Movie Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

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Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) adopts a hyena in her highly-anticipated solo film Birds of Prey. (Source: WhatCulture)

Harley Quinn made her silver-screen debut in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Although far from good, Margot Robbie easily stole the show with her dark, offbeat humor and her insane nature. She was so good that Warner Brothers and DC decided to make a spin-off. Joker and Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn are the only movies in the DCEU to influence the films of Martin Scorsese. The newest entry in the DCEU is miles better than Suicide Squad, but it comes across as disappointing.

After the events of Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn (Robbie) breaks up with the Joker (good riddance). She takes up roller derby and adopts a pet hyena. Meanwhile, a new crime boss arrives in Gotham City in the form of Roman Sionis a.k.a. The Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who rips faces off of his victims. After putting a target on her back, Harley must join three other vigilantes–Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), The Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to take him down and save a young girl named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

The movie isn’t as awful as one would expect. Robbie still gives a lot of her sassy energy with a rougher edge, even though it looks as if she got her wardrobe at Hot Topic or Spencer’s. However, the supporting characters have a lot more backstory than its protagonist. I particularly enjoy Winstead’s Huntress, who is out for vengeance after dealing with a dark past. Whenever a movie is not entirely good, it’s always great to see McGregor having a blast. This movie is no exception.

Birds of Prey has a similar structure to Deadpool, where it doesn’t shy away from its self-awareness. When it overdoes it, the movie comes across as a little awkward (not to mention the abundance of narration). The pacing is all over the place–ranging from a dark mafia film to a quirky, lighthearted action film with cartoonish violence–which worsens the flow of the narrative. Although there are fun action set pieces (including one set inside a prison), the last act feels anticlimactic. It’s a messy film with bright spots here and there.

5.5/10

Movie Review: The Gentlemen

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Mickey Pearson pulls a gun in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen. And also, don’t EVER mess with Matthew McConaughey! (Source: Cinema Blend)

Fresh from directing the live-action version of Aladdin, writer-director Guy Ritchie returns to his roots of adult R-rated crime-thrillers. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are two from his filmography that have become smash hits in the UK and cult classics in North America. Those films showcase Ritchie as “The British Tarantino”, with his dark wit and unexpected violence. The Gentlemen, his latest film that received modest box-office returns in the U.S., definitely deserves its R-rating, which is laden with profanity, graphic violence, and comedy.

Born in poverty in Texas, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) owns the biggest marijuana empire in London while attending Oxford University. If anyone crosses the line, Mickey might put a bullet in their skull. He decides to sell his business to live a happy life with his wife Rosalind (Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery, who replaced Kate Beckinsale days after shooting began). This causes a chain of events: from a group of gangsters attempting to get a piece of him to a flamboyant Cockney private detective named Fletcher (a scene-stealing Hugh Grant) investigating the entire situation, typed as a screenplay.

There is plenty to like in Ritchie’s return to adult comic-thrillers. There is enough tension to keep the film afloat. However, the razor-sharp wit and lightning-fast pacing of Ritchie’s writing and directing is what makes The Gentlemen all the more worth it. 

The all-star cast, that also includes Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, and Jeremy Strong, has pitch-perfect timing with humor and being badass. McConaughey (who refuses to play roles with any accent other than his native Texas twang) gives enough suave energy wearing a variety of suits and showing off his violent nature. Charlie Hunnam, who worked with Ritchie in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, has never been better playing Mickey’s right-handed man who does Fletcher a favor of pitching his script. Dockery’s Rosalind is easily the opposite of Lady Mary, who never looked more badass than holding a tiny golden pistol. This movie also serves as a good audition for Golding to potentially be the next James Bond.

The biggest drawback is the conclusion being a mess. Nevertheless, The Gentlemen still has twists, turns, and plenty of dark humor. The constant racial slurs might not be for everyone’s liking, which is understandable. But–there is nothing more than having a good time with a new release so early in the year. I have a feeling this is going to gain a cult following for years to come.

