Monthly Archives: June 2013

Top 10 Superhero Flicks

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Another week, another top 10!

With “Man of Steel” released recently, I figured now would be as good a time as any to deliver my 10, all-time favourite superhero films. I didn’t want to jump the gun just in case “Man of Steel” managed to crack the list and then have to go back and edit it, that’s why I waited. No doubt a lot of you will not agree with my choices, so let me explain a little before hand. I am a huge fanboy and while that does have its perks, it certainly comes with its own set of disadvantages. Such as being unable to admit a film is subpar due to my misplaced sense of invincibility and obsession. So please, while gazing at this top 10, be gentle :).

I’m getting real close to completing this segment’s header image so please bare with me at least for this week. Inevitably, “Captain America” did not make the list but I felt a powerful need to include him in this post whichever way I could.

Also, guys please follow The Cinema Monster on facebook and twitter. There are links to both on the right side of the page. It would mean a lot to me. I know its a hassle, but I just created them and if no one follows, they bare no purpose. I followed everyone on the blogroll already, so just simply go to your followers and follow me back…please :).

One last thing before we get started. Next Friday I will be unable to post a top 10. Would anyone like to contribute a top 10 of their own to the segment? I’ve been wanting to have a guest rank a top 10 for some time now, so I guess there is no time like the present. I’d like to start off with just one guest top 10 a month, at least until its popularity grows. So, if you would like to be the first to post a top 10, please e mail me with your idea for the top 10 and your website so I can quickly select one and we can prepare for next week. The email is thecinemamonster@gmail.com

Enough witty banter and self-publicity, let’s start the top 10.

 

10: “X-2”

Why?: Easily the best in the trilogy. “X-2” sees the mutants band together to defeat a common foe, and while this may be a comic book cliche, I love when it happens. Also, Wolverine vs Lady Deathstrike is enough on its own.

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9: “Thor”

Why?: I am a huge Thor fan and I feel that he is the best Avenger. I was a little weary of his own full-length feature series, but the original proved me wrong and its sequel “Thor: The Dark World” looks fantastic. And…c’mon…Chris Hemsworth.

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8: “Iron Man”

Why?: Seeing Tony Stark fight his way out of capture, build a formidable, almost indestructible suit, and destroy Jeff Bridges is enough. Let alone the fact that this film without question has the most heart and believability.

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7: “Spider Man 2”

Why?: I’ll admit I am not a huge fan of Raimi’s “Spider Man” trilogy. I did enjoy the first film, but the third and final entry was a complete bust. However, the second film is outstanding.

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6: “Man of Steel”

Why?: Remember when I said I’m a fanboy and essentially go into the cinema with blinders on, well, yeah, that’s why. But seriously, this film was amazing, I don’t understand why it’s taking so much heat. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it was still epic and utterly captivating.

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5: “Batman Begins”

Why?: Odds are, if you’re not a fan of Christopher Nolan’s introduction to his reboot of the Batman franchise, I don’t much care for you as a person. Just kidding…sort of. Between Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow and the fact that my last name is Falcone, I couldn’t resist.

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4: “The Avengers”

Why?: Directed and written by the masterful Joss Whedon. “The Avengers” is everything you’d expect it to be, and so much more.

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3: “X-Men: First Class”

Why?: Honestly, this flick blew my mind. The origin stories of essentially every single mutant, it’s clever, witty dialogue, and insatiable heart. “X-Men: First Class” is a no brainer for me. “I prefer…Magneto.”

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2: “The Dark Knight”

Why:? Many argue that it is the greatest superhero movie of all-time. While it’s hard to argue, I must insist there is one better. Nonetheless, with Heath Ledger’s Joker portrayal, the bat-pod, and everything in between, “The Dark Knight” is down-right perfect.

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1: “The Dark Knight Rises”

Why?: Christopher Nolan’s immaculate ending to his epic “Dark Knight” trilogy. Many thought he could never top “The Dark Knight,” but I, like many others, feel he did the job.

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Honourable Mentions: “Captain America,” “Spider Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “X-Men,” “Unbreakable,” “Watchmen,” “Kick Ass.”

 

If you feel that I’ve overlooked a flick or that a film made the list that shouldn’t have, feel free to comment below. Also, if you are interested in contributing a top 10, please let me know. Have a great weekend!

World War Z (2013)

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Despite feeling all too much like a video game and suffering from a lack of ferocity that has made the zombie sub-genre what it is today. “World War Z” is able to, for the majority, overcome its unbalanced nature and numerous setbacks to deliver heart-racing thrills, surprisingly tense sequences, and another masterful, yet effortless performance from Brad Pitt in this piece of blockbuster eye-candy that ultimately works. While those, like myself, looking for a faithful adaptation of the source material will predictably be disappointed. “World War Z” should accomplish what it set out to achieve with its family friendly rating, high-profile names like the aforementioned Brad Pitt and Max Brooks, in addition to a big-budget which is, appeasing die-hard zombie enthusiasts and appealing to the summer crowd without alienating one or the other. Although there is little structure to speak of and that the film itself is practically void of an ending, “World War Z” thrives.

