2016 in Film – S

DH has decided to resurrect his yearly top movies, so I guess that means I am too.  I don’t know if it will be top ten because parents don’t get to go see as many movies as kid-free adults do.  If I see any more, I’ll add to this list.  J will prob post his later.  We’ll post our top films for 2016 in January – guesses welcome!

Here’s what I saw in the dumpster fire that was 2016:

  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  • Deadpool
  • Zootopia
  • Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
  • Captain America :Civil War
  • X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Ghostbusters
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Suicide Squad
  • Doctor Strange
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Moana

 

Here’s what I’m going to try and see before January:

  • Zoolander 2 (Don’t judge me)
  • The Boss
  • The Jungle Book
  • Now You See Me 2
  • Finding Dory
  • The Legend of Tarzan
  • The BFG
  • The Secret Life of Pets
  • Bad Moms
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Queen of Katwe
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

 

But let’s face it, I won’t get to see all of those in 20 days.

A Blog Post from Husband – I Did the KLOVE 30 Day Challenge and I Survived!

I am not, overall, a very big fan of the Christian music industry. That said, I found a large amount of joy in digging into the albums that I loved as a teen. Some of them hold up great, some have aged from pretty good albums into fantastic albums, and others are – well, others are almost unlistenable. Here are some of the facts I discovered while digging into my back catalogue:

 

  • Rich Mullins > everything.

 

  • Five Iron Frenzy’s music is actually even more relevant now than it was 15 years ago. Don’t believe me? Anthem could be the theme song for this current election year and Get Your Riot Gear fits in perfectly with the Occupy movement. There’s a blog post on this topic, but it’d be a several thousand word essay on Five Iron, and let us be honest – no one wants that. Except me.

 

  • The self-titled Sixpence None the Richer album is indeed fantastic, buuut I think I’ve actually come to prefer their 1995 masterpiece (that’s right, I said masterpiece) This Beautiful Mess – it has that great early 90’s feel with a track list full of great songs.

 

  • The first Jars of Clay album, sadly, does not hold up all that well. In fact, I never made it all the way through a single song without hitting skip. Much Afraid, though, is largely fantastic.

 

  • I still love Sarah Masen. All of her albums.

 

  • The O.C. Supertones kinda/sorta/almost hold up, in an ironic 90’s youth group van music sort of way.

 

  • The Newsboys have yet to produce anything nearly as good as Take Me To Your Leader or Going Public. If you think any of their albums since then are as good, or better, you are wrong. And I will fight you if you think otherwise.

 

  • Jennifer Knapp’s Kansas album is perfect, and resonates even more now than it did when it was released. I remember seeing her opening for Audio Adrenaline and The O.C. Supertones in the fall of ’97 and being instantly smitten, along with everyone else in the audience. Also, I find it amusing that 15 year old me had even less of a chance with her than I could have ever possibly guessed.

 

  • Audio Adrenaline stayed consistently great to good throughout their entire run.

 

  • I am pretty much sick of Third Day.

 

  • You guys? MXPX’s Life In General and Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo are still so good.

 

  • Skillet’s music has, somehow, gotten even better over time. Who’d have guessed?

 

  • Why didn’t Seven Day Jesus ever make a second album?

 

  • And why did we ever love The W’s so much?

 

  • dc Talk: Um, not as good as teenaged Jason would have argued. That’s all I going to say about that.

 

How about you? What was your favorite album growing up? And, does it still hold up?

The end.

You could call me a Harry Potter fan.

We own all the books in hardcover and have read them multiple times.  We have seen all the movies in the theater and own all of those which are out on DVD.  We know what a muggle, a grindylow, and a squib are.  And we have handknit house scarves (I’m a Gryffindor, Husband is a Ravenclaw).  And although the books came out while I was in high school, Harry himself is two years older than I am (he was born in 1980).

The majority of the meaty Harry Potter series came out while I was in college and just after.  While Harry was living with his friends and learning at Hogwarts, I was doing the same at college.  When Harry was growing to be best friends with Ron and Hermione, I was growing closer to my best friends.  And while Harry was wooing Ginny, husband was wooing me.  I didn’t grow up with Harry, but he grew up while I was watching and experiencing the same things as he was.  (Ok, minus battling Voldemort).

