Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Top 10 best movies of the first 3/4 of 2018

Fuck the pretentious introductory paragraph about my observations of 2018 movies. Let's just get on with the list, shall we?

Honorable mentions:
Upgrade, American Animals, Game Night, Unsane, Red Sparrow, The Insult, The In between, The Death of Stalin, Nobody Famous, The Avengers: Infinity Wars

10. Searching ****

What a birthday gift! Released in Canada on my birthday, watched it on my bday. While the approach of seeing a movie primarily through the protagonist's computer screen, I believe this is a first for a mystery thriller. It's an effective, creative approach, not only to see what life is like for the family for an emotional connection, but also effective in showing the mindset of the protagonist. He's like a computer nerd Sherlock, solving all the clues and finding everything out through social media, and learning more about his daughter, a girl he really didn't know all that well.

By the end of the movie, I was a little disappointed at myself for not seeing the ending coming. It is to the movie's credit that they drop clues that maybe should have given it away, but then misdirect, and when it comes full's kind of brilliant. While most Hollywood movies are content to entertain, but be forgotten after the credits roll, I found myself really appreciating the story after the credits and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together in my head. This is not just a captivating mystery, but quite an emotional one as well.

9. Antman and the Wasp ****
I may be the only person saying this, but this is the best super hero movie of the year.    I’m shocked to say this is the absolute trippiest movie of the year, and hands down the best 3-D movie so far.  Especially the scenes where characters are shrunk to the size of cells and attacked by body bacteria in 3-D…Absolutely tripping balls!  This movie is just so energetic, so much fun, it’s creative especially with its car chases, and shocked to say this…just a delightful movie.    

8. Three identical Strangers  ****
Can you imagine if you were adopted, then one day you find out that you have two identical twins living in other parts of the country?  This documentary had my attention from the first minute to the end.  What starts as a feel good story about these three people who have a new found joy and love in their lives unravels into a truly fucked up, unbelievable, poignant, sad story.  

7. Mom and Dad ****
For every 6 to 8 horrible Nic Cage performances where his over the top acting is laughably horrible, there’s always 1 where his over the top acting makes the movie, and you can’t possibly picture any actor doing it better than Nic Cage.  Well, this is the case, in a horror movie about a curse that makes all parents homicidal maniacs trying to murder their children, no one could possibly have been better casted than Nic Cage as a homicidal dad trying to murder his children.  He delivers some of the best monologues in the history of monologues.  This is my single favorite performance of the year.  Give Nic Cage an Oscar, god damnit!  Such a fun dark comedy/horror that never takes itself seriously.  

6. A Spy Gone North ****1/2

Spy movies just aren’t my thing.  If they don’t have a shitload of action or comedy, a 2+ hour spy movie with a convoluted plot…I don’t know, I just don’t generally enjoy them.   So going into a 2.5 hour South Korean spy movie described as a completely anti-James Bond/Mission impossible and where I have to read subtitles for 2.5 hours sounded fucking boring.  

I’m very pleasantly surprised to be including this in my top 10.  Despite almost no action, this movie is at times intense as fuck, as there’s so much at stake.  Its plot is captivating from beginning to end, and what starts as a kind of simple story about a spy from South Korea infiltrating the North to find out if they have nukes turns out to be so much more, where the line of good guys and bad guys is blurred, politics plays a big role, and despite being on opposing sides, friendships can still happen as regardless of where we’re from, we are united by morality and compassion, and a key friendship in this movie kind of had me in tears.  

I still won’t pretend like I completely understand the relations between North & South Korea, but I feel like I understand it better, and this is the best spy movie to come along in quite some time.

5. Annihilation
This is one motherfucking mindfuck of a movie; an absolute fucked up trip.  At times brutally violent, at times stunningly beautiful, and so creative with what it does with the small piece of land where evolution works in a very different way.  Especially if you’re bored with Ridley Scott making a new mediocre Alien movie every few years, this is a movie that couldn’t possibly be more out there.  