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Gerry Lane (Pitt) is a former United Nations employee living in Philadelphia. As him and his family sit in traffic, reports of a rabies outbreak has spread. Soon, Gerry and his family are overrun in chaos and destruction as a pack of these infected humans begin destroying the city and infecting others. Managing to escape with the help of an old colleague, Gerry is thrust back into action and must assist a young virologist in creating a vaccine. Gerry is reluctant, but must proceed in order to secure the safety of his family. Some time after, the infected beings are aptly titled zombies, seeing as they crave flesh and are no longer living. Gerry must seek the help of various nations and shady characters in order to find a cure.

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Regardless of how successful “World War Z” performs at the box office or is critically received. In the end, one can’t shake the feeling that a supreme opportunity was wasted here. The film is undeniably fun to watch and offers enough fresh material to rise above the typical summer dribble. Nonetheless, an adaption of Max Brooks best-selling novel should have provided more of what makes the zombie sub-genre so compelling. Brooks consistently tackles this version of an apocalyptic plague with brains just as much as brawn and sadly, this adaptation of his innovative best seller really doesn’t offer an abundance of either. That being said, what “World War Z” utterly lacks in ingenuity, it more than makes up for with undead that are almost super-human, cool CGI, and a fluid story that feels like a video game based on mission-objectives.

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From the get-go, “World War Z” plants its foundation firmly in intellect and implies that it will further dissect and depict the scientific and physical aspects of this world-wide plague. However, this set-up tails off significantly into rumours, acts of god, and a series of foreseeable cliches. Although it isn’t enough to completely disparage the film, it is rather distracting and really undermines the intelligence of the viewer. The fact that the final draft of the film was edited and reshot significantly, enough to push back its release six months really is discouraging. Yet, considering all the notions that the film was slapped together and salvaged by numerous writers with varying inputs. “World War Z” contains the right amount of visceral characters, breathtaking action, and a plethora of undead beings to triumph.

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In all honesty, the number of supremely talented writers it took to adapt “World War Z” is astounding. Each one is talented, as well as experienced and their track records aren’t filled with lacklustre efforts either. With the likes of Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), Damon Lindelof (Star Trek Into Darkness, Prometheus), J. Michael Straczynski (Thor), and Matthew Michael Carnahan (State of Play), tackling “World War Z” shouldn’t have been the hassle it turned out to be. Nevertheless, while it may have taken more collaborates than needed, the job got done, with a bit of flare I might add. Director Marc Foster, who prior to “World War Z’s” release was still honing his craft and searching for his masterpiece, in my opinion anyway, directs another slightly above average piece, but is still yet to find his true muse. While there is some impressive camera work and Foster undoubtedly knows what he is doing behind the lens, I feel he is yet to realize his full potential.

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As for “World War Z’s” cast, which features Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, and Daniella Kertesz. It’s easy to see how one can argue that their performances are what really saved the film instead of its extensive rewrites. As always, Brad Pitt brings his usual subtle dynamism and visceral style, while continuing to build a sterling reputation. James Badge Dale is still one of the most underrated and underused actors in the industry and his performance in “World War Z” just adds fuel to the fire. Daniella Kertesz does a phenomenal job supporting Pitt and seems to have caught everyone off guard. However, while Kertesz gives an outstanding portrayal, I feel that Mireille Enos really stole the show. She easily provides the most honest and terrified take on surviving the end of the world, especially fearing for her children. Everything about her performance is truly believable and endearing.

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Although “World War Z” is missing a vibrancy that results in achromatic visuals. Its fast-moving, large-scale battles with the undead and vast destruction of man-made creations save its colourlessness. The direction and storyline, while missing individualism is passable with some good sequences sprinkled here and there. “World War Z’s” performances are seemingly the only consistency throughout the film and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for a film with so much potential and original criteria to compare it to, its hard to get excited over typical cinematic qualities. All in all, “World War Z” succeeds and even though on the surface it’s rock solid, underneath its superficial traits, there is gooey inconsistencies and not much merit. So, take it for what it is, an enjoyable, brainless blockbuster that’s easy on the eyes and tons of fun.

World War Z: 7 out of 10.

Inception (2010)

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Outlandishly complex, visually mesmerizing, and action-packed. “Inception” is an intelligent blockbuster that bursts forth from the screen with all the spectacle and wonder that makes cinema so riveting. With infinite staying-power fortified by unlimited ingenuity, an empathetic human element, and dynamism. “Inception” is easily one of the best science fiction films to ever be released, if not the best. Written and directed by the distinguished Christopher Nolan. “Inception” is a brilliant addition to his already stellar collection of highly memorable films and adds another layer of superlativeness to his stern and bright reputation. Completed by an all-star cast and an absolutely epic score from the incredibly talented Hans Zimmer. “Inception” is an unparalleled cinematic experience and regardless of its intricate story or the grandness of its heart-stopping scale, should stand the test of time (no pun intended).

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Dominic Cobb (DiCaprio) is a skilled thief who is somewhat of a master when it comes to the artistic science of extraction. Simply put, Dom can be inserted into anyones dreams and steal their most valuable secrets and information. After a failed job, Dom and his partner Arthur (Levitt) are hired by Saito (Ken Watanabe), the original target, to convince a rival company’s owner to disband his inheritance. This tactic is officially known as inception. Upon recruiting Eames (Hardy), Ariadne (Page), and a few others, the group begins plotting against their target, Robert Fischer (Murphy), unaware that Dominic is hiding a dark and possibly dangerous secret about his late wife Mal (Cotillard).

