The 25s: The Top and Bottom Grossers of 2003

My senior year of high school and freshman year of college. 2003 is a loaded year for me. Trying to isolate my feelings about the year from the films should be harder. Thankfully there are some great and not so great films to make it easier.

The bottom 25 grossers of 2003.

#76. Uptown Girls. Brittany Murphy deserved so much better it kinda enrages me. She was a genuine star with a unique presence. This was ok but it didn’t play to her offbeat strengths.

#77. Matchstick Men. Nicolas Cage. Sam Rockwell. The all too underused Alison Lohman. Ridley Scott. An adaptation of a book by the should be legendary Eric Garcia. This was a modest performer but it should’ve been more. It’s one of the most charming, likable films of the year. Highly recommended.

#78. National Security. I never understood Martin Lawrence as a star. He’s so abrasive and unlikable. There’s an air of darkness about him. This was a generic action comedy. It’s long been forgotten. Like most of his films.

#79. What A Girl Wants. There is something indescribably sad about seeing an Amanda Bynes vehicle in 2018. What we know for certain is limited but what’s likely true is sad. My sympathy for her is epic. One thing about this film: Colin Firth played her father. I’m still figuring that out.

#80. Jeepers Creepers 2. This movie’s existence is unforgivable. Victor Salva’s career is unforgivable. I feel like I need an explanation as to how POC and women can struggle to find work but a literal sex criminal had a film funded by a major studio.

#81. Intolerable Cruelty. I chose this over Kill Bill vol. 1. On paper Coens vs Tarantino was a genuine coin flip in 2003. In reality it was an epic mistake. This is so bad I’m in awe of it. It’s like a bad Coen Brothers pastiche except they made it. This feels so utterly loud and cloying next to the genuine charm coming just a few months later with The Ladykillers.

#82. Cradle 2 the Grave. This is so very 2003. Jet Li. DMX. I didn’t see this because weirdly even at 19 I felt too old for this. Like it was someone’s idea of cool and even then I didn’t feel that.

#83. Monster. The winner for Best Actress and the only film for Patty Jenkins before Wonder Woman. It’s actually kind of cool how well this did on a very low budget. There are big titles still to come. This found viewers.

#84. Malibu’s Most Wanted. Jamie Kennedy should’ve been a supporting comic presence for his full career. He was so good in the first two Screams. Putting him in the lead was a giant mistake. I’ve only seen bits of this and it’s pretty bad.

#85. The Hunted. William Friedkin. Tommy Lee Jones. Benicio Del Toro. Kinda weird this evaporated so fast. Then again I barely know anything about this one even now.

#86. Stuck on You. The Farrelly Brothers had three comic classics fresh out of the gate. Then they stumbled and haven’t recovered yet. This is well liked by some but it’s far from that early greatness.

#87. Dreamcatcher. Yikes. This was an unreadable Stephen King book that just got worse and worse as Lawrence Kasdan and William Goldman, two geniuses themselves, mucked with it. This one is legendarily bad for a reason.

#88. Darkness Falls. What could’ve been. This was intended as a cool monster movie that was warped into a generic Freddy Krueger knockoff. As is, it’s unbearable. I hate that I even know how great the monster designs were.

#89. Bend it Like Beckham. This one had an impact far larger than its initial release. It’s still mentioned among sports films. The omnipresent–and blindingly sexist–ads of Ain’t it Cool News were a running joke. It’s endured.

#90. The Core. It’s not nice to point and laugh at such a transparent bomb but wow this never got close to being what it wanted to be. A huge flop that chased the disaster movie trend too late. Or a year early as The Day After Tomorrow cleaned up.

#91. Calendar Girls. I’m passing on this one. Obviously I wasn’t the target audience and won’t ever be. Sure it’s lovely. Next.

#92. Hollywood Homicide. Josh Hartnett’s days as a star didn’t last long. This was within two years of his debut as a leading man and it crushed that into fine powder. By contrast Harrison Ford’s days as a star did last a good long time. And this still crushed his “star” days for good.

#93. Honey. Oof. Definitely not my thing. I hate being mean to Jessica Alba. She seems nice. But she’s not an actress. Also there’s some weird race bending here. I just shouldn’t touch this one.

#94. The Fighting Temptations. The canon of Jonathan Lynn is fascinating to me. He’s not untalented as Clue and My Cousin Vinny show. He is, however, kind of reliably safe. This fits perfectly into that. A nice, safe star vehicle for Cuba Gooding Jr. and the surprisingly mythic Beyonce.

#95. Johnny English. This tanked in the US but we’re about to get part 3. We’re a bonus market to British cinema. Though Love Actually did great here the same year. Not covering it but I love that film.

#96. The Missing. Reminder: Solo is nowhere near Ron Howard’s biggest letdown at the B.O. This was how he followed up the Oscar winning smash A Beautiful Mind. This one really didn’t work with critics or audiences. It’s not that westerns were dead in 2003 with Open Range doing stellar. Just not this.

#97. Basic. God I hate this movie. This is so bad the ending kicks you in the gut and screams with laughter. It’s a shell game that spends the entire film trying to convince you something is happening then it turns out all of it was a lie. It’s not even well made.

#98. A Man Apart. Look the whole solo star thing for Vin Diesel…it wasn’t ever going to happen. Definitely not him Acting. Nope. No. It’s funny how this was a bomb but as we’ll see in a bit the franchise he opted out of returning to did just fine.

#99. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. I take no joy in this. The death of DreamWorks cel animation studio. (CG…well remember last column.) Start to finish four films in 4.5 years. Pretty sad. The sad truth is with the exception of The Prince of Egypt, the films never matched the talent.

#100. Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Weird that nobody wanted to watch a soulless prequel which just retold the first film. When I saw The Matrix Reloaded this was on the Thursday of week one. Nobody was there. The actual sequel went so far as to make this non-canon.
The top 25 grossers of 2003

#25. American Wedding. I have no shame in saying I love these films. We’ll double back to the first two in time. They’re well made, surprisingly sweet films. This one closes up the arc started in 1999 rather nicely. Only downside is some sluggish direction.

#24. How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Bring back the romantic comedy. Viewers still love them. This one is still beloved. Bring the genre back! That said this film sets me on edge. I really kinda hate it. It’s loud. But I’m hoping the genre is resurgent.

#23. The Italian Job. I feel like this one has found a nice nook in the cultural memory. Not talked about much but when it is everyone gets happy. Just a solid midrange film. Some very talented people got paid. F. Gary Gray works nonstop likely based on this.

#22. Scary Movie 3. I don’t even know what to say about this one. It’s atrocious. But it’s harmless. It’s utterly useless. But the third act Matrix humor, especially in the hands of the great George Carlin, kind of worked. It’s bad. But fun.

#21. Freaky Friday, a rare remake that seems as beloved to the current generation as the first was to its. Not one I saw but one people liked. A precursor to the next year’s Mean Girls also from director Mark Waters and star Lindsay Lohan.

#20. The Last Samurai. An it’s fine movie. Nothing memorable. Nothing special. But nothing too bad. Annoying it’s told through a white lens but Ken Watanabe rules in this. Failed Oscar bait definitely. Good John Logan script though. Logan, Star Trek Nemesis aside, is a beast of a writer.

#19. Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. I despise this overly noisy, annoying film that buries the charm of the first under an eye bleeding glaze of the ugliest 3D I’ve ever seen. Oh I hate this thing so much. I’m mad that I paid to see it still.

#18. S.W.A.T. The big Colin Farrell year peaked here. Since I have nothing to say abo

#17. Seabiscuit. Meh. This movie kind of makes me angry because of how weirdly awful it is. It’s so saccharine and kind of obsessive about making you feel that sweetness. Gary Ross was a one hit wonder as a director in my book.

#16. Something’s Gotta Give. Look, I really didn’t like this movie but you know what? I’ll acknowledge it’s phenomenally made. It looks great. It’s very well acted. It wasn’t for me but I was way too hard on it in 2003. The ending is bad though. Diane Keaton deserved Keanu.

#15. 2 Fast 2 Furious. It’s kinda weird how this franchise blew up later. This was an eh performer in 2003 but it would become massive later. For now it bides its time, a giant doing ok but soon to roar.

#14. Hulk. Y’all have decided in retrospect that this is an underrated film. A good film. And I am going to be blunt: no. This is not a lost gem. It’s absurdly silly. It’s not fun. It’s way too brightly lit. This is a bad movie. A very bad movie.

#13. Bringing Down The House. And Hulk is a masterpiece next to this long study of everything one could possibly get wrong in one film.

#12. Anger Management. Technically speaking I paid to see this. The print broke during the trailers. My mom and I took our free passes and saw Holes (not on the list but a joy) instead. I don’t care to ever go back. It’s a thing.

#11. Bad Boys 2. It’s weird this one intimidates me. I’m not sure if I hate this film or enjoy it. It’s so very intense and what it’s intense about is awful…but I kinda like it anyway? It’s just not one I’ve cracked. I wasn’t bored. That’s what I’ll say.

#10. Cheaper by the Dozen. If we hated Steve Martin in 2003, we couldn’t have been meaner to him than by making these films hits. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t the audience.

#9. The Matrix Revolutions. This may be the only time I can see a 50% dropoff between a film and its sequel in one list. This…this is not a good film. Only Wachowski film I dislike. Kinda hate that. I get that it’s ambitious. I don’t like it at all.

#8. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: I just trashed an ambitious film and I’m about to say I like this useless sequel but yeah I do like it. It’s a brain off action movie but a fun one. That said we didn’t need it, we don’t need anything since, and we didn’t even need T2.

#7. Elf. Yay! This has become a Christmas classic. Damn right it has. This is a joyous, funny film that just makes me happy. Why do I think it landed like it did? Ferrell. This was his Old School follow up. That crowd was going to see whatever he did next. Then they had kids. Add that to an already big family audience and this was huge.

#6. X2. I feel like every time I see an X-Men movie, I find it the best in the series. And really with time they all become one blur. A good blur that I really like but a blur. This is one of the less faint parts of the blur but still a giant, pleasant blur.

#5. Bruce Almighty. I’ve never had any interest in going near this film and I have less now after Jim Carrey’s anti-vaccine stance. This one was huge though. Weirdly huge when you look at what surrounds it.

#4. The Matrix Reloaded. See this I dig. Like a lot. It’s weird as all get out but that’s why those genius sisters rule. They took a heavily anticipated sequel and made a mind screw that makes you question the value of a sequel. There is so much greatness in every frame. I JUST BARELY saw it theatrically but it was money well spent.

#3. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse if the Black Pearl. The first three films are straight ripping yarns. I have nothing negative to say about any of them. Sure they’re ungainly but that’s what a sea myth is. Just so much love for these.

#2. Finding Nemo. Confession: I like this movie. I don’t love it and even like is an upgrade from my initial, very negative views. It’s just so loose in its plot structure. Even worse: I really love Finding Dory which just moved me more due to its powerful treatment of mental disability. Nemo is just good. Sorry.

#1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The Best Picture of the year and I can’t begin to disagree. The Lord of the Rings trilogy felt in the moment like something classic you just happened to be watching the day of release (as I did all 3 films.) Epic defined with some of the absolute greatest visuals in film history. And what a finale we got. The reason these films endure is they stuck the landing. And the middle. And the beginning.

Next time: The Superhero age begins in 2002.


The 25s: The top and bottom grossers of 2004

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When I realized 2004 was ahead for me on this column, I groaned. I groaned hard. For a year with some great films, 2004 is also a minefield of a year. It is a year with some political films. It is a year with some very bad films.

The Bottom 25

#76. The Ladykillers. Hot take: I like this film a lot. By another director, it’s a funny little gem. It’s fluffy if maybe unnecessarily R-rated. Tom Hanks, J.K. Simmons, and Marlon Wayans are hilarious. It’s a weirdly idiosyncratic film that should have been received as such. However it’s by the Coen Brothers (in their first official co-crediting!) so it’s viewed as a giant misfire. Bah.

#77. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This one hurts. On one hand, I passionately love this film and hate that it was the epic bomb it was. On the other hand, of course it bombed because I have no idea who the hell it was for except me. It’s a big budget steampunk epic that’s overdosing on its love of 30s imagery. A truly wonderful film but, yeah, not a shock.

#78. Raising Helen. Didn’t see it. Wasn’t the audience. Honestly never got the appeal of Kate Hudson. Do get the appeal of the late Garry Marshall. Cheers to him for not only playing a riff on himself on BoJack Horseman but playing a riff that underlined how unfair the criticism his films got was. True, a lot of them weren’t very good. But so what? They weren’t Casablanca (which was in and of itself a studio programmer that accidentally became the greatest film ever.)

#79. Taxi. I’ve seen Jimmy Fallon live. Back in 2002 I saw him do a show. He’s a funny guy. He worked the room great. He’s a great talk show host. And he’s not a bad actor. He was quite good in the wildly underseen Fever Pitch, a warm but maybe a step too low key film. Film didn’t happen for him. Also what was with Queen Latifah’s run of movies with male costars who showed her no sexual interest? Hated that.

