You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2011.

But first, a special shoutout to Amazon’s recommendation engine, which sent me an e-mail suggesting I might want to check out Wrong Side of Town.  Which, you no doubt recall, was my least favorite movie of the year.

124. Piranha 

I saw this film in 2D, so presumably I lost out on some of the camp.  But I think this film tried to so hard to let everyone know it was laughing at itself that it never adequately established anything to actually laugh at.  Don’t get me wrong, piranha chomping down on spring breakers is a great start for a film, but I’m going to need something more to keep me entertained for an hour and a half.  And yes, I suppose one could argue that something more should have been busty British model Kelly Brook in a bikini, out of a bikini, engaged in Sapphic tendencies, and generally indulging any number of frat boy fantasies.  That was too on the nose, for me.  I was more interested in girl next door Jessica Szohr (who was fantastic in What About Brian?), but that storyline never got off the ground.  Neither did the one with Elizabeth Shue and Adam Scott, sadly.  Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss, and Ving Rhames were all good in cameos, though.

123. The Square

Reviews of this film often describe it as an Austalian Coen Bros. noir.  I’d have to disagree.  Not with the Australian part, that’d be pretty presumptuous of me.  No, the plot wasn’t noir so much as darkly shot and with a lack of twists.  And given the diverse work of the brothers Coen, I’m not entirely certain what would prompt someone to compare a filmmaker to them.  To be fair, I have the same problems with No Country for Old Men that I do with this film, or at least I didn’t really get either.  The story focuses on a shady construction manager cheating on his wife and skimming profits off the construction job.  Extortion, arson, and murder soon follow.  I did like the main character (played by David Roberts), or at least the idea of him, as he got less and less sympathetic as the movie progressed and actually turned rather pathetic.  Also, the doggies were pretty great.

122. After.Life

Imdb claims this film was directed and co-written by someone named Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo.  I humbly submit that maybe imdb should lay off the bottle during work hours.  At first blush, it is a little confusing why After.Life didn’t make a bigger impact.  It stars Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, and Justin Long, and is listed as a horror film, which seems like it should have been good for a least a few million at the box office.  But the story, while interesting, is far from your typical slasher fare.  Liam Neeson plays a mortician who seemingly has the ability to communicate with the dead and help them on their way.  We’re big Liam Neeson fans on this here blog (or at least Adam and I are, don’t know about the others), and even in a disposable flick no one ever saw, he’s still nothing short of awesome, playing creepy as all get out.  Anyway, Christina Ricci’s character dies in a freak accident, and the film is about her refusing to believe it and trying to escape Neeson’s prep room, while Justin Long (her boyfriend) also refuses to come to grips with her death.  There’s an undercurrent of is she really dead that is kinda neat, but it can’t carry the movie, as it is seemingly expected to.

121. Shutter Island


Fun fact: Shutter Island is Martin Scorsese’s second-highest grossing film, and it only misses The Departed by $4 million.  Another fun fact: Shutter Island is a bloated mess of a movie and I cannot believe people are too mesmerized by Scorsese’s name to see that.  I normally run through casts in these recaps, but there are nine really awesome people in Shutter Island, so I probably can’t get to them all.  Oddly enough, that count doesn’t include Sir Ben Kingsley, who I never really liked and Leo DiCaprio, who is OK, but overrated (in my humble opinion).  But yeah, this film was a psychological thriller for people who don’t like psychological thrillers, but want to say they do.  I honestly think that if the movie were attributed to M. Night Shyamalan, people would a) believe it because so much of the movie is keyed off a twist; b) not have seen the movie; and c) grumbled about the continued declined of the helmer of The Sixth Sense.

120. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I made the mistake of watching this movie a week after I read the book.  It was a mistake because I had the story fresh in my mind, and I’m skeptical there was any way for a movie to stay faithful to the six hundred page book.  (Though I guess we’ll see what David Fincher has to say about that.)  Of course, I didn’t really like the book.  I probably would have cut the first hundred pages (and last fifty), I felt it was salacious for no particular reason, and as a fan of locked room mysteries, I thought the mystery was below average.  Also, characters were constantly eating sandwiches.  But hey, people liked the book and the movie, so I suppose I may be the odd duck here.  Nah.  In trying to stay faithful to the story, I think the filmmakers took too many shortcuts and robbed the novel of what charm it did have.  I did really like Michael Nyqvist, and wished Noomi Rapace had a better platform on which to shine.

119. Another Year

We’ve already spent some time talking about this Oscar nominee, so I’ll try not to rehash too much.  Adam and I saw Another Year at E Street.  As soon as the credits started rolling we looked at each other and laughed.  Because we knew that we both disliked it and that we were sure John was going to love it.  John talks about how the movie sacrifices plot for theme, and makes the excellent point that such a substitution isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  A conversation can be fascinating to watch.  But so much of this movie is boring conversations.  As John points out, Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play a perfectly normal couple, happily in love.  Which…isn’t fascinating to watch.  And yes, Lesley Manville playing against them in fun.  For a little, maybe.  I’m pretty upset at how the Oscar’s Best Original Screenplay nominations went down, in case that isn’t clear by now.

118. Agora

Just because I don’t like a movie doesn’t mean other people won’t.  Good taste isn’t universal, after all.  I’ve recommended Agora to a friend, because I thought he’d be intrigued by the film’s religious themes.  Some (or publicists trying to stir up controversy) have said the film is an indictment of Christianity or read into it something about American politics.  Which, I dunno, seems to me to be seeing what you want to see.  In the film, which takes place in the 4th and 5th century, Rachel Weisz plays Hypatia of Alexandria, a teacher of astronomy and avowed atheist.  Her fascination with the stars and learning leaves her no time or desire for religion, politics, or even boys, though she’s got a couple after her, including her student (Oscar Isaac) who becomes the governor and her slave (Max Minghella).  The problem, for me, is that the stakes were never sufficiently raised.  So we get some decent enough swords and sandals action and some tragedy, but no reason to really care.

117. Tamara Drewe

I so desperately wanted to like Tamara Drewe.  I loved the trailer, the film is directed by Stephen Frears, who did High Fidelity and I’m madly in love with Gemma Arterton.  Plus Dominic Cooper playing, improbably, a bad boy rock star.  The trailer, poster, and title are misleading, though.  While Tamara Drewe may be the catalyst that puts things into action, the film has a sprawling cast of characters.  Most of whom I wanted to smack upside the head.  And then downside the head, were such a thing possible.  Tamara is, if you’ll pardon my French, something of a bitch.  Her neighbors run a writer’s retreat, populated by nitwits.  They are a husband and wife, the husband is a famous author who doesn’t appreciate his wife, sleeps around, etc., the wife is the opposite.  She eventually ends up with one of the writers, who appears to be a poor man’s Bob Balaban.  Which doesn’t make any sense, I know.  The most interesting subplot, probably, involves a couple of schoolgirls who are in love with Cooper and start stalking him and meddling in his affairs.  In most cases like this, I’d suggest a more successful film would have narrowed its focus.  Which is true here.  But also, I think you need at least one character the audience actually wants to spend more time with.

116. I Am Love

I had really low expectations for this Oscar-nominated film, because it was universally described in terms like “sumptuous” and “a visual feast” that maybe made me hungry, but not really want to see a movie.  I get what people are saying, though, and I don’t necessarily disagree.  There are any number of lovely-looking scenes and costumes and whatnot.  So that’s nice.  Also, people who seems to know these things say that Tilda Swinton (who isn’t fluent in Italian or Russian) adopted a flawless Italian accent as spoken by someone from Russia, as her character was.  Which kinda boggles my mind.  After five years of Spanish, I could just about order at Taco Bell, so the idea of somebody being able to speak like that is kind of incredible.  Replaying this movie in my head, a lot of the film plays out like a commercial for a cologne or perfume.  The themes of family and temptation and food do seem very Italian, not that I would know.