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Once again Nolan is able to top his previous efforts with a completely unique and bewildering idea presented with his usual flare and style. Evidently, more than a few like to poke fun at “Inception” claiming its premise as idiotic, amongst other aspects they feel to be miscalculated. Nonetheless, Nolan’s ability to transcend and harness the abstract remains unrivalled and is a much needed jump-start for the currently unbalanced film industry. While the path he has carved for cinema might not be for everyone. Cinephiles and critics universally agree that Nolan is a mind like no other. Arguably the most successful, forward-thinking, genius working in film as of the moment. Nolan always pushes the envelope and upon assisting in the much needed reboot of the Superman franchise, it appears the sky’s the limit for this one of a kind filmmaker, but I digress, back to “Inception.”

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Very rarely does a film come along that proves to be a game-changer, and in every sense, “Inception” is one of these films. Whether it is the folding over of an entire city, mind-churning paradoxes, or astoundingly choreographed action sequences, “Inception” is deliciously appealing. Granted, a majority of these magical, majestic, delectable scenes take place in a fantastical realm. However it doesn’t degrade the sheer intellect, talent, and innovation infused into every single one of these miraculous scenes. And while the production value and intricacy of these aspects is enough for them to stand on their own. What truly puts “Inception” at another level is the brains that accompany the brawn. Equally matched intellectually and visually, “Inception” is its own excellent contrast. The mind and eyes receive quite the workout, yet, never has a strenuous effort felt so euphoric.

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Talk about easy on the eyes. “Inception” has the outwardly striking, abundantly accomplished, and utterly skilled cast to assist in the completing of this masterpiece. Starring the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cottilard, and Michael Cane, amongst other proficient personnel . “Inception” is undoubtedly the full package with an ensemble that knows no weakness.

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Many will deny it having seen a few of these stars in previous films, but “Inception” officially launched Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Cillian Murphy into the mainstream. Each give a humorous and heartfelt performance that instantly made them crowd favourites. Cottilard and Page do an outstanding job grounding this flick, adding a much needed emotional element to this larger-than-life picture. What can one say about Leonardo DiCaprio, he always makes it look so effortless, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Finally, to quote the great Mr. Nolan, “it’s always good to have a little Michael Caine in your film.”

Literally appealing to every sense, “Inception” is not to be missed by anyone in existence, cinephile or not…and how about that ending?

Inception: 9 out of 10.

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Coriolanus (2011)

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Irrefutable proof that, at least in this circumstance, one can indeed teach an old dog new tricks. Provided of course that the dog is none other than the immaculate Bard, and the teacher, Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes, something that has worn and withered with time, can be new once again. Given, the fact this duo isn’t easy to unite makes “Coriolanus” all the much more of a spectacular achievement. Blending the subtle dialogue and intellectuality of its source material with heart-pounding action sequences and visceral performances. “Coriolanus” is an all-around dramatic-thriller and an honest adaptation of a rather under-appreciated and controversial work from Shakespeare. The directorial debut of the aforementioned Ralph Fiennes, who also stars in the title role. “Coriolanus” is a masterful inception for Fiennes, who has an experienced and vastly talented cast to assist in his transition.

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In modern-day Rome, riots are in progress during an on-going conflict with the neighbouring city Volsci. Caius Martius (Fiennes) is a Roman general whom the people blame for the city’s problems. Martius has a rather low-opinion of regular citizens and the population does not take kindly to his behaviour. After gathering reinforcements when most of his unit had been killed in an attempt to siege the Volscian city of Corioles, Martius manages to conquer the city. Upon inflicting serious wounds to his mortal enemy Aufidius (Butler), Martius and his crew return home. Soon, Martius easily wins the Roman Senate, but a few are weary of his recent plunge into politics, thinking he will seize all power for himself. Upon convincing the city to ban Martius, Caius takes up arms with his mortal enemy and swears revenge against his home.

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Although the film’s light, albeit deliberate pace becomes somewhat of a distraction, this minor fault is easily disparaged. It isn’t so much that the film itself is slow moving, it’s the distance between scenes of significance and importance that’s discouraging. Which is a common complaint of the source material and should not be directly attributed to a lack of experience or talent behind the camera on behalf of Ralph Fiennes. While it is relatively difficult to modernize a play, Fiennes handles it with precision, depth, and swiftness. What ultimately makes “Coriolanus” so utterly appealing is its visually striking nature and unfathomably powerful performances, that alone make the film worth the watch. However, if you’re one of those people who cannot stand Shakespearean language, steer clear of “Coriolanus.” While the content and characters may have been brought up to speed in this current adaption, the dialogue remains untouched.

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The imagery, violence, and historical significance is good and all. Yet, what really sets “Coriolanus” apart is its incredible cast and their entrancing and astoundingly powerful performances. “Coriolanus” stars Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox, Gerard Butler, and of course, Ralph Fiennes. Redgrave and Cox, two hugely underrated and underused performers, do their best to steal the show from Fiennes, but predictably fail. Make no mistake, this is not an insult, rather praise and kudos to the strength and persistence of their performances. Butler, who until this film tread disappointing waters, has seemingly surfaced and evidently makes a strong case for his revival, doing a respectable job opposite of Fiennes. Chastain is as radiant, mesmerizing, and stern as ever. Bursting forth with a heartbreaking and angst filled take on the firmly willed wife of Coriolanus. As for Fiennes, what can one say? He is as exuberant, intimidating, and seductive as ever. Which is all the more amazing considering he is pulling double duty.

