1. EDITORIAL: Why DC Comics’s big move into television is so misguided:

    I watched “Smallville” for about five years, and I saw all 10 seasons and owned all the DVDs. Sure it had its creative struggles, and the CGI effects still took a while to catch up, but above all, it was a different time.
    There were far fewer superhero films at the initial premiere of this series in the Fall 2001 TV season. Superman hadn’t been seen on the big screen since “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace,” and hadn’t been seen in a live action television project since “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”
    It could hold its own. The only other DC television project attempted was the 2002 flop “Birds of Prey,” also held back by its modest television budget. “Smallville” worked, and the WB (but mostly the CW) milked it the best it could. And who can forget the failed “Aquaman” (2006) and “Wonder Woman” (2011) pilots?
    Fast forward to today—“Smallville” ended on a semi-satisfactory note. “Arrow” was the first successful spin-off series (most people don’t consider “Human Target,” a highly underrated 2 season DC show, a genuine comic book series). “Arrow” has now managed 3 seasons.
    Marvel had mild success with 2001-2004’s “Mutant X” and Spike’s “Blade: The Series” (also highly underrated and sadly cut short) in 2006, but they had huge success with their films slate.
    But everything changed when, in 2013, Marvel Studios tied their Marvel Cinematic Universe (read: “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “The Avengers,” “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”) to “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” When that happened, television was now held to the same cinematic standards as its MCU’s predecessors. The events that occurred in the films had an impact on the storylines of the television series. Characters in “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” could/would later be seen in the MCU, maybe even played by the same characters (Agent Coulson is the most obvious example). Nothing is considered expendable, and Marvel has proven themselves in meeting the challenge of such an undertaking.
    Joining this ambitious storytelling slate on the small screen is “Agent Carter,” “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist,” and “The Defenders,” all playing by the same rules. The part that is most exciting for fans is that nothing that occurs in these series is expendable. We won’t watch the new “Daredevil” series and think “yeah that’s great, but I wish I could get a movie! I don’t care to watch this small screen actor. I doubt it’ll look any good on a small budget.” They picked big screen actors for the parts, so they can hold their own in the hypothetical future when Daredevil may stumble across Iron Man or (gods be praised) Black Widow on the big screen. In fact, it allows you to grow a genuine attachment to each series for those reasons alone. The potential, whether it’s marketing, storytelling, or fanboy geeking, is limitless.
    Now let’s return to DC Comics. Right now, before any new shows air in the Fall 2014 season, they just have “Arrow.” Since Green Arrow only took a supporting role in “Smallville,” it didn’t take much to move above and beyond that to deliver on the character’s name.
    However, DC Comics saw what Marvel is doing, and think they can imitate. And, as always, it’s a very hollow imitation.
    “Gotham” is the big one people can genuinely look forward to. As it is a prequel, people are not concerned about continuity, but rather are intrigued by the possibilities of this loose interpretation. Everyone knows Gotham City. Everyone knows Commissioner Gordon, Batman, Catwoman, the Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy. They don’t take this quite so seriously as to “where is it going to go?” They know where it will go. That’s why just tagging along for the ride is all that’s required of it.
    However, on the other hand, we also have “The Flash,” “Constantine,” “iZombie,” “Supergirl,” “Teen Titans,” “Preacher,” “Lucifer” and others either ready to premiere this season or in very active, headline grabbing development (my, how aggressive).
    But the world needs re-introduced to all of these. And if their success leads to feature films, they’re not held to using the same actors or even characters to try and wedge it into their “barely there” DCMU (DC Movie Universe…yeah, they call theirs a Universe too, when it’s just “Man of Steel” that qualifies for that label currently, until 2016).
    This “Flash” series looks hammed up and B-level (special effects wise, how can they top “X-Men: Days of Future Past’s” 48fps Quicksilver?). “Constantine” looks cool, but unless Guillermo Del Toro commits to using the lead actor Matt Ryan in his “Justice League Dark” film, it will be second tier nonetheless (especially if they go R-Rated for film). “Supergirl” and “Teen Titans” have the same problems—they’re expendable if the characters’ futures are on the big screen…which is basically what the DCMU is trying to do by exponentially expanding their movie slate recently through to 2020. The DCMU will go on and ignore most things in their television projects (the showrunners like to call this “creative freedom”).
    So why then should we bother to get attached to anything going on in these series when a better actor will take on the role on the big screen in just a couple years? (Seriously, how long do you think it will take Warner Bros. to pump a “Flash” film out of their corporate machine? 2017? 2018?) Or watch the exact same origin, villain, and romance storylines rehashed even better in a few years? Or even for some of the format’s problems to get fixed (think Constantine’s smoking, or the Flash’s limited small screen effects)? They make themselves almost instantaneously irrelevant and are causing themselves convolution from the get-go (executive: “okay, so this series ties into the DCMU, but this one doesn’t? You’re starting to confuse even me.”). And let’s not forget that as Marvel announces Charlie Cox, Adrian Pasdar, Kyle MacLachlan, Adrianne Palicki, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Scott Glenn for their small screen slate, DC has been announcing…*flies buzzing, crickets chirping* and yet they still announce them as some one-episode guest one-shot supervillain cameo nonetheless, as if it were news that these characters would appear in a small capacity in a forgettable role in an expendable television show. Trust me, I see one or two of these announcements from DC on Twitter per week. I roll my eyes. One such announcement: “Amanda Pays will reprise her “Flash” role as Dr. Tina McGee from the 1990s “Flash” television series!” I’m like “okay, so does that mean they just like her for the role, or are they trying to imply multi-generational superheroes like Nite Owl and Nite Owl II, or Silk Spectre and Silk Spectre II (nothing that smart, I’m sure)?” I feel nothing, I care very little. In the larger scheme of things, even the idea/premise isn’t very entertaining. It doesn’t grab itself as a marketing opportunity, or seem like there’s a larger scheme at work.
    Yet when James D’Arcy was recently announced to be playing Edwin Jarvis in “Agent Carter,” my eyes lit up with wonder at the potential and possibilities: “Jarvis! The basis of Tony Stark’s digital butler! In the post-WWII MCU! How will D’Arcy portray that? What does he do to prove himself worthy as the basis of Tony’s (and presumably Howard Stark’s) robotic Jarvis? What does he contribute to the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D.? And how will this tie into “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” in May?”
    Marvel Studios solved all of this with their first official series a year ago. DC Comics, you’re just now starting to bury yourself under yesterday’s creative troubles. And it’s already too late to fix it.


  2. Movies I watched, Apr.-Aug. 2014

    Updated through August 29.

    Since I’ve been away for a while and there’s a lot of movies this time—the reviews will be shorter than ever. As in, I’ll limit it to one comment per.