#80. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Get ready to feel like you’re looking at a strobe light. The number of great films, in this case the best film of the year, next to bombs, is baffling. This made less than Taxi but left a meteoric footprint in the culture. The absolute end of Jim Carrey’s good movies came with one of his best.

#81. Alexander. I hate Oliver Stone. This was a hard bomb that’s been recut and recut and recut and nobody has ever been satisfied with it. I feel like maybe it could’ve been a success had it just come out in a year not choked with biopics. At least it helped kill out the idea Colin Farrell was a movie star and sent him on to the character acting he’s amazing at.

#82. Closer. For someone who was the it guy in 2004, Jude Law didn’t have it very good at the box office with Sky Captain actually his biggest grosser in 2004. This wasn’t a hit. It’s also a deeply polarizing movie with some finding it aggravatingly stagey. Me? I think it’s great, part of Mike Nichols’ wonderful late career boom where he reminded us all few have handled actors on his level. Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, and especially Natalie Portman are explosive in this. It won’t make you feel good but it’s a feast all the same.

#83. The Punisher. It doesn’t shock me this isn’t a good movie. The Punisher stinks as a character. The only way to do him right is as black comedy like War Zone or the Garth Ennis run this stole from poorly. Here’s what you don’t do. You don’t move him to Tampa. You don’t overlight the film. You give it atmosphere. This is a bad movie.

#84. Team America: World Police. Remember how I said 2004 is a minefield? This is the first big one we cross. I hate this film and I hate it in part for being so let down by it I claimed I wasn’t at first. The longer it’s sat with me, the worse it really is. This is a lazy film that felt so slapped together I was stunned to learn it was actually a passion project. This movie’s nihilistic “everybody is bad” approach reflects something deeply toxic in our culture.

#85. Taking Lives. For a “star,” Angelina Jolie doesn’t make a lot of hits. That’s fine. She makes a lot of very good movies. This is just OK but it’s fun to see her and perpetual weirdo Ethan Hawke playing off each other. Genius twist too.

#86. Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid. I didn’t see this in name only Anaconda sequel so can I use this space to point out Anaconda is awesome? A really great cast including Ice Cube kicking ass in what was obviously a tongue in cheek joke of a film. I love that wild film.

#87. Cellular. Larry Cohen! I may never get to talk about the bizarre genius that is Larry Cohen again so I’ll gush here. Cohen is the master of the weird high concept such as killer yogurt or guy trapped in a phone booth. This is a good one (albeit one where his script was gutted.) A woman is held hostage and the only hope is a random guy she calls. In this case it’s Kim Basinger calling Chris Evans at the start of him being more than just a smartass era. Damn good gem.

#88. Johnson Family Vacation. Not a movie I knew anything about then and know less about now.

#89. Open Water. This one interests me. This was thought to be the next indie sensation horror film. Then it just…wasn’t. It did ok but compared to the hype it was just ok. The indie horror that hit this year? Saw which took the #55 slot.

#90. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. This was the other Lindsay Lohan teen comedy to hit in 2004. Mean Girls, at #28, falls just outside my sphere of discussion. I didn’t see this one and aside from being Megan Fox’s first notable role nobody remembers it, so I’ll use this space to say Mean Girls was that good. It holds up. It’s still great.

#91. After The Sunset. There’s so much going for this one I’m kind of curious why it wasn’t better known. Probably because Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Don Cheadle, and Woody Harrelson aren’t movie stars. They’re well known and extremely gifted but have they ever had hits on their own? Not really.

#92. The Prince and Me. The moment where we can call it: It didn’t happen for Julia Stiles. That’s a shame but 5 years after 10 Things I Hate About You, movie stardom wasn’t in the cards for her. Also 5 years later? She shouldn’t have been stuck in this kind of film.

#93. Garden State. I like this movie dammit. Just getting that out of the way. Sure its messages about mental health are, um, nightmarishly dangerous but I like it. I think this might also be the zeitgeist movie of 2004. We had it good. We weren’t ok. We were struggling to deal. That meant being a bit irritating. Another big triumph for Portman, too. Why did she survive her work in the Prequels? 2004.

#94. Jersey Girl. I love Kevin Smith. He’s the king of truly nice guys in film and he’s made some classic comedies. So I hate how much I loathe this movie. There isn’t one tonally correct note in it. It’s a weirdly dark and angry film for a supposedly sweet story. It’s just ugly and nasty. George Carlin’s great though.

#95. Twisted. The last of the Ashley Judd in danger movies. Those were a big thing. It’s weird they’re not anymore. This might be why. I always liked her though.

#96. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Yay I’m going to get torched! I hate this movie. I really hate this movie. Hate is not too strong a word either. This unbearably smug, cloying, cutesy tripe annoyed me right up until the sequence where he finds the fish. Then it becomes transcendent. But it’s only because Staralflur by Sigur Ros is art. This movie also killed Touchstone Pictures. Well done.

#97. Around The World in 80 Days. Wild thought: this was supposed to be a massive hit for Disney. Like the Mike Todd version it was an excuse for cameos. And nobody cared. I’m not even sure it’s in circulation.

#98. Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. I was too old for the original. I was too old for the sequel. Are these even nostalgia items? I want to know!

#99. Hotel Rwanda. I feel like there’s always a low budget film to remind me its all relative on these lists. After the Sunset? A bomb for Don Cheadle. This? A hit. Why? It’s about the Rwandan genocide so cracking 20 million was a victory.

#100. Ella Enchanted. Given that this apparently had nothing to do with the book, I get why this didn’t spark. It had a mixed reception and Miramax was at their end. But with time I think this has done ok. I think much of that stems from Anne Hathaway exploding once she left behind her youth oriented roles. That feels like a perfect segue to our next section.

The Top 25 Grossers of 2004

#25. The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. In which we reach the end of that youth. After this it’s Brokeback Mountain and her work in that eradicated this. (Havoc went DTV the same year but nobody saw it.) And I’m discussing Garry Marshall again too. Look, these weren’t for me but I appreciate that they gave a talented actress her break and Chris Pine pops up here!

#24. Million Dollar Baby. The mines are going to come hard and fast, I stress. On one hand, this is a poetic, well shot, phenomenally acted film with the best work Clint Eastwood will ever do as an actor. On the other hand, this movie’s message is utterly despicable, a celebration of euthanasia as the right option for paralysis. This beat the unnominated Eternal Sunshine and The Aviator for best picture. Grrr.

#23. Collateral. Hell yeah. I’m not going to make anybody mad here. This is an amazing film with career best work from Jamie Foxx and the second best performance by Tom Cruise yet. I hate Michael Mann’s affinity for cheap looking digital cinematography but this should feel like the scuzziest home movie and it looks great. Foxx deserved best actor for this and not the atrocious Ray.

#22. The Aviator. Got nothing negative to say. DiCaprio probably should’ve won for this. Scorsese too. There’s a lot of great work up and down this thing. It also handles the descent of Hughes right. It’s a tragedy and a terrifying one. So great.

#21. The Grudge. Oh boy, the Japanese horror remake. Funny how it was such a brief trend this film’s sequel made the other list in 2006. I don’t get this trend. I get The Ring striking but the way Hollywood screamed “Make Ring again” annoys me. Again, take note that Saw hit this fall. A change happened. You could feel it.

#20. The Village. I swear I have no idea how I feel about this film. I hated it walking out. I hate the second twist. I hate Adrien Brody in it, the one time I think Shyamalan has truly issues with mental health. Joaquin Phoenix, for probably the only time in his only career, is invisible. But I love everybody else in it, especially Howard. I love the cinematography. And I love that first twist which is genius. I’ll never crack this one.

#19. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. The biggest of the frat pack movies and not a bad one. Definitely not the worst Ben Stiller movie this year. I laughed at it definitely. Even used a quote from it as a sig for a time. But it’s also never really as anarchically great as the great comedies of the year. It’s good, not great. Get ready to hear that phrase a lot.

#18. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is a nothing film based on nothing books. Oh it’s nice to look at but it’s nothing. With three highly repetitive books adapted, it rapidly becomes agony. Jim Carrey begins a career long descent with only Horton Hears a Who to look forward to. Funnily enough, the Netflix version is actually what this was supposed to be with original director Barry Sonnefeld involved.

#17. Fahrenheit 9/11. :sigh: Can we all agree whatever we said about it in 2004 had nothing to do with the film? It was a propaganda rally. If you agreed with it as I did, it existed to make you feel better. It wasn’t a film. It’s barely coherent. Very poorly sourced. A lot of points made but nothing revelatory. Easily the shoddiest, most rushed film of Michael Moore’s career. There’s a reason nobody watches it now.

#16. Van Helsing. Hoo boy, this was not what Universal wanted. The mediocre $120 million gross pretty much killed this would be franchise dead. Screw it, I’m the guy who wanted more. Sure Hugh Jackman is just Wolverine but he fights vampires but this was a fun, really great looking movie. Stephen Sommers is an underrated director in my book. Not his best but a nice outing that deserved better.

#15. 50 First Dates. Why haven’t I given my thoughts on an Adam Sandler film in this column yet? This movie. This one killed dead any desire I had to watch an Adam Sandler film that wasn’t a serious effort ever again. And it should’ve worked. Sandler reteamed with Drew Barrymore after his very best solo outing should’ve been gold since she gives him a great comic partner of equal skill. Nope, she’s adrift in a premise that I’ll be blunt does not work. This is an icky film. Hated it. Next.

#14. Ocean’s Twelve. I love that this has gotten the redemption it deserves. This is Steven Soderbergh giving us his idea of a sequel. It’s recognizably Hollywood but also unabashedly Soderbergh. The plot is ludicrous and giddily subverts our expectations. Think of it not as a heist film but as a riff on the genre. Damn good.

#13. Troy. Hollywood is convinced we want “the real” version of mythical stories. Nope. I love The Iliad/The Odyssey and this is not the Iliad at all. What kills me about this film is Eric Bana is so great as Hector and Brad Pitt, who should never do a period piece ever again, is so awful as Achilles that by the end I was hoping the movie would go all the way and let Hector win for as unfaithful as it was. Bonus negative points for taunting us with a note perfect Sean Bean as Odysseus and denying us an Odyssey.

#12. I, Robot. Yup. This exists. There’s effects. Will Smith definitely gives a performance in this. This is a thing. This couldn’t more clearly be a film made to plug a hole in the summer lineup like almost every studio’s full summer slate was this year.

#11. Shark Tale. The Shrek franchise gets tarred for celebrity voices and pop culture references galore. Not untrue but you know this is 2004 which means I’ll have thoughts on Shrek coming. This is what people think of when they hate DreamWorks Animation. This is reprehensible. Horrible on every level except for Jack Black being too good. And between this, I, Robot, and Hitch Will Smith had a wretched 12 months.

#10. The Polar Express. I…really really love this movie. I do. Yes, the technique is odd but I found it transporting. Yeah there’s a lot of Tom Hanks in this but why is that bad. This is a stunner. Love it.

#9. National Treasure. I love this movie too. Not wasting time on it. Good movie.

#8. The Bourne Supremacy. A damned good film that I also have nothing to say about. With films like these you either saw them or you won’t. Just a great action film. The third is the best. There are no sequels.

#7. The Day After Tomorrow. The good keeps coming. Seriously. I dig this movie and I think it’s vital for a weird reason. Here is a movie that reminds us climate change ain’t just the Earth heating up. It’s extreme weather. This implausible example at least got the idea in the mainstream. Is this a ridiculous film? Yup. Do I love it for that? Yup.

#6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This is the film that made it clear the series would last. Handing it off to Alfonso Cuaron was a smart touch that showed the series could glow freed from Chris Columbus’ clunky style. That said there is so much cut out that really belonged. Just a nod to the Marauders would’ve been nice. Still a killer film.

#5. The Incredibles. :deep breath: Is it ok I don’t love this film like y’all do? I don’t dislike it. I think it’s very good. I liked it enough to see it twice. But of the four Brad Bird animated films I’ve seen, this is his weakest. It’s really pretty generic as someone fluent in the tropes he’s dealing in. They’re all well executed but I just don’t love it.

#4. Meet the Fockers. This movie might top Home Alone 2 in the laziest sequel script ever. Like I’m going to double back and apologize to Austin Powers 2, from the same director no less, for the comparison. This thing is lazy. Entire jokes are repeated verbatim over and over. Furthermore, this thing lacks all the style the first one had. Much weaker cinematography. And nobody was having fun. But it all comes back to the wretched script. Blech.

#3. The Passion of The Christ. I’m at a loss. This is on a technical level honestly quite staggering. Mel Gibson is a tremendously talented director. Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography is art. But what was the point? The story of Jesus of Nazareth has such dramatic moments that could be drawn from it. His death is the least of them. Why was this so agonizingly violent to the point I literally had to watch Un Chien Andalou to warm up to see it? You want an experience that matters? Find Jim Caviezel’s reading of the Sermon on the Mount. That’s great. This beautifully made work of antisemitic torture has faded from memory and rightly so.

