Archive for the 'Top 5' Category

Top 5: Movies I Saw in 2009

As 2009 drew to a close I started thinking about my favorite movies of this year. All in all I saw a total of eighteen movies that were released in 2009, seeing about half of those in the theater and half after they were released on DVD. All in all, I thought it was a decent year for the silver screen; the big-budget blockbusters were out in force and were a mixed bag as usual even if it was the year of the sequel. As I looked back on all of the movies that I saw during the year, I was surprised that I only saw 18, and there are several that I have yet to see. So, while my 2009 movie viewing wishlist is incomplete, I present you with the Top Five Movies That Were Made in 2009 That I Saw in 2009 list!

Note: My rankings are a product my own whim and subject to change. This list is based purely on my own subjective enjoyment of these particular movies and is not a reflection on the films’ artistic quality or pedigree. No animals were harmed during the making of this list.

5. Avatar
This one deserves a mention simply for the sheer scale of the film and the excellence of its visual effects. Avatar’s effects were so grand and were so prolific that the two visual effects juggernauts in the industry (ILM and Weta) both worked on it. While I’ve since learned that others have compared it to Dances With Wolves, in my post-screening conversation with the Mrs., I said that it was Fern Gully meets Dances With Wolves with Really Amazing Visual Effects. The plot itself was both pro-environment and anti-war with a dash of “We hate everything human” thrown in for good measure, but don’t let any of that get in the way of the amazing effects. They’re really that good. I saw this movie in 3D, and I was simply amazed at how the movie was brought to life by the technology. This wasn’t the gimmicky sort of “spear-gets-thrown-at-the-audience” type of 3D effects, it simply added depth and perspective to the movie. There is still work to be done on the technology, but for me, it really added life to the film. I don’t know that I would have appreciated the scale of the movie without it.

4. Zombieland
This one took me a bit by surprise. I saw it in November after a two-final day. I planned on seeing it alone, but JT, BLS’s resident Zombie Laureate, joined me about ten minutes in, making us the only two people in the theater. I knew I wanted to see it, but I didn’t realize how much fun it would actually be. The presentation of the movie creates numerous laugh-out-loud moments, the protagonist is endearing, it has quite possibly the best cameo of all time, and Woody Harrelson in top form as the Dale Earnhardt-loving redneck zombie slayer. The movie goes a little bit into the origins and motivations of each of the main characters, just enough to satisfy but not enough to get bogged down by too much “serious stuff.” This movie is all ghouls, guns, and gore; and it’s just plain fun.

3. Star Trek
The origin of Kirk and Spock on the big screen? Nerdgasm! In a year filled with sequels this is the only one that makes my list. It’s pure origin story with a Star Trek twist-alternate realities! J.J. Abrams and crew couldn’t be bogged down in the vast amounts of canon created by five television shows and ten movies, so they went back to the beginning, threw in some science stuff, and created an alternate reality where they could explore the foundations of Kirk and Spock’s friendship free of constraint. It worked on several levels: both my wife (non-fan) and I (definitely fan) loved the movie. The actors chosen for each role had enough similarities with their predecessors that each was believable but brought distinctiveness so that no one was just a wooden copy of the original. While Zachary Quinto gave an amazing turn as Spock, I felt that Karl Urban’s Bones absolutely stole the show. His opening scene is simply classic. While the movie does suffer from an over-abundance of lens flare, it gives the movie a raw quality that has been curiously absent from the entire series up to this point. All-in-all, it was a great reimagining of the series, and I can’t wait to see where they take the crew next.

2. Up
Easily Pixar’s most emotional film to date, Up tugs on the heartstrings early and often. I found my eyes misting over not ten minutes into the movie, a condition that was a frequent companion during the film’s 96 minutes. The movie speaks to love, loss, unfulfilled dreams, friendship, and talking dogs. The bond formed between the protagonist and the boy scout-esque “Wilderness Explorer” is both funny and touching, and the Dug absolutely steals the show the moment appears and says, “My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.” It’s definitely the most mature-themed of the Pixar movies in that the reality of the protagonist’s loss is ever-present throughout the movie. We see him struggle with that loss and find solace in his adventure and new friends. It’s both heart-wrenching and warming, and well worth the price of admission.

1. District 9
The summer of 2009 sported enormous sci-fi blockbusters. We had Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation, and Transformers: Revenge of Michael Bay to name just a few. For all the hype of these big-named, big-budget films, a relatively unknown and underhyped movie stole the show: District 9. Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp, the film takes a wholly different approach to the well-worn alien invasion set piece. District 9’s aliens don’t arrive en masse over New York, London, Paris, or Tokyo. They don’t appear as conquering invaders or saviors from above. Rather, they arrive over Johannesburg as refugees and are treated by the city’s residents as such, with obvious parallels to apartheid. The aliens don’t want earth’s natural resources, its water, or its humans for food; they just want to go home. The film succeeds in portraying the alien refugees as flawed which, I think, goes a long way in making them believable and sympathetic. It is not without its flaws and it does require some suspension of disbelief, which is to be expected (I mean, c’mon, it’s an alien invasion movie). But in the end, this movie stuck with me for several days after seeing it, which for me is the hallmark of a movie that truly engaged me. None other in 2009 did quite like District 9.

