BBB Best of 2016

Finally, we’ve made it! Ricardo Medina, special guest Michael Richards (C.E.O. of Phastraq VFX) and yours truly count down our lists of Best Hip Hop Instrumental Albums, Hip Hop EPs, Hip Hop Albums, Live-Action Movies (VFX), Animated Movies, and the Best and Worst Movies of 2016!

 

– Matthew

2016 Academy Awards Picks

For the past couple years on this blog, I’ve been sharing my picks for 21 of the 24 categories of the Academy Awards (I always leave out Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short and Best Short Documentary due to my inability to access any of these films online). Fortunately for the both of you, this year will be no different! Yessir, lady and gent, for my first post of 2016, I’ll be sharing my picks for the 2016 Academy Awards. Similar to what I did in 2014 and 2015, I’ll be including my “runner-up” (i.e. nominee that I think has a huge chance of snatching the Oscar from the respective “pick”). And similar to 2015, this post is yet another excuse for me to post pictures (with a music video added into the mix to liven things up) instead of actually writing my thoughts on each and every nominee mentioned here.

 

And in case you were wondering….YES, I have seen all the movies on this list…..Oh wait. No. Actually there’s ONE film on the list that I have NOT seen (GASP!) but I’ll get to that later. Anyhoo, without further ado, sit back, relax, have your favourite torrent client and web search engine ready (You goddamn pirate, you!), and enjoy  my Oscar picks of 2016. Enjoy!

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “Bridge of Spies”

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Runner-up: “Ex Machina”

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: “The Martian”

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Runner-up: “The Big Short”

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS, BEST SOUND MIXING & BEST SOUND EDITING:

“Mad Max: Fury Road”

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Runner-up for Visual Effects: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Runner-up for Sound Mixing & Sound Editing: “The Revenant”

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

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Runner-up: “The Danish Girl”

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Earned It” – (that song from) “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

For a movie that promised to rise to the occasion, but wound up being limp (Ha! See what I did there??), we did get a marginally decent (in my opinion) song from The Weeknd (which won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance last week). And for better or worse, “Earned It” is the only thing worth remembering from “Fifty Shades of Bullshit”- which is saying a fucking lot!

Anyhoo, MUSIC VIDEO TIME!!!

 

Runner-up: “Writing’s On The Wall” – (that song from) “Spectre”

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: “The Hateful Eight”

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Runner-up: “Bridge of Spies”

 

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING, or Why is this still a category? I mean, who gives a shit about best mascara and wigs?! Just saying, yo:

“Mad Max: Fury Road” (if I had to pick)

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Runner-up: “The Revenant”

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Son of Saul”.

Now this is the film I have not seen, simply because I couldn’t find a screener for it, let alone a theater that ran the movie, prior to the publishing of this blogpost. However, based on the TON of praise this Hungarian war drama received after its premiere at Cannes last year (if anything else), “Son of Saul” has a ridiculously huge chance of taking the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. If not, then I think my runner-up pick – which I did see and do recommend you see – will take home the award.

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Runner-up: “Mustang”

 

BEST FILM EDITING: “The Revenant”

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Runner-up: “The Big Short”

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “The Look of Silence”. While his 2012 film “The Act of Killing” (which was my pick for Best Documentary Feature back in 2013, and still remains one of the most harrowing movies I’ve ever seen) hit me repeatedly in the gut, Joshua Oppenheimer’s compelling, oftentimes solemn and equally powerful follow-up “The Look of Silence” hit me in the heart. For years, documentary features with grim subject matter have been nominated by the Academy, but unfortunately, they’ve never won. And I have a strong feeling that this movie – which is actually more accessible than “The Act of Killing” – will lose to my runner-up pick. In any case, I’m still rooting for “The Look of Silence” to win on Sunday, and regardless of whether it wins or not, this is still a film that’s DEFINITELY worth seeing!

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Runner-up: “Amy”

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

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Runner-up: “The Revenant”

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Revenant”

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Runner-up: “Sicario”. It’s Roger Deakins vs. Emmanuel Lubeski for the World Heavyweight Championship…..OF CINEMATOGRAPHY!!

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “Inside Out”

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Runner-up: There is no runner-up. “Inside Out” WILL win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature! “Animalisa”, “Boy meets World”, “Marnie wasn’t There” and “Shaun the Shit” ain’t got a keyframe on Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Oh, and Riley, because without her, these emotions wouldn’t exist. Then again, they could’ve been in someone else’s head instead of Riley’s.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh, right! Oscars! Moving along…..

 

BEST DIRECTOR: Alejandro González Iñárritu – “The Revenant”. Yes, I’m rooting for the man who won Best Director LAST YEAR for the Best Picture winner “Birdman”. Winning the Best Director Oscar TWO YEARS in a row will be a hard pill to swallow for some people, but you have to admit, Iñárritu and his team outdid themselves with “The Revenant”. And that deserves credit.

 

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Runner-up: George Miller – “Mad Max: Fury Road”. If I could wish on a shooting star, I’d wish that a 70-year-old filmmaker who went out of his way to make one of the most unabashedly BADASS movies ever created (and my pick for Best Movie of 2015, in case you were wondering) could win such a prestigious award. But alas, a wish is only a wish. *SIGH*

 

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

‘Mama Bear’ – “The Revenant”

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I’m just playing! My real pick is…

 

Kate Winslet – “Steve Jobs”. Anyone who can put up with Steve Jobs’ (Michael Fassbender) narcissism, and put him in his place when necessary, deserves an Oscar in my book!

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Runner-up: Rooney Mara – “Carol”

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sylvester Stallone – “Creed”

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Runner-up: Once again, THERE IS NO RUNNER-UP! This is Stallone’s award! He is going to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and no one….and I mean no one….not even Batman (Christian Bale), Bane (Tom Hardy), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and that guy (Mark Rylance) who played the villain in that movie with Sean Penn…. “The Gunman”, I think it’s called….is going to stop him! And if he doesn’t win, then that means we get another “Expendables” movie. Do you want another “Expendables” movie?? No, you don’t, folks. No, you don’t.

 

BEST ACTRESS – Cate Blanchett – “Carol”

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Runner-up: Brie Larson – “Room”

 

BEST ACTOR: Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Revenant”. No Best Actor nominee this year had people rooting for him to win more than Mr. Jack Dawson himself, Leo DiCaprio. And yes, I am one of theoe people. He’s been putting out great roles for years, but with “The Revenant”, he literally pushed himself physically and emotionally to the limit. Call it overrated (“Oh, all he just did was groan and grunt for two hours. Any other actor coulda done that shit. He was way better in Romeo + Juliet ‘cuz he was talking……Shakespearese or whatever you call that language”) but his performance in this movie is nothing short of incredible. What more can I say? Leonardo DiCaprio FOR THE WIN!!

 

 

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Runner-up: Matt Damon – “The Martian”. If for some godforsaken reason, Leo doesn’t win, then I have a sneaky suspicion that his co-star from “The Departed” will take home the award.

 

SIDE NOTE: Imagine if both Leo and Kate win their respective Oscars on Sunday. That would be like the 1998 Academy Awards all over again, except they won’t be winning for “Titanic”, they would have actually won Oscars on the same night, there’s no James Cameron, and the Best Picture Oscar would go to……

 

BEST FILM:

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See my shooting star wish above. What I really meant to say was…

 

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Best Picture: My top 3 picks for the Best Picture Oscar are “The Revenant”, “Bridge of Spies” and yes, “Mad Max: Fury Road”. But I really think that the Academy will give its much-coveted award to Alejandro Iñárritu’s latest masterpiece”The Revenant”. Brutal and beautiful, grim and gorgeous, unflinching and unforgettable, this is Alejandro Iñárritu’s most ambitious film to date and well-deserving of the Academy Award for Best Picture.

 

So what are your thoughts on my Oscar picks? Do you agree with all, some or at least one of them? Do you think this is DiCaprio’s year to shine or do you think he’ll be snubbed again? Do you think this is Stallone’s year to shine or will he have to do a fifth “Rambo” movie to get his hands on an actual Oscar? Which Oscar snub is still pissing you off? (Mine is Ridley Scott for “The Martian”. Golden Globe aside, the guy should have nominated for Best Director!) Will you be watching the Oscars on Sunday, or will you be avoiding it like your Facebook wall after an episode of “The Walking Dead” airs? Or will you be periodically checking your Facebook wall on Sunday night – or Monday morning, depending on how much of a shit you actually give  – to see if your friends posted anything related to the Oscars?And of course,  who do you think will be going home with an Academy Award (earned, not stolen). Comment below, and don’t forget to like and share this post! Until next time, folks.

 

– Matthew

 

BBB EPISODE X: THE FORCE AWAKENS – AND OTHER THINGS STAR WARS

In this EPIC penultimate episode of Beers, Beats & Bailey Season 1, Ricardo Medina, Claude Lilford and myself discuss the previous 6 Star Wars movies (and the stuff in-between), as well as share our SPOILER-FREE and SPOILER-HEAVY (you’ve been warned) thoughts on the latest entry in the Star Wars series: “The Force Awakens”.

*Please check the description of this YouTube video for the different chapters of this podcast and their respective timecodes.*

 

–   Matthew

 

Guest review, including my own: Top 5 Best Movies, Worst Movies, Hip-Hop Albums & Hip-Hop Instrumentals of 2014

Today’s episode of “A Legally Black Blog” is a special one, as I’ll be doing my first-ever collaboration (after three-and-a-half goddamn years of writing on my own) with a guest writer. This writer goes by the name of Michael “Yuka Toshi” Richards, and he is the founder of PHASTRAQ VFX, a Trinidad-based computer-generated digital imaging and compositing service provider for film, commercial and video productions. In this write-up, we will collectively count down our picks for the top 5 best and worst movies we’ve seen this year, and respectively tackle the films with the best use of VFX (Michael), best hip-hop albums (me), and best hip-hop instrumentals (me again) of 2014. Why five, you ask?  Well, the answer’s simple! As opposed to doing five top-10 lists which would either be crammed together into one post (that will prove difficult to write due to lack of time, and even more difficult to read for the same reason) or spread apart into three or four separate write-ups during the last few days before New Year’s Day (that either won’t get completed in time due to that pet peeve of mine called procrastination – and boy, did I deal with that one too many times this year – or won’t get read since 95% of the world’s population would be too busy gearing themselves up for Old Year’s AND New Year’s Day), we figured that it would be a better idea to shorten these lists reasonably enough so that they can be added into the same blog post without the whole thing feeling bloated. Well, at least we HOPE so. Anyhoo, we have a LOT to cover today, but trust us, you WILL be entertained! Leave some messages for us below, and while you’re at it, make sure to check out PHASTRAQ VFX on its official website (http://www.phastraqvfx.com/) and on Facebook when you get the chance. So without further ado, it’s time to sit back, relax, turn your computer speakers up to 11 (especially when you reach to the hip-hop section of this post), refresh this webpage (trust me, you need to!), have your snacks and drinks nearby, and enjoy THE TOP 5 BEST MOVIES, WORST MOVIES, VFX MOMENTS, HIP-HOP ALBUMS & HIP-HOP INSTRUMENTALS OF 2014!!!! 

 

 

MICHAEL: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Actually this year was really a mixed bag for films, even more so than previous years, with some really awesome movies coming out throughout the year and some pretty bad ones as well. Now before you start organizing a lynch mob to go after me because your personal favourite film may not be on my list, please keep in mind that this list represents the best films that I saw. It was damn near impossible to see everything of note that came out this year. So let’s start with some honourable mentions of films I thoroughly enjoyed but couldn’t possibly be squeezed into such a short list.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

EARTH TO ECHO: From the trailer this film looked like an E.T. knockoff but I was pleasantly surprised when I actually took the time to watch it. It skillfully blends elements of “Super 8” (2011), “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), “Flight of the Navigator” (1986) and “Chronicle” (2012) into a story that feels original and manages to capture all the best qualities of those films.

