Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movie Review: The Last Stand (R - 107 minutes)

There is something to be said for delivering exactly what you promise.  The Last Stand is exactly what you think it is:  a cheesy, completely over-the-top, fun, action movie.  Arnold Schwarzenegger has not starred in a movie in 10 years, since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines; which, in case you forgot, was not great.  In the 80s, he was one of the biggest action stars around.  My favorite of all of those was Predator, followed closely by the Running Man.

Jee-Woon Kim is a Korean director who grew up loving those action movies.  The Last Stand is his first American movie. 
In terms of plot, like all great action movies, this one is very thin.  A major Mexican Cartel player has been captured by Federal Agents in Las Vegas.  His cronies steal a souped-up Corvette from the L.A. Car Show; he escapes, and heads toward the border at top speed, where more of his cronies are building a bridge over the canyon between the States and Mexico for him to cross outside the town of Sommerton Junction.  Meanwhile, the aging sheriff of Sommerton Junction (who used to be a special teams officer with the LAPD, and left there when his team were all killed in an operation , and he was shot a few times) has three deputies of questionable abilities.  He’s informed the cartel leader is heading for his town, and he and his deputies decide to make a stand…even if it will be their Last Stand (get it?). 

Kim’s directing is perfect for this type of movie; fast and quick, but with just enough pauses to remind you that this town is small and sleepy.  There is plenty of preposterous-ness to go around:  the cartel leader happens to be a fantastic race car driver; the town crazy happens to run a weapons museum that the sheriff and squad can use to defend the town; the one deputy who ‘wants more action’ is the first one to die; the sheriff and the villian face off across the bridge he needs to cross to get to Mexico etc.
The cast is super fun:
·         Arnold Schwarzenegger is perfect as the aging sheriff.  You can completely believe that he chose to come to this quiet town where nothing happens to work until retirement.  Everyone in the town knows him.  This also marks the first movie that his clearly-an-immigrant status is addressed.  Usually in an Arnold movie, no one brings up the fact that they can barely understand him.  He also really plays up the old part.  Fitting, and appropriate.
·         Forest Whitaker plays the lead FBI agent on the trail of the Cartel Leader, and brings his typical Forest Whitaker-style unnecessary level of intensity to this role.  He is very intense, through the whole movie, and it’s unnecessary.  He mainly gets to yell while in the headquarters of the feds about roadblocks and research and gets angry when Schwarzenegger hangs up on him twice.  He does not use his black belt in karate in this movie.

 ·         Peter Stomare, who is usually the perfect generic Euro-bad guy, plays a generic American (?) bad guy in this.  Essentially he is the Cartel leader’s number one henchman, and gets to do all the typical mustache-twirling bad guy statements and gunfights.
·         Eduardo Noriega, who apparently is a big time actor in Spain, plays the Mexican Cartel leader, Gabriel.  He’s perfectly villainous and slimy, and is able to escape because he has a mole inside the feds!  Surprising! (sarcasm).
·         Luis Guzman plays Luis Guzman as a deputy in a small town.  He provides some comedy relief, and doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen him do before, but he’s lots of fun in this.
·         Johnny Knoxville plays Johnny Knoxville as a crazy weapon museum owner in the small town.  Any comedy relief moments that are not already filled by Luis Guzman are filled by Johnny Knoxville.  Silly and ridiculous – not necessarily in a bad way.
·         Zach Gilford plays the young deputy who early on in the movie complains about there not being enough ‘action’ in this small town for him.  He wants to move to L.A. where “things are happening”, so you know right away he will be killed first.  He’s the Dead Meat character in this, which I explained in my previous post.  Just as a rule of thumb, if you are ever in a bad action movie, don’t talk about your family, and how much you love them…or all the plans you have for the future.  You’re digging your own grave.
·         Jamie Alexander – Lady Sif from Thor – plays the female town deputy who is tough and dedicated.  She does a good job in this (as good a job as you can do in this kind of movie) and makes me wonder if Sif will get more to do in Thor 2.
·         Harry Dean Stanton inexplicably shows up for a cameo.  He plays a grumpy old rancher.  So, you know, he plays Tommy Lee Jones.
·         The much beloved Rodrigo Santoro from 300 (Xerxes), or the much hated Rodrigo Santoro from Lost, depending on who you are, plays a local town Iraq Veteran who is constantly getting into trouble, but gets deputized as soon as the trouble gets going.  And, he is of course, the ex-boyfriend of Jaime Alexander’s character.  Because that’s how these things work.

