The Boyfriend of the Week

December 2007

A friend of mine sent me this a couple of weeks ago, and after first totally laughing my butt off, I muttered, "No WAY it's been TEN YEARS." But guess what! It has! In fact, it was actually ten years last September -- that's how long I've been bringing you the Boyfriend of the Week web site (the earliest dated write-up was October 1997, but there were four or five before that one and I was, believe it or not, actually doing them weekly back in the beginning). Now, you can more appreciate why I wanted to take a short break from the site for a few months this fall/winter, eh?

But, the write-ups will be back starting in January, and I have an incredibly gorgeous guy to start the year off with, as well as a pretty decent story about how I decided to feature him. So, be sure to check back, sign up for RSS feeds, whatever it is you do. And I'll still be keeping the Blog up as well, so there should be plenty for all of us to do in 2008.

And now it's time for the annual listing of the best books, good movies, and bad movies I encountered in 2007. If you have any comments about anything on this page, head over to the Blog post about this write-up to express yourself.

In the meantime, I'll be clicking "Remind me next year" on the above message box, and continuing to swing away. Thanks again for all your many, MANY years of support, hilarious messages, friendship, and suggestions. Couldn't do it without you guys and, what's more, I wouldn't want to! Here's to a great 2008!

Favorite Books Read in 2007

Note: Below are abridged versions of my original reviews of these books -- if you want to read the full reviews go to the Book Search page and plunk in the title or author's name. I've tried to include at least one book from the major genres I read (mystery, fiction, non-fiction, etc.).

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. (read me!)

This Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is about a father and son struggling to get to safety after some kind of apocalypse (we never actually find out what happened) has wiped most of the population off the map. Desperate for safety and companionship, the two decide to try to walk all the way to the Gulf Coast, where they've heard rumors life is better (warmer, wetter, more stocked with food and people, etc.). Though the story itself isn't one I found terribly original (I kept waiting for zombies to show up, frankly), what really struck me about this novel is the writing itself. I described it as having a “laissez-faire” approach to grammar that at first seemed incongruous to me, given the obvious intelligence of the narrator (it's got some of the most brilliant and original metaphors and descriptions I've ever read). But after getting a few dozen pages into the story, I realized how perfect this style really was. It masterfully and effectively sets the perfect tone for the story: a heavy feeling of despair and desolation. Grammar is not only unnecessary in a world like this, it's pointless. Tell the story becomes all that matters. This is a highly readable (but, note, also highly depressing!) novel that really moved and inspired me. If you haven't already read it, I hope you will! [FICTION]

2. Heat (An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany) by Bill Buford. (read me!)

This is a really entertaining non-fiction book about Buford's experiences apprenticing at Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo, and then eventually traveling to Italy , where he learns how to make real pasta and trains under a Tuscan butcher). In between hilarious-written stories of Buford's adventures, this book also features a veritable encyclopedia of Italian cooking and food. It's one of the most engaging and entertaining non-fiction books I've read in a really long time. Any fan of eating, making, or thinking about food will love this one. A great stocking stuffer for all you Top Chef watchers out there! [NON-FICTION]

3. Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris. (read me!)

I love novels that are set in closed communities -- prep schools, colleges, nunneries. I'm not sure just why, except that those settings always seem to lend themselves well to interesting stories. This book, set in a prep school called St. Oswald's, starts out as your stereotypical “school for boys” story. The children of the rich all get together to learn about the classics, Latin, “maths,” and history, taught to them by stuffy professors in robes. The school has only recently gotten its first computer lab, and the incoming flood of modernization has begun to make some of the older teachers a bit on the nervous side. None more so than Latin professor, Roy Straitley, who has already begun to feel like most of the administration finds his skills useless. As the new school year begins, five young teachers have been hired, and Roy 's office has been usurped by the foreign language department. He's pretty cranky, but determined to make his “century” before retiring (teaching 100 school terms in a row). But also new to the school this year is someone who has a grudge against it. Someone who wants to destroy the school and has a complex, elaborate, and slowly-paced plan -- a plan intended to gradually take down the entire place and everyone in it. Standing in the way of this destruction is none other than old man Roy Straitley himself. And he doesn't even know it. This is a well-written and extremely entertaining novel, with a twist that complete caught me by surprise (a rare thing, and thus a much appreciated one!). Definitely recommended to anybody who loves a good mystery! [MYSTERY]

