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I personally don’t feel like I’m qualified to define what makes a movie the “best”.

Film, like all art, is subjective. Saying something is the “best” implies (at least, to me) something everyone agrees with. Well, I don’t think I can defend what I think is the best, but I can easily defend what I LIKE.

Earlier last week I wrote a statement that read “Sometimes I judge a movie because I think the 9 year old version of me would flipped for it.”  I want you to keep that in mind when you look at my top ten favorites of last year.

Wow, last year. 2012 was quiet a year for movies. An abundant of riches of a wide array of films. While figuring out my top ten, I seriously had to make some hard decisions.

First, I’m gonna give you my top four runner ups. Trust me, some of these jumped back and fourth in the top ten. All of these I saw only once, so in due time, when I see them again, maybe one of the top ten movies will be bumped off.  Any other year they would have easily been in the top ten, but man, it was just that kind of year for me. So, starting with…

Les Miserables– Stunning performances from Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks and Eddie Radmayne, the film really brings the famous Broadway musical to big epic life. The songs and numbers are spectacular, but sadly Russell Crowes performance as Javert isn’t perfect (though I don’t hate like the rest of the internet does) it does hold back the film to go higher on the list. That being said, I still have the songs and numbers stuck in my head so I can’t wait to revisit it again.

Argo– Ben Affleck gave me the kind film that I miss seeing. Smart, tense, mature and exciting. The final sequence was tension filled to the brim. This is my favorite of Afflecks directed films, and I can’t help to think he’s only getting started.

Wreck-it Ralph– The Pixar film I didn’t get this year (sorry Brave…you looked very pretty though!) The film surprised me how emotionally invested I got with Ralph and more surprising…Vanellope Von Schweetz. Sarah Silverman gives one of her best performances voicing Vanellope, and her story really surprised me.

Cloud Atlas– It’s big budget art, and I have to respect that. I love the fact that I know that I lot of people hated it as much as the people who loved it. I couldn’t help but be impressed. The scope, the performances from Tom Hanks, Bae Doo-Na, and Ben Whishaw. I also dearly loved how they edited this film. It constantly challenges you to pay attention, to not look away. Look away, you might miss something.

Ok…here we go, my top ten….

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10.) Chronicle

Surprises are nice. I love surprises. Surprises for films being released are hard to come by nowadays. When I saw the trailer to this, I had very little interest in watching another found footage movie. Here comes the surprise, it’s not. It’s wants to be better then that. It’s got characters I legitimately give a damn about.  It’s wonderfully directed. It’s smartly written. The acting is great. It’s a fresh take on the this subgenre of “superpowered” people movies/tv shows we’ve been getting lately, and most of us didn’t knew this thing existed until a few weeks before it came out. It’s made $64,314,970 in the US and Canada alone. Like I said, I love surprises.

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9.) The Raid: Redemption-

Straight up, no bones about it, this a modern action movie classic. BRILLIANT! AMAZING! FIGHTS! A simple (but effective) story. Great directing and editing. The score kicks ass. Oh, and did I mention how GOD DAMN AMAZING THE FIGHTS ARE?!?! This is pure adrenaline movie making, the kind that they don’t make as much as they used to.  You see this if all you want to see is spectacle and action, and you will NOT be disappointed.

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8.) Moonrise Kingdom

While I always like Wes Anderson films, I haven’t always loved every single one. This the first time I truly connected with one of his movies since Rushmore, which is my all time favorite one of  his. The quirks that makes Wes…well…Wes, truly shine, making this strange coming of age/love story  a special movie.  Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward give remarkable performances as Sam and Suzy. Loved Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Bruce Willis.  Loved the music.  It’s the most Wes Anderson-y movie that Wes has made, and I loved every second of it.