#2. Spider-Man 2. Ok I have whiplash. This is a great comic book movie. The best Spider-Man film by far. Alfred Molina is the perfect Doctor Octopus. The fights are the best in the series. Sam Raimi felt the most in control. And the script is a mess at times. The whole psychosomatic power loss is weird and doesn’t work. But I don’t care because the film has a coherent plot and theme. Love this movie.

#1. Shrek 2. The first two Shrek films get a bad rap. The first is a strong riff on the fairy tale tropes. The second then deals with what comes next. Given that I just dinged Meet the Fockers for going into repeats, it thrills me to show what you’re supposed to do. Shrek 2 moves the characters forward. Shrek has to accept life in a society that rejected him. Fiona has to deal with the consequences of falling in love with and marrying Shrek. Even Donkey has new things to do. Then you add the new characters who rule. This is a cracking script, great animation, just everything done right. Superb film that doesn’t bug me as #1.

Superman at Home: The DTV Adventures of the Man of Steel

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For one of the most recognizable icons in all of pop culture and star of three hit tv shows, Superman hasn’t had much luck on the big screen. While the 1978 film is still fairly well liked and its sequel at least a nostalgia item, things have been rough. The 3rd and 4th Christopher Reeve films were just plain bad. Superman Returns was a fun film but felt more like a curio than a living, breathing movie. Man of Steel was one of the most divisive films I’ve ever seen. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was even more so. He wasn’t even in the marketing for Justice League very much or the film for that matter.

That mixed success tends to result in the trope that Superman is boring, especially since he’s so powerful. Incorrect. Superman is hands down one of my favorite characters in all of pop culture because he’s fascinating. He’s got the power of a demigod and the soul of a Kansas farm boy. That creates rich conflict for him in a corrupt world. His refusal to give in to the fantasies others would makes him a hero to respect.

So where can one find satisfying long form tales of the Man of Steel? Surprisingly direct-to-video. Superman has headlined six DTV animated films and costarred with Batman in two more. While they’re not full length by blockbuster standards at 75-80 minutes, these stellar morsels provide at least a nice bonus fix.

Superman: Brainiac Attacks (***) The first Superman DTV movie, not counting the repackaged tv episodes the made up The Superman/Batman Movie, was a tie-in to Superman Returns, essentially one for the kids. Despite that, it’s really decent. The plot is solidly dense, drawing in a wide array of elements from the universe. It’s very nicely animated. Voice acting, a mix of the animated show and new actors, works What holds it back is it’s familiar ground, once more dealing with Clark Kent pondering his secret identity. None of this is new but don’t dismiss it as “just for kids”.

Superman: Doomsday (**) Kicking off the still-going program of DC animated movies, this is in theory an adaptation of The Death of Superman from the comics. However aside from Doomsday killing Superman after a rampage, pretty much none of the details in this film are accurate. That wouldn’t bother me if this wasn’t a bizarrely atonal script in every other way. The Superman I’m a fan of wouldn’t keep his identity secret from the woman he’s sleeping with. It can’t decide how seriously to take Lex Luthor. This worked when it was all we had. It’s not now.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (***1/2) Now we start to cook with a bit more gas. This is basically just the graphic novel in motion, something that initially bugged me. But really that’s fine. Jeph Loeb wrote a comic ready to film. It delivers nicely as an adaptation of the book. It’s also a nicely balanced story, never feeling too strongly focused on one character or the other. And wow does it have a deep character bench.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (**) Unfortunately I can’t say I was as positive on this one and that’s really due to the source material. Loeb and the late Michael Turner crafted a pretty but incredibly messy book that tried to reintroduce Supergirl AND tell an Amazon story AND tell a Darkseid story AND Batman is still above the title. Take away Turner’s lovely pencils and replace them with choppy, murky animation to get a rough sit.

All-Star Superman (****) I’m probably in the minority in how strong I think this one is. While it doesn’t quite hit the towering heights of the source material, it’s still a deeply moving look at a man trying to finish his life’s work before he dies. This adapts the rather episodic graphic novel as well as I suspect it could be adapted without feeling incoherent. True, there are things that could’ve been kept in and it’s still not quite a whole, but it’s a poignant film that works

Superman vs. the Elite (****1/2) Joe Kelly is one of the great unsung geniuses of comics, a journeyman who left his mark on so many great books. This movie, which Kelly adapted from his own Action Comics #775, is the best example of why. The film depicts Superman questioning his relevance when a new, edgy group of superheroes emerges. It’s a remarkably angry analysis of the subject but it still works as a fun, beat-em-up action movie too. I’ve heard this argued as the best Superman movie in some quarters. I won’t go there but it’s close.


Superman Unbound (*****) I’ll go there for this one. OK, it’s not as thought provoking as Superman vs. The Elite, but in 75 minutes, this gives me everything I want in a great Superman movie. A strong relationship with Lois Lane? Check. A great villain, in this case John Noble as Brainiac? Check. A glimpse into the more out there elements of Superman’s lore? Check. Action to blow your mind? Check. Is it deep? No. But I just want Superman to be fun. I got that.

The Death of Superman (****) If at first you don’t succeed, well there was no reason to do this when there are other comics to adapt but why not try again? The animated movies are now, with rare exceptions, a shared universe which gave them an excuse to try again. This time we get a somewhat more faithful take on the story, benefiting strongly from only being part 1 of 2. The film works because it focuses on why Superman matters to this universe before sending him to his fatal fight. And what a fight!

Next year brings us Reign of the Supermen, likely to be the last solo Superman film we’ll see for a while with Henry Cavill looking to be out. Hopefully we’ll get more in time though. These films make a strong case Superman can thrive on film.

The 25s: The Top and Bottom Grossers of 2005

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2005 was a year that exists for me as a phantom. I know I went to the movies that year. Do I remember them? Well I thought I didn’t. I thought when I went I was usually bored. And I was wrong. A lot of interesting films hit in 2005. Time to celebrate them.

The Bottom 25 of 2005

#76. The Island. Am I weird for not caring about Michael Bay one way or the other. He’s talented but in a very narrow band. He’s usually just there for me. This stands unique as his only big budget bomb. Those who saw it liked it. Just weren’t many who did.

#77. The Ringer. I genuinely wonder what would’ve happened if Johnny Knoxville had become a character actor like I think he had the potential to be. He’s not untalented but he sure did like it safe. This was a bad idea done far better in a South Park episode.

#78. Hostage. Bruce Willis phoning it in. Most notable thing: the director was a video game director. Beyond that, another generic action movie.

#79. Magnificent Desolation (IMAX). Weirdest thing I’ve discovered doing this column would have to be how huge these IMAX films were. There are some big films below this one and yet this made more money. Even factoring in how expensive IMAX tickets are, this was an underrated business model.

#80. The Constant Gardener. And we hit the first great film I’ll discuss in this column, possibly the best wide release over Labor Day weekend ever. This is a powerhouse film. Ralph Fiennes cast hard against type as a meeker figure is great but this is Rachel Weisz’s declaration of how thunderous a talent she is. No wonder she ran away with the Oscar. This is a film to live in.

#81. In Her Shoes. I miss the late Curtis Hanson so much. He could do films like LA Confidential and 8 Mile then do sweet, humane films like Wonder Boys and this. I don’t miss Toni Collette because thankfully she’s never stopped working. There’s a lot of good here.

#82. Bad News Bears. I know it’s easy to trash a soulless remake phoned in by Richard Linklater but I look at a film like this (and the far better School of Rock) and see the films funded by it. We didn’t need this but we needed Boyhood. That said, would it have killed Billy Bob Thornton to have made at least one good movie during his sellout phase? Just one A Simple Plan?

#83. Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story. Welcome to the death throes of Dreamworks. Sure, animation was thriving but the lack of caring at the end of this company fascinates me. Read The Men Who Would Be King. This was technically considered just after the purchase by Paramount and they were flinging product at the wall. I’m talking about this all because I have nothing to say about the film.

#84. Because of Winn-Dixie. My mother loved this book when she taught it. Don’t know if she saw the film. I definitely didn’t. I’ve never heard anything good about it. I’m from the South and I’m allergic to this dreck.

#85. Just Friends. Wow, how much do I hate here? The fat suit? The idea of men and women not being able to be friends? The whole film? Ugh. Ryan Reynolds hasn’t ever really moved beyond this either. I mean he’s tried but he gets his best box office in parts like this. (Deadpool 2 is legit awesome at least.)

#86. Stealth. Bwahahahahahaha. Oh this movie! We don’t realize how hard this was sold unless you were there. This was going to be huge. It pretty much killed Rob Cohen’s career and took Josh Lucas down with him. Jamie Foxx was spared by his Oscar (and leaving the film early.)

#87. House of Wax. Jaume Collet-Serra debuts and all is good. 2005 had a lot of horror that tried way harder than you’d expect and that rules. Sure this was sold on the overexposed Paris Hilton dying but it’s well-liked for its atmosphere now.

#88. The Wedding Date. Movies like this go to Netflix now and I’m not sad about that. It’s cute. It’s sweet. But this is a Lifetime movie with barely a better cast. Meh. Side note: This was produced by Gold Circle Films. Strong contender for worst studio of the 2000s.

#89. Good Night, and Good Luck. Another truly great film. Director George Clooney was a bold idiosyncratic director in his first two films with a fixation on media. Telling a chillingly timeless story of an ideologue destroying innocents, he came alive. The film has some of DP god Robert Elswit’s best visuals ever. But what I’ll really remember this film for is getting Robert Downey Jr. up on his feet. He’s vital to the film working and shows he can still work at a top-level. Damn good movie here.

#90. A History of Violence. Before I get to the next 10 films, and you should strap in, realize this did better than them. I know the norm is the American public has bad taste. No, this time celebrate that one of David Cronenberg’s most important films did better than a lot of dreck. Good job.

#91. Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Well… guess I know which he chose. Actually what’s wild is this is the start of a very long, almost exclusively DTV career for 50 Cent. But this was one hell of a bad start. Poorly received and seen, this was not his 8 Mile despite imitating it down to a high-caliber director, Jim Sheridan, overseeing it. Too bad.

#92. The Fog. If I said this came out in 2001 or 2009, would you correct me? This feels like the other remakes: perfunctory and obligatory. Guess we had to have it. We did. We forgot it. When you reference The Fog, horror fans don’t even ask which.

#93. Zathura. Um…what the hell happened here? You have solid reviews, a strong cast with two future YA film giants, a director whose next film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a riff on material (Jumanij but in space) that launched two blockbuster films. What happened here? I have no answer at all.

#94. Rent. Oh how I am ashamed I liked this movie when I saw it. It was the right mood. That said this is a film about revolting sociopaths who are so ego-driven it repulses me. Then there’s how sad it is to see most of the cast back, far too old for their roles. Stephen Chbosky didn’t write another movie for 7 years and the film he made next, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is as honest as this is false.

#95. Capote. You know how I hate biopics? Well I do. I don’t hate this film though. In fact I think this is a legitimately powerful film which works because it riffs on the very trap biopics fall into, namely caricature. Truman Capote was a self-made caricature. This movie made him a person. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work is all-time great here. It helps this has a fascinating story. A flamboyantly gay man sets out to write a brutally raw book about a real life murder and finds success costs. It doesn’t hurt I think In Cold Blood is a genius book. This is something great.

#96. Doom. Dwayne Johnson was seriously not born a box office draw. This was a dud but I’m fascinated by it from the perspective of today. You have a great cast in Johnson, Karl Urban, and Rosamund Pike. You have source material that’s still popular now, especially after the recent reboot game. This should have connected but they threw out every reason the game did. Fidelity matters.

#97. XXX: State of the Union. Fun fact: this included on the dvd a scene that definitively killed off Vin Diesel’s hero from the first. Also fun fact: he reprised the part anyway this year. That’s more entertaining than this generic franchise extension.

#98. Elizabethtown. Seriously I despise Cameron Crowe. With the exception of Vanilla Sky, which I adore, I hate his hipster tripe movies. But I still take no joy in what a bomb this was because it took the supremely talented Kirsten Dunst down for a long time. This and the eventually redeemed Marie Antionette sank her. I hate that.

#99. Aeon Flux. Can a movie be a debacle for the people who made it yet also a start of something great? This was a nightmare for director Karyn Kusama and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi yet because of how strongly they bonded–Kusama and Hay even married and have a child–they formed a team that led to the acclaimed The Initiation and the hotly buzzed Destroyer. Bad movie here but greatness came from it.

#100. Serenity. I’m going to break some hearts. It’s ok that this was the end. Audiences rejected the show and movie. It’s dead. Let it go. This is a great, rollicking ride. But it wasn’t a hit. At all. It’s over.


The Top 25 Grossers of 2005

#25. Cheaper by the Dozen 2. I skipped this one. I guess I’m glad it exists because Steve Martin made money to fund his better work. But nope, no interest and that’s fine.

#24. Are We There Yet? Ice Cube’s journey from N.W.A. to here fascinates me. He went from aggressive in his youth to a cuddly family figure, even in raunchier work like 21 Jump Street. And I don’t mock the guy for that since by all accounts that’s who he is. He’s been married since 1992 to the mother of his 4 kids, one of whom is the rising star O’Shea Jackson Jr. I don’t see a family film like this as selling out. I see it as who he is at this point.

