I saw 114 different films in theatres in 2014, and that means that I had a lot to pick from. I did a lot of soul searching and I can safely say these are my top ten and bottom five films of the year, feel free to let me know your thoughts

First let’s start with my Top Ten

10. The Homesman
Seen 11/30/2014 with Dayle Decker

I had a very difficult time deciding on my top ten films this year. 2014 had no shortage of great films and as you can see I saw a healthy amount of them. While my top three films were very easy to identify, after that point I found I had to deeply examine each film I saw to see if it was worthy of being put up on the list. This rigorous process is how “The Homesman” just squeaked in at number ten. The acting in the film was phenomenal, as was the story, the editing, the sound, without question “The Homesman” is a well made movie. Unfortunately, it’s just not very interesting, it moves at a very deliberate pace, and large portions of it are dedicated to watching the protagonists slowly and silently cross the untamed wilderness of the old west. Despite all of this I still found myself enjoying everything that happened up on the screen, though it wasn’t until after the film had ended that I realized the profound effect it had on me. Sitting in my chair watching the credits roll, I heard the group of people behind me start to complain about what had happened in the film, how it was boring, and that Hilary Swank’s action near the end of the film didn’t hue in line with her character for the rest of the film. In that moment hearing these cretins miss the entire point of the film I began to weep uncontrollably. I just couldn’t help myself, I felt like the entire story had been for nothing and in that moment I was overcome with emotion on behalf of her character. The fact that the film had such an emotional effect on me is why I call “The Homesman” the tenth best film of the year in my opinion.

9. Top Five
Seen 12/27/2014 with Dayle Decker

I feel like I always end up with a film on my list from the last few days of the year, forcing me to pause and consider if it only made it onto my list because it is fresh in my mind. With “Top Five” though, the truth was easy to find, especially when you consider that since seeing it last Saturday, I have gone onto see four more films. “Top Five” makes it onto the list because as I was watching it, I knew that it would be one of those movies that I would always be suckered into watching if I stumble across it whilst flipping through the channels. It probably helps that it was a very well written film championing one of my favorite methods of storytelling, two people just walking around and talking. “Top Five” was so enjoyable to me that I know it will be something I will be watching with my parents as soon as the possibility arises and thus I have put an embargo on quoting the film so as not to ruin anything for them when that day comes.

8. Labor Day
Seen 2/15/2014

I tend to avoid other top ten lists before constructing my own, but since I raved about this film when it was named one of the worst films of 2014 by a few publications people felt it was necessary to bring that to my attention. Still I want to stick by my first instinct that this was the first film I saw this year that I knew would be a contender for my top ten. While the story may have been a bit cliché, the raw emotion that I felt for the characters on the screen still stays with me and even now as I write about the film again ten months later I am reminded of pain which I felt for Kate Winslet when she admitted to Josh Brolin why her husband had left her. This is a film I want to share with so many people and I hope that the negative buzz it received doesn’t turn people off to viewing it. In the interest of full disclosure this is the first movie I saw in the theatre completely alone, and that life changing experience of having the room completely to myself may have had an effect for this film being as enjoyable to me as it was.

7. The Drop
Seen 9/29/2014

Speaking of films in which I was the only audience member, my seventh best film this year also has the honor of falling into that category. I was initially wary of seeing this film, the final swan song of the deceased James Gandolfini, because of how much of a disappointment I found last year’s film “Enough Said.” While this was a much better film in general, and another great performance by Gandolfini, the true shining star for me was Tom Hardy. Before seeing “The Drop” I really only knew Mr. Hardy from his time behind a mask as Bane, but watching him in this film gave me a deep respect for the man as an actor. In addition to fantastic performances by the entire cast and a truly compelling story, one of the strongest aspects of “The Drop” was the setting. You just felt the weight that this world put upon the actors in every single shot. The amount of immersion present in this film helped to enhance the entire experience and when they finally reveal the truth that has been just outside your reach all film it hits you as an audience member just as hard as it hits the characters in the film.

6. Begin Again
Seen 7/23/2014 with Dayle Decker and Dorothy Decker

I saw a lot of movies that featured Kiera Knightley this year. In addition to this, “The Imitation Game,” and “Laggies,” I also for the first time experienced the magic that is “Bend It Like Beckham.” This exposure to Kiera’s work made me realize just what a phenomenal actor she is. I never really thought of her as anything more than Elizabeth Swann from Pirates and that girl who that guy is in love with in “Love Actually.” I originally wanted to see “Begin Again” just for Mark Ruffalo, but it was his performance coupled with the work of Ms. Knightley that elevated this film to have a spot on my top ten. Additional kudos must be given for Mark and Kiera not winding up romantically entangled, I’m a huge fan of a love story not being a requirement for an enjoyable film.

5. Hercules
Seen 7/24/2014 with Kevin Thibault and Sejohn Serowik

It wasn’t until just now that I realized I saw my number five and number six films of the year back to back. Perhaps there was something going extremely well that week and it made those movies that much more memorable and enjoyable, but in truth it’s probably just a huge coincidence that things shook out that way. “Hercules” is one of two films made this year that tried to tell us a brand new story featuring the Greek alternative to Jesus, while the first was mired in mythology, this second film decided to ground itself in realism. This new take on “Hercules” is probably why I rank the film highly on my list of the best films of 2014. From the very beginning we as an audience learn that Hercules isn’t just a man, but a legend propagated by a group of several heroes with the titular character acting as the figurehead. The way that the film found a way to ground all of the fantastical stories of Hercules in truth was one of the coolest parts of the feature. The second best bit is that the film basically features as a remake of “The Avenger’s” set in ancient Greece

4. Chef
Seen 5/25/2014 with Dayle Decker and Dorothy Decker

When I walked out of the theatre after seeing “Chef” I told my mother and sister that it was the best film I seen so far this year, and for a long time I thought it was a shoo-in for number one film of 2014. The reason is that the film just made you feel good, the story was uplifting, the cast was obviously having a good time, the script was super contemporary, and somehow the film was able to seamlessly weave social media into the narrative. In addition to all of that the food presented looked amazing, and reminded me just how good a “food movie” can be. It was also really nice to see John Favreau work on a small scale again, sure “Iron Man” was an amazing film, but Favreau really knows how to deal with the relationships between people in his films and “Chef” showcased that in spades.

3. Life of Crime
Seen 8/30/2014 with Dayle Decker

I loved “Life of Crime” absolutely loved it. I loved it so much that when I saw it at Wal-Mart I bought two copies without even thinking about it, and then almost went back and bought a third copy on Blu-Ray a few days later. Then two days after buying two copies of the film I ended up attending a taping of “Doug Loves Movies” and to my surprise the director, Dan Schechter, was one of the guests. My love of “Life of Crime” is so great that I tracked down a copy of the book it’s based on, Elmore Leonard’s “The Switch” and read it in a day. Seriously though, “Life of Crime” is very well shot and acted film. It also in my mind is one of the most faithful book adaptations I’ve ever seen. Every single word in the original text finds its way to the screen, while still allowing for the director the leeway to make the film his own. I was fortunate to get to see this film when I came across it playing at a small independent theatre while on my way back from visiting friends in Maine. Chances are you didn’t get a chance to see it when it was in theatres, but do yourself a favor and find a copy of this great film and simply enjoy it.

2. Whiplash
Seen 11/16/2014 with Dayle Decker

“Whiplash” almost didn’t make it onto my top ten, so the fact that it eventually wound up in the runner up spot seems almost surreal to me. The fact is that from the very first time I saw the trailer for the film, I knew that I would do whatever was necessary to see the film on the big screen. Discounting that fact that I am a huge fan of Miles Teller, and the fact that J.K. Simmons flat out impressed the hell out of me in two minutes, it was when you heard that line “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘Good Job,’” I knew I was going to see the film. The truth is that I always liked the teachers who were hard asses, the ones that wouldn’t settle. When I walked into my history class sophomore year in college and the first words out of the professor’s mouths were “You are going to hate me,” I immediately knew that I was going to do anything but. That teacher pushed me for one of the first times in my college career, which later made me take for fun a 300 level course on the American Revolution for FUN, and has had a lasting effect on the person I am in the world. Granted Professor Cohen was nowhere near as tough as J.K. Simmons was in this film, but my own desire to have someone in my life who actually pushes me, instead of just blowing smoke up my ass, really made the film hit close to home for me, and completely understand why Miles Teller would allow himself to be treated like that. In addition to all of those reasons why the film resonated with me, the soundtrack for this film was amazing, though if you aren’t a fan of Jazz Drumming, “Whiplash” probably isn’t going to be for you.

