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Jan 14, 2017

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2016

No need for a ton of preamble here. I’ll just cut and paste what I wrote last year.

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2016 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically in the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2016 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters in 2016. This is the best films that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/VOD that I saw for the first time in 2016.

That means some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise, there are a handful of films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year such as The Brand New Testament, The Witch, and Green Room. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 3:01pm on Jan. 14, 2017    
Jan 17, 2016

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2015

top10of15

Get it done before Sundance. Get it done before Sundance. Phew!

Okay I admit, enderzero.net is a bit of a no man’s land these days. But there is still one annual post that demands a home somewhere. So here it is. My top 50 films of 2015, albeit a few weeks late.

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2015 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically in the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2015 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters in 2015. This is the best films that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/VOD that I saw for the first time in 2015.

That means some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise there are a handful of films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year such as It Follows or The Tribe. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

All in all 2015 was an excellent year for cinema. It was tough to narrow down the top 10 but I’m feeling pretty good about the decisions. Let me know if you agree or think I’m out of my mind in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:35am on Jan. 17, 2016    
Jan 10, 2015

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2014

top10of14

2014 has been wrapped up for a few days now, but I’ll be damned if that will stop me from reflecting on my favorite films of the year. As in past years, many of these films have yet to find their ways to general release (I’ve done my best to mention if the film isn’t out yet). But maybe that makes the list all the more relevant. Consider it a preview for 2015 and a chance to go back and scoop up a few titles you might have missed in 2014. Check out the list below and let me know what you think? Which of your faves didn’t make the cut? Or maybe I missed an obvious choice. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:10am on Jan. 10, 2015    
Dec 30, 2013

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2013 (+ 3 Most Overrated)

Another year of great cinema is coming to an end. Many have called it the best year in some time. I’m not so sure I agree. But there were some fantastic films and I saw a whopping 192 that qualified for my list. I’ve narrowed it down to a mere 50 for you to peruse, plus I’ve added three films to the bottom whose critical support made me all angry. For most films, I’ve included my reaction tweet to give you a bit of insight as to what I was thinking the moment I walked out of the theater. Check out the list and let me know where you think I dropped the ball.

See the full list

Posted by enderzero at 4:16pm on Dec. 30, 2013    
Jan 13, 2013

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2012 (+ 5 Most Overrated)

top10of12

Oh boy! It’s end of the year reflection time once again. 2012 was another great year on the festival beat with trips to Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, LA Film Fest, Toronto International Film Fest, Fantastic Fest, AFI Fest, and the Amazonas Film Fest making for plenty of hot butt-on-theater-seat action. When it was all said and done (and assuming I kept my records straight), 178 movies qualified for my 2012 list. Each of these films either played at a festival or in theatrical release in 2012, but did not qualify for last year’s list. That’s why some movies that showed up on many critics’ 2012 list, such as Joachim Trier’s Oslo August, 31st, won’t be found here. That film was on my 2011 list (at #3, no less).

Still, there were plenty of potential chart middlers that I was unable to get to. Some popular titles that have made their way to other lists include Amour, Life of Pi, Wreck-it-Ralph, Tabu, Polisse,This is Not a Film, and Total Recall. Sorry — can’t see em all.

As like past lists, I’ve included my original tweet (sometimes a couple) that usually serves as my initial reaction to the film. I’ve also included a link if I reviewed the film on Twitch. This year I’ve also endeavored to include the distribution status for each film so you can know where to find it. Please take the time to drop me a note and let me know your thoughts.

On to the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:26am on Jan. 13, 2013    
Jan 3, 2013

Unapologetic Top 10 Albums of 2012

top10albumsof2012

Let me start things off with an apology.

I have done a pretty awful job of staying up to date on new music throughout 2012. I believe I gave a somewhat similar disclaimer in 2011, but this year I’ve been even less diligent. So here are the albums that found their way to me throughout the year (or that I scrambled to listen to and love in the last few weeks of 2012).

10. Beach House – Bloom
This is actually the fourth album from the Baltimore-based “dream pop” (according to Wikipedia) duo who pretty much burst onto my radar with 2010’s Sub Pop debut Teen Dream. Their latest brings more, umm, dreamy vocals and synthesizer to the otherwise indie-sounding riffs. It may be more of the same, but if you liked Teen Dream, you’ll like this one too.

9. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Though this Vancouver rock-duo’s 2009 debut Post-Nothing didn’t quite make my list that year, I have enjoyed it quite a bit since and the band’s follow-up is more of the same fun-loving, energetic, indie-thrash. These guys may not be the kind of band you yearn to listen to on repeat, but they’ve got a cool sound and should continue to put out solid albums.

8. Sigur Ros – Valtari
Winning the award for 2012’s best album to go to sleep to (a coveted award in my book), the latest aural sensory experience from the prolific Icelandic band is another journey over craggy glaciers and volcanoes in a high speed helicopter. I want to drift off to dreamland just thinking about it.

7. Passion Pit – Gossamer
While I recognize their stuff isn’t for everyone (I like dudes with high voices, okay?), anyone who was into their first album (#6 on my 2009 Top 10) will have to admit they’ve produced a pretty decent sophomore follow-up. Oddly, their single “Take A Walk” is the least like the first album, but the rest of the album delivers the same dancey-indie rock found on Manner.

6. Soundgarden – King Animal
Soundgarden releasing a new studio album this year is a pretty big fucking deal! So why isn’t it higher on my list? Frankly it just came out too late. I haven’t got to spend enough time with it yet to really determine where it ranks in the discography of my all-time favorite band. I can say it sure doesn’t sound like the Seattle rockers took over 15 years between Down on the Upside and King Animal with songs like “A Thousand Days Before” sounding straight out of the 90s. They haven’t missed a step on stage either (as I was lucky enough to learn twice in 2011). Next up for me is King Animal Tour at the Wiltern in February. I better get to listenin’ before then.

5. Bloc Party – Four
It has been a steep downward slide for these Brit rockers since their 2005 Silent Alarm topped many best-of lists (it’s still in my regular rotation). Their next couple albums were disappointments which lead to a four-year hiatus. But 2012 has found a rejuvenated Bloc Party and a much improved (albeit unimaginatively named) fourth album on a new label and produced by Alex Newport who made his name producing At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. What resulted might not have quite the raw energy of Silent Alarm, but it’s certainly got the mature licks of a band that’s telling the world they aren’t about to just fade away forever.

4. Metric – Synthetica
It’s been a good year for Toronto-rockers Metric with the release of their fifth album and a partnership with David Cronenberg and Howard Shore that saw the band record a number of songs for the film Cosmopolis. Synthetica picks up where Fantasies (#7 on my 2009 Top 10) left off, with the same single-style driving electro-rock hits. The A-side is a bit stronger than the B with tracks “Speed The Collapse” and “Breathing Underwater” showcasing the band at their best.

