Trailer Analysis – Avengers: Age of Ultron (Trailer 3)


Avengers Assemble! A battle cry surely shouted across the globe, as tens of millions flocked to social media to feast their eyes on the latest look at Avengers: Age of Ultron. On a normal Wednesday morning, an unexpected tweet put forth an invitation to Marvelites everywhere to stand together and show their loyalty. With only 140 characters at their disposal, Marvel Studios single-handedly broke the internet promising the new trailer a full 24 hours ahead of schedule, if enough people commonly used the famous tagline in hashtag form. With, possibly, the most fun and socially interactive plan in recent memory spreading like wildfire, the goods were offered up in a matter of hours. Which brings us to the breakdown:

Bring on the expected, gorgeous flyover shots of ominously desolate countryside to urban locales, all brilliantly voiced over by our increasingly lovable, titular villain. “I was designed to save the world,” explains Ultron, as we immediately realize we’ll need to look no further for our story speculations. Any suspicions we may have had of the twin’s initial allegiance are put to rest, when we find Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch worshipping Ultron atop his throne. As the team’s Quinjet flies overhead, people gaze upward in awe, as they’re greeted with the idea of “hope.” It’s such hope, that appears to evoke the maniacal, race-eradicating thoughts of our antagonist.

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With our first official exterior look at the new and improved Avengers Tower, comes an enlightening exchange between Stark and Banner about the development of artificial intelligence. “I tried to create a suit of armor around the world,” Tony explains. The overarching theme of hero morality shifts into focus, causing our characters to question if the Earth would need protection at all, if it weren’t for their mistakes. With the odds of winning the imminent war stacked heavily against them, the once-fragile team begins to unravel. Familiar face and former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, offers words of encouragement, urging the team to stand and fight. Accompanying action sequences show the team sprawling across the frame in classic comic book panel fashion, inducing chills to fanboys worldwide. Additional, quick-succession shots display the likes of Stark holding Loki’s scepter, Scarlet Witch manipulating Widow’s mind, and Hulk pummeling Iron Man up the side of a skyscraper. Comic relief remains in-tact amidst the destruction, thankfully, with several Whedon-esque quips peppered throughout.

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With just under two months to go before the film dominates the box office, numerous questions still carry on unanswered. Just how will the (potentially Inhuman) Maximoff twins join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? What in God’s name is going on between Banner and Widow? What other awesome Marvel Cinematic Universe cameos may we see from the Scarlet Witch hallucinations? Where the heck is Spider-Man during all of this? Expect to see this, a team-wide pano shot that puts the Battle of New York’s to shame, and oh-so-much more when Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters May 1st, 2015!

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P.S. You didn’t really think we’d wrap that up without at least mentioning the breakout character of 2015, did you? Behold, the Android Avenger: Vision! Get yourselves very familiar. This Avenger is going to own the screen!

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Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2014

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I feel so late to the party in naming off my favorite films of 2014. It was a tough list to make, because there were a lot of movies I genuinely enjoyed, and still so many I wanted to see before making it. Just to be clear, this is a list of my personal favorite movies from last year, it’s not a list of the best or most critically acclaimed movies. They are all films that personally resonated with me for one reason or another, and they are all ones I have already revisited multiple times, or am planning to watch again and again. So before you condemn me for not having acclaimed favorites like Boyhood on here (I’ve seen it on almost every top 10 list I’ve read), it’s not because I didn’t appreciate it or because I can’t recognize great achievements in filmmaking, it’s just that it’s not something I feel I would watch more than once. So let’s get on with it, then!

dawnoftheplanet10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Cast: Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Gary Oldman

This movie stuck out in my mind for being a well made summer blockbuster with a lot of heart, as well as rare proof that not all sequels and reboots are terrible. It has stunning effects with motion capture technology and a story laden in harsh, realistic truths. It shows that violence begets violence, that prejudices lead to bad decisions, and that evil exists on every side. In this way, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes manages to capture the same intelligence that made the original film so great. It’s entertaining, emotional, and a promising addition to a successful rebooted franchise. Full review.

Only Lovers Left Alive9. Only Lovers Left Alive
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright

A humanizing twist on the vampire genre, Jim Jarmusch created two wonderful vampire characters that put Bella and Edward to shame. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are amazing to watch as Adam and Eve–two immortal beings bound by a never ending love–who try to make the best of eternity through their passion for the arts, while dealing with the disappointment in the evolution of society and the decaying world around them. The sets, the music, and the use of lighting help to create a moody, melancholic world, one that is beautiful and strange in its own way, but a perfect fit for the tone of the film. It’s also nicely balanced in that it is both funny and sad at all the right times. It’s a movie that touched the far reaches of my soul, as I couldn’t help but fall in love with this perfect match of characters. Full review.

grandbudapest28. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan

The star studded cast is just one of the many things to enjoy about Wes Anderson’s latest film. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori are a delightful pair as concierge Gustave H. and lobby boy Zero. They are joined by plenty more interesting characters, some that are merely cameos, but memorable all the same. The chameleon of an actress, Tilda Swinton, is one such cameo as an old woman who is murdered and leaves behind a priceless painting for her confidant and lover, Gustave H., resulting in her son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody), to frame Gustave for the murder. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a funny, quirky adventure, as well as a sad symbol of a time when humanity was on the verge of a world war, a time when things of luxury would soon disappear and the world would tumble into chaos. Gustave and Zero are a light in a dark time, and a duo I’ll likely never get tired of watching. Full review.

theguest37. The Guest
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Sheila Kelley, Brendan Meyer, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick

It’s difficult for me to find anything to not like about this movie. Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the minds behind the hit horror film You’re Next, bring us a really fun action/thriller/horror/dark comedy that features one of the best movie soundtracks of 2014. Dan Stevens headlines the film as David, a discharged soldier who visits the family of a friend who was killed in action and wins them over with his blue eyes and polite southern charm, but it doesn’t take long for the daughter (Maika Monroe) to figure out David is hiding a dark secret from them. The Guest is, in a lot of ways, a very self-aware throwback to ’80s action and horror movies, and that retro feel creates this enjoyable, stylish atmosphere. Along with the deliberate genre mixing, everything works incredibly well in making this a stand out film that I wouldn’t be surprised would become a cult classic some day. Full review.