All in all, the movie is crazy, dumb, loud, and over-the-top; precisely what you want in a bad action movie.  I loved it – check it out, but don't pay full price!
7 out of 10: great entertainment value.  Gained points for the car chase through the corn field, never seen that before.  Lost points for Forest Whitaker’s eye, which I have learned is a genetic thing called Ptosis and totally not his fault, but still – off-putting.  Gained points for Johnny Knoxville firing a flare gun into the ammo-filled bandolier of a villain, resulting in the villain blasting to pieces – gross, and hilarious.

Bonus Video 1:  Running Man Trailer…so great.

Bonus Video 2:  Man on A Ledge Trailer – Genesis Rodriguez was in this, and she’s in the Last Stand…and Man on a Ledge was better than you think…check it out.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Movie Review: Gangster Squad (R - 113 minutes)

In 1987, one of the best ‘gangster’ movies ever made was in theaters.  The Untouchables was by director Brian De Palma and featured Kevin Costner and Sean Connery taking down Robert de Niro’s Al Capone. 

The movie was gritty, cool and slick.  It’s one of Kevin Costner’s best (non-baseball) movies.  Sean Connery was perfect and deNiro was Oscar nominated.  The baseball bat should have also been nominated.  The movie featured a scene with a staircase and a baby carriage that is infamous…to the point it was spoofed in a Naked Gun movie.

Flash forward to 2013 and we get Gangster Squad.  It’s not nearly as good as the Untouchables. 

Mickey Cohen was a real-life crime lord who was born in 1913 in New York. He moved to the West Coast, trained as a boxer, and won several prizefights throughout the 30s.  During prohibition he moved to Chicago, where he met Al Capone.  He had a brief stint in prison, went back west and worked with Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel while setting up the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. In 1950 – he was investigated along with other gangsters and was convicted of tax evasion.  He spent four years in prison, then was released and became an international celebrity due to running floral shops, paint stores, nightclubs, paint stores, casinos, gas stations, and a men’s haberdashery and being a man-about-town in Hollywood.  In 1961 he was convicted of tax evasion again and sent to Alcatraz, where another inmate tried to kill him with a lead pipe.  He was released in 1972 and toured the country until he died in his sleep in 1976.  That’s the true backstory, I provide it so that you can compare it to the movie. 

The movie takes place in 1949 – Mickey Cohen has become the most powerful figure in the Los Angeles underworld.  He has bought many police, and because of this, it’s impossible to make charges stick.  The police chief has an upstanding un-buyable Eliot Ness type pull together a squad of other un-buyable standup cops.  The officer’s wife goes through the files with him and they pull together a squad that includes a young hotshot who is familiar with the gangster hangouts and lifestyles; an African American cop who has been struggling to keep Cohen’s drugs out of his neighborhood; an early tech genius (in a contemporary movie – he’d be the computer hacker); a wild west relic gunslinger and his Mexican-American sidekick.  They leave their badges at home, and begin to take down Cohen’s operations.  The hotshot woos Cohen’s girl – or dame – as the case may be in this movie.  Eventually Cohen figures out who they are and starts going after their families.  Eventually the dame witnesses Cohen killing someone, and agrees to testify.  The squad has to arrest Cohen, which proves difficult because he has rented every room in a hotel, and fortified it with his goons.  The cops break through the lines of goons, leading to a staircase scene that made me look for a baby carriage.  Eventually Cohen makes a run for it, leading to an epic fistfight (remember, he was a boxer) by a fountain, leading to his arrest.

Gangster Squard is directed by Ruben Fleischer, who will direct the upcoming Zombieland 2, and previous to this had done 30 Minutes or Less.  It’s shot well, and has some zippy action sequences.  The dialogue choices were a little strange, a lot of characters/actors were doing that old gangster-style speak, “Yah palie, see?”  You know what I mean.  Not everyone is doing it, which really makes it stand out when someone does do it.  The movie has a pulpy – comic book feel to it, the blood from all the gun fights is over the top.  Kudos to the creators for pulling the movie theater shoot ‘em up scene after the Aurora-Colorado tragedy. 
The cast is good -

·         Sean Penn went through 3 hours of makeup every morning to portray Mickey Cohen.  If you look up pictures of the real Mickey Cohen, he looks a little like him, only a little.  It makes me wonder if the three hours of makeup was worth it.  It is not good, and is almost distracting.  I also feel like Penn is too much in this movie, over the top to the point of comical and not really threatening.

·         Josh Brolin plays Sgt. John O’Mara and really, this is his movie.  Despite the amount of Gosling in the commercials and trailers; this is a Brolin movie.  And, he does a really good job.  He’s completely believable as one of the last good cops left in L.A., just back from the war, and weary of all the crime, and the inability of the cops to eliminate the source of the crime. Mireille Enos plays his wife, Connie, who helps put together the squad and is pregnant most of the movie, to give O’Mara a reason to be concerned about his actions – making the world a better place for his unborn child and all.

