Wick's 2011 Great Movies (33)

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Created May 15, 2011 11:12AM PST • Updated Apr 07, 2012 01:42PM PST

Now at 33. 2010 finished with 20.


  • Really Great
  • 83 Points
Title Released Trust Weighted Summary Viewable
1st Buck
2011 Perfect 83 Points

Makes you proud to be an American, a movie like Buck. A documentary about legendary horse trainer Buck Brannaman, the deep wisdom, transcendent techniques and honest humanity of its subject make Buck a profoundly rewarding cinematic experience, horses or no.

Brannaman deserves more fame than he's received, even though he was Robert Redford's man behind the curtain during the making of "The Horse Whisperer":http://www.viewguide.com/movies/367407. That fictional concoction used an enlightened bond between person and beast to tell a transcendent tale, just as Buck is more about over…

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Added Jul 05, 2011 11:23PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
2nd Senna
2010 Perfect 83 Points

You needn't be a racing fan to appreciate this cinéma vérité biography of superstar Formula One champion Ayrton Senna. An appreciation for bravura cinema, natural genius or Eurostyle glamour are other appetites the movie satisfies.

Senna draws from copious footage of the handsome young racer's life and career – his teen stardom in Brazil, his astonishing splash on the world stage of Formula One, his controversial run of dominance atop that über glamorous sport and his tragically unnecessary death at age 34.

Boiled into a tight hour and a half, the movie has the narrative pace of sc…

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Added Aug 28, 2011 04:19PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
3rd The Devil's Double
2011 Perfect 83 Points

Saddam Hussein's elder son Uday savaged Iraq for decades until US Special Forces took him out in 2003. The devil gets his due in The Devil's Double, a high octane biopic based on his body-double's memoirs.

From outrageous tragedy a magnificent movie emerges, momentous as a hurtling Mercedes, male as a hard-on. Hide the women and children, especially those against Iraqi Freedom. They may rue opposing Saddam's overthrow after seeing Uday hunt girls of all ages – using, abusing and killing them.

Uday Hussein didn't care about country. But drop the phonetic-end from country and he …

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Added Aug 15, 2011 11:33PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
4th Harry Potter and...
2011 Perfect 90 Points

Cinematic sensations conclude no better than HP|DH:P2. We're talking multiple climaxes, legitimate ones. This perfect finale gives us final scenes with most every significant character from the entire magical series, many consisting of just one freighted line, each perfectly crafted, all sublimely delivered.

Goodby Harry Potter. Your kind comes along only once a lifetime. Your sendoff could hardly be more satisfying, even for viewers who've skipped more installments than they've seen. Um, that would be me.

It's got everything we want: titanic wand wars between Potter and Voldem…

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Added Jul 17, 2011 11:09PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
5th The Last Lions
2011 Really Great 66 Points

Perhaps the most incredible nature documentary ever, The Last Lions features individualized lions and buffaloes engaged in an intricate plot worthy of scripted drama. It also provides unprecedented intimacy with the King of Beasts, making it breathtaking entertainment and potent political motivator. Wow.

The heartrending deaths and savage killings in The Last Lions will be unbearable for many humans. Ironic, since filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert make a convincing case that the encroachment of people drives much of the slaughter. Thus we shouldn't avert our gaze, metaphorical…

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Added May 15, 2011 11:12AM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
6th Win Win
2011 Really Great 88 Points

Win Win has become such a cliche, yet is anything but in the entirely winning movie of that title. Cleverly mining today's uneven economy, the uneasy equality of modern marriages, the unjust world of neglected kids, and not least, the under-appreciated sport of high school wrestling, Win Win proves unerringly uplifting, a minor-key classic even.

Unassuming and real, notwithstanding occasional broad humor, Win Win packs more emotional honesty than any ten chick flicks. Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan's marriage, complete with three kids, a failing business, ethical lapses, an unanticip…

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Added May 15, 2011 11:12AM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
7th Cedar Rapids
2011 Great 83 Points

Cedar Rapids keeps its ambitions in check and easily exceeds them. A gut-bustingly funny story about Ed Helms' rural Cheesehead taking his first airplane trip to the Gotham of the title, it needn't venture far from home to harvest a bumper crop of universally identifiable storylines.

Did I mention that it's exceptionally funny? Nearly 50% LOL plus a few more if your sense of propriety is low enough. Raunchy funny, really raunchy on several occasions. Be warned.

