Monthly Archives: May 2013

Top 10 Worst Trilogy Finales

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If you haven’t already noticed, there has been a couple of trilogy finales released in the past month. And unfortunately, or fortunately, especially for the sake of this list, both stink worse than my cat’s litter-box. So, in celebration of these dump-fires, I’ve compiled the 10 worst trilogy finales of all time. Again, these are listed by myself and contain only my opinion, so if you’re going to yell at anyone, yell at me. Now, just to make things perfectly clear. The films listed have to be apart of a trilogy and have to be the finale. No quadrilogies or sagas or anything like that, just trilogies. So, for example, Die Hard 3 would not be considered a finale because there are currently five movies in that series, get it? The same goes for Jaws 3-D, which, unfortunately will not be on this list.

The films will be ranked on the critical and overall success of the first two entries into the trilogy and the quality of the finale. But, essentially, the higher the film ranks, the less I enjoyed the finale.

Also, as always, if you find any problems in the list or think I’ve overlooked a film, please comment all thoughts and questions below. These lists are not set in stone and I expect they will change as time passes.

I can already feel the hatred being beamed at me like a laser. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

 

10: Iron Man 3.

Why?: An overly complex story, contrived performances, and idiotic twists ultimately lead to this finale’s downfall.

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9: Jurassic Park 3.

Why?: One can only come up with so many excuses to return to a dinosaur infested island, unprepared no less. Nonetheless, I still enjoy watching this brainless action flick.

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8: Hostel: Part 3.

Why?: One can only take so much torture-porn. I happened to really love the first two entries, but this one tailed off decidedly.

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7: The Matrix: Revolutions.

Why?: As the first two, especially the original, were highly original, intelligent, and action-packed. This finale, although still heart-racing, gets lost in its own confusion and misses the heart of what made its predecessors so unique.

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6: X-Men: The Last Stand.

Why?: Compared to the first two entries, this film is no where near as impressive. Replacing its heart and persistence with more bangs and booms. This finale truly missed the touch of Bryan Singer.

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5: Spider Man 3.

Why?: A barrage of villains that don’t garner enough screen time really dampens the viewers spirit. Not to mention the completely idiotic and lame dance sequence that lasts for a lot longer than it should.

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4: The Godfather: Part 3.

Why?: The first two instalments into this trilogy will go down as two of the greatest films in cinematic history. While this third and final entry is extremely contrived and seems like a ploy to obtain revenue.

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3: Rec 3: Genesis.

Why?: Like The Godfather, obviously not on the same scale but, essentially the first two entries revamped modern horror. This finale shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as the original two.

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2: The Hangover: Part 3.

Why?: it is exceedingly difficult to enjoy this finale as the second entry was also barely passable. Featuring weak joke after weak joke, The Hangover: Part 3 just doesn’t hold its ground as a comedy.

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1: Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Why?: While the CGI is impressive, it’s nothing that wasn’t already accomplished in the first two instalments. Michael Bay tried to infuse more heart into this finale, but failed. On the bright side, as you can tell from the picture below, he did get something right.

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Again, if you feel I’ve overlooked a film or think a film is listed that shouldn’t be, feel free to voice your concern.

Snowtown (2011)

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For those who can stomach its bleak content for a brisk two hours. Snowtown is an emotionally rewarding thriller that challenges its viewers both mentally and physically. Make no mistake, Snowtown should be viewed with the utmost caution and preparation. It is a bold story based on actual events and proves to be a challenging ordeal for any viewer, horror enthusiast or not. Finding it extremely difficult to stick it out till the end, Snowtown is ripe with scenes that are excessively churning to watch. Consider it an achievement if you can watch it in its entirety without looking away once. Without a doubt one of the most arduous films to digest. Snowtown requires a strenuous effort, discipline, and diligence to get through. Surprisingly rooted by brilliant direction and haunting performances from its entire cast. Snowtown is equally as remarkable as it is disturbing.

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In poor Salisbury North, a suburb of Adelaide, Jamie (Pittaway) lives with his mother and brothers, one of whom is Troy who sexual abuses Jamie. One afternoon, Jamie’s mother’s boyfriend takes indecent photographs of the brothers. When the police are informed, they are slow to intervene. Jamie’s mother is then contacted by a man who introduces her to John (Henshall). John despises pedophiles and homosexuals and harasses the photographer until he is forced to leave. John assumes Jamie’s father figure role and Jamie is drawn in by John’s violent and radical thinking. As John continues to brainwash the neighbourhood and Jamie, what follows is a series of extremely violent and unspeakable acts.

