A year in movies

December 28, 2009 at 12:59 pm (Movies, Tops)

2009 has been a great year for movies, at least for me. There were at least 6 films I really loved, more than in the previous year, plus many other very good films – most of them didn’t even make this list.

I have chosen the film of the year based on my current mood, but to be honest, any of these first 6 films could’ve been film of the year. They’re all outstanding and I recommend them to everyone.

I have taken into consideration only films that have been released in Romania (in theaters or in festivals). This is why some films I’ve seen and loved at Sitges, like The Road (to be released in 2010), Enter the Void or Mr. Nobody (still without a release date – not even for the States), are not on the list.

Anyway – here we go.

Film of the year:

Inglourious Basterds (dir: Quentin Tarantino)

After a fun film not to be taken very seriously (Death Proof), QT is back – and what a return! Basterds is thrilling, exciting, thoughtful, playful – a perfect proof of the mature-yet-not-really director Tarantino has become. It’s pure cinema entertainment, that contains some of the most memorable scenes of the year, and – by far – the most memorable character of 2009 (Hans Landa, obviously). It’s so good that, despite its unorthodox story and bloody violence, it snatched a bunch of noms for the Golden Globes – to be followed, hopefully, by some Academy love as well.

Rest of the Top Ten:

2. District 9 (dir. Neill Blomkamp) – part thriller, part SF, part political satire, part everything else you can think of, D9 is possibly 2009’s biggest revelation. Watch out for Blomkamp – something tells me there’s more to come.

3. Moon (dir. Duncan Jones) – a perfectly written story and an outstanding performance by Sam Rockwell in this surprising homage to SFs from the 80s. Big winner at Sitges & shown at the Iasi Festival in Romania.

4. The Wrestler (dir. Darren Aronofsky) – don’t get fooled by the title. This is a character drama, not a wrestling action film, with a great performance from Rourke.

5. Avatar 3D/IMAX (dir. James Cameron) – the 2D version of Avatar, despite being really good, wouldn’t have made the top ten. However, in 3D, this is a movie-going experience like nothing you’ve ever seen.

6. Zombieland (dir. Reuben Fleischer) – Harrelson hunting down Twinkies and Zombies, in the funniest film of 2009

7. Up (dir. Pete Docter) – I still think I like Wall-E better, but Up keeps the tradition of Pixar’s masterpieces. A lock-in for both Oscars and Golden Globes.

8. Watchmen (dir. Zack Snyder) – everything I ever wanted from a comic-book adaptation. Snyder’s visuals still amaze me.

9. Drag Me to Hell (dir. Sam Raimi) – what a joy for old-school horror fans! Raimi is back to his genre, with a great, fun flick that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

10. The Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow) – gripping, powerful Iraq war story.

For comments, well, use the comments. I will be back later, with my most anticipated films of 2010 list.

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A quick preview

December 26, 2009 at 11:32 pm (Movies, YouTube)

Cinema in 2009. One of the best edited user videos I’ve ever seen.

It’s been, indeed, an amazing year for movies.

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A year in TV shows

December 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm (Tops, TV shows)

TV show of the year:

Dexter (season 4)

This is really a no-brainer. Four seasons, each better than the last. The fourth exceeded all expectations, offering a compelling storyline, a memorable villain and a shocking finale. Dexter is at a different level than everything else on TV, I cannot recommend it enough.

Runner-up:
Lost (season 5)
Ever since the producers decided to end the show after 6 seasons, Lost has been outstanding. Season 5 was as original and interesting as possible, while the final season is just around the corner.

Honorable mentions:
Breaking Bad (season 2) – fantastic little show from a small TV channel – very intriguing premise and great acting
Family Guy (seasons 7-8) – after all these years, still going strong. Passed South Park in my preferences as best animated show.
Fringe (seasons 1-2) – a modern version of the X-Files, with weird cases, conspiracy theories, and lots of action.
Weeds (season 5) – back in top shape after a disappointing fourth season
Curb Your Enthusiasm (season 7) – a really funny show, that became even funnier due to the Seinfeld reunion
True Blood (season 2) – vampire madness. Done right.

Some other awards:

Best new show: Flash Forward
Best sitcom: 30 Rock
Best animated show: Family Guy
Best crime drama: Flashpoint
Best action: 24
Best episode: The Dexter finale

I will not do a “most anticipated” list, because the new TV season is really far away (autumn 2010).

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow, for the most important list of them all: the best movies of 2009.

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A year in video games

December 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm (Games, Tops)

I know I rarely post about video games, but I do play them. These are my fave games of 2009 – with the note that I only play on the PS3 (and sometimes on the PC, mostly adventure games). This is why the list doesn’t contain any XBOX or Wii games.