Think of a cross between "The Hangover":http://www.viewguide.com/movie_reviews/1884-the-hangover and "The 40 Year Old V…

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Added May 15, 2011 11:12AM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
8th Blue Valentine
2011 Great 83 Points

Officially a 2010 movie, it wasn't released into theaters until two days before 2011. So for we regular fans, it's effectively a 2011 movie.

Everyone's seen doomed relationships. The one in Blue Valentine is doomed six ways from Sunday.

He drinks too much. She needs more than loves him, while he loves her obsessively. She ob…

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Added May 15, 2011 11:12AM PST • Updated Jan 18, 2020 07:49PM PST
9th Cave of Forgotte...
2010 Really Great 66 Points

A perfect visual experience in 3D, Cave of Forgotten Dreams will also likely be really great in 2D. However, it's worth leaving home for the immersive 3D experience on a true big screen.

From row 4 center of "Santana Row's CineArts":https://www.cinemark.com/theatre-474, the colored wayfarers provided a field of vision a bit wider than the screen, a perfect portal into one of the most amazing and beautiful discoveries in human history. Werner Herzog's documentary explores "Chauvet Cave":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauvet_Cave in France, home to 30,000 year old wall paintings, far …

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Added May 16, 2011 09:02PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
10th 13 Assassins
2011 Perfect 95 Points

Released to film festivals in 2010, it's a 2011 release as far as American theaters are concerned.

A perfect samurai movie, complete with the gathering of a hit-squad, an assassination-worthy villain, operatic action sequences, frequent comic relief, beautifully bucolic staging, buckets of blood…

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Added May 22, 2011 02:29PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
11th X-Men: First Class
2011 Great 83 Points

First class prequels are Hollywood mutants, crisply intelligent rather than trite – obligatory touchstones notwithstanding. X-Men: First Class surpasses that standard, rebooting a tired saga with fresh casting, well grounded plot devices and an engaging mix of resonant themes.

Marvel achieves this alchemy by putting a strong ensemble of stars in front of the behind-the-camera studs from "Kick-Ass":http://www.viewguide.com/movie_reviews/2336-kick-ass and "Thor":http://www.viewguide.com/movie_reviews/3112-thor, two other smart superhero movies. As executive producing goes, that's a loc…

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Added Jun 05, 2011 03:04PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
12th Super 8
2011 Really Great 83 Points

Spielbergian indeed — middle school kids running their own show, parents stricken with tragedy, lots of bike riding, police cruisers and one big honking Air Force train in one hell of a crash.

Cincinnati, we've got a problem.

And America's got a really great summer blockbuster. Set in mid-America, full of American archetypes, like "That 70s SciFi Show":http://www.wikpik.com/movies/366763 amped up to Spielbergian levels, Super 8 is super indeed. Maybe even Super eight: Male and Female acting, perfect direction, great screenplay, perfect music and perfect visuals. Given that there…

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Added Jun 13, 2011 10:14PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
13th The Tree of Life
2011 Great 92 Points

Deeply affecting, Terrence Malick's ultimate family drama omnisciently observes a nearly idyllic household afflicted by two bolts of tragedy. Love, marriage, birth, death, and all the hoods – fatherhood, motherhood, brotherhood, childhood, adulthood, neighborhood – get touched upon in the process.

The legendary Malick's fifth movie in 40 years confidently traipses through the quotidian life of an early-60s West Texas family, then zooms to the cosmos, then to the dinosaurs (yes, there are dinosaurs and they're as wondrous as any in "Jurassic Park":http://www.viewguide.com/movies/18561), …

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Added Jun 24, 2011 06:01PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
14th Horrible Bosses
2011 Great 88 Points

The fun starts at the box office: "One Horrible Boss," "Two Horrible Bosses," "Three Horrible Bosses."

However many tickets you buy, Horrible Bosses presents three supremely despicable superiors. Coupled with three grievously put-upon underlings, that adds up to six sources of comic riffing, each LOL funny.

It's an improv set-up extraordinaire.

How extraordinaire? Well, Jennifer Aniston – looking hotter than ever, which is to say molten – comes on like a bunny in heat to a wimpy male hygienist and to Jason Sudeikis, who's above average but hardly Brad Pitt. That extraordinai…

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Added Jul 19, 2011 09:21PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
15th Rise of the Plan...
2011 Great 104 Points

What we have here is a Great Ape movie, perhaps the greatest ape movie. What's to challenge it? Or them? More than just superapes, these are simian Humphrey Bogarts. The FX wizards having bestowed them with facial tics, they squint and grimace like great moviestars of yore.

