Weekend Roundup: Highlights from 2016 Wizard World Minneapolis

Happy Monday all! Well it’s a comic-themed weekend for me. Inspired by the Captain America: Civil War screening earlier last week, my hubby and I ended up doing a Captain America marathon with The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier. Yep, still absolutely loved both of them and that makes the Captain America trilogy one of my all time favorite Hollywood trilogies and my second fave after Nolan’s Dark Knight films in terms of comic-book movies.

CaptainAmerica_trilogy

So this weekend is time for another Wizard World comic-con. I only had time to go for a half day on Saturday, so unlike last year where I went to the Karl Urban and Gillian Anderson panels, this year I mainly stayed on the Exhibition Floor.

MplsWizardWorldComicCon

Favorite Cosplayers

Though we didn’t get to attend any panels, it’s still fun to watch the cosplayers! Instead of just the usual Luke and Leia cosplayers (who are no doubt still around), we’ve got some new Star Wars characters that didn’t exist a year ago… Rey & BB8, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren. The Poe cosplayer looked so much like Oscar Isaac, down to his dark wavy hair! He could practically sub for Isaac himself on set I’d imagine, I think they might be of similar height, too!

Click to see a larger image

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Deadpool is a popular one as well. Just on Saturday alone I saw at least four Deadpool cosplayers. But why dress up as only one iconic character if you can mash ’em up right? I love the Deadpool/Stormtrooper dude!

DeadpoolTrooper

But my faves are the family cosplayers. Look at how cute the Scooby Doo family! The guy dressed as Shaggy holding Scooby has such a hilarious expression. The mother/daughter Jedis are so adorable, as was the two Spidey couple pushing a kid in a stroller! But my personal fave is the Marvel family w/ Winter Soldier mom, Captain America dad and Iron Man kid!


DC’s Suicide Squad are quite popular as well, especially Harley Quinn. We might’ve spotted at least five miss Quinns in various shapes and sizes. Of course Marvel characters are still massively popular, and I love the gender-bending cosplayers of the Aasgardians Thor & Loki.


We kept running into the Batman & Superman duo, both are older cosplayers and this Batman is more Adam West than Batfleck. My hubby actually asked them to do thumb-wars for the camera and they kindly obliged!

Dawn of Justice – thumb wars edition
Dawn of Justice – thumb wars edition

It was a fun moment when Wonder Woman joined Batman & Superman duo to complete the DC trifecta! Of course everyone on the floor nearby got their cameras/iPhones out to snap some pics!

SupesBatmanWonderWoman

So even though I didn’t get to see any panels this year, it was still a super fun day and definitely the highlight of my weekend! Big shout out to Wizard World PR people Jerry M. and Ryan for your hard work organizing this wonderful event.


So that’s my recap folks. What did you do/watch this weekend, anything good?

Everybody’s Chattin’ & SPECTRE Honest Trailer

EverybodysChattin_PPZ

It’s almost Friday everybody!! Woot woot! It’s only a four-day work week for me but it felt like time was ticking so s-l-o-w-l-y I felt like I had worked a 6-day week already!

What’s happening in your world? Well for me, it’s just two words: SAM. RILEY. I’m falling even deeper under his spell after seeing the rock biopic Control.

I’m going to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies again this weekend before it’s yanked from theaters and I can’t freakin’ wait!!!! I’ve been collecting all kinds of stuff for my Sam Riley tribute but now I’ve waaaay too many articles I have no idea where to start!

In any case, let’s get to those fine links now shall we?

Margaret has been making fabulous top 10 lists this week, check out this one on 15 Best shots of 2015 

Wendell just put together The Acting Black Blogathon to coincide w/ Black History Month of February. Check out the latest links from Day 3

Chris is continuing his list of Best 80s songs, all the way to Part 12! Speaking of great music, Andrew continues his Tuesday Tunes Tastings series by reviewing a set of four new albums w/ an awesomely creative rating system!

Steven reviewed Cabaret (1972), Nostra reviewed Season 1 of Jessica Jones, and Top 10 Films UK posted a review of Anton Corbijn’s Life.

Last but not least, my dear friend Paula is hosting 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon again this year. I’m unable to take part but check out the links from a bunch of fine bloggers!

