Wednesday, September 12, 2018

First Time Watches: July 2018

A few big things happened in July.  I turned 28 near the end of the month, and even closer to the end of the month I reached seven years at the job that I would leave soon after.  I did a lot of rewatching as preparation for the 300th week of my other blog, which came in August.  However, I managed to sneak in eight first time watches.  That’s right.  There were only eight.  This post is going to be a little bit shorter than some of the other recent ones.

This post will be about those eight first time watches from July.  You’ll get to read my thoughts about each of them.  I’ll get to leave them here as a record of my opinion.  It’s something for you and something for me.  A give and a receive.  For all of us.

As for the movies, the eight movies had a variety of themes and genres.  There was a horror movie about American politics that took things to extremes.  There was a short film about some holiday horror.  There was a non-stop action sequel, and a stand-up comedy special from a comedian that I enjoy.  All of this and more will be coming up.  Why don’t we get started?
Now You See Me 2
There was a lot to take in with Now You See Me 2.  After the twists and turns of the first one, it was going to be hard to top that with the sequel.  It would be like a magic trick if they could pull it off a second time.  They almost did.  For the most part, the movie was successful in everything it was doing.  The cast worked well together again and I was entertained the whole way through.  The problem was that the twists and turns were playing upon the previous film’s twists and turns.  Though they mostly worked, they were getting a tad convoluted.  That said, I would love to see more sequels so that this franchise could become the Saw of magic franchises, going right up its own butt with the twists and turns.  It would be great fun.
Holiday Fear
Doing my normal Twitter thing, I stumbled across someone discussing this Christmas horror short, so I thought I’d give it a glance.  Christmas in July, anyone?  It took place after the events that would normally happen in a Christmas slasher movie.  An evil Santa had killed a bunch of people in a house, and the last two were getting ready to kill the not-so-jolly bringer of presents and pain.  The short was about that final moment where the two survivors were finishing the nightmare.  It showed the reluctance that a person could have with killing someone, even though that someone was the killer of all of their friends.  The idea was humourous, though the short didn’t completely stick the landing.  It was a good idea, though, and it would be interesting to see it tackled again.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel’s second phase ended on Ant-Man.  I enjoyed that first foray into Scott Lang’s superhero life, but it was underwhelming, considering the movies that had come before it in that phase.  Ant-Man and the Wasp was very much the same way.  The two movies prior to its release were Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, two serious Marvel movies with heavy themes.  It was a nice refresher to have a simple little heist movie.  The problem was that it felt very light, to the point that it seemed like there could have been much more done with it.  It’s still a good movie.  It just feels misplaced when it comes directly after the snap.  The cast is good, the action is fun, and the story is solid.  It’s just a case of poor timing.
Jim Jefferies: This is Me Now
Every time Jim Jefferies comes out with a new comedy special, I get excited to see it.  The guy’s style works well for my comedic sensibilities.  I enjoy his performances.  This is Me Now may have been the weakest of his three Netflix specials, but that’s only because it spent a good chunk of time playing off of things that he had riffed on in the previous specials.  He was following up the bits that had made him popular.  It’s not that his follow-ups were bad or anything.  They were still good.  They were still funny.  The problem with it was that it didn’t feel as original as what had come before.  When he had been giving his own opinions on common topics of discussion, it felt fresh and new.  As he followed up and elaborated on what he had previously said, it wasn’t as fresh or new, and took something away from it.  Still a solid comedy special.  Just not as special as the others.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the month, this sequel to Jumanji flipped the expectations of the first movie and told a completely different story.  Instead of the game bleeding into the real world, the characters were transported into the world of the video game, becoming their avatars.  Each of their avatars was the opposite of their personalities, which allowed them to learn new things about themselves.  That part was fine.  The action and comedy also worked, for what it was.  The underwhelming thing was that the game bleeding into the real world had been taken out of the story.  One of the best parts of the original Jumanji film was seeing the jungle elements coming into their town.  The hunter, the child turning into a monkey, the stampede… Each of those things were a part of their town until they finished the game.  That wasn’t the same in the sequel, which just transported the teens to a jungle as their jungle counterparts.  It’s a shame that they couldn’t have kept it in the real world.
The First Purge
Having watched The Purge evolve from a home invasion movie to a politically charged racial violence horror franchise, I was excited to see where the prequel to the whole thing would go.  The protagonists of the first three installments had been mostly white Americans, and it was interesting to see The First Purge go with a black cast for the leading roles.  It made the racial material hit home even more because there wasn’t a white man and/or white woman saving everyone from the atrocities.  I love me a good Frank Grillo action movie, don’t get me wrong.  But when the themes of the franchise have come to be racial injustice, it seems odd that he would be the lead actor since the race thing doesn’t really affect him.  The race stuff was at the forefront throughout The First Purge, with direct references to Donald Trump and the Charleston church shooting.  They got even more apparent when the black heroes of the movie went up against government mercenaries dressed as the KKK and dressed as Nazis.  The action was good, too.  Everything about The First Purge worked flawlessly.  It was one of the best experiences I had in the theater all year.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
In terms of pure action, no franchise comes close to the Mission: Impossible franchise.  The quality of the action throughout the franchise, particularly since Mission: Impossible III, has been some of the best to ever grace our screens.  Fallout brought Henry Cavill into the fray to add some tough muscle to Tom Cruise’s unrelenting, life-threatening antics.  Though the story may have left something to be desired, the action was so good throughout the movie that it was hard not to enjoy it.  The bathroom fight was one of the best bathroom fights to ever be recorded.  The motorcycle and car chases in the middle were full adrenaline.  Tom Cruise also outdid himself in the running department, basing a whole scene around his signature movie move.  All in all, one of the best action movies of the year, if not the decade.
Teenage Zombies
1950s science fiction and horror is a relatively big blind spot for me.  There aren’t a lot of movies in that specific area of film history that I’ve seen.  One step in the direction of having a feel for those movies was Teenage Zombies, which was about a group of teens stranded on an island being kidnapped by a mad scientist who lived there.  There wasn’t too much too it.  The one thing that really stood out was that the teenagers managed to fight back and escape on their own.  All of them.  They outsmarted the bad guy.  It wasn’t that they waited for the villain to mess up.  They planned an escape, and followed through on it, for the most part.  There were a few minor twists and turns that made the protagonists adapt their plan to the new situation, but they outwitted the villain, which was nice to see in a 1959 horror science fiction movie.

