The Boyfriend of the Week

December 2006

Hey, everybody! It's time for my annual, non-denominational holiday write-up again, and I had so much fun last year putting together my list of Favorite Books and Movies that I'm doing it again this time. Woo hoo! Three cheers for unoriginal ideas! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Before I get started, however, it's also time for my annual, non-denominational sap-fest, when I profess my love and adoration for all of my readers (hey, that's YOU!). I just wanted to let all of you know, and that includes those of you who have been readers from day one (hi, Mom! I love you!) and those of you who just stumbled across this web site last week, that I really appreciate all your emails, your wisdom, your (extremely terrible!) jokes, your excellent suggestions for cute boys I've missed or books I might enjoy, and your patience with my lame inability to get much posted on the site at all this year. I have hopes I will be more prolific next year -- the first year of being a homeowner thoroughly kicked my ass, I confess. But you'll notice I got two write-ups posted in just two weeks this month, and that's despite the fact my husband put his foot through our ceiling last weekend while he was stomping around in the attic trying to rescue our cat Lucky (Lucky, henceforth to be known by the nickname, "Seventh," as in "CIRCLE OF HELL"). You see? I'm getting a lot calmer when it comes to household disasters, which frees me up for more writing time. I'm not even planning to fix the hole in the ceiling until sometime in 2007. Until then, we'll just tell people it's a Feng Shui experiment. What, you didn't know having plastic garbage bags taped over drywall holes in your ceiling was Zen? Yeah, yeah, it's true -- Nate Berkus said so on Oprah!

Anyway, I also wanted to say that I got an awful lot of emails this year that began with something like, "I'm sure you are tired of hearing from readers about some guy you should check out or some movie you should see, but. . ." and I wanted to make this clear once and for all: meeting and chatting with readers from all over the world is WHY I DO THIS. My favorite part of this web site is the day after I post a new write-up and find myself bombarded by dozens of emails from readers who just wanted to say a sentence in my essay made them snort their morning coffee out their nose with laughter (ow!), or that I got something totally wrong, or that if I like such-and-such, I would REALLY like x-y-or-z too. So, keep writing to me: -- learn it, use it, love it! Every time I hear from you, you make my day.

I know, I know, CHEESY. Nevertheless, it's true. And it's the time of year when I get kind of sappy about friends anyway, so just shut up and let me say it, already.

Okay, enough gouda, onto the lists! I should clarify anew that these are things I personally read or watched for the first time in 2006, not things that necessarily came out in 2006. Some are older -- in fact, many of them are. But it's all stuff I discovered this year and loved, and it's all stuff I heartily recommend to you guys too.

Favorite Books Read in 2006

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 Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon. (read me!)

This was, hands-down, the best novel I read all year. It's the story of a young boy of about twelve, Daniel, who comes across a book called The Shadow of the Wind. Moved by the story, Daniel decides to try to find out more about the author, Julian Carax. But he soon discovers Carax is a complete enigma, and, as if that doesn't make his search hard enough, he learns of a man named Lain Coubert -- the name of the devil in Shadow -- who has for years been systematically tracking down and destroying every copy of every book Carax ever wrote. Determined to find out why, Daniel soon finds himself on a decade-long quest for the truth about Carax and Coubert -- a mystery involving so many incredible, wonderful characters and twists I thought I'd died and gone to storytime heaven. This novel transported me like no other -- when I was reading it, I truly lived and breathed every word. I cannot recommended this novel highly enough. Don't miss it! [FICTION]

2. March by Geraldine Brooks. (read me!)

This incredibly imaginative novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, tells the story of Mr. March, the father of Meg, Jo, and the other Little Women in Louisa May Alcott's famous novel. In LW, we are told that Mr. March is off fighting the Civil War, and eventually, he's injured, nearly dies, and is brought back home to his girls. But we never know what really happened to him -- until now. Influenced by close friends Thereau, Emerson, and especially John Brown (to whom he loses his entire fortune), March serves as a Union chaplain in the war. But he's quickly thrust into the horrors of battle himself as he loses friend after friend and witnesses first-hand the brutality of slavery and the violence of fury on both sides of the conflict. Throughout his trials, it's thoughts of his wife Marmee, an activist in her own right (the March's house was a station on the Underground Railroad, for example), and of his brave and independent daughters that keep him going. Brilliantly written, thoroughly entertaining, and extremely thought-provoking! [FICTION]