3. Tame Impala – Lonerism
It was only last year (well, 2011) at Coachella that I discovered this Perth band and I’ve listened to the shit out of their 2010 psychedelic-rock release Innerspeaker since. So it’s no surprise that their much praised follow-up makes it to a prime spot on my list. I’m happy to say they’ve only improved live since 2011 with their November Fonda Theater show at the very top of the best shows I saw in 2012. Don’t miss them if you get the chance.

2. John Mayer – Born and Raised
Okay, now you see why I said unapologetic up top. Fuck it. I like John Mayer. And frankly his albums have pretty much always been great examples of contemporary guitar-based rock and roll (okay, I didn’t love 2009’s Battle Studies, but Continuum was a masterpiece). Yes, his celebrity will probably always overshadow his musical notoriety, but that aside, the man is a brilliant song writer and Born and Raised barely puts a note down wrong.

1. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
I don’t know if you could have two albums more different than my number one and two picks, but in the end I had to go with Brit-electro-rockers Hot Chip’s latest because of how excellently it represents music in 2012. These guys have picked up LCD Soundsystem‘s flag and are running with it full speed (oh and Cut Copy didn’t put out an album this year). Hot Chip’s music is just so much fun — and that’s what gets me to keeping going back and playing the album over and over. It is frankly impossible to listen to the retro-inspired dance/electro/pop/rock anthem “Motion Sickness” and not dance along. Don’t believe me? Go try it right now. I’ll see you next year.

Honorable mentions go to Frank Ocean‘s channel ORANGE (well “Pyramids” at least), Grizzly Bear‘s Shields, and Keane‘s Strangeland, which, like their last album, had two amazingly good songs (“You Are Young” and “Sovereign Light Cafe”) and a whole bunch of mediocre ones.

Aight folks. Your turn. What’d I miss?

Posted by enderzero at 6:39pm on Jan. 3, 2013    
Sep 28, 2012

Twitch Quote on Awesome SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS DVD

A little horn tootin here, but the DVD for Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern kickass LCD Soundsystem documentary SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS has finally hit and Oscilloscope has included my quote on the box! Click the image for a slightly larger version.

The DVD box set itself is super impressive and includes the entire three-and-a-half hour concert. The movie is truly a masterpiece and one of the best concert docs in years.

Buy the DVD or Blu-ray at Amazon (affiliate link).

Read my full review from Sundance at Twitch

Posted by enderzero at 10:14pm on Sep. 28, 2012    
Apr 8, 2012

New Quote in COMIC-CON Docu Advertisement

Please excuse the horn tooting, but I just spotted this the other day. The coolest part was that I just happened to be with Morgan Spurlock at the time (my first time meeting him). He got as much of a kick out of it as I did.

Read my full review of Morgan Spurlock’s COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE at Twitch:
TIFF 2011: Spurlock’s COMIC-CON Will Make You A Fan

I should have obviously posted this earlier, but while there is horn tooting going on, check out the first quote up in the awesome theatrical trailer for THE RAID: REDEMPTION (at 1:24).

Posted by enderzero at 10:38am on Apr. 8, 2012    
Feb 5, 2012

The Big Sundance 2012 Roundup

Reprinted from Twitch

Ahhh, another snowy year at Sundance (particularly snowy this year) has come to a close. A lot of excellent films have been packed up in their canisters and sent to their new distributors. Even more will move along in the festival season, hoping to find a friendly home on some form of new-fangled download-to-your-alphanumeric-pager distro-strategy. But before these movies make it to screens of various sizes near you, I’d like to take you on a quick tour of all the titles I was able to catch this year. I’ve included my letter grade, a few words of what I thought, whether the film has yet to land distribution, and also my initial impression via my immediate tweet after seeing the film.

As you might notice, the films I saw at this year’s festival included a whole lot of B grades. Frankly, the quality of films this go-around was a bit lower than in past years. There weren’t a lot of bad films (I avoided both Lay the Favorite and Price Check after hearing rotten reports). It just seemed that filmmakers (or maybe the fest) was playing it a bit safe. While there are obvious exceptions (Compliance), no fewer than a dozen of the films I saw can be best summed up in one word: charming. I’ll avoid too deep of an analysis on this trend as to the role of the economic downturn or the perception that distributors are avoiding challenging films. But it is safe to say that this trend led to a generally less risky batch of films — and therefore a generally less rewarding crop. But there were certainly some gems to be found amongst the rhinestones. Now, here are my thoughts:

Read the full story

Posted by enderzero at 12:00pm on Feb. 5, 2012    
Jan 16, 2012

50 Beautiful Films from 2011 (and 5 Ugly Ones)

It is time again for what has become an annual tradition here at enderzero.net: My end of year Best Of movie post. In years past I’ve created some version of a Top 10 (see: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 ). 2011 brought a considerably more active year of film festival attendance via my role at Twitch. I was lucky enough to put in serious film viewing time at Sundance, LA Film Fest, Toronto, Fantastic Fest, and AFI Fest. Therefore, I’ve decided to expand things a bit this year and bring you my 50 Beautiful Films from 2011 (and 5 Ugly Ones). I’ve included a few words about each film along with my original impression of the film via my first tweet after seeing it. You’ll also find a link to my full review if one was written. As always, I look forward to your comments below.

Read the whole list

Posted by enderzero at 4:28pm on Jan. 16, 2012    
Dec 22, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2011

While there were certainly some notable releases this year, 2011 is not going to be remembered as a particularly strong year for music (at least as far as the mainstream indie post-alternative contemporary music that makes for the majority of my playlisting goes). We seem to be on an every-other schedule with 2010 being packed with good stuff after a rather weak 2009. Regardless, there were a few real hits, including a couple albums that could end up on my best of the decade list. It was the 5-20 that was just a bit murky. But I was able to whittle out a Top 10, and here it is without further ado:

Note (aka further ado): I’m not a music critic, I’m a film critic. I say this to make it clear I didn’t make much of an attempt to search out all the music that was out there in order to curate a comprehensive Top 10. Instead, this is my list of favorite albums that found their way to me in one way or another. If you are one of those ways or another, I thank you for sharing. Please let me know if there’s something I may have missed that I’ve just gotta hear.

10. Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
Tao is another solid album from one of mainstream rock’s most underrated acts. Trail of Dead has put out seven LPs, all excellent. While I rank Tao somewhere behind So Divided and Worlds Apart, it is still good enough to squeak in at number 10.

9. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Although it’s a far cry from 2008’s Dear Science (white liiiight!!), any year with a TV on the Radio release is a good one. I’m looking forward to seeing one of rock’s greatest live acts again as soon as possible.

8. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
MMJ continues to evolve and the latest step in that evolution includes a few real gems – especially the title track.

7. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes have managed to deftly avoid the sophomore slump with this fantastic album. My top song is most certainly title track Helplessness Blues – and while it isn’t quite Blue Ridge Mountains good, it’s still one of my favorite songs of the year.