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Essentially, what you end up with is a pure and fresh take on a text with immense historical significance. Performed with monstrous respect and power, containing sequences exploding with nerve-tingling action, and an atmosphere so thick it chokes you up. “Coriolanus” is a must see for Shakespeare fans, performance enthusiasts, and die-hard cinephiles everywhere.

On a personal side-note, the first time I saw this film was at TIFF, its North American debut. Fiennes, Cox, Chastain, Redgrave, and Butler were in attendance and it was bewildering. I’ve rarely ever been star-struck, but seeing this cast in person knocked me off my feet. I literally stood right besides Ralph Fiennes, I did my best not to cry with excitement.

Coriolanus: 8 out of 10.

Mother (2009)

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Although somewhat far-fetched, “Mother” is an intriguing, violent, and unsettling thriller that never shies away from the darkness in life. Brilliantly depicting the foremost extent in which the protectiveness of kin reaches and how disconcerting and blind this shielding can be. “Mother” is in no way easy to watch. Granted, this film’s heavy, monstrous ferocity and unpleasantness is incredibly difficult to absorb, let alone grasp. Nonetheless, to deny its morals, heart, and appalling nature is to reject what evidently makes us human. However, do not mistake “Mother” as some sort of typical, excessively gory, and unnecessarily malicious film like most of the genre’s trash, it is nothing of the sorts. While “Mother” does deal with some horrific content, what makes it truly despicable, unnerving material is the subtle and unflinching way it is presented. Usually the most terrifying things aren’t something of substance and complexity, rather common and simple with a unique twist.

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Do-joon (Bin) lives in a small town in South Korea with his mother (Hye-ja). Do-joon is shy and slightly amiss and distant, however, he is prone to attack anyone who insults his intellect. One day, a girl is brutally murdered and evidence places Do-joon at the scene and the last one to see her alive. Upon being arrested and sentenced to serve jail-time, Do-joon’s mother is convinced her son didn’t commit the crime and sets out to prove his innocence using any means necessary.

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Co-written and directed by Joon-ho Bong, director of critically and universally acclaimed films such as giant monster flick “The Host” and detective thriller “Memories of Murder.” Bong will look to continue his rapid ascent to becoming one of the most revered and visionary filmmakers of our time with his first English-language film “Snowpiercer,” which is set for release sometime in 2013. Bong, utilizes facets that he has compiled over time and inducted into his repertoire so faultlessly. They compliment his style so vigorously that each one leads into the other in such a seamless transition, and “Mother” is no different. His intelligent, clever script is bursting with unbelievable tension, grounded characters, and unparalleled sequences of such honesty and relevance. Not to mention his work behind the camera has never been better. “Mother” is easily one of his best films and an argument could be made that it is his most complete and frightening work to date. “Mother” is an all around immaculate job by Joon-ho Bong.

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“Mother” is a film who’s success is heavily reliant, rather, judged on the performance of an individual. If this character is not portrayed infallibly, the entire picture falters. Luckily for Joon-ho Bong and company, they found the perfect lead in Hye-ja Kim. Her take on an over-protective, infinitely loving mother is remarkable to say the least. While there is a dark side to her, a method in her madness so to speak. Kim takes these traits and moulds them into tender, generous tendencies that, when compared to their disgusting, violent nurturing origin, are unrecognizable. Honestly, it is one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed. As for her son, portrayed by Bin Won, who adds a swiftness and innocence to his characters unbalanced, mischievous ways. Provokes an avalanche of sympathy even though his mindset is corrupt. This is a testament to the power of his persuasive performance.

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“Mother” is undoubtedly a tough watch, but if you can muster the courage, it’s a valuable, repulsive ride. Joon-ho Bong really pushes the envelope with every sequence and never lets up. While there is a distinct balance between airy imagery, cringe-worthy violence, and psychologically disturbing scenes, they are unpredictable. One moment you gaze into a vast field with serenity in your eyes, the next you’re turning away at the sheer blunt and brutal force of “Mother’s” vicious, at times subtle ferociousness. To summarize, “Mother” is impeccably acted, directed with firm vision, and offers up a few laughs while being utterly nerve-shredding. Proceed with caution…

Mother: 8.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Best Cameos

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As promised, this week’s top 10 will consist of what I believe to be the best cameos in cinematic history. After last week’s list of dreadful and down-right idiotic guest appearances, I think this segment could use a pick-me up, don’t you? Now, we can sit here until we’re blue in the face arguing what makes a cameo truly great. We can list the traits off one by one, subtlety, hilarity, relevance, and on, and on. Regardless, in this top 10 I believe you’ll find, like I did, that a cameo doesn’t have any criteria, they simply succeed or falter based on their own individual merit. Granted, a few of the cameos listed are quite odd, funny, incredible, memorable, and indescribable, but there are no errors. I’ve compiled this list with purpose, to be diverse, I want there to be something for everyone, and if there isn’t, please let me know.

