Pajiba's Greatest Hits
Anyway, trying to find 18 or 20 of our best reviews out of 1,673 is a ridiculous task, and to do so, in a way, minimizes the other 1,655 reviews we've written over the years. Of course, we've had about 20 contributors during that time, and unfortunately, there's no way I can include everyone here. Needless to say, I've valued everyone's contributions (well, except that that one guy ... OK, her too), but I did want to honor some of those reviews from contributors who have written the most over the years. These aren't necessarily the best of our reviews (I have no idea how to quantify that), but they are among our own favorites, as well as some of the signature reviews of the site.
Here is Pajiba's Greatest Hits 2004-2009, with sample paragraphs and a link to the full review:
My Love is Vengeance , The Dark Knight by Daniel Carlson.
If Frank Miller reinvigorated the seriousness of the comic book character with 1986's The Dark Knight Returns, then Christopher Nolan gave him new life on screen by erasing the memory of Joel Schumacher's abysmal films and rebooting the entire storyline from scratch three years ago with the bleak, daring, and completely engaging Batman Begins. Tim Burton's Batman and follow-up Batman Returns were themselves overrated, overheated, and almost suffocatingly stylized, but their biggest sin was that they played up the absurdity of the character without making him believable. Burton once said, "Anyone who knows me knows I would never read a comic book," and that air of mild condescension came across on screen. But Nolan clearly respects not only the possibilities in the source material but also the very real pain that would drive a man like Bruce Wayne to the edge. Yes, it's patently absurd that a young man attempting to deal with the death of his parents would channel that rage into karate classes and building a rubber suit shaped like a bat, but Nolan grounds that action in a world that's palpably real. As a director, Nolan takes the story seriously, and that makes all the difference, transforming his films from good to great. They're the best superhero movies ever made because they embrace the character on a gut level and not as some pop artifact. The Dark Knight is a harrowing, frightening, uncompromising, flat-out great superhero movie, wonderful in sad ways, hitting the perfect mix of characterization and humor, bouncing between phenomenal action set pieces and the brutally human moments that place the film in a recognizable world even as it soars into comic book fantasy. Put simply, Nolan just gets it. He's a believer, and he'll make one out of you, too.
We Are the Wretched Refuse, Stripes, by Agent Bedhead.
Although I'd never have admitted this at the time, I was raised by a fairly cool set of parents who didn't really mind if I watched R-rated films. Their perspective was that such popcorn fare would, at worst, only contribute to a very developed knowledge of curse words and phrases, and shitdamnfuckall, they were correct. As such, one can be certain that Stripes is a movie that I've seen more times than I can even begin to quantify. Naturally, it was quite some time before I could fully appreciate the film as more than a broad comedy, and a very funny one at that. This classic film is the work of a truly ensemble cast and a set of bona fide filmmakers that, unfortunately, would probably not have been chosen by producers of today's comedies. At the time, director Ivan Reitman was quickly establishing himself as a staple director of the comedy genre. He was accompanied by cinematographer Bill Butler, who worked on The Godfather, Jaws, and several of the Rocky films, and composer Elmer Bernstein, whose vast experience is virtually impossible to summarize and who commanded not only the film's easily recognizable anthem but also that meandering piano theme that, just like a little black cloud, follows Bill Murray's character during his lowest moments. Nobody really pulls off "underdog," "mutt," or "wretched refuse" like Murray, and he's a huge part of why this $10 million budget comedy transformed into an $85 million run at the box office. Hell, if one were to go even further and adjust these 1981 gross ticket sales for inflation, well, there's simply not many genuinely great comedy films out there that can even hope to compare.
The Tortured Soul of a Jackass, Jackass Number Two, by Dustin Rowles.
There's a scene in Johnny Knoxville's latest documentary, Jackass: Number Two -- a gritty, urbane examination of the post-adolescent retardation of men in their late 20s/early 30s -- that involves a container of horse ejaculate. I'm reluctant to disclose the details, mindful as I am about revealing the fine intricacies and schematics of the Jackass plotline, but there's an almost undeniable hidden metaphor in that half-bottle of prostatic fluid, and what the bearded jackass (Chris Pontius) and Mr. Knoxville -- who turned in a literally haunting performance as Luke Duke in last year's Dukes of Hazzard -- do with the equine spunk provides a suitable distillation of the movie as a whole, propelling the narrative undertones to another, more complex stratum. It's probably obvious to anyone, but what the director, Jeff Tremaine (who in addition to the Jackass films, also directed their sublime precursor, Boob), is trying to essentiate with in this particular vignette is that the three leads -- Knoxville, Steve-O, and Bam Margera -- really, profoundly want to fuck each other. On a chair. In the backseat of a Volkswagen Bug. In a library carrel. Or against a rock. Wherever. It doesn't really matter, just so long as there is penetration involved.
