2015: My Year in Movies Review

2015 was a fantastic year for movie-goers. If you like lists like I do, here are a few of them to give you a peek into how my year went watching some great flicks:

My Favourite 2015 Movies:bb8
10. Mr. Holmes
9. Kingsman: the Secret Service
8. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
7. Cobain: Montage of Heck
6. Jurassic World
5. Straight Outta Compton
4. Inside Out
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Ex Machina
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Favourite Performances of 2015
6. Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe,
Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Daisy Ridley as Rey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as Ice Cube, Straight Outta Compton
3. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2. Oscar Isaac as Nathan, Ex Machina
1. Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road

My Favourite 20 Pre-2015 movies that I watched in 2015
20. Before I Go To Sleep (2014)
19. Diabolique (1955)
18. Searching for Sugarman (2012)
17. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
16. Do the Right Thing (1989)
15. The Babadook (2014)
14. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight (1995/2004/2013)
13. Joyeux Noel (2005)
12. King Kong (1933)
11. Snowpiercer (2013)
10. Interstellar (2014)
9. Foxcatcher (2014)
8. Moon (2009)
7. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
6. The Color Purple (1985)
5. The Wages of Fear (1953)
4. Wild Tales (2014)
3. Nightcrawler (2014)
2. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
1. Whiplash (2014)

My Most Anticipated 2015 Movies:
10. Black Mass
9. Spotlight
8. South Paw
7. The Danish Girl
6. The Big Short
5. The Martian
4. The Hateful Eight
3. The Revenant
2. The Peanuts Movie
1. Creed

My Most Anticipated 2016 Movies:
10. The BFG — Roald Dahl book + Steven Spielberg = yes please
The Lobster — A dystopian society movie, and if you read the plot synopsis of this one, I’m pretty sure it’ll make your list too.
8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny — LOVED the first one, and though this one will have a different director, it has the same writer. My hopes aren’t sky high, but I’m pretty excited.
7. Race — I love period pieces, but especially when they cover events I particularly care about.
6. Ice Age: Collision Course — Two of my favourite animated characters in all moviedom are Sid and Scrat. I could watch them all day. Keep those IA movies coming.
5. Deadpool — Love this character, though I don’t know much about him. I’m really looking forward to discovering his story.
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Obvious reasons here…
3. Suicide Squad — It’s been a long time since I was this excited about a comic book movie based solely on the trailer.
2. Anything Martin Scorsese might direct in the next 12 months.
1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — Even though I’m not crazy about the latest trailers and tease posters (i.e. they let too much cat out of the bag), I’m still pumped to see this one.

And finally…

The 52 “Movies of the Week” for 2015

1. Boyhood
2. Gone With the Wind
3. The Social Network
4. Ghandi
5. Inception
6. Jurassic Park
7. Rocky
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey
9. Glitter (Razzie winner)
10. Fargo
11. To Kill a Mockingbird
12. Almost Famous
13. The Wizard of Oz
14. The Passion of the Christ
15. Predator
16. Remember the Titans
17. The Godfather Part II
18. Superman
19. North By Northwest
20. Titanic
21. Léon: The Professional
22. Toy Story
23. Phantom of the Opera
24. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
25. Footloose
26. School of Rock
27. Juno
28. Robocop
29. Seven Samurai
30. Some Like It Hot
31. Annie
32. A League of Their Own
33. Anchorman
34. Mississippi Burning
35. Whiplash
36. Dead Poets Society
37. A Few Good Men
38. Titanic
39. Finding Dory
40. Singin’ in the Rain
41. Lawrence of Arabia
42. Beauty and the Beast
43. King Kong
44. The Shining
45. Schindler’s List
46. Double Indemnity
47. Ratatouille
48. American Graffiti
49. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
50. Christmas Vacation
51. The Polar Express
52. Miracle on 34th Street

Pick your movie of the week: The Best of 2015! (Jan 1-7/16)

Jan 1-7-16

The following are the only 2015 movies to currently hold a spot on the IMDb top 250 list other than Star Wars: The Force Awakens (#40). Considering its immense popularity I thought it’d be more interesting to leave Star Wars out of this week’s nominees and see which of the four would win. Which would  you pick?

Inside Out (#92)
Mad Max: Fury Road (#151)
The Martian (#174)
Creed (#232)

As a reminder, if you haven’t seen any of these, feel free to read the plot description on IMDb.com (or any movie site) and base your vote on which one appeals most to you.

17 things you might not know about favourite Christmas movies

Only 3 Christmas movies have been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Bishop’s Wife, all within two years of each other.