    1. Contracted" 8/10
    2. Absentia" 7.75/10
    3. Saved!” 5.75/10
    4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier" 8.75/10 [Solidified "Captain America" as officially more popular, domestically, than "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "X-Men" at the box office.]
    5. New Jack City" 7/10
    6. Easy Rider" 7.25/10 [Apparently I haven’t done enough LSD.]
    7. John Dies At The End" 8.5/10 [Way better than it sounds.]
    8. Shrooms" 5.5/10
    9. Oculus" 8.25/10 [This one is brilliantly fucked up.]
    10. The Pact" 5/10
    11. The Trip" 5.5/10
    12. Click" 5/10 [Wow how generic Adam Sandler has fallen. Also, Kate Beckinsale is way too hot for that schmuck.]
    13. Trainspotting" 8.75/10 [Hardcore.]
    14. Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell" 7.5/10
    15. Bag of Bones" 6/10
    16. Loaded" 3.75/10
    17. Transcendence" 6/10 [Shame this looks great, but couldn’t transcend its own premise.]
    18. Fright Night (1985)" 7.25/10 [I do prefer the remake, but the original is infectiously enjoyable.]
    19. Pontypool" 7/10
    20. An Extremely Goofy Movie" 4/10
    21. Day of the Dead" 7.25/10 [Holds up sub-textually with the rest of the series.]
    22. Leprechaun" 3/10 [I don’t know how this was supposed to be either fun or scary. If it didn’t have Jennifer Aniston in it to make fun of, this would be totally not worthwhile.]
    23. The Serpent and the Rainbow" 7/10
    24. White Zombie" 8/10 [The original "zombi" film.]
    25. Neighbors" 8.5/10 [Caught this at Universal’s sneak peek screenings—hilarious and surprisingly well-written, another hit for Nicholas Stoller.]
    26. The Joneses" 6.5/10
    27. The Quiet Ones" 5.75/10
    28. Night of the Living Dead (1990)” 8.5/10 [I do prefer this remake to the original, though I may be one of the few.]
    29. Double Indemnity (1944)" 9/10
    30. Dead Snow" 7/10
    31. Frankenstein’s Army" 3/10
    32. A Fantastic Fear of Everything" 7.75/10
    33. Spider-Man 3" 7.25/10 [It gets better with age. Perhaps give it another look.]
    34. Lay the Favorite" 8/10 [Rebecca Hall has never been hotter, even going in and out of that Valley Girl accent.]
    35. Hollywood Homicide" 5/10
    36. Soapdish" 7.5/10
    37. Mickey’s House of Villains" 4.5/10 [This was kind of bullshit—the premise was that Mickey’s House of Mouse gets taken over by the villains, but they only did so in the last five or ten minutes of the program. The rest of it are old throwback Disney Halloween cartoon shorts. Mis-marketed and missed opportunity.]
    38. Passion" 6.5/10
    39. Spy Kids: All The Time In The World in 4D" 5/10 [If you were once a "Spy Kids" fan, you may yet find nostalgia here.]
    40. The Amazing Spider-Man" 7.75/10 (Re-Review)
    41. Heart and Souls" 7.75/10
    42. You’re Next" 7.25/10
    43. I Think I Love My Wife" 6.5/10 [If you still debate about Kerry Washington being "hot or not," watch this movie. She’s a siren.]
    44. Trollhunter" 7/10
    45. The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)" 7.25/10
    46. Prozac Nation" 8.5/10
    47. Elektra" 4.5/10 (Re-Review)
    48. The Iceman" 8/10
    49. In & Out" 7/10
    50. Cursed" 4/10
    51. Machete Kills" 7.75/10 [Robert Rodriguez’s best movie in a while, if not merely just for the sense of infectious fun on display.]
    52. The Grand Budapest Hotel" 8.75/10
    53. Dallas Buyers Club" 8/10
    54. The Best Man Holiday" 5/10
    55. The To Do List" 6/10
    56. Runner Runner" 5.5/10
    57. Only Lovers Left Alive" 7.25/10
    58. Godzilla (2014)" 7.75/10
    59. Locke" 7.5/10
    60. X-Men: Days of Future Past" 8.75/10 [Don’t miss it. It’s the best X-Men movie since "X2: X-Men United" 11 years ago.]
    61. Chef" 9/10
    62. Fed Up" 7.5/10 [This documentary, despite its importance, was limited release and creatively (if underwhelmingly) marketed. Give it a look on Blu-Ray, and it will explain to you how soda should be alongside ATF as the next great American problem.]
    63. Hannibal" 7.25/10
    64. Maleficent" 6.75/10
    65. The Stepford Wives (2004)" 5.75/10
    66. Fido" 8/10
    67. A Million Ways to Die in the West" 5.5/10
    68. Much Ado About Nothing (2012)" 7.25/10
    69. The Fault in Our Stars" 7.75/10 [I knew about halfway through that he was gonna die.]
    70. Dead Before Dawn 3D" 5/10
    71. Birth of the Living Dead" 8/10
    72. 22 Jump Street" 8.5/10 [In my honest opinion, I believe it builds successfully upon the first installment and improves upon it.]
    73. Equilibrium" 7.75/10 (Re-Review)
    74. Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor" 9.5/10 [Best "Doctor Who" episode of all time. 50th Anniversary Special episode is also available on 3D Blu-Ray.]
    75. Wake Wood" 6/10
    76. Wanted" 7.75/10 (Re-Review) [It’s so wild and unique, 6 years later it’s only better.]
    77. The Killer Inside Me" 7.5/10
    78. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa .5" 6/10
    79. **”Transformers: Age of Extinction" 3/10 [Worst "Transformers" movie ever. Worse than "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Bland and boring, no matter how many punches or explosions those robots throw at each other for almost three hours.]
    80. Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip" 6/10
    81. Rise of the Planet of the Apes" 8/10 (Re-Review)
    82. Cheech & Chong’s Nice Dreams" 6.75/10
    83. Deliver Us From Evil" 6/10
    84. **”Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" 8.75/10
    85. **”Lucy" 8.5/10 [If you’re choosing between "Limitless" and "Lucy" for your human brain potential fable, "Lucy" is genuinely limitless. Hell, this is the film that should’ve been called "Transcendence."]
    86. Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan" 8/10
    87. **”Guardians of the Galaxy" 9/10 [One of the greatest Marvel films of all time. I haven’t had that much fun at the movies all year.]
    88. Chicago" 8.75/10 (Re-Review)
    89. Heavy Metal" 7.5/10 [One unique, weird-ass movie. But it’s fuckin’ cool.]
    90. Doc of the Dead" 7/10
    91. Sharknado" 2/10 [It was only enjoyable after I started really sipping the vodka.]
    92. Mr. Bean’s Holiday" 5/10
    93. Homo Sapiens 1900" 7/10
    94. Barbarella" 2.5/10
    95. Ghostbusters" 5.75/10 (Re-Review) [Yeah, I guess this has just poorly aged or it was never as funny as people really thought.]
    96. Grease" 6/10 [Now it’s cliché and dated. But the soundtrack is still fun, and it’s cool to make fun of John Travolta for this—what misplaced charisma.]
    97. Ghostbusters II" 6.5/10 [People complain this film didn’t quite have its story in place, but that’s not true. This one built on the first one, improved the special effects and the chemistry between characters, polished the entire production, and it’s a marked improvement.]
    98. Where the Buffalo Roam" 7.75/10 [Watch "The Rum Diary," "Where the Buffalo Roam," then "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and there you have the great Gonzo trilogy (which you can cap off with the great doc "Gonzo" as well).]
    99. Shaft" 5.75/10
    100. Superheroes" 6.75/10
    101. Popeye" 3.75/10 [No one else could’ve played the role so entertainingly and charmingly as Robin Williams—but the movie was fairly misguided and its production bloated.]
    102. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" 5/10 [No story, and the special effects don’t hold up—let’s face it, it’s bland these days.]
    103. Chaplin" 7.75/10
    104. Sucker Punch" 8/10 (Re-Review)
    105. **”Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)" 5.75/10 [I can dig a weird movie about mutant turtles that are teenage ninjas, but then it got run through the Michael Bay product line, and it got a little blah.]
    106. Double Jeopardy" 7.25/10 [Surprisingly good film—also impressed with how they sidestepped the technicalities of double jeopardy at the end. Holds up.]
    107. The Smurfs 2" 4.5/10
    108. Tarzan (1999)" 7/10
    109. Nymphomaniac, Vol. I" 8.5/10 [It’s actually worth the hype. Though the second part takes as critical a dip as "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" took from "Vol. 2," which makes me wonder why the climax and falling action aren’t quite as diverting as the rising action…?]
    110. Nymphomaniac, Vol. II" 7.75/10
    111. The Amazing Spider-Man 2" 7.5/10 (Re-Review) [Deserves a revisit. It will build a fan base over the next few years as people relive the spectacle and Gwen Stacy.]
    112. jOBS" 7.75/10 [Did not expect the movie to be as well-made (or hell, entertaining!) as it is.]
    113. Battlestar Galactica: Razor" 6.75/10
    114. The Fisher King" 8.25/10
    115. The Birdcage" 8/10
    116. From Dusk Till Dawn" 7/10 [Selma Hayek—DAMN.]
    117. The Big Wedding" 3.75/10
    118. **”Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" 6.5/10 [It’s a shame to say this doesn’t punch like 2005’s "Sin City" did, but watching them back-to-back would be a wholly worthwhile trip in my opinion. Eva Green, Rosario Dawson, and Jessica Alba—there’s three reasons to watch this.]
    119. Cujo" 5.75/10
    120. Gigli" 3/10 [It’s definitely not the worst movie ever made. It’s just surprisingly unremarkable. But I will admit, it got me to laugh a few times.]

  3. Movies I watched, Mar. 2014

    I took a bit of time getting to this one. I finished up Netflix’s limited selection of “Classic Doctor Who,” and let’s just say fans should start at Series 5 of the rebooted series, catch up, then go back to the 2005 Series 1, then return to the Classics. That’s my fan opinion.

    Now I’m in “Dexter,” which doesn’t kick in until the last couple episodes of Season 1. I’m on ep. 8 of Season 4 now. Jon Lithgow is genius. Also, I miss Lila, Dexter’s pyro Sponsor.

    Let’s get to the movies:

    1. The Innkeepers" 8/10 [The script structure was great, the protagonist is perfect, and the build-up is worthwhile (just like any Ti West film, it’s an almost unbearably slow build, but pays off).]
    2. Kingdom of Shadows" 9/10 [This horror documentary was put together by the Kino International film preservation movement, and they pull from some nearly forgotten pieces to paint a brilliant canvas of horror in cinema, reaching back to the very beginning. In my horror fanatic opinion, this is the most comprehensive doc on the subject.]
    3. Cadet Kelly" 3.5/10 (Re-Review) [Some Disney Channel Original Movies appeared on Netflix recently, so in the midst of being stoned and getting a girl’s opinion on what to watch next, we ended up on this. It’s an amusingly in-cheek gig, but…it not only doesn’t hold up, but its pratfalls are obvious. Did they write that entire dance choreography number at the end for Disney to sell their "One Girl Revolution" single? You be the judge. Special shout-out to Christy Romano, who is missed far too much by me in modern media. Her snark won’t be forgotten. Shia LeBeouf gets famous post-"Even Stevens" and she doesn’t? Poor.]
    4. Ju-On: The Grudge" 7.75/10 [It was about time I watched the original Japanese "The Grudge," and its sequel. The main asset here is the R-Rating, just like "Ringu," it hits harder, darker, and gorier. It’s more mature and messes with you using proper practical effects that will make you wonder how they accomplished it.]