6. Feist – Metals
I’ve been listening to Canadian songstress Feist’s latest pretty much nonstop since its October release and it is still growing on me. This is a must have.

5. The Antlers – Burst Apart
As soon as I found this album it shot to the number one spot on my bed time playlist. I’ve probably heard the first two and a half songs 100 times. The rest of the album is fantastic too!

4. Washed Out – Within and Without
Much thanks to Addy for the strong rec of this Sub Pop debut album from Chillwave artist (seriously, that’s what they call it on Wikipedia) Ernest Greene. I caught him live (with band) a few months ago and it was even better than I’d hoped.

3. Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours
I’m an unapologetic Cold War Kids fan and their latest is their strongest and most mature work yet. I love that surf guitar sound. While the CD is loaded with hits, it doesn’t get much better than Nathan Willet’s powerful vocals on Bulldozer.

2. Portugal, The Man – In the Mountain, In the Cloud
Wow! The ‘where did they come from’ award this year goes to this Alaskan quartet (that’s where) whose 6th LP finally broke through the log jam (thx Rob!). I was lucky enough to catch them a few months back and can easily say they put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. With a bit of an Arcade Fire vibe and a great light show, these guy are a can’t miss band next time they play near you.

1. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
It was actually kind of close with the strength of Portugal, The Man, but the vaunted spot as top album of 2011 goes to Cut Copy’s third full length Zonoscope. I was a huge fan of their last album In Ghost Colours and was instantly smitten when Zonoscope arrived at the beginning of the year. Seeing their ridiculously energetic live show at Coachella (vid) cemented them at the top of the summer party playlist, especially favorite song of the year Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution. 15 minute balearic closer Sun God shows that Cut Copy isn’t just a one trick pony. As good as their Coachella show was, their Palladium show in October proved they still have a bit to learn about building the audience energy to a boiling point – but as long as they keep making albums this good, I’ll most certainly be on board.

Honorable mentions go to the Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi collaboration Rome, Bon Iver‘s self titled follow up to his unbeatable debut, and perennial faves The Decemberists‘ latest The King is Dead.

Posted by enderzero at 11:53am on Dec. 22, 2011    
Oct 4, 2011

Fantastic Fest ’11 in the Rear View

Fantastic Fest 2011 is all wrapped up but plenty of nostalgia lives on. Movie fanatic Nirvana is the best way to describe Austin’s September celebration of all thing cinematic. Crazy incredible flicks, copious libations, and truly good times with great friends were had over the 8 sleepless days. We had WALL TO WALL coverage over at Twitch including over 70 reviews. You can check out the full recap in Twitch’s Super Festival Wrap and some other good stuff in Fantastic Fest in Photographs and our Great Fantastic Fest Open Preview. But here for your (well my) convenience is a list of everything I saw and my initial tweeted impression. Enjoy!

LET THE BULLETS FLY – My Grade: B-
LET THE BULLETS FLY features some great performances but it’s a bit long & subtleties too easily lost in translation.

SLEEPLESS NIGHT – My Grade: B+
SLEEPLESS NIGHT is a polished French actioner w/ solid fight seqs & a good story. Great intensity but could lose few mins.

POLVORA NEGRA – My Grade: D
When FantasticFest is over, I’ll remember nothing about POLVORA NEGRA.

MILOCRORZE – My Grade: B+
MILOCRORZE is charming, stylish & super schizophrenic. Ishibashi is exactly the kind of filmmaker I hope to discover at FantasticFest!
The future samurai world part of MILOCRORZE has some of the coolest costume/makeup/production design I’ve seen. Drank it up.

UNDERWATER LOVE – My Grade: B
UNDERWATER LOVE: It’ll make you wet. …anyone? Sorry.

THE CORRIDOR – My Grade: A-
Wow. THE CORRIDOR is the first absolute must see of FantasticFest! Pass. It. On.
Review

SNOWTOWN – My Grade: B
SNOWTOWN is an extremely impressive piece of cinema but wld have been just as effective & less exhausting w/ 30 mins trimmed.

ZOMBIE ASS – My Grade: B-
ZOMBIE ASS is basically live action tentacle porn w/ lots of fart jokes. So if that doesn’t sound awesome, u’ve been warned.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW – My Grade: B
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a gorgeous color poem to 1980s sci-fi psychadelia but plot/trippedoutedness balance a bit off.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW could be edited into the greatest Chemical Brothers video of all time.

THE DAY – My Grade: B+
THE DAY is an excellent post apocalyptic actioner on a tiny budget. Lookin fwd to big things from new talent Luke Passmore.
Review

SMUGGLER – My Grade: D
Rly disappointed w/ Ishii’s SMUGGLER. Perfectly good crime actioner ruined by more disgusting torture porn. Whats wrong ppl?
Review

VERSUS – My Grade: B+
VERSUS is even more fun a decade later. Best Japanese zombie action extravaganza I’ve seen at FantasticFest (& I’m approaching dbl digits).

TAKE SHELTER – My Grade: A-
TAKE SHELTER a fascinating journey into a man’s soul. Brilliant filmmaking & acting. Exactly what I’d hoped to see.

PENUMBRA – My Grade: C+
It’s not unfair to call PENUMBRA an Argentine “Apartment of the Devil.” I liked it but wanted a bit more pace & originality.

CLOWN – My Grade: A-
CLOWN is pure Danish hilarity with way more heart than I expected. One of my faves so far at FantasicFest.

CARRE BLANC – My Grade: B
CARRE BLANC is a bold dystopian vision from to-watch newcomer Jean-Baptiste Leonetti.

HOW TO STEAL 2 MILLION – My Grade: C
HOW TO STEAL 2 MILLION is def not the best African film this year (see Viva Riva), but it is an impressive by-the-book debut.

MELANCHOLIA – My Grade: A
Put me down in the huge-fucking-fan category for MELANCHOLIA. Thought it was brilliant even if it is long. Potential Top10.

RETREAT – My Grade: B-
RETREAT features some impressive performances but doesn’t go quite crazy enough to make a lasting impression.

HEADHUNTERS – My Grade: B
HEADHUNTERS is a Norwegian action caper with a weird mix of heart & humor. Many like it but it was too uncomfortable for me.

LOVE – My Grade: C-
Had an extremely hard time staying awake 4 Angels and Airwaves film LOVE. It’s pretty but too much/not enough a nod to 2001.

MOVIES ON FIRE: 80s HONG KONG ACTION – My Grade: B+
I was skeptical about going to Hong Kong On Fire final film tonight but @Marshy00 prevailed. Forever grateful. Action PACKED.

BULLHEAD – My Grade: A
Wow Wow Wow BULLHEAD! Wow Michael Roskam! Wow Matthias Schoenarts! Late to the party bus but taking a seat at the front.
BULLHEAD is a brilliant crime epic fully deserving of Belgium’s Oscar submission. This year’s Animal Kingdom?

