The Boyfriend of the Week: Best of 2007

December 31, 2007

A friend of mine sent me the above graphic a couple of weeks ago, and after first totally laughing my butt off, I thought to myself, "There's no WAY it's been TEN YEARS!" But guess what! It has! In fact, it was actually ten years last September -- that's how long I've been bringing you the Boyfriend of the Week web site (the earliest dated write-up was October 1997, but there were four or five before that one and I was, believe it or not, actually doing them weekly back then).

Dare I point out that ten years is nearly a third of my life? (Eleven-point-five would be closer, but let's not split hairs.) When I first started this web site, I still thought politicians were inherently good people who wanted to change the world for the better.

Ha ha ha, I was so cute back then!


Anyway, the Boyfriend write-ups will be back starting later this January, and I have an incredibly gorgeous guy to start the year off with, as well as an entertaining story about why I decided to feature him. So, be sure to check back, sign up for the RSS feed, whatever it is you do. The Boyfriends in the News blog will keep going as well, so don't forget to check over there for movie/TV reviews, Boyfriend-related news, and other miscellaneous nonsense.

Now it's time for the annual listing of my favorite books, good movies, and bad movies from 2007. If you have any comments about anything I've included (or omitted!), head over to my blog post about this write-up to express yourself.

In the meantime, I'm going to click "Remind me next year" on that message box above, and keep on swingin' away. Thanks again for all your many, MANY years of support, hilarious messages that totally made my day, friendship, tolerance, patience, and suggestions. I couldn't do it without you guys and, what's more, I wouldn't want to!

Here's to a great 2008! I'll see you on the other side!

Favorite Books Read in 2007

Note: Below are abridged versions of my original reviews of these books -- if you want to read the full reviews go to the Book Search page and plunk in the title or author's name.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. (buy me)

This Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel is about a father and son struggling to get to safety after some kind of apocalypse (we never actually find out what happened) has wiped most of Earth's population off the map. Desperate for safety (and companionship), the two decide to try to walk all the way to the Gulf Coast, where they've heard rumors life is better (warmer, wetter, more stocked with food and people, etc.). Though the story itself isn't one I found terribly original (I kept waiting for zombies to show up, frankly), what really struck me about this novel was the writing itself. In my original review, I described it as having a “laissez-faire” approach to grammar that at first seemed incongruous to me, given the obvious intelligence of the narrator (it's got some of the most brilliant and original metaphors and descriptions I've ever read). But after getting a few dozen pages into the story, I realized how perfect this style actually was. It masterfully and effectively sets the perfect tone for the story: a heavy feeling of despair, desolation, and a survivor's sense of getting back to the extreme basics. Grammar is not only unnecessary in a world like this, it's pointless; telling the story becomes all that matters. Don't be intimidated by what you've heard about Cormac McCarthy's dense, "Faulkner-esque" novels from the past -- this book is written in a much more accessible and "readable" style. It's also one of the few Pulitzer Prize winners I actually thought truly deserved the accolades it got. Brilliant and not to be missed. [FICTION]

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

This is a really entertaining non-fiction book about Buford's experiences first as an apprentice at Mario Batali's New York restaurant Babbo, and then eventually in Italy, where he learns how to make real pasta and trains under a Tuscan butcher. In between hilariously-written stories of Buford's adventures, this book also features a veritable encyclopedia of Italian cooking and food. Oh man, did it ever make me hungry! It's one of the most engaging and entertaining non-fiction books I've read in a really long time -- any fan of eating, making, or thinking about food will love this one. A great choice for all you Top Chef fans out there! [NON-FICTION]

3. Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris. (buy me)