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Perhaps the most brilliant facet of Snowtown is its ability to part ways with gore, for the most part anyway, and still leave your skin crawling and eyes cringed. By and large, if I remember correctly, I count one, maybe two murders actually occur on screen…needless to say, for a film about serial murderers, Snowtown is subtle filmmaking at its finest. While it is extremely difficult to understand or give reason to any psychopathic tendency, Snowtown is a good place to start concluding. Focusing more on the why than the how, director Justin Kurzel gives us unmatched insight into the minds that strike fear into humanity. Luring the viewer in with charismatic and hypnotic leads. Kurzel’s Snowtown proposes an unsettling contrast that compromises the viewers morals and loyalty.

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Unlike most films that are difficult to watch, Snowtown has earned merit and has social-political value. I believe this is in direct correlation with Kurzel’s direction. It is truly phenomenal to witness Kurzel’s direction in Snowtown. It is completely honest, instinctive, and paced with inevitably violence. Kurzel uses the outstanding beauty of Australia for the backdrop to a helplessly ugly, and polarizing topic. If you can’t handle the vicious content, at least turn back to the screen to gaze at Kurzel’s masterful work behind the camera.

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Supposedly picking up various locals to act alongside Daniel Henshall, Kurzel takes homegrown to a new level with Snowtown. Besides Henshall, the only other lead is Lucas Pittaway. Don’t think for a second that this ensembles lack of experience will undoubtedly result in poor, uninspired performances, actually, it’s quite the contrary. Each supporting role is invested and acted infallibly, truly believable. Yet, predictably, it’s the two leads who soak up all the limelight. Henshall and Pittaway have undeniable chemistry that they use decidedly to full advantage. Even though what they are set to accomplish together is unspeakably brutal, gutless, and purely evil. Their portrayals are stunningly accurate, heartbreaking, and mind boggling. The only aspect of the casts performances that rival those of Henshall and Pittaway’s is the hopeless, reluctant acceptance of their victims.

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If you can stomach it, Snowtown is a rewarding experience that is sure to knock you off your feet.

Snowtown: 7.5 out of 10.

The Hangover Part 3 (2013)

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The Hangover was a massively successful raunchy comedy that had the honourable distinction of being one of the funniest movies of the year, arguably the funniest. So, logic would dictate that a sequel was inevitable… and in 2011 we witnessed a less inventive, watered-down version of the original. Now, it’s 2013 and although The Hangover part 2 critically failed, the movie-going public seemed to differ and we are plagued with a third, and apparently final entry into the series. Two years have passed since Bangkok and one would think that Todd Phillips and company would learn from their mistakes. However, this is not the case. I mean, they don’t even get drunk or at any point become intoxicated by a form of abusive substance, effectively nullifying the very title. I’m all for cinematic evolution but, c’mon, natural selection should have wiped this series off the planet after the first disastrous sequel.

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After Leslie Chow (Jeong) is arrested in Bangkok, he is sentenced to serve time in a Thai prison. When a prison riot erupts, Chow makes a daring escape and begins his travels back to the U.S. In the United States, the gang decides to throw an intervention for Allen (Galifianakis) who is seemingly out of control. While en route to the rehab facility, the crew is attacked by a gangster named Marshall (Goodman) and his thugs. He informs the wolf-pack of the situation and kidnaps Doug (Bartha) until Allen, Stu (Helms), and Phil (Cooper) can bring him Chow.

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The Hangover greatly benefited from spontaneity, relevance, and a script that never took itself too seriously. Facets that its two sequels recklessly diverted from and ultimately paid the price for it. Look, no one is denying that Phillips has a keen sense and talent when it comes to comedy and direction, illustrated by his three films Old School, Starsky and Hutch, and of course The Hangover. Nonetheless, he seems to have lost his touch since 2009 churning out three stinkers including Due Date and both Hangover sequels. There is no doubt that his status in the industry and his ability to create top-notch comedy flicks has put tremendous pressure on him. Companies want to make money, and make it fast leaving Phillips torn between integrity and cash. Sad to say, it appears the dollar speaks the loudest. Conversely, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone as selective about the films they see as I am. What I’m trying to indicate is that I respect Phillips enough to continuously give him chances, as will I always.