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7.) The Cabin in the Woods-

Being too clever can be a dangerous thing for a film. It can sometimes feel like the filmmakers are trying too hard to impress you as oppose to just tell the story.  So when a movie does BOTH, it’s an exciting thing. Director/co-writer Drew Goddard and co-writer/producer Joss Whedon (hmmm….that name sounds familiar) crafted a movie that feels both familiar yet different. OH, and it’s gory, hilarious, exciting and so much fun. This has to have one of the best third acts of ANY movie this year. Just a blast. We horror fans should feel so lucky to have this film.

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6.) Skyfall

The Bond film that reminds us all why we go and watch Bond films. It blends the aesthetic that made the Daniel Craig era of Bond so appealing to the new fans yet brings back the fun of the original films. It’s also one of the most BEAUTIFUL looking films of the year, thanks to Roger Deakins amazing cinematography.  Javier Bardem also kills as one of the best Bond villains in the series history. I now can’t wait to see the next Bond. A great film to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  Now…..BRING BACK BLOFELD!!

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5.) Sleepwalk With Me

Hilarious, real, and mature. Writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia crafted a first film that many would call Woody Allen-esque. I won’t, I’m calling it Birbigliastic….or not, you can ignore that. As I wrote in my Blu Ray review of the film: “Birbiglia crafted a film that wonderfully balances the humor and the drama. It feels so effortless clever in how it allows us to understand Matt (the character that Mike plays) and really get into his headspace. It would be very easy to accidentally have us dislike Matt, what with the some of the choices he makes throughout the film. Thankfully, the smart writing from Birbiglia (along with co-writers Ira Glass, Joe Birbiglia and Seth Barrish) never falters, and I remained invested with Matt’s story…even when he messes up.” Since owning the Blu Ray I realized I ended up watching it 4 times that week.  I look forward to Mikes next film, especially since his first film that is as good as this.

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4.) Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino makes movies. No shit right? But you don’t understand…he makes…MOVIES. Movies that know how to BE movies. Films that firmly live in the fictional world they live in. Characters that move to music that, while they shouldn’t know there’s music, seemingly feels like they DO know there’s an awesome song being played for them as they walk and stand. Characters that know what they should be doing in the genre they’re in, but refuse to act the typical way they are suppose to act in the genre of film they’re in.  Tarantino writes dialogue you wanna memorize. He makes films that you wish had a 100 sequels/spin offs, just so you can spend more time with the characters. He helps give actors memorable roles that they clearly are having fun playing.  He creates soundtracks that you wanna own. He creates moments that he knows will get a crowd excited. Tarantino makes MOVIES, and I love him for doing so. Django Unchained is no different. He made another badass film, and I am dying to see it again.

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3.) Looper

Had the film been ONLY about Bruce Willis chasing Joe Gordon-Levitt in the near future, that would have been enough. BUT, it’s not just that. It ask big questions about morality, and it does so in the only way a Sci-fi film can. It does it originally too. Writer/director Rian Johnson continues to make films that are more then what it seems and he never fails to impress. The big winner for the film to me is definitely  Joseph Gordon-Levitts incredible performance as Joe. Never being a parody of Bruce Willis, he brilliantly takes the essence of Willis and creates a character that is all his own. Add that to the great storytelling, action, and exciting world building that Johnson crafted, Looper is another unique notch in Johnsons film catalog.

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2.) Beast of the Southern Wild

This film lives in it’s own world. It’s a larger then life fable. It’s emotionally gut wrenching. It’s sensational filmmaking that takes you on a trip. You will meet characters that are fascinating, strange, but utterly compelling. You will see one of the most charismatic performances of the year from the 9 year old actress, Quvenzhane Wallis. You will hear a score the tells as much story as the images on the screen (and it’s my personal favorite score of the year, give a little listen to it here.) After I saw the film, it didn’t leave me for days. If you like to watch movies to be transported, then I suggest to take a trip to this film.

and finally my number one pick is….

