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Top Ten Films… In a Series.

Ah, the beloved franchise. It’s a strange love/hate, demanding, volatile sort of relationship. Betrayal is a continuous theme. As is redemption. And occasionally… once in a blue moon… there’s exaltation. The franchise often features characters that are held to a special kind of standard, and in a way, requires greater care and alignment of the stars than other types of films. Mostly because the cost of failure is kind of scary (Disappointed fans are an emotional bunch… and not a little bit off). But they do reward exceptionalism with resounding shouts of approval that rumble across the globe. This decade seemed to be about returning to form in one way or another. So to those who managed to win/hold/reclaim our love, I say ‘Bravo!’ Enjoy the read.

10. Casino Royale (2006)

I owe Daniel Craig an apology. I was a doubter… a naysayer… a stubborn pessimist. In a way, it was unreasonable. I mean how much worse could it really get? After Dr. Christmas Jones and nightclubs made of ice and invisible cars and RACIAL PLASTIC SURGERY???? But Royale did more than simply erase the craptastic aftertaste of the last Bond film. It was a rebirth. And Craig is top notch, a perfect mix of steel and sentiment, which rightly earns him a place as the #2 Bond of all time (if you have to ask who #1 is, we just can’t be friends… ever).

9. Sin City (2005)

Technically, this has yet to actually become part of a series since Sin City 2 (2011- or so they say) has been up on IMDB for like a gazillion years. But this movie is just bee-yoo-tee-ful. If there was ever a case to be made for the benefits of shooting on video, this movie would serve as exhibit A-Z. I have to give it up to Robert Rodriguez, who is often hit or miss for me, but created something near magical with this film.

8. Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Fine J.J. Abrams, you win. You know how to do shit. I will now dutifully sit through every episode of what remains of that utterly confusing show of yours and not complain about how it’s actually ruining my life. Because you brought IMF back to its former glory, because you gave us a kick-ass villain in Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, because you –at least for the length of this film— made us all forget that the star of your movie seems intent on proving that he’s absolutely bat-shit out of his mind.

Also, who doesn’t want a mask machine?

So, okay. Abrams: 1, Kwon: 0. Are you happy??

7. Star Trek (2009)

… Abrams: 2, Kwon: forfeit.

Sorry about my tantrum, J.J. You really are a spectacular director. And you write well. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’re the reason I don’t completely hate Armageddon (1998). And credit where credit is due, not many can pull off a film that’s essentially a prequel, sequel and reboot, all in one. Yay, you! Truly, I enjoyed this film thoroughly. Go. Direct. Be.. awesome, or whatever it is you do with the 847 jobs that you have. Whatever it is, it’s working for you.

6. Spider-man 2 (2004)

One of the decade’s most enjoyable sequels, for sure, due in large part to the unmistakable presence of an actual story. Conflict arises on various levels, forcing our hero to make very real and difficult choices… though that doesn’t stop director Sam Raimi from allowing his own brand of humor to have a real go of it. I never thought a single freeze frame could make me laugh so hard.

5. Iron Man (2008)

You go on, Favreau! Who knew The Fav could tackle action?? Mr. Vegas-Baby-Vegas, Jon Favreau himself. Seriously, this movie’s just awesome. A bulk of the credit undoubtedly goes to its star, but Favreau was notably wise to cast him in the first place. Such a treat.

And I just saw the trailer for Iron Man 2 (2010). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about it, to an almost embarrassing degree (Mickey Rourke!!!).

4. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Bourne films distinguish themselves from other action series due to the fact that they are wholly grounded in reality. There are no imaginary gadgets, no Herculean action shots and no smugly delivered one-liners. Each scene and situation is driven by the most basic of storytelling devices. Tension and suspense are brilliantly achieved through a sophisticated cat-and-mouse narrative, and an every day cell phone is as much a threat as an army of assassins. And at the center of it all is Matt Damon, whose portrayal of Jason Bourne is actually deceptively complex, much like the films themselves. Put all that together and you have the first thinking-person’s action franchise.

3. Ocean’s 11 (2001)

Everything about this movie is perfect. A clear, nearly impossible mission, a highly enjoyable cast, wonderful dialogue that only enhances the pitch perfect character dynamics, a formidable and worthy adversary, tons of humor, ample complications, a very non-annoying love story, the greatest mislead/ending ever, all delivered with a hidden Hollywood smile. It is also, in essence, the ultimate filmmaking allegory, which is –not surprisingly— handled impeccably by Steven Soderbergh.

2. X2: X-Men United (2003)

There are many things to love about this film: Nightcrawler breaks into the White House, Magneto’s plastic prison, Wolverine goes ape shit on some special ops guys, Mystique busts Magneto in the coolest way, Wolverine gets shot, bullets are totally worthless and Wolverine’s fine of course, Rogue falls out of a plane, Nightcrawler to the rescue!, mind-trippy make-out with Mystique, evil Brian Cox, Professor X trapped in Cerebro!, OMG are her nails growing adamantium?????

Yeah. Cool shit happens in this movie.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

In 1997, Batman was all but left to rot in a disgusting wasteland, courtesy of the Hollywood-Mutilation Plague. Enter Chris Nolan and his giant IMAX camera. Add one sharply written script, a skilled team of live-action stunt specialists, a stellar cast of proper actors and one tremendous musical score courtesy of Hans Zimmer. Film on location in Chicago. Replant by way of worldwide premiere. Watch Batman rise from the swampy hell of Schumacherland, as he helps prove that a blockbuster is only a true blockbuster, when it’s also a real movie. Thank you, Chris et al.

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