Again, just so there are no discrepancies later on. Tom Cruise in “Tropic Thunder” will not be featured in this top 10. The image is simply a header for the top 10 and this will continue until I am able to create a suitable segment header.

As always, if you feel that I’ve overlooked a cameo or believe one was listed that shouldn’t have been, please comment below. I am always looking to improve on this segment and all feedback is welcome.

Let’s get started!

 

10: Tim Robbins “Anchorman”

Why?: Upon appearing in numerous films that have historical and cinematic importance, it was extremely odd to see “Andy Dufresne” chop off Luke Wilson’s arm with a machete.

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9: Hugh Jackman “X-Men: First Class”

Why?: I know for some it wasn’t a surprise at all, but I had no idea it was coming and laughed my ass off like an idiot.

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8: Martin Freeman “Shaun of the Dead”

Why?: Honestly, I had no idea he appeared in the film until very recently. Now that I know, I think it is possibly the coolest thing ever. Bilbo Baggins killing zombies, c’mon.

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7: Will Ferrel “Wedding Crashers”

Why?: You know why, if you don’t, you’re not my friend.

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6: Bruce Campbell “Spider Man” trilogy.

Why?: I know most of you didn’t like the fact I disliked Stan Lee’s numerous cameos in multiple Marvel films. And the fact that I am adding Campbell from three films in which Lee also appeared must really burn. But, c’mon, it’s Bruce Campbell…”Evil Dead”…”Army of Darkness”…you know…he’s awesome.

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5: Cate Blanchett and Peter Jackson “Hot Fuzz”

Why?: Two of the most respected names in film appearing in a movie centred around a corrupt, murderous, deranged town…Yes Please!!

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4: Christopher Walken “Pulp Fiction”

Why?: I don’t really know if this counts as a cameo or a supporting role…can any of you clarify this? Nonetheless, it is hilarious and inventive.

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3: Bill Murray “Zombieland”

Why?: IT’S BILL FUCKING MURRAY!!

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2: Martin Scorsese “Taxi Driver”

Why?: It is one of my all time favourite Scorsese scenes, just incredible.

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1: Ralph Fiennes “The Hurt Locker”

Why?: Can anyone clarify this as a cameo or supporting role? Anyway, I am a huge Ralph Fiennes fan and this cameo is pure brilliance.

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I hope you all enjoyed this week’s top 10. If you feel I’ve overlooked a cameo or placed one in the top 10 that shouldn’t be there, feel free to comment below. Everyone have a great weekend!

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006)

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A film that transcends genre labelling with its innovation, ingenuity, and insanity. “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” is approximately a romantic comedy, but with dark, at times violent, and bizarre twists, containing moments that differ vastly on the cinematic spectrum. “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” ranges from deviously psychotic to sweetly honest, impassioned, and comical. Writer and director Chan-wook Park somewhat diverges from his usual business of trifling with the ugliness inside humanity to display a more compassionate, creative, and comedic side to his craft that isn’t all doom and gloom. Although its tone is highly unpredictable, shifting from affectionate and charming to tragic and unrestrained, “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” shouldn’t be too jarring for the occasional viewer. Charismatic, witty, and undeniably enthralling, Chan-wook Park has proven he isn’t just a one-trick pony.

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Young-goon works in a factory constructing radios and believes that she is a cyborg. She is institutionalized after she cuts her wrist, shoves a set of wires inside her forearm, and then plugs the cord into a wall outlet in an attempt to recharge herself. Young-goon refuses to eat and only licks batteries in order to recharge. Il-soon, who is also a patient, becomes infatuated with Young-goon. Il-soon thinks of himself as a master-thief and believes he can steal physical and personal traits of other humans. After a brief stage in which the two form an awkward relationship, the two begin to help one another with insane schemes.

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Very rarely does a film come along that is such a genuine hybrid. But it does make sense that it would come from the mind of Chan-wook Park. Who has busted stereotypical cinema on numerous occasions, including drama, horror and thriller. Now, with “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok,” Park tackles perhaps his most difficult challenge to date, the romantic comedy. This film is easily one of the most crazy, obscure, and confusing films I’ve ever come across, but it is also one of the best. I don’t think I’ve ever stumbled upon a film that evokes such emotional diversification as “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” does. While it may be paced slower than Park’s other outings, it is deliberate. During this screen-time, “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” stretches the viewer’s brain by provoking countless reactions and striking numerous nerves, a truly unprecedented experience.

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Chan-wook Park is one of the most iconic, revered, and important filmmakers of our time and “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” is a terrific example why. Park brilliantly showcases every single one of his illustrious facets throughout this atypical rom-com. Whether it may be his grounded, elemental framing that captures even the slightest detail and movement of his characters or the disheartening brutality of his dynamic scripts. Regardless, what truly makes Park such a praised figure in the cinematic community is his ability to evolve. After completing the “Vengeance” trilogy and generally sticking to darker pictures with heavy, brooding themes. Chan-wook Park unpredictably chose to unleash this hidden gem. While it remains true to his brute force and unruly material. “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” touches so many fresh ideals and bursts genre and theme misconceptions.

