Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Top Ten Films of 2011 - Watch the Video Countdown!




For the first time ever, I have created a Video Top Ten List, and you can watch it right here on the site through the YouTube embed above!  It features me narrating over clips and music from all of the selected films, and if I do say so myself, is an entertaining little trek through the year in film. 

You can also read the written, expanded version of the list after the jump.  This is technically the second-half of my Top Twenty List, the first half of which I posted earlier today.  I would recommend reading that article before watching the video or reading this list, or at some point in the future, as it discusses many films I really, truly love that there simply wasn’t enough room for on this countdown. 

As I said in the earlier post, this has been an amazing year for film.  Filmmakers worldwide produced many of the greatest films I’ve ever seen in 2011, many of them exploring dark topics about fractured human psyches and emotional damage, but big blockbuster entertainment was also very strong throughout the year.  I loved so many movies this year that a simple Top Ten List was impossible, thus the Top Twenty, but even then, I’ve had to cheat and include a tie somewhere on this list, making this more of a Top Eleven countdown.  

This article marks the end of a really fantastic first year here at www.jonathanlack.com.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed this journey through a great year in film with me, and in a couple of days, January will arrive and we’ll start this whole crazy process over again.  If you’re looking for some more year-end roundups, you can also read my Top Ten TV Shows of 2011 and Worst Ten Films of 2011.

Without further ado, continue reading after the jump for my Top Ten Films of 2011.  Enjoy…

The Top Twenty Films of 2011 – Part One - #20 through #11


2011 turned out to be a fantastic year for film.  Had you hopped in a time machine and traveled back six months to tell me I would eventually write those words, I would call the police and have you arrested for public displays of lunacy.  January to May produced few, if any films I felt enthusiastic about.  There were some decent ones, certainly, but I didn’t even give a film an A level letter grade until June.  But when the year finally came to life?  Wow.  Just, wow.  Filmmakers worldwide produced some of the greatest films I’ve ever seen in 2011, many of them exploring dark topics about fractured human psyches and emotional damage. 

It was ridiculously tough to whittle down my year-end best-of list to ten films this year, and so, for the first time, I’ve compiled a Top Twenty List.  Heck, even then I had some trouble, and wound up including a tie (I won’t say where) to fit twenty-one films on the countdown. 

Right now, you’re reading Part One, in which I’ll count down the first half of the list, from #20 through #11.  Later today, I’ll post the second part – which will simply be titled as the Top Ten Films – which will include not just text descriptions of the top choices, but a video version as well, narrated by me over clips and music from the movies.  Now, some of these films won’t see an American theatrical release or expansion until 2012, so to remove any confusion, here are my rules for making this list: If it was a new film I saw in 2011, exhibited somewhere in a movie theatre (a multiplex or a festival) then it’s eligible for the list.

Without further ado, read Part One of my Top Twenty Films of 2011 after the jump….

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Top Ten TV Shows of 2011 - Politics and Paintball, Terrorists and TARDIS's, and a whole lot of Direwolves...


I’ve never published a TV Top Ten list, which is kind of funny, because I’ve spent plenty of time writing about TV and much more time watching it.  For many months out of the year, TV shows provide deeper, smarter, funnier, and all around better entertainment than film.  I haven’t had the chance to blog any TV shows this fall – my plans to blog the fifth season of Chuck have fallen by the wayside, though I will resume before the series finale in January – but I want to start again soon, because there are too many great dramas and comedies on the small screen not to write about at least some of them. 

In any case, I am today honoring the best ten TV shows I watched in 2011.  TV being the vast and subjective medium it is, your choices will no doubt differ from mine, though I’m happy to see many of my favorite shows getting widespread critical support.  The only show I didn’t watch this year that may have made the list if I had is HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  I quite liked the first season, but I’ve been too busy to catch up on the second.  Other than that, I’m proud of the list I’ve assembled, and I can’t recommend any of these shows highly enough. 