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The Hangover part 3 falters under the weight of its own stupidity, ridiculousness, and overly dramatic tendencies. As with part 2, it has nothing new to offer and the only thing these sequels contribute to is the decimation, albeit inadvertently, of the original. I didn’t go in anticipating Academy caliber material, that would be idiotic. However, I did expect an improvement over 2011’s debacle and it couldn’t even accomplish that. With a cast that has proven track records and knows their way around a joke, it becomes very apparent that it is the source material letting everyone down. The story feels as if it was slapped together with leftover one-liners from other screenplays and fused together with weak tape. Which leaves us begging Phillips to take more time comprising his next outing and try to recapture some of the brilliance that made him so revered as a comedic filmmaker in the first place.

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Usually I’d dissect and describe the performances of the entire cast. Yet, they all perform with such mediocrity that it’s hard to differentiate one from the other. If it wasn’t for the obvious inconsistencies in their physical appearances, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, but I digress.  When did Allen, Zach Galifianakis’s character, become a physically incapable, mentally maladjusted, morally void reject? If I remember correctly, in The Hangover he was awkward and maybe a bit of a sociopath. Nonetheless, still normal enough to function in society and intelligent enough to cheat a casino. Anyway, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms don’t have enough dialogue between them to make either one of their characters relevant. As for Ken Jeong, who I absolutely adore in the weekly television comedy Community, has had his character become even more of an annoying nuisance to the film series. John Goodman, one of the most underrated actors in the industry, does his best to aid this sinking ship, but ends up drowning just the same.

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Justin Bartha…why…do you even need to be…I mean…ugh, whatever…I’ve had enough of reviewing this train wreck. Barely being able to scrape a decent joke together, let alone a feasible plot. The Hangover part 3 is no where near as entertaining or funny enough. I just feel bad for Goodman, Cooper, Phillips, cast and crew. At least they got to travel to new, exciting, and exotic places while making these two, needless, unavoidable sequels. Anything worth any value you can see in the trailers and TV spots and save yourself the ticket fee. I don’t usually get dragged to movies, I am very selective in what I watch. However, I did get dragged to The Hangover Part 3 and it reassured me that I should never trust anyone ever again. On the plus side, I got to see the new Pacific Rim trailer on a big screen which was somewhat of a silver lining. All in all, I’m not as mean as this review is making me out to be. I respect everyone who worked on this film, it’s just that the film itself is piece of flaming garbage.

The Hangover Part 3: 3.5 out of 10.

Knocked Up (2007)

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Outrageously hilarious, satisfyingly poignant, and spewing with talent. Knocked up is a fresh take on the odd-couple cliche with just enough raunchiness, growth, and sweetness to win over even the most skeptical or disgruntled viewer. While it may not be sending the best message on courtship. Knocked up is a romantic comedy that has adapted to the times and through all its mishaps and immaturity, ultimately does right by convention and emotion. Taking full advantage of its sleazy premise to subtly convey socio-political themes to an uninhibited generation. Knocked up has the ideal balance of comedy, romance, and relevance to be taken seriously by its viewers while still remaining vastly entertaining. Written and directed by prolific genre advocate and veteran Judd Apatow. Knocked Up is an obscure love-story about two unexpected parents dealing with the unpredictability of life.

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Ben Stone (Rogen) is a laid-back slacker who lives off funds he received as compensation for an injury he suffered earlier in his life. He lives with several roommates and works on a porn website they all own and operate. Alison Scott (Heigl), an on-air reporter, lives in the pool house of her sister home. The two meet by chance at a club and spend a night together, which ends with them having sex. After some time has passed, Alison finds out she is pregnant and is persuaded by her mother to abort the baby. Upon deciding to keep the baby, Alison informs Ben of the situation and that he is the father. What follows is an unflinching look at relationships and life.

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Even though some of Apatow’s overly stereotypical and decidedly vulgar humour may turn the occasional viewer off. The timing and circumstance in which these crude, at times foreseeable jokes are delivered is undeniably impeccable and results in out-loud fits of laughter. Aside from Apatow’s comedic preferences which is, without question an acquired taste. His ability to mask the simplicity and triviality of his characters predicaments is unrivalled. It would be easy to confuse the commonness of Knocked Up as weakness and label it unintelligent. Actually, it’s quite the contrary. Apatow’s clever, insightful story showcases his diverse range. It seems that he is always making something out of nothing. Whether it’s an awkwardly shy young adult shaving his nether regions or two intoxicated adults absorbing the night life, Apatow finds the silver lining.

