My Best Movies of 2018

Hi everyone! If you are following my youtube channel/podcast you already know my top 15 movies of 2018 list. It was a challenging list to put together and probably not the same as you will hear from anyone else but isn’t that the way these lists should be? So for those that haven’t heard here are my favorite movies of 2018:

15. A Star is Born

When I first heard they were remaking A Star is Born again I rolled my eyes at another cash grab from Hollywood. Then I went to see the movie and I loved it! The chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was tremendous and the singing/music was so great. I haven’t heard such good singing in a musical movie since Dreamgirls. The ending is very sad but it works because of the chemistry and connection of the actors. The supporting work from Sam Elliott and Dave Chappelle was also great.

14. Sgt Stubby: An American Hero

Every year I like to have a little movie to champion and Sgt Stubby was mine for 2018. Made by a new animation studio, Fun Academy, this true story of WW1 dog and his owner made so many correct choices. They didn’t have the dog talk. He is just a normal sweet dog with a connection to his soldier owner. They didn’t minimize war; nor did they traumatize children with gory details. It hit just the right balance which is no easy task. Plus, they had lovely animation and a score from Patrick Doyle that elevated the production. I hope they keep making movies because it was a very promising start.

13. Instant Family

On the surface Instant Family looked like a tired big studio comedy but then I went to see it and I was shocked how much I liked it. I think what makes it work is the personal connections all involved have with foster care and adoption. The director Sean Anders basically tells his own story about how he and his wife adopted 3 siblings and the blessings and challenges that went along with it. The film does not gloss over how hard it is and how damaged these children are but it all worked for me. The ending when the adoption is finalized and you see the photos of the various crew with their adopted/foster children had me sobbing. I had to compose myself before leaving the theater. It was so good!

12. Incredibles 2

This is why I hate ranking things because I loved Incredibles 2 and yet it ends up at 12. Go figure! I loved this long-awaited sequel because not only is it a terrific superhero movie but it is also a treatise on how hard it is to be a parent. It avoids the pitfalls of the dumb Dad stereotypes by having Bob actually figure everything out. He eventually gets new math and how to help Violet. It’s just super exhausting which is how parenting is! The action was terrific and the animation bold. I loved it!

11. ROMA

Alfonso Cuarón is back with another winner. Everything about ROMA works from the stunning black and white cinematography to the touching story of women in Mexico and their struggles. Yalitza Aparicio gives a devastating performance especially in the scene where she gives birth and in a follow up scene where she gets her anger out at the beach. It may not be super rewatchable but it is a film I won’t soon forget.

10. Ralph Breaks the Internet

Everyone who follows me regularly knows I am more lukewarm on Wreck-it Ralph than the average Disney fan. I like it fine but don’t think it fully delivers on its premise. Ralph Breaks the Internet, on the other hand, elevates itself above its premise.My favorite part of the film is its message of friendship. Ralph must learn to accept Vanellope for who she is, not who he wishes she would be and that is the hardest thing to do in life. I found the ending to be quite touching as they figure out a solution to still love each other but allow them both to be their best selves. Of course, the movie is also very funny and a surprise Alan Menken song secured my love! (Also it basically admits the animators think Ariel is the best!).

9. Anna and the Apocalypse

Anyone knows how much I love Christmas movies and musicals so throw in zombies and I’m a happy girl! This genre mashup was probably the most creative movie-going experience of 2018. It was joyful, exuberant and surprisingly sweet. All the songs are a lot of fun especially Hollywood Ending and Turning  My Life Around. Ella Hunt has huge star potential but the whole cast works together well. It’s definitely a movie I will watch every year at Christmas, and I’m sure it will become a holiday cult classic. Delightful

8. Shoplifters

Ever since I saw After Life in 1998 I have been singing the praises of director Hirokazu Kore-eda. I love all of his movies and his latest Shoplifters is no exception. In what is basically a modern take on Oliver Twist, Kore-eda presents an unusual family  that is very flawed but has the best intentions. You know these people belong together but the law says they are doing the right thing. All the performances are lovely especially our two young children, Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) and Shota (Jyo Kairi). Kore-eda has such humanity for his characters and that allows Shoplifters to be both hopeful and devastating at the same time and it all works.

7. Juliet, Naked

Featuring my favorite script of 2018, Juliet, Naked tells the story of a woman (Rose Byrne) who is beginning to regret some of her life choices when she meets the rock star (Ethan Hawke) her boyfriend (Chris O’Dowd) is obsessed with. I love the Nick Hornby novel and this adaptation is pitch perfect in how it criticizes and yet stands up for modern-day obsession and fandom culture. I particularly love a scene towards the end where Chris O’Dowd’s character tells Ethan Hawke what his music meant to him and how it doesn’t really matter if the artist himself values it. His character is very flawed and the fact the screenplay allows me to still care about him shows how good the writing is. An under-seen gem of 2018

6. Crazy Rich Asians

Romantic comedies have long been overdue a big hit and Crazy Rich Asians is a great film to reinvigorate the genre (unless you’re a Hallmark fan which has been doing romcoms all along!). This film is about as perfectly executed a romcom as you could do. It’s funny, sweet, romantic, with tons of luxury porn and a wedding that will not soon be topped. However, putting that all aside it actually has well written characters who’s character motivations make sense. The mother for instance isn’t just a shrew who hates someone dating her son. She knows the sacrifice the family requires and an upstart, independent American,  in her eyes, isn’t going to able to make that sacrifice. Her POV makes sense. Also Henry Goulding is such a dream boat!

