Best to Worst: Christopher Nolan

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Christopher Nolan is a director whose likability ranges from completely overrated to god among men. He has a very passionate fan base, that’s for sure. My opinion of him lies somewhere in the middle ground. I respect him and think he’s a talented filmmaker whose work I admire and enjoy to watch. Sometimes he doesn’t quite hit the nail right on the head, but he comes pretty close most of the time. With the release of Interstellar this weekend, I figured I’d take a look back on all nine of his films to see which ones stand out as his greatest, and which ones didn’t quite hit the mark. Here is my personal ranking of Christopher Nolan’s films from best to worst.

1. Memento (2000)
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior
IMDb rating: 8.5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

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Memento is a great psychological thriller about a man named Leonard (Guy Pearce) who is on a quest to find a man involved in the attack and murder of his wife. The twist is that Leonard suffers from anterograde amnesia and is unable to store recent memories, so he hangs on to his clues by taking Polaroids, writing notes and tattooing words on his body. The great thing about Memento is the way the events are presented to us using two sequences, one in black and white and one in color. The scenes alternate, although there is an order to each sequence. Basically, it’s not very easy to piece everything together until the end, but of course, you always have those people who “saw it coming.” To me, though, I didn’t find Memento to be predictable at all, and that’s something I really like about movies like this. Everything is like a piece to a big puzzle, and we piece them together at the same time Leonard does. The plot, when everything is said and done, might not be the most original, but the way it is presented is. So why do I think this one is the best? Well, this movie really showcased what Nolan can bring to the table when it comes to film. He’s not afraid to take chances. Memento is not your run-of-the-mill kind of thriller, and that’s what’s so fun about it. It’s smart and engaging without being pretentious. It kickstarted a career that was soon going to be admired by many, and although I really enjoyed a lot of his films afterwards, this one still stands at the top for me.

2. The Dark Knight (2008)
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman
IMDb rating: 9.0
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

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Here is the most highly praised superhero film of all superhero films. People may have mentally noted Nolan’s name after the likes of Memento, but let’s face it, The Dark Knight Trilogy is what really put him on the map. I saw this in the theater without even having watched Batman Begins first and I still enjoyed it. Yes, it’s true, I’m a Marvel fan, but I don’t let a comic book brand name keep me from enjoying a good movie. So why is this movie so popular? One could argue that it’s really Heath Ledger’s unmatched portrayal of the Joker and his subsequent death that pushed this so far into the spotlight. But I think it has more to do with Nolan’s vision of Batman overall. You could put Christian Bale in this without the Batman suit and it would still be a great action/drama. He became a relatable superhero because he’s barely a superhero at all, well, not in the traditional sense. He’s a billionaire with martial arts skills, cool gadgets, a tormented soul, and a conscience that keeps him from killing. The Joker is the perfect foil, a man who creates chaos for the sake of chaos. There’s no typical motivation involved, he doesn’t want money or to rule the world, he just wants people, Batman especially, to admit that when it comes down to it, they will do whatever it takes to keep themselves alive, including murder. The battle between good and evil is interesting and psychological. The story within the comic book world may not be so original, but the way Nolan handled it and took it down to a very human level is what made it great. This formula certainly doesn’t work for all superheroes, but it works for Batman.

3. Inception (2010)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe
IMDb rating: 8.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

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Inception is often considered to be either a very smart blockbuster, or one of the most overrated movies of all time. Is it slightly overrated? Probably, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t personally enjoy it. What can I say? I am a sucker for stylish sci-fis. There isn’t much heart in Inception, or character development, and it suffers from way too much babbling exposition, something I complained about in Interstellar as well, but unlike the latter, I wasn’t totally let down with a downward spiral of a second half. I have to give credit to Nolan for the idea, though. Instead of giving us a remake or some other incredibly boring rehashed sci-fi theme he came up with this ridiculous but fun story involving sleep-sharing technology and multiple layers of dreams. It might be a little too Matrix-y for its own good, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. I go to the movies in the hopes I’ll find something different, and if it’s not different, then hopefully it’s better than its predecessors. Inception wasn’t a let down for me. It’s not a perfect movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

4. The Prestige (2006)
Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall
IMDb rating: 8.5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%