4. Sorcery and Cecelia OR The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. (read me!)

This is a novel I never would've discovered had it not been for a reader who raved about it to me. And man, what a tragedy that would've been -- not discovering this novel? Because I LOVED it! It's an epistolary novel, made up of letters being sent from one young cousin, Kate, to another, Cecy. Set in the late 1800's in England , it opens with Kate having just left home (and Cecy) to spend the coming-out season in London . Almost right off the bat, though, her tranquil season turns into a harrowing adventure when she is nearly poisoned to death by an evil witch named Miranda who mistakes her for her nemesis, the magical Marquis (Miranda thinks the Marquis has cast a spell on himself to make him look like someone else). Narrowly escaping, Kate and the Marquis soon find themselves teamed up to try to stop Miranda's sinister plan to destroy both the Marquis and her own daughter, a friend of Kate and Cecy's. Meanwhile, back at home, Cecy is getting sucked into the same adventure when she discovers her neighbor, Sir Hilary, is Miranda's partner. The plot is a bit hard to explain, really, but oh boy, is this book a blast to read. I never did get around to reading the sequel, but hope to get to that soon, now that I've been reminded of just how much fun this one was! Highly recommended, and I think this would be a great book for kids as well. [YOUNG ADULT]

5. MYSTERY TIE: Blown Away by G.M. Ford and A Stolen Season by Steve Hamilton. (read me! and me!)


6. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. (buy me!)

It's now my official opinion that Erik Larson is one of the most interesting non-fiction writers I have ever encountered. I just cannot get over how cool his mind works -- the way he is able to mesh seemingly-unrelated stories together so perfectly that by the end, you can't imagine how you could ever have believed them to be unrelated in the first place. As with Larson's The Devil in the White City , this book weaves together two engaging stories from the past. The first is about Guglielmo Marconi, the young Italian who invented wireless telegraph communication, and the second is about Hawley Harvey Crippen, a quiet doctor who, as it turns out, was actually a brutal killer. The way these two stories end up colliding in the final scene will totally blow your mind! If you loved Devil , go get a copy of this one right now, and if you haven't read any Larson yet, oh, how I ENVY you the adventures you are about to embark upon! Highly, HIGHLY recommended! [NON-FICTION]

7. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathanial Fick. (read me!)

I don't read a lot of military non-fiction, and I was a little worried that, as a result, I might not really "get" a lot of this book, but Fick is such a terrific writer that as soon as I picked this up, I had a really hard time putting it down again. It's the story of Fick's journey from his days of Officer Candidate School in the Marine Corps to his time spent in command of a squad of Marines in post-9/11 Afghanistan and Iraq . Most of the war sequences focus on Fick's frustration at not getting to fight (or, even worse, having to fight his own commanders in order to get things done he feels are important, like saving the lives of two civilian boys accidentally shot by his Marines), his confusion over orders that make little sense to him, and his intense desire to keep his Marines safe and get them back home "physiologically and psychologically sound." But the more he's put into stressful or life-threatening situations, the more he comes to understand and value what it is his leaders have taught him. As he says himself at one point, "Marine training is essentially a psychological battle against the instinct of self-preservation." Unlike with Anthony Swofford's Jarhead (also an excellent book, but very different), Fick focuses less on individual Marines he encounters and more on what it takes to be an intelligent leader in command of a group of soldiers. He begins to realize that while honor and valor are vital in war, there's a lot to be said for careful thought and reasoned logic as well -- two things he found frustratingly lacking in some of his own commanders at times. That said, Fick is extremely humble -- he's a listener and observer more than an opiner, and his descriptions of the complexity of fighting in Iraq, a war where soldiers seem to spend more time doing civic duties than actual fighting, was poignant, intelligent, and extremely balanced, as well as, to be honest, pretty professionally unapologetic. I highly recommend this articulate and eloquent book to anybody who is interested in the current situation in Iraq , or in what it takes to be a member of one of the most elite and respected fighting forces in the world, the United States Marine Corps. (Note to my Dad: Ooh-rah!) [NON-FICTION]

8. Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande. (read me!)

I've been a fan of Gawande, a surgeon who frequently writes for The New Yorker and , for many years. And this book only strengthened my respect for the man's medical and literary talents -- not only is Gawande a respected doctor and a guy with a lot of interesting things to say, he's also, in my opinion, a phenomenal writer, able to take the most complex medical concepts or procedures and make them completely accessible to the average reader. This particular book is based on Gawande's theory that the best medical advances stem from doctors who strive constantly and consistently to do better . Not satisfied with current knowledge or techniques, they continually strive to blaze new trails and find new ways to improve the quality of life for their patients. As examples, Gawande describes in detail several fascinating facets of medicine, starting with the advances in war medicine that have saved thousands of lives in Iraq -- lives that would've surely been lost for good in Vietnam -- and taking us into the worlds of cystic fibrosis clinics and, particularly fascinating for me, obstetrics. I could barely put this book down once I started, not just because the topics were so engrossing, but because Gawande is just simply a really, really good writer. Definitely recommended to anybody who is interested in health and medicine, and if you've never read any Gawande, you can find a lot of his essays and chapters for free on the web if you plunk his name into a Google search. [NON-FICTION]

9. Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother by Peggy Orenstein. (read me!)

I've been a fan of Orenstein's work ever since I read her nonfiction book Schoolgirls in college and then heard her give a lecture at my university. She's brilliant and funny and very empathic, and, what's more, she's an absolutely wonderful writer. But this book is more personal than most, as it's about Orenstein's struggle a few years ago to try to get pregnant for the first time. She had numerous miscarriages, and over a span of a few years, turned sex into science, endured crushing disappointment after crushing disappointment, and nearly lost her spouse in the process. She went through horrible procedures, IVF, and taking powerful drugs that made her feel awful, and every month she got her period, she was completely devastated all over again. But this book isn't just about her attempts to get pregnant, it's also about the variety of misconceptions about women and infertility, and what I loved most about it was Orenstein's honesty regarding her own set of conflicting emotions. This book gave me a great deal of perspective on the struggle to have a child, and Orenstein is such an open and honest writer, I would love it if she wrote a sequel to this book that talked about her experiences as a new parent next (she finally did conceive and bear a healthy child, Daisy). If anybody can revitalize the somewhat repetitive and tired genre of parental lit, it would be Peggy Orenstein. Highly recommended! [NON-FICTION]

10. Charity Girl by Michael Lowenthal. (read me!)

Here's something from United States history I had never heard before: during World War I, the U.S. Government arrested over 20,000 women suspected of spreading STDs to American soldiers. Of those arrested, over 13,000 tested positive and were held against their will for months at a time. They were not allowed to contact their families -- not even to let their mothers know they were still alive. To friends and family left behind, they had simply vanished into thin air. Even worse, they were threatened with legal action, but never actually given lawyers or taken before a judge. Instead, for months they were subjected to brutal and humiliating medical treatments, as well as the open disdain of many of the men and women put in charge of "helping" them. Though many of the women held contracted their STDs from the very soldiers they themselves were accused of infecting, the men suffered no sanctions whatsoever -- it was always assumed the women were to blame. Arrested on dubious charges (in some cases, women were picked up and carted off merely for wearing a dress someone found too "provocative" in an area where there happened to be soldiers stationed), held without legal proceedings, subjected to humiliation-based abuse -- gee, kind of sounds familiar, doesn't it? This novel is about one such “charity girl,” a 17 year-old named Frieda who gets knocked up by a soldier and ultimately contracts an STD and winds up in one of these medical “prisons.” And while I didn't find this book particularly well-written (stilted prose, flat characters), the content of the story itself is what makes it a book not to be missed. Stick this one on your list, everyone. You should know about this. [FICTION]