    5. Melancholia" 9/10 [I’m not so sure when I decided I’d try out Lars Von Trier’s Depression Trilogy (the first being "Antichrist"), but I’m certainly glad I didn’t stop before the second chapter. This is one of the best "end of the world" movies I’ve ever seen. It’s real. It’s complex. It’s sad. Also, to accomplish this, Von Trier did not need to remove himself too far from his unique, naturalistic aesthetic choices, something that makes the film all the richer for it.]
    6. The Devil’s Carnival" 5.5/10 [Sorry Darren Lynn Bousman. I believe this is where we part ways. After great installments in the "Saw" series ("Saw II, III & IV,"), you might’ve made a couple rogue choices ("Repo! The Genetic Opera," "Mother’s Day"), but your plummet to Z-movies like this afterwards wouldn’t have made anybody’s career prospects look any brighter. The aesthetic, typical Bousman, is sickly and the colors are harsh, the music is really bad and unpolished (with maybe only one or two memorable parts), and the story hardly tries…just like Bousman anymore. Are we really going to get sequels to this??]
    7. Escape From Alcatraz" 7.75/10 [For Alcatraz’s short history, this film makes a solid reason to remember at least a bit of it: the few men who managed to escape. Eastwood is great as usual, but the script is the best asset here.]
    8. What Just Happened?" 6/10 [I’ve been trying to watch this movie for about 6 years. Don’t hold out that much hope, ever, for a Barry Levinson film. It will disappoint. With a solid concept and cast, I figured this would be amusing, and it was, but not nearly as much as the talent seems to suggest. Still, it makes for a diverting enough couple hours on Hollywood production satire.]
    9. **”300: Rise of an Empire" 7/10 [Eva Green is the villain here. Xerxes barely factors. Wonder if they’ll make a third one so Xerxes’s arc can come full circle, and the God King can be "fleshed out" a bit more finally. The filmmakers attempt to repeat Snyder’s cinematographic choices, and the spirit of it is negligibly the same. In fact, their sex scene and a couple bloody scenes do top the original. But in the end, it’s still a cliffhanger ending, feeling like they could’ve tied it up, but chose to keep their balls out for a third round (clearly meaning this wasn’t quite so satisfying a venture as they thought it’d be). See it for Eva Green.]
    10. The Raven (2012)" 5/10 [Also don’t ever hold out much hope for a James McTeigue film. After "V For Vendetta" (for which the Wachowskis must’ve been far more responsible for than first perceived), he followed that hit up with patchwork on "The Invasion" and then directed "Ninja Assassin" (which is just as bad as "The Raven"). He’s less than a one-hit wonder, given that even "V For Vendetta" is particularly flawed as a film as well. In this case, they wrap a conspiracy-esque plot around Edgar Allan Poe (think "Anonymous," with more blood), but have very little depth to add to either Edgar or his oft-referenced works. It sounds like an SNL skit more than a serious film. John Cusack makes the most he can out of Poe’s alcoholism, but beyond that, this was a missed opportunity more than anything.]
    11. The Grey" 8/10 [It’s philosophical. It’s not about some wolves. It’s about existentialism. So if you have a problem with the movie, it’s either not big enough budget for you, or you’re not thinking hard enough. For me, I was genuinely pleased how its story paid off.]
    12. Irreversible" 6.75/10 [It’s hard to get through. Its narrative is told in reverse, and starts in a very avant-garde, purposefully obscured cinematography. From there, it builds its dread and once the irreversible act is done, we are left with a greater agenda than we thought the director had in mind. It’s not for everyone.]
    13. These Amazing Shadows" 9.25/10 [Technically, it’s the best documentary I’ve ever seen on the subject of film. Nuff said.]
    14. Ju-On: The Grudge 2" 7.25/10 [It’s a little less than the original, but once you let it take you through sequel territory for about twenty minutes, it lets itself known as a worthy installment in the series. Sure, not as great, but still will give you the creeps.]
    15. Side By Side" 8.75/10 [After watching "These Amazing Shadows" based on the preservation of film, I figured it was a solid choice to watch the other side of the coin, which would be the rise of digital cinema and all its applications (are we really up to shooting in native 5K already? How the time flies). It’s eye-opening, and more than educational.]
    16. The Mothman Prophecies" 7.75/10 [I consider this to be underappreciated, but I understand if most people don’t hold to this quite like I do. Most "original" screenwriters would attempt to use a mythological figure in their horror film as someone to defeat. That’s not the nature of the Mothman, and they don’t take you the way you’d expect. Recommended.]
    17. Ghost" 8.5/10 [Let’s get something straight here: it’s kitschy at times, with its shitty late ’80s effects. I’m no fan of Demi Moore or Patrick Swayze, two other ’80s relics, but they’re actually put to solid use (not to mention Whoopi! Best I’ve ever seen her act). The script is the main appeal here, and I can praise that easily. There’s personal peeves, but by the end I was fairly won over.]
    18. The Virgin Suicides" 8/10 [That ending packed a punch. Mostly, this film carries whimsy and adoration alongside themes of freedom, damnation and authority, spelling it out in a way that makes you remember when you clashed over the same issues with your parents. Can’t wait to read the book.]
    19. **”Non-Stop" 7/10 [It’s better than you’ll assume it to be. Liam Neeson knocks it out of the park again (how does he do that? Is he really not just playing another character with a particular set of skills?), and the plot will twist once or twice. Don’t let the trailer ruin any of the surprise going in; just sit down, turn on the movie.]
    20. The Artist" 9.75/10 [Wow. First off, who’d have thought a silent film could hold up like that in 2011? Second, it’s a masterpiece. Berenice Bejo is one unforgettably gorgeous lead actress (she single?). This movie charmed the fuck out of me, just from Bejo and Jean Dujardin’s silent chemistry, but also from the jokes, the cast, and that talented little dog.]
    21. The Messenger" 8.75/10 [Its performances standout above all. Woody Harrelson—well, let’s just stop assuming for good that he’s going to do a poor job—is great as always, another Oscar-nominated role for him. The protagonist, however, is Ben Foster, and for the first time in a while, he’s the perfect man for the job. Also, the entire premise of "casualty notification" makes for a somber, incredibly moving film.]
    22. Heartless" 6/10 [Jim Sturgess may be surprisingly sympathetic, but those cheap indie aesthetic quirks only hinder the story. I always hope for so much more than this when it comes to Faustian stories, but I was let down a bit. Has a nice build and twist, but never makes you feel the "damning" consequences.]
    23. Taken 2" 6/10 [It’s more of the same, of course. Still, there’s some enjoyment to have left in the premise (and apparently into "Taken 3," so they say). Famke Janssen is a very welcome return, and Maggie Grace gets some balls for the sequel. Is it just me, or did this sequel’s plot seem to wrap up a little too nicely? Either way, I’m ready for the third one.]
    24. **”Divergent" 8/10 [It took me until this last year’s excellent "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" before I was a fan of the series. How did "Divergent" fare in becoming the next Young Adult adaptation? A lot better than the first "Hunger Games," in my opinion. This is smarter material, with a more stylish director and as surprisingly good of a cast. Shailene Woodley holds her own a lot better than I’d ever have expected, and the film trailers don’t play to this film’s unique strengths—they’re just trying to sell it to the "Hunger Games" demographic. Don’t blame it on the film crew (but rather the film market) that "Divergent" sometimes plays by "Hunger Games" rules—because this is a new, smarter animal, and a worthy successor to J-Law’s new A-list heroine status.]
    25. House of Voices" 4.75/10 [The lead actress, Virginie Ledoyen, is super stunning. She’s immediately a sympathetic lead (I mean, it worked for me), which does this film more favors than it’s probably worth. This plot is hit-and-miss, scattered and malformed. It loses points there, no matter how cool and creepy the imagery is.]
    26. Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace" 6/10 (Re-Review) [I rewatch this frequently (I could estimate about once a year), and this last time put some great emphasis on George’s visual genius, and his undisciplined, sloppy screenwriting technique. The "Star Wars" universe has a lot of moving pieces, and this sets them in motion, but struggles to provide the emotional and suspenseful heft of the originals, nor a real drive in pacing. Cool lightsaber battles though!]
    27. Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie" 4/10 [The beginning of this movie was vastly improved over the original Cheech & Chong feature, only to have the plot digress and fall apart into literal nonsense. Tune in to the first twenty minutes for laughs, leave after you’ve had your fill, don’t bother coming back for the ending.]
    28. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)" 9/10 [From the first minutes, you can immediately see they have a higher agenda than "spaceship lands, people panic, etc etc". The remake did not follow suit, instead opting for the "etc etc" part. The universe asks planet Earth to cease their violent behavior—that’s more brilliant.]
    29. Malena" 8.5/10 [Beautiful, profound, melancholy and full of adolescence: Malena is far more than she seems. I waited for almost thirteen years to watch this Italian film, starring the always-alluring Monica Bellucci. It paid off. It will make you fall in love, only to break your heart, then stick a loose bandage on it and tell you it will all be better. One solid story of youth right there.]
    30. **”Noah" 8/10 [It’s as good as I hoped it to be, but no more. This is a solid film from Aronofsky, but loses some of his craze in favor of solemnity. So it’s not the same driving psychological force his other films have—but it’s as good a film as we could expect for Noah and his story.]
    31. The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)" 6/10 [I was surprised how bad this was. I will reanalyze it at a later time, but ultimately it seems Klaatu is no longer benevolent, the mother is no ordinary mother (taking away from the lessons Klaatu learns from her, not to mention her Jaden Smith kid), and apparently these days no one feels remorse for their planet. Most subtext is lost on these "modernizing" updates. So essentially, they modernized the spaceship, but they didn’t adapt anything the original meant.]
    32. The Gift" 7/10 [If it wasn’t for the cast and Raimi’s direction, this could’ve ended up as the usual generic ghost story. Thankfully, this is not the case. It’s a solid work, just not wholly original.]