In service to a diabolically delicious plot, the apes entertainingly scramble all over the Bay Area, from Twin Peaks in San Francisco to the crown of Muir Woods to a never more iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Winning!

People are the movie's Achilles' heel, both in their expressions and intentions. Led by cute coup…

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Added Aug 11, 2011 10:30PM PST • Updated Jan 12, 2012 10:31PM PST
16th Point Blank
2010 Great 66 Points

Point Blank – a thriller on rails – pauses briefly in 84 minutes of run time, but only briefly. Otherwise it propels forward, crazed yet plausible in the moment.

The big picture is insane, of course. A male nurse and his gorgeous wife revel in the impending birth of their first child, notwithstanding her high risk pregnancy. Suddenly he gets forced into a wild crime spree, springing a master criminal from the hospital where he works, then running from the cops, some of whom are corrupt. And that's just the first reel.

Insane though the story may be, the good guy pressed into c…

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Added Sep 08, 2011 10:59PM PST • Updated Sep 08, 2011 10:59PM PST
17th Warrior
2011 Great 84 Points

MMA gets its 15 minutes of movie fame in Warrior, reason enough for mixed-martial arts fans to revere it. For the rest of us? Reason to avoid it. Most movie fans in Silicon Valley apparently fall in the latter camp, judging from the near empty Camera 7 theater on opening night.

Pity, because Warrior is a surprisingly great movie, kind of an ensemble "Rocky":http://www.viewguide.com/movies/29367-rocky. Ole' Sly Stallone himself would appreciate Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton's athletic performances, especially with Hardy playing a veritable Rocky Tyson, MMA variety. Add in a truly g…

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Added Sep 17, 2011 01:23PM PST • Updated Sep 17, 2011 01:24PM PST
18th Drive
2011 Really Great 83 Points

Where did Drive come from? Under-titled and under-promoted, it seems to have sprang from nowhere. Pity, because it's an extremely invigorating thriller. It also burnishes Ryan Gosling's growing legend while establishing Nicolas Winding Refn as a major Hollywood director. Wow.

Few action flicks are this tremendously romantic. Countless female hearts will be set aflutter over Gosling and Cary Mulligan's achingly modulated relationship, punctuated by a perfect movie kiss. The kiss comes in the most dramatic of circumstances, right before he proves his love for her beyond what she ca…

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Added Sep 21, 2011 04:29PM PST • Updated Sep 21, 2011 04:30PM PST
19th Moneyball
2011 Great 95 Points

Brad Pitt hits a triple with Moneyball and then unexpectedly steals home. His Billy Beane strides through the National Pastime like a corporate buccaneer – smart, swaggering, fun – before receiving a surprising comeuppance from his daughter, a child of divorce. Together the personal and professional sides of the Oakland As general manager – Home & Away in baseball parlance – inform a crisply winning movie.

Moneyball depicts the game-changing use of statistical analytics to assemble professional sports teams. As if that's not smart enough, the movie includes plenty of snappy dialog…

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Added Oct 01, 2011 09:54AM PST • Updated Oct 01, 2011 09:55AM PST
20th Dolphin Tale
2011 Great 66 Points

Winter's tale propels a terrific family movie. Never mind that Winter – the dolphin whose rehab from disabling injury the movie lovingly portrays – is the movie's only real character. The fictional human characters surrounding her are easy to root for, and laugh with.

They include a fatherless boy, a motherless girl, a brave soldier, a crusty engineer, an idealistic veterinarian, a plucky mom and a wise grandfather. Together they inspire, inform and entertain kids of all ages, proving that family movies needn't be sappy, notwithstanding the requisite silliness and good-natured redem…

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Added Oct 06, 2011 07:06AM PST • Updated Oct 06, 2011 07:07AM PST
21st The Debt
2011 Really Great 83 Points

A mashup of Israel's bravura capture of Adolph Eichmann and the moral confusion of Munich, The Debt pays off almost completely, missing perfection by ceding reality. Well that and because the Mossad agents' reluctance to kill the fictional Surgeon of Birkenau annoys as much as it galvanizes.