Favorite GOOD Movies Seen in 2007

1. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

Wow -- just. . . wow. I had heard so many great things about this film that I was nearly 99% positive I was going to totally hate it (that's usually how it works with me and film critics, anyway). The only thing that gave me hope was the fact it was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who directed one of my favorite Spanish films, The Devil's Backbone, as well as a number of other solid flicks like Hellboy. Ten minutes into Pan's, though, and I was in love. This is one of the most utterly magical films I have ever seen. Visually, it's absolutely stunning -- gorgeous colors, incredible creatures, masterful effects. And the story itself? Simply brilliant. It centers around a little girl, Ofelia, whose widowed and pregnant mother has just gotten remarried to a captain in the Fascist army (it's 1944). He's a cruel man who couldn't care less about his new family and is only focused on the baby his new wife is carrying -- a son he wants as his heir. Struggling with her new life in his huge house in the middle of nowhere, Ofelia takes to wandering in the woods, where one day she comes across a strange creature with the head of a goat. He tells her she is a princess from the underworld, and that he has a series of tasks she must complete if she is ever to return to her real family. This creature is no sweetheart, though, and his tasks are hard, scary, and dangerous. The ending of this movie, a lesson in the dangers of unethical principles, is everything you'd expect from a fairy tale -- it's magical, educational, and extremely thought-provoking (please note that this is NOT a fairy tale for children!). If you've gone this long without ever seeing this movie, do yourself a big favor in 2008, and GO NO LONGER. I simply cannot recommend this film strongly enough! (my original review) [FANTASY]

2. The Reckoning (2003) -- . (Netflix me | Buy me)

This unique, engaging mystery is about a young priest (Bettany) who has to flee his village after committing a crime and ends up joining a group of players he encounters on the road. The group arrives at the next village and attempts to stage their usual play (an "Original Sin" sort of thing), but, to their dismay, they find that the town simply isn't interested. As it turns out, they've got their own, much more entertaining drama going on -- a local woman has just been arrested, tried, and sentenced to death for the murder of a young boy. As the players begin working on a new play -- one based on this very murder -- they start to realize the woman is innocent and the murder is part of a larger, darker conspiracy. This is just a brilliantly-made movie, with wonderful camera work and a truly riveting plot. If you like a great mystery, definitely put this one in your pile next time you're at the video store! [DRAMA/MYSTERY]

3. Dexter: Season One (2006) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

A couple of years ago, I read Jeff Lindsay's novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, about a blood spatter expert who worked for the Miami police department by day and was a serial killer himself by night (a killer with a moral code, though, as Dex only kills other killers). Though I found the overall concept intriguing, I had a lot of problems with the novel -- Lindsay isn't much of a writer, in my opinion. So, when I heard Showtime was turning the book into a TV series, I was interested but not exactly dying to see it (pun intended!). Surprisingly enough, I really enjoyed it. I found the TV series far more engaging overall than the novel, and Dexter himself (played brilliantly by Hall) seemed much more complex on TV than he was on paper. Though the show features a lot of explicit violence, it's also quite sweet at times and there are lots of moments of extremely well-timed comic relief as well. It's not flawless, but it's still very, very good, and I'm really looking forward to watching Season Two as soon as it hits DVD. (my original review) [TV SERIES]

