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Back in Time: 2020

I’m going to have a little fun with something here: last week, as the year was ending, everyone shared their lists of their favorite movies of 2021. I did it myself. But the thing that’s occurred to me is that these lists aren’t immutable, are they? It’s not like I’m never going to watch another movie from 2021. It’s not even like I’ll never watch a movie I like more than one of the ones on the list. In fact, the list I shared on New Year’s Eve would already be different today because I try to spend January watching movies I missed in the previous year, and I’ve found one that would have made the list. 

So what I’m going to do is start stepping back in time, one year per installment, and revisit the movies made in that frame that would now make that “best of the year” list, with an emphasis on what movies I didn’t actually see during the year in question. 

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I’m not presenting this list as any sort of objective level of artistry. I’m not saying these should all be Academy Award winners or anything (although some of them, I think, should), I’m just saying that these are the ones I personally enjoyed the most.

12. The Last Blockbuster (watched in 2021): Wonderful documentary that tells the story of the last Blockbuster video store in America, intercut with the story of the rise and fall of the one-time juggernaut. Lots of stuff in here I didn’t know, with a far more intricate and enlightening view of the topic than “Netflix killed it.” And there’s a hell of a nostalgia factor as well.

11. Bill and Ted Face the Music: Speaking of nostalgia, there have been plenty of movie and TV shows that have proven that nostalgia isn’t enough to fuel a movie. This one used nostalgia as the launch point, but it had a lot of heart and told a story about how, as we grow older, our dreams tend to change… and why that’s not a bad thing.

10. The Invisible Man: After two disastrous attempts to kick off a shared universe of Universal Monsters (those being Dracula Untold and the 2017 The Mummy), it seems that Universal decided to change gears and go for smaller, self-contained films revitalizing their classic monsters. While I can’t deny I would still love to see the Universal Monster-verse become huge again (just bring back Brendan Fraser, dammit), I really enjoyed this more quiet, claustrophobic take on the classic villain.

9. Freaky (watched in 2021): Another new take on an old idea – the Freaky Friday body swap formula applied not to a parent and child, but to a slasher movie killer and his victim. Vince Vaughan is fantastic as both the killer and the teenage girl who gets trapped in his body, and overall the movie treads the line between comedy and horror very well. Not as well as another movie I’ll get to later, though.

8. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn: Awful title notwithstanding, this film was a great showcase for Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and drew in several other characters from DC Comics in exciting ways that felt fairly true to most of them, with the notable exception of Cassandra Cain, who was really that character in name only. Never thought Rosie Perez would work so well as an action heroine, but she really steps up.

7. Onward: Pixar has rarely missed, and they succeeded twice in 2020, starting with this film about a pair of brothers trying to find peace with the loss of their father, all couched in a world of monsters and magic. Family stuff, and particularly stuff about parents and children, have really hit a chord with me these last few years, for obvious reasons.

6. Soul (Watched in 2021, but only by a day): The second of Pixar’s 2020 one-two punch treads a theme that Pixar likes to do, that getting what you want is not the same as getting what you need. Lovely story, beautiful animation… and damn, I do like jazz.

5. Archive (Watched in 2021): Fantastic low-key sci-fi movie about a man trying to make an artificial intelligence less artificial. I don’t want to say too much because I think it’s best if you go in not knowing much, but it’s well worth watching.

4. Palm Springs: The time loop movie has been done a LOT, but I always enjoy a new twist on it. Wedding guest Lizzie Caplan falls into a time loop only to find that fellow guest Andy Samberg has been there for quite some time. It’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s original. 

3. Tenet: Christopher Nolan is at his most Christopher Nolan in this movie, an action film built around the premise of a technology that can reverse time. Like a lot of Nolan’s movies, you’ve really got to pay attention, but once you wrap your head around exactly what the rules are, it works really well.