 

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: This film was way more hilarious that I went into it expecting. It’s a quirky little comedy about some very serious events that has a lot of heart. It’s not easy to categorize but in many ways it feels like a deeply satisfying novel.

 

EDGE OF TOMORROW: It’s what you get when you cross “Groundhog Day” (1993) with “Starship Troopers” (1997) and drop it on the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).

 

THE CONGRESS: A remarkable satire on the current and future states of the film industry and how studios go to increasingly great lengths to own the souls of actors both figuratively and literally. This movie is almost 2 separate films entirely with the first half being drama and the second half being some trippy ass shit.

 

GONE GIRL: My only gripe with this movie was the ending which seemed a bit too convenient but after almost 3 hours of none stop tension building I’m prepared to forgive them.

 

THE BOOK OF LIFE: One of the most refreshing and stylized animated stories I’ve seen all year. I loved everything about this movie and were it not for the other heavy hitters on the list it could have definitely crawled its way into my top five list.

 

Now with all those great movies down you are probably wondering just what the heck actually made it into my top films list so let’s kick it off with:

 

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5. THE BABADOOK – I’m a fan of the horror and thriller genres and I often take time watch a “scary” film on a Friday night with my toddlers, Mikey and Eli. Needless to say that the genre had been lacking in scare factor for some time now and has degenerated into the use of jump scares, jarring sound effects and the same old tired tropes year after year. “The Babadook”, however, is not that kind of film. This Australian movie came out of nowhere and reminded me of what tension in a film should really feel like. It even holds up to multiple rewatchings so if you haven’t seen it yet, get your hands on it now!… Go ahead, I’ll wait. This article will still be here when you get back.

 

4. NIGHTCRAWLER – Next on my list is a film that also seemed to find new footing in a saturated genre. “Nightcrawler” stars Jake Gyllenhaal, as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. What starts off as way to make quick cash slowly begins to reveal Lou’s unsettling inner sociopath. This movie reminded me so much of Ian Alleyne and “Crime Watch” that it made me kick out a mock poster.

 

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Ultimately the last three films in my top five were the ones that had the biggest impressions on me this year. They are the ones that I was looking forward too for months and actually spent my hard earned peanuts on at the theaters and there was a lot of debate over the placement of these films in my top five.

 

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3. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – Coming in at position #3 is “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Transcending itself from “just a sequel” of a “superhero movie” into what could only be described as an action, spy thriller, sci-fi with comedic undertones, Marvel hit every note perfectly in bringing us the continuing adventures of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. This movie literally had me on the edge of my seat from the opening scene.

 

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2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – As if Marvel didn’t have enough hits on their plate already, this year they decided to take their cinematic universe into unchartered territory and “Guardians of the Galaxy” delivered in spades. From the 1970’s & 80’s pop culture references to the very well-played CGI duo of Rocket and Groot, I think it’s safe to say that Marvel can pretty much bring anything to the big screen now and make it a hit. I gave GotG the edge over Winter Soldier simply because Guardians didn’t really rely on any of the previous films in the MCU to get audiences in seats. When you also consider the fact that a talking tree with the all-encompassing vocabulary of “I”, “Am” and “Groot” exclusively in that order, stole the show’s emotional climax and almost caused a bit of ‘eye sweat’ to be shed, then you know that this movie is something special.

 

And with all the goodness that was 2014 and the barrage of great films that premiered towards it’s end one could almost forget the films that came out at the beginning of the year. But there was one film that could not be denied. No other film this year was as emotional, as full of action or as thought provoking as the film where all of mandkind is the enemy. The number 1 spot goes to… none other than….

 

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1.  DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES –  In this sequel to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), Caesar and his crew of simian brethren have peacefully existed in their exile away from the humans since the first film and have prospered, developing language, schools and maybe even a bit of government while humans have basically been spiraling down to near extinction. When the humans accidentally encroach onto the land of the apes it sets off our story and leads to one of the most impressive shows of pure ‘badmanism’ I have ever seen. Not since the days of the old westerns have I felt more killing intent in one sequence than when I saw APES ON FREAKING HORSES! From then on the journey that we are taken on is the most visceral experience I have had at the theaters all year leaving me so thoroughly satisfied that I had forgotten all about the fact that these were CGI apes. That’s right, the two top films of the year both had landmark performances from CGI characters. I think the Oscars should look into setting up a new category. This is the ultimate sequel and it is going to be hard to top this movie with the next installment.

 

As with everything else in the universe, there must be balance so here are my picks for the worst films of 2014.

 

WORST MOVIES OF 2014:

5. Aaliyah – The Princess of R&B (Lifetime Original Movie)

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

3. Annie

2. Lucy

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1. NURSE 3D – So I was wrong. Nurse 3D is in fact a horror. Horrible acting, horribly predictable story and horrible use of nudity that I can’t even fap to. This film was so far below what I consider to be a good film that I think it was a complete waste of my 2 hours even though the running length is closer to 1 hour 27 minutes. That’s right, I even want back the time it took to download this tripe. Best known for her role on “Boardwalk Empire” as the jealous, annoying slut, Paz de la Huerta uses this film to show a bit of her diversity and range as an actress, portraying a psycho, jealous, annoying slut in a nurse costume. Had I paid money to watch this film I would be demanding a refund and suing for the psychological trauma induced by listening to her deliver every god damned line like a 1920’s pin up model on meth. The other actors tried to play it straight to their credit but ultimately the film suffered from a combination of a weak script and poor casting of the lead actress. Forget thumbs, I’m giving this movie 2 stinky big toes up. If you haven’t seen this movie yet don’t even bother watching the trailer.

 

Not every movie you want to keep seeing. Some movies you just have fun with and then deny them the morning after. It doesn’t mean they are bad but they just can’t compete with your main squeeze. Here are my guilty pleasure picks for 2014: Chef, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Dracula Untold, The Interview

 

Now i wouldn’t be worth my salt in my day job if I didn’t make particular mention to some of the amazing visual effects in the movies this year. Here are my top picks for the films with best use of Visual Effects:  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dracula Untold

 

 

MATTHEW: Oh, it’s my turn now? FINALLY! Let’s get this shit over with!

TOP 5 WORST MOVIES OF 2014:

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5. THE OTHER WOMAN – Not even Kate Upton’s t……alents or Nicki Minaj’s a…….cting were enough to save this movie from being an unintelligent and unfunny excuse for a female-led comedy. [Check out my full review here]

 

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4. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES  –  Jonathan Liebesman’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja TERRORISTS” (as the 9/11-themed poster above strongly suggests) – is supposed to be about mutated turtles who eat pizza, kick ass and yell 1990s catchphrases like “Cowabunga” and shit. Did I ask for a dark, semi-serious plot about a blade-wielding, robotic suit-wearing samurai (Shredder, played in about three scenes by Tohoro Masamune) whose plan involves unleashing a lethal toxin onto New York, just so a shady philanthropist (William Fichtner) can swoop in with an “antivirus” to save the day just so he can be “rich….like super rich” (his words, not mine)? Nope. Did I ask to start the film on Megan Fox’s journalist character April O’ Neil’s motivation to be taken seriously, only to have that motivation pushed aside once the fighting starts and forgotten ENTIRELY by the end of the movie? Nope. Did I ask for four gigantic, monstrous-looking turtles and an ugly-as-fuck, Caucasian-voiced, mutated rat to be the Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo and Splinter of the 21st century? HELL NAW! But that’s what I got. Yes, the film has a glossy, polished look that only a Michael Bay-helmed movie can provide. Yes, there were some well-designed action scenes (the best being a very engaging chase sequence on a snowy mountain near the beginning of the third act). And yes, Megan Fox’s face is still pretty, which more than makes up (GET IT? Make up?) for her meh acting. And it’s only when the snowy mountain chase scene begins that the film finally figures out what it’s trying to be: an action flick that the kids would enjoy, but with just enough PG-13-level tension to keep the adults riveted. But unfortunately, when the film gives you heroes and villains that aren’t given enough depth, visually UNAPPEALING mutant characters that’re supposed to “please” both old and new Ninja Turtles fans (Honestly, I can’t imagine a child watching these freakish-ass turtles and wanting to be like them), blatant product placement (in one scene, two Turtles “camouflage” themselves as the cups of the bra of a Victoria’s Secret model on a large billboard), pop-culture references and suggestive jokes that will fly past kids’ heads and force adults to scratch their heads or facepalm themselves (“You mess with us … you mess with the WU-TANG!!”, “She’s so hot, I can feel my shell tightening”) and an obviously miscast Will Arnett as the cameraman who tries desperately to talk his way into April’s jeans (literally), you care more about the action than anything else. What a waste.

 

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3. I, FRANKENSTEIN  – The main reason why I chose this poster is to show you how BORED Aaron Eckhart looks on it. And don’t get me wrong: he is a great actor. His gripping performance as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is still my favourite Aaaron Eckhart performance to date. But even with the RIDICULOUS yet strangely intriguing premise of “I, Frankenstein” (Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s monster teaming up with an army of angelic-like gargoyle warriors against demonic forces hiding among humans in the near-future), Aaron isn’t given anything much to do except look, talk and act as if he’s been burdened for more than 200 years, fight demons with little to no effort, and of course, walk away from the exploding bodies of “descended” (i.e. sent back to the hell from whence they came) demons — IN SLOW MOTION! Bill Nighy (of “Underworld” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” popularity) does his damnedest to stay invested in his antagonist role, but even he isn’t given the opportunity to go “all in” thanks to the film’s overly-serious tone (there isn’t even a SHRED of humour in this movie). Despite the passable acting performances, visual effects and production design, “I, Frankenstein” suffers from one-dimensional characters, dull action sequences that lack the visceral punch of the “Underworld” films, and an incoherent, downbeat and admittedly boring narrative.  YOU Frankenstein?! ME want money back!!

 

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2. THE LEGEND OF HERCULES – If you’ve seen “Braveheart”, “Gladiator”, “Troy”, “300” or at least one episode of the entertaining-as-hell “Spartacus” TV series, then you’ve pretty much seen “The Legend of Hercules” already. Nearly EVERY scene, character, plot device and visual in this movie evokes some element from those films. After Effects sky replacement, faux-Latin vocalizing in the musical score, extensive use of slow motion during fight scenes, pre-final battle rallying speech delivered on horseback. You name it, it’s there! But the REAL issue with this movie lies with the script. When you DUMB your main character down to the point that his sole motivation lies in returning to his homeland to save his love interest (Gaia Weiss’ Hebe) from being married to his asshole brother (Liam Garrigan as Prince Iphicles) who wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to marry her had it not been for his villainous asshole father (Scott Adkins’ King Amphitryon), then you’ve got a shitty movie on your hands. And boy, is this a shitty fucking movie! Blatantly amateur made-for-TV visual effects, flat characters with little to no motivation, tiring, unexciting action sequences, a poorly-paced story that takes itself WAY TOO SERIOUSLY, laughably cheesy dialogue (“King Amphitryon! Show yourself! Where are you, you coward?! Hiding with your Prince?!”). You name it, it’s there! This January 10th release is a pure example of the dreck Hollywood left behind after December 2013. But it did leave behind one of the most unintentionally HILARIOUS action sequences I’ve seen all year. I present to you…..the “ROCK FIGHT!”