3. The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard. (read me!)

It's the year 1830, and retired New York City detective Gus Landor has just settled into a quiet life in Hudson Valley when he receives a special request from West Point's superintendent. Something strange has happened to one of their cadets, and the superintendent is too afraid of bad PR to call in the real cops -- he wants Landor to check it out on the Q.T. instead. Despite his willingness to protect the Academy's reputation, however, it gets harder for Landor to stay quiet when he realizes the cadet was actually murdered. As part of his investigation, he begins to interview cadet after cadet after cadet, and he soon encounters one that intrigues him particularly -- a young man named Edgar Allan Poe. Yep, THAT Edgar Allan Poe. Soon, the two are working together to try to solve the murders. What is going on at West Point? And can Landor and Poe find out who is killing and mutilating cadets before they become victims themselves? This book is masterfully written, with a voice extremely similar to that of the Holmes stories. It's funny, wonderfully crafted, and just absolutely marvelous from start to finish. Perfect for fans of old-fashioned detective stories! [MYSTERY]

4. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman. (read me!)

This non-fiction, graphic-format (comic-book-like) book tells the phenomenal true story of Spiegelman's parents' experiences during WWII as a young Jewish couple hiding out from the Nazis and ultimately ending up in concentration camps (his father in Auschwitz, his mother two miles away in Birkenau). And yes, you've heard this story before, countless times, in countless different ways (though probably not in THIS way, in which the Jews are portrayed as mice, the Polish as pigs, and the Germans as huge nasty cats). But it still never ceases to astonish -- the brutality, the inhumanity, the cruelty, and the incredible strength (and luck) that kept some of them going long enough to survive. Beautifully drawn, wonderfully written, and emotionally intense, this is one of the most astonishingly brilliant books I've read in years. Highly recommended! And the perfect book to read to introduce yourself to the graphic novel genre, if you've always been curious but unsure of where to start. [GRAPHIC, NON-FICTION]

6. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. (read me!)

Eliza Sommers has never really fit in. As an infant, she was deserted by her real parents and taken in by a wealthy British family living in Chile. Her new mother, Miss Rose, desperately wanted a child, but didn't quite know what to do with Eliza once she got her. So, she did what had been done to her -- rigorous training in how to be a proper lady, and not much affection to balance it out. You can imagine her horror, then, when sixteen years later, Eliza falls in love with a thief named Joaquin and then smuggles herself onto a ship so she can follow him across the sea to California, where he hopes to strike gold. This wonderfully written novel transports the reader to another time -- San Francisco during the Gold Rush years -- and the combination of cultures (British, Chilean, Chinese, and the Old West) makes for an absolutely riveting, engaging tale. Imaginative and thoroughly entertaining, this is one not to miss! [FICTION]

5. Tell Them I Didn't Cry: A Young Journalist's Story of Joy, Loss, and Survival in Iraq by Jackie Spinner. (buy me!)

When I married my husband, a reporter, I told him I'd follow him anywhere his career took him, as long as he promised never to be the kind of reporter who went into war zones to cover battles. He agreed, and we got married, and thankfully, he's never gone back on that promise. So, it was with some trepidation that I picked up Spinner's book, which had been recommended to me by a friend of mine -- do I really want to read about a reporter doing exactly what I've always worried my husband might want to do someday? But boy, am I glad I did. This is a wonderfully written and extremely personable book, detailing Spinner's ten month experience as a reporter covering the Iraq war for the Washington Post. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in journalism, current events, or simply increasing your understanding of what's going on in Iraq. Great book! [NON-FICTION]

7 (tie). Cell by Stephen King. (read me!)

Tied for spot #7 on my list are two books that weren't terribly well-written or all that imaginative, but they were super fun to read nonetheless. The first is Stephen King's zombie novel, Cell. The premise of this one was so hilarious to me there was absolutely no way I could resist reading it. As an official hater of cell phones, nothing could be quite so perfect as a novel about a transmission (the "pulse") that immediately turns all cell phone users into idiotic, man-eating zombies. Dude, rock on, Stephen King. I am so with you on this one! And, come on, sometimes you just need to read a goofy book about zombies, right? It's good for the soul. This novel is not without the usual King problems (it rips off pretty much every zombie book or movie ever written or produced, for one thing), but it's still a hell of a lot of fun, and once I picked it up, I couldn't put it back down. If you like the occasional trashy, value-less, but damn entertaining book, this is the one for you. [FICTION]

Gravity by Tess Gerritsen. (read me!)

