Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category


Posted: February 28, 2016 in Lists, Movies



It’s Oscar night, which is surely the last possible instant for anybody to potentially care about my favored titles, as far as last year’s movies go. This list would have gone up on Daily Grindhouse, but due to a transitional phase, Daily Grindhouse has been down for most of the past two weeks, so here we are.

No need for a long prologue. Does anybody read those? If you care about this list in the slightest, you’ve probably scrolled down past this paragraph already. I always joke that the introduction before a top-ten list is the best place to unburden yourself if you’ve ever committed a serious crime. You can alleviate the guilt that’s been burning you up, and still get away scott-free. Far as I know, the only crime I’m guilty of committing without being prosecuted is an egregious sense of timing.

The only thing I wanted to say is that I saw two movies this year that I didn’t feel I could cram inside a top-ten structure. Those are THE LOOK OF SILENCE and CALL ME LUCKY. Both are perfectly-crafted documentaries that provoked a real visceral response from me. Not that I don’t have the same level of respect for every movie I listed below, but as wrong as it feels to me generally  to rank movies (it’s like ranking emotions) it felt borderline offensive in those two cases. That aside, this list IS in order.



Assassin (2015)


Writing about movies alters your experience as an audience member. As you watch a movie, you can’t help but begin to compose whatever you’re going to write about later on in your mind, while it’s still being projected. For “normal” people it’s probably easier to sit back and let a movie happen in front of you. Writing about movies means you can’t be a spectator. You’re not exactly a participant, but you’re imposing your will and your unique thought process on the experience all the same. All of that is to say that THE ASSASSIN has a determined stillness and an insistent patience that forced me to settle down and just watch. There isn’t much story to it, but that’s part of why I keyed into its frequency — I didn’t have to track over-heated plot developments, or opine to myself about my feelings about each character. I could just watch. Especially in this attention-flicker of a day and age, there’s a boldness to a film that holds on a shot long enough to let a slight gust of wind blow through the frame. And there’s a secret liberation in knowing I can submit to that boldness rather than making myself part of the experience.


Chi-Raq (2015)


Hateful Eight (2015)



Grouping these two together because they’re two sides of a coin in my mind, and because it delights me to do it. It’s ironic that Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino are often at odds in the press, because they occupy neighboring terrain in the landscape of my thinking. Hard to think of two other filmmakers who are simultaneously so talented and so frustrating, so right up my alley and yet so prone to adding a single scene or a character or musical cue or plot device that threatens to derail my appreciation. As hard as it is for me to choose sides when Quentin and Spike fight, it’s got to be that much harder for Sam Jackson. He’s a signature actor for them both, and he plays pivotal roles in both CHI-RAQ and THE HATEFUL EIGHT. In one he’s the Greek chorus and in the other he’s the de-facto protagonist, but in both movies his war trumpet of a voice is a defining element of the orchestra being conducted by a bold, confrontational, cinematically-hyperliterate director. CHI-RAQ is a modern-day retelling of a classical play told in verse, and THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a “spaghetti” Western with provocation on the brain, so they’re very different movies, but they’re also unified in operatic nature and in thematic concern. These are two movies about race, about violence, about America. Another similarity is that both movies, while definitely engineered to inflame conversation, drew criticisms that were misplaced. I saw many essayists question Spike Lee for making CHI-RAQ about women withholding sex from their men in order to quell violence — despite that plot coming directly from Lysistrata and being a couple millenia old — and I saw others go after Quentin Tarantino for misogyny in THE HATEFUL EIGHT when nothing good happens to anybody in that movie, and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue is by far the most compelling character in the whole thing. (As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I also think Quentin is working in a disreputable genre and honoring its conventions, as troubling as they may be.) I’m sure neither of these movies are particularly easy to like, and they may even be imperfect, but it’s uncommon to have one movie so defiant and lively and formally unruly in a calendar year, let alone two of them.

Oh, and Teyonah Parris is a goddamned movie star. There’s no way to look at CHI-RAQ and think any different.



Duke of Burgundy (2015)


By any objective measure, this is one of the most technically impressive films released in the past twelve months. Like THE ASSASSIN, it’s fascinating to look at and to listen to. For somebody like me, who looks at movies as moving pictures more than filmed plays, that’s not something to ignore. It’s arguable that THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY is an emotionally chilly movie, beautiful but impenetrable, but I wouldn’t be the one to argue it. I liked how this movie challenged me; I liked how it made me watch it again almost immediately to reconsider how I felt about it. Doesn’t hurt that I spent a large part of 2015 gaining a newfound affection for the giallo genre, so that by the time I got to THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY, I was waiting right in the middle of its wheelhouse. But I think any grown-up would find this movie equally as mystifying and intoxicating (it’s probably not one for the kids).



Creed (2015)


If there’s no way to stop the mounting flood of reboots and remakes and sequels and re-imaginings, then at least there’s a movie like CREED to come along and knock a franchise on its ass. I don’t have the same affection for the ROCKY movies so many fans of CREED seem to — to me, Rocky Balboa is less the draw than the friendship he forged with Apollo Creed over the course of the series. In that first ROCKY, Apollo is basically the villain, and the way he subsequently becomes Rocky’s brother-in-arms is what interests me most about the movies. It doesn’t always happen in life that a heated rival becomes a trusted friend, and to my eyes that’s as much the appeal as the victorious-underdog aspects of the franchise. We don’t get an appearance in CREED from Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed, but what he brought to the movies is still present in Michael B. Jordan’s fierce likability (he even looks like the young Apollo Creed at times) and Sylvester Stallone’s familiar but adjusted-for-weight-of-age performance. This is a sequel that comes at the idea from a dynamic angle — the son of Rocky’s most legendary rival comes to him for training in the same sport that killed his father. Rocky sees he can’t stop Donnie and feels he owes it to Apollo to protect his kid. CREED is about a reluctant mentor and an angry, hurt, haunted hero. If we’ve seen that relationship on film before, it’s not often, and never this fresh. On top of that, Tessa Thompson’s “love interest” character Bianca provides such a real, warm, unpredictable, lovable, tangible presence — it’s rare for a male-dominated movie, rare for a franchise movie, rare for an American movie. I suspect the pleasure of revisiting CREED will be less to thrill in the mechanics of the boxing sequences — which are tremendous — but more to spend time with these characters again.


Tangerine (2015)


When I first moved to L.A., I got a job in an office building just off Santa Monica Boulevard, which I had to cross to get to work after parking my car in the lot across the street. Since it was a TV industry job, I came and went at all hours of the day and night, which means I got a crash-course in the environment of the neighborhood. This was two blocks from the Donut Time where so much of the action of TANGERINE takes place. So when I join the many voices praising TANGERINE for its sense of authenticity, it’s coming from some direct observation from the field. But I didn’t usually stop too long to talk to the many characters I encountered on Santa Monica Boulevard, and that’s the difference. TANGERINE brings the viewer into that world, by function of form (the film was famously shot on smartphones and favors dynamic close-ups and tracking shots) and by its vivid performances, most notably from Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez. Like its two lead characters, the movie explodes with energy. TANGERINE is exciting because it has real social value, making a marginalized culture spring beautifully to life and doing it not with melodrama but with recognizable relationships and a friendship that would win anybody over. All you have to do is look and listen.



Bone Tomahawk (2015)


I wrote more extensively about this movie when it hit Blu-Ray. The point I’d reiterate is that this isn’t a horror-Western. It really is a straight-ahead Western-Western. Westerns are a uniquely American genre whose usage tends to reflect the tenor of the times in which they were made. The stereotypical white-hat hero was never exactly a reality; pick up a history book or take a look at Deadwood. Westerns tell America what we’re thinking about ourselves — the more idealized Westerns of yesteryear are telling, as were the revisionist Westerns of the late 1960s and the early 1970s, as was the fact that the Western basically went away for a while, and so now is a movie like BONE TOMAHAWK, which is scary as all hell. Because that’s where we are today.




Blackhat (2015)


I saw this twice in theaters and wrote effusively about it elsewhere. If I’m being completely honest, it’s probably true that Michael Mann has made stronger movies than this one. But there’s still no filmmaker working today whose movies I’d rather watch — over and over.



Spring (2015)


Another one I wrote about before now. But I will keep writing about it in case it helps anybody new discover it. SPRING is a jewel. It’s not a monster movie that sort of has a love story in it. It’s a love story that sort of has a monster in it. Huge difference. Astonishingly rare thing. If this is the first you’re hearing about this one, please give it a look.





