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Top 5 Games of 2011 so far

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With huge AAA titles like Elder Scrolls 5, Uncharted 3, and Modern Warfare 3 all arriving sometime in the fall, it seems like many gamers spend much of the year looking forward to the big titles of the holiday season.  By comparison, the summer can seem an unbearably barren wasteland.

With these huge titles on the ever-distant horizon it’s easy to overlook the gems we’ve already seen this year. Here’s my Top Five Games of 2011 up to date. If you’ve missed any of these, it’s worth checking them out.

 

5) Marvel vs. Capcom 3

After years in the making, the sequel to fan favorite Marvel vs. Capcom 2 did not disappoint.

With amazing graphics and the typical (although smaller than usual) quirky cast of characters, the third game in the acclaimed series offered plenty of reasons to bust out the old combos.

Now, if only Capcom would have put in the features and characters they are throwing in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 the first time around.

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Cinerina’s Best 50 Of The Decade: The 2000’s

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Cinerina’s Best 50 Of The Decade: The 2000’s

Last turn of the decade I had only been writing for three years, so I didn’t think I could really support a Decade list.  Heavens to betsy how the years do add up!  I will definitely forget your favorite film, or some ridiculously obvious classic that I didn’t happen to see.  These are just my thoughts that I hope spurs someone to pick up the video or catch it in a rerelease, just to know that these films spoke in a voice that I still hear today.  They transported me, they got under my skin, and/or they blew my mind.  They made me glad that I see as many movies as I do and they made my job that much more pleasurable.  Fifty was a fortunate coincidence — I wasn’t going for any quantity.

So, here they are roughly in release date order.  I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did, or at least in different ways.

  1. Bring It On

The Citizen Kane of cheerleader movies, Bring It On is bubbly and high-spirited, funny, quotable, and full of positive girl excellence.  It seems ridiculous but it is a solid piece of pleasure.

  1. O Brother Where Art Thou?

For me, the apex of the goofy Coens and the artsy Coens, before they left the goofy behind and pressed the artsy harder, with great music, gorgeous scenery, and Clooney’s most adorable role.

  1. Return To Me

A painful beginning to a sweet and hesitant love story, with two unlikely leads that just make you fall in love with them.  A supporting cast that supports and rocks, and a wonderful script.  Eminently rewatchable.

  1. Moulin Rouge

Crazy, gorgeous, innovative, sexy, brave, and wild.  It demands that you watch it again while you are still watching it.

  1. Monsters Inc.

Such a creative and loving way to deal with so many childhood issues and that huge warehouse of doors is still the thing that makes me go, “how amazing to have a Pixar brain.”

  1. Memento

A narrative told backward from the point of view of a man with no short term memory?  Fantastic and complex and fascinating; also it gave me some preventative memory maintenance tips for my own recall shortcomings.

  1. Bridget Jones’ Diary

The book is a breezy read and the casting of Colin Firth is meta-genius. Anything that can make Renee Zellweger this sympathetic deserves accolades, and it’s funny and romantic. (Skip the sequel.)

  1. Legally Blonde

Showing you can be girly and smart and all you really need in life is to be true to yourself and damn anyone who says differently.  Hilarious, empowering, and not at all as frou frou as the poster might have made you think.  (Skip the sequel.)

  1. Kate & Leopold

Immensely romantic in the sense of fate bringing lovers together, and the long-lost old-fashioned modes of courtship that still pluck your heartstrings. And hello, Hugh Jackman!

  1. Black Hawk Down

Intense, terrifying, full of non-Americans playing Americans because American actors are too spoiled and soft to show the ugly side of warfare, and as a result, immediate and sobering.

  1. Lilo & Stitch

This movie is so primal for me I am not sure I can even assess it objectively, but the gorgeous watercolor backgrounds and the surprisingly complex triangle between Lilo, Stitch, and Lilo’s sister Nani should get your vote even if the sight of Stitch alone with his Ugly Duckling book doesn’t send you into hysterics.

  1. Minority Report

The best sci-fi is that which has recognizable human interiors in a fantastic exterior.  Minority Report is exciting action but also thoughtful moral ponderings about the nature of crime and corruption.

  1. One Hour Photo

Robin Williams reminding us that he can act, that his mind is always working even when his mouth is not.  A creepy and elegant tale that blew me away when I first saw it and brings me back to new appreciation each time.

  1. The Ring

Creepy puzzle movie with an unlikely and yet terrific premise, Naomi Watts acting her butt off, and indelible images that stick with you.

  1. Rabbit-Proof Fence

While unlike many of these, this is not a movie I go back to again and again, it is a sweet poem of a movie about a world so far away and it’s just gentle and lovely and brave and true.