 

 

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1. LEFT BEHIND –  2014 will be remembered for two big-budget, biblical-themed movies that divided critics and moviegoers alike: “Noah” (which I praised for its challenging, thought-provoking approach to the story of Noah’s Ark) and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” (Though I have yet to see this film, I really don’t think it’s as bad as many people say it is. Then again, I could be wrong). Say what you want about them, but no other movie this year was as big of an insult to intelligence, common sense, logic AND RELIGION than “Left Behind”. As a tense apocalyptic thriller, “Left Behind” is an absolute failure since there’s absolutely NO tension, thrills or apocalypse. Save for a few mentions about the biblically-prophesied Rapture, a laughably awful riot scene at a shopping mall and a few buildings engulfed in flames near the end of the movie, there’s literally NO scenes depicting the chaos and destruction one would expect from hearing the word “apocalypse”. As an emotional drama centered on the quest of an airline pilot (played by everybody’s favourite bipolar actor (sometimes he acts in good movies, sometimes he stars in REALLY shitty ones – *COUGH*”The Wicker Man“*COUGH*) Nicolas Cage) to return to his family amidst the first few hours of the Rapture, this movie fails on all levels, since most of the scenes involving Nick Cage are set on an airplane filled with side characters that you absolutely don’t give a SHIT about, instead of on the ground, where the last few minutes of the film are set. NOTHING of worth, value or benefit to the story happens until after the first 30 minutes, when people start vanishing into thin air, leaving behind their clothes (which begs the obvious question: Is THAT why the movie’s called ‘Left Behind’?”). The acting talents of the cast (even Nick Cage) are mercilessly wasted, thanks to half-assed character development (each character is either one or one-and-a-half dimensional) and laughably awful dialogue (“Listen to you?! Why should I?! You didn’t listen to you!”). The soundtrack -which sounds like the amalgamation of the music of a Lifetime Original Movie, a Trinity Broadcasting Network promo and an apocalyptic-themed church play, is nothing short of ABYSMAL. And the film’s contrived, unresolved conclusion and far-from-subtle hint of a sequel will have you running to the nearest bar to drink away the pain of suffering through its 105-minute running time as opposed to running to the nearest church for absolution. It’s agonizingly boring, poorly directed, badly written, glacially paced, and awkwardly heavy-handed in its sincere religious messages. It’s also the WORST Nicolas Cage movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and not in a so-bad-it’s-good way either. “Left Behind” was so bad that after watching it, I had to remind myself just how great of an actor Nicolas Cage is (for better or worse), even in a shitty movie. Yes, ladies and gents, I was COMPELLED to watch “The Wicker Man”. When a 2014 movie is so godawful that it compels you to watch “The Wicker Man” (which is a fucking masterpiece compared to “Left Behind”), then you know it deserves the title of Worst Movie of 2014. “Left Behind” is the Judas Iscariot of Biblical films! Take the 30 pieces of silver and leave this piece of shit behind.

 

NUMBERS 6 – 10 ON MY LIST: (6) Walk of Shame, (7) Sex Tape, (8) A Million Ways to Die in the West, (9) Transcendence, (10) The Amazing Spider-Man 2

 

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Transformers: Age of Extinction

 

 

 TOP 5 BEST MOVIES OF 2014

5. Edge of Tomorrow

4. Nightcrawler

3. Gone Girl

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

 

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1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER  – Now I know what you’re thinking: “Guardians of the Galaxy” was SO MUCH BETTER than this movie. But while I enjoyed the intergalactic adventures of everybody’s new favourite gang of misfits, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” had a much bigger impact on me. It stepped out of its colour-coded superhero comfort zone and EVOLVED into a legit, action-packed espionage thriller where characters weren’t presented in black or white – or in Captain America’s case, red, white and blue. The script was well-structured and well-written, the events of the film FOREVER changed the face of the Marvel movie and TV universe (see Season 1 of the highly-entertaining TV series “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” for more information), the performances were fantastic, the action scenes were expertly filmed and edited (especially the car chase sequence in the first act of the film), the fight scenes were brilliantly choreographed, Captain America, Black Widow AND Falcon were all badasses, and the Winter Soldier – hands down – is THE most memorable movie villain I’ve seen this year! What more can I say, except: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is the best action movie of 2014, the best superhero movie of 2014 and the best movie of 2014! There, I said it! HAIL HYDRA!!

 

NUMBERS 6 – 10 ON MY LIST: (6) X-Men: Days of Future Past, (7) Interstellar, (8) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, (9) Snowpiercer, (10) The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

HONOURABLE MENTION: Boyhood, The LEGO Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Babadook, Under the Skin

 

GUILTY PLEASURE MOVIES: The Raid 2, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, John Wick

 

 

TOP 5 HIP-HOP ALBUMS OF 2014

 

5. CyHi the Prynce –  Black Hystori Project – An out-of-nowhere release (at least to me) release from GOOD Music signee Cydel “Cyhi the Prynce”Young, “Black Hystori Project” is, in my honest opinion, the BEST mixtape of 2014. Released in February during….you guessed it…. America’s Black History Month, this is a concept album centered on the people and situations that inspired Cydel’s life and music. The first half of the album has Cyhi comparing himself, his beliefs, his talent, his passions and his struggles to famous male historical figures such as “Napoleon” (the STANDOUT track on the entire record), “Mandela” and”Basquiat”, and the following four tracks touch on the social factors that influenced him as an individual (for example, religion in “3:16”, and the U.S. drug epidemic in “Bury White”). But it’s on the album’s final four songs where Cyhi realizes that while he was born alone (“Cydel Young”), he cannot expect to live the rest of his life, alone, as a “king”. He needs a “queen” (“Coretta”), and luckily, he finds one (“Good Night”), consummates the deal (“Guitar Melody”) and begins the rest of his life with his family (“Black Pride”). But that’s my take on the album. Even if the album’s narrative doesn’t hold your interest, you’ll still be entertained with clever, quote-worthy lyrics from Cyhi (“Remember selling nicks at night, no Nickelodeon / Now I’m pulling chicks at night feelin’ like Scorpion / Dr. Kevorkian all in ya ho fallopian / Got her in the car givin’ toppings, anchovy-ing”)  and solid music production from start to finish. In short, don’t wait ’til next February to check out “Black Hystori Project”!

 

 

 

4. The Dopplegangaz – “Peace Kehd” – In all my years of hip hop consumption, I never came across The Dopplegangaz. After listening to their fourth studio album “Peace Kehd” numerous times this year, not to mention checking out their previous albums, I can safely call myself a fan of this East Coast hip hop duo. Is it the smooth, hypnotic, cloud-rap-like musical production, or the witty, off-beat, did-he-just-say-that lyrics from rappers/producers Matter OvFact and EP, or is the chilled-out musical soundscape that they create with their projects? For me, it’s all three, and it’s all there on “Peace Kehd”. The album focuses less on technical wordplay and complex beats and more on creating a hazy, mellow vibe that gets more and more addictive with each listen. And though Matter Ov Fact and EP do a fantastic job of holding the listener’s attention, it’s the instrumentals (among the BEST I’ve heard all year) that makes this album a thoroughly satisfying listen. As an added bonus, seven instrumental versions of the songs are available on the Deluxe Edition of the album, which gives you more time to kick back, relax and enjoy the music after the actual eleven-track album comes to an end. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a laid-back hip hop listening experience and a change of pace from the monotony of commercial rap music (DJ Mustard, I’m looking at you!), then DEFINITELY check out the underground sounds of The Dopplegangaz and “Peace Kehd”.

 

 

 

3. PRhyme (Royce da 5’9″ & DJ Premier) – “PRhyme” – Pronounced “prime”, “PRhyme” is the first project by the recently-established duo of Eminem’s lyrical partner-in-crime Royce da 5″9 and one half of the legendary rap duo Gang Starr, DJ Premier. On this nine-track (yep, it’s pretty short) album, Primo steps outside of his boom-bap comfort zone by crafting melodically layered beats using 1970s soul / psychedelic musical samples provided by producer Adrian Younge (who produced the Ghostface Killah concept album “12 Reasons to Die”, my No. 1 favourite album of 2013, as well as the Souls of Mischief concept album “There is Only Now”, my pick for (spoiler alert) 9th favourite hip hop album of this year). And Royce’s rhymes, cocky and fiery as usual, are presented with a sense of maturity, poignancy and insight as he addresses personal and public issues in his life as a (still) underrated rapper. Together, they’ve created a project of high replay value that will have your head nodding from start to finish and your finger reaching for that rewind button. Call PRhyme the Gang Starr of the 21st century, but whatever you do, don’t EVER, EVER ask Royce if he’s here to replace Guru (RIP).

 

 

 

2. Run The Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P) – “Run The Jewels 2” – Just when you thought the critically-lauded 2013 album “Run the Jewels” (which also made it to my Top 10 list last year) was a one-off project, East Coast producer/emcee El-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike returned this year with “Run the Jewels 2”. A VAST improvement over its predecessor, “RTJ2” brought venomous rhymes, dense wordplay and a rebellious, don’t-give-a-fuck attitude courtesy of El-P and Killer Mike to the table, as well as thought-provoking themes about sex (“Love Again” (Akinyele Back”)), police corruption (“Early”), religion (“Angel Duster”) and personal guilt (“Crown”). and synth-assisted instrumentals that regularly switched the album’s tone from wild, aggressive and frenetic (“Close your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)”) to subdued, thoughtful and emotionally-moving (“All my Life”). “RTJ2” is living proof that the first album was anything BUT a fluke, and that the dynamic duo of Run the Jewels is a force to be reckoned with. If you haven’t listened to this album, check it out as soon as HUMANELY possible! If you don’t, then do what the song below says and “run those jewels fast”! Fuck a slo-mo!

 

 

 

1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Piñata” –  Yes, ladies and gents, the unlikely pairing of Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs and abstract hip hop producer (and occasional rapper) Madlib, is my pick for BEST HIP HOP ALBUM OF 2014. Gibbs’ ear for great beats is on full display here, as he selects a number of SUPERB 1970s-inspired instrumentals to rhyme on. The modern equivalent of a blaxploitation gangster movie soundtrack, “Piñata” is self-assertive in its bold, unapologetic portrayal of the life of a drug dealer (“Thuggin'”), and self-aware of the regrets (smoking too much weed instead of pursuing an education on “High”), heartache (old flame gets pregnant by another man on “Deeper”) and burdens (either get paid selling drugs or go back to being broke on “Broken”) that come with the territory. Sure, you may not like or agree with Gibbs’ approach to the thug life, but with Madlib’s infectious beats (which, if you’re a hip-hop instrumental junkie like I am, YOU NEED TO GET) in the background, it “feels so good….and it feels so right”.

 

 

NUMBERS 6 – 10 ON MY LIST: (6) Da Face & Mecasmiastic Ent. – “Buh Wais Dis Vol. 2”, (7) NehruvianDOOM (Bishop Nehru & MF Doom) – “NehruvianDOOM”, (8) Skyzoo & Torae – “Barrel Brothers”, (9) Souls of Mischief & Adrian Younge – “There is Only Now”, (10) clipping. – “CLPPNG”

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Common – “Nobody’s Smiling”, Schoolboy Q – “Oxymoron”, Ratking – “So it Goes”, Statik Selektah – “What Goes Around”, Lord Steppington (Alchemist & Evidence) – “Lord Steppington”

 

TOP 5 HIP-HOP INSTRUMENTALS OF 2014

 

5. M.O.P. – “187” –  Produce a hardcore hip-hop beat using a sample from the CLASSIC Tears for Fears’ single “Head over Heels”? Lil’ Fame (a.k.a. Fizzy Womack) of M.O.P. did it – and it fucking KNOCKS!!!

 

 

4. Lord Steppington (Alchemist & Evidence) – “Step Masters” – My favourite track off the “Lord Steppington” album, “Step Masters” has a grimy, menacing, trunk-rattling beat that WILL, as producers/emcees Alchemist & Evidence eloquently state in the chorus, “blow your miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind”. Step.

 

 

3.  Run the Jewels – “Blockbuster Night Part 1” – Still not convinced “Run the Jewels 2” is worth your time? Then feast your ears and eyes on the pulsating, punchy, relentless El-P produced first single “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and its accompanying music video. Warning: this song/video is guaranteed to make you go apeshit for two-and-a-half minutes.

 

 

2. The Dopplegangaz – “Holla X2” – THIS was the instrumental that drew me in instantly to the “Peace Kehd” album. With its vinyl record-like hiss, haunting piano, old-school drum loop, murky bass and sinister synthesizer, “Holla X2” is the type of beat that would sound perfect in the soundtrack to an urban psychological thriller.

