Top Ten Films of 2012

Posted: 12th February 2013 by ben in Uncategorized
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It’s that time of the year to put out the annual top ten list. After much scrutinizing, I finally feel like I’ve seen everything I need to fill out my top ten. Links to the films I’ve previously written a full review of are provided…I will start with the 6 honorable mentions I have this year, in no order:

The Honorable Mentions

…These honorable mentions are the films that were in consideration up until the last minute but just barely missed the cut.

The Top Ten
  • 10. Rust and Bone
  • Powerful. Heartbreaking. Superbly acted. Rust and Bone tells the triumphant story of man’s will to survive against all odds

  • 9. The Impossible
  • A fascinating true story of a family determined to survive a devastating natural disaster. This is a disaster movie that puts Roland Emmerich to shame, in both special effects and human emotion.

  • 8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • A refreshingly charming coming of age tale. Somewhere, John Hughes is watching this film and smiling.

  • 7. Django Unchained
  • A brutal, blood-soaked revenge tale from Quentin Tarantino. Wildly entertaining and hilarious. Revisionist history at its best.

  • 6. Cabin in the Woods
  • I shouldn’t say anything about this movie. It is really good.

  • 5. Safety Not Guaranteed
  • A great little indie/sci-fi film. An exploration of what it takes to trust someone rejected by society and believe in the impossible. Tremendous emotional payoff at the end.

  • 4. Zero Dark Thirty
  • Completely mesmerizing from start to finish. Outstanding acting and directing. The best and most tense final act of a movie you will see this year.

  • 3. The Dark Knight Rises
  • Blew me away. Obviously not as good as The Dark Knight but what is? If you say The Avengers, you’re wrong. Nolan has completed the perfect Batman trilogy.

  • 2. Life of Pi
  • Gorgeous, profound, visually spectacular and the best film I’ve seen in 3D to date. Life of Pi  has it all. Come for the adventure, and stay for the enlightenment. Ang Lee’s best.

  • 1. Cloud Atlas
  • Six different stories weave their way through this epic tale and seamlessly connect both plotwise and thematically. Groundbreaking editing. So beautiful and ambitious. An absolute blast to watch. The best movie of the year.


Posted: 4th December 2012 by ben in movies/film
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“This is the perfect sci-fi movie”
-Roger Ebert

While I’m not sure I completely agree with that sentiment, Prometheus, the new quasi-prequel to Ridley Scotts 1979 classic, Alien, is a fantastic piece of film making and is one of the more thought-provoking films in recent memory. While it doesn’t directly lead up to the events of the original, fans will be able to piece together just how this story fits in with the rest of the Alien franchise without too much trouble.

The Prometheus, a spaceship in the year 2093 (about 90 years before the events of Alien) lands on a distant planet to seek the origin of mankind. Finding a giant pyramid-like structure that’s clearly manmade, our crew members investigate and that’s where the fun begins. Among the crew, Naomi Rapace does an honorable job channeling her inner Sigourney Weaver as scientist Elizabeth Shaw. The ubiquitous Michael Fassbender has an interesting turn as a know-it-all android named David. Other cast member of note incude Charlize Theron as Vickers, the stern corporate representative and Idris Elba as Janek, the no nosense captain of the Prometheus.

There are so many great scenes and set pieces in this film, it wil come to rival the two original Aliens in terms of iconic moments. One scene in particular (I won’t completely give it away but it involves a robot surgeon, a ceseraen section, and a squid) was so frightening and tense it gave me chills. The seamless blend of outstanding casting (particularly Rapace and Fassbender) and creepily perfect atmospheric elements elevates Prometheus to another level.

Some may be turned off by the lack of “answers” as the deep philosophical ideas hinted at in this film are not developed in depth (What else would you expect with a script from one of the minds behind televisions ‘Lost’?) Scott is more interested in crafting a visually stunning, often times terrifying piece of science fiction that stays with you long after you leave the theater.

Very minor problems aside, (terrible looking old-age makeup among others) I really enjoyed the story’s through line, visual effects (some of the best you’ll see), production design, score and hauntingly beautiful cinematography. The directing was masterful, acting superb and the semi-ambiguous ending is perfect. If you’re looking for answers to the meaning of life, look elsewhere. But Prometheus is a near flawless entry into the Alien mythos that fans of the original films will love.

Top Ten

Posted: 18th July 2012 by ben in movies/film
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  • 10. Hugo (2011)
  • Hugo is the perfect movie for film lovers. One of a few films that actually make good use of 3D. You can tell Scorsese poured his heart and soul into this one.