I’ve been to see all of the Harry Potter movies with my best friend.  During the “learning experience” summer we spent at Cannon Beach, Oregon together, I read out loud each night from one of the books in a horrible British accent…which I then proceeded to keep so long that some of the newer members of our workplace thought I was actually British.  When the fifth book came out, all four of us (me, husband, and my bestie,  and her husband) discussed our theories about future books with each other.  When the fourth movie came out (right around the same time as Half Blood Prince), we threw a Harry Potter themed party opening weekend, complete with themed food like Voldetortes, Pumpkin Pasties, Gingerbeer, and Bertie Bott’s Everyflavor beans.  We went to the movie in our scarves and talked about who we thought was going to bite it in the last book of the series (and my hat’s off to best friend’s husband, who staunchly defended his position that one of the Weasley twins would die, even when all the rest of us scoffed at him).  When the last book came out and I cried at the end, it wasn’t just because I was sad so many characters died, but because I felt like I was losing a friend when that book series ended.  Not my bestie, but the books themselves.  But we still had the movies.

Our best friends live four hours away.  Last November, directly after finding out the gender of our baby, we left for their house.  We weren’t planning on stopping our tradition of seeing all these movies together, of sharing our Harry Potter experience.  They have an Imax theater near their home, so we saw Deathly Hallows 7.1 there.  And we talked about how we thought they would play out the two halves of the movie, where the first would end, what they might cut out, whether or not they would keep the epilogue…if J.K. Rowling would write any more books.  The first half of Deathly Hallows was great.  We loved it.  And two weeks ago, they came to our hometown to go see Deathly Hallows 7.2 with us.  The last movie.  The saddest movie.  The end.  It was perfect.  Many people have complained about the last two movies dragging…and while I’m not the movie critic in the family, I humbly disagree.  If you’ve read the books, you’ll know that these last two movies are perfection when it comes to the Harry Potter movie line.  They make up for the bad CGI in the first movie, the massacre of Goblet of Fire, and the casting of Robert Pattinson for Cedric Diggory.  I cried.  I cried a little during the first half of Deathly Hallows.  I cried the entire second half of the last movie.  And for the same reasons…a bit because these characters I loved so much were dying and a lot because the series was ending.

So when I say I love Harry Potter and I’m a Harry Potter fan, it’s not because I believe in magic or am going to teach my daughter that witchcraft is okay.  It’s not because I wish it was real and feel like my life isn’t complete because Hogwarts isn’t a real place.  It’s because I’m proud of Rowling, for what she accomplished with her books.  I’m proud of her characters, for the growth in their lives and the evil they overcame.  I love Harry Potter because I feel like we grew up together, that because of the books he was in my life is a little richer and a little better and a little more fun.  And now the books and the movie series are both over.

But that’s alright.  Because in a few years, my bestie, her husband, my husband and I are taking our kids to Universal Studios Harry Potter World.

Numbers 1 – Finally.

Husband’s Number One film of 2009

Inglourious_Basterds_poster

Ingourious Basterds is not the movie that’s promised by the trailer. You’d be forgiven if you thought the entire movie was a typical semi self-indulgent Tarantino flick about gleefully killing Nazis – because that’s what the trailer promised, and that’s what you could expect, given his last few films.

That’s not what we get this though. For one thing, pretty much the entire movie is in French or German – it has so many subtitles that it might as well be a foreign film. Second, the film really isn’t about the Basterds (yup, it’s spelled that way in the movie) themselves. Yes, Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raines is a fantastic film creation, and his group of unlikely mercenaries are oddly loveable, but the film truly belongs to the character of Soshanna Dreyfus. It’s with her and her family that the story starts, and it’s with her that it really ends. Is it violent? Sure, but the moments of violence actually comprise of very little of the movie itself.

Look, I’m not saying anything new about this film. It’s been said hundreds of times already – the film is a masterpiece. It’s beautiful, shocking, exciting, and viscerally thrilling. It provides closure that other WWII films don’t (and can’t) offer, and highlights moments of humor, violence, and beauty throughout the length of the film. By the time we get to the film’s final chapter, it becomes clear that Tarantino is about to deliver on everything that the film had been leading up to. The climax of the film, which takes place in a French movie theater, is nothing short of perfection. The moment of Soshanna’s revenge is both ruthless and beautiful.

