PG Cooper: Top 25 Films (2000-2009) Part IV

Posted: December 3, 2010 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

10. The Devil’s Rejects

Release date: July 22nd, 2005

Written by: Rob Zombie

Directed by: Rob Zombie

Starring: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, and Ken Foree

Of all my more questionable choices, this is going to be the one I’ll likely get the most flack for. But I really don’t care. I love this movie. The film is actually a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses.  I remember watching House of 1000 Corpses and not being very impressed. So going into  The Devil’s Rejects, I didn’t expect much. I’d heard it was significantly better than the first, but I still had expectations rather low. To my shock though, I completely fell in love with the film.

The film follows a group of serial killers known as the firefly clan. At the beginning of the film, Texas Sheriff John Wydell (William Forsythe) leads a raid on the firefly’s home. During the raid, members are killed, disappear, or are arrested. Two however manage to escape; Otis  (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sherri Moon Zombie), though they are now on the run. The turn to a family friend for help. That is another serial killer as well as professional clown, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig). Though for Sheriff Wydell, catching the firefly clan is more than just business. He wants revenge seeing as the firefly clan killed his brother.

It may be really morbid to say that I love the characters in this film seeing as most of them are demented killers, but they are shockingly likable. What makes them great is the feel like real human beings. The talk to each other like real friends and families do. As for why they kill people? It’s just something they like to do. Out of the three, it’s a tough call for my favourite between Otis and Spaulding. Both have the right mix of humor and horror to them that makes them great characters. I’d have to say I found Spaulding funnier, but Otis scarier. You could argue that makes Otis a better character by default, but I’m not willing to make that claim yet. Not to say Zombie is bad as Baby, her character just isn’t as good as the other two. Probably the best performance comes from William Forsythe as the sheriff. What’s great is how your perception of the character changes. At first, you sort of root for him. I mean, he is the sheriff going after the serial killers. But the longer he’s involved and the deeper he goes, the more insane he becomes. In the end, he isn’t so different from the ones he’s hunting. It’s amazing the way the movie inverts the good guy-bad guy relationship here. The film also has an awesome sound track. Mostly a mix of southern rock music that fits the tone perfectly. And then to finish with “The Seeds of Memory”  by Terry Reid during the credits, just awesome. As a director, Rob Zombie has a great vision. The film looks gritty and ugly (like it should). I also think Zombie is good at creating tension and making the audience feel uncomfortable. Is The Devil’s Rejects really a better film than something like No Country for Old Men? Probably not. But on a personal level, to me, The Devil’s Rejects is all around a more enjoyable film.

9. The Wrestler

Release date: December 17th, 2008

Written by: Robert D. Siegel

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood

When I was young, I was a huge pro wrestling fan. I was addicted to that stuff for a while. But as I got older, I gradually grow out of it and become interested in other things. So when I would tell people I really wanted to see The Wrestler, the immediate response I got was, “Oh man, I thought you outgrew that s***.” In truth, you don’t to know anything about professional wrestling to appreciate this film.

The Wrestler tells the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke). During the opening credits, we see images of Randy in his prime in the 1980s. But we soon see him in a very different position twenty years later. He still wrestles, but in very small venues for little pay. He also works at a super-market to help make a living. One a positive note, he’s befriended a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). After a life-threatening accident, Randy tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood).

It’s impossible not to talk about the film without praising Rourke’s performance. I do think people focus too much on the performance and don’t recognize The Wrestler as the great film it is. That said…Rourke truly is remarkable here. It’s very sad to see how his life has spiraled down, mainly because you really like Randy and he’s a very interesting character. We want things to work out for him, so it’s very dramatic when things don’t. I also really dig the performances from Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Just two great actors playing great characters. Director Darren Arnofosky employs a documentary style of filming (though the camera itself isn’t a character). This works really well as it makes the events your watching feel all the more real. In short, the film is incredible. One of the finest character studies of the decade.

8. A History of Violence

Release date: September 23rd, 2005

Written by: Josh Olson

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, Ashton Holmes, and William Hurt

Here we have a movie that I really didn’t know what to expect before I saw it. Outside of Lord of the Rings, I hadn’t seen any of Mortensen’s other works and was overall unfamiliar with the cast, with the exception of Ed Harris. I however had seen and loved Cronenberg’s 1986 film, The Fly. While a very different film, A History of Violence is just as good, if not better, than The Fly.

The film centers around Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) and his family. Tom has a very ideal and peaceful life. He loves his family and they love him, and he makes a good living running the local restaurant. But all that changes when two men attempt to rob his restaurant. In an effort to save the life of one of his employees, Tom attacks and kills the two men. He is celebrated as a hero and soon finds his story on the news. Shortly after, a group of men arrive lead by Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris). These men claim Tom is not who he says, and is in fact a criminal.