Birdman16. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Director: Alejandro González Iñarritu
Writers: Alejandro González Iñarritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough

Birdman is such an impressive film, and not just in the way that it was shot–it was shot and edited to look like one continuous take–but also in the story and the performances. It acts as a satire about show business and a social commentary about what people consider real art and what isn’t, and it also shows the way the business gets inside people’s heads. Michael Keaton delivers an amazing performance as Riggan, a washed up actor who once knew fame from playing a superhero named Birdman, but now is struggling to make himself relevant again by putting on a Broadway show. He receives a lot of criticism for trying to be a “true actor” instead of a “celebrity,” and the bulk of this criticism comes from his alter ego–Birdman. The film balances tragedy and humor, as well as realism and fantasy extremely well. There’s so many great performances from all of the actors, which is even more impressive knowing that they had to memorize and perform such long takes at a time without screwing up. Aside from the actors, the direction by Iñarritu and the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is fantastic, and the score is simple and perfect. This is definitely one of the best films of 2014 and deserving of its awards nominations and wins. Full review.

5. Gone Girl
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris

Gone Girl is one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve seen in a while, probably due to the fact that Gillian Flynn being both the author of the book and the screenwriter. It’s a sin that this movie wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Gone Girl tells the story of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a man who is suspected of murder when his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) disappears. There’s more to the story than just being a murder mystery, though. This is one of the best examples of how the media can influence people. The media turns the spotlight on Nick and, in search of a good story, shows him in a not-so-innocent light. I was blown away by the book, and when I heard that none other than David Fincher was going to direct the movie, I was more than hopeful. I was not disappointed, because Fincher managed to make a wonderful, suspenseful and faithful adaptation and was the perfect pick of a director to maintain the darker tone of the story. Along with some great performances by the cast, especially Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and a hauntingly beautiful score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Gone Girl is one of the most compelling movies of the past year. Full review.

guardiansofthegalaxy4. Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan

There’s a ton of fun to be had with Guardians of the Galaxy. The soundtrack is amazing, the cast is perfect, and the humor is right on point. There was a lot of negativity surrounding the release of a movie featuring a team of superheroes no one knew anything about. Not to mention, two of those heroes are a raccoon and a tree. It was one of Marvel’s biggest gambles in recent years, and one of their most successful. Turns out, we needed a fresh new team of superheroes to brighten the mood and remind us that not everything has to be dark and gritty to be meaningful. The visual effects are gorgeous, the story is light-hearted and enjoyable, and the action is well paced. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot are a most welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the most fun entertainment I’ve experienced at the theater all year. I can’t wait to see where their story will go and how they’ll fit into the expanding universe. Full review.

3. Nightcrawler
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed

Jake Gyllenhaal is amazing as Louis Bloom, a sociopath who takes it upon himself to become a “nightcrawler,” a guy who goes out at night and gathers footage of crime scenes and sells the footage to the highest bidding news station, in this case, that would be Nina (Rene Russo), a producer not afraid to cross the line in showing the bloodiest footage she can get her hands on. Nightcrawler shows how the media can be dark and relentless in trying to get the best story and achieve the highest ratings. Bloom is absolutely nuts, but the unethical things he does is only positively reinforced by people like Nina, who encourage him to continue what he’s doing. The script is so well-written, and the story is totally character driven, but there’s also some action involved, specifically towards the end when Bloom is involved in a car chase in his sleek, red Dodge Charger. The cinematography and the score work so well together, making the film absolutely mesmerizing and entertaining at the same time. It’s a darkly humorous movie and I was amazed when I realized how much I loved it while walking out of the theater.

The-Raid-2-Berandal2. The Raid 2
Director: Gareth Huw Evans
Writer: Gareth Huw Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman, Cecep Arif Rahman

I don’t know how to even begin to describe how much I love The Raid 2. I am the biggest Raid fan girl that I’ve ever known. I took a 2 hour train ride into New York City just to see this movie on opening night, because I had waited so long for it and couldn’t wait for it to (maybe) come to theaters near me. That trip was worthwhile, though, because this movie proved to be even more entertaining and bad ass than the first movie. This sat at my #1 all year long, until another film just happened to barely slip past it. Iko Uwais is captivating as Rama, the bad ass martial artist/cop who is out to avenge his brother’s murder. He goes undercover for a local crime boss by becoming close with his son (Putra). He encounters plenty of worthwhile bad guys, including a baseball bat wielding (Yulisman) and hammer wielding (Estelle) sibling duo, and a ruthless assassin (Rahman). The fight choreography in this film is some of the best I’ve ever seen. This movie takes the action genre and turns it over on its head, and some other smart action movies are following suit (i.e. John Wick). There’s no weird angles or close-up shots of fists and feet or too quick of cuts to make it look like stuff is actually happening, when in fact, it isn’t. It’s just pure, hard-hitting action with some of the most skilled fighters in the world. I absolutely love this movie, and I can’t say it enough. Full review.

Whiplash-5547.cr21. Whiplash
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist

No other movies of 2014 made me feel as tense as Whiplash did. I love this movie because the plot is so simple and yet has this grand message of what it means to be truly great. How is greatness achieved? Does it come natural to most people who have achieved it? Or was it because there was someone behind them the whole way pushing them to their limit? Miles Teller plays Andrew, an aspiring jazz band drummer who is pushed by his instructor, Fletcher (Simmons), to the point of exuding actual blood, sweat and tears. Simmons is both scary and darkly humorous with his screaming and over-the-top insults. Is he truly a terrible person, though? The ending leaves this question open to interpretation. Teller does an awesome job, his drum skills are exhilarating, even if Simmons’ character doesn’t quite think so. He is able to really exhibit the determination it takes to be a great musician, and the desperation to impress his mentor. You feel sympathy for him, but at the same time, wonder how anyone could willingly put themselves through such abuse just for the approval of one man. The cinematography and the editing are worth noting here, because they work together to create the most tense atmosphere inside and even outside of the film, I swear it actually physically affected me. Whiplash is an astonishing film, and I’m glad it’s getting all the recognition it deserves. Full review.

