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Ranking 2015 at the movies

Well friends, it’s time to turn the calendar page on yet another year. And cinematically, 2015 was a pretty good one. What follows is every film with a 2015 release date I managed to watch this year (including TV movies and direct-to-DVD movies), with a little commentary on some of them to explain why they ranked like they did. Please note, this is ONLY accounting for those movies I’ve already seen. There are a great number of 2015 releases I’m very interested in but haven’t gotten around to watching yet, including (but not limited to) Creed, The Good Dinosaur, Concussion, Spectre, and The Hateful Eight. (I also have not yet seen Fantastic Four, I should confess. I suppose I will eventually, but at this point I’m looking at watching that movie that the same way I think about a prostate exam — I know it’ll probably happen eventually but that doesn’t mean I have to look forward to it. Also, I’ll wait until it comes on HBO.)

  1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens — This movie did everything the prequels did not. It advanced the story of the Star Wars universe, introduced a wealth of new and engaging characters, and made me excited for the next film coming down the pipe.
  2. The Martian — Incredibly smart and well-researched, surprisingly funny, and altogether a joy to watch, Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the novel by Andy Weir was wonderful.
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road — Having never seen a Mad Max movie until the week before this came out (my wife Erin and I binged the previous three), this was an incredible surprise. Amazing effects, strong characters, and the most spectacular chase scene ever put to film.
  4. The Peanuts Movie — My love for the work of Charles M. Schulz is well-documented and without reservation. The fact that this movie won me over speaks volumes.
  5. Inside Out — Pixar once again nails it with a funny and heartwarming film unlike any other I’ve seen.
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron — While not having the shock value of the first Avengers movie, where the very fact that we were seeing these characters together for the first time was enough to cause spontaneous geek explosions, Joss Whedon’s follow-up advanced the Marvel Cinematic Universe nicely, with a brilliant introduction to one of my favorite characters from the comics, the Vision.
  7. Jurassic World — Although not as mind-blowing as the original, Jurassic World swept me right up and reminded me of everything I loved about dinosaurs as a kid. And that Chris Pratt is simply charming.
  8. Tomorrowland — Many people have complained about Brad Bird’s vision, but I thought this story about allowing people to pursue what makes them exceptional was very well done.
  9. Black Mass
  10. Ant-Man — A middle-of-the-road Marvel movie, but that’s still enough to put it pretty high on my list.
  11. Krampus — Fun new Christmas horror flick.
  12. Circle — Surprisingly effective one-room sci-fi thriller I found on Netflix.
  13. A LEGO Brickumentary
  14. Back in Time — Fun documentary about Back to the Future. Would have been higher on the list, but there’s nothing really revelatory here. It’s all stuff we’ve heard before.
  15. Teacher of the Year
  16. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  17. Digging Up the Marrow — Bizarre and effective mocumentary horror movie by the creator of the Hatchet franchise.
  18. Home
  19. American Experience: Walt Disney
  20. Tales of Halloween
  21. LEGO Super Heroes: Justice League-Attack of the Legion of Doom!
  22. Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow
  23. Advantageous
  24. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  25. The Leisure Class
  26. Descendants
  27. Batman Vs. Robin
  28. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Vs. Bizarro League
  29. The Nightmare
  30. The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? — Like the Back to the Future documentary, this one is pretty thorough in examining its subject matter, in this case Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage’s failed attempt at a Superman movie. But also like that other one, there’s very little new here. It’s all stories we’ve heard before, and the presentation isn’t nearly as much fun as the former film.
  31. Everly
  32. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
  33. Parallels
  34. The Green Inferno — I don’t usually watch a movie if I actually expect to dislike it, and as a result, my average ratings often fall on the higher end of the spectrum. This is the first one on this list I genuinely disliked. To be fair, though, it’s not because it was poorly-made, but because Eli Roth’s horror film is simply too gruesome and intense for my tastes.
  35. Strange Magic — A CGI animated jukebox musical about fairies? What the hell was George Lucas thinking?
  36. Sharnkado 3: Oh Hell No! — At this point, I’m just watching them so I can watch the RiffTrax a year later.
  37. A Deadly Adoption — Will Ferrel and Kristin Wiig thought it would be fun to do a Lifetime movie and play it straight. I can only hope it was more fun to make than it was to watch.
  38. 88 — Tedious and dull “thriller” that inexplicably casts Christopher Lloyd as the bad guy. At least, I think he was the bad guy, this movie was all over the place.
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What I Watched In… September 2015

Favorite of the month: Black Mass (2015)

Favorite of the month: Black Mass (2015)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Swamp Thing (1982), D+
2. The Maze Runner (2014), B-
3. Clue (1985), A
4. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League-Attack of the Legion of Doom (2015), B
5. Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue (2009), B+
6. The Goonies (1985), A+
7. Mad Max Fury Road (2015), A
8. Incredible Hulk (2008), B
9. Julie and Jack (2003), F; RiffTrax Riff, A
10. White Zombie (1932), B-
11. Phantoms (1998), C
12. Children of the Corn (1984), B-
13. Breeders (1997), D
14. Rollergator (1996), F; RiffTraxRiff, B
15. Can’t Hardly Wait (1998), B+
16. The Babadook (2014), B+
17. Zombeavers (2014), D
18. Horns (2013), B+
19. Black Mass (2015), A-
20. Titanic (1997), B+
21. American Experience: Walt Disney (2015), B+
22. The Iron Giant (1999), A+

What I Watched in… February 2015

Favorite of the Month: Chef (2014)

Favorite of the Month: Chef (2014)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

(For some reason, Februaries always seem to be a low-viewing month for me. I don’t know why.)