115. The Experiment

You’ve most likely heard of the infamous Stanford prison experiment, a study where volunteers were placed in a mock prison, some of who made “prisoners” and others “guards”, with the results that people have a scary ability to adapt to the roles in which they are placed.  This movie, starring Oscar winners Adrian Brody and Forest Whitaker, along with Cam Gigandet, Clifton Collins, Jr., and David Banner, is a dramatization of the experiment.  Since the conclusion of the experiment is fairly well known, crucial to the execution of the film, in my opinion, is establishing an understanding of why people acted how they did.  And I don’t believe the film ever quite accomplishes that.  It also wastes a little time at the beginning, like the scene with Maggie Grace is completely gratuitous (in that the plot it advances could have been covered in one line of dialogue).  That said, I think there’s still some stigma attached to a film gong direct to video, which The Experiment did, and this film suggests it is unwarranted.  Sure, the film had its fair share of flaws, but while it probably have had some difficult finding traction in theaters, there’s every reason to believe it can find a loyal audience on DVD.

But first a special shoutout to Becca.  At least three people are reading these things!  Becca claims she’s laughed at loud multiple times while reading my posts.  She was kind enough not to specify whether that’s due to my rapier-like wit or my general lack of understanding of the English language.

134. The Fighter

I’ve made my feelings on The Fighter pretty clear in prior posts.  To briefly recap, like everyone else I’m fine with the acting awards, but everything else about the film is terrible.  In particular, I find the script to handle time very poorly and to derive unnecessarily wicked glee at insulting powhitetrash, and the boxing scenes to be pretty atrociously done (Mark Wahlberg has boasted that the scenes were shot in less time than planned, and I think it shows).  Now, a lot of people think differently than I do, some of whom I even respect.  The only logical conclusion I can draw is that Wahlberg has personally intimidated each and every one of them.

133. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Saw this one in a plane.  Though I was going to see it anyway, because of my Nic Cage fetish, which is totally normal.  Maybe I’m jaded, but to me, the film felt more like an origin story for a franchise than a standalone adventure.  Which may be for the best, because I heart Cage and Jay Baruchel way too much for them to be mired in more of these clunkers.  I imagine I lost out on the special effects, watching on those tiny plane monitors and all, but they rarely sway me anyway, especially when the dialogue is as awkward as it is here.  Not really relevant, but decades-old jokes about plane food aside, if you are ever fortunate enough to sit in first on a United flight where they are serving a meal, chow down, it is fairly decent stuff.

132. Just Wright

Unsurprisingly, I’ll watch just about any sports-related romcom.  Even basketball, which is a silly, heightist sport.  If you missed this one, Queen Latifah plays a physical therapist who after a meet-cute begins privately treating a veteran NBA star (Common).  Meanwhile, her attractive best friend (Paula Patton) who wants nothing more out of like than to be a trophy wife, starts dating said NBA star.  Love triangle!  The film’s problems may have started with Common’s character, who is just incredibly milquetoast.  There’s making a supposed celebrity down to earth and there’s making him like your uncle Mort.  Which maybe was needed to believe a celebrity would ever go for a girl like Queen Latifah over one like Paula Patton?  Also, I have a lot of respect for Common, I enjoy his music, but here he is just so wooden.  (I was going to make a John Wooden pun, but it would have been both stupid and over my head).  All of the characters lack nuance, really.  Which bleeds into their relationships, which are more assumed than ever really demonstrated.  Phylicia Rashad and Pam Grier are pretty awesome, naturally.

131. The Runaways

The name is something of a misnomer, as the script was based off of Cherie Currie’s book and I read somewhere that the producers were unable to get the rights to all of the band members.  So you have Alia Shawkat and Scout Taylor-Compton in the background in some scenes, but the film pretty much focuses on Currie and Jett.  The film made some noise because of the intimate scenes between Kristen Stewart and 16 year old  Dakota Fanning, and hey, did I just see Brian put the film in his queue?  Which, yeah, they do exist, but the sexualization of Cherie Currie is a significant point the film is trying to make.  I don’t think writer/director Floria Sigismondi really tells a very good story here, though.  I think she, like the world she depicts, gets so distracted by Cherie Currie, she fails to see how the whole band is needed to at least fill in the details.  I’m admittedly not super familiar with the story of The Runaways, but I’m not really that much more so after watching the film.  I thought Michael Shannon was pretty fantastic as the band’s completely over the top manager.

130. Grown Ups

I’m pretty sure I saw this one on a plane.  That’s the story I’m sticking with, at any rate.  The film is incredibly broad, with all the physical comedy and blindingly obvious life lessons you’d (sadly) expect out of an Adam Sandler movie these days.  It isn’t worth rehashing the story, as the plot is incidental at best, missing at worst.  The frustrating part to me isn’t that the film took in $160 million, it is that no one seems to be willing to try a movie that is even just a little bit…”smarter” is the wrong word, but it is the best I got.  You’ve got so many people who are so talented at being funny on broad scale, why not widen the audience just a little bit more?  I’m not saying cut Kevin James’s pratfalls, but the arc where Adam Sandler’s kids are obnoxiously over the top spoiled and they learn what it is to be a kid or whatever, that’s something you can make actually meaningful, with a little effort.

129. Valentine’s Day

More evidence that stars are nothing without a good script.  I mean, hey, the star power got me to see the film, I’m not suggesting producers stop paying big bucks for famous people.  I think it is pretty interesting to compare Love Actually, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Valentine’s Day.  Because for me, while I do remember the actors in each, what really sticks out in each are the memorable storylines.  For Love Actually, that’s just about all of them.  In He’s Just Not That Into You, it is Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly, and Justin Long’s stories.  In this one, well, there sure were a lot of pretty people.  And that what these things have become: let’s see how many famous people we can cram into a movie.  It has to stop soon.  Right?

128. The Switch

Allan Loeb is well on his way to joining the ranks of my least favorite screenwriters.  He’s going to have to work on it a little, though, because he’s not quite at the point of sucking all the interest out of interesting topics (though 21 suggests he’s close).  There’s nothing bad about The Switch, per se, but there’s nothing good about it either.  There’s just nothing.  It isn’t funny or dramatic, but it isn’t sad or melodramatic.  Part of it is may be that Justin Bateman and Jennifer Aniston, when you get down to it, really are both straight men.  Left without anyone funny to play off of.  Maybe if Jeff Goldblum had a bigger (or relevant, at least) role?  Or if Patrick Wilson, who I love, wasn’t also written as a straight man?  The premise is a stretch, but it probably could have worked, in more capable hands.

127. Animal Kingdom

What a badass poster.  Wow.  John and I discussed the film a little in our Supporting Actress recap.  In case you missed it, I was watching this film with Brian at his place, and apparently was knocked out cold.  Brian said nothing, even shooting a nerf gun at me, could wake me up.  I did go back and watched what I had missed.  The movie may the most boring film ever described as a crime drama.  You know what’s exciting?  Crime!  You know what isn’t exciting?  People talking about crimes about which you have almost no context.  Jacki Weaver was good, and with a character written how it should have been, she’d be Oscar-worthy.

