Marvel Cinematic Universe: From Worst to Best

 

 

I think it’s safe to say that no one has had quite an impact on the film industry at the moment like Marvel studios. Since 2008, they’ve now released twenty movies in their shared universe, typically releasing three movies every year, with each film building off the the events of the last to make a shared cinematic universe that everyone is trying to copy now. They’re films are some of the highest grossing movies of all time, and they’re single-handedly keeping superheroes as the most popular genre at the moment.

Everyone has seen their movies and eagerly wait for their next entries to see where they’ll take their dramatic, funny and always entertaining movies next. So now that Marvel studios has released exactly twenty of their own movies, I feel now is a good time to look back and countdown all of them from their worst to their best.

Keep in mind that I’ll only be looking at the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not every movie Marvel had a part in. Which means no X-Men movies, Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, and unfortunately no Deadpool films. With that said, these are how I would rank all of the MCU movies.

 

 

Number 20 – “Iron Man 2”

As a direct sequel to the first film in this cinematic universe, “Iron Man 2” takes everything that made the first film likable and charming and makes it obnoxious. This film is loud, irritating, makes the least amount of sense of any Marvel film and has the worst pacing of any film in this series. It doesn’t really have a lot going for it, especially when the lasting image of this film are the annoying conversations between Downey Jr. and Paltrow talking over each other. Easily the worst film in the series.

Number 19 – “Thor: The Dark World”

Not as annoying or irritating as “Iron Man 2,” but this films’ crime is that it’s so boring. The characters are dull, the plot is forgettable, the way it uses the other nine realms of Asgard is lame, and it feels like nothing is accomplished. The only saving grace of this film is Tom Hiddleston’s always great performance as Loki and how he’s given a chance to do way more than he did in “Thor.” Speaking of which…

Number 18 – “Thor”

Like “The Dark World,” this one is just forgettable. It is better due to the heroic character arc of its lead, and many of the scenes with Thor learning to live on Earth are funny in that “fish out of water” style. Beyond that, there is nothing worthy to be seen in “Thor.”

Number 17 – “The Incredible Hulk”

This one now feels like the black sheep of the cinematic universe and is often forgotten among the many other super heroes. It also didn’t help that Ang Lee’s “Hulk” was always on people’s minds and that Edward Norton didn’t want to keep playing the Hulk after this movie. For the time, this film had great special effects and it made good use of the Hulk’s size and scope. But there was really nothing else going for it.

 

 

Number 16 – “Doctor Strange”

In the grand scheme of this universe, “Doctor Strange” doesn’t really have much going for it outside of its stunning visuals and the odd journey its title character goes through. It is impressive at times, but other moments are just so bland and predictable that it makes for an average blockbuster.

When the best character in your film is a piece of clothe, you know you goofed on a few things.

Number 15 – “Iron Man 3”

Some people really hate this one because of how it mistreats the comic origins of its villain. I always overlook that and instead remember “Iron Man 3” for making me laugh so hard. For a long time, it had the best sense of humor of any Marvel film and loving most of the film as a result – it basically sent the standard for how comedy in Marvel would be handled in the future. But beyond this, the plot is nonsensical and full of holes, and the climax leaves a lot to be desired. Not the strongest Iron Man tale, but far from the worst.

Number 14 – “Ant-Man”

Now we’ve reached that films that are just…fine. Perfectly serviceable summer blockbusters that were a lot of fun while I was watching them, but had no reason to watch them again after my initial viewing. “Ant-Man” did everything right, especially in scale and storytelling, but didn’t leave much of an impact on me. The film did it’s job and gave us a unique superhero with a very similar personality to many of the other Marvel leads. It wouldn’t be until his next film that we would get a better taste of his personality.

Number 13 – “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

The best way I can describe “Age of Ultron” is that it is a sequel to an experience. Rather than being it’s own thing, it tries to replicate something that cannot be topped and captured again. Even though “Age of Ultron” is, in many ways, an improvement over “The Avengers” in terms of storytelling, tension, dialogue and character dynamics, everything it does tries to be “The Avengers” all over again. It just doesn’t feel as genuine this time around.

 

 

Number 12 – “Captain America: The First Avenger”

Now we move onto the ones that I thoroughly enjoy, starting with quite possibly the best superhero origin tale. Right from the beginning, our lead shows us his charm, compassion and likability that would become his defining characteristics, with some of the best scenes being little moments to prove that he’s not trying to be a great soldier, but a good man. This whole movie is like if Captain America made a movie, cutting out the nitty-gritty and leaving only that which the filmmakers feel is important. Certainly one of the more underrated Marvel films.

Number 11 – “Ant-Man and the Wasp”

We come to the most recent Marvel film, one that won me over with its charm and likability. I appreciate the smaller-scale character driven piece, especially since it was a palette cleanser after “Infinity War.” I ended up loving every character in this film, which is a testament to the writing and acting throughout.

Number 10 – “Iron Man”

For a long time, this was my favorite. It was the one to start it all and introduced us to Robert Downey Jr.’s unparalleled acting abilities. But then time passed and we got better made superhero movies. Tales that had better character arcs, and much better climaxes. It showed that “Iron Man,” while still a solid entry in the shared universe with great acting and writing, is weaker compared to films will see later on this countdown.

Number 9 – “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

The most realistic and authentic of the Marvel films, “Homecoming” was more of a treat than I initially gave it credit for. The comedy felt genuine, the dialogue was fresh and witty without being over-the-top, and Tom Holland plays the best Spider-Man to date, perfectly balancing the line between the comedy and drama of being Spider-Man while still learning how to be the best hero possible. It is as refreshing and honest as we’ve gotten from Marvel.

 

 

Number 8 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

While I initially thought of this one as little more than a funny summer blockbuster that was another sequel to an experience, I thought more about “Guardians Vol. 2” and how it blurred the line between really funny scenes throughout with very intense and emotional moments. This thread is forever connected because of the theme of family and how each character has a different interpretation of it. This is far more than a funny summer blockbuster and it deserves all the credit it gets.

Number 7 – “Black Panther”

I know this one is special for a lot of people, and for very good reason. It is a game-changer in terms of what it is saying and what it represents, while still remaining as thought-provoking as a superhero film can get. For me, watching “Black Panther” was like a gateway to vast and diverse culture that I wanted to see even more of. I respect this film for what it accomplished and what it was trying to say, while still being a whole lot of fun.

Number 6 – “Thor: Ragnarok”

Speaking of fun, here is the most balls-to-the-wall insane entertainment of any Marvel movie. It is uproarious, thrilling, charming and so crazy that it’s hard not to crack a smile just thinking about it. The whole film never takes itself too seriously, unlike the previous Thor films, and just has as much fun with Asgard as it possibly can, leading to some of the coolest sequences of any superhero movie.

 

 

Number 5 – “Avengers: Infinity War”

The most ambitious and epic movie out of this universe. Everything about this film felt big without sacrificing the smaller character driven moments. The pacing is stellar and everything about it felt satisfying while keeping the fun-loving Marvel style. This film is what ten years of development leads to, and it did not disappoint.

Number 4 – “The Avengers”

When I think of Marvel movies and what they’re capable of doing, “The Avengers” is typically the first thing that comes to mind. It was an event when it came out and felt like more than just a normal film-going experience. No body have ever made a movie quite like “The Avengers” at the time, and it still hasn’t been topped by anyone except by Marvel. This has become the standard for summer blockbusters now with it walks that tight rope between tense character-driven drama and witty comedy. It may seem small now compared to “Civil War” and “Infinity War,” but “The Avengers” is still just as mind-blowing today as was in 2012.

Number 3 – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Now we get the truly great Marvel movies, the ones that transcend being just summer blockbusters. I wish I could say all three of these last ones are a tie for number one, but instead I’ll place “The Winter Soldier” here because it not only works as a wonderful political thriller, with some of the best action sequences in the entire cinematic universe, especially the highway fight scene, but because of struggle to find the difference between right and wrong in a world that is constantly evolving. The fact that it’s Captain America that undergoes this struggle makes it even more interesting as we watch him personally struggle with his beliefs against the rest of the world. A simple yet highly effective movie.