  • 9. Mission: Impossible – 2 (2000)
  • I realize this is everyone’s least favorite M:I film but I still love it. I understand its flaws but it’s so much fun I don’t care.

  • 8. Space Jam (1996)
  • I like sports because of Space Jam. I like movies because of Space Jam. I like music because of Space Jam. Space Jam is solely responsible for the person I am today.

  • 7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  • I strangely have 2 Jim Carey films in my top ten, neither of which is a comedy. The more you think about this one, the better it gets.

  • 6. Memento (2000)
  • Christopher Nolan’s first major release and one of my all time favorites. Memento explores themes that had never been previously explored. The reverse structure of the narrative works perfectly within the context of the story.

  • 5.The Dark Knight (2008)
  • It’s going to be tough for something to come along and top The Dark Knight as my favorite comic book movie. Having the chance to walk through the set in Chicago makes this even more memorable for me. Has anything actually lived up to it’s own hype as well the The Dark Knight has?

  • 4.Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Still Tarantino’s best. So many memorable lines and scenes it’s hard not include in a favorites list.

  • 3.Toy Story 3 (2010)
  • I can’t name one thing Toy Story 3 could have done better. I was 9 years old when the original came out. Over 15 years later and I still love the franchise, as an adult with a master’s degree. I cried.

  • 2.Spirited Away (2001)
  • My personal favorite animated movie. Miyazaki breathes so much life into every frame. It has a sense of wonder like no other film I’ve seen.

  • 1.The Truman Show (1998)
  • The Truman Show has been my favorite film since it came out in 1998. Everything about it completely clicked with me. Jim Carey is great in it but Ed Harris is even better in his turn as Christof, the director of the show. Cue the sun.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Posted: 12th July 2012 by ben in Uncategorized
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I review movies for FilmFire, here is one of them

The Amazing Spider-Man

“It is an entirely unnecessary remake, but a good one.”
-Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope

The Amazing Spider-Man comes just 5 short years after the final entry in the last Spider-Man film series. The first question on everyone’s mind is: Why reboot this franchise so soon? Money, for one thing. The previous franchise had gotten too big and expensive to continue being profitable enough for Sony Pictures (Tobey Maguire alone would have cost $50 million to retain). In addition to the financial issues, director Sam Raimi began to demand more creative control after pesky studio interference frankly destroyed Spider-Man 3. Of course the solution to this is to reboot everything and start fresh with cheaper actors (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone) and a young, up-and-coming director in Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). Another reason for the timing of this reboot has to do with how the rights to Spider-Man were sold to Sony Pictures by Marvel Studios in the 1990’s. No one seems to know for sure, but a “reverter clause” is said to exist, that returns the license to Marvel if Sony isn’t demonstrating use of the property.

So, that’s WHY this movie exists. Now let’s get into the real question: SHOULD this movie exist? Let’s explore. The film begins as a young Peter Parker (Garfield) is whisked away to live with with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May due to some shady things happening with his Fathers research in genetic engineering. Flash forward to Parker as a high school student. Investigating the details of his estranged Fathers work leads him to the infamous Oscorp, where Peter runs into future love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), meets one-armed scientist turned mutant Dr. Curt Connors (Rhy Ifans), and of course, gets bit by a genetically engineered spider.

Following the trend of “darker and grittier” superhero movies, Spider-Man is mostly successful. It is essentially the same origin story told in 2002’s Spider-Man, but told in a different way. Ifans as The Lizard makes a much more inspired villain than Raimi’s rogue’s gallery of poorly executed baddies: Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Venom. Although the choreography of the action in The Amazing Spider-Man might not be as finely tuned as the previous installments, it is the character work that really shines here. Garfield and Stone have chemistry bursting at the seams and play off each other with perfection. As the romantic duo that drives the heart of the film, they put Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst to shame. There is a slight issue with the tonality of this film, as it mostly aims for a certain realism and edginess but sometimes comes across as over-the-top, including an incredibly cheesy scene towards the end of the film in which a group of blue-collar New York City workers band together to give Spider-Man a hand.

The Amazing Spider-Man, while perhaps not a necessary reboot of the franchise, is a great improvement on Sam Raimi’s trilogy of the early 2000’s. Although not a lot of new ground is broken story-wise, the acting, direction and emotional center make this an excellent entry in the Spider-Man franchise, as well as comic book films in general.