126. The Six Wives of Henry Lefay

Oddly enough, I was in a 7-11 with Brian last week when he pointed this movie out to me on the rack of misshapen movies that 7-11 always has and asked if I’d heard of it.  I’d seen it, of course.  One has to keep current on one’s Tim Allen movies.  It is a little hard to recap this movie because what I would consider the movie’s twists were all revealed in one trailer I saw.  But basically Tim Allen owns a small local chain of businesses, has been married five (or six!) times.  He comes back from a vacation in Mexico in a coffin.  Hilarity ensues as all of Tim Allen’s past and present wives (in no particular order: Jenna Elfman, Andie MacDowell, Lindsey Sloane, Paz Vega, Jenna Dewan, and S. Epatha Merkerson, if I remember correctly) fight over the funeral arrangements.  And Elisha Cuthbert, who is surprisingly good here, stars as Tim Allen’s daughter.  There’s a good movie in here somewhere, and you could probably keep this same cast.  But when you are asking Elisha Cuthbert to carry a movie, and she isn’t looking like she did in The Girl Next Door (to be fair, that’s Hall of Fame attractive), you need to have some sort of focus in the film.  But so much time is wasted on Cuthbert’s personal sideplot (Chris Klein is involved, which should tell you all you need to know) and establishing how crazy all of the wives are, that the various twists lose their impact.  And the ending just fizzles out.

125.  The Oxford Murders

I’ve actually read the novel on which the film was based, it is a kind of mathy knockoff of The Da Vinci Code, only with all the charm you’d expect of a mathematician writing a book.  And I say that as someone who did math team for three years.  Anyway, I’m not here to review underwhelming books, I’m here to review underwhelming movies.  The casting is way off here.  I don’t know if maybe all first, second, and third choices turned the producers down after reading the script or what, but no one feels comfortable in their roles.  I don’t have any feelings either way on Elijah Wood, but between him and writer/director Alex de la Iglesia (who co-wrote with Jorge Guerricaechevarria, who I mention not only because he has a completely absurd last time but because it is the same team who did The Perfect Crime, which suddenly makes everything make sense), the decision to imbue the main character with pretty much no emotion or defining traits probably is one they want back.  I guess you could point your favorite math teacher to this film, they might thank you.  Or perhaps better, point your least favorite math teacher here.

First, a special shoutout to Xiaoyu.  Always nice to know someone is reading these.

144. Jonah Hex

If you didn’t know me, you’d probably think I’d learn at some point that most often a flop is a flop for a reason.  Fortunately my friends here will be more than happy to tell you I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Because the cast is generally pretty awesome (regardless of your opinion of Megan Fox, you can’t put this film’s faults on her), I’m placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of writers Neveldine and Taylor.  I liked Crank about as much as anyone else did, but I’ve seen Crank 2 and Gamer.  Increasingly, they are looking like one hit wonders.  I realize the whole point of Jonah Hex is the supernatural stuff, but frankly, I didn’t think it worked at all here.  I’m kinda curious how things would have played out as a more traditional Western.

143. Dorian Gray

I actually read The Picture of Dorian Gray relatively recently, maybe two or three years ago.  I’d had the book forever, but I’ve no clue from whence it came, and after three or four moves, I figured that if I was going to keep shlepping the book around, I might as well read it.  Anyway, the book, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a lot better than the movie.  The problem, I think, is that there’s really not enough action to support a feature-length film.  As a Twilight Zone episode, it would have killed.  Still, Colin Firth is in it, as is Ben Barnes (the guy from The Truth About Cats and Dogs, duh), and Bond girl Maryam d’Abo.  Don’t mind the Spanish in the poster image, I had to look extra special for one with Rebecca Hall.

142. The Freebie

I swear that having two Dax Shepard films in my bottom 15 has nothing to do with the fact that he’s with Kristen Bell.  I’m sure he’s a very lovely person.  In case you missed it, The Freebie is about a married couple who’ve become something more like platonic best friends.  With each afraid (or unwilling) to back down, they egg each other into talking about giving themselves a one night stand with a stranger.  After daring each other with the ground rules, they set a night for the fling.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that mumblecore is not for me.  Haven’t exactly figured out why, yet.  Maybe I prefer scripts with more polish?  Because the problem here, for me, was that it often felt like I was watching a normal, everyday couple.  Which I’m sure is exactly what director and co-star Katie Aselton was going for, but if I wanted boring, everyday life, I wouldn’t watch movies.

141. Due Date

Robert Downey, Jr.!  Zach Galifianakis!  From the director of The Hangover!  And yet, wow.  Forget the fact that the film isn’t funny at all.  It is so mean-spirited.  Robert Downey, Jr.’s character is a total prick.  And while it is refreshing for him not really to learn a lesson by the end of the film, it is really difficult to see him be a bastard for no apparent reason.  Galifianakis is playing his usual man-child, but the character doesn’t have any consistent character traits.  Another problem with the film is that so few of the subplots or jokes ever pay off.  I chose the poster of the dog…well, because I love doggies, but also because there’s absolutely no reason he is in the film.  Galifianakis carries him around in a couple of scenes, and that’s it.  Same thing, really, with Jamie Foxx, and it is a waste of Michelle Monaghan.  Oh, the ending scene is really worth watching, because  it sorta sums up what I’m talking about, in a very roundabout way.  But it is somewhat of a spoiler, so only watch if you don’t mind being somewhat spoiled.

140. Operation: Endgame

The week this hitman action comedy was released straight to DVD, film blogs were all atwitter about this film, with an incredibly bizarre ensemble including: Odette Annable (nee Yustman), Ellen Barkin, Rob Corddry, Zach Galifianakis, Beth Grant, Brandon T. Jackson, Maggie Q, Emilie de Ravin, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, and Jeffrey Tambor.  The script actually won a competition or two, though (naturally) was re-written.  The film is about a covert government organization employing hitmen, who are divided into two separate teams, though they all have cubicles in the same secure facility.  For whatever reason, the building begins a countdown to self-destruction, leaving the two teams to start killing each other as they try to figure out how to survive.  Theoretically, this film should have been the greatest thing ever.  Sadly, the fight scenes are just awful (even if they did let me fulfill a dream by seeing Adam Scott fighting), as is too often the case, “dark comedy” is code for “nothing is really funny, but not quite dramatic either.”  A real letdown, given the cast and premise.

139. The Last Song

I saw The Last Song on an airplane, so shut up.  For a Nicholas Sparks movie, I didn’t really get that emotional.  And, I mean, there were dying characters and tragedy and heartbreak and all sorts of stuff that theoretically should have been moving, but just wasn’t.  A lot of that is Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth being asked to carry more than they should, sure.  But if Greg Kinnear’s part didn’t do anything for me, that’s clearly a script thing.  Raylan’s boss from Justified (Nick Searcy) shows up, which is cool.  Someone in the production did have a sense of humor, though.  There’s a scene where Miley Cyrus is cruising in the car, listening to Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved”.  In that song’s music video, Kelly Preston plays the mother of Adam Levine’s ridiculous good-looking girlfriend (I won’t spoil the plot, the video is good, you should check it out.) and she plays Cyrus’s mother in this film.

138. Solitary Man

There was a brief moment where Michael Douglas was getting some Oscar buzz for his role in this film, and I was predicting it to nab him an Independent Spirit nomination.  But then everything sorta fizzled out, which is probably for the best.  In the film, Douglas plays a former car dealership magnate, who was ruined after some of his shady dealing came to light, and threw over his family in order to chase after much younger women (successfully, come on, he is Michael Douglas).  Solitary Man, which is by Koppelman and Levien (the Rounders guys, and we pretend they stopped making movies after that), doesn’t really add anything new to the older playboy who lost his way character.  Though it does get a little bit darker than I was expecting, which was nice.  The film boasts a rather fun supporting cast, not the least of which is Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg.  Also Imogen Poots, who I had refused to believe was real, because really?  That’s not a name.  But nope, she’s real and she’s fantastic.