This is only seven minutes long, but it was more on my cinematic frequency than almost anything else this year, so I don’t know what all these prestige movies are doing running over the two-hour mark. This video has just about everything I need in a feature film — pretty ladies, freaky character actors, action, motion, color, scope, scary sexuality, dodgy morality, something to think about, something to tap my foot to while I’m doing it.



Fury Road (2015)


Because I saw it three times during its theatrical run and because I bought it on Blu-Ray months ago and still haven’t dared to watch it on a smaller screen. That’s how resolutely big-screen it is.

Because there’s no reason it should have been this terrific. It wasn’t an easy movie to get made, or an easy one to make, and it definitely wasn’t a sure thing box-office-wise.

But mostly because “Let them up!” is the final line of the movie for a reason that’s even bigger than movies.









A lot of my film-fanatic friends are on a great site called Letterboxd, which allows you to catalogue all of the movies you’ve seen to date in order of when you’ve seen them.  It’s like a daily calendar for movies.  When you see as many movies as we do, it’s a valuable service.

In the past couple years, as I’ve been writing about movies more and more (over at Daily Grindhouse like crazy — not so much here, unfortunately), I also like to put up a gallery here on Demon’s Resume to chart everything I saw that year.

Here’s the 2011 edition.

Here’s the 2012 edition.

Here’s the 2013 edition.

Here’s the 2014 edition.

I took to doing this for a couple reasons:

For one thing it’s fun to look at all the poster art, both the beautiful and the bad.

For another, it seems like the right thing to do, since I as much as anyone can lapse into an authoritative tone in my writing and in my stated opinions at times and it’s only fair to reveal what I’ve seen and what I haven’t.  I can’t rightly tell you what “the best movies of 2015″ are if I haven’t seen every movie released in 2015, right?  I can only tell you which movies I appreciated the most, out of the ones I did get to see.

And lastly — while it may not feel like it to the average person, who watches sports and politics and CBS procedurals and anything else — it feels to me at least as if I’ve seen far fewer movies this year, particularly theatrically, than usual. So I’m trying to kick myself in the ass a little with this post. The count so far is 38. Everything else I’ve seen has come from before this year, and isn’t listed. But there are only 38 movies from the calendar year of 2015. That ain’t enough!

Since the year’s not over yet, I will be updating this post periodically, all the way through December 31st, so if you want, you can keep tracking what movies I’ve been watching.  I’ll also try to link to my reviews (where I’ve done them) as I go along.  And if I have any stray thoughts, I’ll add them along the way.

Enough engine-revving. Let’s get going!



88 (2015)

[I reviewed it!]


Ant-Man (2015)




Age of Ultron (2015)


Backcountry (2015)


Bad Asses On the Bayou


A Ballerina's Tale (2015)


Beasts of No Nation (2015)


Big Game (2015)


Blackhat (2015)


Bone Tomahawk (2015)

[I reviewed it!]

The Boy Next Door (2015)


Call Me Lucky (2015)


Chain of Command (2015)


Chi-Raq (2015)


The Connection (2014)


Cop Car (2015)


Creed (2015)


Creep (2015)


Crimson Peak (2015)


CRIMSON PEAK is still in theaters, at the moment of this typing. Go see it, if you haven’t. See it on the biggest screen you can. Let it enfold you. It’s a film to be absorbed. CRIMSON PEAK cost a lot of money and it looks like it. Hate to say I understand why it’s underperforming in America — with whispers of incest and baby murders, less sophisticated audiences can easily miss the point. Not that those elements are meant to be a draw — quite the contrary, but it’s admirable that a film engaging with the notion of fear betrays little itself. This movie is brave and bold. And subject matter aside, it’s a legitimate marvel of production design and costuming. Director Guillermo Del Toro and his cinematographer Dan Laustsen maximize the frame, infusing every millimeter with rich color and deep shadow. The movie blooms. Of the performers in the film, Jessica Chastain dominates — her role is recessive by design for the first two-thirds of the story, but when she takes center stage, it’s with redoubtable ferocity. Del Toro has said the film isn’t intended as a horror movie — if that’s the case, put Chastain down for all the awards, since horror never gets its due. But if it is a horror movie, then she’s its most fearsome monster, and good God is that a beautiful thing.




A Deadly Adoption (tv)




Dope (2015)




Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead The Story Of The National Lampoon (2015)


The Duke of Burgundy (2015)


Escobar Paradise Lost (2014)


Everly (2015)


Ex Machina (2015)






Five Star (2015)




Gemma Bovery (2014)


The Gift (2015)




Going Clear Scientology and the Prison of Belief (tv)





[I sort of reviewed it!]




Hot Pursuit (2015)


Though I never got around to reviewing it, I saw this movie the weekend it came out. It’s what it looks like, which is a MIDNIGHT RUN riff with Reese Witherspoon in the Robert De Niro role and Sofía Vergara as the Charles Grodin. The director is Anne Fletcher, originally a choreographer, who transitioned into directing the kind of broad-appeal hits that everybody sees except people I know. To be honest, I would not have expected a movie from the director of STEP UP, 27 DRESSES, THE PROPOSAL, and THE GUILT TRIP to be so poorly received by audiences. You know it never had a shot with critics, but audiences tend to eat up these middle-of-the-road big-star comedies like Chicken McNuggets. Uselessness is a difficult thing to quantify, so I can’t explain see why people go to some bad movies but not others. This one isn’t much worse than most, though it certainly could have been better. Can it really be that hard to make a watchable movie with two lead actors as well-liked as these? The problem with HOT PURSUIT is that again, it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. A good comedy is surprising. A good action movie produces excitement. By those standards, this action-comedy fails twice. There are a couple of promisingly odd bits I almost chuckled over, such as when Witherspoon and Vergara disguise themselves a cow (I think) to escape a police roadblock, but most of the humor bizarrely fixates around Witherspoon’s stature and theoretical boyishness and Vergara’s supposedly advanced age, which are not observations I would have considered about either woman. Next time around, drop the insult comedy and focus on telling a compelling story.




Into the Grizzly Maze (2015)


It Follows (2015)


Jupiter Ascending (2015)


If nothing else, this film was shot by cinematographer John Toll (who also shot THE THIN RED LINE). You can make your little Twitter jokes about whatever you want, but if you’re serious about movies, you do not get to discount a movie shot by John Toll. People who talk about movies without ever mentioning how they look are like people who buy comic books for the writing. It’s not that writing isn’t important — quite the contrary! — but at the same time, these are visual media. How a movie looks is more than half the battle.

And the comic-book analogy fits another way: With so much of multiplex real estate being rented out to super-hero movies based on super-hero comics, Lana and Andy Wachowski have been making comic-book movies too, for quite a while now. It’s just that comic books don’t begin and end with super-heroes. There’s manga, there’s Moebius, there’s Jodorowsky, there’s Jack Kirby’s cosmic comics. That’s what JUPITER ASCENDING is. It’s comic-book space opera with seven thousand international flavors blended together. Sure. It’s silly and it’s absurd. But the Mighty Thor isn’t? Is this movie really too crazy? Or is it the kind of crazy some of us could use more of?

What I liked about JUPITER ASCENDING is what I liked about STAR WARS. If the plot sends your mind wandering, there’s always some random weirdo walking through the background to focus your attention on. I went into JUPITER ASCENDING excited to see the lizard people; I came out of it obsessing over the person with the elephant head. There’s a person with an elephant head in this movie! If there were a person with an elephant head in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, I would have seen THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. This is the kind of movie Eddie Redmayne needs to be making.


Krampus (2015)




Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (2015)


Last Knights (2015)











Maggie (2015)


The Man with the Iron Fists 2


Manglehorn (2015)


Nasty Baby (2015)


The Night Before (2015)


The Nightmare (2015)


People, Places, Things (2015)


POD (2015)



Robot Overlords (2015)


Run All Night (2015)


Seven Five (2015)




Sinister 2 (2015)


Spotlight (2015)


Spring (2015)


Earlier this year, I saw IT FOLLOWS the same weekend I saw SPRING. There’s no major similarity between the two films besides the fact they are both low-fi indie efforts of very high quality, but in my mind they are connected due to that simple twist of scheduling. But while IT FOLLOWS was quickly adopted as an instant classic by many horror fans and debated fiercely by the fewer dissenters, I don’t get the sense nearly as many people are thinking about SPRING. Maybe it makes sense.

