Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) – Anthony & Joe Russo

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Marvel titles just keep coming! And this entry into the Marvel-evrse shows that the world and its characters are continuing to grow, and that, as of yet, the studios aren’t sacrificing story for spectacle.

Chris Evans returns as super-soldier Steve Rogers in his first solo mission (that we’ve seen) since the events in New York depicted in The Avengers.

Still trying to find his way in the modern world, Rogers continues to see everything as right and wrong, a perception that seems decidedly out of step with the current state of the world and the governments and companies that are vying to run it.

As such, the further we get into the film, despite its set pieces, which are loud, and wonderfully orchestrated, the film’s darker and political undertones are there for examination from the start.

SHIELD is implementing three new top of the line helicarriers, with new repulsor lifts (thanks to Stark Industries), and they’ve all been outfitted with top of the line weaponry, but when information Rogers and Agent Natasha ‘Black Widow’ Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) recover  and share with SHIELD runner Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), indicate that there may be issues with the new project, called Insight, they soon find themselves in a political maelstrom as old enemies are revealed, and danger may be closer to home than they think.

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With the aid of veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), the group find themselves pitted against a massive enemy force, led by the mysterious Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

There are a couple of ideas in the film that are frightening because they can be perceived as true, current, and incredibly relevant, the stripping away of civil rights under the guise of protection against manufactured fear and using algorithms to predict future behavior and designate targets and threats before they become active. All of this comes down to the wresting of control from the people to a few ‘elite’ who want to have power, and set up their own manner of rule.

But the best villains are the ones that you can understand the motivations of, or their point of view, and the villains of this piece have one that resonates.

Yes, it’s all cloaked in a massive superhero story, but that fight for freedom is all there.

The chemistry between the two veterans, Rogers and Wilson adds a lot of camaraderie to the film, and the duo work really well together, both are survivors of war, and though generations apart, that shared experience forms a bond and its evident in the actors’ portrayal.

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Johansson has a larger role to play this time around, and we also get to see that while she may work with Captain America, she’s not above following her own directives and orders, as illustrated in the opening sequence.

Robert Redford, much like Jackson, brings an added gravitas to the film, and, honestly, it’s always good to see him on the big screen.

Also present in the film, Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill makes a couple of welcome appearances, and Jenny Agutter as a member of the World’s Council is back as well!

In terms of the expanding Marvel Universe and trivia, I loved the mention of Stephen Strange, a character we haven’t been introduced to yet, but Marvel fans no doubt recognized it… Doctor Strange. When enemies are being targeted, on the screen, for a moment, you can see not only the president being targeted, but Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Stark Tower. Natasha wears a necklace with an arrow, for her relationship with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Department H gets a mention, which though they are under different studios, ties the Avenger universe in with the X-Men universe (that’s where Wolverine got adamantium bonded to his skeleton). And of course, there’s a grave stone featured at the end of the film, with a very familiar piece of dialogue from another classic film, but I won’t share more than that, because, you know… spoilers.

This one is a lot of fun and can be watched just as a big action film, or one can delve into the political conspiracy thriller overtones and their reflections on society… either way, I enjoyed the hell out of it, as well as the Stan Lee, and Joss Whedon cameos…

Now the wait for Avengers: Age of Ultron really begins… Of course there is still Guardians of the Galaxy to help expand the Marvel Universe while we wait.

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Tim’s Top 12 of 2012

12 is my lucky number, so I figured that would be the number of films I pick for my favorites of 2012, it kind of works, because then that would be one each month, though, for anyone who reads my blog, you’re well aware that I’ve seen a lot more than 12 movies this year!

the-expendables-2-poster12) The Expendables 2 – It’s loud cheesy 80s action fun with some of the biggest action icons to have ever been assembled for a movie – of course it’s going to end up on my list. For sheer mindless, good-times entertainment, this is a film series that after 2 films cannot be beat, and with rumors of a third one in prep (with Jackie Chan joining up) it looks like they may be around for a while as well. This time around Stallone and his band, including the ever-cool Jason Statham, is joined by Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The action is loud, noisy, bloody, and oh so much fun!

