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 in recent months:
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – I suppose I must grudgingly appreciate the robotic deftness required to weave 100 different characters from a dozen different franchises into a coherent plot, and this really is as tight as a screen play that required EVERYONE in it could possibly be. And honestly, for a long string of 2 minute set pieces full of above average quips with different characters, I really rather enjoyed it–but let’s not get crazy and try to claim it’s much more than that.
- Black Panther (2018) – The praise for Michael B. Jordan’s villain is warranted (seriously, if superhero movies would just stop to spend an extra half a day fleshing out their villains, we’d all be a lot less franchise weary), but otherwise, I fail to see how this is the all-time high water mark for superhero cinema. It’s definitely upper tier superhero fare, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s still just a bunch of actors fighting cartoon monsters while wearing silly costumes.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – Despite starting the same way as Empire, this, thankfully, is a much different movie and not a total rehash like the last one. Poe Dameron is basically ruined, but otherwise all the fanboy hate seems largely misdirected as the movie is a cut above most big blockbuster fare.
- 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – Harryhausen’s effects still impress, especially in a movie as fast paced and inventive as this one. The plot throws in everything from genies to Rocs, and it’s all almost enough to make you overlook what a fucking tool the actor playing Sinbad is.
- Justice League (2017) – Justice League assembles to find that Wonder Woman is still pretty cool, new Flash is cute, bro-Aquaman doesn’t really work, Superman still hasn’t found a personality, Cyborg doesn’t like being a robot, and Batfleck is FINE, I guess. Otherwise this is quite silly, and is further dragged down by yet another in a long line of cookie-cutter, soul-less superhero villains in a funny hat.
- Role Models (2008) – I love Paul Rudd and Stiffler (and, I guess, McLuvin too), but this is overall only intermittently funny. It has its moments, but there are probably better throwaway comedies about 30-something slackers to watch.
- Annihilation (2018) – Supposedly this is based on a 2014 book of the same name, but it sure seems like a straight up remake of Tarkovsky’s Stalker (with an actual budget this time) to me. For my money all the heady brain melting stuff is a bit much, and, like Stalker, it also suffers from “walking around pointlessly” syndrome that most of these “mystery zone” movies suffer from.
- Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) – Russ Meyer goes mainstream, but still keeps the tits and cloyingly absurd (“Ere this night does wane, you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”) Roger Ebert scripts. It goes on a bit long for what slight story there is, but it is still must-see cinema–and no one edits in quite so visceral a manner as Meyer.
- A Quiet Place (2018) – Well-made horror film that is mostly shot without dialog due to the super-hearing of the monsters waiting to attack at the slightest sound. Unfortunately, suspension of disbelief (along with the film) is utterly destroyed by these same monsters being so plot-selectively deaf that they can’t hear someone crying 3 feet away–even though they just heard a pin drop from 2 miles away.
- Girls Trip (2017) – This all-lady gross-out comedy is amusing enough, though half the jokes try a little too hard for it to be a real classic. Haddish is definitely the standout, which is even more impressive when you consider most of her performance is so broad it almost seems like it belongs in a different movie.
- Ferdinand (2017) – Animated film about a gentle bull that just wants to chill on a farm instead of fight matadors…which seems fair. Decent enough, even if it’s a bit dark in places for very young audiences.
- North by Northwest (1959) – Hitchcock is in 39 Steps mode here as Cary Grant sets off on a ridiculously entertaining “wrong man” jaunt across the United States. Maybe not Hitchcock’s masterpiece, but this at the very least is one of his most entertaining films.
- Fanboys (2009) – The set up is about as promising as it gets, but the execution is just a long string of unfunny gay jokes and failed set pieces. Given the extent to which this privileges referencing pop culture at the expense of all else, you will not be surprised to find out it was written by the Ready Player One guy.
- Derren Brown: The Push (2016) – Derren Brown again goes to ridiculous lengths to convince an unsuspecting mark that a nightmare scenario (inspired by Weekend at Bernies) is real, this time in order to get a “normal” person to commit murder. I really don’t think the mark is “in” on things, but, as is usually the case with Derren Brown, I’m sure there is a trick at play here that I’m not quite aware of–still, astounding stuff that will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
- Vertigo (1958) – Considered by some to be Hitchcock’s best film, but it moves a bit too slowly to really reach the top levels for me. The film is still pure genius, but the first hour pretty much exists solely to set up the twisted power dynamics of the second–an investment of time that I’m not entirely sure is worth it.
- Tsotsi (2005) – A rather reprehensibly violent gangster (with the smallest heart of gold) accidentally steals and baby and comes to rediscover the smallest part of his humanity in the process. Very stylishly shot, this is quite well done, though, like most “bad dudes get a baby” movies, the baby stretches suspension of disbelief to the breaking point by being more patient and better behaved than most adults.