SPRING is a quiet movie, in comparison to just about anything else out there. Beautiful things don’t usually shout.

Also, it’s sort of hard to talk about this story without spoiling at least some of its surprises.

And the jury is still out over whether or not it can be called a horror film. Aside from a few expertly-paced scenes of suspense, this is not a movie intended to frighten or disturb.

I guess I’d call it a love story for horror fans, a heart-render for weirdos. It’s more like an alternate-universe hopelessly-romantic version ofPOSSESSION, or DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE if its heart had been on its sleeve a lot more than its tongue was in its cheek.

In the way of plot details, all you need know is that a troubled young American (Lou Taylor Pucci) who recently lost a family member to a cruel disease decides to skip the country for a while after kicking the shit out of somebody who sort of deserved it. After some aimless wandering through Europe, he gets a job and a room at a vineyard in Italy. When he goes out on the town, he meets a smart, sexy, worldly, thoroughly confusing woman (Nadia Hilker) with whom he is immediately smitten. Obviously, she’s hiding something. Obviously, that’s why I’m dancing around calling SPRING a horror movie. It matters, but it doesn’t. What you’ll care about most are these two characters, Evan and Louise.

From the thoughtful writing of co-director Justin Benson, to the warm cinematography by co-director Aaron Moorhead, from the bruised, spiky, but hopeful performance of Lou Taylor Pucci to the even-more-bruised, intoxicating, and daring performance of Nadia Hilker, to the lovely score by Jimmy LaValle and straight down the line, SPRING is a class act, a treat, a cause, a movie I found very easy to relate to, and even easier to love. It may be ironic to recommend a movie called SPRING in October, but it’s a movie to be visited and revisited any day of the year.



Spy (2015)


SPY is a movie which arrived preceded by a gale force of critical acclaim. I was underwhelmed, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

As the current mass-media story goes, writer-director-producer Paul Feig and his star Melissa McCarthy have been doing more than anybody to change the conventional notions of what women can do onscreen. Why can’t a woman who looks like she should be cast as a pre-school teacher or a romance novelist (I’m not being rude — these are her character’s occupations on Mike & Molly) also play a spy in a James Bond style action thriller, or soon enough, a Ghostbuster? I hope I’m being crystal clear when I proclaim I am all for it, with every last erg of my strength. Women can do everything men can do, and often better and with greater style. And any system that doesn’t presently allow for that must absolutely be changed.

I guess it’s just hard for me to get thrilled about Melissa McCarthy falling over or farting just because the comedy guys get to do it, or more importantly, to learn over the course of a movie that she’s too good for jerky guys like Jude Law in SPY, because those are comparatively tame victories, considering how the kinds of movies I watch for Daily Grindhouse and the women who star in them come with a tidal wave of fierceness. That’s why I was so charged-up about Charlize Theron in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. It may not be fair to compare a light goofy comedy to a ferocious locomotive of action, but to me that’s the energy we need right now, in comedy as much as in action movies. When the system is so sorely fucked, it’s okay to get angry. Honestly, it seems necessary. All my heroes, male and female alike, are willing to get angry when things are wrong.

SPY is cute, and stuffed with jokes, but there’s no anger in it, and that’s why for me it’s not that energizing. At the same time, I recognize that maybe my place as a be-penised person is to stand aside and let women handle it their way. I don’t presume to tell anyone how to lead their own revolution.




Steve Jobs (2015)


Straight Outta Compton (2015)


Tangerine (2015)


Trainwreck (2015)


The Visit (2015)


The Voices (2015)


war pigs (2015)


We Are Still Here (2015)


Welcome to Me (2015)


Welcome to New York (2014)


What Happened Miss Simone


Wild Card (2015)




The Wolfpack (2015)






Z for Zachariah (2015)




Stay tuned to this page. It’s gonna swell and expand before the year is out.

And follow me on Twitter for near-constant updates:  @jonnyabomb



A lot of my film-fanatic friends are on a great site called Letterboxd, which allows you to catalogue all of the movies you’ve seen to date in order of when you’ve seen them.  It’s like a daily calendar for movies.  When you see as many movies as we do, it’s a valuable service.

In the past couple years, as I’ve been writing about movies more and more (over at Daily Grindhouse like crazy — not so much here, unfortunately), I also like to put up a gallery here on Demon’s Resume to chart everything I saw that year.

Here’s the 2011 edition.

Here’s the 2012 edition.

Here’s the 2013 edition.

I took to doing this for a couple reasons:  For one thing it’s fun to look at all the poster art, both the beautiful and the bad.  For another, it seems like the right thing to do, since I as much as anyone can lapse into an authoritative tone at times and it’s only fair to reveal what I’ve seen and what I haven’t.  I can’t rightly tell you what “the best movies of 2014″ are if I haven’t seen every movie released in 2014, right?  I can only tell you which movies I appreciated the most, out of the ones I did get to see.

Since the year’s not over yet, I will be updating this post periodically, all the way through December 31st, so if you want, you can keep tracking what movies I’ve been watching.  I’ll also try to link to my reviews (where I’ve done them) as I go along.

Let’s get going!


Extra Large Movie Poster Image for 13 Sins


22 Jump Street Movie Poster

300: Rise of an Empire Movie Poster

American Sniper (2014)..


At the Devil's Door (2014)

Bad Words Movie Poster


Beyond the Lights (2014)


Birdman Movie Poster

Blue Ruin Movie Poster

Brick Mansions Movie Poster

Calvary Movie Poster


Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Deliver Us from Evil

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Edge of Tomorrow




Godzilla Movie Poster

Gone Girl Movie Poster

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Poster

Grand Piano Movie Poster

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Poster

 THE GUESTHoneymoon (2014)

Housebound (2014)



Inherent Vice (2014)


The Interview (2014)

Ironclad: Battle for Blood Movie Poster

Jersey Boys (2014)

JOE (2014)

John Wick Movie Poster

 Kill the Messenger (2014)



Kite (2014)

Late Phases Movie Poster

Left Behind (2014)

Hercules: The Legend Begins Movie Poster

The Lego Movie Movie Poster

Leprechaun: Origins Movie Poster

Let's Be Cops Movie Poster

Life After Beth Movie Poster

Life of Crime Movie Poster

Lucy Movie Poster


A Most Wanted Man Movie Poster


Nightcrawler Movie Poster

Noah Movie Poster

Non-Stop Movie Poster

Oculus Movie Poster

 Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)


The Prince Movie Poster

The Purge: Anarchy Movie Poster


Rage Movie Poster

Raze Movie Poster

RoboCop Movie Poster

The Rover Movie Poster

Sabotage Movie Poster

The Sacrament Movie Poster

The Scribbler Movie Poster

Selma (2014)

The Signal Movie Poster


Snowpiercer Movie Poster

St. Vincent (2014)

Stage Fright Movie Poster



Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Under the Skin


 Whiplash (2014)

Willow Creek Movie Poster

The Zero Theorem (2013)


Dang. Busy year.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go celebrate this heroic accomplishment by watching some movies.

Follow me on Twitter for near-constant updates:  @jonnyabomb

Trance (2013)

A lot of my film-fanatic friends are on a great site called Letterboxd, which allows you to catalogue all of the movies you’ve seen to date in order of when you’ve seen them.  It’s like a daily calendar for movies.  When you see as many movies as we do, it’s a valuable service.

In the past couple years, as I’ve been writing about movies more and more, I also like to put up a gallery here on Demon’s Resume to chart everything I saw that year.

Here’s the 2011 edition.

Here’s the 2012 edition.

I took to doing this for a couple reasons:  For one thing it’s fun to look at all the poster art, beautiful and bad.  For another, it seems like the right thing to do, since I as much as anyone can lapse into an authoritative tone at times and it’s only fair to reveal what I’ve seen and what I haven’t.  I can’t rightly tell you what “the best movies of 2013” are if I haven’t seen every movie released in 2013, right?  I can only tell you which movies I appreciated the most out of the ones I did get to see.

For the first time, I am putting this out long before the end of the year. I will update it periodically, all the way to December, so if you want you can see what movies I’ve been watching throughout the year.  I’ll also try to add little mini-reviews of each one as I go along.

Let’s get going!


Promised Land (2012)


I wrote about this movie at length for my friend’s site. Click here!

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)


And I wrote about this one for Daily Grindhouse. Click here!

Gangster Squad (2013)


Not enough Nolte. And can anyone explain why Ryan Gosling is doing a pitch-perfect Steve Guttenberg impression throughout the entire thing?