There you have it! Feel free to disagree with me, and I would love to hear your Top 5 of 2009!

Other Movies worth noting:
Biggest disappointment: Public Enemies
Surprisingly enjoyable: State of Play
Sad I missed it: The Hurt Locker
Most Inspiring: American Violet
Guilty Pleasure: G.I. Joe

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Top 5: Most Hated Sports Teams

It’s time for another installment of Top 5; it’s been a long time. This time I bring you my Five Most Hated Teams. These are the teams I love to hate. These are the teams that when a favorite player of mine goes to play for them, I have a hard time ever rooting for them ever again (with one notable exception, see below). When these teams lose, I take delight in the losses, regardless of who deals the loss to them. I invite you to peruse my list, formulate your own, and share it!

1. Detroit Red Wings

http://pbpope.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/redwings.jpgThe Red Army. The Dead Things. The Santa Suits. Call them whatever you want. I hate them. Maybe it’s the fact that before the NHL instituted a salary cap, they had virtually unlimited funds with which to sign players. Maybe it’s the fact that they always are in contention to win the Stanley Cup. Whatever the reason, though, they’ve been the team that I’ve hated for the longest and the most. While they might not be my Stars’ arch-nemesis anymore, I still hate them with a fiery, burning passion. For some reason I think they have the most intimidating uniforms in all of sport. The full-red look just unnerves me. Plus, anytime they travel their fans come out of the woodwork in support. They have the largest contingent of away fans of any hockey team, I’d wager. It’s frustrating. Have I mentioned that they ALWAYS win? It’s obnoxious.

2. Manchester United

I hate Man U. Eighteen months ago, this team probably wouldn’t have even cracked my Top 5, though it might have. But, as you know, I’ve gotten into soccer in a big way as a Liverpool supporter, and I’ve quickly become acquainted with the Evil Empire and the evil that they stand for. Up until recently, I had trouble deciding whether they were #2 or #3, but recent developments lead me to conclude that they are indeed #2. If they keep it up, they may just challenge the Wings for the title of Most Hated. Why do I hate them? They are what the Yankees were in the late ’90s. Free spenders who always win. Always. What’s more, they’re pretty-boy prima donnas that will fall to the ground clutching appendages if you breathe on them or look at them the wrong way. Their star, Ronaldo, could miss a wide-open shot on a break, then turn around and blame a teammate for the miss. It’s never his own fault. Their only redeeming quality – their coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, is a snappy dresser. But even he’s impossible to like.

3. New York Yankees

yankees_logoThe “original” evil empire. Vast resources to spend, and spend them they have. They’ve dropped in my rankings due to the fact that they haven’t won it all in awhile, but they remain my most reviled team in baseball. Large amounts of fans at away games. The fact that the Rangers can’t seem to win a series against them. They spend ridiculous amounts of money. Did I mention their fans are annoying? The reasons to hate the Yankees are well-documented and prolific. You all know them.

Those three round out the Axis of Sports Evil. No question. The last two are much harder for me to pin down. Hence the reason there’s a tie for #4.

4. Philadelphia Eagles/Washington Redskins

philadelphia-eagles-logo These two teams seem to function as a combined arch-nemesis of the Dallas Cowboys, who are my team and have been since the womb. Though there was a brief stint in the early/mid ’90s where the 49’ers were the arch nemesis of the Boys in Blue, the long term rivalries of the Redskins and the Eagles outpace the 49’ers. Plus, the Niners have a Baylor grad at the helm now; plus they just can’t seem to win. Rarely are both the Eagles and the Skins a formidable opponent, hence the reason they share the Number Four spot on the list.

5. Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers LogoAnd… The Lakers. The hatred of this team really stems mostly from a hatred of Kobe Bryant, but whatever. They’re #5. They’re sort of the Wings/ManU/Yankees of basketball, I guess. Given that I don’t care for NBA basketball all that much, my hatred of this team is tempered to a slow simmer. But it’s there.

So there you have it… My Top Five Most Hated Sports Teams. What’s yours?

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Top 5: Cool Guys

007Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a bunch of “Top 5’s” rolling around in my head. I used to have a Top 5 Favorite Movies, but the last time that was updated was early this decade, and I’m sure the list is out of date. I plan on getting to that one eventually, but I figured I’d start a little smaller. Last week, the Blizzard King and I were discussing cool guys in show business, and tried to come up with a list of Top 5 Cool Guys. We considered cool guys in both music and film. Here’s some our thoughts, and some of my own. Bear in mind, these are “current” cool guys.

1. Bono – Is there a cooler musician around that has withstood the test of time like Bono?
2. Chris Martin of Coldplay – Heir apparent to Bono’s throne.
3. Samuel L. Jackson – He’s prolific. That actually sometimes threatens the coolness factor, but not in Jackson’s case. He just exudes cool.
4. Brad Pitt – C’mon, he’s the guy you thought of when you saw this post title.
5. Daniel Craig – He’s James Bond. ’nuff said.

Honorable Mentions:
Johnny Depp
Will Smith
Christian Bale
Guy Pearce

Suggestions? Who makes your list?