Seeing this in a theater with a bunch of people who love action movies as much as I do was a lot of fun, not to mention stars Terry Crews and Randy Couture were in the audience with us.

I will be the first one to say this series of films will never win any of the big industry awards, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are just good fun, and I cannot wait for the next one!

hermaster11) Her Master’s Voice – This was the first documentary that I saw at 2012′s Hot Docs, and I think because of that it will always have a special place in my heart. We chatted with the film’s subject and director, Nina Conti, about ventriloquism, her mentor, her sidekick Monkey. Up til that point I had never seen any artist lay themselves out so bare in front of the camera, all of her armour comes down as she carries on conversations with herself though her puppets.

The film follows Nina on her journey to Kentucky to an annual ventriloquist convention, while standing at a cross-roads of her life, deciding whether she still wants to carry on with her act, or leave it behind. When news of her mentor’s passing and his gifts to her sets her on an emotional journey of self-discovery, we are taken along for the ride, and see every moment of pain, joy, tears, and hope.

This ended up being my favorite film at Hot Docs because it was something truly heartfelt, and ventriloquism and puppetry has always had a special place in my heart.

Hitchcock-poster10) Hitchcock – I always find behind-the-scenes movies to be fun, especially when you have such a fantastic cast as Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Danny Huston, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, James D’Arcy, Jessical Biel and Michael Wincott. Combining a mature love story with the creation of one of Hitch’s most popular films, Psycho, the craft pays homage to Hollywood of yesteryear and made me nostalgic for a time that I never knew.

I have also never seen Ms. Johansson better in any film she’s done, she simply embodies Janet Leigh, and brings her to life right before your eyes. Course everyone has to be at the top of their game when you put to heavy hitters like Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins on the screen.

The film chronicles the love story of Hitch and his wife Alma while he struggles to make a film that none of the companies wanted to see made. They all thought it would be just another run-of-the-mill horror film… but what happens when one of the world’s best directors makes a horror film.

I’m looking forward to reading the book it’s actually based on, but this film was just a sheer delight.

american mary9) American Mary – I chatted with the Soska Twins briefly after one of the screenings of this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and I couldn’t rave enough about their genre-defining body modification horror/thriller. It ended up on this list because it was one of the films that I was really anxious about seeing, because I was worried about how graphic the film would be. Despite it’s visuals, the film has a restrained beauty that verges on the brilliant. I remember walking out of the theater completely stunned and amazed by what I had just seen. I had done a complete 180 from my expectations and perceptions of the film. Any movie that can do that to me is worth noting.

Katherine Isabelle is simply amazing, and stunning in her role, and watching her transformation from naive med student to a modification artist is a treat to watch. The Soska Twins now have a permanent fan in me, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Brave8) Brave – Oh, Pixar. How I love you. I look forward to each year’s new film and it is very rare that I am disappointed by them, and even their lesser films (I’m looking at you Cars 2) can entertain. This year’s effort took us to the wilds of Scotland, with a stunning story of a mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson) and a daughter, Merida (Kelly MacDonald), queen and princess respectively, and their relationship. I didn’t even know that going into the film, I just knew that Merida was a headstrong girl, who wanted to decide her own fate, who didn’t want to be told who to marry… And I knew there was a big dangerous looking bear.

What I didn’t know about it, made the film that much more enjoyable when certain events kicked in. Pixar has always been a master of character-based animated stories, making sure that the quality extends not only through the art of the film itself, but also through the story and the characters that inhabit the world they have created.