The second good-ol-cheesy-fun novel I wanted to recommend is this sci-fi one about a group of astronauts who are up on a space station working on a variety of research projects when all heck breaks loose. One of the projects seemed fairly straight-forward initially -- a scientist on the ground has sent up a sample of a single-celled organism she found in the deepest trenches of the ocean, and she just wants the astronauts to keep an eye on it up in space and see what effect zero gravity has on the little beasties. Little do the astronauts know, though, that the sample has been contaminated and now it's no longer the harmless entity they thought it was. When it finally gets loose, the crew begins to die, one by one, horribly and painfully. As ship's doctor Emma Watson races to contain the infection, her husband Jack, a doctor himself, is down on Earth struggling to find out the truth about the organism and to talk the government into letting Emma and the others come home before they all perish. Is it Tolstoy? No. And thank god for that! I was on the edge of my seat while reading this one, up WAY past my bedtime for two nights in a row. Sometimes, you just gotta lower your standards and go with the good time. [SCIENCE FICTION]

8. Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow. (read me!)

When Stewart Dubinsky is cleaning out some of his father's papers after his dad has passed away, he comes across a startling discovery -- a lengthy manuscript written by his father, detailing everything that happened to him during World War II, including the most shocking discovery Stewart's ever made: that his father had been arrested and tried for treason during the war for helping a wayward OSS officer named Robert Martin escape from imprisonment. This novel takes us deep into wartorn Europe and even hooks us back up with the 101st Airborne, which was a thrill for a big fan of Band of Brothers like me. And though it can be a bit cheesy in a few places, overall, I thought this was a gripping, very well-written novel that successfully transported me to Europe in 1944, and also made me reevaluate my previous dismissal of Scott Turow as an utter hack (sorry, man). This book was a surprising pleasure to read, full of great characters, a thrilling story, and some pretty powerful reminders of the effects of war on men and country. Recommended! [FICTION]

9. Assassin's Apprentice: Farseer Trilogy Book One by Robin Hobb. (read me!)

Everyone I know who has recommended this book to me started off by saying: "I don't usually read fantasy, but. . ." And so, to go along with the crowd, I'm starting my description of it the same way. Because, truly, I don't usually read fantasy, but THIS BOOK TOTALLY KICKED MY ASS WITH ITS AWESOMENESS. It's the wonderfully-written and imaginative story of a six year-old boy named Fitz, the bastard son of a self-exiled prince. When Fitz's heritage is discovered by the King, he decides to accept him into the family and have him trained to be his personal assassin. Things get complicated, though, when Fitz learns that one of the King's sons, a jerk named Royal, is planning to kill his brother, the good Prince Verity. Fitz's only option is to use the Skill (an ESP-like power that allows him to get inside other's minds and control them) to try to save Verity, and the kingdom, from Royal's dastardly plans. This book was an absolute delight from start to finish. I was immediately sucked into the story, and it just never let me go until I was done. Can't recommend it highly enough -- even if you don't usually read fantasy, but . . . [FANTASY]

10. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard. (buy me!)

A year after Roosevelt lost a third-party bid for the White House in 1912, he decided it was time to take on an adventure of a different color. So, he tossed together a group of people, including his son Kermit, and headed down to South America for a journey down an unexplored tributary of the Amazon known as the "River of Doubt." This book tells the story of his extremely dangerous trip, featuring everything from bugs to animals to snakes to bacteria to extremely angry natives with poison-tipped arrows. Who knew Roosevelt was this much of a bad-ass? This is a brilliantly written, extremely well-researched, and just damn entertaining book. Somebody needs to turn it into a movie ASAP! [NON-FICTION]


Favorite GOOD Movies Seen in 2006

(Note: Click on "watch me!" to buy a copy of the movie on DVD from (again , proceeds go to charity). Click on the "queue me!" links to add the relevant movie to your Netflix queue!)

1. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) -- Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan, Corbin Bernsen. (watch me!)