(L-R)   Anthony DeMarco, Christian Bale

The Prestige has a great, engaging story about two magicians whose obsession with pulling off the perfect trick brings out the selfish qualities within themselves and the rivalry between each other. As with anything having to do with magic, nothing is as it seems. The characters are deceiving. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are great in their roles, but their roles are somewhat similar. They are both struggling with a lot of same things, it’s not really a movie where there’s a good guy and a bad guy, because they’re both good and they’re both bad. You can’t really root for one or the other. That’s not really a problem, though, because I think that’s the whole point. The problem is the logical world that is built up throughout the whole movie that suddenly changes to illogical towards the second half. When it comes to the tricks, you know that no matter how head-scratching the trick is, there’s some sort of logical explanation to how it’s done. The characters even explain how they’re done. That’s how it is in the real world of magic. But then, something happens that turns this movie from a believable drama with magic tricks into a straight up sci-fi. It’s a bit of an abrupt twist, because it takes you out of a logical universe into an entirely fictional one. But besides that, I put this so high on the list because of the great way Nolan captures the period the story takes place in, the great performances, and of  course, who doesn’t like a story about magic?

5. Batman Begins (2005)
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy
IMDb rating: 8.3
Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

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Batman Begins came out sixteen years after the last good Batman movie was made, I’m talking about Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989. Everything else in between was an insufferable flop, if you ask me. So basically, I hadn’t even bothered to see it until after I saw The Dark Knight and decided there’s something good going on here. What’s great about Batman Begins is the amount of necessary time taken to really flesh out the character of Bruce Wayne. We aren’t dropped into a typical Batman story where there’s five minutes of origin exposition and then he’s on to fighting whatever villain has been picked for this particular story. The story really takes its time with his origin, so that whenever he comes face to face with death, we’re ready to care. Not to mention, you’ve got some top notch actors in this ensemble that really help in taking it to the next level.

6. Interstellar (2014)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Mackenzie Foy, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck
IMDb rating: 9.2
Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%

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Interstellar is a highly imaginative and visually stunning film. Once again, Matthew McConaughey shows how talented he truly is, as he outshines the rest of the cast members. The plot, as I said before, suffers from overbearing exposition in much of the dialogue, and the promising start begins to fizzle towards the end. The real redeeming qualities lie in the technical aspects of the film as opposed to the actual story. It is an impressive piece of work regardless, even if it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me personally. It is clearly not Nolan’s best work, but it’s also not his worst. Full review here.

7. Following (1998)
Starring: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell
IMDb rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

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As Nolan’s directorial debut, Following is quite impressive, estimated to have been made somewhere around a $6,000 budget. It has a solid script, and the black and white gives a neo-noir feel to it. This particular stylization can account for the sometimes bad lighting in some of the frames, as well. The story twists and turns with deception and betrayal. The twist in a story, as well as the non-linear plot has become somewhat of a trademark of Nolan, who seems to try and make his stories as unpredictable as possible. Following shows that he adopted this right from the beginning. It showed audiences that not even one of the smallest movie budgets in history can hold him back from making something worthwhile, and that is worth a little bit of praise, to say the least. Furthermore, it is this movie that gained enough attention which allowed Nolan to obtain the budget he needed to make Memento.

8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman
IMDb rating: 8.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

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The Dark Knight Rises is one of Nolan’s movies that has a lot of split opinions. On the one hand, it’s a decent send off to a three movie franchise, but on the other, it didn’t live up to the hype surrounding it after such a successful sequel as The Dark Knight. I thought that Bane was just ok, but of course he really couldn’t hold a candle to Heath Ledger’s Joker. He wasn’t interesting enough, and his motivations were unclear until we were given some cliche plot devices that gave us very limited insight into his backstory, and then we realize he’s not even the main villain, despite controlling Gotham and putting Batman out of commission for months. Even Batman himself was just “meh.” There were a lot of things working against this movie and keeping it from being the epic ending we were hoping for, instead of just a mediocre one. Was it terrible? No. It was entertaining, it looked good, and it had a great score. Sadly, though, it fizzles compared to its predecessor.

9. Insomnia (2002)
Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
IMDb rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

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As compelling as a thriller it is, Insomnia doesn’t shine much compared to the rest of Nolan’s work. To be honest, I almost forgot he directed it. The script is somewhat average, but the performances are great. Al Pacino plays a rather convincing detective who is trying to catch a killer and who is suffering from insomnia at the same time while in an Alaskan town where the sun doesn’t set. Robin Williams gives the most praise worthy performance in this movie as the villain. He showed that he had a lot more to bring to the table besides comedy. Overall, it is a solid, somewhat above average thriller, but unfortunately it’s a little forgettable.

How do you feel about Christopher Nolan? Overrated? Genius? Somewhere in the middle? How would you rate his movies? Let me know in the comments!

