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:
- New York Minute (2004) – The Olsen Twins have barely improved their acting from their Full House days, but they bring enough bizarre screen presence to this (their first attempt at an A-list movie) to somehow overcome a host of serious debits, most notably the bland leading men, the overplaying antagonists (what the fuck was Andy Richter thinking with that accent?), and the lazy plotting. Supposedly this is one of their worst films, but the bizarre spectacle of the Olson Twin’s strange combination of ennui and alien vibes overcome all the odds and make for a fairly compelling experience.
- Hocus Pocus (1993) – This has a reputation as a Halloween classic, and I can see the appeal, especially if you are approaching it with fond childhood memories of talking cats and adorable zombies. Unfortunately, approaching it with fresh eyes, I found the production quite dated, and the Three Stooges-esque witches to be far too broadly overplayed to really enjoy it.
- Baal (1970) – The theatrical roots of this cinematic adaptation of a Brecht play are fully on display, making for a remarkably pretentious affair–as most productions of Brecht turn out to be. Fassbinder gives a game performance, and Schlöndorff puts some nice touches on the proceedings, but there’s still no escaping the intellectual stink of this one.
- Westworld (1973) – The premise was super cool, but ultimately this film was a huge let-down that was basically just an extended “slow-walk” stalker-film chase for the last half. Flashes of interest are ruined by the very choppy pacing and a disastrously incongruous soundtrack.
- Hereditary (2018) – The acting is great, and there is no doubt this is a stylishly mounted (if copying Kubrick counts as “stylishly mounted”) horror film, but something about the story just seems a little off. I think the issue is that the film tries a bit too hard to give logical coherence to a story that probably would have been better served with a more Lynchian dream-logic treatment–making the film strain credibility as you try to jump the mental hurdles to get it to all make sense.
- Blockers (2018) – The previews made it seem like this was just going to mine sticking things up dude’s asses and dads not wanting their daughters to ever fuck for laughs–thankfully it turned out to be much more progressive than that. It still mines those subjects for humor, but the film’s open-minded script, game leads (old and young), snappy pacing, and legitimately funny gags deftly avoid all the potential pitfalls of the premise.
- Creed (2015) – It’s the same old boxing story you’ve seen a hundred times, but this one is filmed with style and features an undeniably charismatic lead, propelling it to the top of a crowded genre. Stallone even manages to keep up with the new guy’s screen presence, an impressive feat even taking into account Sly’s legendary status.
- The Mercenary (1968) – Corbucci gets ambitious and goes for an epic parable on the corruptibility of idealistic revolutionary causes. It is an undeniably impressive film, but I really think I prefer the simpler delights of the genre without all the moral grey area and intellectual commentary.
- Home Again (2017) – This Rom-com-dram fluff piece feels like it would have been better suited as a direct to Hallmark release than the actual wide release it got. Witherspoon is great (of course), as are a few of the supporting characters, but otherwise there’s just no getting past the stink of all the fuzzy lighting and manufactured feelz.
- Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – Content-wise, this has aged quite a bit, but Murphy’s undeniable charisma effortlessly holds the whole thing together. Lots of fun, low-key set pieces that deliver exactly what you would expect, and the soundtrack is still rather brilliant.
- Like Father (2018) – Grammar is quite charming in this tale of a workaholic reconnecting with her estranged father on a cruise ship. This is actually a cut above most other Netflix movies, and very nearly makes you think it could have had a theatrical release–though it ultimately ends up feeling more like a cruise ship commercial than an actual piece of real Hollywood fluff.
- Set it Up (2018) – The two leads in this are actually pretty great, unfortunately, the bosses they are implausibly trying to get together are just cartoonish caricatures. There is still a lot of good stuff here (including a great race to the airport gag) but don’t forget that there is a reason this went “straight to Netflix.”
- Navajo Joe (1966) – Burt Reynolds apparently hated this, and I guess I can see why, and yet, there is a certain over-the-top charm to this that marks it right up there with Django for ridiculous Spaghetti Western spectacle. The story just pinballs from one Spaghetti Western trope to another, but the creative direction and big budget win out in the end.
- White House Down (2013) – The list of ways this movie differs from Die Hard is basically just “set in the White House” and “worked in a scene where the president shoots a rocket launcher.” Despite this being a brazenly lazy facsimile of an earlier, better movie, it easily coasts to an enjoyable finish buoyed solely by the ridiculous charisma of Tatum and Fox (despite neither of them managing to land a quip as well as Bruce Willis).
- The Thief of Bagdad (1940) – This might not have quite the zip of the silent original, but the breathtaking color and set design more than makes up for its moments of stalled momentum and inelegant storytelling. All the actors acquit themselves well (even prince Ahmad is fine, if a bit excitable), and there’s enough imagination and wonder on display here for at least three movies.
- The Incredibles (2004) – This is supposed to be one of the better animated films of the last decade, but the slight story-line (even taking into consideration that this premise was not as played out in 2004 as it is today) feels better suited for a TV show than a prestige movie. However, the film makes up for it with plenty of inspired zany mayhem as it at least uses the various superpowers on display to their fullest potential.
- Step Up: All In (2014) – Non-Tatum series highlights Andie and Moose from Step Up 2 return with that fucking tool of a lead from Step Up Revolution (only slightly less douchy here) and manage to deliver yet another improbably entertaining film in the franchise. The dance sequences actually feel like they are a slight STEP DOWN from from Revolution, but that hardly matters with Moose and Andie back in the center of the stage again.
- Lost Highway (1997) – This feels like Lynch discovered goth music and then had a dream about a guy telling you he was the person you were currently talking to inside your house–and then tried to make a movie out of it. The result is undeniably compelling, but I call bullshit on anyone (possibly even Lynch) who claims to know exactly what it is about (part of Lynch’s charm in the first place)–it also suffers from the fact that Mulholland Drive hits all these same beats to much more impressive effect.
- The Great Sioux Massacre (1965) – Bizarre Western that suggests that Custer was a great man who only killed all those Indians to…try to get elected president? It is hard enough finding a reason to watch this stinker WITHOUT trying to swallow the idea of Custer as a great protector of Indian rights.
- xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017) – I have a hazy recollection of rather enjoying the first xXx movie, but this was the dumbest shit I’ve ever seen. The game cast almost saves it, but I still couldn’t help but watch it with a pained cringe on my face at a 50 year old Vin Diesel tromping around dressed like a 1990’s middle schooler who just got a Thrasher Magazine subscription.