CRAP its HARRISON FORD. Ohh….Hey President Obama.”

But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

With the Oscars having been announced last week, the one thing I noticed about the coverage is there wasn’t quite the backlash as there has been in years past. Why? Because in 2010 with 10 films being nominated, the system actually worked and got a wide variety of the year’s best films. For those who haven’t been paying attention, the nominees are:

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

You have, in order:

1. The biggest film ever, 2. The sleeper hit of the year, 3. The genre shocker of the year, 4. The critical darling that didn’t find an audience, 5. The first Iraq War film that didn’t suck, 6. Tarantino’s most mature work, 7. The other critical darling that found a decent audience, 8. The legacy, 9. The best animated film of the decade, 10. The next great film from Hollywood’s next great director

The thing that strikes me about all of these is that the system finally worked. You have big hits, you have critical darlings and you have those between. But if you were to craft a top 10 list of the year, odds are at least a handful of these were on it. And a number would’ve been honorable mentions, too, if you go that right. You could change in and out probably another five to eight films and have a great list to choose from.

The key that’s happened is that ten films does make more sense than five does if you do it right. I’ve gone on record as saying that ten was a bad idea and I readily admit the error of my thinking in only one respect: the Academy did their best to actually take ten great films instead of ten prestige pictures. If I had to pick 10 pictures I thought were going to be nominated, and not what should be nominated, I was going to hazard a guess on this assembly of films if I had to pick (instead of give odds):

Up in the Air
A Serious Man
A Single Man
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
An Education
The Boys are Back
The Hurt Locker
The Last Station

Given the Academy’s history this wouldn’t have been a huge surprise, and that was (and still is) my biggest peeve about ten nominees. Taking out Avatar the rest of the films would’ve been lucky to clear $100 million combined by my half-assed guesstimate. And despite more films, you’d have the same antipathy towards the Academy Awards.

So I admit, I’m a bit more excited this year for the Oscars than normal. But at the same time, I hope this is a trend that’ll keep happening. If the Oscars are truly going to be representative of a year in film then this year is the model of how it ought to be. But my main concern is that it’s going to be the anomaly as the Academy will go back to five films or takes 10 prestige films instead of 10 good to great films.

At this point, I say enjoy it while it lasts. Because it probably won’t.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Less then Zero

Before Robert Downey Jr. really descended into the depths of drug addiction he merely played a junkie. And before he resurrected his career from those depths to become one of the best actors in the land, he was the best young actor in Hollywood. Case in point: Less Than Zero.

Based off the Brett Easton Ellis novel of the same name, with significant changes, the film follows three friends: Julian (Downey Jr), Clay (Andrew McCarthy) and Blair (Jami Gertz). Clay has gone off to college, while his two friends have stayed in their native California. Coming back midway through his freshman year, he finds things have changed radically. Both his friends are drug addicts, Julian owing dealer Rip (James Spader) a significant amount of cash. As he watches his friends spiral down into drug addiction, Clay finds himself out of place in a world he used to be a huge part of.

The film is actually not bad, all things considered, but is now known for only two things: Downey Jr. and its soundtrack. Supplying one of the few major hits for the Bangles with “Hazy Shade of Winter,” and a top notch rock soundtrack, there’s so much great music in the film that one can remember why the teen drama was in vogue back then; there was always a great collection of music.

Downey Jr. is interesting to see, if only because his own life would spiral out of control because of substance abuse. He always had the talent, even in his early roles; it was a matter of keeping it together. Seeing him destroy everything because he had addiction issues was hard because I remember being a kid and just LOVING the guy. He was the only one of the “Brat Pack” I would pay money to see, then and now, because he always was doing something interesting on screen. It’s nice to see Downey now, clean and sober, because he still has the talent that he showed back then. Now he just has his act together and we’re the better for it.

The film itself is hard to watch in the same way The Siege has become. You can’t watch Downey Jr. playing a junkie without really thinking “oh crap, he was a junkie” in the same way you can’t see Denzel Washington track down Islamic terrorists committing acts of violence on U.S shores in the post 9.11 era of action thriller film-making.

It’s interesting to see this film in retrospect that only 20 something years can provide, as Downey is the only actor in this film who is in a better spot now as opposed to then. Spader is a top television actor, but never really made it in film. His biggest screen credit in the last 10 years has been the protagonist in The Watcher, known more for Keanu Reeves’ turn as a villain then anything Spader has done. McCarthy is an actor on Broadway, his star having burned out in the late ‘80s along with most of the “Brat Pack.” Gertz is a part time actor who has a bit part on Entourage as Marlo Klein, the wife of Andrew Klein (Gary Cole).

Downey, though, had his career spiral out of control and took the hard path to redemption. Several times. So now, seeing him with his demons closely locked away and on top of the world with two hit franchises, is nice.

Tepid recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Children of the ancient Greek Gods seek to find Zeus’s missing thunderbolt.

See it – The next great fantasy franchise has arrived; I can feel it in my gut.

Valentine’s Day – A huge cast has shenanigans on the most romantic day of the year.

Skip it – It was boring when it was called He’s just not that into you and it’ll be even more boring now.

The Wolfman – Universal re-launches one of their original monster franchises, with Benicio Del Toro as the cursed man.

See it – It’s rated R, which means this is going to be excessively violent in an old school fashion. No more pussy-footing for a horror franchise, which will be nice because a Wolfman flick that’s PG-13 will only be neutered.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.×120.jpg

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Monday Morning Critic – 2.1 Mon, 01 Feb 2010 15:00:46 +0000 Up and away! -- This week’s moment of zen ]]> On tap this week:
— My Annual Oscar Nomination Predictions
— Going up, up, Up and away!
— This week’s moment of zen

Your moment of zen, courtesy of the brilliance of Youtube.