·         Ryan Gosling plays Sgt. Jerry Wooters, like O’Mara, just back from the war. Wooters, however, is living it up a little bit more, going to clubs, making friends with low-level gangsters and wooing Cohen’s dame, Grace Faraday.  I am not a Gosling fan (I really don’t understand why women love him – maybe it’s the Notebook, which I have never seen).  He is very stiff in this movie, but it sort of fits the character.  He seems to be playing almost the same guy from Crazy Stupid Love, which makes him come off as one-dimensional.

·         Emma Stone plays Grace Faraday, Cohen’s dame, who is teaching him etiquette.  She knows he’s dangerous, but can’t find a way out.  Until of course, Wooters comes along to fall for her and convince her to stand up to Cohen.  Emma Stone is amazing, but that doesn’t really come across in this movie – not her fault, the character is written flat, and she does the best she can with what she’s got.

·         Nick Nolte plays Chief Parker, and is grumpy, gruff, and determined – so, really Nick Nolte is playing himself a little bit, just with better clothes.  A reminder – if you haven’t seen his performance in Warrior, check it out.

·         The wonderful Anthony Mackie plays Officer Coleman Harris, and while he gets to dress almost as good as he did in The Adjustment Bureau, he gets stuck with the lamest joke in the movie, the old “I hate Burbank” joke, which – to be honest – plays in one city in this country, and he says it a couple of times.  Not his fault, and he’s great at the rest of the scenes.

·         Robert Patrick plays a character that seems to be an old Wild West gunslinger who started working for the LAPD once the Wild West started disappearing.  Officer Max Kennard is the most accurate shot on the force, something that comes in handy when firing your way through piles of low-level gangsters who have barricaded their boss in a hotel.  Michael Pena plays Kennard’s partner/protégé Officer Navidad Ramirez.  Pena is eager and fun, and has a great relationship with Patrick’s character.

·         Giovanni Ribisi plays Officer Conway Keeler and he’s fine in this.  He gets stuck with the character who has a family: wife and son.  Brolin’s character states right up front that none of the other guys have family, so Keeler will have more to lose.  Keeler gives a speech about how he has to stop the bad guys again for his family – it’s a speech that reminded me of Dead Meat in Hot Shots.  As soon as he says it, you know he’s going to be the first one eliminated.

·         Troy Garity plays Cohen’s sidekick Wrevock.  He has no lines, but does have a creepy bad-eye makeup – so, you know, visual gimmick.  He is not anywhere near Billy Drago’s Frank Nitti – but he tries.  He’s very intimidating, until you remember that he was in Barbershop.
The movie moves quickly, and like I said, has a comic – pulpy feel.  The problem is that I’m not sure that’s what they wanted it to feel like.  Oh well, it’s worth checking out.
6 out of 10.  Gained points for Patrick – his character was just cool.  Lost points for Penn’s performance, and makeup, and dialect.  Gained points for the clothes, nifty.  Lost points for the predictability.
Bonus Video 1:  1991’s Mobsters:  Christian Slater, Patrick Dempsy, Richard Grieco, and Costas Mandylor  attempt to bring sexy to gangsters.

Bonus Video 2:  Hot Shots…the character of Dead Meat cracks me up – and now I see that character in almost every movie!

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Movie Review: This is 40 (134 minutes – R)

Every once in a while, something comes along that makes me really appreciate the fact that I am single and childless.  This movie would be one of those things.  It’s billed as the ‘sort-of’ sequel to Knocked Up.  I loved the characters of Pete and Debbie in Knocked Up.  Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd played sister and brother-in-law to Catherine Heigel’s character.  They were hilarious in their bit scenes in that movie. 
Paul Rudd is one of my favorite comedic actors, and I could watch him improv for an extended period of time.  It suits him well for Judd Apatow directed and produced movies, which would explain why he’s in so many of them.  If you missed I love you Man, you should check out that one too.