137. Edge of Darkness

The film that was supposed to rehabilitate Mel Gibson’s image before The Beaver didn’t.  And theoretically, with a script co-written by William Monahan (The Departed) and directed by Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale), it really should have.  My opinion, though, is that Gibson only gets back on track with an action comedy that has broad appeal.  Anyway, Edge of Darkness was a muddled mess about Gibson investigating the murder of his daughter.  Turns out there was a conspiracy behind her killing.  Oh, whoops, should have put a spoiler alert there.  I think Gibson’s “Boston” accent moves around more than the plot does.

136. Biutiful

John did an excellent job summarizing our thoughts on the film.  Let’s face it, if John is bored by a film, there’s no hope for the rest of us.  As John mentions, there are three four disparate threads of Bardem’s life that never really go anywhere on their own, and certainly don’t tie up together.  I think a more successful film could have dealt with one of them.  Instead, we get the illegal immigrant employer, the guy with the crazy ex-wife, the dying family man, and the guy who can communicate with the dead.  All filtered through a lens of gray.  I know some people were blown away by Bardem’s performance, and maybe, but it was hard to tell through my drooping eyelids.

135. Leap Year

Actually the first 2010 movie I saw in theaters, if I remember correctly.  Saw it with my family in Florida during a comically ill-fated vacation.  The plot is chock full of classic romcom tropes: Amy Adams really wants to get married so she’s going to propose to her boyfriend (Adam Scott (really, Adam?  Two movies in my bottom 20?  Tsk.)) in Ireland, but through whatever plot contrivances, is forced to go on a road trip with the incredibly handsome Irishman (Matthew Goode) who is horribly mean to her at first, so you know they totally belong together.  Frankly, it is movie like this one that give romcoms a bad name.  It isn’t even how the plot is blindingly obvious, I don’t think.  It is that you have a characters who aren’t very nice, especially not to each other, falling in love for no particular reason other than maybe they are into some sort of bizarre mental S&M where they berate each other all night.  Also, the end, when she realizes Adam Scott doesn’t love her how she wants to be loved was pretty bogus.

If it is May, it must be time for year-end countdowns, right?  After my enormously successful 2009 list (hey, I got all the way down to #1 last year, I think that count as an unqualified success), I’m back again to recap the 2010 movies I watched.  I didn’t get to about fifty I wanted to, but you have to draw the line somewhere, you know?

154. Wrong Side of Town

Starting what has become an annual tradition, last year at Passover I went over to Adam’s, took down two bottles of Manichewitz (fortified only with some Passover granola and potato chips) and watched movies.  Adam, I should clarify, gets to drink quality alcohol.  After browsing through the movies streaming on Netflix, and helped a little by the fruit of the vine, we landed on this film.  Which was rather something of a mistake.  The film stars WWE wrestlers Rob Van Dam and Bautista and I think Ja Rule shows up for a scene.  Ostensibly it has some sort of plot involving a corrupt bar owner and somebody killing somebody else.  Even if I had been sober, it wouldn’t have really made much sense, I don’t think.  For a film starring a couple of wrestlers, there’s a surprising lack of action.  There’s also a surprising lack of…well, pretty much everything.  I’m really struggling to find any sort of redeeming value.  And with that, ladies and gentleman, I present my worst movie of the year.

153. MacGruber

I fell asleep watching this movie.  Twice.  I’ll admit, I was kinda excited to see MacGruber.  Not very many films are based off 20-second sketches, after all, and it tanked something fierce.  According to Box Office Mojo, the film made $5.6 million the first week it was in theaters, debuting in 2500 theaters.  $2.7 million the second week, dropping just five theaters.  $163,00 the third week, in only 177 theaters.  And that’s it.  But I learned some things.  Will Forte cannot headline a movie.  Kristen Wiig needs a lot of support to be funny.  Ryan Phillippe is only humorous in the same way Brandon Routh is humourous.  And Val Kilmer desperately needs to sign on to a Tarantino film for a career revival.

152. Life During Wartime

We covered Life During Wartime as part of our Independent Spirit chat.  To summarize, we all really really disliked it.  Every aspect of it.  Now, this film is apparently kinda sorta vaguely a sequel to Happiness, also by Todd Solondz, a movie none of us had seen.  So maybe armed with the knowledge from the first one, we would have had some concept of what was going on?  I’m skeptical.  Just a horrible film, as became apparent three minutes in and was consistently pounded into our skulls throughout.  But hey, at least I forced Brian and John to come over to my place to see it.

151. Howl

I’m very particular about shutting out all distractions when watching a movie I haven’t seen before.  Just doesn’t seem fair to rate a movie without giving it my full attention.  In the interest of full disclosure, that doesn’t hold true for two of the films on my list, Howl being one.  Because it was so readily apparent that the film was not for me, I started doing some work about twenty minutes into it.  Part of the movie actually was pretty interesting.  There’s a series of courtroom scenes from the trial to determine whether the poem was obscene.  Bob Balaban plays the judge, Jon Hamm the defense attorney and David Strathairn the prosecutor.  A series of witnesses are questioned, and if that’s all the movie was, it probably would have sat somewhere in the middle of my rankings.  But there’s a whole other half of the film, which seemed to be nothing more than James Franco reading the poem and then some animation.  And that, quite clearly, isn’t up my alley in the least.

150. Jack Goes Boating

Another Independent Spirit special, you may have seen some of our thoughts if you read our Spirit Awards chat.  The film was on my radar anyway, because I’m a huge fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who directed and played the main character.  The film garnered nominations for supporting actor John Ortiz and supporting actress Daphne Rubin-Vega.  Which, fine, I was probably too busy hating myself for watching the film to really take good notice of the actors.  The first screenplay nomination for Robert Glaudini is abominable, though.  Boring doesn’t even begin to describe how much nothing happened.  And the dialogue felt forced and unmemorable.  I really can’t think of any reason to recommend this movie, even if you really like Amy Ryan when she is on The Office.

149. Breaking Upwards

Ugh.  The New York hipster romantic comedy no one wanted.  OK, that’s a bit of an over-generalization.  The film is about a cutesy, uber-attached couple (co-screenwriters Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, playing a pair that really reminds me of the couple from the version I read of Miranda July’s screenplay for her upcoming The Future) who decide they should, slowly, disentangle themselves from each other’s lives.  I thought I was cool with twee, but this one was twee up the wazoo.  And man, I just loathed the characters.  Like, a lot.  It was cool, though, seeing Andrea Martin, and blog fave Olivia Thirlby has a cameo.

148. Yogi Bear

I really wanted to like Yogi Bear.  Sure, part of me was fascinated at the horrible reviews it received (13% on Rotten Tomatoes).  But I’m a huge Tom Cavanaugh fan.  And Anna Faris can be really funny.  So I wasn’t going into the movie looking to skewer it or anything.  But wow.  It failed on nearly every conceivable level.  I did come up with two good things about it.  Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake did spot-on Yogi and Boo Boo impressions, to the point where I would have been able to recognize their voices.  And the movies is pretty short, so the pain doesn’t last too long.  Otherwise, it is tough.  I have to imagine a number of hands were involved in the final script because the story is so thin and so nonsensical.  I didn’t watch in 3D, but the visuals seemed pretty bland to me.  And a number of funny people were turned into horrible unfunny ones.  The direction to Tom Cavanaugh appeared to have been: “Stand awkwardly with your hands on your hips and take a guess as to where Yogi will be, because we have no idea.”  There’s rarely a point to Anna Faris’s character being present, and her makeup made it look like someone had punched her in the face.  I’m increasingly a fan of T.J. Miller, and he was something of a bright spot, given what little he had to work with.