4. Blindspotting
I feel like this is the movie that captures the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement (there are two more movies about unarmed black people getting shot by the police coming out this year, so it’ll be interesting to compare them to this one).  When people are outraged by NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, they need to watch this movie to understand what the protest is all about.   

I love how Blindspotting weaves its message around a very entertaining buddy comedy about a black man who’s just gotten out of jail, serving his final week of parole and the friendship with his trouble making criminal White friend, quite possibly the last person he should be hanging out with if he wants to stay out of trouble.  Despite addressing gentrification, the movie even gets some good laughs out of black neighborhoods being taken over by Hipsters, as the movie has some fun taking shots at hipsters. 

The film is directed with a lot of creativity and the director Carlos L√≥pez Estrada takes some huge risks.  The climax will divide audiences, but I applaud him for thinking way outside the box.  

3. Thoroughbreds ****1/2
If you have a fucked up, twisted sense of humour, dark comedies don’t get much better than this.  This is one hell of a twisted coming of age/friendship movie. It has easily the best comedic dialogue writing of the year.  Olivia Cooke who had been seemingly typecasted as a sweet girl suffering from a disease pulls a complete 180, playing a girl who is incapable of experiencing any emotions, and I'm starting a best actress Oscar campaign for her. Let's not forget Anya Taylor-Joy who seems like a normal girl, but there is some dark shit going on in her mind too.  The two of them have phenomenal chemistry and it’s easily the most memorable relationship of any movie this year. It never tries to be sentimental.  Its tone is dark, cynical and bad ass from beginning to end, and I never knew where the story would take me.  Might I add, throw in some interesting avante garde filmmaking while we’re at it.  I’m still torn between the placement of this movie and my #2.  I could see this movie up higher at my end of year list after a re-watch.  

2. Eighth Grade ****1/2

I am insanely jealous of Bo Burnham's talent.  At 18, he was already coming up with better stand up/performance comedy than almost any comedian out there.  Now he's 27, and no 27 year old making his directorial debut should be able to make a movie as flawless as this.  I have almost nothing to criticize about this movie whatsoever.  What the fuck?!  It’s not fair for the rest of us aspiring artists that Bo is this damn good at such a young age.   

Eighth Grade is simply a wonderful movie.  Heartbreaking, authentic, low key and funny movie without resorting to quirkiness or over the top characters!  Everything about it feels so accurate and realistic about the lives of eighth graders today, in this social media controlled life.  

I agree with my friend who says this is the movie LADY BIRD tried to be. I will also add, I think this a better coming of age movie than BOYHOOD. Final addition: I think it captured the heart and teenage insight of one of my favorite novels - The Perks of Being a Wallflower better than that actual film adaptation of that book. But that you're a great filmmaker, please don't quit your stand-up comedy.  You can do both!  

1. Paddington 2 ****1/2

To get the first question out of the way, no I wasn't stoned when I saw this movie, but I will be when I re-visit it. I should also add that this is the #1 rated movie on rottentomatoes. A true definition of a family movie, where adults will get just as much out of the movie as the kids. 

I thought Paddington 1 was an over-rated, generic comedy.  This may be one of the best sequels of all time, absolutely superior to its predecessor in every way imaginable.  Paddington 2 is simply the most fun I had at the movies all year; the most delightful movie of the year.  

One thing that must be stressed…this is a good fucking comedy, with some very creative physical comedy that we don’t see enough of these days. Paddington's brutal honesty, his inability to know that sometimes honesty can be hurtful also leads to some great comedy. Despite how many times Paddington fucks up, he’s so good intentioned, and has such a heart, you can’t help but love him. Hugh Grant does his funniest work in years, playing a super narcissistic, master of disguise burglar, and in my opinion the best villain of 2018 so far.    

The majority of Hollywood movies have feel good endings, but very few movies left me in such a euphorically uplifted mood like this one. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The top 10 best movies of 2017...

Welcome to the best top 10 list out there. I've included trailers for the lesser known movies.