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The cast assembled for “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” is remarkably put together, as there is not a single weakness. From its two quirky, maladjusted leads down to every patient and caretaker at this unsettling asylum we’ve been invited to take temporary residence in. The supporting characters alone make “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” worth the watch. They astoundingly portray mental illness accurately but add a comical, yet heartbreaking depth and  individuality to each role that generates unlimited sympathy and laughs from the audience. Kudos should also be given to the actors who portray the doctors and nurses in the film who perfectly adapt to their roles.

Nonetheless, “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” has only two leads and they are Jung Ji-Hoon and Im Soo-jung. Essentially what makes Jung Ji-Hoon and Im Soo-Jung work so well together is their ability to feed off one another’s unbalanced behaviour and lunacy. The two have an undeniable chemistry filled with demented and sociopathic tendencies. Despite these flaws, they manage to portray an eccentric, dysfunctional relationship to full comedic and emotional potential.

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From the unparalleled mind of Chan-wook Park comes this incredibly unique experience that should appease just about any cinephile.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK: 9 out of 10.

Man of Steel (2013)

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Adding much needed depth and humanity to such an illustrious character, who’s storied and intricate history is as delicate as it is powerful. “Man of Steel” has the action, heart, and nostalgia to satisfy both fanboys and newcomers alike. While it may prove to be too bombastic and interwoven for a few critics and harsh naysayers. This polarization is nothing new to the Superman franchise. Nonetheless, “Man of Steel” is a revival with such exuberance, precision and emotion, that it is nearly impossible to resist its charms. However, having been built-up, collated, and magnified with significant importance and anticipation for close to two years. “Man of Steel” was arguably set-up to disappoint and sadly but inevitably, for some this is the case. Regardless, for die-hards, cinephiles, and inner-children everywhere, including myself. “Man of Steel” was well worth the wait and is a fresh, honest, and mesmerizing take on the world’s most famous superhero.

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Krypton and its inhabitants face imminent destruction due to an unstable core. To protect their new-born child, Jor-El (Crowe) and his wife Lara launch a spacecraft carrying their son Kal-El (Cavill) to Earth, in order to secure the fate of their race. Upon arriving at Earth, Kal is found and taken care of by his adopted parents Jonathan (Costner) and Martha (Lane) Kent, who rename Kal, Clark. Because of Clark’s Kryptonian physiology, he inherits superhuman abilities on Earth. Soon, Clark and the entire population of Earth are under attack from another native of Krypton.

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Written by the immensely successful “Dark Knight” trilogy scribe’s David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan. Who make sure that “Man of Steel” contains all the wonder and amazement of the cosmic superhero’s intergalactic existence, in addition to the grounded and elemental nurturing that fortified the batman re-imagining. “Man of Steel” has all the makings of another fortuitous endeavour, not only for “DC comics,” but all involved. Nolan, who also produced the flick, oversaw most of the film’s creation and was essentially present for the ideal’s birth from Goyer’s mind. Although, clearly stating that he would not direct another Batman film, or superhero film of any kind, Goyer and company had to look elsewhere for someone to helm this reboot. After a slew of high-profile names fell to the wayside, it was visionary filmmaker Zack Snyder who was officially picked to take the reigns.

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Upon witnessing the triumphant boom of the Marvel franchise into multiple blockbusters and countless tangents. DC, simply put, had their work cut out for them. Looking to Christopher Nolan for a spark that would ignite a similar explosion, DC completely entrusted him with their future prosperity…and while it is decidedly easier to simplify Batman with a modern, realistic twist. It is near impossible to humanize and ground a hero who was born amongst the stars and soars through space. Be that as it may, with “Man of Steel,” Goyer and Nolan have managed to transform Superman into a dark and brooding character with a heart and mind just as strong as his physical capabilities. All in all, Nolan has been, and will continue to be the catalyst and made sure that the continuation of DC films not only goes smoothly and successfully, but will continue to thrive.

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Having director Zach Snyder’s keen eye for detail and jaw-dropping flare coordinating with Nolan and Goyer’s taste for believability, soul, and consciousness makes “Man of Steel” the most unique and honest take on the superhero to ever hit the big screen. The film has an exquisite blend of fast-paced action, atmospheric imagery, and heartfelt relationships that never cease resonating. Snyder’s vision for “Man of Steel” brilliantly collaborates with Hans Zimmer’s epic, melancholic soundtrack, Nolan and Goyer’s disheartening, but bewildering script making the finished product truly something to behold. If you let critical skepticism, minor blemishes, and transitional inconsistencies tarnish the films reputation or influence your opinion, this might not be the picture for you. Take my word for it, set aside the hype and reviews, appreciate this breathtaking rebirth for what it is.

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Obviously, without a cast to perfectly animate these features and hard work, the film would utterly falter, luckily, this is not the case. “Man of Steel” stars Henry Cavill in the title role, Amy Adams as the beautiful but brainy Lois Lane and acting heavyweight Michael Shannon as the blood-boiling villain, General Zod. The film’s supporting cast is equally as impressive, if not more so. Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne and the surprising Antje Traue solidify what is an outstanding ensemble.