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Apart from the fact that Apatow’s most recent efforts haven’t been as strong as his earlier work. His scripts have always remained grounded and charming, and Knocked Up is no different. The follow-up to the massively successful, The 40 Year Old Virgin. Knocked Up never loses sight of its characters aspirations or history, no matter how bizarre and sociopathic they may be. Knocked Up is Apatow’s most complete, honest, and endearing effort to date. His quirky, intelligent, and heartfelt script really puts Knocked Up a notch above the rest. However, without the right cast to accompany such odd, complex roles beaming with hilarity and emotional depth. Knocked Up would become another meaningless entry into a genre that becomes less and less respected with each new, half-assed release. Thank heavens that this is not the case.

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One of the most rewarding aspects of compiling a cast with history is never having to worry about chemistry. The majority of Knocked Up’s cast has previously worked together on earlier Apatow projects such as Freaks and Geeks and The 40 Year Old Virgin. Starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Jonah Hill. Plus a slew of other big name stars. Knocked Up has arguably one of the most prominent and comedically talented casts to ever grace a romantic comedy. Side note, there is also a hilarious cameo from James Franco.

It was quite the surprise to see the range Rogen has in his repertoire, considering he doesn’t use it very often. For Knocked Up, Rogen, without question gives the most vulnerable, believable performance. Sporting a face ripe with the fear, love, and courage. Rogen perfectly captures the unsteady eagerness of a soon-to-be parent. As for Rogen’s co-star, Katherine Heigl. She offers a splendid rendition of an individualistic, tough feminist brought to the brink of her sanity. Pushing her body mentally and physically to the limit, Heigl gives a truly outstanding performance.

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With an astounding script, lively performances, and strong direction. Knocked Up is a touching romantic comedy full of hilarity.

Knocked Up: 9 out of 10.

Blue Valentine (2010)

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An unflinching look into a faltering marriage as it evolved from a chance encounter. Blue Valentine doesn’t shy away from the tribulations and although at times it may be difficult to watch, there is no arguing with the authenticity on display here. Featuring a pair of unprecedented performances of unbearable depth and astounding accuracy from its two leads. Blue Valentine is a veritable gaze into the consequences of young love and other uncontrollable emotions. Directed and written by breakthrough visionary Derek Cianfrance. This uncompromising, atypical fairytale is both heartbreaking and enlightening. Blue Valentine is as potent and persuasive as they come and should be viewed with caution. Consider your current emotional state, Blue Valentine should not be taken lightly or inconsiderately trifled with.

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Dean (Gosling) is a high school dropout currently working for a New York City moving company. Cindy (Williams) is a pre-med student living at home with her parents and grandmother. Upon meeting by change, both fall in love with one another immediately. Cindy soon discovers she is pregnant and there is a distinct possibility it is from a previously relationship. Regardless, Cindy and Dean rush into marriage. Fast forwarding roughly five years, we now see the evolution of their relationship, their struggles, and the growth of their daughter. Dean currently works as a painter while Cindy is a nurse. As their lives continue to progress, the more they distance from one another and begin to crumble under their youthful, reckless decisions.

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Despite a staggering amount of sadness and sacrifice. At times, Blue Valentine is equally as pleasant and rewarding. Trying not to weigh the viewer down with a significant amount of melancholy that is relentlessly constant, as well as boasting a pair of portrayals that are strong enough to bring its viewers to tears. Blue Valentine never loses direction and always keeps its heart beating for all the right reasons. While most films would falter under the restriction of having only two characters carry the story throughout, Blue Valentine always keeps its content fresh and progressive. Cianfrance provides a grounded, realistic entry into a genre that seems to continuously, albeit unsuccessfully shoot for sky and easily lose sight of what really matters, thankfully Blue Valentine is not the norm.

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Cianfrance’s direction is near impossible to critique. When you’re able to snag a harrowing tale of utter sadness and regret, let alone a few moments through a lens, you’ve hit your stride. Cianfrance pulls double duty in Blue Valentine as he also scribes the screenplay. The main reason why Blue Valentine succeeds is its faultless attention to detail. This is directly related to Cianfrance’s outstanding script and heart-bursting direction.

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However powerful and poignant Cianfrance’s script and direction may be, Blue Valentine would be lost without its two leads. Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as inwardly star-crossed lovers on the verge of catastrophe, Blue Valentine makes the most of its stars remarkable chemistry. Not only undergoing significant changes to their personalities and characteristics. Gosling and Williams outward appearances are shifted to accommodate their roles exhausting demands. While it may not always be pretty to look at. Gosling and Williams construct a formidable, more importantly believable relationship that isn’t your typical “happily ever after.” Gosling beautiful acts the growing frustration in reaction to Williams indifference of their relationship. In summary, It is exceedingly difficult to review their performances separate from one another because they are so connected.