Random Thought of The Week
With little time between now and the unveiling of Oscar nominations, figuring who will and will not get nominated for Hollywood’s top awards is the subject of much speculation. And as such, I’ve decided to throw my hat into this arena again and speculate on who will pick up the coveted Oscar nomination. With much ado, here are Kubryk’s 2010 Oscar Predictions. As always, I’ve left out the silly technical awards (like writing) to focus on best picture, acting and best animated feature.

Each nomination category is broken up into four parts: Locked In (those that are reasonably assured to be picked), Probable (enough doubts but wouldn’t be a shocker), Maybe (slight shock, but enough to make it seem worth it) and Outside Shot (Would be rare).

Best Picture

There are 10 potential nominees this year, instead of five, so the usual rules don’t really apply this year. The Academy is aware of the Dark Knight backlash from a year ago so look for this year to be one in which a couple films that normally wouldn’t be nominated for an Oscar pick one up. It’ll be business as usual next year, when probably the Academy goes back to five nominees that no one has seen.

Locked in: Up in the Air, Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious

These five films have been sweeping up the awards podium so far and are virtual locks to get nominations. It would be major surprise if any of these aren’t revealed as nominated, especially considering that the field has been expanded to 10 films. In any other year, one or two of these would be squeezed out but with ten to choose from you can almost guarantee spots for these five. The probable winner will come from this group, most likely, as well.

Probable: District 9, An Education, Invictus, The Blind Side, Up

In a normal year, one or two of these would be spoilers. However, with a larger field I think two or three of these will find a way onto the field. The Academy does tend to try to reward foreign film-makers on a semi-regular basis. Out of all of these I could see The Blind Side being the odd-man out, despite it earning nearly $250 million, because it doesn’t have that “prestige” label attached to it. Up might be in the same boat, if only because it’s a Pixar film and nearly every Pixar flick doesn’t get boosted from the Best Animated Feature category even if it’s good enough to be in the Top Five.

Maybe: Star Trek, Public Enemies, Julie & Julia, A Serious Man, Where the Wild Things Are, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s stop animation film, another kid’s film that was severely overlooked, a pair of summer blockbusters, a sleeper hit, and the Coens rumination on Minnesota Jews in the 1960s remain. If District 9 gets nominated you can figure Trek won’t, and vice versa, as it’s rare to see two genre films in the same genre get nominated in the same year. Not much love for the Coens this year, as A Serious Man got rave reviews but was a box office bomb. Spike Jonze look at the classic children’s book was critically praised but didn’t set the box office on fire.

Outside Shot: The Hangover, It’s Complicated, Skin, Me and Orson Welles, Capitalism: A Love Story, Moon, Trucker, Crazy Heart, A Single Man, The Road, The Messenger, Bat Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

The only one out of this group with any shot would be The Hangover, mostly based on a Golden Globe win out of nowhere. But then again sex comedies aren’t exactly Oscar material, despite how well it was done, and I can only imagine that if The Hangover gets a nomination that it’ll be the last time more than five films will ever get nominated.

The rest are actor’s films which will be rewarded in that category, but it isn’t out of question that a mediocre film with a great lead performance gets an Oscar nomination based on that alone. That’s what mainly propelled The Wrestler a year ago and there is precedent to it all. And finally Michael Moore’s assault on capitalism plays to the politics of most of the Academy, thus you can’t count it completely out. Look for it to be rewarded in the Best Documentary category, though.

Best Director:

The odd thing this year about the direction nominee is that there will be 10 films nominated but only five directors. Usually the directors and films match up, so to get a nomination for direction this year is going to be tougher.

Locked in: Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), James Cameron (Avatar), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

Every major awards ceremony has shown some love to all three of these films, so you can almost pencil them in at this point. The two most likely to win are the divorced couple (Bigelow and Cameron), with Reitman’s nomination being his reward as he begins a slow ascent to a Scorsese like career of being the also-ran for decades.

Probable: Quentino Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious), Clint Eastwood (Invictus)

One or two of these guys will fit in to the final five. Tarantino should be a lock but he’s never been given the sort of Academy respect that a director of his status usually does. So it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he walks away with just his film being nominated. Eastwood has hit the part of his career that he could make a film about Lindsey Lohan breaking wind and get a nomination, so he might get one just because he’s Clint and not because Invictus was anything special as a film (which it wasn’t). Daniels is a possibility, as well, because it is this year’s little indie that could.

Maybe: Joel & Ethan Coen (A Serious Man), Neil Blomkamp (District 9)

Blomkamp would be a surprise, but District 9 was an unexpected hit so Oscar nominations for picture and director aren’t completely out of the possibility. The Coens haven’t been getting a lot of buzz lately and it’s not surprising, given the wildly varying reviews and poor box office.

Outside Shot: The Guy (Moon), Warner Herzog (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes), J.J Abrams (Star Trek)

The former suffered from a lack of promotion in theatres, as well as during awards season. The latter had such wildly mixed reviews and mediocre gains at the box office that I would imagine Herzog continues to maintain the status of “best established director to never win an Oscar.” Ritchie might be one of those “what the hell’ kind of nominations, as would be Abrams.

Best Actor

This is the hardest one to call as this is perhaps the most loaded category in recent history. You could have any of probably a half dozen winners and argue convincingly enough for them.