  4. Movies I watched, Feb. 2014

    To be fair, there’s less than there usually would be because I got genuinely caught up in “Doctor Who” this month. Once I got to series 5 of the rebooted series—DAMN. Haven’t stopped watching. Netflix has “Classic Doctor Who” episodes as well, so I’m currently in 1970 with the Third Doctor, and not quite sure when I’ll return to the Land of Movies yet.

    1. The Last Stand" 6.5/10 [Schwarzenegger has more expected of him than this, which is clearly "more of the same" as he used to do. Barebones plot, solid action, occasional humor, and fistfights. The villain is actually kind of intriguing, though.]
    2. Tales From The Darkside: The Movie" 3.75/10 [It’s surprisingly bad—the first hour is pretty boring and low-fi, then somewhere in the middle of the cat story in this anthology, it stepped up and got more interesting. Still, too little too late. There’s better horror anthologies out there. Also some nice early ’90s cameos here.]
    3. The Last Temptation of Christ" 8.75/10 [Initially, I was quite taken aback at how fresh this Jesus story was. It was what I wanted in a film about Jesus. As it drug on for a little longer than I’d have liked, they balanced what I wanted it to be with some unavoidable cliches, and eventually it ended up as a great experience…just wish it could’ve focused a little harder.]
    4. Candy" 7.75/10 (Re-Review) [It’s a beautiful film. An unpolished gem of art. Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish breathe so much of their lifeforce into this film, thus it’s safe to say there may never be another film quite like it again.]
    5. Hulk (2003)" 8/10 [The time has come at last. I bought the Blu-Ray of this often derided adaptation, popped it in, and after watching it time and time again, just trying to get what the director was thinking—it clicked. Everything popped into place. It went from a 6.25/10 or so to a solid 8. It’s psychological, profound, artistically crafted, emotional and dramatic. Everyone wanted to see Hulk smash; this movie was trying to discover WHY Hulk smashes. They even gave him an adversary in Nick Nolte that is insane and genius, while at the same time flexing some story structure muscles to keep the good guy vs. bad guy formula from ever becoming obvious here.]
    6. The Incredible Hulk (2008)" 7.5/10 [First off, there’s an Ed Norton cut of this film out there somewhere that is superior to the theatrical cut, which I would give a solid 8 to. But we got this version, more barebones action stuff, like audiences thought they wanted. The 2003 version displays a sense of sophistication and intelligence reminiscent of the meek Bruce Banner—whereas this reboot is more mindless and loud like a rampaging Hulk. Being tied to the Marvel Studios movies, there’s some great subtext to be picked up on in retrospect, and there’s still a great cast here…but it’s not a complete picture, like Norton’s cut is.]
    7. Following" 8.75/10 [I have now seen all of Christopher Nolan’s films, and there’s not a rotten one in the bunch (depending on how you choose to look at "The Dark Knight Rises"). Between Darren Aronofsky’s debut film "Pi" and Nolan’s debut here, I’d give the contest to Nolan. It pulls you in with compelling characters and surprises you again and again through to the end.]
    8. New York, I Love You" 7/10 [Oh, what to say—the cast is great, some of the stories are truly inspired, others simply amuse. One bizarre story with Shia Lebeouf sticks out. Natalie Portman can do no wrong. But when you get a solid performance out of Hayden Christensen, that bodes quite well for the subsequent stories.]
    9. In Dreams" 5.75/10 [Given the premise of the film, it seemed like there was more story to be displayed here. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. This was during the time of Annette Bening’s rise and Robert Downey Jr.’s fall in the late ’90s, and yet a dread-drenched melancholy supernatural slasher couldn’t be mustered? RDJ is a standout though…see him in full villain (and cocaine) mode!]
    10. Antichrist" 6.75/10 [You know what you’re getting into when you set foot in a theater playing a Lars Von Trier film. Oh, you don’t? Blood, dismemberment, full frontal nudity, psychologically scarring, high-def, visceral imagery, and emotional performances. Now, to the service of the story here…well, the story was difficult to break apart. But the emotions of it were palpable.]
    11. **”Frozen" 8.25/10 [So is it as great as everyone is saying? No. Is it good? Yes. Will the music get stuck in your head? Yes. This film feels like a nostalgic blend of Disney Princess features, "The Lion King," and "Beauty and the Beast," but with crappier animation (seriously, it looks like "Tangled" with less style. A very generic design) and a less epic feel.]
    12. **”The LEGO Movie" 8.5/10 ["Everything is Awesome!" But seriously, it’s funny, it’s light, it’s witty, it’s smart (way smarter than the material required it to be), and kids will love it. It’s currently the talk of the town and a box office hit ($200M and counting). Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are on a roll though.]
    13. **”RoboCop (2014)" 6.75/10 [It’s not near as bad as it could’ve/should’ve been. In fact, I think  they built upon the premise of the original in a very natural way, adapting it for a modern society, and managed to do that with a $100M budget. Which do I prefer—the original—but this one has a lot of fun with the idea too. The cast and effects in this version are better, but the original was more brutal, darkly humorous (Verhoeven’s signature), and that ending was flawless. Wish they’d kept it intact somehow.]
    14. **”That Awkward Moment" 4.75/10 [Yeesh. Sappy, cliched and melancholy. Not to mention, do the guys seem to have more estrogen than they should? Because they’re not guys in a rom-com…they’re basically written like girls, like once they all coincidentally find love at the same time, nothing more matters and life would never be the same without them and blah-blah-blah. Miles Teller, Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan couldn’t save this one. And what a silly title.]
    15. Curse of Chucky" 7.25/10 [The sixth Chucky film finally got put into my Blu-Ray player yesterday—AWESOME. Well, the disclaimer is that it’s a little tight on its purse’s drawstrings, and there seems to be a gaping plothole or two. Beyond that, it’s so quintessentially Chucky that those flaws will not stop fans from rejoicing in Chucky’s return, nor the handful of surprises that diehards will love. Can’t wait for the sequel!]

  5. Movies I watched, Jan. 2014

    Movies still exist in 2014? When are we getting those straight-to-the-brain projections, or trans-dermal digital downloads? Come on. The closest we’ve gotten is Peter Jackson’s experiments with 48fps.

    Anyways, somehow in one month I’ve burned through quite a few movies. I thought this would be a short, easy write-up this time. Oh well.

