September 20, 2010

Summer of Movies

This post will take a little longer to load as it has lots of images. I was going to break it down into two parts and then, well, I didn't feel like it, haha. Sorry for the inconvenience. You can always read a little in your book while you wait!! :)

So...I watched a ton of movies this summer. I don't go to the movie theater that much, but I did see three in the theater this summer. But Netflix and I are tight and I have watched several movies with friends, too, so the summer was, like I said, jam-packed with films.

I'm just going to forget about going month by month and, instead, just alphabetize them. Movie descriptions are from Netflix (we are tight, after all), except for those still in theaters, and my rating plus a comment in italics follows each one.

What did you watch this summer?

2012 (2009)

When typhoons, earthquakes and other disasters suddenly threaten to destroy the world, Jackson (John Cusack), his estranged wife, Kate (Amanda Peet), and others surmise that the secret may lie in ancient Mayan prophecies that describe global calamity in the year 2012. Roland Emmerich co-writes and directs a star-studded ensemble cast that also includes Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Danny Glover. **** (Perhaps because I went into it with the expectation that it would suck because of all the negative to lukewarm reviews I'd read, but I didn't think it was bad at all. Of course, I am a huge Cusack fan and have only disliked one of his films that I've seen. It was definitely the typical apocalyptic movie, though, and even reminded me of Deep Impact a few times. But Woody Harrelson cracked me up.)

Avatar (2009)

Disabled Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) travels to planet Pandora to become an avatar, ingratiate himself with the natives and help Americans mine lucrative unobtainium. But he finds himself in an interstellar conflict after falling for Na'vi warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). James Cameron writes and directs this Golden Globe-winning CGI odyssey that has broken box office records. Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang co-star. **** (My reasons for liking this movie are twofold: One, I looked at the movie as discovering and exploring a new culture, the same as Ancient Egyptians or Haitians or any other culture- and of course thought it was way interesting. Two, Jake is disabled and gets to have a new body. I cried for roughly 30 minutes because I would totally travel to the depths of space just to have the opportunity to run without pain for 10 minutes. I'm lucky in that I'm not paralyzed, but I am disabled enough to relate in a real way with Jake.)

Away We Go (2009)
Buoyed by the news that they are expecting their first baby, Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) embark on a journey to locate the perfect place on the planet to raise their child. But their quest inevitably yields many unexpected surprises. Sam Mendes directs this quirky comedy while Allison Janney, Catherine O'Hara, Josh Hamilton, Jim Gaffigan, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Daniels co-star. ***** (This quirky romantic comedy is a new favorite movie for me. I loved it so much I went back and watched my favorite parts again immediately after my initial viewing. I don't buy DVDs anymore, but this one is going to be an exception.)

The Black Dahlia (2006)

In this period thriller based on James Ellroy's novel, Los Angeles cops Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) uncover corruption and conspiracy within the force while searching for the killer of Tinseltown hopeful Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner). In an effort to crack the high-profile case, Bleichert and Blanchard venture into Hollywood's darker side to piece together Short's secret life. * (I was so bored I only got 30 minutes in. They had not even gotten to the point of the movie yet. And Johannsen gives the worst performance I've seen her give. Maybe if I gave it more time...but I wanted my 30 minutes back as it was.)

The Blind Side (2009)
Oversized African American Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), the teen from across the tracks and a broken home, has nowhere to sleep at age 16. Taken in by an affluent Memphis couple, Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) and Sean (Tim McGraw), Michael embarks on a remarkable rise to play for the NFL. Bullock's performance garnered a Best Actress Oscar and Best Actress Golden Globe Award. Kathy Bates co-stars. ***** (I loved this film. Quinton Aaron's performance was phenomenal and I was crying from empathy and happiness and I don't even know what, I was so emotional.)

