Sunday, February 14, 2010

Top 101 Movies of the Decade (85-81)

85. Banlieue 13 (Pierre Morel, 2004)

Released in the U.S. as District B13, Pierre Morel (director of Taken) crafts one of the most energetic and enjoyable martial arts movies I've ever seen. Banlieue 13 was most of the world's introduction to parkour, something of a real life Spider-Man hybrid of cross country and kung-fu, seen now in other movies like Casino Royale. The plot is a series of nonsensical excuses for parkour master David Belle and martial arts pro Cyril Raffaelli to do their thing, but Morel is smart enough not to tinker and to let the actors put on some of the most impressive displays of stunt work and athleticism ever put to film. Banlieue 13 stands with the best the martial arts genre has to offer.

84. The Fall (Tarsem Singh, 2008)

The Fall tells the story of a movie stuntman, Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies, who ends up in the hospital after a botched stunt. While hospitalized he befriends a young girl, Alexandria, and tells her a story about five heroes trying to take revenge on an evil villain. The story comes to life in the girl's mind and we see it through her imagination - and it is within Alexandria's imagination that Tarsem Singh's film comes to life. Filmed over the course of four years in at least 20 countries, Tarsem has found and filmed some of the most interesting and arresting images ever captured. Many of the images are so fascinating and beautiful that it's nearly impossible to believe they weren't aided by the use of CGI. Try to see it on the biggest screen with the highest picture quality possible - it's worth it.

83. Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2.1 (Sam Raimi, 2002/2004)

This spot is more for the superior Spider-Man 2 than for its predecessor. Spider-Man was a fine introduction to the character, with a collection of likable performances. It is in the sequel that the characters really come to life, especially in the extended DVD director's cut (titled 2.1). Tobey Maguire was perfectly cast as Peter Parker, a high school nerd who learns the hard way that with great power comes great responsibility after the death of his uncle. Parker's struggles with the responsibility of his superpowers come to life in the sequel. Aided by the addition of Alfred Molina as the villainous Dr. Octopus, and an increased role for James Franco, Spider-Man 2 is the endearing image of the series. Blessed with exciting action sequences, particularly the aftermath of a battle between Spider-Man and Doc Ock on a moving train, a genuine emotional core and witty dialogue, Spider-Man 2 is a stellar action film.

It is best for all involved to forget that Spider-Man 3 ever happened. Considering Sony is rebooting the series from scratch (with perfectly named director Marc Webb of (500) Days of Summer fame attached to craft the project), the studio must agree.

82. The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006)

The Last King of Scotland is screenwriter Peter Morgan's third appearance on this list and director Macdonald's second. The film tells the fictional, but believable, story of a young doctor (James McAvoy) who ends up absorbed into the court of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). After the doctor treats Amin for a hand injury, the two form an initial friendship based on Amin's respect for the doctor's Scottish origins (and the Scottish resistance to British rule). McAvoy's character is impressed with Amin's charisma and grows to respect the man. Gradually the veil is pulled back, however, and the tension that builds between the two makes for compelling drama. Whitaker deserves all the accolades he has earned for his terrifying turn as Amin, but the film's emotional core is through the conflicted performance of James McAvoy.

81. Pineapple Express (David Gordon Green, 2008)

Set over the course 2 crazy days, Pineapple Express is the story of a process server (Seth Rogan) who goes on the run with his ever-stoned drug dealer (James Franco) after witnessing a murder. David Gordon Green deftly mixes broad laughs, stoner humor and absurdly violent action scenes to great effect. James Franco's work here is really noteworthy; it's one of the most lovably imbecilic performances I've ever seen. Every line reading is so well timed and delivered that it makes it impossible to leave the movie not liking James Franco just a little bit more than before you saw it...

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)



Boxman said...

B13 is fantastic. people need to watch more french action films.

mike said...

Very glad to see Miracle on the list. Not only one of the best movies of the decade, but also in the conversation for one of the best sports movie ever.