It’s been a while since Kevin Costner has blown any of his co-stars out of the water. Yet, aside from Cavill and Shannon, Costner is without question the most sublime and really reminds us all of his staggering talent. Diane Lane and Russell Crowe aren’t far behind, preparing Clark for the brash and brutal reality of the world’s he is now apart of. The two are formidable in their supporting roles and add another layer of brilliance to an already astounding story. As for Fishburne, who is his usual, intimidating self. One can’t help but feel letdown by his standard performance, however, his role was extremely limited. If I’m being completely honest, I had never seen Antje Traue in a film prior to “Man of Steel,” but now that I have, I am smitten. She really captures the fearless mentality of Faora and if i might add, looks quite good doing so.

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Out of the three leads, I’d say that Amy Adams is the most underwhelming. Albeit, that is in comparison to Michael Shannon and Henry Cavill, so a case can be made that it’s more of a compliment than an insult. Yes, she is sweet, cute, and calm in the face of danger. I’m not implying she performed horribly, I’m stating that Lois Lane in general was somewhat underwhelming. Which should be the case considering “Man of Steel” is dealing with the origin story of the man himself, not her. The severely underrated and tragically underused Michael Shannon finally gets his due as a ruthless, violent, determined villain who’s primary goal is to guarantee the safety of his people. One can tell that Shannon has always had this dark, primal catharsis waiting to be unleashed deep down inside. Now, finally, Shannon has burst into the mainstream and will hopefully stay there. Shannon delivers a powerhouse performance.

Henry Cavill is Superman: the body, the hair, the voice, everything. I don’t know how else to put it. His acting is superlative, he clearly got in incredible shape for the picture, so he obviously invested heavily in the role. Everything about his emotional range, mannerisms, even the way the suit fits him is enough to send chills down your spine.

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“Man of Steel” offers a never-ending series of heart-racing action seqeucnes that look anything but contrived or inauthentic. One thing on everyones mind prior to the film was how Cavill would look while flying, and thankfully, these segments look dignified. Snyder should gain a stronger fan-base with “Man of Steel” considering his preceding films left audiences divided to say the least. For those Superman enthusiasts, be sure to look out for a few easter-eggs throughout the film. They’re sort of like subtle nods to the audience, a way of saying thank you and we appreciate you.

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For the record, I’m overjoyed that I’m struggling to convey how I feel about “Man of Steel” in this review. As with every film that is or eventually becomes an all-time favourite of mine, I have a hard time dissecting them. I think it’s because I can never quite put my finger on what I love about them. It’s just a reaction, a series of euphoric shocks to my brain. I write excessively trying to unveil the root of my fascination, but never can, that’s why this review and all others like it are so long. I think this is the best way to describe how I feel about “Man of Steel.”

Man of Steel: 8.5 out of 10.

The East (2013)

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Deftly paced, emotionally gripping, and psychologically advancing. “The East” is a socio-political thriller that never mistakes revenge for a lack of heart. Piling on the tension to an almost unbearable extent and performed with graceful precision and a relentless thirst for justice. Co-writers Brit Marling and Zat Batmanglij have once again created a taut character-study oozing with conscientious-awareness and founded upon eco-friendly tendencies. While parts of “The East” may feel somewhat like a retread of the duo’s previous effort “The Sound of my Voice,” any correlation between the two is soon disparaged. Yes, it may deal with similar themes such as infiltration, self-realization, and influence. Nonetheless, “The East” is Marling and Batmanglij’s most complete offering to date and sees their potential continue its rise to an even brighter future.

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Sarah moss (Marling), a former FBI agent, is a high-level operative for the private intelligence firm Hiller-Brood. She is commissioned to infiltrate a terrorist organization called The East and report back with the groups next targets. Upon gaining the trust of the charismatic leader Benji (Skarsgard) and next in command Izzy (Page), Sarah begins to unveil intel to her boss. As time passes, Sarah becomes infatuated with the group’s members and ideals.

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The first few moments of “The East” strike a strong note of consciousness that resonates throughout the entire film and never disperses or weakens. It is followed with wave upon wave of allegory that inflicts an ocean of inward assessment regarding environmental duty and industrial intoxication. It may leave a bitter taste with its blatancy, unorthodox approach, and alarming nature. Nevertheless, it is a controversial wake-up call that is extremely difficult to look away from. Ultimately, “The East” isn’t easily dismissed upon completion. It acts much like a splinter, stinging and constantly drawing your attention and ire until it is dealt with. I’m not implying that it will force you to drop sanity and necessity to go and save the world. Yet, it will enlighten your point of view and illuminate these troubling matters at hand so one day we can make better, more informed decisions about the planet, and more importantly, our future.

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Amongst these immense matters, it would be easy to lose sight of the human element. After all, the safety of our environment directly affects our longevity and its security. It might seem a bit selfish, but the concern about our habitat is based in majority on our dominance of this planet. Amazingly, Marling and Batmanglij have managed to bottle these enormously important topics and infused them with our heart and soul. What good would the preservation of Earth be if we weren’t around to enjoy it? While we are treated to an abundance of vantage points, each one is unique and connects with different people on vastly different levels. Which, evidently makes “The East” an outstanding experience for all involved, cast, crew, and audience.

