Best Films of the Last 10 years? Lou Gaul’s choice of 10 best action films!

The Departed, Monahan's second produced screenplayImage via Wikipedia

Best films of the last decade range from ‘Avatar’ to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth

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Burlington County Times

New Year’s Day has come and gone and a new decade has begun.Before saying a final farewell to the last 10 years, here’s an alphabetical list of the 10 live-action films I feel had great impact between 2000 and 2009.Summing up the output of a 10 period is always a challenge and a joy. I don’t pretend to present this as the definitive list, but here is a handful of films that I believe will have lasting importance:“Avatar”: Although I didn’t put James Cameron’s epic on my top-10 films of 2009 list, the visually staggering work belongs on a list of the most important films of the decade due to its groundbreaking effects. With his $220 million-plus budget, the Oscar-winning filmmaker (“Titanic”) took us where no man has gone before in terms of visuals.Like it or not, “Avatar” — with its immersive 3-D and computer-created characters — points the direction in which cinema will be going in the future. Some (including me) may argue that “Avatar” lacks a story with an ounce of originality and that the images echo those of video games, but that doesn’t matter.Movie fans are flooding theaters to take Cameron’s unforgettable journey to a galaxy far, far away.It’s a mind-bending visual trip that has left audience members wanting more and cemented Cameron’s position as king of the film world. (2009; rated PG-13)“Brokeback Mountain”: In director Ang Lee’s groundbreaking tale, the late Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight’’) and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Jarhead’’) play two ranch hands who fall for each other while herding sheep through the mountains and then hide their relationship.The men continue to meet over two decades despite the fact that both marry, have families, and exist in narrow worlds where being involved in a gay relationship would destroy their lives.Based on the short story by Annie Proulx, the film is an important adult work punctuated by strong performances and complex emotions.It’s too bad the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to name it best picture (the minor ensemble film “Crash” won instead), though Lee did win best director. That slight by the academy won’t prevent people from viewing this heartfelt picture for many years to come. (2005; rated R)“The Dark Knight”: Batman (Christian Bale of “The Prestige”) challenges his most dangerous enemy, the Joker (the late Heath Ledger), in director Christopher Nolan’s inspired sequel to “Batman Begins” (2005).In the hands of Nolan, the psychotic Joker, played with fearless and frightening glee under smeared clown makeup by Ledger, is more of a terrorist than a supervillain. He soon turns Gotham City into a war zone and takes no prisoners in this compelling $180 million production.The villain’s chaos theory, especially in these dangerous times, chills a viewer to the bone while the film elevates comic-book-based entertainment to the level of an art film. (2008; Rated PG-13)“The Departed”: Director Martin Scorsese (“Raging Bull”), who won a well-deserved Oscar for this work, gathered a dream cast — including Jack Nicholson (“As Good as It Gets’’), Leonardo DiCaprio (“Titanic’’), Matt Damon (the “Bourne” franchise) and Mark Wahlberg (“Boogie Nights’’) — for this gritty Boston-set crime drama. In the picture, government officials are trying to infiltrate the Irish mob with an undercover officer while a gang kingpin is attempting to plant one of his underlings in the state police.As usual, Scorsese pulls no punches in a tale that uses corruption as a metaphor for urban political decay and how it proves the ultimate lethal weapon. (2006; rated R)“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”: In the cinematic universe of this quirky and insightful film, directed by French filmmaker Michel Gondry (“Be Kind Rewind”), people can be like pencils. Thanks to a questionable medical procedure, each person can have his or her own eraser to wipe away the memory of any mistakes — particularly messy romantic ones — from the past.Jim Carrey (“Disney’s A Christmas Carol”) plays a tightly wound guy who undergoes the operation to forget a free-spirited woman (Kate Winslet of “The Reader’’) and then comes to understand the precious nature of memories.Charlie Kaufman, whose writing credits include the offbeat favorites “Being John Malkovich’’ and “Adaptation,’’ penned the screenplay and created an inventive and decidedly different cinematic work.Ultimately, the film suggests that emotional traumas and challenges define us and make life worth living and that by removing them, we cheat ourselves of meaningful — if sometimes painful — life experiences. (2004; rated R)“Kill Bill, Vol. 1” and “Kill Bill, Vol. 2”: Incredibly talented movie-geek-filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, whose credits include “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown,” “Death Proof” and, most recently, “Inglourious Basterds,” had been planning this dazzling revenge tale for years.Tarantino redefines the action genre with this dialogue-driven doublebill fueled by visually striking battles (including one in which Uma Thurman wears a yellow jumpsuit in tribute to the late, great Bruce Lee in “Game of Death”), cool villains, feminist sensibilities, anime influences and echoes of exploitation films. (It was originally planned as one film, but, excited by the striking look of the $57 million production, which was shot mainly in China, the executives at Miramax Films jumped at the opportunity to turn the 200 minutes of footage into two films.)The basic plot follows a mysterious