An outstanding film nonetheless, presented mostly in closeups, The Debt features six great stars, each precise with his or her full complement of facial features – eyes, mouths, noses. As it happens, they are six Gentiles playing three Jews. Ah Hollywood, always eager to feel emancipated.

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Added Oct 16, 2011 09:56PM PST • Updated Oct 16, 2011 09:56PM PST
22nd Captain America:...
2011 Great 88 Points

Popcorn movies should all be this strong. Channeling Indiana Jones' 1940s movie tropes, Marvel's First Avenger proves engaging from the outset, exciting from the middle and exhilarating to the end.

Notwithstanding a pair of underwhelming leads, the overall strong cast, irony-free patriotism and terrific visuals give Captain America enviable depth of strength. While "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom":http://www.viewguide.com/movies/365101 remains the exemplar of 1940s matinee stylings, Captain America's huge creative and commercial success proves there's still a world of movieg…

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Added Oct 22, 2011 10:00PM PST • Updated Oct 22, 2011 10:02PM PST
23rd Margin Call
2011 Great 83 Points

Wall Street gets stripped bare in this brilliantly depressing takedown of überleveraged trading houses, what used to be known as Investment Banks. An acting tour de force about the fall of a Lehman-like firm, Margin Call plays like a Wall Street "Glengarry Glen Ross":http://www.viewguide.com/movie_reviews/3661-glengarry-glen-ross.

Several in the stellar stable of actors get to chew on terrifically flawed characters: a wealthy man who cares more for a dying dog than real people; brilliant men who turned away from eminence in science or engineering for the financial rewards of trading….

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Added Nov 01, 2011 08:29PM PST • Updated Nov 01, 2011 08:30PM PST
24th George Harrison:...
2011 Really Great 66 Points

Essential Beatles viewing. Say no more. Say no more.

Well … here's more.

  • A Martin Scorsese Picture, which says right there you gotta watch it. I mean Martin F'ing Scorsese making a picture about George Harrison is a fusion of two pop culture demigods.
  • It's a treasure trove of Beatles home movies and interviews with personal intimates. These unspool like recovered memories from the Baby Boomer Generation, proving that Beatlemania still grips those of us who remember them in their prime.
  • Untold stories get told, from how George came to write Here Comes the Sun to how he…
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Added Nov 06, 2011 12:47AM PST • Updated Nov 06, 2011 12:48AM PST
25th The Skin I Live In
2011 Great 66 Points

Fantástico, this latest creation by the brilliant Pedro Almodóvar; deliciously twisted too, in a gender bending, role reversing way.

Revenge and desire drive the convoluted yet well-told story. A never more dashing Antonio Bandaras plays a super-surgeon who maintains a personal clinic in his walled mansion, complete with prison-like quarters for special patients. Is he a bad guy? Tough to tell, especially because the women in his life died in tragic circumstances. And what's up with the beautiful patient who wants to be his lover?

This being an Almodóvar movie, Fellini-esque decad…

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Added Nov 24, 2011 01:57AM PST • Updated Nov 24, 2011 01:58AM PST
26th The Descendants
2011 Really Great 83 Points

Descendents descend from families. The Descendants is about concentric families in crisis: an exploding nuclear family, a feuding extended family, an enduring multigenerational family. They all center on George Clooney's reluctant patriarch, the trustee of a landed Hawaiian dynasty.

Clooney's clan is haole in the extreme, almost British in their emotional remove. They're even stiff jointed, never more than in Clooney's comic run to a neighbor's house. They're also contact avoidant in the extreme, with no hugging except in extreme circumstances. Make that super extreme circumstance…

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Added Dec 01, 2011 10:36PM PST • Updated Dec 01, 2011 10:36PM PST
27th The Adventures o...
2011 Great 83 Points

Need a lift? I did and The Adventures of Tintin provided it. Light-hearted, highly inventive, magnificently assured, the Belgian boy wonder's big Hollywood movie proved just the ticket. LOLs are rarely so airy.

A Tintin newbie, I had no familiarity with the comic-page hero: his investigative reporting exploits, his dog Snowy, his penchant for solving mysteries and putting himself in harm's way, his extreme earnestness. It didn't matter, not with Spielberg behind the camera.