  1. Chicago

Sexy, funny, sardonic, exciting, and gun-totin’, this movie embodies the glamour of movies and the excitement of musical theatre and it’s just gorgeous! “They Both Reached For The Gun” is so clever and wild.

  1. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

The twin engines of Sam Rockwell and George Cloooney are already firing at full charisma — and then you cast a guy who might be the guy who might be a spy, but is also Chuck Barry?  Hard to describe, easy to watch.

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Not since Clue has such an unpromising source delivered such fantastic returns.  It’s got it all, action, romance, comedy, and a long-overdue Academy Award nomination for Johnny Depp.

  1. Love Actually

A network of people connected in various ways find or explore love in various modes and crack us up and make me bawl every time.  For me, a Christmas tradition, but also a movie that makes me feel good about people.

  1. Winged Migration

When it’s unfathomable to think how someone got footage, that sticks with you.  When you have heard the grunting efforts of a migratory bird flying across the world just to mate or eat, you can’t forget it.  So intimate and so amazing.

  1. Finding Nemo

Pixar always wows me but Nemo had that certain extra something for me, whether it’s the doting parent/rebellious child, the glories of the ocean and Australia, or Dory’s simple hilarity with Marlin, this is still my favorite Pixar movie, which is saying quite a bit.

  1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

For making a book I did not enjoy into a movie I could, Peter Jackson gets some credit.  For advancing the technology of moviemaking and propmaking and world-creating beyond just transcribing a story on screen, this installment deserves to be on this list.

  1. Monster

Much was made of Charlize Theron’s make-under, but this movie is all about her acting, from the horrors she endured to the horrors she inflicted.  It gets under your skin but it’s too good to skeeve you out.

  1. Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban

All Potter movies owe a great debt to the groundwork laid by Chris Columbus, but Azkaban was the first to dare to mold itself into a new shape, and also just technically and artistically beautiful.  This one I could watch once a month for years before tiring of it.

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

My initial response to recitation of the title of this film is a visceral “oh” and a pressing of my hand over my heart.  This movie is romantic, dreamy, funny, visually innovative and stunning, and makes you think about your whole life and all your feelings and memories. Always in my top-whatever lists and easily in my top 10 from this list.

  1. Super Size Me

Documentaries are not often as entertaining as a comedy and also as horrifying as a slasher film, and Morgan Spurlock is a delightful leading everyman doing terrible things to himself with McDonald’s food.

  1. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Like its leads, Dodgeball grows on you slowly until you fall utterly in love with it, and it only seems to get better with each viewing.  Silly, absurd, over the top (“Garr”) and heart-warming.

  1. Shaun of the Dead

That wonderful mix of spoof and homage that is so difficult to achieve — and even better, it’s British and it has zombies and a wicked cast.

  1. The 40 Year-Old Virgin

Crude, juvenile, tender, hilarious, quotable, and full of lovable characters, not the least of which is the lead, who is also the lovable Steve Carell.  Sensitive and boorish in perfect balance.

  1. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Taking Tarantino’s sexy-cool flavor cues from his Pulp Fiction days and adding the smartypants sensibilities of Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer?  Rock ’em sock ’em but also witty and coherent.

  1. Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic

She’s beautiful, intelligent, crude, surprising, scathing, musically talented, brave, irreverent, and ridiculous; everything I want to be (except maybe Jimmy Kimmel’s ex-girlfriend) and endlessly funny to watch.

  1. Brokeback Mountain

A romantic tragedy set in gorgeous country bigger than any of us, with two men who are forced to hide a love that most people wish they could find and sing about.

  1. Borat

Brave, ego-free performance art, hilarious commentary and parody and just plain old delicious “I wish I could get away with that,” Borat is a piece of art, no matter how crude.

  1. United 93

A movie fictionalizing the possible occurrences of a real event that we all know the ending for, and still completely nailbiting and fantastically shot.  It gets you.

  1. Children of Men

Grim, artistically impressive, full of despair and hope and some digs at human nature.  I don’t get tired of watching this one either.

  1. Zodiac

A procedural that turns into an exciting mystery that is true to life and feels completely real to you as you watch it.  Scary and dark and intimate and fascinating.

  1. Fido

Takes zombies and the suburban American 1950’s and makes them seem perfectly matched, while also being funny and even a little romantic.  No one saw this movie, despite my best efforts, but it’s got a million details to bring you back.

  1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Lyrically beautiful, this movie may be mostly about the visuals but the fact that he wrote it by blinking and managed to be so expressive, and the notion of being trapped inside one’s own mind blows me away.