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1.) Battleship-

Now, I know…this film gets a lot of shit, but …hear me out. I truly thinkBWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I couldn’t do it! I can’t keep a straight face about that. Ok…for reals, my number one is pretty obvious…..

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1.) Marvels The Avengers

This movie is the film I’ve dreamed of seeing since childhood. I got into movies the same time I started reading comics. I grew up watching/reading the good and the bad superhero stories. I love this genre too much. This movie bottles what makes reading all those comics that I’ve read and finally put it on the big screen. This film is pure joy to me. Any flaws it has in it’s script, it goes away by charm and personality. As a Joss Whedon fan, I’m happy to see him make something that connected to not only the comic fans, but to everyone else too. I’m happy to see a cast that brings it’s “A” game. I’m happy that it’s hopeful and bright. It’s a crowd pleaser that makes watching a movie in a room full of strangers a great experience. I love it when you and the rest of the audience is laughing together, clapping together all because your sharing this one big movie. It’s the reason why I saw the thing 10 times (?!) in the theaters this year. I want to relive that excitement again and again. Those are the kind of movies I grew up loving, and I am glad to know I can still feel that way about seeing a flick.

Whew….2012. That was quiet good. So 2013, lets see what you got, but I’m not gonna lie, 2012’s movies were quiet a doozy.

And there were so many more that came out that I HAVEN’T seen but I still want too:
Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jeff who lives at Home, The Master, End of Watch, Seven Psychopaths, Lincoln, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Holy Motors, Silver Linning Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty.

This list could STILL change.

2013, not to put any pressure on ya, but you have a hard act to follow.

How about you guys? What’s on your list?

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This past weekend I got the chance to see the Indonesian action film, The Raid.

Needless to say, if you know me at all….you know that this film is completely my cup of tea. It’s the kind of action film I crave. Amazing fights, tight story, likeable heroes, hateful villains, kick ass score (which I am listening to right now as I write this) and wonderful direction.

So of course…..Hollywood wants to remake it.

So lets ask this question, the question everyone ask when they hear a film is going to be remade…WHY?

For the Studio, the answer is simple: it’s got an easy premise to redo and it’s got some name recognition.

Ok, I get that, but can I explain that isn’t really enough to remake this movie?

What’s there to remake? The premise isn’t such a high concept idea that you can easily see another take on it. This isn’t an Infernal Affairs to The Departed situation. It’s main appeal is that it’s simple. It’s a reason to have fights.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that The Raid works because of execution.

The way that writer/director/editor, Gareth Evans , and his star/fight choreographer, Iko Uwais, have crafted this film with razor sharp action movie accuracy is what’s blowing people away from this film.

It’s clear that Gareth Evans is from the school of showing clear fight geography,  a class that a few Hollywood directors should retake…or take if they haven’t yet. :::coughGaryRoss:::coughMichaelBay:::coughEVERYOTHERHOLLYWOODDIRECTOR…cough

My suggestion? Instead of remaking The Raid, learn from it. Watch it a few times, and listen to the audience. See  and hear what’s getting them excited.

Hollywood used to be the home of high adrenaline filled action films! Your telling me there isn’t a single script in the piles and piles of scripts you guys have underneath all the remakes,reboots, prequels, sequels, comic book movies, and TV show adaptions that you can’t retro fit to have your own The Raid?

I’m sure you do. You’re just not looking hard enough.

Sigh…your not even listening to me are you? That’s ok, I’ll just watch The Raid again.

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This film surprised me, and not so much in terms of what happened in the story(I already read the book). What surprised me was the approach director Gary Ross and his team did with the film. This is a big budgeted sci-fi film that somehow also has an indy movie aesthetic. It’s epic and fantastic, but  grounded and intimate. It’s exciting and thrilling, but heartfelt and touching. What I’m basically saying, is that this a good movie.