And with that, July came to a close.  Like I said at the beginning, this was a shorter post than normal for these.  There were only eight movies to discuss because much of July was devoted to rewatching a bunch of movies.  The eight movies were pretty good, though.  Some of my favourites of the year, and a few that weren’t so great but were still interesting to watch.  It was another good month of watching movies.

August had more first time watches than July did.  The rewatch project was done with, which meant that I could see more movies I had been intending to, but hadn’t gotten around to yet.  Movies like I, Tonya and Your Name.  There were a few theatrical releases including The Happytime Murders, BlacKkKlansman, and The Meg.  And there were some other shark movies, such as the Mega Shark franchise.  Those are for the next post, though.  This one’s about done now.

The only thing left to do is to plug some other writing stuff.  As always, you can find me on Twitter here and here.  I write about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers sometimes, and write the Sunday “Bad” Movies posts every week.  Check that stuff out.  Also check out @JaimeBurchardt, a great guy on Twitter.  He’ll be doing his Horrorfest again next month, and for the second post in a row, I’m going to plug what he wrote about it.  Finally, check out Talk Film Society, who are always writing interesting stuff about movies.  They recently wrote about a couple of lesser known horror movies.  That’s all for now.  See you soon for August.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

First Time Watches: June 2018

It is now September, so the time seems right to get to this post about the first time watches I had in June of this year.  That’s right.  Two months late on getting this post out.  Maybe I’ll catch up within the month.  It’s not like my busy life will keep being busy going into school.  Nah.  There’s no way that will happen.

For those that are new to these posts, this is where I let you know what they’re about.  Every month, I try to get a post out about the previous month’s first time watches.  They are the movies that I saw for the first time the month before the post.  Recently, it hasn’t been working out that way, and I fell behind on the posts.  The idea is to give some thoughts for reference for myself, as well as letting you know what I thought about the things I watched.