31-days-2016-02

SPECTRE’s Honest Trailer

Boy, the Screen Junkies folks absolutely nailed everything I hated about Spectre. Heh, now that I think about it, my 2.5/5 rating seems far too generous for this poorly-written and lazily-acted movie.


It’s really embarrassing that in a year where there are at least four good spy-themed movies, the granddaddy of this genre is the worst one of the lot. I LOVE that bit about re-watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier instead. I didn’t realize their plots are pretty much identical, but The Winter Soldier actually has genuine character arc AND a compelling story. I for one am ready for a new Bond so I hope this rumor that he’s quitting 007 is true!

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So what are you gonna be watching this weekend, folks?

Music Break: Top 5 Fave Soundtracks from Henry Jackman

I had been listening to X-Men: First Class during my workout lately, one of my favorite scores of the past few years. Henry Jackman was a protégé of one of my favorite composers, Hans Zimmer, and he’s been churning out great works himself.

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Born in Middlesex, UK, Jackman studied classical music at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School, Eton College and Oxford University. He had been building a successful career in the recording industry, even releasing 3 solo albums, when he garnered the attention of Zimmer and John Powell, also a favorite of mine. He went on to work on composing additional music on such films as The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda and the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Here are five of my favorites from his work:

X-Men: First Class (2011)

The music is one of the reasons I love this movie so much, and these two are my absolute faves. It actually made for a great workout music, but I also like listening to it when I need inspiration at work.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I’m a huge fan of Alan Silvestri’s music work for the first Captain America movie, especially the end credits sequence. It was appropriately optimistic and patriotic. But Henry Jackman made an equally memorable score for the second one. It’s still got that positive, buoyant vibe, but somehow it feels more contemporary and slightly darker to go with the times and challenges Capt. has to face in modern times.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

One of the things I enjoyed about Kingsman is the fun, almost mischievous score that fits the movie perfectly. It’s got a bit of a James Bond-y vibe to it as well, which made me think he’d be a good fit to score a Bond flick in the future.

Captain Philips (2013)

This is such a beautiful, almost zen-like score but at the same time, it has a reflective, vigilant tone which is perfect given the ordeal the protagonist’s been through. It shows how versatile

Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)

I love that there’s a video game-y sound to this vibrant score. It sounds a bit similar to Big Hero 6 which Jackman also worked on that I quite like. It also sounds a bit retro which works for the story.

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I can’t wait to hear Jackman’s score for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and Amazon’s original story based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle. Interestingly both projects deal with a common enemy, the Third Reich.


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break. What’s your favorite score from Henry Jackman?

2014 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year

Top10Movies2014

Well, well, well, it’s that time of the year again where us film bloggers agonize in making these Top 10 list. Yes, agonize is not a hyperbole as it’s REALLY quite an arduous task not only selecting which 10 films would make the list, but also ranking them. But once I decided on my top three, ranking the other seven was a bit easier to do. I did make a Top 10 list from the first half of 2014, and it’s interesting to see which ones stay on the list and which ones are now relegated to my Honorable Mentions.

The same with the previous years, when I say ‘top movies’ it’s sort of a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is also a factor here and I’d readily re-watch most of the films listed here, in fact, I have seen a few of them at least twice already. The [dis]honor of the WORST films of the year is at the end of the BEST list.

Ok well, without further ado… I present you …

10 BEST FILMS OF 2014

10. The LEGO Movie

LEGOMovie_10

Everything is awesome! And still is. This is actually one of three animated features I absolutely LOVE from last year, but I decided I only wanted to include just ONE. The LEGO Movie wins by a narrow margin, beating out How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6 to make it to my main list. It really comes down to Emmet being such an adorably goofy protagonist, surrounded by spin-off-worthy supporting cast like Lego Batman and Good Cop/Bad Cop, it’s really a fantabulous geekstravaganza that would likely hold up with repeated viewings. Plus, that music is simply, well, awesome! That unabashedly vivacious song makes my Top 5 Songs of the year as well. (full review)

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel

GrandBudapest_9

This is the first Wes Anderson movie that ever made it to my Top 10 of the year list, so I guess you could say it’s now my favorite of his collection. It captivated me from the opening scene all the way until the end and it’s more fast-paced than his previous films. But of course it has all the things you expect from Wes: the quirky characters, the perfect symmetry of every single scene, playful music, etc. The ensemble cast is wonderful once again, led by Ralph Fiennes in a rare comedic role who’s an absolute blast to watch. I also enjoy F. Murray Abraham and newcomer Tony Revolori as Zero Mustafa, the ever-so-resourceful & loyal lobby boy. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again. (full review)