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Best to Worst: David Fincher

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David Fincher is one of my personal favorite directors. His short list of feature films include stories that are mostly dark in tone, but he manages them really well with his gritty and unique style. He is known for being a bit of an obsessive director, but that can only explain why his track record consists of so many hits and very few misses, making him one of the most consistent and respectable modern filmmakers today. With the recent release of Gone Girl, Fincher has once again proven that not only can he be counted on to make a faithful book adaptation, but also a great thriller in general. Here is my own ranking of David Fincher’s films from best to worst.

1. Zodiac (2007)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, John Carroll Lynch
IMDb rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

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When I think of David Fincher, Seven and Fight Club are the two movies that immediately come to mind. In my opinion, though, Zodiac is by far the best Fincher film, despite it being somewhat underrated by the general audience compared to the other two career-defining movies he made early on. It has a few great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. The story is interesting, being based on the real life serial murders of the Zodiac killer from the late ’60s and early ’70s, but it also involves the theme of obsession, and how obsession with the case ultimately destroys many people’s personal lives in the long run. The subject is tackled skillfully, letting the details unravel slowly before your eyes, and all the while you know from history that the killer was never caught. Movies don’t always need a definite resolution to be good, and this is an example of that. I’ll also add that it has a great soundtrack, thanks to this movie I can’t listen to Donovan’s song “Hurdy Gurdy Man” without thinking of the Zodiac killer.

2. Seven (1995)
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow
IMDb rating: 8.7
Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

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Seven is the film that allowed Fincher to really make a lasting impact on cinema, being the first good movie he directed since his rather unsuccessful debut with Alien³. It’s a thriller that stuck with me throughout the years, and often times, I find myself comparing other serial killer thrillers to this one for some reason. It’s a movie that is full of clichés, but manages to balance them out with a good script, some great actors, and particularly skillful stylized filmmaking. Full review here.

3. Fight Club (1999)
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf
IMDb rating: 8.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

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Fight Club is one of those movies I can watch over and over again, and trust me, I have. Maybe there are other movies that deserve this spot more than this one, but my own personal bias won’t allow it. Fight Club is something that people either love, or they don’t understand the hype. I belong to the former group. I don’t know what it is about this one. Maybe it’s the weird humor, the anarchic message, or the fact there’s a bunch of guys kicking the crap out of each other with their shirts off. Whatever the reason, I’ve loved it for a long, long time. It’s a very stylish film, from the camera work to the editing, but it all works well in a story where the main character finds himself in a world of chaos, breaking away from the status quo via the amazing Tyler Durden.

4. The Social Network (2010)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justine Timberlake, Armie Hammer
IMDb rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

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I’m not really a huge fan of Facebook and for some reason, a movie about it just didn’t appeal to me at all, but I went to see it anyway, and man, was I surprised. Fincher took a subject I couldn’t give two shits about, told me a story I didn’t care to know, and actually made me like it. A lot of credit has to go to Aaron Sorkin for his witty script and clever dialogue, but this movie as a whole intrigued me. I have no idea if the real Mark Zuckerberg is anything like how Jesse Eisenberg played him, but I don’t even care. He was perfect for it. I hated him just as much as I liked him, and that is something I don’t feel very often. Andrew Garfield was also amazing, and even Justin Timberlake surprised me. Whenever this movie comes on TV I find myself watching it even though I’ve already seen it a bunch of times, it’s just one of those kind of movies.

5. Gone Girl (2014)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris
IMDb rating: 8.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%

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Gone Girl is one of the best adaptations from a book I’ve seen in a long time. The story is engaging, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike give a couple of memorable performances. It’s a dark story, and there are elements to it that are outrageous, but even so, it’s a story that is somewhat relatable. One of the main themes is that marriage is tough, and I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. It’s a movie I enjoyed for a lot of reasons, and is possibly one of my favorites from this year so far. If you want, you can read my full review of Gone Girl here.

6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård
IMDb rating: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

the girl with the dragon tattoo

Another solid book adaptation by Fincher. Based on the book by Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo deals with a lot of seriously dark themes, including rape and murder. It’s definitely a lot darker tonally than Gone Girl, but the reason I think Gone Girl was better was that it had a more relatable story, and the film engages its audience with the characters on an emotional level a lot better than this, but both are similar in some ways. I have to say that the performances here are indeed amazing. I couldn’t tell Rooney Mara could play a part like this just by seeing her in the one short scene she had in The Social Network, but she pretty much blew me away. I was skeptical about this movie at first, because it seemed cheap to remake a movie so soon after the Swedish version came out, but I’ve seen both, and this one is infinitely better. Stylishly, the film fits the tone of Larsson’s novel really well. But that’s not surprising, as Fincher proves time and time again what he can do with some dark material.