Miracle on 34th Street was released in May as the producers said more people went to the movies in the summer. This led to changing the name from Christmas Miracle on 34th Street. They also kept the Christmas theme of the movie a secret.

A Christmas Story was the inspiration to the hit TV show The Wonder Years.kermit cratchit

Kermit the Frog once said in an interview that the most important piece of acting advice ever given to him was by Michael Caine. His advice to him while they were shooting A Muppet Christmas Carol: “Never blink.”

Radio dramas were still popular in the 1940’s. Both Cary Grant and James Stewart reprised their roles for The Bishop’s Wife and It’s a Wonderful Life on radio. Alistair Sim did not, but he did reprise his role voicing Scrooge in the 1971 animated adaptation, A Christmas Carol.

Remember when Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) is leaving the Bailey home drunk in It’s a Wonderful Life? And remember how it sounds like he’s knocked over trash cans? The sound was a crew member dropping props by mistake just as Mitchell walks off screen. The line, “I’m alright,” was an ad-lib by Mitchell. Frank Capra liked this mistake though. He not only kept it in the final cut, he gave the crew member a $10 bonus for his contribution to the film.

Did you know Bill Murray has three actor brothers? All three of them appear in Scrooged.

It’s a Wonderful Life is the only film in history to originate from a greeting card.Elf

Hoping for a sequel to Elf? There were plans for it in 2013. It didn’t happen though, because Will Ferrell refused an offer of $29 million to reprise his role as Buddy.

In 2004 Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Akroyd play neighbours in a Christmas movie, Christmas with the Kranks. 21 years prior they played love interests in a Christmas movie, Trading Places.

In A Christmas Story, when you see Ralphie and his friends outside at school, they’re in Canada. St. Catherine’s, ON to be exact.

The Santa Clause was Tim Allen’s very first lead role.

When the main character in The Polar Express, an unnamed young boy, falls asleep in his bedroom, his clock reads 10:20. This is on purpose. This is the time that Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge in Alastair Sim’s A Christmas Carol.

Carol Kane was upset that she would have to rough up Bill Murray in Scrooged. As bad luck would have it, she tore his lip, which halted production for several days.

At the beginning of Elf you see several elves in the North Pole. One is named Ming Ming and he is played by Peter Billingsley, better known as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

A Muppet Christmas Carol was originally going to be a TV special. Thankfully it was released in theatres and became the first movie date for Joy and me.

Natalie Wood would reveal in interviews that she thought fellow cast member Edmund Gwen (Miracle on 34th Street) really was Santa Claus. She figured out the truth at the wrap party when Gwen showed up out of costume and without a beard.

Congratulations Miracle on 34th Street. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Natalie Wood as Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street.
Best Actor: Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Best Quote:For some time now, every time I pass the cemetery, I feel as though I’m apartment hunting.” — Prof. Wutheridge in The Bishop’s Wife.


And that is the final movie of the week for 2015. Stay tuned for the annual list of the year’s 52 movies of the week. Happy New Year everyone.

Movie of the Week

Westward Leading, Still Proceeding

Know that song “Good King Wenceslas”? It’s become one of my favourite Christmas songs in recent years. I hadn’t really known it until I’d become an adult, and it wasn’t until this year that I heard the story behind the song. It’s a great story that is actually referenced in this week’s movie, The Polar Express.

The King in question is a Czech king who really was a very good man. In this particular story he is wanting to give alms to the poor during the observance of the Feast of Stephen (Which was the day after Christmas, the date we in the west celebrate Boxing Day). But the weather outside was frightful. It was getting dark, windy, and dangerous and his young servant was having a hard time—he didn’t think they should be on this trek considering the inclement weather. But Wenceslas simply came up with the solution. “Follow in my footsteps.” If the page would simply step in each footprint that the good king made with his own boots in the snow he would make it just fine.

In The Polar Express there is reference to this story. The hero boy in this movie climbs to the top of the train and is then led to the engine at the front by a new friend he met up there: not a good king, but a good hobo. He starts by following his clearly visible footprints in the snow (this movie’s animation is amazing), then takes an even bolder step climbing on the man’s back as he skis the length of the train. And it gets him where he needs to go. In both stories it could easily be assumed that the follower doesn’t fully understand where he is going. Maybe not even completely get the ‘why’ of it.

Usually when I hear stories of following in footsteps I think of it from the perspective of a father. I want to identify with the king/hobo as one who metaphorically leads by example. But as important a principle as this is, it seems to me that the bum (and maybe the king?) are making a point about the follower rather than the leader. Can there be a more vivid picture of putting trust in someone to get you where you need to go? Both a snowstorm and a night time catwalk on a speeding locomotive would require some good faith in another.