8. The Imitation Game

ImitationGame_8

This is no doubt one of my favorite films at last year’s Twin Cities Film Fest. It won a TCFF 2014 Awards for Best Feature Film and both Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley also won acting honors. It’s a biopic on Alan Turing, a mathematician whose pivotal role in cracking the enigma code during WWII helped the Allies won the war against the Nazis. It’s an important film to be sure, boasted by a fantastic all-British cast led by a terrific Cumberbatch as the unsung hero. Though it may be a bit formulaic and by-the-numbers (pardon the puns), it’s still a highly entertaining, as well as emotionally-poignant film that stays with me after the closing credit. In a year of great ensemble-cast films, this is no doubt one of my favorites. I especially love Mark Strong & Matthew Goode here, two underrated performers who ought to get more leading roles of their own.

7. Citizenfour

Citizenfour_7

I only saw a few documentaries last year but this is the one that stuck with me the most. It seems like ages ago when we’re introduced to the name Edward Snowden, and since then some see him as either a traitor or a hero. Filmmaker Laura Poitras got an unprecedented access to one of the first of many meetings between reporter Glenn Greenwald (who at the time worked for The Guardian) and Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room. It’s more of an eyewitness type documentary, allowing us the viewer to be a fly-on-the-wall so to speak as Snowden revealed the mechanics of those NSA intelligence leak. I remember vividly when his first photo was broadcasted all over the media and here we saw him wearing the exact same brown-ish shirt he wore for that shot. The doc may contain what’s seemingly mundane series of events of people talking in a hotel room, but it was utterly engrossing to me. It’s the implication of those conversations, and what it means to the central character and all of us who’s watching it that makes the scenes all the more captivating.

6. Selma

Selma_6

“Selma is at once a peek into the past and a snapshot of the present.” I like the title of this AVClub review because it sums up the film perfectly. I’m glad there’s finally a big-screen adaptation of Martin Luther King’s story, but I’m glad this film isn’t a conventional biopic. Instead, director Ava DuVernay and writer Paul Webb effectively focused on the pivotal event of his life and made this more about the collective struggle for voting rights. Much has been said about the historical inaccuracies about Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrayal, which isn’t the first time liberties are taken on films based on real-life events. But I think apart from that, this is a powerful and gripping film, uncomfortably tense at times, especially during the Bloody Sunday sequence. The issue of police brutality couldn’t be more timely considering the events in Ferguson and NYC, which makes it all the more poignant and heart-wrenching. David Oyelowo embodied the role of King, convincing in both the fiery moments of his speeches, as well as the quieter moments with his wife (portrayed brilliantly by Carmen Ejogo).

5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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I haven’t re-watched this film since I saw it back in July, yet I still remember much about how I felt about the main character, Caesar. The fact that he’s not even a human being says a lot about how good the character development of the last two ‘Apes’ films and this sequel took us a step further into Caesar’s journey. The ‘king of mo-cap acting’ Andy Serkis once again delivered a phenomenal portrayal of the apes leader. His eyes convey so much that they’re practically hypnotic. Director Matt Reeves created a suspenseful & atmospheric piece here that’s immediately engrossing. At times it’s so sinister and eerie that I felt like I was watching a horror film, as well as genuinely poignant moments that tug my heartstrings. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best offerings of the Summer, but of the entire year. It succeeds because the special effects punctuates and supports the story/character instead of the other way around. (full review)

4. Belle

Belle_4

I feel like a broken record when it comes to miss Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but she’s truly one of the best talent discoveries in a good long while. She’s the heart and soul of this film, displaying a nuanced and charismatic performance in nearly every scene. I’m also glad to have discovered director Amma Assante, who shows such dexterity in her sophomore feature, crafting a beautifully layered and affecting historical drama. There are so many things to love here, and after having seen this four times already, I’m still mesmerized. Visually it’s just a stunning film, the gorgeous lighting brings out the best of the costumes, set pieces, etc. But it’s the rich, engrossing story and brilliant performances by the all-British cast that make this such a rewarding film to see over and over. (full review)

