Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2013

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have no problem saying that my opinions on film are ironclad and correct, so I have no problem making a list called, "The Top Ten Best Movies of 2013". But here's the thing--I didn't get to see all of the movies I wanted to see for 2013. Her, Nebraska, and Dallas Buyers Club are three films I'm pretty sure deserve to be on any best of 2013 list, but I haven't seen them. This is mainly because two of them aren't playing anywhere until January, and because I missed seeing DBC when I had the chance. So there's that.

Honestly though, 2013 wasn't the best year for films (See my list of the ten worst of 2013 here). That said, there were some really damn good ones, with the ten presented here as my favorite. Have you seen them all?

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10. Sharknado

A lot of people think I have terrible taste in films because I say I like movies like Sharknado. But like one of my good friends, Raul, once said in defense of my taste in films (I'm paraphrasing, of course): Rich usually likes movies that are pretty good or really campy. And Sharknado definitely fits the latter. I mean, just look at the picture above. It's a dude with a chainsaw (But not just any dude, mind you, but the curly headed guy from 90210) jumping into a shark's mouth. How insane is that? A lot of crappy films don't play up the campiness enough and are just bland, but Sharknado realizes it's a crappy film and embraces it fully. It's no Troll 2, mind you, but it's close. It's damn close.

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9. White House Down

White House Down was a damn good action picture that didn't take itself seriously, which is why I think most people preferred Olympus Has Fallen to it. But this is the better White House siege movie. Jamie Foxx is hilarious as the President and Channing Tatum is a competent enough action hero for me to believe it. I went into this one expecting to hate it, but I fell in love with it from the very first scene. It's great, dumb, Summer fun and I loved it. Haters gonna hate.

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8. Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is another action movie that some people absolutely couldn't stand. Thin on plot and heavy on monster on robot action, PR is my kind of movie. This is also the kind of film that you MUST see in a huge IMAX theater, as the thunderous roars and slams need to be larger than life. This isn't the kind of film you can just watch on TV and appreciate. Either go big or don't go at all. That's what Pacific Rim was all about. Sure, too many of the fights were in the water, but the one really epic battle on land ("For my family") was worth the price of admission alone. If you didn't see PR in the theater, then you didn't see jack. Sucks to be you.

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7. Inside Llweyn Davis

The Coen Brothers are close to being my favorite directors ever, so I expect a lot from them, and Inside Llweyn Davis delivers. For the most part anyway. Let's just say it's more A Serious Man than Intolerable Cruelty. Featuring a folk singer having possibly one of the worst weeks of his life (Or maybe every week is just as bad for this loser), ILD is probably the Coen Bros. most endearing love letter to all the starving artists out there. It certainly hits all the right notes. The thing is, I wish it was a bit more surreal like some of their other pictures like the aforementioned A Serious Man, or my all-time favorite by them, Barton Fink. That's when I think they're strongest. But what's here is very strong already and the music is wonderful. It's not my favorite movie of the year, but it's up there. It's up there.

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6. Mud

2013 was a banner year for Matthew McConaughey. I mean, last year was good with films like Killer Joe and Magic Mike, but 2013 was his breakout year with Dallas Buyers Club (Which again, I haven't seen) and Mud, which was just amazing. Mud is pretty much a drifter who pines for his old girlfriend, who may or may not be a skank depending on who's telling the story. The viewpoint is from a teenager, and the film stays with that perspective pretty much all throughout, which is extraordinary. What I really love about the film, though is the feel of it. The story moves at a gradual pace, ramping up the tension when necessary, and it's a great coming of age story for both the young man AND Matthew McConaughey's character. it just works. See it.

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5. Gravity

While I didn't quite get the sense of floating in space like some of the critics made it seem like watching this film was like (liars), I did still feel a sense of awe and wonder. Especially since this movie only has two actors in it to speak of. Basically, to sum up this movie, all I have to say is this: It's about stuff going wrong in space. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true, and it works here, mostly because of the performances and the suspense. Who knew space junk could be mankind's greatest nemesis? There's problem after problem after problem in this picture, and the film works because of it. Plus, it's relatively short, so there's no filler in there. Gravity is a grand, spacey epic and definitely worth your time if you haven't seen it already.

