24. Going the Distance

I had admittedly high hopes for Going the Distance, so I suppose you could argue there’s some wishcasting going on here.  I did have a lot of trouble figuring out how to rate the film, though.  Writer Geoff LaTulippe’s screenplay made a Black List, and for the first quarter or third of the film, I completely understood why and was clearing out room in my top ten.  The writing was sharp, funny, and sure, slightly more R-rated than your typical romcom, but to good ends.  Thing is, the rest of the movie took a sharp turn for the worse, finishing up a lot more like a traditional romantic comedy, seeming to lose its singular voice.  As is often the case with romantic comedies, the leads (Justin Long and Drew Barrymore) are strong, but the supporting cast (including Christina Applegate, Jim Gaffigan, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Ron Livingston and small roles by under the radar favorites of mine Natalie Morales and Kelli Garner) is quite stellar.

23. Ondine

Written and directed by Oscar winner Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), Ondine is an Irish fairy tale of sorts that didn’t really make an impact, unfortunately.  It stars Colin Farrell, who should be more of a star, but can’t seem to line up a good role in widely seen movie where he’s not outshone by a bigger name.  Here he plays a divorced fisherman with a young daughter (Alison Barry) who is confined to a wheelchair.  Out fishing one day, Farrell improbably drags in a beautiful and mysterious woman (Alicja Bachleda) who seems to mirror everything his daughter has been reading about mermaids.  The third act takes a pretty dark turn that’s somewhat out of the blue, for whatever that’s worth.

22. Predators

I saw Predators in theaters with Adam.  Oddly, someone brought a baby to the screening.  Which…hey, I’m the first one to say ratings are silly, but I’m not entirely certain that was the change for which I was rooting.  The film knows exactly what it is (a fun, contained, sci-fi shoot ’em up), and doesn’t strive for anything more or less.  Which is nice.  Action/adventure flicks can sometimes gets bloated with backstory and philosophy, but this one is rather lean.  And boats an incredibly bizarre cast, including Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo, and Alice Braga.

21. Defendor

Along with the rash of superhero films has been a series of regular people inspired by superhero films (elsewhere on this list you’ll find Kick-Ass, and Paper Man probably counts, plus this year’s Super and the South Park crew has done it, off the top of my head).  Here, Woody Harrelson plays a possibly mentally disturbed man who has decided to become Defendor and chase down his nemesis, Captain Industry.  He befriends the lost and abused teen played by Kat Dennings (whose character is named Katerina Debrofkowitz) in a relationship not entirely until that of Jeff Daniels and Emma Stone in the aforementioned Paper Man.  Elias Koteas is a delightfully evil cop, and Sandra Oh’s psychiatrist doesn’t have quite enough of a role.  I liked the film’s ending, it is hopeful in an unexpected way.

20. Rabbit Hole

We’ve obviously written some about this Oscar and Spirit Awards nominee.  I saw it, alone, at the new West End theater.  Which was probably for the best, Rabbit Hole isn’t exactly the type of movie that makes you want to go out and talk about it over ice cream afterwards.  Over an endless stream of whiskey, maybe.  I generally agree with John’s take on the film, though I believe I liked it a little more.  The one exception is that I didn’t really get the awards hype for Dianne Wiest, though maybe I just expecting her character to be a little more meaty.  I’m a big Aaron Eckhart fan and this film only reinforces that.  His performance was absolutely Oscar-worthy.

19. Remember Me

It is impossible to talk about Remember Me without discussing the one controversial twist near the end of the film.  I think the statute of limitations has passed on spoiler alerts, but just in case anyone happens across this post before seeing the movie, I’ll try not to ruin anything.  I believe most people found the twist to be emotionally manipulative at best, and at worst, unnecessary, crass, and insulting.  Which is certainly fair, I wouldn’t presume to suggest otherwise.  However, to me, this relatively mundane approach is actually an honor and a tribute.  Vague enough, I hope?  The film stars Robert Pattinson, and I gotta say, he’s definitely more than just a Twilight heartthrob.  The charming Emilie de Ravin is the love interest, and Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper chew up scenery as their respective dads.

18. Knight and Day

Nothing personal against Knight and Day, but when it is in the top twenty movies of the year, something went wrong.  That said, the film is a fun summer popcorn flick.  And having more of those in the world wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.  The film is rather well-cast.  Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz both excel at action-comedies and can help smooth over any rough spots in the script.  Plus there’s Peter Sarsgaard (being creepy, naturally), Viola Davis, Maggie Grace, and Paul Dano.

17. Iron Man 2

I agree with most of the criticisms of the film: not as good as the first one, too many characters crammed in, not enough story.  Still, there’s lots of fun action.  And when the too-many characters include a crazy Russian Mickey Rourke, a crazy Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, John Slattery, and cameos by Olivia Munn and Kate Mara, well, I’m willing to forgive some sins.  The first one was a refreshing take on the superhero movie.  This one still had some of that voice, but moved in a bad direction toward standard comic book fare, as is too often the case with sequels.

16. Four Lions

Brian absolutely loves this film, he’ll be disappointed I didn’t give it an even better ranking.  If it helps, there’s a definite gap between Four Lions and films that have come before.  The movie is a mockumentary about a group of British jihadists.  Which, I know.  Sounds wrong on a million different levels.  And yet somehow writer-director Christopher Morris (along with his co-writers and the actors) make it work.  The film is funny, often laugh out loud so.  A few subplots maybe don’t work out, but here’s a dark comedy that’s actually manages to be both dark and a comedy.  Ending a movie like this one was always going to be difficult, and I’m not quite sure they stuck the landing.  Which probably explains any difference between Brian and I.

15. Despicable Me

Saw this one on a plane.  And just about couldn’t stop laughing.  A large part of it, I’m sure, were the minions.  Who were, as pretty much everyone agrees, essentially just rabbids from Rayman Raving Rabbids.  Which isn’t a problem, because man, those rabbids are friggin’ hilarious.  One thing I’ve realized is that I’m pretty horrible at guessing who is doing the voice acting for an animated film.  I can’t tell if it is because I’m so engrossed in the film or I’m just bad at identifying voices, but I consistently find myself surprised when going over the credits for animated films.

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