Bliss (2007)

After it's discovered that Meryem (Özgü Namal) has been raped, the young girl is ostracized by her family and community, who hold her accountable for the "crime." To salvage the family name, her father, Tahsin (Emin Gursoy), orders Cemal (Murat Han) to murder Meryem. But when Cemal refuses to carry out his orders, he and Meryem escape to a seaside town and set sail with a charismatic professor (Talat Bulut). **** (If you watch only one movie on this list, make it this one. It is a foreign drama but don't let the subtitles dissuade you. The film is a powerful and fascinating look into traditions that call into question human rights violations.)

The Book of Eli (2010)

Determined to salvage a sacred text in order to protect humanity, Eli (Denzel Washington) goes on a quest across the country in this action-packed sci-fi adventure. Meanwhile, a blind woman named Claudia (Jennifer Beals) tries to protect her daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis). It seems that tyrannical town bully Carnegie (Gary Oldman) has taken a shine to the girl. **** (Denzel Washington pretty much kicked ass in this movie. I loved the post-apocalyptic world created and the twist at the end made the ride unforgettable.)

The Bounty Hunter (2010)

Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) is a bounty hunter whose latest gig is rather satisfying, as he finds out that the bail-skipper he must chase down is his own ex-wife, Nicole (Jennifer Aniston) -- but she has no intention of getting nabbed without a fight. Complicating matters, Nicole's wannabe-boyfriend, Stewart (Jason Sudeikis), joins the chase in this high-octane comedy from director Andy Tennant (Hitch). *** (I thought it was a cute movie. Butler's hot and so that always helps, too. haha. But luckily all the funny scenes were not in the commercials like I was afraid of.)

Brothers (2009)

When traumatized Capt. Sam Cahill (Golden Globe nominee Tobey Maguire) returns home from a military mission in Afghanistan after he is presumed dead, he becomes obsessed with the idea that his brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his wife (Natalie Portman) have a relationship. Sam Shepard, Bailee Madison, Taylor Geare and Mare Winningham co-star in this wartime drama about human frailty and battles fought on the home front. Jim Sheridan directs. **** (Other than the ending, which was abrupt and felt like they couldn't figure out how to end it so they just stopped somewhere, the movie was outstanding. Tobey Maguire acted his ass off. He was just brilliant. The story is so poignant and intelligent and I would have given it five stars I think if the ending had been satisfactory in some way.)

The Cove (2009)
Daring animal activists arrive with surveillance equipment at a scenic cove in Taijii, Japan, to capture footage of a secretive and heavily guarded operation run by the world's largest supplier of dolphins. As the group sets out to expose the horrifying truths behind the capture of dolphins for the lucrative tourist industry, they also uncover an environmental catastrophe. Louie Psihoyos directs this riveting, Oscar-winning documentary. ***** (I dare you not to care about the plight of dolphins after watching this documentary. I am forever changed. That's all I have to say.)

Extreme Measures (1996)

In director Michael Apted's medical thriller, emergency room doctor Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant) is haunted by the disappearance of a strange patient's records. Against the advice of his nurse friend Jodie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Guy pushes the investigation. The trail leads to Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman), a brilliant doctor with a clouded conscience whose experimental surgeries, which allow spinal cord victims to walk again, hint at the sinister. *** (Engrossing film that made me really question where I stand on medical ethics.)

Far From Heaven (2002)

When she finds her husband (Dennis Quaid) with another man, a Connecticut housewife (Julianne Moore) finds herself dealing with infidelity and the racial tension that epitomized the late 1950s at the advent of the Civil Rights movement in America. As a coping mechanism to deal with the emotional turmoil, she develops an unlikely friendship with her African-American gardener (Dennis Haysbert), who's full of sage wisdom. *** (This woman's life SUCKED. But this movie was far too drawn out for me to care more.)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

In his early 20s, before he became a director, journalist Cameron Crowe went undercover as a high school student and came back with the full scoop on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll in the early 1980s. The result was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which captures some truly memorable and hilarious characters amidst a group of Southern California students carousing and vying for love. The all-star cast includes Sean Penn as stoner Jeff Spicoli. *** (An entertaning yet nearly forgettable movie. I enjoyed Sean Penn's turn as a stoner. It made the movie worth watching.)

