Monday, February 22, 2010

Top 101 Movies of the Decade (60-56)

60. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski, 2003)

What could possibly be less appealing than a nearly two and half hour movie based on a Disney theme park ride? I can't have been the only person thinking that as I ventured to the theater back in the summer of '03 (ironically that theater was in Orlando, Florida). But then the movie starts and Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow approaches Port Royal's harbor standing gloriously atop his ship's mainmast - gloriously, that is, until we realize his ship is slowly but surely sinking... And with that, one of the most enjoyable adventures of the decade is off and running. Depp's work here is incredibly unique and hilariously engaging; there has never been another character in film quite like Jack Sparrow. Geoffrey Rush, as well, does amusing work as the sneering villain Captain Barbarossa.

While the Pirates series has two sequels (and a 3rd sequel, On Stranger Tides, coming out in 2011), none of the follow-ups (despite more great work from Depp and amusing action scenes) have the same sort of manic energy and excitement captured in the first installment.

59. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the best, of many, Apatow factory movies this past decade. Like most of the other Apatow movies, the film has the same successful combination of gross-out gags and romantic comedy. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the best on the strength of the actual story and the winning performances of all the actors. The story is about a guy (Jason Segal) who gets dumped by his celebrity girlfriend (Kristen Bell) and tries to get away to Hawaii to recover only to find that his girlfriend is there too...with her new rock star boyfriend (Russell Brand). I could go on and on about the great performance from Segal, the charming work of Mila Kunis (as a resort worker that takes pity on Segal's plight) or the memorable small roles peppered throughout the movie (from Paul Rudd, Bill Hader and 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer among others), but instead I want to talk Aldous Snow. Russell Brand, who I gather is considered something of a degenerate in his native England, is unbelievably funny in the role - Brand steals every single scene he is in. He delivers his lines with such easy going and mellow verve that even the most absurd or degenerate statement comes off hilariously. His interactions with Jason Segal's character, in particular, are comic gold. So funny is his work, that Sarah Marshall director Nick Stoller is releasing a spin-off about his character this summer titled Get Him to the Greek.

58. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)

Hot Fuzz is the perfect loving spoof on mindless action movies. Inspired by hundreds of hours of brain dead action, director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg's script plays hilariously off of genre conventions and contrivances - without ever falling into the sort of mockery seen in the Austin Powers movies. Hot Fuzz tells the story of a highly decorated cop (Simon Pegg) that's so good at his job that he embarrasses his co-workers and is banished to a countryside town with absolutely no crime. There he gets a new partner (Nick Frost) and compelling cases such as underage drinking and recapturing a runaway swan. That is until the two cops begin to uncover the town's dark secret... Pegg and Frost are both absolutely hilarious and fit their roles magnificently. Edgar Wright has a master's touch at emphasizing the delivery of a joke and crafts some memorably funny action sequences. Hot Fuzz is perfect for fans of action movies and British-style comedy.

Fun fact: This is the second in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead is the 1st, the as-yet-unfilmed The World's End is the 3rd). The name comes from the use Cornetto brand ice cream in each movie.

57. Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009)

This is the first film from British director Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, and with it he roars onto the scene as a talent to watch in the next decade. Here Jones crafts (as both writer and director) the story of a lone astronaut working on a Moon mining base nearing the end of his three year employment term. Jones has a gift for structuring an image and an incredible confidence in the pace of his movie. Unlike so many neophyte directors, Jones has the intelligence to allow his film to progress organically. There are no frustrating jump cuts here, rather Jones uses longer, well-constructed shots to tell his story. Those long uninterrupted takes help further the ambiance and seclusion of the lone astronaut. Sam Rockwell, playing that astronaut, gives one of the best performances of his career and one of the best of 2009. I hesitate to say much more about the film for fear of spoiling any of its surprises, but in just one film Jones has established himself as one hell of a director. In a banner year for science fiction (2009 also saw Star Trek, District 9 and Avatar), Moon sadly fell somewhat under the radar - I can only hope that the film finds a well-deserved audience on DVD and Blu-Ray.