 

Honorable Mentions (there’s a lot of them):

The Babadook – Probably the best horror film of 2014.
Big Hero 6 – Fun Marvel animated movie, and Baymax is adorable.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Great action, smart spy thriller, and it’s Marvel, need I say more?
Edge of Tomorrow – Intelligent and entertaining blockbuster, and Emily Blunt is a bad ass.
I Origins – Very unique, small-budget sci-fi with a lot of heart.
The Imitation Game – Great biopic of a great man, Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing is perfect.
John Wick – Breath of fresh air into the action genre, more hard hitting and entertaining than most junk Hollywood comes out with, and I love Keanu Reeves in it.
Killers – Captivating and violent, it’s hard to look away from this stylish Indonesian thriller.
The Lego Movie – Because everything is awesome.
Life Itself – Interesting look into the life of Roger Ebert, a man I always admired, but this also reminded me that I’ll never be as good as him. Sad face.
Snowpiercer – Gorgeous set designs, well-balanced with social commentary, weird violence, and unforgettable characters. Also, Tilda Swinton, again.
Starred Up – Emotional British prison drama and Jack O’Connell is an extremely impressive talent.
Under the Skin – Scarlett Johansson as an alien seducing men, it’s weird, it’s beautiful, and it’s one of the better independent films of 2014.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – It’s hard not to have fun with both the old and new X-Men cast together, so many talented actors in one place.
The Zero Theorem – I love most of Terry Gilliam’s movies, and despite popular opinion, I thought this was an intriguing story interweaving themes of society, religion and technology. Also, I love Christoph Waltz.

Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies

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Ah, the holidays. You either love them or hate them, probably a little bit of both. Maybe it’s the time for joy and excitement for gift giving and opening presents, a sweet reunion with the family you’ve missed all year, a time to enjoy a good meal and delicious desserts. Or, maybe it’s the time you dread having to spend a whole day with your insufferable in-laws, the season when you have to drain your bank account for people who don’t deserve more than a pile of poop in a brown bag, the time when you have to slave away in front of a hot stove for hours, wrap gifts after last minute shopping, and wake up in the middle of the night to play Santa.

Either way, it’s the season that comes every year, and the good thing about it is that you have a reason to enjoy some of the most awesome movies that make you feel good about life. I love Christmas movies and there are ones that I enjoy watching that I think hold up for many years. So I’m sharing with you my ten favorite Christmas movies of all time. Feel free to share some of yours in the comments!

 

10. Gremlins (1984)gizmo
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Chris Columbus
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Corey Feldman

There are three rules to caring for a Mogwai: keep him out of bright light, don’t ever get water on him, and never feed him after midnight. Billy (Zach Galligan), after receiving the adorable “Gizmo” from his father as a Christmas gift, breaks all the rules, resulting in his town being overrun by mischievous gremlins who like to get drunk, smoke cigarettes, play poker, wreak havoc on old ladies, and watch Snow White at the theater. This movie is so ridiculous I can’t help but love it. It’s a lot of hilarious fun for Christmas time and I’ve always wanted a Gizmo for my own, he’s so unbelievably cute.

9. Jingle All the Way (1996) jinglealltheway
Director: Brain Levant
Writer: Randy Kornfield
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Rita Wilson, Phil Hartman

Howard’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) main last minute goal for Christmas time is to get his son (Jake Lloyd) the unobtainable Turbo Man action figure and has to fight off other determined fathers like Myron (Sinbad) in the process. This movie is so dumb, but I love it. It’s like a funny way of showing what the holidays have become, and how crazy people are when it comes to getting gifts, especially at the last minute. Let’s be honest, the holiday season is really boring unless you add on the extra drama involved with last minute gift shopping! Arnold is awesome and anything having to do with him brawling with other shoppers over a ridiculous toy is totally worth watching every year.

christmasvacation8. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Writer: John Hughes
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki

The Griswold’s plan a big family Christmas at their house only to have it ruined by a series of unfortunate events. This movie is a must-see for Christmas time. Everyone knows the struggles that come with family holiday get togethers, and this movie exaggerates and satirizes that. Chevy Chase is his usual arrogant and goofy self, determined to cover his entire house in Christmas lights and try to recapture the spirit of Christmas from his childhood. You’ve also got the stereotypical awful relatives, the moody kids, and annoying neighbors. Mix that in with ruined dinners, ugly trees, and pesky animals and you have a great film to get you in the holiday spirit.

7. Love Actually (2003)loveactually
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Cast: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightley, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman

It’s a sweet intertwining of multiple stories centered around love at Christmas time. Other than being one of the best examples of a large ensemble movie done right, Love Actually is just one of those movies that really gives you the good feels when you watch it. It features some of the best actors from the UK, it had sad moments, happy moments, humor, and it’s just an all around cute movie that I love watching any time of the year.

thenightmarebeforexmas6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Tim Burton, Michael McDowell, Caroline Thompson
Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey

Tim Burton’s classic animated tale of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king, as he discovers Christmas Town one day, and tries to get the residents of Halloween Town to help recreate Christmas with their own scary twist. This one is tricky. Is it a Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? I like to think of it as both. If a movie has anything even slightly Christmas-y in it, it’s a Christmas movie! That’s my rule. If there was ever a movie that so accurately portrays the weirdly unique style of Tim Burton, it’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s a reason why so many people are drawn to it, it’s different, it’s skillfully done stop-motion animation with a main character who is nothing short of iconic in the animation world, it features some really catchy songs, and it’s a lot of stylish, entertaining fun, and perfect for the holiday despite its Halloween themes.

homealone5. Home Alone (1990)
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: John Hughes
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy

The story of Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), a boy who must defend his home from burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) after he was accidentally left behind by his family who flew to France for Christmas. To me, Home Alone is classic holiday movie that never gets old. I grew up watching it at least a few times every year. I always wished that I could be as fearless and clever as Kevin if I ever had to face the same situation, of course, it would never happen like that. But at least I learned how to blow torch someone’s head if they ever walked into my front door uninvited, or how to ice my steps so they might never make it to the door in the first place. There’s a lot here for a kid to love. I’m 25 now, but I could still watch endless reruns of this movie any time of year.