Some people are going to have a problem with the ending of the film. I don’t know how much I should go into it, but I don’t think that it’s too much of a spoiler to say that the film diverges from real history at some point, and it diverges so completely (and savagely) that it might cause some people to disconnect from the film. I don’t think that Tarantino is, at any point, condoning the savageness of the Basterds (or Soshanna), but his film does grant them the right to their actions. They have, at least in the context of the film, earned their actions. We know of the atrocities that the Nazi’s conducted, and it feels right, somehow, to see their actions being reversed against themselves. The film firmly reminds us that the Nazis did unspeakably awful things. It feels good to see characters that will stand up to those unspeakably awful things, and try to put an end to it. The ending not only gives our characters closure – in many ways, it gives us closure too.

I love this film – I love that it made me gasp, laugh, and (yes) cry. I love the moments of beauty, I love the way the dialogue sparkles. But most of all, I love that it still hasn’t left me. That, months later, I’m still thinking about it, and not just in the “oh wasn’t that cool” sort of way. I loved these characters, and I am truly glad that I was able to meet them through this film.

Wife’s Most Favorite Film of 2009

I know, you thought we would never get here. It seems like each year we get a little bit closer to finishing in January. To be perfectly honest, we had these reviews done a few days ago, but life got a bit crazy in the past week so it’s taken until now to get them posted for your perusal.

Here’s my number 1 –

Ponyo

Ponyo

If you have known me a decent amount of time, well, decent enough to know my film tastes, then this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I absolutely adore Miyazaki films. There is not a single one which I couldn’t watch over and over, and I am on pins and needles waiting for the entire collection to be released on Blu Ray in March.

You’ve already heard quite a bit about this film from husband’s review, so I’ll try to be original. This is a retelling of the (real) story of the little mermaid (not the Disney version). Ponyo is the daughter of a sea wizard and the queen goddess of the sea. She is a sea creature, but intrigued by the world beyond her father’s submarine, she sneaks out and meets a young human boy named Sosuke. After licking Sosuke’s finger when he cuts it, Ponyo endears herself to him and Sosuke promises to keep her and take care of her forever. That night, the ocean steals her back and she is returned to her father. However, with the power of magic and the sea on her side, Ponyo will do anything to return to Sosuke.

Husband has already explained how this is a story that is perfectly told for children. It’s been hailed as the new Totoro (also a Miyazaki film) – which means that kids of all ages will be entertained by it. It contains elements as deep as any drama that children must deal with as they grow up (separation, love, disaster, hunger, fear, responsibility) but in ways that kids would understand. There’s a hurricane and my mom is somewhere out in it? Of course that means I go out in a little boat and look for her the next morning. Simple and sweet in its storytelling, Ponyo is a movie which may seem weird to our Western sensibilities, but is as lovely and entertaining as any children’s movie.

The animation is gorgeous, as one would expect from Studio Ghibli. Fantastic and magical meets realistic and mundane and the collision is something gorgeous in both the visual and the sound themes. And as usual, Pixar studios (the company who puts out the English versions of Miyazaki films) does a wonderful job casting the voices, including Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Betty White, and Cloris Leachman.

And the worst film I saw this year?

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Legend_of_chun_li

I would tell you the plot of this film, but I’m still not really sure what it was. I do know it is the origin story of Chun-Li of the Street Fighter video game series, and somewhat an origin story of Major Bison as well. Beyond that…I have no idea. It involves smuggling, kidnapping, lots of music montages of training, weird old scrolls, sting operations, and somehow…concert piano recitals. Kristin Kreuk plays Chun Li, and while I don’t think she’s a bad actress, I do think she made a bad choice in this film.

The plot, obviously, is horrific. To the point where I’m not sure the writers/directers, whoever had ANY idea what they were intending to make with this film other than money, which they failed at. The acting is good…I guess…if you want to come across as poorly voiced video game characters – in which I guess they could be staying true to the game series.

This movie could have redeemed itself just a smidge by having better fight scenes. I mean, that’s what Street Fighter is all about, right? Cool fighting moves and such? However, not even this was done well, with awkward photo angles, strange cutaways to accommodate for the actors’ inabilities to perform inhuman acts of contortion, and weird pacing problems.

All in all, I have nothing against the Street Fighter universe. However, after seeing this film, I might just go out of my way to avoid anything associated with them in the future.

Numbers 2- Repeats and Doubling Up

Husband:
# 2 – The Hangover
Hangoverposter09

Yes, it is every bit as funny as you’d expect, and no, it’s not anywhere as stupid as it looks. The Hangover is an amazingly funny film that benefits greatly from having three lead actors that know how to be very, very funny. Bradley Cooper (FINALLY, the world gets to see how funny this guy can be), Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis are all incredibly funny, and the script allows all of them to showcase their individual strengths. (Ed Helms musical ability has never, ever been put to better use. Honestly.)