This movie is BRILLIANT.  BRILLIANT, I tell you!  You must go rent it immediately!  It's about a bungling burglar, Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr.) who is on the run from the cops when he ducks into a building and races into a room.  There, he's surprised to encounter a group of people sitting behind a table who tell him to go ahead and begin.  He blinks, then realizes he's just dashed into a movie audition, so he picks up the script and tries to play along as the cops race past the door and lose him.  The next thing he knows, he's been hired for the part and the director has assigned a real private investigator (Gay Perry, played by Kilmer) to show him the ropes.  Only, things don't go quite as planned when the two find themselves caught up in a real murder mystery.  Oh man, this movie just made me howl with laughter.  Pop culture references, hilarious wit, it's got it all -- this is hands-down one of the funniest, smartest flicks I've seen in a long time. Don't miss this one, people! [COMEDY / MYSTERY]

2a. Documentary Tie! First: March of the Penguins (2005) -- Hundreds of short guys in little tuxedos. (watch me!)

I had been dying to see this one after months and months of good press about it, and it sure didn't disappoint. It's the stunning, tender story of the mating ritual of Emperor penguins in the South Pole. Every year in March, hundreds of them make a pilgrimage to the same spot to hook up, walking seventy or more miles and coming from all directions -- miraculously, many even arriving on the spot at almost exactly the same time (to the hour!). There, they choose a mate ("Hey, baby, waddle here often?"), beginning a lengthy and perilous process to reproduce -- one that involves starvation, freezing, predators, and many long, long treks to the ocean for food and back again. This movie was utterly fascinating and I loved every moment. A great one for kids (though maybe not for really young ones as there is a scary seal scene and also a fair number of baby penguins who don't make it). Highly recommended! [DOCUMENTARY]

2b. Documentary Tie! Second: Grizzly Man (2004) -- Timothy Treadwell. Directed by Werner Herzog. (watch me!)

This utterly mind-blowing documentary is about a guy named Timothy Treadstone, an ex-alcoholic who finds redemption in grizzly territory in the Alaskan wilderness. After spending twelve summers living among the bears, studying them and advocating tirelessly for their protection, Treadstone makes a mistake that ultimately costs him his life (as well as the life of his girlfriend, unfortunately). But what I found truly fascinating about this film was not so much the story of Treadstone's death, as it was the gradual revelation of his obvious mental illness. I'm sure that's not the way everybody saw Tim's behavior, but it's clearly the way Herzog saw it, and I have to say I agree. Treadstone becomes consumed by the world of the grizzlies, eventually beginning to believe both that he is a grizzly and that the grizzlies are people. He imparts to the bears human qualities -- something that directly leads to his death, as he begins to believe more and more that no bear would ever "want" to hurt him. I found his behavior to be utterly bizarre at times -- paranoid, dependent, unbalanced. The man was a total nutcase. That said, he was also an amazing filmmaker (my god, was his footage gorgeously shot) and also a selfless advocate for the bears and other creatures he'd grown to love (wait until you see the foxes who just follow him around like they were his pets!). And this film itself is simply incredible. Definitely recommended, but be ready for a real downer when you pop it in your DVD player, because this much becomes obvious from the first few minutes: it doesn't have a happy ending. [DOCUMENTARY]

3a. Chick Flick Tie! First: In Her Shoes (2005) -- Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley Maclaine, Richard Burgi, Mark Feuerstein. (watch me!)

Maggie (Collette) and Rose (Diaz) are sisters who have mastered the fine art of sisterly fighting.  Maggie is a responsible lawyer with major self-esteem issues, and Rose is a gorgeous, skinny flake who spends most of her time stealing from her family, sleeping with strangers, and jumping from lame job to lame job.  When Rose and Maggie have the fight to end all sibling fights, Rose does the only thing she has left to do -- she hops a train for Florida, in the hopes she'll be able to track down her long-lost grandmother (whom Maggie doesn't even know exists) and milk her for all she's worth. Things don't go quite as planned, however, and, pretty soon, both women are learning more from their grandmother about life and love than they've learned from their own lifetimes of experience. I LOVED this movie and am hoping to get a chance to see it again with my own sister over the holidays. [CHICK FLICK / COMEDY]

3b. Chick Flick Tie! Second: Love Actually (2004) -- Alan Rickman, Colin
, Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney. (watch me!)