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)


Not remotely as bad as some people want you to think, but not particularly great.  It does meet my minimum requirement for Gemma Arterton.  (There is no maximum amount.)  Also, I noticed that “movies” are a synonym for “something really terrible happens to Peter Stormare.” Not to be confused with the standard Sean-Bean-and-Danny-Trejo-always-die trope.  In this one, if memory serves, a monster steps on Peter Stormare’s head. There, saved you the trouble.

Broken City (2013)


Drug War (2013)


One of the best movies of the year, by any standard.

Mama (2013)


The Last Stand (2013)


John Dies at the End (2013)


Parker (2013)

Model Jason Statham in the new FaceSuit by J.Lo.


Bullet to the Head (2013)


Warm Bodies (2013)


A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2013)


Side Effects (2013)


Snitch (2013)


A Talking Cat (2013)


To the Wonder (2013)


Stoker (2013)


The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)


Dead Man Down (2013)


Oz The Great and Powerful (2013)


Spring Breakers (2013)


It’s either trash or art or both or neither.  I’m still not entirely decided.  That automatically makes SPRING BREAKERS more interesting than just about any other movie this year.  My review on Daily Grindhouse is here.

The Call (2013)


Slight but solid. The ending was very SLIVER.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)


G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)


Trance (2013)


Evil Dead (2013)


When is a well-made movie entirely useless?  When it lacks a soul or a reason for being.  This one prompted a rant involving feminism which you may be interested to read. It’s on Daily Grindhouse, here.

Byzantium (2013)


Upstream Color (2013)


42 (2013)


The Lords of Salem (2013)


This is another movie I wanted to like a lot more than I was able to, but I thought I at least wrote some interesting stuff on it.  Read it on Daily Grindhouse.

Iron Man 3 (2013)


Twenty years ago, this would have been my favorite movie.  But that’s not how time works.  Read my review on Daily Grindhouse.

The Numbers Station (2013)


More evidence that John Cusack is the new Nicolas Cage.  Still an interesting actor, but one who ends up in as many terrible movies as worthwhile ones.  This movie is in between — it’s just diverting enough, but kind of dull and unmemorable.

Mud (2013)


Wonderful.  I ride with Jeff Nichols.

Pain & Gain (2013)


Silly and over-long, like my privates.  But I’d take this over TRANSFORMERS every day of the month.  If only Michael Bay would make more weird freakazoid movies like this one, instead of unwatchably bombastic money-guzzlers.

PAWN (2013)


In the end, all that will remain is Michael Chiklis’ inexplicable British accent.

The Iceman (2013)


I called this movie “a J-horror GOODFELLAS,” combining Asian-flavored style with decade-spanning true crime flavor.  The Michael Shannon lead performance makes it mandatory.  My review is on Daily Grindhouse.

Peeples (2013)


In retrospect I may have written more in my review here than this particular movie warrants.  I wrote it in reaction to all the whining I see every day on the internet about racism and chauvinism — in theory, I agree, but unlike a lot of people, when something bothers me, I try to take action.  That’s half the reason I paid to see this movie; the other half is my love for the primary cast.  They’re always good; the movie less so.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)


I liked this movie as I like this franchise: Enough to see them all, not as much as many people in my peer group. It’s the franchise which may be more fun to talk about than to watch (and the movies are frequently very fun to watch).  Here’s my review of the one before it; maybe I’ll get around to talking more about this newest one.

Anna Nicole (TV Movie 2013)


Behind the Candelabra (tv)


Assault on Wall Street (2013)


Hammer of the Gods (2013)


The Great Gatsby (2013)


The Kings of Summer (2013)


Évocateur The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (2013)


Blackfish (2013)


Syrup (2013)


This Is the End (2013)


Maybe the funniest movie of the year.  I loved it.  Review is on Daily Grindhouse.  Click here!

Man of Steel (2013)


As awful as it is awesome, MAN OF STEEL is, thematically at least, a disaster.  Its success bodes poorly for the next few years of superhero films.  On Daily Grindhouse, I explained my rationale at length.

The Bling Ring (2013)


Maniac (2012)


World War Z (2013)


Fruitvale Station (2013)


Zombie Hunter (2013)


The Frozen Ground (2013)


Only God Forgives (2013)


I loved it.  Many hated it.  Appears there’s no middle ground on this one.  This is my kind of offbeat.  I understand why the straights don’t get it.  I also predict a lot of people will be reversing their stance in the years to come.

Killing Season (2013)


The Conjuring (2013)


Pawn Shop Chronicles (2013)




Pacific Rim (2013)


More than any movie this year, I wanted to love this one.  Turns out I only loved it a little bit.  Like the bare minimum of love.  Like a great-uncle you only met once or twice.  A lot of the necessary ingredients are present to make this movie as kickass as some people still argue it is — I’d argue that there’s no way a movie with a protagonist this leaden and with fight scenes so murky can be anywhere near as great as it ought to be.  Here’s my review on Daily Grindhouse.

A Band Called Death (2013)


The Act of Killing (2012)


2 Guns (2013)


Europa Report (2013)






In a World... (2013)


The Butler (2013)


Cheap Thrills (2013)


The Spectacular Now (2013)


The World's End Movie Poster


You're Next Movie Poster


Riddick Movie Poster


Room 237 (2012)

ROOM 237.

Bounty Killer (2013)


Enough Said (2013)


Don Jon (2013).




Gravity (2013)




Captain Phillips (2013)


Frankenstein's Army (2013)


Java Heat (2013)




Bad Grandpa (2013)


Curse of Chucky (2013)


The Best Man Holiday (2013)




Why Don't You Play In Hell


The Contractor (2013)


Ooof.  Don’t.   But I did, and you can read about it.  Another Daily Grindhouse classic.

Jug Face (2013)


Weird little horror-esque backwoods nightmare.  I watched it twice in a weekend, because it’s kind of original.  Probably one of the best horror movies of the year, if that’s even the genre it fits inside.

Homefront (2013)


If you tell me James Franco is taking on Jason Statham, I’m going to want a much crazier movie than this flick is prepared to offer.

Paradise Movie Poster



Prince Avalanche Movie Poster


All Is Bright Movie Poster ALL IS BRIGHT.

The To Do List Movie Poster


All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2008)


Berberian Sound Studio (2012)


Man of Tai Chi (2013)


American Hustle (2013)


The Canyons (2013)




Blood Of Redemption (2013)


Anchorman 2 (2013)


The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)



And now I’m going to go celebrate this heroic accomplishment by watching some movies.

Follow me on Twitter for near-constant updates:  @jonnyabomb

Django Unchained (2012)

I made a list like this in 2011, but I realized I hadn’t made one for 2012.  So here it is.

First:  The 2011 Movies.  And here are My Top Ten of 2011.

And now, all the movies from 2012 that I managed to see, by order of their theatrical release.  (If you want to see how I whittled all of these down to ten for 2012, here’s my Top 10.)  I put links in the titles if I wrote about the movies.

Haywire (2012)


Somehow controversial to say so, but I dug it.

The Grey (2012)


My #1 movie of the year, all year.

Chronicle (2012)



The Woman in Black (2012)



Safe House (2012)



Rampart (2011)


Kind of a drag.

Wanderlust (2012)



The Lorax (2012)


Hurt my eyes and brain.

Project X (2012)


Needed monkeys.

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012)


Robert Loggia!

John Carter (2012)


Neither as bad nor as good as you may have heard. Love that butt-alien though.

Footnote (2011)


Sly and cerebral.  No one saw it because no one is dumb.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)


Better Hugh Jackman cameo than the X-MEN movie. Also, an octopus gets a massage.

21 Jump Street (2012)


Almost shockingly good.

Casa de mi Padre (2012)


It’s as if they made it just for me.

The Hunger Games (2012)


Fine. Book was better.

The Raid: Redemption (2012)


Saw it for free; loved it so much I paid to take people back with me.

Goon (2012)


Really funny. Really re-watchable.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)


Ginsu-sharp. I’m with Brad Whitford: Loved the merman.

Lockout (2012)


As Funkadelic sang, “Super Stupid!” (A compliment.)

Bernie (2012)


Maybe the most delightful movie about a vicious murder ever made.

Safe (2012)


Burly and bad-ass. And James Hong! First Jason Statham movie I really, really liked.

Headhunters (2011)


Really dark, really funny. Check it out.

The Avengers (2012)


All of the good adjectives.

The Dictator (2012)



Men in Black III (2012)


Inessential, but surprisingly decent.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)


Great. Handily defeats all incoming cynicism.