    1. Children of the Corn (1984)" 4.75/10 [Yeah, Isaac is badass, so is Malachai. But this movie is so overrated, even if it is vintage King.]
    2. Warrior" 9/10 [It is criminal how underrated this film is, and how little money it made in its domestic theatrical run. Nick Nolte was my favorite part of this film (I have never seen that man act like that, and I was a fan before!), but everyone shines. Tom Hardy equally knocks it out (pun intended). A powerful film, and legitimately intense.]
    3. The One" 5.5/10 [I finally got around to seeing this one, and I’d have probably thought it was totally kick-ass when I was 11 (which I was at the time this film came out). That being said…it’s a tad dated, and dumb, and it’s hard to watch Jet Li attempt a lead role so early in his English-language career, but it was fun.]
    4. Good Burger" 3.75/10 (Re-Review) [Hard to believe this was from 1997. Whew. "Welcome to Good Burger—home of the Good Burger. Can I take your order?" Everybody knows that, but have they seen they old Kenan & Kel movie? It’s scattershot.]
    5. Once Bitten" 3.5/10 [I watched this to see Jim Carrey, no other reason. Oh, and I suppose everybody likes vampires. But not gay ’80s vampires who aren’t even attractive. It goes from horrible melodrama vampire chit-chat to some sort of a supernatural ’80s rom-com with Carrey. He brings life to a mostly dead venture. I was hoping for more "Superbad" mixed with "Fright Night."]
    6. **”Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" 6/10 [This one was controversial! Everybody was talking about it! But people either hate the series, or feel that PA4 wasn’t sufficient enough to warrant further sequels (to be fair, it made little effort to progress the series’s mythology). "The Marked Ones," however, does better on its own terms, and makes significant development in the mythology, and is even a little darker. The spin-off’s tone is set aside from the rest of the series, and this new aesthetic is an accomplishment in itself. I look forward to seeing how PA5 stands this October.]
    7. Mansome" 6/10 [At first intriguing (and amusing, as all Morgan Spurlock docs are), eventually it wears its premise thin and could’ve dug a little deeper into the material. A tad unfocused.]
    8. The People Under The Stairs" 8/10 [It’s like a twisted bedtime story for those creepy neighbors in your hood. But I was genuinely impressed with some of the ingenuity on display here, something I’d long since forgotten Wes Craven was capable of. Underrated.]
    9. Casa de mi Padre" 7.25/10 [I got a good kick out of this. It’s so witty, amusing, charming, colorful, and did I mention Genesis Rodriguez is one fine-ass woman? Not to mention she is the definition of a current "up-and-comer". The entire cast may not be as hot as Genesis, but they still have clever talent on display here.]
    10. **”American Hustle" 8.25/10 [It’s actually not quite as great as word of mouth seemed to imply, but the acting is undeniably brilliant. Everyone was remarkable. The story and direction has murky morals and makes me wonder hard about the mental state of ambition—still, it’s often funny, it’s tense, and it’s bold.]
    11. Nosferatu (1922)" 8.25/10 [F.W. Murnau had a way with the silent film. This is superior to Bela Lugosi’s "Dracula" in that you dread the vampire far more, recoiling at the sight of it. And Murnau makes sure to use that to great advantage.]
    12. Forgetting Sarah Marshall" 8.75/10 (Re-Review) [It was about time I revisited one of my personal favorites—it still holds up. Jason Segal wrote a great screenplay, as the film feels like genuine art from the heart mumbo-jumbo. Also, it’s a riot.]
    13. Get Him To The Greek" 8/10 (Re-Review) [Depending on how much you like Aldous Snow (whom some referred to as the obnoxious character from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), that’s what your reaction to this film will most depend on. For me, the last time I watched it, I enjoyed it the most. Some of the subtext seems to have been lost on me those initial times I saw this movie. Always recommend watching "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" first, however, to get the most appreciation out of it.]
    14. Night of the Living Dead" 8/10 [Surprisingly great. Yes, I know it’s the original, but  In fact, many of the tropes of "The Walking Dead" come directly from this specific film. Basically, it still holds up on today’s standards, even for the overall zombie genre. Sure, it’s basically a minimalist version, but George A. Romero is a celebrity for a reason.]
    15. Bulletproof Monk" 5.75/10 [I’m a fan of Seann William Scott. I know a lot of people aren’t, and sometimes it’s hard to take him seriously—sometimes it’s hard to Stifle your laughter. I get it. But I think he carries this film alongside Chow Yun-Fat and Jaimie King quite well. The story will surprise you, as it’s sincere in its philosophical views and stays true to the archetypes they choose to play with. More fun than you’d expect.]
    16. Pi" 8.25/10 [Darren Aronofsky at his basic level. It’s vintage, it’s unique, it’s daring, it’s bold, and that ending is awesome.]
    17. **”Devil’s Due" 5.5/10 [It’s not as bad as I thought it’d be. That said, it’s basic and it’s average. I think the performances keep it grounded and keep you invested. Beyond that, it’s the found footage "Rosemary’s Baby" without the style, the genuine paranoia, or Mia Farrow…just more excuses for low-budget supernatural spooks.]
    18. House of the Devil" 8/10 [My personal problem with this film is that it genuinely felt like too much build-up. I don’t like movies that jerk you around for suspense. This movie may jerk around a bit, but it is purposefully building to "something." It carries a potent sense of dread as well, given an initial tragic death setting the tone for what was to come. It’s that last 20 minutes of the movie that will have your eyes bulging. It’s worth it, just barely.]
    19. America’s Sweethearts" 6/10 (Re-Review) [I quite enjoy the premise, and find that if it were remade today with an R-Rating, it could be a smash. Still, the unique premise is handed down to its rom-com cliches’ level, and overall it comes off as amusing.]
    20. **”The Wolf of Wall Street" 9/10 [The balls on these guys is amazing. Leo has never been so daring. Scorsese has never been so flat-out funny. And where the hell did Jonah Hill’s acting ability suddenly come from?? This movie is stellar, if a tad long-winded, and is relevant and timely.]
    21. Tales From The Script" 7/10 [It’s sufficient for its subject, and since I’m so particularly invested in this field of study, it was worthwhile to me. Best documentary I’ve seen on the subject, personally.]
    22. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)" 9.5/10 [The oldest film I’ve seen yet—and it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. So fascinating, so deep, so well staged and acted. John Barrymore is great in both roles. I appreciated every detail in this adaptation.]
    23. Best Worst Movie" 5.75/10 [I thought this was a documentary intending to explore the nature of how bad films get made—instead, it was about the making of just one, "Troll 2," but then by the end chooses to embrace it as a great movie. Talk about some mixed signals and whacked perspective.]
    24. Rosemary’s Baby" 9/10 [It’s paranoia, it’s psychedelia, it’s dread. Mia Farrow is great. The ending is great. That infamous ritual scene is epic ("This is no dream!"). Always a recommend.]
    25. The Relic" 3.75/10 [I read on an online site that this was a solid film amongst the monster/mutant B-movie genre—Tom Sizemore being in the cast should’ve tipped me off to otherwise. It was badly shot and horribly lit (seriously, I think they kept half the movie undersaturated and shadowy to make up for its straight-to-video budget), and the acting was half-assed. The premise of the monster was somewhat interesting, but not for near as long as its runtime. The monster isn’t even in the movie for very long, and it doesn’t look too great (looks like early-’90s CGI, which I thought was weird for a big studio to do in the late ’90s). Just disappointing. It was falsely advertised on that other site, but not here! It’s not good.]
    26. Into the Wild" 9.75/10 [Wow. Was not expecting that, but this was one of the greatest, deepest experiences I’ve ever had while watching a film. It’s a complete experience. Deserving of more Oscars? Yeah. Fantastic film. Narrative is complete, presented in a grounded, unique, non-linear way, based on a true story and truly a meaningful story to tell at that—one that after finishing the film, feel along with the filmmakers that it was deserving of such prestige.]
    27. Jacob’s Ladder" 8/10 [What to say about this one…it’s serious, one you can attempt to deconstruct and debate about its philosophy, about its theology, about the allegory at play. I was a little disappointed it became a bit about some conspiracy, instead of keeping its narrative focus on purgatory subtext, but accepting it on its own terms, it paints a fantastic character with Tim Robbins in true form, and his journey is bizarre and moody, sometimes sad.]
    28. Black Sunday" 6.75/10 [Mario Bava, sure, but not at his best. It’s mostly sold on its Gothic European witchhunt, Barbara Steele’s glare, and that mask with the spikes embedded on the inside. Otherwise, it’s surprisingly conventional in its narrative and doesn’t surprise too much.]
    29. Grabbers" 8/10 [If you saw the DVD cover, or knew it was low budget, you probably wouldn’t go for it—but this is in the vein of "Slither," and by that I mean it’s a little gross, a little B-movie sci-fi monster/mutant/alien schlock, and funny. Surprisingly funny, and the characters memorable.]
    30. Hustle & Flow" 8.75/10 (Re-Review) [It’s better each time I watch it, and the music is going to be in your head all day. It’s got a vintage tinge, but very modern, takes you to a new place, gets away with a pimp protagonist, and sings about the heart of finding yourself.]
    31. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" 8/10 [It’s solid, if very simplistic, first-person narrative structure. Three characters for essentially the entire film, which also runs with a short runtime. It’s made out of hard truths—the ending is flawless, the violence is brutal, grounded, and comes from the hearts of monsters. One of the most honest, unsensationalized portraits of a serial killer I’ve ever seen—which is what’s so disturbing about it.]
    32. V/H/S" 6.75/10 [A couple years back, this was the talk of the film festival circuits. Now, it’s kind of weird, an anomaly of the found footage genre, and it’s a little undercooked. Also, the frame narrative just didn’t make much sense (and I’m saying that about a movie that is already 33% nonsensical horror nonsense). Plausible stuff? No. Entertaining stuff? Yeah, sure.]
    33. V/H/S/2" 7.75/10 [Yeah, it’s significantly more intense (not to mention better written) than the first film. Worthwhile to watch them back-to-back. The series comes into its own here.]
    34. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane" 7.25/10 [If you’re basing it off of a vintage ’70s teen horror homage criteria, then yes, it’s better than this rating…bump it up .5 a rating. But even though it was raved about at the film festivals eight years ago, today it’s already behind the curve compared to fellow horror homages as of late. Shame it’s a victim of time, but still, it packs a surprising punch, a solid commentary on modern dating, and will polarize you by the end.]
    35. End of Watch" 9/10 [Another shocking surprise. So grounded, it’s no longer mainstream product, but a living breathing film, with actors convincingly portraying three-dimensional characters and bringing heart to it. The plot also progresses brilliantly, and though some could argue its broad strokes are nothing new, it’s the execution, details, and presentation that ultimately makes this unforgettable.]
    36. Kill, Baby…Kill!" 8/10 [A significant, vast improvement in Mario Bava’s abilities to helm a chilling horror yarn. A ghost story, with vibrant color, psychedelic cinematography, chilling presentation and emotionally resonant backstory. Well done.]
    37. The Fog (2005)" 3/10 [If I’d seen this when I was 15, I’d have been pissed off that I’d paid money for it. Tom Welling is pretty bad in the lead role, DeRay Davis has never been any more unlikable, and Maggie Grace somehow still comes off this project with some dignity intact, even though she struggles against this film’s flimsy execution. Maybe that’s her experience with "Lost" trickling down. Selma Blair becomes the most likable character here—how is she the most charismatic? Still, it’s poorly shot, very low quality (it’s framed like a television show most of the time), and though there may be hints of Carpenter’s influence, this is the worst ghost story I’ve seen since “Ghost Ship.” It isn’t until the last 40 minutes that you can see why the studio bothered to make this film at all, and it regains a little bit of its fun when the ghosts are set loose on the village—but by that point, the movie has already lost any tangible interest/investment in it.]
    38. The ABCs of Death" 8.25/10 [YES. This is an anthology film I can finally get behind. It’s completely unrated, so bizarre, demented, bold, original, witty and varied. It’s a significant accomplishment in the opinion of the horror community.]
    39. Jeff, Who Lives At Home" 8.5/10 [Jason Segal and Ed Helms make a surprisingly awesome team. The resonant message of the film has rarely been better told than it was here. To say "everything happens for a reason is lame"—but to see it happen, in the ways it does here to the characters that you feel genuinely deserve good things: that is powerful, sweet and moving.]
    40. Solomon Kane" 7.75/10 [It’s the opening sequence, and the premise following a pirate lord trying to save his soul, that makes this stand out, especially its pulpy blend of mythic creatures and medieval swashbuckling. It holds back a lot less than expected, and James Purefoy makes for a great Solomon Kane. Wish there could be a sequel, which seems would come in the form of a reboot if ever.]
    41. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)" 8.25/10 [Tom Six is one sick motherfucker. And now that I’ve said that: this film is brilliant. They build on the first one, to start. The first one shocked a lot of people, but I thought it was just slightly overrated. Now? This film is exactly what I thought the first one would be. It’s dreadful, fascinating, with a nasty perverse undertone and black-and-white to censor the endless amounts of blood and shit. They knew what the Human Centipede series was, and they made that come alive for the first time here. Cannot imagine what they have in store for the third sequence, coming out this April. You’ve been warned.]