First , let me go back to the aesthetic and tone of this film. It would have been easy to make this a showy sci-fi film. To really revel into the design of  The Captial and the other Districts. To make the costume design and the production design a huge focus (looking at you IMMORTALS) but Ross doesn’t want you to focus on that. He wants you to focus on Katniss, and her story.Ross’s matter of fact approach to the world of Panem is confident and non distracting. It feels lived in, even when the budget shows, (the CGI work in this film is a little shoddy) you still buy into this world.

Of course, for us to focus on Katniss, he needed the right actress. Jennifer Lawrence shines in this film.  This is the film that will push her further as a true movie star. She’s compelling, subtle, and straight up likeable in the film. She is also a believable action heroine; tough  and brave, yet never loosing her femininity.

The rest of the cast does well too. Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz all deliver in the roles of Haymitch, Effie, and Cinna.  I also quiet enjoyed Stanley Tucci as the over the top Ceasar Flickerman, and as well as Wes Bentley giving a wonderfully nuanced performance as Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker for the games.

As an adaptation, I’m also surprised how close to the book they where, with very minor changes. I also felt the changes were made for good reasons. For example, how Katniss  got the Mocking Jay pin is different in the film, but it adds a nice emotional impact for the adaptation and I think it works great. I also quiet liked the added scenes of Seneca with President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland (who brings a quiet menace to the role.) .

The action in the film was surprisingly as brutal as the book, being able to be exciting with out being over the top.

Try as they might, the cave scene drags the whole middle section down ,which is how I also felt was the problem with the cave scene in the book (click here to read my previous blog about the book) and, yeah, I don’t like Peeta.

Josh Hutcherson does a great job playing Peeta, and I have no issues with his performance, but I overall just don’t find the character that great. Just like in the book, it feels like he is mostly there to give Katniss another obstacle.

The Hunger Games has a huge fanbase, this time out, not only is it a film that I think (most of) the fans of the book will be happy with, but I think it’s also an exciting and smart film for non-fans to jump in and enjoy.

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As the  years go by, and as I get older, sometimes it’s harder get into the holidays spirit.

But if I ever need to get that instant jolt of Christmas Cheer,well then I look to these flicks to help me. And no, this is not going to be one of those list in which I put movies that are SET on Christmas but are not actually about Christmas (I.E. Die Hard, Gremlins, Lethal Weapon etc.) Nope, this will be a list of legit Christmas movies.

Truth be told, it doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I’ve seen  at least a few of these movies, and it certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I saw a full viewing of my number 1 movie.

5.)

Director Jon Favreau was able to use Will Farrell’s most famous (and now most overused) schtick , a manchild, and made it into this generations first iconic holiday character. Nearly a decade later, ELF only gets better for me. It’s quotable, funny as hell, sweet but yet has a enough edge to make the adults not roll their eyes.

Here is the scene that I quote every time I think about this movie.

4.)

Funny enough, I wasn’t a big fan of this when I first saw it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but I was a bit disappointed, thinking that it was TOO many stories. But as the years go on and the more I watch it, the more I get suckered in to it and more I fell for it. You gotta love the cast too. It’s pretty great seeing so many great actors, most of them known for their dramatic roles, and to play in something like this was just fun. You can tell that they where having fun.   And for me, it’s all about this scene.

How can your day not brighten up after hearing that score?

3.)

For a tale that gets told over….and over….and over….and over……this version still one works on me. Maybe it’s because I’m such a Bill Murray nut. While it’s fun to watch their modern take on Charles Dickens classic, the end scene is what makes it such a big deal for me.

Murray’s speech is great, and Murray performance is wonderful. It’s my favorite of the “Scrooge realizes” moments in movies. It’s the reason why it’s so high on this list.

Oh, and this bit…

“Put a little love in Your Heart”  is my favorite part of the whole ending. God, I would have loved to have seen this movie in the theaters when it came out.  To be in the audience when Murray is asking them to join along. I hope people joined in with Murray, because this was still a magical moment even for me when I was watching at home.