 

 

1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Thuggin'” – Madlib’s “Thuggin'” is the musical embodiment of the vintage soul sound that made “Piñata” such a memorable listening experience. You can literally imagine this beat playing in the opening title sequence to a 1970s blaxploitation flick, with the main character driving through the city streets in a Cadillac Eldorado Convertible like “Superfly” (the late, great Ron O’ Neal) did in the movie of the same name. Imagining yourself in the front seat of said Cadillac Eldorado Convertible wouldn’t hurt either.

 

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Joey Bada$$’ “Christ Conscious” (prod. Basquiat), Skyzoo & Torae’s “Blue Yankee Fitted” (prod. Illmind), Schoolboy Q’s “Break the Bank” (prod. Alchemist), Statik Selektah ft. Ab-Soul, Jon Connor & Logic’s “Alarm Clock” (prod. Statik Selektah), clipping’s “Get Up”(prod. Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson)

 

EPILOGUE (Yes, there’s an EPILOGUE! It’s my blog! Deal with it!) – If you managed to make it through to the end, thank you so much for checking out my final post for 2014.  Feel free to comment on your favourite and least favourite movies, albums and songs (hip-hop or otherwise) of this year, as well as recommend movies and music that myself and Michael failed to mention. Make sure to check out Michael’s Phastraq website and Facebook page, as well as share his Ian Alleyne Nightcrawler poster, ’cause it’s awesome! And of course, have a fantastic 2015!

 

– Matthew

My most anticipated movies of 2014: or an excuse to post videos and pictures instead of an actual review

Another year has begun, and you know what that means: more attempts by Hollywood to brainwash us with visually stimulating imagery, product placement, Billboard top ten hits playing in the soundtrack (Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” – I’m looking at you) and formulaic editing through the form of movie trailers just to get us poor folk to spend our hard-earned pennies in the movie theater. But seriously, folks, 2014, like the year before it, will be a year of many cinematic hits and misses. Now, there are some films that I feel neutral about for the moment, and because I know little about them, save for the occasional trailer or two, I won’t go as far to say that they’re guaranteed to flop at the box office. “Transformers 4: Age of Extinction”, for example, may shape itself to be a great film, despite my negative thoughts on the two previous sequels. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” could be a monumentally HUGE flop, despite the hopes and prayers from the loyal TMNT fans who grew up on the cartoon TV series and subsequent live-action films (like yours truly) that it won’t suck! And those are TWO Michael Bay movies (the former directed by, and the latter produced by) that I just mentioned here! But this post is all about the movies, ten of them at that (and believe me, there are more), that I am freaking excited to see. And when you’re done checking out my list, feel free to discuss your most-anticipated and least-anticipated films of 2013 in the comments below.

 

 

10.  DUMB AND DUMBER TO – Not to be excused with the pathetic excuse of a prequel “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” – and no, I won’t have whatever the fuck he’s having – “Dumb and Dumber To” marks the long-awaited reunion of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, whose chemistry helped make 1994’s “Dumb and Dumber” a comedy classic. Seriously hope this reunion is worth the 20-year wait.  Release date: November 14th.

 

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9. THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY, PART 1 – The cliffhanger at the end of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” alone is reason enough for me to anticipate the first half of the conclusion of the “Hunger Games” movie franchise.  That and seeing Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) go HAM (hard as a motherfucker) against the tyrannical Capitol. Release date: 21st November.

 

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8. THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN – Of course, I had to include this film onto my list. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” was a superior sequel in its own right, and I am expecting “There and Back Again” to reach the emotionally satisfying level that “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (one of my all-time favourite movies) reached back in 2003.  Or close to it, at least. And no, I didn’t read “The Hobbit”, so please don’t spoil the end of it for me. The end of “The Desolation of Smaug” was enough build-up for me, thank you very much! Release date: December 17th.

 

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7. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – First, they rose. Now, they dawned. Let’s hope they don’t give us a “new moon” anytime soon! HAIL CAESAR!! Release date: July 11th.

 

 

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – All I know is that’s it’s a tie-in to “The Avengers” (the first instance of this being the end-credit scene in “Thor: The Dark World”), and it’s got a talking raccoon with a fucking laser gun and shit! That’s ALL I need to know…..right now, that is! Release date: August 1st.

 

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5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER –  This sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger” is sure to please the Avengers fans who weren’t particularly fond with the 1940s-serial aesthetic of the original film (which I actually enjoyed, in case you were wondering). But for me, I’m intrigued to see how Cap’s relevance as an all-American hero in a modern time will be explored in this movie. And how much cans of whoop-ass he’ll be receiving from the Winter Soldier – or vice versa. Release date: April 4th.

 

 

4. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – This cinematic fusion between the original X-Men trilogy (which started off so well and ended so…..unwell) and the excellent prequel “X-Men: First Class” is clearly an ambitious film project. But under the hands of Bryan Singer (who helmed the first two X-Men movies), this may turn out to be one of 2014’s surprisingly great films. Release date: May 23rd.

 

 

3. TRANSCENDENCE – With performances by Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall and Cillian Murphy, and directorial duties by veteran cinematographer and frequent collaborator with Christopher Nolan of “The Dark Knight Trilogy” fame Wally Pfister in his first directing gig, “Transcendence” may be THE intelligent, thought-provoking, mind-fuck sci-fi movie of 2014…. Release date: April 18th.

 

 

2. INTERSTELLAR – …..if it wasn’t for this upcoming film from Christopher Nolan himself. Expect this movie and “Transcendence” to go head-to-head (literally) this year. Release date: November 7th.

 

 

 

And coming in at Number 1 is…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But seriously, though. My number one most highly awaited film of 2014 is:

 

1. GODZILLA –   After the unofficial 1998 American entry into the Japanese-originated Godzilla film franchise tanked at the box office – and nearly ended the career of Matthew Broderick – Hollywood tried once again to breathe new life into the franchise that, for decades, found itself in campy, cheesy, WTF territory. The teaser trailer (which, for some dumb reason was deleted a few hours after its release) showed the destruction that this incarnation of the mutated lizard was capable of. But this trailer – which ranks among the best I’ve seen last year – gives the viewer a bigger glimpse of what to expect in this film. Paratroopers leaping to their supposed doom. A large military presence reminiscent of the Japanese films. Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad”. And of course, Godzilla, in his gargantuan bad-assery! Believe it or not, but I have nothing but high hopes for this film. Not only will it commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Godzilla”, but it may be the film that will help retain the glory the franchise once had. HAIL GOJIRA!! Yeah, I know I said earlier to hail Caesar, but Caesar’s roar is nowhere close to Godzilla’s (or “Gojira” as it’s called in Japan)….so yeah, HAIL GOJIRA, bitches!! Release date: May 16th.

 

 

RUNNERS-UP: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, How to Train your Dragon 2, The Expendables 3, Muppets Most Wanted, 300: Rise of an Empire, Noah, The LEGO Movie, The Raid 2, Edge of Tomorrow.

 

– Matthew

Top 10 Hip Hop Albums of 2013 and Top 10 Best Movies of 2013

Today’s post is a companion piece to the last one, where I listed the 10 worst films I saw in 2013. This one in particular serves as a means of knocking off two separate write-ups (“Top 10 Hip Hop Albums” and “Top 10 Best Movies”) in one fell swoop – so yeah, this shit is gonna be EXTRA-LONG! Consider this my way of helping you get through the hours leading up to New Year’s Day.  So….without further ado….I present to you my picks for Top 10 Hip Hop Albums and Top 10 Best Movies of 2013. Now sit back, turn your volume up and enjoy the ride!

 

 

10.  RUN THE JEWELS (EL-P & KILLER MIKE) – RUN THE JEWELS –  After the success of their first collaborative effort (“R.A.P. Music”) last year (which made it to Number 4 in of Hip Hop Albums list of 2012 – in case you were wondering), New York producer/rapper El-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike reunited this year as the dynamic duo “Run the Jewels” (a clever take on Jay-Z’s and Kanye West’s 2011 collaborative album “Watch the Throne”) in their self-titled LP. While Killer Mike’s bars are brash, aggressive and in-your-face, while El-P’s (yes, he gets the chance to spit rhymes on this album) are so complex and unconventional that you literally have to listen to his lyrics more than once (or look up their interpretations on Rapgenius.com like I did) to get the point. With dark humour (as you can see in the wickedly funny video below), friendly lyrical competition and synth-heavy, b-boy-influenced beats courtesy of El-P, “Run the Jewels” is everything its title suggests – a lyrical and musical stickup at gunpoint. Shook ones beware!

 

 

09. FLATBUSH ZOMBIES – BETTEROFFDEAD – With “BetterOffDead”, Flatbush Zombies (Zombie Juice, Meechy Darko and rapper/producer Erick “Arc” Elliott) deliver their trademark psuedo-cartoonish vocals (Zombie’s squeaky-like, high-pitched voice, for example, contrasts heavily with Meechy’s aggressive, low-pitched growl), bold, unapologetic, drugged-out lyrics, and a sonic soundscape of eerie melodies, hard-hitting drums and dramatic vocal samples that are among the best instrumentals I’ve heard all year (“Club Soda” (featuring Action Bronson), “MRAZ” and “The Results are In” are my personal favourites). This mixtape is definitely worth downloading (yes, it’s free, you cheap sons of bitches) and checking out. No, you don’t need to be under the influence to enjoy it – although it may make for a rather interesting listen. And no, I’m not condoning drug use.

 

 

08. TYLER THE CREATOR – WOLF – I know! Shocking, right?  While I wasn’t the biggest Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) bandwagon jumper since the West Coast alternative hip hop collective rose to stardom in the past few years, and I certainly wasn’t the most appreciative of their shock-value lyrics and controversial subject matter (see Odd Future leader Tyler the Creator’s first and second album “Bastard” and “Goblin”, and his partner-in-crime Earl Sweatshirt’s first mixtape “Earl”), I was truly surprised by how great “Wolf” is. This concept album (of sorts) touches on many themes such as sudden fame (“Cowboy”), the absence of a father (“Answer”), the effects of drug dealing (“48”) and even love/hate relationships (in the fucking brilliant “IFHY” – or “I Fucking Hate You”), while telling a story about a summer camp rivalry between Wolf and Sam (the two main protagonists) over a girl named Salem. The production is more ambitious, the beats are more melodic, and the lyrics are more self-aware. But even with the assistance of Odd Future members like Jasper Dolphin, Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats, Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt, this is still Tyler’s show, and he runs it with the vile, ballsy, don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that has made him stand out in the rap game. “Wolf” is Tyler’s most accessible album, and his best work, to date. And oh, did I mention that the video for “IFHY” is among the best of 2013? No? Well, now I did. And it is! Enjoy!

 

 

07. ASTRO – DEAD BEATS & LAZY LYRICS –  2011 X-Factor finalist Astro (or the Astronomical Kid) brought out two mixtapes this year, the latter of which was somewhat disappointing. On “Dead Beats & Lazy Lyrics” (which he dedicates to his deadbeat father – Get it? Deadbeat? Dead Beat?), the now-17-year-old Astro introduces himself and his skills to the world while paying tribute to the glory days of 1990s hip hop music. Astro spits a slew of sharp, clever lyrics over old-school hip hop-influenced instrumentals (like the new jack swing beat for “Don’t be Afraid” which eerily – but in a great way – sounds like a R&B club song from the early 90s) and popular beats from producers like MF Doom (“Gas Drawls” is used in “Return of the Soul”) and Madlib (“The Unseen” is used in the EXCELLENT track “Cheese”). Certainly worth a listen, especially if you’re a fan of old school hip hop. 