The movie's menagerie of Western European accents and affects regularly strike tinny notes, often of the f…

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Added Dec 24, 2011 12:36PM PST • Updated Dec 24, 2011 12:37PM PST
28th Young Adult
2011 Perfect 83 Points

Deadly funny, Young Adult expertly skewers shallow Americana, especially the self-absorbed who drift through the sports bars, Hampton Inns and chain stores that delineate it. Nearly every scene tickles. Many are provocatively LOL, especially effective on those of us with a taste for really smart black humor.

Three superior talents make the movie. Golden star Charlize Theron plays a "Prom Queen Bitch from Hell" with perfect pitch. Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman prove that the sensibility behind "Juno":http://www.viewguide.com/movie_reviews/634-juno, their whip-smart …

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Added Dec 27, 2011 06:33PM PST • Updated Dec 27, 2011 06:33PM PST
29th Sherlock Holmes:...
2011 Great 83 Points

Britishly brilliant movie entertainment, what with Victorian-era detective shenanigans done up in state-of-the-art action movie hyper-reality. This latest Sherlock Holmes re-renders Guy Ritchie & Robert Downey Jr's "boldly boffo origin movie":http://www.viewguide.com/movie_reviews/2187-sherlock-holmes from two years ago, complete with the first one's distinctions.

  • Magnificent visuals? Check. Victorian-era London, Paris and a storybook cliffside castle are presented with intense verisimilitude.
  • Deja vu action scenes? Check. Holmes' minds-eye visualizes every move of each battle …
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Added Dec 28, 2011 10:24PM PST • Updated Dec 28, 2011 10:24PM PST
30th Tinker Tailor So...
2011 Great 83 Points

The best spy movie ever isn't everyone's cup of tea. Why? Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy unspools its complex story in non-linear fashion via a swirl of supporting characters declaiming with extreme British reserve. Many people thus find the movie nigh on impossible to follow and deadly solemn to boot.

However, for those who enjoy a good puzzle, outstanding acting and brilliant filmmaking that pays off countless clues, TTSS is indeed the best spy movie ever. The hunt for a Soviet mole atop early 1970s British intelligence informs a story full of quiet cunning and deep intrigue.

A st…

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Added Jan 02, 2012 11:17PM PST • Updated Jan 02, 2012 11:17PM PST
31st War Horse
2011 Great 83 Points

Stephen Spielberg's War Horse is an instant classic in several categories:

  • War Movies: WWI's trench warfare, poison gas and mismatch between pre-industrial and industrial warfare are vividly shown, albeit without the explicit savagery of "Saving Private Ryan":http://www.viewguide.com/movies/118888-saving-private-ryan, Spielberg's WWII classic.
  • Horse Movies: The beautifully rendered steeds are inspiring and heart-rending in equal measure.
  • Cinematic Fables: Kids from 11 to 111 should see War Horse. Savagery sufficiently toned down, it still serves as a bracing fable about life's…
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Added Jan 05, 2012 10:30PM PST • Updated Jan 05, 2012 10:30PM PST
32nd Hugo
2011 Great 93 Points

Martin Scorsese does a kid's movie, delivering a film history lesson wrapped in a Parisian postcard. Glorious visuals, affecting performances and deft filmmaking flourishes make it a treat for kids of all ages.

The fable of Hugo Cabret imagines an orphan boy who lives in the walls of a storybook railway station, where he maintains the many fantastic clocks. A mechanical prodigy, he cleverly solves a great mystery, dodges capture by the authorities and ultimately resurrects a great man.

This all makes for a great cinematic experience, even without kids in tow. Plus it works in 2D,…

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Added Feb 11, 2012 01:42AM PST • Updated Feb 11, 2012 07:16PM PST
33rd The Artist
2011 Perfect 83 Points

So that's what everyone was talking about… charm in abundance, joyous surprises throughout, a winning pair of romantic leads and one really cute dog. Best Picture? Sure, why not. Who needs the spoken word.

Let's rewind. Having missed The Artist during its 2011 heyday, I finally caught it on an airplane a quarter of the way through 2012. Even on a small seatback screen however, this French love letter to early Hollywood proved an utter delight, its silent movie affectations easy to follow and terrifically effective.

The story recalls "A Star is Born":http://www.viewguide.com/s…

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Added Apr 07, 2012 01:42PM PST • Updated Apr 07, 2012 01:42PM PST


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Jun 24, 2011 6:02PM

To clarify, I think X-Men was the one you were hankering to see.

Jun 5, 2011 9:11PM

Already couldn’t wait to see this one, and now you’ve gotten me more excited!