For those that have lived under a rock for the past year, the setup is simple – four friends go to Vegas for a bachelor party. The next day they wake up in an absolutely trashed hotel room, each with zero memory of what happened the night before. They also realize that the groom is missing.

And there is a tiger locked in the bathroom.

What starts as a bemusedly incredulous journey to find out what the heck happened quickly escalates to insanity and hilarity, as it quickly becomes clear that the previous night’s activities included a last minute Vegas wedding, the mob, and Mike Tyson. All of them are just as hilarious and glorious as you’d guess.

And, for all of the craziness that happens, one of the largest strengths of The Hangover is that it never goes for the absurd humor that’s become so popular in comedies lately. Look, I like Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg, but once in a while it’s nice to watch a comedy that requires that you have a brain, one that actually has “real” (or real-ish) people being really funny. This film is a refreshing change of pace – for every big and obvious laugh that the film goes for there are a dozen little moments that will absolutely destroy you when/if you notice them. Yeah, humor is a subjective thing (something is either funny, or it’s not), but this is a film that can absolutely stand up to some of the best comedy films from the past 20 years. (I’d probably rank it up there with Super Troopers, in fact; it has that same mix of broad and smart jokes, peppered with great character moments.)

It also helps that the film avoids many of the Vegas clichés – most of this film happens off of the main strip, so the neon lights, gloss, and glamour that are usually required in every Vegas movie are largely absent. It’s fantastically funny, and endlessly watchable. (At least, thus far – I’ll let you know if/when I get tired of it.) It firmly deserves a spot on this list, and I’m happily surprised that it made my #2 spot.

And, to be honest, Ed Helms’ song about the tiger is worth the price of the dvd alone.

Wife:

#2 – Sherlock Holmes

sherlock-holmes-poster-watson

A new take on a classic, this film stars Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong. Holmes is dealing with the engagement of Watson, who is now moving out of their house to form his own business, and the extreme boredom of having no case to investigate. When convicted serial killer and gentleman Lord Blackwood asks to see Holmes on the day of his execution, he intrigues him with prophecies of coming dark days and the prediction that Holmes will go insane because he cannot prevent what’s about to happen. Then, he is executed and three days later it appears he has risen from the dead. Holmes attempts to solve the riddle of Blackwood’s prophecies as well as dealing with former love interest and the only woman to ever outsmart him, Irene, who has also just reappeared in London.

This movie fought very hard to be my number one. I loved it. I am a huge Robert Downey Jr fan, and the man’s ability to become whatever character put before him is extraordinary. This is no exception. From the beginning, you are immersed in the world that Holmes inhabits – being privy to most of his thoughts and motives. The plot integrates every part of the movie-going experience. Utilizing the soundtrack to further develop the characters, playing with sets both large and small – overblown fight scenes, and disputes which focus on everything but the physical violence. And of course the dialogue is golden. Despite the fact that in your logical mind you KNOW that this is going to be turned into another franchise, the story plays as the end of an era instead of a beginning. There’s no messing about with backstories, just presenting Holmes and Watson at their best.

The #2 worst film of 2009:

Bride Wars

Bride_wars

Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson star as best friends who have dreamed their entire lives to have their weddings at the Plaza Hotel. When they are both engaged at the same time and go to the most famous wedding planner, things seem perfect, but a clerical error causes their weddings to be scheduled for the same day. Neither one will give up the date, and things begin to deteriorate quickly, with each of them stooping lower and lower to ruin the other’s big day.

I could see how the plot for this film would seem like a good idea for anyone in Hollywood. It has three big name actresses, romantic undertones, and shenanigans. However, it’s quickly obvious that this is just an excuse to make funny scenes out of everything you could do to potentially ruin a wedding. And the fact that it is supposedly best friends doing this to each other is just depressing and stupid. Every time one of them plotted something else, I would cringe. The acting was shallow, the plot was inane, and the ending was so trite and forced that you felt like Hollywood felt like they needed to make it a “happy” ending just so you wouldn’t completely write this film off as a tragedy. Unfortunately, that just secured its place in the tragic column.