I love novels that are set in closed communities -- prep schools, colleges, nunneries, etc. These types of settings always seem to lend themselves well to interesting stories. This book, set in a prep school called St. Oswald's, starts out as your stereotypical "school for boys" story. The children of the rich all get together to learn about the classics, Latin, "maths," and history, taught to them by stuffy professors in robes. The school has only recently gotten its first computer lab, and the incoming flood of modernization has begun to make some of the older teachers a bit nervous. Roy Straitley, an elderly Latin professor, has already begun to feel useless. He's pretty cranky about the changes, but is determined to make his "century" before retiring (teaching 100 school terms in a row). Complicating matters, however, is someone clearly carrying a major grudge against St. Oswald's. Someone who wants to destroy the school and everyone in it, and has developed a complex, elaborate, and slowly-paced plan of attack. Standing in the way of this destruction is none other than old man Roy Straitley himself -- and he doesn't even know it. This is a well-written and extremely entertaining novel, with a twist that completely caught me by surprise (a rare thing). Definitely recommended to anybody who loves a good mystery! [MYSTERY]

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

This terrifically entertaining epistolary novel is set in the late 1800's in England and made up of letters being sent from one young cousin, Kate, to another, Cecy. It opens with Kate having just left home (and Cecy) to spend the coming-out season in London. Almost right off the bat, her tranquil season turns into a harrowing adventure when she is nearly poisoned to death by an evil witch named Miranda who mistakes her for her nemesis, the magical Marquis (Miranda thinks the Marquis has cast a spell on himself to make him look like a girl). Narrowly escaping, Kate and the Marquis soon find themselves teamed up to try to stop Miranda's sinister plan to destroy both the Marquis and her own daughter, a friend of Kate and Cecy's. Meanwhile, back at home, Cecy is getting sucked into the same adventure when she discovers her neighbor, Sir Hilary, is actually Miranda's partner. The plot is a bit hard to explain, really, but oh boy, is this book a blast to read. I never did get around to reading the sequel, but now that I've been reminded of just how much fun this one was, it's back up at the top of my list. [YOUNG ADULT]

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

These books are installments in two mystery series I simply can't get enough of. Ford's series featuring detective Frank Corso, set in Seattle and a bit more on the gritty, darker side of the genre, never fails to fully engage me. And Hamilton's novels featuring Michigan native and ex-cop Alex McNight are always witty and entertaining. Blown Away had an ending that truly blew me away, and A Stolen Season had a great storyline that had me turning pages late into the night. Both of these series have numerous installments already, with more coming every year, so they're excellent choices if you're looking for a new set of books to plunk yourself into in 2008. Mystery fans can't go wrong with either one! [MYSTERY]

6. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. (buy me)

Erik Larson is one of the most interesting non-fiction writers I have ever encountered. As with his The Devil in the White City, this book weaves together two engaging stories from the past. The first is about Guglielmo Marconi, the young Italian who invented the wireless telegraph, and the second is about Hawley Harvey Crippen, a quiet doctor who becomes a brutal killer. The way these two stories end up colliding in the final scene will totally blow your mind! If you loved Devil, go get a copy of this one right now, and if you haven't read any Larson yet, oh, how I ENVY you the adventures you are about to embark upon! [NON-FICTION]

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

This well-written non-fiction book tells the story of Fick's journey from his days of Officer Candidate School in the Marine Corps to his time spent in command of a squad of Marines in post-9/11 Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of the war sequences focus on Fick's frustration at not getting to fight (or, even worse, having to fight his own commanders in order to get things done he feels are important), his confusion over orders that make little sense to him, and his intense desire to keep his Marines safe and get them back home "physiologically and psychologically sound." But unlike with Anthony Swofford's Jarhead (also an excellent book, but very different), Fick focuses less on individual Marines he encounters and more on what it takes to be an intelligent leader in command of a group of soldiers. The more time he spends in the Middle East, the more he begins to realize that while honor and valor are vital in war, there's a lot to be said for careful thought and reasoned logic as well -- two things he found frustratingly lacking in some of his own commanders at times. That said, Fick is extremely humble -- he's a listener and observer more than an opiner, and his descriptions of the complexity of fighting in Iraq, a war where soldiers seem to spend more time doing civic duties than actual fighting, are poignant, intelligent, and extremely balanced, as well as, to be honest, pretty professionally unapologetic. I highly recommend this articulate and eloquent book to anybody who is interested in the current situation in Iraq, or in what it takes to be a member of one of the most elite and respected fighting forces in the world, the United States Marine Corps. (Note to my Dad: Ooh-rah!) [NON-FICTION]