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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I knew this film would make my final Top 10 from the first time I watched it. This is another movie on this list I’ve seen more than twice and I still absolutely loved it! It’s one of the rare sequel that easily surpasses the the first one. Billed as a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a superhero movie’, The Winter Soldier delivers on that promise and gives us something that’s genuinely intriguing and massively entertaining. It’s filled with adrenaline-pumping geek-gasm scenes without being banal or vapid. Chris Evans‘ much more confident in the role which makes him even more watchable, and Robert Redford + Anthony Mackie are great additions to an already-fantastic cast. This one has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero! (full review)

2. Gone Girl

GoneGirl_2

It’s a testament of a great film when it clocks in at 2.5 hours and it went by like a breeze. Dark, twisted, stylish, and even mesmerizing, Gone Girl is one of those movies that play like a thrilling roller coaster ride. Instead of a straight who-dun-it type of thriller, David Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn made this more of a psychological character study of a couple in a crumbling marriage that turns more sinister by the minute. Rosamund Pike was nothing short of amazing as the year’s certifiable female anti-hero you love to hate. She gave an intense and haunting performance that’s absolutely Oscar-worthy. Props to Fincher and Flynn for making a story that might not translate well to film into something cinematic, gripping and wildly entertaining. (full review)

1. Birdman

Birdman_1

This is an easy pick for number 1. It’s one of the most unique and unusual films I’ve seen in a while, and the level of artistry that goes into it is off the charts. Technically it’s simply astounding, especially in terms of cinematography. The use of the continuous long takes helps tell the story in such a unique and immersive way that completely absorbs you. But the story itself is rich and full of thought-provoking allegory, brought to life by Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s adept direction. It’s one of those rare films where style actually meets substance, as the story brilliantly blends fantasy & reality, drama & comedy in a way that can be both deep as well as entertaining. It has its darker and even vulgar moments I don’t typically embrace, but it never overpowers the protagonist’s journey, which is the heart of the story. On top of all that is the phenomenal performances across the board, led by Michael Keaton in the lead role, one that I’ll been rooting for the entire award season. (full review)

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Some of these movies were actually in my Top 10 list of the first half of 2014. I marked those with an * (asterisk), this time I’m NOT ranking these, so they’re listed in alphabetical order:

  1. Begin Again
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Chef
  4. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
  5. Edge of Tomorrow*
  6. Foxcatcher
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy
  8. The Grand Seduction*
  9. How To Train Your Dragon 2*
  10. The Hundred Foot Journey
  11. John Wick
  12. Locke*
  13. The Machine*
  14. Time Lapse
  15. X-Men: Days of Future Past*

What I missed from 2014:

Boyhood, Calvary, Ida, Mr. Turner, Nightcrawler, Only Lovers Left Alive, Theory of Everything, Still Alice, Under the Skin, and Whiplash.


Top5WorstMovies2014

Now, I wish I could get my 2+ hours back from each of these awful movies! Ok I saw most of these at press screening, so thankfully I didn’t have to pay for them, but still they’re such a waste of my time. Avoid these if you can help it, consider yourself warned.

Bullets Dodged:

Glad I missed some terrible ones like  I Frankenstein, Pompeii, Blended, Transcendence, The Best of Me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.


So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2014. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d love to hear it!

Music Break: Top 10 Favorite Film Scores of 2014

Top10FaveFilmScores2014I’m so behind on my year-end top ten lists, but hey, I think January is still a great time for those lists right? 😉 I was listening to NPR two nights ago and caught host Robert Siegel interviewing composer Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Road To Perdition, Wall•E, etc.) and naturally I started thinking about some of my favorite scores from 2014.

Well, there are a few that I know would make my list, but it was pretty challenging to settle on the last three or four of them. If you’ve been keeping up with my Music Break posts, you might not be surprised by some of my picks here. Now, for this list, I’m focusing on instrumental film scores instead of songs. Thus you won’t see soundtracks of The Guardians of The Galaxy for example, though I think that’s awesome! I will cover the Top 10 Songs in a separate post.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Belle – Rachel Portman

For some reason I had never paid attention to Rachel Portman‘s work before, though she had quite a stellar resume scoring for Emma (that won her an Oscar), Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, Never Let Me Go, etc. I absolutely adore her lush and elegant score she did for Belle and it just suits the tone of the film so well. I’ve listened to the entire soundtrack and loved every second! If you read my review, you know how much I adore this film and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s portrayal of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Portman’s music somehow captures Belle’s emotional journey as well as the romantic side of her relationship with John Davinier.