 

 

06. BLACK MILK – NO POISON, NO PARADISE – Black Milk showcases his maturity as a producer and rapper with deep, introspective songs, well-crafted, well-produced instrumentals, and impressive lyrical dexterity. This is the kind of music that you can listen to on a Sunday morning while you lay back on your couch, sipping on ice-cold orange juice or some shit like that.  Speaking of Sunday morning, take a look at the video to two of the album’s standout tracks (the two-parter “Sunday’s Best” and “Monday’s Worst”) and feel the damn vibe already! 

 

 

05. TALIB KWELI – GRAVITAS –  A last-minute entry to my list, this album had the veteran New York MC reminding me why he’s one of the great East Coast rappers out there. With truly dazzling wordplay, some really, REALLY great beats and intelligent songs devoid of preachiness and heavy-handed messages, “Gravitas” is undoubtedly one of Talib Kweli’s finest albums to date. 

 

 

04. CZARFACE (INSPECTAH DECK, 7L & ESOTERIC) – CZARFACE –  Back in 1999, Boston-based producer-rapper duo 7L and Esoteric composed a track called “Speaking Real Words” with a guest verse from Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck. 14 years later, they reunited in the Hall of Doom (a.k.a. a recording studio somewhere in the United States) and combined their hip hop “super powers” to form….(dum dum dummmmmmm!!!) CZARFACE. Yeah, the title is weird but the concept behind it is quite interesting. “Czarface” is the personification of Inspectah Deck and Esoteric’s lyrical skills, backed by 7L’s production, as a comic-book like superhero (or supervillain depending on the song) who fights for truth, justice (well, maybe not those two) and the pursuit of C.R.E.A.M. (that’s Cash Rules Everything Around Me, in case you forgot). But don’t think that this is some corny parody of comic books and Saturday morning cartoons, even though there are audio snippets of old-school cartoons (like “G.I. Joe”, for example) and lyrical references to superhero comic books (“I’m a super villain, illin’, call me Ra’s al Ghul”) peppered throughout the album. From start to finish, “Czarface” kicks fucking ass!  Esoteric and Inspectah Deck deliver several great performances on the album, with the lyrically fast-paced Eso standing out a lot more than the medium-paced Deck. And the boom-bap beats, mostly provided by 7L (there’s even a spot by veteran producer DJ Premier on the album as well) are fucking SOLID – and will be stuck in your minds for days….hell, MONTHS….after you hear them! Fans of today’s trends and sounds in rap music (*cough*trap music/ringtone rap/hashtag rap*cough) may find “Czarface” unremarkable, but for fans of old-school boom-bap, and for those looking for a change from the norm, this album is a much-needed breath of fresh air. 

 

 

03. CHANCE THE RAPPER – ACID RAP –  If “#10Day” was Chance’s introduction to the hip hop underground, then you can consider “Acid Rap” his introduction to the world above it. The latest mixtape from Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper is more ambitious (both musically and lyrically), more enjoyable and much more memorable than his previous one. Chance’s high-pitched vocals (which he puts to good use by singing the hooks on some of the tracks on the mixtape) is among the most distinct and most unique in the current rap game. And his “NaNa” and “Ahhhh” ad-libs  – which has become synonymous with Chance since “Acid Rap” came out (Hey, Jay-Z has “Uhhhh”, A$AP Rocky has “Uhhhhhhh……Yeeeeah” so why shouldn’t Chance sing “Neh neh neh neh” on his songs?)  – will grow on you, whether you like it or not. Apart from his voice and quirky ad-libs, there’s a lot to appreciate on this mixtape. The music, and its production, is stellar (with its rich horns, crisp drums and soulful melodies), the musical samples (like the use of Slum Village’s “Fall in Love” in the track “Everybody’s Something” which you can check out in the video below, and the use of Jack Wilkins’ jazz song “Red Clay” – famously used in A Tribe Called Quest’s “Sucka N***a” in the silly track “NaNa” featuring a fucking hilarious performance by Action Bronson) are nicely applied, and the lyrical content by Chance himself – surprisingly deep in some songs, and ridiculously hilarious in others – is fantastic. If you haven’t heard “Acid Rap”, please do. You won’t be sorry. 

 

 

02. JOEY BADA$$ – SUMMER KNIGHTS –  At Number 2 in my countdown is the follow-up to Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$’ breakout mixtape “1999” (which landed the Number 1 spot in my Best Hip Hop Albums list last year) and his Progressive Era crew’s mixtape “PEEP: The APROcalypse”: “Summer Knights”. It’s been a long and eventful year for Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era since their mixtapes caught the attention of the public, and on “Summer Knights”, their growth as hip hop artistes are clearly evident. The boom-bap musical homages and lyrical hero worship of 1990s East Coast legends like Nas, A Tribe Called Quest and the Wu-Tang Clan are present on this mixtape, but there’s also a sense of everyone, especially the lead performer, trying to establish their own identity in the rap game. Joey sounds way more confident, cockier and charismatic than he did on “1999”, and he shows his growth as both a rapper and a young man with a deeper, gruffer voice, various, multi-syllabic lyrical cadences and a mature outlook on life. Compared to Pro Era’s previous efforts, “Summer Knights” is a much-more laid-back musical project. As a result, some songs, instrumentals (from the likes of Statik Selektah, DJ Premier and Lee Bannon, among others) and performances stand out more than others. But as a representation of the artistic progression from the (chuckles) Progressive Era, this mixtape is a certified success. A solid effort from Joey Bada$$, “Summer Knights” is one of the rare 2013 offerings that I can sit back, relax, listen to and be assured that the future of East Coast hip hop is in good hands. 

 

 

01. GHOSTFACE KILLAH & ADRIAN YOUNGE – TWELVE REASONS TO DIE – Still wondering why I’m talking about rap music and movies in one write-up? THIS IS WHY! “Twelve Reasons to Die” is a cinematic conceptual album which pairs the voice of veteran East Coast rapper and Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah with the live instrumentation of “psychedelic soul” music producer Adrian Younge (the guy behind the soundtrack to the funny-as-hell blaxploitation spoof film/animated TV series “Black Dynamite”). As it is a concept album, “Twelve Reasons to Die” tells a story, and (if you haven’t already figured out from the album title) a DARK, GRIM one at that. The story: Ghost starts off as the sole black member of the De Luca mafia crime family. After a falling-out with the De Lucas, Ghost leaves and forms a family of his own: the Black Suits. Later on in the album, he’s betrayed by the woman he loves and subsequently killed by the De Lucas – whom his ‘girlfriend’ was working for all along. They press his remains onto 12 vinyl records, each one given to a member of the De Luca family. But in true horror movie fashion, when all 12 records are played together, Ghost rises from the grave — and UNLEASHES HELL on anyone and everyone who betrayed him. With sporadic narration by Wu Tang Clan de facto leader RZA, the narrative of “Twelve Reasons to Die” is rapped in detail by Ghostface Killah and a few of his Wu Tang comrades (who play different members of the Black Suits, by the way). The story itself borrows thematic and musical elements of 1960s Italian giallo (crime/horror) and 1970s blaxploitation. The murky tone of the album is accentuated by Adrian Younge’s awesome musical soundscape, with the assistance of haunting female vocals in a few of the album’s cuts and a standout Motown-influenced chorus from William Hart in the track “Enemies all around Me”. Ghost’s verses are full of braggadocio, violent threats and over-the-top, cartoonish verbal descriptions of murder, torture and cold-blooded slaughter, but in no way should they be taken seriously. This is a character Ghost is playing, and what the album provides is a stage for him and the characters in the story to play their respective roles. The only downside I can think of with the album is its 39-minute length. With a longer running time, the characters on the album, even Ghost who carries the story on his shoulders, could’ve been better fleshed out. But short running time aside, “Twelve Reasons to Die” is a spooky, bloody, suspenseful and engaging listen that gets better with every listen. Of all the albums I’ve heard this year, this one is, by far, the most cohesive. There’s little to no reason to skip any tracks here, since EVERY track is relevant to the telling of this story. If you’re fascinated by old-school horror films, blaxploitation films and grindhouse cinema, CHECK OUT THIS ALBUM! If you’re fascinated by concept albums (hip-hop or otherwise), CHECK OUT THIS ALBUM! If you’re a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan…..well, I don’t even need to tell you to listen to this shit! Though us Wu Tang fans will have to wait until next year for a full-length LP from the group celebrating their 20th anniversary, “Twelve Reasons to Die” will have to do for now. And as an added bonus, Detroit-based producer Apollo Brown even did a remixed version of the entire album. Check out the video to the original version of “Rise of the Ghostface Killah” in the link below. And remember, folks, “it’s only entertainment”!

 

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS STILL WORTH CHECKING OUT: Dee-1 “Psalms of David Vols. 1 & 2”, Eminem “The Marshall Mathers LP2”, A$AP Rocky “Long.Live.A$AP”, Skyzoo & Antman Wonder “An Ode to Reasonable Doubt”, Danny Brown “Old”, J. Cole “Born Sinner”, Demigodz “KILLMatic”, Q-Tip & Busta Rhymes “The Abstract and the Dragon” and Pusha T “My Name is My Name” (which gave us, arguably, the BEST, head-nodding, blast-this-shit-at-high-volume-and-freak-your-neighbours-out hip hop beat of 2013 – “Numbers on the Boards” – produced by Don Cannon and Kanye West). Think of the following video as a commercial break between my two lists. Enjoy! 

 

 

 

So there! You got 12 music videos in one post! Now for some movies! YAAAAAY!! Or should I say posters of movies! AWWWWW MAAAAAN!!!

 

But first, a few notes. Firstly, my Top 10 movie countdown won’t be as as lengthy as my hip hop album countdown. Since you’ve probably heard about or seen most, if not all, of the entries on the movie list, there’s really no need for me to get into detail about what these films are about. Secondly, in my previous post, I announced my decision to try something different for this year’s Best Movies list. Instead of focusing solely on my favourite movies, I encouraged my readers to comment on their personal favourites.  But before I get into my list, allow me to share some of the Facebook comments that I received from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day (thanks for the comments, by the way). Warning: the names have been abbreviated to protect the innocent. 😀

 

KDV wrote: Enjoyed World War Z more than I thought I would,my hype level was beyond the stratosphere for Pacific Rim and that was entertaining and amazing from a visual effects standpoint,same with Gravity,which had effects even one with a trained eye would be forgiven for thinking was a real set or props. Enjoyed Man of Steel because of General Zod, I empathized with his rage.In his rants replace “Krypton” with “local animation” and that’s how I feel lol.  Imax was put to great use this year again, Pac Rim and Gravity were stellar”

 

MYTR wrote: Now You See Me was pretty cool. Well written and perfectly cast. Kept me thinking throughout the whole film in a genre where I’m usually one step ahead of all the characters. The Conjuring was pretty well done as well for a film based on a true story (That’s as close to a documentary as I wanna get). I didn’t find it particularly scary but it was very stimulating, featuring very creative and non-standard ways of delivering scares which helped to breath some new life (or death) into the genre. While the Hunger Games: Catching Fire was an excellent and engaging film, that “ending” was enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth till part 3 so not sure if it should be counted as part of the Best Of since it feels as though I haven’t finished watching it yet”

 

 RHH wrote: “The best film of the year is The Hobbit…and I’m yet to see it but I’ll bet all my galleons that its gonna be great”

 

And now….for the moment I know most of you were waiting for: My Top 10 favourite movies of 2013.

 

 

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10. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS –  Oscar favourite Tom Hanks proves once again why he’s one of the greatest actors in this generation with an outstanding performance as the title character in this intense, gripping, based-on-a-true-story thriller from Paul (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) Greengrass. Expect a Best Actor Academy Award nomination next year for this one. 