Number 2 – “Captain America: Civil War”

Now take what “The Winter Soldier” said about the difference between right and wrong in an ever evolving world and add in a personal yet passionate conflict between its leads, and you have the most human portrayal of superheroes I’ve seen in a long time. It is amazing how well this film works on so many levels and never stops being entertaining for even a moment. The acting, the writing, the pacing and tension is solid throughout, but the relationships are the star of this film, especially with how brutally real they feel. It’s one of the few Marvel films that made me think about what these heroes were fighting for and what they were doing to the world at large, all while still being thoroughly entertaining.

 

 

Number 1 – “Guardians of the Galaxy”

This may come as a surprise to some, since I wrote off “Guardians of the Galaxy” as little more than a dumb popcorn flick in my initial review. But the more I thought about how different this film is from every other Marvel film, and as they released more superhero tales, the more I looked back on this film and realized how smart, witty, emotional and stunning this film can be. On paper, this film should not work – every one of these characters are assholes, while four of the five main cast members aren’t human, one of which can only say three words. Yet through clever writing, unbelievably captivating performances, an unparalleled soundtrack and the best world building of any Marvel film, we get a gem amongst some already awe-inspiring movies.

But the main reason “Guardians of the Galaxy” is my number one is because it was a risk. Marvel had no idea if this film was going to win people over. Unlike their other products with heroes that everyone knows about and could turn a profit even if they made a bad movie, only die-hard comic book fans knew who Star Lord, Rocket and Groot were. Marvel took a huge chance by doing a story that, not only didn’t contain any previously established characters, but was filled with characters that were far from heroes. Hell, two of it’s characters were a CGI raccoon and living tree! But despite all of the odds, this is the most memorable, fun and heartwarming film that Marvel has ever released.

With Marvel dominating the film industry at the moment, as well as how many companies conduct their business, it’s safe to say that their movies aren’t going anywhere, especially since “Black Panther” and “Infinity War” are in the top ten highest grossing films of all time while still being critically praised. These films keep finding new ways to tell fascinating and surprisingly complex stories that seem to keep getting better over time. As long as people enjoy people becoming more than what they are, Marvel will always have a special place in our hearts.

 

 

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Godzilla-thon: Top Ten Scenes from the Godzilla Series

 

 

Now that I have looked at every single Godzilla film (with the exception of the newest movie, “Godzilla: Monster Planet” but I’ll be getting to that one soon enough), and given my thoughts on each of them in extensive detail, to the point that all of my reviews would probably be the length of an entire novel, I feel like I can take the next step and do one last thing with my Godzilla-thon.

In this case, that would be to look back at the series one last time and look at the finest moments from the entire Godzilla series – these are my top ten favorite moments from the Godzilla series.

The criteria for this top ten is simple – if it happened in any of the 31 Godzilla movies, it can make this top ten. I will be limiting each film to one entry at most, otherwise this countdown would probably be filled with nothing but scenes from “Shin Godzilla,” “Son of Godzilla” and “Mothra vs. Godzilla.” Other than that, these are the scenes that I remember fondly when I think of Godzilla and monsters, the ones that perfectly capture everything that is awe-inspiring and fun about this series.

Let’s start things off with…

 

 

Number Ten: The Final battle from “Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster”

While I had some problems with the plot and sillier moments in this movie, the final fight between Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra going up against King Ghidorah makes the whole thing worth it. I love the build-up to the fight and that it introduces that Godzilla and Rodan have egos that they must maintain for some reason. But I especially love the unique way all three monsters fight the golden space dragon, with Godzilla’s brute force and direct tactics, to Rodan’s stealthy yet swift moves, to Mothra’s intelligent yet limited decisions. They each have some great moments throughout this fight, but it truly shines when all three work together to fight an enemy none of them could take on their own.

Add in a wonderful score from Akira Ifukube and great suit acting all around, and you’ve got one of the best monster fights in the entire series.

 

 

Number Nine: Godzilla vs. Fake Godzilla/MechaGodzilla’s reveal from “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla”

To me, this scene is drenched with style. First of all, it finally gives us a fight fans have always wanted – Godzilla vs. Godzilla. In that regard, the fight doesn’t disappoint, as the oil refinery around them blows up, as if the earth itself is in awe over their fight. But when the Fake Godzilla sheds its skin and to reveal the decked-out MechaGodzilla and that saxophone starts up, I get goose bumps every time. I love that it comes out of no where, yet makes the fight even better now that MechaGodzilla can fight at his maximum potential, whipping the floor with Godzilla with just a few missiles and eye beams.

A great introduction to my favorite Godzilla villain.

 

 

Number Eight: Godzilla vs. Mecha-King Ghidorah from “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah”

While I think the human scenes in “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” are laughable at best and cringe worthy at worst, the monster scenes are some of the best in the entire series, especially when Godzilla and King Ghidorah are fighting. But if there’s one stand-out scene, it has to be the final battle between Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah. From the mechanical three-headed dragon emerging from a hole in the sky to his epic theme song, to Mecha-King Ghidorahs’ cyborg-like design, to its intense struggle with Godzilla that leaves most of Tokyo in ruins, this is one of the most tense scenes in the entire series, and easily one of the best battles in the entire Heisei series.

 

 

Number Seven: Mothra’s sacrifice/King Ghidorah’s revival from “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack”

I feel like this one makes the list due to its stellar effects and soundtrack alone. These two elements combine into something more than just another action sequence, but tells a very emotional short story of sacrifice and revival with very few words and awe-inspiring visuals. This is one of a few grand scenes in “GMK,” all of which take full advantage of scale and scope to leave us feeling small and helpless, but is certainly the scene from “GMK” that I fondly remember above all the others.

 

 

Number Six: Godzilla vs. Kong on Mt. Fuji from “King Kong vs. Godzilla”

This one is so high on the list mostly for nostalgic reasons, but also because it is just a cool power struggle between two iconic movie monsters. I love how it starts at the top of Mt. Fuji and slowly works its way down the mountain until the two are fighting over a pagoda, each getting the upper hand over the other several times throughout the fight to always make it feel like its evenly matched. The two monsters are honestly pretty brutal to each other at a couple points, especially when Godzilla buries Kong in rocks and lights up the forest around him, or Kong shoving a tree down Godzilla’s throat. If there’s any scene in this series that makes me feel like a kid again, it is the final battle in “Kong Kong vs. Godzilla.”

 

 

Number Five: Godzilla vs. the two Mothra Larvae from “Mothra vs. Godzilla”

I had a very hard time deciding between this fight and the one between Godzilla and the adult Mothra, but went with this one for a few reasons. One is the brain vs. brawn battle going on between these monsters and how satisfying it is to see Mothra’s offspring get the upper hand over the evil Godzilla. Another is how great it feels seeing Godzilla all wrapped up in Mothra’s silk, which is one of the most iconic images of the entire series. But I think the main reason is that serves as the perfect cap to a movie that is entertainment from start to finish, giving us a climax that wraps up everything nicely. It is more than just your standard monster overpowering another, but a war of wits and strategy, something you don’t get too often in these films.

 

 

Number Four: Rodan’s sacrifice from “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II”

These last four scenes are perfect examples of every aspect coming together to create scenes that are nothing short of masterpieces. While the rest of their films may have their fair share of problems, these particular scenes hit every emotional note to give us a truly memorable scene. And we start with my favorite scene when I was a kid and still love to this day. Maybe it’s because of the hauntingly sad score that Akira Ifukube provides, or it could be Rodan’s utterly selfless act, providing us with one final development to an underrated interpretation of Rodan. It is touching, heart-breaking and makes Rodan far more than just another kaiju. Plus, it leads into one of the most badass sequences in the entire series as Godzilla and Super MechaGodzilla fight after Godzilla is brought back from the dead and given a massive power upgrade. Is it silly? Absolutely. But it takes itself seriously in all the right spots for this to be an effective and awesome sequence.

 

 

Number Three: Yashiori Strategy from “Shin Godzilla”

Goddamn, I love this scene!

This is the filmic definition of “triumph” and serves as the perfect cap to an impossible struggle for the Japanese people. While the scene of Godzilla using his atomic breath for the first time is terrifying, this scene never fails to bring a smile to my face. I love how the Japanese people work out this intelligent battle plan without sacrificing on stellar visuals. And that music! I adore the Ifukube military march they used and how it adds an emotional punch to every move the defense force makes against one of the scariest monsters (in both design and concept) I’ve ever seen. In a film about Japan’s fight for an identity in the face of bureaucracy, red-tape and an ever-evolving monster, this scene wrap up all of that in the most satisfying way possible.