7. The Game (1997)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn
IMDb rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 71%

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The Game is a well-made movie with a really intriguing story…right up until the end. Actually, the ending is really the main problem I have with this film. It starts out as a thrilling story of a wealthy businessman who gets sucked into playing a seemingly wicked game, turning everyone he meets into a person he cannot trust, not that he had anyone to trust in the first place. It has a great premise, but falls flat towards the end. Of course, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but I will just say, it’s a little disappointing and kind of strange. I will say that the journey and the mystery is absorbing and exciting, almost to the point of frustration–good frustration–and I certainly can’t take that away from it.

8. Panic Room (2002)
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto
IMDb rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%

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Panic Room is actually a pretty engaging thriller. The only reason it doesn’t match up to Fincher’s other thrillers for me is that it’s just very, very simple. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that I find movies more memorable when they are juggling different themes, or making you think in one way or another. That sounds incredibly pretentious and I almost feel bad for saying it, but it’s true. This is just pure entertainment, a sit down and turn your brain off kind of movie. Jodie Foster gives a solid performance, and so does Jared Leto with his…weird cornrows. Kristen Stewart, for once, isn’t terrible, so that’s always a plus. Pretty good entertainment all around.

9. Alien³ (1992)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance
IMDb rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43%

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It’s kind of unfortunate that David Fincher’s feature-length directorial debut was a sequel, and a third sequel at that. It seemed way out of place for an Alien movie, it stopped being an awesome space horror movie and turned into some kind of dark, prison thriller that just happened to have a murderous alien in it. I’ve read, though, that Fincher had basically no control over the movie creatively, the script was constantly changing and production was a mess, and that’s a big reason why it turned out the way it did. He was so upset about it, he didn’t want to read another script until he happened to come across the script for Seven three years later and used it as a chance to redeem himself. Although it’s nowhere near as good as Alien and Aliens, it really wasn’t that bad. It’s bearable at best, but not really definitive of Fincher’s work.

10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson
IMDb rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%

curious case of benjamin

Let me just say that this isn’t exactly a bad movie even though I’m putting it last. It’s last because it was a personal disappointment. Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells a very unique kind of tale of a man who is born old and grows young. It had a lot of potential it just didn’t live up to for me, and I was really looking forward to seeing it before it came out. It suffers from being extremely overlong, clocking in at nearly three hours. While the first half of the movie wasn’t too bad, the second half dragged on and on forever with seemingly no purpose. It failed to make me feel a connection to the characters and to the story even though it tried really hard to be melodramatic. It never delved any deeper than just being a story about a man and woman whose love is doomed to fail for obvious aging reasons. But with that said, it had some great visual effects and the acting isn’t terrible. I just sadly had more fun with Alien³ .

How would you rate David Fincher’s movies? Let me know in the comments!

Best to Worst: Terry Gilliam

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Terry Gilliam is a visionary who excels at making films that balance creative imagery and adventurous stories that often have philosophical undertones. He is known for making movies with dark humor, fantastical situations, and eccentric characters who help draw the audience in to the odd worlds that he creates. With his most recent film, The Zero Theorem, Gilliam has proven that he has not yet lost his touch when it comes to creating movies that make people think. Like with anything, people tend to either love or hate his works. His style doesn’t appeal to everyone, and that’s okay. Personally, I love his stuff and I think that Gilliam has never truly made what I would consider a really bad film. He’s made good films and then he’s made films that aren’t as good as his best. With that said, here is my personal ranking of Terry Gilliam’s movies from best to worst.

 

1. Brazil (1985)
Starring: Jonathan PryceKim GreistRobert De Niro, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins
IMDb rating: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

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Brazil is Gilliam’s cinematic masterpiece. It takes relevant themes like controlling, bureaucratic societies and presents them in an imaginative way using dream sequences, humorous situations, and disturbing ideas. One of the recurring themes that shows up in several of Gilliam’s films is the over reliance on technology. In this movie, a glitch caused by a fly getting caught in a printing machine causes the wrong man to get arrested, and the conflict in the plot snowballs from there. Everyone in this world relies on loads of paperwork to get things done, not allowing anyone to stop and think for themselves about what they are doing. Robert De Niro’s character, Harry Tuttle, is branded a terrorist just because he goes around fixing people’s air conditioning systems outside of the company who is supposed to be responsible for them, in order to bypass all the paperwork involved. This is Jonathan Pryce’s best role in a Gilliam film, in my opinion. The ending isn’t exactly a Hollywood happy one, and that’s one of the things I love about this movie.