34thstreet4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Director: George Seaton
Writers: George Seaton, Valentine Davies
Cast: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, John Payne

Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood), meet a nice old man (Edmund Gwenn) who works as Santa Claus in Macy’s and who claims to be the real deal. When he is institutionalized for these claims, Fred Gailey (John Payne), a lawyer and the Walkers’ neighbor, has to defend him by proving that he really is Santa Claus. Its a cute story that involves a no nonsense mother and daughter who are made to believe in the extraordinary and the illogical. It’s a movie that captures the spirit of Christmas in all the right ways. You have a nice old man who changes people’s lives and who even turns presidents of department stores into helpful, giving men. Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle and it was well deserved. Natalie Wood was also an impressive talent as a sharp-tongued and clever young girl. Miracle on 34th Street is a great Christmas movie for the whole family.

3. Die Hard (1988)diehard1
Directors: John McTiernan
Writers: Steven de Souza, Jeb Stuart
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson

John McClane (Bruce Willis) has to save his estranged wife and her co-workers when they are taken hostage by a German terrorist named Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). I recently wrote a guest review for this movie for Movierob’s blog, so I’ll spare everyone the repetitiveness about just how awesome I think this movie is. The best part about it is that I could include it in both a favorite action movies list as well as a favorite Christmas movies list (yes, it’s a Christmas movie!) The fact that it’s number 3 also says that if someone ever asks me what Christmas movie I feel like watching, if none of the 2 options below are available, Die Hard is my most obvious choice, despite any kind of weird judgement I might receive for it.”What? No Christmas Vacation? Elf? BAD SANTA?!” No, Die Hard. NOW!

achristmasstory2. A Christmas Story (1983)
Director: Bob Clark
Writers: Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
Cast: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin

Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) is obsessed with the idea of getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, despite his parents, teacher, and the fake Santa at the department store insisting that he’ll shoot his eye out with it. I don’t know about anyone outside the US, but here there’s a TV station that plays 24 hours of A Christmas Story starting on Christmas Eve. For those whole 24 hours, I don’t watch anything except this movie. Yeah, every single year. I love it. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it, honestly. It’s entertaining and hilarious, the narration is great and I love the depiction of Christmas time in the 1940s. Growing up watching this over and over again every year, it’s become a piece of my childhood and a big part of my holiday probably for years to come. Come tonight, I’m going to marathoning the hell out of this movie!

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)its-a-wonderful-life
Director: Frank Capra
Writers: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra
Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore

George Bailey (James Stewart) often misses his opportunities to live out his life dreams of traveling in order to fulfill his responsibilities to his town and his family. When his uncle misplaces an $8,000 loan on Christmas Eve, he feels overwhelmed and suicidal until his guardian angel comes along and shows him how worse off everyone would be if he never existed. It’s a Wonderful Life is the ultimate Christmas classic. Even in some other Christmas movies, you’ll see the characters watching this. Not only is it a great movie for the holiday, but it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. The story is so relatable, how many people out there have had to sacrifice big dreams for the good of the people around them? I’m sure plenty have, and plenty still do. It’s sad, and it makes me cry like a baby, but the message is so great. This is a truly beautiful movie that everyone should watch regardless of whether or not you celebrate Christmas.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Elf (2003) – not a bad movie at all about a regular sized man raised as an elf at the North Pole. I’m usually not a big fan of Will Ferrell, but he’s kind of awesome in this.
Bad Santa (2003) – Billy Bob Thornton is perfect for the role as the rude and miserable man who poses as Santa in order to rob department stores. Not exactly a kid friendly movie, but it’s a good time.
The Family Stone (2005) – I wasn’t a huge fan of this movie until my mom’s love for it forced me to watch it a bunch of times and it grew on me, now I think it’s slightly underrated.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – One of the best old stop-motion animated Christmas specials I used to look forward to seeing every year on TV.
Scrooged (1988) – a modern twist on the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge with Bill Murray as a selfish TV executive who is haunted by three spirits at Christmas. Who doesn’t love Bill Murray?

Well, there it is, folks! I hope everyone has a happy holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever else. ‘Tis the season to enjoy some time off work or school (assuming you’re lucky enough to have that), to spend time with family and relax. May you have the patience, tolerance and self-restraint needed to get through the not always pleasant family gatherings, and if all else fails, ignore them and go watch a movie with a glass of wine and some homemade cookies!

Top 10 Favorite Movies Based on Marvel Comics

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Comic book movies have exploded in recent years, being the cause for some of the most successful franchises in movie history. The best part is that they appeal to a wide audience and not just people who read comics. They serve as an amazing escape into worlds where good conquers evil even if it means making huge sacrifices in order to do so. Nothing against DC (or other) comic book fans here, but it’s hard to deny that aside from the success of Nolan’s Batman trilogy (which I loved), and perhaps a select few other movies, Marvel has recently dominated the comic book genre of the movie industry, creating large and numerous universes involving some of the most beloved superheroes. Due to the coming release of Guardians of the Galaxy this week, which I can’t wait for, I’ve decided to share my current top 10 favorite movies based on Marvel comics. Feel free to comment and share your own ranking and opinions!

10. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)theamazingspiderman
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) discovers he has new abilities after being bitten by a radioactive spider. He goes through many trials tribulations including dealing with his new abilities, suffering a loss in the family, trying to find out why his parents left him when he was young, falling in love with the beautiful Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and going head to head with Dr. Connors a.k.a. the Lizard (Rhys Ifans). I like Andrew Garfield more than Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. Even though he was about as old as Tobey was when he made the first Spider-Man, I think his youthful charisma makes him fit the part of a teenager a lot better. I also like how they made Gwen Stacy his first love, as it was in the comics, and it’s just a plus that she’s played by the adorable Emma Stone. There are certain things that the older franchise did better, but this reboot was still exciting and enjoyable to watch.

9. Iron Man 2 (2010) ironman2
Director: John Favreau
Cast: Robery Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle

With the world aware of Tony Stark’s identity as Iron Man, everyone wants a piece of his new technology. Tony has to deal with his declining health, as well as a new villain, Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), who has developed a similar technology and has a personal vendetta against Stark Industries. I wasn’t a huge fan of the villain in this movie, but I still found it to be fun and Robert Downey Jr. was just as good in this as he was in the first Iron Man. Plus, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is introduced in this movie, and she is a beautiful badass. I also love that Don Cheadle (a worthy replacement for Terrence Howard) suits up as War Machine and kicks ass with Iron Man.