4. Michael Clayton (2007) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This intriguing film sort of defies tidy description. At its core is a class-action lawsuit -- a group of sick people versus an agricultural corporation that (knowingly, we later discover) treated crops with a chemical that ended up being toxic. The corporation's head counsel (played brilliantly by Swinton) has called in a private law firm to help with their defense, and that law firm has assigned their greatest class-action lawyer to the case, Arthur Edens (Wilkinson). Things get a little nutty, however, when, one afternoon during a deposition, Arthur stands up, declares his undying love for one of the plantiffs, and then strips buck naked and runs through the parking lot. His bosses at the firm quickly call in their "fixer," a lawyer named Michael Clayton, who has known Arthur for years and is a close friend, as well as an expert at cleaning up messes. As Michael tries to figure out why Arthur unraveled, a sinister backstory begins to emerge. He soon finds something that explains everything, and while I won't tell you what that is, it's ultimately what leads first Arthur and then Michael to question everything they've been doing in their lives and careers thus far. This is a unique, engaging character study, with a final scene that is absolutely delicious. Stellar acting all around, and a movie that will leave you thinking for days after you've seen it. Highly recommended! (my original review) [DRAMA]

5. Coma (2007) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This HBO-made documentary follows the ups and downs experienced over the span of a year by four brain-injury patients, with varying levels of dysfunction and awareness, at the Center for Head Injuries, JFK Medical Center, New Jersey. By watching the changes, steps forward and back, of each patient, we get a mesmerizingly intimate look at the mysteries of brain injury. We also see the very raw emotions of the families, struggling to hold it together for their injured loved one, but barely managing to get through each hard, often hopeless-feeling day. I'm not embarrassed to say I was essentially crying non-stop throughout most of this film. But at the same time, there were so many elements of it I found utterly fascinating -- there's just so much we STILL do not know about the human brain, and though these four patients all had similar injuries, the variety of differences between their recoveries is simply stunning. All in all, this is a complex, thoughtful, and extremely sensitive film. It doesn't appear to be available on DVD yet, but most of the HBO documentaries eventually make it to the small screen, so keep an eye out for it. (my original review) [DOCUMENTARY]

6. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2007) -- Ben Wishaw, Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Hurd-Wood (Netflix me | Buy me)

This is, hands down, one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen. It's based on a novel by Patrick Suskind, which I hope to get around to reading soon, and had a plot description I thought sounded intriguing (serial killer in 18th century France), but which I had no idea would turn into something this completely gorgeous and strange. It's the (fictional) story of a young Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who, since birth, has had an extraordinarily sensitive nose. He was abandoned by his mother as an infant and raised in an orphanage, unloved and unseen. When he grows up, he comes to realize his greatest desire in life is to find a way to capture all the millions of scents he encounters every day. Eventually, he lands a job as an apprentice to the most famous perfumer in France, a man named Baldini (Hoffman). But though Baldini teaches him how to distill flowers into essential oils and combine them with alcohol to make colognes, Grenouille soon discovers this method can't preserve the scent he most wants to save -- the scent of a beautiful woman. So, one by one, he begins to conk the prettiest girls in town over the head, kill them, and then capture their smells. But his project -- a perfume so perfect it will finally make the world notice and adore him -- won't be complete until he gets the scent of the most gorgeous woman who ever lived, the young, beautiful Laura. If you're in the mood for something lovely (visually, not thematically!) and strange, I'd definitely recommend this. Rickman and Hoffman are surprisingly "meh" in this, but actor Wishaw as Grenouille is nothing short of amazing. (my original review) [DRAMA]

7a. FORIEGN FILM TIE: The Lives of Others (2007) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

I just saw this movie for the first time three days ago, so I didn't have time to put an actual review of it up on the blog. If I don't get around to that at all, it's not because I didn't think this movie was superb! It's a German film, set in the mid-1980's [FINISH]