June was an interesting month with nineteen first time watches.  That was bouncing back from May, where there were only about half as many.  June saw two movies with the same name.  It also saw a wrestling documentary and a buddy cop comedy with a man and a dog.  There were spiders, ghosts, and mutineers.  It was a big month with some of the best first time watches I’ve had all year.  It will be difficult for other months to surpass this one.  Here come the movies.
There are weird movies, and then there’s Tag.  What started out as a horror movie about wind chasing people and cutting them in half became a teenage romance between Japanese schoolgirls before turning into a crazy action/horror movie filled with twists and turns that there was no possible way to ever see coming.  It was a wild ride the whole way through.  The Japanese schoolgirl romance wasn’t the greatest thing.  In fact, it kind of fetishized the whole Japanese schoolgirl thing, which was uncomfortable.  Once the movie switched into the action/horror, however, it fired on all cylinders and became a highly enjoyable movie that I won’t soon forget.  Tag definitely isn’t for everyone, but for those into heightened, weird, wacky Japanese horror, it is worth checking out.
The Blazing Ninja
The only Godfrey Ho movie that I had seen prior to this was Robo Vampire, which I recently rewatched.  It gave me an idea of his directing style, with the nonsensical plotting and the crazy editing together scenes that didn’t seem to fit with each other.  That was all in Robo Vampire.  It was all there in The Blazing Ninja.  The story had something to do with a war between Japan and China in the early 20th century.  A spy had been sent from one country to the other and was up against a resistance.  That didn’t come through too well as the protagonist seemed to change as frequently as the scenes, making the movie a mess.  It was a fun mess to watch, though.  The action was entertaining.  The dialogue was absurd.  Godfrey Ho has a way of irritating me while making me enjoy his work.  It’s a love-hate relationship, and I’ll surely be checking out more of his work at some point.
Show Dogs
I went to the drive in to see the next movie I’ll discuss, and it was paired with this one.  There was nothing about this movie that had me excited.  The cast normally would, but the word of mouth was pretty terrible and it didn’t look like an enjoyable kind of bad.  It wasn’t good.  The jokes were stale and created many more groans than laughs.  In fact, it didn’t really provide any laughs, other than the “What the hell is even happening?” kind.  It was one of the lesser entries in the man and dog team up for a buddy cop comedy genre.  There’s not really much to say outside of how much I didn’t like it.
Life of the Party
The second film in the drive-in double feature was a comedy from the husband and wife pair of Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy, who also brought audiences Tammy and The Boss.  I was interested in checking it out mostly because Gillian Jacobs was in it.  It was okay.  There are those movies that you can turn on in the background while doing something else, and whenever you take a break from that something else, easily digest a few minutes.  Life of the Party fits nicely into that area.  It’s not great, and not terrible.  It’s a perfectly serviceable movie that I would watch again if I caught it on television.  Not really much more than that.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again.  There was one moment that made me laugh for a good thirty seconds, but I’m three months out from seeing it now, and I forget what the joke was.  Sorry.
2 Lava 2 Lantula!
When the first Lavalantula came out, I watched it out of curiosity.  It was from Mike Mendez, the director of Big Ass Spider!, a movie that I love.  It starred Steve Guttenberg, an 80s star who I enjoyed watching.  It was connected to the Sharknado franchise, a bunch of movies that have influenced me a great deal.  There was some disappointment in that first movie, though it was still an enjoyable action movie about killing some lava spewing spiders.  The sequel did for the Lavalantula franchise what Sharknado 2 and Sharknado 3 did for their respective franchise.  It became more focused on what worked.  2 Lava 2 Lantula! took the story to Florida, and played with the movies and television that had been set there.  There were references all over the place that brought extra fun to the sequel.  Everyone was having a good time.  The people behind the camera, the people in front of it, and the audience watching the movie.  It was a great time, and I’m sure to revisit it at some point.
Creep 2
The two Creep films don’t get the recognition that they deserve for being one of the best horror franchises of the past decade.  The theatrical releases get all of the attention, while these two Netflix releases get a glance or two.  Creep 2 picked up a little while after the events of Creep, as a webshow host decided to research the main character for a new episode.  She traveled to his house and stayed with him for the night.  Over the course of their time together, things got more and more disturbing.  What worked best in Creep 2 was what the title implied.  The film was creepy.  Mark Duplass was great as the titular creep, managing to make both the audience and the protagonist wary of how unhinged he got.  We saw the things he did to other people.  She hadn’t.  But both the audience and the protagonist were cautious when it came to Duplass’s character, and that caution was put through the ringer in the most satisfying way.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Over the past few years, a team has formed with Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie.  McQuarrie wrote Edge of Tomorrow, which Cruise starred in.  That was a great science fiction action movie that helped show why Cruise is still one of the top stars in modern film.  Then there were the two Mission: Impossible movies that McQuarrie directed.  He also wrote The Mummy and Valkyrie, two movies starring Cruise.  But the pair found their real magic in Jack Reacher.  The sequel to that movie was not directed or written by McQuarrie, and that certainly showed.  The action wasn’t as good, and the writing felt like it was lacking something.  There were still some good things in there.  The way that the three main characters played off of each other brought enough fun to make the movie watchable.  The problem was the lack of exciting action.  It was an okay movie that deserved to be better.  There’s worse, but this one isn’t anything to write home about.
Few horror movies affect me in a theater like Hereditary did.  The atmosphere of the place as everyone was drawn into what was happening was unlike most other movies at the local Cineplex.  The tension boiled over and each person in those seats was reacting just the way they were supposed to.  It was magical.  Hereditary drew everybody along as a family fell apart.  We were shown the deteriorating minds of the different family members, and watched as things got worse and worse.  They were in a downward spiral of despair that wouldn’t let up until the final moments.  It was one of the greatest horror experiences of the year, and will possibly hold up as one of the best of the decade.  Hereditary blew me away.
The Landlord
Horror comedies tend to work for me, but the low budget ones can be rough.  A lot of work needs to be put in to make the comedy and the horror work well together.  The writer behind The Landlord managed to get it to work.  The performances only helped to make it better.  It was a low budget movie about a man renting out an apartment to tenants who would be eaten by the demons living upstairs.  There were some extremely absurd things happening in The Landlord that make it kind of work.  The fact that the town was infested with vampire type things brought another storyline to the movie.  There was a hotel manager who did nothing but yell at people.  The main character’s sister was having an affair, and forced the main character into running the apartment building.  There was an odd karaoke scene.  For whatever reason, I enjoyed this one.
Being John Malkovich