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

I've been a fan of Gawande, a surgeon who frequently writes for The New Yorker and, for many years, and this book only strengthened my respect for the man's talents. Not only is Gawande a respected doctor and a guy with a lot of interesting things to say, he's also, in my opinion, a phenomenal writer, able to take the most complex medical concepts or procedures and make them completely accessible to the average reader. This book is based on Gawande's theory that the best medical advances stem from doctors who constantly and consistently strive to do better. Not satisfied with current knowledge or techniques, they strive to blaze new trails and find new ways to improve the quality of life for their patients. As examples, Gawande describes in detail several fascinating facets of medicine, starting with the advances in war medicine that have saved thousands of lives in Iraq, and taking us into the worlds of cystic fibrosis clinics and obstetrics. I could barely put this book down once I started, not just because the topics were so engrossing, but because Gawande is just simply a really, really good writer. Definitely recommended to anybody who is interested in health and medicine. [NON-FICTION]

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

When I was in college, I heard Orenstein give a lecture at my university about her excellent non-fiction book Schoolgirls, and I've been her fan ever since. This book is about Orenstein's struggle to get pregnant for the first time a few years ago. She had numerous miscarriages, and, over the span of a few years, turned sex into science, endured crushing disappointment after crushing disappointment, and nearly lost her spouse in the process. She went through horrible procedures, including IVF, and took powerful drugs that made her feel awful. And every month she got her period, she was completely devastated all over again. But this book isn't just about her personal attempt to get pregnant (a process she says turned her into "hope's bitch," a phrase I could really relate to), it's also about the variety of misconceptions about women and infertility. This book gave me a great deal of perspective on the struggle to have a child and the conflicting emotions that come with that struggle, and Orenstein is such an open and honest writer, I was left yearning for a sequel about her experiences with motherhood (she finally did conceive and bear a healthy child, Daisy). A must-read for women of all ages, especially those contemplating motherhood. [NON-FICTION]

10. Charity Girl by Michael Lowenthal. (buy me)

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

Favorite GOOD Movies Seen in 2007

Note: Again, abridged versions. If I originally reviewed these on the blog, I've included links to the full-length reviews (many of which also feature interesting discussions in the comments, by the way). If they were reviewed before the blog was started, they're in the archives for the Yahoo Email Group, but it'll be pretty hard to dig them up from in there.

1. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) -- Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi Lopez -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This is one of the most utterly magical films I have ever seen. Visually, it's absolutely stunning -- gorgeous colors, incredible creatures, masterful effects. And the story itself? Simply brilliant. Set in Spain in 1944, it's about a little girl, Ofelia, whose widowed and pregnant mother has just gotten remarried to a captain in the Fascist army. He's a cruel man who couldn't care less about his new family and is only interested in the baby his new wife is carrying -- a son he wants as his heir. Struggling with her new life in his huge house in the middle of nowhere, Ofelia takes to wandering in the woods, where one day she comes across a strange creature with the head of a goat (a "faun"). He tells her she is a princess from the underworld, and that he has a series of tasks she must complete if she is ever to return to her real family. This creature is no sweetheart, though, and his tasks are hard, scary, and dangerous. The ending of this movie is everything you'd expect from a fairy tale -- it's magical, educational, and extremely thought-provoking. If you've gone this long without ever seeing this movie, do yourself a big favor in 2008, and GO NO LONGER. (my original review) [FANTASY]