  6. Movies I watched, Sept. 2013-Dec. 2013

    The remainder of 2013 edition. Problem is, there’s a significant amount I have not yet written about.

    These will be more capsule review than usual.

    1. The Odd Couple (1968)" 7.75/10 [Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon are one of the great comedy teams. The escalation of Felix and Oscar’s problems is a well-written avalanche.]
    2. R.I.P.D." 4.5/10 [Can’t even describe it. Maybe the script could’ve worked with a few tweaks, but there’s significant fault laid on the director’s shoulders for this one. "Deado" is not creative, nor was it well-presented in this cheap CGI presentation. I’ve seen $130M better spent elsewhere. To be clear: this is not Ryan Reynolds’s (nor any of the actors’) fault. Also, Kevin Bacon can do no wrong.]
    3. Riddick" 6/10 [Like the rest of "The Chronicles of Riddick," this will live on as a cult hit. I’m glad the series could end on R-Rated terms, and also with Katee Sackhoff in tow. I look forward to the Unrated Blu-Ray, as well as a potential future down the road. Still, there is more left to be desired from this installment, particularly in the final, cut-too-short act. I would blame this on the skimped budget, though every cent is well-spent and displayed onscreen.]
    4. The Bling Ring" 6.5/10 [Meh, I expected more from the story, and it gets a bit droll after awhile. I could watch Emma Watson or Taissa Farmiga in anything though.]
    5. World War Z" 7.25/10 [For the story, maybe the more intimate ending was more satisfying. I’m not sure; I haven’t seen the alternate ending. However, the first two acts are building up the scale of the zombie attack, increasing the scale of the set-pieces, therefore it feels like momentum fizzled out for the theatrical ending. For that ending to be more satisfying, the rest of the film should’ve been scaled back to match it. Still very impressive, particularly for a PG-13 zombie flick, its accomplishments are surprising.]
    6. Hollywoodland" 6.75/10 [It’s an underseen film, though once seen gives off the sense that it blends itself into the genre without transcending it. Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Adrian Brody and Bob Hoskins are in form, and the film is agreeable (if occasionally sobering).]
    7. Now You See Me" 7.5/10 [I’m no Louis Leterrier fan—he’s disappointed me far too many times. However, he got lucky this time with an impeccable cast and a fun, complex script. Far more complex than any of his other movies.]
    8. Monkeybone" 8/10 [Yes, Henry Selick certainly presents a bizzare aesthetic to his films—but they are perfect for a generation raised on Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam. This is what I’d consider a prime example of a cult classic.]
    9. The Orphanage" 9/10 [A supernatural horror tragedy, in a way that amplifies what is great about the genre. A precursor in vein with "The Awakening" with Rebecca Hall, though more impressive.]
    10. The Great Gatsby (2013)" 8/10 [Quite a rollicking good trip, ol’ sport.  The story is what stands out most here, even amidst Baz Luhrmann’s electrifying visuals and the powerful cast. Won’t be forgotten.]
    11. We’re the Millers" 7.5/10 [It’s not the greatest comedy ever, but it deserved to be a hit. And it was, accordingly. It’s quite a modern family story, with a solid cast, tone, and premise that’s both self-referential and sarcastic. Emma Roberts is the only one who seems to have been a tad slighted on a story level.]
    12. Insidious: Chapter 2" 7.75/10 [There was no way it could live up to the first installment, a near-perfect gem of terror. However, it lived up as a sequel, in a way that matches it alongside "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" and "Saw II." Its mythos has been established with this installment, and "Insidious: Chapter 3" already is set for 2015.]
    13. This Is The End" 9/10 [They might’ve been able to squeeze more out of its apocalyptic premise, but it’s also certainly good as-is. Rogen and Goldberg have at last enough clout to guide their wacky antics from the page to the screen with their own hands, and what a team they make. There’s no comedy quite like this.]
    14. The Hangover Part III" 6.75/10 [You’re right: it’s not as good as the other two. But I appreciate the extra work they put into this threequel, and there’s no such thing as too much Chow.]
    15. The Players Club" 4.5/10 [It’s heavy-handed and shallow. And it’s not what you want from the movie. It’s dark, sad—implications a tad beyond Ice Cube’s directorial forte. Bernie Mac and Ice Cube hold onto their screentime well, and LisaRaye, DAYUM. Beyond that, The Players Club is a forgettable establishment. Though it did make me want to visit more strip clubs.]
    16. Ringu" 7.75/10 [Gore Verbinski made some small tweaks to the original "Ring" formula that made his remake in the U.S. a solid horror remake. The original, however, is darker, twisted, and its own aesthetic is just as disarming.]
    17. After Earth" 7.75/10 [Cult hit in the making? Perhaps. M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation will keep this one down, though perhaps Will Smith’s star power is not yet wholly diminished. This film has powerful themes and the father-son arc has heart. It’s M. Night’s best film since "The Village."]
    18. Pain & Gain" 6.5/10 [The protagonists dehumanize themselves for gain, and wonder why they are locked up like beasts in the end. The characters go too far for the light tone to maintain itself for long, though Michael Bay may try to still make it entertaining.]
    19. The Family" 6.5/10 [I’m no Luc Besson fan either…though this film is genuinely amusing to me, with the cast surprising me and the story just good enough to keep it from being boring.]
    20. The Bourne Legacy" 6.25/10 [Throughout this entire film, the references to Jason Bourne are so heavy-handed, it becomes too obvious how much of a stretch it was to come up with a story for this film. Still, Aaron Cross has been established, his story will continue in 2015, and the setpiece at the end of the film was impressive enough to give hope that the next film can improve this.]
    21. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" 5.75/10 [Not as much fun as I’d have liked, and I was surprised this one received the buzz it did. The proposed sequel is still far off, but for now, this is amusing to watch once or twice. Gemma Arterton: still fine as hell. Also, nice to see Famke Janssen at work with a delicious villain role.]
    22. Don Jon" 8/10 [Modern love has never been so well-articulated to its own generation. The cast, direction, and story are solid, with an infectious tone that makes it a perfect date movie.]
    23. Parkland" 6/10 [This is basically a straight-to-cable historical pic. It has a nice cast with a few moments/subplots of genuine soul, while the overall effect is lost by the final moments.]
    24. The Punisher (2004)" 4.75/10 (Re-Review) [I know it’s a B-movie, but it’s done in by poor cinematography (a Marvel movie should cost more than $15M), a very bad musical score, and a lack of creativity. Still, I appreciate Thomas Jane in the lead, and John Travolta as the hammy villain. This film presents a gritty, barebones framework for something that could’ve been solid.]
    25. Les Miserables (2012)" 8.75/10 [What a lovely, tragic, powerful film with a pitch-perfect cast and direction. That large budget was well-spent indeed.]
    26. Carrie (2013)" 6/10 [No, I didn’t much care for the Sissy Spacek, Brian De Palma original. This film is my preference between the two, especially given my adoration for Chloe Grace Moretz. Still, the talent behind the camera knows better than what ended up on the screen, and some bad CG work (as well as a deflated finale) chip away at this unpolished gemstone.]
    27. Gravity" 9.25/10 [You’d just have to believe it to see it. Those of you who missed out on this while it was still in IMAX 3D missed the most of it. Kudos to Sandra for holding this film on her shoulders.]
    28. The Frighteners" 7.75/10 [Unfortunately a product of its time, it still manages to be cleverer and more charming than the usual. Credit goes to Peter Jackson for always genre-balancing.]
    29. The Mummy (1932)" 7/10 [There’s only so much that Boris Karloff’s creepy stare can do to ratchet up the tension. Still, atmospheric.]
    30. Pet Semetary" 8/10 [I could not believe how intense, complex and surprising this gem turned out to be. Underrated, for sure.]
    31. Hellbound: Hellraiser II" 6/10 [Not a great sequel, downgraded by its ’80s special effects, it still is a decent contribution to the series,for fans only. Also noteworthy, Ashley Laurence, one of the most underrated scream queens ever. The subplot involving the puzzle-solving crazy kid is unnecessary and unamusing.]
    32. The Strangers" 8/10 (Re-Review) [I love this movie. It’s barebones, but it’s ingeniously executed and unforgettable.]
    33. Thor: The Dark World" 7.75/10 [It’s a vast improvement on the original. Malekith gets short-shrift as villain here, but Loki makes up for it. In fact, Loki’s arc impressively comes full-circle. Alan Taylor has become yet another director to be perfectly matched to the material to present a welcome addition to the MCU canon.]
    34. Bedazzled (1967)" 5.75/10 [I was a tad disappointed by its pacing, as well as its lack of imagination with Faust’s (I mean Stanley’s) consequences. Dudley Moore, however, is a highlight as the Devil himself, though his subplot may be murkier due to cheap theological references. Certainly has its moments, however (*ahem*, Raquel Welch).]
    35. My Amityville Horror" 5/10 [Good enough to watch once, to meet the boy once haunted (and forevermore, apparently) by the infamous Amityville horrors. Still, without significantly more material to base this off of, this becomes barebones, languid and dull.]
    36. The Untouchables" 7.75/10 [It pulls you in and keeps your attention, with Robert De Niro’s small supporting role as Al Capone being the true highlight here.]
    37. With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story" 6.5/10 [This documentary provides only half the film with information casual fans don’t already know. However, the accumulation of all the knowledge presented here still leaves an impression. What a tribute.]
    38. Red Lights" 6.5/10 [Disappointing, yes. But hopefully there’s enough for you here to stay entertained until the third act, which twists it on its end and presents you with a decent premise you wouldn’t have seen coming.]
    39. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" 7.75/10 [If they didn’t have to draw out the Games in the third act, this could’ve genuinely caught on fire. Still, a vast improvement on the original and successfully builds anticipation towards the next installment, even for non-fans.]
    40. Oldboy (2013)" 7.5/10 [Of course it’s not as good as the original. But they do try so very hard. Josh Brolin is great, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson stand out. Powerful and twisted still, if not quite as much as we hoped. Hopefully another cult hit in the making.]
    41. Paranoia" 3/10 [It is that bad. Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman are in a movie this bad. In fact, there’s only a few moments of intrigue. The other Hemsworth has a lack of charisma. He, and the flat unimaginative script are to blame here.]
    42. Re-Animator" 7.75/10 [So bizzare and quirky that, somewhere along the way, it miraculously works, and you can’t help but be amused by its ridiculousness and inventiveness.]
    43. Dracula (1931)" 7.75/10 ["The children of the night—what music they make!" It’s certainly a classic, and Bela Lugosi is perfect in the role. It’s atmospheric, the story is still intriguing, and it’s the performances that breathe life into it.]
    44. Nacho Libre" 8/10 [Underrated, infectious and hilarious, as well as yet another charming performance from Jack Black. A solid recommendation to get stoned to.]
    45. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth" 5.5/10 [This Hellraiser is one of the more lackluster and uncharismatic. It’s a tad generic and loose with its inclusion of the prior established mythos, lacking tension as well.]
    46. Aeon Flux" 6/10 (Re-Review) [The direction and action are dynamic and remarkable, though the substance runs just a tad thin. Still, I never forgot this film after seeing it in 2005. Which part will stick with you?]
    47. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" 7.75/10 (Re-Review) [I waited a year-and-a-half to re-review this film, and what I found surprised me: this was everything I wanted from a Ghost Rider film tonally, with just a slight lack in substance. Forgivable, however, as this GR is the most badass ever put to film. Kudos Neveldine/Taylor. The performance Nicholas Cage gives here more than makes up for his half-assed attempt in the first "Ghost Rider" from 2007.]
    48. Capote" 7.25/10 [Some great parts/performances, but bleak and droll. The themes at play, however, do resonate.]
    49. Out of the Furnace" 7.75/10 [Powerful, gripping, visceral, violent, tragic. Performances from Casey Affleck, Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, and especially Woody Harrelson are unforgettable.]
    50. **”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" 7.75/10 [I didn’t care for this one quite so much as I did the first installment of "The Hobbit" trilogy, but it has enough substance and magic on its own terms to be an enjoyable experience. Pacing seems to be a greater issue amidst "The Hobbit" trilogy than throughout the entirety of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Still, the wait for Smaug was worth it, one of the coolest dragons ever put onscreen, and the anticipation is perennial when it comes to "The Lord of the Rings." The final chapter comes out next winter.]
    51. I’m Still Here" 8.5/10 [I underestimated how much of a work of genius this faux-documentary would be when I first heard about it—but now I’m a believer. It’s hilarious, pseudo-tragic, and intellectually stands as a unique piece of counterculture and social commentary.]
    52. The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000)" 5.25/10 (Re-Review) [Well sure, it’s not great. But I went to go see this when I was ten-years-old after it was so heavily marketed into my brain. Due to my increased levels of nostalgia, this film still amuses me. Robert De Niro as Fearless Leader, Jason Alexander as Boris, Rene Russo as Natasha, and Piper Perabo as a HOT intern FBI. It’s perfectly silly.]
    53. Faust (1926)" 8.5/10 [Surreal silent film, though the story still holds today, as powerful as it once was.]
    54. The Human Centipede: First Sequence" 8/10 [Not as horrifying and mentally scarring as I thought it would be. Still, masterful in its own terms, and I wish I hadn’t perceived that singular plothole…looking forward to the sequel, and the imminent release of the threequel.]
    55. RoboCop" 8/10 [I was not expecting it to be as good as it was—and what a perfect ending. The upcoming remake has quite a legacy to live up to.]
    56. Planet of the Apes (1968)" 8/10 [It takes just a little bit of time to introduce the sci-fi world they’ve established—then its intellectual depth and satire doesn’t let you go, and no one can deliver the line "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!" like Charlton Heston (and Linda Harrison, holy shit she’s fine). The new rebooted series has a lot to make up for yet.]
    57. Lovelace" 6.75/10 [Out of the two dueling studios’ projects centered around Linda Lovelace, this is the one that saw the light of day. But it’s about as good of a film as you’d come to expect from her story, and narrative-wise it’s woven just as the media wove it—first titillating, then repressive and cautionary. Amanda Seyfried is noteworthy, but the film is a little flimsy and not award-worthy.]
    58. Food, Inc." 7.75/10 [Not exactly new news, albeit still eye-opening in some sub-industries of the food market. More ambitious in scope than "Super Size Me," probably still the current standard of whistleblower documentary based around American meals.]
    59. Olympus Has Fallen" 7.5/10 [It’s a little mainstreamed, but it’s still a tense "Die Hard"-esque thriller with a patriotic vibe. Gerard Butler’s best film in years, presumably.]
    60. Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film" 8/10 [The most comprehensive film I have seen thus far on the subject, it displays and analyzes the development of horror over nearly a century. Highly recommended.]
    61. The Invisible Man (1933)" 8.75/10 [Yet another James Whale classic. I was surprised by how charismatic the "monster" was in this Universal horror classic. This film waxes philosophically and keeps the entertainment high for its full runtime, and the effects are beyond their years. Well done.]
    62. The Master of Disguise" 4/10 [Yeah it’s pretty bad, but it’s amusing as hell. Dana Carvey still gets some silly laughs out ("tuuuurtle"), the ridiculousness on display here is oddly engaging (if juvenile), James Brolin and Brent Spiner got me to chuckle—and Jennifer Esposito is gorgeous as always.]
    63. The Bride of Frankenstein" 9.25/10 [I was not expecting how profound, engaging or suspenseful this would be. Also, I’m impressed at how they perfectly played on sequel archetypes. Unforgettable. What a masterpiece.]
    64. Hot Rod" 5.25/10 [The film is better once its cast has gone on to star in better things—I come back to this nearly forgotten SNL-produced joke and better understand the humor and silliness. Nevertheless, there’s only so much one can do with an underdog story arc. Ian McShane, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Isla Fisher and Danny McBride all make this worthwhile.]
    65. Hellraiser: Bloodline" 7.75/10 [The L’Merchants are introduced into the Hellraiser mythos here, a film that shows complexity in its narrative structure and some of its multi-faceted characters. For the last theatrically released "Hellraiser," it’s a significant contribution to the series and its longevity. Valentina Vargas is the only demoness I believe could stand alongside Pinhead…well-played.]
    66. Hellraiser: Inferno" 7.75/10 [The first of the straight-to-DVD "Hellraiser" sequels, it’s surprising how smart and twisted it is, contributed mostly to Scott Derrickson behind the camera. Later sequels attemp to match this film’s framework to disappointing results, a testament to what they got right with this film.]
    67. Color Me Kubrick" 6/10 [Nothing special. John Malkovich does what he can with a basic product of its genre.]
    68. Hellraiser: Hellseeker" 6.75/10 [If it weren’t for the twist involving Ashley Laurence, this film may have ended up completely forgettable within its series’s continuity. Fortunately, the end up salvaging it, for the most part. Noticeable lessening screentime with the Cenobites, however.]
    69. Romeo and Juliet (1968)" 8/10 [As with any Shakespeare, this film will indeed require multiple repeat performances for analysis…but what this film gets right is the presentation of its story. After hearing this tragic love story so many times, it’s the presentation that breathes new life into it, and reminds us of the romance at play.]
    70. The New Guy" 6/10 [It’s brisk, charming, and often amusing. Eliza Dushku is HOT AS FUCK in this comedy, DJ Qualls is sweet, and Eddie Griffin is as funny as ever. Besides, this is one underdog story I can get behind. It’s wiser than it may seem.]
    71. The African Queen" 7/10 [Meh. Its story is a bit of a stretch, even if Humphrey Bogart is still in fine form here. I was unamused. Also solidifies my believe I am not a Katherine Hepburn fan.]
    72. Goon" 7.75/10 [I assumed this wouldn’t be enough for me. I was wrong. It was better than the generic sports movie, and that comes down to the performances. The characters breathe this story to life single-handedly. What a charming little crowd-pleaser.]
    73. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" 7.25/10 [You’ll be surprised how funny it is. It may be a tad long in the tooth, but it’s the best possible sequel we could’ve ever gotten to Ron Burgundy’s story. Everyone is a scene-stealer here, and it’s just pure entertainment.]
    74. Highlander" 7.25/10 [It was about time I saw this film. While it’s not as great as they say, I understand its cult status. Kurgan was an insanely cool villain. I look forward to the sequels and television series. It’s a narrative that stays true to itself and, particularly for a story about immortality, is quite neatly tied up by the end.]
    75. Land of the Dead" 7.75/10 [Not certain why, but I don’t believe Simon Baker is engaging enough to be the lead in a big thriller such as this. Still, Asia Argento is fine (of course), John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper transcend the material, and the material itself proves to be more intellectual than I expected (and fans of Romero should be pleased with its old-fashioned approach.]
    76. **”47 Ronin" 5.5/10 [Surprisingly disappointing. Despite a few moments of attempted grandeur, this was surprisingly forgettable. It’s clear Hiroyuki Sanada deserved the protagonist role here. Universal Studios needed Keanu Reeves to market the film behind, and reshoots fluffed up his role beyond what it could hold. The film collapses underneath a murky structure and two protagonists, the more memorable of the two getting short-shrift to Reeves. I’m not even certain where the overblown budget went. This could’ve cost about as much as "300" did back in ‘07, and would’ve looked about as good, though perhaps still would’ve missed out on having a decent story worth telling. This script needed work.]
    77. Hellraiser: Deader" 4.75/10 [This is the sole "Hellraiser" film I would deem "bad," and it took until this seventh installment to finally sink so low. It’s convoluted, the puzzle box just a gimmick, the rules of the series murkied for fake surprise. Pinhead doesn’t even intimidate, though his waxing philosophical never gets old (just perhaps redundant). The lead is intriguing and gorgeous, and the first half shows promise beyond its own premise—but by the conclusion, it’s just dull.]
    78. Hellraiser: Hellworld" 5.5/10 [Not exactly great either, though a marked improvement on "Hellraiser: Deader." It’s the "New Nightmare" of the "Hellraiser" series, self-referential and cocky. It does carry a sense of intrigue and embraces its own fucked-up nature. Still, to find that it is all a dream is fresh, albeit a little smoke-blowing. Lance Henriksen and Henry Cavill—welcome to Hellraiser.]
    79. Hellraiser: Revelations" 5/10 [I was surprised this wasn’t absolutely horrendous, as its often maligned reputation amongst fans would suggest. That probably has something to do with it being the first "Hellraiser" film since "Hellraiser: Bloodline" to be based on an original screenplay for the series, instead of incorporating Pinhead and the L’Merchant puzzle box into a preexisting, unrelated horror screenplay and then pushed into production. Also noticeable is Doug Bradley’s absence. Still, a few twists and some interesting directorial choices make this one stick out, an accomplishment made even more impressive given its skimpy $300K budget and 3 week shooting schedule. I look forward to the theatrical reboot, set to feature Clive Barker’s brainstorm and Doug Bradley’s gravitas.]
    80. Panic" 5.75/10 [Though William H. Macy is in solid form, Donald Sutherland makes a great villain, and Neve Campbell is fucking sultry as always, this film is a tad generic of a dramedy for my tastes.]
    81. The Fugitive" 8.5/10 (Re-Review) [Gets better every time I watch it. Tommy Lee Jones is a knockout, every line is delivered perfectly dry. The story is deeper than you expect, and the intelligence spills into the pacing and suspense. It’s even accidentally iconic. A genuine thriller.]