Continue after the jump to read my picks for the Best Ten TV Shows of 2011…

The Worst Ten Films of 2011 - Pirates, Misogyny, and Romance, Oh My!


2011 was an excellent year for cinema, and you’ll be reading all about it tomorrow in my Top Ten Films of 2011 article – complete with a video version of the list! 

But as with any year, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses in the multiplex.  In fact, among the many masterpieces 2011 had to offer, there was more mediocre, bad, and downright despicable material than usual, most of it coming during the first half of the year, a time when I gave out more C grades and below than usual.  And today, I’m “celebrating” the movies I hated the most, the Worst Ten Films of 2011.  This is by no means a definitive list, both because lists are inherently subjective and because I stayed away from some very bad films (i.e. “Breaking Dawn”).  But of the seventy-five films I saw in 2011 (you can see the complete list of every movie I saw this year by clicking here), here are the worst ones.

This kicks off the final stretch of 2011 here on www.jonathanlack.com.  Later today I’ll be posting my picks for the Top Ten TV Shows of 2011, and tomorrow, my Top Ten Films of 2011, with an aforementioned video version (the text version will actually be a top twenty). 

Without further ado, continue after the jump to see my picks for the Worst Ten Films of 2011. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Review: The "Doctor Who" 2011 Christmas Special - "The Doctor, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" sees the series in top form


As you may have gathered from the Monthly Ten Podcast or my reviews of all the show’s episodes from the past season, this website is a big fan of Doctor Who.  And for the past six years, the show has given fans a tremendous gift on December 25th – an hour-long Christmas Special, a festive, elongated episode with impressive production values that is typically a highlight of the year in Who.

This Christmas was no exception.  I just finished watching The Doctor, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – this year’s special – and suffice to say, I absolutely loved it.  Since it’s Christmas, I considered not writing anything about the episode, but I think I lost the “restrain-oneself-from-writing” gene years ago, and even if I hadn’t, this was an hour worth discussing.

So brief, spoiler-filled thoughts on the special coming up after the jump….

25 Reviews of Christmas #25 - In which I wish a very Merry Christmas with "The Muppet Christmas Carol"


Merry Christmas! 

I hope you are all having a wonderful day with family and friends!  Today, our 25 Reviews of Christmas feature comes to a close with my favorite Christmas film of all time, “The Muppets Christmas Carol!”  I hope you enjoy this review, and more importantly, I hope this entire month-long feature has been as fun for you as it has been for me!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Come back tomorrow for the start of year-end TOP TEN LIST activities, continuing throughout the week!

For now, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to us all!  Review after the jump….

Saturday, December 24, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #24 - Christmas Eve arrives with a Yippee-ki-Yay - it's "Die Hard," the most festive Christmas classic of them all!

Happy Christmas Eve, everybody!  To celebrate this joyous day, I’ve chosen a film I think represents the spirit of the Holiday season better than most, not only one of the best Christmas movies, but one of my favorite movies, period…


Hell.  Yeah.  You read that right.  Yippee-ki-yay, father Christmas.  Yippee.  Ki.  Yay. 

Since it’s Christmas Eve, I’ll keep things brief today – “Die Hard,” more than any other film I’ve reviewed this Holiday season, speaks for itself, after all…Review after the jump….

Friday, December 23, 2011

Catching up on "Chuck" Season Five - Reviews of Episodes 1 thru 7, including tonight's installment, "Chuck Versus the Santa Suit"


As long-time readers of both this site and my original YourHub.com blog may know, I’ve been writing about NBC’s “Chuck” since the start of the third season, reviewing each and every episode of that season and the fourth.  It’s one of my favorite shows of all time, and I’ve always loved writing about it.  But when the fifth and final season began this October, my “Chuck” reviews fell by the wayside.  I reviewed the premiere on October 28th, but for a variety of reasons, I never got to the next five episodes.  One of those reasons was that the Starz Denver Film Festival began the next week, and took up the entirety of my next two weekends, and after that, I simply wasn’t near my TV on Friday nights (the show’s new timeslot). 