 

2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Starring: Graham ChapmanJohn CleeseEric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam
IMDb rating: 8.4
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

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Co-directed with Terry Jones, Monty Python and the Holy Grail has become a cult classic in the comedy genre. Technically, this film doesn’t just belong to Gilliam, but to the whole Monty Python comedy group who wrote it and acted in it. However, I couldn’t leave this one out of the list. This is one of those older dark comedies that never gets tired. I could quote this movie for days. The Monty Python comedy group didn’t need a huge budget to create something that is comically epic. The fact that they run around banging coconut shells together to make the sounds of horse hooves trotting was not originally meant to be the funny idea that it was. Their small budget didn’t allow for real horses to be used, hence they came up with coconut idea. It’s hilarious, and the whole conversation in the beginning of the movie between Graham Chapman’s character, King Arthur, and the man at the top of the castle are some of the funniest lines in the whole movie, and it’s all thanks to the coconuts.

 

3. Time Bandits (1981)
Starring: Sean ConneryShelley DuvallJohn Cleese, Michael Palin, David Rappaport, Craig Warnock, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Jack Purvis
IMDb rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

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Time Bandits is the most fun adventure that Gilliam created, in my opinion. It really reveals the kind of imagination that he has. It’s shown to you through the perspective of a young boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock), who is only too happy to escape his hum-drum life with parents who pay almost no attention to him. He discovers a lot of things while traveling through time, including a new potential candidate for a father in the form of Sean Connery who plays Agamemnon. I loved the idea of a group of bandits traveling through time and stealing from famous historical figures–Napolean included. It has humor and adventure that appeals to both kids and adults. But of course, it would hardly be a Gilliam film without a little bit of social commentary included–this time, about consumerism and materialistic people.

 

4. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Starring: Bruce WillisMadeleine StoweBrad Pitt
IMDb rating: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

twelve-monkeys

12 Monkeys is the movie I often refer to when I think of time travel done right. There are so many time travel movies out there that don’t make sense. The idea of a causal loop–where Bruce Willis’ character goes back in time to stop an event, but only ends up learning that going back in time causes the event–is the perfect way to do time travel. Nothing is really solved, but in the meantime we learn how the world got to the point of where it is with Willis’ character in the beginning. It is sort of a tragic story if you think about it, as nothing Willis does can stop what is meant to happen. The actors are all first rate, the story is engaging, and being the first Gilliam film I ever saw, it set me up for what would become a newfound love for the director.

 

5. The Fisher King (1991)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Lara Harris
IMDb rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

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The Fisher King is certainly a dark story that deals with a lot of serious issues. Poverty, for one, but also the influence celebrities have on other people. Jeff Bridges’ character is a radio host on the verge of stardom whose cynicism and arrogance causes a tragedy that will change one man’s life forever. Robin Williams is both humorous and tragic as a homeless man who suffers from hallucinations and crazy ideas due to a horrible tragedy in his life. This is the only Gilliam movie that actually brought me to tears. It has a nice balance though of humor and seriousness. It doesn’t get too heavy all at once, and as soon as it starts to, it lightens up a little. It’s an emotional movie, but well worth the ride due to a story that never falls flat and a couple of great performances.

 

6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Starring: Johnny DeppBenicio Del ToroTobey Maguire, Christina Ricci
IMDb rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes score: 50%

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Welcome to Terry Gilliam’s 2-hour-long, drug-induced ride. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. With a couple of unparalleled performances by Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, this movie goes along with the pace of two people having highs and lows on a suitcase full of psychedelic drugs, and the ride doesn’t stop until the credits roll. The best part is, you’re brought right along for that ride with the use of awkward camera angles, dizzying movements, music, and disturbing psychedelic imagery. I have heard so many mixed opinions about this movie in my lifetime. It seems like it really is one of those “love it or hate it” kind of movies. I, however, love it and all that it is. I don’t do drugs, but if I did, I can imagine it would feel sort of like what it feels like to watch this movie.

 

7. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (2003)
Starring: John NevilleSarah Polley, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman, Robin Williams
IMDb rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

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Similar to Time Bandits, this movie is an escape from reality which takes the audience along for an adventure with Baron Munchausen as he battles the Turks, takes a trip to the moon, and meets the goddess Venus. This movie was a commercial failure, but if you can’t already tell by it’s 94% tomato rating, it was loved by critics for the most part. I think it was a well-made movie with a lot of fun scenes. However, I didn’t like the little girl’s character so much for some reason, I found her annoying, whereas I thought the kid in Time Bandits was adorable. I also wasn’t sure where the story was going at times. The characters, for the most part, are fun to watch, and the visuals are magical. The ending is actually quite surprising and I like where the story ended up, even if I was confused somewhere in the middle. In the end, I can’t deny the enjoyment I get out of watching this powerfully imaginative film.