5. Lean on Pete

Lean on Pete is a movie I saw and liked but that stayed with me for weeks after. Director Andrew Haigh has made another stunning film about a boy named Charley (played so well by Charlie Plummer) who saves a racehorse named Pete from slaughter and begins a journey across America. It felt emotionally true and had me weeping throughout. It’s also a portrait of America today with all our heartlessness and humanity. The cinematography, music and supporting performances all work together to make it one of the best movies of the year!

4. Paddington 2

Who can be uncheered by Paddington 2? What a delightful sequel to an already delightful first film! When poor Paddington goes to prison and is waiting for the Browns to visit I felt it and yet he quickly revamps the place and introduces the inmates to the joys of marmalade. Hugh Grant is so great as the foppish actor villain and the rest of the cast is wonderful. It has such a lovely message about family and never losing hope and I just love it!

3. Leave No Trace

I saw Leave No Trace at Sundance and it never left me. Debra Granik fashioned a lovely movie about a father and daughter living off the grid. I’ve hated most of these off the grid stories but this does not try to paint the father in heroic colors. He is a damaged man and everyone knows it. I found it very touching how people try to help them along their way even if it is simply giving them a ride and a cup of coffee. Thomasin McKenizie is wonderful as the daughter who comes to realize she can love her father without making the same choices he makes. The ending has me cheering her as she makes very tough choices. It might sound depressing but it’s actually quite hopeful and invigorating.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

When I first heard that Sony Animation was making an animated Spider-man film I rolled my eyes. Their output hasn’t exactly been great lately and another Spider-man movie? Imagine my surprise when they managed to pull off one of the best animated films of the decade! Miles’ journey is easy to relate to and well written ( I love the scene when his father is talking to him through the door). It had emotion and was a really good coming of age story. Plus, the animation was unlike any I’ve ever seen before. The hybrid 2D/3D was dazzling. I also loved the story of the different Spider people and their own unique animation styles all flowing together. It was funny and sweet. It just has it all and has the potential to be a real game-changer for animated films!

1. Mary Poppins Returns

I know Mary Poppins Returns has received some mixed reviews but this is my list and it is without a doubt the movie that gave me the most joy in 2018. I loved everything about this movie. I loved all of the songs and the great singing and choreography that accompanied them. I loved the 2D animation and found the entire sequence in the bowl to be completely charming. I loved all the performances from Emily Blunt as Mary down to the smallest cameos. I think they nailed the balance of new with an homage to the original. Most of all I loved the message about how family and friends will help you get through the tough times in life. It had huge heart and felt like a kind of Disney magic I haven’t seen in live action in many years. I can’t wait to see the sequel!

So there you have it! My favorite movie list. Let me know what you think. Also I recorded a Best of 2018 Awards podcast with my friend Conrado you might enjoy. Who needs the Oscars when you have our awards 🙂

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Exciting News and Almost Best Movies of 2018

So if you follow me on twitter or youtube you already know my big exciting news! Last week I was contacted by a representative from the website rottentomatoes.com asking me if I was interested in becoming an approved critic for their site. At first I thought this couldn’t be real and was some kind of scam but I looked into and sure enough it was real!

I am still in shock about this development because I don’t know how I was selected out of the many talented podcasters and bloggers. I hadn’t applied because my numbers are far under what they say you need to apply. I am guessing they were trying to recruit female critics and somehow I got on their radar but I really have no clue. Maybe they just liked my writing? Who knows?

Anyway, it is a super exciting development for me as it should help me get on press lists I have been dying to get on. It has already got me on the local Disney/Marvel press list which is a dream come true and I’m hoping to get approved for another big local list. It also gives my content more exposure which is a great thing! I just can’t believe it! Dreams do come true!

You can see my profile with a few uploaded reviews

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/rachel-wagner/movies

Then I also posted my ALMOST Best Movies of 2018 List today. These are 15 movies I really loved that I couldn’t fit on my top 15 Best of List. I’d love for you to check out the video (or listen to the podcast) but here are the picks:

16. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society– great performances by Lily James, Michel Huisman, Penelope Wilton and more. Lovely story with heart and touching moments. Loved the ending and the proposal.

17. Won’t You Be My Neighbor- a documentary that manages to draw you in just telling a man’s simple story. There’s a moment at Congress that had me on the edge of my seat. Inspiring and heartwarming. I also got to attend the premiere at Sundance and another exclusive screening to celebrate our local PBS station KUED. Good memories

18. Mirai– sweet and intimate little anime film from Mamoru Hosoda about a little boy learning to appreciate his new baby sister. He is visited by guests from the future and past to teach him to be kind. Lovely with beautiful animation.

19. Green Book– I love stories of unlikely friendship and this was a great one. Wonderful performances between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Some want this movie to be more than it is, a protest film but that’s not it at all. It’s just about 2 friends and it is full of comedy, tender moments and learning to accept and value someone you never thought you could get along with when you first met.

20. Minding the Gap– Stunning documentary where director Bing Li follows his friends from an early age and weaves in skateboarding into themes of growing up, change, and most importantly how the domestic violence put upon their mothers changes them.