8. Thor (2011)thor
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the arrogant son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is cast out of Asgard and forced to live on Earth after disobeying his father, where he meets and falls in love with the scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) Meanwhile, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s power hungry, adopted brother, takes control of the throne and sends the Destroyer to Earth to prevent Thor from returning. Chris Hemsworth was quite simply made for this role and does a great job with it. Tom Hiddleston, however, is a show stealer. He’s one of the few villains I feel like I want to root for half the time, even more so in Thor: The Dark World. This movie is a pretty fun adventure, and, unlike other Marvel movies, it explores an unfamiliar world outside of Earth, allowing for some impressive CGI. I wasn’t all that interested in seeing it when it came out, but was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it actually was, and still is, upon subsequent viewings.

7. X2 (2003)x2
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and the rest of the gang team up with Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to take down William Stryker (Brian Cox), the man responsible for Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton, and who is now controlling mutants and trying to use Professor X to wipe them all out. I like where the story went with this sequel, and instead of focusing on who the characters are and what they can do (already tackled in the first film), it delves deeper into bigger conflicts and explores new threats that force mutants on both sides to have to band together. I also like the introduction to Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), as he is one of the coolest mutants in the movie, as well as the discovery of pieces of Wolverine’s past, something that was shown more (but not necessarily well) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s a fun movie that makes good use of all of its characters and their unique abilities. Oh, and the ending is awesome.

spiderman26. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) struggles with the responsibilities that come with being Spider-Man, as well as his feelings for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and the secrets he’s keeping from his angsty best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), who wants to seek revenge on Spider-Man for his father’s death. In the meantime, he faces a new villain, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), a brilliant scientist who he once admired. Spider-Man 2 manages to hold up the best throughout the years and multiple viewings. I like that the villain in this movie is someone Spider-Man has a connection to and a previous admiration for, it makes having to face him that much more emotionally powerful. His struggles are numerous and complex, having already become familiar with the responsibilities he has by choosing to be who he is, and having to make sacrifices in his personal life in order to be this hero. I also like the relationship between him and Harry a lot more than in the newer franchise. It’s more personal, and Harry has a better motivation for turning against Peter/Spider-Man. It’s an interesting and exciting movie, and it’s well-written. You care about the characters and the conflicts and that makes it likable enough even for people who aren’t big on comic book movies. It’s more accessible and in my opinion, it has aged really well.

xmenfirstclass5. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence

I wasn’t as big of a fan of the X-Men franchise until First Class came out. Now the X-Men have dominated the presence of my top 10 list. First Class explores the beginning of the X-Men, taking us through the lives of Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and other fellow mutants as they try to take down Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a man who is not only responsible for the death of Magneto’s mother, but also is determined to start a world war. I was overwhelmed with the talent of this new cast (January Jones and Zoe Kravitz excluded), and I loved the amount of heart that was put into this movie. There are some emotional scenes between Charles and Erik which not only act as examples of the great performances by McAvoy and Fassbender, but also expresses the close, yet complex friendship between who we previously know as Professor X and Magneto–two men with opposing views. It is something that is not explored in the first three X-Men movies, yet it is the most interesting and powerful relationship in the story. Many aspects of this movie make it easy to relate to and sympathize with the main mutants, despite it being a comic book story. It was a fresh start after the not-so-successful X-Men: The Last Stand, and set itself up for a new series, which has so far proven to be superior in many aspects.

thewintersoldier4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)–with the help of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie)–tries to take down a new threat, The Winter Soldier. With S.H.I.E.L.D. being corrupted, this proves difficult to do as they no longer know who they can trust. This movie was a huge step up from Captain America: The First Avenger. The action is impeccable with hard hitting fight scenes and well-made car chases. The story was intelligent, involving a few twists, and it acts as a political thriller within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It raises the bar even more for the next phase of movies, being a film that successfully balances action and intelligence, and is also a lot darker and more serious in tone, but still manages to maintain some of Marvel’s trademark humor.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)daysoffuturepast
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen

X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of my favorite movies of 2014 so far. The older cast teams up with the newer cast when Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) goes back in time to help the junior mutants stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), which if not stopped, will eventually lead to the elimination of both humans and mutants. This movie created a link between the old and new X-Men movies. There may still be plenty of plot holes in the franchise as a whole, but this movie by itself is intelligent, exciting, humorous and emotional, and in my personal opinion, succeeds as being the best in the whole X-Men franchise. Full review here.

ironman2. Iron Man (2008)
Director: John Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a billionaire who owns a weapons manufacturing company, is captured and imprisoned by terrorists after his convoy was destroyed by his own missile. He is forced to build a suit of armor in order to escape. After seeing what kind of horrible things his weapons are being used for, he decides to stop manufacturing weapons and focus on building his Iron Man suit. It’s hard not to love this movie when you have the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. playing the superhero. He is the most stand out character of all of the Avengers, and despite his lack of humility, he is still the most fun (in my opinion, anyway). Thanks in part to director Jon Favreau, this movie has the perfect balance of humor, wit, adventure, suspense and seriousness. Being the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it set the bar high for the following films to come.

1. The Avengers (2012)avengers
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston

I can’t help but love a superhero ensemble. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. to help stop Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his alien army from taking over Earth. This is just an all around fun movie which people who were already invested in phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had no choice but to be excited about. I love the chemistry between all the cast members, from the bickering between the arrogant Tony and the humble Steve to the developing connection between Tony and Bruce Banner–two geniuses with alike minds. Black Widow and Hawkeye have a past that is minimally explored, but all that’s important is that she’ll break out of being tied to a chair and effortlessly beat up a bunch of Russians if she hears that he’s in the least bit of trouble. Loki, again, is a fun villain who can definitely hold his own against this large ensemble cast. After watching these characters’ individual movies and becoming invested in their stories, it’s hard not to get super excited when you see them working as a team. Everything before The Avengers built up to this final result, and it didn’t disappoint. Hopefully The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be just as good, if not better.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Blade (1998) and Blade II (2002) – it took me a while to realize that these were actually Marvel comic book movies, but I had seen them a bunch of times back in the early 2000s and found them to be fun with some great fight choreography.
X-Men (2000) – really opened the door for comic book movies and showed that they could be fun and serious, and not completely ridiculous.
Spider-Man (2002) – brought one of the best Marvel superheroes to life, and even though Raimi supposedly screwed up the original comic book story a bit, it was still successful and a pleasure to watch.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)  fun to watch Edward Norton play a superhero, although I do like Mark Ruffalo for the part as well. Not a great story, but still entertaining.