56. Collateral (Michael Mann, 2004)

Collateral is a stellar character study of a taxi driver and the hitman who forces him to drive around Los Angeles to pursue various targets. Interestingly, director Michael Mann chooses to open the movie with a long scene between Jamie Foxx and a fare in his cab, a prosecutor played by Jada Pinkett Smith. The scene is extremely atypical for an action movie - it plays out almost like its own short film - but it does a remarkable job of introducing us to the film's main character. Foxx is stellar as that cabbie, but the most memorable performance in the film belongs to Tom Cruise. Essentially, the film is structured as a long dialogue between a contract killer and a man he holds hostage driven forward by the five targets Cruise's character is pursuing. Regardless of any nonsense unrelated to his acting, Cruise has a lot of under-appreciated talent. Here his work is intense, compelling and forceful. He crafts a killer with far more subtlety and intellect than most would bring to the role. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the film's action scenes: director Michael Mann films each scene with a speed and brutality infrequent in action movies. I still remember being startled by the stark volume of the gunshots in the film the first time I saw it, and the volume works well to punctuate the visceral impact of the film's violence.

Runner-Up: Blood Diamond (Zwick, 2006)
Runner-Up: Open Water (Kentis, 2004)
Runner-Up: Cinderella Man (Howard, 2005)
Runner-Up: Tigerland (Schumacher, 2000)
Runner-Up: Best in Show (Guest, 2000)
Runner-Up: Letters from Iwo Jima (Eastwood, 2006)
Runner-Up: Saw (Wan, 2004)
101: Big Fish (Burton, 2003)
100: State of Play (Macdonald, 2009)
99: Marley & Me (Frankel, 2008)
98: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, 2008)
97: Sunshine (Boyle, 2007)
96: 8 Mile (Hanson, 2002)
95: 21 Grams (Iñárritu, 2003)
94: The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2009)
93: Y tu mamá también (Cuaron, 2001)
92: Breach (Ray, 2007)
91: Away from Her (Polley, 2007)
90: Stranger Than Fiction (Forster, 2006)
89: Old School (Phillips, 2003)
88: The Queen (Frears, 2006)
87: Garden State (Braff, 2004)
86: Miracle (O'Connor, 2004)
85: Banlieue 13 (Morel, 2004)
84: The Fall (Singh, 2008)
83: Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2.1 (Raimi, 2002/2004)
82: The Last King of Scotland (Macdonald, 2006)
81: Pineapple Express (Green, 2008)
80: Into the Wild (Penn, 2007)
79: Juno (Reitman, 2007)
78: Cast Away (Zemeckis, 2000)
77: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Burton, 2007)
76: The 40 Year Old Virgin (Apatow, 2005)
75: Michael Clayton (Gilroy, 2007)
74: Friday Night Lights (Berg, 2004)
73: The Descent (Marshall, 2006)
72: In the Loop (Iannucci, 2009)
71: In the Shadow of the Moon (Sington, 2007)
70: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Black, 2005)
69: No Country for Old Men (Coen/Coen, 2007)
68: Superbad (Mottola, 2007)
67: Insomnia (Nolan, 2002)
66: The Road (Hillcoat, 2009)
65: Defiance (Zwick, 2008)
64: Up in the Air (Reitman, 2009)
63: Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, 2007)
62: Finding Nemo (Stanton, 2003)
61: Låt den rätte komma in (Alfredson, 2008)
60: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Verbinski, 2003)
59: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Stoller, 2008)
58: Hot Fuzz (Wright, 2007)
57: Moon (Jones, 20009)
56: Collateral (Mann, 2004)


1 comment:

mike said...

Moon is an excellent choice here. One thing I really liked about it was the score... I thought it was appropriately moody, creepy, and operatic at every appropriate moment.