 

8. The Zero Theorem (2014)
Starring: Christoph WaltzMélanie ThierryDavid Thewlis, Matt Damon, Lucas Hedges
IMDb rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 54%

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In my opinion, this is the best movie Gilliam has made in the last decade. It’s another creative dystopian satire that deals with big issues. Christoph Waltz is an amazing actor, one of my favorites these days, and he plays a character you can’t help but sympathize with, or maybe even possibly relate to. Despite all of the mixed reviews, I really enjoyed this one. You can find my full review of The Zero Theorem here.

 

9. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Starring: Christopher PlummerLily ColeHeath Ledger, Andrew Garfield, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell
IMDb rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 64%

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus had a lot of potential, but didn’t quite hit the mark. The story lacked anything that would make me really care about the characters. I didn’t think it was a bad movie, by any means. I have to give credit to Gilliam, though, for being able to use his creativity to rearrange the story after Heath Ledgers untimely death during filming. Gilliam had to call in friends Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to finish Ledger’s part in the film, adding in the idea that Ledger’s character’s appearance would change as he entered through the mirror into the magical realms. I think this idea worked well for the character seeing as how he was a man who metaphorically had many faces, and wasn’t straight forward or truthful with any of the other characters. The story deals with people and their choices, and the consequences of those choices. The main character, Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), quite literally makes deals with the devil due to his self-indulgence. I think that’s a pretty accurate way of portraying those who are selfish. Heath Ledger was great as usual in this film, it’s sad that he was not able to finish it himself.

 

10. Tideland (2006)
Starring: Jeff BridgesJennifer TillyJodelle Ferland, Janet McTeer, Brendan Fletcher
IMDb rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 29%

tideland

Tideland is a difficult movie to watch. Any movie that has human taxidermy in it and insinuations of pedophilia is pretty disturbing. It’s an outrageous story. It’s based on a novel by Mitch Cullen, and deals with the harsh realities of life as the main character–a young girl–is left to fend for herself after her father overdoses on drugs. However, the girl retreats into her own imagination, which allows Gilliam to add his creative flair. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s hard to relate to aside from the blatant drug abuse. Jodelle Ferland who plays Jeliza-Rose is a very impressive young actress in this movie, though, and there’s no denying that.

 

11. Jabberwocky (1977)
Starring: Michael PalinHarry H. CorbettJohn Le Mesurier
IMDb rating: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes score: 62%

jabberwocky

Jabberwocky was Gilliam’s first attempt at directing a movie on his own, without his Monty Python group. It is still similar to Holy Grail in that it involved a lot of the same kind of dark humor, and it seems to take place around the same era. It is a somewhat wacky film, Michael Palin does well in the lead as a man who is only too happy to settle for a mediocre life, but ends up with more than he bargained for in the end. Some of the jokes don’t hold up as well as the ones in Holy Grail, and there are some parts that are just flat out boring. The monster is kind of humorous though. It moved around like a puppet and was silly looking, but I think that adds a little charm to Gilliam’s low-budget, solo directorial debut.

 

12. The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Starring: Matt DamonHeath LedgerMonica Bellucci, Lena Headey, Jonathan Pryce
IMDb rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%

brothersgrimm

The Brothers Grimm is in last place because it lacked a lot of what makes Gilliam’s movies unique. There was little humor, the story was somewhat boring, it has cheesy CGI, and not the cartoonish kind that Gilliam is known for. All in all, it seemed more of a horrible Hollywood fairy tale attempt, like the horrendous Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters from last year. It suffered from a weak plot and I wasn’t exactly sure where the story was even going at times. In Gilliam’s defense, though, the constant feuding between Gilliam and Bob and Harvey Weinstein during production most likely had a lot to do with how the film turned out. Gilliam himself said that the end result wasn’t the film he had wanted. I think it’s safe to say that studio executives are overbearing jerks sometimes.

 

As usual, I’m always curious to know what other people think. What do you think about Terry Gilliam and his movies? Let me know!

Best to Worst: Michael Bay

Baycollage

Let’s face it, people love to criticize Michael Bay, especially now that Transformers: Age of Extinction just came out. It’s okay, we’re all critics in one way or another. Not everyone likes his style. He makes up for the lack of quality in his stories for quality in his visuals, and even that doesn’t save his movies sometimes. But guess what? He makes a crap load of money either way. With that said, there are a few movies of his–guilty pleasures perhaps–that I have liked in the past, and there are some that I’ve hated. This is all based on my own personal experiences with his movies and a lot of people might disagree with me, which is totally fine. You can tell me about it in the comments if you wish! So here is my ranking of movies directed by Michael Bay from best to worst.