2.)

A cliched answer? Perhaps, but I have a reason.

Back in 2005, I took a job doing sound for a play version of It’s A Wonderful Life. I knew the director, and he asked me to do it. I said yes, mostly because I was flattered by the idea that someone wanted ME specifically. I then realized that I never did sound for a theater production before.What the hell was I doing?

So, the week before rehearsals, I asked one of my friends who DID do sound for theater to give me a crash course on the mixing board. It seemed easy enough, and after a few weeks of rehearsal, I pretty much got it. The whole time during rehearsal I played it like I knew what I was doing, and tried my hardest to not mess up. Even still, we did a two night performance of the show, I didn’t miss a single cue. I apparently was so good, when I told the rest of the cast that I actually never did it before, they were all stunned! It was a pretty proud moment for me.

So thanks to the play, I got to know the story of It’s A Wonderful Life really well…but the truth is I actually haven’t seen the film yet! That Christmas eve, my brother let me borrow his copy of the film and I finally watched it. There’s something about seeing it for the first time that you never forget. Your heart swells, you gut gets punched, and you go along for the ride with George Bailey. It will always be my personal favorite Jimmy Stewart performance. So yes, I love the film dearly and for me, personally, I will always associate it to the memory of accomplishing a goal, I just have to try hard enough.

1.)

Flat out, it ain’t Christmas, unless I’m watching a full viewing of  A Christmas Story at least twice!

It’s that movie that will always be there for me. That sure thing. That movie that will take me back to my childhood, no problem what so ever.

It’s a movie that gets the whole child mentality of wanting THE gift. The gift that, when your a kid, will make your whole year.

But it’s not just getting into the mind set of being a kid that I love. I love that how for a Christmas movie, it’s a bit grimy, unpolished, and just a tad bit dark.

And when the flick it is on TV, everything is fresh again. The characters are still great. The writing is still sharp. And this scene  still gets me every time.

Fra ra ra ra ra indeed.

BONUS PICK!

I actually haven’t seen this in years, but I wanted to talk about this for a second. You see, whats cool about this film is that, for all the MILLION different versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL that they made, this was my first exposure of the tale. It was also my introduction to Scrooge McDuck, who I love now thanks to Ducktales.

And while I’ve seen many versions of this tale (ahem, look at number  3 again.) this one will have a special memory for me because THIS was how I was introduced to it. Thanks Mickey!

Well, that is it everyone. I hope you all have a very Happy Holidays!

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When it concerns current popular books, I’m really behind. I’m so movie obsessed I tend to forget about books. It’s not like I don’t like reading, on the contrary, I LOVE reading! For some reason I read less and less books through out the years. So when I first heard about Harry Potter, Twilight, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games my reaction was always a giant “never heard of it.” Of course, all of these books have been out for years and have amass a huge fanbase…and I was left behind.

Well, late this year I decided to do a better job of catching up on my reading.  I’ve been doing pretty good so far. Read some Sherlock Holmes, the great, fun as hell book READY PLAYER ONE, and the first of The Dresden Files book, STORM FRONT.

Then came The Hunger Games. Ahh yes, the current young adult novel series that is ALSO a world wide sensation (aren’t they all? 🙂 ) Well, the movie adaptation is coming out soon, so instead watching the flick without reading the book , I’ve decided nows the time to jump in.

I can see why this book is popular. I may not get why TWILIGHT is popular (That will be the last time I will mention that series from here on out. I know it has it’s fans but I am just simply not one of them. Lets move on.) but this book, I totally get why people love it.  The characters are good, the world building is fantastic, it’s well paced(for the most part) and the action is sensational.

Katniss is a great character, and a good role model for readers. She’s tough, smart, has a good heart, but she can make mistakes, and she’s short tempered.  I love that she’s got these great qualities but there’s still enough flaws to make her relatable.

