1. Crimson Peak (2015) – Guillermo del Toro writes a love letter to the Gothic Horror genre. The classic tropes of isolation, bloody histories, unnatural relationships, menacing architecture, Victorians, obvious symbolism, endangered virgins, and things that gibber and chitter in the night are explored in a visually luscious theatrical feast. Del Toro’s use of visual metaphor is appropriately heavy, and the acting is beautifully overwrought to match.
2. Road House (1989) – A classic story of the Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold and a Dark Past, Road House lets every one revel in the simple pleasure of barroom brawls and Patrick Swayze’s oiled up body. Watch it. Enjoy it. It’s ridiculous and satisfying.
3. The Man Who Laughs (1928) – The only silent movie that I reviewed this year. It’s a fun look at the pre-Hayes Code Silver Screen. It’s a melodrama based on a Victor Hugo novel, and it is played to the hilt. Enjoyable and accessible if you are interested in trying out silent films.
4. Shanghai Noon (2000) – Thoroughly enjoyable ramble through Wild West tropes. Jackie Chan makes an interesting and unlikely hero for a Western, and the good-looking cowboy played by Owen Wilson only manages to be a sidekick. Fun and funny, with trademark Jackie Chan physicality and stunts.
5. Innocent Blood (1992) – A French Vampire in Pittsburgh instead of an American Werewolf in London. A fey vampire accidentally turns a mob boss, and spends the rest of the movie chasing them with Joe, an ousted undercover cop. The best part of this movie are the vampire mobsters and their scenery chewing, bombastic scenes. Not John Landis’ strongest entry, but a fair attempt at the vampire genre.
6. Grandma’s Boy (2006) – Lowbrow stoner humor. It is what it is, but it’s pretty solid for an Adam Sandler movie. Funny in a juvenile way, but manages to portray actual character development for Alex, the schlubby programmer protagonist. The best performances are from the titular Grandma and her elderly roommates.
7. Crime of Passion (1957) – Barbara Stanwyck is Kathy, an ambitious Lady Reporter cum Stifled Housewife cum Conniving Murderess. The 1950s were not kind to women with a mind for more than card parties. Kathy’s situation is first sympathetic, but she walks down a dark road of Femme Fatale turns.
8. The Little Mermaid (1989) – Childhood favorite. The Little Mermaid makes an interesting watch as an adult – King Triton’s fairly reasonable attempts at parenting are definitely not appreciated by the 16 (!) year old Ariel, who should really have been grounded forever. The movie, however, is gorgeous, the soundtrack is perfect, and it’s definitely a great watch.