Like usual, there's honorable mentions, my top 10 and my special awards at the end.

There's one tie in this top 10. Now some of you may complain and say, "There shouldn't be 11 movies in a top 10! You don't know what the fuck you're doing", to that I say, "It's my top 10, I'll do what I want, dickwad. Also in that tie, one "movie" isn't technically considered a movie. But, it's 72 mins long, it still does work as a movie if you watch it on its own, so fuck it. This "movie" was better than 90% of other actual movies out there.

Honorable mentions:
I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore, Creep 2, The Square, Wonder Woman, Wind River, Shimmer Lake, John Wick: Chapter 2, Kong: Skull Island, Heel Kick,

10. The Devil's Candy ****1/2

Best horror movie of the past 2 years; takes a massive shit on IT. It may not be a purely scary horror movie, but it's directed with such creativity and originality. How often do we get an artsy horror movie, let alone a heavy metal horror? We've seen many haunted house horrors, but none like this. I love the concept of an artist getting haunted through his paintings, where a demonic force takes over his mind, making him paint really fucked up shit. 

Beyond the artsyness, the movie is intense as fuck. It's not just a haunted house horror, but also a slasher movie with one hell of an unforgettable villain. The scene with the daughter duct taped in the bathroom is one of the most suspenseful scenes in recent memory. Give us something original, and give us characters that are well developed, that we actually give a shit about, and the suspense will work.


9. The Kingsman: Golden Circle ****1/2

Talk about a ballsy, batshit insane mainstream action movie. This movie goes down some dark fucking places you don't expect from a popcorn action flick, but I have a fucked up sense of humour, so I fucking loved it. The wood chipper scene in FARGO is almost tame in comparison to the first scene where we meet Julianne Moore who has one of those ground beef grinders as her disposal. She has so much fun playing the most twisted villain of any movie this year. For a spy movie, I found the plot actually quite refreshing and creative. You have to love a scene where a spy calls his girlfriend to tell her that he must cheat on her and have sex with this hot girl to save the world, but he doesn't have time to explain. 

When it comes to spy franchises, fuck Bond. Fuck Bourne. I want more Kingsman as long as Matthew Vaughan stays on as director. Matthew Vaughan really has to be put up there as one of the best action movie directors of our time. Stardust, Kick-Ass and Kingsman 1 and 2? Name an action movie director with a better resume than that. Okay, maybe you can name a few, but not that many! 

8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ****1/2

What a surprise to see a movie with such a morbidly dark sense of humour, and such politically incorrect language to win the people's choice award at TIFF.

This is the best dark comedy of the year. You have to hand it to Martin McDonagh; when it comes to making a tragedy out of a storyline of a grieving, angry mother, who can never again live a normal life after her daughter was raped and murdered and the killer was never caught, you don't read that storyline and say, "I see this being the funniest movie of the year"; yet I struggle to think of any other movie that had me howling with laughter more than this one. Frances Mcdormand puts on the most memorable performance of the year; hilarious without ever trying to get laughs. She's simply that way because of horrible life circumstances that made her that person.

With all that being said, the movie still pulls off the very difficult job of balancing such opposing tones of comedy with such a tragic storyline. These are very well developed characters and it's a joy to see them grow and develop. There are no true good guys and bad guys. No one is completely good, nor is anyone completely evil. They're driven by anger, by the circumstances that life gave them that put them in that place. This could have been a typical murder mystery, but McDonagh opted for something more mature and thoughtful. I think I still prefer McDonagh's IN BRUGES, it was funnier, but I don't know. This one had more depth to it.

Best Trailer of the year:

7. Okja ****1/2

When it comes to movies about a friendship between a child and a giant creature that the bastard adults want to take away from the child, I'm hard pressed to think of a weirder, more outlandish, darkly funny, gorgeous looking, and awesome movie than OKJA, and what a follow up this is to SNOWPIERCER; any movie to come from Bong Joon Ho truly is an event movie. 