I  love the adult characters. Haymitch, Cinna…hell, even Effie. I think Collins does a great job of hinting the deeper characterizations of the adults. Sure, on the surface they are following the rules of The Capital, but I can sense the inner rebellion the characters have.

Oh, Peeta. Peeta, Peeta, Peeta…I really don’t know how I feel about him. Since the book is told from the point of view from Katniss, I don’t quiet get him yet. I always feel cold after reading his scenes. Maybe I will like him more by the second book, but as of right now, I really don’t know.

I’m not particularly fond of all the scenes that take place in the cave. I felt the flow of the book slammed it’s brakes, as it seemed like we where in that cave for a long time.

But, the when the action came back in, it was insanely well written. I see every beat, every moment. Very exciting stuff.

At the end of the book I instantly saw how this can be made into a great flick.

And today, we get a good look at what to expect from the movie version of the film….

Looking good so far. The tone feels right on, and I’m digging how the future world looks.

I also hope this trailer convinces people on Jennifer Lawrence, but looking at some of the comments from my Facebook friends, some of them are apparently less convinced.  That’s a shame, I think she’s selling it really well .  I’m a Jennifer Lawrence fan (and believe that the film, Winters Bone , is all the proof you need) and I truly think she has all the qualities to play this role. Her moment in the Reaping scene was quiet good.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was the only casting I wasn’t sure about, but I think his delivery (granted, the only line he has in the trailer) surprisingly worked on me.  I’m not totally convinced yet, but I’m not writing him off either.

I’m curious to see if the trailer works on somebody who never read the book.  Right now, I’m down. Even if I never read the book, it still looks like it could be a cool sci-fi/action film.

May the film odds be in it’s favor when it comes out March 23, 2011.

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Sometimes you just need to watch an old favorite.

Today was one of those days where I needed a comfort film. You know the kind I’m talking about.

A film that you’ve seen a million times, yet you know it brings you back to a place that makes you happy.

It sorta funny what films become those movies for me. They sorta sneaked up into my life when I wasn’t looking and all of a sudden I see a movie that represents a part of me.

High Fidelity struck a big chord with me when I saw in 2000(yikes! 11 years ago?) The obvious thing I noticed was how funny it was. I mean, it’s pretty damn quotable (Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?) but what struck me the most was the dialogue.

Whenever I hear geek talk in movies or T.V. it always feels so inaccurate, but in High Fidelity, geek talk has never felt so authentic. Sure these guys are talking about music, but their geek talk is EXACTLY the kind of discussions I have with my friends. Making list, daydreaming about hanging out with creative types, bitch and hate on things that are not of our taste, the need to have endless conversations about the crap we’re passionate about, and even being a bit snobby when we see other geeks who are “worse” then us.

I was so blown away by this. I may not be as big of a music guy as Rob(John Cusack) and the rest of the staff of  Championship Vinyl, but replace “music” with comics and or films and the discussions are exactly the same.Those were the things that drove me to this film.

I also wanted to be Rob when I was teenager. I wanted to have his attitude, his clothes (surprisingly I actually use to OWN the maroon jacket that Cusack wears throughout the film before I saw the movie. )and I wanted his ability to talk to women (I was a super shy teenager). I thought Rob was the coolest.

I of course eventually grew up and realized very quickly that Rob….was a mess. He’s selfish, he cheats, and wears his emotions on his sleeves. You would think that would ruin the movie for me, but surprisingly it made me love it more.

I may not want to be Rob any more, but I love that the story wasn’t afraid to give our protagonist huge gaping flaws. Obviously this was an element that novelist Nick Hornby (in which this film was based on his novelof the same name) had in his book, but Cusack’s own personal charm allows us to still like Rob…even when he’s an asshole. It’s one of Johns best roles (right next to his performance as Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything.)