A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI – My Grade: B+
A BOY & HIS SAMURAI is a charming Jp family comedy, a clever commentary on modern gender roles but a bit short of fantastic.

Posted by enderzero at 11:32am on Oct. 4, 2011    
Sep 20, 2011

TIFF ’11 Rounded Up


TIFF is in the books and you can head on over to Twitch to see my TIFF ’11 Festival Mega Wrap. My grades and links are also available on my IndieWire CriticWire page. Here’s a quick rundown of the films I saw at the fest with my initial reactions.

FROM UP ON POPPY HILL – Contemporary World Cinema – My Grade: B-
Goro Miyazaki’s From Up On Poppy Hill is a quaint & charming melodrama but little more. No magic = no magic.

THE RAID – Midnight Madness – My Grade: A
Forget Tony Jaa, Jet Li & even Tom Hardy. THE RAID is the best action movie in decades! Gareth Evans & Iko Uwais FTW!
Review

THE ARTIST – Special Presentation – My Grade: B+
Loudest applause I’ve ever heard at a film for Hazanavicius’s brilliant THE ARTIST. Its best Oscar bets likely actors.

OSLO, AUGUST 31ST – Vanguard – My Grade: A
OSLO, AUGUST 31ST is a beautiful, honest & unpretentious journey inside what it means to be a real person. Trier is a master.
Review

THE DESCENDANTS – Special Presentation – My Grade: A-
THE DESCENDANTS is a superb drama in Payne’s signature comedic style. Lock for Best Pic nom and Actor nom for Clooney.
Review

TRISHNA – Special Presentation – My Grade: B-
TRISHNA is a beautiful vision of India but the story far too rambling. Not one of Winterbottom’s more compelling.

HICK – Special Presentation – My Grade: B-
Probably a good book, HICK has good performances but ultimately too off beat as a film. Why does Moretz pick such uncomfortable roles?
Review

COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE – Real to Reel – My Grade: B+
Morgan Spurlock’s COMIC-CON doc is his best, most human film. It also has the least Morgan yet. Hmm.
Review

YOU’RE NEXT – Midnight Madness – My Grade: A-
Gigantic grin across every face in Ryerson after the home invasion thriller chiller major blood spiller YOU’RE NEXT!

TWIXT – Special Presentation – My Grade: B
Dreamy & weird, TWIXT plays w/ narrative & visual style w/ mixed results. Most interesting Coppola film in yrs.

MACHINE GUN PREACHER – Gala – My Grade: D
MACHINE GUN PREACHER is just as bad as I feared. Typical manipulative H.wood drivel from Forster & way too long.

PEARL JAM TWENTY – Special Presentation – My Grade: B+
Cameron Crowe’s PEARL JAM 20 doc is music filled treasure trove for fans of the band non rock fans need not apply.
Review

INTRUDERS – Special Presentation – My Grade: C
Fresnadillo’s Clive Owen starring INTRUDERS has some obvious flaws but should play pretty well for horror fans.

THE LADY – Gala – My Grade: B+
THE LADY is a heartwrenching tale of devotion with superb acting from Michelle Yeoh & David Thewlis. Magnificent job by Besson.

KILLER JOE – Special Presentation – My Grade: C
Aside from the major continuity issues and truly amateur editing, KILLER JOE has quite a few other problems.

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS – Special Presentation – My Grade: B
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS is quite enjoyable slapstick but feels a bit like a feature edited TV season slapped w/ a truly awful score.

Posted by enderzero at 9:37pm on Sep. 20, 2011    
Feb 3, 2011

Sundance’11 in Review

Sundance has once again proved to be the most fun you can have in Utah. Between seeing a whole ton of movies, hanging with friends, shredding Rocky Mountain powder, and meeting new cool people, there was simply no time for sleep. I caught 25 Fest Films as well as a very cool short film directed by Lou Reed who ended up sitting right in front of me for the Q&A (photo). My full festival wrap is up at Twitch, but here is the list of everything I saw (in order viewed) with my twitter blurb and a few quick thoughts:

THE OFF HOURS – Next – Rating: 4 out of 10

I wasn’t a huge fan of Megan Griffith’s truck stop romance filmed in Burien, WA. Amy Seimetz is likable enough as bored waitress Francine, but her story just isn’t interesting enough to get too invested in. This super indie will find its fans in people who appreciate the honest script – but ultimately it falls just a bit too flat.

THE LIE – Next – Rating: 5 out of 10

“The Lie is a superbly edited performance driven indie, steeped in Silverlake love.”
The premise of Blair Witch and Humpday star Joshua Leonard’s feature directorial debut is that a dude (Leonard) tells his co-workers that his child has died in order to get out of work. Not a bad concept but it seemed the writers were afraid to ever really commit to it. Instead this very indie dramedy becomes a little too caught up in the dude’s general malaise. It isn’t bad movie, it just never quite went where I wanted it to. That being said, I was a huge fan of all the Silverlake love it shows.

PROJECT NIM – World Docu Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Project Nim is not a feel good movie – but it is an inciteful doc with as many revelations about humans as about chimps.”
James Marsh’s 2008 doc Man on Wire managed the impressive feat of being both a documentary and a heist movie. It was an incredible story and most importantly, it was fun. While Project Nim is a very accomplished doc, it is not very fun. The story centers around a researcher who tries to determine if chimpanzees learn to communicate the same way humans do (but with sign language). To do this, he places a baby chimp in a human home and basically treats it like a human. Where the story takes a rough turn is when the chimp turns five and the project ends, starting the odyssey that is the reintroduction of a chimp that thinks he’s a human to chimp society. It is interesting, no doubt, but at times just too terribly depressing.

THE NINE MUSES – New Frontiers – Rating: 3 out of 10

I’m sure there are some people who will really appreciate John Akomfrah’s lyrical imagery and experimental editing – but the complete lack of narrative was just too difficult for me to get on board with and I couldn’t connect to the film at all. This is more art than movie.

MARGIN CALL – Premieres – Rating: 7 of 10

“Margin Call is a very contained financial thriller buoyed by extremely strong performances by the entire cast.”
I didn’t expect a whole lot from J.C. Chandor’s financial thriller, mostly due to Kevin Spacey’s weak performance in Casino Jack and my assumption that this film would be pretty similar. I was wrong – this is Spacey’s best role in years. The film takes place in the roughly 24 hours right before an investment bank brings down Wall Street and is meant to be a fictionalization of the 2008 crisis. How much of the story is accurate is anyone’s guess, but the film does an excellent job of dramatizing such an event. The key to the film’s success is in the performances by Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, and even Demi Moore. While it threatens to get a bit claustrophobic at times, the cast and topical subject matter should equal some box office and potentially awards season success.