Pixar films always tend to be a highlight of the year for me.

life_of_pi7) Life of Pi – I loved this book when I first read it, it was an incredible journey, and was understandably anxious when I learned they were adapting it to the big screen. Ang Lee however was not only faithful to the novel, but did some of the best 3D work I’ve seen in a movie yet. The tiger, Richard Parker, is brought to life with amazing realism, combining live-action and CG work, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. It’s amazing to see this lumbering beast surviving alongside fellow traveller Pi (Suraj Sharma) as they struggle to live on the high seas, hoping against hope for rescue, battling the elements and each other.

The story is personal, while being epic at the same time, and all the green-screen and CG work that went to stranding Richard Parker and Pi on the ocean makes the film look amazing! There are so many picture perfect moments in this film, a movie that is filled with humour, heartbreak, and ruminations on storytelling itself.

rosalind6) The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh – Everyone knows the story how Sue and I came across the booth for this film at Fan Expo and were taken in first by the poster, then the trailer, and the photo area. After we approached the director Rodrigo Gudino about a chance to see the film, both of us were struck by this beautifully crafted and creepy film.

Aaron Poole is on-screen for nearly every moment of the film and does so by himself, all though there is a haunting voice-over narration by Vanessa Redgrave, and it’s also one of those films that surprises you by the end of the film, allowing you to see everything that has gone before it in a whole new light.

A fantastic effort from the founder of Rue Morgue magazine, that deals with ideas of faith, love and family surrounded by creepy-ass angel statues…

cabin5) Cabin In The Woods – Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon turned the horror genre on its head with this brilliant film. Taking the traditional horror trappings of the remote cabin, and the stereotypical characters one finds in that vein of horror film. Once the film kicks into gear, there are nods to almost every horror genre, as well as characters.

The film features Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Kristen Connolly, Jesse Williams, Whedon alumnus Amy Acker, Tom Lenk and Fran Kranz. It also features Richard Jenkins and the awesome Bradley Whitford.

And despite the subject matter, and the amount of blood spilled the film ends up being more of a comedy than a horror, and every moment of it is entertaining. For anyone who knows and loved their horror films, this and the number 3 film on my list should be viewed and enjoyed often.

avengers4) The Avengers – The Marvel universe comes to the big screen, combining the already established box-office successes of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans), adding Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) into the mix under the able hand of famed geek writer-director Joss Whedon. The film is a giant, comic book action adventure set to Geek Overload!

Commanded by the fantastically cool Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Earth’s mightiest heroes take on an alien invasion, led by Asgardian Loki (Thomas Hiddleston), who makes a fatal mistake when he confronts fan fave, and recurring Marvel universe character, Agent Colson (Clark Gregg). Their next team-up is a few years off yet, but at least we’ll have new individual adventures from Tony Stark, Cap and Thor soon…

paranorman3) Paranorman – This film was a sheer delight, in that I just didn’t expect it to be as amazing as it was. I’m a huge stop motion animation fan, and add to that a fun story that features zombies, a witch’s curse and a message that doesn’t hit you over the head repeatedly, and you have a family film that is truly suitable, and enjoyable, for the entire family.

And oh! the in-jokes!!

The ring-tone, the hockey-mask, the sight gags, and on top of that, it really is a great story filled with great characters, some laugh out loud moments.

The effects on the witch towards the end of the film, are some of my favorites, a brilliant combination of practical stop-motion and CG effects.

Of course knowing it was being released by Laika who also gave us the exemplary Coraline, I should have realized that it would be as amazing and as enjoyable as it is.

skyfall2) Skyfall - Daniel Craig’s 3rd outing as James Bond ends up being one of my Top 5 007 films of all time. Directed by Sam Mendes, and featuring a fantastic score by Thomas Newman, and a powerful title track by Adele, Skyfall ends up being one of the best looking films I have ever seen. The cinematography is top-notch, and there are character changes and introductions, putting familiar pieces back on the secret agent board. Daniel Craig is top-notch in this film, bringing that dangerous edge which defines his Bond.