1. John Wick
Seen 10/25/2014 with Dayle Decker, Seen 10/27/2014, and Seen 12/23/2014 with Sejohn Serowik

“John Wick” is a perfect movie. I don’t usually say that about a film, I’m hyper critical and even if I love a movie there is usually something small that I can cite as a problem, that I can overlook. “John Wick” has none of that, and trust me I’ve tried to find something, that’s why I’ve seen it three times at the cinema this year. Fortunately, I have been thwarted in all attempts to find a flaw. The plot is so tightly woven, that there isn’t a single moment on the screen wasted, no plot threads are left dangling, the world is constructed quickly, efficiently, and with enough respect for the audience that you completely commit to the proceedings. When a friend who also saw the film told me it had a flimsy plot, I proceeded to explain that while it may be viewable as a flimsy premise the plot is a piece of true beauty. I don’t want to say anything about the film, because it truly is a film that needs to be seen without knowing anything about it beforehand. Just trust me that you want to see “John Wick” and go out and see it.

And now for my Bottom Five

5. Neighbors
Seen 4/23/2014 with Dayle Decker and Dorothy Decker

“Neighbors” was a terrible film, for a comedy it only got one laugh from me, and that was during the (SPOILERS) Robert De Niro theme party (END SPOILERS). The best part of seeing “Neighbors” though was that it was a test screening and as I was leaving one of the moderators asked me for my opinion, I politely told her that she wouldn’t want it, then when she pressed me for it, I proceeded to deconstruct the film for eleven minutes. Afterwards, my Mother approached the woman and said in that matter of fact tone she has “He told you, you didn’t want his opinion.” Seriously, “Neighbors” is an unfunny boorish comedy, if you have to see a Seth Rogen movie from 2014 then seek out “The Interview,” now that was a good comedy.

4. Gone Girl
Seen 10/6/2014 with Dayle Decker and Dorothy Decker

I’ve had a lot of conversations with strangers while waiting for shows to start in the tail end of the year, and it seems like the only movie anybody has seen since “Guardians of the Galaxy” is “Gone Girl.” Which pisses me off , because there were so many good films that came out in the tail end of 2014, yet people seemed to think they stopped at Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her novel. That is not why I hate “Gone Girl” though, the reason why I hate “Gone Girl” is because it is supposed to be a mystery, and I’m supposed to be dealing with an internal struggle of whether I should side with Nick or Amy. Fact of the matter is there was not a single moment during the film when I doubted Nick’s innocence, which means that the whole fun of the mystery was lost on me. The problem doesn’t stop there though, “Gone Girl” is also about 45 minutes longer than it needs to be. Seriously I did not like “Gone Girl.”

3. Jersey Boys
Seen 6/29/2014 with Dayle Decker and Dorothy Decker

Boring, “Jersey Boys,” a lavish musical about a band that I absolutely love and would love to learn more about was boring. That’s about it, I can’t think of a single moment in the film when I was happy I was watching it. I kept hoping that something would happen and guess what it doesn’t. The biggest trespass committed against me during “Jersey Boys” is that arguably the entire film is Frankie Valle’s story, and we hear from the other members of the Four Seasons, but never from him. That was what kept me going, this idea that I am hearing Valle’s story from his band member’s where arguably he is just a supporting character. Then with five minutes left before the credits, Frankie, speaks directly to the audience. A beautiful narrative device is destroyed and the film is left as a two hour waste of time.

2. Dear White People
Seen 10/29/2014 with Dayle Decker

All of these people are giving Justin Simien praise for his film, must not have seen it, because “Dear White People” is a mess. When the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, how am I as an audience member possibly supposed to interpret it. The worst part of “Dear White People” is that there are some moments of real beauty present in the film, but they are so few and far between that they come across as dumb luck, instead of an actual representation of talent. The moment that really stuck with me was the film major’s teacher giving her crap for her article comparing the gremlins from “Gremlins” to the encroachment of black people into a predominantly white suburb. This is a belief that has been championed since the film came out in 1984, yet the film teacher seems to have never come across it before in his experiences, because he is very dismissive of the idea, when he should as a teacher be upset that his student is basically just plagiarizing a popular idea without adding anything new to it. A film is allowed to build a world, and probably should if you want it to be an enjoyable distraction, yet when the world being built just makes characters stupid for the sake of plot, that’s not doing anybody any favors. The praise Simien has received will probably mean he gets to make another film, and I hope that he is able to focus in on presenting a cohesive story instead of a mish-mashed collage of ideas and ideals.

1. The Skeleton Twins
Seen 9/27/2014 with Dayle Decker

This is another film that was just a straight up mess, the only reason why is ranks as my worst movie of the year over “Dear White People” is because it didn’t even have to courtesy to maintain a sense of continuity for the characters let alone the plot. I’m still asking myself three months after seeing “The Skeleton Twins” how old the characters are supposed to be. Based on some of the comments made in the script it would be believable that they were in their late twenties or early thirties, but both of the actors portraying them are in their forties. Now I fully believe that age doesn’t have to play a factor when casting, but if you are going to cast someone that much older than the script cites, either adjust the script to make it believable or make sure that the actors can be believable in the roles they have been cast as. Worst of all is that I didn’t believe them as siblings, and since that is kind of the crux of the film, it just ruins the entire experience. I know a lot of people liked it and it got high praise from critics, but they must have seen a different film than I did, because “The Skeleton Twins” I saw was a complete piece of garbage.

There you have it the films that I though were the best and absolute worst film of 2014 in my estimation. If you agree or disagree again please feel free to let me know, because the only thing better than watching movies is talking about movies

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This list was made three weeks ago after I watched the season finale of American Dad and came to the realization that it was going to be the last new episode to ever air on Fox. It seemed like a good time to go back through all the episodes of a show that I care deeply about and list my top ten favorites. I have spent the last three weeks trying to list them in order of preference, but it was just too difficult and I have decided to present them here in the order in which they first aired on Fox. I hope you enjoy my choices and if you have any ideas of your own about the best episodes or complaints about the ones I chose feel free to post them in the comments and I will gladly continue the discussion with you.

As a note, I could have easily listed on here any and all of the Christmas Episodes, but that would have been a cop out right? Still the fact that this show is able to consistently produce amazing Christmas Episodes is something to be honored. Maybe next time I’ll put them in order of best to worst, at least if not next time then at least as soon as Christmas time rolls around.

 

 

Bullocks to Stan

This was the episode that made me realize how truly special American Dad was as a show. While every episode before it had at least one moment that made me praise the latest offering from Seth Macfarlane, “Bullocks to Stan” was the first time everything that American Dad brought to the table was successfully on display and working towards a single goal. The best part of the episode is the Meta joke about Klaus doing DVD commentary for his day to day life coming back during the final fight in a way that obscures us hearing “the funniest joke of the episode.” Both giving a proper send up of DVD commentary tracks and cementing the claim that it is in fact the best joke of the episode.

Finances with Wolves

Every member of the Smith household has a storyline in Finances with Wolves. That’s six distinct plotlines in just twenty-two minutes of television. I can’t think of another television show that ever did something as ambition and it is made even better by the fact that it succeeds on all fronts. Even if it wasn’t so successful in its ambitions Finances with Wolves would be up for consideration just for the simple fact that this is the episode where Klaus escapes his fishy fate and winds up back in a human body. It also features one of my favorite uses of music. Klaus celebrates his new found humanity, as the front man of an Earth, Wind, and Fire cover band, to the song “September,” then the scene fades from the montage  to Stan singing the chorus of the song and wondering how it got stuck in his head.

