150- The Birthday (2004)
Directed by Eugenio Mira
Genre: Horror, Dark Comedy
A young man attends his girlfriend’s father’s birthday party held at a luxury hotel. Just as they arrive, weird things start to happen and guests and hosts alike become exceptionally aggressive. Shot in real time (a la Hitchcock’s Rope), The Birthday begins as an extremely unusual black comedy only to slowly unravel into a horror film reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby. Director Eugenio Mira quietly introduces its horror aspects with a deliberately campy approach at the half-way mark then tears through the roof with an unforgettable climax of complete terror. From its opening titles to the abrupt ending, The Birthday is a gem waiting to be discovered. A slick, good-looking picture beautifully photographed in cinemascope with award-winning art direction and ingenious sound design geared for maximum discomfort. This Spanish horror film, shot in English stars an international cast and at the center is none other than Corey Feldman doing an odd, feature-length Jerry Lewis impersonation (a la The Bellhop). Feldman’s performance, easily the strangest in his career, reaches surprising (even cartoonish) levels of intensity. This film is quirky, campy and carries a hypnotic and seriously creepy atmosphere. One of the most unique and refreshingly inventive genre films. Director Eugenio Mira put it best at the 2004 screening at the Fantasia Film Festival when he quoted Back to the Future and said, “You may not like it but your kids are going to love it.”
149- X2 (2003)
Directed by Bryan Singer
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
A great movie consists of three great scenes and even if superhero moves aren’t your thing, X-Men 2 provides us with three of the greatest scenes in any action film. From the opening sequence featuring a would-be assassin, the acrobatic, teleporting blue mutant Nightcrawler penetrating the White House security to Magneto’s ingenious prison break and finally the well crafted, expertly choreographed fight sequence between Lady Deathstrike and Wolverine, X2 proves why Bryan Singer is one of the best working in Hollywood. A love letter to longtime fans of the comic Singer never loses sight on the ongoing theme of the series – the freedom to be different in the face of intolerant authority. The result is a movie that surpasses expectations, a superhero flick that can rightfully take its place alongside the best and a rare sequel that manages to improve on the original in every way.
Directed by Rian Johnson
Genre: Film Noir, Mystery, Crime
Rian Johnson’s Brick is a rare gem; the low-key, post-modern approach mingles ’40s and ’50s costume accents and the hard-boiled attitude of the great 1930s and ’40s detective novels with the institutional drab of a suburban high school. Take the regular struggles of high school life – romances, cliques, teen pregnancy and drugs and blend it in with film geek allusions to everything from Raymond Chandler to Blue Velvet and you got yourself a teen movie with edge, bite and attitude.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Batman is the grittiest and most intriguing of all comic book superheroes and thankfully director Christopher Nolan delivered an exhilarating picture that is almost operatic in scope and impact. Batman Begins isn’t perfect, but it is was one hell of a way to welcome the DC heroes back to the silver screen. Fantastic to the eye, involving and skillful both as a drama and an action film and stars an actor who is completely believable as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Nolan makes the wise decision to take Batman back to basics and creates a fascinating thriller that’s grounded in angst and meant for mature audiences.
Directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi
Genre: Cult, Horror, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Wild Zero is the 2000 Japanese “Jet rock ‘n’ roll” zombie horror comedy cult classic, directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi, and starring the Japanese garage punk band Guitar Wolf. Borrowing many elements from other popular B-movies such as Psychomania and Evil Dead 2, Wild Zero would best be described as The Ramones remaking Night of the Living Dead for Troma studios. A film that is exuberantly silly, wears its influences on its sleeve, never looks cheap (despite the minimal budget) and is bursting with unstoppable energy from start to finish.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Thriler, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Once upon a time Shyamalan`s films showed him as a rapidly promising and maturing filmmaker, taking risks and making them pay off. Unfortunately that did not last long. However Unbreakable is still compelling, stylish and beautiful to watch. A brilliant homage to comic book superheroes and villains. In a decade overflowing with superhero films, Unbreakable is one of the better origin stories.