21. The Night is Short Walk on Girl– surrealist, bright and bubbly anime about a girl who goes on a giant drinking bender on a break from college. There are musical sequences, wacky artwork and a sweet love story. A trippy experience but one I thoroughly enjoyed. Very different than any other anime I’ve seen.

22. Game Night– hilarious film about a bunch of friends trying to have a secret game night. The whole cast is hilarious. I especially loved Kyle Chandler in an unusual comedic role. Anyone who has a competitive family with games will relate and it shows well the slight desperation we can feel to socialize as grown ups in our 30s. It’s hard!

23. Three Identical Strangers– A documentary that completely blew me away. I stayed spoiler free so when certain things happen I was shocked! I could never have guessed such twists and turns. It was funny, heartwarming, scary, everything all rolled up into one crazy story.

24. Eighth Grade– I’m usually not a big fan of sullen teenager coming of age stories but this one had just enough humor and heart to work for me. Elsie Fisher was wonderful and her experience youtubing felt totally authentic (I know of what I speak!).

25. Bumblebee– A completely charming film that is the Transfomers movie I have been hoping for all along. I loved the nostalgic feel and the heart with the relationship between Bumblebee and Hailee Steinfeld’s character. The use of music was also brilliant. It’s how to do a great blockbuster/reboot.

26. A Quiet Place- I don’t know how rewatchable this film is but it belongs on this list because of the great performances and what a memorable theater experience I had. The tension of the story and atmosphere they created really worked for me. I was so wound up when I left the theater I kept getting startled by everything around me! Such fun! (It’s also a story at its heart about a family that loves each other).

27. Maquia: Where the Promised Flower Blooms– an extremely ambitious anime fantasy from director Mari Okada. It has all you could want in a fantasy with battles, elves and dragons but at its core is a touching story about a girl becoming a mother and changing as a person in the process. Beautiful animation and music and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

28. Creed II- one of the more underrated films of the year. I really thought it was great. I liked all the performances and thought the story built tension and excitement well. I honestly would have been fine with either Adonis or the Dragos winning the final fight which is hard to do in a boxing movie. If it’s the end of the series it is a good way to go out.

29. The Hate U Give– The greatest thing about this movie is how well it portrays a family. These actors really felt like family and had incredible chemistry together. They did a great job building tension and showing a nuanced and layered view of the situation. I didn’t feel preached at but invested in her story and the family. The school stuff doesn’t work as well for me but I didn’t love that in the book so not especially surprised. Still very good YA adaptation.

30. Isle of Dogs– stunning animation from Wes Anderson and a story with the dogs that was adorable. I loved the attention to detail especially in the backgrounds. Amazing! Some of the human stuff doesn’t work as well but I still thoroughly enjoyed this unique animated tale.

So there you have it: My ALMOST Best Movies of 2018 List. What do you think? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for all your support! Sure love ya!

2018 in Animation

Today I wanted to share with you all a podcast I did with 3 of my friends on the year of animation in 2018. It’s a long one but we covered every release we could from the small to the large.

If you get to listen I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. What did you think about animation in 2018? Any disappointments or surprises?

My ranking of 2018 animation:

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

2. Ralph Breaks the Internet

3. Incredibles 2

4. Sgt Stubby: An American Hero

5. The Night is Short Walk on Girl

6. Mirai

7. Maquia: When the Last Flower Blooms

8. Isle of Dogs

9. My Hero Academia: The Movie

10. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

11. Tito and the Birds

12. Hotel Transylvania 3

13. Pokemon: the Power of Us

14. Liz and the Blue Bird

15. Next Gen

16. Smallfoot

17. The Grinch

18. Maya the Bee 2: the Honey Games

19. DC Superhero Girls: Legends of Atlantis

20. Early Man

21. Gnome Alone

22. Fireworks

23. Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies

24. Sherlock Gnomes

25. Lu Over the Wall

26. White Fang

27. MFKZ

28. Duck Duck Goose

 

Worst Movies of 2018

It’s that time of year when I present my worst movies of the year list and this year I decided to do things a little bit differently. Instead of a strict bottom 10 I chose to spread the wealth and talk about a bunch of groupings of films I disliked. You can watch the video above to hear more of my explanations but here they are for the blog

Blockbusters that Stunk!

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My first category is big studio releases that fell flat:

The Meg– disappointing shark movie that took itself seriously when its trailers promised camp. Instead of being fun it was mega-boring

Pacific Rim Uprising- removed any of the artistry or interesting choices of the original and replaced it with loud hard to visualize action filled with annoying characters

The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms- I was so hoping this would be a fun surprise but it was a dud. There was no conflict and most of the Clara was watching stuff happen (even on stage sometimes). Boring!

Once Upon a Deadpool- I’ve never seen either of the Deadpool movies and judging by this PG-13 version of Deadpool 2 I don’t want to. It was boring, unfunny and the acting by many was weak

Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald– This whole movie was a crime. I felt exhausted after I saw it. There were so many plot threads and characters and none of it made a lick of sense to this muggle. Worst fantasy film I’ve seen since Warcraft.

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Romantic Comedy Duds-

Everyone knows I love romantic comedies but when they fail, they fail badly:

Destination Wedding- what everyone hates about romcoms all in one movie. Both characters were miserable and irritating and did nothing but argue for 2 hours. No chemistry and one of the least sexy sex scenes I’ve ever seen.