Piranha 3DD (2012)


Ends after an hour in favor of twenty minutes of bloopers. Haven’t seen that shit since MASTER OF DISGUISE. And at least that movie had Jennifer Esposito.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)


My niece and I love the Chris Rock zebra. The rest, not so much.

Prometheus (2012)


Beautiful to look at, with almost all the wrong ideas. It’s the Jennifer Lopez of sci-fi prequels.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)


Fun discovery. Not tremendous, but very diverting.

Brave (2012)


No one told us there’d be bears.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)


I like those two.  For this movie, that’s enough.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)


Best giant-pig movie since South Korea’s CHAW.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)


I liked it. Not as nearly much as I did the Sam Raimi ones, but this was as close to “Spider-Man vs. Godzilla” I’m likely to ever get.

Savages (2012)


Didn’t like the trio of protagonists, but Salma and Benicio ran away with the movie and made it worthwhile all on their own.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)



The Queen of Versailles (2012)


Fascinating documentary about a shithead and his trophy wife, who seems like a shithead but isn’t really so much.

Iron Sky (2012)


The movie can’t touch its poster.

Step Up Revolution (2012)


Everybody you see on that poster is a sell-out.

Killer Joe (2012)


Brilliant from every angle.

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)


I loved Rashida Jones before I knew she was a great writer. This movie proves she’s a great writer. Now it’s officially hopeless.

The Expendables 2 (2012)


Mostly dull. But every moment Chuck Norris is onscreen, it’s the worst movie of the year.

Compliance (2012)


Terrifically disturbing.

Cosmopolis (2012)


Absolutely the most Canadian film about New York ever made. I still dug it though!

Premium Rush (2012)


Probably the single most underrated movie of 2012. Lots of fun.

Lawless (2012)


Not everyone agreed, but I thought it was great. Soundtrack of the year.

For a Good Time, Call... (2012)


It’s GIRL 6 but way Jewier.

The Master (2012)


Fascinating. Not what I expected, but that’s a tremendous compliment.

Bait (2012)


Sharks in a shopping mall. Now you kind of have to read my review, huh?

Dredd (2012)


I thought it rocked. Seems like other people are slowly starting to agree. My opinions are from the future!

End of Watch (2012)


Flawed but valuable.

Looper (2012)


Excellent and inventive. This was a good month for movies.

Pitch Perfect (2012)


Really fun, and I did not expect to say that at all.

Argo (2012)


A fine movie. A B-plus. Not the best movie of the year by any stretch, and I’ve been rooting for Affleck for longer than almost anybody so I’m not being nasty.

Seven Psychopaths (2012)


IN BRUGES was my favorite movie of 2008. This is Martin McDonagh’s follow-up. This is the kind of movie a brilliant writer makes when he doesn’t have much to say at the moment he makes it.

Smashed (2012)


I truly love this movie. It has honesty in it.  Wonderful performances. See it.

Holy Motors (2012)



Alex Cross (2012)


Atrocious and ugly.

The Sessions (2012)


Beautiful and genuinely sweet.

Cloud Atlas (2012)


Brave. Beautiful. Wacked-out, in a great way. I was a skeptic and it made me a believer.

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2012)


Waste of my time.

Skyfall (2012)


I’m not a James Bond fan, but Roger Deakins on the camera tip and Naomie Harris on the pretty-lady tip made this the best Bond movie for me by far.

The Bay (2012)


Excellent science-inspired horror flick, one of the very few that justifies the found-footage craze.

Flight (2012)


The music supervisor should be fired. Otherwise, this was an excellent studio movie, the kind of which there used to be many more.  Denzel CRUSHED it.


Wreck-It Ralph (2012)



Terrific. At twenty minutes shorter, it’d be a straight-up classic.



The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)


Wish I loved it. It was worth a try.

Lincoln (2012)


Stately and spirited.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


Land of the blue-eyed Italians! I had a weird reaction to this movie. It felt inauthentic to me, but by every account its makers were sincere. The weirdest part is the way it turns into a STEP UP movie at the end.  Got nothing against the movie. I’m just not on the bandwagon. Nice to see Chris Tucker in a flick like this though.

Life of Pi (2012)


This movie has “Peter Jackson’s KING KONG disease.” It’s dull as shit for about an hour, before it turns awesome. But it’s a long hour. Still, the effects alone on the boat-sinking sequence make it a must-see.

Killing Them Softly (2012)


Fine, the political subtext was pretty overt. You gonna let that stop you? One of the best crime movies of the year, the past couple even.

Deadfall (2012)


Great cast, solidly put together — a little over-directed for my tastes, but worth a look.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)


Maybe it was from diminished expectations, but for whatever reasons, I had a blast.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)


This is the only way we should have to experience Billy Crystal anymore.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)


May have seen the trailers way too many times (it was advertised for about six months before I finally got to see it), because I thought it was excellent but I responded to it more intellectually than viscerally. Maybe a rewatch would help.

This Is 40 (2012)


This is not a movie. I love Judd Apatow’s work normally, but seriously dude, this is pushing it.

Django Unchained (2012)


A moral and technical tightrope, one which everyone involved totally fucking nailed. Immediate classic. Quite possibly Quentin’s best movie. I’ll watch it a few dozen more times and let you know.


This quick list was born out of an email conversation I’ve been having today.  If someone had me at gunpoint and I had to name the characters who I think are the all-time coolest, this is what would happen.  I’m not sure why anyone would need to pull a gun on me to get such a list, since I’d obviously provide it for free… but the point is:  This list might have been a little different with more time to reflect on it, but I kind of like the immediacy of such a thing.  There’s an honesty to it.  When I’m asked what I think is cool, this is what’s at the tip of the tongue of my brain.

In other words, don’t waste your time arguing with it.  Let’s be friends.  But I WOULD love to hear your own favorites, so feel free to shoot me your own top 10!












I already wish I made it twenty.

Hit me below, or on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

And we’re back!  Ready for round two.  Inspired again by my friend-in-movies at Rupert Pupkin Speaks, I’m re-presenting and reshuffling my top fifty movies of all time.  “Reshuffling” sounds a little more extreme than what I’ve done here — most of the titles remain the same, and the order isn’t much different.  But there’s a fair amount of new blood, and I’ve updated the links to any movies I’ve written about at length (those are bolded in red.) 

This list is absolutely subject to change, so keep watching this space, but while you’re at it, don’t forget to keep watching the skies.

1. THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY (1966).


3. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978).


5.  UNFORGIVEN (1992).

6.  KING KONG (1933).

7.  PREDATOR (1987).

8.  MANHUNTER (1986).


10.  MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976).

11.  John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982).

12.  HEAT (1995).

13.  FREAKS (1932).

14. JAWS (1975).

15.  Berry Gordy’s THE LAST DRAGON (1985).

16.  THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

17.  SHAFT (1971).

18.  BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984).

19.  THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966).

20.  SEA OF LOVE (1989).


22.  EVIL DEAD 2 (1987).

23.  OUT OF SIGHT (1998).

24.  THE INSIDER (1999).

25.  ALLIGATOR (1980).

26.  COLLATERAL (2004).

27.  THE GREAT SILENCE (1968).




31. PRIME CUT (1972).

32. WATERMELON MAN (1970).


34.  25th HOUR (2002).

35.  COFFY (1973).

36. QUICK CHANGE (1990).

37.  MAGNOLIA (1999).

38.  HANNIE CAULDER (1971).


40.  48 HRS. (1982).

41.  GOODFELLAS (1990).

42.  SHOGUN ASSASSIN (1980).

43.  PURPLE RAIN (1984).

44.  THE UNHOLY THREE (1925).

45.  TRUE GRIT (2010).


47.  VIOLENT CITY aka THE FAMILY (1973).

48.  THE HIT (1984).


50.  ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011).

50 1/2.  The five-minute skeleton swordfight in JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (1963).


And that’s that…. for now.

For a little bit more all the time, find me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb


Wanted to clue everyone in to a guest post I did for the terrific movie blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks, which has been inviting all kinds of well-travelled movie writers to contribute their lists of favorite quote-unquote “bad” movies.  (It’s all subjective, right?) 

I think you’ll enjoy this one.  I had a lot of fun putting it together.  I’m very proud to be featured on another site I enjoy, amongst some fun people.  You’ll have to click through to get to the meat of what I wrote, but I wanted to share some posters, still frames, and YouTube clips also, so scroll down for those.