 

 

Number Two: The Final scene from “Son of Godzilla”

This is not just the only scene in the entire series that makes me cry, but also one of the few scenes in all of cinema that makes me cry. Even with great endings from films like “Mothra vs. Godzilla,” “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” “Terror of MechaGodzilla” and “Shin Godzilla,” this is my pick for the best ending in the entire series, as we finally see Godzilla receive character development in a scene that makes you forget this tender moment is between two actors in rubber lizard suits. This is the sweetest moment in the series from one of the most underrated monster films of all time.

 

 

Number One: King Ghidorah vs. the Earth Monsters on Mt. Fuji from “Destroy All Monsters”

You know, I thought long and hard if there was any scene that I felt was better than the final monster battle from “Destroy All Monsters.” And even though I love every single scene in this top ten, I couldn’t think of anything that encapsulated Godzilla and daikaiju films in general than watching this all-out brutal yet awesome struggle between nearly a dozen different monsters. When I think of Godzilla, this scene is typically the first thing that comes to mind. I love the effects, the Mt. Fuji backdrop, the music, the unrelenting pace, and especially how each monster chooses to fight in a battle that perfectly summarizes an entire universe of monster movies. It takes what “King Kong vs. Godzilla” started and cranks it up to eleven, giving audiences the all-out battle we’ve always wanted.

There are of course loads of other scenes I adore from the Godzilla series, especially from films like “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” and “Invasion of Astro-Monster,” but I think this top ten encapsulates the best the series has to offer. Whether it is because of effects, tension, music, development or anything in between, these are the scenes that remind me how great and powerful Godzilla can truly be.

 

Paul’s Top 10 Films of 2015

2015 best of

Another year in film has come and gone, and I would go as far to say that 2015 has been the best year for cinema of the 2010s thus far. Genres that had gotten worse over time, especially horror and comedy, got wonderful additions this year with movies like “Unfriended” and “Spy.” Summer blockbusters were some of the best they’ve been in years, with specific emphasis on “Ant-Man” and “Shaun The Sheep.” While there were films that I did not care for, like “Jurassic World” and “Ex Machina,” and other films that were downright terrible, like “Krampus” and “Jupiter Ascending,” I’ve come to expect a range of good and bad from cinema these days.

As such, I’ve decided to do away with my Top 5 films of the year to expand this into a Top 10, since there were so many wonderful films to come out this year. These will all be films that I’ve previously done reviews of, and I’ll be linking each of my picks to their corresponding reviews. So if you want my expanded thoughts on each film, be sure to check those out.

mirn

Number Ten: “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/08/movie-review-mission-impossible-rogue.html

I might have written this film off in my initial review as another spy film, but as I thought more about the most recent entry in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, the more I realized how solid it was. Each action piece was fascinating to watch, the pacing is perfect, the acting is some of the best in the series, and the story is both convoluted and personal, something we haven’t seen in this group of films before. That gives “Rogue Nation” its own personal touch that I felt was lacking in the previous films. Something that hits home for our characters and makes their journey all the more satisfying.

itfollowsposter01

Number Nine: “It Follows”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/04/movie-review-it-follows-2015-you-cant.html

This one makes the list for having one of the most unusual and terrifying monsters to hit the screen in years. A creature that is transferred through sex, and will stop at nothing until the person it is hunting has been killed. This is a monster that can be anyone or anything, but the scariest thing of all is that it walks towards you. Not running or sprinting, but a never-ending walk. As if this thing knows that it doesn’t need to go any faster than that. Eventually you will have to stop and rest, but this thing will not. This gives “It Follows” unbelievably tense pacing, where every scene leaves you tense and nervous about what might be around the corner.

steve jobs

Number Eight: “Steve Jobs”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/11/movie-review-steve-jobs-2015-fallen-idol.html

“Steve Jobs” is a modern-day tragedy, about a man who fought the standard norms of life and was mocked for his innovative thoughts. About a man who wanted to make a name for himself in the world, at any costs, but is so self-absorbed in his own ego that it astounds him that others don’t agree with his methods. Michael Fassbender gives the role of Steve Jobs enough vulnerability while still keeping the intellect, to give us a man who wants to change the world so badly that he abandons his own. We watch as this man becomes an innovator, but also what it means to change the world.

The_Hateful_Eight_102567

Number Seven: “The Hateful Eight”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2016/01/movie-review-hateful-eight-2015.html

This is the middle-ground between an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, a Sergio Leone western and everything that is cool about Quentin Tarantino. Certainly the most minimalistic film on this list, we are given a film that relies on its characters, writing and the pauses between their breaths. We hang on each of these dasterdly-no-gooders next actions, waiting for that classic Tarantino style violence to show up, only to savor every moment they make us wait. When “The Hateful Eight” wants to give us a violent show, it is one I’ll never forget. When it isn’t being violent, the film is even better.

spotlight2

Number Six: “Spotlight”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/12/movie-review-spotlight-2015-separating.html

The movie that I respect more than any other this year. While not the most exciting or innovative film of the year, “Spotlight” is one of the few films I can think that stays honest with the “Based On A True Story” statement at the beginning of the film. As such, we watch as journalism wins over corrupt people and against the odds of a massive organization and the disbelief of an equally large city. We watch as these people give up everything, including their social lives and families, to fight for what they believe in and because they know this will help more people than it will hurt. Because they know that journalism gives the voiceless something to say and cheer about. And “Spotlight” gives power to those that need it the most.

creed poster

Number Five: “Creed”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/12/movie-review-creed-2015-legacy-of-boxer.html

I would go as far to say that the best performance of 2015, leading and supporting, goes to Sylvester Stallone reprising an aging Rocky Balboa, a man who has lost everything and has nothing left to fight for, only to find that there is more to life than fighting. Who knew? In a year where we get wonderful performances from Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, that Stallone would be the one to have the most heart and strength in his performance. This is not just about Rocky becoming a mentor, but Rocky seeking redemption in a world that he has given up on. The first “Rocky” was about second chances and that the American dream is still alive. In “Creed,” Rocky is given a second chance at life, and wants to share that knowledge with others. This is a heart-warming tale of with some of the best performances in a year full of outstanding roles.

martianposter

Number Four: “The Martian”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/10/movie-review-martian-2015-best-mars.html

Some love this film because of how scientifically accurate it is. Others love it because of the unique science fiction scenario that has lots of creativity and imagination in surviving on Mars. For me? I adore “The Martian” because of its always optimistic attitude and need to share that feeling with the audience through its sense of humor. In a world where we constantly keep getting gritty survival tales that are about as uplifting as a Holocaust film (I’m looking at you “The Revenant”), to see a film like “The Martian” where Matt Damon finds a reason to smile every morning even after listening to the same terrible disco music for hours means a lot to me. I honestly can’t find a reason why anyone would hate “The Martian.” Even if you don’t like science fiction or Matt Damon, this is a film that anyone can connect with on an emotional level and enjoy the ride as we’re taken to a far away place and shown that the human will is strongest thing we have.

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_poster

Number Three: “Inside Out”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/06/mini-review-inside-out-2015-emotions.html

Speaking of films that anyone can connect with, “Inside Out” is the most relatable yet creative Pixar film in their entire library of emotionally-strong films. Basically, this is a story about growing up and the hardships that come with it. But it is just as enjoyable for adults as it is for kids, to show us that we don’t need to hide or repress our emotions. That it is very healthy to experience emotions like sadness and fear, and at times it is very necessary to experience those emotions. This is not just a conflict within the head of one girl, but in all of us, as we try to understand our own emotions. Throw in imaginative landscape for the human brain, some wonderful voice acting and an emotionally-gripping script and you get the best Pixar film since “Up.”

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_Awakens

Number Two: “Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/12/movie-review-star-wars-episode-vii.html

After seeing this epic a second time, I can’t remember one scene where I wasn’t smiling or giddy as a school girl. Keep in mind, I’m not that big of a Star Wars fan, this is just a fun film that takes every opportunity to fill the screen with colorful characters, expansive mythology, a lavish universe and wonderfully unique action sequences. It comes across like every single person that worked on this film had an absolute blast making it, and wanted to share that enthusiasm with the audience. They wanted us to know that Star Wars is not just another action movie franchise with pretty effects and lightsaber battles, but that it is a phenomenon that begs, no demands, your attention.

Max_Mad_Fury_Road_Newest_Poster

Number One: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2015/05/movie-review-mad-max-fury-road-2015.html

I’m not sure what to say about this experience that hasn’t already been said.