I Hate Everyone, D-War, by Phillip Stephens.
Apparently, D-War is of South Korean origin, directed by Shim Hyung-rae, and the biggest film to ever come from that fine nation. That many of the elements in D-Wars might be lost in translation could account for the film's remarkable clumsiness, but not quite to this degree. Now, an open letter to South Korea: As a vagabond student, I've known a large number of your citizens and, to a person, they've been kind, intelligent, well-balanced people and after seeing some of the exceptional films of Kim Ji-Woon, Bong Joon-ho, and of course, Park Chan-wook, I've come to expect great things from your cinema. But after watching D-War, I'm afraid I not only have to rescind these compliments, but to openly call for the genocide of all Koreans and their culture. In short, South Korea: You do a grave disservice to yourself by letting this Shim Hyung-rae make movies about you.
Middle America's Development Is Arrested, "Arrested Development," by Seth Freilich.
After pounding back a fifth of vodka (to numb the pain), kicking a puppy (to vent my frustration) and watching The Terror of Tiny Town (because midgets are always funny), I got to thinking. Unlike many other things in this country, the cancellation of "Arrested Development" isn't actually something we can entirely blame on Fox. After all, they gave this show two and a half years to develop a ratings foothold; it simply never managed to catch on. Now, Fox certainly could have done a much better job marketing the show, but the fact remains, aside from critics and a handful of smart folks, people just weren't into this show. Well, to quote George Carlin from his recent HBO special, "people are fucking dumb!" In fact, Carlin pretty much summed up all of my thoughts on this matter by noting that "this country is full of nitwits and assholes ... nitwits, assholes, fuckups, scumbags, jerkoffs and dipshits." Now, just as Carlin made a qualification for the audience at his show, I am willing to make a similar qualification here. The Pajiba readers tend to be relatively smart (although not all of them -- take a look at the comments if you don't believe me) and discerning, and the comments I've previously received suggest that many of you recognize that brilliance that is/was "Arrested Development." So I'm not talking about you, "but the rest of them, holy jumping fucking shitballs. Dumber than a second coat of paint."
That Brokeback Got Me Good, Brokeback Mountain, Jeremy C. Fox.
The filmmakers have the guts to allow for the moral ambiguity of Ennis and Jack's situation and explore the toll their secret takes on their families. No matter how powerful or natural their desires, by following them they're hurting the women they married in their misdirected search for the passion they find only with each other. While I'd enjoyed Michelle Williams' performances in small roles in recent films like Imaginary Heroes and The Baxter, until now my concept of her was essentially "that girl from 'Dawson's Creek.'" Those days are over. Her performance here is so deeply felt, authentic, and adult that it wipes away all my preconceived notions about her -- not to mention blowing her former co-star Katie Holmes, whose recent performances haven't strayed far from the Creek, right out of the water. When Williams' Alma first witnesses her husband embracing a man, kissing him, her face expresses about 10 kinds of alarm, confusion, heartbreak, and horror. And Anne Hathaway, who plays Jack's wife Lureen, might have forever been Mia Thermopolis to me but for her role here. She's given less to play than Williams, but she makes the most of every moment. Her silent triumph when Jack finally stands up to her bullying father is exhilarating, and the slight catch in her throat that disturbs her frosty demeanor when she speaks to Ennis for the first and last time, the subtle suggestion that she's finally learned her husband's secret, completely transforms the way we see her character. Even the actors in roles that count for little more than cameos, such as the tiny part played by an unrecognizable Anna Faris, or the slightly larger role given to Linda Cardellini, hit home. It's as if Lee had been asked to prove that every B-list actress in Hollywood under 30 had unplumbed depths. There's not a performer in the film who doesn't stretch (well, maybe Randy Quaid, but it's nice to see him in a respectable role again), and there's not one who fails.