Numbers 3 – Where we agree, despite our differences

Husband
#3 – Star Trek
Startrekposter

I’ve come up with a sort of dare, for those that just aren’t interested in seeing this film – simply watch the first 15 minutes. If you still aren’t interested, that’s fine. Turn it off. The first 10-15 minutes of Star Trek fire on all cylinders – this is pop science fiction at its finest. Direct J.J. Abrams goes immediately for the kill with a fantastic space battle that puts anything in the Star Wars prequels to shame. It’s brutal, exciting, and exhilarating. If anything, it feels like a naval battle that could have taken place 300 years ago there’s not much fancy flying or shooting at ventilation shafts, here – it’s two ships slugging it out to the death. As the fight goes on, Abrams backs out the dialogue and sound effects, allowing Michael Giacchino’s score to do the storytelling for us. And, as the battle comes to its heartbreaking end, we’re left with a Star Trek universe that has been completely changed. It’s brilliant, exciting, and completely fantastic, and it lays the groundwork for an exciting film that brings Star Trek and its characters to bright and vivid life. (Sometimes a little too vivid, to be sure – JJ Abrams loves his lens flares. In fact, there’s a fun drinking game, if you like that sort of thing – take drink every time you see a lens flare. You will be drunk before they get out of the Academy.)

And yet, despite the changes, it’s still the same Star Trek universe that you know and love. Yes, something happens that alters the timeline forever, but Kirk is Kirk, Spock is Spock, and Bones is Bones. The actors, wisely, avoid doing impersonations of the actors that they follow, choosing to instead portray the characters themselves. Especially amazing is Karl Urban as Bones – from his first scene until the end of the film he threatens to steal the film from anyone who’s onscreen with him. Luckily, the rest of the cast is up to the challenge – current geek chic actress Zoe Saldana is fantastic as Uhura, Zachary Quinto is pretty much perfect as Spock, and Simon Pegg breathes fresh life into the film when Scotty is introduced to the crew. Anton Yelchin and John Cho round out the supporting cast members, and they do it fantastically. Finally, Chris Pine does a remarkable job of bringing Kirk to life. It’d be easy to get lost in the shadow of Shatner, but Pine never once struggles or falters – he *is* Kirk, and that’s that.

It helps the film quite a bit that Michael Giacchino wrote an absolutely fantastic score, one which abandons much of the existing Star Trek musical motif. Normally, I’d say this was a bad move, but the score that he wrote is exciting, memorable, and incredibly emotive. Giacchino has been doing fantastic work on television for the past few years (Lost, Alias, Fringe, etc), and he now has some absolutely fantastic and original scores under his belt. His Speed Racer score was one of the best soundtracks of 2008, and I’d argue that this Star Trek soundtrack is one of the best of 2009 (though, it’s often overlooked do to his equally fantastic score for “Up”.) It’s bright, hopeful, resonates long after the film has ended.

And, finally, the very best thing about the film is that happy giddy geek joy that you get from watching these characters fall into place. Early on the timeline is fractured, but as these characters start to interact it quickly begins to feel like a cosmic jigsaw puzzle, with an additional thrill adding to the experience every time that Fate snaps another character into their rightful place. When the crew is finally all together it’s a great feeling, one that has a surprising resonance. There are some awful tragedies in the film, and as this group of people begin to rely on each other and trust each other it seems like it’s destiny – that no matter what, these people were meant to be on the Enterprise, confronting the great unknown together. It’s optimistic, hopeful, and completely free of cynicism. It’s everything that Star Trek should be, and more. Kudos to everyone involved, because this isn’t just a great sci fi film, or a great summer popcorn movie – this is a great film. Period.

Wife’s Top Ten

#3 – Star Trek

I’m going to take a total cop out on this one and say I liked this movie for the same reasons that Jason did…and for two others – I love Simon Pegg and Karl Urban, and it managed to make Star Trek cool again.

The Worst Ten

#3 – The Ugly Truth

Ugly_truth

Abby (Katherine Heigl) is a control-freak TV producer whose idyllic but lonely life is interrupted with the addition of shock jock Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) to her show. The two are constantly clashing over what defines a good relationship and the differences between men and women. But when Abby meets the man in her dreams, next door doctor Colin, she enlists Mike’s help to win Colin’s heart by acting like every man’s dream woman.