2. Breathe In – Dustin O’Halloran

After I saw this film, I was inspired to do a list of memorable piano moments on film, but I haven’t posted the score from the film. I’m not familiar with composer/pianist Dustin O’Halloran at all, but after this one, I definitely will keep an eye (and ear) out for him. There’s a bit of Philip Glass’ influence in his work here, and sure enough, when I checked on his Wiki page, he’s influenced by Glass as well as another favorite composer of mine, Ennio Morricone. I grew up listening to piano music as my mother’s a huge fan of French pianist Richard Clayderman. There’s something so ethereal about this score that makes me swoon. The film is atmospheric and intimate, and this music complements that tone beautifully.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Henry Jackman

One of my favorite Marvel superhero movies also have one of my fave soundtracks ever. Henry Jackman should just score every Marvel movie as I LOVE LOVE his X-Men: First Class soundtrack. I thought that Alan Silvestri’s fantastic job for the first Captain America film was hard to top, yet I think Jackman managed to do an equally phenomenal work here. The first one had a strong retro vibe with unabashed patriotism that’s fun and infectious. This one the nationalistic sensibilities is toned down a bit, but the score is still dynamic but a little darker and more ominous. It’s as if the music reflects Captain’s more conflicted moral sense as he navigates the more complex and intricate world he’s suddenly thrown into.

4. Gone Girl – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

I’m not always fond of electronic music but there’s something so hypnotic about the somber sound of Gone Girl’s score. It’s as beautiful as Amy Dunne, but just as unsettling. This Technically, Missing track is perhaps my favorite of the entire album. It’s spine-tingling yet lush, melodious yet haunting, exactly how you’d feel about this story. Every time the repetitive three notes are played, it always takes me back to that big sprawling house where the doomed couple descend into madness. This is Reznor/Ross’ third collaboration with David Fincher and they seem to be even more adept at capturing the psychology of his work.

5. Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat

I first heard of the Desplat when he worked on The King’s Speech back in 2011, and ever since then I’ve become a big fan of this prolific and brilliant composer. I LOVE the more classical-tinged style of his work like The Painted Veil or Tree of Life, but I can’t help being entertained by the playfulness of this score. Just like the film, it’s just so quirky and whimsical and it definitely has a strong eastern-European sound. Desplat incorporates Russian folk songs and pieces and some were performed by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra.

6. How To Train Your Dragon 2 – John Powell

I LOVE John Powell‘s work for this animated feature. I actually love the score for the first film more, but the score of the sequel is equally excellent. I have featured the soaring Beyond the Clouds track before in a Music Break post back in June. Now this one is just simply a lush track including the sweet choir sound that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. It’s truly an amazing and inspiring work that I love listening to time and time again.

7. The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

It’s incredible how different this score is from The Grand Budapest Hotel, and this one sounds more like something I’d expect from Desplat. I love classical music and there’s definitely a lot of classical influence in his work. This particular score somehow captures that enigmatic and mysterious quality of the subject matter that is Alan Turing. It also has a tinge of sadness that really hits you in the gut as you listen to it. The repetitive quality somehow makes me think of the Turing Machine and its mechanical process. It’s amazing that according to IMDb, Desplat only had three weeks to score this film, and that’s that’s three weeks from signing on to finishing the last recording session! He said he had the same amount of time to score The Queen, too. Wow, they certainly got a genius to score a film about a genius.

8. Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Speaking of a genius, is there anything Mr. Zimmer can’t do? Seems that no matter what genre, Zimmer somehow could create a music that complement the subject matter. Now, I’ve mentioned in my Interstellar review that I didn’t like how overpowering the music was when it’s played over scenes with dialog. But when I listened to it afterwards, I fell in love with it. Now that I think about it, I think I love the soundtrack much more than the film. It’s like a love letter to space exploration in musical term. It somehow captures the more grounded familial love theme of the story, as well as the grandiose cosmological journey that the characters – and us the viewers – experience. The entire soundtrack is phenomenal, but I like the slower, more introspective music than the more intense versions like the one used in the docking scene.

