Kung Fu Panda 2
Kung Fu Panda 2 is like the animated Expendables, if The Expendables included actors from all genres, so what I’m saying is, it has a great cast, featuring Jean Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, and Lucy Liu, among others. This action oriented film had great fight scenes, excellent comedy, and plenty of heart.
As a fan of Westerns, Rango got it all right when it comes to honoring the West. Timothy Olyphant’s portrayal of ‘The Spirit of the West’ alone makes this movie one to watch, but when you add in great classic Western tropes with a modern, weird twist and the talents of Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski, this strange tale it all the right notes for me.
I love this movie because someone has to. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It features titties, minotaur dicks, pedophilia, and drug use. Your Highness is a lot smarter than the dumb movie it appears to be and it perfectly lampoons the sword and sorcery genre, either through elaborate set pieces or James Franco simply replying “Nice” in a bro-voice instead of giving a lengthy hero speech.
If I was less of a man, I’d say this film brought something close to a tear to my eye, but I’m a super man, so yeah, whatever. I found this film to have superb special effects, great boxing action, and a whole lot of heart, most of which came from Atom. I swear if you look close enough you can see a soul in there.
Transformers 3 The Dark of the Moon
Fuck you. I know what you’re thinking and fuck you. I love Michael Bay and I love Transformers. Sure, Dark of the Moon was too long, but other than that I thought this was one of the best action movies of the year. With special effects that should win Academy Awards and massive, epic action sequences that seamlessly blend real explosions, real metal, and fake robots, Michael Bay put a shot of adrenaline straight into my dick with this one.
Japanese director Takashi Miike is typically pretty hit or miss due mainly to the man’s insanely prolific output. That said, 13 Assassins is a direct hit. It seems to neatly into two parts, setup and execution and while some will find the setup a bit tedious, no one can deny the sheer badassery of the execution. Miike is in complete control showing a steady handy as he crafts the story with consistent pacing and plenty of payoff for the lengthy setup. This is a classic underdog tale with a ragtag group of misfits taking on seemingly unsurmountable odds, risking their lives for the greater good. It’s an old fashioned samurai story with plenty of weighty moral and ethical dilemmas challenging notions of loyalty an honor that eventually give way to monumental bloodshed.
Attack the Block
This blew the doors off the theater at SXSW this year and it couldn’t have happened for a better film. First time director Joe Cornish has created a monster, or rather several jet black furry creatures which fall from the sky directly into the council estates of south London. Young John Boyega is a revelation as Moses the leader of gang of youths who discover the first creature and kill it. But there are plenty more on the way and Moses and his crew are the only ones who can stop them. Drawing on classic 80s fare from Goonies to Gremlins to Critters, Attack the Block is a 90 minute thrill ride.
I’d give Michael Shannon this year’s Oscar for Best Actor today if I could. The man is a phenomenal actor and he gives maybe his best performance ever in Take Shelter, which is certainly saying something. Shannon’s Curtis takes on the mantle of the everyman and all the fears that go with that. His scene in the Lion’s Club dinner is worth the price of admission by itself. While the end will divide audiences and rightfully so, I ended up on the loving it side. It’s the film more than any other this year that has really stuck with me, that I find myself thinking about it and wanting to discuss and I can’t give it a higher recommendation than that.
I Saw the Devil
If you’re not familiar with Korean director Jee-woon Kim now is the perfect time to check him out. The man has been on a roll starting with 2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters and continuing on through A Bittersweet Life and the phenomenal The Good, the Bad, the Weird culminating with his most recent outing I Saw the Devil. This is a dark, brutal film showcasing a deadly game of cat and mouse between a government agent and a deranged serial killer. Byung-hun Lee, who American viewers will recognize as Storm Shadow from 2009’s G.I. Joe, is fantastic in the lead role of the agent hunting down the man who killed his fiancee. He’s brooding and calculating and driven, willing to do anything necessary for revenge. Min-sik Choi is great as well as the serial killer, taunting and toying with Lee with no hint of remorse. Make no mistake, this is a difficult film to watch with a hard edge that will rattle your nerves, an experience well worth seeking out.
Yes, I realize that characters break the 4th wall, constantly break into song, and even reference the fact that they’re in a movie and while all these would be cloying in any other film, they just seem quaint here. This is the cinematic return of The Muppets after all, and I’ll be damned if Jason Segel hasn’t crafted a fantastic love-letter to Jim Henson’s puppet friends. This is the type of movie that can cheer you up when you’re having a bad day. It’s charming and heartwarming and funny and I can’t wait to see it again.