>>>Read my list HERE!!!<<<

If you know me or have stopped by my site before, you know that this is hardly the end of my voyage into tremendous cinematic badness.  It’s only the beginning.

The journey continues! 

Find me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb.































There’s only one reason to post a list like this one at this preposterously late stage in the game, and that’s in the hopes that you might find something on my list which you haven’t seen yet and might like to be persuaded to try.

It’s never easy to distill an entire year’s worth of movies into a manageable list, but that’s not really the reason why I didn’t file one until now.  The real reason is that there are some significant movies I wasn’t able to see in time, and still haven’t been: most notably 50/50,  The Adventures Of Tintin, J.Edgar, A Separation, Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse, and We Need To Talk About KevinI see a lot of movies on a yearly basis, but even I can’t get to all of them.

Then there are all the prestigious movies you’ve been hearing plenty about lately, which I frankly am not too interested in going out of my way to see but probably could have done, just to be informed.  These include My Week With Marilyn, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Midnight In Paris, The Iron Lady, and The Help.   No offense intended (well, offense intended in a couple of those cases), but again, there’s only so much time in a life.

Last year I made a top twenty.  This year I decided to restrict myself to just ten.  Another reason for the delay.  A little narrowing was required.  If you want to hear what almost made it, we’ll be here all day.  So let’s not.  When selecting these ten, I gave myself one simple guideline:

Which movies am I most likely to revisit?

That immediately eliminated movies like HugoMission Impossible: Ghost  Protocol, and Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, since a great part of what made those viewing experiences special to me was the way they used the 3-D and/or IMAX formats.

And it made things more honest, especially because I’ve already gone back to more than a few of my ten.  Some internet people strive to impress with their lists, but that’s not my style.  This really is the stuff I like the best, not the stuff I need anyone to think I like the best.

I did notice a trend of note here.  This is by far the most international list I have ever made.  Only four out of ten movies here were made in the U.S. of A., and two of those were made by foreign-born directors.  Does this mean that my personal tastes are getting more global?  Or does it mean that the cinema of my native land has been, generally speaking, somewhat lacking of late?  That part is a question maybe to ponder further.  In the meantime, seriously, I’ve dragged this out more than enough:


My Top Ten Movies Of 2011.





The Tree Of Life (USA)


What It’s About:


An aging man (Sean Penn) reflects back on his imperfect but happy childhood.Why I Love It:  Speaking strictly in terms of the visual, was there a single more beautiful movie in all of 2011?  Yeah?  Could ya name one?  Possibly Hugo, but that was a city-based kind of beauty.  The Tree Of Life, as is so often the case with Terrence Malick’s movies, finds the beauty in the effortless, the pre-existing, the resolutely natural.  And then there were the people.  As good as Brad Pitt was in Moneyball, he’s that much better in this movie.  I’ve always liked the guy in movies but I’ve never seen this level of sophistication in any of his characters before.  He’s playing a complicated person with a lot of internalized feelings, and he’s playing the whole thing from the perspective of another character.  Playing a much more openly and directly positive character, Jessica Chastain is still equally effective.  The kids in the movie are just as excellent — Malick is so often credited (justly) with his capacity to create indelible images that it’s easy to overlook his tendency to elicit terrific performances from pros and neophytes alike.  The Tree Of Life is a thoughtful movie at a time when the culture at large (and even myself, as evidenced by the fact that I’m only ranking this at #10) are yearning for the easy answers.  It’s a movie that lingers in the mind, and I predict it will gain in esteem as time goes on.  Awards-season conversations fade away quickly, but some movies will travel far beyond.  Trust me:  This is the kind of thing I tend to be most right about.  (It also helps to know that all of Terrence Malick’s films have grown in esteem since their original release dates.)


Is It On Netflix Instant?:






Viva Riva! (Congo)


What It’s About:


In a community where gasoline is a precious commodity, a devil-may-care rogue thief (Patsha Bey Mukuna) rips off a gas shipment from some very bad men, then runs into trouble when he falls for a local gangster’s girlfriend (Manie Malone.)


Why I Love It:


Because it’s electric.  Before I get to what makes this film so thrilling on a cultural level, let me start out by promising that it’s a solid crime film no matter what part of the world it’s from.  The plot relies on familiar noir tropes — the femme fatale, the murderous nemesis, the doomed hero — but where the story lacks in originality, the film more than makes up for it in atmosphere and intensity.  This is a low-budget movie shot entirely practically in a real community using primarily local talent, which gives the movie an added urgency and veracity.  This isn’t some Road Warrior future where gangs battle over gasoline — this is really happening in the world right now.  Imagine that; imagine the gasoline we Americans so take for granted being the currency that believably powers criminal enterprise in crowded, poverty-stricken villages.  But there’s also a harsh beauty to this movie.  The nightlife in Kinshasa feels vivid and seeped in detail and danger, and the sexuality in this movie has a fierceness and forthrightness rarely seen in European cinema, let alone puritanical America.  If there were rankings based on 2011’s most assertive (and acrobatic) cunnilingus scenes, this movie would have that position licked.  But it’s not just honest sex that makes this film so intriguing.  Viva Riva! serves as the ignition of a nation’s film industry.  On the DVD, director Djo Tunda Wa Munga talks about how he specifically designed the film’s plot to be familiar and genre-based because there aren’t a whole lot of Congolese films out there, and he wanted this one to be as accessible as possible in order to gather the international appetite for more films from the Congo.  With Viva Riva!, we’re seeing an entire film industry start from the ground up, and that’s an exciting thing to watch.


Is It On Netflix Instant?:  Yes!





13 Assassins (Japan)

What It’s About:


Thirteen samurai assassins are sent to dispose of an insane dictator.  Here be political subtext.


Why I Love It:


Takashi Miike is one of Japan’s most prolific and provocative directors.  His movies careen from genre to genre, although he is most notorious for unflinching scenes of horrific scenes of torture and extreme violence that thrill his admirers (including Quentin Tarantino) and disturb the squares (or the reasonable).  I can’t claim to be an authority on Miike, but 13 Assassins is surely one of his most masterful orchestrations.   He’s working on a grand scale here, starting with a story that has some basis in history and was dramatized once before, in 1963.  The first three-fifths or so of 13 Assassins is a run-up to the rest — there are brief and terrible outbursts of cruelty that firmly establish the threat that the maniacal noble presents, and make it clear that he needs to be removed.  (Indeed, as an audience we crave it, this guy’s so awful.)  But these violent scenes barely prepare us from what is to come; the majority of the movie is a relatively subdued chamber drama compared to the absolute carnage of the final act, where the titular baker’s dozen engineer a small village to be one large deathtrap for a retinue of two hundred enemies.  It’s difficult to overstate the literal awesomeness of the final battle, even if I were to go into the gory, inventive details, nor the mastery with which Miike conducts it.  If you are a fan of action cinema you simply must see this movie or your opinion doesn’t count.  Does that sound like a mean thing to say?  It’s because this movie quite unsubtly provides a political philosophy that is very compelling: The enemy forces are commanded by an old ally of the leader of the band of thirteen.  The leader is loath to battle his friend, but the guy is just plain on the wrong side of the argument.  He may be a good man carrying out his sworn duty, but he’s acting on behalf of a power-mad rich-kid who rapes and kills on a whim.  In the end, it’s suggested, mercy can be shown to no enemy, even if decent men may stand on the wrong side.  Here in America, with so many backwards arguments still being raised by the party of the privileged and slowing down civil rights, this philosophy is not without implications.


Is It On Netflix Instant?: Yes!




The Last Circus (Spain)
What It’s About:
In 1970s Spain, two circus clowns (Carlos Areces and Antonio de la Torre) go to war over a beautiful acrobat (Carolina Bang).