But enough excuses.  Chuck is a show I love very much; it’s been with me since my freshman year of high school, and I feel compelled to see it through to the end as more than just a spectator.  So my Chuck reviews will resume next Friday evening, December 30th, with the airing of the season’s eight episode, and I will, God willing, continue through to the series finale.  We will also be doing a special all Chuck edition of the Monthly Ten Podcast after the finale to celebrate the lifespan of this incredible show.    

So to bring everyone up to speed, I have quick mini-reviews of the first seven episodes of the season, including the five I’ve missed over the past two months and tonight’s amazing Christmas episode, “Chuck Versus the Santa Suit,” coming up after the jump…

Review: "We Bought a Zoo" is a very pleasant return for director Cameron Crowe

Film Rating: B+

We need more Cameron Crowe in the world.  I will never understand why reaction to his last film, the pleasant and warm-hearted “Elizabethtown,” was so vitriolic, but it was enough to drive him out of the industry for a long time.  After seeing his first film in six years, “We Bought a Zoo,” I think I would much rather live in a world where Crowe delivers a new movie every two or three years.  He isn’t one of the great American filmmakers, but he’s a director willing to infuse his films with as much heart and soul as they can bear, an undeniable honesty that is wonderfully refreshing in a time when so many films are made for all the wrong reasons. 

Those qualities are the saving grace for “We Bought a Zoo,” which isn’t necessarily a great film.  In many ways, it is exactly what I expected it to be given the premise and schmaltzy trailer: thematically over-articulate in some spots, underdeveloped in others, occasionally too desperate for laughs, a bit long in the tooth, and shamelessly manipulative.  If you don’t see any moment in the narrative coming a mile away, you must be missing a great majority of your brain cells.  In most cases, those elements would be clear and fatal flaws, and I would dismiss the movie.  But if Crowe’s career has taught us anything, from “Almost Famous” to “Jerry Maguire,” it’s that being desperate to please and eager to share emotions with the audience doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Here, the excess, over-articulation, and emotional manipulation simply work, at times spectacularly, because this is a film with lots and lots of heart.  Crowe doesn’t pull any of his big emotional punches; he earns them, and if it takes a predictable plot or the occasional moment of forced humor to get there, the destination is always worth the journey.  Continue Reading after the jump...

25 Reviews of Christmas #23 - No Man is a failure who watches "It's A Wonderful Life"


We’re in the home stretch of The 25 Reviews of Christmas, and today’s article is probably the meatiest review of the bunch!  For our antepenultimate subject, I’m looking at one of my all-time favorite movies, Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and I’ve written a fairly extensive analysis of the film.  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Thursday, December 22, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #22 - I share a story of Christmas past while reviewing "Miracle on 34th Street"


We’re entering the home stretch of The 25 Reviews of Christmas, and I’ve saved some of the best for last!  “Miracle on 34th Street” is a classic for good reason, not only one of my favorite Christmas films, but also a wonderful reminder of the simple powers of a bygone era of cinema.  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is a disappointingly dry, mechanical adaptation

Film Rating: B–

My “Intro To Film” professor had a mantra about adapting books into movies: “The filmmaker’s only obligation is to stay true to the spirit of the original work.”  The implication, of course, is that cinema is a vastly different medium from literature, and if one doesn’t make the necessary changes, the result won’t feel truly cinematic, but clunky, dull, and uninvolving.  Examples of this theory can be found everywhere – the first two “Harry Potter” films stay religiously close to the novels, and are bloated and poorly paced as a result.  The “Potter” films became great when they began doing their own thing with the material, finding bold new cinematic ways to express the magic of Rowling’s work.  The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy often strays very far from the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, but if it didn’t, the films wouldn’t have a chance at matching the emotional impact of the book; emotions are conveyed quite differently on screen than they are on page.    