Locked in: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Colin Firth (A Single Man), George Clooney (Up in the Air)

The three best performances of the year, without a doubt, and the ones to consistently win or be nominated for Best Actor in every awards show. Bridges ends up being the slight favorite at this point to win the Oscar and shed the label of most under-appreciated actor in Hollywood.

Probable: Peter Skarsgaard (An Education), Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds), Matt Damon (The Informant!), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

It’ll probably be one out of those assembled that actually gets nominated, with the others looking in.

Maybe: Robert DeNiro (Everybody’s Fine), Robert Downey Jr. (The Soloist / Sherlock Holmes), Ben Foster (The Messenger), Sam Rockwell (Moon).

DeNiro was surprisingly good in a return to drama, instead of poking fun at his tough guy image, and might come out of nowhere to snag yet another nomination. Downey won a Golden Globe out of nowhere for Guy Ritchie’s biggest hit ever, yet was also terrific in a prestige picture from 2008 shunted to the beginning of 2009. The Globe win might be a sign that he’s getting nominated for an Oscar; it wouldn’t be surprising. Foster was great in a film no one saw, especially considering its source material stemmed from the Iraq War. Rockwell was incredible for what really was a one man play in Moon, but no one saw it and “For your consideration” screeners for the film never went out.

Outside Shot: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brothers), Russell Crowe (State of Play), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back)

Strong performances for Crowe and Gyllenhaal, but it’d be a miracle if either got nominations. This was a great year in this category and Gyllenhaal has this on his acting resume as further proof of his dramatic bona fides. Crowe was great in the film version of the BBC serial but the film underperformed both commercially and critically. Owen’s film just screamed “give me an Oscar” and usually small, unsuccessful films that pander to the Academy rarely get honored.

Best Actress

This is usually the category that is easiest to call and this year isn’t different. What will be interesting is that for the most part either the nominees will be actresses just establishing themselves or veterans of the industry; nothing between.

Locked in: Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Carey Mulligan (An Education)

The two candidates most likely to win, the most hyped during awards season as well.

Probable: Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia), Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Abbie Cornish (Bright Star)

Streep gets Oscar nominations like Angelina Jolie adopts kids, at least once a year, while Bullock gets rewarded for breaking a glass ceiling amongst women actors. It seems the most likely of scenarios, but stranger things have happened. Cornish was brilliant in a film no one saw, but should get nominated.

Maybe: Emily Blunt (The Youth Victoria), Hilary Swank (Amelia)

Blunt was great in the role, but there’s usually one nomination for a costume drama and Cornish looks to be the one to get it. Swank is like Streep in that when she does a role she usually gets a nomination, and has two wins to her credit already, but the film (and her) is most likely going to be overlooked.

Outside Shot: Zoe Saldana (Avatar), Maya Rudolph (Away We Go)

Though she was mainly a voice actor, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Academy goes Avatar crazy in terms of nominations. Rudolph would be an inspired pick, as she was the glue in that film that kept it together.

Best Supporting Actor

This is where the Academy usually goes a little nutty, as almost anything can happen. Coming after a year in which a man in blackface gets nominated (Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder) and another won in clown makeup (Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight), this year should be interesting to see to say the least.

Locked in: Christoph Waltz (Basterds), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)

It’ll be one of these three that walks away with the hardware, probably Waltz.

Probable: Billy Crudup (Public Enemies), Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles)

The only truly great acting performance from Mann’s Depression-era crime flick, it would be a nice nod to the film if Crudup was rewarded. Especially after not being rewarded for his brilliant turn in Almost Famous. McKay channeled Orson Welles brilliantly in what was mainly a vehicle for Zac Efron. It’s also rife to be overlooked, as well.

Maybe: Colin Farrell (Crazy Heart), Ben Affleck (State of Play), Jackie Earl Haley (Watchmen)

Farrell and Affleck were good for what they had to do. Best Supporting Actor is usually where the Academy takes a risk so one or two of these gentlemen might end up as a nominee. Haley would be a quirky choice, and deserved too, but with Ledger’s win last year you can expect comic book films to be shut out for a while in acting categories.

Outside Shot: Jason Schwartzmann (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)

Voice actors never have gotten recognized for their work, but Schwartzmann was dynamite as Mr. Fox’s son. Mackie was very underrated in Bigelow’s Iraq war film and might sneak onto the awards podium.

Best Supporting Actress

This is a real weak category this year, which makes it rife for someone to win an Oscar and pull a Cuba Gooding Jr. after.

Locked in: Mo’Nique (Precious)

The only category that seems to be locked up, the headliner of Phat Girls looks to be a foregone conclusion.

Probable: Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Zooey Deschenal (500 days of Summer), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)

Following how Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei both wound up with nominations for The Wrestler, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Gyllenhaal get yet another nomination. Some part of me thinks that Marc Webb’s little indie that could might get an acting nomination to go with a probable writing one, and Deschanel seems to be the likely suspect. Farmiga and Kendrick are both great in the film, but probably will split the vote to get onto the podium or to win the award.

Maybe: Natalie Portman (Brothers), Diane Krueger (Inglourious Basterds), Marion Cotillard (Nine)

If one of these three are up on the podium, you can almost guarantee Mo’Nique is walking away with an Oscar.

Outside Shot: Sigourney Weaver (Avatar), Leslie Mann (Funny People)

Weaver might end up with a “lifetime achievement” style of nomination and Avatar is the biggest grossing film ever. Judd Apatow’s wife was great in the film and there has been a substantial backlash by people upset with how comedy has been shut out of the Oscars. Her nomination might be the breakthrough.

Best Animated Feature

Up will win. It’s the only guarantee of the night. And speaking of….