#23. Monster-In-Law. I’m moving past this fast. Jane Fonda is a legend and thankfully she’s currently on Netflix on the great Grace and Frankie where she’s utterly destroying alongside Lily Tomlin. We’ve all seen that? Good. Next.

#22. Brokeback Mountain. Doesn’t it seem like this is low for what this is? This movie is usually THE movie that comes up when 2005 comes up. It’s widely felt it should’ve won Best Picture. It was endlessly discussed. And really it just did fine. I think the impact is outsized because it was so big on video. This is a legitimately great film that deserves the love.

#21. Saw II. I feel weirdly happy seeing a Saw movie do this well. I don’t really like the films but I appreciate what a tradition they were for several years. This was the franchise’s financial peak.

#20. Flightplan. Boooo. Jodie Foster is one of the greatest actresses of her age so why are her few films post-2000 so rarely on her level, save for Inside Man and Panic Room? This is bad. So bad the twists are in the trailer as are the untwists. Peter Sarsgaard really must hate movies like this because he got hard trapped in this kind of role despite being a damn good actor.

#19. The 40-Year-Old Virgin. There were two comedies this summer I saw multiple times. One of them has aged very poorly and I don’t love it as much. This is not it. I do love this movie. Is it problematic? It’s about deeply problematic people. Of course it is. But this is a movie wrestling hard with toxic masculinity. It doesn’t get it right but it’s a potent stab in the right direction. Secret MVP: Kat Dennings giving way more depth to a teenage girl side character than expected. That said, it needs a minimum of 20 minutes cut. This is bloated. Still love it

#18. Fun with Dick and Jane. Jim Carrey really hasn’t had a fun last 15 years. After Bruce Almighty, that was it for him in live action. This was his last 100 Million film not as a voice to date. Given that he’s apparently an incredibly dark, unpleasant figure I suspect he’s not getting a lot of chances. I’m weirdly ok with that. He’s a talent but his role choices are staggeringly bad. Also he’s anti-vaccine so more boooooos. Very meh film.

#17. The Pacifier. Haven’t I pointed out that Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant were hack writers already? I have? OK, I could give my thoughts on Vin Diesel? Wait I don’t really care about him. My thoughts on the film? I didn’t see it. Anyway…

#16. Walk the Line. I hate to say it but I didn’t see this one either. I blame Ray. Ray burnt me out on this kind of musical biopic. I don’t need another turbulent genius film. I do give the film credit as the rare biopic to be a love story that doesn’t anger me for that decision. Of course this one was. But I’m fine never seeing this film.

#15. Robots. My life would’ve been great not seeing this film. My life is fine for seeing it. This is the most quality neutral film I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s ok. It’s nice to look at. It has the most uninteresting script possible. This movie was and that’s all I have to say.

#14. Chicken Little. Disney went chasing Shrek. That was a baffling decision. I did NOT like this movie but I get why it happened. Disney didn’t know what they were in 2005. Then they bought Pixar. Then they became shopping addicts. Now they’ve got a 20th Century Fox they don’t even want.

#13. Fantastic Four. What a perfect segue. How do I feel about this film? I think it’s like Robots. It’s so okay it’s okay. It’s as ordinary an FF movie as you could make. I hate Doom being a corporate raider but that’s just to be expected. This tries less to adapt the comics and more to adapt the premise to film in the safest way possible. That said, Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm and Not Another Teen Movie’s Chris Evans as Johnny Storm are perfect.

#12. The Longest Yard. Have I not instituted a rule? I don’t see Adam Sandler films. I skipped this. I skipped every Adam Sandler movie (except Funny People) since 2004. … See y’all next column.

#11. Hitch. Why. I really need an answer here. WHY? This is a star vehicle through and through. It only worked because it was Will Smith. The thing is, that’s not enough. Kevin James was a breakout here but he deserves better than he’s gotten. This is just so bland. Seeing that this was a big hit is a reminder Big Macs sell big too. (A friend pushed me to see it at the dollar theater.)

#10. Mr. and Mrs. Smith. OK this is why Chili’s is big. It’s a bit better, a bit more filling than McDonalds but it’s still a safe formula film. You get a good quick sit that’s fun but nothing more. Are we not over the spy/assassin trope? It was dead in 2005. It’s dead now. I have to concede this film’s BO has nothing to do with it but the hype surrounding the now at war stars. It’s a better movie than that.

#9. Madagascar. Confession: I got through 30 minutes of this and turned it off because I didn’t care. Never gone back. Never will.

#8. Batman Begins. A case where the impact is again ludicrous next to the placement. This was seen as a solid but unspectacular gross next to Spider-Man’s soaring box office. I’d argue we only got a sequel because video sales were strong and the tease for the Joker meant likely strong box office. But even putting the sequel aside, this thing looms huge. A great film that reaffirmed how cool Batman was.

#7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I like it. I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t. I know Tim Burton is persona non grata (and he brought it on himself) and Johnny Depp deserves whatever bad he can face. But…look this is a really cool looking movie with some hysterical performances and a cracking script. It’s really good. But obviously it’s the second best take.

#6. Wedding Crashers. And it’s time for my reckoning. This is the other comedy I watched repeatedly that summer and I’m kind of unsure why now. Not that it’s awful–it’s perfectly fine if revoltingly sexist/homophobic–but it’s so generic. It’s not special. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are not the versatile talents (the cameoing here) Will Ferrell is. They’re one clanging note. That said, Rachel McAdams and Isla Fisher are luminous in it with McAdams a golden straight woman and Fisher a comic beast who never figured it out again.

#5. King Kong. One of the year’s big disappointments with an 84% RT score and a $218 million gross. OK, is it possible our expectations were way too high here? I have the same issue everybody has with this film, namely that 45 minutes of this film should’ve been axed. But it’s hard to see this as a misfire. It’s still quite good. I just :quiet voice: prefer Kong: Skull Island.

#4. War of the Worlds. Spielberg came to play. I don’t think we could see immediately how lacerating this film was. You expect a silly popcorn film. You don’t expect a bone chilling, sober film about the cost of war. This is a brutal film about the refugee experience transposed to America, something that became too real at the end of the summer when Hurricane Katrina hit. Any other director, this is the best film they make all decade. This wasn’t his best film this year.

#3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My thoughts on the Harry Potter movies track 1:1 with the books. If it was a great book–this is–then it was a great time at the movies, which it was. There’s so little variance in that way. This is a much better film than credited I think, not as gutted as it’s treated as being. It’s reasonably spot on and looks fantastic.

#2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Why did this franchise collapse so fast? The first movie was a monster hit. The second film did half the numbers. You’re just now remembering a third film is out there. I have a theory. Everything people know about the series can be found in the first book. When Lewis takes that ridiculous time jump in book 2, it loses everything you care about including Tumnus (baby James McAvoy) and Narnia as you recognize it. Nobody cares after that. This movie is still awesome. Big, epic, fun.

#1. Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Rather than focus on the film, which is an amazing tragedy, I want to talk about what this moment felt like. This was the end of Star Wars. There wasn’t going to be another movie. The TV show idea was a rumor at most. The books were even on a break. This was the finale and honestly, if it had been it I would’ve been fine. It ended on a powerful note that reminded me why I loved Star Wars. This film honestly floats above the year, not feeling in any way like 2005. It’s a grand, unique work and a fine capper to the year.

The 25s: The Top 25 and Bottom 25 Grossers of 2007

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2007 is to the serious film what 2008 was to the blockbuster. It was an all-time great year for serious films. And I’m about to overlook them almost entirely. 2007 was a great year for serious films but audiences gave them a wide berth. Let’s see what they saw instead.

The Bottom 25

#76. The Messengers. Unless it’s an unexpected breakout, the bottom 25 will always be where most horror films go. This isn’t one I got to but it does have one of the most incredible back stories as the original script by the underrated Todd Farmer was so heavily rewritten it became the script to the DTV prequel.

#77. The Number 23. I’ll give the makers of this film credit: they tried. Too bad they tried their all on ludicrous ideas and twists that inspire awe in their ridiculousness. Jim Carrey could be great in a thriller but this ain’t the one.

#78. Good Luck Chuck. We all agree Dane Cook was a bad idea. Gifted stand-up and superb character actor as Mr. Brooks showed but a terrible idea as a leading man. This movie is gross.

#79. Mr. Bean’s Holiday. On the other hand, I’m always happy to see Rowan Atkinson show up. A funny guy who’s given us some legendary work. Not saying this is a good film but how often do you see a G-rated film anymore?  Nice.

#80. Breach. The real hidden gem of this year. A underseen film that works because every element is honed to precision. Chris Cooper belonged in the Oscar conversation that year and was completely overlooked. The release hurt this film.

#81. Zodiac. Imagine if this had been held to the fall. It would’ve played far better I think and enjoyed the accolades it got at the box office. The release hurt it. But it’s endured.

#82. Balls of Fury. 2007 confirmed it definitively: Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are geniuses on TV but the big screen is not where they have any business operating. It’s as if their sense of humor shuts off in long form. Reno 911: Miami made even less money and that was with a popular show behind it.

#83. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. The second live action G-rated film on this list marks the abrupt halt to the career of Zach Helm, who quit filmmaking aftera disastrous experience on this. A shame as while it didn’t connect, Stranger Than Fiction showed he has a voice.

#84. August Rush. One of those “well that happened” movies. I don’t know anybody who saw it. I don’t remember anything beyond the logline. Millions of dollars spent on a film that is gone.

#85. Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls. Hate on Tyler Perry all you want but he at least knew actors well enough to give Idris Elba a leading role when he wasn’t getting those. This is a melodrama but I can’t hate on those either. Man knows his audience.

#86. The Great Debaters. A rare, rare film about my beloved Marshall, Texas! I was actually in the area when this film hit and it was huge. Denzel Washington hasn’t been a flashy director but he’s developing a voice.

#87. 28 Weeks Later. I’m honestly shocked this didn’t do better. It had a strong ad campaign and the original had a nice afterlife but this actually made considerably less money than the first. Sometimes lightning can’t be recaptured.

#88. We Own The Night. Once more the difference between a hit and a miss is all about expectations. This is actually by a giant margin James Gray’s biggest hit and a decent recouper. Not his most popular film with Film Twitter but Gray’s found his niche.

#89. Mr. Brooks. We need more films like this. A cool premise. A nice script. A great cast. Nothing great but solid. This is the kind of film that would probably head to Netflix today.

#90. Hannibal Rising. You know a film is good when the writer is told to write it or someone else will. The death of Hannibal Lecter on the big screen which at least led to his rebirth on the small screen.

#91. The Nanny Diaries. :sigh: The follow-up project from the team that did American Splendor. It’s not as good as that film to say the least. It is fun to see Captain America and Black Widow in their second film together and last before they joined Marvel.

#92. Mr. Woodcock. Really only notable as it came from the director of Lars and the Real Girl and sat on the shelf for so long it was in the theaters at the same time as that film which I saw. Didn’t see this.

#93. Nancy Drew. On directors, Andrew Fleming doesn’t get enough credit for how often he worked with young women and did it quite well. While this isn’t on the level of The Craft or Dick (or 2008’s genius Hamlet 2), he at least seems to genuinely like making films for that crowd.

#94. The Mist. Time has been so good to Frank Darabont’s unexpectedly nihilistic take on Stephen King’s novella. Darabont clearly relished finally getting to let loose in the mode of The Blob and Nightmare 3. This has a sizable following now as it should.

#95. The Reaping. Dark Caste and not Jaume Collet-Serra Dark Castle so not worth discussing.

#96. Grindhouse. Look, nobody had any idea what the hell this was. It was made for a niche audience. Trying to ape movies most people think are bad won’t draw people in. I love this project but it was a weird creation and I’m not shocked it bombed badly.

#97. Sicko. Michael Moore makes propaganda films. That said, with the exception of Fahrenheit 9/11, which was admittedly a fell good film for the left, he makes genius ones. His argument here, the need for socialized medicine, is well expressed even as it’s wildly manipulative.

#98. Across The Universe. Here’s how you know time is the ultimate arbiter of success. You don’t remember or care about much of the top 25 grossing films. But this money losing film is getting revival screenings nationwide at the end of July. I find that awesome.

#99. Perfect Stranger. Oh man the plot twist on this one is genius in its ridiculousness. Otherwise boring.

#100. Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure. IMAX doesn’t do a lot of in-house movies now that most of their screens are used for mainstream films (and aren’t full IMAX) but these were huge business. We’ll run into more.


The Top 25

#25. Blades of Glory. I noted that the Will Ferrell in this kind of film audience dried up when Semi-Pro came out. I think this was why. It was a perfectly fine piece of entertainment but it was enough forever.

#24. Hairspray. Not a film I was much into but I have respect for it. Another nice film in a year when we needed nice films.

#23. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. That this existed in 2007 when it would’ve been hopelessly dated in 1987 staggers me. Almost as much as Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor’s names on it. It’s well-known their script was gutted but still they came anywhere near this and I do not respect.