Little Italy- the leads were decent but the humor fell so flat with its constant sex jokes that were not funny. The stereotyping and plot were terrible. Yuck!

The Kissing Booth- an awkward film where the director seemed to linger the camera over its teenage protagonist in uncomfortable ways. Both male leads were terrible especially her BFF who was the worst

The Spy Who Dumped Me- this film has some decent action but it swings so strongly between slapstick comedy and extreme violence that I was very turned off by it. Let’s just say it was not for me

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Adaptations that Bombed-

Some of my favorite novels were adapted in 2018 but unfortunately not adapted proficiently:

Wrinkle in Time- what a disappointment. With such a cast, budget and promising director to get this dud. They failed to capture the spirituality of the novel and put in place speechifying where Meg is told she is a warrior instead of coming to realize it herself. The plot was muddled and George Wallace irritating. It just failed

Little Women- I’m up for a modern take on Little Women but not one where they turn Jo into an obnoxious judgemental jerk, which is what this version did (amongst other problems)

Sherlock Gnomes- after Sherlock series 4 sucked so badly I guess everyone decided it was time to follow suit with awful Sherlock Holmes stories like Sherlock Gnomes. This movie was irritating in so many ways especially the villain

Ophelia- I kept having to thwart my laughter at this ridiculous feminist take on Hamlet with Ophelia outwitting all and storming the castle along with the Queen’s secret twin who lives in the forest brewing potions…Embarrassing

Robin Hood- could have been a dopey action movie but it wasn’t even that. Everything from the costumes to the action to the script to the terrible acting was so misguided. I don’t know what they were thinking?

White Fang- some nice animation is hurt by a long, brutal exploitative dog fight sequence I could not forgive. The child next to me was in tears. It was way too much. No thank you

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Gravitas that Failed

My next category is films that were presented with gravitas as great and innovative that failed to entertain or please me in any way. Unpopular opinion time!

Annihilation- some claim this scifi/horror film is a masterpiece but I thought it was a slog that couldn’t decide what it was trying to say so it just keeps piling on metaphor after metaphor to the point of exhaustion. None of the character motivation was well done and aside from pretty visuals it didn’t work

Fireworks- this anime is obviously trying to rip off Your Name (one of my favorite movies) and it failed. It is all over the place storywise and the characters make strange choices. The romance feels off. The animation is pretty and then terrible at spots. Just bad.

Bohemian Rhapsody- Freddie Mercury should be an interesting character but in this film he is so bland and generic rebel rocker it irritated me. Plus the script was so bad having his wife explain his sexuality to him and have him reunite with a boyfriend, make up with his family, and play Live Aid all in the afternoon. Give me a break

Gotti- John Travolta decided to play mob boss Jon Gotti as a ill treated persecuted civil servant in this ridiculous movie. The non-linear storytelling doesn’t work. The script, makeup, cinematography and everything else is terrible. Not even so bad it’s good.

Winchester- a haunted house movie with potential but instead it was just very boring

Life Itself- the movie that put me to sleep so hard I actually started snoring. It was a snooze but it was also surprisingly cynical and not hopeful abotu life at all. Everyone either gives up or kills themselves. What a heartwarming message…

MTKZ- some people think total chaos is creative. I don’t. This movie was completely random from the first image. Everything from the characters to the story to the visual choices felt like an assault on the viewer and was exhausting.

Sorry to Bother You- I was with this movie for the first 30 minutes and then it went completely off the rails once they get to this party. The movie felt like it was trying to be 12 different movies and especially once it went equine it completely lost me

Journey’s End- a war movie where the soldiers talk about rations a lot. I never need to hear about rations again. It was so boring.

The Party- a comedy with no jokes. Like seriously I didn’t see why any of these pedantic twerps talking at this party was funny. I just didn’t get it.

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More Animation I Hated-

I mentioned some animated films I disliked already but these 3 were not great:

Duck Duck Goose- the worst movie I saw in 2018. It is garish and unpleasant in every way. The jokes with the Chinese people and the cat were bizarre and I just wanted the whole experience to be over as soon as I started watching it

Lu Over the Wall- a movie that is so spastic and insane that it made me nauseous. This director made another bonkers movie this year The Night is Short Walk On Girl that really worked for me but this one was too much. Plus, the story that it had felt like a ripoff of Ponyo so I didn’t even have that.

Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies- a weird fantasy animation made to teach lessons to evangelicals but if you aren’t in that group it will not engage you either with the songs, story or morality.

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Two Bad Comedies

Finally I will end with 2 comedies that didn’t make me laugh:

Night School- Tiffany Haddish is not on my good side after both of these films but especially Night School where she shrieked her way through her performance.

Uncle Drew- I know other people found this funny but I didn’t laugh one time. The lead character is unlikable and I wasn’t interested in the sports story. A real dud.