Part of the reason this gets my number one spot is because “Mad Max: Fury Road” bucks with traditional action movie clichés and becomes its own unique style. Little to no CGI, takes every opportunity to showcase beautiful cinematography in stark and unforgiving landscape, very little dialogue between the main cast of characters, women leading the charge in the bad-ass department and not needing to see the other films in the “Mad Max” franchise to understand what’s going on. Every shot of this film is gorgeous to look at, whether you’re entranced by the barren post-apocalyptic wastes, the heart-pounding chase sequences combine with the thrilling soundtrack, or the crazy contraptions the wastelands will come up with next.

This is the type of film that makes cinema so much fun to behold. Every aspect of “Mad Max: Fury Road” was superb, including the writing, production design, costumes, pacing and so much more. I could watch this one on repeat and never get bored with it. This is not just an action movie, but an action experience.

Honorable Mentions:

“Unfriended”

“Spy”

“Trainwreck”

“Kingsmen: The Secret Service”

“The Revenant”

“Crimson Peak”

“Shaun The Sheep”

“Mr. Holmes”

 

Top Ten New Episodes Of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”

mlp 1

One of the biggest surprises I have experienced since I started this blog and catalog of thoughts on film, television, etc., is not one you would expect.

Of all the reviews, countdowns, editorials and ramblings I’ve posted in the last few years, the one that has had the most longevity and some of the most views is not my revelation on Godzilla, or my favorite films countdown or even some of my early reviews. It is the countdown of my 10 favorite episodes of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.”

I post my reviews and editorials on multiple sites, and on one of them (World Of Entertainment) that particular countdown is in the top ten in terms of viewing in 2014 (though the highest viewed article from that year was my fan reaction to Gareth Edward’s “Godzilla”). But more surprising is that it is the most viewed article on the entire site for 2015.

I am beyond words. I knew there were bronies and pegasisters all over the internet, but damn.

Well, if that’s case, why not do another one? There has been a whole new season of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” since the last article I published on the topic, and well over 30 new episodes.

As such, I will be counting down my top ten favorite episodes of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” since my last countdown. Like the previous one, these are the episodes that have stuck with me the longest after watching them. The ones that I felt best personified this creative, funny and thought-provoking show made for both children and adults.

For those MLP fans out there, this will include every episode between “For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils” and the end of season five, “The Cutie Re-Mark.”

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Number Ten: “Tanks for the Memories” (Season Five, Episode Five)

Quick back story for this episode – Every one of the main characters has their own pet. Twilight has an owl (named Owillicious), Pinkie Pie has a baby alligator who has no teeth (named Gummy), and Fluttershy has a bunny rabbit that seems set against ruining her life (named Angel). But the best pony-pet dynamic is Rainbow Dash, the speedster who is always up for a race, and her pet turtle, equipped with a magic propeller, named Tank.

Tanks for the Memories” is as close as MLP will ever get to the death of a pet. Since this is a show aimed for little kids, they would never be allowed to kill off any character, so they come up with the next best solution – Have Tank enter hibernation during Rainbow Dash’s favorite time of the year.

And of course, Rainbow Dash has an over-the-top reaction that would make even the Grinch feel jealous, by stopping winter from coming. Rainbow Dash would rather stop the time of year that makes her feel the most alive than lose her pet turtle for six months.

The first half of the episode is Rainbow Dash being unwilling and stubborn about losing her pet and that she can stop it. The second half starts with Rainbow Dash taking drastic measures to stop winter, including a “Mission: Impossible” style break-in to a weather factory. But what propels this episode further is the ending, with Rainbow Dash realizing that Tank will be gone and there is nothing she can do about it. A hard truth that any kid with a pet has to learn eventually.

This one was a touching episode with lots of funny bits scattered throughout. Plus Equestria looks beautiful in the winter, especially when it all plops down at once. Thanks for that Rainbow Dash.

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Number Nine: “Inspiration Manifestation” (Season Four, Episode Twenty-Three)

Imagine a magic spell that could bring everything you ever wished to life. Everything you ever want to create, your hopes and dreams met with just a thought. Would you be consumed by this spell? Would all your generosity to help others turn into a lust to perfect everything in your own image?

This is what makes “Inspiration Manifestation” so great, as Spike finds a spell book to help out a stressed, overworked and under-appreciated Rarity. It is something so very rarely seen on this show, in a world full of magic, both good and bad, there is a spell that can be taken as a good thing, but can corrupt the user. But the strange thing is that, even as Rarity descends into madness, she still feels like she’s doing the right thing. Being the element of generosity, Rarity puts others and their well beings above herself, so the interest of others is in her mind. So if that means replacing all of their chariots with “Rar-iots” because these ones are better, then so be it.

Of course, this is an episode that focuses primarily on the relationship between Rarity and Spike, who has always had a crush on Rarity but has never reciprocated those feelings. Spike, in a desperate attempt to keep Rarity happy, agrees with everything she says even if the spell is beginning to take her over. But once he puts his foot down and steps up for himself, telling her that what she is doing her is wrong, the real Rarity comes back. A good lesson for anyone who has ever had a crush on someone else – they’re not perfect, so don’t treat them like they’re royalty.

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Number Eight: “Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep?” (Season Five, Episode Thirteen)

MLP seems to follow the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” style of comedy – These jokes are made, not for everyone, but for the right people. And this title, for those that get it, will find it hilarious.

One of the more mysterious and tragic characters in MLP is Princess Luna, the magical pony that controls the moon and the night. Her sister, Princess Celestia, controls the sun and day, and is often beloved by all of Equestria for providing life and happiness, while Luna’s work is overlooked. After years of being treated badly, Luna fought back and became the terrible Nightmare Moon, threatening to plunge Equestria into eternal night. But Celestia used her powers and the Elements of Harmony to trap Luna in the moon for a thousand years. After that time expired and the new Elements of Harmony forced the evil out of Luna, she returned to her princess duties and a protector of the night.

But not without punishing herself.

We find out in this episode that Luna put a spell on herself and created a nightmare creature that feeds off of her bad dreams. Now she has the same dream every night, of our main characters destroying Nightmare Moon, so that Luna would never forgive herself for what she did as Nightmare Moon.

And now that creature, called the Tantabus, has escaped from her dreams and is finding new ponies to unleash their worst nightmares on.

This the episode that best explores the character of Princess Luna, as a tortured soul who is filled with nothing but regrets and wants nothing more than to forget past, but is unable to.

Combine that with an imaginative story of exploring every main characters dreams, including Rainbow Dash fighting off Changelings, Twilight being in a never-ending library and Applejack with an apple that is ten times her size, and one of the biggest nods to previous episodes in the entire show in the final confrontation with the Tantabus, and you have a wonderfully beautiful and entrancing episode.

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Number Seven: “The Lost Treasure Of Griffonstone” (Season Five, Episode Eight)

If there’s a theme throughout season five of MLP, it is redemption.

One thing that MLP has always done in the past is to convert old enemies into new friends, like the malevolent Discord and the phony “Great and Powerful” Trixie. Because locking up the bad and evil characters isn’t going to solve anything, and often times they’re misunderstood rather than evil. Especially in the case of our returning “villain” in this episode – Gilda the griffon.

Early in season one, Gilda was cast out of Ponyville by her former friend, Rainbow Dash, after she was an ungrateful and unpleasant bully to Pinkie Pie. Someone who was once seen as a one-dimensional villain is now shown to be a complex character that has been shunned her whole life for looking different, except by Rainbow Dash, her only true friend. Rather than despising her for what happened, Pinkie Pie welcomes Gilda with open hooves (or claws in Gilda’s case). And as Rainbow Dash reopens to her friend, so do we.

We are also given a history lesson about Griffons in the world of Equestria – a once proud race who lived together in harmony, until they were split apart by greed and selfishness. Which is what we see now – a once-mighty city on the verge of collapse, full of creatures that are too full of themselves to notice that everything they’ve stood for is falling apart.

This whole episode is one great reason why I love this show – Detailed world-building, heart-felt moments of kindness, and giving old characters new opportunities to become better characters due to quality writing. Throw in two of the best characters, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, going on an adventure through this city, and you get some of the best comedy and character moments of the season.

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Number Six: “The Cutie Re-Mark” (Season Five, Episodes Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six)

The redemption train keeps on rolling.