8.5/10

Movie Review: Troop Zero

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Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) tries to make her dreams a reality in Troop Zero, the latest Amazon Prime original film. (Source: The New York Times)

Troop Zero, the sleeper hit at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, has finally hit the smaller screens of Amazon Prime Video The preview has promised an average family dramedy set in the South after the Civil Rights Movement. The female-writing duo Bert and Bertie adapt their directing debut from the 2010 play Christmas and Jubilee Behold The Meteor Shower, written by Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild). It showcases a timely story of female empowerment, but I wish the movie moved me more than it should have.

Set in Georgia in 1977, Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) is a quirky 9-year-old girl obsessed with outer space after the death of her mother. She is offered the opportunity of a lifetime to join the Birdie Scouts Jamboree, a talent show where the winners can have their singing voices be put on a Golden Record to be played on the Voyager spacecraft. As an outsider among her peers, Christmas goes out of her way to create her own troop of misfit kids to get one chance to have her voice heard.

It’s hard not to admire the vintage production design. The attire, the cars, and the architecture are all on-point. The themes involving death are surprisingly handled with maturity. Grace, who has impressed me since the 2017 film Gifted, never ceases to amaze with her charm and energy. She leads a terrific diverse cast including Allison Janney, as Prinicipal Massey who assigns the troop, and Viola Davis as Miss Rayleen, who works for Christmas’ father’s (Jim Gaffigan) law practice in his camper and eventually becomes the head of her troop to earn enough badges in order to compete in the talent show. Its cutesy, sugar-coated nonsense is enough to make up for its flaws.

Although the second act of Troop Zero hits right at home, the uneven tone, awkward attempts at humor, and its familiar narrative all falter a bit. Nevertheless, it’s still a rock-solid movie that families with older kids will find some enjoyment during the winter. Not to mention, the soundtrack is top-notch. There is a scene that pays tribute to the beginning of Reservoir Dogs, where our protagonists walk in slow-motion to George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag”. Also, the use of David Bowie’s music couldn’t be more appropriate.

6.5/10

Movie Review: 1917

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It’s a race against time in Sam Mendes’ latest masterpiece 1917. (Source: Military.com)

There have been plenty of great movies set during World War I. The 1925 classic The Big Parade became one of the finest masterpieces of the silent era. However, it wasn’t until two years later, when Wings became the first film ever to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Over the years, famous filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick (Paths of Glory) and Steven Spielberg (War Horse) also brought their A-game to capture the horrors and outcomes of the Great War. The 2004 film Joyeux Noel captured an unbelievable story about the British and German troops making an agreement to stop fighting for one day to celebrate Christmas.

None of them compare the brutality and wonder of 1917, the latest collaboration of director Sam Mendes and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (their first since Skyfall). Using clever filmmaking and editing techniques, the movie makes it look and feel like one seamless, continuous shot through the trenches of France. Fresh from winning a Golden Globe for Best Picture and directing, dethroning Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the box office last weekend, and receiving 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, this movie is worth all the hype.

The movie opens on April 6, 1917, the same day the U.S. would enter the war. General Erinmore (Colin Firth) enlists two young British soldiers–Lance Corporals Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Will Schofield (George MacKay)–to deliver an urgent message to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch), of the Devonshire Regiment. Here’s the catch: He and his army are across enemy lines planning an attack on the Germans, who have taken refuge at the Hindenburg Line. The two race against time to avoid getting killed and possibly save 1,600 lives.

This isn’t the first movie to use the one-shot effect. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller Rope and the 2014 Best Picture winner Birdman are both wonderful movies that have achieved the effect. Expect some edits, but Deakins is the perfect cinematographer to shoot a movie like this. It makes the audience feel like we are with these two soldiers through the duration of the mission. The camera follows in front of them, behind them, or beside them. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must be for the crew to determine which direction the actors have to go. With brilliant editing, there are a lot of shots that will send chills down your spine.