9. John Wick – Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard

Yet another electronic style music I’m loving from this year. This soundtrack, and this track in particular, has become a staple during my workout routine. It always adds a dose of adrenaline rush whenever I’m not feeling that motivated to get on the elliptical machine. There’s a retro vibe to this soundtrack that adds to the cool factor. It’s one of those pulsating soundtracks that a DJ could spin in a dance club, as John Wick himself performed lots of his dance of death in nightclubs or discotheques.

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10. Maleficent – James Newton Howard

In keeping with the darker, more mature story of Sleeping Beauty’s villain, gone are the chirpy and dreamy-like music of the original. Once Upon A Dream is one of my all time favorite Disney songs, and Lana Del Rey’s rendition will surely end up in my favorite 2014 songs list. Now, the score itself still retains that magical/fairy-tale quality with the composer commanding a large orchestra with a full choir. It’s lush and playful at times but not too Disney-fied the way say, Frozen was. This Maleficent Flies score, complete with the fairy dust sound effects, is just so ethereal and gorgeous. It’s easily my favorite and the one I remember most from the film.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Michael Giacchino

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Howard Shore

Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I – James Newton Howard

 …


So what do you think of my picks of favorite 2014 scores? Feel free to share your own favorites!

The 10 Best Superhero Movies of All Time Blog Relay

superhero-movie-relay

Yet another Blog Relay is circulating on the blogosphere! When I first saw this awesome relay idea on Bubbawheat’s Flights, Tights and Movie Nights Blog, I thought boy that’s something I’d love to participate. Well, waddayaknow, the fantabulous Andrew from A Fistful of Films passed the baton to me, hurray! 😀

The rule here is slightly different than a typical blog relay you might’ve seen in the past, so I’ll let Bubbawheat explain it in his own words:

Now the first thing you might be asking is “why are there 12 movies in this top 10 list?” Well there are a couple changes that I’m making to the typical blog relay. Here are the rules for my relay.

1. The list of movies will be passed to another blogger who will post their list within a week.
2. The blogger will take their list, remove 3 movies – with explanations, and replace with 3 new movies – with explanations.
3. If a movie lasts five rounds without being removed, it is locked into place.
4. If a movie is removed three different times, it is locked out and can no longer be chosen by someone else.
5. Once four movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 2 movies.
6. Once eight movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 1 movie.
7. Once all ten movies are locked into place, the relay will be complete.

I will keep the current status of the relay here and you can also follow the steps of the relay as it goes along.

Check out the original relay post to see which initial 12 films made the list.
Andrew removed Hellboy 2, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and X-Men.
He then added Chronicle, Mystery Men and The Rocketeer.

So here’s the list as it currently stands:

The Avengers
SuperheroesRelay_Avengers

The Dark Knight
SuperheroesRelay_TDK

Superman
SuperheroesRelay_Superman1

Spider-Man 2
SuperheroesRelay_Spidey2

The Incredibles
SuperheroesRelay_Incredibles

Iron Man
SuperheroesRelay_IronMan

Blade 2
SuperheroesRelay_Blade2

Batman Returns
SuperheroesRelay_BatmanReturns

Unbreakable
SuperheroesRelay_Unbreakable

Chronicle
SuperheroesRelay_Chronicle

Mystery Men
SuperheroesRelay_MysteryMen

The Rocketeer
SuperheroesRelay_Rocketeer

The three I’m removing:Chronicle_Blade2_MysteryMen Chronicle | Blade 2 | Mystery Men

Sorry Drew for removing two of the ones you added, no hard feelings? 😉 As I often say in other blog relays, I’m not so much removing them as I’m just moving them down the list if this were a top 2.