  1. Hairspray

How many musical comedies can address racism, segregation, sizeism, self-confidence, and make me love John Travolta?  One, and it’s this one.  Amazing design, fabulous dancing, a winning cast, and these happymaking songs make this one a permanent favorite.

  1. Enchanted

Pure anti-depression on a disc.  Amy Adams personifies the generous and joyful spirit of her character and the songs skewer the long-sacred tropes of animated love.

  1. War/Dance

Many movies show how the arts help us overcome tribulations, but none that I have seen blend the terrors of war with the raptures of dance so elegantly or with such stories.

  1. Tropic Thunder

Instead of making another movie about the making of a movie (though they did make a fake documentary about the fake movie that they made about the story that is told in this movie), how about thinking you’re making a movie while you’re really narrowly avoiding being killed?  Maybe it’s been done before, but not with Robert Downey Jr. as the Australian dude playing the black dude disguised as the other dude.

  1. Waltz With Bashir

Animating a documentary about an intense war moment seems like an irreverent idea but instead it elevated the subject material from another war movie to something really personal and magical and terrible.

  1. The Wrestler

Redemptive dramas are a dime a dozen, in a way, but Mickey Roark and the character he play are so richly portrayed and so incredibly relatable and sympathetic that this is one of the few that still makes me say “oh god that was great you must see it!”

  1. Precious

Acting so good that you forget they are actors, a story so harrowing that you forget that it’s based on reality, and a life so full of pain and struggle and beauty too.  This one will stay with you.

  1. Moon

With Sam Rockwell kind of playing multiple parts, kind of not, Moon is an old-school sci-fi drama that captures the best aspects of sci-fi often forgotten in the bombastic world of the Transformers.  Also, when you have any movie that stars Sam Rockwell, you have something special.

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Two Harry Potters on the list?  It doesn’t seem right.  This film, while taking immense short-cut liberties with the book for the sake of time and simplification, did so using Steve Kloves’ masterful interpretive screenwriting and David Yates’ visual sensibility, plus the story in this one is the best of all the books.

  1. District 9

Original, entertaining, philosophical, and amazing effects and acting rolled into a unique and surprisingly affecting story that happens to be science fiction but doesn’t feel just like more spaceships and aliens.

  1. The Cove

Disturbing, shot at great risk and with impressive ingenuity, The Cove will not let you forget it.

  1. Avatar

Yeah, it just came out, but what movie has ever so fully immersed you in such a way before?  A complete biosphere invented from the ground up and deep, rich shots of a beautiful world with plenty of pew pew pew and excitement.

And I couldn’t resist…Honorable Mention:

Galaxy Quest (release date 12/25/99) is still one of the most rewatchable movies out there, and could easily bump any one of the above movies for sheer awesomeness.  It’s clever and funny and walks a fine line between spoof and homage, and is rightfully beloved accordingly.

Cinerina’s Best and sort of Worst of 2009

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Cinerina’s 2009 Extremes

Some truly terrible movies came out in 2009, so terrible that I refused to see them. This may be the first year in recent memory where I have not rated a film “Avoid At All Costs.” This could mean that I just was less willing to plunk down my hard-earned money for something I can smell is crappy from miles away. I hope you were able to avoid stepping in the poo. Don’t worry, some crappy movies still managed to stink up my evenings.As a result, my “worst” films aren’t really all that bad, all things being equal. I was privileged to see a great deal of excellent films, so this will just be my Top Ten for 2009.

BEST

As usual, I can never put these in any order.

Precious

Take one human life plucked from a statistics sheet and blow it up into full, queasy color, put it in the hands of a director who strips fear from the set leaving only explosive amounts of sheer acting, and wow. Narrowly beats out the Hurt Locke for being the most visceral movie this year.

The Road

Grim, desperate, scary, sad, cold — but gripping. So much of what works for me in The Road is unspoken, is sound effects and mood and visuals, that the words only assist, rather than carrying the burden of impressing me.

Up

The previews said “kooky fun adventure,” and the first few scenes said “love is fragile, promises are life, life is an adventure.” Sad, funny, exciting, and sentimental, Up is a triumph of storytelling and gorgeous filmmaking. Pixar continues to remind us that it’s not the medium, it’s the story.

Avatar

Sure, the dialogue isn’t the greatest, but if you’re going to see a movie like this for scintillating dialogue then you’re kind of asking to be disappointed. Avatar is a revelation and makes you glad to have lived long enough to see it. Eliminating the uncanny valley and still moving me is a massive achievement.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Maybe it was my low expectations after Order of the Phoenix, but Rowling’s best book finally also became Harry’s best film outing. Deftly adapted and fully inhabited, I felt elevated watching it.