The film starts on an epic scale, and races towards a small, almost intimate climax in northern Scotland. There are some fantastic stand-out sequences, and Judi Dench has so much more to do this time around as her entire department is put on trial while she is targeted by Javier Bardem’s Silva.

Fantastic fun, and hopefully they get back on the track of releasing a Bond film every two years, and Craig will stay with the role for a few more years yet.

hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-poster1) The Hobbit – I was so happy to step back into the world of Middle Earth. Tolkien’s world is brought to life once again by Peter Jackson, creating a place I would happily call home. Expanding on the text of the original novel, and incorporating the legend and lore that was happening at the same time as Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) expedition with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and company to the Lonely Mountain. Is it as great a film as the original trilogy? No, but it still stands head and shoulders (which is tough for a halfling) above a lot of the other films I’ve seen this year.

As of this writing, I still need to see it in the 48fps frame rate (another excuse to see it of course) but I simply delighted in seeing familiar places, faces, and setting out on a whole new adventure. Ian McKellan brings Gandalf back to the screen, and the Shire made me weepy again.

For me this was a pitch-perfect film that I loved.

What were your favorite films of 2012?

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

So I took in the latest in the Bourne series yesterday, The Bourne Legacy, with Jeremy Renner taking the lead as a new character to be introduced into the expanded film universe originally created by Robert Ludlum, and brought to life on the big screen with Matt Damon as Jason Bourne.

Renner plays Aaron Cross, another trained assassin of the Treadstone variety, but under a different side program, known as Outcome.

When the events of Bourne Ultimatum, including the death of Guardian reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) and Bourne’s return to the States, threaten to expose everything these programs have created, especially with Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) planning to testify before congress, Eric Byer (Edward Norton) decides its time to clean house completely, go to ground, and stay quiet until they can start again. This plan means the elimination of not only all of Treadstone, Black Briar, and Outcome, but all the side projects, and all those involved.

The film also looks to expand the mythology of the universe, so there is a lot of exposition front-loaded into the first half of the film. This may turn some viewers off, especially those who want to see the fast hand to hand combat, and chase sequences that the series have become known for. It’s ok, there’ll be some nice sequences in the second half.

We learn that these agents are on meds, or chems as Cross calls them, to boost their physical and mental abilities. Part of this is overseen by geneticist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), and is to her that Renner decides to pay a visit, after surviving an attempt to kill him(and gives a nice little action sequence in a gorgeous house/set that serves as Shearing’s home). We learn that Bourne was taken off the meds long before even the events that directly preceded the first film, so why is Cross so adamant to get them?

I found the revelation of his motives to be solid and honestly, I could believe it, at least enough to let it not interfere with my enjoyment of the movie.

With Shearing in tow, Cross attempts to track more of his chems, while eluding those who would wipe him, and the good doctor out completely.

Renner seems to be everywhere lately, and he seems quite at home in this role, and I do hope he’s around for a couple of more. He brings a different vibe to the film, not so straight-laced and troubled as Damon’s character, he knows who and what he is, and now, just wants to survive.

Weisz, in my opinion, has always been a solid actor, and, I’ve found inherently likable, she just seems like a nice person, and I’ve never had a problem believing her to be who her character is in any of the roles of seen her play.

Norton is menacing as Byer, and unlike some of the suits we’ve seen in the first three films, seems younger and fitter, and I hope at some point, we can see him square off against Renner’s Cross.

The film is also populated by characters introduced in previous films, in addition to Joan Allen’s Pamela Landy, we see the return of Scott Glenn as Kramer, David Strathairn as Vosen, and Albert Finney as Hirsch.

Tony Gilroy, who had his hand on the scripts of the first three films, writes this one with his brother Dan, and climbs into the center seat to direct. I was ok with this, having been involved in the series from the beginning he seems like a reliable person to entrust to continue overseeing the films for the time being.