2. A Quiet Place Part II (Watched in 2021): The sequel to one of the best sleeper horror films in years delivered just as well, if not more. Continuing the story right where the first ended, this second film explores the world much more and continues peeling back the layers of the family. It’s a fantastic movie and I really hope Part III is in the works.

1. Scare Me (Watched in 2021): Josh Ruben writes, directs, and stars in this phenomenal horror comedy about two writers (himself and Aya Cash) stuck together when a storm knocks out their power. How better to pass the time than by trying to scare one another? Seventy-five percent of the film is literally just the two of them telling stories to each other, and it’s wonderful. For a film to be this thrilling without relying on special effects, jump scares, or buckets of blood is amazing. For it to be legitimately funny is even better. If you haven’t seen this one and you like horror/comedies, get thee to Shudder right now and check it out. 

For those interested, a complete ranked list of every 2020 movie I’ve seen is on Letterboxd. Next time I’ll step back a year further to 2019. Eventually I’ll loop back and look at 2021 again.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. He spent entirely too much of 2020 at home, like everybody else did, and watching YouTube videos, like everybody else with a toddler did.

What I Watched In… May 2018

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Favorite of the Month: Armstrong (2016)

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. Rear Window (1998), D
  2. Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973), D-
  3. THX 1138 (1971), C+
  4. Have Rocket — Will Travel (1959), C-
  5. X-Men (2000), B-
  6. Megamind (2010), B+
  7. The Mask (1994), B-
  8. Spider-Man 2 (2004), B+
  9. Wall-E (2008), A
  10. Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter (1972), D+
  11. Superman II (1980), A-
  12. X2: X-Men United (2003), B+
  13. Peelers (2016), D+
  14. Spider-Man 3 (2007), C-
  15. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010), D+
  16. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006), A
  17. Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel (2013), B+
  18. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), D
  19. Armstrong (2016), B+
  20. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), B-
  21. Superman III (1983), C+

What I Watched in… March 2017

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Favorite of the Month: Logan (2017)

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. John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), A-
  2. Logan (2017), A
  3. Into the Woods (Broadway Cast, 1991), A
  4. Anomalisa (2015), B
  5. My Sucky Teen Romance (2011), B
  6. Volunteers (1985), B
  7. Werewolf of London (1935), C
  8. Quiz Show (1994), A-
  9. Lifeforce (1985), C-
  10. Honor and Glory (1993), D-; RiffTrax Riff, B
  11. The Magic Sword (1962), C+; MST3K Riff, B+
  12. Gamera (1965), B-; MST3K Riff, A
  13. Phantom of the Opera (1943), C+
  14. Newsies (1992), B+
  15. Up (2009), A+
  16. Moana (2016), A-
  17. Hobgoblins (1988), F; MST3K Riff, A-
  18. Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), B+
  19. The Uninvited (1944), B
  20. Into the Woods (2014), B+
  21. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), A-
  22. Nintendo Quest (2015), B-
  23. Dune (1984), D+
  24. Dracula (1931), B+
  25. Retro Puppet Master (1999), D-; RiffTrax Riff, B
  26. Zombie Nightmare (19870, D; MST3K Riff, A
  27. 50 Years of Star Trek (2016), B-
  28. Innerspace (1987), B
  29. Marooned (aka Space Travelers, 1969), D; MST3K Riff, B-

What I Watched In… February 2017

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Favorite of the Month: The Lego Batman Movie

