My lists for 20102009, 2008, 2007.

Honorable Mentions: Norwegian Ninja. Horrible Bosses. Warrior. The Debt. The Descendents. Pearl Jam 20. Source Code. Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Amigo. Beginners. Bridesmaids. Rampart. X-Men: First Class. Fast Five. Thor. The Adjustment Bureau. The Company Men. Attack the Block.
Films I Missed: Kill List. We Need to Talk About Kevin. A Dangerous Method. War Horse. We Bought a Zoo. Young Adult. The Guard. Albert Nobbs. My Week with Marilyn.

Also, for selfish and obvious reasons I very well could have put Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark as numbers 1-15.


Nick on The Last Circus:

I love this movie to death. Álex de la Iglesia is a filmmaker whose ceiling may never be known, and this movie is a good example on the weird unpredictability to his method. The Last Circus is comic, tragic, funny, scary, poignant sad, and weird as hell. Two clowns, one sad and another happy, go to war over a woman and many lives are ruined in the process. On that alone it’s worth a look but throw in a country at war, a culture defining itself, and… have I mentioned clowns with automatic weapons?

A bizarre and brilliant work. Álex de la Iglesia is coming at you America. Hard. I have it on good authority he has an amazing project lined up.

Current rating: 3.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Inventive filmmaking, terrific on-key performances, fantastic production design, and a very keen sense of identity.

Performance to savor: Antonio de la Torre. Fierce. Sexy. And what a ruined face. Pull Quote: “The best warring clowns movie since the Earth cooled!”

Buy it from us.


Nick on The Adventures of Tintin:

All of those shitty motion capture movies were worth it.

If this is where the medium is going, then it’s all worth it. Without the constraints of reality and ridiculous production budgets, two visionary filmmakers (and a few pretty visionary British writers) have made a truly old school adventure that marries the worlds of Indiana Jones, Buster Keaton, and the finest pulp in history into a very fun and very pure bit of escapism.

I don’t know how people can’t not love this.

Current rating: 3.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Beautiful design, a great canvas for Spielberg and Jackson to run wild, a true sense of adventure, and old school charm.

Performance to savor: Serkis. His voice doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. Pull Quote: “This Spielberg guy may have a future.”

Tag Team Review.

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Nick on The Ides of March:

George Clooney does it again, showcasing not only a great eye for material (in this case the play Farragut North) but also continued growth as a writer and director and a savvy eye towards casting. This is Ryan Gosling’s year, with two great performances in two very different films, and watching him square off with Clooney (against type deliciously), Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Marisa Tomei is a joy.

The film isn’t a slam dunk but when it’s good it’s very good and I feel it’s one that will only grow upon repeat viewings. There’s something beneath the surface here that is so icky and oily (not unlike Shame in some bizarre way) that it can’t not enhance the overall energy of the movie over time. I eat films like this up and George Clooney has a way of really adding to his resume in interesting and oddly satisfying ways. A companion piece to a few other movies of his that have only gotten better over time. Films like Michael Clayton and Good Night and Good Luck.

Idealism has rarely been murdered with more class.

Current rating: 3.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great performances, a smart sense of itself, a sneaky approach towards important subjects, and the ever-talented Clooney pulling the strings (with Grant Heslov).

Performance to savor: Gosling. It’s tough being the glue with all these scenery chewers afoot. Pull Quote: “Politics doesn’t have to be shitty to watch!”

Buy the Blu from us.


Nick on 13 Assassins:

A brutal and great movie. You want to talk about an overcrowded genre, especially in Asian cinema, it’s revenge flicks. They’re everywhere. So many are built on the bedrock of samurai culture that it’s easy to lose track.

Then this comes along and defines amazing characters, showcases tremendous action, great sense of timing for both humor and violence, and often blows the mind with how fresh and cool it is. This is a movie out of time.

And it’s timeless. See it if you haven’t. In fact, buy it right now from the link below. You will not regret it.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: A perfect marriage of all things. Were it not so familiar just by association and how overstuffed the genre is, it’s be right near the top of this list.