2. Juno (2003) -- Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, J.K. Simmons, Jason Bateman -- (Netflix me)

This absolutely hilarious, quirky, and heart-wrenching film is about a 16 year-old girl who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption to a young Yuppie couple with problems of their own. It's just riotously funny -- in a sarcastic, gallows-humor kinda way -- and it has one of the best movie soundtracks I've heard in years (The Kinks, Mott the Hoople, Sonic Youth, and Belle & Sebastian, to name a few). Brilliant acting from Page, Cera, Garner, and Simmons, and some of the snappiest, wittiest writing of all time. An immediate hit with both me and my currently-pregnant sister, this is one we'll both be buying on DVD as soon as it comes out so we can watch it over and over. DO NOT MISS THIS MOVIE!! (my original review) [COMEDY]

3. The Reckoning (2003) -- Paul Bettany, Willem Dafoe, Vincent Cassel, Ewen Bremner -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

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

4. Michael Clayton (2007) -- George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Ehle (Netflix me)

This intriguing film kind of defies tidy description. At its core is a class-action lawsuit -- a group of sick people versus an agricultural corporation that (knowingly, we later discover) treated crops with a chemical that ended up being toxic. The corporation's head counsel (played brilliantly by Swinton) has called in a private law firm to help with their defense, and that law firm has assigned their greatest class-action lawyer to the case, Arthur Edens (Wilkinson). Things get a little nutty, however, when, one afternoon during a deposition, Arthur stands up, declares his undying love for one of the plaintiffs, and then strips buck naked and runs through the parking lot. His bosses at the firm quickly call in their "fixer," a lawyer named Michael Clayton, who has known Arthur for years and is a close friend, as well as an expert at cleaning up messes. As Michael tries to figure out why Arthur unraveled, a sinister backstory begins to emerge. This is a unique, engaging character study, with a final scene that is absolutely delicious. Stellar acting all around, Michael Clayton is a movie that will leave you thinking for days after you've seen it. (my original review) [DRAMA]

5. Dexter: Season One (2006) -- Michael C. Hall, Lauren Velez, Julie Benz, C.S. Lee -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

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

6. Coma (2007) -- Directed by Liz Garbus (not available on DVD)

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

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

This is, hands down, one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen. Based on a novel by Patrick Suskind, it's the (fictional) story of a young Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who, since birth, has had an extraordinarily sensitive nose. He was abandoned by his mother as an infant and raised in an orphanage, unloved and unseen. When he grows up, he comes to realize his greatest desire in life is to find a way to capture all the millions of scents he encounters every day. He lands a job as an apprentice to the most famous perfumer in France, Baldini (Hoffman), but though Baldini teaches him how to distill flowers to make colognes, Grenouille soon discovers this method can't preserve the scent he most wants to save -- the scent of a beautiful woman. So, one by one, he begins to conk the prettiest girls in town over the head, kill them, and then capture their smells. But his project -- a perfume so perfect it will finally make the world notice him -- won't be complete until he gets the scent of the most gorgeous woman who ever lived, the young, beautiful Laura. If you're in the mood for something lovely (visually, not thematically!) and strange, I'd definitely recommend this. Rickman and Hoffman are surprisingly "meh" in their roles, but actor Wishaw as Grenouille is nothing short of amazing. (my original review) [DRAMA]

8. The Lives of Others(2007) -- Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

Set in 1980's East Berlin, this quiet, intelligent movie (which won last year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film) provides an extremely fascinating look into life under the watchful eye of the East German secret police (the Stasi). Gerd Wiesler, played by Ulrich Muhe, is one of the Stasi's best "Big Brothers," spending his days listening in on the lives of people the Stasi suspect of being a threat to Socialism. When he's assigned to monitor a famous local couple (a playwright and his actress girlfriend), Wiesler begins to internalize their lives, mesmerized by the fact, I think, that they actually HAD lives. He soon finds himself lying in his notes and to his superiors in order to protect them, giving up everything he believes in to save them from the fates of so many others. In essence, this is the ironic story of a government that was so afraid its people would become disloyal, it drove them all to disloyalty. It's one of the most intriguing and unique films I've seen in a really long time, and definitely one to rent if you haven't seen it yet yourself. (my original review) [FORIEGN/DRAMA]