I was vastly disappointed by this film. I was expecting a romantic comedy that played off the differences between the way men and women think, with the ending showing a relationship based on compromises from both fields. I’m not sure why I expected a vaguely normal relationship from Hollywood. Instead, we’re treated to a constant stream of criticism on how the female mind works, insinuating that women are idiots if they want to wear comfortable shoes, ponytails, expect politeness from men and still believe in chivalry. Mike is always telling Abby what is wrong with her, that men will be more attracted to her if she is the complete opposite of herself. And he himself falls for her even because she stops being herself while trying to pursue Colin. The film also uses their version of a male mind to throw in every dirty joke in the book at the audience, expecting us to accept this as the comedy part of the film. The ending is so contrived, abrupt, and forced, that I couldn’t believe that it actually passed for an ending. This is one of the worst romantic comedies I’ve ever seen.

Numbers 4 – Lies, Partyboys, and Death

Husband:
4.) The Brothers Bloom
brosbloom

“The perfect con is one where everyone involved gets just what they wanted.”

There’s something about a good con man story that everyone loves – which is odd, because in this day and age cons and identity thieves are absolutely reviled. Cons work in film because, usually, the targets deserve what they get. So, what happens if everyone involved in the con – from the people pulling it, to the victims – ends up with what they want?

The Brothers Bloom is what happens. Hot off of his success with Brick (a great, yet completely different sort of film), writer / director Rian Johnson has crafted another fantastic film. The story is this – the two Bloom brothers grow up orphans, bouncing from home to home, and pulling off small cons along the way. Their cons are elaborate stories, carried out over a long period of time and usually ending without the mark realizing they’ve even been conned. This, of course, continues until one of them calls it quits – and then, naturally, gets called back for one last con. One last con involving a girl. Who he absolutely must not fall in love with.

Yeah. You know that’s going to end well.

However, from there on out it’s nothing but twists and turns, with the audience (and the characters) trying to figure out who’s conning who. It consistently defies expectations, and the audience ends up not really caring where the film is going, since the ride is so much fun. It’s gorgeous, fantastically acted, and laugh out loud funny throughout the entire film. By the time the end of the film approaches, you’re expecting the typical con payoff – but you don’t expect the emotional payoff. The Brothers Bloom earns its emotions, and finishes off with an ending that, while bittersweet, is entirely perfect.

Wife:
Alright – have you guesses in hand for the top four movies? Good.

The Top 5

#5 – Zombieland
#4 – The Hangover

Hangoverposter09

If you don’t know the plot synopsis by now of this film, there’s not really a chance I will convince you to go see it. You obviously have good and strong reasons against seeing it. Four friends (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha) travel to Vegas for a bachelor party two days before one of them (Doug) is supposed to get married. They wake up the following morning in a trashed penthouse suite with no recollection of what happened to find Doug missing, a baby in the closet, and a Bengal tiger in the bathroom. Now – they must piece together what transpired as well as they can and find Doug so they can get him home in time to be married.

I cannot overstate how hilarious this movie is. And the fact it is based on real events makes it even better. Of course, it’s the kind of film that gets a lot of laughs from potty humor, but they also utilize every other type of humor as well. There’s physical comedy, screwball and classic comedy, one liners, and ridiculous humor. Each of the main characters seems to cover a different branch of comedy – making a mix of Kool aid that is fantastically funny. The movie covers nearly every Vegas stereotype, from the single mom pole dancer to the scary mobsters. It very nearly nabbed my number one spot (until I saw the other three movies), and was tough to push down to number four. But – the one thing I hated about this film was the credits. If you watch this movie and haven’t seen it yet, please turn it off when the credits start rolling. At first, they’ll seem just as hilarious as the film, but they quickly get very explicit and if included by the ratings board would have pushed this movie past the R rating it already has.

The 5 Worst movies I Saw in 2009:

#5 – Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
#4 – Knowing

Knowingposter08

Loner Lucinda Embry is part of a class in the 1950’s who writes letters to the future. Her letter is given to Caleb Koestler, son of astrophysicist John. Instead of a normal letter or picture, Lucinda’s piece is a list of the dates of major disasters and the number of dead. There are only three dates left, and John is trying to unravel the mystery of how to stop them while Caleb has begun seeing strange people, hearing whispering, and having visions of mass destruction. Together with Lucinda’s daughter and grand-daughter, John and Caleb try to figure out what is happening and why – and how to stop it. This film stars Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury, and Lara Robinson.