Moon

One man playing versions of himself alone on the Moon equals heavy; that man being Sam Rockwell equals rich. Moon is what science fiction has always meant to be.

Hurt Locker

Almost unbearable tension, broken only by the unreal extremes of behavior that keep soldiers’ minds afloat in the field. A film to be reckoned with.

District 9

Perhaps setting the film in South Africa drives the allegory home a little severely, but District 9 is so original and so daring and so perfectly executed that the message is secondary to the thrill of amazement.

World’s Greatest Dad

No one will remember this movie, just like they willfully refuse to remember that Robin Williams actually can act his fuzzy butt off, and he’s doing it here, with black humor and lovely pathos.

WORST THAT I SAW

And I know many will disagree with me on some of these, but these are the ones that were the movies that give me a physical reaction whenever I recollect the time I could have been spent having my teeth cleaned instead.

Knowing

Drag Me To Hell

Alien Trespass

Where The Wild Things Are

Watchmen

Coraline

Screenhead Weighs in on Best Anime Movies of All Time

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Top 10 Composite

Calling this list the 10 best anime titles of all time may be a misnomer. The original comparison was the top 10 visually stunning pieces, outshining Disney/Pixar’s body of work. The list presented by Screenhead is as follows:

10: 5CM Per Second (2007)
9: Cowboy Bebop (2001)
8: Tokyo GodFathers (2003)
7: Princess Mononoke (1997)
6: Paprika (2006)
5: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
4: Ghost in The Shell (1995)
3: Grave of The Fireflies (1988)
2: Akira (1988)
1. Spirited Away (2001)

Now, admittedly I am a Miyazaki fan, but this list was a bit heavy on his works. Leaving out works like Perfect Blue, and Robot Carnival (once of the first I ever saw) isn’t understandable for me. I have yet to see 5CM Per Second, but will be adding this to my near range to-see list for comparison.

For the anime movie fans out there, what would is lacking from this list that you have seen?

[via Screenhead]

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Cinerina's Best and Worst of 2003

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Yes I completely understand that it’s February and these things traditionally come out to be read through a New Year’s Day hangover. I blame a trip, a show, and the vexing lack of hours in a day.

For my newer readers (and there are a lot of you) I have no hard and fast tradition about summarizing my favorites; I always resist and then people keep asking me to do it, so I do it. I think it’s impossible to make such a list because all art is truly subjective. Ask me what I think should win an Oscar and it will be a different list than what movie I want to watch again and again and again. This list is kind of a meld of the two flavors of opinion.

Anyway, argue with me if you want, but you folks asked for it, and this is just my opinion. Make your own lists and share them with me if you want. But I still won’t like Kill Bill as much as everyone else did.

Best of 2003 (1 = most good)

1 Pirates of the Caribbean
2 Finding Nemo

These two movies are really tied. Most critics cower behind a need to like only “important” films or dramas or sensitive artistic visions, but you know what? These two movies kicked every kind of butt a movie can kick. They are dripping with the joy of the filmmaking team, they are creative beyond anyone’s expectations, they are impeccably executed, and every viewing brings new love for them. Johnny Depp and Ellen Degeneres are hugely underappreciated for their subtle talents and their respective films showcase everything we love the most about them (except Ellen’s physical comedy). No two films in 2003 brought so much happiness to so many people AND were critically applauded. And nominated for stuff. Go buy the DVDs already, slackers. Ultimately Pirates beat Nemo for the simple reason that since acknowledged genius Andrew Stanton wrote Nemo, we knew the Pixar film would be good, and no film based on a freaking theme park ride designed in 1967 should ever have been watchable, much less an instant classic. Pirates had further to go to win us over, so I gave it #1.

3 American Splendor
4 Lost in Translation

These two movies flip flopped for me as far as where on the list they would be numbered. Lost in Translation is delicate, elegant, tender and beautifully performed, whereas American Splendor is post-modern, brash, loud, and grungy. Both films are unique in ways that defy description, and are the exact reasons the MPAA ban on screeners was the worst idea since the McCarthy blacklists. Ultimately I chose Splendor over Translation as the better film because of the incredible challenge of making Harvey Pekar likable, especially when he is being played by himself and by Paul Giamatti. That, and there are fewer dips in the energy of Splendor.

5 Monster

If you haven’t heard by now, Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster is the most intense and incredible thing this year, period. The film itself is an emotional ride and it sticks with you for a long time. Chirstina Ricci doesn’t get much mention next to her costar but she holds her own with her weird character’s terrible flaws and her own chameleonic nature.