Made of Dead Men and Sinners, Hell Bound Through and Through, The Crow, by TK.
No bullshit -- if you ask me to name my favorite comic book movies, The Crow easily cracks the top five. It's sometimes hard to separate the almost preternatural reality that surrounds it, and there's no denying that its history and the fact that tragedy surrounds and infuses it is part of what makes it so riveting. Yet even if you cast away the devastating events that led to O'Barr's inspiration and Lee's untimely and bizarre death, The Crow is still a hard-boiled, captivating spectacle. It's not 100% faithful to the comic, but it captures its essence successfully. Yet it's more than simply a comic book movie. The Crow created its own universe, a gruesome, scary place where no one is safe and nothing is sacred, a place where those who have lost become lost themselves. Then, amidst all of that gloom and sadness, it creates an antihero unlike most others, a unique vision of "the avenger, the killer of killers," as Top Dollar puts it. It's wildly entertaining, filled with gallows humor and love lost and regained. It's a film both about death and enveloped in it, and yet somehow, you'll walk away from it happy.
Say a Prayer for Surf Boy, Wherever He Is, Rushmore, by Daniel Carlson.
It's fair to say there's an exuberance in Rushmore that Wes Anderson may never fully recapture. He wrote and directed the film before he was 30, and it's not uncommon for many young filmmakers to create works of art that are as fueled by age and desire as by any measurable cinematic skill. Rushmore burns with the fire of a man who realizes that he is capable of unknown greatness, and is willing to risk everything to find it. Anderson's later stumblings hardly make him a failure, but they do underscore just how special Rushmore is to both Anderson and the field of American comedy. The film also has one of the best endings you could ask for, a sequence at a dance following the "Heaven & Hell" premiere that reunites all the characters for one last moment together. The scenes radiate a warmth that's impossible to describe; Anderson manages to capture the poignancy of growing up with careful glances and brief, honest dialogue. Max has since gotten over Miss Cross and given a kind of blessing to her and Blume, and he's also found a girl his own age. But even so, Max and Miss Cross step out onto the dance floor as the Faces' "Ooh La La" swells in the background. Max and Miss Cross aren't dating, and never did, but they still found themselves in a valid, if twisted, relationship. And for one moment, Max's own dreams finally come true, as he and Miss Cross drift out under the firework stars and the curtain swings to a close.
The Really Big Motherfucking Sleep, Dark City, by Agent Bedhead.
In the late 1990s, two thematically similar films were released about a year apart from each other. The second film, The Matrix, was largely filmed on the same sets and reused many of the props of its predecessor, Dark City. Both films featured protagonists who struggled to free humanity from a technological prison that offered up false consciousness as reality. Many more undeniable similarities exist between these two films, but the superior Dark City has been all but forgotten as the proto-Matrix. Yeah, so maybe Dark City lacked the "whoa" punch line of its lead actor as well as an androgynous heroine in a skintight catsuit, the entire kung fu schbang, and perhaps most damning, the marketing blitz of The Matrix. However, the absence of Dark City references within the easily digestible realm of pop culture doesn't lessen the film's impact as a cyberpunk, sci-fi noir masterpiece. Indeed, Dark City is a non-preachy parable that dares to provide substance along with its style.
I Am Pissed the Fuck Off, Captivity, by Dustin Rowles.
I don't know how else to put this. There's not a tactful way of saying it -- no fancy critic-speak or appropriate metaphors to use here. So, I'll just put it in the bluntest way possible: I fucking hated Captivity. I loathed it. I want to collect every print in America and burn them all. And I want to throw the filmmakers into the bonfire. I want to emasculate the director, Roland Joffe, and the screenwriters, Larry Cohen and Joseph Tura, in the worst way imaginable. I want to remove their testicles and feed them to wild animals while they look on in horror. I want to remove the three of them from the human race, along with the 12 producers, and the marketing team behind Captivity -- I want to inflict upon them all some misguided vigilante justice. Some fantastical, Tarantino brand of vengeance. And though I know by wishing it upon them, I'm stooping to their level, I still desperately want them all to feel the pain of centuries of misogyny and female degradation in one prolonged, indescribably agonizing form of torment.
More Human than Human, United 93, by Phillip Stephens.
