2016 Top Ten – #6

#6 – Captain America: Civil War

#7 – The BFG

#8 – Moana

#9 – Rogue One

#10 – My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


Captain America: Civil War was directed by the Russo Brothers and stars…well… here we go:  Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, and Daniel Bruhl.  *whew*

If you’ve spoken with me at any length about Marvel movies, you’ll know that Captain America isn’t very high on my list of favorite superheroes.  He’s the quintessential lawful good character, who never toes over the line, never lets loose a white lie, never turns down an opportunity to do good.  At the very beginning of the movie, Steve is forced to begin dealing with the aftermath of his decisions to always do the right thing when innocent people are killed while they’re on a mission.  This is the tipping point for the introduction of the Sokovia Accords – the creation of a special group of international leaders to oversee and control all of the Avengers’ missions.  Steve vehemently opposes this, seeing echoes of Nazi Germany, while his friend Tony Stark is the poster boy for it, having seen the destruction unchecked supers powers can bring.  The strain on their friendship is the focus of the film as Steve begins to shed his “America’s White Knight” armor – not only to control who makes decisions for him, but also to rescue his friend Bucky, who has been framed for the assassination of the King of Wakanda.  This movie calls itself a Captain America movie, but it really is the next ensemble film, complete with a fight between almost all the Marvel superheroes we’ve met so far (Hulk and Thor are conspicuously absent, somewhere in Asgaard after the second Avengers movie).


I like this movie because it took a character whose very existence is based on his unwavering service to his country and dedication to doing good and both substantially changed his character and reaffirmed it at the same time.  He becomes an enemy of the state, he refuses to be controlled and essentially takes half the Avengers team and forms a splinter group.  Unprecedented for the man who truly inspired the United States during WWII.  He falls from grace publicly while never falling personally – he still sticks to his ideals and beliefs while sacrificing everything that defined his Avengers character.  He’s no longer the icon for the US’s strength, unity, and purity, rejecting it to support those who are in need of help (Bucky), openly calls out his teammates who are making (what he sees as) bad choices, and leaves to maintain his independence from those who would seek to control him for their own ends.  He sheds his mantle as America’s hero to embrace the values that originally defined America  Timely, in our day and age.

While not explored as in depth as Tony and Steve’s relationship, the choices they make concerning the Sokovia Accords place stress on other relationships.  Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Steve as Wilson sees the enduring bond between Steve and Bucky and must find a place for it alongside he and Steve’s brother-bond.  The burgeoning romantic relationship between Vision and Scarlet Witch as they find themselves on opposing sides – both newly added to the Avengers and processing not only their new roles, but how their powers work.  And the mysterious but incredibly strong friendship between Hawkeye and Black Widow – tested but still strong throughout the entire film – Hawkeye straight up saying he’s only on Steve’s side because Steve called before Tony did.

I think this film is interesting. It came out before our politics got really incredibly insane with an unqualified leader with murky loyalties and a desire to control everything.  It’s easy to say “Oh, Tony would be on this side and Steve this side” and leave it at that.  But beyond this, it’s more important to look at how each character had to examine their ideals and decide where they stood, especially as the fallout started hitting.  There wasn’t a clear right side and a wrong side in this battle, which I hope was the point of the film.  Nobody won.  Everyone was hurt.  And everyone was weaker because of where the film was ended.  I’m deeply interested in seeing what happens in the next Avengers movie, and have some pretty complex theories about it if you’d ever like to talk about them.  And just to be clear, I never really get this deep about films in real life…I mostly just enjoy a good superhero flick.  This definitely qualifies.


2016 Top Ten#7

#7 The BFG

#8 – Moana

#9 – Rogue One

#10 – My Big Fat Greek Wedding #2



The BFG was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill.  It was adapted from the Roald Dahl book of the same title.  It centers around the relationship between an orphan named Sophie and a giant whom she calls the BFG – or Big Friendly Giant.  The BFG kidnaps Sophie after she sees him one night and takes her to giant country, where he shows her his hobby of capturing and mixing dreams and must protect her from his fellow giants who are much larger than he is and oh – also eat children.

