Welcome back to my Mini Movie Review feature, where I write a short review of every movie I’ve seen for the first time (or have yet to review!)
You can see the full list of mini movie reviews HERE
And you can see my constantly updated “in progress” list of the most recent reviews HERE
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the new stuff I’ve watched over the last couple months:
- Alien Covenant (2017) – Rather fun (even though it really boils down to a handful of well-mounted–and well-worn set pieces) entry in the franchise that has echoes of mad-scientist/gothic horror in its middle section which was an interesting change of pace. Danny McBride even acquits himself rather well in a rather serious role…though not enough to save this movie from most likely being forgotten in a few weeks time anyway.
- Bruce Almighty (2003) – Unless the movie is firmly rooted in the ridiculous like Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber, Jim Carey’s rubber-faced mugging is an instant turn-off in more standard fare (no matter how good his Clint Eastwood impression is). There are some scattered fun moments after he gets his powers (and before the final act’s sap), but not enough to save this one.
- Alien (1979) – Fantastic slow burn horror film that evokes a genuinely unsettled feeling throughout thanks in large part to the excellent production design and atmosphere. Though, I must admit, while watching this elegant, restrained masterpiece of a horror film I couldn’t help but think wistfully about the over the top action set pieces of the dumber, louder, and possibly better sequel.
- Natural Born Killers (1994) – As far as mid-90s teenager favorites go, I never would have thought that someone would outdo Romeo + Juliet for pure, ridiculous, over the top style–but Oliver Stone does so effortlessly by directing this film like he was worried he’d never get another chance to make a movie. The fact that I remained consistently entertained throughout is actually quite impressive for as much overly stylized imagery is relentlessly vomited onto the screen here–however, I don’t think Stone’s overall message about the media’s portrayal of violence and the complicity of the viewer is nearly as deep as he obviously thinks it is.
- Passengers (2016) – Amusing to see the trailers strain to gloss over the problematic central conflict of this film to sell the A-list star romance angle. As it is, the moral choice (or lack thereof) is dealt with fairly well, the imagery is beautiful, and the story is entertaining enough to be worth a watch (even though it feels a bit slight overall).
- Fate of the Furious (2017) – Just when you think this series can’t get any more over the top and homoerotic you get The Rock punching a torpedo into a tank while opining wistfully about how much he’d like to spank Statham’s ass like a Cherokee drum. Which is to say this is probably my favorite currently running action franchise, and new director F. Gary Gray takes the reins from Justin Lin with nary a ridiculous ass shot dropped in the hand-off.
- Peter Pan (1953) – Though there is a change of heart of sorts by the end, Pan is still pretty much a dick throughout this without much comeuppance. Though, I guess Neverland as a concept is still pretty cool for young children, racist and sexist warts aside.
- The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) – The story was pretty shallow, even for a Batman movie, and as a character, Will Arnett doing a Christian Bale impression is woefully in need of being fleshed out. As for all the homages to the Batman mythos, I’ve seen better fan-service from The Big Bang Theory (the Sauron/Voldemort/Dalek alliance was especially underwhelming when you consider the potential).
- We’re the Millers (2013) – Reasonably funny and fun, it’s just too bad that most of the characters are fairly unlikable. I get that that is what Sudeikis was going for, but it still doesn’t sell the viewer on why anyone would want to be a part of his surrogate family.
- Good Night Nurse! (1918) – Fatty goes to rehab and the bizarre hilarity ensues. The usual cross-dressing and shenanigans happen, though the highlight has to be Buster coming out of the operating room covered in blood with with giant butcher knives.
- Robin Hood (1973) – Amiable and rambling version of the Robin Hood story that almost, but not quite, goes too far with all the folksy charm. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something doesn’t sit right about this one–probably it’s the rather unbelievable script that just kind of peters out at the end.
- Get Out (2017) – Smart, suspenseful and even fairly insightful horror film that probably has more than white guilt to thank for all the rave reviews. I don’t think the comic relief buddy is entirely tonally successful, but otherwise this film is a resounding success.
- Moana (2016) – I found the show-tunesy songs fairly grating, but, like Brave, the lack of a romance (why is showing people that want to fuck each other in cinema aimed at kids such a necessity) was appreciated, and the animation was, as usual, rather breathtaking. Still, I don’t think the fairly simple message and plot will bear too much scrutiny.
- Signs (2002) – For most of the run time, this is a reasonably suspenseful (if a bit over-directed) slow burn thriller. Then I got to the ending and just about flipped the goddamn coffee table in a fit of “are you fucking kidding me?” rage.
- Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) – Linklater might just be America’s best working director, and this effortless film in the Dazed and Confused mold mostly makes that title justified. I only really have two complaints: first, the structure is a little too obvious in its railroaded journey through the main trends of 1980, and second, unlike Dazed and Confused, the nostalgia for bro-ing it up is perhaps a bit too idealized.
- Captain Fantastic (2016) – Fairly predictable, but at least it is in a “yes, this is the way things need to go in this movie” way. Aragorn is excellent, the cast of kids is mostly good, the moralizing is only slightly heavy-handed, and the anti-religious undercurrent is quite appreciated.
- Vampyr (1932) – Fantastic near-silent (aside from creepily muffled snatches of dialog) vampire film that is an absolute triumph of sinister, dreamlike atmosphere. The story is a bit slight, but it serves its purpose as the constantly moving camera masterfully follows the dream-walking protagonist.
- Walk the Line (2005) – Phoenix and Witherspoon are as effortlessly brilliant as always, and the excellent music thankfully dominates the proceedings. It’s just too bad the in-between parts hew so closely the the usual biopic playbook–to the usual underwhelming effect.
- Wakfu: La Quête des Six Dofus Éliatropes (2014) – A straight to video sequel to the Wakfu tv series, this has many of the same strengths (amazing animation, epic storylines, creative fight scenes) and many of the same weaknesses (at times problematic female characters, a few too many merchandise tie-ins, Percedal’s voice). Still great fun, and Percedal and Evangeline’s children do not disappoint.
- David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) – I’m afraid to report that this is just as lackluster as the reviews have suggested–its combination of familiarity, and mean-spirited jabs at the pathetic is not exactly the greatest match. It’s not so much that the jokes bomb, it’s more that they kind of just sputter out, eliciting a few chuckles, but never approaching the creative and comedic heights of The Office even on its worst day.