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Never hiding the foundations weaknesses and cracks or the fading sparks. Blue Valentine is a realistic romance that will render your insides torn and eyes far from dry.

Blue Valentine: 8 out of 10.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)

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Parting ways with convention while still managing to do right by its muse. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is uproariously funny, sufficiently violent, and thunderously acted. Using several intricate, grand settings, outlandish shoot-outs, and the dexterity of each individuals mastery to get the viewers adrenaline pumping. The Good, The Bad, The Weird feels like a much needed overdose of satisfaction. Amongst the whimsical dialogue, cringe-worthy killing, and exhilarating action. The Good, The Bad, The Weird has an ideal balance of never taking itself too seriously and no shortage of pulse-pounding sequences. Directed by Jee-woon Kim who takes a break from horror to create a truly original western-thriller. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is everything you want it to be and so much more.

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In 1930s Manchuria, Tae-goo (Song), a thief, has just executed his daring train robbery and stumbles upon an elaborate map. Chang-yi (Lee), a bandit, has been previously hired to obtain the same map using any means necessary. Do-won (Woo-sung Jung), a bounty hunter, arrives on the scene to collect Chang-yi’s bounty. As Tae-goo and Do-won get caught up in Chang-yi’s train derailment, the possession of the map is lost in the chaos. When Chang-yi and Do-won get caught up in a gun-battle, Tae-goo makes an escape with the map. Upon discovering the map is a set of directions to lost treasure, the three men escalate their pursuits.

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Even though it owes a lot to an outlandishly fun script and tremendous direction. The Good, The Bad, The Weird would be utterly lost without its three funny, sincere, malicious leads. Starring Woo-sung Jung as The Good, Byung-hun Lee as The Bad, and Kang-ho Song as The Weird. There is no doubt that this ensemble inherits each of the three title traits. Although making The Bad also the coolest is quite stereotypical. Byung-hun Lee has his character calm and collected and down to an art, both in his appearance and personality. Typically, the killer with a conscious just so happens to be The Good. However, when Woo-sung Jung delivers his chilling monologue while gazing towards the stars, all is forgiven. Finally, what would The Weird be without the necessary hilarity and apparent clumsiness. The diverse Kang-ho Song does a superb job providing the comic relief and manages to pull together another staggering performance.

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With such a blatant disregard for their own lives, let alone safety. The cops, criminals, and cowboys bring back a time when cinema was appealingly over-the-top. Discombobulating the viewer with daring bullet exchanges, dusty stand-offs, and a deadly train robbery. Jee-woon Kim does a superlative job in both writing and directing The Good, The Bad, The Weird. His absolutely exceptional camerawork and witty, intelligent dialogue is highly addictive and hypnotic…The adding of a second ending to the international release gives any viewer not completely appeased with the original finale a more ambiguous, appropriate ending. Having a choice is a terrific advantage. To say that The Good, The Bad, The Weird’s transcendent cast, direction, and screenplay is a deadly combination would be putting it lightly.

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Heart-pounding, intelligent, and hilarious. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a sublime nod to classic westerns.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird: 8.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Films About Time Travel

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I don’t know if there is a fantasy more universally acknowledged than time-travel. Ask anyone what they’d do if they could time-travel and they’d have a carefully thought out, well planned answer. I don’t even think it matters if it is backwards or forwards. People just seem to generally want to escape from their current time periods. If someone presented me with such a device, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d be gone in the blink of an eye. Where? I don’t really care and that’s the honest truth. There are two things that appear inevitable when dabbling in the time-traveling racket. First, you’re going to have a totally awesome, kick-ass time. Second, make sure you enjoyed those moments of fun because it’s all about to blow up in your face.

As with every entry, the films listed are my personal favourites not that of the general public. If you feel I’ve overlooked a film or have anything you’d like to add regarding this list, please comment below.

10: The Terminator (1984). Why not start this list off with an absolute classic. Odds are if you don’t like The Terminator, I probably don’t care for you as a person.

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9: Planet of the Apes (1968). Another undeniable classic, Planet of the Apes stars Charlton Heston, one of the greatest actors to ever grace this planet. He and his crew travel forwards in time to realize the future isn’t what we have in mind.