And strange as it may sound, following a baby can be a little unnerving too. Even if he doesn’t offer a piggy-back ski ride on a moving train.

Congratulations The Polar Express. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress:
Catherine O’Hara as Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Best Actor: It’s a tie! Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol and Tom Hanks in The Polar Express.
Best Quote: Another tie! “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” — The Conductor in The Polar Express (Thank you James) and “Just because I cannot see it, doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!” — Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Those go together quite well, don’t you think?

Yesterday I was driving around Moncton and started reminiscing about hearing radio favourites each December of my childhood. Then, lo and behold, Bob and Doug’s 12 Days of Christmas came on. So here’s a list of the top 10 radio Christmas tunes that bring me back to my younger years the most:

10. “Feliz Navidad” — Jose Feliciano
9. “Blue Christmas” — Elvis Presley
8. “Silver Bells” — Anne Murray
7. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” — Brenda Lee
6. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — Bing Crosby
5. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” — Band Aid
4. “Wonderful Christmastime” — Paul McCartney
3. “Little Toy Trains” — Roger Miller
2. “12 Days of Christmas” — Bob and Doub MacKenzie
1. “Christmas Don’t Be Late” — Alvin and the Chipmunks (with Dave Seville)

Got Hanukkah?

Most of us know the Christmas story, whether we’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim or one of them bloody heathen. But not many of us know the Hanukkah story. In an episode of Friends it was portrayed as the kind of thing only Ross would find interesting as he attempted to teach it to his son while wearing an armadillo costume. Jon Stewart described it as a celebration based on “oil lasting longer than it normally would.” But honestly, if you hear it you will realize that this story is awesome. And don’t worry, I’ll keep it short.

So Israel was no stranger to being overtaken by an empire. The latest one came thanks to Alexander the Great. You may have heard of him. The Greeks wanted everyone to be Greek, and in the process they changed the Hebrew Temple into a temple for Zeus. There they would kill and cook pigs, and not for bacon (which really doesn’t make any sense). And a little over 160 years before Jesus was born one man had had enough.

We’ll call him Matt. He was a priest who refused to change his religion and ethnic identity. So when a Greek official tried to make him kill a pig for Hercules’ daddy-god, he not only said no. He killed the man and ran to the hills. A bunch of Jews who shared his enthusiasm joined him up there and decided to try and do the impossible. They’d fight the Greeks and try to take back the Temple, Jerusalem, and all of Judea.

But the real hero was his son, Judah Maccabee. And he was…

Ok, wait. Pause. We need to establish something here. It is my firm opinion that “badass” is a great word and should not be seen as foul language. Replacing the “ss” with dollar signs is ridiculous. And don’t even get me started on the asinine substitutional use of “badbutt.” I think we can all handle this word.

So Judah Maccabee was a badass. He was Israel’s most brilliant military leader since Joshua. And “Maccabee” wasn’t his last name. It was his nickname. “The Hammer.” In battle he was like William Wallace and Maximus Meridius rolled into one. The Greeks had taken over most of the known world, so one country couldn’t possibly stand up against them, let alone a small faction within that country.

But they did.

They took back the Temple, and when they did they’d found that it had been defiled by the Greeks. All of the olive oil that was used to light the menorahs was either gone or defiled except for one container that still had the priestly seal. It was only enough to last for one day, but they believed they should light the menorah anyway. They did, and miraculously the oil lasted for eight days. Long enough for more oil to be prepared. 

Sweet victory. They did it! They won! And eight days every year Jews remember this time and celebrate.

And speaking of festival of lights. A LOT of lights…

Congratulations Christmas Vacation. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen Griswold in Christmas Vacation.
Best Actor: Peter Billingsley as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Best Quote: “Sh*tter’s full!” (Again, does the asterisk do any good here??)


Feels like time for some more great quotes. All three of these movies are chock full of them. Enjoy:

“Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.”

“This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”

“Oh, Eddie… If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.”

“I’m sorry I ruined your lives, and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR.”

“Deck the harrs with boughs of horry, fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra.”

“I don’t know if I oughta go sailin’ down no hill with nothin’ between the ground and my brains but a piece of government plastic.”

“I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” (“No, you’ll shoot your eye out.”)

“You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa.”

“If you scratch his belly, Clark, he will love you till the day you die.”

“There has never been a kid who didn’t believe vaguely but incessantly that he would be stricken blind before he reached 21, and then they’d be sorry.”

Movie of the Week