Tears of a Clooney

Is it wrong to like an episode purely because it acknowledges the passage of time? I ask because that’s primarily why this episode has stuck with me as a great half hour of television. The fact that Stan’s efforts to help Francine break George Clooney’s heart take place over the course of a year is a fine example of great storytelling, especially when too often in the realm of animated sitcoms, events have a tendency to happen conveniently fast. Since the writers decided to treat operation: Tears of a Clooney like it was happening  within the confines of the real world, showing just how much time,  planning, and manpower would be required to pull off a mission of such scale, everything seems that much more plausible thus increasing  the enjoyment factor of the proceedings.

The B-story is also exceptional in the fact that it too contains a fully realized narrative when it could have easily been marginalized to provide more breathing room for Francine’s quest for vengeance, again deviating from the norm in terms of animated television. Not to mention the fact that Roger’s attempts at using orphans as slave labor in his backyard vineyard and Haley’s brush with a terminal disease are the places where the writers find room to inject jokes into an otherwise serious episode.

Everything comes to a beautiful conclusion when the episode delivers its message about not dwelling on past missed chances and instead being thankful for that which you have. It’s also nice how the events are bookended by Francine’s birthday.

Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie’s Gold

It would be easy to say that this episode is on the list purely because of how good the Schoolhouse Rock parody is. While that is definitely the high point of the episode for me, the fact that it is surrounded by so much greatness, is the reason why when I want to hear about the great man that is Oliver North. I watch the entire episode instead of just going on YouTube. The episode is chock full of dark, funny, and smart jokes.  Beginning with little Matty on the scene of a horrific traffic accident, moving through the great visual joke of the EMT describing his date to a co-worker before asking about his Dad’s funeral, then there all the tropes about documentary filmmaking, “here’s looking at you gold,” a chilling look at a future without Stan, an invitation to breakfast with a geologist, and a fireman with a plan to get the gold for himself, once “these white folks go to bed.” “Stanny Slickers” is a fine example of American Dad correctly firing on all cylinders, with the added benefit of it being one of the few times Stan is overwhelmingly right in the face of his family’s doubts. 

The One That Got Away

Otherwise known as the one where Roger finally becomes accountable for the consequences of his actions. Maybe this episode means so much to me because I somehow missed watching it when it first aired and didn’t see it until my first rewatch of the series on Netflix back in 2011. Even if that is the case, this is one of those episodes that I keep coming back to when I need something to help me kill some time when I’m doing my laundry. The episode is such a departure from the norm of American Dad episodes, in that it primarily focuses on just one plot and that Roger is the main character rather than existing just to complicate things for another member of the family. The narrative is also handled amazingly well with the parallel telling of Roger’s involvement in ruining Sydney Huffman’s life in the first act and then the viewer getting to experience the same events from Sydney’s perspective in act two. 

Though only seen briefly the focus the rest of the episode is on the Smith family becoming addicted to “the four toned succubus” that is the game Simon and being saved by Klaus in a move that takes him somewhere unknown where he becomes King. 

Add into the mix John DiMaggio as a hit man who brings his kids to work, and uses passwords requiring letters and numbers. Plus one of sweetest and dumbest love interest characters ever to grace the small screen and you’re left you with one of the funniest and most touching episodes of American Dad.  

Don’t just take my word for it though here’s the last exchange between Roger (as Roger) and Judy 

Roger: You know, I don’t have any genitals?

Judy: That’s okay, I have both. 

See truly a moving story.

Escape from Pearl Bailey

Debbie! Yes, Steve’s on again off again, overweight, goth girlfriend of plot convenience is presented at her most developed in this episode. This is great considering how big a fan I am of Lizzie Caplan after her time on the failed CBS show, “The Class” and how well the episode treats a teenage relationship. The episode also presents a very good revenge story that feels inspired by Kill Bill and features Steve donning a Hopi Indian revenge mask as he subjects the tormentors of his girlfriend to Buffalo Diarrhea, Reverse Liposuction, and Herpes. Then it seamlessly  transitions into a parody of “The Warriors” where the  cracks created between Steve, Snot, Toshi, and Barry,  because of Steve’s relationship, are healed because the  friends are forced to work together, against the threat of mob violence. The homages just keep on coming with the ending being a direct retelling of the end of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” This episode is just so full of plot and here I was thinking it could be placed on the list for being the first and only time that Principal Brian Lewis’ daughter is acknowledged. 

An Incident at Owl Creek

Poop in the pool has been a staple of comedy ever since a baby Ruth was dropped into the country club swimming pool back in “Caddyshack.” The fact that this episode’s foundation is built upon such a heavily tapped well, and still is worthy enough to be in my top ten episodes of the show should be  indicative of how good a show American Dad is. The episode starts out with the well established “Stanism” of wanting to keep up appearances. Then it traffics in one of my favorite things about American Dad by bringing back Buckle, the mountain man from “An Apocalypse to Remember,” as a new neighbor throwing a pool party. Stan is so worried about his family embarrassing him that when he turns out to be the one that drops the ball, it’s a poetic scene. The way that Stan is then forced to run away from his problems because his pool dookie goes viral is made even funnier when we spend an extended sequence with a man who thought he recognized Stan at the Barber Shop. The man with a seemingly unhealthy relationship with his cat ultimately winds up dead, punctuated with the most chilling line from Stan in “You had to remember.”  From there Stan realizes he can’t run from his problems and decides that the only way to solve his conundrum is to force universally liked President Obama to also drop a deuce in a pool, thus making the act acceptable. The shift in plot to that of a heist movie  is handled remarkably well, and if you don’t shed a  tear when Klaus is shot by the secret service for  attempting to give Obama a diarrhetic pill then you  plain just don’t have a heart. The end reveal that the whole ordeal was an “extended dream sequence” is made perfectly acceptable when Stan listens to the advice of Dream Obama and still ends up pinching the fateful loaf, thus securing Barack Obama’s place on Stan’s list of people who’ve lied to him in his extended fantasy sequences. Overall, not a bad first showing for Barack on American Dad in the post Bush years.

100 A.D.

The ninety-seventh episode of the series is a great celebration of ONE HUNDRED episodes of American Dad. I’m sorry I had to mention that, but its part of what makes the episode that much more enjoyable. It somehow makes all of the satire about celebrating the 100th episode more gratifying and lends a deeper air of importance to the fact that they will be killing 100 characters over the course of the episode.  The actual story is the latest volume in the ever continuing Jeff/Haley romance and even though it could have coasted on the death counter or the celebration aspect of the episode they instead decided to tell a great story as well. It wasn’t until I rewatched all the episodes in 2011 that I realized just how big a part of the world of American Dad Jeff Fisher actually is, and the marriage between him and Haley just feels like the natural progression of that story. Of course Stan would disagree and when he offers up the money he intended to give Haley as reward money to anyone who can stop their pending nuptials the episode truly gets going, it enters into laugh out loud territory. Not only is the episode which features Jeff finally getting one over on Stan, but it feels like a reward for all the fans considering just how many one off characters they collected together from over the years to kill in the bus crash, that nets 97 of the deaths. One of those marked for Death is Bret, Stan’s satanic best friend from episode 45: “Dope and Faith.” Maybe it’s because my roommate and I had just watched the episode the night before on syndication (prompting me to believe the episode had somehow done it on purpose) but that moment was made even funnier when he explained who he was despite everyone in the room being acutely aware of his identity. Even if I hadn’t just watched it. I would have known who he was, so hopefully that was a feeling for most of the AD fan base and not just an isolated incident for me.