Frontline: Sick Around America (2009)

Few Americans in the early years of the 21st century would argue that the country's healthcare system is healthy; however, fewer still would be likely to agree about how to fix it. This "Frontline" special attempts to find some answers. Traveling around the country, going inside insurance companies and taking a hard look at one state's failed efforts at healthcare reform, the program tackles one of the toughest issues of modern times. **** (Slow-paced, but important documentary on the crisis that is the U.S. health care system. It needs to be fixed- and fast. If you're healthy or rich, you're golden. If you're neither, you're screwed. Trust me, I know. I am the latter.)

Hot Shots (1991)

Charlie Sheen and Cary Elwes star as hotshot flyboys (think Top Gun) in this hilarious spoof of some of Hollywood's legendary films (including Gone With the Wind) from director Jim Abrahams (Airplane!). Ace pilot Topper Harley (Sheen) is obsessed with living down his father's disastrous reputation and winning beautiful psychiatrist Ramada from professional and romantic rival Kent (Elwes) -- all while trying to carry out a vital military mission. *** (This and the sequel below are re-watches (re-viewings?). I watched them the first time probably not long after they came out on VHS haha.)

Hot Shots: Part Deux (1993)

In this sidesplitting sequel, Charlie Sheen returns as ham-fisted Lt. Topper Harley, who's tapped for a risky mission to rescue American troops from the clutches of a Middle Eastern despot with a ferocious guard poodle. As if that weren't enough, Topper finds himself caught between a pair of sexy women: his ex (Valeria Golino) and a sexy CIA operative (Brenda Bakke). Lloyd Bridges steals the film as lamebrain President Thomas Benson. *** (More dumb slapstick, plus some major un-p.c. jokes, but a young Sheen is nice to look at.)

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) latches onto an unbelievable story in Iraq when he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a man of mysterious origins who reveals he was a "warrior monk" trained by the U.S. Army to develop psychic powers. Jeff Bridges co-stars as Lyn's mentor, the man who dreamed up the top-secret operation. Kevin Spacey and Rebecca Mader co-star in this Grant Heslov-helmed wild spoof. *** (This was an interesting movie. George Clooney was deliciously eccentric and Spacey is such an amazing actor.)

Nine (2009)

Movie director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is in the throes of a midlife crisis, struggling to write his film while juggling relationships with wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), mistress Carla (Oscar nominee Penélope Cruz), muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman), costumer Lilli (Judi Dench) and his mother (Sophia Loren). Rob Marshall (Chicago) helms this Golden Globe-nominated musical based on the Broadway smash; Stacy Ferguson and Kate Hudson co-star. * (Can someone please explain to me what the heck was going on in this movie? At first I thought it was just quirky and reminded me of foreign artsy films. But then I was just plain lost. I couldn't finish the movie. I did like Judi Dench's song I got to listen to and that was a treat. But, no, seriously, how has anyone followed along with this movie? Is it just me?)

The Other Guys (2010)

Detective Allen Gamble is a forensic accountant who's more interested in paperwork than hitting the streets. Detective Terry Hoitz is a tough guy who has been stuck with Allen as his partner ever since an unfortunate run-in with Derek Jeter. Allen and Terry idolize the city's top cops, Danson and Highsmith, but when an opportunity arises for the Other Guys to step up, things don't quite go as planned. **** (Hi-larious. Mark Wahlberg is so deadpan in this movie. The looks he gave were cracking me up. You have to move past the scenes in the beginning with The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson in them, which were kinda stupid. Wahlberg, Will Farrell, Eva Mendes, and Michael Keaton were all great.)