Game of the year:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3 exclusive)

With this sequel, developers Naughty Dog set the new standard for action-adventure games. Uncharted 2 is simply amazing – with a great story, great characters, breathtaking visuals, and the best campaign I’ve probably ever played. If I were to list the most memorable scenes I’ve played in 2009, I’m sure most of them would be from this game. 10/10

Runner-up:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3, XBOX, PC)
A great sequel to an amazing series, featuring one of the most disturbing missions ever, and an awesome co-op and multiplayer campaign.

Honorable mentions:
Tales of Monkey Island (PC) – Telltale Games brought back the amazing adventures of Guybrush Threepwood – and they’re still great.
Brutal Legend (PS3, XBOX360) – Kicking ass with the power of heavy metal and a character based on Jack Black. Fun fun fun.
MLB 09: The Show (PS3 exclusive) – If you’re into baseball, this is the annual series you need.
Killzone 2 (PS3 exclusive) – great shooter, however miles behind the level of excellence set by COD.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
(PS3, XBOX, PC) – fantastic addition to the Batman universe.

Some other awards:

Biggest surprise: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Biggest disappointment: Football Manager Live
Best PS3 game: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Best sports game: MLB 09: The Show
Best visuals: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Best scene: the train sequence (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)

Most anticipated games of 2010

1. Heavy Rain (PS3 exclusive) – february 2010
2. Bioshock 2 – 09.02.2010
3. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – march 2010
4. God of War 3 – march 2010
5. Thief 4 – TBA 2010
6. Red Dead Redemption – 27.04.2010
7. Gran Turismo 5 – march 2010
8. Mafia II – 03.05.2010
9. Postal 3 – TBA 2010
10. Guillermo Del Toro’s Sundown – TBA 2010

Just like with music, video games TBA releases aren’t certain. Some games on the list might be pushed back to 2011, some others might be announced during the year.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow – for my fave TV shows, and then on Sunday, for the best movies of 2009.

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A year in music

December 24, 2009 at 1:08 pm (Music, Tops)

Because, during this year, I have not listened to 10 new albums worth recommending, I will avoid doing a proper top ten for music. However, I will tell you this:

Album of the Year:

Rishloo – “Feathergun”.

I know most of you have never heard about this band. Well, you should change that. Rishloo’s third full-length album completely blew me away. It’s the perfect mix of alternative, progressive, metal and art-rock, with fantastic lyrics and extremely complex songwriting. An amazing concept album about escaping from reality inside one’s mind, through dreams, memories, hopes and fantasy. 10/10.

Runner-up:
Dredg – “The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion”.
Dredg is back to their conceptual roots after a somewhat lackluster third album. The new stuff, however, is fantastic.

Honorable mentions:
Alice in Chains – “Black Gives Way to Blue” – great return from one of my fave 90s bands.
Mastodon – “Crack the Skye” – best metal album of the year, hands down.
Thrice – “Beggars” – can this be Thrice’s “The Bends”? I love the direction in which this band is heading.
Chevelle – “Sci-Fi Crimes” – post-grunge at its finest.
Fightstar – “Be Human” – now with an orchestra and even more over-the-top hard-rockers
Isis – “Wavering Radiant” – more awesome stuff from the kings of post-metal

Best Romanian album:
Luna Amara – “Don’t Let Your Dreams Fall Asleep” – if you don’t mind their semi-acoustic side, you’ll love this. Great songwriting, lyrics and an all-round great effort

Some other “awards”: 🙂

Biggest discovery: Rishloo – “Feathergun”
Biggest disappointment: Muse – “The Resistance”
Best artwork: Dredg – “The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion”
Best lyrics: Rishloo – “Feathergun”
Best film about music: “The Boat that Rocked”
Best video game about music: “Guitar Hero: Metallica”
Hottest rock chick: Hayley Williams – Paramore

Most anticipated albums of 2010

This is hard to do, because, except for a few albums, most don’t have release dates, or names, or any other details – except for the fact that the respective band plans to release something new. This is why it’s possible many of the albums listed below will be pushed back to 2011.

Some of the possible bands that might release albums in 2010 (ordered by my level of anticipation):
Tool
Radiohead
Deftones (release date: April 27th)
Sigur Ros
Glassjaw
Oceansize (planned release: March)
Slipknot
Silverchair
Limp Bizkit
Linkin Park
Stone Sour

Come back tomorrow – for the best video games of 2009 😉

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It’s that time of the year again

December 22, 2009 at 12:48 pm (Games, Movies, Music, TV shows)

Wrapping things up at work & getting ready for a well-deserved (I think) 5-day Christmas holiday – it’s that time of the year again, when all that’s left to do, other than eat & enjoy presents, is to look back at 2009 and ahead at 2010.