License to Till

Even though I’ve never seen it, I am almost eternally thankful for “She’s All that.” I know that the story of turning a person from rags to riches is as old as “Pygmalion,” but there are times when it feels like the Freddie Prince Jr. / Rachel Leigh Cook film indicated to creators that the age old story would  play for the modern audience. If all of that is true, then that is why we have this episode of American Dad.  Klaus betting Roger that he can’t make Steve popular is the origin of some of the funniest vignettes in the entire run of American Dad. Plus this episode not only introduces Reshma, who is one of the funniest one off characters the show has ever had “When these come in they’re all yours,” but also brings back another one off character, John Cho’s, Vince Chung, and gives him one of my personal favorite monologues when he tells Steve he thought they would be such great friends and that would result in Vince sharing his darkest secret with him. The moment is made even better by confirming the audience’s worst fears when it reveals that if we want to know his secret we just have to visit “www.VinceWasMolested.com.” The episode also features Stan misinterpreting Francine’s wish to be surprised, to mean scared and their escalating war to outdo one another starts simple with “Peabo Bryson on the Damn Stereo” and ends with the death of the midget assassin. Plus, you also have the most stereotypical representation of Judaism in Snot’s farmer Uncle Solomon, H. Jon Benjamin, as a talking cabbage, and the song “My Dick” by Mickey Avalon.

 

Lost in Space

As  I referenced in my explanation of “100 A.D,” had I not just finished  watching the entire series for a second time before  this episode aired I probably wouldn’t have been as excited about an episode that was all about Jeff as I  was. Luckily FOX decided to promote it as the 150th episode of American Dad, despite it being the 151st, so I’m sure that plenty of people ended up tuning in anyway. The best part about this episode is the fact that even if you had never watched an episode of American Dad before, you would probably find something about it entertaining. It’s just such a great episode in every possible way. Guest stars include Sean Hayes, Sinbad, Michael McKean, and Paget Brewster. The music is exceptional and includes the ever popular “The Majestic” in one of the best animated sequences the show has ever produced. The episode also features some great character development by giving an explanation for just how deeply Jeff actually loves Haley and also adds some more information about a young Roger.  However, what really elevates the episode for me is  not just how many original character designs they used  to represent the slaves onboard the spaceship, but  also how they worked hard to make sure that each  member of Roger’s species looked unique. It would have been easy for them to just present them all looking exactly like Roger, but the care put into making them all individuals was truly appreciated. Of course all of that wouldn’t mean much if the story wasn’t as great as it is. The creators of American Dad really outdid themselves with Lost in Space and the fact that they can still continue to improve on it is a huge reason why it is my favorite animated show on television.

Synopsis

We open on Dr. Connors giving a lecture to Eddie, Gwen, and Peter on the meaning of scientific exploration and how it is the duty of scientists to found the connection between all things in the world and then deeper explore these interactions. The backdrop of this lecture is a tank full of eels and stingrays that have been genetically modified to yield high amounts of bio-electricity. The tank itself is full of a viscous liquid which Eddie Brock affectionately calls “sludge” which maximizes the amount of energy produced. Unfortunately, the experiment is proving too efficient and produces more electricity than the lab can handle. For that reason ESU electrician Max Dillon has been brought in to update the power grid.

Before Dr. Connors can continue to lecture the students his wife Martha comes in with their son Billy and informs him that due to the lateness of the hour she needs to be getting him home. She also adds that he should consider letting their two interns go as well, since it is a school night. Curt agrees and sends the two home leaving himself, Eddie, and Max in the lab. As Peter leaves with Gwen an alarm goes off on his phone, and he informs Gwen that he has set the alarm to remind him he is running late and that he should call home.

Back in the lab, Max is having difficulty with the installation and sets his drill atop the power station. Unfortunately his jerking of the stuck part causes the drill to fall on the control panel and starts a power surge. Max goes to pick up the drill and is hit with a huge electric shock which arcs and throws him in the side of the tank of genetically modified sea life. The impact causes the tank to break and covers Max in the “sludge” as he passes out. He is rushed to the emergency room because of this accident.

The next morning Spider-Man slings through New York talking about how this situation might be too much for even his spider powers. Of course it is just a misdirect as he is talking about getting to school on time, which he fails to do. Sneaking into class he overhears Flash Thompson talking about Spider-Man and jumps to the conclusion he has been found out. In fact Flash is speaking of The Daily Bugle offering money for pictures of Spider-Man. Peter is upset that his idea has been stolen, but quickly gets over it when he sees he has gotten yet another A+ on a test. We also see that fellow student Liz Allan has gotten a D-.

Back at the hospital Eddie Brock waits to see the prognosis on Max. Curt comes out with a doctor and say that he will live but just barely. Rather than try to explain this statement they decide to show Eddie what has happened to his friend. It turns out the shock of electricity combined with the “sludge” caused Max’s body to generate Bio-Electricity. In fact it is producing such a high amount that he must be kept in an insulation suit or risk doing serious damage to those around him.

At the high school, Peter’s science teacher stops Liz Allan and explains that he would like Peter to tutor her so she doesn’t fail his class. Upset at the prospect of being forced to spent time with a nerd like “Petey” she suggest that Flash tutor her instead. The teacher is not amused by this prospect and dryly explains that the hope if for her grades to rise not continue to fall.

At the hospital, Max is coming to grips with the side effects of his newfound abilities, the primary being that the electromagnetic field his body produces means he can’t even watch TV. Eddie tries, unsuccessfully, to cut the tension with a joke, and Max says his plans are ruined and runs out of the hospital.

Meanwhile, at the Silver Spoon Café, Peter is attempted to teach Liz abou Biology, but all she wants to do it, all she wants to do is text. Enter Max Dillon trying to buy a cup of coffee and frightening the patrons with his appearance in his insulation suit. In spite of the stares and whispers he succeeds in buying a cup of coffee, but his conditions makes it impossible to drink. His anger getting the better of him, he causes the lights in the shop to explode with an electric surge, and flees the scene. Peter sees hi running and assumes he must be a thief and ditches Liz, telling her he has better things to do. This confidence seems to excite Miss Allan as Spidey kicks into action.

Despite Max just wanting to be left alone, Spider-Man engages him in battle and removes his helmet. This act causes Max to get angry and he defends himself again the wall crawler by using his powers. The fight continues until the Aunt May alarm goes off and Peter has to call and explain he’ll be late again. In the time it takes for Peter to make the call Max flees and Peter notes that Electro has gotten away.

The next day at school, Gwen approaches Peter and tells him about the accident with Max. This sends Peter into a guilt spiral about how he acted the night before. In an effort to alleviate said guilt Peter decides to apologize for his dismissal of Liz and offers her another chance at him helping her. He tells her if she’s interested she should meet him at the ESU science lab later that night.

While, Peter Parker is learning the subtle art of impressing a girl by not letting her walk all over you. Max is attempting to just go home. Waiting outside his house however are the same pair of police officers who helped save Norman Osborn from the Vulture and the doctor from the Emergency Room. The doctor calmly tries to get Max to come back to the hospital for treatment but when he declines the male officer gets mouthy and Max loses his temper again. He realizes that the only person who can help him is Dr. Curt Connors and flees the scene.

Peter, Gwen, and Eddie are working at the ESU lab, discussing possible ways to help Max. Peter suggests putting Max into a similar tank as the sea life to help syphon off the excess electricity. Dr. Connors dismisses this since Max isn’t biologically equipped to live underwater, and Eddie adds that introducing Max to water could have dire consequences. Before this lecture can continue Liz Allan shows up ready to be tutored.

Peter apologizes for Liz showing up, but Dr. Connors says that it is fine and Peter can tutor the girl because he has to do something in his office. This prompts Peter to give his version of the good doctor’s speech from the beginning of the episode. Meanwhile Curt is preparing to inject himself with more of his crazy lizard serum. Martha interrupts the act, and Curt begins to explain himself, however before he can get past genetically altered lizard solution, Max shows up at the lab.

Demanding a cure, Max threatens to hurt all present. Peter feels this will be the end of his secret identity, but luckily Eddie tries to stop Max to give Peter time to get the girls out of the lab. Once they are clear Peter goes into hero mode, and joins the fray. He begins by trying to apologize for his actions the night before but Max dismisses the gesture and christens himself Electro, after what Peter called him the night before. Peter does his best to draw Electro’s attention to allow Eddie and the Connors to get out of the lab. Once they are clear he decides to try and let Electro burn off the excess electricity.

