Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best of the Decade: Action Movies

It's the end of the year, so naturally you would expect some kind of a special post to commemorate the end of yet another decade. Truth is, I had a couple of things lined up, problem is I can't seem to muster up my creative muscles for quite some time now. But I seem to have got myself together for tonight, so here goes.

Despite being open to any genre of films, I can't deny that any good action movies can rile up that nine year old in me who saw Terminator II: Judgment Day [1991] for the first time. Therefore it seems only appropriate that I list down what I think are some of the best action movies of the decade and if you haven't seen them, you very well should.
Easily the best action movie of all time...
Now, before I proceed, a little bit of back story on what I consider to be an action movie. Action films had come a long way since it's golden era during the 80's. Back then, you can tell if it's an action movie if the lead role is played by someone in his early 30's with average looks and a good physique. The plot is always flimsy but it makes up for it by incorporating fight scenes, car chases and lots of explosions. The audience may have matured since then, but my definition of action movies remain unchanged. Keep this in mind if you start to wonder why I included movies like Taken [2008] and not the likes of The Dark Knight [2008].

Without further ado, here is my list of the best action movies since 2000 until 2010.

Shanghai Noon
Buddy cop movies had long been a sure-fire hit among casual movie-goers, it proved to be a hit with movies like Bad Boys II [2003] and Jackie Chan's long overdue big Hollywood break, Rush Hour [1998]. But Shanghai Noon was a complete delight due to its unique take on the buddy cop formula.
Like Kung Fu the TV series, this film brought martial arts into the Wild West, with an added bonus; Jackie Chan's trademark action and humour. To put it less delicately, it's a pure win!

Rush Hour 2
One might argue that the sequel did not quite surpass its predecessor, but all the same Rush Hour 2 is the best action movie that the year 2001 had to offer. Not to discredit the film, but you can tell that they did this one for the paycheck.
All the same you can't say the movie was not entertaining at all for it does have its fair share of laughs and action. Simply put, it has all the things you would like to have in a buddy cop movie, but nothing less and nothing more.

The Transporter
At the time this was released, nobody could have foreseen the kind of success that would later come in the form of two sequels. They should have had faith, however. The movie was written by Luc Besson, no stranger in making some of the most thrilling action movies you may or may not have seen.
The movie catapulted Jason Statham to stardom as one of the new age action heroes. The movie took some of the most basic action movie formula, but used it very well for its benefit.

Ong Bak
If have to use only one word to describe this movie; Groundbreaking. Kiss of the Dragon [2001] was notable for its lack of wire fu in favour of traditional stunt work. So the concept wasn't exactly original and not to mention Hollywood has been doing it for ages.
However, Ong Bak took it all to a whole new level with action sequences that feels fresh and left audience in complete awe upon leaving the theatre.

Banlieue 13
Through no fault of its own, Banlieue 13 (or District B13) drew many comparisons with 2003's hit Ong Bak for its absence of wire work, relying instead on traditional stunt work and exceptional physical prowess. But to disregard it as simply jumping on the Ong Bak bandwagon would be a great disservice to this actually very original action flick.
The movie featured extensive parkour sequences that were all well-choreographed and fused seamlessly with the premise of the story, making it a pleasure to watch.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
I believe it's pretty obvious that this movie is everything that Gigli [2003] tried to be but failed hilariously. The movie gained much of its critical acclaim due to the hype surrounding Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but that view is not unfounded, really. The duo have very good chemistry and both are believable playing tough-as-nails characters. Predictable plot aside, you will tend to forget that due to the sheer entertaining nature of the movie.

Casino Royale
You had to have seen this one coming. Normally I wouldn't categorise a James Bond movie as an action flick, but if you have seen Casino Royale, how can you not?
Starring Daniel Craig, the production team sought to reinvent the franchise, and what a great job they did. Most notable was Daniel Craig himself who transformed the James Bond character from a middle-aged man with a tendency to overcompensate, to a total badass, idolised by men and women alike.