Filmfire review:
4/5 forms



Posted: 29th June 2012 by ben in movies/film
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“Saying that Brave is entertaining but not astonishing is pretty much admitting your straight-A student got a B.”
-Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

Brave, the latest offering from animation powerhouse Pixar is a beautifully done fairy tale that relies a little too heavily on its Disney influences. Typically known for their unique style and characters (toys, bugs, monsters, superheroes, cars, fish, rats, robots, and an old man flying in a balloon powered house), Brave  almost seems like Pixar playing it safe.

Originally titled The Bear and the Bow, it seems like Brave went through a fairly tumultuous development process to become the film it is today. First conceived by Disney veteran Brenda Chapman(The Prince of Egypt), it was considered somewhat of a milestone as Pixar has never had a female director. However, the film drew criticism for ousting her in favor of writer/storyboarder Mark Andrews (The Incredibles, John Carter) due to creative differences.

The story starts in traditional fairy tale fashion with Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) choosing adventure and fun over stuffy royal traditions like picking a suitor and wearing royal gowns. After an argument with her mother the Queen, the film takes a unique turn involving magic and bears and funny blue creatures called whisps. To say any more would be delving too deep into spoiler territory, even this second-act plot development has been expertly hidden from the marketing of the film.

Brave surely lives up to the animation standards of a typical Pixar film (jaws will drop at Merida’a flowing head of red tangled hair, intricately animated to perfection), however it does suffer from the weakest plot outside of the Cars franchise. It’s tough to hold Pixar up to their own standards because of the near perfect track record, but this film seems almost a trite afterthought when compared to the Toy Story  franchise, Wall-E  and Up. Still, a less than average movie for Pixar is a very good movie by any other standard and it beats out any recent offering from other animation houses. Fans of great animation and fairy tales will love Brave, but don’t expect the same deep themes and expertly crafted plots of previous Pixar efforts.

Filmfire review:
3/5 forms



Posted: 21st April 2012 by ben in Uncategorized
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Bio page redesign is complete. Slice and dice. Portfolio is the next step.

site overhaul

Posted: 17th April 2012 by ben in Uncategorized
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I’m working on a new design for the site. My previous one was too busy and the code had become an absolute mess. The slice and dice layout approach is a lot more creative and conducive to how I want things to look. However, slicing a perfect grid of over 200 tiny images is a huge pain, the lengths I’ll go to to get rid of spacers.
Next up: figuring out HTML5 and CSS3

HTML 5: A Browser Test

Posted: 10th April 2012 by ben in Uncategorized
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I recently stumbled across while doing some research on HTML5. It tests your current browsers compatibility with every HTML5 element.

Using the browsers I have installed on my computer, here are the results.

Internet Explorer 9.0 – 138 points
Firefox Aurora 12.0a2 – 345 points
Chrome 18 – 400 points
Maxthon 3.3.6 – 425 points

I haven’t used Maxthon a lot but it’s clearly the best of the bunch when it comes to the newest technology, I’ll have to check it out some more.

The Top Ten Movies of 2011

Posted: 26th February 2012 by ben in movies/film
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The Top Ten Movies of 2011

This year I’m going with ten honorable mentions followed by my actual top ten.
With a one sentence review of each one. Just because.

Honorable Mentions

  • Super – a much more gritty and interesting take on realistic superheroes than
    kickass could ever be
  • Extremely loud and Incredibly Close – I know everyone hated this but I liked it
    quite a bit, Sandra Bullock sucks
  • Rango – insane attention to detail, some crazy character designs with less than 1
    second of screen time
  • The Adventures of Tintin – mo-cap is never going to look like the real thing but
    I thought this was really fun
  • We Bought a Zoo – I’ll be the first to admit it! I almost shed a tear or two!
  • Anonymous – very interesting revisionist history take on Shakespeare
  • Attack the Block – This is a good movie bruv, believe it.
  • Contagion – I saw this SLICK, EMOTIONLESS tale of biological horror during a
    thunderstorm at the drive-in
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene – I think we can all agree that cults are bad, and John
    Hawkins is a creepy looking man
  • Immortals – super cool action sequences between gods and men elevate this weak