6 Love Actually
7 Down With Love

“This list is totally written by a chick. She has TWO movies with the word ‘love’ in the title in her top ten.” If you’re one of those Cro Magnon men who refuses to see movies with the word Love in the title for fear of getting teased by the other guys in the cave, well you missed out on some seriously great writing, delightful characters, and hot naked and semi clad women. “Wha??” Both Love Actually and Down With Love have already merited multiple repeat viewings and they just get better with each viewing. I don’t think I need to justify their greatness here. But they are super memorable.

8 Triplets of Belleville

My friends and fans know I am a serious Pixar advocate and junkie, and the rankling I have experienced watching the first two Animated Feature Oscars going to the less deserving Shrek and Spirited Away cannot be described in a family publication. Finding Nemo is an amazing film, but I trembled in my boots when I walked out of the fantastical and excellent Triplets of Belleville. It’s unique and innovative and while I think Pixar is the single greatest filmmaking apparatus in the world, this film is really amazing.

9 Spellbound

2003 was truly the year of the documentary. I admit I did not see them all, who could? But this is the one that stayed with me the longest. The kids and their wildly divergent stdying styles, motivations, obstacles, and support networks, they gripped me, amused me, and I bit off all my finger nails in anticipation of the finale. If you don’t generally watch documentaries, try this one, it just might change your mind.

10 The Cooler

Another little movie that could, this one scrabbled its way up the long list of great independent films from this year into my top ten on the combined strength of William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, and Maria Bello. It’s a sweet love story, a vaguely supernatural fable, a dramatic underworld movie, and a comedy all in one. It’s grand, check it out.

Special Prize: September 11
Eleven short films from eleven countries, some good, some great, some so-so, but the whole compilation is worthy of viewing and deserving of recognition.

Worst of 2003 (1 = most bad)

1 Cat in the Hat

How can one accurately describe, without gestures and facial expressions, the full insulting horror of this film? Not only is it (unlike the entries below) an abominable “adaptation” of a children’s classic, it’s a crass commercial whorefest with inappropriate jokes, self-satisfied putrefaction on the part of Mike Myers, and a huge waste of time to boot. I have hated some movies, but this movie hurt me. Really, if I have to explain why this was the worst movie of the year…

2 Spy Kids 3D Game Over

Lame. Boring. Stupid. Overproduced. Underwritten. Overdone. Should have stopped at the still joyful and whimsical #2. Tron was better, including the effects.

3 Matrix Revolutions

Lame. Boring. Stupid. Overproduced. Underwritten. Overdone. Should have stopped at the still interesting and mystical #1. The Last Starfighter was better, except for the effects. And what the hell? Do they think making two cold, unsexy characters kiss will interest the female audience? Nope.

4 Kill Bill Vol 1

While it seems unfair to put this movie down here, considering how legitimately well the whole thing was choreographed, the plain and simple truth is that this is one unsatisfying piece of cinema. I can appreciate cartoon violence and the kitschy joy of trash, but there needs to be something to keep my interest and excite my emotional investment in the story. And I don’t ask much.

5 Legally Blonde 2: Red White & Blue

See? Chick movies can suck too. This movie was an affront to the empowering, funny, charming original film. Elle Woods betrays her character, her self respect, and even her dog. I was so angry when I left the theatre I haven’t been able to watch the original since. Some day I hope to get it back.

6 View from the Top

Proof that Gwyneth is only as good as her script. What should have been a joyful girl power romp through the skies and some fun costuming turned into a “dare to dream, trailer girl” insult to all women who seek to bette r themselves through superficiality (which may be all they have). You probably didn’t see it, but I did, and that’s why it’s on my bottom 10. And I saw over 100 movies this year. Think on that.

7 The Medallion

Only notable in that it was already made into a terrible movie last year – The Tuxedo. How can they make the same mistake twice? Shame shame shame.

8 Le Divorce

Proof that Kate Hudson is only as good as her marketing. Tiresome women leaning on each other ineffectually as they selfishly ignore each other’s problems in favor of their own problems, where anything that smacks of interesting is shunted away in favor of Hudson prancing about like a fool. Wait, maybe that’s Alex & Emma instead?

9 Anger Management

A winning idea cast in a mean-spirited, egotistical horror show wherein crazy people make crazy people crazier all in the name of sanity. And the simple sight of a formerly respected actor singing from West Side Story is supposed to leave us in stitches? Sick, sad, and tired. Punch Drunk Love did it better and it didn’t embarrass any Oscar winners.

10 Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Despite having the excessively sexy Gerard Butler in it (the only thing that made the other movies worse than this one), this movie was a bunch of noise and bluster and not even enough tomb raiding to justify its source material. She didn’t even have the shorts on! What gives?

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