There’s less shakey cam this time around, some people may be disappointed, some may be happy, I was okay with it. It’s a new story, new character, same world, it should be different.

Though to contradict myself, I did miss John Powell’s score this time around. James Newton Howard takes over composing duties, though he does pay homage to some of the music cues from the previous films, and of course Moby gives us another updated version of Extreme Ways for the end credits.

As mentioned, there isn’t as much action this time around, though there are some well put together sequences, Cross’ escape from a drone near the film’s beginning by making use of the local wild life, and a fantastic foot and then motorcycle chase through Manila.

And let me rave about that motorcycle chase for a moment, it’s through packed streets, there is traffic and people everywhere. To me, it felt like a sequence I had never seen before. In most chases, on roads and highways, you can tell that the other cars are all moving in a set way to allow the main vehicles to whip and move around them. It didn’t feel like that this time around, these streets are packed, and the motorcycles are constantly moving and swerving through busy traffic.

The ending has already been spoken of as an almost non-entity. You know what? You could say that of all of the films so far, they’ve been a pause, a chance to catch your breath, get ready, and dive into the next part. Now, that may be a bit arrogant to think they are going to get another sequel, but I hope they do, because I would really like to see Damon return to the series and see what happens when Bourne and Cross meet…

In the end The Bourne Legacy is a solid entry into the series, though it may also be the weakest of them so far, but it will serve as a bridge to allow us to focus on Cross and his dilemma.

It’ll also hold me over on the spy thrilller/actioner front until November when it’s time for Skyfall.

What did you think of it?

Good Morning, Mr. Hunt

Good morning, Mr. Hunt… You’re mission should you choose to accept it…

I settled down to watch my copies of the Mission: Impossible films this weekend, and I will say this, this is a film series that undeniably gets better as they go along. Though if I was chosen to rank them, I think I would go Ghost Protocol, III, I and II.

It’s through these films though that one can separate the art from the artist, and can admit that Tom Cruise is a consummate performer in these films. He does as many of the physical stunts as he can, and those moments inevitably end up on screen. The mountain climbing sequence in II, the exploding aquarium restaurant in I, the building climb in Protocol. The man does like to push his own limits.

Then there’s the directors, Brian DePalma who directed Carrie, and The Untouchables, John Woo, who helmed Hard Boiled and Face/Off, first time director J.J. Abrams who went on to give us the Star Trek reboot and Super 8, and Brad Bird’s first live action film after showing he could make an actioner with The Incredibles.

The first film, under DePalma established the universe, reintroduced us to updated versions of the tech which Bruce Geller’s original show, and the remake introduced us to. Of the four films, this one could be most able to define as a spy thriller. Ethan must unearth a mole within the IMF and clear the names of himself and his dead team members, working outside of the IMF as he has been disavowed. Yes, there are is an action sequence, the train/chopper fight at the end of the film, but the rest of it plays as a thriller, using misdirection and deception to keep the story rolling. Of course it does have the tightly paced breaking into the CIA to steal the NOC list sequence.

I know that when I originally saw it I was a little upset that it wasn’t more of an action film, but it really has grown on me, and has a great cast featuring Jean Reno, Emmanuelle Beart, Jon Voight, Vanessa Redgrave, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Henry Czerny.

It featured a script and story by David Koepp, Steven Zaillian and Robert Towne.

When I head John Woo was taking over the director’s chair for II, I knew exactly what I was getting, choreographed gun battles, sweet stunts, and the loosest of all the Mission: Impossible stories. Ethan must work to recover a super-virus and its cure before an ex-agent can sell it to the highest bidder.

But that’s ok, it’s set against the backdrop of Australia, and has some fun action sequences, and I love the opening climbing sequence. There’s the infiltration off Biocyte and the ensuing gun battle, the fight on Bare Island followed by the moving battle on motorcycles, culminating in the duel on the beach.

It has a pounding score by Hans Zimmer, and a screenplay by Brannon Braga Ronald D. Moore, and Robert Towne.