This is 40 picks up roughly 5 years after Knocked Up and Pete and Debbie are both turning 40, although Debbie is refusing to do so.  The movie doesn’t really have a clear story arc; instead we are following the events that happen between Debbie’s birthday, for which there is a small party at home, and Pete’s birthday, for which there is a large party planned.  Both characters have their own insecurities to deal with.  Pete’s music producing business is just shy of going belly-up, and the boutique that Debbie runs (and they both seem to own) is not doing well, missing $12,000.  They also have to deal with their two daughters, one a teenager obsessed with Lost, and one an 8 year old, annoying and confused.  The movie almost seems to be loosely strung-together vignettes or sketches.  Pete and Debbie each go to the doctor; Debbie’s two assistants in the store are strange; Pete is pushing Graham Parker’s new album; Debbie’s father is recently back in her life after leaving when she was 8, and Pete’s father is constantly asking for money after having triplets; Pete and Debbie go on vacation and eat pot cookies; and Debbie yells at a child at their daughters’ school .   
These would each be an entertaining SNL sketch, but as it is, they are loosely pieced together to make one really long movie.  Safe length for a comedy is 90 minutes.  134 minutes is way too long. 
For the record, the marketing was good/bad.  There were several scenes in many commercials for this movie that were then not in the final theatrical cut.  Good, because then you haven't seen all the funny parts in the commercials, but then bad because some of those scenes I was looking forward to seeing more of, and they weren't there.

The cast is all capable:
  • Paul Rudd is, again, fantastic. He’s probably the best comedic actor working now, and he is funny and genuine in this movie.
  • Leslie Mann (the real-life Mrs. Apatow) is also funny and genuine – however I find her to be a little grating. I can’t tell if that’s her fault or the way the character is written. To be honest, both Pete and Debbie come off as terrible, annoying people by the end of the movie.
  • Maude and Iris Apatow again play the two daughters Sadie and Charlotte.  The ease for them is actor for their father and pretending to be their mother’s daughters.  Maude in particular plays a confused teenager pretty well and could have a future in movies that aren’t her father’s – if she chooses to.
  • Jason Segel has just a little more than a cameo, not as his character from Knocked Up as far as I can tell, but as Debbie’s slightly inappropriate physical trainer. 
  • Kristen Wiig’s writing partner Annie Mumolo plays Debbie’s best friend Barb who is married to Pete’s friend Barry, played by Robert Smigel (Triumph the Insult Comic Dog – and a comic writer).  They are great in small parts.  If this movie follows the last, the next movie will center around their characters!
  • Megan Fox – I can’t believe I’m going to say this – is actually pretty hilarious as the dumb/pretty boutique employee.  She essentially plays Megan Fox, but does a good job and is funny.  Charlyne Yi plays the other boutique worker, who has some pretty hilarious scenes too.
  • Albert Brooks plays Pete’s dad, and John Lithgow plays Debbie’s dad.  Both are good, and each get the majority of the movie to be despised, then have a small redemption moment at the end of the movie.
  • The best part of this movie is the cameo by Melissa McCarthy as the mother of another boy at the school.  It would appear that they just let her go unscripted for about 10 minutes, most of which plays over the end credits.  She is hilarious, and provided my only laugh-out-loud moment of the movie.

On the whole, I didn’t really enjoy this movie.  I couldn’t tell if I found the characters unrelate-able because I’m not married and I don’t have kids – or if my gut reaction to them as horrible characters was the reason.  Pete and Debbie really do spend most of their time arguing and keeping things from one another.  They scream at each other in front of their kids, then act surprised when their kids scream at one another and back at them.  If they are really struggling financially, then why do they go to that clearly expensive resort on vacation, and why is he driving a BMW and she’s driving a Lexus SUV?  The first thought is that they have to sell the house – start with the cars, people.  Both Mann and Rudd are great at delivering Apatow dialogue, but I just found both their characters so irritating that I wasn’t invested in the characters at all and found I didn’t really care what happened to them.  I knew they loved one another despite fighting all the time, so watching them come to that realization was more boring than entertaining.  It’s a shame when a comedy didn’t make me laugh out loud at all – except, like I said, Melissa McCarthy.  Oh well, maybe it’s just me – and I’m okay with that.  I’m 4 years from 40 yet, and I think I’m way happier than these characters.  I’ll skip the next Apatow flick and wait for DVD.
5 out of 10.  Average – some cute and touching moments, especially between the two sisters, but really – the rest of the characters were terrible. 
Bonus Video 1:  Paul Rudd doing a top 10 list:

Bonus Video 2:  More funny Rudd.
Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Review of the Best of 2012!

We're already in the first week of 2013, hard to believe, but we're about to be knee deep in Awards Season.  Entertainment Weekly’s released their list of the 25 Movies to See Before the Oscars.  Here they are, with their comments, then my comments:

25. Frankenweenie: “It flopped at the box office. But voters (and their kids) may revisit this critics' fave. (Rated PG, on DVD Jan. 8).” Tim Burton’s stop motion kid-brings-pet-back-from-the-dead story. Not sure if it was the story or the black and white that caused it to be so unpopular with audiences, either way, both of those things plus Tim Burton makes me have no interest..

24. Compliance: “Veteran character actress Ann Dowd lays bare our darkest authoritarian impulses as a fast-food manager manipulated into terrible deeds. (Rated R, on DVD Jan. 8)” I had never heard of this, it sounds a little dark and demented for my taste. Based on the trailer, I have zero interest.