Performance to savor: Kôji Yakusho. Pull Quote: “Lest we forget that Takashi Miike isn’t just a button pusher, here’s a damn near masterpiece!”

Buy it from us.

Nick on Rise of the Planet of the Apes:

A very good movie. Even though it has a few flaws, it’s a massive winner. 2011 is the home to quite a few good mainstream tentpole movies. This spot on my list could have gone to X-Men: First Class or possibly even Thor (a film I unabashedly love), but this is the one with the longest potential life and a true beginning. I hope.

It’s a daunting task to make a movie like this. We’re too cynical and the franchise was never really the bastion for quality. This is an achievement both creatively, scientifically, and technically.

This is a template for how to tackle a big budget movie. Don’t insult the intelligence of an audience and don’t be afraid to embrace things which on the surface could be potentially loony.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Amazing marriage of tech and performance, a smart approach to dangerously cheesy material, an eye for hard sci-fi.

Performance to savor: Serkis.This is a performance worthy of awards. Pull Quote: “The best Planet of the Apes movie by far.”

CHUD Review.

Buy it from us.


Nick on Margin Call:

In 1990 this film would have gotten a wide release and been beloved by many. In 2011 it fought for a release and has to be one that people discover much later through home video or a lucky bit of late night television kismet. Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Jeremy Irons, and even Zachary Quinto rock it in this fictional story of the financial crisis in its early days. Not a crime flick per se, but also not a cautionary tale about greed either. It’s just a very good drama with thriller elements about a very long and costly day in the life of a trading company.

Remarkable stuff, especially considering the material.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great ensemble work (even from the plastic alien face of Demi Moore), confident direction, and a crackerjack approach to dense and potentially boring subject matter.

Performance to savor: Jeremy Irons. Pull Quote: “A perfect flick to watch between Wall Street, The Insider, and All the President’s Men.”

Buy it from us.

Nick on Shame:

This is not the kind of movie you can watch a lot. Nor would you want to. it’s uncomfortable. Painful. On the surface one would guess the sexual nature of the material would have ancillary value for an audience but Steve McQueen and his muse Michael Fassbender make you pay for every moment of it in this searing tale of sexual addiction.

But it’s fantastic stuff and further proof that Fassbender is rapidly becoming the premier actor of his generation.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Two excellent performances, uncompromising direction, and a special coldness director Steve McQueen ought to patent.

Performance to savor: Michael Fassbender. Pull Quote: “A harrowing story about addiction.”

Buy the soundtrack from us.


Nick on Hanna:

This is a classic.

Joe Wright’s approach to action takes a very tired concept and works utter magic with it thanks in no small part to career best work by Eric Bana and the burgeoning talent that is Saiorse Ronan.

Great music. Great editing. Great tempo.

Plus there’s great supporting work here from Jason Flemyng, Olivia Williams, and a host of other global talents. The result is a film that deserves to be on the short list of great action flicks, great assassin flicks, and genre defining marriages of material and talent.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: A great balance of performance, action, editing, music, and material helps elevate an oddly constructed movie about a killer teen into something almost transcendent.

Performance to savor: Eric Bana. Pull Quote: “Hanna is so much better than her sisters.”

Buy it from us.

Nick on I Saw The Devil:


Jee-woon (The Good, The Bad, and The Weird) Kim’s movie is an uncompromising tale of obsession and one of the best serial killer movies of all time. It’s vicious, but it takes the concept and runs wild with it, and the resulting film is oddly engaging and entertaining considering the sickness onscreen. It’s a winner, and even though there are some really terrible moments it’s evidence that there are no rules.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Excellent filmmaking, iconic leading performances, and an uncompromising balance of chills and violence that manages not to feel exploitative, which is a virtue indeed in a world where films try too hard to be brutal for all the wrong reasons.

Performance to savor: Min-sik Choi. Pull Quote: “Human life has rarely been treated with such disregard”

Buy it from us.