So there you have it! There are my worst films of the year

If you are dying to know what the actual bottom 10 is here goes:

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My Real Favorite Movies Part 2

After my last post about my ‘real’ favorite movies my brain has been flooded with more films I can place in this category. If you didn’t read the previous post these are films that aren’t widely circulated as classics or ‘great movies’ but that I love and rewatch over again with great pleasure. You could probably also call this the most rewatchable list.So here are a few more of my favorites that may not be Citizen Kane to most but I LOVE

Walk the Line-

Like Moonstruck, I feel like I frequently hear Walk the Line brought up as an undeserving Oscar winner.  Not in my book! I love this movie so much. I love that it focuses on a narrow window in June and Johnny’s life and relationship. I love how it handles the situation with his first wife. I love when he goes on the June Carter love walk. I love all the songs and the chemistry of Reese and Joaquin. The dialogue is so good and it is one of my favorite romances ever

The Perks of Being a Wallflower-

Perks of Being a Wallflower is the first new movie I’ve ever seen that felt nostalgic to my life. It’s set in 1995 I believe which was right when I started high school and everything took me back to those years even down to the colors on the lockers at the high school. I love how it gets little details right that high school movies never get right like how he breaks his hand after being in a fight or how the party is just kids drinking in a basement. Not these massive parties you so often see in high school movies. I love all the dialogue and the music and all the performers. Ezra Miller is amazing as Patrick. I could watch an entire movie about him. It’s Emma Watson’s best acting by a mile and Logan Lerman is so great. I love the message that ‘we accept the love we think we deserve’ and how we all deserve so much better. The twist at the end is dark but it totally worked for me. It’s a rare movie that improves upon the book in every way probably because it was adapted and directed by the author.

Juno-

I wasn’t even aware that it had become uncool to like Juno. I don’t care I love it! Ellen Page is so wonderful and full of heart as Juno and the emotional journey she goes on is powerful. She thinks she knows it all but she quickly learns she does not. I love JK Simmons and Allison Janney as her parents. I love Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner as the adoptive couple who you think you know but you don’t really. I love all the cute indie music but mostly I love Diablo Cody’s terrific script. I love how funny, sweet and emotional it is. Sure it has a certain affectation to it but I like it. It completely charms me every time I watch it, which is frequently.

Return to Me-

I feel like a lot of Mormon people know about Return to Me for some reason but it isn’t widely viewed as one of the great romantic comedies which it should be. Return to Me stars David Duchovny and Minnie Driver who come together when she gets his dead wife’s heart in a transplant but they don’t know they have this connection. It was written and directed by Bonnie Hunt and she did such a good job. Parts are devastating but then other scenes are hilarious. Driver and Duchovny have such great chemistry and all the supporting cast feel like a family. It even makes me yearn for an Italian/Irish restaurant. It’s also refreshing to have a modern romance where the couple is together and he doesn’t even realize she has a giant scar on her chest because they are chaste and yet still fall in love.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvloIUSHogs

Calamity Jane-

I am a massive Doris Day fan so naturally I love Calamity Jane but I feel like it is never talked about as one of the great musicals of the 1950s. I like it every bit as much as Annie Get Your Gun or Oklahoma! In the film Doris Day plays Calamity as a tomboy who can beat any of the men at shooting, drinking or any other activity. She goes to the big city to find a singer named Adelaid Addams but ends up getting a common girl named Katie by mistake. When all the men including Calamity’s crush fall for Katie, Calamity is threatened and the story goes from there. It is so sweet and Howard Keel is fantastic as Wild Bill Hickok. The songs are catchy and fun (well sung by Doris Day).  It’s a great movie!

So there are 5 more movies that I really love! What do you think of these 5 movies and what are some of your favorites? Share in the comments below. Thanks!

My Real Favorite Movies Part 1

Today I finished watching 2 of my favorite movies. Was it Casablanca? Was it Ben-Hur (both movies I adore). No, it was The Cutting Edge and Julie and Julia. Neither are movies you would see on top 10 lists of great films or praised for their great artistry but I love them. And it got me thinking. I think most of us have a secret favorite movies list. You know what I mean? That list of movies you actually like best but you know aren’t ‘great movies’. It’s kind of like the woman who secretly loves dime romance novels but tells all her friends her favorite book is Anna Karenina or War and Peace. It’s not that she dislikes the classics but they don’t give her quite the pleasure of her true favorites.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share with you 5 of my secret favorites and then I will continue to do more every once in a while. I’d love to hear what yours are (most of these won’t be a big shock because I talk about what I love with my friends. So not that much of a secret LOL)

You could also easily call this list- My Rewatch List. These are movies I could rewatch over and over again and never tire of (Wonder Woman would make this list but it’s pretty well loved)

You’ve Got Mail-

I had somebody once on this very blog tell me that my opinion on movies was obviously invalid because I went to BYU and loved You’ve Got Mail. I’m not sure how the math on that works out but there you go. I absoloutely adore You’ve Got Mail. It is one of the best, if not the best, remake ever made of the delightful Shop Around the Corner. It is chock full of Nora Ephron’s perfect writing. I love her commentary on everything from childrens books to leather jackets to Starbucks. I love that it is secretly a movie about work and how we get our sole value from our paid employment so frequently. I love Meg and Tom in it. I love the supporting cast. I love West Side of New York and all the stops at Riverside Park and the Gray’s Papaya. I love how it loves movies like the Godfather. I love the scene when Tom Hanks gets Rose to run the credit card through the machine and how upset Henry is. I love that Birdie had an affair with General Franco. I love that Frank wants to write a book about the Luddite movement and that he thinks it is relevant. I love that Kathleen loves Joni Mitchell and thinks of her mother when she hears River. You get the idea…I just love it and that’s that.