Now, I like Chronicle a lot (I gave it a 4/5 in my review) and if I only need to take out two instead of three movies, I might’ve let that in. I do think that even though it’s inventive, there are plot holes abound and the finale might’ve been a bit too bombastic that it felt like an abrupt shift in tone. As for Blade 2, I LOVE Wesley Snipes in the role but I just don’t know if any of the Blade movies deserve to make the top 10. I hardly remember much about them, so they didn’t leave a lasting impression to me other than Snipes look cool as a bad ass ninja vampire. Lastly, I took out Mystery Men because I haven’t seen it yet. Sorry again Drew, but I really tried to see if there’s another movie on the list I could take out but  in the end I had to let this one go. But since you included it, I might give it a rent 😀

The three I’m adding:

BatmanBeginsWinterSoldierX2Batman BeginsCaptain America: The Winter SoldierX-Men 2

I’m a huge fan of Nolan’s first entry to the Batman trilogy. In fact, I dare say that Batman Begins is as good as The Dark Knight and sets the bar high for a superhero film. I like that it focuses on the hero instead of the villain, and Christian Bale makes for a caped crusader who’s truly worth rooting for. I love it so much I’d even be willing to forgive the Katie Holmes casting! Now The Winter Soldier is still quite fresh in my mind and I do believe it deserves to be in the final top 10 because it has everything you’d want in an entertaining superhero flick and then some. It’s a successful genre-mashup, mixing the traditional superhero genre with a Cold-War espionage story, that expands the characters’ arc and takes the story forward in a thrilling way. As for X-2, well I think at least ONE X-Men film deserved to be on the list and I agree with Drew’s rationale that X-Men 2: X-Men United is a better film than the first film. The opening scene at the White House is fantastic and Brian Cox is one of my fave superhero movie villains as covert government operative Stryker. The multi-layered story combined with great performances gave the film a dramatic weight that transcend beyond fun entertainment. Not to mention the most indelible and emotional finale involving one of my favorite X-Men characters Jean Grey, as mutant vs. human struggle continues… ever closer to the brink of war. Powerful stuff!


Well I hope that at least one of my three pics would stay to the end 😉

I’m passing the baton to my pal & fellow superhero movie fan Terrence of The Focus Filmographer! I’m pretty sure he’s seen all or most of these movies so I’m VERY curious to see how he’d shake up the list.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on my picks. Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

Top 10 Movies from the first half of 2014

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It’s been about three weeks since we passed the halfway mark of 2014, so I figure I should get this list up before the end of July. As I did the previous years, I’m including some films that might’ve opened internationally prior to 2014, but I’m including them here as I’m using the USA release dates (either wide or limited releases). These are movies that I consider a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is a big factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types (for me anyway), but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. The Grand Seduction (full review)

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I almost missed seeing this one at the MSPIFF earlier this year but I’m glad I was able to catch the second screening. I had a lot of fun with this one and I’d be happy to watch this again at some point. You can always count on Brendan Gleeson to entertain, and here he delivers once again along with Newfoundland’s most famous celebrity Gordon Pinsent and surprisingly enough, Taylor Kitsch is fun to watch here as well. This comedy is delightfully funny, heartwarming and beautiful to look at, it could practically doubles as a tourism video for the Canadian province!

9. Edge of Tomorrow (full review)

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I’ve been seeing this movie in fellow bloggers’ favorite-of-the-year list and I can see why. I bet it was as much a pleasant surprise for them as it did for me, as I was ready to dismiss this one as yet another Tom Cruise’s meh sci-fi. Well, it ended up being massively entertaining and has a worthy female heroine in the form of Emily Blunt. The movie is not as profound as some people made it out to be, but props to director Doug Liman for pulling off the ‘repetitive’ aspect of the story that is far from boring. I certainly don’t mind a repeat experience of seeing this one again on rental.

8. The LEGO Movie (full review)

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Everything is awesome! Now that’s a bold tagline to live up to, but guess what, this movie did just that and then some! Apparently February is NOT just for duds and I’m pretty sure this one will get a nomination come award season. The LEGO Movie is easily one of the most fun experience I had in the movies in a long time, it’s every bit as cute and hilarious as the trailers and featurettes promised us. It’s the perfect geekstravaganza for everyone of all ages, an awesome escapist from the Winter Dump Months for the young and the young-at-heart.

7. The Machine (full review)

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Ok so some of you might think because Toby Stephens is in this that this movie ends up in my top 10… and well, you won’t be entirely wrong 😉 But I really do think this is a worthy sci-fi that’s well-made, well-acted AND thought-provoking. Made with a shoestring budget (less than $2 mil), The Machine has more heart than its big budget sci-fi counterparts (think Elysium) which proves that it takes way more than big budget and big stars to make a memorable movie. The two leads, Stephens and Caity Lotz are impressive here, and their performances are able to overcome the flaws of the movie, and their scenes are what make this movie watchable over and over.