Top Ten

  • 10. Take Shelter – intense buildup throughout the entire movie helps reveal
    Michael Shannons sanity in the final scene
  • 9. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – probably the best collection of action
    sequences I’ve ever seen, loses points for lack of Ving screen time
  • 8. Win Win – fantastic characters and acting by Paul G. and Amy Ryan, awesome
    work by the child actor
  • 7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – of the of the of the of the
  • 6. Source Code – I swear this movie makes sense, I figured it out once I just
    forget now
  • 5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – David Fincher has had a film in my top ten
    in 4 out of the last 5 years! He directs movies I like
  • 4. 50/50 – this movie really hit home having gone through a similar experience, although any doctor who treated patients like that would be hit with a lawsuit faster than you can say “cracked my ten”
  • 3. The Adjustment Bureau – i love everything about this movie, a great
    supernatural thriller until the final scene where it lets you apply your own
    personal philosophy to the ending, religious or otherwise
  • 2. Hanna – a fantasic take on fairy tales and revenge thrillers starring Saoirse
    Ronan, one of my favorite up and comers
  • 1. Hugo – the closest thing to a perfect film in a weak movie year for me, you
    can tell Scorsese poured his heart and soul into this

A Look Back…2010

Posted: 26th February 2012 by ben in movies/film
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  1. Toy Story 3

    “Yeah, I knew Lotso. He was a good toy. A friend. We had the same owner, Daisy. I was there when Lotso got unwrapped. Daisy loved us all. But Lotso… Lotso was special. They did everything together. Never seen a kid and toy more in love. One day we took a drive, hit a rest stop, had a little playtime. After lunch, Daisy fell asleep. She never came back. So we waited. Lotso wouldn’t give up. It took forever, but we finally made it back to Daisy’s. But by then, it was too late. Something changed inside Lotso that day. Something snapped.”

    Incredible. The only movie I teared up at this year was about toys. I am an adult. Pixar works miracles. I was 9 years old when Toy Story came out and I like the franchise even more now, 24 years old with a masters degree. This is the most inspired movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s technically a kids movie. The third kids movie in a franchise about toys. I can’t name one thing Toy Story 3 could have done better, even the opening short film was mesmerizing. The best movie of the year. Alright, I’m off to see how much I’m going for on eBay.

    “Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he’ll never give up on you… ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.”

  2. The Fighter

    “I’m not a stepping stone anymore.”
    “I’m the one fighting… not you, not you and not you!”
    “This is my shot at the title, I won’t get another one after this.”

    The script is more conventional than you might think but the performances in this movie are why I love it. And I figured out all on my own that the title “The Fighter” has a secret double meaning! Not only is Micky Ward a literal fighter in the ring, but he also achieves success in life by fighting through tough circumstances, get it? Best performance of the year goes to Christian Bale as he transforms himself once again as Dickie, the drug addled half brother of Marky Mark. Bonus points for Conans sister.

    “That guy did not just get off the fuckin’ couch. If he did, I’m gonna get a couch like that.”
    -Micky Ward

  3. The Social Network

    “I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”

    I became so absorbed with the way David Fincher put this movie together that I watched every special feature and the audio commenary on the blu-ray in practically one sitting. Best script of the year from Aaron Sorkin and best director of the year for Fincher. This list isn’t written in pencil, it’s written in ink.

    “Did I adequately answer your condescending question?”
    -Mark Zuckerberg

  4. Inception

    “I wish. I wish more than anything. But I can’t imagine you with all your complexity, all you perfection, all your imperfection. Look at you. You are just a shade of my real wife. You’re the best I can do; but I’m sorry, you are just not good enough.”

    Christopher Nolan’s near perfect track record is still intact, following The Dark Knight with a sprawling epic about dreams, ideas and the subconcious. No other director could have pulled off something so bold and imaginitive as this. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s antigravity hallway fight wins best fight sequence of the year. And the top falls at the end, you can hear it.

    “Don’t you want to take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone!”

  5. 127 Hours

    “You know, I’ve been thinking. Everything is… just comes together. It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface.”
    -Aron Ralston

    Great energy. Great soundtrack. Danny Boyles use of haunting sounds and imagery are perfect. Amazing that everyone already knows the story and the ending but I was still watching this on the edge of my seat. Worth it for “the scene” alone.

  6. The Town

    “Driver’s name is Arthur Shea. Former Metro Police officer, fifty-seven years old. Soon as his partner leaves with the coal bag, Artie cracks a Herald, and he don’t look up ’til the guy gets back. Marty Maguire. Cummins Armored courier. Five-ten, two-twenty, fifty-two years old. Picks up every Wednesday and Friday at exactly 8:12, makes a hundred and ten dollars a day, carries a Sig nine. And he’s about to get robbed.”