147. Alice in Wonderland

I’m not entirely certain where this movie first went wrong, but it did.  And in a hurry.  I’d say I refused to believe it was  Tim Burton film, but even regardless of the fact that it starts Johnny Depp (maybe it is just me, but I think the makeup makes him look like a demented Elijah Wood) and Helena Bonham Carter, the movie undoubtedly looks and feels like a Tim Burton film.  Of course, Burton’s laughing all the way to the bank.  If you hadn’t already heard how much the movie took in worldwide, take a guess.  Nope, higher.  Nope, still higher.  That’s right, a billion dollars.  So I can sit here and talk about how bad the movie was, but hey, give the people what they want.

146. Eat, Pray, Love

As we’ll continue to find out, I’ll watch absolutely anything that’s showing on a plane.  Including this one.  Which leaves open the chance that the edited version they show misses out on some F-bombs or some nudity or something, but generally speaking, I don’t believe the airlines tend to show heavily edited films.  I’m wondering, though, if that’s not the case with the version of Eat, Pray, Love that I saw, because someone apparently took the story out of the version I saw.  The title of the film is incredibly apt, because it is literally all that friggin’ happens.  Julia Roberts goes to one place and eats.  Then she goes to another and prays.  And then she goes to another and makes the happy time with Javier Bardem.  Whee.  Richard Jenkins is pretty awesome in it, though.  And there are some fun cameos, like James Franco and Mike O’Malley.  Which, while I’m pretty angry at director Ryan Murphy for wasting so much of my life with this and Glee, I do give him a lot of credit for resurrecting Mike O’Malley’s career.

145. When in Rome

I think what upsets me the most is that I can distinctly remembering defending When in Rome.  Everyone said it looked it terrible.  And sure, the poster looked nothing like Kristen Bell, and the cast was filled with people I don’t find funny (Will Arnett, Dax Shepard, Jon Heder).  But still, I argued it was worth a shot.  I mean, look, if the premise of a girl who messes with a fountain’s mojo and therefore has weird suitors magically following her around sounds stupid to you, then there’s no way the film ever could have done anything for you.  But I was OK with that.  What I wasn’t OK with was how incredibly stupid the whole thing was.  It was like they started with the idea and did a very poor job of ad libbing the actual script.  I wonder if something counts as a comedy if there’s never any punchlines.  At least, none that I could determine.  Kristen Bell deserves better, and I’m assuming she was forced at gunpoint to star in this.  Worse, there were actually fun people who were in this movie.  Like, when couldn’t Lee Pace have taken the Josh Duhamel role instead of being in the movie for one scene?  Or figure out better ways to use Kristen Schaal, Kate Micucci, and Alexis Dzenia.  I actually like Bobby Moynihan, but when he’s the funniest part of your movie, you have a problem.

In case you missed it, The Thin Man remake appears to be really and truly going forward.  As a fan of the series, I was pretty excited when I heard the rumors last year, so I’m glad it seems closer to happening.  Some may balk at the idea of messing with a classic.  But the original film had numerous sequels.  And as Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, Remington Steele (or Bones and Castle, if you prefer more recent incarnations) all show, attractive couples solving mysteries while engaging in non-stop witty repartee is a pretty timeless formula.

Rob Marshall is directing, which…I dunno.  Wouldn’t have been my first choice.  And Johnny Depp is playing Nick Charles, which should be interesting.  Depp clearly is capable of knocking a fast-talking smarter-than-thou boozehound out of the park.  So what of his wife, Nora?  The role, which vaulted Myrna Loy to stardom, requires a rather particular set of qualities.  Nora is a wealthy socialite who is every bit Nick’s equal in brains and alcohol tolerance.  And while they both may be familiar with the concept of manners, Nora is only one of the pair who actually puts them into practice, save for opportunities to take playful jabs at her husband.

Anyway, here are some names off the top of my head I’d toss out for Nora, if I got to cast her on an unlimited budget:

Rachel Weisz  is the first person who came to mind when I think about this.  And apparently, I’m not the only one.  Her performances in The Mummy and The Brothers Bloom suggest she’s got the comedic (both verbal and physical) chops needed to take on the role, and she does have an Oscar on the mantle.

Maybe it is my Bond-bias talking (if Gemma Arterton were about ten years older, this role would be perfect), but I think Rosamund Pike has been woefully underused.  I guess I haven’t really seen her in a straight comedic role yet, but she was cast in Johny English sequel, so someone thinks she can do it.  Compare her to Halle Berry in Die Another Day.  If she can so adroitly handle the quips there, she’ll do wonders with a more intelligent script.

Between Happy-Go-Lucky and Made in Dageham, Sally Hawkins clearly has the independent woman thing down.  Her Nora would perhaps be a little softer than Loy’s, but I think the only real question is how well she’d blend with Johnny Depp.

Frankly, I’m surprised Reese Witherspoon‘s name hasn’t come up more often.  Other than the whole being blond thing, she’s a fantastic fit.  If you only remember the romantic comedies, don’t forget she’s tackled two pretty big British works (Vanity Fair and The Importance of Being Earnest) and has an Oscar.  In a roundabout way, her June Carter is very much like Nora Charles.

I’ve always wanted to see Kate Winslet tackle a slightly less…depressing film.  She doesn’t have a rich comedy background, but she was pretty funny in Extras.  Nora Charles needs to fit in with the salt of the earth and high society, and I’m pretty certain Winslet could run that gamut.  Plus, she already successfully paired up once with Johnny Depp (you didn’t forget Finding Neverland was nominated for seven Oscars, did you?)

She’s actually turning 33 this month, Ginnifer Goodwin just plays young.  Don’t forget, Loy wasn’t a star until after the film.  And hey, it is my list, I’m allowed to play favorites if I want.  Besides, anyone who can handle Ed’s dialogue can take on the inevitable rat-a-tat lines that will be in this film’s script.

Of course, my Mom makes an excellent point.  All of this is pretty irrelevant.  The only casting decision that really matters is figuring out who is going to play Asta.

I always look forward to John’s posts on film festivals, and this year continues to justify that stance.  I was able to see a bunch of the films with him this year, so I figured I’d share what additional comments I could.  I’ll start off with the film I got to that John didn’t, then the one film I saw with he that he hasn’t recapped yet (I hope I don’t steal your thunder!) and then I’ll build on what John wrote for the films we saw together.

Outrage (Autoreiji), Japan, dir: Takeshi Kitano

I don’t know very much about Japanese cinema, so I can’t comment on Kitano’s previous work, other than that I’ve read he started out as a successful stand-up comedian and segued into gangster films for awhile.  I did recognize him, as I’m sure many other people my age would, from his roles in Battle Royale and the TV show “Takeshi’s Castle” (which, of course, was used for MXC)

Anyway, Outrage is a Yakuza movie about warring families/clans (apologies if nomenclature is incorrect) who operate within a larger group of clans.  About a half hour into the film, it becomes clear that the movie is really about who is going to kill who, and how twisted the death scene will be.

My fundamental problem with the film, and I’m not entirely certain to what extent it is a cultural thing, is that it felt like so much of the movie dealt with the bureaucracy of the Yakuza.  The guy at the top would order a kill, or imply that he wanted a kill.  His second in command would relay that order to the appropriate head of family, sometimes changing it slightly.  The head would pass on the order to his second in command, or perhaps ignore it.  The second in command passed it on to his henchmen, sometimes, who would execute the kill.  And then the information would go back up the chain a similar way.  Rinse and repeat.  Like the bloodiest game of telephone ever.

The other problem is that we don’t really get to know the characters.  And few of them have any sort of distinguishing characteristic.  So it is hard to care too much when they get offed.

Some of the kills were cool.  But I wouldn’t recommend to see the film just on that basis, there are plenty of movies with better death scenes, I think.   It isn’t a bad film, though, and if you are a mob movie fanatic or completist, it is probably worth your while.  C

Grouch who’d like it the most: If the film actually pulled off what it intended to, Adam.  As is, maybe Brian.