And that’s really the cool thing to have a movie like this that I can revisit again and again every few years. I get something new each time. As a young adult I saw the cool “older” adult lifestyle and I wanted to be a part of that. As I’m now an “older” adult, I now saw a film about a guy who needs to stop making bad decisions and stop being so afraid to make the right ones. It’s a movie that still gives me things to appreciate and relate to.

That is why this film one of my all time favorite films of all time, and yes…obviously…it is in my TOP FIVE.

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If your a comic book fan, most likely your also a film fan. And if your like me, you grew up in a time when Superman and Batman had big budgeted films, yet you knew there was so much more to the comic book world then those two. So you dreamed and dreamed how they would make films out of your other favorite characters. We all had a version of a Spider-Man film, an X-Men film or even a Darkhawk film (ok…so I’m alone in that one, I know I am.) It took years, but eventually  they made those movies, and what a time it’s been for us comic book fans! Some of the adaptations were great and are as close as to what I dreamed of for that character, sometimes they made some twist to the characters and the mythology but work amazingly and sometimes they were GIANT fails. So in a way, Captain America was the last great one for me, and like many fans, I had dreamed up a Captain America film.

I wanted it to be to be in World War II. I wanted to see Cap lead armies. I wanted him to fight crazy, ridiculous , not realistic technology.

I think this image from this 1996 comic by John Bryne explains it all for me…

I wanted to see THAT , but as a movie.

So…you have to imagine my excitement when I was watching the Norway sequence of the film.

Outside of the Church, something huge roles up….A. BIG. ASS. TANK.

I squealed  like a little girl in my seat.

And that almost sums up my feeling about the whole film.

It was the Captain America film that I’ve dreamed of since I was 12. A blast of pure enjoyment. A film with a ton of heart. A film that refreshingly has no cynical bone in the it’s body.

It’s no surprise that the director of this was Joe Johnston. His film The Rocketeer (click here about my previous blog post about that film) had the same energy and tone, but I could tell that  he was able to let loose even more on this film. The film was full of style that fits the era, and I could sense the fun Johnston had with this film. German expressionist films for the Red Skull flashback, the recreation of 1930’s serial films for the Captain America “movies” with in the movie, and musicals for the USO scenes. God, do I love the USO montage. It not only is fun and entertaining, but it also helps build the mythology of Captain America, having him be a great national hero before he even truly fights. The action was also fun to watch, and for the first time I truly do get to see the power Captain America does have, as we see how fast, how strong and how agile he is the fight scenes. It truly is spectacular to see Cap in action.

But what would the director be without a strong cast and good characters? He thankfully had  a strong script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (with some uncredited help from my beloved Joss Whedon) and a fantastic cast.

Chris Evans blew me away here.   The cocky funny guy that Evans is  typically typecast as does not show up. The most important part of the whole film, and my favorite moments in the film, is the first act. Chris is so good in the pre-Cap sequences as Steve Rogers. The film works because how much I love Steve Rogers. Not Captain America mind you, Steve Rogers. The film nailed Steve Rogers as he was note perfect. His good heart, his courage, and his reasons to fight. When Erskine asked him “Do you want to kill Nazis?”, Rogers answer couldn’t have been more perfect.

Ah, and Erskine. Stanley Tucci is so wonderful in this part. His scene with Rogers before the procedure could have been a terribly clunky,filled with exposition. It wasn’t. Tucci played it perfectly, and really selling his relationship with Rogers and his reasoning as to why he picked him, and it makes his eventual faith even more painful when it happens.

Haylee Atwell’s Peggy Carter is…wow. She plays the “Marion” in the film, and she’s  instantly iconic. How could you not fall in love with her? She brings all the appropriate spunk and charisma need for this part, and most important believability.   Her scenes with Pre-Cap Steve were great and you can sense she started to care for him before he got tall and superheroic looking.  Her last scene at the end with Steve over the radio was appropriately heartbreaking and she sells it.