Why I Love It:

This movie has a scene where one circus clown hires a less-experienced clown to serve as his subordinate.  A clown job interview.  All I ever ask is that a movie show me something I’ve never seen before.  The Last Circus is an overt political and historical allegory, which will fascinate students of the power struggles in Spain throughout the past century, but for those of us with less sophisticated intellectual appetites, the film thrills on just as many cyllinders.  The central trio of performers are perfect in what must have been emotionally demanding roles:  The excellently-named Carolina Bang, as Natalia, “The Acrobat”, is both a pleasure to look at (something like a blond Katy Perry, only much better) and a genuinely impressive dramatic performer, anchoring the film by making its most human moments believable. Antonio de la Torre is both charismatic and terrifying as Sergio, “The Silly Clown”, a bully and an abuser, while Carlos Areces as Javier, “The Sad Clown”, a dead ringer for the comedian John Hodgman, centers and then upends the film as its protagonist turned villain turned tragic figure, a meek clown whose bullying at the hands of Sergio and rejection at the hands of Natalia ultimately turns him into a raving maniac.  Seriously, you have no idea how crazy this movie gets.  It’s like a Moulin Rouge! of violence; colorful, energetic, operatic, histrionic, beautiful, and horrible.  (If you have to, if it gets you to check this out, compare it to the Crank movies, only better and smarter in every way.)  Really, more than anything, The Last Circus reminds me of the mad opera of comic books.  Which makes sense, as filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia has worked as a comic book artist.  I’m not talking about the morose, costume-averse comic-book movies of the last few years.  I mean the deranged, carnival-sideshow feeling of the craziest comic books, which only really Tim Burton has tapped in his two Batman films (and arguably even Joel Schumacher did in his first Batman film.)  It’s that feeling of having a blast of a time as a viewer even as you’re watching the characters on screen living out their worst moments.  There’s a bizarre vicarious release to be had from witnessing such creative, bombastic madness, and as American comic-book action films have lately gotten more self-serious and eager to please everyone, we’ve moved away from that crazy energy.  It’s a shame, but it makes me ravenous to see whatever de la Iglesia comes up with next.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  Yes!




Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (USA)


What It’s About:


The life and rise to power of a tyrannical chimpanzee.


Why I Love It:


Did you read that synopsis?  It’s literally astounding.  No offense, but Twentieth Century Fox, as a studio, is responsible for some of the most ponderous and frankly misguided films of the past decade — there was no reason to expect they’d get this so right.  Honestly, they (by hiring and empowering writers Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and director Rupert Wyatt) got this movie better than right.  I’m a big fan of the original Planet Of The Apes but I wouldn’t have had much interest in seeing it remade (as evidenced by the actual remake from 2001, a great example of what I was referring to earlier as “ponderous and misguided”).  This new movie is so much more interesting than a paint-by-numbers remake or a so-called re-envisioning.  It’s even more interesting than the movie I thought I wanted.  It’s the most realistic version we could ever expect to see of what would happen if a super-smart chimp decided he was mad as hell and didn’t want to take it anymore.  Having recently seen the astonishing, similarly-themed documentary Project Nim, I’m all the more enamored of Rise Of Planet Of The Apes.  It’s true speculative fiction, legitimate science-fiction, and truly affecting.  The humans in the story are by far the less interesting — I have plenty of affection for James Franco and Freida Pinto as performers, but they are strictly supporting characters to Caesar (in a phenomenal, ground-breaking performance by Andy Serkis).  Even John Lithgow plays it muted, no doubt being practiced in playing second fiddle to a man in an ape costume from his experience on Harry & The Hendersons.   Caesar is the star of the show, and one of the best characters of any movie in 2011.  I just can’t get over the fact that this is a huge-budgeted studio film which is essentially a character study of a chimpanzee.  That’s a minor miracle.  I mean, seriously folks: It’s the primate version of Scarface.  What on any planet would I not love about that?

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  No.




Black Death (Germany/UK)

What It’s About:

A young monk (Eddie Redmayne) is recruited by a monomaniacal knight (Sean Bean) to go find and kill a rumored witch who is said to be able to raise the dead.

Why I Love It:

Because this is a terrific example of a cinematic rope-a-dope — you think it’s going to be one thing, and then it proves to be quite another.  I love it when a movie confounds my expectations that way, and I love it even better when the end result is this satisfying.  Black Death is by far the most underrated and under-seen film to appear in theaters all year.  It’s excellent all around — believable, wonderfully-acted, impeccably production-designed, and terrifically-written.  It does start out to seem like more of an epic and turns out to be far more modest, but I think that even works in its favor — the smaller scale makes it more intense and effective.  I’ve already written plenty about this overlooked gem, and I hope you get a chance to read that here, but even more than that, I’d be glad if you got the chance to please give the movie a look.  It’s worth your time.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  Yes!



Beginners (USA)

What It’s About:

A graphic designer (Ewan McGregor) beginning a new relationship copes with the legacy of his charismatic father (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet at the age of 75 before dying of cancer a few years later.

Why I Love It:

I’m attracted to movies (and people) that are honest and genuine.  Too many movies (and people) are either soulless or putting up a front to impress.  Beginners is one from the heart, an evident labor of love by its writer-director Mike Mills and his crew, and just as important, it’s a well-made movie.  The Christopher Plummer performance has gotten the most attention, and rightly, as it’s the engine that drives the movie, but that’s not all Beginners has to offer.  Look, you don’t have to dig too deep on this website to read me praising Christopher Plummer, but let’s not overlook Ewan McGregor’s inward performance as his much-less emotionally demonstrative son, Melanie Laurent as the lively woman who begins to draw him out, Goran Visnic as Plummer’s character’s dense but loving widow, and yes, Cosmo the dog in the best animal performance of the year.  And most of all, let’s not overlook Mike Mills’ storytelling achievement in creating one of the realest, most relatable movies of the past few years, let alone 2011:  I can’t exactly relate to the gay-dad story, but you’d better believe I understand McGregor’s character and his tentative attempts at a relationship with Melanie Laurent’s.  This is real life, this is real love — just a little more entertaining and uplifting.  My full-on piece on Beginners can be read here, but let me put it simply and directly:  You see that tagline on the poster?  “This is what love feels like.”  That’s not an inexact description of what this movie manages to achieve.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  No.




The Guard (Ireland)

What It’s About:

An American FBI agent (Don Cheadle) teams up with an extremely unconventional local cop (Brendan Gleeson) to catch some drug traffickers who have come to a small Irish town.Why I Love It:  Well, I really love it.  I’ve already rewatched The Guard three times since I first saw it theatricallyin September.  Like Beginners, I knew right away that this movie would make this year-end list.  If nothing else, Brendan Gleeson as Gerry Boyle is the single best fucking character out of any movie in 2011.  Gerry Boyle is profane, funny, iconoclastic, bull-headed, clever, moronic, sly, sarcastic, perverse, horny, devoted, noble, and really fucking profane.  At one point during The Guard, Don Cheadle’s frustrated FBI agent Wendell Everett tells Boyle, who has just frustrated him for the fiftieth time in the first day of them knowing each other, “I can’t tell if you’re really motherfucking dumb, or really motherfucking smart.”  It’s a good question, so on-the-nose it’s repeated later in the movie.  It’s pretty much the central question driving the movie.  It’s a blast to watch Cheadle puzzle it out, and even more fun to watch Gleeson confound everyone he encounters.  We first meet Gerry Boyle as he’s patrolling the comatose Galway countryside, coming across the wreckage of a recently-totalled fast car containing dead club kids who just had their last all-night rager.  Boyle dutifully inspects the bodies, comes up with a tab of ecstasy, and with a shrug, pops the pill into his mouth.  He then moves onto a crime scene to investigate a dead body, this one no accident, which turns out to be the handiwork of a trio of drug traffickers, played by the world-class character actors Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong and the lesser-known but equally memorable David Wilmot.  This trio is an entertaining enough bunch on their own, as is every single supporting character in the movie really (my current favorite being Dominique McElligott as an embattled escort with a sense of humor), but they’re all ultimately playing the straight men to Gleeson’s Gerry Boyle.  I can’t say it the fuck enough:  This is one of the craftiest performances of the year, in the role of the year.  Everything about The Guard is good fun, but if you’re not keeping your eyes on this guy, you’re missing the fecking point, ye idjit.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  No.



Drive (USA)

What It’s About:

A stuntman who works nights as a getaway driver (Ryan Gosling) gets wrapped up in a robbery gone wrong.