The DVD that used to be collecting dust in my library of the Week

This Week’s Film – Up

Pixar has not made a bad movie. Ever. I’m not an animation fan but even a film like Finding Nemo, which I ruthlessly made fun of to my young cousins at the time of release, was still really good. Pixar has the golden touch when it comes to quality in a way no modern studio has ever had. There is no stinker or even average film. Every film they do is good to excellent, no exceptions. It’s an insane streak ever since Toy Story graced screens and every time out that it looks like they might have misfired they come through.

I think it’s because Pixar views every film they do as a story, first, and then figures out how to animate and market it next. When Toy Story came out, CGI was such a new and rare thing that an animated film needed to be perfect (or close to it) to make sure that it didn’t fall flat as a new medium. This was a game-changer and as such Pixar made the best possible film. And they kept doing it, as every film has a great story to go along with terrific animation, et al. I think Pixar knows that their brand is so well-regarded that one bad film could potentially kill it. Not that it would, as children’s films always kill at the box office regardless of their quality, but Pixar views their films like no other studio does. They are a niche, specializing in animation and releasing one film a year, but they play for keeps. But usually they stick with talking dogs and stuff like that; Up fascinated me because it was about an old guy.

The film is at its heart the story of a man (Ed Asner) who wants to fulfill the dream he and his dead wife had to live down in South America. Flying his house via helium balloons, it turns into the adventure of a lifetime. Going into the theatrical release I wasn’t expecting much and was floored by one thing: the film’s opening act.

The first 15 minutes of Up are the best film-making of the past two decades. Using mostly silence, the tale of a lifetime together sets up the film’s tone in a perfect way. This is a man at the end of his life, looking to do one last thing before he dies. The film can’t hold up to this sheer perfection of this opening stanza, but it gets awfully close as it is a film that nearly made its way on to both my Top 10 of 2009 and of the decade.

Highest recommendation possible.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Dear John – Channing Tatum and the blonde chick with the great rack from Mamma Mia! fall in love via letters as he serves in Iraq.

See it – Sometimes a good romance story comes from the unlikeliest of sources and there’s something about this that seems like it might not completely suck.

From Paris with Love – John Travolta saves the world with a wicked goatee.

See it – It’s from the same guy who did Taken, which was one of the more fun cinema experiences of 2009. Make it 2 for 2 as John Travolta gets to be Tequila from Hard Boiled, which is the goal of every aging 1970s star. Next year you’ll see Robert De Niro in Last Train To Clarksville as an aging hitman who comes out of retirement for one last score, using machine guns with both hands at the same time because it looks good.

District 13B: Ultimatum – Two French dudes save the Paris Ghetto with crazy stunts. Again.

See It – The first one was pure “action porn” and this will be more of the same. Which means it’ll be great.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.×120.jpg×120.jpg

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The Hurt Locker Wins Best Picture from Producers Guild Mon, 25 Jan 2010 19:36:22 +0000 Avatar continues to dazzle box office numbers, the Golden Globe winner loses to The Hurt Locker at the PGA Awards 2010.]]>

Avatar was recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press as Best Picture for this year’s Golden Globes. Yet, it wasn’t even nominated by the Screen Actors Guild for Best Ensemble. For that ceremony, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds defeated The Hurt Locker and three other nominees. The victory was somewhat of an upset as many predicted that Locker had the strongest ensemble.

Locker got some payback last night as the intense war drama was awarded Best Picture by the Producers Guild of America (PGA). That was a stunning surprise, as Avatar looked to trounce the competition again. Now The Hurt Locker has become an Oscar front-runner.

Kathryn Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal and co-producers Nicholas Chartier and Greg Shapiro took the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, which is a long way of saying that The Hurt Locker won Best Picture. The other contenders were Avatar, Up In The Air, An Education, Invictus, District 9, Star Trek, Up, Precious, and Inglourious Basterds.

Pixar’s Up was also in contention for the category for animated films, which it won.

The Cove won the award for documentary achievement.

The PGA award for best picture is very often an indicator of what will win the Best Picture Oscar; thirteen of the past twenty PGA winners have also won the Academy Award. The last two years have seen the awards match up, but otherwise you’ve got to go back a while to see them start to correspond on a regular basis. So while it isn’t a cemented guarantee, the chances are good that The Hurt Locker will be win Best Picture at this years Academy Awards.×115.jpg

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Best of the Aughts – Romance Wed, 06 Jan 2010 20:30:19 +0000 Since the beginning of cinema, audiences have flocked to films with a good love story. From Fay Wray’s encounter with King Kong, to Humphrey Bogart’s heartbreaking goodbye to Ingrid Bergman, to Scarlett O’Hara’s fickle relationship with Rhett Butler, some of the most beloved classic films are compelling romances. The decade of the 2000’s seemed to be the decade of the awful romantic comedy. Those types of movies are a mindset. Sometimes you want to go to the movies to check your brain at the door and watch either a lot of stuff blow up, or a horribly unrealistic faux romance. Personally I’ve always been a fan of the romance movie where the couple does not end up together, as in the three classic examples listed above. I have compiled my list of the decade’s best romance movies, and while not every film on the list ends with a happily ever after, there will definitely be something for everyone.


10) Atonement (2007) – Joe Wright –Joe Wright (2005’s Pride and Prejudice) once again directs his muse Keira Knightly, as the heroine of this film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name. Knightly plays Cecilia Tallis, a college age girl of privilege who is in love with Robbie, the son of her family’s housekeeper. Cecilia’s 13 year old sister Briony, watches an encounter between she and Robbie and makes a terrible assumption, dooming the budding romance between the two. For the remainder of the film, throughout World War II and into her old age, Briony attempts to atone for the mistake she made when she was younger. This is a beautiful film from beginning to end – the impressive extended tracking shot of the beach at Dunkirk, the infamous green dress worn by Cecilia, the Tallis’s sprawling home, the heartbreaking hospital scene. And this film has one of the sexiest sex scenes of the decade as well. Cecilia and Robbie’s story is incredibly romantic and entirely tragic, the things that the best Hollywood romances are made of.