This incredibly sweet movie takes a hilarious look at all the various types of love -- unrequited, platonic, new, brotherly, screwed-up, broken, friendly, familial, hopeful, misplaced, and desperate. And, cheesy as that might sound, it's got plenty of laughs and smarts to keep things from getting too icky. My favorite storylines were the one about Liam Neeson's character, a recent widower who discovers his 12 year-old stepson is in love for the first time; and the one about Hugh Grant, Britain 's newest Prime Minister and a total goofball who says to the American President exactly everything we Americans have always wished we could say ourselves. Riotously funny and full of charm, this one would make a great last-minute holiday stocking stuffer. Don't miss it! [CHICK FLICK / ROMANTIC COMEDY]

4. Wolf Creek (2005) -- John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips. (watch me!)

Wolf Creek had to earn a spot on this list, if only because it was the first horror movie I've seen since The Blair Witch Project that actually scared the ever-living hoo-hah out of me. It's doesn't start out terribly original -- it's about a group of young 20-somethings whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere in Australia and who foolishly accept help from the first guy who comes along. Pretty standard opener for a horror movie, right? But from there, things take a seriously, seriously disturbing turn, as the bad guy starts out seeming a lot like sweet ol' Crocodile Dundee and then quickly reveals himself to be, well, I don't think calling him the Anti-Christ would be too far out of bounds, frankly. The “head on a pole” thing is, hands-down, the most truly terrifying concept I've ever encountered, and this movie essentially had me cringing and covering my eyes the entire time. As someone who watches a LOT of bad horror movies, it takes some major heebie-jeebie in order to freak me out. This movie succeeded, and for that alone, it is worthy of a slot on the list! [HORROR]

5. With a Friend Like Harry (2000) -- Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lopez, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin (in French with English subtitles). (watch me!)

This excellent thriller is about a French family heading to their new “fixer-upper” vacation house. It's hot as heck the day they're driving out there, and the couples' young kids are driving them insane with their crying and whining. When they stop for gas, they encounter a man, Harry, who seems to recognize the father, Michel. The two men soon realize they used to go to school together, and pretty soon, Michel has invited Harry and his girlfriend Plum to join them at the the vacation house and hang out for a while. At first, it all seems normal. But things start to get a little weird one night when Harry begins to rave excessively about the Michel's poetry and stories from high school. He's clearly obsessed with them -- and with Michel. Before too long, Harry's level of infatuation goes from disturbing to violent, and things just get loopier from there! This is a really great psychological thriller -- bizarre as well as funny, and wonderfully paced as well. [THRILLER / FOREIGN]

6. Capote (2005) -- Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Cooper, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Mark Pellegrino. (watch me!)

Everybody knows the plot of film by now, I'm sure, so I'll skip describing it. What I loved about Capote was its unusual focus -- instead of giving us the gory details of the crime and the criminals, it's much more about the man himself, focusing on the way he gradually begins to identify strongly with one of the murderers (Perry Smith) until he eventually starts to feell like a man caught in between the world of everybody else and the world of the murderers. This one-foot-in-one-foot-out concept becomes intensified when Capote suddenly realizes that he's actually eagerly awaiting Perry's execution -- he both wants Perry spared, and desperately wants him to die so he can have a great ending for his book. And it was that latter urge that ultimately eats Capote up inside, resulting in a long slide into alcoholism that ends several years later with his death. In any case, this is a brilliantly made movie -- well-written by ex-Boyfriend Dan Futterman and wonderfully acted. A real thought-provoker. Don't miss it!

7. Duma (2005) -- Eamonn Walker, Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Alex Michaeletos. (watch me!)

This wonderful family film tells the story of a young boy, Xan, who, one evening, is out driving around with his father (Scott) when they come across a tiny cheetah kitten in the road. They take the kitten in, naming it Duma, always knowing that when it reaches adulthood, they'll have to release it back into the wild. Months later, the two are planning a camping trip to the bush so they can set Duma free, when Xan's father suddenly dies. The next thing he knows, Xan's mother has moved him to the city and a rescue organization has been called to take Duma away. But Xan can't let him go -- Duma is his last connection to his father, for one thing, and for another, at the very least, Duma should go where his father wanted him to go: home. So, Xan and Duma set off into the desert together, where they encounter another traveler, Ripkuna (Walker), who eventually helps Xan let go of both Duma and his dad. This is a lovely, sweet film that would be great for kids and adults alike. [FAMILY / DRAMA]

8. Nanny McPhee (2005) -- Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Kelly Macdonald, Thomas Sangster, Eliza Bennett. (watch me!)