Home Alone-

A lot of people love Home Alone around the holidays but I love Home Alone year round. I first saw Home Alone when I was 9 years old and visiting my Grandparents for a special trip all by myself. Being independent was very important to me as a child (still is in many ways) and I completely connected with Kevin McCallister’s story and found it to be the funniest movie I’d ever seen. I remember just rolling out of my chair I was laughing so hard and not necessarily at the parts you might think. The booby traps are very funny for kids but I also thought the scene where he accidentally steals the toothbrush was funny or when he tricks the pizza delivery guy with the Angels with Filthy Souls fake mafia movie tape. “I’m going to give you till the count of 10 to get your ugly yellow no good kiester off my property…” That was hilarious to the kid me and I still think it is funny. But Home Alone wasn’t just laughs but it was also empowering to the young me. Kevin figures out how to shop for groceries, cook dinner, do laundry and save the house from burglars while he is at it. It’s the best.

Clueless-

Clueless came out the summer before my freshman year of high school and I vividly remember the experience. I watched it and not only thought it was hilarious but I felt like my world made a little bit more sense than it had before.  When Cher is talking about the boys and their baggy pants with a backwards cap ‘and we’re supposed to swoon’ I completely understood what she meant. I saw it every day! When she talked about frustrations at school or trying to fit in with friends it made sense to me. Even her getting on the freeway for the first time clicked. I was always terrified of driving and later once I had my permit my Dad took me on the freeway and he had to remind me to hold on to the steering wheel just like Murray had done with Dionne. I still love everything about Clueless. I love Paul Rudd in it. I love that it is based on Emma. I love all the hilarious lines. I love the interactions between Cher and her Dad. I love her speech about the Haitians. I love the soundtrack with all my favorite 90s songs. I just love it.

Dirty Dancing-

In fairness a lot of people love Dirty Dancing but I still feel it isn’t respected as a ‘great film’ like it should be. I like it much better than any of the Molly Ringwald coming of age comedies from the 80s. My love of Dirty Dancing is perhaps more amazing because it features a character having an abortion- a practice I abhor but the movie isn’t about that. It’s about a young girl coming to terms with the world and her own womanhood. Other people make all kinds of choices in life and part of growing up is to learn to love them regardless. This is what Baby learns. She loves Johnny and he loves her and they dance together and it changes her life. The best!

Moonstruck-

I love Moonstruck. I feel like I frequently see it come up on lists of ‘undeserved Oscar wins’ and I heartily disagree. I love Cher in this and her chemistry with Nicholas Cage is off the charts. I love how wounded he is and how they fight and the way the tension builds. I love the dialogue and when Cher says you’re “a wolf without a foot!” I love the scenes at the opera and how La Boheme makes her cry. I love the scenes with Olympia Dukakis and John Mahoney and I love when she tells Cosmo “Your life is not built on nothing.” It’s such a perfect response to a movie I love!

So there you have it! Those are 5 of my secret favorite movies. What do you think? What are some movies you love that aren’t usually listed in top 10 best movie lists? I’d love to hear.

There shall be more on this topic to come so be ready!

Best and Worst Movies of 2017

Happy New Year!  I was going to wait until I saw The Post to do my best of the year movie list but I had time tonight and decided I will post my current list here on the blog and then do my list on my youtube channel later in the month. I have already done my worst of the year list over on my channel so I will include that below.

I saw an amazing 141 releases in 2017. The Moviepass has a lot to do with this as I could see a movie every single day for a very small cost per month. I highly recommend checking it out. (I get nothing for this. Just a shout out because it has been so great in my life).

As great as all these movies were the thing I am most grateful for is the people they have brought into my life. Whether it is all you lovely readers, or people I have collaborated with on my podcast, or dear friends I have made going to see films it has been amazing. I sincerely feel like I have a network of friends both in Utah and across the world and it is all because of a shared love of film. That is pretty special and I am so grateful.

Cheers to 2018 and thank you for being a part of my life and reading my nonsense.

So here goes my best of 2017:

1. Coco- I loved everything about this film. The animation was stunning. The story swept me up and I emotionally connected with Miguel and Hector. The ending destroyed me but in the best kind of way. I loved the songs and being introduced to a new culture. It was stunning.  By the way, I promise I will post an in-depth analysis of Coco like I have done with all Pixar films. I have not had the time to see it a second time and do it in the way it deserves. Here is my youtube review2. STEP– I saw STEP in January at Sundance on my birthday and it blew me away then and it continues to do so now. It’s the very best of what movies can do.  Not just a documentary but a profile of hope for the future. It’s about these girls of Baltimore and the leaders who won’t give up on them. It’s not about dance. It’s about the goodness of real people, and I just love it.

3. Wonder Woman- Every time I see this movie it makes me weep. Not just cry. Full on weeping. I will be the first to admit it has flaws but none that matter. To me it is the story of a God who becomes acquainted with the frailty of mankind and how quickly we are to be cruel to each other. That realization is devastating and yet Diana does not lose hope. I love Steve Trevor and Diana. I love the side characters. I love the music. No Man’s Land is amazing. It’s my favorite superhero movie with the exception of maybe The Incredibles and it is very dear to me.

4. Personal Shopper- I admit Personal Shopper is an odd pick for me because it does have strong nudity but in a clinical more than a sensual nature. However, it blew me away with its character development and storytelling. It is part thriller, part mystery, part spiritual journey, and a million other things. Director Olivier Assayas has created a masterwork with perfect sound design, editing and a story that keeps you guessing. Kristen Stewart is heart breaking in the role of Maureen and you felt her grieving for her twin brother as the world spins around her in a way she can’t grasp on to. It’s by far the best acting I’ve seen all year and a movie I could watch 100 times and still see something new from.