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8: Midnight in Paris (2011). The only film on this list that doesn’t have severe consequences for the protagonist. This is one of the few romantic-comedies based upon time-travel that doesn’t falter.

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7: Source Code (2011). One of the more unique depictions of time travel on this list. Source Code is a complex drama that features an outstanding performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

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6: Back to the Future (1985). This film needs absolutely no introduction. If you happen to be unfamiliar with this movie, you should probably drop what you’re doing and go watch it.

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5: 12 Monkeys (1995). Easily the most bizarre film on this list. Starring Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis gone completely insane, 12 Monkeys is quite perplexing.

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4: Primer (2004). If you watch this film once and completely understand it, you’re probably God. Honestly though, it’s the most grounded, intricate film on this list. To any of you who’ve seen it, can you please explain it to me?

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3: Star Trek (2009). While it may not be as hard to understand as Primer or other films on the list. The time travel in Star Trek creates a truly remarkable story.

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2: Looper (2012). When this film finished, I was literally stunned. Such a great time travel film with a terrific cast and astounding story.

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1: Donnie Darko (2001). WIthout any doubt my all time favourite film about time travel. It is frightening, intelligent, heartfelt, and grounded.

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Seriously though, if any of you can explain Primer to me that would be great. Let me know what you think of the list. Did I miss a film? Do you think a film made it that shouldn’t have? Let me know! Have a great weekend!

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

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A devilishly atmospheric and eerily haunting ghost story set in an isolated part of Spain. The Devil’s Backbone is a dreary tale bursting with morals and fantastical elements. With a slew of highly entrancing visuals, loveable characters, and a transient apparition seeking peace. The Devil’s Backbone is a prime example of truly frightening horror without the surplus of gore that seems to be plaguing modern entries into the genre. Brilliantly capturing the essence of innocence and wisdom of maturity. This spooky plot is equally as heartwarming and grounded as it is petrifying. Co-written and directed by cinematic poet Guillermo del Toro. The Devil’s Backbone contains the dynamic lyricism, airy imagery, and reasonable amount of violence that you’d except from this master of chills and thrills. It might prove too subtle for some…nevertheless, this outstanding achievement is an instant horror classic.

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One day, Carlos (Tielve) unknowingly is taken to an orphanage after being left behind by his parents. Upon befriending the children at the home, Carlos begins to see an apparition. As the children play and somewhat misbehave, Carlos has his first brush with Jacinto (Noriega), the orphanage’s groundskeeper who is rough and unruly with the kids. One night, the children recall the tale of a former orphan at the home named Santi (Valverde), who they claim wanders the building. After Carlos and the children discover a terrifying secret surrounding the orphanage and its employees. The children must find a way to uncover and correct the crimes committed at the orphanage.

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The very moment the ominous voice-over begins and the run-down orphanage becomes illuminated by a low-hanging moon. An endless shiver and persistent goosebumps submerge the viewer’s body. This is a testament to The Devil’s Backbone’s complete immersion, from start to finish, of both the physical and mental aspects of its viewers existence. Since his first release Cronos to the more popular Pans Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro has been able to strike this startling experience into his audience. Which is precisely the reason why del Toro has grown into such a revered filmmaker. It’s not only his prowess to evoke, and then control those emotions he so willingly extracted that makes del Toro so effective. He concocts these stories that somehow transcend the screen and stay afloat in the viewers mind for years without caving under their own insignificance. After you’ve witnessed a del Toro film, it’s near impossible to forget them.

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With such an emphasis on the believability of innocence and terror. The Devil’s Backbone needed a young, diligent cast to convey these indescribable instincts. Leading the way is Fernando Tielve, Junio Valverde, and Eduardo Noriega. This is Tielve’s first role in cinema and from his performance, one would never have guessed. Tielve, unquestionably connects with the viewer and astoundingly exudes a never-ending drive to fulfill a meaningful, fortuitous life. Junio Valverde, who remarkable portrays an unsettled phantom, swiftly moves across rickety hallways and sweetly bursts with undying energy. As for Noriega, his take on a ruthless, misogynistic, ferocious sociopath is as sublime as one who sums these qualities can be. Nevertheless, The Devil’s Backbone’s ensemble matches del Toro’s wit and ideals stride for stride.