There aren’t very many Nicolas Cage films I like – even National Treasure (I know, my father in law would be disappointed). He just makes everything feel blown up and over dramatized. I couldn’t take this movie seriously, much less make any sense of the plot. The idea was there for a great apocalyptic film, but it was twisted so much to try and include nearly every stereotype in existence that the urgency was lost and replaced with a frustrating lack of focus on what exactly the main characters were trying to do. I found myself alternately bored and annoyed and when the ending came around, I mostly just got pissed off. I hated most of the characters, thought it was a boring story, and utilized my absolute least favorite style of ending – what else can I say? This was a horrible movie.

Numbers 5 – Zoe Saldana and Emma Stone

Husband:

5.) Avatar

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Look, you’ve seen Avatar already. If you haven’t, you’re probably the *only person in the world* who hasn’t. I’m not really exaggerating, since it’s currently on track to be the biggest film of all time. (I just checked, and it has made $1,689,630,947 worldwide so far. That is a lot of money.) So, yeah, you’ve seen this, and you have your own opinion on it. I am betting they went something like this “The visuals were great, but the storyline sucked.”

So, of course, I’m going to say you’re wrong. Yes, the story adheres pretty closely to a firmly established outline – we’ve seen variations of this story throughout fiction and our own human history. This doesn’t make it bad, or even unoriginal. If that’s your argument, then you’d better be saying the same things about Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. (Maybe you are. In which case, I’d like to have a “quiet” talk with you afterwards.)

It’s a solid story, one that lends itself well to the themes and message that the film wants to get across. It’s an exciting story that works, and presents a framework in which this amazing world can be brought to life. With technology and visuals so unique it also helps that the story isn’t something that you need a flowchart to keep track of, unlike some other sci fi films in recent years. (I admit, I *still* don’t completely understand the plot of Primer.) And even while the film as a whole might not be pure perfection, taken piece by piece there is beauty and brilliance evident throughout. It’s breathtaking, moving, and absolutely fantastic.

Why isn’t it higher on the list? Two reasons. James Cameron uses slow motion far too often in an effort to make you realize “wow, this is important/sad/tragic.” We’re smart. We can get that *without* the slow motion scenes unfolding while the soundtrack plays wailing sad music. Which leads me to point number two – the soundtrack is a huge disappointment. There are a few decent themes, but as a whole it’s extremely pedestrian and forgettable. Also, I think the end credits song is one of the worst songs ever to play at the end of a film in the history of the world, and I am slightly worried that it gave me ear cancer. So, that’s why it’s number 5 instead of higher up. I liked it a lot upon first viewing, and absolutely loved it the second time around. And, if you haven’t seen it in 3D, you pretty much need to fix that ASAP.

Wife:

Sarah:
5) Zombieland

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Now, if you know me in that sphere we call real-life, you’ll know that zombies scare the ever loving you know what out of me. It takes something really special in a video game for me to play if there are zombies, and even more special in a movie. (I had trouble with the zombies in the latest Harry Potter movie). This movie definitely measures up. The main character, named after his hometown of Columbus, teams up with three other survivors of the zombie apocalypse. They all have separate goals – Columbus (Jesse Eisenerg) wants to merely survive, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) wants to find twinkies, Wichita (Emma Stone) wants to protect her younger sister – Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who wants to find Pacific Playground, a zombie-free amusement park.

The reason I loved this movie is because it isn’t really a horror movie – it’s definitely more of a comedy. Columbus goes through his rules for survival (33 in all, #2 – Double Tap) which all come into play at some point during the movie. While the zombies are frightening, we’re past all the horror of the initial outbreaks and terror in the streets and have moved on to the survival and get your life readjusted to the undead being around phase. (There’s a zombie kill of the week award). This movie is much like the video game “Left 4 Dead” (4 survivors trying to stay alive) or even more like the cult classic Shaun of the Dead (a must-see) with a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the walking dead, with girls kicking butt and taking names, and characters so real and new that I’m desperately hoping for a sequel (which has been requested by many of the cast members as well). And that’s saying something for a person who is prejudiced against the Zombie persuasion.

And the bad –

5) Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

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Matthew McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a womanizer who despises the institution of marriage and the thought of commitment – he wants to emulate his uncle and guardian, the late Wayne Mead. His younger brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer), asks him to be best man in his wedding and it turns out Connor has dated all but one of the bridesmaids in the wedding party. His first crush, Jenny (Jennifer Garner), is also part of the wedding party and when Connor embarrasses everyone with his lewd behavior and disparaging comments toward the bride and groom she makes it clear that she now despises him. While drunk and trying to hit on bridesmaids, Connor meets the ghost of his Uncle Wayne, who tells him that before the night is over, he will have to confront the ghost of every girl he’s ever dated, led by the Ghost of Girlfriends past (Emma Stone).