At the film’s core, it’s a story about survival and compassion during the toughest of times. Mendes, who dedicated the film to his late father (who actually fought in World War I), does an outstanding job keeping the stakes and suspense higher than a bald eagle soaring through the sky with his direction and writing. The marvelous cast including British favorites Cumberbatch, Firth, Mark Strong, Richard Madden are given smaller roles than the two unknown actors who have long careers ahead of them. As the two young soldiers, Chapman and MacKay beautifully capture the courage and sympathy on this dangerous mission. The astounding sets and Thomas Newman’s excellent score are also enough to make 1917 a WWI epic for the ages. Sorry, Joker, but this is certainly the film to beat in this year’s Oscars.

10/10

Top 100 Best Movies of the 2010s: The Best of the Bunch (10-1)

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(Source: The Atlantic)

10. Whiplash (2014) – Damien Chazelle’s film about aspiring drummer Andrew (Miles Teller), who goes to a New York music school, under the instruction of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar for his role), a music teacher with an appalling temper is nail-biting as it is darkly comedic. This is a movie about the hardships of following your dreams. The jazz music, the brisk-paced editing, and the performances are all top-notch. The ending will have you cheering. And remember: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.”

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(Source: Deadline)

9. Dunkirk (2017) – After seeing Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic for the first time in theaters, I knew I had to see it again…and again. Its nonlinear narrative might throw audiences off a little, but Dunkirk is a movie that demands repeated viewings. There is so much going on throughout its 106-minute runtime that there is always something you catch up on in repeated viewings. Everything that is shown on the screen is real–the Spitfire planes, warships, and sailboats. The performances from the massive cast are all strong, and the suspense is on a level that Alfred Hitchcock would probably appreciate.

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(Source: IndieWire)

8. Call Me by Your Name (2017) – I have never seen a more beautiful romance than what director Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory bring in Call Me by Your Name. One of many reasons why it works is the chemistry between Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. This slow-burning film takes its time getting to know our two protagonists–Elio and Oliver. They spend time teasing one another until they express their feelings while spending an Italian summer (gorgeous cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom) they will never forget. Their friendship takes a more subtle approach than your average romance (not to mention allowing the two having freedom to improvise). It’s fascinating to find out these characters happen to be Jewish (take note of the Star of David pendant necklace Oliver wears). While struggling to come to terms with his own identity, Elio explains that he and his parents are only “Jews of discretion.”

As Elio’s father, it stuns me Michael Stuhlbarg did not get nominated at all. Particularly his powerful monologue near the end is something every dad should give to their children. Call Me by Your Name is more of a coming-of-age story than anything else. Honest, lovely, stunning, and miraculous on every level.

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(Source: Brittanica)

7. Moonlight (2016) – Not only is this the first Best Picture winner with a shoestring budget ($1.5 million), but it’s also the first to feature an all-black cast. Barry Jenkins adapts Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue with stunning results. Everything about this movie is flawless: the powerful story about a black boy named Chiron struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality, the marvelous performances by Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, and Janelle Monae among others, the gorgeous cinematography by James Laxton, and Nicholas Brittel’s score. The scenarios–including having a proper father figure–all feel authentic and relatable.

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(Source: Vox)

6. BlacKkKlansman (2018) – After a series of box-office misfires, Spike Lee returns with his most successful film about the true story of Colorado Springs police detective Ron Stallworth infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan. It has been a while since I’ve seen a movie that will make you laugh one minute and would give you goosebumps the next. Who cares if BlacKkKlansman is dramatized (*ahem* Boots Riley)? With a terrific cast and soundtrack, this is a risky yet captivating wake-up call to where this country is at right now, in terms of racial relations. The last few minutes will make you speechless. 