I'm hard pressed to remember having a theatrical experience quite like United 93, which successfully builds tension throughout the entirety of its running time, literally not relenting until that final, cataclysmic moment. The fact that the depiction was based on the horrors of September 11th could by itself provide the viewer with enough apprehension to feel affected, but what Greengrass does with this tension is significant for its humanity. Eschewing politics and patriotism, this story presents heroism in an all too human fashion. I can't remember any given character's specific name, or many noteworthy lines of dialogue, and the passengers' final act of courage is ultimately no more evocative than the scenes of old men crying or a woman giving a young girl her cell phone to make that final call -- but taken as a whole, it's devastating.
Dullness Is Ever Apt to Magnify, Lions for Lambs, by Ranylt Richildis.
Crash certainly wasn't the first Hollywood picture to insult us with its Flecknoe-esque impotence -- that title has just become shorthand for movies that make a whole art out of those off-putting moments found in films like Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and "Band of Brothers." As a foreigner, I risk a keel-hauling for suggesting as much, but somewhere along the way, I think America lost its ability to do war movies -- or "important" movies of any stripe. The few exceptions that manage to come out of the U.S. can't hold back the deluge of celebrity-larded films that purport to be significant, eternal and moral, but which are really just little cinematic canapés that feed actors' and directors' egos and offer nothing of substance to audiences so used to starvation, they can find a feast in a crumb. I want to lock Eastwood, Redford, Penn and current-day Scorsese into a theater along with Haggis, Hanks and Spielberg, and pump out the same fume of Starbuck's tang and L.A. smog that wafts off their own blustering boardroom misfires, until these purveyors of what passes for Meaning suffocate on their own fetor. Where these mooncalves see weighty, I see a complete lack of cultural awareness beyond the axiomatic; I see output as clichéd and constipated as my non-revelation that Hollywood fucking sucks, and as routine as a caffeine-addled Pajiba reviewer whacking a mediocre studio picture upside the head with a thesaurus. Crash is just the apotheosis of rank witlessness, and thanks to its bottled stink, films like Lions for Lambs (which replaces racism with propaganda as the social bête-noir we'd never recognize without Redford's help) are much more easily scented.
No Good Girls Gone Wrong, Just Bad Girls Found Out, "Girls Gone Wild," by Ted Boynton.
And that's when I figured it out, the explanation for why people buy this dreck. It's damn sure not because it's whack fodder. Instead, the attraction is a variant of "The World's Funniest Home Videos," but dialed down to "zero" on the shame-ometer and served with a heaping helping of titty-lation. The combination of witless, misogynistic humiliation and strip club objectification must appeal mightily to every trailer park he-man and date raping frat douche who ever got shot down by a tipsy wild honey in a halter top and short shorts. "See, now you know what fucking sluts girls really are. All they want is to pull off their clothes." Most people like to watch other people do stupid shit -- see, e.g., the inexplicably popular and cruel "American Idol" casting outtakes. It follows, then, that mean, stupid people like to watch really, really stupid people do really, really stupid shit. Like take their clothes off on camera in exchange for a $2 shirt that a Hooters girl would find too demeaning. The sad part of this is not that GGW exists; in one form or another, GGW has always existed, and until the dipshit gene is purged from our chromosomes, some form of GGW will always be there. No, the sad part is that by the time GGW gets to these 18-year-old girls, they're already vacant-eyed dolts without the slightest hint of self-respect, so empty behind the forehead and in the soul that a pair of GGW bootie shorts represents the pinnacle of their aspirations. GGW is merely a symptom of shitty parenting and a society that values "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" over "Arrested Development." GGW is the hyena in this little drama of natural selection, bringing down the dumbest of the dumb and not minding that the meat from the kill has Valtrex and shit smeared all over it.
Luminous Beings Are We, The Empire Strikes Back, by Daniel Carlson.