9) Love Actually (2003) – Richard Curtis – Call it cliché, but I just had to include Love Actually on the list. This film takes place in the weeks before Christmas and tells several different storylines that are all taking place at the same time, each one showing a different type of love. From the UK Prime Minister falling in love with his secretary, to a married man being tempted with an affair, to a stepfather and stepson bonding over first love, this is an uplifting film that even guys will enjoy watching.

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8 ) Brokeback Mountain (2005) – Ang Lee – The movie that became the brunt of a slew of jokes is really one of the most enduring love stories in recent history. Two cowboys, Ennis and Jack, develop a love for each other while herding sheep in the mountains of Wyoming. After the summer’s work, the two return home, each to their heterosexual relationships. The film takes place over the span of twenty years and the two never forget each other. Brokeback Mountain is a story of a love that endured despite harsh discrimination and unescapable circumstances.


7) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Michel Gondry – When Jim Carrey first burst onto the scene with In Living Color and then the Ace Ventura movies, I never would have thought he could be a believable romantic lead. Until visionary French director Michel Gondry got a hold of him and paired him with Academy favorite Kate Winslet. Carrey and Winslet play Joel and Clementine, lovers who have recently experienced a harsh break-up. The break-up was so detrimental to their lives that they enlist the help of a company who specializes in erasing one’s memories. The Academy Award winning screenplay is told out of order and can be a little difficult to follow upon the first viewing. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind‘s love story is a perfect mesh of science fiction and trippy fairy tale.


6) Up (2009) – Pete Docter – Throughout this decade, Pixar has shown us that original stories are still out there and that they can still be compelling and family friendly. With 2008’s WALL*E, they showed us that they could pull of a love story between two robots and then in 2009, they released Up. Up showed us that Pixar can craft a tender, moving love story in under 10 minutes. That love story creates the background for the character of Carl Fredrickson and gives him the motivation that he carries with him for the entire film. And then they introduce talking dogs and a villain most foul, who is so evil that he maniacally kills anyone who comes near him and then shows off their skulls. But it’s the love story that carries Up, up up and away.


5) The Fountain (2006) – Darren Aronofsky – And yet another science fiction inspired love story. The Fountain is Darren Aronofsky’s pet project – he had been working on it even before Requiem for a Dream. The film takes place in three separate time periods and the story can be a little confusing at times, but it is ultimately about the love story between two people – Izzi (played by Rachel Weisz) and Tommy (Hugh Jackman). They are represented during each time period by the same actors, and each time period only reinforces their continuous love for each other. There is nothing more romantic than two people who are meant to be together for all time, and throughout all time. The haunting score by Aronofsky favorite Clint Mansell and the glorious visuals lift The Fountain to a whole different level.


4) Love Me If You Dare (2003) – Yann Samuell – Chances are you haven’t heard about this French gem from director Yann Samuell (who hasn’t done much else except direct the American remake of the Korean film My Sassy Girl). This film stars the beautiful and talented Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner for La Vie En Rose, Public Enemies) and Guillaume Canet (Cesar award winning director for Tell No One) as friends since childhood who play a back and forth game to try to follow through with varying and increasingly dangerous dares. The chemistry between the two is incredible and even though they are both completely selfish people, you still desperately want them to be together. And this film has one of the most bizarre endings in a romantic film ever. You’ll just have to see it to believe it.


3) Secretary (2002) – Steven Shainberg – This is just a personal favorite of mine. There is really no other rhyme or reason to the ranking of Secretary, just that this quirky love story is one that I’ve recommended and loaned out to countless friends and co-workers. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee Holloway, a recovering “cutter” who finds a job as a secretary to OCD lawyer E. Edward Grey (James Spader). The two fit so perfectly together and play off each other’s idosyncracies to enable each other’s crazy behavior. I love this movie so much, from the silly montage of things that Spader does to her, to the climax with Gyllenhaal in her wedding dress, determined to stay where he asked her. This is romance at its quirky best, a reminder that even the most imperfect of us can find love.


2) Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Danny Boyle – The Best Picture of 2008 is also one of my personal favorites for the decade. The story itself and everything that happens to protagonist Jamal Malick (Dev Patel) is incredibly depressing, but we find that love is what motivated Jamal to endure. As a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Jamal, a kid from the slums, answers every question correctly. The host wonders how a kid with his background can possibly know the answers to all these questions, and we find out through flashbacks of various events throughout his life. This is one of the most powerful stories of the decade, with an Academy award winning screenplay by Simon Beaufoy. The ending of this film has audiences cheering for Jamal and the love of his life, Latika (played by Freida Pinto). This is simply an amazing film.


1) Moulin Rouge! (2001) – Baz Luhrmann – Since Moulin Rouge! came out at the early part of the decade, by now it has been relegated to fangirl status. This is the film that girls watch together and cry over, swooning over Ewan McGregor’s singing voice and his determination to be with the woman he loves, a prostitute at the Moulin Rouge named Satine (Nicole Kidman). With brilliant, eye-popping color and dramatic Baz Luhrmann style, this modern musical changed the way all musical movies will be made for all time. Instead of using new songs composed for the film, Luhrmann drew from contemporary favorites such as Elton John’s “Your Song”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” and many many more. Moulin Rouge! has everything I love in a movie: great music, beautiful scenery, elaborate and brightly colored cinematography, and a wonderfully written, tragic love story.×120.jpg×120.jpg

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Best of the Aughts – Animated Movies Wed, 06 Jan 2010 20:00:21 +0000 Rapid advancements in technology and the increasing acceptance of animation as a genre not limited to being solely for children has led to this being an interesting, and excellent, decade for animated films.