#22. Superbad. This one really is aging great and I think it’s because the film is honest. These guys are buffoons and the film loves them. Giving Emma Stone her first film role and letting her instantly be a force really helps balance the often uneven portraits of women in these films. I just adore everything about this sweet film.

#21. Bee Movie. I hate you all. I’ve never seen this. I won’t see this. I don’t care to see this movie. But I know every word of it because it became a meme. I hate it for that reason.

#20. Enchanted. With the hindsight of 10.5 years, it’s now clear this is entirely a film that works because of the lead performance and really nothing else. The script is hopelessly muddled. It’s generically made. But Amy Adams is utterly ablaze in the film and elevates it so far above its weaker points. Watch it for her.

#19. American Gangster. I’m hot and cold on Ridley Scott. This is the hot side. Sure this movie is largely elevated by its cast but when that cast is Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ruby Dee, and John Hawkes, of course it’s worth seeing. Everybody in this film is so good.

#18. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I’ve gone from enjoying this film when I saw it to getting bitter about it later to now kind of feeling affection for it. Sure it gets the Galactus story completely wrong and Doom is a joke again. It does however get the Silver Surfer spot on and Chris Evans is really strong here.

#17. Live Free or Die Hard. I’ll take some flack. I dig this film. It’s nowhere near Die Hard but as a high goofy action movie, it works. Len Wiseman knows how to shoot this material and Bruce Willis actually seemed to be on set. It’s fun.

#16. Rush Hour 3. I didn’t see this movie because I stopped caring about Rush Hour in 1999. Not wasting one more breath.

#15. Juno. I love that this film has gotten the reevaluation it deserves. This is a potent, powerful film about serious issues and in no small way how we cope. Juno’s entire persona is a coping mechanism, not who she really is. She has to act so arch because otherwise she’s dealing with genuine trauma. Love this film.

#14. Knocked Up. I have such complicated feeling about this film. I adored it in 2007. But in 2018 I’m really struggling with it. As great as Leslie Mann’s breakdown outside the club is, the film really doesn’t know how to handle women. The film also has a plot that no matter how much it pretends otherwise, really should be over before it starts. So much great comedy and some great performances but I’m not sure now.

#13. Wild Hogs. I didn’t see this film because I’m nowhere near the target audience. Movies like this baffle me though. Who were they made for. You have three guys who were long past their box office draw moment and William H. Macy counting the days until the gift of Shameless yet this was a bigger hit than the “hip” Knocked Up and Juno. There’s a huge swath of audiences that isn’t being served.

#12. The Simpsons Movie. Can we all bask in the joyous fact that for 90 minutes we got The Simpsons firing on all cylinders one final time? I love this hysterical translation of the show to the big screen. It proved the show’s last gasp for me but it was a good one.

#11. Ratatouille. I feel like with Pixar films in this age I can just list them and move on. We all know this was something special. One funny thing to come out of it: I started listening to Patton Oswalt’s stand-up after seeing this film.

#10. 300. Oh joy, I get to discuss a Zack Snyder film. The internet hasn’t made that horrible in the last three years! Honestly I don’t really have an opinion on it one way or the other. It’s stylish but utterly hollow. Aside from Lena Headey, none of the performances are notable. Just not a memorable film.

#9. Alvin and the Chipmunks. This might seem bizarre but there was virtually nothing for kids out at Christmas 2007. In fact the two big releases were horror movies! So of course this cleaned up. As for spawning a 4 film franchise, well I’m at a loss.

#8. National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I’m honestly confused as to why this franchise stalled out at 2. It’s one I really like, even if this was a weaker sequel.

#7. The Bourne Ultimatum. Part 3s dominate this list from here on out. This one is one of the very best. A deeply satisfying conclusion that refuses to cop-out from the moral bleakness of the series to date.

#6. I Am Legend. A solid film. I feel like the first half is outright great and the second half is just fine. I wish Francis Lawrence would get back to horror as he’s one of the few directors to make genuinely scary films with big budgets.

#5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I love 6 of the 8 Harry Potter movies. One of the two I don’t love? This one. Not a shock as it’s based on the utterly drained of life fifth book. The Order of The Phoenix is a long work of wheel spinning and the film is the same way. Notable for the one film series writer Steve Kloves took off. It shows.

#4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Another part 3 and another truly great one. I love the PotC trilogy. Three incredible pulp fantasies. This is also seals the series as well as you’d hope. I know the Pirates sequels are popular to hate (and the 2 films that follow this I’ve skipped) but I’m not there for it.

#3. Transformers. Also popular to hate and deservedly so. So many atrocious decisions made in this overloud, obnoxious film. This is thankfully the only one I’ve seen in a theater and without Rifftrax. I’m glad I’ll never have to say another word about this series.

#2. Shrek the Third. Swing and a miss. How do you go from two phenomenal films that haven’t lost a second of watchability to this? Maybe Shrek really was a done in two franchise.

#1. Spider-Man 3. I know there is a massive movement to rehabilitate this film. I know there was the new edition last year that supposedly fixed it. I don’t care. This movie is hopelessly broken on the script level. Thematically it’s an unsatisfying mess where the characters all betray who they’d spent two genius films before becoming. I don’t care about nice guy Sandman and I especially don’t want asshole expert Thomas Haden Church playing a sympathetic version. This is a bad movie.


The 25s: The Top and Bottom Grossing Films of 2006

Image result for dead man's chest

2006 has been a year of fascination for me for some time due to a healthy amount of Cinematour photos taken this year. I remember that more than I remember most of these films. I don’t cover the middle 50 but I could play real or fake with half of them. This was a weirdly bland year. Here’s how.

The Bottom 25

#76. Stranger Than Fiction. Right off the bat we get one of the very best films of the year. Everything about this film from the script to the acting is top-tier. This one has developed a strong reputation over the years. Good.

#77. The Illusionist. The “other” of the two magician films along with The Prestige and by far the worse film. This movie angers me as a study of magic history because of a baffling use of CGI in several shots to reproduce tricks that were quite common on stage. Not like the rest of the film was that good. Boring and predictable.

#78. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Prequels are lazy excuses for sequels most of the time. This franchise hadn’t written itself into a corner. Still got this. No need.

#79. The Grudge 2. I like seeing the slow decay of American versions of Japanese horror films. We really milked this trend for a while and horror wasn’t fun for a while.

#80. Gridiron Gang. Dwayne Johnson spent a long time trying to figure out film. This was his “families like me but I’m not sure if I should be funny” stab. Didn’t work.

#81. Last Holiday. I haven’t seen this one but maybe that’s not ok. I like Queen Latifah. I’ll always wish Hollywood had any idea how to use her. I’m at peace that they have no idea. But she deserved better than she got. Might need to double back.

#82. Pan’s Labyrinth. Yes, it’s in the bottom 25. Of course it’s arguably the year’s best film. But let me suggest that for a Spanish language, R-rated fairy tale, this is pretty impressive. It got a solid release to the point I saw it in a nice stadium seating theater. This one did solidly. And seriously it’s hypnotically mazing.

#83. The Nativity Story. In 2006-2007, Hollywood broke its back trying to cash in on Faith Based films. This was their biggest shot and it didn’t work. In some clumsy whitewashing we got New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes and Guatemalan Oscar Isaac as our leads. Not good, Hollywood. Beyond Isaac being in this in his breakout, not a film of note.

#84. The Wild. How bad were things for Disney animation in the 2000s? They distributed several films from other animation houses. This won’t be one they bring out every few years.

#85. Man of the Year. Remember how this movie had such a great hook with the very zeitgeist idea of a comedian becoming president? Remember how that was NOT the plot? You don’t remember that because it was a Barry Levinson film made after 1991 that wasn’t Wag the Dog so nobody saw it.

#86. 16 Blocks. The final film to date from the legendary Richard Donner. I always feel sad when I see a film like this–mediocre and forgotten–as the swan song to someone like Donner who gave us two great Superman films.

#87. Accepted. I have no idea why I didn’t see this. I’m sure the buzz was weak but it was still my kind of film. I suppose Justin Long just strained my credibility far too hard as a high school senior. (It was SEVEN YEARS after Galaxy Quest.)

#88. The Sentinel. This kind of star driven but utterly nothing thriller was dead by the end of the decade. I’m not really sad. Michael Douglas as a Secret Service agent isn’t even a pitch. It’s a basic start.

#89. Children of Men. Another alltimer. Honestly why wasn’t this bigger? It’s a great hook with some incredible action scenes and it’s quite emotional. This wasn’t a glacial art piece. Universal kind of stumbled here on the release. Also that’s 2 of the fabled 3 amigos with Cuaron and Del Toro.

#90. Deck The Halls. Not letting go of Children of Men. How did it barely outgross a Matthew Broderick/Danny De Vito tacky comedy with an incest joke? This is staggeringly awful and yet just barely failed to outgross a truly important film.

#91. Take The Lead. Look, it wasn’t ever meant to be for Antonio Banderas in the US. He had hits but usually in ensembles or films where he wasn’t the lead. The guy was a great character actor but this kind of bland, inspirational pap wasn’t for him.

#92. Babel. Forget Accepted. This is the real “why didn’t I see this?” film of the year. Like to the point I’m tempted to seek it out since I love everyone involved. This did mark the rather brutal end to the collaboration between Alejandro Innaritu (3 for 3!) and Gulliermo Arriaga.

#93. Snakes on a Plane. Squee. I love this movie. It’s nothing more than a goofy time and it’s so great for it. I’ve expounded so many words on it. I won’t waste any more but to say it’s a comfort food movie for me.

#94. She’s the Man. An Amanda Bynes vehicle. :logs off. Goes to a window. Looks out. Feels very sad for the things he’s heard were done to her. Feels pain for her mental illness. Feels no desire to be snarky. Feels tremendous rage towards those that hurt her.:

#95. Flags of Our Fathers. What happened? This is a Clint Eastwood war movie and not one in one of his slumps. His last film was the Oscar winning smash Million Dollar Baby. This is a weird flop. That said, the Japanese language companion Letters From Iwo Jima is so much better.

#96. United 93. Is this the very best attempt at telling a true story onscreen ever? I think so. Not the best film but the closest a film got to putting us there. This was Hollywood’s first attempt at capturing 9/11 and it really should’ve been the final word.

#97. Employee of the Month. Dane Cook. Dax Shepard. Jessica Simpson. If they’d startled skunks in the theaters while a goat screaming played at deafening volume I wouldn’t have felt less interest in going.

#98. Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties. Crazy fact: This thing made 4 times what it made domestically overseas. So this didn’t do enough to go to a third film, and fine, but an unexpectedly big performer.

#99. The Ant Bully. This was predicted to be a big hit. It really wasn’t.

#100. Crank. Funny how this wasn’t a big hit but had a massive impact anyway. Even got a sequel. I’d wager more of you know this film than a lot of the top 25.

The top 25

#25. Charlotte’s Web. Does anybody remember this was a thing? We got a live action Charlotte’s Web remake. Nobody remembers it. We just know the animated film. Remakes. Don’t. Matter.

#24. The Santa Clause 3: Escape Clause. Another movie that I’m floored by. It wasn’t discussed at all. Nobody I know with kids saw it. But it did better than Saw III. This is a testament to cultural memory and to how isolated you can be even when immersed in culture.

#23. Open Season. One I do remember. DreamWorks ruined animation for a long time. This wanted to be Shrek in the Woods. It outgrossed the witty and urbane Flushed Away. Seriously sad.

#22. Inside Man. Yay! Spike Lee and Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster and Clive Owen making a heist movie. How could I not love this thing? Add in a killer opening song cowritten by A.R Rahman and this is a killer afternoon. Lee’s most mainstream film but still one he can be proud of.

#21. Failure to Launch. Matthew McConaughey has correctly expressed pride in how hard these films are to make. He’s right. This is still a bad movie. A lot of talented people wasted time on this.

#20. Scary Movie 4. Anna  Faris is one of our most natural comediennes currently working. The roles she’s gotten do not reflect that. This is mostly a War of the Worlds parody. I look forward to talking about that in two weeks.

#19. Dreamgirls. Remember how this was the odds on favorite for Best Picture right up until the moment it failed to score a nomination? Not one I saw. Not one I cared about. Bill Condon makes pretty but hollow films.

#18. The Break-Up. I hate this movie so much. This is why I think Vince Vaughn is not a lead. It’s why I think Jennifer Aniston was never better than on Friends because it shows she can only play Rachel. This film wants to be a serious relationship drama but hasn’t the nerve to actually say anything. Movies like this anger me.

#17. The Devil Wears Prada. Again, not for me. I don’t care about fashion. I wasn’t the audience, didn’t go, and that’s just fine.

#16. Borat. OK I’ll level with y’all, I’m really wrestling with this one. On one hand, this is one of the great comedies of all time. On the other, the more that I examine this film, the more it feels like the joke relies on “reality” that really isn’t there. This whole film is built on intensely staged setups that are vicious examples of punching down. It’s hysterical but probably not aging well.

#15. The Departed. 2006’s Best Picture winner. This is a film that I like a lot, think is fascinating in its construction, and from a vantage point of 10 years am baffled to remember won Best Picture. It’s a great popcorn movie but coming from a director other than perpetual Oscar snub victim Martin Scorsese (who lost that here), it ain’t an award winner.