9. The Chumscrubber (2005) -- Jamie Bell, Rita Wilson, Glenn Close, Carrie-Anne Moss, William Fitchner, Ralph Fiennes, John Heard, Jason Isaacs -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

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

10. Deja Vu (2006) -- Denzel Washington, James Caviezel, Val Kilmer, Jennifer Weston, Bruce Greenwood -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

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

Favorite BAD Movies Seen in 2007

1. Undead (2003) -- Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

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

2. Phantasm (1979) -- A. Michael Baldwin, Kathy Lester, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This movie is the perfect example of 70's horror films. In other words, it's just ridiculously hilarious -- the very epitome of good-bad awesomeness. The story is about two brothers (one about 17, the other about 14), who discover their town's mortuary is being run by a group of aliens who are kidnapping humans and turning them into slaves. The movie features a veritable buffet of silliness, including a group of aliens who look just like Jawas from Star Wars, the most unattractive "seductress" in film history, a severed finger that bleeds yellow goop and then suddenly turns into a huge Muppet-like fly, and a shiny metal ball that flies around the mortuary, puncturing passers-by in the head and sending their blood spurting out in extraordinarily prolonged death scenes. If you're looking for the perfect movie to watch with a large group of friends -- preferably ones who used to be fans of MST:3K -- this is, no doubt about it, THE film to rent. Incidentally, coming soon to theaters near you, I kid you not: Phantasm V. Dudes, it's a date! (my original review) [HORROR]

3. Wilderness Survival for Girls (2004) -- Jeanette Box, Ali Humiston, Megan Henning, James Morrison -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

Right around Halloween, I found myself with an entire weekend free, and decided to spend as much of it as possible watching bad horror movies. The description of this film was exactly what I was after -- three 17 year-old girls head out to the woods for a weekend of drinking and pot-smoking (a surefire way to get yourself killed in a bad horror movie, as we all know), and in the middle of the night, a mountain man breaks into their cabin and proceeds to terrorize them. Surprisingly enough, this movie was actually a fairly successful psychological thriller. At first, the girls are terrified by the man, Ed (future Boyfriend James Morrison, better known as Bill Buchanan from 24). But it's not long before their terror changes to anger, and while Ed kind of goes along with it at first, the more time the girls spend with him, the more their personal issues and overactive 17 year-old imaginations start overruling the logical centers of their brains. And things go rather quickly downhill from there. Definitely recommended, and let me know what you think if you do get around to watching it. (my original review) [THRILLER]

4. Feast (2005) -- Navi Rawat, Balthazar Getty, Eric Dane, Jenny Wade, Henry Rollins -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

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

5. Vacancy (2007) -- Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Ethan Embry, Frank Whaley -- (Netflix me | Buy me)

This movie makes the list only because I was expecting to find it unbearably awful, and then ended up being surprisingly entertained. The story begins with a married couple going through a divorce who, on their last road trip together, make several of the most standard "scary movie" mistakes in a row: 1) They get off the main road to take a "faster" back road; 2) They pull into an ancient gas station in the middle of nowhere and let the creepy attendant work on their engine; 3) When their car dies a mile later, they are not only surprised (I sure wasn't!), but they actually GO BACK to the gas station on foot; 4) Finding the gas station now closed, they take a room in the ultra-spooky hotel next door. Dude, seriously? Thankfully, things get a little more interesting after that. Once in their room, the couple finds a stack of videotapes, each of which features series of snuff films that all appear to have been shot in the hotel. What could've progressed from there into a very standard slasher flick instead takes a few fairly successful turns, as the couple attempts to outwit, outplay, and outlast their attackers. Is it brilliant? Not even close. But I was on the edge of my seat for a few parts, and that's pretty rare when it comes to Hollywood horror movies these days. In short, you could do worse. Trust me -- I've done it myself. [HORROR]

· · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

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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