    And just to be clear: yes, “Breaking Bad” is the best television show I’ve ever seen.

    Can’t wait for the movies releasing this year! 2014, whoo!


  7. Movies I watched, Sept. 2013

    Yes, I have returned after a summer break. Main reason is because I needed to vent a little about movies. So here we go.

    These reviews may be a bit brief, given that I have a lot of ground to cover. Over 40 movies this time.

    P.S. “Breaking Bad” is one of the best television shows I have ever seen. I think it may have finally topped “Firefly” as my favorite ever—let’s see how it ends first though before I’m so bold.

    1. The Taking of Pelham 123" 7.25/10 [I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit, despite my disliking of most Tony Scott films. I think people generally take the two lead actors’ performances in this film for granted, as both are in solid form, enough to elevate the quality of the overall film over its mediocre flaws.]
    2. The Awakening" 8/10 [Fantastic film featuring faceted performances from the lovely Rebecca Hall and curious Dominic West, it’s not startling, but surely the generous eeriness and creepiness, even its heartbreaking moments are enough.]
    3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s" 8/10 [What a fantastic, wise film, with a dash of clever and surprising thrown in amongst the elegance. I quite enjoyed it, and of course fell in love with Audrey Hepburn along the way.]
    4. White Noise 2: The Light" 4.75/10 [Eek. As much as I love Nathan Fillion and Katee Sackhoff (she’ll be in "Riddick" next week; WHOOP WHOOP!), and as grateful as I am this film didn’t just copy and paste the premise of the original, this takes a very disappointing turn towards the end, and the special effects are terribly amateurish, and making it a "hero" finale was too tonally off.]
    5. Weekend at Bernie’s" 8.5/10 [Holy shit. How hilarious! How brilliant! How fucked up! A legit black comedy. Twisted. Loved it.]
    6. Leaving Las Vegas" 9/10 [Nicholas Cage, Elisabeth Shue. These two knock it out of the park here. This film stays true to its own story, and breaks your heart with the reality of such a scenario.]
    7. The Bucket List" 6/10 (Re-Review) [Ick, what a saccharine generic dramedy—in spite of itself! It has the talent in front of and behind the camera to make an Oscar bait film out of this (perhaps if Paul Thomas Anderson was behind it, or Alexander Payne), but instead it just gets sappy as shit. At least the actors are still lovable.]
    8. The Possessed (1977)" 3.5/10 [I’m actually a little surprised this was allowed on television in 1977 because of general standards of taste. It’s a little schlocky. Harrison Ford was amusing to watch though, not as an action hero but as an intellectual type.]
    9. Psycho (1960)" 9/10 (Re-Review) [I rewatched this in preparation of checking into "Bates Motel" this summer on A&E. I have to say, I love the story. I love the set-up. I love the twists. The psychology of Bates and the mother of all Mother Issues is fascinating. And yes, the staircase jump still kind of gets me when I’m watching it on a proper sound system. Still a classic.]
    10. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door" 8.75/10 [Holy shit what a horrifying movie. You will not believe what human beings are capable of—but then you realize, with complete horror: yes, you can. Grotesque, tautly scripted, finely acted, and intense, it will get to you.]
    11. The Last Exorcism" 7.25/10 [It’s better than I remembered, and I appreciate the man vs. faith scenario not turning to cliché. And I like the attempt to stay true to the found footage format. Still, there have certainly been better films of this kind.]
    12. Madea’s Class Reunion" 2.5/10 [One of the worst experiences I have ever sat through. And no, it’s not because I don’t "get it." It’s because it’s more saccharine, more broad, more sappy, more melodramatic than the fucking "The Bucket List." Tack onto that the pacing is awful and the gospel music gets on my last nerve, I’d say I’d rather jam a Bowie Knife through my left hand than watch this again.]
    13. Warm Bodies" 8/10 [It’s better than you think it would be, and it makes great use of its own premise. It’s also well-acted (with an impressive cast), plus it’s cute and funny. Pretty good for a zombie film—let’s say this is the PG-13 rom-com demo’s "Zombieland" for 2013.]
    14. Serial Mom" 8/10 [An older John Waters black comedy, nevertheless funny with a surprising performance by Kathleen Turner. Recommended.]
    15. Jack the Giant Slayer" 7.25/10 [How was a nicely layered fantasy yarn marketed as a cheap knock-off fairy tale redux? Who knows…but still it must be said that this film is not what you expect, and is all the better for it. Of its accomplishments, its cherry on top is that out of the recent modern fairy tale revivals, this one truly feels like an old-school bedtime story.]
    16. The Last Exorcism Part II" 3.75/10 [It’s surprisingly bad for a sequel to a film that attempted innovation in spite of its premise. Oh well. Another in the $5 bin.]
    17. Man of Steel" 9/10 [This film satisfied every expectation I could’ve had for it going into the theater on opening night—and then gave me stunning visuals galore on top for cerebral dessert. Henry Cavill is Superman, with the rest of the cast owning their roles with equal reverence, aplomb, and grandeur to the various archetypes at play. This was my favorite superhero film of the summer, and haven’t been this impressed for a while.]
    18. Total Recall (2012)" 7.5/10 [It was a lot better than I was initially expecting…though yes, I suppose I would’ve enjoyed it more if it played mindgames with the audience as to who Quaid really is—intrigue that the prologue kills immediately, like money left on the table. Still, it’s fun for a Saturday night in.]
    19. Apocalypto" 8/10 [I loved this movie…it takes you a minute to get into its weird vibe, but once you’re in it, Gibson drives you towards a solid finale. Powerfully emotional, tense film.]
    20. The Oranges" 6/10 [I saw this out of curiosity for how Hugh Laurie, Alia Shawkat and Leighton Meester would do. They do just fine, agreeably, but overall the film is just a slight thin.]
    21. Hatchet III" 7/10 [After I enjoyed the first two so much, I was shocked at how I felt this was just…vapid running through the motions. Sure there’s some fun to be had, and I love Danielle Harris…but come on. They probably just couldn’t top "Hatchet II."]
    22. Get the Gringo" 8.5/10 [This film will surprise you. There is a lot of fun to be had, with Mel Gibson in great form, and there’s nothing like the place this film transports you to. So fresh.]
    23. Enemy of the State" 7.75/10 [I remember this was quite the blockbuster at the time (a $90M budget in 1998? That’s more than "Daredevil’s" $75M in 2003!). Still, it was a hit, and was relevant at the time, as present day technology revived old paranoias about surveillance. But me watching it in 2013 feels the themes are retreaded to death—still, this film is solid in its premise, and is still entertaining and satisfying in itself.]
    24. Fast & Furious 6 [aka ‘Furious 6’]" 8/10 [The difference between this film and the last five films? It feels complete within itself. The long sequelized journey has come to a fine stop sign before 2014’s big blowout F&F finale. The last films felt a bit "till next time," or more of a yield sign. This installment also had a resurgence of chemistry amongst its crew with the return of Michelle Rodriguez, who is great as always here.]
    25. ParaNorman" 8/10 [An amusing, well-done horror comedy done by the company behind "Coraline." But it’s better than "Coraline." Its story has more depth, about persecution, acceptance.]
    26. Hotel Transylvania" 6/10 [Flat, kind of uninteresting. Some amusing cutesy bits, and I understand it’s a kid’s film, but there are animated standards out there that this film simply doesn’t match. I hope the sequel is far better.]
    27. Cloud Atlas" 8.75/10 [It was as good as I was hoping it would be, and I’m disappointed I didn’t check it out in theaters. I will be buying the Blu-Ray, however. The acting is all well done, it quenched my thirst for philosophizing, and had such a strong hold and understanding of the various genres at play that it did genuinely take you on a journey.]
    28. G.I. Joe: Retaliation" 6.25/10 [More story would’ve been appreciated, Storm Shadow didn’t have to be so easily swayed by the good guys, some more character development could’ve helped. Also, this is yet another example of a time when a little less action would’ve had a better effect. Still, this film did stay truer to the tone and feel of its source material than 2009’s "Rise of Cobra." Joe fans can take solace in that, at least.]
    29. Spring Breakers" 8/10 [A brilliant satire, with twisted turns by all the crew (Gomez remaining the one goodie-two-shoes of the group), and James Franco scene-stealing all over the place. The soundtrack, trippy visuals, the drive and thrill and humor on display here—makes for a Spring Break you’ll never forget.]
    30. Pacific Rim" 7/10 [I wanted to love it…but I felt there was too much spectacle and too little substance. Just because it’s an homage to dumb(er) big monster/kaiju vs. mecha movies doesn’t mean it couldn’t also build upon them, improve on them. A big missed opportunity of the last summer. Guillermo Del Toro disappointed me on this one. Still has highlight moments that should not go amiss, including some of the aforementioned spectacle and some of the cast (Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Rinko Kikuchi, and Idris Elba rocked it this time).]
    31. The Conjuring" 7.75/10 [I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one—but when I heard it was getting solid reviews, better reviews than "Insidious" (and "Insidious" is my favorite horror experience ever), and by the same director too—I was still quite anticipatory. However, it didn’t have the same effect. It stands on its own terms, and I guess that whole "based on a true story" thing really gets to some people, but it didn’t shake me like the Further did. Still, it has its merits, and some solid creepy ideas. Also still stoked for "Insidious Chapter 2" as well.]
    32. In the Mouth of Madness" 9/10 [This movie was really quite awesome, and Sam Neill acted like I never knew he could before ("Event Horizon," another gutsy turn, was released after this). The relationship not only between creator and creation, but the consequences of said creation are well-played here in quite horrific, twisted ways that would fill most horror fans with glee.]
    33. **”The Wolverine" 8/10 [This is the definitive take on Wolverine. Never before has his character’s greatest strengths and weaknesses (as well as his gruff personality) been displayed so potently. The action sequences really take a slice out of even "X2" and its berserker rage scenes. The story is also more complex than you would expect, which pleased me dearly. Also, many critics complained about the finale being a tonal shift, but I disagree. It stays true to itself, and builds to it organically. Yukio (played by first-timer Rila Fukushima) was my favorite standout.]
    34. Scary MoVie (2013)" 3.75/10 [The fifth "Scary Movie" was about as dull as you would expect. However, it served to remind me (after seeing "A Haunted House" earlier this year) of the differences between the Wayans and the franchise they birthed. Sure, "Scary MoVie" is a mish-mash of horror films in the fast few years…but that’s what you wanted. And cheap, broad, moderately amusing gags do indeed turn a smile on occasion. Don’t take it seriously, and it’s actually better than "A Haunted House," just less focused on one joke but instead several.]
    35. Menace II Society" 8/10 [It makes you feel the finality of decisions, the reality of escaping the hard life (what easy life?), and is damn brutal about it. Artistically accomplished, this film comes more from the Hughes Brothers’ hearts than their later, more commercially friendly films.]
    36. Monsters University" 8.5/10 [I will say this up front: I prefer this film to "Monsters Inc." In my opinion, "Monsters Inc." hasn’t aged too well. Sure, it’s still good, but the new prequel spites clichés and takes shocking twists with wholly satisfying results, and doesn’t disrespect the characters of the original.]
    37. Set It Off" 7.25/10 [Some of the pieces of this film are a tad rote to the heist genre, but the women in this film are tough, and they enliven the proceedings to a mostly solid thriller.]
    38. Next Friday" 7/10 [I enjoyed this better than the first "Friday," actually. I was a fan of Mike Epps beforehand though, so that may be why. I didn’t mind him being written in to replace Chris Tucker’s Smokey (though Smokey will still be missed). But it builds on its story’s own steam, and makes a decent sequel to a film that didn’t much care for one.]
    39. Friday After Next" 5.75/10 [This "Friday" sequel was kind of unnecessary, however. It took a bit of a departure from its own tone, threw in a Christmas plot thread, and even Katt Williams couldn’t bring enough energy to save the sinking ship.]
    40. The Heat" 7.5/10 [Solid girl team-up. Sandra Bullock is still hot, and hilarious. Melissa McCarthy (teaming back up with Paul Feig here) brings her riotous energy and heart. It’s just a fun time.]
    41. Battle Royale" 9.25/10 [Wow. This one blew me away. This is how I wished "The Hunger Games" could’ve been done in the U.S. I mean, why couldn’t we make it Rated R, and gut-wrenching, and generally as horrific as the premise is? And the story—far more complex, detailed, shocking, twisted and mind-blowing than you would ever guess. Give it a try. Dare you.]
    42. Kick-Ass 2" 7.25/10 [It takes a minute to bring us to the conflict, to draw us into accepting a sequel to a truly fresh original film, but once it does—it recaptures the wacky antics and brutality, and is a true spiritual baby brother to "Kick-Ass." I adore "Kick-Ass" to this day, so from a fan of that film: "Kick-Ass 2" is worth the look.]
    43. The Purge" 8/10 [Yes! It really did play on its premise’s subtext, enhancing the dread of it and pulling its main characters through real visceral fear. Can’t wait for the sequel.]
    44. Grave Encounters" 5.75/10 [The suspense wasn’t as tight as I would’ve hoped, or as is generally expected of the found footage genre. The acting is amateurish, though not as amateurish as the computerized special effects. It does riddle a fun mystery though.]
    45. Star Trek Into Darkness" 7.5/10 (Re-Review) [Better the second time around. I think it’s a solid "Star Trek" adventure, and is definitely not the worst Trek film (as Trekkies recently voted at some silly convention). I’d give that rating to “Star Trek: Nemesis,” probably. Or “Star Trek: The Final Frontier.” This has great action, surprising twists, a great villain (Benedict Cumberpatch is certainly on his way up), and heart to spare. How exciting.]

