57.  Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits is a classically plotted romantic comedy masking as a romantic comedy that looks down on romantic comedies.  No, I don’t know what that means either.  Maybe I still have Scream on the mind, but this one seemed to be trying too hard to be a post-modern look at the rom com.  Because there was a sweet, funny movie, if it would stop getting in the way of itself.  And Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are such stellar leads for a screwball comedy.  Also, moar Woody Harrelson as a gregarious gay co-worker and Patricia Clarkson as a promiscuous mom, pleez.

56.  Limitless

If you’ve been following along, you won’t be surprised that I liked the premise of this Bradley Cooper-starrer: there’s a magic pill that basically makes you awesome.  But, of course, there are some drawbacks.  I’m not sure the movie totally delivered on the setup, though.  The ending, in particular, was a bit off.  Nice to see Robert De Niro in a role that’s more in his wheelhouse.  And, I gotta say, I don’t get Abbie Cornish.  Maybe that’s residual Bright Star disdain, I dunno.  Oh, and Anna Friel!

55.  Happythankyoumoreplease

Written and directed by Josh Radnor, we find that he maybe isn’t so different from his character Ted on HIMYM, after all.  In some sense it is your typical New York indie film, with intersecting storylines, brooding about life decisions, and Radnor kinda stealing a black kid and refusing to force the kid to go home.  That said, the film has a light touch and Radnor seems to have an ability to deftly manage his stellar crew of actors, which includes Zoe Kazan, Pablo Schreiber, Kate Mara, Richard Jenkins, Malin Akerman, and Tony Hale.  Hale, in particular, gives a very compelling performance, and I say that as someone who wasn’t really a fan to this point.

54.  The Mighty Macs

I’m kind of a sucker for sports movies.  This is the second girls basketball movie I’ve seen, and I don’t even really like basketball that much.  The film is based on the real story of tiny Immaculata University (spoiler alert) winning the 1972 D-I women’s basketball title.  It’s got all the sports movies tropes you’ve come to know and love.  Carla Gugino stars as a former basketball player making her coaching debut with an ill-equipped team (they don’t even have a gym!) who needs to find unorthodox ways to make her players come together as a team.  The film also features David Boreanz as her NBA referee husband who bristles at first at the idea she wants to be anything other than a homemaker, Marley Shelton as a nun questioning her faith who becomes the assistant coach and Ellen Burstyn as one of the head administrators of the college trying to keep it afloat.  You know what’s going to happen every step of the way, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.  The basketball action was surprisingly decent, given how bad the depiction of sports usually is in the things.  Also, I’ve said it many times, but it is baffling to me that Carla Gugino isn’t a huge star.  Even in a decidedly non-sensual role like this, she still oozes sex appeal.  But (perhaps) more importantly, she has crazy engaging screen presence.

53.  No Strings Attached

I feel terrible that this one ended up so close to Friends with Benefits, because there was that whole thing about how ridiculous it was the two movies had the exact same premise.  At a macro level the plots are similar, sure, but the films are pretty different.  This one had the feel of a late 90s romantic comedy (where, as discussed, Friends with Benefits is a more modern, meta take on a romcom).  There aren’t any particularly surprising beats, but the script (from New Girl creator Liz Meriwether) is fairly strong and the cast (which includes Natalie Portman, Olivia Thirlby, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, Jake Johnson, Kevin Kline, and Cary Elwes) carries it home.

52.  The Mechanic

Pretty sure I saw this in theaters with Adam.  It is very standard Statham fare.  He plays an assassin looking to exact revenge after his mentor (Donald Sutherland) dies, but then Sutherland’s kid (Ben Foster) comes into the picture and wants to apprentice.  I don’t think it is an essential Statham film, necessarily, but a worthy addition to his oeuvre.  Of note is that the film was directed by Simon West, who directed Con AirLara Croft: Tomb Raider, and the upcoming Expendables 2, co-written by Richard Wenk, who has a screenplay credit on this one.

51.  The Best and the Brightest

Forgive me for rehashing the plot to this comedy, I’m still a little unsure I believe it actually exists.  Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville play a couple who just moved to New York.  Fine.  They want to get their daughter into a private kindergarten to give her a leg up in life.  Fine.  But because they just moved to the city, they hadn’t put her on any waiting lists, so now it is proving really hard to get her into one, to the point where they hire a consultant (Amy Sedaris).  OK.  So far, fairly straightforward stuff, right?  Now, through a comic misunderstanding, the headmistress of the school they are trying to get into is left under the impression that Neil Patrick Harris is a poet whose “poetry” is actually the ridiculous and explicit IM conversations his college friend had with women on the internet.  But since this is New York and a movie, everyone thinks they are really hip, avant-garde  poems.  Which is silly, but it is really sold by John Hodgman doing his deadpan thing as he extols the philosophical and metaphysical virtues of the sophomoric writing.  The movie rapidly devolves from there into a farce where NPH has to go to a swingers club to impress Christopher McDonald (who is known only as The Player).

50.  The Eagle

The Channing Tatum movie everyone seems to forget.  Here he’s a Roman warrior journeying through the British wilderness with his Briton slave (Jamie Bell) trying to restore his father’s honor by finding the emblem of the legion his father lost.  A nearly unrecognizable Mark Strong shows up, as does Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and also Donald Sutherland for a few scenes, so the cast is solid.  The movie would have been better if Jamie Bell’s motivations were a little more clear, but it is a pretty decent sword and sandals adventure flick.

49.  Another Earth

Nominated for a couple of Spirit Awards, this film was #22 on both Brian’s list for most anticipated summer movies last year as well as mine.  At first blush it seems like a sci-fi film because it is about the discovery of a second, seemingly exact duplicate of Earth.  But really, it is a low-key drama about a promising high schooler (Brit Marling) who ends up in an alcohol-related accident that leaves a mother and child dead and her life in ruins.  She, eventually, goes to the guy whose life he destroyed, and without revealing her past, starts sorta kinda trying to get his life back together.  I liked the premise a lot, I’m not entirely certain the movie went where I most wanted it to.  I did kinda like the ending, though.

48.  Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within

Both its predecessor and this one are highly regarded films from Jose Padilha, the director of the upcoming RoboCop reboot.  It mixes action and politics and drama in a story about crime and police in Rio de Janeiro.  Padilha does action very very well.  I just would have liked to have seen more action scenes in the movie.  There’s really only two or three and they don’t take up much of the movie.  The rest is musings on police and corruption and crime.

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