While there have been a lot of terrible cartoons churned out in the last ten years, there have also been some amazing additions to the genre.

Picking the top ten animated films for this first decade of a new millennium proved to be a harder task then first imagined.

With a plethora of memorable cartoons released in theaters over the last decade, it was next to impossible to whittle the list down to just ten choices — let alone put them in any kind of order.

What follows, though, is my humble attempt to pick what I felt were my favorite animated movies of the last ten years.

I don’t presume to think that this list will be the same for everybody or that I will even feel the same way in another ten years, but, in the meantime, consider this a list of ten animated movies from the last ten years worth checking out.


10. Waking Life

Richard Linklater helped resurrect the dying art of rotoscope with his 2001 filmWaking Life, an introspective look at dreams, death and the in-between.

An ensemble film in the vein of Linklater’s breakthrough hit SlackersWaking Life hopped from subject matter to subject matter providing slice of life vignettes and interviews that explored a variety of off-kilter subjects.

Proof of Waking Life‘s impact on the genre can be seen in the increased use of rotoscoping in everything from television commercials to movies — including Linklater’s later stab at the technique with A Scanner Darkly.


9. Coraline

Henry Selick’s 3D stop-motion film is a smorgasbord of outlandish concepts and creepy images. Based on the young adult novel by Neil Gaiman, Coraline features the voices of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher in the story about a young girl who discovers a hole in her wall that leads to a magical land where nothing is what it seems and a witch wants to catch her and replace her eyes with buttons.

A mostly faithful adaptation of Gaiman’s book, the movie does an admirable job of capturing the prose’s off-kilter tone and sense of wonder.

Selick has proven he does not need the support of Tim Burton when making a movie and I, for one, can’t wait to see what he does next.


8. Ratatouille

This decade has unquestionably been the era of Pixar when it comes to animated movies. With hits — both commercially and critically — released seven out of the last ten years, Pixar dominates this list and Ratatouille is only the first of the studio’s films to find its way onto my list.

Brad Bird’s culinary cinematic gem, the film is proof that, with a good script, an animated movie can be first and foremost a good movie. Patton Oswalt provides the voice of Remy, a rat who fancies himself a chef.

No bigger evidence of the film’s success can be found then in the fact that the film actually paved the way to increased popularity of rats as pets.


7. Les Triplettes de Belleville

Svlvain Chomet’s beautiful film is a masterpiece of sights and music. A co-production between companies in France, the UK, Belgium and Canada, the film is a mostly dialogue-free story about a grandmother’s attempts to rescue her Tour de France cyclist son who has been kidnapped by the French mafia. Along for the ride is a trio of washed up singers and a morbidly obese hound dog named Bruno.

The film’s music is amazing — especially the Oscar nomated song Belleville Rendes-vous.

This is not a film for children — some might be entertained by the sight gags but most wouldn’t know what to make of it but it is an amazing achievement in animation —at once both innovative and a classic throwback.


6. The Incredibles

Another Brad Bird film, The Incredibles is a wonderful homage to the Silver Age of comics — with a great post-modern Watchmen-esque twist.

After all the act of being a superhero is outlawed, the former crimefighters settle down for a suburban existence. The movie focuses on a dysfunctional, but loving, family with extraordinary abilities as they come together to save the world from a former sidekick gone insane.

The first Pixar movie to feature an entirely human cast, the movie showed audiences that you could have a family-friendly superhero movie without being overly cheesy or talking down to children.

The family dynamic on display in The Incredibles is pitch-perfect — a great tribute to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four.

Now, all we need is this movie to finally make its way onto Blu-ray.


5. Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away is the story of a young girl who encounters a hidden world of ghosts and monsters when her family stops at an abandoned theme park.

Smashing records in Japan, the film would receive international acclaim upon its’ release — for good reason: It’s bloody great!

As somebody who normally can’t stand Japanese animation (it all looks the same to me), I fell in love with Spirited Away. Miyazaki is a true visionary — able to create images that will stick in your head and perfectly weave social commentary into a story that any child (and adult) would enjoy.


4. Up

The third Pixar movie to find its way onto this list, Up is one of the only 3D animated films released in the last ten years to not suffer when watched in 2D.

While most 3D-enhanced cartoons rely on gimmicks to sell the experience, Up has the benefit of a top-notch story to carry it past any cool extra dimensions.

And what a story! Anybody who isn’t teary-eyed by the first ten minutes has no soul.

Carl, a widower looking to retain his hold on the past, decides to recapture his childhood fantasy of flying his house to South America. Along for the ride are Russell, a Wilderness Explorer, Kevin, a large bird with a taste for chocolate, and Dug, the coolest animated dog ever.

It’s sad, funny and a whole lot of fun — in short, a great animated movie.


3. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Oh, sweet Jesus do I love Roald Dahl. I love the books form the famed children’s book author almost as much as I love the films of Wes Anderson. It’s no surprise, then, that I loved the everloving hell out of Fantastic Mr. Fox — a film that combined the whimsy of Dahl and the visual (and emotional) sensibilities of Anderson.

With a voice cast including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, the film takes the best aspects of the two creators’ styles and molds a smart, witty romp that will make even the hardest of hardmen crack a smile.