7b. FORIEGN FILM TIE: Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

I've been meaning to see this movie for years, but based on the descriptions I'd heard of it, I had sort of dismissed it as a sexy road trip flick, and hadn't made it much of a priority. After reading so many stellar reviews of Gael Garcia Bernal, however, I decided it was about time I saw him in something, so I picked this one up and plopped down to watch it. As it turns out, "sexy road trip flick" couldn't be a less accurate way to describe this film. Instead, it's actually one giant bummer of a brilliant movie about deception, jealousy, arrogance, class, love, and absolutely devastating poverty. On its surface, it's the story of two friends -- Tenoch and Julio, one of whom is rich and the other poor. The boys have been friends forever and, after this summer, are about to head their separate ways off to college. The two are at a wedding one afternoon when they meet a beautiful woman, Luisa, who is probably ten or so years older than they are. Kind of as a joke, they invite her to go on a road trip to a secret beach, and a couple of days later, she astonishes them by taking them up on the offer. As they drive, the three have lots of conversations about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Luisa tries to teach them a thing or two about how to treat women. They argue, they laugh, and, eventually, both boys end up sleeping with Luisa, which sends them spiralling into jealousy, which in turn leads one of them to reveal a secret to the other than destroys their friendship for good. The surface story is your standard coming-of-age stuff, but underneath is the story of extreme poverty in Mexico, told in bits and snatches in the background. This story was absolutely gut-wrenching, and the brilliant part about it was that it was told in this simple, quiet, unobtrusive kind of way. Almost hidden. Kind of like poverty itself can be, you see? This is a truly wonderful film, and I'm sorry it took me so damn long to get around to watching it. Don't make my mistake! [FOREIGN/DRAMA]

8. The Chumscrubber (2005) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This dark, satirical film is about upper-class adolescents and their completely oblivious and self-centered parents from hell. You know, in a nutshell. The story opens in a small town that reminded me a lot of the one in Edward Scissorhands -- idyllic, quaint, and teeming with oddities. The first scene introduces us to Troy, the school drug dealer. But he doesn't deal in the same types of drugs most others do -- instead of cocaine or marijuana, Dean sells "happy pills" (antidepressants), and most of the local kids are hooked on 'em. Though he's got a lot of customers, Troy's only real friend is Dean (Bell), who has been managing fairly well in his own dreary life without medication until the day he finds Troy hanging from the rafters after committing suicide. Things get even more complicated for Dean when a group of kids from school tell him they'll kidnap his younger brother if he doesn't break into Troy's old room and steal his stash of drugs. Dean refuses, and the next thing he knows. . . the kids have kidnapped some OTHER little boy by accident. Meanwhile, various subplots revolve around the adult characters in the film, most of whom are the absolute worst parents imaginable, when they aren't just downright crazy. There are some truly poignant moments in this film (mostly in the scenes featuring Glenn Close), but for the most part, it's got a feeling of emotional distance to it that fits very well with the film itself. I do think at times it was a bit heavy-handed with the angst, but for the most part, found it a very strange (in a good way), dreamy, and effective movie. I laughed, I cried, I said, "Huh??" And I just really, really liked it. Do with this information what you will. [DRAMA/DARK COMEDY]

9. Deja Vu (2006) -- Denzel Washington, James Caviezel, (Netflix me | Buy me)

As I said in my original review of this extremely entertaining science fiction movie, I think it's going to be more fun if you don't know anything much about it going in. I assume that, based on the film's title and the fact you probably saw ads for it on TV when it was in theaters, you are aware that this movie has something to do with the manipulation of time and a murder mystery. And I think that's about all I'm going to tell you. Well, that, and the fact that this film features the most creative and clever car chase scene I have ever seen in my life. Is it a brilliant "film"? No. But it IS really damn fun. In fact, it's exactly the kind of movie I can see myself watching over and over -- now that I think about it, I think this is one I'm going to need to own. If you're a fan of Denzel Washington, Jim Caviezel, or sci-fi flicks, this is a "don't miss"! [SCIENCE FICTION]