This time out the film featured Dougray Scott as the baddie, the sexy Thandie Newton as the love interest, Brendan Gleeson and Anthony Hopkins.

Then the films took a rest, but came back bigger and better, actually molding the film series into a stronger reflection of the tv series, and one of the concepts of the first movie… that Ethan Hunt may be the leader, but he’s a member of a team.

This time first time director J.J. Abrams was taking over the center seat, but before that he’d already brought us Lost, and the spy series Alias.

With J.J. and Cruise, the cast seemed to get bigger and better.

This time out, Ethan, who is now an instructor is brought back into the field to rescue one of his trainees and unearths a huge weapons deal, including a device referred to by one of the techs, Benji as an anti-god.

Following along with J.J.. Abrams is his seemingly personal composer, Michael Giacchino as well as his writing partners Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

The story is much more epic in scope, this time spilling over into Ethan’s personal life and his impending nuptials.

Joining Cruise onscreen are Maggie Q, Keri Russell, Billy Crudup, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, and menacing the IMF this time around, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

This film sees the film breaking into the Vatican, a helicopter chase, battling drones and soldiers on a bridge in the Keys, an infiltration and parachute escape in Shanghai as well as tense face-offs between Cruise’s Hunt and Hoffman’s Davian.

This one climbed right into position of my favorite and best of the series as soon as I saw it. Abrams first film knocked it out of the park as far as I was concerned. And it saw Ethan working in a team format, something that the original show was always all about – each member has their specialty, and they can’t pull it off unless they solve it together.

With the success of three, there was no doubt that a fourth wouldn’t be too far off…

And Ghost Protocol came along with Abrams took a back seat to directing, settling into the role of producer, Brad Bird, who brought us Iron Giant in addition to The Incredibles settled in to make his first live action film… and it kicks ass!

Giacchino returns in the music department as Ethan and his team seek to stop a madman from starting a nuclear war with stolen Russian launch codes in a story penned by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.

Bird handles the film deftly, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. He oversees Hunt’s ascent on the outside of the world’s tallest building, the sandstorm chase, a prison escape, a break-in of the Kremlin – with some great tech, and a climactic fight in an automated car park.

This time, the Impossible casting continues it’s awesome run as Pegg returns, and is joined by Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Josh Holloway, Lea Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist and Tom Wilkinson.

There’s definitely a sense of handing over the reins to Renner and his fellows by the end of the film, so one wonders if Cruise will make another one.

Of course Renner is quickly becoming a very busy man, he’s got a recurring role in the Marvel Universe movies as Hawkeye, and is taking over the Bourne films from Matt Damon, so one wonders if the M:I films will continue now or not.

I certainly hope so, they are a lot of fun so far, and I’d be very curious what director, writers and stars will be involved in the next film.

Do you need to see all the films to appreciate the most recent effort? No, but there are little pay-offs, you get to enjoy the world that’s been created by the series, and you get to see four amazing directors giving their take on this techno-spy action series. It’s easy to write them off as summer blockbusters, but the series really is a solid collection of entertaining films.

… this message will self-destruct in five seconds…

Tim’s Tops of 2011

I’m gonna take a page from my creative partner, Sue, and give a run down of my favorite films of the year; though it appears that we do have a lot of the same films on our list.

1) The Muppets – This movie is sheer joy, and by far the best time at the theater I had all year. Sure you can blame that on nostalgia if you like, but I also believe it was a truly well written and well made film. Seeing my old friends on the big screen again made me laugh and smile. Call backs to the series made me teary-eyed and reminded me of how much fun these characters are. And that’s why we let them into our hearts in the first place.