Why I Love It:

I hinted around this point in my review, but let me just spell it out:  The main character in this movie prefers not to talk if he can help it.  He’s pretty good at what he does, yet fallible at major make-or-break moments.  He’s got his own sense of style.  He’s loyal to his friends, he’s good with kids, he’s got a soft touch with the ladies — well, some but not all.  He’s cool, but not as cool as he thinks (a toothpick? really?)  In other words:  It’s very possible that it would scare you to know how similar this character is to your humble narrator here.  For better or worse, like no other movie in 2011 I related to Drive from the center of my being.  The great thing about Drive is that you don’t have to be me to relate into this movie.  The movie is built to work that way for anyone.  In fact, I could just be projecting.  It’s a broad-strokes movie, only tangentially willing to delve into character.  The novel by James Sallis has extensive backstories for every character, but the movie only gives you a little.  It instead foregoes story for mood and atmosphere.  Like a song. Just like a song.  And the best pop songs are the universal ones.  If you can get into Drive‘s particular rhythms, it’s impossible not to go with them.  There are people who shit-talked Drive, sure.  They’re the same people who shit-talked The Tree Of Life.  They’re the same people who think The Artist is a realistic candidate for the title of 2011’s Best Picture.  They don’t actually understand art when they’re looking at it.  But while The Tree Of Life is fine art, built for history, Drive is pop art, built for the moment.  You can come back to it, as many times as you like, and for the temporary moment you’re watching it — like the greatest pop art — it can make you feel like the hero of your own movie.  Or, at least it can give you a glimpse into the mind into the kind of guy who does.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  No.




Click to read my original review!


Attack The Block (UK)

What It’s About:

A swarm of carnivorous aliens land near a tenement building ruled by a gang of juvenile delinquents.

Why I Love It:

Because when I walked out of the theater onto the city streets after the first time I saw Attack The Block, I was on a dizzy movie-high, and I’ve felt almost that good after each successive viewing.  Attack The Block is funny, scary, exciting, smart, and occasionally even touching.  It has its social context if you want to think about that kind of thing (and at some point you should), but first and foremost this movie has come to entertain you, and there was no movie I saw in 2011 that was better suited to that task.  I’ve been pondering myself, and talking over with some savvy friends, why Attack The Block didn’t catch on the way I hoped.  Maybe people like me, who got to see it early and tried to fan the flames of interest, overdid it, and set up expectations no movie could meet.  Maybe it was the British accents.  Maybe you were more amenable if you grew up on hip-hop culture.  Maybe you were more amenable if you had a working knowledge of British hip-hop culture.  Maybe American audiences are too attuned to the over-edited, under-developed style of cruddy American action movies.  Maybe Attack The Block was just too good.  Maybe it’s an instant cult movie, like Carpenter’s The Thing not appreciated in its own time but lying in wait for its eventual audience to find it.  Or maybe it’s the fact that the movie’s heroes are a bunch of black kids and a white woman.  That’s still a hard sell in America.  But there’s that social context I was alluding to before.  That’s no fun.  This movie is fun.  It’s stuffed with jokes and thrills.  For monster freaks like me, it has one of the most ingenious alien designs of any movie I’ve seen in the past decade.  It has a terrific score, energetic performances, an instantaneous movie star in lead actor John Boyega (already cast by Spike Lee in an upcoming project), a smarter script (by director Joe Cornish) than it’s likely to be credited for, a great sense of momentum, and the single best ending of any movie I saw in 2011.  There are plenty of sci-fi movies with hundreds of times more budget, but it doesn’t make them any better.  Attack The Block is a simple, direct, eminently effective entertainment machine.  Did I oversell it?  Probably.  But I just had that great a time.  Attack The Block was 2011’s best party.  Sorry some of you couldn’t make it.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  No.  But it’s on steady rotation at my place.  Attack The Block Party, anyone?


Find me on Twitter!: @jonnyabomb

My personal top ten movies of 2011 is, finally, around the corner.  The Oscar nominations are getting announced soon so I better just throw down my list before then.  I was holding out because there are some key 2011 movies I wasn’t able to see in time for list-making, but enough is enough, I guess.  It’s January 22nd already.

So this is a preliminary post to let you know where I’m coming from, then we’ll do all the rest tomorrow. 

For the record: My personal top 20 of 2010, from last year.

P.S. As always, I do this under the assumption that anyone cares, which is a leap I have no choice but to take.

Movies Released In 2011 & Seen By Me


1.   13 Assassins

2.   30 Minutes Or Less

3.   The Adjustment Bureau

4.   American: The Bill Hicks Story

5.   Attack The Block

6.   Bad Teacher

7.   Barney’s Version

8.   Battle: Los Angeles

9.   Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest

10.        Beginners

11.        Black Death

12.        Blackthorn

13.        Born To Be Wild 3D

14.        Bridesmaids

15.        Burke & Hare

16.        The Caller

17.        Captain America: The First Avenger

18.        Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

19.        Cedar Rapids

20.        Colombiana

21.        Conan The Barbarian

22.        Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

23.        Cowboys & Aliens

24.        Creature

25.        A Dangerous Method

26.        The Descendants

27.        Detective Dee & The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame

28.        The Devil’s Double

29.        Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

30.        Drive

31.        Drive Angry 3D

32.        Everything Must Go

33.        Fast Five

34.        Fright Night

35.        The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

36.        The Green Hornet

37.        The Guard

38.        Hall Pass

39.        The Hangover: Part 2

40.        Hanna

41.        Henry’s Crime

42.        Hobo With A Shotgun

43.        Horrible Bosses

44.        Hugo

45.        I Saw The Devil

46.        The Ides Of March

47.        Insidious

48.        Ironclad

49.        Kill The Irishman

50.        The King’s Speech

51.        Kung Fu Panda 2

52.        The Last Circus

53.        Last Night

54.        Limitless

55.        The Lion King 3D

56.        Little Big Soldier

57.        Margin Call

58.        Meek’s Cutoff

59.        Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

60.        Moneyball

61.        The Muppets

62.        Our Idiot Brother

63.        Page One: Inside The New York Times

64.        Passion Play

65.        Paul

66.        Peep World

67.        Rango

68.        [REC]2

69.        Red Hill

70.        Red State

71.        The Reef

72.        Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

73.        The Smurfs

74.        Soul Surfer

75.        Source Code

76.        Stake Land

77.        Sucker Punch

78.        Super

79.        Super 8

80.        Terri

81.        The Thing

82.        Thor

83.        The Tree Of Life

84.        The Trip

85.        Trollhunter

86.        Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

87.        A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

88.        Viva Riva!

89.        The Ward

90.        Warrior

91.        The Way Back

92.        Win Win

93.        X-Men: First Class

94.        Young Adult

95.        Your Highness

And, for contrast…

Movies Released In 2010 & Seen By Me

  1. Daybreakers
  2. Youth In Revolt
  3. The Book Of Eli
  4. 44 Inch Chest
  5. Legion
  6. Saint John Of Las Vegas
  7. Frozen
  8. The Wolfman
  9. Shutter Island
  10. Cop Out
  11. The Crazies
  12. A Prophet
  13. Defendor
  14. Alice In Wonderland
  15. Brooklyn’s Finest
  16. Green Zone
  17. She’s Out Of My League
  18. Greenberg
  19. City Island
  20. Hot Tub Time Machine
  21. How To Train Your Dragon
  22. Clash Of The Titans
  23. Date Night
  24. Death At A Funeral
  25. Kick-Ass
  26. The Losers
  27. Harry Brown
  28. Please Give
  29. Iron Man 2
  30. Casino Jack & The United States Of Money
  31. Robin Hood
  32. MacGruber
  33. Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
  34. Survival Of The Dead
  35. Get Him To The Greek
  36. Splice
  37. The A-Team
  38. Winter’s Bone
  39. Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work
  40. Toy Story 3
  41. Cyrus
  42. The Killer Inside Me
  43. Knight & Day
  44. Grown Ups
  45. Restrepo
  46. Despicable Me
  47. Predators
  48. The Kids Are All Right
  49. Winnebago Man
  50. Valhalla Rising
  51. Inception
  52. Salt
  53. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore
  54. Dinner For Schmucks
  55. Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist & Rebel
  56. Smash His Camera
  57. Get Low
  58. The Other Guys
  59. The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
  60. Middle Men
  61. The Expendables
  62. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
  63. Piranha 3D
  64. The Switch
  65. Centurion
  66. The American
  67. Machete
  68. Easy A
  69. The Town
  70. Leaves Of Grass
  71. Douchebag
  72. Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole
  73. Let Me In
  74. The Social Network
  75. Casino Jack
  76. Jackass 3D
  77. Hereafter
  78. Monsters
  79. Due Date
  80. Megamind
  81. Four Lions
  82. 127 Hours
  83. Unstoppable
  84. Faster
  85. Black Swan
  86. Exit Through The Gift Shop
  87. I’m Still Here
  88. The Tourist
  89. TRON: Legacy
  90. True Grit

And here, for good measure, are the top 10 LISTS of 2010.  (Not sure I’ll be doing that this time around, but it was funny once.)

Anyway, see you in this space tomorrow!