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Having garnered numerous mentions on lists comprised of the best horror films, not only of the decade, but all time. The Devil’s Backbone is a must see for all horror enthusiasts. Finding that eloquent balance of fear and empathy, del Toro discredits the naysayers with the subtle screamer that is The Devil’s Backbone. Set to be inducted into the Criterion Collection on July 30, 2013. It appears that this is the final proof of the staggering emotional power and vividly beautiful nightmare that is The Devil’s Backbone.

The Devil’s Backbone: 8.5 out of 10.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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It may not be as innovative or complex as its predecessor. Yet, Star Trek Into Darkness bursts forth with a renewed source of ambition and on the shoulders of the Enterprise’s crew, successfully tackles nostalgia with a fresh, brooding twist. Capturing the wonder of space, jaw-dropping action sequences, and spectacular performances from the entire cast. Abrams and company follow up 2009’s franchise resurrection with another inconceivably epic entry into the Star Trek universe. Playing out the mystery and anticipation to full effect, Star Trek Into Darkness is bigger, louder, and surprisingly more heartfelt. Blending the perfect amount of sentiment, hilarity, and bone-snapping (reference) hand-to-hand combat, Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t miss a beat. If the time since 2009’s smash hit has left a bit of a void in your life. Star Trek Into Darkness is sure to satisfy your Trekkie addiction, die-hard enthusiast or not.

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Upon returning from a mission, the crew of the Enterprise isn’t allowed much time to rest as rogue Starfleet agent turned terrorist, John Harrison (Cumberbatch) bombs a Starfleet base in London. When Harrison flees Earth and retreats to a distant planet, Kirk (Pine) and the Enterprise are commissioned to hunt him down using any means necessary. Eventually finding Harrison on a abandoned planet, the Enterprise and its crew is attacked. Barely escaping with their lives, the crew is soon face to face with Harrison and a slew of difficult decisions that Kirk and company struggle to make.

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While the primary goal of 2009’s Star Trek was to reintroduce this timeless sci-fi tale to the modern viewer, by and large. Nonetheless, the reboot was more of a rebirthing for the exceedingly long-running saga (not that I am complaining). Now, with Into Darkness, Abrams is definitely paying more of an homage to the original series that seems to set its sights on appeasing the fans of old, like myself. Coincidentally, Star Trek Into Darkness deals with more mature content as its predecessor felt more directed into pleasing a wider variety of viewers. To the dismay of Trekkies all over the world, Abrams decided to keep the villain’s identity heavily under wraps. If you happened to watch any publicity for the film, such as late night talk shows, you’d know that this secret was as vigilantly guarded as some nuclear missile silos. That being said, I fully agree with the decision as it significantly affects the storyline.

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Regardless of the fact that Into Darkness isn’t as encompassing to the rules and regulations of physics and space, particularly bending them as 2009’s entry so brilliantly did. Into Darkness fixates more on the universe created by the original series and exploiting our fascination with it, as lovingly as one can. Now, dealing with these facets is sure to alienate those unfamiliar with their origin. However, it should initiate a sense of eagerness to explore Star Trek’s storied history for those who don’t have the knowledge and gives a chance for those who do an excuse to revisit.

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Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of Into Darkness is the story’s growth even though there has been a four year absence. When the film begins, the audience becomes aware. We are somewhere down the road now, we’ve missed something and there is this yearning to catch up. To see the empire that is Star Trek move forward and evolve is refreshingly reassuring. J. J. Abrams  singles out each member of the Enterprise’s crew, giving more scree time to each individual and digging deeper into the emotions and heart that drives them, even Cumberbatch’s character.

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In addition to the original crew that consists of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, and Simon Pegg. Into Darkness adds Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Peter Weller to StarFleet…Even though each actor brings their own charisma, motivations, and vulnerability to their individual roles, there is no denying that there is only three leads amongst them, Pine, Cumberbatch, and Quinto. That being said, like any good starship, Into Darkness would be rendered useless without its crew, and this crew substantially upped their game.

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Cho, Saldana, and Pegg are all fortunate recipients of increased screen time and added emotional character depth. Cho grows into a firm and steady stance, earning respect and parting ways with his comical errors from 2009’s Star Trek. Pegg and Saldana’s roles, or lack there of in Star Trek has been dealt with. Taking full advantage of the emotional intensity in their roles to showcase their diverse talents. While Greenwood’s role is somewhat diminished, he arguably gives a stronger performance. Yelchin and Urban’s importance remain unchanged except for the addition of a plethora of one liners you can’t help but laugh at. As for the new recruits, Eve and Weller make for interesting and formidable additions. Eve’s role, ripe with potent sexiness and cute arguments with Spock, is so much more. Playing the sweet, intelligent love interest of Kirk, Eve takes no nonsense. Finally, Weller’s objective remained a mirage throughout Into Darkness’s publicity, but storms in with chaotic indifference. As brash and toxic as ever, Weller is quite the surprise.