The plan doesn’t go as expected and soon the fight has been brought out into the quad where rain is falling. Spider-Man dons a rubber glove he grabbed from the lab and uses t to land some hits on Electro. Soon the fight is brought to an on campus radio tower which Electro charges with electricity. To make matters worse the Aunt May alarm goes off and Peter has to explain why he is going to be late for a third night in a row. Aunt May is none to pleased and Peter hangs up the phone and declares he will be grounded, then quips that being grounded might not be the worst thing considering his current situation. At that time he makes note of the pool that is located a few buildings over, and remembering what Eddie said would happen if he introduced Max to water he sends him through the ceiling and causes him to burn off the excess electricity and knocks him out.

The next day, Peter is having a conversation with Liz about the night before. Peter thinks that a friendship may be blossoming here, before the jocks come back and he is brought back to Earth. He joins up with his own Ron and Hermione and laments that he thought he had actually gotten through to Liz.

As a coda we join the Connors cleaning up the lab after the attack. Curt picks up his injection device which had been struck by a stray bolt of electricity by Electro. He pockets the device as he and Martha leave the lab.

REVIEW

Now this is why I really love this show. The second episode is such a beautifully streamlines piece of television, that seamlessly moves from set piece to set piece telling two separate stories. The best part is when the two tales intersect and we see exactly why Peter Parker must keep his identity as Spider-Man a secret. I also really like that Electro has this thin connection to Spider-Man which adds an extra level to the proceedings.

The best part of this episode though is the fact that it paints Spider-Man as the bad guy. He just happens to see a man run from a coffee shop and assumes the worst. Then he is so obsessed with the fight that he completely fails to listen to his explanation.  Having Spider-Man act in the gray instead of making the proceedings black and white, makes everything seem that much more believable.

The other great bit is that we saw Curt Connors serum get hit with the electricity and now we are left wondering what such an event may hold for future episodes. I also like how subtly they allude to Gwen’s existing attraction to Peter, as well as Liz’s growing attraction to him. It’s there just enough to be noticed and adds that much more to the universe.

I have to admit that this is a great episode and I completely understand why it supplanted my memories of the first episode since they were aired together when the show premiered. I must say I was a bit unsure if I would want to actually continue with reviewing the series, but after watching this episode I am again reminded why I love this show so much.

s1e2Spider

SYNOPSIS

We open on Spider-Man telling us how he has spent his summer vacation as New York’s newest superhero, kicking butt and taking names, while web slinging through New York. His one regret is that school is starting tomorrow and he can’t seem to find any crime to thwart this evening. Luckily a couple of small time crooks are robbing a jewelry store and Spidey is right there and ready to stop them to stop them.  Unbeknownst to our hero, he is being watched by a shadowy figure who Hammerhead simple addresses as “The Big Man.” This video is enough to convince “The Big Man” to bring in the Enforcers to swat the bug,

The next morning Peter is getting ready for school and is in high hopes that this year will be different, riding high on the confidence of being Spider-Man. His elation is stopped though when he overhears Aunt May complaining to Anna Watson about their money troubles. Peter ever seeking the desire to please decided to not let his Aunt know that he was eavesdropping and instead pretends that he has just come down stairs. With a kiss and a lunch handoff he is out the door to school.

Before getting to see how his first day goes however, we are treated to a scene at Oscorp where Victor Toombs is blaming a short-bespectacled scientist for encouraging him to show Norman Osborne his magnetic flight system technology, which he then stole. Before Toombs can continue his abuse Osborne comes into the room and tells Toombs that he doesn’t care what Toombs does or says after a lifetime of failure no one will believe it was Osborne who stole the idea from him. The good news is that Victor no longer blames the initial scientist for his misfortune.

Back with Peter Parker, he is determined to not let the Parker monetary problems affect his outlook on the day. Soon he is greeted by his friends and fellow students Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy. Much to their surprise Peter is far more confident this year and before either of them can even begin to think of stopping him, Peter has set off to ask out cheerleader Sally Langston. Of course she loudly turns him down while simultaneously insulting him. Soon a cadre of jocks, including Flash Thompson and Liz Allen, has come out to humiliate Peter and steal his lunch. This humiliation is enough to remind our hero that while he may be Spider-Man at High School he is just king of the losers: Peter “Puny” Parker.

While Peter is going through something that supposedly effects 98% of all high school students we are greeted to Hammerhead introducing The Enforcers (Montana, Ox, and Fancy Dan) to “The Big Man” via Charlie’s Angels – esque voicebox. He explains that Spider-Man has been interfering with his operations all summer, and while they originally thought it was the thieves they employed wetting their beaks. They now had proof it was our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Their mission is stop his meddling once and for all.

Jump to Peter and Gwen in science class where, after a brief reminder that Peter was bitten by a genetically modified spider there last year, they have both been given internships at the ESU lab with Dr. Curt Connors. Both of them couldn’t be happier and since Peter doesn’t understand that 99.99% of all internships are unpaid he believes the Parker money problems are solved.

Since the internship doesn’t begin until an hour after school lets out. Peter opts to stay in the city, instead of going back to Forest Hills, and hang out at his best friend Harry’s. While there Norman Osborne overhears Peter speaking about the internship and asks him and Harry to join him on the veranda. Luckily, before Norman can really start in on his son with the verbal and mental abuse about him not even being considered for the position, Victor Toombs appears decked out in a bird themed costume, abducts Norman with his talons, and flies away calling himself The Vulture. Peter encourages Harry to call the police, and once the cost is clear Peter takes pursuit as Spider-Man. Peter is able to catch up and rescue Norman, but he loses the Vulture after dropping Norman at a nearby police. Peter is also content to leave the Vulture for later is the fact that he is running late for his job at the LSU lab.

As Peter runs to the lab entrance he is speaking with Harry on the phone about what happened with his father, and Peter explains that he had attempted to follow them on foot and that is why he suddenly disappeared. Before Harry can ask anymore probing questions, Peter ends the call citing he is late and Gwen is giving him “the look,” which she quickly rebukes. They enter the lab and find that employed there an assistant lab technician is their former classmate Eddie Brock. After Peter and Eddie call each other “bro” one time too many. Eddie introduced them to Dr. Connors wife Mary. Curt is otherwise indisposed in his office, injecting himself with a green liquid, After which he comes into the main lab and introduces himself to his two new employees.   It appears as if he may recognize Peter as being the student bit last school year, but Peter waves the off as finishing his sentence with “by the science bug.” Eddie begins to take them on a tour of the lab, and Peter asks how much he can expect to be paid. Eddie laughs and says its pro bono considering the lack of experience and Peter is visibly bummed.

Waiting for the bus with Gwen, Peter bemoans his situation. Confiding in his friend that as great an opportunity as the internship is, he should instead be looking for paying work to help his Aunt. Gwen tells him not to worry, that things have a way of working out. As Gwen leaves on her bus, Peter secretly wishes she is right and is smacked in the face by a copy of The Daily Bugle blowing in the wind. Seeing they have a headline regarding Spider-Man, Peter had an idea of how to solve all of his problems.

We cut to a very awkward scene of Peter, in his street clothes, climbing up the Daily Bugle building complaining that he wasn’t let past security. After saying that May and Ben Parker didn’t raise a quitter he breaks into a janitor closet with a plan to tell the editor his plan. Unfortunately, after barking orders to his Newsroom, J. Jonah Jameson mistakes Parker for an employee he sent to get him a bagel and schmeer ten minutes ago. Betty Brant corrects him that it was in fact Benny he sent and that it had only been three minutes. Seeing his opportunity Peter pitches to Jonah that he could easily get him photos of Spider-Man and that such an acquisition would surely sell a lot of papers. Jonah dismisses him for being a child and trying to tell him how to do his job. Though as Peter is being escorted out by security you can hear him talking with Robbie Robertson about how Spider-Man pictures would sell papers.