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4. 12 Years A Slave

Unflinching is probably the best word I could use to describe this slave epic. Steve McQueen (I still can't get over the fact that there's a black director from England named, Steve McQueen, just like the famous actor of yore) doesn't compromise with his depictions of how terrible slavery truly was. Every grueling crack of the whip is palpable and terrifying, and you get a sense of how awful it was to be out there day in, day out. Based off of the book of the same name, the movie is actually better than the story it came from, which is a true testament to the power of film. Sometimes visuals truly are needed to convey the horror of a situation.

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3. American Hustle

Besides Paul Thomas Anderson, I think it's pretty hard to find a modern day director who is consistent in regards to quality, but David O Russell is yet another to add to that notch, as American Hustle is his third phenomenal film in a row (Personally, I wasn't a big fan of I Heart Huckabees, but that may have just been me). Playing to his strengths, O Russell has brought together a tremendous ensemble cast who all just seem to gel well together and make a relatively big story feel small and important. Sure, many of the events in this film are probably fake outside of ABSCAM, but this was never meant to be a history lesson. It was meant to be fun, and American Hustle is definitely that. If not for the next film on this list, I would say it's the most fun film of the year, but it's not. It's very close, though.

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2. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is like Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but with more context. That is to say that it's a wild, drug fueled trip with a bit more substance and background, with that background being Wall Street in the 1980s. I love this movie so, so much for three reasons, which are really my three fundamental factors that make any good story worth your time. One, is the pacing. At three hours in length, I thought I was going to be bored out of my mind watching this movie, but nope. Every last second is enjoyable, and you really felt swept up in the whole grand production. It moves at an electric, cocaine-fulled pace and it's incredible. it's one of the most enjoyable three hour sessions I've ever spent in a movie theater, by far. The second big factor is the characters, and most of them are repugnant, loud-mouthed assholes, and they're all the more enjoyable for it. Especially Jonah Hill's character, who you just want to strangle by the tie until his life blood is drained out of him. Yeesh, what a scumbag. And finally there's the conflict, and this film, while light on it for the most part, is staggering when it comes to the collapse you of course see coming. In many ways, The Wolf of Wall Street is an extremely energetic Greek tragedy, with hubris and greed being the cause for the ultimate downfall. I was tempted to put this as my favorite film of the year, but one movie kept me from it. I just couldn't deny it its rightful place. I loved it that much.

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1. Enough Said

I can't believe I'm saying this, but what pretty much amounts to being a romantic comedy is my favorite movie of the year. Let me explain. James Gandolfini's last movie is so great because it feels so real. The emotions the characters go through are subtle and to the point. And while I hate happy endings because they normally aren't logical and feel forced in, I actually felt a sense of happiness at the end of this movie, because the endiing felt deserved and real. Everything just worked in this picture. The characters are likeable but flawed, and the story is gradual and entertaining. Yes, there is a twist in the middle that some people find too much of a stretch, but it didn't bother me. In fact, it really felt palpable to me. I felt trapped just like the character it happens to, even though it really was all her fault entirely. In the end, though, Enough Said just registered with me. I said it's a romantic comedy, but it's not lovey dovey and it's not particularly a comedy. Not in the broad sense anyway. But it is something really special, and it's a fitting coda to Gandolfini's staggering career. This is my favorite movie of the year, bar none. Enough said!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Top Ten Worst Movies I Suffered Through in 2013

In many ways, 2013 was a very blah year for films. Sure, there were some damn good flicks (that list is coming soon), but nothing so extraordinary that I would say there's any one movie that deserves to win best picture over another. That said, there have been some really lousy movies this year, and this crop is only the ones I've seen. I didn't see The Counselor or The Hangover: Part III since I knew they were going to be awful. But the movies below, I definitely saw and rolled my eyes at to an unhealthy degree. This year the stinkers came out in droves. How many of these clunkers did you waste your time on this year?