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As masterful, endearing, and exhilarating the supporting casts performances may be. Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, and Zachary Quinto are light-years ahead. Let’s star with Pine, who’s face now permanently comes to mind when anyone mentions the name Kirk. Undoubtedly, Into Darkness contains Pine’s most involved, mature, heavy-hearted, and overall best performance to date. I can think of no one better to have taken over the chair. Quinto is quite the anomaly. He so elegantly, actually perfectly captures the essence that is Spock. His heartless, emotionless, and vastly superior intellect are mere surface qualities and Quinto knows this well, diving so deep into his soul that it leaves his exterior vacant. Now, where to begin with the immaculate Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t think it is possibly for this man to do any wrong. With every role, he completely immerses himself and disappears into his characters skin, Into Darkness is no exception. Exuding every emotion necessary with pin-point precision, Cumberbatch gives one of the best villain performances in cinematic history.

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Flawlessly acted, impeccably directed, and visually spectacular. The sheer immensity and heart of Star Trek Into Darkness is enough to give you shivers.

Star Trek Into Darkness: 9 out of 10.

The ABCs of Death (2012)

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As with most anthologies, consistency and pace is somewhat of an issue…With the scale even grander, every misguided fault is magnified and glaring. Yet, if you can stick with it. When The ABCs of Death is good, it’s unbelievably terrifying and undeniably fun. However, when it’s bad, it’s enough to compromise the integrity of the entire film. Ranging from obscenely sexual to excessively violent and laughably idiotic to ingeniously clever. There is bound to be something that will eventually catch your attention. The problem is that it’s quite the ordeal just to uncover what that something is. No doubt some segments will draw the ire and wrath of those unwilling to part with their innocence or are easily offended by touchy subject matter. Regardless, The ABCs of Death has, albeit barely, enough balance to keep you on the edge of your seat while you’re simultaneously ready to storm out of the theatre. All in all, there is enough well constructed content to simply ignore The ABCs of Death.

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Even though the premise suggests limitless possibilities. The ABCs of Death gets bogged down in the usual tendencies of the genre and one can’t help but feel that an outstanding opportunity was squandered here. There is simply far too many original ideas and storyline tangents to successfully merge them all into a single, honourable film. That being said, some sequences do achieve what they set out to accomplish, so it is rather hard to dismiss the film as a whole. So, if you can muster the nerve to sit through a seemingly endless number of segments that don’t lead into one another very well, digest the more outlandish content, and silence the constantly nagging twitch in your brain telling you to stop watching. The ABCs of Death has some unique content that needs to be sifted out of the dirt, but in the end is worth the effort.

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The Good: D is for Dogfight, E is for Exterminate, G is for Gravity, L is for Libido, M is for Miscarriage, P is for Pressure, U is for Unearthed, X is for XXL, Y is for Youngbuck.

The Mediocre: A is for Apocalypse, B is for Bigfoot, J is for Jidai-geki, O is for Orgasm, Q is for Quack, T is for Toilet, V is for Vagitus.

The Bad: C is for Cycle, F is for Fart, H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion, I is for Ingrown, K is for Klutz, N is for Nuptials,  R is for Removed, S is for Speed, W is for Wtf, Z is for Zetsumetsu.

One thing that caught me off guard was the extent the film was willing to go. It garnered a lot of respect, from me anyway, when I saw how far a few of the directors were willing to push it. There is some truly disturbing sequences that in all honesty, took me by surprise and I had to look away. In the same breath, The ABCs of Death looses points for its conscious decisions in layering the segments. I find it a bit off-putting that instead of cutting the segments that don’t earn their place in the anthology, it is simply placed before or after one of the better segments, kind of like sweeping it under the rug. I hope I am being clear enough and you can understand what I’m trying to say. Just when you begin to feel frustrated and bored, a watchable, even enjoyable segment comes along.

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Don’t get me wrong, there is some strong content here that I will watch again. The problem is watching the film as a whole feels to much like a grind. If you want to know more about the film such as directors, actors, etc…let me know.

The ABCs of Death: 6.5 out of 10. (Simply because there is a few great segments).