David Fincher’s take on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is an extremely well made film, full of strong performances, lush visuals, and a terrific musical score.  But it is such a dry, mechanical, and at times lazy adaptation of the original Steig Larsson novel that it fails to engage for a large portion of its run-time.  Screenwriter Steven Zaillian – who typically displays far more talent and creativity than he does here – seemingly felt compelled to include as much of the novel as possible, and has thus fashioned an adaptation that plays not like a movie, but like the novel put on fast-forward, going through all the motions like a well-oiled machine without room for any of the introspection, character analysis, or depth of the original work.  In trying to stay “true” to the book, the film captures only the skeleton of the story.  It is technically accurate, but it misses out on the real meat of the story, all the things that made the book such a great read.  Those unfamiliar with Larsson’s work will no doubt enjoy it a little bit more, but even then, events go by so fast and characters are so vastly underwritten that I can’t see newcomers feeling welcomed.  Continue Reading after the jump...

25 Reviews of Christmas #21 - Memories of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.com!  As explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

Time for a music review!  Today I’m taking a trip down memory lane, looking at Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band’s rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” a live single that’s been a radio classic for years!   Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Review: Spielberg unleashes his creative vision to bring Hergé's "The Adventures of Tintin" to life

Film Rating: B

I’m very glad that I got to see Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” on a Saturday morning, the absolute perfect time to watch the film.  Though it has numerous strong qualities, and is a major step forward for a director whose potential many thought long-since tapped, it is, on the whole, a slight adventure.  “Tintin” is very fun, but it is also quaint, brisk, and lightweight; it gets in, it gets out, and under many circumstances, I might take issue with its simplicity.  On a Saturday morning, though, “Tintin” works perfectly.  It reminds me of how I felt watching various adventures on TV during weekend mornings as a kid, and for Spielberg, it harkens back to the Saturday movie serials of his childhood.  So for Saturday morning entertainment, “Tintin” feels right at home: it’s a fun swashbuckling mystery, a precise cinematic equivalent of Herge’s classic “Tintin” comic books.  Continue reading after the jump...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Early Review: "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is a beautifully crafted, wonderfully absorbing cinematic treat

Film Rating: A

I recently had a conversation via Facebook with my editor over at The Denver Post’s YourHub, and as we talked about upcoming movies, one of the films that came up was “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”  I’d been excited about it because of the positive word of mouth and amazing cast, but unlike my editor, a fan of the original John le Carré novel and BBC miniseries, I was unfamiliar with the source material.  He told me he envied my first exposure to the story, and having now seen Tomas Alfredson’s masterful cinematic adaptation, I see where he was coming from.  Going in cold to such a rich story is a real gift.  There is so much to discover and explore in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” and I had a wonderful time drowning myself in this fascinating universe of British Cold War espionage without any preconceived notions about the story or characters to cloud my vision.  This is one of the greatest cinematic treats of 2011, a film I could see becoming one of my go-to favorites as I revisit it again and again in the future.  Continue Reading after the jump...

25 Reviews of Christmas #20 - The Doctor Who "Christmas Carol" is one of the best!


We’re entering the home stretch of the 25 Reviews of Christmas, and – what’s that?  I didn’t post #19 yesterday?  Well, yes, I…I suppose you are correct.  Please don’t tell anyone.  It’s awfully embarrassing, you see, because this was one of the only days I didn’t have something prepared for in advance, and as I was working on the day’s piece, I was suddenly and unexpectedly invited to an advance screening of a new film, and, you know, priorities and such….on the bright side, my early review of that film – “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” can be read by clicking this link.  The film has some snow in it, I think…

But anyway, today is another fifth day in the 25 Reviews of Christmas, so we are looking at another “Christmas Carol” adaptation.  This is one of my absolute favorites!  The Doctor Who “Christmas Carol” from 2010, not only one of the best Who episodes of all time, but a great “Carol” in its own right!  In addition to reading this article, you can hear Sean Chapman and I review the episode, along with other Doctor Who Christmas Specials, on this month's edition of the Monthly Ten Audio Podcast! 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Sunday, December 18, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #18 - A subtextual analysis of Tim Burton's "Batman Returns," which, for the record, is indeed a Christmas movie


Nothing says Christmas quite like Batman.

