12 Monkeys (1995)
Writers: Chris Marker, David Webb Peoples
Stars: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt
Viewed: November 7, 2010
Review: Vexingly weird.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: Solomon Northup, John Ridley
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano
Viewed: March 9, 2014
Review: This is penance porn. A walloping guilt trip. An emotional distraction that “appeals particularly to white liberals who love feeling good about feeling bad about white Western society.” It took me a while to admit this (it does sound so calloused, after all), but though the story may be true as far as it goes, it simply doesn’t go far enough. With no real connection to the characters, no historical sketch providing the crucial backdrop of racism that sickened North and South alike, no moral besides “white men were monsters,” 12 Years a Slave feeds 21st-century Americans’ masochistic urges and leaves us wallowing (cozily) in self-indulgent, debilitating regret. Not only is it unhelpful to moderns who feel truly convicted and wonder what on earth we’re supposed to do now (since we can’t exactly erase history), but the film also fails to honor the slaves themselves as much as it was clearly intended to do.
Full review here.
The 13th Warrior (1999)
Director: John McTiernan
Writers: Michael Crichton, William Wisher, Jr.
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Vladimir Kulich
Viewed: October 10, 2007
Review: Misshapen. The story is based on Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, which in turn is a “playful version” of Beowulf, but notwithstanding Antonio’s perfect hair, I didn’t like it.
Writers: Peter Steinfeld, Allan Loeb
Stars: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey
Viewed: November 20, 2008
Review: Not worth the sin. A young man supposedly learns his lesson in Vegas, and that lesson is to not be seduced by Vegas, but there’s just way too much Vegas for the audience to get the same point.
24 (Seasons 1-7, 2001-2009)
Creators: Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow
Viewed: January 2009 — January 2010
Review: This was the first TV show that got me hooked, and also has one of my favorite villains (you can see why here). I didn’t start yawning until they began recycling plots and resuscitating Jack once too often — somewhere around Season 5. (The joke is true: When you kill Jack Bauer, he doesn’t die; he just gets mad.) The best are Seasons 1 & 3. I quit watching partway through Season 8.
27 Dresses (2008)
Writer: Aline Brosh McKenna
Stars: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden
Viewed: May 10, 2008
Review: I remember scorning this somewhat less than I usually scorn chick flicks.
28 Days Later (2002)
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Alex Garland
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson
Viewed: November 6, 2010
Review: I watched this for three reasons: 1) I wanted to watch a zombie movie (to prove to myself why I avoided them), 2) I wanted to watch the best one out there, and 3) I love Danny Boyle.
Well, I hated it. I appreciated the craft and whatnot, and I had to give Boyle some kudos for making the only movie that has ever freaked me out, but I hated it. If a movie’s going to have so much blood, shouldn’t there be a cross somewhere?
But then I watched it again. And I found it.
See my reasons why 28 Days Later not only convinced me to check out two other zombie flicks (World War Z, I Am Legend), but why it’s my favorite of all three–and one of my favorite movies ever.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt
Stars: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Logan Lerman
Viewed: January 10, 2008
Review: The interaction between hero (Christian Bale) and villain (Russell Crowe), and their teamwork in making a man of the hero’s son (Logan Lerman), is a big reason why I like this movie. (You can see over here why Ben Wade made my top villains list.) The story demonstrates how even a loser’s bad-lucked, limp-wristed goodness can outfight and outshine a slick and romantic outlaw’s most glamorous badness.
127 Hours (2010)
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
Stars: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Viewed: February 11, 2011
Review: Huge kudos to Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and James Franco for making two hours of a dude stuck solo in a hole so wildly compelling. This should have beaten The King’s Speech at the Academy Awards that year. Not to take away from Colin Firth’s awesome stuttering job, but conveying all the emotions of a dying, dehydrated man and doing it in such a way that keeps the audience glued — that trumps.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Director: Mark Webb
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
Viewed: February 23, 2010
Review: If I remember the opening disclaimer, this movie announces upfront that it isn’t a love story; it’s a story about love. Well, actually, it’s neither. But I do have to say — if we ever handed out Oscars to Best Abused-Puppy-Dog Look, the award would go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.