#14. Mission Impossible III. The movie that underwhelmed to the point the series had to at least start to soft reboot for the much later 4th film. Then when 4,5, and apparently 6 turned out to be quite good, it got a reevaluation. I haven’t seen these but the MI fanbase seems chill and even the ones they dislike, they’re nice on.

#13. Click. Adam Sandler is a business but he’s good at it. Look I haven’t seen one of his films (aside from Funny People) since 2004. I’ll say what I usually say. I like the guy. I respect him. I hate these movies.

#12. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Why was I so mean to Will Ferrell’s later comedies in this vein? They’re not as good as this. I love every last line of this genius comedy. It’s such a strange, well crafted film. It helps there’s an utter murderer’s row of talent in it from Sacha Baron Cohen and John C. Reilly to Amy Adams making a just pre-huge break turn. I just adore this film.

#11. Over the Hedge. I don’t adore this. DreamWorks, y’all took a nicely snarky, witty comic strip and sanded off every last edge it had. WHY. This is okay removed from its source but so not worthy of Verne and R.J.

#10. The Pursuit of Happyness. A good movie that could’ve been great if it had been honest. This breaks its back making the hero a hero. He wasn’t by his own admission and that would’ve made for something fascinating. As is, a sweet family film but nothing more.

#9. Casino Royale. James Bond supposedly went Bourne here. Nope. This is Bond going Ian Fleming. Getting back to the original novel paid off with one hell of a film. This James Bond is the first where the codename theory falters. He’s a very real person. The theory most of Die Another Day was a hallucination and this is a direct sequel ALMOST works though.

#8. Ice Age: The Meltdown. The start of this franchise running too long. Once things melt, that’s that. Once the continents drift, that’s really that. Once the dinosaurs–OK this is a weird series.

#7. Happy Feet. A legitimately very cool animated film from George Miller. This and the sequel were how he stayed sharp for Fury Road. It’s wild this is true. I’m glad he did, both for that happening and this just being awesome.

#6. Superman Returns. I really like this movie. It’s a fun, exciting third film that with the Richard Donner cut of Superman II forms a fun what if trilogy. However why the hell did WB executives ever think a hypothetical sequel to a series that wasn’t really that big with the current generation was the way to go? Attack Man of Steel all you want but at least that was an idea.

#5. The Da Vinci Code. My theory as to why this book was popular: a response to the agonizing popularity of Left Behind. This was as well written a book as those. No way was I seeing how Akiva Goldsman would execute this onscreen.

#4. X-Men: The Last Stand. For years I defended this one as a fun film that at least delivered the mayhem I wanted. Then I rewatched it. All it gives you is a great finale. As a story, it’s all over the place. It has no idea what it’s saying thematically. It sure as hell has no desire to adapt Dark Phoenix though it was handed it. It’s even kind of ugly with very flat cinematography. Useless this is.

#3. Cars. I really have a lot of warmth for this sweet film. I even like the sequel. Not a great film but so gentle and pleasant to be in. Maybe it’s my innate affection for small towns that makes me love this film. Whatever. I’m glad I’m weak for it.

#2. Night at the Museum. We made this a three film franchise. WHY? Ben Stiller has made some fine films including the brilliant The Cable Guy and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but this is his hack age. It’s not a time to be proud of. This is 2006 in film defined: too mediocre to feel anything but bafflement at.

#1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Happily the biggest film was a solid one. I noted last time that I like the sequels a lot. Why? Because of the reasons people don’t. I love how unwieldy they are. These are big movies that give you a lot to enjoy. Huge fan. Of the first 3.

Next time, Batman Begins his image rehabilitation, stars come out in force, and the original Star Wars era ends in 2005.

Our Criterion, Our Three Reasons: #1

While the Criterion Collection sale is still ongoing at Barnes and Noble, we here at Cinema from the Spectrum figured that it would also be a perfect time to send our own recommendations because we all wish to share our own love of cinema together with others. And of course the Criterion Collection has been helpful in allowing us to discover far more from all around the world. So without further ado, here are our picks – and as the Criterion Collection used to publish, our “three reasons.”

Jaime Rebanal: Manila in the Claws of Light


image via Janus Films

Of course, it’s inevitable for me to talk about what’s in store for the Criterion Collection while the Barnes and Noble sale is still ongoing, but I may not be able to buy as much as I had hoped this occasion – yet the very thought of the collection is something that makes me happy on the inside. But because of this too, it’s also a subject that would be prone to my constant rambling about how they have fueled my own love of film all the more over the years. It’s easy enough for me to say that the Criterion Collection has helped me learn a whole lot more about the world but being born to a Filipino family, I’d only been waiting long enough for the Criterion Collection to get a hold of Filipino films so to see Lino Brocka’s classic Manila in the Claws of Light had finally been done this service is among many reasons for me to be happy.

To get the obvious out of the way, it is a great film, and this is a great restoration (a blog entry to which I will be posting about soon in another series I wish to start here) – as you can find in my review here. And my three reasons are as follows:

  1. Gritty Realism – Like the films of Vittorio De Sica, François Truffaut, or Satyajit Ray, the unflinching realism in the vision of a director like Lino Brocka is something that cannot be shaken off so easily. From the first frame it grabs you, and by the ending it shatters you.
  2. A Falling World – Manila in the Claws of Light may not be an easy film to watch, but the cynicism of this world as it continues falling upon itself also remains as eye-opening as it does – with the setting of this film inside such a poor economy, it’s scary to imagine how much of it still rings as being highly resonant today.
  3. What You Can Learn About the Philippines’ History – As I’ve said before, it is not easy to come across classic Filipino films because film preservation is not the highest priority over there. But perhaps that’s why it is important to learn about the art that defined the Philippines during the time in which this film had come out. For all we know it still remains one of the most influential films ever to be made in the Philippines and for good reason at that.

You can purchase Manila in the Claws of Light right here.

Chuck Winters: Something Wild


image via MGM/UA

The Criterion Collection can be intimidating if you’re like me. It’s a museum that specializes in both legendary cinema and curious oddities from around the world, movies that set a certain aesthetic standard and engage the viewer as high art. It doesn’t often cater to people who proudly list Die Hard as their favorite Christmas film. (Once upon a time, they did release both The Rock and Armageddon, but those discs are long out of print. Looking them up on the site, it can feel as if Criterion treats them like a drunken hookup with a trashy townie.) But there are a few points of entry for the viewer whose appreciation of film is still fledgling and hasn’t developed an interest in Ingmar Bergman or Jim Jarmusch or Sergei Parajanov. For instance, let’s talk about Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild.

Written by fresh-out-of-film-school E. Max Frye (FoxcatcherBand of Brothers) and released in 1986, Something Wild is ostensibly a romantic comedy with erotic overtones starring Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith. Daniels plays Charlie, a yuppie banker with a quiet rebellious streak, while Griffith plays Lulu, a free-spirted girl Charlie meets by chance in a café during his lunch break. Lulu whisks Charlie away for a random afternoon encounter that ends up going longer, further, and deeper than either of them expect—then Ray Liotta shows up and everything goes to hell. In the past, I’ve been fond of the phrase “does what it says on the tin” to denote a movie that delivers on its promises, but it doesn’t get more literal than this. Something Wild takes you on a ride that slides through multiple tonal shifts. And yet instead of feeling shocking or edgy, it all feels appropriate and part of the fun. Like most Criterion releases, it’s an experience you can break down and appreciate beyond its surface elements, but you can also pop it on when you’ve got laundry to fold or you want to just go with the flow for a couple of hours. In short, it’s a perfect first step…but if you’re already hip-deep in Criterions and you haven’t seen this movie yet, you might want to look into it anyway.
  1. Jonathan Demme. A New York-bred filmmaker whose street-level photography of the city is as essential as Scorsese’s.
  2. Melanie Griffith. She’s playing a Manic Pixie Dream Girl riff but it’s hard to call the film on it when she makes it seem so human and essential.
  3. Sister Carol’s entirely unique and awesome rendition of “Wild Thing” to take the viewer home.

Austin Shinn: Godzilla


image via Toho

My Criterion selection would have to be the 1954 classic Godzilla. While the film is viewed as light entertainment, and the US recut is, the original version is one of the most devastating genre films ever made. Director Ishirô Honda took the scar of the atomic bomb and gave it a physical form. With its unrelenting tone and brilliant execution, the film deserves its place in the collection.

Three Reasons:

  1. The color. In black and white, everything looks sharply realistic. What could easily be ludicrous instead feels completely real.
  2. The imagery. The cost of the atomic bomb has never felt as clear as it does here. For all the destruction, nothing will haunt you as much as the beeping indicating a child has received a fatal dose of radiation.
  3. The monster. There is a reason Godzilla became Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Everything about his design is iconic. The spines, the eyes, and especially the roar. The greatest monster in any medium ever was fully formed in this moment.

Godzilla is available for purchase right here.

Why I Value Going to the Movie Theater

This was something that has been on my mind since I saw Hereditary and had a rather awful experience coming forth after a group of teenagers sat behind me and mocked the tongue clicks that Charlie had made all throughout. But because I don’t want to keep everything to myself being a downer, I do want to talk about a positive experience that I had for myself while I was seated in the theater, because I was lucky enough to have experienced Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai in 35mm over at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Of course, it was a film that I had seen numerous times since I had gotten into film but watching it on the big screen was not the experience that my numerous rewatches of my own Criterion Blu-Ray would provide because of course it was something that I had such easy access to.

In talking about what this experience did manage to show me, I felt like I was watching the film for the first time – almost akin to its initial release in Japan. But some ask the age-old question, what’s the difference between watching a film in 35mm or 70mm format and watching the film digitally? It is not exactly easy to answer this beyond the way the film looks, but at least preserving a film in such format would allow for it to have a sense of permanence, something that you wouldn’t find so easily when a digital film drive ends up getting corrupted out of the blue. But that’s not the point, for of course I already know that a classic film like Seven Samurai should be readily available for me to watch it over at home because I do own the Blu-Ray, so why do I still seek to go out to see it in the cinema?

At home, we’re still prone to distractions and sometimes we can doze off during a movie then and there – I know for a fact that it was certainly the case when I first had my chance to watch Call Me by Your Name without having to travel at that moment because I already made my parents drive me far enough just to see Moonlight. Of course, we don’t want something like that to happen especially when it’s a film that we happen to love a great deal, but the theater environment has also been helpful in enhancing my own love of film in the meantime. It doesn’t really matter to me whether I like the film or not but having a chance to see everything that I can in theaters when I can, is something I like to cherish. But we can’t always have perfect experiences no matter how much we try, and this is what will bring me over to the experience that I had with watching Hereditary – but knowing that my money is still going to be heading towards an artist that I respect a great deal in that sense, was still something that I know would make the experience watching the film at the very least worth it.

When I went over to watch Hereditary, my experience has been nonetheless awful. This was a film that I had been anticipating since the first trailer was dropped by A24, but if anything, it taught me this: never go to see a horror film with a packed house. The idea sounds neat, because I like being able to watch horror movies during the nighttime to feel like I’m creating the perfect atmosphere when I head out to the movies – because I know for certain that it was helpful when I watched Get Out last year, a film that would later go on to become one of my favourites of 2017. So what exactly made this experience so awful? Beyond the loud tongue clicks that a group of teenagers who sat behind me were making all throughout the movie, it also didn’t help that there was another audience member on their phone. There was a point to which I wanted to stand up and shout back to them, “Could you please be quiet?” but I couldn’t. After the movie, one of them had the courtesy to apologize on behalf of all his friends and I was willing enough to forgive them for the tongue clicks. I could tell from the way he talked to me in that moment that he already felt the same disappointment that I did, and I didn’t have to look back at them for nearly ruining the experience of watching a film that I was loving in the theater (Hereditary happens to be one of my favourite films of the year by far). But you’ll ask me, what does any of this have to do with how important the experience of watching a film in theaters is?

In the same week, I brought a couple of friends from high school over to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to see 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm. One wasn’t nearly as into film as I was, and the other is a person who I also am writing a screenplay together with. In the moments after the screening, what happened since was those same friends of mine was something that I know I wouldn’t so easily have gotten if I was just going to show them the same movie over at home. In the days since our viewing of the film in the theater, we still talked about what it was that we had seen then. We know after having watched the famed jump cut in which a bone turns into a space satellite, we hadn’t seen cinema the same way, because it’s not the sort of film that could have been made today, especially knowing the perfectionist demands that Stanley Kubrick would have enforced while he was making the film. We got to see it like we were watching it in 1968, when it was the year’s highest-grossing film. We talked about it like we know all the highest-grossing films of any year would have kept us talking long after having seen the movie.

Having conversations of this sort isn’t only limited to being with friends. When I went to see Love, Simon the night I had a chance to, I met a few girls who also happened to arrive to the screening early. We ended up talking all the way through the previews until the film started, and I was there to essentially geek out about what I’m most looking forward to seeing in the days to come. I never ran into the two of them again, but I still remember their names. In that moment I felt like I was in the company of people who understood what films would have meant to a person like myself. Sometimes I wish I had more encounters at movie theaters like this, but they almost never happen out of my own shyness ending up getting in the way, but the opportunities are always there for a person like myself. Chances of running into someone who is like-minded may be sparse, but you never really know until you’ve went out for yourself.