Can you dispute this one? I doubt that anyone can. A movie high on body count, badass choreography and fueled on pure testosterone,  300 would easily top the list of this decade's best action movies. Proof? Well, never before did an action movie garnered the kind of interest it had, with many praising its visual effects as well as the 300 studs led by Gerard Butler.
If you still dispute this decision, that is understandable because the year 2007 saw the release of some of the better action movies as of late. But ask yourself this; Did any of them become a pop culture phenomena like 300 did? Madness? THIS IS SPARTA!!

Widely seen as Liam Neeson's "return" to action movies since his starring role in Darkman [1990], Taken faced some fierce competition with movies like Rambo, Quantum of Solace, Punisher: War Zone, Wanted, Transporter 3 and many others released in the same year. But the reason Taken triumphs over them all is because it featured some of the plot device rarely visited at the time, and not to mention it is a reminisce of The French Connection [1971].

Yes, despite being a Michael Bay movie, the second installment of the Transformers movie did not win a place on this list. Personally I find Surrogates to be much more entertaining because unlike the Transformers movies, it does not spend 90% of its running time blowing things up and the other 10% transfixed on Megan Fox's boobs.
Instead we have Bruce Willis, car chases, gunfights and cyborgs. Truth to be told, they had me at Bruce Willis.

The Expendables
This year also saw the release of yet another great batch of action movies. What makes The Expendables rise above them all is the fact that it is neither a spoof nor a homage. While it may indeed be a throwback to action movies during the 80's, the movie treads a very fine line between self-deprecating and taking itself seriously. I must say they did a terrific job for this, I would say is a modern day classic among action movies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

FPBM!'s Movie of the Year

Welcome to FPBM!'s Annual Award Ceremony.

Now, I'll be the first one to admit that I haven't seen every movie released in 2010, some of which are box-office hits. But I had always been picky about my choice of movies, most of the time I can sense if a movie is a waste of time. Like I always say, I simply write but you decide. So go split hairs someplace else.

And now, on with the awards!

Movie of the Year

This one is pretty much a no-brainer for me. Inception is easily the best movie ever screened throughout this year, and without a doubt a modern-day classic. Everything about the movie is clever, enchanting, captivating and thought-provoking.

As if an intriguing story isn't enough, Inception does not fall short in the technical aspects either. Already a great storyteller, Christopher Nolan applied all that he had learned during the production of big-budgeted and large-scale films such as The Dark Knight [2008], Batman Begins [2005] and perhaps to a lesser extent, The Prestige [2006].

The result? It made every other movies in 2010 appear mediocre.

Notable Mentions: The Expendables, How to Train Your Dragon, The Other Guys, Shutter Island, The Social Network

Star of the Year
Leonardo DiCaprio

Before you scream "Biased!!", allow me to give you my reasoning behind honouring him with this award. I'm just going to be truthful about this, prior to Inception, I didn't bat an eyelid to the career of this actor. I blame it all largely on James Cameron's Titanic [1997]. It's not at all his fault, really. In fact, much of it is mine; I tend to look elsewhere when Hollywood is transfixed on their flavour of the month. At the time I thought he was simply an ordinary actor who made it big due to his boyish good looks. Well, Titanic is a love story, what do you expect? It's grossly unfair to consider it as the pinnacle of his career.

The Aviator [2004] was the first one to ever hint me that there is more to this guy than just good looks. After all, Martin Scorsese (one of my favourite filmmakers) worked with him a couple of times, so I thought there must be something to DiCaprio after all. Slowly but surely, I began to backtrack his movies starting with The Departed [2006], Catch Me If You Can [2002], all the way to What's Eating Gilbert Grape [1993], and my admiration for him increased with every movie. After Inception [2010] was released, I was completely convinced.

I must say, there is hardly any movie starring him that I don't enjoy. So am I being biased? Hell no. If anything, this recognition is long overdue.

Notable Mentions: Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Arterton
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