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(Source: IndieWire)

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Easily one of the best action movies of all-time, George Miller’s return to Mad Max is set mostly on the road. This is the only film in the series ever to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. As straightforward as the narrative might be, it has themes of redemption. To complement the impressive, wall-to-wall action, most of the stunts are practical. With memorable characters and beautiful cinematography, Mad Max: Fury Road will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its two-hour runtime.

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(Source: IndieWire)

4. Little Women (2019)/Parasite (2019) – After the success with the directorial debut Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig enters the mainstream with her second feature Little Women. Although Louisa May Alcott’s book has been adapted so many times since the 1900s, there has never been a version as charming and honest as this one. It’s perfect on every level. Gerwig keeps it traditional while modernizing it for today’s audiences, kudos to her wonderful screenplay and directing. Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography beautifully contrasts the present-day scenes with the flashbacks (they feel like something out of a scrapbook). The stellar cast including Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep is absolutely stellar. Yes, Saoirse Ronan is fantastic as Jo, the tomboy of the March sisters aspiring to become a writer. However, I had more of a connection with Amy (played with such panache by Florence Pugh), the aspiring painter. And also, I couldn’t anyone to play Laurie more perfectly than Timothée Chalamet!

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(Source: IndieWire)

With Parasite, writer-director Bong Joon-ho returns to his native Korea after making two movies in America with this brilliant film (which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) about two families from two different class structures–the Kims, the lower-class family living in a basement struggling to earn cash, and the Parks, the upper-class family with a dark secret. Filled with dark humor, stunning imagery, big surprises, and nonstop suspense, there is not a single moment in Parasite that feels wasted. As the movie begins to take off, it will never let you go. This future classic in world cinema is required viewing for movie buffs everywhere. 

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(Source: IMDb)

3. Toy Story 3 (2010) – More than a decade after Toy Story 2, Lee Unkrich and the wonderful people of PIXAR bring the wonderful characters back for a third installment in the beloved Toy Story franchise. There is so much to like about this movie: the gorgeous-as-ever animation, its introduction to new characters, its sense of humor (particularly Spanish Buzz Lightyear), and subtle references to sci-fi films (i.e. Jurassic Park). Toy Story 3 has probably the most intense climax in any film PIXAR has ever made. The movie couldn’t have ended on a better note.

The Social Network

(Source: IndieWire)

2. The Social Network (2010) – Believe it or not, The Social Network served as my introduction to director David Fincher. This movie following Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) creating of Facebook and the consequences that followed is an emotionally intense biopic sprinkled with the director’s signature dark humor, brilliant editing, an excellent techno score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Aaron Sorkin’s fantastic script. Also, I have never seen a poster tagline as honest as the one for this movie: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

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(Source: NOLA.com)

1. Her (2013) – Who knew a romantic drama about a lonely man falling in love with his operating system would be so heartbreaking? Nobody can direct this type of movie like Spike Jonze can. Joaquin Phoenix should have got nominated for his performance as Theodore, a man who works at a business where he writes letters for people who are unable to write them. He is going through a rough divorce until he updates his operating system with a virtual assistant named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Almost right away, they build a connection unlike anything Theodore has experienced before.

With an amazing cast including Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara, their performances add to the experience. Through Jonze’s excellent writing and directing, the beautiful cinematography and music, Her will make you laugh, cry, think, and be flat-out amazed.

There you have it! I would like to thank everyone of you for following my blog over the past five years. It’s been my extreme pleasure to share my love of movies this past decade; either on YouTube, Letterboxd, or on WordPress. I’ll definitely be back to give you more movie reviews in the coming years. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on what your favorite movies of the decade are. See you in 2020!

 

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Top 100 Best Movies of the 2010s: 20-11

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(Source: New York Post)

20. Rocketman (2019) – I have been waiting for my whole life to see an Elton John biopic. Years after being in development hell, Dexter Fletcher has made one only the singer himself really deserves. Rocketman is more than just a biopic. It’s also a jukebox musical and fantasy wrapped into one. Taron Egerton gives enough charisma and energy as Elton, as he rises to fame while taking his descent into sex and drug addiction. Not to mention, he does his own singing to give the movie enough authenticity. I don’t think a gay actor would play the singer justice. To quote Fletcher in an interview with Peter Travers, “As a director, I have no right to inquire what an actor’s sexuality is…It’s just none of my business.”