Defeated after a day where nothing seems to have gone his way, Peter returns to the Osborne’s veranda as Spider-Man to retrieve his shoes. Meanwhile, down below, Norman Osborne is being dropped off in his Limo, when the Vulture strikes again. Seeing this Spidey jumps into action, but this time it is not just the Vulture he has to deal with, but also The Enforces have come to play in their very own gunship.  Just as Spidey is about to get the upper hand of the Vulture, Montana shoots him with a net and brings him down on a nearby rooftop. Fancy Dan and Ox engage him and are handily defeated once Spider-Man decides to use their strengths against them. From there he is pursued by Montatina n the helicopter as The Vulture also continues to attack him. Seeing no way to defeat both villains, as they are splitting his focus, Spider-Man decides the best way to beat them is to turn the two threats against each other. Using some quick thinking he tricks The Vulture into coming close to the rear propeller shoving his wing blades into the spinning rotor. This causes the helicopter to lose control, but leaves Toombs in the air. Turns out his wings were just for steering, his ability to fly comes from the power source located on his back. Spider-Man hastily destroys this and webs up The Vulture to be arrested by New York’s finest, he then surveys the scene of the fight and notes that Montana has escaped justice. Consider three out of four bad guys as not bad considering, he heads home, after of course picking up his shoes.

As Peter arrives home, he attempts to sneak in his bedroom window, but sees his Aunt sitting on his bed. Seeing he has been caught he goes in the front door where he is met by Aunt May, who chews him out for coming home at midnight. Peter attempts to explain, but Aunt May stymies him, and gives him a hard ten o’clock curfew. She of course isn’t a total hard ass and says he can call if he might be late, but reminds him that such a call better be to tell her that he is on his way home and running later. Peter agrees to these terms and they each celebrate with a piece of banana cream pie.  As he eats Peter reflects that though he may have had the day he anticipated, in the end it turns out he has a pretty great life anyway.

REVIEW

Damn, I forgot how much actually took place in the first episode. All I remembered was that the Vulture was the big bad. Everything else had completely fallen out of my memory. I blame this mostly on the fact that when this show premiered they showed both the first and second episode. Not to downplay the importance of this episode, but the second one is much more streamlined and thus more memorable. Of course after watching it again tomorrow I may find I was wrong about calling it streamlined, but we can save that helping of crow for then.

I suppose this episode feels so full because they have to pack everything into it. Even though everybody should be familiar with the origins of Spider-Man by now, it’s still almost expected that the first installment will give you that retelling of how he got his powers. While I am glad that in this episode the whole bitten by a radioactive spider bit is reserved for a short flashback, when you consider all of the other world building that occurs it gets a bit lost in the shuffle. Which makes me wonder why even bother to include it. The intro clearly shows him being bitten by the spider and I think that should be enough when paired with the exposition of Spidey’s first monologue. If they hadn’t included that small scene then I feel like everything else would have been given that little bit extra to breathe and the proceedings might not have felt so rushed.

Still the idea of setting a piece of Spider-Man media while he is still a high school student is brilliant. I feel like it has been largely ignored since it first happened in the comic books, and I applaud the risk they took with creating an entire property around the largely unexplored time period. One must also give praise to how they took aspects of Spider-Man’s life as an adult and seamlessly weaved them into that time in his life so that there exists an air of familiarity. It makes the entire proceedings feel like a mixture of the Ultimate Marvel universe and the Movie Universe, and after seeing the new film it seems as if it also existed as the template for the new story they are telling.

My favorite part though is all the setting up for future episodes that is done in this first episode. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when you consider the show is being brought to us by Greg Weissman, the same cartoon creative genius who brought the world Gargoyles, which is specifically evidenced in the fact that Spidey runs by a set of Gargoyles that resembles the main cast in the opening scene.

If there is one thing he knows how to handle with amazing care is the introduction of seemingly ancillary characters early on in the series who will eventually mean a whole lot more. While the most blatant is Curt Connors injecting himself with something when we first meet him, one cannot discount that fact that the first two thugs that Spider-Man busts are Flint Marko and Alex O’Hirn who if you read the series both eventually become well-known Spidey villians. I also recognized in this viewing that Jonah mistakes Peter for a Bugle employee named Benny and in the comics Peter had a clone by the name of Ben Reilly, and even though this is never addressed in the twenty-six episodes produced, it is nice to see they gave themselves the opportunity if they had wanted to. There is so much hidden right out in the open that once you go back after viewing the entire series you seen how much planning went into building the world of The Spectacular Spider-Man and it just makes you love the series that much more.

Overall this is a very solid episode of the series. While it will never be in the running for my favorite episode, it does do a very admirable job setting up the world, and succeeds in being entertaining throughout.

SPIDER SENSE

  • Main Villains: Victor “The Vulture” Toombs & The Enforcers: Ox, Fancy Dan, and Montana
  • Number of future villains introduced or alluded to: 7
  • One and Done Gadget: Spider Signal

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Hello everybody. I know that I was basically dark for the year 2013 due to the myriad of changes that I was going through as a direct result of receiving a new job. Looking back, some of the most fun I had with this blog was the Month of Codes in February 2012. In an effort to recapture that enjoyment I decided I would do another February feature. This time instead of focusing on video games codes I will be looking back on a cartoon series I fell in love with way back in 2008 when it premiered.

The series in question is “Spectacular Spiderman” which due to some creative coupon usage at Toys R Us I recently picked up in full for just $23.00.

Since it has exactly 26 episodes my intention is to watch and review an episode a day. With the first being used for the explanation you are currently reading and the last day as a place to list my ten favorite episodes of the series.

If you’re able, I definitely recommend following along… but if you can’t in addition to the reviews I will be including some ridiculous photos of my Spectacular Spider-Man figure each day so you can at least have something fun to look at.

If you’re still on the fence I suggest following this link and watching the theme song for the show. I guarantee you won’t be able to resist singing along and since the catchiness of the theme is the only reason I even began watching the show I think its a perfect place for the uninitiated to start.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxtvogVepSg

It’s no secret, I did not see that many movies in 2012. I’m not sure why, it just seemed to happen that way. This year I realized that I truly do love movies and decided that I wanted to make sure that I saw a whole lot more in 2013. The result was seeing a total of Fifty-Six different new films in theatres and attending a total of Sixty-Nine screenings. What follows is my top ten films from those 56 unique films viewed in theatres. Agree? Disagree? Let me know how you feel about my choices.

Top Ten

10. About Time

9/26/2013 with William Fournier

11/5/2013 with Kevin Thibault

11/6/2013 with Dorothy “Mom” Decker

I had a bit of a struggle when it came to picking the tenth movie in my list. At the end of the day though it came down to the fact that I saw Richard Curtis’ film three different times in theatres  and was willing to see it at least two times more if scheduling had permitted.  While the premise is delightfully fantastical, “About Time” is really a story about making sure you make the most of every single moment you have on this earth. In reality, most of us don’t have the ability to go back have a do over when we mess something up, and seeing how Tim had to try certain events over and over again in order to make them perfect, was a fascinating way to tell the viewer that you have to make sure you live your life the way that you want to live it. If you want to have a piece of cake, then have the piece of cake. Want to strike up a conversation with a lovely looking young lady at the bar, then you might as well do it, because if you don’t then that opportunity will more than likely be lost to you for the rest of your days. In addition to tackling such a heavy philosophical message, the film also weaved a beautiful tale about family, and making sure you treasure your loved ones and not take the time you have together for granted. Plus it gave the world the ability to joke about how Rachel McAdams seems to exclusively be taking parts now where she is involved in relationships with time travelers, after doing this film on the heels of “Midnight in Paris” in 2011 (my top pick for the year) and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” in 2009. Personally I feel it is in an effort to keep the world from recognizing that she herself is in fact able to travel through time, but I don’t know if I should bother bringing that up. Since if it is true then she with use her chronologic abilities to prevent such a thing from ever being broadcast to the public.