10. Scoop (2006) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

I though about making Breach or The Departed the last movie on my list this year -- I did really like both those movies and thought both were extremely unique and intelligent. But I ended up going with this one because I've already done too many "serious" movies in this list, and dammit all if I don't want you guys to have a little FUN every now and then. This amusing Woody Allen flick is about a young journalism student (Sondra, played by Johansson) who volunteers to be "disappeared" at a magic show one night (the magician is played by Allen). While she's in the magic box, she is visited by the spirit of a dead reporter (McShane), who tells her he has the scoop of a lifetime -- he knows the identity of the infamous Tarot Card Killer. Together, the ghost, the magician, and the student start investigating the would-be killer (Jackman) to try to break the story before anybody else does. Alas, things get a bit tricky when Sondra falls in love with him (and who wouldn't, frankly, since: mrrrrrrowl!). But plot aside, this movie is just REALLY funny, and I laughed out loud more than once. Woody definitely gave himself all the best lines, but Scarlett is more charming in this than in anything I've ever seen her in (with the possible exception of Lost in Translation, though it's been a while since I saw that one). This film is surprisingly a lot of fun, and you really can't beat the cast. So, go rent Breach and The Departed, but make sure you put this one in your pile to watch last -- you'll need the cheering up. [COMEDY]

Favorite BAD Movies Seen in 2007

1. The Undead (2003) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This low-budget Australian flick reminded me a lot of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead -- not in terms of the story, but instead in terms of the very, very intentionally goofiness. I was initially a bit concerned this movie might try to take itself too seriously, but as soon as the overalls-wearing hero, Marion, started bouncing pistols off his substantial hips, flinging them into the air, and then doing all kinds of utterly hilarious and totally ridiculous tricks with them, I knew I'd found another winner. The plot of this flick is about as hokey as they come -- it's about a small fishing town that, one day, begins to be bombarded by tiny meteors from space. Everybody hit by a meteor instantly turns into a zombie, and soon, a small group of survivors has hooked up at Marion's house to try to come up with a plan to stop the madness. The violence in this film, and there is rather a LOT of it, is of the absolutely hilarious, over-the-top, splattery variety, just like in Evil Dead. And Marion is simply a joy to behold during the (numerous!) fight scenes. At one point, he does a flip, hooks his spurs into the wall over the kitchen door, and starts shooting at the incoming zombies upside down. And if that scene doesn't make you yell, "Oh, HELL yes!" then you just don't know from entertainment, my friends. This is everything you'd expect from a low-budget horror movie, with the added bonus of a group of actors, writers, and directors who were out to have a really good time. Absolutely fabulous. Can't wait to see it again! (my original review) [ZOMBIE HORROR]

2. Phantasm (1979) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This movie is the perfect example of 70's horror films. In other words, it's just ridiculously hilarious. It is the epitome of good-bad awesomeness. This movie totally has it ALL. The story is about two brothers (one about 17, the other about 12), who discover their town's mortuary is being run by a group of aliens who are kidnapping humans and turning them into slaves. The movie features a veritable buffet of insanely hilarious elements, including a group of aliens who look just like Jawas from Star Wars, the most unattractive "seductress" in film history, a severed finger that bleeds yellow goop and then suddenly turns into a huge Muppet-like fly that the two boys ultimately kill in their garbage disposal, and a shiny metal ball that flies around the mortuary, puncturing passers-by in the head and sending their blood spurting out in extraordinarily prolonged and hilarious death scenes. If you're looking for the perfect movie to watch with a large group of friends -- preferably ones who used to be fans of MST:3K -- this is, no doubt about it, THE film to rent. Incidentally, coming soon to theaters near you, I kid you not: Phantasm V. (my original review) [HORROR]