Directed by Seth Gordon
Who would have ever guessed that a documentary about gamers obsessed with scoring a world record at Donkey Kong would be worthy of consideration for the decade’s best? An audience favorite on the film festival circuit, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is laugh-out-loud funny and brilliantly keeps up it’s dramatic pace while never losing sight of the personal stories of the stranger-than-fiction cast of characters. Fascinating, thoroughly engaging and a moving study of obsessive competition.
Directed by Joon-ho Bong
Genre: Sci-fi, Creature Feature, Horror, Comedy
Monster movies tend to be as misunderstood as their creatures, but make no mistake; The Host is a great monster movie chock-full of strong performances, unexpected humor, political commentary, family conflict and satiric references to some of the more absurd aspects of Korean cinema. A beautifully made, thoroughly enjoyable monster flick that stands head and shoulders above most sci-fi / action movies.
142- Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Directed by George Clooney
Genre: Drama, Bio-pic
Good Night, and Good Luck stands, tall, impressive and expressive joining not only the best films about journalism, but one of the better films of the decade. A good-looking, powerfully acted, deeply felt and deeply committed film. It’s also a highly personal statement for Clooney, whose father was a TV news anchorman, and a tribute to Edward R. Murrow, a family friend and hero.
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Sci-fi origin stories tend to be disappointing whether the subject is Luke Skywalker, Batman, or Wolverine; since we already know where we’re going and thus the getting there can be tedious and boring. J.J. Abrams avoids those problems and crafts an exciting origin story the successfully blends the hip and classic, with a perfect cast, dazzling effects, some of the best action sequences of the year, and enough heart to make you care.
140- Azumi (2003)
Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Action
Lovers of Asian cinema should love Azumi. A slick, relentless, violent yet beautiful genre piece with breathtaking stunt choreography and impressive wirework by Yuta Morokaji that makes the fight sequence in Kill Bill seem tame.
Directed by John Hillcoat
The spirits of Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone are invoked in this superbly crafted, hard-hitting, harrowing and magnificent drama. Directed by John Hillcoat and scripted by Nick Cave with an ensemble cast of pure talent, gorgeous cinematography and one of the best scores in recent memory.
Directed by Elia Suleiman
Genre: Dark Comedy, Drama
Palestinian writer-director Elia Suleiman has rightfully been compared to Charlie Chaplin with his talent to create such brilliant deadpan black out sketches in the midst of his long slow-paced moments of expressive silence. Divine Intervention is his second feature, best described as the Dr. Strangelove of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The film offers up critiques of both Palestinian and Israeli extremism in a series of interlocking setups and clever punch lines that add up to something of a rarity. A sarcastic, very funny black comedy that is both touching and provocative. Supercharged with Arabian dance music, Natacha Atlas’s unbelievable cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put A Spell On You” is something to
Directed by Yves Christian Fournier
Genre: Coming of age. Drama
Reminissant of the works of Larry Clark and Gus Van Sant. This film builds a convincing portrait of a teenage boy living in a ghetto neighborhood in Quebec as he tries to come to terms with his best friend`s suicides. When all four of the kids kill themselves on the very same day, the family, friends and townspeople try to unravel the reasoning behind the suicides. Everything is Fine is the first time feature by French Canadian director Yves Christian Fournier. A killer soundtrack, some great photography and a vary talented cast across the board make this film worthy of a second or third viewing. And the director still manages to throw in a twist to the tail which makes sense of the preceding actions.
136- C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
C.R.A.Z.Y. goes far beyond what could have simply been a coming of age story by overcoming all the trappings of genre. Montreal Director Jean-Marc Vallée delves beneath all the complex layers that unite and divide a family and rather than just focus on his hero’s sexual growth, he analyses how he must first come to grips with countless other issues such as his religious beliefs, social environment, friendships, family relationships and peer pressure. Patrice Bricault-Vermette’s art direction stands out, meticulously capturing the period detail while Vallee’s music selection is sublime, using everything from Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Directed by Gus Van Sant
The photography by cinematographer Christopher Dolye is worth the price of admission alone. Great stedi cam shots, long takes and some wonderful use of slow motion. The world that Van Sant creates is poetic and hypnotic. He takes us into the head of a teenage boy and lets us run with it, giving us a real sense of place and time. In some ways it feels like voyeurism, as if we are actually looking into someone’s life.