MAGIC TRIP – Docu Premieres – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Magic Trip is a must see for fans of Kesey, Cassady, and all merry pranksters. Gibney masterfully docus the birth of 60s counter culture.”
Alex Gibney has made some of the best docs of the last decade (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, etc. etc.). Here he turns his attention to the incredible story of Ken Kesey and his magical, LSD-infused bus trip across the US in 1964. The film is made almost entirely of footage shot by the Merry Pranksters on their trip and then never edited into anything sensible (I guess they were busy). This is a treasure trove of footage of a cranked up Neal Cassady driving the bus and jabbering away, a 22 year old Jerry Garcia strumming his guitar on top of the bus, and Kesey – one of the most brilliant men of his generation. This is the origin story of the 1960s counter culture and a MUST SEE for anyone remotely interested in the subject.

SUBMARINE – Spotlight – Rating: 7 out of 10

“Submarine is a very funny British coming-of-ager at its best during its extremely clever self-referential moments.”
With a charming cast led by Craig Roberts as young Oliver Tate, Submarine is very smart and fun coming-of-age story. Oliver lives in Wales with his neurotic parents played by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor. The return of an old boyfriend of his mother’s (Paddy Considine) coincides with Oliver snagging his first girlfriend of his own and the challenge of balancing all the new aspects of his life provide the ample subject matter for laughs. Wacky and clever writing and hilarious self referential moments as subtle as Oliver flicking his eyes at the audience make this a really enjoyable discovery.

ON THE ICE – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 7 out of 10

“On The Ice is an engaging crime thriller, similar to Winters Bone the way it takes u deep into a world you’ve never experienced.”
Andrew Okphea MacLean’s directorial debut is a very impressive look inside the world of Alaskan native teens living way above the arctic circle. Shot in MacLean’s hometown of Barrow, Alaska, the film succeeds because the lives of these self styled “arctic thugs” are really interesting. I got a chance to spend a good amount of time with the two stars Josiah Patkotak and Frank Qutuq Irelan. They were very cool guys and it was great to see how much they were appreciating the experience (although true to character 16-year old Josiah had to head back early to his grandma). When I asked Frank if he had hopes of continuing acting, his answer was a very pragmatic, “Maybe – it depends if I get paid.”
Read my full review of On the Ice @ Twitch

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN – Park City at Midnight – Rating 7 of 10

“Hobo With a Shotgun more than delivers on everything it promises. Blood, guts, gore, & ridiculous laughs. Full commitment.”
I’ve been a big fan of the grindhouse resurgence. Planet Terror, Hell Ride and Machete proved you could make great movies by taking a ridiculous premise and hamming it out – as long as you had good acting. Hobo with a Shotgun is this turned up to 11. If you are a fan of restraint, then do not go near this film. But if you enjoy cheesy technicolor blood and guts squirting from every conceivable orifice, you’ll surely love this movie.
Read my full review of Hobo with a Shotgun @ Twitch

WIN WIN – Premieres – Rating: 9 out of 10

“Win Win is a superbly acted family/sports drama. Another huge success for T. McCarthy – one of the best directors working today.”
Tom McCarthy’s previous films The Station Agent and The Visitor were such successes due to his extraordinary ability to reveal the heartwarming humanity of his characters. This is very much the case in his third film about a small town lawyer-slash-high school wrestling coach who takes in a troubled teen, just as his own life is hitting a difficult patch. McCarthy gets the very best out of his actors – and when you’ve got pros like Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan in the lead roles, that is saying a lot. Bobby Canavale and Jeffrey Tambor co-star and turn in hilarious performances as well. This is a little movie with a big heart, executed to perfection by one of the best directors in the biz.

KNUCKLE – World Docu Comp – Rating: 5 out of 10

“Knuckle explores feuding families in Ireland. While entertaining at times, the story ultimately isn’t all that interesting.”
I was very surprised to hear that the remake rights to this feuding family doc had been picked up at the festival. The problem with the film is that the story of the two families – who have settled their differences over the generations by engaging in highly regulated fights – is really pretty boring. There is nothing to remake. You would be better off just taking that premise and writing your own original story about people who fight each other. Throw in some infidelity and some crime and you might get something worth watching. Unfortunately, as a documentary, Ian Palmer’s film simply has nothing to say. It is unclear if we are supposed to think this is a barbaric way to settle long running problems or to applaud the families for not letting things get violent outside the ring. I frankly didn’t care.

LIKE CRAZY – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 9 out of 10

“Like Crazy is a more hopeful Blue Valentine – an incredibly honest look at love and distance. It is a MUST SEE.”
Drake Doremus’s love story cemented itself as the most buzzworthy film of the fest when it took home the top dog Dramatic Grand Jury Prize (last two winners: Winter’s Bone & Precious). But Park City was going nuts for this film long before last Saturday’s awards and its sale to big distributor Paramount for $4M was the first sign that things were looking very good on the biz side of the festival. The film is worth all the hype. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones turn in very mature performances as the young lovers separated by an ocean of bureaucracy (and a real ocean). It tugs at your heart strings but you never felt manipulated. Admittedly, I am a sucker for a love story done well and this one is done very well. You’ll be hearing plenty more about this one soon.

THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM – Park City at Midnight – Rating 5 out of 10

“The Catechism Cataclysm is a surreal adventure down a wacky winding river that has very little to do with Jesus. Bravo!”
Todd Rohal’s bizarre comedy is basically a showcase for Steve Little (Eastbound & Down) to do his thing. If you are into his thing, there is a lot to like here. I wasn’t completely on board but I did have a few healthy chuckles. What I didn’t understand was why Little’s character was a Catholic priest. This and a few other odd decisions made it tough for me to become a real fan.

MY IDIOT BROTHER – Premieres – Rating: 7 out of 10

“My Idiot Brother is a very commercial comedy with some pretty funny moments. The impressive ensemble should get butts in seats.”
Paul Rudd stars as the very likable Ned in Jesse Peretz’s well executed commercial comedy. Ned is just trying to keep on L-I-V-I-N (and get his dog back) but every interaction with his sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) seems to get him in trouble. The cast is excellent and co-stars Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, and Adam “Are we having fun yet?” Scott all hit it out of the park. There is a lot to like about the movie (although I can see why some critics have suggested it is rooted in a bit of misogyny) and it will surely be rewarded at the box office.

THE INTERRUPTERS – Docu Premieres – Rating: 9 out of 10

“The Interrupters’ is a brilliant & incredibly inspirational doc about people doing good. The only way to stop violence is to try.”
Clocking in at over 2 and 1/2 hours, some moviegoers weren’t willing to commit the time to Steve James’s (Hoop Dreams) doc about crime interrupters on the South Side of Chicago. That is too bad as the film was surely one of the best docs of the fest. The subjects, all ex-criminals who have devoted their lives to trying to stop young kids from killing each other, are some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen. It is easy to see why the kids on the street pay so much respect to people like the particularly charismatic Ameena. There is no answer in this film other than try to keep doing your best – but the end result is a very emotional journey along with some people doing just that.