 

2) The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard – This film is linked in my mind eternally with our site. Jeremy Lalonde the film’s director was kind enough to give us our first interview, and helped us launch our podcast format, and putt us in touch with some wonderful people. Thank you for that! But beyond that, this wonderful Canadian film is witty, fun, and has oh, so much heart. Even now, thinking about my favorite scenes makes me smile, and gives me shivers when I think about the performances. The longing for a DVD of this film may soon be fulfilled, and then everyone can share in it!

 

3) War Horse – A beautiful film made by one of my favorite directors. Spielberg works with an adaptation of the cherished children’s novel and brings to life the story of a horse named Joey who goes to war, and sees the good and the bad on both sides. Spielberg’s magic is on full display here and the film is touched with heart-touching and heart-breaking moments. Everything you’ve come to expect from a Spielberg film.

 

 

4) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – As stated yesterday in my review, I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film, being such a fan of the original novel and film. But Fincher showed a deft hand and delivered a tightly wrapped thriller that was incredibly faithful to the book, and Craig is likable as Blomkvist and Mara’s turn as Lisbeth, while not a carbon copy of Noomi Rapace’s original effort is fairly close and is exactly what you think Lisbeth would behave and act like. Though as a personal side note, I preferred Rapace’s dragon tattoo on her back than the shoulder one given to Mara.

 

5) The Adventures of Tintin – Enjoyable Spielberg fun for the whole family! This film was an enjoyable romp that gave Spielberg his first animated film, as well as his first 3D film. Based on the beloved French comic this film could launch a whole new tent pole series, as long as the big players remain involved, I’m on board. And where else can you see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as identical police officers? Brilliant!

 

 

6) Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part II – I just finished rewatching the entire series yesterday, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a wonderful cap to the entire series. In fact this time through it affected me even more emotionally that it had the first time through. It’s easy to brush these off as simple family movies, but from the beginning the books and the films have spoken to the important themes of friendship, loyalty, belief in oneself, and doing what is right. And of course, this film allows for Alan Rickman’s finest performance as Severus Snape, proving what an amazing actor he is.

 

7) Super 8 – The Goonies and Stand By Me meets E.T. and even that comparison does the film a disservice. Lovingly made by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, the film recalls moments from many Spielberg films, and took us back to a time when you didn’t have to lock your doors at night, and neighbors looked out for one another. Filled with a nostalgia that made me recall my own youth, and performances from children who seem able to act beyond their years, Super 8 was, for me, a magical film experience.

 

8) Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – I’ve been a huge fan of this series since its launch, and was very eager to see Brad Bird’s first live action film. I was delighted that it paid off as much as it did! What have you got next for me Brad? This is a highly enjoyable spy romp that embraces everything about the original series, updating it for today, and had some truly fantastic sequences. It also saw my favorite character, Simon Pegg’s Benji as a full field agent, hopefully to reappear in the potential sequels with Jeremy Renner.

 

9) Hugo – Martin Scorsese made a truly beautiful film about the love of movies and their origins. Wrapping it in a mystery for a young boy to solve, the film brought to life the early days of cinema. It showed us once again that if a movie is done right, it can transcend popcorn entertainment and revitalize the love of an art form that far too often gets shunt aside in the desire to make a fast buck.

 

 

10) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – An old school cold war thriller, the film is a slow burn that constantly ratchets up the tension as George Smiley attempts to flush out a Russian mole inside MI6. The film had a stellar cast rounded out by the always amazing Gary Oldman, a chameleon of an actor who buries himself in each and every role he takes on. It also didn’t play the viewer for a fool or pander to the audience. A smart spy thriller about an age seemingly long gone.

 

 

So there you have it, my top ten films of the year, I would be remiss however if I didn’t give a few honorable mentions to other films I loved this year…

-Hanna, young actress Saoirse Ronan looks to have a long and amazing career ahead of her.

-Paul, featuring the ever awesome Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two geeks on a cross-country road-trip who have a close encounter. I love these two guys working together, they are always a sheer delight, and I would love to go for a pint with the two of them anytime!

-Source Code, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to Moon, Code was a fun temporal tale featuring Jake Gyllenhaal.