23. Perks of Being a Wallflower: “Stephen Chbosky adapted his own novel — then directed the movie. That's why voters may consider it for adapted screenplay. (Rated PG-13, in theaters” I have no interest in this – teen angst movies do nothing for me – I hated Juno. It's a little unfair to judge this movie on that one, but no part of this looked good to me, it looked pretentious, and man – do I hate that in a movie.

22. Middle of Nowhere: “Emayatzy Corinealdi's breakthrough turn as a woman who falls in love with another man while her husband is in prison is a sweet, heartfelt performance. (Rated R, in theaters)” This is another one that I am hearing about for the first time. It sounds like another powerhouse acting drama...which, as you know, is not something I care about. Maybe if it had giant robots or something...Like if her husband was in prison because of a giant robot scandal, and she fell in love with another giant robot creator while her husband was in prison...doesn't that sound more watchable?

21. How to Survive a Plague: “This documentary about the fight for AIDS research quickens the pulse like a thriller and rouses passions as well as any drama. (Not Rated, in theaters and on demand)” I don’t usually watch documentaries, real life is too horrifying and too depressing. This is the only doc on this list, interesting, usually there are more than that. Because it's the only documentary on this list - this should be an easy win for everyone who picks it for Best Documentary in their office pools.

20. Looper: “Rian Johnson's mind-bending time-travel thriller could get an original-screenplay nomination. (Rated R, on DVD now and for download Dec. 31)” Hey – Finally one that I saw! I actually felt this was a really well-conceived movie and probably does deserve to be nominated for best original screenplay. I personally did not care for the movie, but it was well done, entertaining, and you should check it out. The kid, Pierce Gagnon, is amazing; and if I supported nominating children for Oscars (I don't) I would suggest he should be nominated.

19. The Dark Knight Rises: “The last film (supposedly) in Christopher Nolan's beloved Batman series — so this might get some nostalgia votes. It should claim nominations in technical categories, but also has a strong, ongoing push for Best Picture, which could help voters see something deeper in this blockbuster. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” Another one I saw! In my opinion this was the worst of Nolan’s trilogy. It mainly suffered from just “too much”. It’s overblown, over-long, and a little over-acted…especially on the part of Marion Cottillard. If you haven’t seen it – see it, it is well done, but not as good as it’s predecessor(s). Plus, once you see it – you can start working on your Bane impression, and then find a way to work that into every conversation... “I am this cheeseburger's reckoning!”

18. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: British retirees engage in shenanigans at a run-down hotel in India after leaving their old lives behind. “Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are the most likely nominees from this whimsical crowd-pleaser. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” I haven’t seen this yet, but I do intend to see it. The marketing for it pushed the comedy aspect hard, which probably means it's more drama than comedy, but it should have some entertaining moments.

17. Wreck-it Ralph: “To paraphrase its J-pop theme song: S-U-G-A-R, jump into your racing car...and see this animated-feature front-runner about a videogame bad guy (voiced by John C. Reilly) who travels to another game to prove he can be a good guy. (Rated PG, in theaters)” Another one I haven’t seen yet, but I will when it's available to rent. I try to not pay for kids movies.

16. Anna Karenina: “The production design and lush costumes of imperial Russia should earn this Leo Tolstoy adaptation some technical nods, though Keira Knightley also stands a chance for lead actress as the adulterous, tragic heroine. (Rated R, in theaters)” Yes, should win all the costuming awards, but that’s not going to make it shorter and more interesting. It’s going to stay long and boring. If you’re a fan of the novel (is anyone?) you’ll probably love the movie.

15. The Sessions: “Expect a lead-actor nomination for John Hawkes as a quadriplegic man trying to figure out what sex is all about, and a supporting mention for Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate who gets intimate to help him. (Rated R, in theaters)” Yikes, how is that a movie? No part of this interests me. John Hawkes has been in many quality indies lately, but I still think of him as the creepy Scully-obsessed writer from the X-files episode Milagro in 1999, big bonus nerd points if you remember that.

14. Django Unchained: “Bounty-hunting duo Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz spill so much blood, it may split the Academy. Perhaps voters will agree that Leonardo DiCaprio's satanic plantation owner is worthy of a supporting nod. (Rated R, out Dec. 25)” I have the odd opinion of being a Tarantino fan, but not a fan of Tarantino movies. They’re all just a little too much for me, and really, I liked Resevoir Dogs and Kill Bill, but I have never loved any of his movies. However, he does combine crazy good dialogue with crazy graphic violence, and is able to get great performances out of his actors. DiCaprio is actually better as a villain than a hero, so if he’s got a chance at winning an Oscar, this could be it.