Certainly the most complex new character to come out of season five was Starlight Glimmer. She was introduced in the first two-parter to open up the season, “The Cutie Map.” Our cast of characters travel to a small town that she ran, where every pony had the same cutie mark. In Starlight’s words, this is her version of a utopia, where no pony is judged for being different and everyone is treated equally.

After her plans are thwarted and the town returns to normal, Starlight escapes into the mountains. Only to make her return here in the two-parter to end season five. Now she seeks revenge on Twilight for ruining her dream of a perfect world where other ponies would never be hurt by a cutie mark. Her plan of vengeance? To go back in time and prevent Rainbow Dash’s Sonic Rainboom that caused all of the main characters to get their cutie marks, thus separating their special bond.

What Starlight could never have predicted was what this event meant to the safety of Equestria. Twilight and Spike attempt to stop Starlight Glimmer, and fail every time, always returning to the “present,” with each one getting progressively worst, as a former villain throughout the show succeeded in their plans to conquer Equestria. From Nightmare Moon unleashing eternal night, to King Sombra using the forces of the Crystal Empire to unleash a never-ending war, to the Changelings draining all the happiness out of ponies and forcing the survivors into the forest and always judging every newcomer that might be a Changeling.

This is, without a doubt, the darkest and most disturbing episode of MLP. We watch as Equestria falls apart, the lives we’ve witnessed over the past five seasons be destroyed by war, chaos and cruelty. In one timeline, Rainbow Dash has lost one wing and has it replaced with a metal one. While in another, Fluttershy, the element of kindness is ready to viciously kill Twilight because she might be a Changeling.

And all because Starlight wanted revenge on Twilight. Revenge, the most worthless of causes.

The second half of the second episode is dedicated to why Starlight would do all this and how she got to where she was. Twilight then realizes that she can’t beat Starlight. There’s no way she can stop Starlight from her plans and that the two could be at this for all eternity if they wanted to. But it would never solve Starlight’s problem – her inability to trust others and see that a cutie mark should be cherished, not mocked.

I won’t spoil how this one ends, since it could mean big things for the future of MLP. But let’s just say that, like when Twilight became a princess, this could have big implications for the next season.

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Number Five: “Amending Fences” (Season Five, Episode Twelve)

But the theme of redemption is not limited to minor characters. In this case, Twilight is the one seeking to redeem herself in her first full episode about the newly crowned princess since “Magic Duel.”

Twilight, now dubbed the “Princess of Friendship,” has a realization one day – Before the events of this show started, she was a terrible friend. She was always reading a book or studying, never paying attention to her friends from Canterlot. And when the show started, she ditched everything there to move to Ponyville, never saying goodbye to anyone. Now she wishes to make up for this by returning to her roots and making amends to her old friends. What she finds out is that most of her old friends never thought badly of her, that this was who she was and just enjoyed her company. That is except for one friend, Moondancer.

In a call-back to the first episode of MLP, which was more of a throwaway line at the time, we find out that Moondancer was having a party, something she never did since she was an even bigger bookworm than Twilight. But Twilight, her best friend, couldn’t make it because she had “lots of studying to do.”

And now Moodancer does nothing but studying for the sake of studying. Her journeys take to the library and back to her rundown cottage in the woods, far away from every pony. She has given up on socializing, because she knows that it will only end in misery when they have to leave or become too important for you.

This is a great example of how the writing on MLP is improving, giving us glances at these characters that make us question if they’re doing the right thing, while still being accessible for children. An episode like this would have been impossible in season two or three, but we see Twilight has a character who has made mistakes and wants nothing more than to make up for it.

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Number Four: “For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils” (Season Four, Episode Nineteen)

I mentioned in “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?” that Princess Luna is in control of the night, but she also has the ability to enter other ponies dreams and talk to them through their visions. We saw Luna do this with each of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, first with Scootaloo in “Sleepless in Ponyville” back in season three, and early on in season five with Apple Bloom in “Bloom and Gloom.” This is Sweetie Belle’s turn and it is the best of the trilogy.

With “Sleepless in Ponyville” and “Bloom and Gloom,” those were dealing more with Scootaloo and Apple Bloom’s fears of being rejected by Rainbow Dash and what it would mean to get a cutie mark, respectively. This one delves, not into Sweetie Belle’s fears, but the fact that she always feels overshadowed by her sister, Rarity. When she makes an entire play, including the set and dialogue, all any pony could talk about afterwards was the customs, designed by Rarity. Even when she tries to do what she loves, it is always about Rarity.

What follows is a “Christmas Carol”-like story, as we see the past, present and future of the relationship between Sweetie Belle and Rarity through dreams, while Luna puts a new perspective on what Sweetie Belle sees of her older sister. That when she made a fool of herself at her fifth-birthday party, Rarity was the one to turn the party around by making every kid happy, or that Rarity spent endless nights getting the costumes for the play ready, pushing aside all her other projects to do so.

This takes the amazingly creative dreamscape of the previous episodes and gives it a touching character piece about two sisters who now see more than just themselves in each other.

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Number Three: “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” (Season Five, Episode Eighteen)

Yeah, yeah, stupid pun title. I know, but the importance and execution of this episode cannot be denied.

There’s no other way around it. This episode makes the list for a good reason – The Cutie Mark Crusaders finally get their cutie marks. And it was done so well.

For five seasons, this moment has been building up. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo’s adventure began in early season one, when they found each other and decided to try to find something they were all good at and find their cutie marks together. Since then, they’ve strayed far from getting into dangerous situations to get their marks and instead found out more about themselves, like the previously mentioned “For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils.” They also learned what it means to have a cutie mark that it is not just a sign of maturity but that you have found your place in the world.

Now it all comes together perfectly, as we have one last tale of redemption with the one character every fan thought was unredeemable – the bully of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Diamond Tiara.

For as long as the Crusaders have gone on their escapades, Diamond Tiara has been there to scoff at them, always calling them “blank flanks” and getting every kid in the school to laugh at them. As it turns out, her cutie mark allows her to persuade others into doing her bidding, which she has always used for her selfish and greedy purposes. She is, in every sense of the word, a bully. Until this episode, and we learn about how her parents don’t see her as their daughter, but as a way to climb the social latter faster.

Diamond Tiara has been misled and confused her entire life that she needs to block out anyone less than her and treat them as filth. When she learns what the Crusaders do outside of school, she says they are very lucky to be able to explore and learn about themselves. Diamond Tiara had this lifestyle thrust upon her and didn’t know any other way to take out her anger and confusion on the world.

The moment the Crusaders realize that Diamond Tiara has potential to help others, rather than hurt them, they help her realize her potential and what her mark truly means. They not only earn a new friend, but get their marks as well. They have found their calling – To help other ponies earn their cutie marks and help them realize what their marks mean.

The crusade comes to an end, but begins all over again.

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Number Two: “Brotherhooves Social” (Season Five, Episode Seventeen)

And now we reach a new type of story for the final two episodes: Minor character theater.

If there’s one thing I loved above all else in season five, it was the world and character building. Not just what was done with the main characters, especially the Cutie Mark Crusaders, but the characters that normally don’t get the spotlight. It comes across like the show’s creators are aware of how popular this show as become, and that many fans’ favorite characters are not the main ones. Sometimes they’re background characters, ones who have never said a word or have less than a few seconds of screen time per episode, yet they pack so much character into those few seconds.

“Brotherhooves Social” is one of best examples of that, as the only main character in this episode is Applejack, for about two minutes. The focus of this episode is Applejack and Apple Bloom’s big brother – Big Macintosh, or Big Mac for short. A character that is known for his unbelievable strength, and his limited vocabulary of “E’yup!” and “Nope!” He is shown to have an impressive vocabulary and has even joined a barbershop quartet in one episode, but he chooses to stay with those two words most of the time.

In this episode, Applejack and Apple Bloom are excited for the upcoming Sisterhooves Social event, which they dominate every year. But when Applejack is called away due to a problem in Manehattan, Apple Bloom is crushed. So, Big Mac, in an attempt to please his baby sister, dresses up in drag, going by the name Orchard Blossom, so that he and Apple Bloom can compete in the event.

This is one of the funniest episodes of MLP, because of how different Big Mac and Orchard Blossom are. Orchard has a massive southern vocabulary, taking every opportunity to use the most fancy words imaginable. Orchard is extremely social and wants to get to know every pony, while Big Mac is content to himself and only talks to others if it is absolutely necessary.