Tommy Lee Jones Col. Phillips is exactly what he needed to be….Tommy Lee Jones as a tough colonel, and he’s great. He’s tough but has a wicked dry sense of humor…the kind of role that Tommy Lee does in his sleep, and it’s perfect for this film. His interrogation scene with Toby Jones Dr.Armin Zola is one of the best uses of Tommy Lee Jones in the film.

The way they used Zola is also fun and unexpected. Zola was portrayed as a brilliant man who was starting to realize he was into deep in something he might not wanted to be in, and Toby Jones brought all the fun and subtle quirks that makes him something a bit more then the main villains toady.

Red Skull may not the most original bad guy, but when your villain is a super Nazi that believes that the Nazis aren’t doing enough then how much character motivation do you need? And for a film that’s as old fashioned as this, you need an old fashion bad guy and Hugo Weaving plays classic bad guy to the “T”. He’s just over the top for this film, and Hugo eats up the scenery with just the right vigor. And my god, the way how the Red Skull LOOKS just like a Jack Kirby drawing is amazing!

There are  times that when I watch a Marvel movie it FEELS like I was watching a MARVEL movie. In Spider-Man 2 when they recreated the SPIDER-MAN NO MORE page. In X-Men when Hugh Jackman first said “Bub.” In Iron Man, seeing him shoot repulsor beams out of his hands. Those are the moments that made me go,”Hey, I AM watching a Marvel movie!” For me it’s seeing the Red Skull perfectly translated from comic to movie that gave me that moment.

Lets not forget the Howling Commandos… though the film DID forget to call them that, hell, the film forgot to even name drop the characters, so there is THAT flaw in the film. That being said, there is a good amount of characterization economy as each actor in the Commandos (Neal McDonough as MOTHERFUCKIN DUM DUM Dugan to Kennith Choi.) does a great job giving each character personality and selling their relationships. My other nitpick is that I would watch a full MOVIE of Captain America and the Howling Commandos, but that’s because I love the montage of them kicking ass so damn much.

One character who IS named is James “Bucky” Barnes.  This is where things get interesting for me. When I used to daydream a Captain America film, I knew I didn’t want to have Bucky in the full costume. I wanted Bucky to be more like Cap’s best friend, not sidekick. No mask, and the name Bucky would be a nickname, not a code name. I didn’t want any Robin comparisons. Well…look what the filmmakers did! Sebastian Stan brings his fair amount charm in the part, and his chemistry with Evans is great. They truly sell that they’ve been friends for years. Also, great seeding of his possible future as the Winter Soldier.

I don’t want leave out Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. I first saw him in The Devils Double, which he was INCREDIBLE in, and I loved his Howard Stark! It’s fun to see how much Tony Stark must have gotten from his father, and Cooper has fun in the role.

The score by Alan Silvestri  might be one of the best he’s done in years. Evoking all the right emotions, it’s one of the best scores in any of the Marvel Movies thus far, and captures the spirit in all the right ways. Oh, and the Alan Menken’s USO song? Fucking brillant.

I’m going to go into the most spoiler part of the film which is the ending montage.

One of the important things I wanted to see in the film is to see the importance of Captain America to this alternate history. To see the effect of loosing Cap. To sell that there is a bit of tragedy to Captain America’s story.  That montage really nailed it. The way how the Commandos had a toast to their fallen comrade. Howard trying desperately to look for Rogers in the Arctic. Peggy looking at the picture of Steve before he was Cap. That shot of the kid with a homemade Captain America shield. It’s the perfect ending to this film. (Though I do wish the Nick Fury scene was held off AFTER the animated credits)

Simply put, I love this film. I have a huge affection for films that nostalgically look back at this era. I eat this stuff up, and I’m giddy that we got one that I think is so good.

I’m glad the film is doing well in the box office, because it seems like the film is working on the people that want a film about a TRUE hero.

The character in the comics is one of the last real heroes heroes, and he finally has a film that shows us why that can still be a great thing.

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