This movie is kind of like CHARLOTTE'S WEB on steroids, crystal meth, and weed combined (replace the cute little pig with a super pig). I can't recommend it enough. Like I mentioned, the cinematography is stunning, it's darkly funny, it has its social commentary, and my god are some of the action scenes absolutely thrilling and so well captured. Best CGI creature of the year goes to Okja, the unforgettable super pig.


6. Columbus ****1/2

What a charming movie; the ultimate friendship movie of 2017. I loved this movie in the same ways that I loved Lost in Translation, except this one was better.

This movie absolutely should win for best cinematography. It has the most stunning shot compositions of any movie this year which is fitting for a movie about architecture. Speaking of archiecture, this movie is very likely to permanently turn you into an architecture nerd and make you far more observant of just about any building you see from the outside and inside.

But besides all that, it's just a beautiful low key movie about two strangers who meet under undesirable circumstances. They're both going through rough times in their lives and the friendship that happens at just the right time to help them both move on and become better human beings.


5. Colossal ****1/2

This was definitely my favorite movie at TIFF last year. It may be the most absurd movie of the year and really requires a suspension of disbelief. If you cannot accept the movie's premise then it will be hard to get into. It was easy for me, because I admired the movie's audacity to pull off a premise like this. Absurdity + comedy + originality works for me, and if you're going to go absurd, go all the way and don't hold back.

This is the movie for people who utter that annoying phrase, "Everything's been done. There are no original ideas." For those that seem to be getting bored of the big creature movies of the same CGI orgies of giant creatures destroying shit, along comes Colossal, a movie that's best described as Godzilla meets Being John Malkovich. Now that's a combination I never expected to see. Hell, maybe throw in a little Rachael Getting Married (though not nearly as depressing), as this is Anne Hatheway's best performance since that movie, and her character will remind you of her character from that movie.

Instead of summarizing the plot, just watch the trailer. As much as I've talked up the movie's absurdness and weirdness, it still is a good character study, showing the lives of small town people, not really going anywhere in their lives and their battles with alcoholism; Anne Hatheway gives an Oscar worthy performance, Jason Sudekis is great, and Tim Blake Nelson is so under-rated as an actor who is never not hilarious every time he's on screen. He loves to play a dumb Hillbilly despite being one of the most profound directors. The emergence of the Godzilla monster, unknowingly controlled by Anne Hatheway can be seen as metaphor for alcoholism, but to me I just enjoyed it as a very original, outrageous, and one of the funniest movies of the year. Even the fact that the CGI and visual effects are all for comedy is also a refreshing change from every big creature feature.

Earlier I said, if you're going to go absurd, then go all the way; just when you thought the movie couldn't be any more absurd, the climax happens, and I couldn't have asked for anything better.


4. TIE: Blade Runner 2049 and Black Mirror Episode - USS CALLISTER

Blade Runner 2049 ****1/2:
I have no clue how a movie like this got a massive $150 million budget. When the studio read the script, someone must have said, "Mainstream audiences are going to hate this!" Someone had to know this movie was going to lose money. But, I'm grateful at the studio's lack of business sense, because we truly got a movie that's the best of both worlds: An arthouse script with a mainstream budget. Let's get one thing straight, this movie wouldn't have been nearly as good with the budget of Deus Ex Machina, Primer, or The Fountain. It's $150 million was truly put to amazing use, and just an absolutely jaw droppingly stunning, beautiful movie to look from the breathtaking sets to the best visual effects of any movie this year.

Listen, I understand how huge the original Blade Runner was back in the day, how influential it was, bla bla bla. But, watching these back to back now, no fucking contest, 2049 is such an inspired sequel and far superior to the original. Ryan Gosling makes for a better protagonist, where every single discovery he makes and every twist he encounters, you feel his confusion, but most importantly his pain. I love the story, I love how unpredictable it is, and when I thought I knew where it was going, it surprised me by delivering something far smarter. This is kind of like an AI existentialism movie. At what point do we value an AI's rights as much as ours? If they are built by us, but are conscious beings with actual emotions, are not as human as we are?