 

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09. THIS IS THE END –  Ever since mankind survived the Apocalypse “foretold” in the Mayan Calendar last year, Hollywood continued its cinematic obsession with “the end”. 2013 gave us “Oblivion”, “After Earth”, “The World’s End”, “Elysium”, “Warm Bodies”, “World War Z” and Number 9 on my list: “This is the End”. Thanks to smart writing by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen and a star-studded cast of entertainers playing…ahem….”themselves”, this film is an oftentimes vulgar, oftentimes over-the-top, oftentimes ludicrous, but altogether HILARIOUS send-up of the generic doomsday/apocalyptic movie sub-genre. Oh, and it’s the best comedy of the year. Yeah, I fucking said it! Best….com….edy….of…..the…..ye…..ar.

 

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08. PACIFIC RIM –  Giant robots doing battle with giant creatures. What more can you ask for? And I have to agree with KDV’s comment above: This film did look STELLAR in IMAX! Check out my review here.

 

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07. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS –  I want you to get up right now, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!”. ‘Nuff said. Check out my review here.

 

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06. RUSH –  Coming in at Number 6 is Ron Howard’s biographical sports drama “Rush”. Set in the world of Formula 1 racing, “Rush” tells the true story of the rivalry between British driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth a.k.a. “Thor”) and Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl from “Inglourious Basterds”) which spans the course of the 1970s. James is the playboy and show-off, while Niki is the always serious, Mr. know-it-all. But ultimately, they’re both assholes (in one scene, Niki calls James an asshole behind his back, and vice versa) and it shows in the way they treat their friends, loved ones and themselves. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl both bring their acting A-games to the table, with surprisingly impressive results. Ron Howard’s direction is as focused as ever, with some high-octane racing sequences, great cinematography and tight editing. I didn’t anticipate to enjoy “Rush” as much as I did, but it certainly earned its way into my countdown.

 

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05. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG –  Okay, now I want you to get up again, go outside, point at the sky and yell “SMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUG!!”. Yes, what a year it has been for British actor Benedict Cumberbatch. First, playing the villain in “Star Trek into Darkness”, then playing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange alongside Daniel Bruhl in the box-office flop “The Fifth Estate”, and now the voice of the dragon Smaug in the second film in Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy. Gigantic dragon aside, “The Desolation of Smaug” – like “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” before it – is a vast improvement over its predecessor “An Unexpected Journey”. The story is far more fast-paced (with the exception of an uneven middle act), the characters, more particularly the dwarves who continue to accompany the hobbit protagonist Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on his quest are given more time to shine, the action sequences (some involving the character of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) from the previous Lord of the Rings trilogy) are BAD-ASS and the stakes (which I won’t reveal here) have never been higher. And then there’s Smaug, that will be remembered as one of Hollywood cinema’s greatest monsters. If there’s one reason to go to the movie theater, it’s to see Smaug on the big screen! Looks like one of the next films on my list will be facing a strong contender for Best Visual Effects at next year’s Academy Awards with “The Desolation of Smaug”.

 

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04. FRUITVALE STATION –  To many people, New Year’s Day is the opportunity to start over. To acknowledge the mistakes of the past year, learn from them and move forward.  That is the underlying theme of “Fruitvale Station”, a film that I was so fortunate to view before year’s end. Based on a true story, it stars Michael B. Jordan – who played the teenage drug dealer Wallace in HBO’s “The Wire” (one of the all-time greatest TV shows ever made) – as Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed by a white police officer at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit Station in Oakland. By showing the final hours of his life leading up to his death, “Fruitvale Station” bravely shatters commonplace misconceptions that “because he grew up in the hood,  he was looking for trouble that night, and THAT’S why he died”.  Instead, the viewer is given a glimpse into his life and decisions before that tragic event. In other words, before judging the victim, the viewer gets to literally “walk a mile in his shoes”. The documentary-style direction by first-time feature film director Ryan Coogler fits the film perfectly in its depiction of urban life. The story is straight-forward, the acting natural and the story evenly paced. But it’s Michael’s performance in the film that truly wowed me. Just like the now-10-year old Quvenzhane Wallis in last year’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, Michael delivers a bravura performance that’s sure to be the talk of the Oscar season. Yes folks, I am ROOTING for him to be nominated in next year’s Academy Awards. But anyway, if you’re looking for a powerful, down-to-Earth drama without the glitz and glamour one expects from a Hollywood movie, then look no further than “Fruitvale Station”.

 

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03. AMERICAN HUSTLE –  I can imagine Martin Scorsese (who, in 2013 gave us “The Wolf of Wall Street” – a film that, for some goddamned reason, wasn’t released this year in Trinidad & Tobago) watching David O’ Russell’s latest film with a broad smile on his face and a tear in his eye. “American Hustle” is the perfect tribute to Martin Scorsese classics like “Goodfellas” and “Casino” – from the camera angles and gorgeous cinematography to the larger-than-life characters and soundtrack populated with jazz cuts and 1970s top-10 hits. The performance by Christian Bale (who won a Best Actor Academy Award for O’ Russell’s “The Fighter”) who plays con-artist Irving Rosenfield, subconsciously emulates the acting style of one of Scorsese’s favourite actors – Robert De Niro (who *spoiler alert* ALSO appears in this movie). Christian’s performance is near-FLAWLESS, and worthy of an Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast, which includes Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K. among others, are just as fantastic. The film’s set design, script and dialogue are well-crafted, and its intricate story of con men conning each other and other people while being conned all along (believe me, that is the simplest way of describing its plot) is always intriguing and always entertaining. For the next couple months, you can expect to hear about “Hustle” everyday. Get it? “Everyday I’m hustlin'”? Rick Ross? Ricky Rozay anyone? Anyone?! Ah fuck it!

 

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02. PRISONERS – Similar to “Fruitvale Station”, this film stuck with me for HOURS after I saw it. “Prisoners” is one of the best dramas in recent years, with a premise that any mother or father or anyone considering becoming a mom or dad in the future can emphasize with. If your child was kidnapped, how far would you go to get him or her back? Would you trust the authorities to find your child or would you take matters into your own hands? The complexities of these questions are explored in this film, with virtuoso direction by Denis Villeneuve, cold yet beautiful cinematography by the famous Roger Deakins (who deserves an Oscar nomination for his contribution to the film, by the way), terrific acting by Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Paul Dano (in a creepy, unnerving performance) and a strong, well-written script. Not for the faint of heart, “Prisoners” is a grisly, disturbing, suspenseful and though-provoking movie that deserves to be seen, if only once.

 

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01. GRAVITY –  At long last, I present to you Numero Uno. From the moment I saw the AMAZING opening shot of “Gravity” (which runs for about 13 minutes), I knew I was looking at the best movie of 2013. This is a landmark of visual storytelling, with incredible magery of outer space, fantastic performances by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock (who I predict will be a shoe-in for next year’s Academy Awards), MAGNIFICENT sound design, and a seemingly never-ending sense of awe and fear. This was a filmgoing experience unlike any I’ve ever seen, or ever will see. It reminded me of man’s willingness to survive, despite his insignificance in the grand scope of the universe. It reminded me of the visual and emotional power of film. And most importantly, it reminded me why I love movies in the first place. Highly recommended by yours truly.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS STILL WORTH CHECKING OUT: “Spring Breakers” (my OFFICIAL guilty pleasure film of 2013), “Mud”, “The Way, Way Back”, “Saving Mr. Banks”, “Man of Steel”, “Iron Man 3”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “The World’s End”, “Fast & Furious 6” (R.I.P. Paul Walker).

 


And you finally made it to the end! Congratulations! But seriously though, thank you so much for checking out this post. I’ll like to give a special shout-out to to my fellow readers who supported me during the past 12 months, and to the filmmakers and musical artistes who made 2013 a kick-ass year for movies and music! Season’s greetings to everyone!

 

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST FOREVER. WU-TANG FOREVER. GRAVITY FOREVER. ’13 TIL INFINITY.

 

 – Matthew

Top 10 Worst Movies of 2013

It’s that time of year again, ladies and gents. No, not the annual broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life” tonight on NBC – or Christmas Eve night – depending on when you actually read this write-up. What I’m referring to is my 3rd annual list of the Top 10 worst movies of the year – and boy, were there a LOT for 2013. Fortunately, I haven’t seen all of them, so this list represents the ten that I had the privilege of visually torturing myself with. But first, here’s a runner-up that didn’t make it to the final cut. Sumbitch.

 

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RUNNER-UP/ SUMBITCH: THE HOST – I won’t say much about “The Host” in this write-up, not because I reviewed it before (check the review here) but because, honestly, I forgot almost EVERYTHING about this movie. For a long while, I actually forgot I saw it in the first place. I do, however, remember it sucking ass! Not sure why though. Ah well.

 

Anyhoowithout further ado, here’s the  Top 10 Worst Movies of 2013.

 

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10. THE HANGOVER, PART III –  Had I gotten shit-faced drunk with my friends after watching the (hopefully) final film in the Hangover trilogy, then I probably would’ve woken up in front of a Venezuelan nightclub, VISA missing, blonde wig on my head, vomit on my breath, red stilettos on my feet, red cocktail dress on, friends laughing their asses at me, with the only thought in my head being: “That is the first and LAST time I drink a whole bottle of Grey Goose! And….is that a “WHORE” tattoo on my ass?!” Had that actually happened, then I would’ve forgotten that I sat through a film that felt more like an action thriller than an actual comedy, which squandered a decent cast (that includes Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and John Goodman) in a story so dark and self-loathing that you’ll wonder if it’s supposed to be related to the preceding “Hangover” films in the first place, and took the ballsy decision (intended to make up for the carbon- copy nature of “The Hangover, Part II”) to set up the ‘Hangover scenario’ – you know, like the one I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph  – AT THE VERY END OF THE MOVIE!! (Oops, spoiler alert!). But I was sober, and for that, I will always remember sitting through one of the most disappointing sequels of 2013. And I still can’t find my damn VISA. 

 

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9. AFTER EARTH –  If “Gravity” is the best space movie of 2013, then “After Earth” (or A.E. or After Effects – get it?) is certainly the worst – and deserves to be left spinning out of control in the cold abyss of space. This futuristic sci-fi adventure is the brainchild of Will Smith (who came up with the story, believe it or not) and “Mr. Last Airbender” M. Night Shyamalan. The underacting Will plays the military commander Cyper Raige (awesome name, by the way) who finds himself unable to use his legs after his spaceship, damaged during an asteroid shower, crash-lands on a post-apocalyptic Planet Earth. His son Kitai (played by Will’s real-life, over-under-and-(eventually) through (with)- acting son Jaden Smith) must recover the ship’s main beacon (which was broken off during the shower) to fire a distress signal, which will ensure their rescue. Not only does “After Earth” beat you upside your head with heavy-handed messages about losing your own fears (“Fear is a choice” says Will in one scene) but it makes the unwise decision to make Jaden Smith (who, despite his passable performance in the 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid”, is far from a great teen actor) the lead in this film. While Will forces himself to stay stoic and emotionless throughout the film, since his character is supposed to be all “fearless” and shit, Jaden is whiny, argumentative and melancholy, with a half-scared, half-constipated look on his face. The story is far from original (get from point A to point B, get the beacon, duck a bunch of creatures, get back to point A, THE END), the special effects are far from special (the creatures themselves are poorly designed, to say the least), the acting switches from cringe-worthy to unintentionally laughable in a mere matter of seconds and the story is a borderline snoozefest.  Expectations were high for Will Smith’s comeback to the summer movie arena, but with a name like M. Night Shyamalan in the credits, not even the former “Mr. Summer Blockbuster” and his son could save this film from burning up upon re-entry and exploding in mid-air before it could find its way back to Earth.

 

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8. BATTLE OF THE YEAR –  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEPIC FAAAAAAIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLL!