This film is a bit of a sentimental choice for me.  The BFG was the first chapter book I read out loud to our daughter and is still one of her favorites.  She begged us to take her to see it in the theaters, but it came out while we were in the fray of moving across the state, so it never happened.  But one night while DH was away on business, she and I snuggled on the couch and watched it together, forever cementing it as one of my favorite films simply due to that memory.

I’ll put it right out there – if you’re a fan of the book, you will most likely be a fan of the film.  There are very little differences between the two, primarily the fate of the other giants (the film opts for a much more humane ending than the book, imho), the introduction of the story of a little boy who used to live with the BFG, and also a few of the scenes where Sophie is threatened by the other giants are a bit different.

The film does a lovely job of exploring the relationship between two individuals who feel abandoned and disliked – Sophie being an orphan who is especially bookish and not conventionally pretty, and the BFG being the smallest of the giants and also the only one unwilling to eat children.  The giant himself is endearing in that he desperately wants to be a hero and helpful, but stumbles around in trying to find his way.  Rylance does a brilliant job bringing his character to life and the CGI, while not perfect, does a good enough job to immerse you in the universe.  There are some spectacularly beautiful parts, especially around Dream Country and as the BFG travels to and from Giant Country.  And if your kids like fart humor, there are several laugh out loud parts that were delightfully entertaining to my flatulent enthusiast daughter.

Overall, I would say this is the best family film of 2016.  It would make a lovely family film night choice, just be aware there are some intense parts with the larger giants that could scare smaller children (everything turns out okay in the end).

2016- # 8

8.  Moana

9.  Rogue One

10.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


Moana was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and is the 56th animated Disney film.  It featured songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina.  It also introduced Auli’i Cravalo (possibly the cutest Disney star ever), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rachel House, Jemaine Clement, and Alan Tudyk (as a chicken).

Moana tells the story of a future Maori chief.  She has a special relationship with the ocean, they’re friends and although she cannot command it, it’ll help her by carrying her, bringing her fish, and helping her sail.  It also gifts her with the relic the Heart of Te fiti – the heart of the Polynesian Island goddess that was stolen by the demi-god Maui many years before.  Moana longs to cross the coral barrier that surrounds her island and see what’s out there.  But her father (the current chief) forbids it.  When a mysterious plague threatens her island, Moana recognizes both her responsibility as the chieftain’s daughter (she’s not a princess as she repeatedly emphasizes) to protect her island and the chance to fulfill her dream to sail.  She takes a boat and Te Fiti’s heart and goes in search of Maui to heal the islands.

If you go into this movie wanting another Disney princess flick, you’ll probably be disappointed.  There is no Prince Charming in this film and Moana outright rejects the role of princess.  Instead, going so far as to declare “I am Moana” – her birthright is the ocean and all the adventure and responsibility it entails.  She is capable within herself to save her people and is strong enough to inspire a demi-god and confront lava demon, Te Ka.  Moana is the fierce role model young girls in our day and age need just as Wonder Woman is the fierce role model we as women have been longing for.  Moana is both smart and brave, willing to confront both her weaknesses and her fears, and able to take ownership for her mistakes and responsibilities.

The other fantastic thing about this movie is the music.  It’s just as catchy as those Frozen songs you’ve had on repeat for years, but not nearly as annoying.  I have never been quiet about my lack of love for Hamilton, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song writing in this film is incredible.  He not only utilized his own creativity, but collaborated with artists from Maori  tribes to be sensitive to their particular culture.  I don’t think that Disney has ever been this culturally sensitive in making a movie, which some criticized but I found overwhelmingly refreshing.  This film isn’t just a girls’ Disney movie, I feel like any kid would love it, no matter their gender.  There are a few mildly scary parts with Te Ka, and a jewel obsessed coconut crab named Tamatoa.  If you think of a reason to not watch this film and have not seen it yet, I’d love to hear it (and will probably dispute it) in the comments.  This is not only one of my top ten films of 2016 but probably one of my favorite Disney films overall.