Boy, was this one ever a kick!  It's about a widower, played by the ever-dashing Mr. Darcy (Firth), whose many children are an absolute nightmare.  He loves them deeply, but his grief has pulled him away from them, and the result is that they have turned into heathens who delight in driving nannies away. Until Nanny McPhee (an unrecognizable Thompson) shows up.  She has five lessons to teach the children, and she uses a combination of no-nonsense and a magic stick to impart them.  Meanwhile, the dad has been told he must marry within a month or his rich aunt will cut him off and the family will be destitute.  I won't say any more except to say that this movie is hilarious and sweet, and stars a whole bunch of people I enjoy seeing as often as possible.  Loved it! Definitely add this one to your pile next time you're in the mood for something fun! [FAMILY / COMEDY]

9. V for Vendetta (2006) -- Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry. (watch me!)

This movie, based on a comic book, is plain ol' fantastic, and it's also pretty daring, if you ask me. It's set in the near future in England, and London is being terrorized by a mad bomber who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and keeps yelling things about remembering the fifth of November. The reason for his rampage is part crazy, part something I wish more of us were doing (albeit not in such a violent, exploding-buildings sort of way). You see, as a reaction to war and terror elsewhere in the world, England's government has begun to latch down on its own people. It's imposed a curfew, it's taken away the most basic of civil rights, and, what's worse, it's being led by a group of men who believe that it's acceptable to lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate, since, ultimately, isn't anything worth the trade-off in morality if it results in less evil on a global scale?

Gee, sound familiar? V, the Guy Fawkes guy, is determined to turn this whole trend of events on its ear -- to wake up the people who are accepting the government's actions out of fear of what might happen if they don't, and, in so doing, start a revolution. It's not as simple or black-and-white as it sounds, though, as V is certainly not a good guy himself. Anyway, I could go on, but the more I do, the more I give away about the movie, and that's simply not good. Suffice it to say that I found this to be an extremely thought-provoking and challenging movie. Don't miss it! [THRILLER / COMIC BOOK]

10. Junebug (2005) -- Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Benjamin McKenzie, Allessandro Nivola. (watch me!)

This is a really sweet independent film that totally took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to like it so much! It's about a big-city art gallery owner, Madeleine, who goes down to the South to talk to an eccentric artist she wants to sign for her gallery. She brings along her boyfriend, George, and since his family is from the same area, they decide to spend a week with them while she goes back and forth with the artist trying to talk him into working with her. George's family is a bit eccentric, and also extremely old-fashioned. Madeleine and George's mother clash immediately, but George's little sister Ashley, pregnant with her first child, takes a shine to Madeleine right away. And though Ashley is a lot less educated and a lot more naïve than Madeleine, each one learns something life-changing from the other. This is a very charming movie about family, relationships, and priorities. And Amy Adams is simply wonderful -- can't wait to see her in more films as her career blossoms! Recommended! [INDIE / DRAMA]

Favorite BAD Movies Seen in 2006

1. Abominable (2006) -- Matt McCoy, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace Stone, Lance Henriksen, Ashley Hartman, Haley Joel, Paul Gleason. (watch me!)

This one we rented primarily because we thought it took a lot of gumption to actually NAME your bad movie “Abominable” -- that gave us a good guffaw at the video store.  Surprisingly enough, though, this is actually a pretty entertaining and amusing little flick.  It's about a guy named Preston Rogers (McCoy) who was in a climbing accident where he lost both his wife and the use of his legs.  Still recovering, his doctor assigns him a fairly obnoxious male nurse and makes him return to his cabin in the woods outside where the accident occurred, in an attempt to help him gain some closure.  Though he's expecting a quiet week, instead a group of half-naked co-eds move in next door and promptly start turning into snack food for the local Sasquatch. Yep, you read that right -- it's Bigfoot time! The truly entertaining part of this movie was the fact the writer/director filled it to the brim with references to all kinds of other movies just for kicks. Lines, scenes, or concepts from Jaws, Overboard, Blair Witch, and even The Breakfast Club pop up in places (The Breakfast Club one made me laugh out loud) and after we caught onto this, we had a great time watching for all the others. Definitely a good one if you're a fan of bad creature features. Long live the abominable Abominable! [CREATURE FEATURE]