character named The Bride (Thurman), a deadly samurai sword-wielding assassin. She’s shot on her wedding day, goes into a coma, and then awakens hungry for revenge against a mobster named Bill (David Carradine, in a role originally designed for Warren Beatty, who — to his great regret, no doubt — passed).For fans of martial-arts movies and such fare, the “Kill Bill” installments marked the dawn of a new day in action cinema. (2003 and 2004; rated R)“The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King”: New Zealand director Peter Jackson took one of the biggest gambles and challenging assignments in Hollywood’s history with his massive adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth trilogy.New Line Cinema entrusted him with more than $300 million to make all three installments in a row. If the first one failed, the trilogy — as well as New Line Cinema — was doomed, but happily, Jackson understood the material.He knew how to put the complicated story — in which Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood of “Sin City’’) and his Hobbit friends are joined by human warriors, brave elves, and battle-ready dwarves to wage a battle against dark forces for control of Middle Earth — on the screen. The theme of people of different races and backgrounds working together to defeat a common evil threat certainly has a timely  element in today’s world.James Cameron has credited Jackson with inspiring him to move forward with “Avatar.” He did that after seeing Jackson’s computer-animated character, Gollum, in the trilogy.The last installment was rightfully crowned with well-deserved Oscars for best picture and director. (2001, 2002, 2003; rated PG-13)“Million Dollar Baby”: At an age when most people are giving up their jobs, retiring and working on their golf scores, Clint Eastwood, who was 74 when directing “Million Dollar Baby,” was at the top of his game.With this striking picture, which is structured like a father-daughter story, Eastwood uses his no-nonsense filmmaking style to tell the story of a poor young woman (Hilary Swank of “Boys Don’t Cry’’) who dreams of going the distance in the boxing ring and the veteran coach who guides her. Eastwood never took a simplistic “Rocky’’-like approach to the material.Thanks to terrific performances by Morgan Freeman (who plays an aging boxer with a pragmatic view of the world), Eastwood, Swank, and a realistic plot twist that raises issues about love, dignity and fate, the film becomes something quite extraordinary.The film won Oscars for best picture, director, actress (Swank) and supporting actor (Freeman). (2004; rated PG-13)“No Country for Old Men”: In this bitter, intoxicating and unforgettable drama, starring Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive”), Javier Bardem (“Collateral”), Josh Brolin (“American Gangster”) and Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald (“Gosford Park”), violence  results from the discovery of $2 million in drug money.Joel and Ethan Coen, whose credits include “Blood Simple,” “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski,” co-directed the compelling and shocking tale. The story is set in the 1980s, a time when traditional values were being discarded and drug-fueled violence was changing the landscape for old-school lawmen who couldn’t make sense of the new code of the West.The brothers also co-wrote the screenplay, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Cormac McCarthy. The film won Oscars for best picture, director, supporting actor (Bardem) and adapted screenplay. (2007; rated R)“Pan’s Labyrinth”: Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro (“Blade II”) created what might be described as a magical misery tour.In this compellingly dark gothic fairy tale for adults, a 12-year-old girl (Ivana Baquero) seeks refuge from her fascist stepfather by entering a magical labyrinth.During the hard-edged picture, she comes to believe those in her secret universe will help her cope with the dangers of the outside world and soon finds she can trust no one.Despite long stretches of gloom and doom, the brilliantly rendered import concludes with a sliver of light, a welcome touch after such a rewarding but draining viewing experience. (2006; rated R)Some other films from the last decade well-worth mentioning include:Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous,” Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down,” Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men,” David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence,” Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild,” Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton,” David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dv.,” Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River,” Lee Daniels’ “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s “Sin City,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” and Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air.”

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Hi I'm Vernon Goddard, retired and currently living in Lincoln having spent time abroad in France. My wife Carol and I are enjoying life away from having to make a living; instead we're making plenty of new friends in Lincoln. We have new plans for our time together and new adventures to achieve. Hell Lloyds TSB are still paying for it all and you taxpayers in the UK. So thanks ~ we really appreciate your regular contributions to our spending money. And why not stop and contribute on this site. If you have a view about anything I write you're welcome to post a comment or get in touch with me. When I'm not blogging, I write a little, garden a little less, drink and eat some, exercise when pushed, talk for Wales and think about the grandchildren. Well that's me. Gorseinonboy.
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