The Names of Love (Le noms de gens), France, dir: Michel Leclerc

As I mentioned, I really do look forward to John’s recaps and I’m curious to hear his thoughts on this film.  But as a romantic comedy with a subplot involving Jewishness, well, this movie was probably a little more up my alley.

Superficially, The Names of Love exhibits many of the hallmarks of the traditional romantic comedy.  Jacques Gamblin is your straitlaced leading man.  He’s a government official in charge of investigating avian deaths, does stuff by the book, and you can tell he is goody-goody because he wears glasses.  Sara Forestier is your impossibly attractive free-spirit of a leading lady.  They meet cute, get together, break up, and I won’t reveal the end.

But the film is much more layered than that.  We learn at the beginning (through flashbacks that are (500 Days of Summer by way of Amelie) that Forestier is the daughter of an Algerian father who came to France after the war and married a hippie.  We also learn that she was sexually abused as a teen, something the family tries to avoid talking about.  Gamblin is the son of two very staid technophiles who always get into better, but failed products (e.g. Betamax).  His immigrant grandparents were victims of the Holocaust, something the family tries to avoid talking about.

I bring all that up because in many ways the movie is about how so much of who we are is where we come from, whether we embrace it (as she does) or hide it (as he does).  But counter to that, the film is also about not letting where come from determine who we are.  There’s also a minor political bent to the film as she employs the tactic of sleeping with members of the opposite political party, in order to eventually persuade them to join her side.  And he continually votes for a losing candidate.

The film is also quite funny at times.  It has, hands down, the funniest Holocaust humor you’ll see all year.  Being French, the film is also maybe a touch more risque than our romantic comedies generally are.  But the nudity actually has a legitimate purpose here.  One other than establishing how crazy hot Sara Forestier is, I promise.  B+

The Robber

Honestly, I didn’t even think the action scenes were all that great.  An interesting premise, to be sure, but it never gets beyond that.  As John pointed out, we never really get to know the main character’s motivations.  Which was a problem to me, since finding out why and how he became a world class marathoner and bank robber were the primary things I wanted to know as the film played on.  I’m not saying this needs a Michael Bay remake or anything, but I could see the film being a lot more successful when done by an American writer and director who could put in some more interesting heist scenes and trim out the German nihilism.  C


John nailed this one.  It deals with the kind of sci-fi I love, but fell into the trap of films I often describe as being like a TV pilot: it started creating the beginnings of an interesting world and brought up tons of questions.  The premise isn’t that unlike Dollhouse, for example, especially second season.  As John said, to be more successful, the movie really had to focus in on the questions it wanted to tackle.  And I know it sounds weird, but the dubbing really was distracting.  B-

Home for Christmas

OK.  When you hear something like Love Actually, what do you think?  Probably something along the lines of a light, breezy, fun movie with a bunch of interconnected scenes.  Right?  I think that’s fair.  OK.  The very first scene of Home for Christmas ends with a child in the crosshairs of a sniper.  In any case, I disagree pretty strongly with John, here.  I didn’t think the film did a good job at all of eliciting emotions.  And when it did, it used rather cheap ploys.  It it a dark, dismal, drab tale.  Which can be fine, but this film never got past the surface of anything.   Two things I think Love Actually does well is tie the storylines together enough that it makes sense all the different threads were part of the same movie, and make each thread self-sufficient and interesting enough that it could stand on its own.  This movie does neither.  None of the stories go anywhere and they certainly don’t end up together.  D

Since the only thing that could make this series is better is gambling, Jared and I have each listed what we think will be the top 20 domestic box office films of the summer.

When the last movies released the last weekend of August depart theaters, we’ll circle back and see how we did.

My list:

1. Cars 2
2. Captain America
3.  Pirates of the Caribbean 4
4.  Kung Fu Panda 2
5.  Transformers 3
6. Harry Potter 7, Part II

7. Mr. Potter’s Penguins
8. Green Lantern
9. Cowboys vs. Aliens
10. X-Men First Class
11. Super 8
12. Zookeeper
13. Bridesmaids
14. Smurfs 3D
15. Thor
16. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
17. Friends With Benefits
18. Final Destination 5
19. Larry Crowne
20. 30 Minutes or Less

Jared’s List

1. Transformers 3
2. Pirates of the Caribbean 4
3.  Harry Potter VII, Part 2
4. Thor
5. X-Men First Class
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
7. Cars 2
8. Green Lantern
9. Kung Fu Panda 2
10. Spy Kids 4
11. Super 8
12. Cowboys vs. Aliens
13. Hangover 2
14. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
15. 30 Minutes or Less
16. Conan the Barbarian
17. Bridesmaids
18. Priest
19. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
20. Larry Crowne

Thanks for reading our past four installments. Hope you’ve enjoyed, and if Jared and I are lucky the movies covered in past posts and the ones below will be good enough to make repeat appearances come Oscar season (either as snubs or maybe even nominees!)


5. Thor – Sure, the fact that initial reviews are positive helps some. But to me, this movie seems less like a “comic book movie” and more like a plain ol’ badass film. Perhaps partially because this comic book hero is based in mythology. The trailer was sufficiently awesome, I thought. Also because the film is directed by noted Shakespearean Kenneth Branagh, who has been in saying in interviews he feels Thor’s story could be something out of the Bard’s writings. Also, I mean, any movie with Natalie Portman AND Kat Dennings? Come on. That’s just not fair. Fun fact about co-screenwriter Ashley Miller: According to imdb, he graduated from Thomas Jefferson HS in Virginia. Which was a quiz bowl (or It’s Academic, to use the term more familiar to us) archrival of the high school Brian and I attended.

4. X-Men: First Class – How does the saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me two, no, three, no, four times, shame on me? I really wasn’t a fan of the X-Men trilogy or the Wolverine spinoff. So what’s the difference here? Well, Bryan Singer isn’t directing and David Hayter isn’t writing, that’s a start. Matthew Vaughn has taken over the helm, and he’s got quite the filmography. Layer Cake is a great movie, one that made me believe Daniel Craig was a better choice than Clive Owen for Bond. Really, in a lot of ways, it is the Bond movie people think Casino Royale is. Stardust was a flop, and while it didn’t quite meet my admittedly lofty expectations, it is a must-see film. Even if only for De Niro’s best role since Wag the Dog, at least. And Kick-Ass, which I didn’t like as much as others, but still, I think the movies all combine to show Vaughn has a unique, refreshing, and eminently watchable style for action flicks. And the cast is all kinds of awesome, with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender excellent choices for eventual nemeses, Oliver Platt and Ray Wise lurking in the background, not to mention Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence and the underrated Rose Byrne.

3. 30 Minutes or Less – Let’s see. Original premise, fantastic-looking trailer, crazy hot buzz, directed by the guy who did Zombieland, with Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari? The film certainly has the pedigree to be the funniest film of the summer. So what’s keeping it off the #1 spot? Danny McBride. I realize I’m in a distinct minority here, so maybe I’m the one with a complete and total lack of a sense of humor. Or maybe there’s really nothing funny about Danny McBride. Sure, he was tolerable in Pineapple Express, but he still brought the movie down and was only supporting by everything else being so fantastic.

2. The Guard – I realize this pick is a little bit out there. But stay with me for a sec. The film played Sundance to generally favorable reviews. All of which seem to boil down to some variant of: Yeah, this totally isn’t In Bruges, it just also stars Brendan Gleeson, shares a sense of humor, has great action scenes bookended by hilarious musings on life, and oh yeah, was written and directed by the brother of the guy who wrote and directed In Bruges. So yeah. It also features Don Cheadle and Mark Strong (in a bad guy role, naturally). In Bruges was a favorite of this here blog, and The Guard sure looks to be shaping up as its successor.