1. Headhunters (2011), A-
2. Chef (2014), A
3. A Good Marriage (2014), C+
4. Thor (2011), B+
5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), B-
6. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Vs. Bizarro League (2015), B
7. Sherlock, Jr. (1924), B+
8. Jim Gaffigan: Beyond the Pale (2006), B

What I Watched in… November 2014

Favorite of the Month: Big Hero 6

Favorite of the Month: Big Hero 6

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Trick ‘r’ Treat (2007), A
  2. Big Driver (2014), B-
  3. V/H/S 2 (2013), B-
  4. Snowpiercer (2013), B
  5. In a World… (2013) B+
  6. Print the Legend (2014), B-
  7. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), C
  8. Edge of Tomorrow (2014), B+
  9. Liberal Arts (2012), B-
  10. The Antics Roadshow (2011), D
  11. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), B+
  12. Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie (2013), F
  13. Interstellar (2014), A
  14. Big Hero 6 (2014), A
  15. Bettie Page Reveals All (2012), B-
  16. Barbarella (1968), D
  17. The Initiation (1984), D
  18. The Wall (2012), B-
  19. Transylvania 6-5000 (1985), B
  20. The Last Slumber Party (1987), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  21. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987), B+
  22. Free Birds (2013), C
  23. Fun in Balloon Land (1965), F; RiffTrax Riff, B
  24. ThanksKilling (2009), F
  25. Pumaman (1980), D-; MST3K Riff, A
  26. Happy Christmas (2014), D
  27. Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered (2014), B+
  28. Bridgend (2013), B
  29. Christmas With the Kranks (2004), C+
  30. The Holiday (2006), C

What I Watched In… June 2014

Favorite of the Month: Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

Favorite of the Month: Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

First off, allow me to apologize for the lack of activity here lately. I know I promised to start hitting you guys with more regular reviews, but June didn’t allow me a lot of time for writing of any kind because — and this is the part I make no apologizes for — I got married. It’s been a great month, but a busy one. The odd thing is, I did manage to squeeze in a healthy number of movies, while simultaneously having virtually no time to DO anything with them.

Anyway, back to the usual stuff. In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Jaws (1975), A
2. Pulp Fiction (1994), B+
3.  The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), B
4. Cool as Ice (1991), F; Rifftrax Riff, B+
5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), C+
6. The Institute (2013), B-
7. Timecrimes (2007), A-
8. Curious George (2006), B
9. Knights of Badassdom (2013), B+
10. Identity Thief (2013), C
11. American Psycho (2000), B-
12. The Adventures of the American Rabbit (1986), B-
13. Hercules (1958), D+; MST3K Riff, B
14. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), B
15. From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), C
16. From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999), B-
17. Full Tilt Boogie (1997), B-
18. Killers From Space (1954), D; Film Crew Riff, B
19. Much Ado About Nothing (2012), A-
20. High Anxiety (1977), B
21. The Aristocats (1970), C+
22. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), B+
23. The Matrix (1999), A
24. Armageddon (1998), B-
25. Frozen (2013), A
26. How to Train Your Dragon (2010), B+
27. You’re Next (2013), C+
28. Maleficent (2014), B-
29. Planet of Dinosaurs (1977), F; RiffTrax Riff, B
30. The Wolverine (2013), B-
31. The LEGO Movie (2014), A
32. The Conjuring (2013), C-
33. Monsters University (2013), B+
34. The Blue Umbrella (2013), A

What I watched in… April 2014

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), A
2. Stripped (2014), A
3. Mr. Nobody (2009), A
4. Nightmare Factory (2011), B-
5. Justice League: War (2014), B
6. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload (2013), B
7. I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), D; MST3K Riff, B
8. It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! (1974), B+
9. It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974), B
10. I Accuse My Parents (1944), F; MST3K, B
11. Man of Steel (2013), A
12. Pitch Perfect (2012), B+
13. The Lone Ranger (2013), D
14. Dr. No (1962), B+
15. Odd Thomas (2013), B-

At the Movies Episode 40: The LEGO Movie

The LEGO MovieI’ve got to be honest, gang — my movie watching this month has slowed to a crawl. Blame the Olympics. I’m a huge Olympic geek, so when those are going on, I watch almost nothing else.