For more information, check out my review here

 

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7. PARANOIA  –  Gary Oldman, star of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Air Force One”. Harrison Ford, star of the “Indiana Jones” anthology, “Blade Runner” and “Air Force One”. Liam Hemsworth,  Chris (“Thor”) Hemsworth’s brother/Miley Cyrus’ ex / that dude from “Hunger Games” that Jennifer Lawrence can’t get with because she’s supposed to be with Josh Hutcherson. Amber Heard, star of “Zombieland” (which I loved), “Drive Angry” (which I hated) and “Machete Kills” (which I haven’t seen yet). An espionage thriller (adapted from the novel by Joseph Finder) about an entry-level employee (Liam) at a tech company run by a ruthless billionaire (Gary) who’s coerced into spying on his boss’s old mentor (a bald-headed Harrison) while keeping it a secret from the rival company’s Director of Marketing and part-time lover (Amber). What can POSSIBLY go wrong? How about a been-there-seen-that-know-what’s-going-to-happen-here plot, uninteresting characters, a script that fails to bring enough life into these uninteresting characters, poor camerawork (the tops of characters’ heads are cut off in the frame of many medium close-ups and close-ups used in the film) and a slow, yawn-inducing pace? Then you have “Paranoia” – which, by the way, DOESN’T have any paranoid characters in it. Nope, not even Liam Hemsworth’s paranoid in it. Suspicious, yes, of getting shot at, run over, betrayed or being chased by Victor Von Doom (from the godawful “Fantastic Four” movie) while running like a girl straight out of a fucking slasher movie (check the video below if you think I’m lying), but not….PARANOID! The cast of this film try desperately to bring something fresh to the table, but not even the reunion of Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman could save this movie from going bad. They deserve better – and you deserve better as well.  Go watch “The Conversation”. Go watch “Shutter Island”. Fuck it, watch “Air Force One” for the fifth time! Anything but this! The paranoia’s not worth it, my friend!

 

 

 

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6. R.I.P.D. –  To the untrained eye, “R.I.P.D.” (or Rest In Peace Department), with its premise about a cop (Ryan Reynolds) who willingly joins a secret law enforcement agency bent on preventing menacing creatures from threatening humanity and who has the proverbial “ropes” shown to him by an elderly member of the agency (Jeff Bridges), resembles the 1997 blockbuster sci-fi comedy “Men in Black” (starring the former Mr. Summer Blockbuster Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones). And it does. And it’s one of the reasons why this film doesn’t work. What could’ve been a great film adaptation of a fairly-unknown comic book series (“Men in Black” was also based on a comic book, by the way) ends up being an unoriginal and underwhelming movie. I will say however that “R.I.P.D.” is far from boring. It is pretty fast-paced and mindless for its 96-minute running time. Problem is – or should I say problems are, the chemistry between Jeff Bridges (who plays a rootin’ tootin’ gunslinging Wild West cowboy resurrected to work for the R.I.P.D.) and Ryan Reynolds (who plays….well…..Ryan Reynolds, also back from the dead) is almost non-existent, the creatures (who’re demons escaping Judgment) are unimaginative and poorly-designed,  looking more like old designs of aliens from the pre-production processes of the “Men in Black” films than anything else, the villain (played by Kevin Bacon) doesn’t stand out at all, the visual effects are incredibly unconvincing, the comic and dramatic moments oftentimes feel forced and unnatural, and the film’s narrative feels lazy and uninspired. In the end, “R.I.P.D.” could have had its D taken out (since it actually stands for DULL) and left to Rest In Peace. Don’t expect a resurrection anytime soon.

 

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5. ONLY GOD FORGIVES –  And here we have a movie that pissed me off IMMENSELY! I felt so angry after watching Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives”  for the first (and only) time that I reviewed it immediately thereafter (along with “Spring Breakers” which I enjoyed, and praised – believe it or not). Now I’m open to art cinema, experimental film, and all that weird, unconventional film stuff. But when I’m forced to watch a movie containing detestable, unrelatable characters, senseless violence, a narrative that gets all the more annoying when you try to make sense of it, and an almost non-existence of human emotion, and all I get from it is “Wow! Look at the cinematography in this movie! It’s sooooooo amazing!”, that’s where….you know what? I can’t do this anymore. “Only God Forgives” was a waste of my fucking time and mental energy, and it’s only because FOUR other films were worse than this self-indulgent, masturbatory piece of garbage that I didn’t place it in the the No. 1 spot of my list. Fuck this shit.

 

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4. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD – In 1988, director John McTiernan (“Predator”) teamed up with Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman and a talented cast and crew to make, arguably, the GREATEST action movie of all time (and one of my FAVOURITE Christmas movies): “Die Hard”. It spawned a series of successful sequels (which came close to, but couldn’t capture the cinematic magic of the original), as well as a ton of movies that copied the formula (lone guy using wits and weaponry to stop bad guys from killing good people in enclosed area) of the first film. And what do we get after 25 years of worshiping this movie? Why, this piece of shit, of course! In retrospect, I should have figured out sooner that a Die Hard sequel with the title “A Good Day to Die Hard” and a Valentine’s Day release date (like if couples were really going to watch that movie on that day! Like, seriously!) spelled trouble. But I, like the other Die Hard fans of the world, was so overjoyed that this sequel would be rated R (as opposed to the PG-13 rating of “Live Free or Die Hard”) – which meant more violence, more blood and a return to the uncensored delivery of Bruce Willis’ iconic catchphrase “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker”.  Instead, we were given a convoluted-as-fuck plot involving John McClane (Bruce Willis), his son Jack (Jai Courtney) and a Russian prisoner (Sebastian Koch) in Moscow, a non-stop barrage of poorly-edited, poorly-constructed and IMPLAUSIBLE action sequences (one sequence shows John and Jack jumping through a window, smashing through another upon impact and still capable of walking) constant bickering between John and his “Fuck you, Dad. I hate you”-mongering son, facepalm-worthy dialogue (“You know what I hate about Americans? Everything…..especially cowboys”, “I’m on a fucking vacation”) and a number of villains who hardly stick around long enough to make themselves memorable (like Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in the first film, for example). But the most unforgivable sin of this movie is the deconstruction of John McClane’s character. John is reduced to both an over-sympathetic father who responds pitifully to his son’s constant insults (“How come you never call me?”, “I thought I was your dad”, “I’m still your dad, Jack”) and a comic-book superhuman. In an early car chase scene, John survives two car crashes – TWO CAR CRASHES – with not even a fucking scratch on his head! Afterwards, John slugs a guy in the face before commandeering his car. Interestingly, the sound effect used in that punch sounded just like that exaggerated “BOAFFF” punch sound from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. At least “Raiders” was paying homage to the adventure serials of the 1940s and 50s, so the use of that hyper-realistic sound effect was understood – but not in a modern-day action flick that’s supposed to be taken seriously! As a Bruce Willis movie, “A Good Day to Die Hard” wobbles between aight and meh. But as a Die Hard movie, it’s a TRAVESTY! It has the best of intentions, but fails to live up to any of them. I’m hoping that there’ll be a sixth Die Hard film coming out in the future, because if “A Good Day to Die Hard” is the last entry, then this franchise can find itself joining the ranks of other action franchises that started great and ended unsatisfactory (*COUGH*”Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”*COUGH).

 

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3. GROWN-UPS 2 – A deer invades Adam Sandler’s and Salma Hayek’s (one of the most improbable couples in film history) bedroom, and after getting scared by Salma, urinates into Adam’s open mouth. Chris Rock’s wife notices a bulge at the back of their baby boy’s diapers. Upon inspection, she realizes it’s a small box with a necklace inside. Chris says “Happy 20th anniversary, babe”. David Spade finds himself inside of a rolling tire. Shaquille O’ Neal (of all people), a police officer, stops the tire. Projectile vomit spews out of the tire and into the air. Kevin James, at a swimming hole with Adam, Chris and David, is coerced to jump naked into the water. He lands, ass first, on Chris’ face. Fortunately, this is a PG-13 movie, so you don’t see get to see that in raw detail. But that’s just a few of the many unfunny scenes in “Grown-Ups 2”. And these scenes feel strangely cut-off from each other. One scene ends with a punchline, and before you get the chance to truly digest that punchline, another scene starts up. And this results in a film with a lot of characters, a lot of sub-plots (but no actual plot), and a lot of jokes, all of which rely on gross-out, immature, toilet-bowl humour.  When the only actor pulling off an intentionally hilarious performance is Taylor Lautner from the “Twilight” movie franchise, you know this movie is bound to suck. Ah, another year, another worst movie list, another Adam Sandler movie. What’s new? Sigh.

 

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2.  TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D – Making its way to No. 2 is the first movie release of 2013: “Texas Chainsaw 3D” (or ‘Texas Chainsaw’ if you were unfortunate enough to watch it on home media as I did). Just when the 2003 remake to the 1974 cult horror classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and its goddamned, godawful 2006 prequel “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” weren’t bad enough, this movie had to rear its ugly, leather-covered face to the world. “Texas Chainsaw 3D” is a sequel to the original, superior and still creepily effective “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” film, the main events of which were visually, and unnecessarily, recapped in this movie’s opening. The original film was set in 1973, but for some strange reason, this ‘sequel’ is set in modern times – though there is no indication or title card (e.g. “30 years later”) to inform the audience about this time change. But that’s just a minor quibble compared to everything else this film has to offer. There’s a plot that rips the premise of the original film out of its roots – from the journey and arrival of the film’s idiotic teen protagonists (three of which include Alexandra Daddario and Tania Raymonde – whose main purposes in the movie, apparently, are to dress in skimpy outfits, look hot and die gracefully – well, at least one of them does – and R&B superstar Trey Songz ’cause they need a celebrity to be in this movie, as well as a black guy to get killed off) to the renovated home of the psychotic, chainsaw-wielding, and long-missing Leatherface (Bill Moseley), to the revelation that Leatherface was actually in the house all along. Awwww man! Even the ways these characters get bumped off (like sticking the victim’s back onto a meat hook) are similar to the original film. You may call it a tribute, but I call it being lazy. The story itself is lazy, poorly-executed and….believe it or not…..BORING AS HELL! There were a couple gut-wrenching scenes, one in particular where (spoiler alert) Leatherface removes the skin off a cop’s face and SEWS  IT onto his own face with a thread and needle (EEEEEEEEWWWW!! *PUKES*), but everything else was by-the-numbers, generic slasher movie bullshit. But the film’s major atrocity is the painting of Leatherface as a SYMPATHETIC character that the audience has to feel sorry for. I’m sorry, but this is Leatherface, one of the greatest horror villains of all time. This is a guy who chases his victims with a chainsaw, kills them, chops them up and devours their flesh, without the slightest hint of sympathy or remorse. How in the fuck can I sympathize with a person like that ?!! And why?!! That is horror movie blasphemy of the highest order! What’s next? Freddy Krueger saying that he was molested by his stepdad at age 16, and that’s the reason why he invades teenagers’ dreams and kills them? COME ON!  Do yourself a favour and watch the 1974 “Texas Chainsaw” film, and forget that this cinematic travesty (worthy of the position of Number 2) existed. 

 

 

And now for the moment of truth. I present to you the Number 1 worst movie of 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Close, but that’s not the worst of 2013. At least “Sharknado” SET OUT to be a bad movie, and succeeded, with intentionally hilarious results. And shitty VFX.

 

 

 

No, ladies and gents, the worst movie of 2013 is….wait a minute…..Oh my God, I can’t believe this! IT’S……. IT’S…… IT’S……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1. MOVIE 43 / INAPPROPRIATE COMEDY – A TIEladies and gents! For the first time in the history of A Legally Black Blog, the No. 1 Worst Movie title will be shared by TWO MOVIES: “Movie 43” and “Inappropriate Comedy”!!  Both of these films (which I reviewed alongside “Battle of the Year”) became the first entries into of my 0 out of 5 stars (“YOU ON REL SHIT”) category. And since the premise of each film is primarily the same (an anthology of sketches that make little to no fucking sense), it’s only fair….let me rephrase that…..it’s only right that they both share the title of Worst Movie of 2013.  This, of course, has NOTHING to do with the fact that I compared and contrasted both films in my previous write-up. Absolutely nothing (*WHISTLES*).  