  8. Marvel Movies:

    I started keeping this list years ago, and it has a lot of nostalgia for me. I figured I would go ahead and share it here. Notice the exponential growth of production on Marvel films ever since “Iron Man” was a hit back in ‘08.

    Also, I’ve only listed 1997+ because the production value was noticeably increased with “Blade,” then “X-Men,” then the rest was history. Before then, there was Roger Corman’s 1994 “The Fantastic Four,” or “Howard the Duck,” or those “Captain America” movies, or that skull-less Punisher movie with Dolph Lundgren. They get obscure. They aren’t enjoyable (though I personally enjoyed that 1988 Punisher).

    1. Men in Black (1997) (not included in Marvel Universe, though property owned by Marvel Comics)
    2. Blade (1998)
    3. X-Men (2000)
    4. Blade II (2002)
    5. Spider-Man (2002)
    6. Men in Black II (2002) (not in Marvel Univ.)
    7. Daredevil (2003)
    8. X2: X-Men United (2003)
    9. Hulk (2003)
    10. The Punisher (2004)
    11. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
    12. Blade Trinity (2004)
    13. Elektra (2005)
    14. Fantastic 4 (2005)
    15. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
    16. Ghost Rider (2007)
    17. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
    18. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
    19. Iron Man (2008)
    20. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
    21. The Punisher: War Zone (2008)
    22. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
    23. Kick-Ass (2010) (not a part of Marvel Universe; original comic produced by Marvel imprint)
    24. Iron Man 2 (2010)
    25. Thor (2011)
    26. X-Men: First Class (2011)
    27. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
    28. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
    29. The Avengers (2012)
    30. Men in Black 3 (2012) (not in Marvel Univ.)
    31. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
    32. Iron Man 3 (2013)
    33. The Wolverine (2013)
    34. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) (not in Marvel Univ.)
    35. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
    36. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
    37. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
    38. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
    39. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
    40. Big Hero 6 (2014)
    41. The Fantastic Four reboot (2015)
    42. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
    43. Ant-Man (2015)
    44. Untitled Marvel Studios movie (2016)
    45. The Amazing Spider-Man 3 (2016)
    46. Untitled Marvel Studios movie (2016)
    47. Untitled Marvel Studios movie (2017)
    48. The Amazing Spider-Man 4 (2018)

    Jesus there’s 48 of them…I’m upgrading to Blu-Ray 3D now for the 2011+ films. Otherwise, I’ve collected most of these. I also collect the director’s cuts…there are five separately packaged director’s cuts.

    Also realize: this is just the beginning.


  9. Movies I watched, May 2013 (Part II):

    Jumped the gun a little early this time, to keep my memory fresh on these latest—

    1. Boys n The Hood" 7.75/10 [It’s not the masterpiece Singleton fans have been touting about for years. But it is still effective. It all unravels into a suspense-driven climax after just one moment.]
    2. **”Star Trek Into Darkness" 7.25/10 [It is what it is. But apparently it is more parts "Wrath of Khan" than the creators at first were willing to admit. And now that most have given it a look, and it’s all out in the open: this film has its amount of flaws, maybe even some unfortunate predictability, but its overall enjoyment doesn’t suffer too greatly. Also, Benedict Cumberpatch—great choice for the villain. One positive thing I will say: this feels more quintessentially "Star Trek" than the 2009 reboot did. While it has a feeling of coming home, of seeing these old friends comfortable in the seats they always used to sit in (in a nostalgic sort of way), it also robs the film of some of its freshness that the reboot had when reintroducing these characters in ways we’d never seen them before. This film is blessed and cursed by the precedent set by its very own inspiration.]
    3. Underworld: Awakening" 5.75/10 [Meh, more of the same. I’ve never been a fan of this particular series, and it hasn’t changed over time (unfortunate, given that I actually appreciated 2009’s prequel departure). Six years later, was it worth it to see Beckinsale return to the role of Selene and resume the story? No. Some cool lycan action in this one, though.]
    4. Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie" 4.5/10 [It has some fun. It even rehashes some earlier sketches the duo made famous a while back. But then it rambles. Then it gets really boring and incoherent.]
    5. Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist" 8/10 [Now here is the “Exorcist” prequel I was hoping for. Yes, this is far more psychological, less obvious, and more in-tuned with what William Peter Blatty intended when he wrote the original novel, and created that war story background for Father Merrin. Never choose “Exorcist: The Beginning” over this. That’s a studio commercial product, a bastard of the horror series. “Dominion” is the creative contribution and spiritual cousin to the original, that the original deserved. Very well-written. On top of that, this is where Stellan Skarsgard’s focus went into. He sleepwalked through “Exorcist: The Beginning” and its reshoots, but here he commands the screen, and steps comfortably into the character’s shoes.]
    6. Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles" 7.75/10 [My roommate forced me to watch this—not that I wasn’t intending to someday, but she got me to finally sit down and do it. It was about what I expected tonally. But it’s a solid time, if vampires (old school ones) are your thing. The sequel/prequel, "Queen of the Damned," will be reviewed later.]
    7. Hitman" 5.5/10 (Re-Review) [Now that I finally revisited this film, I think it has more credibility than when I watched it in ‘07 in theaters. Some of the visuals are impressive, the sexy tension is fun, and the political conspiracy was agreeable enough. Also, Timothy Olyphant was solid in the lead. But just because it has better-than-average parts doesn’t make it good.]

  10. Movies I watched, May 2013 (Part I):

    1. Identity" 8/10 [Nice twisty narrative. Keeps you guessing. Great cast all around. The schizophrenic reveal: loved it.]
    2. Rachel Getting Married" 8/10 (Re-Review) [It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, as most have said before. It is a work of wonder to me, however, and Anne Hathaway is a revelation. Stunning cinematography in 1080p.]
    3. Exorcist: The Beginning" 5.75/10 [I love the character of Father Lankester Merrin. I was hoping his story of first encountering Pazuzu in Africa would be intense, inciting that very real fear of the demon expressed in the original "Exorcist." However, it’s ho-hum and becomes generic. Renny Harlin wasn’t a great director (I didn’t like his "Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master," and his "Long Kiss Goodnight" was kinda wink-wink), and the end battle with the demon comes off with trashy cheap thrills and production value. Stellan Skarsgard is even sleepwalking here. However, they attempt to emulate the atmosphere the series has maintained throughout all four films (and "Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist" subsequently), to mixed but agreeable results.]
    4. The Long Kiss Goodnight" 7/10 [It’s a fun and amusing time, and I haven’t seen Samuel L. Jackson have fun like this in a while. But the director is a little misguided in indulging the story’s silliness with winks and tongues in their cheeks, unfortunately detracting from the fun (ironically).]
    5. Gangster Squad" 8/10 [Hella fun. Old fashioned in story, very modern in action. The cast is stellar too. Ruben Fleischer has a great track record so far—hope he keeps it up.]
    6. Possessed (2000)" 6.5/10 [It’s made for TV, but it’s better told than "The Exorcist" in some ways (the source novel here was inspiration for the source novel of "The Exorcist" series), and comes off classier, wiser, and better acted than all of "The Exorcist’s" sequels. Timothy Dalton does quite well here.]
    7. Sicko" 8.5/10 [Moore strikes again. It doesn’t matter that Moore slants his evidence liberal: the evidence he shows speaks for itself in its horrifying reality. People dying for profit is a real stickler for documentarians. No one does it quite like Michael Moore.]
    8. Sleepy Hollow" 7.5/10 (Re-Review) [Better than I remembered. The mystery gets a little convoluted and definitely dense (under the tutelage of Andrew Kevin Walker’s twisted horror screenwriting), which doesn’t do the overall film a service. Also, Johnny is a little mismatched with his role. But Burton was a perfect pick for this gothic horror tale and its black comedy.]
    9. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace" 4.5/10 [If the cheesiness (very hokey) is not your thing anyways, you’ll rate this significantly lower. But I had fun. Reeve has fun still with the role of Kent, and the story is actually not as eye-rolling as you’d first imagine.]
    10. Burn After Reading" 8/10 (Re-Review) [Again, better than I remembered, when taking into consideration the subtext and substance I missed the first time around in hopes of more humor. It’s in the development of the narrative that the humor lies.]
    11. Star Trek (2009)" 8.5/10 (Re-Review) [Just like so many other great blockbusters (and recent reboots), it pays reverence to source material whilst injecting a pure sense of wonder and fun into the proceedings, as well as a hell of a lot of brains. The cast is flawless. The action is not ceasing. One of the best in the franchise of course. Very much looking forward to this Friday’s sequel.]
    12. American Psycho" 9/10 (Re-Review) [Patrick Bateman is a character unlike any other, just like Hannibal Lecter before him. Brilliant satire. That climax is still a hoot.]
    13. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" 8.5/10 (Re-Review) [There’s no other movie like this. Its graphic design, visual stimuli, inventiveness and visual homages/parodies are all to be admired and adored. Edgar Wright created a piece of art. Not only that, but he was able to mold it into something fully functioning and unalienating. It made me laugh when I first saw it. Still does.]