We'd Have Forgotten About Battle Royale If You Had Delivered A Single Decent Action Sequence, 2012
The opening Coal Miner's Running Man scenes are pretty solid, but it all boils down to this: they re-use the Saving Private Ryan D-Day stuff for a sequence where a stone-faced girl blows up a bunch of coolers. This movie's a stinker.
Lives up to the "John Carpenter makes martial arts" idea in freakishly wonderful fashion. Watching it a second time, I was completely taken with how cheap the sets are, the bargain store props, the terrible paint job...labors of love are rarely as good as this one.
Basically The Sixth Season Of Friday Night Lights, 2012
Pretty much designed to emotionally pummel the American male as much as possible, one can only imagine the impact it would have had if it wasn't for every dude's favorite post 9/11 hobby, which is crying all the time for no reason whatsoever. A solid, somewhat aimless documentary that shies away from trying to figure anything out, punctuated brilliantly by the moment midway through when a stressed, clearly ignored wife acknowledges her second place status with a tight-lipped "sometimes we have to remind him that he already has a family".
Making the case for understated performances better than any text ever will, this thing's critical success will hopefully usher in a new kind of period piece: one not based in the days of Downton Abbey, but instead those communist-dreading Cold War nights. Such hideous clothing, worn with intensity.
Ah, That's A Lot of Post-Punk, 2010
There's worse ways to spend six hours, even if this globetrotting terror fiesta happens to be so heavily front-loaded. So many wonderful performances in this, none more so than the lead, who makes cold blooded murder seem like the next, obvious step if one wishes to be a classy, contemporary gentleman.
Technically shouldn't be included on this list, as this viewer was incapable of staying awake throughout the duration of the film, but that could be treated as a statement of quality in and of itself. One of those rare films that would be drastically improved if it starred 50 Cent and were straight-to-streaming.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
The Bees Is Yours, 2010
A magnificent technical achievement from start to finish that is, at times, about as engaging as the memory of a hairbrush. This is a very demanding film, and yet it's absolutely worth whatever struggle watching it requires.
The most direct thriller in Johnnie To's recent run of perfection sees an old gunslinger with memory problems going after the killers of his grandchildren, with all the requisite bloodshed delivered in a series of setpieces, each more surreal than the last. The show is nearly stolen at times by its brilliant collection of character actors, but in the end, this is the Johnny Hallyday show.
The Winning Season
The Shoe Salesman Loves That Dragon Tattoo Girl, 2009
While it can't decide between being Half-Nelson or The Bad News Bears and ends up being less than both, the scene where Sam Rockwell physically shuts down Rooney Mara's pervy boyfriend only to admit that he probably isn't much different himself is note perfect, and a great example of well-played scumbaggery. This movie doesn't work, but that doesn't impact its watchability in the slightest.
Hyper-violent, exaggerated realism, occasionally overwrought: this is one of those crime flicks that leans a little too heavily on the desire to be labeled "epic", but there's worse ambitions in the world. It's probably the most accurately costumed Mafia film since the losers of Ghost Dog though, so some of the cockiness is earned.
Until The Light Takes Us
Oh, Shut The Fuck Up, 2008
There's definitely worse documentaries, but those are theoretical examples, and this is an actual movie that I actually watched. Constructed in a way that points to filmmakers irritated that their audience might include people who have never heard of the music or musicians they're obsessed with, this study of metal and murder should include an opening credit that says "point your browser to Wikipedia now", because that's the only way you'll be able to keep up with what the hell anyone is talking about.
More than just evidence that the Masters of Cinema series was outcooling Criterion from the jump, this Johnnie To crime thriller makes for a great partner to The Killer, replacing that film's bravura throwdown sequences with bizarre psycho-nightmare while hanging on to the basic "partners make it better" framework long enough to make all the late-film twists that much more exhilarating. There's also a great bathroom fight, so hopefully somebody is brewing a Youtube reel.
Hey, It's The Punisher, 2003
One of those great true stories that the brevity of film can chop too finely, there's enough crazy here to please but too little character development to cheer on. He was a cop, a bank robber, and a somewhat nihilistic fugitive: there's also a couple of sex scenes.
-Tucker Stone, 2012