 

“Movie 43” and “Inappropriate Comedy” – or “InAPPropriate Comedy” or however the hell you want to spell it – will forever live in the annals…or should I say anus…..of bad movie history. Even when the last copies of these films become drink coasters in sports bars, even when the remaining streaming links to these films are expired, and even when the torrent files to these films are…ahem….accidentally removed, “Movie 43” and “Inappropriate Comedy” will always be remembered – no matter how hard one tries to forget (whether by drugs, alcohol or failed suicide attempts) – as pure examples of unoriginal and uninspired Hollywood filmmaking at its finest. Like “Piranha 3DD” in 2011, and “Battle: Los Angeles” in 2010,  these two films represent the absolute worst that Hollywood could offer to the world in one year’s time. And that is why “Movie 43” and “Inappropriate Comedy” share the crown of WORST MOVIE OF 2013. Take a bow, guys! You’ve earned it!

 

In closing, I leave to you this quote for you to think about during the holidays. “Every time the DVD or Blu-Ray of a bad movie is thrown away, an angel gets its wings”

 

Atta boy, Clarence!

 

– Matthew

 

Top 10 Best Movies of 2012

And now for my Top 10 BEST FILMS OF 2012 list. YAAAAAAAAY!! Now please keep in mind – I was unable to see all the great movies of 2012. I haven’t seen “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” as yet (Shame on me, I know) and unfortunately “Django Unchained” isn’t coming out in Trinidad until early next year (THOSE INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS!). Now I am both a Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino fan, and I would’ve loved to place both films in my list. And throughout the following years, I may not fully appreciate one or two of the films currently on my list as much as I do right now. But for this moment, as it stands, these are my 10 favourite films of 2012.

 

                                              BEST FILMS OF 2012

 

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10.  WRECK-IT RALPH –

We start things off with arguably the best animated film of 2012. Disney’s (and not Pixar, mind you) “Wreck-it-Ralph” centers on the title character (a video-game villain) and his quest to become a hero.The film is a visual and emotional joyride, with extraordinary video-game worlds, large doses of humour and heart, and lots of memorable characters (and I do mean, LOTS). And it pays homage to the video games of the 80s and 90s, so if you’re a gamer, you’ll LOVE this movie. But even if you don’t know half of the characters in this film (if you don’t know who Sonic the Hedgehog is, something is clearly wrong with you! I’m just saying), there’s lots to enjoy in this film. Call it the new “Toy Story” or call it the best film about video games. I call it a great movie!

 

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9.  THE RAID: REDEMPTION –

Like last year, I just had to add a foreign-language film to my Best of 2012 list. And no, it’s not an arthouse film, or a sweeping romantic drama that’ll win a bunch of awards next year. It is, however, one of the greatest examples of BADASSERY (that’s a real word….Google it) ever put to celluloid! The story is fairly basic: a 20-man Indonesian police squad is sent to an apartment block in Jakarta to take down a ruthless crime lord named Tama Riyada. But to get to the top floor where Tama resides, the police squad must get past the first 29 blocks, occupied by both residents and Tama’s henchmen. Once the plot is established, the rest of the film is a heart-pounding, gun-toting, ass-kicking, head-busting cinematic experience like no other. It can be argued that the Hollywood sci-fi action film “Dredd” (which was a really decent movie, by the way) “blatantly” stole the plot of “The Raid: Redemption”. But believe me, by the time you start watching this film, you won’t even care. The musical score composed by Linkin Park’s own Mike Shinoda is absolutely BAD-ASS, the action sequences are thrilling, well-paced and superbly directed and the martial-arts sequences are impressively-choreographed, jaw-droppingly brutal and downright fucking awesome! Like most martial-arts films, you won’t get a profound, thoughtful story with “The Raid: Redemption”. There are good guys, there are bad guys, and the good guys have to beat the SHIT out of the bad guys to win and vice versa. That’s all that matters. “The Raid: Redemption” is, by far, one of the best action/martial arts films I’ve seen this year, and it is a definite must-see for the action junkie in most, if not all, of us.

 

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8.  FLIGHT –

Denzel Washington delivers one of his most compelling performances in “Flight”, a film that you WILL be hearing about during the upcoming Oscar season. Here, he plays “Whip” Whitaker, a veteran commercial airlines pilot who miraculously prevents a malfunctioning airplane from nose-diving by flying it upside down. All but a few passengers survived the ordeal, and Whip ends up in the center of media attention. However, it’s revealed that he drank alcohol and snorted cocaine before embarking on the flight. And from there, the film becomes less about the incredible landing of the plane and more about the pilot himself. Denzel’s performance in this film is superb, to say the least. It’s amazing to see him getting fucked up over alcohol and cocaine (even though he tries repeatedly to quit the habits), yet justify his actions by stating that he was able to land the plane regardless of what he ingested. But Denzel plays Whip so sympathetically that you can’t help but feel sorry for him at times, and hope that he will eventually let go of his addictions before it’s too late. With excellent direction from Robert Zemeckis (who hasn’t directed a live-action film in 12 years, by the way) and a strong supporting acting roles from Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood and a scene-stealing John Goodman, “Flight” is a brilliant character study of one man’s road to a new life after cheating death in the air.

 

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7.  LINCOLN  –

If Denzel Washington is on his way to getting an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, Daniel-Day Lewis will be his main competitor. The veteran British actor delivers a PHENOMENAL performance as the American president who abolished slavery in 1865. And the film itself, directed by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg, is just as phenomenal. It doesn’t cover his entire life, but instead focuses on the last few months of his life leading to the abolishing of slavery and his tragic murder.  You won’t find an abundance of Civil War battle scenes in this film and more importantly, you won’t find any slave-owning vampires in it either (*COUGH*‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ which ironically came out before ‘Lincoln’*COUGH). Instead, you’ll get great acting from a strong cast including Sally Field (who plays Mrs. Lincoln), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who plays Abe’s son) and Tommy Lee Jones who steals EVERY scene he’s in and delivers some of the film’s most memorable lines of dialogue. If you’re looking for an axe-wielding President who kills vampires for the good of America, then you can waste your time with “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. However, if you’re looking for a great historical film, with great acting, great directing and a great script, then “Lincoln” is indeed a must-see!

 

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6.  ARGO  –

Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort is every bit as gripping and powerful as it is well-made. Also providing acting duties in this film, Ben re-creates the true story of a CIA operation to “exfiltrate” six Americans trapped in circa-1979 which involved posing as the production crew of a fake science-fiction film entitled “Argo”. Ben shines as Tony Mendez, the mission leader, and his directorial skills never cease to amaze. The supporting cast, from Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin (who also deserves an Academy Award nomination) bring their individual A-game to this film. In the vein of the classic Hollywood thrillers of the 1970s, “Argo” is an engaging,  entertaining and emotional film, and arguably one of the year’s best.

 

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5.  LIFE OF PI  –

A cinematic version of a best-selling novel rumoured to be “un-adaptable”, Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” is a visual spectacle unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. This film tells the story of an Indian boy (“Pi”) and his almost-yearlong ordeal on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean after a devastating storm sinks the ship that he and his family were in. Keeping him company on his adventure is a vicious, and beautifully-designed (of course it’s computer-generated) Bengal tiger. “Life of Pi” is chock-full of phenomenal, awe-inspiring imagery, and it boasts great performances, impressive computer animation and the BEST use of 3D since James Cameron’s “Avatar”. Definitely worth your time and money!

 

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4.  SKYFALL  –

2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, and director Sam Mendes paid tribute to the greatest secret agent of all time in fine style with the AWESOME “Skyfall”. After the fucking disappointment that was “Quantum of Solace”, expectations were high for the third film starring the first blonde James Bond actor, Daniel Craig. And boy, did this film deliver the goods! The cinematography is brilliant, the acting is terrific, the story and dialogue are well-written, the villain (played by Javier Bardem) is arguably one of of the greatest in Bond movie history, and Daniel Craig reminded me once again why he is one of the best individuals to play Bond. Whether you’re a fan of the old Bond movies or the new, make sure to see “Skyfall”.

 

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3. LOOPER  –

Time travel movies are obviously hard to make. While the concept of traveling forward and back in time is easy to write on paper, the execution of it on film is rather difficult. “Looper” is one of the few science fiction films that presents a thought-provoking (and sometimes, mind-fucking) look at time travel. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe Simmons, an assassin known as a “looper”, whose job is to kill targets sent to the past by a criminal organization who utilize time travel. Without giving too much away, Joe’s next target turns out to be an OLDER version of himself (played by the always bad-ass Bruce Willis).  The film profoundly focuses on the consequences of one’s actions, and how the mistakes of the past can ultimately affect the future – and quite possibly, vice versa. The performances are great (especially from Gordon-Levitt and Willis), the story is compelling and surprisingly emotional, and the stylish direction and clever writing by Rian Johnson are enough to keep the viewer enthralled throughout the entire film. So if you’re looking for a sci-fi action film that entertains and makes you think, then don’t hesitate to check out “Looper”.

 

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2. THE AVENGERS  –

The first of two EXCELLENT superhero films released in 2012, “The Avengers” pulls off a risky tightrope act in which six comic-book characters (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye) join forces to save the world from the villainous Loki (Thor’s adoptive brother), and succeeds on nearly every level. After the groundwork was laid with the earlier Avengers films (“Iron Man”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Iron Man 2”, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”), director/writer Joss Whedon (of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame and acclaim) weaves a terrifically entertaining film that honestly deserves multiple viewing. ALL the characters get their moment to shine – from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury to Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk who literally STEALS the fucking film! The story is thoroughly engaging, with great performances by its talented cast (including Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, among others), spectacular visual effects and an overall fun comic-book vibe that’s sure to entertain the most ignorant of viewers. But as much as I loved “The Avengers” – and believe me, I did – it was the following film that won me over. This was the film that made a greater impact on me this year than anything else.

 

 

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COME ON! You know I was just bullshittin’!

 

 

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1. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES  –

And here we have my number one favourite film of 2012: Christopher Nolan’s  conclusion to his critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful Dark Knight trilogy. Eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight” (one of my all-time favourite movies), Gotham City is seemingly at peace and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), assuming that Gotham no longer needs the help of his alter ego Batman, goes into hiding. But when a militant megalomaniac named Bane (Tom Hardy) rears his masked face over the citizens of Gotham City, Bruce is forced to don the cape and cowl and defend the very same city that once scorned him. From opening scene to closing, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a cinematic tour de force. The music by Hans Zimmer is nothing short of EPIC, the action sequences are top-notch, the direction by Christopher Nolan is impressive as always, and the acting is outstanding. Christian Bale is convincing as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and so is Michael Caine as the proverbial voice of reason embodied in his character, Alfred Pennyworth. The supporting cast, like Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, also offer great performances. But the standout character of the film is (GASP!) Tom Hardy as Bane. Even though it’s hard at times to understand a single fucking word he says due to the mask on his face, his fearsome presence, physical prowess and grandiose speeches (he does deliver some of the film’s best lines) makes him a formidable foe for the Dark Knight. Clocking in at almost 3 hours, “The Dark Knight Rises” is far from boring, with a level of emotion and intensity that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film. Though it’s not the most perfect superhero film ever made, and it falls a bit short from “The Dark Knight”, “The Dark Knight Rises” as a whole is a fulfilling and worthy end to arguably the greatest superhero film trilogy ever made. It’s undoubtedly the best film I’ve seen in 2012, and it comes highly recommended by yours truly.

 

FUN FACT: “The Dark Knight Rises” is the third “film of the year” in a row that stars British actor Tom Hardy, the first two being the 2010 sci-fi thriller “Inception” and the 2011 mixed-martial arts drama “Warrior”.  According to Wikipedia, he’s set to play the lead in 2013’s “Mad Max: Fury Road”, a reboot of the post-apocalyptic action series that made Mel Gibson an international superstar. Who knows? That movie may wind up being my top film of 2013.  Ah well. Time shall soon tell.

 

– Matthew