But despite all of this, it has never been so easy for me to keep going to the movie theaters as often as I know I would wish to. As a matter of fact, I’m very broke and my own life savings have already been spent. I’m struggling to even find a job, having already been rejected by numerous places to which I had applied and trying to support even my favourite contemporary artists has become even more difficult when I know I can’t afford to pay for a movie ticket as often as I wish. I know already that in part it may have also been because of how much money I happen to spend buying copies of said films on Blu-Ray as well as many of my own favourites so I can watch them whenever I wish, because I’m known to be such a huge Criterion fanboy around many of my friends and I try to buy something whenever I know I have that chance in my own reach. I create that image for myself that I have a lot to show for myself because my Instagram posts are usually dominated with my own movie tickets or whatever movies I purchase, but really, I’m just careless about my money and I don’t let it stop me from keeping me away from what I love most.

Nothing will ever take away how special I find the theatrical experience to be. But I don’t know how long this wonder will really last for me, if I don’t ever turn out as successful as I wish I could become. I suppose it would be enough to say I’m a dreamer, for I find that escaping into the cinema helps me avoid my own real-life problems the same way I imagine that it would for others. And you know what, it’s this escape that has also saved my own life in some sense too. If anything must be said, I’m thankful that I get to experience movies the way that I do, but I fear there will come a point my own harsh realities catch me escaping these fantasies and thus only the most fitting environment can give me the first-hand experience that I know I can live within, even temporarily. Of course, it is not uncommon to see cinema as an escape, but in feeling empathy for another life, in another place, sometimes it can be a way to learn more about the world in ways that we may not be taught – we just have to find out for ourselves. But that escape isn’t something that can last forever, just like we know that happiness we feel on the inside does. But why must it be so much to ask for, that’s the real question.

image via Columbia Pictures.

Cinema from the Spectrum’s (Late) Pride Recommendations

Pride Month may be over but that doesn’t mean that our recommendations for great LGBTQIA+ cinema are just going to stop right there. Here over at Cinema from the Spectrum, our team of writers has compiled a list of films you should be seeking out if you haven’t yet, if you still want to get caught up even after Pride Month. And without further ado, here are our Pride Month recommendations!

Jaime Rebanal


image via MGM/UA

Some Like It Hot

Of course when talking about the greatest LGBT films of all time, one should not forget that back in the day, we knew classic Hollywood was discreet about the treatment of gay individuals and oftentimes people who wanted to tell stories that involved such people in major roles would code their portrayal and even kill them off. So when Billy Wilder came along to challenge that coding, he gave audiences Some Like It Hot, which still remains one of the funniest films ever to have been made. But among the reasons it still stands the test of time, it’s so simple – because even by today’s standards its means of challenging gender roles in society, being about a pair of men who dress themselves up as women only for the purpose of avoiding a mob hit. And yet they’re never found out in the way you would expect them to be, as a matter of fact the disguises ended up becoming a part of who they were and it’s also about celebrating a change in the way men function in society. Wilder broke the code back when this came out, and it still remains every bit as brilliant in the years since.


image via Anna Sanders Films

Tropical Malady

I remember watching Tropical Malady for my first time thinking to myself, “What did I just watch?” Although in the years since that very first viewing of mine, I kept thinking about it and everything just made more sense to me. Apichatpong Weerasethakul isn’t exactly a filmmaker who is so widely known unless you’re talking with the most dedicated of cinephiles, but among many reasons I love it every bit as much as I do would be the way in which it meditates about the concept of love – because in the eyes of Weerasethakul, we see love the way it is, difficult, awkward, and almost animalistic of an impulse. But above all, it still recognizes how these are all instincts that make us human beings – and in its moments of silence you recognize another power. It’s a film that shows you why it hasn’t always been easy for homosexuals to live normal lives, and in that silence you feel that pain. Surely enough, I don’t know if I can talk about how wonderful this movie is without the feeling I’m rambling, but perhaps that’s what makes it so great as is.


image via Sony Pictures Classics

Call Me by Your Name

Now to go on to a more recent favourite, there’s always Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, which I have not stopped thinking about ever since I first got my chance to watch it as soon as it came over to a theater right near my college campus (I go to Sheridan College’s Trafalgar campus, which is over in Oakville). From watching this I recalled my first experience with having fallen in love in the past, and how it feels to know that reality may not always be what I would expect. It feels heartbreaking, every bit like that memory, so much to the point that it stings. But you know what, from looking back at everything that makes Call Me by Your Name every bit as beautiful as it is, it just captures the very essence of living within a sheltered life, and it all feels so universal. This year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, written by the now 90-year-old James Ivory, feels every bit like a memory, because it plays out just like a recollection of the first experience of falling in love with all the happiness and the pains that come along the way, and to say the least, I love every moment of it.

Chuck Winters


image via BBC Films

Imagine Me & You

When Jaime first proposed doing a listicle (for want of a less demeaning term) of LGBTQ+ movies, this was the first one that sprung to my mind; a little seen British rom-com starring Piper Perabo as Rachel, a woman who marries her best friend Hector (Matthew Goode), only to fall in love at first sight with the wedding’s florist Luce (Lena Headey). I first saw it on cable back when I was still in college and thought it was a sweet little movie, so I was eager to revisit it…

…and, uh, funny story, turns out it hasn’t aged all that well. I don’t have a lot of room to get into it, but to sum up, writer/director Ol Parker really, really wishes he was Richard Curtis; he just doesn’t have the dramatic skillset that lets Curtis get away with his full-throated commitment to romanticism. Yet it maintains a certain charm, and still feels oddly significant and worth revisiting; coming hot on the heels of same-sex civil partnerships being legalized in the United Kingdom, the film exists around the point where public opinion on LGBT rights was starting to turn and people realized there were happy tales to tell about the community. The result is curious; the romance between Rachel and Luce is taken seriously and is lovely to behold, but the fringes of the movie has crap like Hector’s womanizing best friend Coop (Darren Boyd), who spends the first half of the movie trying to “turn” Luce without ever being fully rebuked. (You can imagine how well this plays post-Me Too.) It’s like Parker is saying “Of course we men don’t take lesbians seriously, but hear me out…what if we did?”

Now, this isn’t a landmark film by any means—as far as non-tragic lesbian romances go, this came out well after But I’m a Cheerleader and, obviously, Desert Hearts. But this was originally written as a heterosexual love story, and it shows; the film takes more of an interest in making sure the cute precocious kid that comes standard in post-Jerry Maguire rom-coms shows up early and often than in the weight of the lead character suddenly realizing she’s a member of a marginalized group. It’s not rooted in any of the history, and if you’ve lived some of that history, maybe it pisses you off a little. Maybe you see it as a cheap ploy to try and make you interested in an otherwise lazily written Curtis-esque British rom-com. Or maybe it’s just nice, especially in 2005-2006, to see a story about two women in love be treated more like Notting Hill and less like The Children’s Hour.

Either way, the film ends up being something of a bellwether for the queer tales we’d eventually be seeing as the public began to embrace LGBTQ+ rights. My other two entries are on the recent and VERY well-known side, owing partly to my shameful dearth of experience with LGBT cinema. But I thought it might be interesting to see how our thinking on telling LGBT tales has—and in some cases, hasn’t—evolved from this curious entry in the so-called canon.


image via 20th Century Fox

Love, Simon

Whereas Imagine did a queer spin on the British rom-com, Love, Simon does a queer spin on the teen movie. It’s shot like a teen movie—with a bright color palate, utopian set design, and no-nonsense, performance-driven direction from Greg Berlanti—and it eschews subtlety for easily-digestable broad comedy and melodrama. There are key differences, however: whereas Ol Parker made the second lead of Imagine a woman because the movie would’ve felt too stale otherwise, the queer nature of Simon is baked into its very concept; the titular Simon (Nick Robinson) has to deal with navigating a world full of microagressions that keep him in the closet, and how that world changes when he’s forcibly pulled out.

There’s a clear sense that Berlanti, himself a gay man, knows damn well how this works, so when he goes for his big sappy teen movie moments they’re backed up by an experiential verisimilitude that very few straight directors would’ve been able to pull off. Playing Simon’s mother, Jennifer Garner’s dramatic rumination on the phrase “you are still you” has been a highly celebrated monologue, and rightly so: Garner’s playing the platonic ideal of the parent to a gay child and in that moment, she damn well earns it. But who tends to get slept on is Josh Duhamel as Simon’s dad, whose blasé assumptions that Simon is straight come back to bite him when he comes out. Duhamel coming to terms with so thoroughly failing his son in that moment—and in so many moments before—leads to an absolute knockout of a scene in its own right.

There’s an interesting point where the film stumbles, though; the character of Martin, played by Logan Miller. Martin is the guy who finds out Simon’s in the closet, blackmails him in exchange for help with hooking up with his friend Abby, and outs him when his big plan fails. For this he gets righteously told off by Simon and, uh, not much else. Like, you’d think Simon’s friends would maybe be a little pissed that his sexual identity was being held hostage by a gigantic creep but they’re too pissed off at Simon for playing the game he was forced to play by said creep, which kind of makes them look like shitty friends. In the film’s defense, this probably reflects an aspect of the queer experience that the film might not have had room for otherwise: sometimes, straight assholes who don’t get it make life fucking unfair. And to its credit, the film tries really hard to make Martin into a misguided Duckie-esque character who’s likable in his own way. For some, those efforts might even pay off. (I find that the Waffle House scene is a good litmus test: if you think Martin’s being genuine with Abby there instead of trying to set himself up as a Nice Guy, you’re probably fine with how his arc ended up.) For me, though, it’s another case of the straight douchebag getting off easy, creating another fascinating parallel with Imagine Me & You.


image via Netflix

Black Mirror: San Junipero

And so it’s come to this: Yet Another Take on Why “San Junipero” Is the Best Black Mirror Episode Ever. Scores of words have been written about it; I myself submitted over a couple of thousand of them to my old stomping grounds and will still take any excuse to tell you all about how it’s probably one of the best sci-fi stories of the decade. But it’s another story where the so called queerness of it isn’t the whole point; in fact, it’s a sort of middle ground between Imagine merely portraying homosexuality as a semi-abberant fact of life and Simon wholly integrating the experience into the plot.

Like Imagine, “San Junipero” is a lesbian romance written and directed by dudes. Like Imagine, it was originally conceived as a heterosexual love story and could easily exist as one. But when Charlie Brooker says he changed it for extra emotional resonance, I believe him. The tragic histories of Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), two women who never got to fully explore their sexual identities for different reasons, and the way their relationship builds to its joyous climax, intersect neatly with the episode’s quasi-cyberpunk aesthetics; the world portrayed here seems far from dystopian, but leaving your limited body behind for a virtual life where you can be who you want whenever you want is definitely entering cyberpunk territory, and the exploration of non-heterosexual lifestyles arguably go hand in hand with such ideals. Also unlike Imagine, Yorkie and Kelly’s queer experiences are fully explored and strongly compliment the story’s greater thematic intentions. “San Junipero” may not be about being different the way Love, Simon is, but that difference still gives the story’s heavy philosophical questions of emotional healing, self-forgiveness, and the tangibility of reality an extra bit of oomph.

The last time I broke “San Junipero” down, I never really took the time to talk about just how well put together it is beyond its script. I probably should; an episode of a TV show is obviously an unorthodox pick for a list being written for a cinema site. So as for the “cinema” of it, I think Owen Harris did a spectacular job directing the episode, utterly nailing the cinematic vibe of 1987 and the various other eras the show travels to. (Incidentally, the blue-pink neon lighting of Tucker’s that sets the episode’s cinematic period aesthetics has the knock-on effect of visually coding Kelly’s bisexuality.) This is helped along by the various powerful needledrops scattered about, glued together by Clint Mansell’s excellent-as-usual incidental work.

Even beyond mere “vibe,” however, it’s just so beautifully lensed. Look, I’m not crazy enough to compare “San Junipero” to Wong Kar-Wai / Chris Doyle-esque God-tier cinema, but I’d happily and passionately argue that this episode would still look damn good projected on a big screen, one or two full-CG shots aside. Harris doesn’t shoot “big” per se, but he and his usual DP, Gustav Danielsson, demonstrate a strong eye for composition and knack for visual storytelling. Consider the sequence of Yorkie’s first day as a full-timer; not necessarily complicated, but certainly effective, and making great use of the rare daytime setting to shoot the scene through with a dreamy haze that brilliantly reflects Yorkie’s state of mind. And of course, the timing of Kelly going full-time to the power chord that kicks off “Heaven is a Place on Earth” is a capital-M Moment.

