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The Shining (1980)
I am an avid fan of both Kubrick and Stephen King so perhaps I am a little bit biased in this review. But still, I simply cannot understand the critical slander that is often heaped on this film. It is nothing short of brilliance. Any even casual reader of King's novels understands the understated and claustrophobic terror that he conveys to your subconscious, the eerie images that creep into your mind when you wake up in the middle of the night and make it difficult for you to get back to sleep. "The Shining" is the only adaption of any of King's novels that I have seen that conveys these extremely unsettling images to the visual medium. Jack Nicholson gives one of the most hauntingly fascinating performances in film history in my opinion. The scene in which he slowly pursues Shelley Duvall up the stairs ("Gimme the bat, Wendy!") is absolutely horrifying, yet impossible to look away from, because you know you are witnessing great acting at its pinnacle. There are those who call Nicholson's performance "over the top" and "campy", but I simply do not agree. This movie belongs to Jack Nicholson, and he absolutely owns every single second he appears on screen. With possible arguments made for "Chinatown" and "About Schmidt", this has got to be the finest performance of his amazing career. Shelley Duvall is perhaps a bit overmatched (imagine Meryl Streep or Cybill Shepherd in her role), but she gives a respectable performance and the makeup team does a frighteningly terrific job in making her look progressively weary and haggard as the film goes on. And young Danny Lloyd is terrific in a role that must have been extremely difficult for a child his age to understand. Overall, I believe "The Shining" is a standard by which all other horror films should be measured and is infinitely more frightening than the never-ending and schlocky slasher pictures that seem to dominate the mainstream nowadays.
Batman Begins (2005)
Forget everything you know about the other Batman films; Batman Begins is in a class of its own. An amazingly powerful dramatic film that also features eye-popping action sequences, Batman Begins transcends the superhero film clichés to become one of the best films of 2005, and the first Batman film that is truly Oscar-worthy across the board. It would be hard for the incredible cast involved to miss, even with a mediocre director, but Christopher Nolan is brilliant in his treatment of the material, and the resulting film is absolutely sublime. Making the previous two Batman movies seem almost amateur by comparison, Batman Begins is The Caped Crusader finally captured properly on film. Absolutely amazing.
Fantastic...the best film of the year
Sideways is an incredible movie. Smart, hilarious, moving, and brilliantly acted, written, and directed. All five Best Picture nominees are deserving, but Sideways is on another level. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are sensational together; they play their characters so well that you will actually grow to believe they're best friends. Payne almost had a terrific movie with About Schmidt, but it failed to generate much interest with me other than Jack Nicholson's great performance; Sideways is a complete film, an outstanding achievement where everything works. It's so rare to find a movie that sticks with you long after you're done watching it; this one does. You'll want to watch it again and again. Hands down the best film of the year, and one of the best so far in the 21st century.