    Some of the best heist sequences (bank heists, for dream heists see: #4 Inception) and car chases all but make up for the lame final beard scene.

    “You know, people get up everyday and do the same thing. And tell themselves they’re going to change their life one day and they never do. I’m going to change mine. Why don’t you do it with me?”
    -Doug MacRay

  7. Tron: Legacy

    “The Grid.
    A digital frontier.
    I tried to picture clusters of information as they traveled through the computer.
    What do they look like? Ships, motorcycles.
    With the circuits like freeways.
    …I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see.
    And then, one day… I got in.”
    -Kevin Flynn

    Daft Punk and awesome visuals carry a good enough plot for me to crave this movie on blu-ray. Fake Jeff Bridges looks really fake though.
    Best: Soundtrack

    “Change the scheme! Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you’d be so kind.”

  8. Inside Job

    “This is no dry economics lesson; it is a vital wake-up call.”
    -Colin Covert

    Suck it Michael Moore, this is how you make a documentary. With actual facts that show you how things work and why things are the way they are. I feel like an expert on the mortgage crisis after seeing this. Filled with blame to go around on all sides of the political spectrum, you can’t write this off as a liberal rant or conservative dribble. The most important thing I learned: everyone is a scumbag. My blood is still boiling.
    Best: Documentary

    “Inside Job really is the movie of the decade, unfortunately.”
    -Stuart Klawans

  9. True Grit

    “You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements. While I sat there watchin’ I gave some thought to stealin’ a kiss… though you are very young, and sick… and unattractive to boot. But now I have a mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt.”

    An impressive genre western by the bros Coen. Probably the best performance I’ve seen from Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges was awesome as usual, not much more to say.

    “Ground’s too hard. Them men wanted a decent burial, they should have got themselves killed in summer.”
    -Rooster Cogburn

  10. Shutter Island

    “You’re as violent as they come. I know. because I’m as violent as they come. Don’t embarrass yourself by denying your own blood lust, son. Don’t embarrass me. If the constraints of society were removed, and I was all that stood between you and a meal, you’d crack my skull with a rock and eat my meaty parts.”

    The Marty/Leo combo scores again with this one. Not a ton of action but the slow build-up of the events that occur on the island pay off at the end. Duly-appointed federal marshalls CRACK MY TEN.

    “Which would be worse, to live as a monster or die as a good man?”
    -Teddy Daniels

  11. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

    “You made me swallow my gum! That’s going to be in my digestive tract for seven years!”
    -Gideon Graves

    Most quotable movie of the year with a visually dazzling style. It’s a shame this movie had a disappointing script or it would have been much higher on the list. I want to play Ninja Ninja Revolution.

    “Your BF’s about to get eff’d in the b!”
    -Roxy Richter

  12. Triangle

    Technically a 2009 release overseas, this hit the U.S. in February straight to DVD. And it is a gem. Does it make sense? Maybe not, but I think I love it regardless. I literally can’t say anything about the plot without major spoilers, so please see this movie now however you can. Just download it illegally, everyone does it.

  13. The Book of Eli

    “In all these years I’ve been carrying it and reading it every day, I got so caught up in keeping it safe that I forgot to live by what I learned from it.”

    Manages to weave a spiritual journey into a post-apocalyptic action movie. A shocking surprise ending that probably doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie but I don’t care, it’s my list.

  14. I Love You Phillip Morris

    Old Jim Carey is back. Not his funniest work ever but easily his best comedy since Liar Liar in 1997. If you want to see Jim Carey having gay sex with Ewan McGregor, SEE THIS MOVIE! I would list some favorite quotes but I think they’re too dirty for Facebook.
    Best: Comedy

  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

    I don’t read the books but this made me very excited for Part 2. Not as cool as Azkaban but I was entertained. For those who said it was a boring road trip movie, shut up you’re wrong.

  16. The King’s Speech

    “If I am King, where is my power? Can I declare war? Form a government? Levy a tax? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them.”
    -King George VI

    I wasn’t expecting too much from this as speech impediments don’t sound like the most interesting topic for a movie. But the way it fuses King George’s personal problems with worldwide issues is fantastic and makes for a riveting history lesson.

I awkwardly made a top 16 last year, damn good list of movies besides a few things: The Kings Speech sucks but at least it was only my #16 pick. I ranked The Town and The Fighter way too high. Toy Story 3 is clearly the best movie of last year but followed closely by The Social Network and Inception. Good year for Fincher and Nolan.