Nick on The Artist:

This film made me giddy as hell. Watching the artistry (for lack of a better term) onscreen and the love in which silent cinema is embraced is enough to justify a viewing purely on a craft level but the heart and absolutely stunning lead performance by Jean Dujardin takes it to another level entirely. Michel Hazanavicius has crafted a celebration of cinema and though it reeks of award magnetism, it’s pure and perky enough to deserve it. Funnily enough, it’s a soulmate to The Adventures of Tintin in how it reminds us how the more things change, the more we need to embrace things that came long before.

A classic, and beautiful. And surprisingly exhilarating and entertaining.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Perfect craft, amazing music, performances to savor, and a forever unfolded bouquet of delightful moments. And Malcolm McDowell.

Performance to savor: Jean Dujardin. Pull Quote: “Don’t be afraid to be swept away!”

CHUD Review.

Buy the soundtrack from us.

Nick on Tree of Life:

I don’t purport to “get” this film, but I am in awe of much of it. There’s obviously the beautiful and mindbending journeys that the film takes us on. Things we’ve never seen before and things we’ve never seen from this perspective before, but there’s also much more at play.

And possibly much less. No other film this year asks as much or as little from its viewer in creative an immersive and transportive experience that taps into places in the mind and film palate that are atrophied.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Rich, mystifying, beautiful, odd, and it’s operating on a much different level than anything else in decades.

Performance to savor: Brad Pitt. Pull Quote: “That this film exists is majestic, that it manages to improve upon that fact is astounding!”

CHUD Video Review & Spoof.


Nick on Contagion:

This is how mainstream thrillers ought to be. There’s no bullshit here, just great performances and filmmaking that doesn’t try to over explain what’s happening. Steve Soderbergh had better give up on his threats to retire from filmmaking because his approach and energy is vital to the form. He and Christopher Nolan serve almost as two sides of a coin that is keeping English speaking event cinema fresh, almost all by themselves.

A great flick made even better by its IMAX presentation in theaters.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Soderbergh’s lens and editing perfectly matched with possibly the best score of the year.

Performance to savor: Jude Law. Pull Quote: “Holy cow does this wipe out most plague movies.”

CHUD Review.

Buy it from us.


CHUD Video Review & Spoof.

Nick on Drive:

A film out of time.

It’s as if Michael Mann and William Friedkin had an illegitimate slavic child who traveled through time with modern actors and made a quintessential late 80’s aggro action flick.Nicholas Winding Refn absolutely crucifies this genre flick, delivering great performances, acutely conceived music, and a special sense of style to make Drive a film we will be watching and loving until we are dead elevator-smashed bodies.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great acting work, music, direction, and writing coupled with a compelling and iconic leading performance and unmatchable supporting work.

Performance to savor: Albert Brooks. Pull Quote: “How’s Christina Hendricks’ fall lookin’?”

CHUD Review.

Buy it from us.


Nick on Moneyball:

If given The Social Network treatment, this may be my favorite movie of all time but even with a director with a little more commercial approach this adaptation of Michael Lewis’ seminal book is a powerful and utterly rewatchable telling of trying to win in the unfair game of baseball. The sense of humor, way that the sport is encapsulated, and how fun it all is onscreen is truly an achievement.

It’s not exactly the book, but it’s awesome.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Pitt at his most engaging, Jonah Hill bringing his A-game, and superb writing that distills a great book and makes it cinematic.

Performance to savor: Brad Pitt. Pull Quote: “Yet another great baseball movie.”

CHUD Review.

CHUD Video Review.

Buy it from us.

Nick on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

This is unsexy a #1 film as there can be but something tells me that this is the one that will have the longest impact, live the longest in its genre, and possibly kickstart an amazing oddball franchise that marries great fiction and great filmmaking. In a way it’s like the spy version of Master and Commander; a franchise for grown-ups. It may never happen, but Thomas Alfredson’s movie is a major work masquerading as an adaptation of pop lit.

Current rating: 4.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Assured direction. Impeccable casting. Great period design and costuming. Phenomenal source material. Perfect timing for the antidote to the typical modern thriller.

Performance to savor: Gary Oldman. Pull Quote: “They do make ’em like they used to!”

CHUD Review.

Buy the book from us.


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