9. 47 Ronin

12/28/2013 with Dayle Decker

I left the theatre after seeing “47 Ronin” turned to my sister and said “that movie will be on my top ten.” Don’t misunderstand, that isn’t the only reason why it’s on the list, it’s just being shared because it was such a good movie that I knew right away that it would be recognized by me for that fact. While a lot of people focused on the fact that Keanu Reeves was in the movie and how many jokes they could make about that fact, what they should have been doing is actually taking the time to watch this modernization of the ancient Japanese folk tale. The film makers were able to breathe new life into  well-trod territory while maintaining the sense of seriousness present in the original story.  Not only was the combination of fantasy and history well handled,  but the performances that were on display by all of the actors were truly top notch. Special acknowledgement should go to Rinko Kikuchi for her portrayal of the witch. She was so off the wall and crazy that every time she appeared on screen you were waiting with bated breath to see what insanity she was going to put on display. Seriously, don’t believe the hype on this film, go in with an open mind, and judge it for yourself. I think you’ll wind up pleasantly surprised.

8. Delivery Man

12/31/2013 with Dayle Decker

Going in I was expecting the kind of laugh out loud, easy comedy which the world has come to expect from Vince Vaughn. Don’t misunderstand, I was still quite excited to watch the film, I just didn’t expect it to be something that would stick with me. Luckily, I had underestimated this film and was treated to one of the most heartfelt and touching films from Hollywood in 2013. While it could be very easy to have made a 105 minute film about a man reacting to the absurdity of having over 500 biological children, they instead decided to approach it from all the available angles. Not every child was going to be a mini-Vince and thus prone to the same comedy pitfalls as him. In fact the majority of the children whose stories we hear are very difficult to handle as an audience member, let alone as the biological father of the person living with such issues. “Delivery Man” was a great film that brought a sense of realism to an otherwise absurd premise. It also delivered some truly memorable moments which I have found myself referencing many times since I viewed it. It also put Chris Pratt on my radar and made me that much more excited to see “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

7. The Spectacular Now

8/24/2013 with Kevin Thibault

“The Spectacular Now” was a film that I didn’t know a lot about going in, outside of the title. While, it would be easy to account for my love of this film on going in with no expectations, that would take away all the credit that is due to the actors for bringing such a hard story to life. In fact after seeing how well Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley handle such a heavy script with relative ease I can honestly say, that until they burn me, I will be going to see any film either one is attached to. Which yes, for those pundits in the crowd, does me I will be going to see “That Awkward Moment.”  Outside of the great acting, the film was so well made that I found myself deeply invested in the proceedings and as a result found myself hit that much harder by some of the moments presented in the film. I fully admit that I left the theatre with tears still in my eyes even after the credits had rolled. In fact this film was so good it was able to reinvigorate my love of going to the cinema, which briefly waned after a terrible experience at a theatre during the advance screening of “The World’s End.” If that’s not a testament to a film being worth seeing I’m not sure what is.

6. The Kings of Summer –

7/10/2013 with Dayle Decker & Dorothy “Mom” Decker

The award for film I traveled the furthest to see goes to the indie gem that is “The Kings of Summer.” Going in I knew nothing more than the fact that it was only offered in limited release and featured Nick Offerman and Moises Arias as actors. I’m glad that those three facts were enough to convince my mother and sister that driving ninety minutes from how to see a film was a good idea. “The Kings of Summer” is one of those rare movies that treats fictional teenagers like actual teenagers.  The anger and regret of these actors were put right out there on display, and in a medium where teenagers are often treated like children, the three young men in this feature showed that in spite of the age difference teenagers are really no different from adults. To top it off all of the actors gave fantastic performances and made this one of the most memorable films I saw in 2013. Not only that but the film was so good that I was fully willing to take a car load of friends to that same theatre to see it again a week later. Unfortunately, by that time it was no longer showing. Basically if you have had the chance to see “The Kings of Summer” yet (and let’s face it, you probably haven’t) I highly suggest you find yourself a copy and see a truly inspirational piece of independent cinema.

5. Fast & Furious 6

5/27/2013 with Dayle Decker

As much as I loved this installment of the beloved franchise, I find it hard to say that it was better than “Fast Five” and that is why like its predecessor it has landed solidly at the number five spot of my top ten.  Aside from finally convincing me that the events which took place in “Tokyo Drift” were actually canonical, this film did the impossible, and ramped up the action from the heist story of the last. People can nitpick and complain all they want about how long the runway was at the end of the movie, and can point out every little thing that were too absurd to happen in real life, but that isn’t why I go to the movies. Me, I go to the cinema to be entertained and “Fast & Furious 6” delivered in the entertainment department in spades. I am extremely excited for the next picture and again my give credit to a series that is six movies deep and still is able to create a sense of shock and awe every film and leave the viewer wanting more.

4. The Purge

6/7/2013 with Dayle Decker

I initially saw “The Purge” because I thought it had an interesting premise. By no accounts did I think I would leave the cinema feeling like I had just seen a great film. While it would be easy to think it may have something to do with my love for Ethan Hawke as an actor taking the foreground this year. I believe it has to do with the fact that film fully immersed me into the world it was creating. For 85 minutes I was transported to a world where every year for twelve hours all crime is legal, and after the film I wanted to continue the discussion about the further reaching effect such an event might have in the real world. Still I was disappointed when I heard that there was going to be a sequel to this film and I initially imagined it would wind up with a much lower ranking on my list. Luckily, while eating supper with some strangers recently the after dinner conversation turned to “The Purge” and it struck me that while a sequel in the same vein as the original would be terrible, if I instead focused on how other people spent the night without law and order and told more tales from a world where “The Purge” exists then there is a chance that my love for the original would only grow as we get to spend more time in the universe that was so beautifully constructed in the original. Plus that fact that I was able to engage in such a deep conversation about a film I had seen seven months prior, indicated to me that this film had earned the spot of fourth best film of 2013.

3. Escape Plan

11/26/2013 with Dayle Decker

As I was driving home from seeing “Escape Plan” I remember clearly saying that it was “a shame it won’t win any Oscars,” considering most people hated the film I could see that being a very polarizing comment. Still the performance given by Jim Caviezel, as the warden of the prison, was so clearly deserving of a nod from the Academy in the category of Best Supporting Actor that there was no other place on the list I could have ranked this underappreciated gem. A big part of my enjoyment of a feature is how deeply the actors are engrained in their characters. While Caviezel clearly gave the best performance and is the first reason I will cite when telling others to view “Escape Plan” kudos must also be given to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone for also committing so completely to their characters. Even as these two men embark on becoming septuagenarians it is clear to see why they were do representative of the action genre and that they should still not be counted out when it comes to making a great film.

2. Before Midnight

6/18/2013 with Dayle Decker

The joke has been made that I am the unofficial official president of the Before Trilogy Fan Club Which is unfortunately an accurate summation of my love for the series, which is pure video store employee gold. At least that is how I look at the now twenty year old experiment performed by director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Perhaps that’s because I was only exposed to the series while working at Blockbuster when “Before Sunset” was released. Hearing it was a sequel, and with the luxury of free rentals, I naturally took home the store’s copy of “Before Sunrise” and instantly fell in love. I had no idea that “Before Midnight” was even a movie, until I saw it on the marquee when I went to see “Man of Steel.” That same night I tracked down DVD copies of both “Sunrise” and “Sunset” and proceeded to submit my sister and myself to watching the films in anticipation of seeing the new film that coming Tuesday. Our reward was seeing a film that perfectly reflected where these characters would be after so many years of being in love. A film ripe with dialogue and moments that I can call to mind at a moment’s notice and be brought to a place of pure joy or utter sadness. This film is truly a cinematic achievement and only misses out on the top spot for requiring the viewer to watch two other films to truly enjoy its magic.

1. Fruitvale Station

9/10/2013 with Dayle Decker

It is a rare film that causes a person to get so caught up in the narrative that they forget they are already aware of the ending. While I have heard many critics critique the fact that they heard other audience members wishing that Oscar Grant III wouldn’t be killed in the end of the film. I personally feel that the ability to create such a likable and engaging story where audience members are willfully hoping that a well known outcome will be changed in the end, is something that should be praised not chastised. It would have been very easy to go into a film like “Fruitvale Station” knowing the ending and letting that dictate the viewing experience. Yet, the product which the director was able to create is so engaging you let go of the facts and just allow yourself to enjoy. In addition to the script the film also had exceptional cinematography and acting which is why as soon as I left the theatre the only phrase I was able to use to describe it was “Fucking Exceptional.”