CEDAR RAPIDS – Premieres – Rating: 7 out of 10

“Cedar Rapids is very funny once it finally hits its stride about halfway thru & commits to its wackiness.”
Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche star as insurance agents gone wild at the big annual convention in this broad comedy from Miguel Arteta. There is a somewhat necessary plot about Ed Helms (playing Ed Helms) trying to win an award to keep his insurance agency open or something but it really isn’t important. The movie gets really enjoyable once Arteta gets away from the plot about half way through and really let’s things go off the rails. Ed Helms smoking crack and getting in fights is much funnier than Ed Helms nervous about getting ketchup on his pocket protector.

THE SON OF NO ONE – Premieres – Rating: 2 out of 10

“Son of No One is a real mess. Baffling character motivations & one of the worst endings I’ve seen. Big slump for Dito.”
One of my favorite parts of this year’s Sundance was following the drama over the Press & Industry screening of The Son of No One. The movie is awful and I’ve spent enough time talking about how bad it is and how little sense it makes and how amazing the awful ending is. But the controversy over exactly how many people walked out of the screening (a lot – but a lot of people walk out of decent movies too) and the ridiculously defensive reaction by the sales agent who said the lights turned on ten minutes before the film ended (they didn’t) has been hilarious. When the film finally premiered to the public on Friday, it found a bit more positive response – but it will be very interesting to see if the movie ever makes it to release. Maybe Katie Holmes will buy it and distribute it herself.

VAMPIRE – World Dramatic Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Vampire is an obscure & original love story. A few very odd artistic decisions – some work, some don’t – but certainly bold.”
I am a big fan of Shunji Iwai’s Japanese films Swallowtail Butterfly and All About Lily Chou-Chou and therefore was looking forward to his English language debut with a fair amount of anticipation. The result is a very different horror movie about a compassionate killer who helps people end their lives and then drinks their blood. It starts out slow and makes some awful missteps (turning the camera on its side sent people out of the theater a full row at a time) but the final product is a very artistic and interesting film with some truly beautiful moments.
Read my full review of Vampire @ Twitch

I MELT WITH YOU – Premieres – Rating: 6 out of 10

“I Melt With You is the most intense midlife crisis ever. Great cast. Beautiful photography. Amazing music. Weird movie.”
I wasn’t exaggerating when I called this a weird movie and I wasn’t at all expecting the experience I got when I walked into the theater. Mark Pellington has a very impressive resume between his features (Arlington Road) and his music videos (U2, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains) but he was hopped up on some crazy pills for this one. Crazy pills are actually a big part of the plot in this movie which is basically about Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, and Christian McKay on a crazy drug-fueled mid life crisis gone terribly wrong. The movie takes a big twist about two-thirds through and at the time I was very against it – but looking back, I am kinda glad it took me where it did. It’s a tough one, but ultimately it is pretty impressive.

THE DETAILS – Premieres – Rating 6 out of 10

“The Details is a black comedy. Like black as night. Tobey Maguire just didn’t work for me but Laura Linney is an absolute riot!”
Tobey Maguire stars in Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek) super black comedy about a dude who keeps making bad decisions. This movie goes just as wacky as I Melt With You, but it does so with enough humor to save you from a brain aneurysm. Unfortunately Tobey Maguire just isn’t a good enough actor to pull it off – though Laura Linney as the neurotic neighbor who blackmails him into oral sex is funny enough to almost save it.

ANOTHER EARTH – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 4 out of 10

“Another Earth is an uneven redemption story with too many plot problems to overlook.”
Sundance it-girl Brit Marling co-wrote, produced and stars in one of the most buzzed over films of the fest (it won the Special Jury Prize, Alfred P. Sloan science award, and scored a major deal with Fox Searchlight). I know I’m in the minority on this one but I was horribly unimpressed with the film. Marling is obviously a talent but the plot has more problems than the middle east and the attempt at a scientific explanation for the second earth is laughable. I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why we have so much trouble talking to the other planet. We had radio contact with astronauts on the moon in the 1960s – are you really telling me with all our satellites and communications technology we can’t just pull up FaceTime on our iPhones with another planet that’s right over there (they have all the same technology afterall). I hear you saying, “but it isn’t about the science, it’s about the love story.” Yeah, fine, but the love story sucked too.

HOMEWORK – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Homework treads familiar territory of the outcast kid who the pretty girl falls for. However it avoids cliches and is enjoyable.”
We’ve all seen the story about the loser kid that no one likes that inexplicably hooks up with the prettiest girl in school. There are obviously a lot of directors and screenwriters living out adolescent fantasies in Hollywood. Gavin Wiesen’s directorial debut is pretty much that exactly – but it is that done pretty damn well. A big part of the success is due to young British actor Freddie Highmore who plays a vulnerable yet somehow confident outcast. Emma Roberts is okay as the object of his affection – but she is short of memorable. Wiesen does manage to avoid a lot of cliches and it is kind of fun to see all these high school kids drinking at bars in Manhattan. It’s a decent movie that is worth a watch but won’t likely make much noise – and it is definitely no The Wackness.

PERFECT SENSE – Premieres – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Perfect Sense is a love story that completely commits to its very high concept. A lot to like – though maybe not for everyone.”
Ewan McGregor and Eva Green star in David Mackenzie’s romantic thriller about a world where everyone is losing their senses. It is a very bold concept but Mackenzie commits fully and what results is a highly polished and excellent film. This was one of my surprise faves of the fest.
Read my full review of Perfect Sense @ Twitch

ELITE SQUAD 2 – Spotlight – Rating: 8 of 10

“Elite Squad 2 is a truly awesome Brazilian actioner. Padilha went more political than the 1st = less action – but def a success.”
Jose Padilha’s Elite Squad showed that you could make a very smart shooter without giving up any of the action. His follow-up focuses more on the political side of things in the Rio police force – but it is every bit as impressive. The fact he was able to pull off such a polished product for under $9M is even more of a feat. I’ll be shocked if Hollywood doesn’t shell out some big bucks to get Padilha behind the camera of a big studio picture soon.
Read my full review of Elite Squad 2 @ Twitch

PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES – US Docu Comp – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Page One is a captivating doc about why journalism will always be important, even in the changing face of the media landscape.”
Andrew Rossi originally set out to make a doc about NY Times media reporter and all around distinctive character David Carr. What resulted was a fascinating exploration of news and journalism in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape. From WikiLeaks to an NBC sponsored media event declaring the end of combat in Iraq, Rossi’s cameras capture the the deliberation the editors at the NYT go to to consider the distinction between reporting the news and creating the news. Carr remains an important figure in the film and an enigmatic force – but the people around him are just as interesting. For those interested in issues of media and you know, the world, this doc is another must see.

Of course there were just as many films that I wanted to see but didn’t get a chance to. One film with a ton of buzz I hope to catch soon is Martha Marcy May Marlene with festival sweetheart Elizabeth Olsen – younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley. Brit Marling’s other fest film Sound of my Voice had people raving. Kevin Smith was at the fest with his political horror Red State, but the lack of P&I screening made it impossible to score a ticket. I spoke to a number of people who had very good things to say about Terri with John C. Reilly and Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut Higher Ground was also rumored to be well worth a watch. The Paddy Considine directed Tyrannosaur and Take Shelter with Michael Shannon both had people saying great things as well.

