Top 50 Films Of The Decade : 20-29
29. Serenity (2005)
When something’s badly wounded, it usually dies and … stays dead. But in the case of ‘Firefly,’ a short-lived TV series that aired (out of sequence, mind you) for twelve short weeks in 2002, a knock on heaven’s door was met with no retort. The sci-fi Western was merely greeted by a ‘Closed – Come Back Later’ sign stuck on the pearly gates, and so, it promptly slid back down the white lights, and back to life for a second chance, or a lengthened existence, if you like. Less refined than George Lucas’s drastically more expensive sci-fi saga, and dirtier in both look and manner than GR’s Enterprise adventures, Whedon’s series, and now movie, is quite a unique experience.
Everything you loved about the series is back on the big screen too – with $50 million worth of extras. Back is the excellent writing, the humour, the adventure, the distinct characters, the plight, the battles, the sexual tension, and the imaginatively designed starships – still as dirty as ever, and as wonky as a rusted bike. There are a couple of surprises in tow too.
”Serenity” feels like a two-hour season ender for the series. But that’s good. That’s what fans want. Who wants to revisit the beloved characters only to discover that they’re changed, or that the story’s drifted away from the one we were tuning in week-after-week for?
Pity we will never see a sequel.
28. Into the Wild (2007)
If you’ve ever been at a nightclub and had a leggy blonde surprise you by grabbing you by the scruff, darting you up against the back wall, and preceding to steal the gloss from your lips – you’ll know what it’s like to have your breath taken away. This, the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) a boy who abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness, will indeed rob of your breathing rights. It’s one powerful, powerful movie. Not one to watch when you’re already on a downer, but still one to watch.
27. Adventureland (2009)
Nobody will ever replace John Hughes. He was a legend. Apparently he wouldn’t go to bed at night until he’d come up with 100 new jokes (I assume for whatever project, or projects, he was working on at the time). And his hard-work always paid off – there’s not a bad film in his bunch. I doubt we’ll ever see teen dramedy’s as good as “The Breakfast Club”, “Pretty in Pink” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” again. But if there’s room for someone to come close to being this generation’s â€˜Hughes’, let it be Greg Mottola, a fresh face in the DGA that’s seemingly already hit his stride as a terrific ‘teen movie’ director after only two [major] efforts. With an amazing soundtrack of 80s faves (It plays on loop in my car!), a terrific ensemble support cast (Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig are both adorable and amusing as the park owners, Ryan Reynolds is as charming as ever as the park playboy & resident handyman, Martin Starr is the pushed-around – usually by women – park vet, and Wendie Malick and Jack Gilpin are perfect as James’ hoity parents), and a heart-warming, emotion-drenched screenplay by Mottola, “Adventureland” was one of the suprises of the noughties.
26. Casino Royale (2006)
â€˜Craig Not Bond!’ screamed irate fans of the 007 film series when it was announced that blonde Brit Daniel Craig would be taking over Pierce Brosnan’s office at MI6. “How can a short, blond actor with the rough face of a professional boxer and a penchant for playing killers, cranks, cads and gigolos pull off the role of a tall, dark, handsome and suave secret agent?” Craignotbond.com asked. “This is what happens when you lose touch with public opinion. By casting Craig, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have proven once and for all that they care little for the opinions of Bond fans,” the site continues.And you know what? They’re right. Daniel Craig is not Bond. Well, not the Bond we cinemagoers know anyway. No, this guy is definitely not the cartoonish bigot charmer who is more quick-quips than true-grit, but he is the serious and scarred agent from Ian Flemming’s original novels. Yes, Craig’s probably the closest to Fleming’s idea of who James Bond was – and he jumps off the screen as literally a carbon copy of the well-defined scoundrel of the novels. He’s brash, he’s cocky, he’s reckless… and he even gets hurt sometimes. Yep, real blood, real scars, real pain.
You’ll notice we haven’t heard a peep out of CraigNotBond since the release of “Royale”? That’s because they were forced to eat their words – this movie was the bomb!
25. Sin City (2005)
If you like sour cream on your pizza, diet coke with lemon, have been bungy-jumping off the highest gorge in New Zealand or just have to try whatever new flavour choc-top is out at the cinema this month… chances are you’re a sucker for anything different. Â It’s you then, who will be best served by the very novel – as normal as cheese-flavoured soda – â€˜’Sin City”.
Even if you don’t get immersed in its stories – and there’s no real reason why you won’t, unless you have to turn away because of the violence – â€˜’Sin City” is still a dazzling, highly admirable picture.
Faithful as ever to the Frank Miller books (it’s based on a mixture of three of his novels), it’s a black-and-white comic super sized for the big-screen. With its sporadic splash of colour and green-screen only backdrops, it looks sweeter than honey chicken.
â€˜’Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” did essentially the same thing, you say? True. But while that looked grand, it’s story was as boring as batshit. The staggeringly good production values are only a plus to the already beefy storylines on show here. They go hand-in-hand.
24. Collateral (2004)
I love Michael Mann. Will never forget the first time I saw “Heat” at the cinema – wow! And “Collateral” is right up there with his best.