Top 10 Favorite Animated Movies

Animated Collage

I could go as far as to say that there hasn’t been a single animated movie I’ve seen that I’ve hated, which is why this list was really tough to make. It’s funny to see how one’s taste in animation changes so much as you get older. If I was making this list when I was a kid, it probably would’ve included movies like Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Pocahontas, as well as 101 Dalmatians, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Oliver & Company, and others. In other words, I really loved Disney princesses and dogs. There are some that I watched when I was a kid that stick with me to this day, however, and the rest are more recent and modern additions to animated history. Although this list is a bit limited to American-made movies with the exception of a couple Japanese, I am still discovering more and more great animated movies made outside of the U.S. that were never readily available to me when I was younger. 

10. Up (2009)up
Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Cast: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer, Bob Peterson, John Ratzenberger

Carl (Edward Asner) decides to fulfill his dream and promise to his late wife of going to South America, so he ties a bunch of balloons to his house and flies away on an adventure. Russell (Jordan Nagai), a young boy scout who’s just trying to earn another badge, accompanies him on this journey (albeit accidentally), and they encounter a bird named Kevin and some talking dogs. It’s a heartfelt story, and it made me sob like a baby in the first 20 minutes. The relationship between Carl and his wife is the sweetest, saddest thing I’ve seen in an animated movie in a really long time. I both love and hate that it makes me so emotional. Unfortunately, I can’t watch it too many times unless I fast forward through the beginning because it kills me. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of favoritism.

9. Akira (1988) akira2
Director: Katsushiro Ohtomo
Cast: Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Mitsuo Iwata

Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata) is the leader of a bike gang in Neo-Tokyo. He tries to save his friend, Tetsuo (Nozomu Sasaki), a boy who becomes involuntarily included in a secret government project named Akira, experimenting on kids with psychic capabilities. This Japanese anime movie is different from any other movies on my list because it’s not really for kids. It’s violent and bloody. It’s a dark story of morals and society, and it also explores the ideas of energy and the universe. Society is in a state of collapse, with teenagers running rampant and involved in gang violence. Others are involved in revolutionary groups, with the military being enemy #1. The old Tokyo had already been destroyed once by a strong psychic boy named Akira, and another possible impending doom is keeping everyone afraid. On top of that, the impending doom is in the form of an angry teen. This movie reminds me of Chronicle from 2012, or rather, Chronicle reminds me of Akira—an angst-filled teen with the ultimate ability of mass destruction, and the friend who doesn’t give up on trying to save him no matter how bad he becomes. The visuals in this movie are stunning for an animation in the 80’s. Most of the scenes take place at nighttime and they are filled with a lot of vibrant colors and details. Kaneda’s bike is awesome looking as well. Needless to say, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it.

the iron giant8. The Iron Giant (1999)
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel

Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) becomes friends with a giant alien iron robot (Vin Diesel) and tries to hide him from government officials who will try to destroy him upon learning of his existence. The story is a classic case of government paranoia. It takes place in the 50’s, around the same time when America was scared to death of Communism and the idea that the Soviets were going to come and drop a bomb on them at any minute. So, of course, they would be afraid of a giant robot who reacts instinctively to guns. Hogarth teaches the robot the differences between good and evil, and that he’s “not just a gun.” Sure, there are some underlying messages of gun control here, but it’s more so about friendship and acceptance of the unknown. I loved this movie when I was a kid. To this day, I still find it very funny and endearing.

7. Spirited Away (2001)spirited-away-2a
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) wanders into a spirit world where she meets Haku (Miyu Irino), a boy who helps guide her through the strange place, as well as other strange spirits and “gods” who come and go in a bath house run by a witch named Yubaba (Mari Natsuki). This movie brings us into a fantastical world of strange and unexpected things. It’s really a magical film and so different than something you would see from a Disney or Pixar film. It’s not how I would picture a spirit world, it’s more like a regular world, with spirits who work as hard as any regular person. There’s still a hierarchy, there’s still greed, there’s friendly spirits, apathetic spirits, and lonely spirits. Chihiro comes into contact with all different kinds of characters. The movie takes you through the journey as Chihiro becomes more brave with time and experience with the unknown. It’s a different kind of movie, but different in a good way. It’s not easily forgettable like so many others often are.

TOY STORY 36. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Director: Lee Unkrich
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles

Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang are accidentally delivered to a child’s daycare after Andy packs up his room to leave for college. Woody has to try to convince his fellow toys that they were not abandoned and help them bust out, which, thanks to a rather mean purple bear leader named Lotso (Ned Beatty), isn’t so easy to do. The Toy Story trilogy really is one of the best trilogies I’ve seen, mainly because every movie is on par with one another, which is so very rare. It was hard to choose which one I like best, and it would’ve felt cheap to put the whole Toy Story trilogy at my #6, but alas, I’ve chosen the third. Why? It has the most heart. With Andy going away for college, the toys now have a good reason to feel unwanted. The ending of this movie even made me a little teary-eyed. What kind of a grown woman cries over toys? This one does. Growing up is bittersweet, and this movie really explores that theme. It has a lot of emotional depth you wouldn’t expect to see in an animated film about talking toys, and that’s why it’s the best of the bunch.

Wall-E-and-Eva5. Wall-E (2008)
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger

Wall-E (Ben Burtt), a garbage collecting robot is alone on Earth after the humans deserted it because it has become so cluttered with garbage. He encounters another robot named EVE (Elissa Knight), who is sent to Earth to see if there is any proof that humans can once again live there. Wall-E is almost like a cautionary tale for us humans. Our way of polluting the Earth and our need for immediate satisfaction is inevitably going to be the death of this planet someday. Humans in this movie are fat and ride around in scooters with their eyes glued to a screen in front of them. Well, we’re halfway there. Eyes glued to either the TV or our cell phones (I’m talking about myself as well), I can see that happening. If one day robots come to care about our planet more than humans do, well then we are in trouble. But it’s also more than that. It’s not just about pollution and lazy humans. It’s about a simple robot who finds love. It’s a cute story, and truly one of the most enjoyable Pixar films I’ve ever seen.