13. Beasts of the Southern Wild: “The sky is falling, the water is rising, and prehistoric monsters are rampaging across the land. The only thing that stands in the way, is a feisty little girl, played by Quvenzhané Wallis, who, at 9, could become the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” I might see this – who knows. It’s an after-Katrina New Orleans story, don’t be fooled by the description above, which is somewhat misleading. What's amazing is all the people talking about nominating a 9 year old for an Oscar. Is she really that great an actress? Or is she just a kid? Remember Anna Paquin won for the Piano...is she that great an actress?

12. Moonrise Kingdom: “Academy voters talk about Wes Anderson's coming-of-age comedy as fondly as if it were how they spent their own summer vacation, giving it an underdog shot for Best Picture and Original Screenplay. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” Sometimes I like Wes Anderson movies. I don’t love them, but I like them. My favorite was The Life Aquatic. He has the ability to make a quirky little dialogue movie that features some amazing visuals – not effects-wise, but in still shots. Many of his shots look like carefully arranged paintings, which I’ve always found fascinating.

11. The Master: “The Paul Thomas Anderson movie may be dividing voters, but Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams all have solid shots at acting nominations for this searing look at damaged souls forging a new religion. (Rated R, in theaters)” No, just – no. Not interested, will not be seeing. I’m actually a little surprised this is not higher on the list. When it first came out – there was Oscar buzz all over it, I’m wondering if maybe it was released too early in the year to generate serious Oscar talk?

10. Rust and Bone: “Marion Cotillard should get her second lead-actress nom (after winning in 2008 for La Vie en Rose) for playing an orca trainer who loses her legs in a whale attack and falls for an underground fighter (Matthias Schoenaerts) who shows her tenderness, but no pity. (Rated R, in theaters)” Did you get as confused as I did after reading that description? Really? A Whale trainer loses her legs and falls for an underground fighter? What’s even more confusing is that I keep hearing she’s a lock for best actress because of this. One more time – how is this a Oscar film and not a movie on SyFy saturday nights – based solely on the description? You could call it Orca-fighter...Or Ocra-tastrophe...

9. The Impossible: “Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star in this survival saga about a family on vacation during the 2004 tsunami. Every performance is riveting. In a just world, Tom Holland (who plays the eldest son) would score a Best Actor nod. (Rated PG-13, opens limited Dec. 21)” Not sure how I feel about this one either. Disasters make great backdrops for heavy character-study dramas, but sometimes it feels a little disrespectful. This one in particular: I did read one review that pointed out how while all the thousands of natives were dying, viewers were expected to care about one white family of tourists – which is an interesting point.

8. Flight: “Denzel Washington's explosive role as a pilot who's drunk during a plane crash — but still saves almost everyone on board — could earn him his sixth nomination. (Rated R, in theaters)” I hated this movie with a passion, and was tempted to walk out after the first fifteen minutes. That doesn’t mean the movie is bad, that just means I have no patience for heavy, character-study award movies with despicable lead characters. Denzel is amazing in this, and does deserve a nomination.

7. Amour: “A heartbreaker. Director Michael Haneke's look at the end of an elderly couple's love story will have you ripping out pages of The Notebook to use as Kleenex. Emmanuelle Riva, 85, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, 82, could become the oldest lead-performer nominees ever. (Rated PG-13, opens limited Dec. 19)” Well – this sounds tailor-made for awards season. No, thank you.

6. Life of Pi: “Director Ang Lee's fantasy adventure about a young boy lost at sea with a Bengal tiger should nab a nom for Best Picture and clean up in the technical categories for re-creating the harsh elements (and the tiger) with such precision. (Rated PG, in theaters)” I saw this and felt like it was good, not great. However, visually – it was stunning and should easily win some technical awards. That CGI tiger gave the best performance in the movie, and how many cats adopted in the next few months will be named Richard Parker?

5. Silver Linings Playbook: “This comedy about a bipolar man (Bradley Cooper) and a troubled widow (Jennifer Lawrence) may net noms for both leads. We also predict nods for Best Picture and for Supporting Actor Robert De Niro. (Rated R, in theaters)” Be forewarned, no matter how many times you are told this is a comedy, it is not. It is a dramedy at best; another awards-season heavy-duty character study. I may see this, but again, probably not until it’s available to rent. And what about the age difference between Lawrence and Cooper – she’s barely over 20, right? That seems weird to me. Maybe it’s not weird in the movie.