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10. Oz The Great and Powerful

Talk about boring. Evil Dead director, Sam Raimi, had the opportunity to put his strange, demented spin on The Wizard of Oz story, but instead, we got some lackluster drivel that was more meandering than fun. I'm sure Disney had a lot to say about keeping it clean, but come on. This forgettable flick had no charm whatsoever. Even with James Franco making all his funny rapist smiles, it still felt like a modern Tim Burton movie, which isn't good at all. I fell asleep at least twice watching this snoozefest. We're off to see the Zzzz....

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9. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

What pisses me off about this movie is that they could have gone super campy with it and didn't. Instead, we got a terrible "action" picture that took itself way too seriously with dialogue that wasn't even remotely funny. The action should have been insane, the storyline bizarre, and the characters should have been spouting off one-liners every two seconds. Basically, I was hoping for another Army of Darkness, but instead, I got Hansel and Gretel: Generic Action Picture. Boo.

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8. Thor: The Dark World

I know I'm often alone when I say this, but I really liked the first Thor movie. I found it hilarious. But a big complaint many people had with it was that there wasn't enough action and adventure. Well, we got that with the second movie, Thor: The Dark World, and let me just tell you that I couldn't have been more disappointed. The action was so cookie-cutter I spent more time looking at the ceiling as I rolled my eyes than I did looking at the screen. Putting more magic in the movie took a lot of magic out of the film itself, as I preferred the god of Asgard in an unfamiliar setting rather then putting all the action in a realm of magic itself. It wasn't a terrible movie by any means, but it was such a step down from its predecessor that I feel I had to put it on this list. How could I not?

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7. Evil Dead

What I hate most about this movie is that with its gratuitous gore and special effects, you can tell it was made for this generation, and it shouldn't have been. If you're going to use the Evil Dead name, it damn well better be for the fans, and this movie certainly isn't, not even with Bruce Campbell saying "Groovy" after the end credits. All of the messy charm of the original movie, which this film is trying to replicate, is gone. In its place, we get even more annoying characters and a lack of anything unique or special about it at all. What stings the most though is that this could have been great if the director really put thought into what made the original such an excellent movie in the first place (Big hint: It wasn't the scares). A remake is a remake is a remake, unfortunately, and this one is one of the worst. Pass.

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6. Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness has probably one of the greatest opening moments I've seen in recent movie history, but it all goes downhill when you realize J.J. Abrams lied to everyone and this really was a sort of remake to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which everybody is in agreement is the greatest ST movie ever. I feel like the very moment Sherlock (Yes, I know the actor's real name) says that he's Khan is when the movie turns super vanilla. The most groan-inducing moment of the whole enterprise, though (Do you see what I did there?) is when they reverse the Spock/Kirk hand on the glass moment, which only cheapens the film even more when they bring Kirk back in the very next scene. Good Lord, what a trainwreck this was.

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5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

What a dumbass movie this was. Just like the last Hobbit movie, this film shouldn't have even been made. The Hobbit, unlike The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a fun book. It's not dark and it's for children. It's a grand adventure. But these movies, which are also directed by Peter Jackson, have absolutely none of the humor or charm of the book at all. Not only that, but terrible subplots are added like an elf/dwarf love triangle that goes absolutely nowhere. The worst part is, now that I've seen both the first AND the second movie, I HAVE to see the third movie now when it comes out next year. It's just in my nature. So The Hobbit: The Quest for Money now has my money to add to its grand total. Good grief, I feel like I've been robbed.

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4. R.I.P.D.

In truth, R.I.P.D. is the real worst movie of the year as it has no redeeming features whatsoever, not even Jeff Bridges. Still, this Men in Black rip-off isn't number one on this list because even though it's a worthless piece of crap, I still didn't hate it. In fact, I forgot it even came out this year it was so uninteresting. So it's here because, like The Lone Ranger, it's so forgettable that you feel like you wasted your money watching it. So I really can't be that mad at it. I forgot it even existed.

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3. A Good Day to Die Hard

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that A Good Day to Die Hard is the worst big budget action movie I've ever seen. I couldn't be more bored watching this movie. John McClane went from being in peril after losing too much blood in the first movie to being indestructible in this one. How could you even be worried about a character when you KNOW they can't die hard like the title suggests? Add in a worthless new character with his son, and you have a film I was seething while watching. I mean, how could they mess up Die Hard so badly? Die Hard 2 is bad, and Die Hard With a Vengeance errs on being bad, but this movie takes the cake by a longshot. It's terrible! What were they thinking?