Gaining any kind of distance on George Lucas' sprawling Star Wars film universe is no easy task; the series kicked off in 1977 and broke ground in the arena of pop genre movies and pretty much defined the modern blockbuster, and the plots and quotes are so deeply carved into the collective subconscious of moviegoers that it's easy to forget there was a time when kids didn't know what a Jedi was. (If in the course of this retrospective I don't enumerate certain plot points well enough or find myself skating over others, I can only ask forgiveness for being so caught up in a genuinely beautiful film that I forgot to heed my own warning.) And though that kind of ubiquity is in many ways a testament to the films' sticking power, it also makes it easier to overlook just what really happens in the films, and how. The absolute best of the lot is 1980's The Empire Strikes Back, the second film in the original trilogy, and as is often the case with the works of art that matter most, its existence and effect are matters of layered dichotomies. It's not just its place in pop culture history, its achievements within its genre, its technical breakthroughs, or its stylistic marvels. It's one of those handful of films that managed to put the lightning back in the bottle and become something greater than its first chapter could possibly have hinted at or imagined. Namely: It's a sequel that bests its forerunner yet wouldn't be possible without it, and it's a visual revelation that nevertheless places a premium on character and story.
The Only One Fucking Eddie Coyle is Eddie Coyle, Friends of Eddie Coyle, by Seth Freilich.
I have a terrible memory. Absolute shit. So it's very rare that I remember things like where or when I first saw a movie -- hell, after a couple years, I often don't remember how a movie even ends. And yet, I remember exactly where and when I first stumbled upon The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which is even more shocking considering I was drunk. It was during my third year of law school in the fall of 2000 when, on any given night, the odds were distinctly in favor of me being drunk. But this was a rare night, however, as I didn't immediately pass out when I got home. Instead, I found myself laying on my bed in a mildly drunken stupor, flipping through the channels in an attempt to find adequate background noise to the impending pass-out. And that's when I came upon a scene with these two dudes talking in a diner. From the tone and color of the film, it was obviously a 70's flick. And having no idea who Robert Mitchum was, it wasn't until later that I realized he was the one giving this absolutely engrossing monologue about why he's so careful when buying illegal guns. And as drunk as I was, I was so roped in by this simple monologue that I willed myself to a semblance of sobriety so I could stay awake for the next 80-odd minutes watching what is one of the best low-down gangster flicks out there.
It'll Make You Squeal Like a Pig, Wild Hogs, by John Williams.
If you've given up hope on the human project, Wild Hogs is the movie for you. If you have a hard time deciding whether gay people are more creepy or ridiculous, Wild Hogs is the movie for you. If you've ever been kept up at night wondering why Hollywood hasn't come to its senses and finally brought together John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, and Tim Allen for a slapstick comedy about four middle-aged guys who try to reconnect with their less burdened younger selves by embarking on a cross-country motorcycle trip, Wild Hogs is the movie for you. And Thorazine is the drug for you. Our culture churns out crap faster than the Army Corps of Engineers could shovel it, so it would be disingenuous to act shocked by even its most willfully awful products. Still, the first time I saw the preview for Wild Hogs, my jaw fell a bit further toward the sticky cinema floor with each washed-up hack who popped up to pollute the screen. Given that a central portion of Pajiba's mission is to treat the worst of Hollywood the way that nicotine-dazed, knife-wielding factory workers treat taser-stunned cattle, I knew that I had to claim this one for myself.
Friday Night Tits, "Ghost Whisperer," by Seth Freilich.
And now I'm writing a column which is little more than a thinly veiled excuse to both watch J-Love's breasts for an hour and provide me an outlet to make as many derogatory tit references as I can. I guess some things don't change.
The Newest Subgenre of Adult Film: Ricci Porn, Black Snake Moan, by Dustin Rowles.
I don't actually wet my pants at the prospect of seeing a sex-starved, mostly naked Christina Ricci writhe around on the ground jonesing for cock like an evangelist on sabbatical from his heterosexuality. I mean, come the fuck on. If I had known that all it took to get a movie financed and distributed was to hire an alabaster starlet with body dysmorphic disorder and a forehead that looks like an infant crowning and then throw her in a pair of Daisy Dukes and ask her to thrash about like a goddamn wolf in heat, then I'd be motherfucking Steven Spielberg, now wouldn't I? Because if you throw in some archaic racial stereotypes, a severely fucked-up view of the South, and the unholy miscasting of Justin Timberlake, that's just about what Black Snake Moan amounts to. Add a director -- Craig Brewer -- with sudden, unearned legitimacy thanks to a film (Hustle and Flow) that Terrence Howard single-handedly saved in spite of Brewer's worst efforts, and you've got yourself a film that, inexplicably, allows hipsters and so-called sophisticated film lovers to watch a skin-flick guilt free, assured in the knowledge that it was made by a respectable artist. Well, fuck that. If you manage to convince yourself that Black Snake Moan is anything other than the outgrowth of an adolescent boy's desperate wish to have a ready-and-willing vagina chained to his radiator, then you're deluding yourself. And if you can admit that the only reason you'd see this flick is to add to your arsenal of masturbation fantasies -- well, maybe I can respect your honesty (even if you're a sick bastard for getting off on a character with a history of violent sexual abuse). But anyone who suggests -- as many older, white male critics are already doing -- that Black Snake Moan is either "art" or "an original slice of the American experience" (where the fuck do you live, asshole?), is a sad, sad little man who mistakes his tiny erection for an epiphanic experience.