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(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

19. Lady Bird (2017) – Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a love letter to her hometown of Sacramento. The result couldn’t be more electrifying. This coming-of-age story stars Saoirse Ronan as a senior at an all-girls Catholic high school as she goes through life throughout her school year; applying to New York colleges, developing romantic relationships with sweet-boy Danny (Lucas Hedges) and the too-cool-for-school bass player Kyle (Timothee Chalamet), and, more importantly, getting the respect from her mother (Laurie Metcalf). 

I have never seen a high-school movie over the past ten years so funny and brutally honest. The highlight is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. It’s clear that the two love each other, but Lady Bird wishes her mother would understand what she’s going through. She is not upset about politics at all. She’s a smart girl with good intentions and a good friend in Julie (Beanie Feldstein). Even when Lady Bird writes her essay about her love for Sacramento, she’s surprised, admitting, “I guess I pay attention.” With an excellent cast, an offbeat sense of humor, Sam Levy’s smooth cinematography, and Gerwig’s confident direction, Lady Bird is a powerhouse of a movie.

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(Source: Variety)

18. A Star is Born (2018) – There were three different versions of A Star is Born–the 1937 original, starring Janet Gaynor, and the popular remakes in 1954, starring Judy Garland, and 1976, starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Years after being in production hell, Bradley Cooper directs himself and Lady Gaga in a version that would have easily been too corny. What Cooper and his brilliant cast here is something extraordinary. As Jackson Maine, Cooper gives a realistic portrayal of how a singer drifts away further from his lover by alcoholism and drug addiction. Sam Elliott’s Bobby is trying to everything he can to help his younger brother. All the songs are originals and the drama is hard-hitting without being too manipulative. If there is another version of A Star is Born in the future, this will be a tough one to beat.

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(Source: Santa Fe New Mexican)

17. Brooklyn (2015) – Saoirse Ronan has come a long way since her breakthrough role in 2007’s Atonement. The Irish actress pays tribute to her parents (who moved from Ireland to the Bronx in the 1980s) in this lovely, old-fashioned love story based on Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name. Ronan gives the performance of her career as Eilis, an immigrant who falls in love with an Italian-American plumber named Tony (Emory Cohen, also just as good). However, things get complicated when she hears the news about her family back home. As much as Brie Larson deserved her Best Actress win, it’s a shame to see Ronan get snubbed. I have never seen a movie featuring dark humor and tons of charm that tackles homesickness so realistically. As Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) tells Eilis, “Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will make you feel wretched, and then it will move on to someone else.”

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(Source: Flip Board)

16. The Irishman (2019) – Martin Scorsese’s return to his familiar roots of GoodFellas will more than likely be his last. It doesn’t necessarily mean he has lost his mojo. The Irishman is a gangster epic that you forget it’s three-and-a-half hours long. Based on the novel, I Heard You Paint Houses, the movie stars Robert De Niro (in his best performance in years) as Frank Sheeran, a truck driver working as a hitman for Russell Buffalino (Joe Pesci, great seeing him back in the spotlight).

Yes, the de-aging effects might a teeny bit distracting, at first. But–once the movie pulls you in, you forget all about it. The Irishman contains the usual brutality and dark humor of Scorsese’s predecessors. However, there is something in it that feels quite fresh. The cast could not be better–De Niro, Pesci, Al Pacino (superb, in his first Scorsese film ever, as the hot-tempered Jimmy Hoffa), Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, and Harvey Keitel among others. With great cinematography, brilliant editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, and witty dialogue, The Irishman is one not to be missed on Netflix.