Yes, I did indeed just type those words, because today we’re discussing Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns,” the 1992 sequel to the Burton’s first smash-hit “Batman” movie.  And before everyone starts saying “Jonathan, ‘Batman’ isn’t Christmas-y,” I’d like to point out that the entirety of “Batman Returns” takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, many references to the Holiday are made, and snow drenches every last scene. 

It’s a Christmas movie.  So there. 

It’s also one of the most fascinating creations to ever come out of the Hollywood studio system, so if you’ve ever found yourself baffled by the film’s eccentricities, click-through to read my detailed analysis of the rich subtext many viewers miss (understandably so, as “Batman Returns” is an extremely disorienting experience). 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Saturday, December 17, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #17 - "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.comAs explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

Today, we’re looking at a special I’m sure everyone’s familiar with, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” featuring Fred Astaire as an arguably creepy mailman and Mickey Rooney as a young Saint Nick!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump…

Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: Brad Bird's unique and precise vision elevates "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol" to dizzying new heights

Film Rating: A–

Brad Bird was born to direct a Mission: Impossible movie. 

That fact becomes readily apparent five minutes into “Ghost Protocol,” as soon as one realizes that Bird has, indeed, committed to scoring a violent prison break sequence to the sounds of Dean Martin.  No other director could infuse such brutal fight choreography with such a passionate sense of fun.  In his animated works, “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” and “Ratatouille,” Bird proved he was willing to try just about anything to make each and every scene as engaging as possible, and what has made his filmography so consistently great is that his experiments always work.  They are filled top-to-bottom with ridiculously entertaining creativity, and though he’s only directed three features, those three were enough to establish one of the most distinctive cinematic signatures in the business.  The big question going into “Ghost Protocol” was whether or not Bird would be able to transfer that signature from animation to live-action.

I refer you again to Dean Martin serenading Tom Cruise as he fights his way through a cavalcade of violent Russian inmates.  Or the bombastically jubilant opening title sequence, or the hilarious bit of future-tech Simon Pegg’s character uses to sneak into the Kremlin, or a brilliant suspense set-piece that finds Cruise climbing the tallest building in the world, or a chase where, I kid you not, Tom Cruise outruns a sandstorm….in IMAX!!!  No director working today is crazy enough to think these sorts of things up, let alone execute them all so flawlessly.  Brad Bird’s voice is heard loud and clear in every frame of “Ghost Protocol,” and perhaps unsurprisingly, his voice is the first to wring out all the latent potential of the Mission: Impossible franchise.  Bird’s incredible sense of spatial relations in set pieces gives this film the strongest team dynamic in the series, and his sense of freewheeling fun allows the story to go big without seeming implausible or desperate.  Indeed, it’s the tone Bird so completely nails here, making this the most endlessly entertaining mission yet. 

More thoughts coming up after the jump….

25 Reviews of Christmas #16 - John Denver and the Muppets deliver a wonderful "Christmas Together"


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.comAs explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

The Muppets have had a pretty good year, I’d say, and today we’re looking to the past, when they recorded an album with the one and only John Denver!  “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together,” is pretty awesome!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Steve McQueen's masterpiece "Shame" opens today in Denver - A repost of my original review to urge readers to see the film

Film Rating: A+

One of the best films of 2011 is opening in Denver today, and I wanted to take this chance to once again urge my readers to give it a look.  I first saw Steve McQueen’s Shame at the Starz Denver Film Festival last month, and it totally blew me away.  This riveting drama about sex addiction is brought to life by ferociously brave performances from Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, but it’s also one of the best made films in years, with amazing cinematography and a measured, careful editing style reminiscent of classic Hollywood films.  Yes, it is rated NC-17, but the rating is arbitrary.  Do not let it scare you away.  There is nothing pornographic or “obscene” in the film – there are sex scenes, but they are based around the fractured psyche of the main character, and they are as fascinating as they are disturbing.  One thing they are not is “Sexy.” 