5. A Silent Voice– I admit A Silent Voice is a tough sell for non-anime fans. It’s long and very steeped in Japanese mannerisms and conversation. But this is my list, and I loved it. Director Naoko Yamada has made a stunning film about a bully and his victim that connect years later and find an unexpected bond. The music is by far the best of the year. The animation is beautiful and the humanity she finds in both characters is so moving. There is one sequence in particular where Shouya rescues Nishimiya that takes my breath away.

My friend Christine and I did a podcast on this film that you should check out.

6. The Big Sick– The script for The Big Sick is without a doubt the best of the year. You can feel the closeness to the story that Kumail and Emily had in writing it. It’s heartfelt without being cloying. It’s funny without being annoying, and it’s a romantic comedy that isn’t crass or mean-spirited. Imagine that! Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are two of the best supporting performances of the year in roles that could easily be shrill and unlikable. I loved what the film had to say about religion and those who decide to stray. It honestly helped me understand people I love better and that is when movies have power.

7. The Girl Without Hands- Isn’t it amazing we still live in a world where one man can produce an animated film basically by himself? Sebastian Laudenbach did just that with The Girl Without Hands, and he created something stunning. It’s a piece of poetry at the cinemas with the words, images and music flowing along until you can’t help but be swept up.  His take on this Brothers Grimm fairytale is dark, romantic, and yet still hopeful. It was a stunning experience at the movies.

8. Ingrid Goes West- I love movies that have layers- that I see and its meaning and value keep growing as I think about them. Ingrid Goes West is such a film. On one level it is a satisfying film about social media addiction but that’s just the surface. When you dig deeper it’s about the loneliness of modern life and how poorly we are at providing resources for those facing a mental health crisis. All the acting is superb and the script feels authentic to its characters.

9. Get Out- Another movie with layers that I kept thinking about for days after I saw it. I initially gave it a B+ but would be higher now as it has really stuck with me. It can be enjoyed on a surface level as a horror comedy but it is also a commentary on those who think we are a post-racist society. As a conservative I thoroughly enjoyed smug liberals being finally put to the fire and called out on their nonsense. I also thought the alternate reality that African-Americans are forced to live in was beautifully displayed. The auction scene alone I could think about for weeks!

10. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion- For a long time I had Baahubali 2 as 12th on my list, but as I was finalizing the order it didn’t sit right. What other movie introduced me to a whole new world of cinema? (The debate was between this and Brigsby Bear which I connected strongly with). None opened my mind more than the madness of Baahubali 2! Sure it is exorbitantly long and silly but that’s part of the charm. It’s is over the top and bombastic in ways that US corporate planned blockbusters never are these days, and I loved every minute of it. I love the music, insane violence, and torrid romance. It’s a spectacle like none other.

Honorable Mentions:

11. Brigsby Bear- such heart and a lovely story it pains me to not be in the top 10. All about the magic of the creative process to save us

12. Dunkirk- probably the best experience I’ve had at the theater in 2017. A chance to get immersed in a moment of history. More of a reenactment than a narrative, and I was ok with that.

13. The Man Who Invented Christmas- destined to have a spot in my annual holiday viewing. It checked off so many of my boxes I had to mention it. A joy to watch!

14. The Breadwinner- beautiful animated film that combined a relevant story with stunning fantasy sequences. Heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Over at Rotoscopers.com I led a group of writers to do a 5 part series on this film from all different angles I’m very proud of. My friend Conrado and I did a podcast on it that was a lot of fun.

15. Thor Ragnarok- This is probably the most rewatchable of any on this list. It was a blast and so funny!

16. The Greatest Showman- an old fashioned family musical that I love the more I think about it. I do not care in the slightest that it isn’t historically accurate. It’s a joyful experience that I have seen twice and am itching to see again.

My worst of the year you can find here:

  1. The Glass Castle
  2. Spark a Space Tail
  3. The Emoji Movie
  4. Pottersville
  5. The Dark Tower
  6. Pitch Perfect 3
  7. Transformers: The Last Knight
  8. The Book of Henry
  9. The Circle
  10. Beatriz at Dinner
  11. Gifted
  12. Lady Macbeth
  13. King Arthur and the Legend of the Sword

(Not all are badly made but all irritated me or were terrible to me in one way or another)

Most Disappointing Films of 2017

Hey guys! So before a whole bunch of busy holiday releases I thought I would share with all of you my first 2017 end of the year list. I plan on doing a bunch of videos/posts to end of the year, so let me know what topics you would like to see. Today’s topic is My Top 10 Biggest Disappointments in 2017.

My Most Biggest Disappointments of 2017 (have to watch to find out why!)

Honorable Mentions- The Beguiled, The Mummy, The Zookeeper’s Wife

10. Dark Tower

9. Victoria and Abdul

8. Murder on the Orient Express

7. Home Again

6. Lego Ninjago

5. Kong Skull Island

4. Loving Vincent

3. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

2. Sherlock

  1. Anne with an E

 

Romantic Movies I Like That Most Hate

As a serious devotee of cinema one of the things I get a bit of clack for is my love for romantic movies- particularly romcoms. I am an unabashed fan. I even recently started a new podcast with my friend Amber where we review the Hallmark Movies which are pretty much all romances (we are having an absolute blast by the way). It’s a new channel so if you are interested we could use new subscribers! Anyway in honor of the podcast I thought I would share with you some romantic films that I enjoy, which are often hated on (hate may be too strong of a word but you get the idea).