1. Super 8 – Gavin was very much unimpressed when I said this movie was atop my list. “You don’t like J.J. Abrams”, he claimed. I’d counter that I like his ideas. Lost, Undercovers, if you want to count What About Brian, all were pretty great concepts. That, sure, didn’t finish as strong as they started. But he also directed Star Trek, which was fantastic. And worked on the screenplay for Armageddon. So there’s that. I also responded that I liked how no one really knew what the film was about. Gavin, of course, responded, “Cloverfield” Which, fair. But that was always a one-trick monster movie. This film appears to be shaping up as a scifi thriller with the depth you’d expect a Spielberg-produced film to have. Plus, any movie that nabs FNL‘s Coach has to have some idea what it is doing.


5. Harry Potter 7, Part II — Truth: part of the reason I have this so high is to defend my bold prediction last year that the last chapter of the Potter franchise would be the frontrunner in the Oscars Best Picture race this year. But I also am eager to see how things are wrapped up cinematically and most crucially, how the battle at Hogwarts will look. The Momma Weasley retort to Bellatrix LeStrange has the potential to be among the most cathartic movie experiences of the year — if done right. I was underwhelmed by the first half released last year, but that may have been intentional, with the unresolved loose ends and all. I wish that director David Yates had ignored J.K. Rowling’s cheezy and tacked on epilogue, but he didn’t. Maybe I’ll just leave the theater with a smile on my face before the final 5 minutes, but then again, I’m the guy who’s not supposed to care about endings.

4. Captain America: The First Avenger — I don’t understand Jared’s trepidation here. Not only do we get Nazi baddies, but we get to see one of the most iconic superheroes. Give me a movie where we’ve fought Nazis, and it hasn’t been good. Then, leading the enemy forces is Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull. Hugo Weaving — also an excellent bad guy. The trailers have only increased my anticipation, and Chris Evans looks to be the ideal guy for the role. We haven’t really gotten a sense of what Steve Rogers’ personality will be like — but I have confidence in Evans as he was one of my favorite parts of Scott Pilgrim. I may be one of the few defenders of The Phantom, a superhero movie of a pre-CGI era that was silly, goofy camp — but I get a similar light-hearted, America Fuck Yeah, feel for this one.

3.Green Lantern – I may have confused Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds in an earlier post written in a sleep-deprived haze, but the sentiment still stands; I like them both. With the release of each new trailer, my expectations continue to skyrocket. Back in the days of Justice League cartoons, the Green Lantern was my favorite character. The ring that can essentially do anything was like a kid’s imagination. What if you could….have a giant sledge hammer, or a saw, or a sword, or a baseball bat, or a HUGE FIST! Throw in Peter Sarsgaard as the creepy villain (the role he was born to play) and I’ll be there for the midnight showing.

2. 30 Minutes or LessJared hit most of the right notes in his preview. Zombieland remains one of my biggest surprise loves of all-time, with Jesse Eisenberg playing a large part in that (the ear tuck!), so consider that the reason why it’s so high on my list now. He’s also right about Danny McBride. No, Jared, you aren’t alone on this one. Danny McBride isn’t funny and never has been funny. Yet another knock on Will Ferrell. And considering that, at least based on the trailer, we could have at least one epic, hilarious bank heist? I mean, one thats intentionally funny unlike The Town?

1.  Super 8 I haven’t been this excited for a movie in a while, and the reasons why begins with Kyle Chandler as a lead character and ends with Spielberg producing. As a sucker for movies about fathers and sons, I’m loving that these two are involved in the movie. Friday Night Lights was all about Coach as the surrogate father to the Panthers and then the Lions and some of Spielberg’s best has focused on these themes as well. Some (Gavin) might call me an apologist for late-era Spielberg like Minority Report and War of the Worlds, but those were damn good crackerjack films that I’ll see again and again. The previews present a movie that looks like a mix of The Goonies, E.T., and Iron Giant — all solid films in their own rights. There’s even some early M. Night Shyamalan in there. Call me a sucker, but this has tear-jerking nostalgia written all over it. 

The penultimate of the series, in which Jared makes his most ridiculous pick for the summer and I reveal some hopelessly optimistic rankings.


10. Cowboys vs. Aliens – This movie has one of my widest ranges of expectations. Possibly because the cast and crew seem to have been randomly chosen. Five writers were given screenplay credits. Kurtzman and Orci are no strangers to big budget fare, but in my mind only have one hit (Star Trek) and a bunch of middling work (e.g. the Transformers films, The Island, The Legend of Zorro).  Damon Lindelof did Lost, of course.  And Fergus and Ostby are the Oscar-nominated writers behind Children of Men and Iron Man.  The cast features three of the strongest supporting players around in Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, and Walton Goggins, plus an incredibly oddly matched pair of leading men in Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.  Plus Olivia Wilde, still waiting to be given the chance to be more than a pretty face.  Director Jon Favreau notably started hedging his bets last year, pointing out that given then sheer number of blockbuster-type films, some movies will inevitably flop.  That’s the bad sort of foreshadowing, Jon.

9. Crazy Stupid Love – When Steve Carell is the weak point of your cast, you did something right.  Sure, the plot appears to be rather stock, with Carell the schlubby husband who’s lost something with his wife (Julianne Moore) only to get rejuvenated by ladies’ man Ryan Gosling, whose womanizing ways are stopped in their tracks by a crush on Emma Stone (which, I mean, duh).  Plus Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon are thrown into the mix.  Frankly, that’s a movie that’s going to be watchable three-quarters of the time and no worse than 10:1 to be really good.  Frankly, my only concern here is screenwriter Dan Fogelman.  Fogelman’s a hot property as of late.  He recently pitched a political film that apparently netted him seven figures after a five studio bidding war.  And the movie now has Tom Cruise attached.  I’m, however, still stuck on the fact that two of Fogelman’s prior credits include Cars and Fred Claus.

8. Larry Crowne – Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts have the luxury of picking out projects that they really really want to do.  So when they join up, I’m interested. The supporting cast is filled with fun people and Wilmer Valderrama. If you missed the trailer, well, the film looks pretty much exactly like the light-hearted romantic comedy teaching a life lesson you’d expect from Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. And while you may think that’d be enough to hook me (and you’d be right), here’s why I’m most excited: The last film written and directed by Tom Hanks?  That Thing You Do!

7. Something Borrowed – Brian’s made fun of me for this one. And maybe rightly so. But does this movie really so different from Crazy Stupid Love or Larry Crowne, other than having lower-wattage star power? Anyway, this film seems like you are going to get exactly what you expect out of it. I like that Kate Hudson is playing the “evil” role here, I think it will prove to be a nice departure from her previous roles.  Slotting into that role is Ginnifer Goodwin.  Who is nothing short of fantastic.  And I’m not just saying that because she played a recurring character on Ed.  I’m a little worried about this Colin Egglesfield guy, I’m not entirely convinced he is a real person.  But John Krasinski looks to be channeling some of his mojo from Away We Go, plus there’s Victoria (Cupcake Girl) from HIMYM and the funny Steve Howey.  What you really need to know, though, is the last feature film directed by Luke Greenfield (prior to this one, of course).  The Girl Next Door.