854-M-how-to-train-your-dragon4. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Craig Ferguson

In the attempt at trying to disprove his father and join in the fight against the dragons, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) ends up befriending a dragon he shot down, and learns that there is more to the dragons than the humans previously thought. Just judging by the cast, you can imagine this movie is not only a stunning visual of animation at its finest, but also a very humorous endeavor. It’s enjoyable in every way. A sentimental story about a misunderstood creature and the human hero who stands behind him no matter what. What is more genuine than the story of a boy and his dragon? OK, maybe there are a lot of things, but this movie, for some reason, really sticks with me. If there is ever that time when you finish a movie and think to yourself “Wow, I really really loved that,” then you lucked out. I rarely ever find new movies anymore that I absolutely love, and this just happened to be one of them. Also, I have to add that How to Train Your Dragon 2 comes out this weekend (June 13th) and I am really, very excited about this!

3. Fantasia (1940)fantasia
Directors: Norman Ferguson, James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, & others
Cast: Leopold Stokowski, The Philadelphia Orchestra

When I was young, there were days when I would watch Fantasia over and over again. It’s hard to imagine a movie like this appealing so much to kids today. There weren’t any words in it besides the composer introducing the music. I was captivated by the music and the colorful images. There are segments in this movie I will never forget even if I go years without seeing it. For example, the dinosaurs and the battle between the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Stegosaurus alway stuck with me. To this day, I will claim that Stegosaurus is my favorite dinosaur, and I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that it always made me feel bad when I saw the T-Rex kill him. Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice is still an iconic scene. The dancing hippos in tutu skirts is another segment I loved. I even loved “Night on Bald Mountain” even though it scared the crap out of me, with that crazy demon guy summoning tiny demon minions out of the fire. For me, it didn’t need dialogue or a set story, the mixture of the music and the amazing animation was enough to carry me into a whole other world.

lionking2. The Lion King (1994)
Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Moira Kelly

Simba (Matthew Broderick) is young lion who is supposed to succeed his father, Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) rule after his death. However, he is tricked by Scar (Jeremy Irons) into thinking he is responsible for Mufasa’s death. He eventually flees and on his journey to discover himself he meets Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), who teach him a lot as he grows up to the be the king he was always meant to be. The Lion King was by far the most popular animated movie that existed when I was growing up. There wasn’t a single kid I knew who hadn’t seen it and loved it. In school, we would pretend that we were all characters from the movie. It was a movie that really touched the hearts of kids, and probably some adults as well. It had great characters, it was a fun story about a lion’s adventure into finding himself, and the songs were really upbeat and catchy. This is the epitome of a successful Disney movie. I love it as much as I did back then and that just goes to show how it is able to stand the test of time.

1. Beauty and the Beast (1991)beautyandthebeast
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, Richard White

Belle (Paige O’Hara) sacrifices herself to be a prisoner of the Beast (Robby Benson), in order to save her father who was captured by him. Eventually, she learns that he isn’t really a beast at all, but a prince who was cursed by an enchantress, and true love is the only thing that can save him. Like so many of the other movies on my list, this is one that really left a lasting impression on me when I was young. Belle was a Disney princess you could look up to. She was smart, independent and selfless. Her main goal wasn’t to find a prince or find love, she even avoided the advances of Gaston, even though he was the town “hunk” and all the other women swooned over him. She saw through people and could see who they really were on the inside and not on the outside. She’s an example of how Disney women started to change throughout the years. Aside from that, the animation was beautiful, and I always loved Belle’s pretty yellow dress. The songs are amazing as well, so catchy I can still remember most of the words to them. It was also the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. I rarely ever agree with the Oscars, but this was one nomination I definitely can agree with.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Pinocchio (1940)  magical and disturbing all at the same time.
Dumbo (1941) – about an elephant (my favorite animal), it broke my heart over and over again and also, it taught me where babies come from (storks!).
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)  a very sad, yet truthful story about life in Japan during World War II.
Aladdin (1992)  just plain enjoyable, and it gave me the imagination to use my mother’s carpet to slide down the stairs and claim it was a magic carpet ride.
Finding Nemo (2003) – great jokes and also created Dory, one of the best comedic characters I’ve seen in an animated movie.
The Incredibles (2004) – is just as awesome of a superhero story as any other live action film.
Brave (2012) – has one of the most enjoyable main female characters to watch since Belle.

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2013

Note: These may not be the best movies of 2013, just the ones I enjoyed the most and can watch more than once.

10. The Way Way Back 
Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Cast: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Liam James, Sam Rockwell, AnnaSophia Robb

A coming-of-age tale of a boy named Duncan (Liam James), who goes on summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerk boyfriend (Steve Carell), and ends up working at a water park where he becomes good friends with the manager (Sam Rockwell), who is awesome and funny. I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed this movie. It hit home for me in a way. It’s also interesting to see Steve Carell play an asshole, since he’s usually the goofy nice guy. Sam Rockwell is just hilarious and I love him in this, and the kid does a great job too. It’s a simple story, but it has great characters and it’s executed incredibly well.

9. Mud
Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Reese Witherspoon, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon

Two young boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), find a fugitive named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on a remote island across the Mississippi River, and promise to help him reunite with his love (Reese Witherspoon) and evade the law and the men looking to get revenge for his crime. I must love coming-of-age tales for some reason, because this is one of those as well, although a lot different from my #10. McConaughey made quite a few smart role choices last year, and this was one of them. I hadn’t really recognized his capacity for talent until I saw Mud. Tye Sheridan was amazing as well. I really enjoyed this movie. It’s an engaging drama with a great story about love and friendship, and has a lot of top notch talent.

8. The Place Beyond the Pines
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta

There are three acts to this movie. The first focuses on Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stunt rider who begins robbing banks in order to provide for his love, Romina (Eva Mendes), and his newborn son. The second act focuses on a cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper) who is coping with some of his own actions as well as being mixed up in a corrupt police force. The third act focuses on two teenage boys, Luke’s son and Avery’s son. Without giving much of the plot away, these three acts are interwoven (obviously) to produce a well-written drama that deals with cause and effect. We see what type of people the boys grow into due to the actions of their fathers. The story builds slowly, but that’s because the characters develop in a very realistic way over time. I think that Dane DeHaan, who plays Luke’s son, is great in this movie and is quickly becoming one of the most talented young actors of our generation. This is one movie that I think was wrongfully overlooked.