On the unseen docu side of things, the film with the most positive buzz was Morgan Spurlock’s product placement expose The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. It sounds like everyone who saw it loved Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. Euthanasia doc How to Die in Oregon, Afghan war doc Hell and Back Again and the story of the real life horse whisperer Buck all received top prizes as well.

My Top 10 of 2010 included a stunning 7 films at Sundance 2010 (though I only caught 4 of them at the fest). I can’t help but wonder how many of this year’s batch will be included on my list a year from now. Like Crazy will very likely stick around and it won’t surprise me if The Interrupters and Win Win do as well. It’s exciting to think about all the great movies that are still to be seen.

Posted by enderzero at 1:01am on Feb. 3, 2011    
Jan 14, 2011

Top 10 Films of 2010

While the upcoming Academy Awards will again stir up the debate about quality versus popularity, in my opinion 2010 has been a fantastic year for film – giving us a trove of moving and visceral filmmaking and giving me my favorite movie going experience since Ghostbusters. Without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2010:

10. Boy – Taika Waititi’s semi auto-biographical story of a young Maori kid is a touching and whimsical tale that takes full advantage of its beautiful New Zealand setting. I imagine this laugher/crier flew under most moviegoers’ radars – but it is well worth seeking out. [Covered in my Sundance’10 wrap-up]

9. Winter’s Bone – Like most of the films on this list, Debra Granik’s Ozark thriller played at Sundance’10 – though I didn’t catch it until much later. What I love most about this film is the way such an interesting and complex story unfolds so expertly from the point of view of the young protagonist (and of course enough can’t be said about Jennifer Lawrence). We are along for the ride from moment one as it spirals from mundane to outrageous.

8. Blue Valentine – My fest fave from Sundance’10 falls a few spots back upon reflection, but Gosling’s and Williams’ performances stand firm for me a year removed. The movie is picking up steam in the specialty market as it enters its third frame of release this weekend and is well worth tracking down. [Covered in my Sundance’10 wrap-up]

7. Animal Kingdom – I can’t think back on David Michod’s film without dwelling on the startling performances by Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver. They are both simply chilling. This movie is one of the best crime thrillers in years. [My review on Twitch]

6. Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy’s docu-mystery was certainly one of the most talked about documentaries of the year and also one of the best. I personally believe most of the mystery is drummed up and what you see here is mostly what you get. But the real success of the film is the unparalleled view into the street art movement. This documentation will live on long after
the Space Invader tiles fall off the wall. [My review on Twitch]

5. A Prophet – I thought for some time on whether to include this film here since it made so many lists in 2009. But when it came down to it, the movie played in theaters in 2010 and I didn’t see it until then so here it is (sorry True Grit, you got bumped). Jacques Audiard’s prison drama is both haunting and magical with scenes that make you want to hide your eyes and others that make you sigh with awe. On top of that, Tahar Rahim’s performance might be one of the most overlooked of the year.

4. The Social Network – Plenty has already been said about the film I still predict to take home the best picture Oscar. What strikes me most a few months later is the absolute pitch perfection that David Fincher manages to achieve time and time again with his films. He is quite possibly the most skilled director working today. [My review]

3. Restrepo – Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Afghan war documentary is without a doubt the most visceral war movie ever made. Fans of Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line need to seek this film out right away. This is war. These are soldiers. Those are enemies. This is the real thing – and it is incredible.

2. Fish Tank – A surprise late entry to my top 10 list this year came in the last few weeks after I saw this title cropping up on a number of top 10 lists and sought it out. Andrea Arnold’s coming of age story of a poor 15 year old girl in suburban England is hauntingly honest yet ultimately uplifting. Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, and Michael Fassbender hold nothing back in their stirring performances. Andrea Arnold is a filmmaker on the move and I am a fan.

1. Black Swan – No surprise here as I have been able to do nothing other than rave about this film to everyone I meet since seeing it a month ago. It is one of my favorite films of all time and probably the most thrilling cinematic experience I’ve ever had. 2011, this one is gonna be hard to beat. [My review]

Honorable mentions that just fell off the list were True Grit (Review), Catfish (Twitch Review), Inception, and the remake of my number one film from 2008, Let Me In.

I am very interested in hearing what you think of the list. Please feel free to leave your comments here. Thanks!

Posted by enderzero at 2:52pm on Jan. 14, 2011    
Jan 13, 2011

Carlos – Review

It is impossible to have a discussion of Oliver Assayas’s Carlos without talking about its monstrous 330 minutes of length. There just aren’t that many movies that ask you sit still for five and a half hours. Like a good long novel, this allows the authors an exceptional amount of time with the characters – a gift for any storyteller. But that gift can also be a poison as it sets the bar for approval so much higher. Is the indulgence justifiable? Is this world worth spending so much time in? Are these characters worth the commitment?

In this case the character is a classic antihero. Carlos “The Jackal” was a notorious criminal who inflicted terror across Western Europe during the last two decades of the Cold War. His world is a place of conviction to a belief that he is fighting for a better society – but also a place of hubris; that only he can deliver that society to the hungry masses.

Edgar Ramirez, a Venezuelan, is given the role of his life in the shoes of his fellow countryman. At times he shines. The early scenes in which Carlos is filled with a political zeal that overflows onto his cadre of followers are particularly moving. At other times, Ramirez falls short – as seen in the more introspective Carlos of his latter years. I found the film at its most interesting when it explores the politics of running the terrorist organization. A good section of the film is devoted to the logistics of funding and housing such a group. At times it is a rare and fascinating view into the secret police offices behind the iron curtain – a place not a lot of films have so expertly explored.

To be accurate, Carlos isn’t really one five and a half hour movie, but three much more normally sized movies. It originally aired in Europe over three nights and even made a quick Sundance Channel appearance in that form last October (although that flew below my radar). My guess is that most film fans watched it as I did – in one long sitting. Unfortunately, you just can’t get away from judging the film based on this format. Simply put, there are many other films I would have rather spent that much time with (a five and a half hour version of A Prophet? Hell yeah!). Carlos is an interesting and at times entertaining film, but it is really, really long.

Posted by enderzero at 1:55pm on Jan. 13, 2011    
Dec 21, 2010

Top Albums of 2010

After a particularly weak offering in 2009, 2010 has been an exceptional year for new music. I had a very difficult time cutting the list down to 10 with the likes of Titus Andronicus, Delta Spirit, Miike Snow, Minus the Bear, Ra Ra Riot, and Tokyo Police Club just barely missing the cut. Also not on the list are Gorillaz, Yeasayer, BRMC, and LCD Soundsystem. All of those albums would have likely made last year’s Top 10. One final word about 2009’s list: Although it was released in 2009 and therefore disqualified here, I probably listened to K’naan’s Troubador as much as any other album this year and it deserves a mention.