And of course, no pony buys the disguise, they all know it is Big Mac dressed as a woman.

The final event of the social really highlights the comedy, as Big Mac desperately tries to win one event for Apple Bloom, and his strength breaks the entire course. The sight of an angry Big Mac in drag running right at Rainbow Dash is a sight that needs to be seen.

But what makes this episode stick with me is the ending, where Big Mac opens up to Apple Bloom. We learn that, even though he may not say much, doesn’t mean he isn’t feeling anything. That he feels like he’s being left behind, Applejack has a big role in Equestria and he stays on the farm doing his job. And yet, all Apple Bloom ever seems to talk about is Applejack. He can live with being on the farm all day, but it upsets him that his sister thinks so little of him.

“Brotherhooves Social” is a wonderful character building episode, with a touching ending, great comedy throughout and character building on someone that deserves more attention.

And the Number One best new episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” is (Say it with me, pony fans)…

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“Slice Of Life” (Season Five, Episode Nine)

This was the episode that fans have been waiting years to witness – a celebration of everything that is wonderful about MLP.

“Slice Of Life” is the 100th episode of MLP, a massively impressive achievement no matter what your show is about, and the creators of MLP have dedicated this one to the bronies and pegasisters, because they know this show would never have lasted five seasons and over 100 episodes without their support. So the creators give us a love letter to everything that fans have been asking for, to the background characters.

Outside of the final line of the episode, none of the main characters say anything or are featured here. This is an episode entirely about the characters who never have had an opportunity to shine and their “normal” lives in Ponyville. From the fan-favorite cross-eyed and clumsy Derpy, to the completely self-aware and hilarious Doctor Whooves (yes, they make every possible joke they can about that), to the “Lebowski” ponies that look and behave exactly like their counterparts in “The Big Lebowski,” to the odd-yet-captivating relationship between DJ-PON3 and Octavia, one pony that is obsessed with modern techno beats and another that masters in classical cello music and share a house together.

Every major character that fans have speculated for years is given an opportunity to shine in this episode, as the town prepares for a wedding while our normal cast of characters are off fighting a monster. Derpy is as dim-witted as she is kind, the Doctor is obssessed with science and technology (what little there is in this world) while making as many “Doctor Who” references as possible, and the two musical ponies compliment each other nicely as they support each other in their endeavors to make better art.

But my favorite in this episode, by the slimmest of margins, is Lyra and Bon Bon. These two do everything together (In “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?,” there is one scene where we see their dreams, and they have joined into one creature, similar to Nickelodeon’s “Cat-Dog”). But when Bon Bon finds out about this monster the main characters are fighting, called a Bug-Bear, her cover is blown and her secrets have been revealed.

I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say there is often confusion about Bon Bon, especially in marketing and toys for MLP. Sometimes she’s Bon Bon, other times she’s Sweetie Drop, and every time she’s spoken on the show she has had a different voice actress. The way it is handled in this episode is unforgettable.

And that’s how I would describe “Slice Of Life” – unforgettable. Every scene is packed with references and jokes, each character is wholely unique and it wonderful to see a new perspective on MLP that has never been explored before. This episode gives us exactly what the fans wanted out of a tribute episode and I loved every second of it.

 

Top Ten Movies Of The 2010s (Thus Far)

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It is strange to think about, but we are now halfway through this decade. It felt like just yesterday, we were still just in the beginning of the 2000s, yet here we are in 2015.

This has been an eventful five years in cinema, with some good film years with several noteworthy movies, some terrible ones with next to nothing, and even a few great ones like this last year.

As such, let’s take a look back at the last half decade and see the best the movies had to offer. These are the top ten films of the 2010s (thus far). For this list, any film released between 2010 and 2014 qualifies. This will include some films that I’ve done extensive reviews on, but others that I have hardly even touched.

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Ten: “Midnight In Paris” (2011)

This one snuck up on me. I did not expect much out of Woody Allen, who has been more of a filmmaker who lurks in the shadows and waits for others to discover his work. But, there is something so charming to his fantastic tale of a man who wants nothing more than to live in the past.

“Midnight In Paris” reminds me of a comedic episode of “The Twilight Zone,” where reality and fantasy meet and the desires to make the past present and fulfilled, only to have them come crashing down and shattered in front of their eyes. With each trip into the past, there comes the realization that we romantize the past and only see what we wish to see, taking away our ability to enjoy the present to the fullest.

Clever story, tight writing and an unexpected moral that has remained relevant since we began to record history. A pleasant surprise from Woody Allen.

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Nine: “Django Unchained” (2012)

Quentin Tarantino is a hit-and-miss director for me. Sometimes, he’ll make a film that hits all the right notes that is stylish, eloquent and suspenseful, like “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.” Other times, Tarantino will make a film that meanders and does not seem to have much of a point, aside from showing off his own ego, like “Jackie Brown” and “Inglorious Basterds.”

“Django Unchained” falls into the first category, and just might be Tarantino’s best film since “Pulp Fiction.” I attribute this to not writing dialogue for the sake of the dialogue, but creating the characters and writing the dialogue around them. I remember very few lines from “Django Unchained” but I certainly characters like Dr. Schultz and Calvin Candy, for their charisma, their passions, their generous hearts (or in Candy’s case, a lack of one) and the performances behind them.

There is excellent character writing in “Django Unchained.” In a harsh world that cares very little for the individual, we get a German bounty hunter that loves what he does and appreciates a man’s contributions, as well as a slaver that loves this strange and unforgiving world and will use it to his advantage.

Aside from a few out-of-place scenes, like the KKK sequence and the artificially extended ending, “Django Unchained” is wonderful Western with some characters that will not be forgotten any time soon.

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Eight: “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)

When I initially saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” I admired the performances by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, but got very little out of the film. After watching the film a couple more times though, I have gained a new respect for the movie by talking about issues that are so rarely discussed in cinema.

Perhaps when I first watched “Silver Linings Playbook,” I saw the film trying to say something about mental illnesses. In a way the film is talking about that, but it is more about trauma than anything else, as well as learning how to deal with it. The people who have mental breakdowns and blame tragic life events on themselves, like their spouse cheating on them or a loved one dying in a car accident. That these tortured souls have to take life one day at a time and learn to appreciate what they have now, and not what they had.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is smart, funny, and one of the more touching films of the last five years. Good performances all around, including Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.

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Seven: “Gravity” (2013)

For the first time, this film feels like it is set in space. Not only that, but it feels like we are right along side Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in their journey through space.

The fear, the majestic view, and the unknown of space are all on display in “Gravity.” I did not like “Gravity” as much in my first viewing, mostly due to the story not being that impressive. But after thinking more about it, I’ve realized that “Gravity” is about the experience and not the story, like “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You don’t need much out of your main character, because you are your own main character. The extended long shots of space stations flying apart and debris fields zipping past you is more effective than any bit of character development in this film.

It is one of those oddities in cinema that puts you in a state of mind and lets you see an all new perspective, rather than watching a story unfold. Though it gets a bit cliché and predictable near the end, the cinematography and atmosphere more than make up for it. Overall, I respect “Gravity” more than most other films I have seen in the last five years.

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Six: “Birdman” (2014)

Actors can be fickle people, who pursue their cause for nothing more than fame. But some people will do just about anything to achieve fame, even putting their souls on display for everyone to laugh and ridicule.

This is what makes “Birdman” such a strong piece. The intent of Riggin Thomson is so basic and desirable, yet so personal as he looks for redemption and a purpose in life. The demons of his past continue to haunt him, calling out to reclaim what belongs to him alone, but he continues to wish to make his acting career one worth fighting for. It makes the film even stronger because of Michael Keaton playing the role, who has had something like that happen to him.

On top of that, there is top-notch cinematography, emotional performances from Edward Norton and Emma Stone and snappy dialogue that just rolls off the tongue. “Birdman” is a film that I would not mind watching many times in the future.

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Five: “The Artist” (2011)

2011 was a sad year for cinema. For the majority of that year, my favorite film was “Rango,” which came out in February, and saw an endless string of bad and disappointing movies, like “Hugo” and “Drive.”

Then along came “The Artist” to prove that cinema is a visual medium and that dialogue is just an added benefit.