“Shame” opens in an exclusive engagement at the Landmark Mayan in Denver on Broadway, one of my favorite places to see a movie.  Make sure you see it in theatres, because part of the film’s impact is the big screen experience. 

If you need more convincing, my original review of “Shame,” originally published on November 10th, 2011, coming up after the jump….

Thursday, December 15, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #15 - Olden times and ancient rhymes, of love and dreams to share in "A Charlie Brown Christmas"


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.com!  As explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

I had to talk about it eventually – “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” one of the most famous specials of all time!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Early Review: Charlize Theron stuns in "Young Adult," a beautifully bleak portrait of arrested adolescense

Film Rating: A

I’m sure you’ve all heard the Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days,” one of the hit singles off Born in the USA.  Its catchy tune, sing-along chorus, and loose, freewheeling atmosphere understandably made it a huge success, one still heard frequently on the radio.  Like many Springsteen songs, however, the song’s upbeat tone masks the darker thematic imagery of the lyrics.  “Glory Days” is all about people who have failed at life in one way or another.  A man whose dreams have long since passed him by, a woman whose relationship ended and left her raising children on her own, and in a verse deleted from the released song, a father who spent a lifetime at a worthless job that ultimately stabbed him in the back.  All the characters have two ways of coping with the dissatisfaction of their lives: drinking and thinking back to their “Glory Days,” a time in High School when they had things to be proud of and friends who admired them. 

Mavis Gary, the protagonist of Jason Reitman’s new film, “Young Adult,” could very easily be the subject of a “Glory Days” verse.  She’s a depressed alcoholic who spends her mornings sporting a hangover and evenings drowning herself in liquor, her thoughts always consumed by memories of adolescence, when she was the popular, beautiful Prom Queen with the perfect boyfriend.  At least, that’s the image she immortalizes in the Young Adult novels she ghost writes, perpetuating and glorifying her beloved vision of teenage vanity.  Her past is the world she escapes into to avoid coping with her adult problems, and the film chronicles a few particularly destructive days in her life when she fully succumbs to her arrested adolescence.

The results are dark.  Quite dark.  In fact, this is easily one of the harshest films of the year, a challenging narrative that holds an uncompromisingly bleak mirror to ourselves and our society.  The experience is infinitely rewarding.  “Young Adult” stands among the deepest, most accomplished, and remarkable pictures of 2011.  Continue Reading after the jump...

25 Reviews of Christmas #14 - A Mystery Review - Can You Guess the Subject?


We’re going to try something a little different today…a mystery review!!!  You’ll learn which Christmas movie this is after the jump, but for now, here is a brief plot synopsis.  Can you tell which Christmas classic this is based on the summary?

I couldn’t write this review straight, of course, because I am here today to discuss one of the darkest Christmas films ever created.  It is about a man who brutally murders Santa Claus, steals his clothes, sleigh, and reindeer, and over the next year, slowly but surely takes over every aspect of the dead jolly-fat-man’s life.  He impersonates Santa so stealthily, so ingeniously, that even the elves are convinced he’s their boss, and eagerly help him in his fiendish endeavor.  Having finally taken over the North Pole and been put in command of all Christmas-based operations, this dastardly villain goes out into the world as Santa Claus, and even though he encounters the police, his crime is never discovered.  He becomes Santa, his plan to ascend from dull corporate drone to most beloved of all humans having gone off without a hitch.  Santa is dead, and an imposter has forever taken his place.

Are you familiar with this one?  Can you guess the movie? Discover the subject of this mystery review after the jump….