It's intriguing, it's beautiful, its set pieces are amazing. I heard a lot of people complain about the close to 3 hour runtime. Despite how long it is, I didn't feel bored for a single minute and I wouldn't lose any of that movie.

Black Mirror - USS Callister ****1/2

Yes, this is a Black Mirror episode. Technically speaking this is show, not a movie, but damnit it's 72 minutes long which is a movie length, and really does stand on its own as a self contained movie. Viewers can watch this as its own story having no knowledge of Black Mirror or having seen any other episode. Therefore, I'm counting it.

In a year that gave us some very entertaining space operas like The Last Jedi and Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, leave it to Black Mirror to deliver a space opera/sci-fi that may not have the budgets of those movies, but boy did it deliver something 10X more intense, with one of the most interesting ideas for a villain, and bit of an existential mindfuck too, when you really put deep thought into the characters' journey.

I love how it starts coming off as a spoof of a really cheesy Star Trek wannabe. Then, we see reality and find out that this cheesy space opera is a virtual reality game, and that the main character escapes here to escape the harsh reality of life. Then the story gets a whole fucking lot darker, and it almost feels like Charlie Kaufman was asked to write a Star Trek type script and was given 100% creative freedom and we got this dark, intense, creative and original as fuck, thought provoking mindfuck. It's every bit as edge of your seat entertaining as it is thought provoking. I don't know why I'm not giving this 5 stars. Maybe one of the solutions at the end is not 100% believable. I don't know. I can't get myself to rank this higher than Blade Runner, even though down the road, I may hold this in higher regard. But, this is easily my favorite Black mirror episode, and I'll take this any day over any space opera out there.

3. Imax - Dream Big: Engineering Our World *****

I am a huge fan of going to the Ontario Science Centre for 40 minute Imax documentaries for its breathtaking cinematography, but from a pure storytelling standpoint I think DREAM BIG may be the best of them all. It's not only the most inspirational Imax movie of all time, but it's easily the most inspirational movie of any movie in the top 10. To all the dreamers out there, regardless of whatever industry you're chasing, watch this movie! You may have shed a few tears here and there too.  

It's a great celebration of smart engineering ideas that have changed the way we live our lives, saved lives, and solved massive worldwide problems. The ideas they present are absolutely fucking brilliant and at times mind blowing. This will give you a sense of awe at the ingenuity, and creativity of engineers.

This also tugs at the heart strings, as it tells very human stories as well about ambitious engineers, of varying ages and varying dreams. The most touching stories were the bridge building in Cairo and the highschool robotics team competing against the top colleges. I took my dad to see it and he observed that every single story in this documentary really could have been their own full length documentary movies. Agreed, but all the stories are equally fascinating.

DREAM BIG should be required viewing for science classes in elementary school, highschool, hell, show the movie to first year engineering students in college. This is a movie that will fire people up about science and we need young minds to feel inspired to change the world, because there's going to be a shitload more problems in the future; but first they have to dare to dream big. Yeah I know, that was cheesy, fuck off.  


2. Coco *****

Of all movies, none transcended my expectations like this one. I thought Pixar's best days were in the past. I am so happy to be wrong. I think I'll rank this as the 3rd best Pixar movie behind Nemo and Incredibles.

40 minutes in, I felt like I was watching yet another Pixar B movie; a kid ends up in the land of the dead and can talk to and see dead people; we've seen this done better in ParaNorman. Then the movie introduces a new plot point that is a complete game changer. All of a sudden it goes from an adventure movie to something really profound. Then at some point I'm like, "Ha, I saw that coming. So predictable" and shortly after my smart ass thought, the movie hit me a new plot twist that was completely unpredictable and shut down my smug mind. 