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2. Iron Man 3

You want to talk a load of crap? Well, let's talk Iron Man 3 then. I don't even care if you haven't seen it yet, I'm going to spoil it for you. You ever hear of The Mandarin? He's only Iron Man's biggest foe. Well, you know what they do in this steaming pile of crap? They make a mockery of him. And I don't just mean they don't portray him like he is in the comic. No, I mean they literally make a mockery of him by having Ben Kingsley playing an actor that's meant to be the Mandarin. We find out about midway through that there really isn't an evil overlord and that The Mandarin is just a bait and switch to hide the true evil. I mean, what the hell?! Fans of Iron Man have been pining for the Mandarin since the very first IM movie, and this is what we get? A freaking joke?! Besides that, the action sucks, the story is yawn inducing, and the plot is lazy, even for a comic book film. No, just no. Iron Man 3 was a disaster. It shouldn't even exist.

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1. Man of Steel

Here it is, folks. The grand turkey of 2013. Man of Steel is so bad, I find I can no longer trust anybody's opinion on films at all if they said they actually liked it. It's that awful. From the very first second on Planet Krypton I could tell the movie was going to be terrible. Zack Snyder, in his whorish visual effect fashion, made a CG world so unappealing and loud that I knew the rest of the film would go down that path, and it did. The fight scenes, especially the last one where Supes and Zod basically demolish Metropolis is a case study in how not to direct a movie. And the story itself was so corny that I had a hard time not wincing through the entire production. Man of Steel was a complete waste of time and the very worst movie I saw in 2013. But what are your thoughts? What did you hate this year? Sound off in the comments below.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Warner Bros. Wants DC to Be Marvel So Badly, It's Pathetic

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By now, I'm sure you all know that Warner Bros' Batman Vs Superman has now become Batman Vs. Superman...And Wonder Woman. And possibly The Flash. Now, before anybody starts wondering about my opinions on the very slim, Gal Gadot, playing Wonder Woman, let me just start this off by saying, I don't give a crap. How could I when Zack Snyder is directing the damn thing? The film already has enough problems as it is. I don't need to bring up yet another.

No. The primary reason I'm writing this piece is to talk about how pathetic it is that Warner Bros. is trying to make a Justice League movie, but they're too terrified to call it such. Instead, they're hiding behind their two biggest franchises and pawning it off as something else, which is dumb. The minute Wonder Woman was announced to be in this movie was the minute that everybody realized that this was not going to be a good film. And it's not because Wonder Woman sucks or anything like that (Although, to be honest with you, I kind of think she does). It's just that we all know that a compelling story is going to be swept aside when it comes to this film. I mean, honestly, unless the film is four hours long, how could you possibly introduce a brand new Batman as well as Wonder Woman, and still have a real narrative thread in there? Again, this is Zack Snyder we're talking about here. If his past record can be trusted, he doesn't even know what a plot line is unless it concerns explosions and CG. The man is clueless as a director. Absolutely clueless.

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I mean, it's obvious what Warner Bros. is trying to make a DC Avengers movie, but they're going at it backward. Instead of introducing the characters first, they're throwing them into one giant vat of sock stew. MoS was pretty much PoS, so if they couldn't nail one character, how the hell are they going to nail three (And possibly four if rumors are correct about The Flash making an appearance)? My friend last night, who is a big DC fan, said that even though I'm hating on the it now, I'm going to see it when it comes out in theaters, but I'm not so sure of that anymore. I really hated Snyder's Superman movie that much. It was so terrible it put me to sleep. But what are your thoughts on all of this? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The Best Soulcalibur characters of all time

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Kirkus Review

Kirkus is one tough nut to crack. So I'm proud to say that they actually LIKED my book, The Darkness of the Womb. You can find the review on this link.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Fussy Librarian

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My book, The Darkness of the Womb, is being featured Friday at The Fussy Librarian, a new website that offers personalized ebook recommendations. You choose from 40 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic. It's pretty cool -- check it out!