2016- #9

9. Rogue One

10.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


Rogue One was directed by Gareth Edwards and was the first standalone Star Wars film Disney has released since adding the Star Wars rights to their gluttonous pile of money making machines.  Going into the film, the general population knew that Disney could handle Star Wars, The Force Awakens was a triumphant return for many fans.  But it was our first time in the galaxy far far away without any beloved faces – no Han, no Leia, no constant whining Luke.  There were a few scenes with everyone’s favorite Darth, but for the most part, Disney had the challenging job of taking a precious framework with a rabid fanbase and construct an entirely new story to fit within that framework as well as produce characters who could stand on their own and win our hearts.


They were highly successful.


Jyn Erso is the daughter of a brilliant scientist.  He’s taken by the Empire (and also has his wife killed to fulfill that tired old trope) to make a super weapon (enter Death Star) and Jyn is placed into the somewhat dubious care of a Rebel extremist named Saw.  Years later, Jyn has forged her own rebellious identity and is a criminal who has been captured by the Empire.  Rescued by the dashing Rebel officer Cassian Andor, she somewhat begrudgingly joins their cause with the sub-mission of her own to find her father.  Along with Andor’s acerbic droid K2S0, and a few oddball crewmates they pick up along the way, Jyn and Andor are tasked with destroying the Death Star or gaining the plans which will reveal a way to destroy it.  (Remember the beginning of a New Hope?  Those plans Senator Organa put into that little droid?)


I had my suspicions on how this film would turn out as soon as I saw the premise – the lead into a New Hope.  And I’ll do my best to remain spoiler free here.  But Disney and Edwards did a fantastic job keeping the action running as well as bringing home just how desperate a situation this galaxy is in.  A corrupt and all-powerful empire who seems to stamp down its constituents, I mean people, at every turn and only cares for more power for themselves.  A band of women, deserters, and minorities who are fighting not only for their own freedom but for the freedom of their entire galaxy.  And the crushing cost at which it comes.  It changes the tone of the entire series, the entire Star Wars universe.  Maybe because of the political landscape in the US today, or maybe because I’m an adult watching these instead of a kid.  But either way, Rogue One earned its place in the pantheon of Star Wars films, cementing Jyn, Cassian, K2S0, Saw, Bodhi, Baze and Chirrut as heroes of the Rebellion just as much as Solo, Organa, and Skywalker.


#10 – My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Ok, I’ll admit, this isn’t that spectacular a film – BUT it did really hit the spot because the weekend before, I saw the worst movie of 2016, which I talk about here.

10.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


This movie was directed by Kirk Jones and starred Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lanie Kazan, and Elena Kampouris.  It takes place roughly two decades after the first film – Ian and Toula now have an 18 year old daughter, Paris.  The vague semblance of a plot is the dual crises of Paris graduating from high school and wanting to escape her Greek family by attending a college very far away AND Toula’s parents discover their marriage certificate isn’t valid so they are not actually married.  Greek chaos ensues as Toula’s mother refuses to marry her father legally because she feels taken for granted and Ian and Toula struggle with wanting to support their daughter in her desire to be independent but desperately wanting her to stay near to them.  Add in the fact that Paris is in her first romantic relationship and the passion is waning in Ian and Toula’s and you’ve got the basics of the film.

Yes, I know it’s not groundbreaking.  I know it wasn’t nominated for any awards and most people (including me) only saw it because they have some affection for the first movie (which is a classic).  But – this movie didn’t make any huge promises.  It promised to take a look back at the Portokalos family two decades since Ian and Toula were married.  And it did just that.  It simply shows a slice of familial life in a family that’s a little bit crazy and a lot Greek.  And after the incredibly skin crawling let down that was Batman V Superman, it was just what I needed.  Sometimes it’s nice to see a film in which a family who seems somehow more insane than mine can survive the little (and the large) stumbling blocks to happiness that crop up in life and that sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want but you still have your family.  Nothing explodes, no one dies violently, no big twists – just a little bit of family time with the Portokalos’s.

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


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 –



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


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

# 2 – The Hangover

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.


#2 – Sherlock Holmes


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


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

#3 – Star Trek

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


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

4.) The Brothers Bloom

“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.

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

The Top 5

#5 – Zombieland
#4 – The Hangover


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


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.