- Shrek (2001) – Cute story of a land where all fairy tales are real, and the various hijinx the fairy tale characters get up to with each other. I feel like this series has been shat up on a fair amount in the media when compared to Dreamworks and other more respectable fare, but I see little difference…they all have a thin (yet well-paced) story with a few good jokes peppered throughout–and this seems no different.
- Event Horizon (1997) – In theory this deep space horror film has a fair amount of genuinely effective atmosphere, but, unfortunately, it is all in service of a ludicrous plot about like, space demons and stuff. A few scattered creepy moments, but nothing that rises above a lazy script that feels like it was written by an over-excited 15-year-old DOOM fan.
- Fury (2014) – The battle scenes are quite gripping and well done (despite the eye-rollingly over the top ending), with excellently cinematic use of tracer bullets. Unfortunately, the over-baked in-between parts just try to hammer home the fact that war is SERIOUSLY hell to the point that it starts to really be a mood killer for one’s enjoyment of all the battle carnage.
- How to Be Single (2016) – This one takes itself a bit too seriously to really recommend itself–the extra gravitas makes its trite observations on being newly single that much more glaringly simplistic. The cast acquits itself well (despite Rebel Wilson’s character being pretty over the top and oblivious to how dislikeable she is), but there’s still no getting past the stink the misplaced delusions of respectability leave on the whole affair.
- Big Night (1996) – Stanley Tucci’s passion project about a down on their luck team of brothers baking one make or break dinner at their failing restaurant suffers a bit due to pretty much all of the characters all being rather mundanely dislikeable. It is still quite well made, and the food all looks great, though that big final pasta pie thing really doesn’t look nearly as delicious as everyone seemed to think it is.
- Life (2017) – A by the numbers Alien ripoff, that is still perfectly fine entertainment due to a uniformly high production standard. This reinvents no wheels, but it hits all the usual creature in space beats to reasonably entertaining effect.
- The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) – Almost from the first shot you can tell that this B-level “not good enough for major release” fodder. The connection to the previous (much better) Cloverfield movies is tenuous at best, and the longer it goes on, the more stupid, half-baked space shit you will see–there’s a reason this got buried in a Netflix release.
- Derren Brown: Apocalypse (2012) – Derren Brown goes to ridiculous lengths to convince a selfish man-child the world has ended in a zombie apocalypse. I don’t buy his underlying “this is all designed to make him a better person” theme (and, as is usually the case with these Derren Brown films, I am not entirely sure where the line between real and not is), but there’s no denying this spectacle is fantastic entertainment.
- Dofus – Book 1: Julith (2015) – Ankama Animations is one of the best kept secrets in world when it comes to quality animation studios, and this major release is on of its best looking products yet. Like most cartoon movies, it’s not high art, but the animation is beautiful, the fight scenes are brilliantly creative, the story is tight, entertaining, and gripping, and, as is always the case with Ankama, the villain is phenomenal!
- Game Night (2018) – Surprisingly funny “one crazy night” film about a “kidnapping mystery party” that leaves a group of unprepared suburbanites in a world of trouble-with only their board-gaming skills to get them through the night. Well-paced, and with plenty of clever laughs to be had, my only real complaint is the horrendous selection of board games these supposed “gamers” play on their “game nights.”
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – The new, slightly more age appropriate Spider-man is adorable, and Keaton at least makes for a semi-compelling villain (mostly due to his performance rather than any writing merits). However, being as this is the 3rd reboot of the series in recent years (as well as the umpteenth cookie cutter Marvel superhero movie), I have to admit I came away from the proceedings with a massive shoulder shrug, and little else.
- The Business of Being Born (2008) – Decent documentary about birth practices in the United States. While there definitely ARE issues with the current process, this comes down a little too forcefully on the “all doctors and hospitals are evil!” side for me to really take its warnings very seriously.
- Jurassic Park (1993) – The dinosaur effects hold up better than the glossy Hollywood look of the rest of this (Sam Neil is wearing so much pancaked on foundation it looks like he might be in a skin-suit) mid-nineties blockbuster. Some of the set pieces are deservedly classics, but it’s hard to completely remove the studio feel of it all from your suspension of disbelief.
- Bad Santa 2 (2016) – This repeats just about every story beat from the first, to much diminished effect. So, while there is the same amount of plus-sized ass-fucking on display in this lazy sequel, none of it has the quite the same unassuming charm of the first film’s plus-sized ass-fucking.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017) – The script is fairly off-putting as it throws a bunch of “wild” space-shit at you in the name of upping the already ridiculous spectacle level of the first, but there are scattered fun moments. And, overall, when you get rid of some of the more distracting (and ultimately boring) action set pieces, there is a reasonably tight movie here, at least when you consider it in terms of “bigger and louder” Marvel sequels.