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(Source: Den of Geek)

15. Arrival (2016) – I will never forget the first time seeing Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi extravaganza in theaters. After a round of overblown, action-heavy films in the genre, he and screenwriter Eric Heisserer craft a more thought-provoking science-fiction story that tackles serious topics such as connection and time. The lovely Amy Adams gives an understated performance as Louise, a linguistics professor studying the aliens with the help from a handsome physicist (Jeremy Renner) and an Army colonel (Forest Whitaker). The final act really hits home. Sorry, Christopher Nolan, but Arrival is what Interstellar should have been.

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(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

14. Jojo Rabbit (2019) – What surprises me about this movie is how Taika Waititi got away with directing and starring in a movie about a Nazi boy having Hitler as his imaginary friend, or how Germany was not ashamed to release it, despite its satirical subject matter (unlike Russia banning The Death of Stalin in 2017). Nevertheless, it is a bold move by the New Zealand director to poke fun at Nazi Germany and Hitler; something it has been done since film first existed, which was famously done by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator

With a talented cast, Waititi’s sassy rendition of the Nazi dictator provides enough to have audiences in stitches. One thing I did not expect, however, is the enormous heart surrounding the horrors of Nazi Germany. Roman Griffin Davis’ Jojo is a shy boy obsessed with the Nazis. When he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is harboring a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie, a young actress to look out for in the coming years) in the attic, he must come to the reality of the whole situation. Jojo Rabbit might not be for everybody, but it certainly won me over.

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(Source: New York Film Academy)

13. Hugo (2011) – Martin Scorsese has decided to create his first family film after making a lot of movies for adults, so his daughter can finally see a movie of his that she can discuss with friends about. Not only that, it’s his first movie in 3D. Based on Brian Selznick’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this movie is a beautiful love letter to early cinema. Featuring imaginative sets, wonderful visuals, a gifted cast, Hugo is an absolute treat for the ears and eyes. 

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(Source: Vulture)

12. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – Believe it or not, this is the movie that introduced me to the wonderful, zany world of director Wes Anderson. There is so much to like about his nostalgic romance between two 12-year-olds–boy scout Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward)–who decide to escape to go deep into the forest while the local police officer Ken Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray). Robert Yeoman’s cinematography gives the movie a dreamlike quality; every shot looks so much like a watercolor painting coming to life. The star-studded cast, including Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Bob Balaban, is so deadpan it’s hard to resist their presence. This is a movie that gets so much better with each repeated viewing.

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(Source: The Denver Post)

11. La La Land (2016) – This is the movie I have seen the most in theaters (a total of FIVE times). Writer-director Damien Chazelle (who, at age 32, became the youngest person to win Best Director) pays tribute to musicals of the past for his follow-up to Whiplash. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are magical as Sebastian and Mia, two people who meet by chance in the city of dreams, which is Los Angeles. There has never been a movie where this city has been portrayed so beautifully. If you pause the movie at any time, you are looking at a work of art. The music numbers are catchy, the sets are immaculate, and Justin Hurtwiz’s score is some of the best I’ve heard. An instant classic, for sure!

 

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Top 100 Best Movies of the 2010s: 30-21

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(Source: Los Angeles Times)

30. Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – This movie surprised the hell out of me! It’s the first movie to win Best Animated Feature after PIXAR has won so many. Into the Spider-Verse is an eye-popping feast that feels like a comic book coming to life. With humor, colorful action, and a massive voice cast including Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Shameik Moore, and Nicolas Cage, this is the best mash-up of different Spider-Mans from different universes that I would be interested in exploring in the future (I think a live-action Spider-Man Noir would be fantastic). The post-credits sequence? Priceless!

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(Source: Screen Geek)

29. Avengers: Endgame (2019) – This marks the end of an era for the MCU. Don’t get upset. There is plenty more in store for this ongoing franchise. Clocking in at three hours, Endgame goes by like a breeze. It has humor, heart, gut-wrenching emotion, action, and visual beauty. I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off for these characters.