I realize that sounds hypocritical, since I just praised “Django Unchained” and “Birdman” for their dialogue, but there are many different types of movies out there and what works for some may not work for others. “The Artist” goes back to the root of cinema – silent movies. To see a feature-length silent film being made in the 2010s, and to have it be so exciting, emotional and atmospheric is unbelievable.

“The Artist” could have gone the route of “Singin’ In The Rain,” and be a musical set during the transitional period in film history when talkies were taking off, but instead we get a “Sunset Boulevard”-esque story, of a silent actor who is being left in a rapidly evolving world. The quote, “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small,” comes to mind when I think of “The Artist.”

Overall, “The Artist” is a love letter to many different eras of cinema, including the quirky 1910s and 1920s, the darker and more personal 1950s and the many films of Billy Wilder. A timeless film made at a time when we needed a reminder of the power of cinema.

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Four: “Black Swan” (2010)

Much like “Birdman,” “Black Swan” is a film that shows the darker side of being a performer and relies almost exclusively on one performance. But the reason “Black Swan” gets higher on this list is because of the atmosphere and inner battle of the main character.

In “Black Swan,” there is always a foreboding atmosphere, that Nina is always trying her hardest but is one slip-up away from being cut from the lead role. Nina wants to be the best, but being the best comes with a tough mentality. This goes together with Nina’s struggle within herself, to the point that she must become the black swan to perform in the ballet.

“Black Swan” has many subtle parts to it, where you’re not exactly sure what is real and what is in Nina’s mind, to the point where Mila Kunis’ character might be a figment of Nina’s imagination, to make Nina fight harder for her role.

Throw in a one-of-a-kind performance by Natalie Portman and the dark filmmaking style from the same director as “Requiem For A Dream,” and “Black Swan” continues to impress me to this day.

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Three: “Nightcrawler” (2014)

From one creepy and disturbing film to another. This time though, we get a film that is set in reality and not the mind.

The tale of Louis Bloom has been compared to someone attempting to obtain the “American Dream,” only to realize that America has changed so much that the dream is dead. Louis sets out to prove that wrong, at whatever the cost. Louis does not care for other people, and only sees them as tools to achieve is own goals and can be disposed off once his need for them is finished. Yet all the while, Louis works harder, quicker and more deadly than the competition to make a name for himself.

Perhaps that is why filming horrific accidents and tragedies comes so naturally for Louis. He is so far removed from reality and lives in his own world that he does not see these as people, but his next paycheck. Sadly though, his news outlet seems to agree with his line of thinking and will pay Louis handsomely for their ratings boost.

“Nightcrawler” is a film that is relevant as it is creepy. A standout performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, poignant writing and an unrelenting atmosphere. This is a film that quickly grabs a hold of you and never lets go.

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Two: “her” (2013)

Now that we’ve got all the terrifying films out-of-the-way, let’s talk about the most heartwarming and imaginative film on this list.

I could not see “her” being directed by anyone other than Spike Jonez. The man who went inside John Malkovich’s head, who cast Nicholas Cage as the two lead roles in the same film about adapting a book at was unadaptable, and the guy who dared to bring “Where The Wild Things Are” to the screen, now makes a movie about a man falling in love with an artificial intelligence. But the great thing about “her” is that he pulls it off spectacularly.

Part of this is because the world of “her” is not so different from our own, yet advanced enough where software and everything digital can be interacted with. We still use email and social media, but everything is streamlined and quicker. It is not surprising that A.I. would develop a personality that others can identify with, care for and fall in love with.

“her” is one of the few films about romance that I not only tolerate, but adore. When we have so many predictable stories of love, nothing makes me happier than to see a film that strains the boundaries of personalities and what these two can do together.

And the Best Film Of the 2010s (thus far) is…

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“Cloud Atlas” (2012)

Possibly the most unconventional pick on this list, “Cloud Atlas” gets number one for being unlike any other film I have ever seen. Six different stories, all different genres and types of stories, combined into a timeline where each story affects the outcome of the next and reincarnations and past lives are a reoccurring trend.

What really sold me on “Cloud Atlas” was how each story fell into a particular genre, making it easier to follow. The events in present day London is a comedy, while the one in 1970s San Francisco is a mystery, and the 2100s Neo Seoul is (of course) a science fiction piece. Each section of the film stands on its own, but when you put them together it tells a tale over the course of thousands of years, and our understanding of the past, present and future collide.

There have been network narratives in the past, where there is no true main character and many types of people are followed, but never has there been a film like “Cloud Atlas” where each piece can work individually, and still contribute to a greater whole.

“Cloud Atlas” is ambitious, clever, knows no genre-boundaries and never gets boring or predictable. For being over three hours long, it moves a brisk pace and does not feel longer than an hour and a half. The editing is tight and focused, the cinematography ranges from breath-taking to other-worldly and it never fails to keep me entertained.

Now I’d like to know what are your favorite films of the last five years. Do you think there was a film that I missed? Or do you disagree with some of the films that I put on this list. Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Films I Watched In 2014

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I have mixed opinions on the volume of movies that I watched in 2014. About half way through the year, I set a goal to watch at least 100 new movies before the end of December. Film is my passion and there are many wonderful films out there that I have not seen, so I should make time for those movies. By the end of the year, I had watched about 85 new films, most of them in theaters.

 

Luckily, I’ve made the same goal for 2015 and by the end of January, I had already seen 20 new films. Off to a good start.

 

While I am proud that I watched nearly every new movie in 2014 that I wanted to (I still need to see “Inherent Vice” and “The Theory Of Everything” to complete my list), I still wish that I had seen more. I don’t think that I watched as many new films in 2014 as I did in 2013, especially films that were already released, but I certainly made up for it with the quantity of my blog posts. In fact, every film that I watched in 2014 had at least a bit of writing about my opinion on it.

 

As such, it makes writing a top ten list of the films I watched this past year a bit difficult. There would be a lot of repetition and opinions that were better expressed in my earlier reviews. So, I’ll be trying something a bit different for this wrap-up of 2014. For each film in this list, I’ll be linking you to my extended reviews, and give a short write-up in this post.

 

With that said, let’s take a look at the ten best films that I watched in 2014. These can be anything, from new theater releases to classics that I caught on TCM or Netflix. As long as I watched it for the first time in 2014, it qualifies.

 

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Ten: “Life Itself” (2014)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/07/movie-review-life-itself-2014.html

 

This one feels tailor-made for me and any other current film critics – The tale of passion and cinema, through the eyes of the most personal critic, Roger Ebert. While I don’t normally enjoy documentaries, this one was special because I felt like there was so much to learn about one of my biggest idols, even if I thought I already knew everything.

 

We got to meet the man, instead of the critic. And that is what made Roger so special – that he just wasn’t some guy who used his opinion as a platform, but as a way to connect with people and make them care about the movies they watch.

 

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Nine: “Stand By Me” (1986)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/05/movie-review-standy-by-me-1986.html

 

I was going to put “Boyhood” in this spot, but I watched that one in the beginning of 2015, so it does not count.

 

With that said, this is a classic coming-of-age story, told from the future by a man reflecting on his childhood and what he remembers and cherishes. Though the core characters do not change over the course of the film, the journey of being twelve and free is more than enough, especially when you’re on your way to find a dead body. Combine this with the narration, and we see that these kids did learn, just not right away.

 

This is a grand adventure with suspense and danger around every corner, but without ever going over the top.

 

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Eight: “Robot & Frank” (2012)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/10/mini-reviews-1.html

 

This one makes the list for stating the difference between man and robot, or in this case the similarities. A sentient creature with a soul is merely a collection of thoughts and experiences, and we become an individual by how we react and learn from those experiences.

 

Well that, and “Robot & Frank” has a plausible outlook on the future, where libraries no longer exist, robots serve retired and old people and there are people who refuse to live in this new world of technology and the lack of human interaction. A great modern science-fiction film that plays to both the heart and the mind.

 

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Seven: “The Lego Movie” (2014)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/02/movie-review-lego-movie-2014.html

 

Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of the team.

 

‘Nough said.

 

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Six: “The Wind Rises” (2013)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/03/movie-review-wind-rises-2013.html

 

I think I have come to terms with the fact that my favorite genre of film is now animation, especially after having four animated films in my top ten list last year. Luckily, this year only has two.

 

This is the most down to earth Hayao Miyazaki’s animated works, but it still manages to be visually stunning, full of wonder, imagination and creativity. It is fitting that the last movie Miyazaki would work on would be about a man who wanted nothing more than to soar in the sky and be remembered for his contributions to the world.

