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:
- I Am Mother (2019) – This post-apocalyptic sci-fi film looks great and does a decent job keeping you guessing as to the motivations of the central AI. I’m not sure it all makes sense, even factoring in possible ridiculous long cons, but Swank is good and the main robot is really modeled quite well.
- Murder Mystery (2019) – The actual murder mystery is pretty stupid, and Adam Sandler’s lazy performance is, as usual, also pretty unlikable, but overall this film lands without too many stumbles. It’s all unassuming stuff, but the fancy setting and relaxed performances make it fairly easy to digest.
- Detective Pikachu (2019) – The plot is kind of stupid but the special effects are top notch as they animate a ridiculous amount of bizzare cartoon creatures to reasonably believable effect. Reynold’s mugging manages to, as usual, stay on JUST the right side of obnoxious, and the main dude was likable enough, but there’s still not much to recommend this on to someone who doesn’t give a shit about the Pokeverse.
- Always Be My Maybe (2019) – As rom coms go, this was fairly average, but as Netflix originals go, this was basically Citizen fucking Kane as I almost believed it was a real movie. Wong and Park are good leads, and the script was actually funny, which, for a rom com, is all I really ask.
- Second Act (2018) – Not really a rom com as much as a lazy inspirational tale of hard worker faking it till she makes it–most of the cast here deserve better material. I’d watch Jennifer Lopez in most things, and she tries her best, but this was one step away from Hallmark Channel C-list stuff rather than the Netflix B-list stuff it is trying to rise above.
- Wine Country (2019) – The cast makes this seem like a sure thing, but the lazy (and mostly laugh-free–unless you love millennial jokes) script will remind you why this ended up in “not good enough for Hollywood Netflix Original purgatory.” Things pick up as the interpersonal fissures begin to show halfway through, but even middle-ground TV shows like Friends from College do this stuff better.
- Ice Age: Dawn of Dinosaurs (2019) – The over the top world and ridiculous physics actually kind of work in this film’s favor as I was able to mostly buy some weird Hyperborean land of dinosaurs under the ice. It isn’t necessarily all THAT funny or insightful (major character hurdles include “can the sabertooth tiger get back into running shape”) but it is fun enough.
- Mr. Mom (1983) – A lot of the jokes haven’t aged well (mostly variations on “men are afraid of looking at tampon boxes!”) and some of the set pieces are just too absurd to be effective slapstick (a runaway vacuum cleaner sequence set to the Jaws theme?) Keaton and Garr are great screen presences, and the film is watchable, just not really recommendable.
- Avengers: Endgame (2019) – The culmination of the last decade or so of Marvel movies manages to go out on a fairly high note by coming up with a novel plot that brings things full circle in as convincing a manner as possible considering how bloated and over the top the material is. I really don’t have many complaints as I can’t think of a better way to pull off wrapping up a cinematic universe this enormous–soulless and full of corporate greed to be sure, but it’s also pretty goddamn entertaining.
- Captain Marvel (2019) – This one never managed to pull me in, despite their best efforts with all the carefully placed 1990’s callbacks and a bunch of Sam Jackson interacting with a cat jokes. I think the main problem is that once you take away the silly costumes and generic energy blast dust-ups you are basically only left with a bunch of carefully placed 1990’s callbacks and Sam Jackson interacting with a cat jokes.
- The Dirt (2019) – Though this isn’t as polished as an actual Hollywood movie, there are still enough nice touches to be found to make it fairly compelling for a biopic (the ridiculous subject matter and excellent soundtrack help too). None of the actors wowed me, but they all delivered enough to make for a pretty good time watching this routine rise and fall tale, only with much higher quantities of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
- Lady for a Day (1933) – This Capra fairy tale dangerously oscillates between his good stuff and his wretchedly sappy stuff as the viewer is supposed to swallow an entire city banding together to help an old drunk lie to her daughter. The supporting cast saves the whole thing though as Capra once again assembles a fantastic murderer’s row of hilarious character actors to help balance out the whining old lady the viewer, in theory, is supposed to feel bad for.
- Shall We Dance? (1937) – The plot is a bit of nonsensical fluff that would seriously hamstring the movie if Fred and Ginger weren’t so mesmerizing. Horton is back in top form as the bumbling butt of most of the jokes, and the score is positively hummable.
- Dance Girl Dance (1940) – Rather dire showgirl movie about a woman who just wants to do stodgy ballerina moves that were already tired in 1940 to boorish dance hall audiences. At least Lucille Ball steals the show enough that the movie will be half over before you realize the director would like you to sympathize with the nonentity ballet dancer.
- Chicken Run (2000) – Rather dark stop motion film about doomed chickens in a concentration camp. I appreciated the dry touches and quaint look, but it perhaps went a bit too far and ended up just feeling kind of inconsequential.
- Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) – Opening up the Ralph universe to the entire internet was a breath of fresh air and allowed for all kinds of new ideas to be thrown into the mix (everything from ebay to a Disney Princess pajama party). As usual the plot gets bogged down in nonsense, but the in-between bits were even more fun than the first one.
- Wreck it Ralph (2012) – Cute idea about video game characters all hanging out in a surge protector when the arcade is closed (though, lack of rights to actual famous games did kind of put a damper on some of the fun). The usual message about like believing in yourself or finding your dream or whatever was ho-hum, but there were some fun moments to be had.
- Roma (2018) – Undoubtedly a fine movie, and, I appreciated that it did not try to bludgeon you with its message about the plight of indigenous workers in Mexico City. On the other hand, the culture, events, and world were alien enough that I had a hard time really being drawn in, despite the best efforts of the scintillating black and white cinematography.
- Lego Ninjago Movie (2017) – There are some decent jokes to be found in this quite silly ninja-corner of the Lego universe. Unfortunately the silliness mostly ranges from the unbelievable (the villain’s whole “thing”) to the labored (the strained to the breaking point world building/let’s sell a bunch of ninja shit).
- Lords of Chaos (2018) – This movie is bound to upset both black metal fans who don’t understand how fucking silly their music is, and non-fans who don’t understand that the whole idea of black metal isn’t some absurdist joke. The American accents are jarring, the violence a bit gratuitous, and the direction definitely reeks of the director’s music video past, but there’s some decent stuff to be found here, especially in its portrayal of just how petty and insecure most of the 2nd wave scene actually was.