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #13 - Believe it or not, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is one of the great Yuletide classics


We’ve reached the thirteenth day of December, so why not go with something a little subversive?  That’s right, today we’re looking at what I consider to be a true Christmas classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”  I have a feeling that more than a few of my readers love this movie as much or more than I do…

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Monday, December 12, 2011

Early Review: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is a dull, disappointing, and misguided sequel

Film Rating: C–

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is everything we feared the first “Sherlock Holmes” would be before it was released in 2009: loud, obnoxious, overblown, action-riddled, overtly comedic, disrespectful to the source material, and above all, stupid in ways only a pandering American production could be.  For me, it is by far the greatest disappointment of 2011, because I loved Guy Ritchie’s first “Sherlock Holmes” film.  Though the advertisements promised everything mentioned above – i.e. a bad movie only loosely connected to Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation – Ritchie instead delivered a smart, literate, stylish, and extremely thoughtful interpretation of the classic character.  It had its action beats, but they revolved around Sherlock’s intellect, and though sometimes humorous, the laughs came from organic character interactions.  The ingeniously plotted narrative felt like an authentic Doyle story, if on a more cinematic scale, and the film’s production design, an impeccable recreation of Victorian London, displayed a truly remarkable mastery of mise-en-scene.  I could go on and on.  It was one of my top ten films of 2009, and having watched it again today in preparation for the sequel, I was once again struck by what a creative yet faithful “Holmes” film Ritchie crafted. 

It was a film that got everything right.  “A Game of Shadows” is a film that gets (nearly) everything wrong.  If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cry in the corner for the next ten minutes.  I’ll be back after the jump for more…

25 Reviews of Christmas #12 - "The Year Without a Santa Claus" is Mr. White Christmas


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.comAs explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

More Rankin Bass!  YAY!! It’s “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” one of their best, and possibly most underrated, classics!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Sunday, December 11, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #11 - Bob Dylan's hilarious "Christmas in the Heart" may be the greatest gift of all

NOTE: Not the actual album cover 
Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.comAs explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

I think you’ll all get a kick out of this one – today we’re looking at Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart.”  Yes.  Bob Dylan really did record a Christmas album.  And yes, it is awesome…  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Fairly Merry "Doctor Who" Christmas Podcast on "The Monthly Ten Podcast!" Last show of 2011!


We have officially made it through one full year of podcasting.

I started “The Monthly Ten” on January 10th of this year, and since then, we’ve recorded 19 podcasts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey as much as I have, and I look forward to more audio adventures next year!

But for now, this is our last podcast of 2011, and it’s got a little something for everyone (as long as you’re a geek).  Breaking our own formula, co-host Sean Chapman and I begin with an hour-long discussion of all the “Doctor Who” Christmas specials.  This has been a tradition since 2005, but has it always worked?  Find out our thoughts by listening!  During the second hour, we switch topics to video games; between the two of us, Sean and I have played many of this fall’s major releases, and we give mini-reviews of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Halo Anniversary, Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3, Sonic Generations, and more. 

Remember to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and if you already have, it should automatically download on your ‘podcasts’ page when you open the program.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, it’s easy, free, and can be done at any time!  Or….


This was a great podcast to end what has been a very exciting year on, so for the last time in 2011….Enjoy the show!

25 Reviews of Christmas #10 - Scrooge McDuck steals the show in "Mickey's Christmas Carol"


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.comAs explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

Every fifth day is another “Christmas Carol” review, so today we’re looking at one of the best, or at least most nostalgic, versions, “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.”  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Friday, December 9, 2011

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" Soundtrack Review - Once again, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have composed the year's best score

Album Rating: A+

I think Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross may be my new favorite contemporary film composers.

At least, that’s my gut instinct after the duo write my favorite score of the year two years running.  Last year, Reznor – he of Nine Inch Nails fame – and Ross collaborated to score David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” creating a bold new experimental sound that gave the film a potent sense of immediacy while redefining the power of ambiance.  I’ve listened to that soundtrack album more times than I care to count, and I wasn’t the only one who took notice – even the Oscars, not exactly known for awarding work that breaks the mold (which is why “King’s Speech” won Best Picture and not “Network”), gave Reznor and Ross a 100% deserved Academy Award for Best Original Score. 