Thrilling as hell, with a script that’s typically Mann-slick (though a little too much like his â€˜’Heat â€˜’at times, especially the way he’s structured both good guy and bad guy to come together, showing obvious sympathy for their singular plights), a mesmerising jazz soundtrack and two rock-hard performances (Tom Cruise was phenomenal!), â€˜’Collateral” could be just the coolest film of the decade.
23. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005)
This film has grown on me like a welt – but what Shane Black film doesn’t!?
In the 1980s and early 1990s Shane Black was the go-to man if you needed a buddy action film written. From â€˜’Lethal Weapon” to â€˜’Last Action Hero”, â€˜’Last Boy Scout,” and â€˜’Long Kiss Goodnight,” he was as endowed as he was wealthy – his expertise was in crowd-pleasing quick-quips and profanity, over-the-top action sequences and homophobic humour.
Quicker than a tray of uncovered mince around a hungry cat though – he just disappeared, making way for a hundred overexcited hacks to find employ on every ‘blood and bullets’ escapade that followed.
Black’s now returned, both as writer and director (his first stint behind the camera – maybe that he was his barter for a reprise?), for â€˜’Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” – a movie that brazenly reads as a ‘What I learnt in Hollywood’ from the eminent screenwriter.
From the in-jokes to the character stereotypes, nonsensical action sequences and sardonic outline – Black’s seemingly yanked every memory of his Hollywood years from his noggin, put them down on paper and taken a Nikon to it. The result? A blast. And for once we’re not talking about the explosions.
22. Frailty (2002)
This one deserved a lot more than a week in the theatre and a quick slide to DVD. An imperceptive combination of the morbid supernatural and kinship, (actor) Bill Paxton’s directorial debut is a hot-acid concoction of thrills, spills, trepidation, and one of the most novel stories of recent times. Like a no-holds barred X Files sneaking under the radar, Paxton’s film may have missed it’s ride on the blockbuster film conveyor belt, but it enters via an alternative route to surprise the dilettante with it’s sheer ingeniousness and uniqueness.
Some actors should stick to acting; some directors should stick to directing. But Bill Paxton proves he can do both by combining a terrifyingly real performance while doing double time on a movie as its director.
If Paxton’s acting career should give way overnight, I insist he toy with the lense a little further.
21. The Bourne Trilogy (2002 – 2007)
I’m grouping “The Bourne Identity”, â€˜’The Bourne Supremacy” and â€˜’The Bourne Ultimatum” together because, quite frankly, they were all as good as each other – one of the most flawless trilogies ever.
Whilst Matt Damon, you’d imagine, would’ve been far from anyone’s first choice to play the amnesiac hero at the centre of Robert Ludlum’s novels, he pulls it off magnificently, combining a performance of vigour and likeability.
Now let’s hope Damon can convince director Paul Greengrass (who did “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum”) to come back for a fourth film.
20. The Rules of Attraction (2009)
James Van Der Beek and I shared a few beers (sssh! You’re not supposed to drink there; we were constantly hiding our cans in our pockets – cops were on the lookout for naughty-doers big-time that day) on the Malibu pier a couple of years ago. We’d have mutual friends, and wanted to meet up, so finally got around to organizing a – this sounds rancid – date. And on that sunny Californian day, we laid back, drank up, and for about 90 mins talked [mainly] about the feature film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s “Rules of Attraction”, which he had a pivotal role in. This was about 3 years after the film had come out, when most had forgotten about it, but James (best known as the title character in TVs “Dawson’s Creek”) was such a big fan of the film (it’s unarguably the best film/TV experience he’s had to date) that he seemed eager to chat about the experience of working on the film. And I adored the film, so loved hearing about his experiences making it. A lot, of course, wasn’t fit to print (some good “Creek” stories, too) but he painted a great picture of making the splendid flick for me. And it’s no wonder James enjoyed doing this one so much – he got to play one of the most interesting and most complex characters of the past ten years; he also got to ditch the â€˜Dawson’ persona for good. Mostly, he had the chance to work with the exceedingly talented Roger Avary. Â I can’t say enough good things about “Rules of Attraction”. And whenever I see the guy, we always seem to chat about the film. Likely always will. It made its mark on me.
It’s a brave move for any filmmaker to take on Easton Ellis’ material – not only because the last few film adaptations of his books have flopped – but because the subject material is so capricious. It’s almost so unexplainable that a real dab hand – an unconventional one at that – is needed to caress the unrepressed tiger with the same original craftsmanship that went into it’s literary inception in the first place. But Avary seemed to have the vision – and we know he’s got the zest, passion and edge to pull it off – and within the first five minutes of â€˜’Rules”, you’ll arguably agree he’s the first person to truly share Bret Easton Ellis’s inimitable apparition. Coupled with a band of teen stars ready to ditch their squeaky-clean images, an energised soundtrack and a meticulously tight screenplay, this director gets a free kick into that celluloid goal slapped â€˜promising armoury’. Make sure you re-visit it again soon.