Such direction stands in stark contrast to the other two films on my list, but arguably, such direction is only essential for the kind of tale “San Junipero” is. Which is part of my point: these are three films (or two films and a TV anthology episode) that normalize LBGTQ+ identities. The first one stumbles in doing so, but it still quietly paves the way for the other two to do it better later on. And yet there’s still room to grow: Having a director who can deeply relate to the lead character of Love, Simon gives the film a feeling of integration that’s missing from Imagine and perhaps “San Junipero,” and yet somehow, “San Junipero” doesn’t have anything nearly as problematic as Coop in Imagine or Martin’s arc in Simon.(*) Curious shortfalls indeed, but either way, the suggestion is that queer cinema in 2028 is going to be even more fascinating.

(*Writing for Cosmopolitan, Amelia Perrin argues that the episode, particularly its use of “bisexual lighting,” indirectly reinforces harmful stereotypes of bisexuality, specifically the idea of it being an experimental phase. Her whole piece makes some interesting points, but I’d nitpick that Kelly only treats her bisexuality as a phase out of misplaced sense of duty towards her departed family; a big part of the story being told is Kelly coming to terms with the validity of her sexual identity, so it’s hard to argue that the bisexual lighting here has the same context as a Demi Lovato video.)

Austin Shinn

I concede the three films I’m choosing to write on for Pride month are the safest ones I could choose. I’m guilty of not seeing nearly enough LGBTQIA+ films. That’s a big mistake on my part. The three films I’m writing on are the three that have broken through, if not to the mainstream then to a larger audience, in the last 15 years.


image via Focus Features

Brokeback Mountain

Here is a true tragedy. Brokeback Mountain is a sobering study of how repression destroys people and not just those holding back. The secret relationship at the core of the film shatters the women the men marry and the children they have. It makes you angry at a society that forces people to hold back who they truly are. Ang Lee can be incredibly uneven but working here from a genius script by Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana, he spins gold. Of course what really sets the film apart is the acting. Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathaway all deliver career peak turns in this poetic, painful film.


image via Film4


I’ll admit that initially I found this film a bit cold. I’m glad I didn’t write that down because I was wrong. So much of the power of Carol comes in the way director Todd Haynes creates a film of moments that only pretend to be cold but actually contain powerful amounts of passion only barely restrained. This is a film that claws into your brain and doesn’t let loose. Every image gets seared in.


image via A24


Arguably the most deserving Best Picture winner since The Hurt Locker. What I love about Moonlight is how precise it is. There’s no more or less to the film than is absolutely needed to make a powerful impact. The film is profoundly relatable, a real feat since it deals with material that couldn’t be further from my life. But watching Moonlight, I identified with everything that happened in it.

Mercedes May


image via Pathé


I am extremely fussy when it comes to LGBT films, however, I find no faults at all with Matthew Warchus’ Pride. It is hilariously fun and yet still manages to be heartbreakingly truthful. I can’t help but enjoy every single moment of it.


image via Warner Bros.


Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope always sticks out to me as a brilliant LGBT film because it is so laid-back in its presentation. In the 1940s, they didn’t really have a choice, but watching it now it is so casual in its blatant gay male leads it’s fascinating to watch. There’s no attention drawn to the fact they are gay, the film isn’t about their sexuality at all, it just happens to be present, and, as said by the screenwriter, “Today, it’s still one of the most sophisticated movies ever made on that subject (homosexuality). It probably treats them more as people than anything else has.”


image via 20th Century Fox

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

While LGBT representation has definitely come much, much farther than 1975, and this film in particular, this still has a place in my favourites because of how fun and outrageous it is. I just adore musicals, and this is definitely one you can enjoy watching, because it’s an LGBT film you don’t have to take as seriously.


The voices of LGBTQIA+ people are incredibly important because they’re stories that are nowhere near as prominent as they should be. Even beyond Pride Month, which has of course been helpful in getting more people to pay mind to our perspectives – we still remain proud of the sort of people that we are because we know as a matter of fact that it will always be a part of us no matter what day of the year it is. But we will always have stories to tell, and we deserve to be heard – for we will not be silenced.

The 25s: The 25 Top and Bottom Grossing Movies of 2008

Image result for the dark knight

Why am I so fascinated by the box office? I know it’s meaningless. Box office only measures how well an ad department did its job. In truth, what really matters is when 10-20 years later a film is still talked about. The box office provides a perfect snapshot of both the films that would last and the ones that flickered away. The fun lies in separating them.

I’m starting this analysis project with a look at 10 years ago. 2008 feels like it was a big important year in film. There were some important films. But were they big grossers?


#76. First Sunday. I haven’t seen this film but David E. Talbert is actually kind of a huge deal, a very prolific writer/director with a serious fanbase. He’s even adapted one of his own novels to film. Interesting guy.

#77. The Secret Life of Bees. Gina Prince-Bythewood is awesome. She makes awesome films. This isn’t one I’ve gotten to but looking at the cast interests me at least.

#78. Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys. This is decidedly one of Tyler Perry’s lowest grossing films, a non-Madea film that did decently but couldn’t draw the interest his signature role brings.

#79. Death Race. Is this a lot of missed opportunities? Sure. This needed to have the original absurd plot. But I still love everything Paul W.S. Anderson touches. He just wants to give you a great time and this delivers that.

#80. Changeling. A very good film that marks the unlikely intersect point between Clint Eastwood and former Amazing Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski. This was seen as a mild letdown but there are some bigger films to come lower on this list actually.

#81. Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I know we tend not to act like this counts in the series and it shouldn’t come up in a discussion of the films. If I sat through it in a theater like the other films, I’m counting it. This is the worst Star Wars movie ever by far.

#82. The Reader. Kate Winslet finally got her Oscar. Next.

#83. Semi-Pro. While Will Ferrell would have hit films after this, this felt like the end of him simply making money by showing up in a film. A decided underperformer in a big year for comedy.

#84. Fireproof. While most movies on this list were seen as misses, this was actually quite a solid hit for the Christian market. Not a good film, mind you, but a hit. Yielded a better profit than even most hit films.

#85. Doubt. Not much to say except everything about this movie is great and I love it. Four of our best actors straight laying waste in a phenomenal adaptation of a great play.

#86. Drillbit Taylor. If I’d seen this on the lists for 2006, 2007, or 2009 I would’ve believed it. This just feels like an artifact of that amorphous moment where Owen Wilson could be a lead rather than a supporting actor. It wasn’t a great moment.

#87. Definitely, Maybe. A sweet reminder that even very good romantic comedies are stuck on Netflix right now. I like this one a lot. Ryan Reynolds does this kind of thing very well. [Note from Chuck: And somehow they got Clint Mansell to score it!]

#88. The Love Guru. There’s literally not one word I could add to the 10 years of battering this has gotten to make any new points. It’s an awful piece of racist trash that somehow has no irony about its subject.

#89. Milk. This is a great film but given that it stars a trifecta of horrible men (Penn, Franco, and Brolin) I’m fine leaving it in 2008. It’s really great though. Made me teary.

#90. Transporter 3. I didn’t go near this one after the second was arguably one of the worst films I’ve seen in a theater. Did par for the series though.

#91. Quarantine. Outer edges of both the found footage trend and the remake trend in horror. This one has fans, though the original Rec comes up far more often.

#92. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Y’all screwed up not seeing this one. I did and it’s stayed with me as one of my favorite theatrical experiences that year. It’s as if floating through a long, fantastic night. If you missed this one, it’s worth seeking out. Oh and if you still (wrongly) hold Thor against Kat Dennings, this is proof she’s a tremendous talent who hasn’t gotten much material on her level.

#93. Zach and Miri Make a Porno. Where I broke up with Kevin Smith. I know this movie has fans. I can see why. But there’s no soul here. This is Kevin Smith chasing Judd Apatow money then throwing a fit when he didn’t get there.

#94. The Eye. Really, we decided collectively we were done with remakes of foreign horror in 2008. Good. We also decided we were done with Jessica Alba in lead roles. Go us.

#95. Leatherheads. I’ll throw this out: George Clooney’s star power was always overrated. He’s a great actor but in terms of getting people out to see his films, he doesn’t have the gift.

#96. Mirrors. Seriously: this moment in horror was OVER. Horror was right on the brink of a turn to some really interesting places but junk like this was not helping us get there.

#97. Space Chimps. This opened against The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia. It was doomed.

#98. The Bank Job. This one I actually hear brought up every so often as proof Jason Statham can act. He can. He deserves a better fate than 3 films on this list.

#99. Untraceable. Every bad review of a good movie Roger Ebert gave between this and his death had the counter “but you liked Untraceable.” He shouldn’t be allowed to have that forgotten.

#100. Defiance. Oh yeah this was a thing. I’ve forgotten it.


#25. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. It’s weird how this 7 years late sequel even exists. I didn’t see it. I know nobody who did.

#24. Bedtime Stories. I’ll give Adam Sandler this: He tried for once. This wasn’t his team or his project. Too bad it’s like eating cold toast.

#23. Tropic Thunder. Yeah, this is a hell of a film. Ben Stiller doesn’t get enough credit as a truly interesting director for what it’s worth. This is a really well-made film.

#22. Bolt. Very mid-tier Disney but a wonderful, gentle little movie. Kind of forgotten nowadays but I really have a lot of love for this one.

#21. Four Christmases. As a society, we haven’t fully reckoned with the fact that we made someone as unpleasant as Vince Vaughn a leading man. I really don’t remember this movie and I’m glad.

#20. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I’ll be honest: I kind of dig that this did as well as it did because it’s such a modest film that got shut out at the Oscars. But it hit people hard. As always, Fincher rules.

#19. Get Smart. One that I haven’t heard a single reference to in 10 years and I really don’t get why. This was an utterly killer adaptation of the classic show. Fun, funny, well made.

#18. Wanted. If you put this and xXx on while a fine mist of Axe wafted through the air, you’d achieve awful person nirvana. This movie is pure attitude and it annoys me. Though Danny Elfman’s work here rules.

#17. The Incredible Hulk. The second MCU film and the lowest grossing film of the series. Admittedly I saw it twice theatrically so I can’t say I get its unpopular status. An airtight Hulk movie.

#16. Slumdog Millionaire. The best picture winner of 2008. A very good film but I can’t say I think about it much. It hasn’t been referenced much in the years since. It was good but really a blip.

#15. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Few franchises feel as clumsily managed as this one. Disney should’ve read the room and released it in December. As is, it felt weirdly mishandled.

#14. Marley and Me. Then again it would’ve gotten run over by this lovely hit. Once more I wonder why Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are stars but they’re not the reason to see it. The dog was. I really got a lot out of this one.

#13. Mamma Mia! Not for me. Know a lot who love it. I didn’t. This opened the same day as The Dark Knight and still did incredible numbers.

#12. Gran Torino. :shudder: Look, I like the idea of the film. I think Eastwood’s performance is kind of staggeringly brilliant. But the film itself is awkward and unsettling. The community it portrays feels artificial, and it’s far too forgiving of its racist lead. A strong film I do not like.

#11. Sex and the City. Never saw the movie. I never even watched the show (though apparently, even fans of the show kind of hated this). I really do not care about it.

#10. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who. Confession: I actually really like this film. I think it’s the closest any film adaptation has come to Dr. Seuss’ work. It’s a great looking film with a voice cast firing on all cylinders. Not great but quite good.

#9. Quantum of Solace. Look, this film is a mess. It is. It tries hard to be a direct sequel to Casino Royale, but it can’t carry over what made that film great. You can see the WGA strike hitting hard. I still like it, but it’s rough.

#8. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. I’ve only seen the first of these. I don’t have an opinion about this one as a result.

#7. Twilight. I’m glad we’re starting to step back and concede that at least this film wasn’t that bad. It’s silly and the Rifftrax version is a hoot but it’s a really well assembled film that I probably would give a positive review to if I were watching it now. Yeah, the hate was unfair. For this one.

#6. Kung Fu Panda. Everything wrong with Dreamworks can be found here. Celebrity voice casting where it doesn’t fit. Generic plot. Easy jokes. But I still like it, largely because Jack Black works overtime to make you love him here. We really weren’t wrong to make him a star or to keep letting him be one for 18 years.

#5. WALL-E. One of those movies that everybody knows so anything I say is useless. I think it’s a masterpiece from first frame to the last and I don’t consider that hyperbole.

#4. Hancock. $228 million. 4th biggest film of a landmark year. Zero cultural footprint. Like none at all. What gets me is to do these numbers, people had to see this thing twice. Who would want to? Ugh. Very bad movie.

#3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. All of the Indiana Jones movies are silly, ludicrous farces that can’t be taken seriously. That’s why they’re wonderful. Why does this one get so much more hate for that? I think it’s on par with the rest of the sequels.

#2. Iron Man. The dawn of the MCU. As a fan of the character for 10 years before this film, I had a lot riding on this being the adaptation I wanted. I wasn’t let down. One hell of a gift to fans. Then the post-credits scene came and the bomb went off.

#1. The Dark Knight. The definitive film of the decade. A superhero film. A sequel. A serious take on material once viewed as silly. A big budget film from a former Sundance star. There is no film that captures the major trends of the era nearly as well as this one. This is the cornerstone. A truly towering film that deserved every penny of its gross.

Next time: I’ll work backwards as we look at 2007.