This year, David Fincher returns with his latest directorial effort, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” based on Stieg Larsson’s gritty Swedish novel, and has brought back Reznor and Ross to do the music.  As much as I’ve been looking forward to the movie – as a huge fan of the book and an even bigger fan of Fincher, I’m ridiculously excited – I think I’ve been anticipating the soundtrack even more.  As “Network” indicated, Reznor and Ross’ experimental sound seems like a perfect match for Larsson’s dark, contemplative, and harrowing material, possibly freeing them to go even further in directions only hinted at on “Network.”

The soundtrack album was released digitally today, a few weeks ahead of the movie’s opening.  Short version?  It’s everything I hoped for and so much more – in fact, the highest praise I can give this score is that when I go back and listen to my beloved “Social Network” soundtrack now, it sounds boring.  That is one hell of an accomplishment.  For the long version, continue reading after the jump…

25 Reviews of Christmas #9 - "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - No, not the Jim Carrey version


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.com!  As explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

I think everyone’s familiar with this one – the wonderful 1966 television special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Thursday, December 8, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #8 - "Harry Potter" 1 & 2 make for surprisingly good Holiday viewing


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.comAs explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

Today, I’m looking at Christmas memories surrounding the first two Harry Potter films, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”  You'll even get to see some pictures of two AWESOME "Harry Potter" ornaments.  What are you waiting for? 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #7 - Will Ferrell charms in modern classic "Elf"


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.comAs explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

Here’s one of the few true modern Christmas classics!  Jon Favreau’s 2003 hit “Elf,” starring Will Ferrell!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

25 Reviews of Christmas #6 - "A Very She & Him Christmas" is a Holiday treat from Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.com!  As explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

More music!  Today we’re looking at “A Very She & Him Christmas,” the latest, most festive album by the indie duo comprised of “New Girl” Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….

Monday, December 5, 2011

My 700th Published Article! A Look Back at Every Movie I Have Ever Reviewed!


I have kept a running count of every article I have ever written and published for a few years now.  This includes movie, music, and TV reviews, along with other types of posts, like opinion and satire pieces.  Since I’ve kept all my files going back to 2002, when I began writing for The Denver Post’s “Colorado Kids,” the list is a very accurate archive of everything I’ve ever published.

And with this post, I have just hit 700 published article.

700 is a big number.  I like it because it contains the number 7, which I’ve always thought was a pretty cool number.  I’m proud of this milestone, and I reached it in record time; only one year ago, I hit 500.  Lots has happened during the publication of these 700 articles, and I’ve written for different places – Colorado Kids, YourHub, and now www.jonathanlack.com - but with each new article, I’ve become more and more fond of what I do.  And of course, I wouldn’t have written one of them without your support.  My deepest gratitude goes out to all my readers. 

I though I would do something special for the occasion, and I think what I’ve pulled together qualifies.  I’ve made a list of every movie I have ever reviewed, and after the jump, I’m going to give you my very, very brief thoughts on each and every one of them.  You’ll learn a little bit of my personal history and, hopefully, see a portrait of what film has looked like over the last eight years. 

For the seven-hundredth time, enjoy!  Reviews, lots of them, after the jump…

25 Reviews of Christmas #5 - Robert Zemeckis and Jim Carrey craft a superb animated "Christmas Carol"


Welcome to the 25 Reviews of Christmas here on www.jonathanlack.com!  As explained in this post, I’m devoting the first 25 days of December to celebrating great Christmas movies, TV shows, specials, songs, and albums, with a Christmas-related review posting every single day for 25 days! 

Today we take a look at another version of “A Christmas Carol,” the 2009 animated feature film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey!  You’ll see a new “Carol” review on every fifth day of this series!  Remember to visit this page at any time for a collection of all 25 Reviews of Christmas articles. 

Enjoy! Review after the jump….