Risky Business (1983)

With his parents on vacation, high schooler Joel (Tom Cruise) -- abetted by a prostitute named Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) -- turns opportunity into disaster as he transforms the family home into a brothel, sees a Porsche end up in Lake Michigan and watches his Princeton dreams fade. A pair of briefs, a Bob Seger tune and some heartfelt lip-syncing catapulted Cruise to stardom in this now-classic Golden Globe-nominated teen comedy. **** (I don't care for Tom Cruise that much, but I liked this movie. I was surprised to see the dancing scene only 20 minutes into the movie and then the other much-talked-about train scene at the end of the movie. Interesting.)

Tears of the Sun (2003)

Bruce Willis stars as Lt. A.K. Waters, a Navy SEAL sent to the jungles of embattled Africa to rescue a doctor (Monica Bellucci), arriving only to realize he must also save the refugees in the doctor's care -- even if it places his military career in jeopardy. Tracked by heavily armed guerillas, Waters and his men must guide 40 injured Nigerian patients to the Cameroon border in this epic action drama directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day). *** (Not many surprises, but I still got drawn into the story.)

The Tudors: Season 3 (2009)

The sexually insatiable King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) romances third wife Jane Seymour (Annabelle Wallis) and ruthlessly quashes an uprising of rebels protesting England's break with Rome in the third season of Showtime's Golden Globe-nominated historical drama. But dissension within his own ranks leads Henry to question the loyalty of his closest allies. Grammy winner Joss Stone joins the cast as Anne of Cleves, Henry's fourth wife. *** (I am on Season 3. Clearly I enjoy this series. Although Season 1 is still my favorite, 3 was better than 2.)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

If you don't know what this movie is about, you've been living under a rock. Come out and get some fresh air and sunshine already. *** (I'm not a huge Twilight fan. I haven't read the books and the only reason I have seen any of the movies is that a friend has asked me to watch them with her. But I can't complain too much, especially for this one, which had Taylor Lautner without his shirt on numerous times and I don't care how old you are that guy is HOT. In fact, his character makes a joke about this in the movie to Edward and I nearly fell out of my seat laughing. And Ashley Greene's character, Alice, is so adorable. I want to hang out with her. You know, as long as she promises not to bite. Oh, and the story is pretty good, though I hear the books are better. Imagine that. ;) )

Valentine's Day (2010)

In this Los Angeles-set comedy from director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman), the tripwires of modern love are exposed in a carousel involving relationships and the single life on the most romantic day of the year: February 14. Proposals, infidelity, loneliness and more are explored. *** (This is a complete rip-off of one of my favorite films, Love Actually. And guess what, the Brits did it better. And first. But I did love Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts' storyline.)

Vampires Suck (2010)

Becca, an anxious, non-vampire teen, is torn between two boys. Before she can choose, Becca must get around her controlling father, who embarrasses Becca by treating her like a child. Meanwhile, Becca's friends contend with their own romantic issues -- all of which collide at the prom. * (This movie was beyond horrible. It tried way too hard and ended up not even being funny. The parts that were funny ended up not being funny because they kept repeating it over and over and over, and in case you missed it, over one more time. I was insulted the main character used my name it was so bad.We got up and walked out of the theater after an hour, an hour we wished we could get back. This vampire movie lived up to its name- it sucked.)

When in Rome (2010)

After fishing out coins from a water fountain in Italy, cynical New Yorker Beth Harper (Kristen Bell) finds herself being wooed by several ardent suitors. As she deals with the attention, Beth tries to figure out whether a charming reporter (Josh Duhamel) really loves her. Danny DeVito, Anjelica Huston, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard and Will Arnett also star in this romantic comedy. **** (Cute romantic comedy that at times tried too hard and at other times was equally funny and charming. It was quirky, but not necessarily in a bad way. I enjoyed the supernatural twist in an otherwise predictable storyline. I also appreciated how real the character of Beth was. Will Arnett's character was probably my favorite.)