-Thor & Captain America, ramping us up for next year’s Avengers these two Marvel adaptations expanded the growing comic book universe and were good popcorn entertainment.

and finally the surprising X-men: First Class, another comic book film that introduces us to Xavier and Magneto before they turned against each other, both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are top form in this movie and of course there’s January Jones, as Stan Lee might say… ‘Nuff Said

Mission: Impossible 4 – Ghost Protocol (The IMAX Experience)

Brad Bird’s first live action film is a success. The Pixar director who was behind The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, and Warner’s The Iron Giant, brought his storytelling and action style to the big screen with the latest in the Mission: Impossible franchise.

Tom Cruise returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt in what may be the best entry in the series to date. Joining him again is Simon Pegg as his techi Benji, also recruited this time around to join him on his mission is Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner.

I was happily surprised to see Michael Nyqvist in the credits as well, I loved his performance in the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and it’s sequels, and this time he’s the baddie. A Nuclear Endgame Theorist who is pushing the world to nuclear armageddon, unless Hunt and his team can stop him.

Bird keeps the action and the story moving, eschewing anything that doesn’t move the story forward, and the film still clocks in at just over two hours which flies along.

He is also the first director, in my opinion, that has made the best use of the IMAX cameras in a commercial film, yes The Dark Knight had some really good bits, and the giant shots of Gotham were cool, but Bird made sure that when he used theses cameras they were used to augment the story……

The best example of this is the stunning and dizzying Dubai sequence featuring the Burj Khalifa tower (Armani Hotel Dubai), and Ethan’s free climb up it’s exterior. Wow.

While we’re talking about the free climb sequence we should touch on the fact that no matter what you think of Cruise’s personal beliefs, and enough has been said about it, the man likes to do as much of his own stunt work and action scenes as he can, and rumor has it, he did the climb himself sans stunt double.

The IMAX cameras are used to show the heights and grandeur not only of Dubai, but of Russia and India, and each time it’s not done as a gimmick, but to simply enhance the experience of the film.

The script, by Alias veterans Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec makes sure that each of the characters gets there moments, and beats. They truly are a team. This is not the Ethan Hunt/Tom Cruise show, much like in M:I3 this is an actual team working towards a goal, a story point that actually gets touched on.

I liked the callbacks to the previous films, especially the same blonde guy from the first film showing up with another mask to put over Ethan’s head. I won’t mention others because they also fall into the realm of spoilers, but they made me smile.

And then… there was Josh Holloway Lost’s Sawyer in the opening sequence as well as the charming Léa Seydoux (Inglorious Basterds) who’s English speaking career is taking off, having worked with Tarantino and Woody Allen already.

There are little nods to Pixar as you would expect from someone long associated with them, the infamous A113 gets a mention.

J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk both return to act as producers on the film, and it seems that while J.J. is at Paramount, he can’t really do any wrong. – M:I3, Super 8, Star Trek. I do like his batting average.

Of course where Abrams goes, Michael Giacchino follows, and the composer turns out another fantastic score, reprising Lalo Schifrin’s memorable theme at key moments of the film.

There’s a suggestion towards the end of the film that Cruise is passing on the reins to someone else. I’m ok with a Mission:Impossible movie without Ethan Hunt, but I certainly hope that Abrams and co. remain involved.

While a movie like this may have gotten lost in the summer months, this type of film doesn’t have a lot of competition at this time of year, so it should do fairly well.

So…

You’re mission should you choose to accept it…

As a side note, the 6 minute preview from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises preceded the film, and… I’m a little divided. I hope the soundtrack is tweaked before release because a good portion of the time I couldn’t understand what Tom Hardy’s Bane was saying. The aerial cinematography (all shot in IMAX) on the other hand was fantastic!!

I guess we’ll know more when summer rolls around.

But for now, accept the mission, and light the fuse!