Everything that I’ve seen that has been written by Charlie Kaufman has been a great exercise in the power of writing.  He always tries things that few other people do.  Whether he’s adapting a story and writes about the process of adapting something, or whether he’s writing about how life can be a performance in and of itself, he brings big ideas with each of his scripts.  Being John Malkovich was no different.  It was a story about wanting to be someone else, taken to the quirkiest, most extreme place.  The characters had their problems.  They were problems that would turn most people off of liking any of them.  Yet it was captivating to watch their stories unfold and the crazy levels that they would take things to in order to get what they wanted.  Not my favourite Kaufman, but definitely one I’ll be watching again and appreciating more in the future.
Hotel Artemis
There was a certain something missing from the movie.  The world was interesting.  A future where criminals could go to the Hotel Artemis if they were injured, as a place to heal and rest up for their next battle.  They weren’t allowed to fight there.  They weren’t allowed to bring weapons of any kind.  Yet, on one fateful night, all hell broke loose in the hotel and the criminals had to fight their way to safety.  Most of the movie was spent building the slightest bit of rapport between the characters, and there was very little action actually in the movie.  It felt like there should have been another half hour to build out the relationships and allow more time for the climactic action near the end to really pop.  It’s not bad.  It could have been more, though, and that’s where it faltered.  That said, the cast was solid, and they did a good job with what they’re given.
Mutiny on the Bounty
This story has been told many times on the big screen.  This 1935 version of the tale that has been one of the most enduring, classic versions.  Much of that is due to the three main performances of Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, and Franchot Tone.  The movie was about the workers on The Bounty, a ship sent out to get breadfruit from Tahiti.  Due to the poor working conditions, some of the crew staged a mutiny and took the ship away from the captain.  It was a true story with some artistic flourishes for the entertainment of movie audiences.  The performances were great, though most of the time I was distracted by the fact that Franchot Tone looked like Tom Hiddleston.  Not that it was his fault.  He couldn’t help that he looked like the guy who would play Loki some 75 years later.  Great movie.
Game Night
Comedies come and go all the time to little or no fanfare.  A bad comedy is really bad and nobody really wants to watch it.  It’s a good thing that Game Night isn’t bad then.  It’s a masterful action comedy that takes elements from many different games and puts them together to tell and entertaining story about trying to save someone from a kidnapping.  The cast worked very well together, with their chemistry being the best element of the movie.  The way that the group of competitive game loving friends played off of each other brought a camaraderie to the proceedings, making everything all that much more fun.  The situations they got into, from an Operation-style bullet removal to a FabergĂ© egg game of hot potato, led to some highly entertaining set pieces.  This is one of the best comedies of the year.
The second movie called Tag being mentioned in this post was a comedy about a group of adult friends who had been playing the same game of tag for years.  They came together for one of their weddings, and the tag hijinks reached new, extreme levels.  The comedy was solid, though not necessarily great the entire time.  The action of the game of tag was okay.  What really worked for Tag, though, was the story of friendship that flowed beneath everything.  The game of tag may have been the focus of what was happening, but the friendship of the characters was the heart of the movie.  It was what brought the characters together.  It brought the story together.  Though not necessarily a great film, the friendship element was some of the best work on that front in any movie of 2018.  The actors and their characters felt like true friends.  By the end, I wanted to make sure that I had long lasting friendships like theirs.  It did great work with the friendship stuff.
Ocean’s 8
For most of the runtime, I was unsure why the movie had to be an Ocean’s movie.  It didn’t really feel like one, and the only connections were a cameo, and one of the main characters being related to one of the main characters from the other movies.  It wasn’t until the final act, when things started to unfold like an Ocean’s movie that it truly felt like a proper continuation of the original trilogy.  The cast is good, as was the story.  It was a fun heist movie that managed to have enough twists and turns to be surprising throughout.  If they make another one, I would definitely go see it.  If they leave it at just this one movie with the female cast, that’s good too.  We have this one movie.  This one entertaining movie.
80s sex comedies became a big thing following the success of Porky’s.  They weren’t all good movies.  In fact, few of them were.  Screwballs falls in among the many not good movies as a fairly forgettable entry that tried to push boundaries and fell flat at every turn.  The movie was about getting one girl, the wholesome virgin, to show someone her breasts.  That was the entire movie.  A group of guys who ended up in detention made a pact to see the girl’s breasts.  It was a competition too, since they each wanted to be the first person to see them.  The jokes fell flat throughout and the story was pretty bad.  And even if you were interested in their plight, the movie ruined it because as soon as her breasts were shown, the credits rolled over them so you couldn’t see them.  This movie was all kinds of bad.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
I seem to be one of the few people who outright thought that Jurassic World was a good movie.  The main characters might have been fairly bland and hollow, but the supporting cast and the action made up for that.  I had a good time with it.  The sequel looked different, and it was different.  First off, the opening scene was the best thing to be put into either of the Jurassic World movies.  It was the closest that the two movies have come to feeling like the original Jurassic Park.  The stuff on the island was good.  Had they stayed there the whole time and gone full The Lost World, I probably would have enjoyed the movie more.  What took my enjoyment down a notch was the underground, black market dinosaur auction.  That never connected with me, and I felt that it did a disservice to everything else the movie was building.  Still a fun enough watch with some great stuff.  Could have been more, though.
GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
At the beginning of June, I decided to finally watch GLOW, a series I had been meaning to watch for a year.  I fell in love with it fairly quickly.  As preparation for the second season, I watched a documentary about the 1980s show that GLOW was based on.  It profiled the wrestlers, the show, and the crew of the show.  The talking heads were the people who worked on the show reminiscing about how it was to produce a weekly wrestling show together.  It made me want to check out that original wrestling show, since it looked like a riot.  An episode of the second season of GLOW was an episode of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling show, and that was a delight to see.  Learning about the people who inspired the show I love was fascinating, and I cared about them by the end of the documentary.  What an interesting little corner of television history the show was.  The documentary nearly had me in tears from the feelings.  Great stuff.
Do the Right Thing
Finishing off the month was a Spike Lee joint that I hadn’t yet seen.  There are a lot of those.  This one was all about the race issues in New York on a hot day.  Race issues are a big theme throughout Spike Lee’s work.  As the day goes on, the black people of the neighbourhood clash more and more with the white pizza owners and the police officers who patrol the area.  It all explodes in a huge climax that still hits hard in the modern political climate.  Not having seen too many of Spike Lee’s movies, I can’t say much about his entire career.  I can say that Do the Right Thing stands the test of time as an important film.  Aside from some of the characters being a little too heightened (which I know some people will argue against), it was a great piece of filmmaking giving an important message to audiences.