7. Short Term 12
Director: Destin Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever

Grace (Brie Larson), a young woman who works at a foster care facility for at-risk kids, struggles with helping young kids who are emotionally scarred, as well as dealing with her scars from her past, while being faced with a new tough life decision. I just have to put it out there that this movie made me cry. There’s a lot of raw emotion, and the acting by the kids is just amazing. It’s tough to see kids who have been hurt so much in their life. I think that’s why this is one of my favorites of 2013, any movie that can get a real emotional response out of me is worth seeing. Despite the fact that I’m a girl, it still takes a lot to really break me down, and this just hit me right in the damn heart.

6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are thrown back into the games after their victory strikes rebellions in Panem. I think this sequel was a big improvement from the first movie. It’s less corny, and more real. I mean, shit gets real after what went down in the first one. People are beaten and executed for supporting any rebellious behavior whatsoever. In the first one, you barely get a sense of the kind of inferior life some of the districts are living, besides the fact that the government takes their children and throws them into an arena to kill or be killed. Here, you really get a sense of what kind of dictatorship they’re living under when they send men into the districts to enforce the law and beat people up in order to do it. Besides that, I think they did a pretty good job of really making something substantial and entertaining out of a mediocre book. Sorry to book fans, but making your main character so naive and literally unconscious for 50% of the story is lazy writing–although this is more of an issue in the third one. Hopefully they will take many liberties for the next film.

5. Gravity
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

An astronaut (Sandra Bullock) struggles to survive, with some help from George Clooney, of course, being adrift in space after their shuttle is destroyed by debris. I’ll admit, I only enjoyed this movie for the effects and the cheap thrills. It really had me on the edge of my seat for 90% of it. This story is a bit ridiculous, though. Maybe not so ridiculous if you believe in Murphy’s law (anything that can go wrong will). I mean everything goes wrong for this woman. Think of a problem that can happen in space, and it happens. It’s really awful to watch in a way, because you start thinking, “Jesus, can’t this woman catch a break?” The point is, though, that it is entertaining as hell. I was actually stressed out watching it. Also, the cinematography and special effects were gorgeous, and seeing it in IMAX definitely helped.

4. Dallas Buyers Club
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn

Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. He works around the FDA to provide people with alternative drugs after he realizes his life had been prolonged with simple vitamins and protein drugs given to him by an unlicensed doctor in Mexico. He is assisted by Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who also has the disease. Together they form the “Dallas Buyers Club.” Both McConaughey and Leto won Oscars for these two roles, and rightly so. They are fantastic is this movie. This movie really highlights the taboo behavior in the 80’s surrounding HIV and the idea that it was only a homosexual disease. Woodroof himself thought the same until he contracted it. It shows his growth as human being and newfound acceptance of homosexuals and his sympathy towards others with his disease. It’s a wonderfully told story of a big epidemic that scared people shitless back in the day. It also shows how much things have changed medically and behavior-wise when it comes to HIV/AIDS.

3. Rush
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara

A story about the rivalry between two Formula One drivers in the 1970’s, Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). My theory is that if you watch a movie about a subject you know nothing about and end up liking it a lot, it is a well-made success. That is the case for me here. The only other thing I’ve ever watched having to do with Formula One racing was Senna, the documentary about Brazilian racer Ayrton Senna, which was also really well-made. Other than that, I’ve never watched a race. I don’t know how it works, I don’t know crap about it. Yet, this ended up being almost my favorite of the year. Although I think the movie probably exaggerates the rivalry between these two drivers, the way it is played out is still entertaining. They are both jerks, so it’s really hard to root for one or the other. The cinematography and the shots of the cars racing is superb. I think this movie was extremely underrated last year.

2. American Hustle
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Louis C.K., Jeremy Renner, Jack Huston

Con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner Sydney (Amy Adams) are forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMasso (Bradley Cooper) and end up mixed up in a world of politics and the mafia. Irving’s impulsive wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), has a big mouth that could cause their whole world to come crashing down. The way the script is written and the movie is filmed reminds me of Scorsese’s work–with the voice-over narration and the outrageous characters. Jennifer Lawrence was hilarious as the big-mouth Jersey housewife, although I think her Oscar nomination was a little much. I think she’s amazing and everything but she’s not the first, last, or even the best at playing a Jersey housewife in a movie. Amy Adams really stole the show, though. The costumes, set designs, and the soundtrack are amazing and really bring the audience back in time to the 70’s. This movie is just a lot of fun with enough humor, drama, and silly exaggerated caricatures screwing each other over and having a great time doing it.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, John Bernthal

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a wealthy stock-broker, ends up in a downward spiral involving crime, corruption, and some rather funny scenes with substance abuse. I may only be saying this because I am a huge Scorsese fan, but this movie had to be the best of the year. You have DiCaprio, who, despite never winning an Oscar (poor Leo), is one of the best actors out there playing this scummy, cocky, drug-addicted stock-broker who basically just steals from everyone, and every now and then he makes a very long, motivating speech. Jonah Hill, who is always hilarious, playing Belfort’s partner who marries his cousin, shows us his (prosthetic) penis, gets Leo to smoke crack, and acts as one of the best funny jerks you’ll see all year. Margot Robbie, who basically came out of nowhere as an Australian actress who nails the New York accent down perfectly, playing Belfort’s wife. Not to mention, she’s quite gorgeous. Then, you have some of the funniest scenes I’ve seen all last year. One, particularly, is when DiCaprio and Hill get high off some old Lemmon Quaaludes, and then DiCaprio discovers what he calls “the cerebral palsy stage,” while rolling down some steps and dragging himself into his car. I laughed so hard there were actual tears. Plus, Scorsese, director of amazing movies like Taxi DriverMean Streets, GoodfellasRaging Bull, and Casino. Need I say more?

Honorable Mentions:
12 Years a Slave for being a well-made, best picture-winning film, but not one that I would watch more than once or twice.
Her for making me think how cool it would actually be to have a smarter operating system than Siri.
Pacific Rim for being awesome with robots, monsters, and just pure entertainment.
The Act of Killing for being one of the most messed up documentaries I’ve seen in a while, with scary Indonesian gangsters re-enacting the ways they brutally murdered Communists in the 60’s.
*Update*
Prisoners, which I totally forgot about while making this list, for being the best thriller I’ve seen all year with amazing performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, and Paul Dano.