6. Locke (full review)

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It’s a testament of Tom Hardy‘s strong screen presence and Steven Knight‘s taut script and direction that this one-man show is gripping even when practically nothing happens on screen. The entire film takes place inside a car with Hardy’s Ivan Locke behind the wheel. It’s certainly one of the most unique cinematic experience that immerses you into the world of its protagonist. Visually it’s striking too, somehow Knight’s able to make highway driving look so dramatic and even artistic. If you ever had any doubt about Hardy’s acting prowess, well then I suggest you check this one out and prepare to be blown away.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel (full review)

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I don’t love everything Wes Anderson put out there, but this one works for me. It captivated me from the opening scene all the way until the end. It’s more fast-paced than his other films but has all the things you expect from Wes: the quirky characters, the perfect symmetry of every single scene, playful music, etc.  I was quite invested in the two lead characters, particularly Zero Mustafa (played by F. Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori), more than I’ve ever felt about previous Wes Anderson’s characters. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again.

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (full review)

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I adore the first film so I was a bit nervous this sequel would not live up to it. Well clearly I LOVE this one too as it made my top 5 so far. Despite the more complicated storyline, writer/director Dean DeBlois still made the adorable duo Toothless and Hiccup the central focus of the story. The additional character played by Cate Blanchett delves more into Hiccup’s family background, which makes you appreciate him and his father Stoick (Gerard Butler). With John Powell’s rousing score once again, this ranks high in my favorite animated features and would probably be among the nominees come award season!

3. Belle (full review)

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For a fan of period dramas, Amma Assante‘s sophomore feature has everything I could possibly want from this genre, and then some. Some critics call it ‘Jane Austen with a conscience’ as the protagonist’s story is set in the backdrop of slavery and racial injustice. Gugu Mbatha-Raw gracefully carries the film with her heartfelt performance, surrounded by a stellar cast that includes Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson. Sam Reid also impressed me with his performance as Belle’s unlikely confidante/love interest, I definitely would love to see both Mbatha-Raw and Reid get more prominent roles in the future. I can’t wait to own the Blu-ray that’s out next month, this one will definitely get a lot of play in my house!

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (full review)

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I happen to LOVE the first movie which my hubby and I have watched repeatedly. It’s rare to see a sequel that not only lives up to the original but manages to be even better! Billed as a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a superhero movie’, The Winter Soldier delivers on that front and gives us something that’s genuinely intriguing and massively entertaining. I LOVE espionage movies so the story definitely appeals  to me, but of course it also has the exciting action sequences that’s the bread-n-butter of any superhero blockbuster. It’s filled with adrenaline-pumping geek-gasm scenes without being banal or vapid. Chris Evans‘ much more confident in the role which makes him even more watchable, and Robert Redford + Anthony Mackie are great additions to an already-fantastic cast. This one has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero!

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (full review

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It took me a while to decide between The Winter Soldier and X-Men: DOFP as my #1 pick, but after much deliberations, this one wins by a slim margin. I give this one an edge because the time travel aspect and the back-and-forth across multiple dimensions are tough to pull off, but Bryan Singer did a tremendous job making it all work beautifully. I have a soft spot for the X-Men franchise and despite the disappointing The Wolverine, this is one of my most-anticipated films of 2014! It certainly did NOT disappoint. Glad to see Singer back at the helm for this one, after relinquishing his directorial efforts to other directors for X-Men 3 and X-Men: First Class. Now, I’m a big fan of the latter and a lot of the emotional high notes of that first prequel are carried over here as well. Emotional drama and complex relationship are mixed together well with witty humor and thrilling action. Similar to Nolan’s Batman films in some ways, it’s character & plot-driven punctuated by exhilarating action sequences. As far as superhero movies go, this one has everything that makes going to the movies so gratifying.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These aren’t stellar by any means, but it was pretty entertaining and worth-seeing. So yeah, I’d recommend these for a rental!

 


WORST of the year so far:

I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid what’s poised to be stinkers like I Frankenstein, Blended, Pompeii, Tammy,etc. but I wish I hadn’t wasted my precious 2+ hours on these two!


So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2014 so far. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