While not the worst romantic comedy I watched this year, this movie was an enormous although not surprising disappointment. I haven’t seen Jennifer Garner or Matthew McConaughey in much that I like them in. They always seem to play the same roles over and over again. There were a lot of cheap laughs with a predictable ending and way too many sexual innuendo jokes for my taste. Overall, they didn’t try to do anything new whatsoever, instead taking a classic story and bending it to however they thought would make them the most money.

Numbers 6 – Vampires, Magic, and more Aliens

Husband:

6) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
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I’m sitting with a group of SharePoint experts, all of us brought to the Stanford SLAC campus to look over a SharePoint project that they were undertaking. The sun is hot (odd, for the time of year) and we’re sitting outside eating lunch. Everyone is enjoying themselves, and then…

Someone brings up Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Lines are quickly drawn – it becomes startlingly clear that some of the group hated the film (“They BUTCHERED the book!&rdquoWinking and the other half loved it (“Come on, the wands raised to remove the dark mark at the end? That was awesome!Winking. There are also a few unfortunate souls who either hadn’t seen the film yet, or (*shudder*) did not like Harry Potter at all. A 25 minute argument ensued. It was brutal. It was a bit bloody. Geek credentials were questioned – repeatedly.

It would have lasted longer, but we all had planes to catch.

If you haven’t already inferred from its position on this list, I loved Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I think they took a book that’s pretty much exposition and set-up for the final entry in the series and made it into a fantastic film that stands on its own. Harry Potter is, in many ways, a story about love, death, and growing up, and I think that the film showcases that brilliantly. Yes, a lot was cut, but I don’t think that really hurts it – it works as a genuinely great film. And, I think that the “big” change at the end actually works better for a film than the book’s ending would have. It’s exciting, beautiful, and utterly fantastic.

And man, The Deathly Hallows can *not* get here soon enough.

Wife:
Top Ten

10) My Life in Ruins
9) Fanboys
8) What’s Your Raashee?
7) The Brothers Bloom

6) Outlander
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My husband told me about this movie before it came out and I thought it sounded like the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of. “Outlander” stars Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron Perlman, and John Hurt. A humanoid alien crash lands on Earth during the time of the Vikings (or Viking-like peoples) and is chased by a chameleon-like dragon (also an alien). He must convince the local tribe that this isn’t an angry god or an immortal dragon, but a monster that must be defeated. Sounds lame, right?

Not so much. For a little film that didn’t expect to make a big splash, they pulled off this story quite well. The effects, while not something astounding, are pretty impressive. They manage to make all the characters vivid and took care to make every visual aspect believable – even making every costume by hand. The story is a little slow, but it builds so steadily that you don’t really mind only getting a few glimpses of the Moorwen (dragon) in the first 40 minutes. You shouldn’t expect something on par with Avatar when it comes to visually striking or epic story, but this movie is a fun watch with just enough love story to keep the girls interested and enough action and blood/guts to satisfy the guys.

The bottom ten

10) Watchmen
9) Taken
8) Year One
7) The Pink Panther 2

6) Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
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Now, I’m a fan of the other two Underworld movies, so I’m not just hating on the entire series. “Rise of the Lycans” stars Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Rhona Mitra, and Kevin Grevioux. This third installment is a prequel to the first two – detailing the beginning of the war between the Lycans and the Vampires. We are brought back to the last time it was Viktor’s turn to rule, back when werewolves were only men who had been turned to giant wolves and could not regain their human form. Viktor is offering protection to the local nobles from the werewolves if in return they pay him a tithe. He has larger plans to enslave the entire werewolf race to serve the vampires. Viktor has imprisoned a young werewolf named Lucien who has the ability to regain his human form – and is therefore the first real Lycan. But when Lucien and Viktor’s daughter Sonja fall in love, all hell breaks loose.

I think the reason I disliked this film in the Underworld trilogy so intensely was this movie took itself way too seriously. It’s always a danger when making a period piece that you begin to get a little too pretentious. Sure, the story could have been downright awesome, and there’s no doubt that there were talented actors engaged in the film, but they tried to be so intense that it felt campy. I disliked Sonja and from the very get-go, didn’t really care what happened to her (if you’ve watched the first two Underworld movies, you know). And it’s always tough to make a prequel interesting when you know precisely how it’s going to end because too much information has been given away in the “present-day” films.