12 Monkeys (1995)

Director: Terry Gilliam

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: 153735-Chiwetel-Ejiofor-12-Years-A-SlaveSteve 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.

21 (2008)   

Director: Robert Luketic

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

Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard 

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)


Director: Anne Fletcher

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)

5 stars

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 ZI 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.