Where the Wild Things Are (2010)

Max (Max Records) imagines running away from his mom and sailing to a far-off land where large talking beasts -- Ira, Carol, Douglas, the Bull, Judith and Alexander -- crown him as their king, play rumpus, build forts and discover secret hideaways. Producer Tom Hanks and director Spike Jonze bring Maurice Sendak's whimsical story to life with the voice talents of James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Forest Whitaker and Catherine O'Hara. *** (I heard this movie fell short of expectations, but I, for one, really enjoyed it. I thought it was funny and heartwarming and whimsical and retro. It is such a challenge to turn a children's book into a feature-length film and I thought the screenwriters did a great job of adding to the story without taking any of the original charm away.)

XXX (2002)

Xander "XXX" Cage (Vin Diesel), a notorious underground rush-seeker deemed untouchable by the law, is coerced by NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to cooperate with the government and infiltrate a Russian crime ring. If XXX succeeds, Gibbons promises to keep him out of prison. Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) directs this high-octane, action-packed thrill ride. Asia Argento and Marton Csokas co-star. **** (I was pleasantly surprised to find I didn't hate this film. I would never have gotten the DVD, but I watched it on a whim via Netflix's Instant Viewing and enjoyed it. Diesel is no versatile actor but he plays this type of role very well.)

Whew! Are ya tired now? Now that I have told you about my movie-viewing habits this summer, how about telling me yours? What were your favorites? Which ones do you wish you had skipped? Any opinions on ones I saw? Don't be shy, hook me up with a comment! :)


  1. I saw a lot of movies from your list and I guess a lot of comments popped into my head as I was reading your post... For one thing, I don't think Fast Times at Ridgemont High was that forgettable. If you think of it, it was directed by a women, and that's probably what makes it a case of a highschool / teenage trouble movie that's not completely insensitive. The fact that the main character got an abortion (and the way this happened in the script), or the way the sex scenes are filmed are a lot different from the highschool movies (John Hughes movies, for instance) from the era. I thought it was interesting how the director managed to adress her audience et get the expected level of entertainment, but without playing the women's sexuality for laughs (which is clearly a staple of later movies of the genre, such as American Pie). Waw, I guess I had a lot to say about this.
    Nice list anyway! (and I agree with you 2012. Woody Harrelson makes it worth it!)

  2. That is a lot of movies! You've made me want to see Away We Go. You need to read The Blind Side now that you've seen the movie - they're pretty different.

  3. I'm so glad you appreciated Brothers like I did!! (I wasn't bothered by the ending) I really thought Tobey MacGuire should have won all the awards for this film. It completely devastated me and I wanted to talk about it for days afterwards.

  4. Oh man, the stroller scene in Away We Go was one of the funniest I've seen in a long time!

    And I also thought The Black Dahlia was AWFUL. My sister told me to skip Valentine's Day -- we're both big fans of Love Actually too! She said that unlike that movie, all of the relationships were crap.

    Now, unlike you, I hated Where the Wild Things Are. It was so incredibly miserable. I ended it in tears and completely angry.

  5. Which of John Cusack's films haven't you liked?

  6. Holy cow, where to start? I saw like zero movies this summer. But I have seen 2012 and I agree with you. It was LOL-worthy, but Cusak is always a win for me. :)

    I loved your summary of Eclipse! I haven't even seen it yet. I'm waiting until it comes out on DVD. No one will go with me to see Twilight movies. :(

  7. Haha nice roundup of movies! I have sadly watched all of these plus about 100 more this summer.
    How do we find time to read!!?

  8. What a great list of mini-reviews. I figured Vampires Suck would be unbelievably dreadful -- glad it didn't disappoint. :-) Now you have me wanting to see Bliss.

  9. I loved Away We Go too. In response to Nine, I loved the movie, but it is definitely not for everyone. Check out my review of it for some clarity if you're interested.

  10. That's a lot of movies! I'm adding Away We Go to Netflix right now :)

  11. Oh my -- that's a lot of movies! Totally agree with you on so many of the them--especially The Book of Eli and Valentine's Day.

  12. I am finally getting caught up on my reader after being behind for so long! You have watched a serious number of movies and I really need to add a number of them to my list. I'm writing them down and plan to check them out as soon as I get back from my trip next week. Can't wait!!


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