53. Assassination of a High School President

Inhabits the high school film noir genre of Brick and Veronica Mars.  Not really in the same ballpark as either one, but those are lofty heights.  Like both (and any good noir), this film is pretty dark.  After this and Rocket Science, Reece Thompson probably deserves to break out a little more.  Not sure his part in Daydream Nation will be that role, but I sure hope so.  Bruce Willis is pretty entertaining, of course.  And six months in retrospect, Mischa Barton’s character reminds me a lot of Eva Green’s in The Dreamers.

52. Avatar

We’ve spilled plenty of virtual ink on this one.  And we keep coming back to the same conclusion: John makes no sense at all.  I won’t rehash all my arguments about why I think the plot’s similarity to other colonizer/native tales is irrelevant.  But it doesn’t matter from where a film’s story comes, just that it is engaging.  And Avatar doesn’t merit high marks on that front.  Sure, it is visually stunning.  For me, that’s not enough.

51. Ong Bak 2

OK, first, if you haven’t seen Ong Bak, stop what you are doing and go experience the wonder that is Tony Jaa.  The man is ridiculous.  Now that you’ve seen the film, maybe you could explain to me how this one is a prequel in anything other than name?  Not that it really matters, I suppose.  Tony Jaa takes way too long to show up in this film.  Sure, I guess we technically need a backstory.  But who is watching this for anything other than Tony Jaa being really awesome?  Really, the last third of the film is its salvation, particularly the final fight scene.  Which, OK, takes up most of the last third.

50. Crank: High Voltage

I really really liked the first Crank.  Pure insanity that translated into nonstop fun.  I’m not sure it was ever possible to top it by going one better on the same tropes, but Neveldine/Taylor weren’t up to the tasks.  This one is still fun (and still totally off-the-wall), but it doesn’t feel quite as fresh and it isn’t quite as entertaining.  I don’t want to call Neveldine/Taylor lazy, because they obviously aren’t, but at times it felt pointless to just rehash scenes and subplots from the first film.  Jason Statham is still awesome, though.  And Amy Smart is really hot.  Not a huge Bai Ling fan, I gotta say.

49. The Killing Room

Wrote about this one a little.  A worthy addition to the puzzle-horror genre.  More Cube than Saw, which is A-OK in my book.  I wasn’t completely sold on the ending.  And I might have either focused entirely on the room or done more to integrate the observation area.  The casting was spot on.  Peter Stormare gets to be creepy.  Nick Cannon does a pretty good job being crazy.  And Timothy Hutton won an Oscar that one time.

48. Sin Nombre

I’ll be honest, I watched this one over eight months ago and it didn’t totally stick with me.  It was darker than I was expecting.  And descriptions I had read led me to believe the movie took place entirely on a train, which just isn’t true.  And that it was a thriller, which isn’t really true.  But there’s plenty to like.  It feels pretty wrong to call both this one and Crossing Over movies about the border.

47. Splinterheads

In a shocking twist, this film is about a dorky guy chasing after an impossibly attractive girl.  I never watch those!  Brian caught me watching the trailer and said he had never heard of it, I replied that it wasn’t exactly a widely-seen movie.  And according to Box Office Mojo, it was not seen to the tune of $16,392 in theaters.  Really, though, it is a perfectly decent movie.  Thomas Middleditch (who to me looks like a dorkier Seth Meyers) is a small town nobody who gets snookered (twice!) by  Rachael Taylor (who you may remember from Transformers or if you are me, Bottle Shock).  She’s a splinterhead (totally different from a carnie, as she’d be happy to tell you) with a rather nasty boyfriend.  Anyway, you can imagine the rest of the film, but her quirk is that she loves geocaching.  Which certainly is a unique twist.  The subplots are rather odd, but the cast is surprisingly interesting, with Christopher McDonald, Lea Thompson, and Frankie Faison.

46. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

This one had a brief run of Oscar buzz.  May have even made our super secret behind the scenes spreadsheet at one point.  Robin Wright Penn is very good in it, but really the only way she would have had a shot is if she played the younger version of herself.  Which was adroitly done by Blake Lively.  I thought the film was a much more engaging depiction of suburban malaise than, say, Revolutionary Road.  The supporting cast is pretty fun.  Alan Arkin gets to play something different than his Little Miss Sunshine role.  Mario Bello and Winona Ryder were well cast as nervous wrecks (they play totally different characters, didn’t really see any connection between the two until just now).  Monica Bellucci shows up.  And frankly, there isn’t any good reason why Julianne Moore received Oscar buzz for her role in A Single Man and not here (not that she really deserved a statue for either one).  Oh, and this was part of the month of Zoe Kazan.

45. Broken Embraces

A Pedro Almodovar film about a director?  Talk about a cinephile’s wet dream!  I think this one received exactly the amount of awards attention it should have.  Generally solid stuff, but the pacing felt a little off at times, and I’m not sure the story tied together as well as it should have.  Maybe more interesting than memorable.  Penelope Cruz was fine (and fine).

44. Women in Trouble

Honestly, I’ve no clue what to do with this one.  Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez (The Eye, Gothika, Snakes on a Plane), the film is an ensemble piece where the different stories are very loosely connected.  I’m not entirely sure there’s a theme to all the segments (I mean, sure, women in trouble, but that’s a pretty cheap description.  Characters in a movie face problems?  Who woulda thunk?!).  One option would have been to dump some segments.  I think you could probably lose the one featuring Sarah Clarke and Simon Baker first, because as is, it felt very thin and pat.  The one with Marley Shelton, Garcelle Beauvais, and Josh Brolin would probably go next.  Even though Josh Brolin is kinda awesome.  Which would leave the movie with Connie Britton (Mrs. Coach!) as a uptight aunt with a secret, Emmanuelle Chriqui as a hooker who…well, honestly, she’s more of a connecting piece, but like heck am I dropping Chriqui wearing skimpy clothing from my movie.  And the two stars, Carla Gugino as porn legend Elektra Luxx and Adrianne Palicki (Tyra!) as an up and coming porn starlet.  I actually think the two characters are really solid, so I’m excited for the sequel, Elektra Luxx.  Gugino is the self-assured, self-aware, intelligent one.  And Palicki plays a well-meaning bubblehead to absolute perfection.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is actually in the movie, probably in its best scene.  You’ll have to watch the whole movie to find it and appreciate it.  (Though you can find it on Youtube, if you really must.)

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