Using a retro approach to stop-motion, the film retains a timeless quality — something most animated films seem to ignore as they stuff their pallets with pop-culture references and pop songs by Smash Mouth.


2. Team America: World Police

While it may not be timeless as Fantastic Mr. Fox, Team America is unquestionably one of the films (animated or otherwise) most representative of the last decade.

Made by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the duo responsible for South Park, Team America features a cast of marionettes as they drink, fight, have sex in a variety of styles and smash in the heads of the world’s most popular celebrities.

When Kim Jong-il plots the destruction of the world, it’s up to a paramilitary squad of ass-kickers to save the day — whether the world wants them to or not.

While not the runaway hit that South Park was, Team America has its share of supporters and I am most assuredly one of them.



The fourth, and final, Pixar movie on my list had to be WALL-E. WALL-E is flat-out one of the best films of the last ten years — let alone animated films.

The story of a robot left to clean the dying planet Earth, WALL-E had more heart and soul then any cartoon ought to have — but what would you expect from Pixar, the studio that has caused me to cry at more movies then any other.

Director Andrew Stanton is able to graft real human emotion onto a character that never really speaks and has limited facial expressions — a stunning feat. This was accomplished, in large part, by the enormous talent of Ben Burtt, the sound design mastermind.

The movie has everything I’m looking for in a animated film — amazing visuals, interesting characters and a powerful theme running as an undercurrent to an engaging story. That’s why WALL-E is number one in my book.×120.jpg

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Producers Guild Makes Movie Nominations Tue, 05 Jan 2010 17:56:25 +0000 Following in the footsteps of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Producers Guild of America revealed 10 films, instead of the traditional five, when it announced its nominees for its top movie award today.

For the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, the PGA recognized the films Avatar, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Invictus, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Star Trek, Up, and Up in the Air.

With science-fiction playing well with the PGA, it leaves out the Meryl Streep hits Julie & Julia and It’s Complicated, the box-office bust Nine and little indies like A Serious Man, A Single Man and Crazy Heart.

In the documentary category, the nominees are Burma VJ, The Cove, Sergio and Soundtrack for a Revolution.

For its David L. Wolper Producer of the Year Award, which recognizes TV movies and mini-series, the PGA has nominated Georgia O’Keefe, Grey Gardens, Little Dorrit, Prayers for Bobby, The Prisoner and Taking Chance.

Of all the nominees, Up is the only double nominee as it is also picked up a nomination for the PGA’s animated film award. It’s competition in that race includes 9, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Princess and the Frog.

The awards will be presented Jan. 24 at the Hollywood Palladium.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter×120.jpg

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Jenny's Best of 2009 Fri, 01 Jan 2010 05:59:06 +0000 Drag me to Hell poster
10. Drag Me to Hell – Sam Raimi

Drag Me to Hell is everything that a Sam Raimi fan could want, save an appearance by Bruce Campbell of course. But that small oversight is more than made up for with several silly gags such as a haunted hankie, a talking possessed goat, and an abundance of projectile bodily fluids. All this is woven around a truly creepy story – a gypsy woman curses a bank employee (Allison Lohmann) after she is turned down for a loan, a curse that will leave the accursed haunted by a goat demon until the third day when the doors of hell open and the accursed is literally dragged to hell. The haunting scenes are genuinely scary and guaranteed to make you jump, while plenty of humor is thrown in for good measure. Drag Me To Hell is Sam Raimi’s perfect return to the genre that made him famous.

9. Nine – Rob Marshall

Those who know me know that it is no surprise that a musical would land in my Top 10 of the year, especially one starring my personal favorite actress Marion Cotillard. I had been looking forward to Nine since early 2009, and I was very surprised by the overwhelmingly negative reviews when it was released. Still, I kept my hopes high and wasn’t disappointed. The story is about director Guido Cantini (Daniel Day-Lewis, and yes he sings too) who is struggling to find inspiration to begin filming his next movie. He’s already a successful director and the press is clamoring for details on this film that has only been given a title, a leading lady, and costumes. He turns to every woman in his life that has influenced him for help: his wife Marion Cotillard, his mistress Penelope Cruz, his leading lady Nicole Kidman, the first woman who taught him about lust and sex Fergie, an American reporter Kate Hudson, his close friend and costume mistress Judi Dench, and his dead mother Sophia Loren. This film is less about the self-absorbed man drowning in himself than it is about the power of the women behind the man. It’s a story that revels in the beauty of women of all shapes and sizes and how much influential power they really hold. The songs are wonderful, especially Judi Dench’s song “Folies Bergere,” the final heartwrenching song by Marion Cotillard “Take It All,” and a surprisingly fabulous song by Fergie (yes, that Fergie) “Be Italian.” If only Fergie in real life could be as effortlessly sexy and sing such songs as this instead of faux rapping and jumping around on stage like a 15 year old. The scenery is beautiful, the actresses are breathtakingly gorgeous. Nine is a delight.

8. The Brothers Bloom – Rian Johnson

I had first heard about Rian Johnson’s (the writer/director of Brick) new film The Brothers Bloom when it was announced at the AFI Film Festival in my area. I just recently had a chance to watch it, and immediately wanted to watch it again. Something I haven’t had the desire to do that in quite awhile. The film stars Adrian Brody and Mark Ruffalo as brothers Bloom and Stephen who as children, drifted from one foster home to another. Bloom never fit in, so Stephen thought up ways to con people, stories that Bloom could immerse himself in. This continues on throughout their lives until Bloom wants out. Stephen talks him into going through with one final con, in which their mark is an epileptic millionaire shut in woman named Penelope (Rachel Weisz). Their con goes awry in a wonderful film reminiscent of old-time con artist movies. Between this and Brick, Rian Johnson has made my list of favorite directors. I love his old-fashioned sense of movie making and can’t wait to see what he does next.