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. Keanu (2016), B
  2. Stardust (2007), A-
  3. The Guy From Harlem (1977), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  4. Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956), A-
  5. Being From Another World aka Time Walker (1983), D-; MST3K Riff, B
  6. The Day of the Triffids (1962), B
  7. Kung Fu Elliot (2014), B
  8. Maniac (2012), B-
  9. Crimson Peak (2015), C+
  10. The Lego Batman Movie (2017), A-
  11. Godzilla (1998), D
  12. The Pixar Story (2007), A
  13. Midnight Special (2016), B+
  14. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A
  15. Godzilla Raids Again (1955), B
  16. ARQ (2016), B-
  17. Justice League Dark (2017), B
  18. First Blood (1982), A
  19. Blair Witch (2016), B
  20. The Good Dinosaur (2015), B
  21. Danger!! Death Ray (1967), C-; MST3K Riff, B
  22. King Kong (1976), B-
  23. Good Burger (1997), B
  24. Miami Connection (1987), D-; RiffTrax Riff, A
  25. The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969), C; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  26. Girlfriend’s Day (2017), B
  27. Beware the Slenderman (2016), A-
  28. Beverly Hills Cop (1984), B+
  29. Arrival (2016), A
  30. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017), B
  31. Zindy, the Swamp-Boy (1973), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  32. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016), C+

2016 in Film

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Favorite of the Year: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Once again, it’s a new year, and that means it’s time to take a look back at the releases of the previous year. I managed to clock in a a lot of movies in 2016, although as always there are still several I haven’t seen yet (Arrival, Shin Godzilla, Moana, and many more). So as always, consider this list incomplete. It’s every 2016 movie I’ve seen so far, including TV movies and direct-to-DVD fare, ranked from my favorite to least favorite, with commentary where I find it necessary.

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Two years in a row, a Star Wars movie has claimed my top spot. Under its new Disney home, Lucasfilm is on fire.
  • Doctor Strange — Amazingly, for a character I’ve never fully connected with in the comics, Benedict Cumberbatch has turned in one of my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe performances to date.
  • Captain America: Civil War — Although they may as well have called this Avengers 3, the third Captain America movie was a blast. I especially liked the fact that this time around the stakes were much more personal, rather than a save-the-world scenario. It was a nice change of pace.
  • Zootopia — This was a huge surprise to me. Not that it was good (John Lasseter taking over Disney animation is the best thing to happen to Disney animation since Walt Disney himself), but how good it was. Funny, sweet, and surprisingly poignant.
  • For the Love of Spock — Adam Nimoy directs this touching documentary about his father, Leonard.
  • Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice — I don’t care what the critics say, I had a great thrill seeing DC’s trinity on screen for the first time, and I can’t wait to see Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — I felt the same way about this as Rogue One. The studios have learned that if you can make the universe itself the star instead of a particular character, you can make a franchise last much longer. This was a fun addition to J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.
  • Star Trek Beyond — It’s rare that the third film in a franchise is the best, but this was the most exciting, most “Star Trek”-like film in the Kelvin Timeline to date.
  • Finding Dory — Lovely follow-up to Finding Nemo, with a heartfelt message.
  • The Nice Guys — Like so many people, I loved this movie, and wish that it had found a larger audience in theaters.
  • Deadpool
  • Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan-Film Ever Made — You may have heard the story of a couple of kids who spent years working on an amateur shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is that story.
  • Batman: The Killing Joke
  • Hush — Tense little thriller about a home invasion in the home of a deaf woman.
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane — One of the year’s best surprises.
  • Suicide Squad — Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was fantastic. The rest of the movie was pretty good.
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • The Witch
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year — Cute direct-to-DVD movie starring DC’s latest franchise. I love the fact that this series exists, and so does my 6-year-old niece.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse — Weakest of the “First Class” trilogy, but that still places it ahead of the likes of X-Men: The Last Stand or the first two Wolverine movies.
  • Keanu
  • Ghostheads
  • Justice League Vs. Teen Titans
  • Holidays — Fun, if uneven, horror anthology.
  • Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday
  • Batman: Bad Blood
  • LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League-Cosmic Clash
  • LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League-Gotham City Breakout
  • Mascots
  • The Jungle Book — I know a lot of people were blown away by this, but it just didn’t do it for me. Admittedly, it may just be because I’ve never been able to get into talking animal movies. It’s a weird hang-up of mine, I admit.
  • Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders — Animated film featuring Adam West and Burt Ward, and damn, do they show their age. When Batman and Robin sound like they’re in their 70s, maybe nostalgia isn’t enough.
  • Dwarvenaut
  • Criminal
  • Grease Live!
  • Dead 7 — Weak-ass SyFy movie starring a bunch of washed-up boy band members in a zombie western.
  • The Neon Demon — Probably the most controversial opinion I’ll have here. The latest from writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn of Drive and Only God Forgives, and like those other films, I found this unbearably dull and overblown.
  • Ghostbusters — A weak script and a weak director tanked this remake.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
  • Paradox