3. Wilderness Survival for Girls (2004) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

Right around Halloween, I had an entire weekend free, and planned to spend as much of it as possible watching bad horror movies. The description of this film was exactly what I was after -- three 17 year-old girls head out to the woods for a weekend of drinking and pot-smoking (a surefire way to get yourself killed in a horror movie, as well we all know), and in the middle of the night, a mountain man breaks into their cabin and proceeds to terrorize them for hours. Despite how bad it sounds, this movie was actually a fairly successful little psychological thriller. At first, the girls are terrified by the man, who is played by future Boyfriend James Morrison (better known as Bill Buchanan from 24) -- they point a shotgun at him, tie him to a chair, and then proceed to panic. But it's not long before their terror changes to anger, and while Ed kind of goes along with it at first, the more time the girls spend with them, the more their personal issues and overactive 17 year-old imaginations start overruling the logical centers of their brains. And things go rather quickly downhill from there. All in all, I'd say this was a pretty satisfactory little thriller -- I was completely surprised by it, and would never in a million year have lumped it under the heading "teen scream" (as Netflix did). Definitely recommended, and let me know what you think if you do get around to watching it. (my original review) [THRILLER]

4. The Feast (2005) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This is the movie that came out of Project Greenlight's third season, and after reading some positive reviews of it (rare in the world of horror movies), I decided to give it a rental. And I'm so glad I did, because I loved it! It's about a group of people who are all hanging out in a bar in the middle of nowhere when McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy comes bursting through the door carrying the head of a monster in one hand. He announces that "they are coming," and starts yelling something about sealing the doors and windows up before "they" get in. Stunned, the group is at first slow to respond -- this all changes when McSteamy backs up against the window, declares he's "the guy who is going to save you all," and promptly has his head bitten off by something that comes crashing through the glass behind him. From there begins an extremely funny, ridiculously gross creature feature that also stars Balthazar Getty, Jason Mewes (also eaten quickly, alas), Henry Rollins (as a hilarious motivational speaker), and Navi Rawat (Amita from Numb3rs). If you're a fan of gruesome and darkly funny horror flicks, this is definitely one to check out! [CREATURE FEATURE]

5. Vacancy (2007) -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This movie makes the list only because I went into it expecting to find it unbearably awful, and then ended up being surprisingly entertained. It's NOT a good movie -- however, it's a fairly decent good-bad movie. And that's what this list is all about. When it first started, I was pretty sure it was going to be unwatchable. The story begins with a married couple going through a divorce after losing a child (yawn!) who, on their last road trip together, make several of the most standard "scary movie" mistakes in a row: 1) They get off the main road to take a "faster" back road instead; 2) They pull into an ancient gas station in the middle of nowhere and let the creepy attendant work on their engine; 3) When their car dies a mile later, they are not only surprised (I sure wasn't!), but they actually GO BACK to the gas station on foot; 4) Finding the gas station now closed, they take a room in the ultra-spooky hotel next door. Dude, seriously? That's the best you can do? Surprisingly, things get a little more interesting after that. Once in their room, the couple discovers a stack of videotapes, each of which features a snuff film. After watching for a few moments, they realize with horror that all the movies are taking place in their very hotel room -- which is absolutely covered in hidden cameras. What could've progressed from there into a very standard slasher flick instead takes a few fairly successful turns, as the couple attempts to outwit, outplay, and outlast their attackers. Is it brilliant? Not even close. But I was on the edge of my seat for a few parts, and that's pretty rare when it comes to mainstream horror movies these days. Kate Beckinsale irritated me as much as she always does, but Luke Wilson was pretty good, and it's always nice to see Ethan Embry, even when he's woefully miscast as he is here. In short, you could do worse. [HORROR]

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Well, folks, that's it! I hope you've enjoyed my little "Best Of" lists, and that you read or see a few of these and love them (or love to hate them, as the case may be with the bad movies!) as much as I did. All the best in the New Year and keep in touch! Or else!


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