And then the final unpredictable thing the credits rolled, I sat there and I cried through the entire end credits. Don't get me wrong, I heard a lot of crying in the theatre, but I don't think anyone was hit as hard as I was. I did not expect most powerful fucking drama of the year from fucking COCO. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun adventure movie, but it ends up being so much deeper than what you would expect from it; a meditation of life and death and the legacies we leave behind long after we're gone. Toy Story 3 has one of the most tear jerking endings, and the opening of UP is also loved, but COCO has its one key dramatic moment at the end that might be Pixar's best. If you claim that one scene didn't bring you to tears, you're full of shit!! 

1. The Big Sick *****

I knew when I saw this movie it was going to be my #1 pick, though Coco did give me 2nd thoughts briefly. Is not "just another Judd Apatow" movie. Yes, it was produced by him and it may share a similar raunchy sense of humour, and it's another movie with stand up comedians, but this is the first Apatow movie that deserves a best picture Oscar. Interestingly, I didn't even know it was based on a true story when I went in, but what a story. Often painful experiences make for the best art, and comedy is our medicine to get through the worst shit in life.

How fucked must it be to break up with a girl, then find out soon after that she's in the hospital in a medically induced coma. And it's beautiful how it's the time he spends with her parents, as they share each other's pain and anxiety where a true friendship forms, and he realizes how dumb he was to let her go. As good as the movie is as a romance and as electric as the chemistry is between Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, the true heart of the movie is the friendship he forms with her parents while she's in a coma, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter who both deserve supporting Oscars. Their characters are given plenty of depth, with their fair share of flaws and marital problems.

Big Sick is just so good at making you feel empathy for the situation. Every piece of bad news the hospital gave, I felt as devastated as the characters on screen, and when Holly Hunter's character contemplates moving her to another hospital, it's powerful stuff when Kumail screams at the father for being weak and not standing up to his wife. As bad as her decision seems, it's love, and sometimes we just never know what's the right thing to do.

Then you also have Kumail Nanjiani's family, their constant attempts to set him up with a Pakistani girl, and all the lies he tells his parents to keep them happy. I've always been fascinated by stories about culture clashes between generations, the traditional parents vs. the Westernized kids and trying to find a middle ground. But, his parents are very set in their ways, and just yet another obstacle this romance must break through.

The Big Sick just works on every level. I laughed a lot, I cried a lot, and I just fell in love with all the characters; I think it's the finest ensemble cast, and hell, they even got Bo Burnham in there. I would call it the best romance since Before Midnight, but it's also so much more than just a romance.

Other Various awards from I:
Trippiest movie of the year & Best use of 3-D: 
The Great Wall in Imax 3D. 
The battle scenes were like Lord of the Rings with House of Flying Daggers colour palette. People were too harsh on this movie. It was so visually stunning!

Trippiest scene of the year:
Beauty and the Beast - Be our Guest musical number in Imax 3-D. Ooooh my god, what a spectacle this scene was. It took the animated version and multiplied the epicness by 11.

Best Cinematography:

Best Visual Effects:
Blade Runner 2049 

Most Inspirational movie:
Imax: Dream Big: Engineering our World

Biggest Tear Jerker:
Coco. Holy shit! 

Shoot em Up Award for Most ridiculously awesomely absurd action scene:
John Wick: Chapter 2 - Keanu Reeves and Common trying to discreetly shoot each other in a crowded area. I laughed my ass off at the audacity of this scene.

Most Memorable monologue:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Frances McDormand tearing the priest a new asshole about who he associates himself with

Best Ensemble Cast:
The Big Sick (I know it won't happen, but god damn it, all 4 leads deserve an Oscar nod. If I could only pick one, maybe Holly Hunter, but they're all so fucking good)

Best Screenplay: 
The Big Sick

Best Social Commentary on Humanity:
The Square

Kudos for taking Unsuspecting people's money and shocking the living shit out of them:
Mother! (Seriously, kudos to Paramount for releasing THAT nationwide in over 3000 theatres. I don't blame the mainstream audience for detesting the movie. I'm glad Paramount did it though. Take the mainstream crowd out of their comfort zone every once in a while. I wish I could have been in a theatre to hear the gasping, unsuspecting crowd having no clue a Jennifer Lawrence movie would be this fucked up)