What I Watched In… May 2016

Captain America-Civil War Poster

Favorite of the month: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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. Paradox (2016), D
2. Man Up (2015), B-
3. Finders Keepers (2015), B+
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), A
5. Captain America: Civil War (2016), A+
6. Dumbo (1941), B
7. The Blob (1988) C+
8. Fantastic Four (2015), F
9. Cloverfield (2008), B+
10. The Nice Guys (2016), A-
11. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014), B+
12. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One (1968), C
13. House (1977), D
14. Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
15. LEGO Scooby-Doo!: Haunted Hollywood (2016), B
16. Goosebumps (2015), B
17. Spaced Invaders (1990), D
18. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959); F, RiffTrax Riff, B
19. Toy Story 3 (2010), A+
20. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), B-
21. Almost There (2015), B

In addition to the list, this month my podcast (the All New Showcase) reviewed Captain America: Civil War in Episode 322: Free Comic Book Day 2016.

What I Watched In… February 2016

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Favorite of the Month: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

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. Frankenstein (1910), B
  2. The Shadow Strikes (1937), C
  3. Grey Gardens (1975), C+
  4. Mitchell (1975), F; MST3K Riff, A
  5. Turbo Kid (2015), B
  6. Cooties (2014), B+
  7. Dracula Untold (2014), C-
  8. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012), A
  9. Stagecoach (1939), A
  10. Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), B-
  11. Master Ninja I (1984), F; MST3K Riff, B
  12. Master Ninja II (1984), F; MST3K Riff, B
  13. Deadpool (2016), B
  14. War of the Worlds (1953), B
  15. Home (2015), B
  16. The Witch (2016), B
  17. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981 Miniseries), A-
  18. Inside Out (2015), A
  19. Batman: The Movie (1966), C

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.

What I Watched In… June 2015

Jurassic World

TIE: Jurassic World

Inside Out

TIE: Inside Out

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!

(NOTE: For the first time since I started doing this, I just simply couldn’t choose a single favorite of the month, so I awarded a tie. Inside Out had the wonderful emotional punch of Pixar’s best, but Jurassic World grabbed my inner six-year-old and made me gleeful in so many ways.)

1. The Next Karate Kid (1994), C
2. Big Hero Six (2014), A
3. Craigslist Joe (2012), B
4. Pet Sematary (1989), C+
5. Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension (2011), A
6. Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe (2012), B
7. Jurassic Park (1993), A
8. Jurassic World (2015), A
9. Batman (1989) B+
10. Batman Returns (1992) B
11. Batman Forever (1995), D
12. Batman & Robin (1997), F
13. Jason and the Argonauts (1963), B
14. Zoom (2006), D+
15. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) B+
16. Winnebago Man (2010), B
17. Starry Eyes (2014), B
18. Craig Ferguson: I’m Here to Help (2013), B+
19. The Painting (2011), A
20. Lava (2015), B
21. Inside Out (2015), A-
22. About Time (2013), B+
23. Chris Hardwick: Mandroid (2012), B
24. The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
25. Hatchet (2006), B
26. Willow (1988), B-
27. Cars 2 (2011), B
28. Digging Up the Marrow (2015), B+
29. Nebraska (2013), A-
30. The Apple (1980), D; RiffTrax Riff, A-
31. The Hole (2009), B
32. War of the Worlds (1953), B
33. Monty Python Live (Mostly) (2014), B+
34. North By Northwest (1959), A-

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.