6. Green Lantern – Martin Campbell was a fascinating choice to direct this superhero movie.  He’s already directed two of the most famous superheroes in the world in three wildly popular films: Zorro in The Mask Of Zorro (and The Legend of Zorro, but let’s pretend that never happened) and James Bond in GoldenEye and Casino Royale.  So he’s clearly got the chops. Star Ryan Reynolds is well-deservedly starting to break out something fierce. And if you happened to catch Paper Man, you have no problem buying him as a superhero. I’ll admit, I was a little low on Blake Lively at first, but then I saw The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and like three million different magazine covers with her on it.  If there’s cause for concern, it is that the script comes from not super-heralded television writers.  But writing for No Ordinary Family probably will come in handy here.  Plus, as Adam will point out, if you cast Mark Strong as the bad guy, you are halfway to a good movie.


First off, a quick commentary. Something Borrowed, Jared? REALLY? That’s just terrible — if you watched Big Love, then maybe I could understand your Ginnifer Goodwin idolatry. But even THEN, its indefensible. I will probably mock you about this for months.

10. Hangover: Part II — I don’t really know why I have this so high as I have yet to laugh at pretty much anything in the trailer. I’m hoping the writers recapture the unpredictable mirth of the original and have a few tricks up their sleeves. The Mike Tyson cameo was ruined for the first one (and it seems he inexplicably comes back for Round 2), but I’d love it if there were some surprises this time. Also, going from a tiger to a monkey as the animal cast member is a big downgrade. So… hopeless optimism? Perhaps.

9. Horrible Bosses – As Jared mentioned, there’s no trailer or preview for this, so having this in my top 10 is a rather big risk. But the premise, of people murdering their bosses, is deliciously dark. Jared was wise to point out the “Motherfucker Jones” character, not to mention the rest of the cast. Jennifer Aniston’s comedic talents have been underrated since Office Space and even in really bad movies Jason Bateman makes me smile. I’m also banking on the July 8 release date being a vote of confidence from the studio. My hope is that the lack of a trailer means they want to do a sneak attack on moviegoers. Or it’s really bad. Ok, from here on in I am much more confident (and happy) with my choices.

8. Our Idiot Brother — I was shocked that this was so low on Jared’s list. Dreadful trailer he says? I thought it was great! In an inverse of my previous item, the only thing that gives me pause is the late August release date — it’s where movies are sent to die. You’re going to tell me a movie with Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Steve Coogan, Adam Scott and Emily Mortimer isn’t going to be good? It looks like a great extension of the Apatow manchildren, a role Paul Rudd specializes in, but moves him away from the self-aware schnook that he usually plays.

7. X-Men: First Class  — The more I see of this one, the higher up my list it goes. The alternate historical fiction, with the original X-Men saving the US during the Cuban Missile Crisis is right up my alley, and I find the mythology of the series to be among the most compelling of all superhero stories. The Xavier/Magneto relationship has a lot of heft to it, and I’m reasonabily confident that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender can pull it off. The younger, star-depleted cast should also provide a sense of vitality and promise — which is exactly what you’d want in an origin story. Unlike Wolverine — which we’ll just forget ever happened. Oh and the special effects look sick.

6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Speaking of unreal special effects, Andy Serkis is bringing it again in the resurrection of the franchise. I was taken aback by a number of setpieces in the trailer, and superintelligent monkeys are freaking scary. The acting looks rather bad, but if this one ends how I think it will end — then James Franco and Frieda Pinto will have to succumb to the simian overlords, and that’ll be fun to watch. In terms of a goofy, entertaining popcorn flick, it looks like this will be the last nail in the coffin of Tim Burton’s atrocious 2001 remake.

Our final five films tomorrow night!

In which we continue our countdown of the 25 films we are most looking forward to this summer season.


15. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – The original Planet of the Apes films hold a special place in my heart. They are the first films in the sci-fi vein of The Twilight Zone or Philip K. Dick that I can remember watching. In a sense, they were a gateway drug to some of my favorite movies ever. And I can still remember my ten year old brain trying to puzzle out some of the paradoxes raised by the sequels. All of which is to say that while I look forward to more Planet of the Apes movies, I’d really rather nobody screw it up, either.

14. The Hangover Part II – Probably started out the year higher on my list, but holy cow, did you see that trailer?  I really really want to believe they don’t want to give away any jokes from the film.  Which is fine by me, I always hate it when I’ve already seen a film’s best laughs.  But yeesh.  It looks like an exact copy of the first one, minus the comedy.  Here’s hoping it is just a poorly cut trailer and not a result of the film being co-written by the guy who wrote Superhero Movie.

13. Captain America: First Avenger – Sheesh, another WWII awards bait movie, amiright? I’m a little wary of big budget comic book movies, I think the Iron Man films are the only ones I’ve really liked from the recent spate. Doesn’t stop me from continuing to watch them, though. My biggest concern is probably that the film was written by the guys who did You Kill Me, which I really didn’t like. The cast is interesting, though seemingly all the main actors are playing roles I wouldn’t have picked for them.  Still, the trailer was pretty darn cool.

12. The Help – You might recall Viola Davis grabbed an Oscar nomination for her one scene in Doubt. Since then, she seems to have been stuck playing authority figures like doctor and mayor with little screen time.  So I’m hoping she gets a little more to do here.  The cast also features Oscar winner Sissy Spacek, Oscar nominee Cicely Tyson, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Alison Janney, Golden Globe nominee Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain (who hasn’t been nominated for anything yet, but who is poised for a super huge year), and, of course, Golden Globe nominee Emma Stone.  Who Brian may claim to really like, but he can get back to me after he’s seen The Rocker two times. I agree, though, that films about race relations can often be very frustrating, so hopefully this one remembers that a little nuance never hurt anyone.

11. The Beaver – I still can’t believe this film is actually happening.  Sure, there’s the whole guy talking through a beaver hand puppet thing.  And then you have Jodie Foster directing her first film in sixteen years.  Mel Gibson attempting to return to the good graces of America.  And a Black List script written by Kyle Killen.  Killen, you may recall, was the man behind Lone Star, the critically lauded show that was so cruelly cancelled after about two episodes.  There’s no reason this movie should exist.


15. Cowboys vs. Aliens — There’s so much to like here. Harrison Ford as the grumpy old sherrif and Daniel Craig as the bad-ass and mysterious alien fighter. I’ve got a bad sense that this is actually going to be awful and be a everlasting stain on Ford’s career. But that’s just being a Debbie Downer. I respect that the trailers that have come out so far have left some intrigue to the plot — and cmon, its cowboys versus aliens. That’s good enough for me.

14. Crazy Stupid Love — I’m ecstatic over this one. I’ll expand on this more later, but I’m pro-Ryan Reynolds Ryan Gosling (DAMMIT I have to stop writing these after midnight). I’m also pro-Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, and duh, Emma Stone. This cast can’t really get any better, and I need to start lowering my expectations now to stave off disappointment.

13. Larry Crowne — If Cowboys vs. Aliens is being coy, then Larry Crowne is freaking throwing itself at me. But when you have Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts playing lost souls on the highway of life, there’s immediately something winning within. I have a problem with rich-white-people-porn movies, where the lead characters have absurd houses and interior decorating and work in low-stress high-paying creative jobs. Fortunately, this looks like something new. Intriguing.

12. Bridesmaids —  Like Jared, I have a Kristin Wiig problem here. On SNL, she’s approaching Cheri O’Teri level of unwatchability. But the rave reviews are getting me pumped up, and Ellie Kemper just puts a smile on my face. I’ve also heard great things from a friend who caught an advance screener, so this film has slowly crept up my list.

11. Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides — I’m not really sure how the fourth Pirates film got this far down the list. Part of the appeal of the original was the (albeit thin) allusions to Caribbean colonial history, and from the looks of it, we’ll be seeing Jack Sparrow in Enlightenment London, so more fake history there. They’ve dropped the deadweights of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, brought back Geoffrey Rush and added Ian McShane. Oh yeah, thats how Pirates got down to 11th.

May 2011