The plot is simple, but there are a lot of clever themes in it. Really, the film is a study of violence and the human obsession with it. On top of that, the story is very, very compelling. You really do care about Tom and his family. All the actors do a great job, especially Viggo Mortensen has Tom Stall. Your opinion of him completely shifts as the film progresses. Maria Bello plays his wife, Edie. The chemistry between the two is good and they feel like your everyday married couple. The same could be said for the relationship between Tom and his son Jack (Ashton Holmes). Ed Harris is also fantastic and is a very threatening presence. William Hurt is also great in a small, but very memorable performance. I also love the way Cronenberg shoots the violence. It’s so brutal and feels very real. I found myself several times watching the film going “HOLY S***”. Like The Wrestler, this is one of the best character studies of the decade.

7. Casino Royale

Release date: November 17th, 2006

Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, and Giancarlo Giannini

I’m a huge James Bond fan. I love the movies. I always have, and I always will. This decade was definitely a mixed one for Bond. In 2002, we had Brosnan’s final outing as Bond in Die Another Day, widely considered the worst of the series. Then in 2008, we had Quantum of Solace which while not really that bad, wasn’t anything special either. But in 2006, we had one of the best entries of the series in Casino Royale.

Casino Royale reboots the franchise and shows us a younger Bond (Daniel Craig) and his early days as a double 0. One of his first missions is to take down a banker known as Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who funds terrorism. Le Chiffre had recently lost a terrorist groups money and as you can imagine, they want it back. In order to do this, Le Chiffre has decided to set up a high stakes poker game to win the money the pay back the terrorists. The plan is for Bond to go in and beat him and Poker and take the winnings.

Despite its overall simplicity, this story is one of the best in Bond franchise history.You actually get pretty into the story and you really wanna see Bond succeed. The main reason for this is Craig’s excellent performance as James Bond. Craig has probably my favourite interpretation of the character since Sean Connery. His portrayal brought Bond back to his roots. He was dark, gritty, violent, and cold. His portrayal was so good in fact, that some people thought he might actually get an Oscar nomination (though he didn’t). I also loved the Bond girl in this film, Vesper Lynn played by Eva Green. Unlike a lot of Bond girls, Vesper is more than just a shallow hottie, she actually is a character. An independent woman who could at times get the better of Bond. The two had great chemistry and you actually care about the relationship between the two. Now the villains may not go down in the hall of fame of great Bond nemeses, I thought they were fine all the same. Of all the Bond film, I’d say this one has the best action scenes. Director Martin Campbell really knows how to shoot action as all of the action scenes here are exciting, intense, and a lot of fun. All in all, Casino Royale is the best Bond film since the 1964 Goldfinger.

6. Minority Report

Release date: June 21st, 2002

Written by: Scott Frank, Jon Cohen, and John August

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrel, Samantha Morton, and Kathryn Morris

An emerging theme in film after the 9/11 attacks was the measures on pursing crime. What were the limits if anyway, on how we approach crime fighting. Where is the line we can’t cross? One of the best films to tackle this subject was Spielberg’s Minority Report.

The year is 2054, there hasn’t been a murder in Washington in six years. This is done through a system known as Precrime. Precrime is a system used by the police of Washington to stop a murder before it happens. The way it works is there are three people, known as Precogs, who can see murders before they happen. They receive visions which are shown to the Precrime officers, who then find the future perpetrator and “halo” them. But when Precrime officer John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is identified as a future murderer, he finds himself on the run trying to clear his name.

I think this is a brilliant concept. Just presenting the idea of a world where we can predict murders before they happen is an awesome idea which leads to some interesting questions. And I also dig the wrongfully accused man on the run type story at work here. What makes it work is Tom Cruise as Anderton. Say what you will about Cruise, but he is a great actor and he as a tough job in the film as he is the only character we spend a tremendous amount of time with. In addition to being on the run, Anderton has a very emotional arc in the film and Cruise also captures that flawlessly. The rest of the cast here is good as well. Collin Farrel plays Danny Witwer, who serves as the primary antagonist as he is the one relentlessly pursuing John. What’s interesting is as much as you want John clear his name, you don’t hate Danny. He isn’t a bad guy, he’s just doing his job. With this, Spielberg also creates some of the best action scenes of his career. Everything you see here is top-notch and on the same level as the best of the Indiana Jones series (also directed by Spielberg). But the major reason I appreciate the film is the story, and all the themes and questions it brings up. Minority Report is that rare film that functions on multiple levels. It functions as an adventure film, as social commentary, as speculative fiction, and as a character study.

  1. ianthecool says:

    Minority is pretty outstanding. I had it in my top ten as well. I really liked Casino Royale and I’m not an overly big Bond fan.

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