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 the links out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the new stuff I’ve watched last couple months:
- Rough Night (2017) – The likable cast and semi-competent script keep this afloat, but just barely. Partly, this struggles with tone, never quite committing to its blacker impulses, but mostly this is just lacking in big laughs–no matter how hard SNL’s McKinnon is trying with that Australian accent.
- Monster High: Welcome to Monster High (2016) – The Monster High universe decides to go for a complete reboot by restarting the series with Frankie and Draculaura founding Monster High in the present day, and re-meeting their inner circle of friends. Some of the series regulars (Abby!) are missed, and the new villain is fairly ho-hum, but there are a few good songs to liven up what is otherwise a pointless reVAMPing of the series.
- 3 Godfathers (1948) – Great Ford Western that follows the most affable band of outlaws in the west as they stagger through Death Valley with no water and the worlds most well-behaved baby in tow. Wayne is in classic form, the cinematography is amazing, and the baby stuff is cute–it’s all almost enough to make you forgive all the Jesus shit in the third act.
- After Hours (1985) – Classic “one crazy night” movie, that, more than any other entry in the “genre,” genuinely feels like an all too real waking nightmare. Immensely stylish, gripping, and darkly humorous–the only negative is that Scorsese’s usual insight into the darker corners of the male psyche, once again, comes off as both insightful and misogynistic.
- A Bronx Tale (1993) – This plays a bit like Goodfellas written by a misty-eyed nostalgic, and as long as the overly-romanticized treatment of growing up around wise guys doesn’t turn you off too much, it’s pretty well done. Deniro could stand to reign in some of his flashier directorial impulses, but overall it’s a finely constructed bit of nostalgic fluff.
- Training Day (2001) – Classic “one crazy day” ride-along film that largely lives up to its reputation. Denzel really is fantastic, the script maintains a taught pace of escalating crazy shit…all of which forgives the film a few too many ill-advised forays into unlikely coincidence and over-extended fights towards the end.
- What We Do in the Shadows (2014) – Charming vampire reality show spoof that boasts a hilariously clever script to go with all the winning performances. Despite its strengths (and a short run-time), however, I still found myself struggling to remain invested.
- 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) – Paul Walker was never cut out to carry a movie, and he fails to do that here, no matter how many times he exclaims “Bro!” Despite Vin Diesel being sorely missed, this isn’t as bad as you might remember–Singleton, at the very least, maintains the franchise’s expertise at delivering street racing that looks like it is happening at hyperdrive speeds while still somehow maintaining suspension of disbelief.
- The Fast and the Furious (2001) – Despite being a very different movie than the current “punch torpedoes into tanks” state of the franchise, this actually holds up quite well. Up there with Reign of Fire for ridiculous testosterone driven swagger, but that is all part of the charm–and the absurdly surreal manner in which the races are filmed actually works quite well.
- The Shop Around the Corner (1940) – Classic Lubitsch low-key rom-com that still easily outshines the Hanks/Ryan remake. It all feels quite naturalistic, Stewart is great, Sullavan is even better, and they even manage the denouement in a (slightly) less problematically misogynist manner than the modern version.
- My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas (2005) – Pretty shitty My Little Pony fare that tries to structure a Christmas movie around Minty, the fuck-up pony. There is very little to hold the attention here, whether you are 7 or 37.
- The Night Before (2015) – Stoner Christmas comedy that is largely enjoyable despite feeling rather unremarkable throughout. Nothing here to push this up with the greats, but the drug-fueld hi-jinx and great cast will keep a smile on your face.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1998) – Modern animated take on the Rudolph story. Despite a strong voice-cast, lame animation and uninspired plotting sink this one pretty quickly.
- Logan Lucky (2017) – Odd heist film that takes the genre’s usual unspoken assumption that the heist will go off without a hitch (only to fall apart in the aftermath) to such a ridiculous extreme (especially considering the complexity of the heist) that it actually ends up heightening the enjoyment of the film. The redneck stuff is fun, but the real delight is sitting back and just enjoying a bunch of pros practicing this particular left-handed form of human endeavor in such an absurdly flawless manner.
- Nymphomaniac (2013) – Von Trier’s absurdly cynical story of the titular nymphomaniac’s sordidly depressing life is, improbably, one of Trier’s most upbeat movies. Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT an easy 5 hours to get through, but, largely, its cinematic elements justify most of the cheap provocation.
- The Nice Guys (2016) – This tale of private eye slobs is trying for the same kind of low-key, off-beat charm you see in The Big Lebowski, unfortunately, aside from game cast, nothing here (least of all the script) is up to the challenge. It’s all almost there, but there have been far too many superior private eye films in the past hundred years to waste your time on “almost there.”
- The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – All disaster movies bank on the effectiveness of widespread destructive spectacle to ultimately carry the film, but the good ones marry this with enough realistic personal stakes to make you actually care. This film of an improbably hasty new ice age does a decent job remembering this even if some of the personal motivations and dodgy (to say the least) science constantly strain credulity.
- Thor: Ragnorok (2017) – The Marvel movies are operating at peak efficiency now, churning out amusing set pieces and a constant stream of amusing wisecracks with ruthless efficiency. There is still not a soul to be found (no matter how many indie darlings they get to helm these), but there’s no denying this one is pretty damn entertaining for at least one watch-through.
- Horse Feathers (1932) – This short Marx brothers film set at a college finds them operating at their peak. Some of the jokes fall a little flat, and some of Harpo’s rapier moments are a little cringe-worthy, but overall this is one of the good ones.
- Last Year at Marienbad (1961) – This is supposedly some kind of great masterpiece, but goddamn was it a chore to sit through. This is so pretentious, it makes Antonioni seem like the Farrely brothers in comparison.
- Possession (1981) – This comes off like a cross between Lynch and Bunuel (albeit without quite the same amount of talent as either of them) as a simple tale of marital strife escalates VERY quickly (and doesn’t stop for the entire run-time). Even if I suspect this isn’t as deep as the director wants it to be, it will still grab you by the throat and not let go–you will find yourself chortling in disbelief at how astonishingly over the top it all is.
- The Road to El Dorado (2000) – There is a bit more story here than most animated fare (though, as usual, none of it holds up to scrutiny) in this tale of conquistador con men and a city of gold. Kline and Branagh’s banter provides a few smiles, and there are scattered fun moments in between the juvenile shit–so, overall, this was a pleasant diversion.
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – Stunningly beautiful, this nails the retro-future dystopian atmosphere the first film captured so brilliantly. Unfortunately the plot just kind of wanders around and makes a few digressions into potentially interesting side stories and then lets it all fizzle out like this is only part one of a larger movie.
- My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) – There are scattered decent moments, but overall I found very little to distinguish this from the equally unimpressive TV show. All in all, the 1986 MLP movie was a stronger film.
- Thunder and the House of Magic (2013) – Slightly low budget (animation consistently falls just on the wrong side of impressive) movie about a kitten abandoned at the house of an eccentric magician. It was fun enough, but the plot seems to have obviously been cranked out without much enthusiasm, and the “bad” rabbit antagonist stuff drug on far too long.
- Mr. Boogedy (1986) – Basically just a TV pilot (for a show that never got picked up) about a doofus dad and his family who move into a haunted house and decide NOT to get the fuck out. The script is reasonably taut, but pretty much only nostalgia will find anything else nice to say about this one.