June came to a close on a Spike Lee joint that will stick with me for a long time.  As I’m writing this, I saw his newest joint last night, and it’s just as well done a race message as Do the Right Thing was.  The guy knows how to hit hard with his message in an entertaining, and intelligent way.  The rest of the month was just as fulfilling.  Friendship, insanity, heists, and horror were some of the highlights.  It wasn’t a bad time.

July was filled with even more movie fun.  That’ll come in a post soon.  Let me tease you a little bit, though.  I saw Ant-Man and the Wasp, obviously.  I wasn’t going to miss a Marvel movie in the theater.  I saw the newest Purge movie.  And, of course, the sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise.  Those are only the theatrical releases.  Just imagine what I watched outside of the theater.  You won’t have to imagine for too long.  I’m planning on getting the next post out before school starts back up.

Before you go, though, let’s get some plugs in here.  I write the Sunday “Bad” Movies blog.  I also write some Mighty Morphin Power Rangers stuff on a not-so-regular basis.  If you don’t want more of me, check out my pal @JaimeBurchardt.  His Horrorfest will be starting up in a month, and he wrote about it here.  Then there’s Talk Film Society, who are always doing good things.  Check out one of their newer posts, about saying goodbye to Moviepass.  Good stuff, guys.  That’s it for now.  Until next time, keep on watching stuff.