 

1. The Rock (1996)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, David Morse
IMDb rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

the-rock (1)

This is some early Michael Bay here. The story actually isn’t bad and his characters don’t suck. Aside from the fact that I pretty much love Sean Connery in anything, he plays such a badass role here as Mason. The Rock is proof that Bay is capable of directing action with an actual plot. The action is still prominent, but I feel like it plays second fiddle to the character driven story. Some of the images and scenes I’ll never forget are those neon green gas pearls, the scene where Cage’s character, Goodspeed, stabs himself in the heart with a needle, and the part where Cage calls a guy “the rocket man,” blows him away with a rocket, and yells, “How do you like how that shit works?” It’s just an all around fun action movie with a great script, memorable lines and characters, and awesome performances by all of the actors.

 

2. Transformers (2007)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro
IMDb rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes score: 57%

transformers2007

The first Transformers movie was extremely fun. It still had that stupid kind of Michael Bay humor but it worked, and Shia LaBeouf I felt was rightfully casted in the main role of Sam, because he brought that certain kind of goofy humor to the screen, but could be serious at times as well. Regardless of whatever people say about him and/or his acting, I thought he did an okay job. People started getting on the Megan Fox kick when this movie came out because it was her first big role. She might not be the best actress, but she is a beautiful girl and I felt like she served an actual purpose to the story (minus the obvious sexual objectification with the skimpy clothing, etc.) The action didn’t seem as mindless and stupid as in his other Transformers movies. Even though there’s no shortage of it, it doesn’t completely overwhelm the story. The effects were great and the robot transitions were awesome. Four Transformers movies later, and I’m still for some reason waiting for Bay to make a movie that comes even remotely close to the fun that this one was.

 

3. Bad Boys (1995)
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Téa Leoni, Joe Pantoliano
IMDb rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43%

badboys

Bad Boys is not a very original story, by any means. However, it did manage to be one of the few pretty good cop movies of the 90s. It held its own against similar movies like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon, where the theme of two partnered cops spend most of their time bickering but ultimately become closer friends the more bad guys they take down. Like The Rock and Transformers, I feel like this movie had the right balance of story and action. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are a fun comedic duo, with each of them bringing something different to the film. Téa Leoni didn’t have a bad role either, being the headstrong type who doesn’t want to just sit back and let the boys have all the fun. The buddy comedy genre will probably never get old, as is proven by the widespread enjoyment of more recent movies like 21 Jump Street. Michael Bay’s Bad Boys holds its own special place in that group.

 

4. The Island (2005)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Steve Buscemi
IMDb rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 40%

theisland

The Island is more or less a guilty pleasure of mine. I know it’s not the best, but I actually enjoyed it. This kind of story is better portrayed from an emotional aspect in movies like Never Let Me Go, where you really feel bad for the clones whose only existence is to harbor healthy organs for the sick, original versions of themselves. However, this movie is more fun, and that’s all that really matters with a Michael Bay movie. It still brings up the question of morals and ethics when it comes to cloning, but it manages to do that and have a bunch of ridiculous action scenes play out at the same time. Like, of course, why wouldn’t I want to watch the Black Widow and Obi-Wan Kenobi run away from a bunch of people with guns who want to harvest their organs?

 

5. Pain & Gain (2013)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub
IMDb rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 50%

pain&gain

Pain & Gain is a bit of a different package. Yes, there are explosions involved, but there really isn’t much action when comparing this to any of Bay’s other films. It’s a “true story” based on three very stupid, physically fit men. I haven’t read up on the real story so I have no idea how this movie compares. However, in one scene Dwayne Johnson’s character is cooking human hands on a grill outside where everyone can see him, and words come up on the screen reminding you that this is still a true story. Now if that actually happened, that is really f’d up. Whether it did or it didn’t, it was freaking hilarious in the movie. Actually, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was probably the best part of this whole movie. I am not used to him playing that kind of character, but I found him to be really funny. I actually enjoyed this one more than I thought I would have, it’s a dirty, vulgar and violent story, but it’s kind of entertaining.