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Perhaps the most beautiful thing about “The East” is its dissection of every facet that compiles our existence. It doesn’t solely focus on saving and bettering our planet. It tackles industry, poverty, indifference, humanity, etc… Everything is entangled and attached in this metaphorical web and each aspect is torn down until its roots are bare. There are a lot of wrongs that need to be righted in our current state and awareness is a huge step that seemingly the majority of us are afraid or unwilling to take. I’m not trying to preach as I am just as clueless and motionless as the next when it comes to eco-preservation. It is simply gratifying to know that some are taking the initiative to better our world. It might sound cliche or corny, nonetheless, it is something that needs to be dealt with in order to fortify our existence and evolution.

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I think that is enough of a disembowelment towards our humanity, existence, and the film itself in general. I’ll move on to the technical aspects of the film and its performances. “The East” stars the aforementioned Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, and Ellen Page. The biggest surprise, well, at least for me anyway, was Alexander Skarsgard’s performance, he easily dominated the entire film. Page and Marling were also incredibly impressive, but not on the same scale. Possibly because I expected them to be terrific and I had no idea what to expect from Skarsgard. Considering the significance of the film, overshadowing the star-power was a concern entering the theatre. However, this turned out to be a wasted worry as the cast, in its entirety, matched the story’s intensity, subtlety, and brilliance. As for Zat Batmanglij, he continues to perfect his craft as “The East” holds, without question his best work from behind the camera.

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Tremendously acted, superbly filmed, and just impeccably solid all the way through. “The East” is an immaculate depiction of our society, its flaws, and how we can ultimately correct them.

The East: 8.5 out of 10.

Sound of My Voice (2011)

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Despite an ending that leaves a bit too much for the imagination to chew on. “Sound of My Voice” is an entrancing thriller with a pair of phenomenal performances from its two leads. Rising above its restricted budget with hauntingly beautiful content and an unsettling hypnotic effect. What is most disturbingly scary about “Sound of my Voice” is the impending vulnerability that is near impossible to resist. As the story progresses, we are forced to abandon this initial feeling of invincibility until it completely trails off into unfamiliarity. Ultimately, we are forced to accept that there are things that we do not know, that we don’t have an answer for. It’s a bittersweet, tingling experience. While the thrilling factor does tail off slightly. It is efficiently replaced with an undistinguishable yearning for answers to the unknown.

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Peter (Denham) is a substitue teacher living in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Lorna (Vicius). The two are embarking on their first undercover journalism project. The target is a small cult run by the mysterious and beautifully striking Maggie (Marling). After Peter and Lorna finish the long and excruciating initiation tests, the cult deems them ready to finally meet Maggie. Upon stripping, showering, changing clothes, and being blindfolded. Peter and Lorna are taken in a van with other new recruits to an undisclosed location. Upon completing the final test, which is a secret handshake, Peter and Lorna come face to face with Maggie. She claims to have woken up naked, in a bathtub, with no memories or knowledge of who she is. Eventually regaining her strength and some mental imagery, Maggie concludes she is a time-traveler from the year 2054.

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Directed and co-written by Zal Batmanglij. Who appears to have finally broken through after his directorial debut, The Recordist, was slightly subpar. Now, he has arguably one of the most anticipated films of 2013 in “The East” and seems well on his way to making a name for himself. The same can be said for the radiant and mesmerizing Brit Marling. Who not only stars in the film, but co-wrote it as well. Marling is that rare breed of beauty, brains, and brawn and is slowly emerging as one of the top actresses in the business. Marling, best known for her multi-faceted role in “Another Earth,” is garnering more attention from high-profile gigs. After starring alongside Robert Redford and Shia LaBeouf in the recently released, “The Company You Keep.” Marling is set to co-star Batmanglij’s “The East” with Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard.

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Apart from a jittery, premature, seemingly non-existent final act. “Sound of my Voice” almost plays its indie, low budget characteristics perfectly. Nevertheless, by the time the climax roles around, it’s exceedingly hard to stay mad at Batmanglij and Marling. In the end, these tiny inconsistencies are translucent and easily forgiven. One thing that Marling and company know definitively is that there is a vast difference between seductive and sedating. Which is why they’re able to exploit these exceptional traits. Using them to lure the viewer in and then begin lulling us into a state of defencelessness. Concluding in the audiences inability to conjure up individualistic thoughts and ideals, effectively simulating the main objective of a cult. “Sound of my Voice” and its creators not only know what they’re doing, but are able to do it astoundingly well.

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Besides Marling, the cast features Christopher Denham, who is absolutely skyrocketing and the diverse Nicole Vicius. Without question, Marling gives the most illuminated performance as a devious and immaculate cult leader from the future. Her voice carries a depth filled with harmony and pleasure, and for such a transience thing, it has remarkable ambience. Nearly matching Marling’s exquisite portrayal is Denham. His pretentiousness and anger, however misinformed, is totally believable. Heading under cover to infiltrate a dangerous cult. Denham delivers the steady-handed, emotionally vacant goods. Lost in the charisma of Marling and Denham’s performances is Vicius, who does a terrific job in her supporting role. Without her as somewhat of a foundation, the film would helplessly falter.

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Unbearably tense and at times vividly horrific. “Sound of My Voice” is an outstanding thriller filled with resonating performances from the entire cast.

Sound of My Voice: 8 out of 10.