I did, however, manage to take in The LEGO Movie last night, and I did a mini podcast to review it. Check it out!

At the Movies Episode 40: The LEGO Movie.

Reel to Reel ranks 2013 in movies

And once again, we reach the end of another year. And as usual, I didn’t get to see as many movies as I wanted to. I saw most of the ones I was really excited about, all but one in fact (which wound up not being made at all, sadly). For the record, the ones I didn’t see yet that are still on my to-see list are American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street and Her, all of which will be readily available after the holidays, what with being award bait and all.

So here, for the second year (here’s last year’s list if you’re interested), the list of movies I saw this year roughly in order of how much I liked them, along with brief comments on a few films. This list includes made-for-TV, direct-to-video, and streaming films, as long as they were feature length. The rankings are based purely on how much I enjoyed watching the movie, and no other criteria. I caution you, though, that my opinions on rankings and such change frequently, so if you ask me to make this same list tomorrow, it may well be slightly different:

1. Saving Mr. Banks. Simply a beautiful movie that hits me hard as a writer. I get where both the characters of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney were coming from, I sympathize with them both, and I found the movie deeply moving. I know that a lot of it was conjured up for the sake of cinema, but I’m kind of afraid to look up how much for fear it would ruin the film for me.
2. Frozen. Disney’s best animated movie in years. I particularly like that the film was undeniably a love story, but at the same time, broke every major rule in the usual “princess” formula.
3. Man of Steel. A controversial choice to be this high, I know, but I don’t care. As someone who’s loved Superman since childhood, I thought this film was a worthy jumpstart for both the character and for DC’s effort at a cinematic universe.
4. Pacific Rim. The most underrated movie of the year, in my opinion. Visually exciting and a hell of a lot of fun.
5. Monsters University.
6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
7. Ender’s Game.
8. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
9. An Adventure in Space and Time. TV film about the original star of Doctor Who, William Hartnell, made in conjunction with the series’ 50th anniversary. I really liked it.
10. Evil Dead.
11. The World’s End
12. Oz, The Great and Powerful.
13. Star Trek Into Darkness.
14. Thor: The Dark World.
15. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
16. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II.
17. The Rubber Room. Intriguing documentary about the New York public school system, specifically the practice that leaves teachers accused of assorted mistakes stranded without work for months or years without the opportunity to defend themselves.
18. Crystal Lake Memories:The Complete History of Friday the 13th. Good and terribly thorough documentary about the horror movie series. Make sure you’ve got the time to watch it, though – it’s SEVEN HOURS LONG.
19. Iron Man 3.
20. LEGO Batman The Movie: DC Superheroes Unite.
21. The Wolverine.
22. The Sound of Music. Live TV production of the classic musical.
23. Necessary Evil: The Villains of DC Comics.
24. Europa Report.
25. Superman Unbound.
26. Kick-Ass 2.
27. Warm Bodies.
28. Upstream Color. I really liked the director’s last movie, Primer, so I had high hopes for this one. I felt somewhat let down, though. The movie thought it was smarter than it really was.
29. Escape From Planet Earth.
30. Side Effects.
31. A Good Day to Die Hard.
32. World War Z.
33. Mister Scrooge to See You.
34. Jack the Giant Slayer.
35. Iron Man: Rise of Technovore.
36. The Purge. Intriguing idea – a world where all crime is legal for 12 hours a year – but the film is handled poorly, set up on a soapbox, has a horribly predictable ending and is so heavy-handed it’s impossible to enjoy as a thriller.
37. The Host. The only thing I have to say about this Stephanie Meyer adaptation is that I initially mistyped it as The Hose, and I couldn’t help but think that would have been a more interesting movie.
38. Riddick.
39. Oblivion. I challenge anybody to explain the backstory and plot of this film in a way that does not invite a six-year-old child to point out how outrageously stupid the aliens are. I DARE YOU.
40. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
41. Sharknado. I know that this TV production was supposed to be bad, but I disagree with those who think it was both bad and fun. I just didn’t enjoy it.

What I Watched In… May 2013

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006), B
2. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984), B+
3. Iron Man 3 (2013), B-
4. The Producers (1968), A
5. City Slickers (1991), A
6. Space Jam (1996), C+
7. Mars Attacks! (1996), B
8. Psycho II (1983), D+; Rifftrax Riff, A-
9. Tangled (2010), B+
10. The Grey (2011), B+
11. The Great Gatsby (1974), A-
12. Sound of My Voice (2011), C
13. The Wizard (1989), C-
14. Future Force (1989), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
15. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), A-
16. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), A-
17. Up (2009), A+
18. LEGO Batman: The Movie-DC Superheroes Unite (2013), B
19. Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), D
20. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), A-
21. Defending Your Life (1991), B+
22. Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965), D; RiffTrax Riff, A
23. The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002), C
24. Sherlock Holmes (2009), A-
25. A Matter of Life and Death (1946), A+
26. The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), B-
27. The Great Mouse Detective (1986), B+
28. S&Man (2006), C
29. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983), C+