In no particular order

Last Holiday

Everyone knows I especially love a good romantic Christmas movie and Last Holiday definitely fits the bill. Queen Latifah is warm and lovely as a woman named Georgia who finds out she has a month to live, so she decides to start living her dreams. This includes staying at a fancy hotel in Europe, eating good food instead of Lean Cuisine and buying the prettiest party dress.

LL Cool J plays her co-worker who is impressed with both versions of Georgia and they have terrific chemistry.

Romeo + Juliet

I honestly might like this film even better than Moulin Rouge. I enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s creative take on Shakespeare. He obviously gives it is his own flair but the core story remains in tact. The production design is great and the Shakespeare manages to feel natural.

Most importantly Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio have fantastic chemsitry and the supporting cast including Brian Dennehy and John Leguizamo are great.

No Strings Attached

In 2011 two films came out that dealt with casual relationships. I prefer No Strings Attached. This is directed by Ivan Reitman and it has his charm and engaging scripts. I find myself laughing out loud throughout the film. My favorite parts are when Adam is trying to impress Emma and he makes her a period cd full of songs like Bleeding Love. That always makes me laugh.

It’s no secret that Ashton Kutcher is not the greatest actor but I honestly think he is fine in this and Natalie Portman has never looked sexier in a film. This is a fairly strong R rating but I like it. Mindy Kaling is fun as her roommate.

A Walk in the Clouds

Like Ashton Kutcher, Keanu Reeves is also not the greatest actor in the world especially when he is trying to be sincere; However, there is so much else going for A Walk in the Clouds that I can deal with his performance. Directed by Alfonso Arau this movie looks gorgeous with vineyard cinematography and intimate camera work. I love all the other performances including Aitana Sanchez-Gijonb and Giancarlo Giannini as Reeves’ pretend wife and her strict father.

Win a Date with Tad Hamilton

Is this movie loaded with contrivances? Sure but at its heart are 3 good people who I want to see happy. I will put up with so many contrivances if a romance can give me that. Plus, I love Topher Grace. He is perfect in this role and Kate Bosworth and Josh Duhamel are great too. Charming, charming, charming!

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken

I admit there may be a bit of nostalgia in this pick. This is a very sugary romance from 90s about a blind girl who becomes a horse diver despite the odds. It’s cheesy but I love Gabrielle Anwar and Michael Schoeffling. She is stunning and they have great chemistry. It’s a breezy 88 minutes and I love it!

Some Kind of Wonderful

I admit this one is a bit of a cheat as a lot of people like this movie but I feel like it is constantly overshadowed by Breakfast Club and 16 Candles and I like this better than both those films. It is fairly predictable story but underneath that plot are 3 very well written and acted characters. I particularly like Lea Thompson’s Amanda who should be the cliched judgy popular girl but she’s not. She has a personality and makes interesting choices. The chemistry between Watts and Keith is so strong. I love it!

The Rewrite

The Rewrite was one of my favorite movies from 2014 and everyone I have shown it to has also liked it. It’s the kind of movie we never get any more but it’s really well executed. Hugh Grant is in top form as a screenwriter who is demoted to a teaching position in a small town. It has something to say about love, work, writing, movies, stories and more. The cast is tremendous with Allison Janney, JK Simmons, Marisa Tomei and more. It’s funny, thoughtful and sweet.

The Longest Ride-

This is probably my toughest sale of this post but I will try. Most Nicholas Sparks movies are awful because they are so emotionally manipulative usually killing off a major character just to make you cry. In The Longest Ride they don’t do that! They get close but then don’t do that. I liked Britt Robertson and Scott Eastman in this. They have great chemistry. I liked seeing them work out their differing career ambitions and I also liked the older couple played by Alan Alda, Jack Huston, and Oona Chaplin. I get why many don’t like it but I enjoyed it.

Serendipity-

Some romances soar on the chemistry of its stars. Such is the case with Serendipity. Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack  are so great together and I like them both so much that I enjoy going on this silly ride with them. The whole cast is actually solid with Molly Shannon, Jeremy Piven, John Corbett, Eugene Levy and more. New York never looked better and it’s easy for me to get swept away in the romance.

Just Wright-

Another underseen romance from Queen Latifah on this list. She is beautiful in this film and is a nice contrast to the stunning but vapid Paula Patton (yet still likable in a kind of unlikable role). Latifah and Common have great chemistry and it’s another romance where we like both of them and want to see them happy.

The things that separate them are somewhat contrived but I was invested enough to not care.

Beautician and the Beast-

I suppose this film is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I know it is super contrived but I still enjoy it. Timothy Dalton is hilarious as the uptight dictator and I’ve always loved Fran Drescher. In fact, The Nanny is one of my favorite shows ever and this  is basically a movie version of The Nanny. They have decent chemistry and it makes me laugh. Beauty and the Beast combined with Fran- what more could you ask for? LOL

So there you have it- my list of romantic films which aren’t appreciated enough. What about you? What are some romances you like that most people don’t? I’d love to hear your list.  Thanks!