 

6. Armageddon (1998)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, Will Patton
IMDb rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 39%

armageddon

I mean really, who hasn’t seen this movie? Armageddon is a guilty pleasure for sure. Even if you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you’ve at least heard Aerosmith’s song on the soundtrack “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” If you haven’t, you’re clearly living under a rock, but that’s okay. I don’t judge rock dwellers. The plot is totally unrealistic, there are a lot of corny parts, a lot of dumb humor, the characters are mostly stereotypical, and I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure a lot of the science didn’t make any sense at all. I didn’t bother checking my facts after watching it though, because this movie wasn’t even meant to make any sense. It’s just a fun, stupid sci-fi/action movie about a possible incoming apocalypse that has been done over and over again. It’s not good, but I still find it more enjoyable than some of his other stuff.

 

7. Bad Boys II (2003)
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Jordi Mollà
IMDb rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%

bad-boys-2

The problem with Bad Boys II is that it’s just a recycled, less good version of Bad Boys. Nothing really special happens. Gabrielle Union’s character is introduced as a woman who might turn out to be a badass, until you realize she’s stupid and can hardly accomplish anything on her own except looking good in skimpy clothes. The relationship between Smith and Lawrence’s characters is strained and uninteresting. They were like best bickering buds in the first one and here they are just whiny bitches who barely even respect each other anymore, which makes no sense. This movie has some examples of Bay’s attempt at exciting car chases, but really only succeeded in boring me half to death. The only music that I can remember from this movie, because it is played like a hundred times throughout (yeah, exaggerating), is that stupid “Shake Ya Tailfeather” song by Nelly. Not a fan.

 

8. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer
IMDb rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 18%

transformers-age-of-extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction suffers from being way too long. A lot of people hated this movie, and while I didn’t exactly hate it, I was thankful for not having to sit through something exactly like Transformers #2 and #3. Mark Wahlberg was a good replacement, but Nicola Peltz’s character was so bad I actually started to miss Megan Fox. A lot of the issues I had with this movie I already described in my full review, which you can read here.

 

9. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson
IMDb rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes score: 36%

Transformers-Dark-of-the-Moon-2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon held my attention right up until the last hour maybe. This is also an example of a Transformers movie just being too freaking long. I think somewhere in the middle of the robot fights, I wanted to get up and scream and run the hell out. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Sam’s new girlfriend was just stupid. I mean, how the hell? Even Megan Fox was a stretch, but a Victoria’s Secret model? Even the first scene she was in and the way it was filmed made me feel like I was watching a Victoria’s Secret commercial. The action in this movie was so drawn out. Ken Jeong’s character was random and strange. I can’t even recall most of the plot because it just wasn’t memorable to me, and I haven’t bothered to watch it again.

 

10. Pearl Harbor (2001)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Cuba Gooding Jr.
IMDb rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 25%

pearlharbor

I know, I know, why isn’t Pearl Harbor ranked the worst Michael Bay movie of all time? Well, just one reason really. I was like 12-years-old when this movie came out. I was hooked by that whole love triangle story, not to mention I was pretty much in love with Josh Hartnett. These are stupid reasons, I know, now I feel bad for criticizing Twilight fans. Well that’s the way it is, Bay had successfully managed to reel in unsuspecting pre-teen girls into liking this movie by giving them that incredibly stupid, cheesy love story they had been missing ever since Titanic came out. I haven’t really watched this movie in recent years, but I’ve caught a couple of scenes here and there on television, and yes, it is bad. I see that now–better late than never? At least I liked it at one point, which is more than I can say for some other movies. Actually, the only reason this is ranked after Dark of the Moon is because I can’t in my right, matured mind even pretend like this movie is good, and even though that one wasn’t very good either, this movie tried to be something it isn’t. Bay took an important event in history and turned it into complete ridiculousness.

 

11. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro
IMDb rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes score: 19%

transformers-revenge-of-the-fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is in last place because it began the downward spiral that is the rest of the Transformers franchise. Like with Dark of the Moon, I can barely recall the plot because I just didn’t care. There’s nothing memorable about it. I think I might’ve been daydreaming in the theater when I saw it. I think they go to Egypt or something? Who even cares? Stuff happens, robots clash, explosions happen, something about ancient symbols, Sam goes to college and is almost raped by a girl robot thing. Sam and Mikaela’s relationship is dumb. I mean, how are you going to go from obsessing over and chasing this girl in the first movie, to becoming this egotistical dick who can’t even say, “I love you”? The whole reason he even bought Bumblebee was because he wanted a car to impress her with, and then he turns around and acts like that. Talk about douchebaggery. This movie–for lack of a better word–sucks.

 

So there it is. I’m curious to know what other people think of him and his movies and how stupid you think I am for ranking these as such. Go for it!