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:
- Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse (2018) – The unique animation and excellent voice acting really buoyed this very entertaining “what if a bunch of alternate reality Spider-men came together to do some shit” movie. I especially liked the voice acting for “middle-aged loser” Spider-man.
- The Game (1997) – This will strain your credibility at every single twist and turn, so, props to Fincher for keeping it completely engrossing throughout with his energetic pacing and stylish direction. I don’t buy the redemptive qualities of The Game, but I bought just about everything else in the film despite my suspension of disbelief being pushed to the limit.
- Ant-man and the Wasp (2018) – One thing the Ant-man movies know how to do is take advantage of their size shifting premise. None of it is remotely plausible, and the plot is barely trying, but the rock-solid jokes and size-changing more than deliver.
- Metropolis (1927) – This silent sci-fi film is a magnificent spectacle featuring amazing sets, lovely expressionist atmosphere, and and lots of fantastic performances (I especially liked the robot woman). Now, if only someone could cut about 50 minutes back out of the restored version, it might end up moving a little better.
- Frankenstein (1910) – Strange early version of Frankenstein where the monster ends up in some weird love triangle with the Doctor and his fiance, only to symbolically (spoiler alert) vanish into a mirror at the end. Cool makeup and interesting story, but not a lot visually to recommend it.
- Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) – If you can get over the fact that the entire raison d’etre for this film is the idea that making a dead body wave at people is hilarious…you’d still have to contend with its two supremely dislikeable protagonists. That said, this is actually pretty snappily directed, and ends up being quite watchable despite your best efforts to dismiss it.
- The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) – Decent adaptation of the “bring your toys to life” book, that couples nice effects with solid acting all around. The script is a little (or a lot) preachy, but, then again, I guess so was the book.
- John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – The John Wick series will test your stomach’s limits with grievous gunshot head-wounds, but, if you’ve got the stomach, his “gun-jitsu” is actually pretty cool (as long as you can also overlook the bad guy’s all having a bad case of “stand there till he’s ready to shoot you-itis”). The story is fairly dumb, but the stylish fight choreography is the real draw here.
- Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) – This was filmed with style to spare, and the cast acquit themselves well, but the more secrets get revealed, the more I found myself saying “oh wait, that’s all?” Still, top marks for setting and atmosphere!
- Bird Box (2018) – This really is basically “The Quiet Place, except with seeing,” and while the monsters were marginally less stupid (which isn’t saying much) than the selectively hearing impaired Quiet Place beasts, the biggest problem with this one is the usual “Netflix B-movie syndrome.” Bullock is great, of course, and the movie is fine, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend this would have crushed at the box office.
- Mary Poppins (1964) – Way overlong, but I can definitely see the appeal for small children as the magic stuff is pretty cool. For myself, I found Mary’s persona to be too opaque and internally inconsistent to really be able to find anything to latch my investment onto.
- Destination Wedding (2018) – Keanu and Winona’s commiserating misanthropes are interesting characters to watch (and the movie cleverly builds itself entirely around their continued interactions) in this oddball rom-com. Unfortunately, the dialog was so ridiculously overwritten that I found it hard to enjoy through the noise of the screenwriter flipping through his thesaurus.
- Bandersnatch (2018) – Netflix’s Choose Your Own Adventure movie is actually pretty good, and mostly makes clever use of the format. My biggest complaint was that after going through a few alternate endings I realized it was all pretty random and, ultimately, the lack of a single “true” ending undercut the whole thing a bit and made me quickly lost interest.
- Scrooged (1988) – Bill Murray mugs his way through this disagreeable (and dated) take on A Christmas Carol. The main problem is that he plays such a colossal asshole I found it very hard to believe there was any redemption to be had for him.
- Arthur Christmas (2011) – Animated film from the Wallace and Grommit guys, this actually has an inspired take on Santa Claus (A commando Santa, an army of elves, and ultra advanced technology is what it takes to deliver toys to the entire world). It’s all great fun, it’s just too bad the titular Arthur is such a fucking non-entity tool.
- Abominable Christmas (2012) – Near unwatchable animated film about some baby sasquatch(es?) hiding from Jane Lynch. The jokes fall flat, and the animation sucks–this is one to avoid.
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) – This Coen Brothers western is a collection of 6 short films each detailing a simple (and usually tragic) story of “the olde West.” While some might not be as insightful as they seem to want to be, they are all quiet exhilaratingly creative and an absolute delight to watch.
- The Princess Switch (2018) – People can talk about how good the Netflix “Christmas” movies are all they want, but this is still pretty embarrassing when you put it next to even the worst major release studio rom-com. Hudgens is fine I guess, but there’s not much else in this one that did much to make me stop rolling my eyes.
- The First Purge (2018) – This dials the Purge back to take a look at the first “experiment” in an isolated Staten Island. If you can get past the hammer obvious elements (you see, the Purge affects poor/minorities in order to keep them in their place) and some not fully compelling characters, there’s plenty more good Purge stuff to be found here.
- The Purge: Election Year (2016) – I don’t know that continuing to flesh out the “Purge” world is making it any less ridiculous of an alternate reality, but, a few heavy handed bits aside, this is once again a pretty solid action flick. I really kind of liked that square jawed dude from the last one, and overall this continues to deliver for the morbidly curious.
- The Purge: Anarchy (2014) – This follow up to the original home-invasion movie says “fuck it” and makes the series the action-adventure it always kind of wanted to be. There is a certain nastiness to the sadistic voyeurism inherent in the series, but there’s also quite a lot of great action set pieces here.
- Crazy Rich Asians (2018) – This fantastic rom-com is built around the ludicrous premise that a woman doesn’t know her (soon to be) fiance is actually the heir to, like, all of Singapore. If you can get past that set-up, this is about as good as they get: funny, well acted, and, most importantly, it does not take itself too seriously.
- Deadpool 2 (2018) – The cinematic (and comic for that matter) Deadpool has always been a balancing act between funny and annoying, and the second time around has made all the wink-wink self referential stuff a bit (more) overbearing. There’s still plenty of fun to be had, and Reynold’s confounding charisma when it comes to smarm still carries the day.
- Gnome Alone (2017) – B-list animated fare that barely manages to keep its stupid plot afloat. But, it manages to barrel ahead anyway, and the animation isn’t bad, so it’s not the worst shit you’ll see.
- The Purge (2013) – Home invasion shit that delights in sadistic nastiness is not at all my cinematic cup of tea. Luckily, there isn’t a lot of that stuff in this successful (and well acted) suspense film that somehow manages to make its ludicrous premise semi-believable.