 

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Five: “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-manchurian-candidate-1962.html

 

I despise politics, but this is an unbelievably poignant political thriller.

 

What I love about this film, other than the intrigue, atmosphere and suspense, is that the film does not pick a political side and chooses to ridicule them all. Democracy, Communism, McCarthyism, Marxism, all political parties are terrible and just want one thing – power. They will achieve that goal by whatever means necessary, such as corrupting the minds of good people.

 

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Four: “Birdman” (2014)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/11/movie-review-birdman-2014-fame-fortune.html

 

Fame is fleeting, but that does not stop some people from recapturing it. Or at least trying to.

 

There is so much to love about “Birdman.” The story of an actor displaying himself in front of the world for everyone to see, the ingenious writing and dialogue to always feel fresh and crisp, the cinematography that makes it feel like a stage play while still having that filmic touch, and the pitch-perfect acting, especially from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton. What more can I say? “Birdman” is superb.

 

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Three: “Judgment At Nuremberg” (1961)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/10/mini-reviews-1.html

 

Aside from the film that comes in at number one on this list, “Judgment At Nuremberg” was the smartest and most oddly convincing film I saw this year. I did not have much time to discuss this one, but here is the basics – It is the trail of several Nazis for this crimes against humanity, set in a torn and ravaged Germany following WWII.

 

You’d think that would be an open-and-shut case. But the movie is wonderful at making a point of why the Nazis did what they did, how America is hardly different from the Nazis and showing us that the Nazis are people just like everyone else. They had their reasons and did it to survive in a world that was rapidly leaving them behind.

 

To be able to take such an evil and despicable creation like the Nazis and make them all too relatable, “Judgment At Nuremberg” gets my respect and admiration.

 

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Two: “Nightcrawler” (2014)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/11/movie-review-nightcrawler-2014.html

 

A creepy and other-worldly look at a man who wants nothing more than to make it big in the world. This is not someone who wants money, but respect and admiration. In his eyes, that is quite difficult to obtain in this world without hard work, determination and a willingness to let other people take the shots for you. Combine this with Jake Gyllenhaal’s captivating yet off-putting performance, and you get a relevant thriller that does not fail to please.

 

“Nightcrawler” along with “Gone Girl,” worked at showing the brutal reality of the media who is more focused on getting good ratings and viewers than letting the world know what is happening, making the film relevant and topical.

 

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One: “Giant” (1956)

 

http://gotengoxgodzilla.blogspot.com/2014/10/movie-review-giant-1956.html

 

Like “Amadeus” last year, “Giant” is the only film that I gave an A+ to in 2014.

 

It is difficult to discuss what makes “Giant” one of the greatest epics in such a short space, but here it goes. The film does not try anything complicated, and tells a story that anyone can relate and understand – Falling in love, raising a family and watching them grow. But along the way, we learn of the personal sacrifices that must be made, but ultimately realizing that you cannot live your child’s life for them.

 

It is also a tale of man against woman, old views versus modern ones, and need to treat everyone as a person, instead of by the color of their skin or their gender. The need to let go of those old world views if you want the world to change. The challenge comes from people who don’t want the world to change, because they don’t see anything wrong with it.

 

“Giant” might be well over three hours, but it moves at a brisk pace and never overstays its welcome. Tight writing, wonderful performances by Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean and a story that will never age. A timeless classic with themes of pride, family, love and sacrifice. What more could you need?

Top Five Films of 2014 (so far)

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It is weird to think that we are already half way through 2014. It only feels like yesterday I was talking about the best of 2013 and the Oscars, yet now the Summer Blockbusters are halfway done and most of my most anticipated films of the year have already been released.

So far, I have mixed feelings about the films released in 2014. It is kind of like an multiplying effect; when the films were good, they were really good, but when they sucked, they were almost painful to watch, like “22 Jump Street.”

However, seeing how most of the best films released this year have been summer blockbusters, it really is not fair to judge it too much. So instead, lets look at the five best films released in 2014 thus far.

These are the five films that have stuck with me long after I left the theater and reminded me how much fun going to the movies can be. Whether they made me think, laugh, cry, terrified or somewhere in between, these movies made a impact on me.

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Five: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

This is a typical Wes Andersen film, with standard of dry humor, characters talking directly to the camera, while moving and behaving more like dolls than human beings.

But really, is that a bad thing?

I’d say the only thing “The Grand Budapest Hotel” does differently is by expanding its cast even further than usual, while also having a more grand sense of scope and size. While Wes Andersen films typically have a large cast, this one in particular felt much larger, with each new character being played by a well-known and respected actor. This film also takes place over a vast landscape, as well as a war.

This gives the dry humor of a Wes Andersen film even more heft and irony. So while this feels like every other Wes Andersen film, it also does a few things to diversify itself from that same category of cinema.

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Four: “The Raid 2”

I did not think it was possible, but a movie actually managed to be more brutal and graphic than “The Raid: Redemption.”

It is interesting to compare the first Raid film to its sequel, as they both have many similarities of themes and atmosphere, but also drastically different stories and wider range of characters. But one thing that remained consistent between both films were the fight sequences still being fresh and exciting to watch.

Let’s face it, to have a good martial arts sequence these days is incredibly difficult. We’ve seen it all before and nothing really surprises us. But the creators of the Raid films still find a way to make each fight memorable and intense. By introducing fighters who each have a unique look and fighting style, each one feels different from the last while still remaining fast-paced and brutal.

That is what makes “The Raid 2” so much fun to watch. It is different enough from “The Raid: Redemption” but still keeping its core of solid fight sequences and a basic human drive that makes us care about the brawls.

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Three: “Godzilla”

I couldn’t help myself. This one had to be on the list.

The more I thought about this film, the more I really started to enjoy it. At times, it is reminiscent of films like “Jaws” and “Alien,” in how it builds up to the eventual reveal of Godzilla, but knowing when to hold back and not give us too much Godzilla, or else the audience would grow tired of him.

Not since “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack” have I felt a giant monster walk around with so much weight, power and strength. Without even showing us his face, you get the impression of how imposing and earth-shattering Godzilla is. And he looms over every scene in the film, waiting to strike like a shark on the prowl.

While I still believe the acting is the weakest part of the film, it is never so bad that it becomes grating or annoying. It’s just so average that it does nothing for me. If we had one more actor who was on the same level of intensity as Bryan Cranston or unflinching and intelligent as Ken Watanabe, then this would have been a wonderful film.

But, for what it was, I thoroughly enjoyed “Godzilla.” It had just the right amount of monster sequences, while still having a balanced human story and some great moments of tragedy and heartbreak. It honored the character of Godzilla and knew exactly what he stands for.

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Two: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

This is a much more sophisticated movie than I thought it would be. I expected some degree of intelligence, like I do with most Marvel movies these days, but what we got was an argument about the blurred lines between good and evil and whether or not we can truly fight for one side when both are so messed up.

Captain America is one of the most basic superheroes imaginable: He fights for what he believes is right and just. Which makes the argument of “right vs. wrong” so powerful in this film. Even more so when put in a world that is constantly evolving, with new global threats appearing every day and trust is thrown right out the door.

This was a nice divergent from the typical superhero film of the villain being one dimensional and predictable, and instead being a corrupt version of ourselves. In a world where demigods can smite us at any moment or another alien invasion could take out a major city, protection and justice are needed even more for the people. But when we focus so much on protection, we end up putting fear and terror in everyone.

So really, is that the right thing to do? I’m not sure, and I don’t think Cap is sure either.

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This gets number one on my list because I have never seen any film quite like “The Lego Movie.” Not just stop-motion animation with legos throughout the entire film, but the world of legos. How the different lands of legos interact, how the master builders can take apart the landscape and rerrange it at will, how each piece of brick can used as a tool and how it all comes together with its twist in the end.

“The Lego Movie” is what I love about cinema. It is fun, imaginative, exciting, thought-provoking, intelligent, witty and is something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. No matter what your film preferences are, there is something to be enjoyed in this movie.

The goal of this film is to make you feel like a child again. Coming up with your own grand adventure with your toys and legos, even using household items as some sort of foreign and ancient treasure. Yet, in the end, the film is also about growing up and moving on from your toys to have an even bigger adventure, while still remembering the good times you had.

“The Lego Movie” nails that aspect every step of the way, while still keeping up its pleasant and friendly environment where everything is awesome.