In having seen so many movies this year I decided that I had also collected enough evidence to name the five movies of the year that I kind of wish I had passed on. Without further ado here are the worst films I feel I saw in 2013

 

Bottom Five

5. Frozen

11/28/2013 with Dayle Decker & Dorothy “Mom” Decker

I have been looking forward to putting “Frozen” into my bottom five films of 2013 since I left the theatre. The reason is simple dear reader, I went in expecting to see a movie and instead was greeted with a musical. Granted this is the kind of thing one may come to expect from Disney, but in the past while the films have included songs those songs were used in an effort to enhance the story, not outright tell it. “Frozen” put all of the storytelling into the music, which is why I made my earlier statement, to make matters worse none of the non-singing scenes really did anything to enhance the characterization of the cast, leaving them feeling hollow and one dimensional. I was truly disappointed by “Frozen” and after rewatching “The Princess and The Frog” and “Tangled” over the past two weeks I definitely feel that the responsibility falls squarely on it falling short as a film.

4. This Is The End

6/11/2013 with Dayle Decker

I went to see this film for exactly zero dollars and I still feel like I was ripped off. I especially felt let down considering the film was filled with actors that I originally fell in love with in the failed Judd Apatow television series “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared.” I think where the disconnect really began was the fact that the actors were supposed to be playing exaggerated versions of themselves, I think if instead they were portraying characters then it would have been easier to become invested in the story. The fact that the actors kept referring to one another by name took me out of the film each time. Combine an inability to lose yourself in the movie with a weak story and a poorly written script and you have a recipe for disaster, that couldn’t even be saved by the reunion of the Backstreet Boys in the final scene.

3. Evil Dead

4/6/2013 with Kevin Thibault

I love “The Evil Dead,” it’s one of those movies I remember having people over to the house on the weekend and watching over and over when I was in High School. It’s a piece of cinema that has had a huge impact on me as a lover of the art, but most importantly it has come to represent a pretty amazing time in my young life. I watched every film in the trilogy hundreds of times, I bought and read the comic books, and I even played the admittedly mediocre video games. Every year, we would hear rumours that a sequel was in the works and every year we would find that these rumours were false. Then this picture came along and we finally thought that the prophecy was going to be fulfilled. While it wasn’t the sequel we had all dreamed of “Evil Dead” as a remake still had me excited to revisit a world where the Necronomicon Ex Mortis is a real threat and demons would be waiting around every corner once the book bound in flesh was read, threatening to possess any foolish enough to do so. Unfortunately while I was hoping for an original take on the premise in the remake, we instead got a movie that for the first 80% was basically the exact same thing (with an added addiction plot point) and 20% a complete expectorating in the face of what they had already done. I admittedly was kind of alright with the film when it was just a crappy rehash of what had come before, yet when the script flipped and the formerly possessed sister became the heroine. I was left with such a sour taste in my mouth that this film lost all chance of being remembered fondly. While there is talk that this will be threaded into the original trilogy somehow. The downright terribleness of this film, have caused me to lose all interested in The Evil Dead series.

2. Enough Said

10/9/2013 with Dorothy “Mom” Decker

This movie was terrible… enough said. All joking aside, this was in fact a pretty awful example of entertainment. The script was contrived and unbelievable, there was nothing that interesting that happened within that stuck with me, and above all the best twist in the film was betrayed in the first few moments of the trailer. I was hoping that with such great leads a Julia Louis-Dreyfus and (RIP) James Gandolfini even knowing the central crux of the conflict going in wouldn’t keep it from being an uninteresting film to watch. What I was counting on was the film being so boring that I would instead find myself sitting in the theatre waiting for the big reveal and for the other shoe to drop. The worst offense was that they stuff the film so full of half delivered on side plots that the entire proceedings became ungainly to manage. Perhaps if the action had been more focused on the main plot this film would have been a bit more enjoyable. That or perhaps the director was so busy apeing Woody Allen’s style that it kept reminding me of his film and making me question why I hadn’t just watched “Annie Hall” again.

1. RIPD

7/29/2013 with Dayle Decker

That’s it after all that we have finally reached my least favorite movie for the year 2013. Is anybody really surprised? I hope not, since after seeing this abortion of modern cinema I was very vocal regarding my feelings about it. “RIPD” was such a mess of a movie, every single thing about the film felt half finished, whether it was plot points, recurring jokes, and even characterization. If it had been an original property, perhaps such transgressions would be easier to understand. Unfortunately, this film is based on a comic book, and having read that story I am at a complete loss as to how this is what they wound up with for the film. “RIPD” is a film that you should never… ever… ever  watch, seriously it is that bad. The single glimmer of light in this train wreck was Kevin Bacon, but even his appearance as a major player in the film wasn’t enough to gloss over all of the awfulness present within.

And there you have it my top ten and bottom five films of the year 2013. Just so you can see the other films that were eligible here is a list of all the films I saw in 2013.

1.            Identity Thief – Dayle

2.            A Good Day to Die Hard – Dayle

3.            The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

4.            Evil Dead – Kevin

5.            G.I. Joe Retaliation – Kevin

6.            Trance – Kevin

7.            42 – Mom, Dad, Dayle

8.            Pain & Gain  – Kevin

9.            Iron Man 3 – Dayle

10.          The Hangover III – Dayle

11.          Fast & Furious 6 – Dayle

12.          Run It

13.          Now You See Me – Kevin, Dayle

14.          The Purge – Dayle

15.          After Earth – Kevin

16.          The Internship – Dayle

17.          This is the End  – Dayle

18.          Man of Steel – Kevin

19.          Before Midnight – Dayle

20.          Monster’s University – Dayle

21.          My Little Pony: Equestria Girls  – Dayle

22.          The Heat – Mom, Dad, Dayle

23.          White House Down – Kevin / Geny, Mom, Dayle

24.          The Lone Ranger – Dayle

25.          The Kings of Summer – Mom, Dayle

26.          Pacific Rim – Kevin

27.          The Way Way Back – Michelle, Kevin / Dayle

28.          The Wolverine – Dayle

29.          RIPD – Dayle

30.          RED 2 – Dayle

31.          Turbo – Dayle

32.          Smurfs 2 – Dayle

33.          We’re The Millers – Dayle / Michelle

34.          Blue Jasmine – Dayle

35.          The World’s End – Dayle / Kevin

36.          The Spectacular Now – Kevin

37.          Kick-Ass 2 – Dayle

38.          Star Trek Into Darkness

39.          World War Z

40.          Fruitvale Station – Dayle

41.          In A World… – Dayle

42.          About Time – Will / Kevin / Mom

43.          Gravity – Dad / Dayle

44.          Enough Said – Mom

45.          Ass Backwards – Kevin

46.          Thor: The Dark World – Kevin

47.          Bad Grandpa – Kevin

48.          12 Years a Slave – Kevin

49.          Escape Plan – Dayle

50.          Frozen – Mom, Dayle

51.          Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – Dayle

52.          Dallas Buyer’s Club – Kevin

53.          Philomena – Mom

54.          Nebraska – Kevin

55.          Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – Dayle

56.          47 Ronin – Dayle

57.          Grudge Match – Dayle

58.          American Hustle – Kevin, Sejohn

Hey everybody,

Before returning to our regularly scheduled blog, I just wanted to take a moment to explain what happened with the Coffee Commissions. Turns out after not drinking coffee for most of my life I wasn’t really prepared for drinking a cup a day. I found myself not really being able to handle it and as a result for my own health and well being I decided to cancel the series.

Good News is that I completed all the pieces which were commissioned from me and I think I did some pretty good work.

Anyway tomorrow I will be posting my top ten films of 2013, including the full list of everything I saw in theatres over the year as well as te five movies I wish I had passed on.

After that I will be starting a new daily posting feature to cover the month of February.

Lots of things to look forward to, I hope you enjoy