So, starting tomorrow, I’ll kick off a bunch of posts with my personal tops about everything I enjoyed this year, and hope to enjoy next year.

There will be tops for movies, music, video games, tv shows – so come back daily for recommendations, and maybe throw in your personal preferences in the comments 😉

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Avatar: An IMAX 3D experience

December 21, 2009 at 11:41 am (Movies, Reviews)

This weekend I made my first trip to the brand new (and only) IMAX theater in Romania, for James Cameron’s Avatar. It was well worth it – but not the perfect, mind-blowing experience I was expecting.

Let’s start with the good things. Surprisingly, the first thing that comes to mind is the movie. Avatar is solid throughout. A compelling story with interesting characters, great visual effects and plenty of awesome action scenes – definitely the kind of movie you could enjoy on any format, anywhere. This doesn’t mean you should see it at home – because the 3D experience still adds a brand new level to an already great film.

The visuals are breathtaking, and the 3D is integrated seamlessly into the story, without the useless gimmicks of “throwing” things at the audience to get the desired effect. It all feels perfectly natural, and that’s entirely Cameron’s merit. The IMAX screen is really as big as advertised, and the picture quality was as great as expected, and as colorful as expected (despite the shady glasses).

However. I’ve seen many “normal” 3D movies lately (the RealD format), and I can tell you this: the image quality isn’t a lot better on IMAX. Actually, the only big (and obvious) improvement is the size of the screen. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a crystal clear image, it’s just not such a noticeable difference from RealD 3D. Even more: the frame rate was annoyingly low for some of the more intense action sequences. Frame rate issues also appear in RealD 3D, but I’ve never been so bothered by them (maybe because of the screen size).

…And another rant, this time completely unrelated to Avatar. The Samsung IMAX theater, as new and modern as it is, does NOT have cup holders of any kind. You’re pretty much stuck with your jacket, your Coke and your nachos in your lap the whole time, which makes everything, of course, very uncomfortable.

All in all, Avatar is a movie that you HAVE to see. It’s a great movie on its own, and an even better movie in 3D. It doesn’t even matter if it’s IMAX or not – just make sure you see it in a theater.

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Dexter. Well. Holy fuck.

December 15, 2009 at 9:36 am (TV shows)

How was that for a season finale?

If you’re not watching Dexter – you should start ASAP. TV Shows CANNOT get better than this.

PS… The ratings were through the roof. This was the most watched episode in Showtime history. Almost 3 times the audience of Californication’s season finale.

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4 more days until Avatar

December 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm (Movies)

There are 4 days left until the world premiere of James Cameron’s new film, Avatar, which will probably become one of the highest-grossing films ever released. Plenty of reasons to be excited, not only because it’s gonna be a visual treat, but also because it marks the proper launch of the only IMAX theater in Romania, being the first feature film presented on the monster screen in the Cotroceni mall.

If you didn’t book your tickets in advance – tough luck. You’re either gonna have to wait, or see the “normal” 3D version – because all Avatar IMAX shows from Friday to Sunday have already been sold out.

If you really want Avatar IMAX (and I’m pretty sure you do), you can still book tix for next week – head over to Cinema City’s official page to do so. If you settle for normal 3D, you have plenty of options: Avatar 3D will play in every 3D theater in Bucharest (CinemaPro, Hollywood Multiplex, Movieplex, The Light, Starplex, Cinema City).

There is also, of course, the 2D version available, but it would be the dumbest thing anyone could do, watching this in 2D (or at home on your laptops, for that matter). This movie has been made to be seen in all its colorful 3D glory – so make sure you do that.

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Sonisphere 2010 in Romania! Headliners: Metallica!

December 9, 2009 at 5:09 pm (Music)

One of the biggest rock events of 2009 was Sonisphere: a series of 6 rock festivals in 6 different European countries, and an impressive line-up: Metallica, NIN, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Alice in Chains, Machine Head, Slipknot, etc.

Needless to say, the first edition was a huge success, which made the organizers decide to expand the festival. The second edition, Sonisphere 2010, will take place in 11 countries – including Romania!

The first bands have already been confirmed: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Mastodon. There are heavy, reliable rumours about the next 2 announcements: Rammstein and Iron Maiden. And these are just the first few names, there will be plenty more in the coming months.

The Romanian Sonisphere 2010 will take place between June 25th – 27th, in Bucharest. More details to follow. You can check out the official website for more info.

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