10. Lissie – Catching a Tiger With super catchy cuts like When I’m Alone and In Sleep, I found myself playing Lissie’s awesome debut album over and over again.

9. Menomena – Mines Portland band Menomena’s follow up to 2007’s Friend & Foe was even more impressive and goes down as yet another strong album released by Barsuk.

8. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks Scottish rockers and NPR faves Frightened Rabbit dropped this very solid album that too many people missed.

7. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More It seems Mumford & Sons have found a home in steady rotation on commercial radio and therefore are disqualified from most people’s top 10 lists. I love this album – but hey, I’m the same idiot who gave The Killers my top spot two years ago.

6. Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives Sick beats, illmatic flows, the reggae vibe, and a real message make this a must have album.

5. Hot Chip – One Life Stand While Hot Chip has been on my radar for a while, I’ve never dug one of their albums the way I totally dig One Life Stand. You can’t help but tap your foot to this one. Hell, just get up and dance.

4. Arcade Fire – Suburbs A week after this album came out I was sure it would be in the number one spot come late December. Unfortunately, it just didn’t stand up quite as well as I’d hoped after repeat listening. That being said, it is one hell of an incredible album and well worth its number four spot.

3. The Black Keys – Brothers The best straight up rock and roll album in years, this one was pretty tough for me to bump down to third. We’ll see if Jack White lets them keep that crown for long.

2. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor This indie-tastic album straight outta my hood held top spot in my rotation from about February to July. I can’t wait to hear what they offer up next.

1. Broken Bells It is too easy to joke about how many artists Danger Mouse has worked with, but he continues to crank out hits. This time teamed with The Shins’ James Mercer, Broken Bells is one of those albums that perfectly defines the year 2010 – yet will have a spot in my heavy rotation for years and years to come.

What a terrific year for music! I’m sure there will be some disagreements with these picks. What do YOU think?

Posted by enderzero at 12:40am on Dec. 21, 2010    
Dec 14, 2010

Black Swan – Review

I’ve avoided writing my review of Darren Aronofsky’s “psycho-sexual thriller” until I had a bit of time to get over the intense euphoria I experienced while watching the film. It has now been over a week – but I still get trembles of excitement when I think back on watching it. Simply put, this is the best film of the year – and quite possibly one of my favorite films of all time. It is sexy, scary, inspiring, beautiful, thrilling, insanely intense, and more than anything, brilliant. I’ve never before wanted so badly to turn right back around and watch the movie again. Even writing this now is getting me excited. This movie is like a drug and I want more now!

Natalie Portman is a lock for a nom and should be the front runner for her role as the beautiful ballerina Nina Sayers. She studied dance for more than a year for the role and although I’m certainly no ballet expert, she seems to have gotten it down. But what is so truly incredible about her performance is the vulnerability she projects. At the beginning of the film, Nina is so timid she barely whispers her words. The quite literal transformation she undergoes is only that much more rewarding because of where she starts. Kudos to both Portman and Aronofsky for so successfully bringing us along on Nina’s ride.

Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey turn in career performances and Vincent Cassel nails the dynamic aspects of the villain/hero in his director character maybe better than anyone. I had previously lauded Roger Deakin’s cinematography in True Grit as good enough to finally win him the Oscar. In comparison, that movie’s western plains are a softball. Here Matthew Libatique’s camera becomes a character pirouetting on stage alongside the dancers. It is rhythmic and hypnotic and I’ve never seen anything like it. The decision to shoot handheld so close to the characters adds both an intimacy and suspense that is simply brilliant. Up close with Nina, whatever is right over her shoulder is right over yours as well – a terrifying effect manipulated here to perfection.

It is a very good year for cinema and the best picture category has some strong offerings. I still have little doubt that The Social Network will win top honors (and early signs are only making that look more likely). That doesn’t bother me at all. Black Swan is my year’s best picture and no lack of recognition can detract from my extraordinary experience of watching it for the first time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go watch it for my second.

Posted by enderzero at 7:41pm on Dec. 14, 2010    

Another Year – Review

Mike Leigh’s films do not have scripts. He works with his actors to build characters and then puts those characters in situations and watches what happens. When working with extremely talented actors such as the stars of Another Year, this can lead to brutally honest and often hilarious results. But it also explains the unpolished and sometimes even incomplete feeling you walk out of a Mike Leigh film with.

Though not necessarily the story’s protagonist, the star of the show is Lesley Manville and the tragically neurotic character she inhabits, Mary. Her performance should surely garner an Oscar nom (although she was snubbed by the Globes) – however I am a bit surprised that there seems to be no consideration that her role might be better classified as a supporting actress. There is no way that Manville has more screen time than True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld – yet Steinfeld is considered supporting. Color me perplexed.

Regardless of classification, Manville’s performance is stunning – even if the movie does drift a bit into melodrama at times. I’m not talking about melodrama in the telenovela sense, but at times the movie reminded me of a play set on location. Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Oliver Maltman, and the brilliantly funny Peter Wight all deserve praise for their performances as well in a film that should be on the top of every best ensemble short list. This is a character study in the truest sense of the term. Fortunately, most all of the characters turn out interesting enough to spend the time studying.

Posted by enderzero at 6:36pm on Dec. 14, 2010    
Dec 7, 2010

Somewhere – Review

It is pretty much my policy to give Sofia Coppola a free pass. Her films all overflow with style and I know that even if I’m not blown away by the story, I’m going to enjoy the 90 or so minutes I spend in her world. This is very much the case with her latest, Somewhere – an exploration of Hollywood stardom. Stephen Dorff stars as the rather bored leading man Johnny Marco. He has the Ferrari and the girls (at least a night at a time), but is beginning to wonder what else the world has to offer him. He finds most of his pleasure in the time he spends with his daughter Cleo – played with impressive maturity by Elle Fanning. Johnny may not be the typical father, but his love for his daughter is unquestionable.

The more I reflect on this film, the more I appreciate it. Like all of Sofia Coppola’s movies, Somewhere doesn’t offer a lot of conclusions. When judged as a contained story, it can seem inconsequential – even frustrating. But the beauty is in the moments. Scenes such as Johnny explaining the banality of his entrance into the industry to a young and hungry actor are downright hilarious (and who will ever forget the pole dancing twins). There is a subtle and powerful realism to Johnny and Cleo’s relationship – Johnny watching Cleo swim in their en suite pool and later her reaction to his Italian date both come to mind. It’s addictive. You want to know if they make it work – which is probably where that niggling feeling of dissatisfaction you’re left with comes from. But hey, dissatisfaction is a big part of what this film is about. Somewhere may not be her best movie – but if you enjoy Sofia Coppola’s work and can appreciate the little moments, there is a lot here to savor.

Posted by enderzero at 5:58pm on Dec. 7, 2010