Walks Like a Duck, Talks Like Bakhtin, Trading Places, by Ranylt Richildis.
As Rabelais anticipated in his fiction, carnivalism functions most believably in the comedic genre -- especially in comedies featuring fart jokes, bestial rape, prostitution, rotting food, topless women and public urination (step right up, John Landis!). The earthy reality of Rabelais' world challenges the artificial rules, etiquettes and hierarchies embodied in Trading Places' upper-crust characters (Winthorpe's fiancée, Penelope, is literally pressed between the unwashed bodies of the lower classes on a bench in the police station). Bakhtin believed that the degraded realms of sex, reproduction and elimination were crucial zones of social regeneration; base fucking results in new birth, and shit fertilizes the ground. Crude images, in other words, are not cynical but life-affirming, and laughter, according to Bakhtin, "liberates the gay truth of the world." In this context, Trading Places as a comedy of social reform, with its images of mingled ranks and its celebration of the body, reinforces old notions of fiction and society that go back 500 years. It's amazing what the director of Animal House can pull off when he jumps into the current of cultural ideas we swim in unawares. And though it may seem like a stretch to lay Russian formalist theory over poppycock like Trading Places, that very incompatibility would be welcomed by Bakhtin, who was fascinated with the liberating possibilities of combining so-called low and high cultural forms.
Wherever We Go We Bring Monkey With Us, The Wedding Singer, by Brian Prisco.
There exists a potent potable that many of us are familiar with, that comes in several nefarious variations, and that is guaranteed to knock you on your fat Aunt Sally: The Long Island Iced Tea. The recipe is 1 part vodka, 1 part tequila, 1 part rum, 1 part gin, 1 part triple sec, fill with sour mix, add a splash of Coke for coloring and Odelay! When mixed properly, these seemingly disparate elements combine into a smooth cocktail that tastes vaguely of Nantucket Nectars Iced Tea and goes down quicker than Ashton Kutcher servicing Demi for his monthly "Punk'd" allowance. A common rookie mistake is to try to overcompensate on the liquor to make the drink stronger. But the point of the Long Island Iced Tea is not the amount of alcohol but the sheer velocity at which you can consume it. Even if you despise tequila or you can't stand gin, for some reason, when they are shaken up in this precise combination, you can slurp away with pride. And such is the case The Wedding Singer. It mixes individual ingredients known to cause vomiting and rage from even the most liver-hardened Pajibbasauri, but here, in this clever little romantic comedy, it's damn refreshing and tasty. Adam Sandler and his frattacular cronies seem like the kind of guys who would slop up a big batch of jungle juice, throw on Paul's Boutique, and cracker dance until the date-rape drugs kicked in. But for some reason, the planets aligned themselves, the Keymaster porked the Gatekeeper, and we've got bush.
Is "The Neither" an Option? The Hottie or the Nottie, by Stacey Nosek.
Paris Hilton is by no means an attractive woman. I understand this statement might be debatable in some circles, but thankfully this is Pajiba, and therefore not one of them. Shockingly, Hilton's square-jawed, reptilian-nosed, wonk-eyed features manage to fare even worse on the big screen than they do in glossy tabloid photos, although that may have partially been the result of excessive and misguided close-up shots. So if you're wondering just how much makeup and prosthetics it took to transform moderately attractive, nondescript actress Christine Lakin, the titular "Nottie" of The Hottie and the Nottie, into a character that would make Hilton look good in comparison -- your answer is a hell of a lot, and strangely not quite enough. And ironically, probably about the same amount that it takes to make Paris Hilton just look like "Paris Hilton" on your average, everyday basis. To play the role of June, a.k.a. "The Nottie," Lakin dons a prosthetic scalp with thinning hair; malformed, discolored teeth; rotting toenails; hairy moles and acne; and a unibrow with a coat of all-over body hair. Because, get it? This girl is uuuugleee! But really, what better breakthrough starring role for Paris Hilton than an hour and a half long joke about an ugly girl? It's just like "The Simple Life," only the "pretty" one is more conveniently spelled out!