2. War of the Planets (2003) -- Timothy S. Daley, Jason Hall, Sheila Conway, Shae Wilson. (watch me!)

Wow, was this ever the epitome of the Meg and Mom movie! In fact, it may have been the lowest-budgeted and worst-acted sci-fi movie we've ever rented -- awesome! In it, a team of astronauts sent to colonize a new planet wake up in their cryo-chambers to find they've crash-landed and the computer won't let them out. Unfortunately, they are not alone, and for about the first twenty minutes, the crew is trapped in their beds, having to watch in horror as a creature returns over and over to pick them off one by one. Finally, they come up with a way to escape and, once out, manage to get their hands on some guns and shoot the monster when he comes back. This scene was actually our favorite in terms of total bad-movie hilarity, because when we finally got to SEE the creature as it peeked in the window in the door, my Mom and I exclaimed, in unison, "King Kong?!" and then laughed like maniacs for about the next five minutes. There must have been a sale on gorilla costumes the day they went shopping for their monster outfit. An alien! That looks like a gorilla! And the movie just gets better (by which I mean: even more stupid!) from there. Oh man, I can't even think about this one without snorting in derision -- bad movies just don't get any better than this! Not to be missed! [SCIENCE FICTION]

3. Nature Unleashed: Fire (2004) -- Ross McCall (from Band of Brothers -- oh, how the mighty have fallen), Bryan Genesse, Josh Cohen, Melanie Lewis. (watch me!)

Okay, now THIS disaster movie had us howling the entire ninety minutes it was on.  It's about a park ranger who goes into the wilderness to help rescue a set of dirt bikers, one of whom has broken his leg.  As he's moving the guy and his friends out, though, they discover a forest fire to the west.  They turn south, and are met by a fire there as well.  Then east, then north, same, same, same.  As it turns out, an old enemy from the ranger's past has set the fires to trap him and kill him.  Blah blah, they have to figure out how to escape, blah blah.  But the truly delightful part of this movie was the myriad of ridiculous inconsistencies. Coniferous trees in the ground shots become deciduous trees in the overhead shots, people are set on fire and burned nearly to death and then show up later without a singed hair on their heads, and, even more ridiculous, TWO guys break their legs and then later are seen walking around like they aren't even sore! Dude! How totally awesome is that? Can't wait to see it again. [DISASTER]

4. Absolute Zero (2005) -- Jeff Fahey, Erika Eleniak, Jessica Amlee, Brittney Irvin, Michael Ryan. (watch me!)

Oh wow, was this movie ever bad! We loved it! It made no sense whatsoever! (Is this refrain getting repetitive yet?) It actually starts out with a pretty intriguing idea when a laboratory disaster suddenly forces the Earth to begin shifting its polarity. Our intrepid hero discovers what is happening, and quickly realizes that if the world doesn't move fast, everybody who is living within 30 degrees of the Equator is suddenly going to find themselves living (or, more accurately, DYING) in air the temperature of Absolute Zero (about -400 degrees Fahrenheit). Mass panic ensues. Thankfully, this movie is just inane enough to make it ridiculously fun instead of tediously boring. It gets the balance of badness (in terms of acting, plot, and outrageously inaccurate science) juuuuust right. Love it when that happens! [DISASTER]

5. Blue Demon (2004) -- Dedee Pfeiffer, Randall Batinkoff, Danny Woodburn, Josh Hammond, Jeff Fahey. (watch me!)

This movie features the standard shark movie plot -- genetically engineered sharks escape from the experiment and begin eating people.  Seen it a gazillion times, right (well, maybe you haven't, since you have TASTE and don't rent these movies to begin with, but I sure have!).   But this time, the flick had a great sense of humor, didn't take itself too seriously, and was very nicely paced and put together.  All in all, thumbs up! And with this, the second of his movies in the list this year, I'd like to present Jeff Fahey with the 2006 Honorary Bad-Movie Boyfriend of the Week award. You go, you dog-maker, you! [SHARKS!]

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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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