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(Source: Variety)

28. Captain Phillips (2013) – Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips has been debated whether he is considered a hero or not. My theory is that he is–more or less–a normal everyday person doing his job. However, he sacrificed his entire life to help the crew get out of harm’s way when Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi, in an impressive acting debut) and his group of Somali pirates hijack the Maersk Alabama. The handheld camerawork can get a little distracting at first, but director Paul Greengrass knows a thing or two to keep the tension up. The fact that this movie is based on a true story makes it all the more incredible. The final act will leave you speechless.

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(Source: New York Post)

27. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – A lot of you might be surprised to see this ranked higher than Avengers: Endgame. I can’t help but love this movie. Co-writer/director James Gunn brings the most unusual band of misfits to life, which became one of the year’s biggest sleeper hits. The razor-sharp dialogue, slick sense of humor, wall-to-wall action, amazing soundtrack, and excellent performances by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, and a scene-stealing Dave Bautista all overshadow the otherwise fantastic visuals. Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie I would have seen a hundred times, if it came out when I was ten-years-old.

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(Source: The New York Times)

26. A Separation (2011) – Asghar Farhadi’s drama from his native Iran is a gripping outlook on the struggles of a middle-class family trying to do what’s right for their daughter. The acting feels incredibly real, Farhadi’s direction (through a series of long takes and behind windows) showcases the Iranian culture in the most subtle way. A lot of people might be thrown off by the film’s ambiguity, but it works for a movie like A Separation, one of the masterpieces in world cinema.

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(Source: Letterboxd)

25. Boyhood (2014) – Richard Linklater’s 12-year odyssey of a boy growing up into a young adult in Texas is a miraculous achievement. He uses the same cast including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, different scenarios that are relatable and never feels manipulative, and self-referential. Clocking in at almost three hours, Boyhood goes by like a breeze.

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(Source: Vox)

24. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) – Barry Jenkins adapts James Baldwin’s novel of the same name for his follow-up to Moonlight (which will appear later on the list). The result is a poetic, hard-hitting, and breathtaking movie where the characters’ expressions, at times, speak louder than words. Featuring a more diverse cast than his predecessor, everyone shines, no matter how brief their performances might be. Regina King steals the show as Tish’s (KiKi Layne) mother, who supports her daughter, although her lover is in jail for a crime he did not commit in 1970s NYC.

cold-war-stone

(Source: Rolling Stone)

23. Cold War (2018) – Best known for the award-winning film Ida, Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski dedicates his latest film, Cold War, to his parents. Filmed in gorgeous black-and-white, this love story set over the course of fifteen years in Europe during the Cold War is nothing short of extraordinary. It captures love in the most realistic way. Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig are never better as the star-crossed lovers Wiktor and Zula, where their love story travels from the Polish countryside to a Paris jazz club. Great stuff!

marriage-story-nbcnews

(Source: NBC News)

22. Marriage Story (2019) – In my entire life, I rarely cry in movies. Noah Baumbach’s latest film destroyed me, and I mean it in the best possible way. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play Nicole and Charlie Barber, a couple fighting custody for their child while filing for divorce. The supporting cast, with the likes of Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, and Wallace Shawn, is also memorable. There are plenty of scenes that should be studied in acting classes, especially the argument between Driver and Johannson. With a deadpan sense of humor, Randy Newman’s delightful score, and terrific editing, every bit of Marriage Story feels raw and relatable. This is the most mature movie Baumbach has ever made. I hope the Criterion Collection won’t overlook this one.

intouchables-nytimes

(Source: The New York Times)

21. The Intouchables (2012) – If a lot of you thought The Upside was a complete waste of time, watch the original French film that started it all. I have never seen a more beautiful friendship portrayed in film over the past ten years. Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy have such terrific chemistry as paraplegic Philippe and ex-con Driss, who embark on a journey on what it means to be alive. This funny, uplifting film became a smash hit worldwide, it became the first film to be recognized at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Well-deserved, to say the least!

 

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