4. Argo: “Ben Affleck's spy thriller has just enough of a Hollywood plotline to woo Academy voters. The movie's momentum may have slowed, but expect a Best Director nom, and Best Picture is still a possibility. (Rated R, in theaters)” My pick for the best movie on this list – and if they’re not going to give the best picture Oscar to the Avengers (they’re not), then they should give it to this movie. Well-written, well-acted, and superbly directed; Affleck needs to win for best director, and should win for best picture – just my opinion!

3. Zero Dark Thirty: “Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal may have invented a new genre with their meticulously researched film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden — investigative drama. Jessica Chastain is impressive in the lead, and The Hurt Locker's Bigelow is guaranteed another crack at Best Director and Best Picture. (Rated R, opens limited Dec. 19)” I’ll see this, because I saw Bigelow’s other Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker. I hated it, but I saw it. I think the story sounds interesting, and seeing Chris Pratt in a real movie as opposed to being a lovable moron on Parks and Rec fascinates me. Also I'm curious if Jessica Chastain spends the entire movie standing around looking at things with her arms crossed...that's what I am lead to believe by all the trailers.

2. Les Miserables: “Another powerhouse contender, this adaptation of the phenomenally popular musical will easily score a Best Picture nomination, as well as numerous mentions in the technical categories and nods for director Tom Hooper, lead actor Hugh Jackman, supporting actress Anne Hathaway (a frontrunner to win), and original song for ''Suddenly.'' (Rated PG-13, out Dec. 25)” Commence my eyerolling; I will probably see this, but I’m not going to be happy about it. I’m sure it’s beautifully done, and congrats to them for remembering to create an original song so they can win best song. I don’t like musicals, so I’m sure this will bore the hell out of me, but there’s an awful lot of talk around this…so I’ll take a look. I'll have to prepare for three hours, and two Australians starring in a movie about the french revolution. Also, the talk is big around Anne Hathaway for best supporting.

1. Lincoln: “Daniel Day-Lewis is a near lock for Best Actor thanks to his soulful performance as the 16th president. In addition to supporting nods for Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field, the film has a shot at nominations for picture, director (Steven Spielberg), adapted screenplay (Tony Kushner), cinematography, sound, costumes, makeup, editing, production design, and music. (Rated PG-13, in theaters)” Again, I guess I’ll see this, just not happy about it. It seems like an “Acting for the sake of Acting” movie (Day-Lewis spent the whole time in character and had other actors greet him as Mr. President, even when cameras were not rolling – again, eyerolling). We know the story – it will be interesting to see what else Spielberg brings to it. You know what would help? Vampires.

I find it interesting that both the Hobbit and Promised Land are not on this list. The Hobbit has to be nominated for technical awards because it is visually stunning – and for goodness sake – will someone finally nominate Andy Serkis for something? In terms writing/acting I’m shocked Matt Damon and John Krasinski were not mentioned for the anti-fracking drama Promised Land.

That’s the critic’s take, and what will do best for awards, however, as a movie fan – not a ‘film’ fan – I have a different list: here’s my top movies of the year. Just my opinion, and in no way the best films, just my personal faves.

10.  John Carter: This is the only 'tops' list you will see this movie on. It was almost universally hated. I don't know what to tell you – I found it really entertaining. I thought Taylor Kitsch was fine, the scenes of Mars were beautiful, and Willem DaFoe was a great four-armed martian. I also enjoyed Lynn Collins's ass-kicking martian princess. Give it a watch, there are parts you will enjoy!

9.  21 Jump Street: I was dreading this movie because I loved the TV show so much. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew with Jonah Hill in charge of the script – it would be funny. It was easily one of the funniest movies of the year, and a huge surprise. It was well done, and hilarious. The scenes of the Tatum and Hill attempting to fit in at high school were fantastic.

8.  Skyfall: Fifty years of James Bond result in the latest Daniel Craig Bond adventure in which he deals with Javier Bardem developing a twisted, button-pushing, jaw-removing plot to kidnap and torture M for reasons only he understands. Director Sam Mendes gave us great action, a good story, and some amazing visual sequences. He also threw in some great Bond history moments for us fans, including the original car, and the original M office. Loved it.

7.  Dredd 3D: Fantastic classic action starring Karl Urban. Simple story, great effects, another great fun summer popcorn flick. As well as a quiet and chilling performance from Lena Heady as evil drug dealer Ma-Ma. If you missed this in the theater, you missed some awesome 3D, but it's freshly out on DVD, so you should check it out.

6.  Pitch Perfect: My favorite comedy of the year. Again – another huge surprise for me. Simple and fun. Great songs, funny performances, and Rebel Wilson. Outstanding.

5.  Hit and Run: Dax Sheppard's car chase comedy. He wrote and produced it, filled it with his own cars and all his friends. Best is his chemistry with real-life girlfriend Kristen Bell. Quick, fun, and entertaining – this was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.