Braff's Head Revisited, Garden State, by Ted Boynton.
Garden State, the story of an emotionally unmoored young man who returns home to deal with his mother's death after a long absence, was the 2004 winner of the Quirky Movie Sweepstakes, the annual race to see which odd little independent film with the recognizable ensemble cast will become a critics' darling and a surprise hit. In 2006, it was Little Miss Sunshine. Last year saw the ultimate candidate, Juno. Garden State, clocking an 87% on the ol' Tomatometer, was widely hailed as the strong debut of a young writer and director with a gift for engaging dialogue and creative imagery. The film grossed over $35 million on a budget of $2.5 million and gave Zach Braff the crossover-star-status he needed as "Scrubs" began to wind down. So how did Garden State turn into a target of mockery as the Über-hipster quirkfest representing everything wrong with independent film? The sniping that has ramped up over the past three years is generally wrong to the extent it actually relates to the film itself and is based almost entirely on factors having nothing to do with Garden State the film, as opposed to Garden State the post-hoc concept.
They're Living and Dying Down in Old Chinatown, Big Trouble, Little China, by TK.
You spent the night making questionable decisions. You drank enough cheap, watered down beer to drown a camel. Your eyes are red, your head is pounding, your throat feels like you swallowed burning sand. You'd swear that a cat took a shit in your mouth. You guzzled a 32 ounce Gatorade before bed, hoping the hydration would save you. Instead it looks like someone vomited up fruit punch-scented blood in your bathroom sink. You don't know what time it is. You don't want to know what time it is. Right now, all you know is pain. You need redemption. Salvation. Who can save you from this brutal, aching tumult? Jack Burton, that's who. He saved the world from a 2,000 year-old evil sorcerer -- he sure as hell can save your sorry ass. Jack Burton took on the Three Storms. He's fought monsters and warriors of legend. He never drives faster than he can see, and besides... it's all in the reflexes.
How You Like Them Pineapples, Apatow?, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, by Brian Prisco.
Kevin Smith made a movie, y'all. An honest to god, motherfucking movie. For years, people have been busting out slacker comedies with chubby stoners finding inexplicably hot girlfriends or basic romantic comedies sprinkled with a couple dick and fart jokes. They have never paid respect to the man who, while not the father of the genre (Richard Linklater), is assuredly the son if not the holy fucking spirit. The difference is they would triple the budget, slap in a couple of hot-in-the-moment comedians, pull back on the f-bombs, and rake in mad amounts of cash. Kevin Smith sat back, let the boys play, while he went about his business making a couple of movies with his friends. Then came Zack and Miri Make a Porno. It's a little like Pete Wentz jamming in front of a couple of sorority girls, impressing them with all three of the chords he knows. When Tom Morello walks in, Pete says, "Hey, Tom, how you like my new guitar?" Tom picks it up and says, "Boy, let me tell you what." He then busts out a riff that makes all of the girls wearing panties wet them, spontaneously impregnate, and orgasms all the girls in the coffeeshop next door. And then he smiles, hands back the guitar, and walks away, as Wentz's mascara runs down his face. Congratulations everyone else making dick and fart joke romantic comedies. You just got fucking served.
Reviews from several contributors who have written less than 40 reviews over the years weren't included on this list. Nevertheless, I'd really like to thank the following for their sometimes enormous contributions to the site: Claude Weaver III, Steven Lloyd Wilson, Michael Murray, Beckyloo Who, Sarah Carlson, Twig Collins, Jennifer McKeown, Nicole Fuscia, Nathaniel R., Maryscott O'Connor, Orlando Bishop, Brandy Barber, Ryan Lindsey, Laremy Legal, Henry Britt, all of our wonderful guest critics, and anyone else I might be forgetting.