7. Where the Wild Things Are – Spike Jonze

Since before its release, Where the Wild Things Are has generated much controversy. When author Maurice Sendak approved of Jonze’s work and all the added content, I approved. In fact, I believe his exact words to parents who thought the content was too mature for children were, “Go to hell.” It’s true that very little actually happens in the narrative, aside from Max going to the place where the wild things are, but it’s the emotional journey that he goes on that is so compelling. Max (played by almost newcomer Max Records, who also plays a younger Stephen in The Brothers Bloom) is a young boy who doesn’t quite know how to express his emotions. His mother (the always fabulous Catherine Keener) has a new boyfriend, and his sister is too old and too cool to play with him anymore. He acts out in ways that grown-ups don’t understand anymore, but kids can completely relate to. What made this movie so enchanting for me is the reactions of my own children to the film. I asked them if they could relate to Max and how he behaved and they responded so positively, I was amazed. Through the conversations I had with my kids, I was able to see the film through their eyes. Where the Wild Things Are is a magical film.

6. (500) Days of Summer – Marc Webb

(500) Days of Summer has received so much praise already from the indie film community that I’ve always been skeptical to include it in my top 10. The fawning over Zooey Deschanel is beyond me, but then again I like New Moon, so I can’t fault anyone for swooning over someone they probably shouldn’t. All that aside, (500) Days of Summer is a fantastic little film. The best parts of the film do not include Ms. Deschanel, but it is Joseph-Gordon Levitt who truly shines here, especially in his little song and dance number through the streets. Having a song and dance number almost automatically guarantees I will love the movie (exceptions: Southland Tales), but this movie has so many other elements that I love – the out of sequence storyline, the non-happy ending, the great soundtrack. In a summer of over-hyped brainless action flicks, (500) Days of Summer was a breath of fresh air.

5. Up in the Air – Jason Reitman

Jason Reitman’s last film Juno, was extremely overrated in my opinion. His direction was overshadowed by Diablo Cody’s horrendous script drowning in hipster speak. The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t stand that film. Up in the Air is fortunate enough to have a screenplay written by Reitman himself, based on a bestselling novel by author Walter Kirn (Thumbsucker), and a seasoned cast headlined by George Clooney and Vera Farmiga. The tale is a fable for our modern recession and Clooney is our modern day Clark Gable. Everything about this film is perfect from the breathtaking opening credits sequence to the ending that you didn’t see coming.

4. Star Trek – JJ Abrams

I have never really been a big Star Trek fan. As a kid, my parents made us watch Star Trek: The Next Generation every Saturday night and every once in awhile they would try to get us to watch the original Star Trek movies. The only one I ever really liked was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I didn’t have much connection to the characters and had extremely low expectations for the JJ Abrams reboot. I definitely didn’t expect for it to land in my top 10 for the year, let alone in the top 5. I loved everything about this movie. I loved the time travel and how it was incorporated into the storyline. Above all else, I loved the cast’s chemistry. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock especially. I can’t wait for a sequel.

3. Up – Pete Docter

I wanted so badly to include all three of the 2009 Disney releases in my Top 10, but decided to stick with Up to make room for other movies. Up is a fantastic blend of a story. The first fifteen minutes tell one of the most wonderful love stories in recent years, then the story moves into a old man/young kid buddy comedy with talking dogs and slapstick humor, then the bad guy is introduced and he’s sinister beyond all belief. But all the while, the main character Carl Fredrickson is shaped by the events that took place during the love story in the beginning, and the story comes full circle in the end. But don’t let that distract from the first hand-drawn animated release by Disney in several years, the fully enchanting The Princess and the Frog. Or the latest Hayao Miyazaki film, an adaptation of Hans Christien Andersen’s story The Little Mermaid, Ponyo. Those two could have easily had places in my Top 10 as well. They are both worthy of checking out.

2. District 9 – Neil Blomkamp

I was completely blown away by District 9 this summer. I felt like the documentary style meshed well with the rest of the film as we went from following Wickus van der Merwe as an employee of the MNU through to his transformation and adventures with the alien prawn given the name “Christopher Johnson”. This is a fully unique story, something that was lacking this summer when District 9 was released. The fact that the film was almost entirely improvised by the actors only adds to the awesomeness of Neil Blomkamp’s directorial debut.

1. Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino

What is left to be said about Quentin Tarantino’s ultimate love letter to the movie industry, Inglourious Basterds? Disguised in the trailers as a violent Nazi killing World War II movie, this film is also a film about film. Every Tarantino film is a love letter to movies, but Inglourious Basterds is his opus. The tension filled opening made an immediate international star of Christoph Waltz, who has already received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as vile Colonel Hans Landa. Showcasing Brad Pitt in the trailers opened this movie up to an audience that probably wouldn’t have otherwise bothered with the film, as Pitt isn’t featured in the film quite as much as he is in the trailers. The real star of this film is Melanie Laurent who plays Shosanna Dreyfus, a woman seeking revenge not unlike The Bride from Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2. Tarantino always provides a strong female character in his films and Laurent steps up to the plate here, earning a spot next to Uma Thurman and Pam Grier in the Tarantino badass lineup. Thanks to the soundtrack, the excellent performances, the perfect Tarantino script, and a climax scene to be reckoned with, there is no question that Inglourious Basterds is my favorite film of 2009.

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