4.  Haywire: Stephen Soderburg's Gina Carrano spy-action story. He wrote it for her, and – knowing she's a MMA fighter and not an actress – surrounded her with talented actors (Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, and Antonio Banderas). The story is simple, but told in a typical complex Soderburg way. Carrano could be the next great female action star if she keeps this up. If you missed this the first time around, it's streaming on Netflix now.

3.  Expendables 2: Yes, it was terrible; and yes, there was almost no plot; and yes – the acting was questionable. I can't help it, I loved it. I honestly could have watched two hours of just Schwarzeneggar and Willis in the smart car. Also – JCVD is best as a villain, and really chewed the hell out of all the scenery. Big fun – lots of 'spolsions, and Chuck Norris at 72 making a Chuck Norris joke: Stallone: “I heard you were bitten by a rattlesnake.” Norris: “Yes, and after two days of pain and agony...the snake died.” Awesome.

2.  Argo: You know the world has gone crazy when I put a 'film' this high on my list. Or, maybe it's just a really good film? Argo was intense, thrilling, and fun. Affleck absolutely should win best director, and the film should win best picture. In terms of acting awards, John Goodman was great, Bryan Cranston was great – all this and based on a true story too? Amazing.

1.  Avengers: Not even a question, not just the best movie of this year, but the best movie I have seen in many years. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to bring together a group of characters who had each stood on their own in successful movies. The perfect blend of superhero action/comedy/and challenges, it’s non-stop entertainment from beginning to end. I cannot wait for the next Marvel movie. If only DC would learn from Marvel's example; I suppose we have to wait for this summer to get that answered.

That's the top 10, again just my opinion. I did almost pull of the 52 movies in 52 weeks, finishing out at about 51. There were a bunch of others I really really liked: Amazing SpiderMan (why wasn't the Lizard always wearing his lab coat, and since when does he communicate with tiny lizards?), Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (awesome, fun, ridiculous...), Battleship (better than you think! And featured lots of real-life veterans), Cabin in the Woods (flipping the horror genre on it's head, plus - Merman), Lockout (Guy Pearce in an Escape from New York ripoff set in space), Looper (twisty and cool), Man with the Iron Fists (RZA's Tarantino-inspired kung-fu tribute), Step Up 4 (cheesy dance flick!), Wrath of the Titans (so much fun! Toby Kebbell and Bill Nighy are fabulous, and the scenes with just Liam Neeson and Ralph Finnes make the movie), Red Tails (exciting, fun, and inspiring), Man on a Ledge (hey – something Sam Worthington was good in! So much better than expected!), Chronicle (an interesting take on what might happen if already unstable high schoolers developed superpowers).    You'll notice I didn't mention the Dark Knight Rises...biggest disappointment of the year for me.  Not because it was bad, but because the excellence of the previous two raised my expectations to unreasonable levels. 
But what about the other end of the list? The worst of the year? Oh, don't worry, I have that ready for you too.
6.  New Year's Eve: The worst example of throwing too many people into a movie with no story. Weak and insulting. And hopefully proof that Lea Michelle should stay on TV.

5.  The Campaign: One of the definitions of wasted potential. It delivered what it promised, which was dumb humor, but honestly – I was disappointed because it could have been so much more. It spent the whole movie being slapstick, then tried to throw in a touching moment or two at the end.
4.  Rock of Ages: I tried, because I loved that music. But here's the issue, I forgot how much I still don't like musicals. It was overdone, and annoying. But – Tom Cruise was great, but that was about it.
3.  This means War: Again, my issue with most romantic comedies is that they are insulting. A woman cannot exist without a man – is usually the point of these movies. In this one in particular, a woman has two wonderful men fighting over her, and instead of being insulted that she is essentially their prize in a pissing contest and walking away...she ends up with one of them. Also – it's ludicrous that two top notch CIA spies would use government assets to woo a woman. I know it's just a movie, and usually I can let that stuff go, but I think I expected more from Tom Hardy and Chris Pine.
2.  Total Recall: Honestly, this is on the list because I love Len Wiseman as a director and I loved Verhoven's original. This just did not deliver. It changed the story slightly from the original, and just made it more confusing and a lot less fun. It was all together lame.

1.  Flight: Interesting, because this will be near the top of a lot of critic's lists. It's well crafted, and superbly acted by Denzel, but I could not stand it. It's similar to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last year. I know, I know – everyone else said how great it was. I hated it – HATED IT. So, they are similar in that way.

I think that is the complete rundown...I'll keep updating the list as I see more and more of the nominated movies for this year. If you want to know more about any of the movies on my list – my reviews are all available on my blog! Happy New Year Everyone!