Wednesday, December 19, 2018

First Time Watches: August 2018

It’s been a long time since this post was meant to be written and uploaded.  By a long time, I mean that this is the post for the first time watches of August 2018.  I’m typing this up in December because school got real hectic real quick.  There were other issues as well, but that was the main one.  I was co-producing one of the thesis dramas that was being made, and invested most of my time into that.  Now it’s done and I’m back to catch up on my writing.

There were sixteen movies that I saw for the first time in August.  They covered a great many genres, but the most frequent for the month was shark movies.  Two big ones were released and four others were a part of one of my other blogs, so it became a month all about hanging out with sharks and the people who went up against them.  There was also a Muppet murder spree, a rollerblade race, and an anime romance.  That’s what August had to offer, and it’s time to get to it.
Shock Waves
Kicking off the month was a movie about a group of people on a cruise being stranded on an island with Nazi Zombies.  One by one, the people were killed in various water related ways while the single living Nazi watched without interfering.  It was set up to be a horror movie and had a few moments that bordered upon scary.  The problem was that it ended up being too long.  There were long moments where nothing really happened.  When the deaths happened, they were predictable or showed too little to be shocking.  There was the potential to have a sort of “lost island” horror movie where the world of the island had stayed in the past while the rest of the world moved into the future.  Instead, it was a simple slasher where water based Nazi zombies killed people without any real entertainment.
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
The first movie in the Mega Shark quadrilogy wasn’t quite the fun experience I expected.  Most of that was due to the two monsters being separate throughout most of the runtime, and the stories involving them never intertwining.  People would be dealing with the shark on one side of the world and other people would be dealing with the octopus on the other side of the world.  Everything seemed too distant.  The cast wasn’t all that good.  The battle at the end was okay, but it was only a minor step up from what the rest of the movie was.
I, Tonya
Most people know the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.  Two men performed a hit on Kerrigan’s leg, causing her serious harm while she was training for the Olympics.  It was perpetrated by Tonya Harding’s team.  Her career would not survive the conflict.  The biopic about Tonya Harding made her a sympathetic character among the horrible people who tried to control her career and turn her into a skating star.  Her mom was demanding.  Her boyfriend/husband was abusive.  His friend was an idiot.  With a classic rock soundtrack, the movie brought dark comedy to Harding’s life and made for one of the most entertaining movies of 2017.
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
I’ve never seen any of the Teen Titans television shows, but I still chose to see this movie based on the current animated series because it was playing before The Meg at the drive-in.  It ended up being better than expected, bringing a few laughs and an interesting enough story.  For something aimed at children, there was unexpected dark humour, including some assisted murder, that made me gasp.  It was a good time, and a fun way to start off a movie night.
The Meg
Shark month continued with the second movie in the drive-in double feature, The Meg.  Jason Statham, Ruby Rose, and a bunch of others teamed up to fight off a giant shark that escaped from an unexplored section of the ocean floor.  Though not as comedic as the trailer made it out to be, it was a thrill ride as the characters fought their way out of the shark’s jaws, then back into them to kill it.  Other shark movies are better, but this was a good addition to the subgenre.  It’s not one that will be completely forgotten.
Daddy’s Home 2
The first Daddy’s Home movie was a fine enough comedy starring a team that I enjoy, Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell.  The sequel didn’t capture the same amount of entertainment, even with the addition of Mel Gibson and John Lithgow as the dads of the dads.  There was one funny scene about halfway through the movie involving a thermostat, and that was about it.  It did wrap up with a nice little cinema community scene, though, which was nice.  Movies bring people happiness and all that.  It’s not a movie I’ll likely revisit, but it at least produced thermostat scene.
Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus
The sequel to Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus solidified the story more than its predecessor.  The shark and the crocosaurus had different origins, but their stories intertwined to make everything feel more cohesive.  The characters came together.  The monsters came together.  The story had to do with everything coming together.  It didn’t feel like two separate monster stories being told at once.  It was one monster tale with two monsters.  The cast was better and they seemed to be having more fun than the people involved in the first film.  Everything worked in this one.  It’s not great.  It’s still from The Asylum.  But it’s a step in the right direction and a more enjoyable experience.
Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark
The Mega Shark franchise took a step back with the third installment.  It’s still better than the original was, but there was something missing from it.  That something was performances with substance.  Though the actors seemed like they were having a good time making a dumb movie about a shark fighting a mechanical shark, there was no real weight to anything they did.  Everything rang false.  It was like watching a bunch of cardboard cutouts performing the movie.  That’s not a good thing, and it took away from what could have been another fun shark movie.
Your Name.
Anime is one of my biggest blindspots in film.  It’s something that’s pretty popular, and most of it is stuff that I haven’t seen.  I’ve watched a couple Studio Ghibli movies, but that’s it.  Now I can add Your Name. to that list.  I quickly fell in love with the movie.  The story about a boy and girl falling in love from living in each others’ bodies was one that hit me right in the heart.  As it approached its climax, I felt some deep emotions.  Not many movies hit me this way.  It’s a great movie, sure to tug on your heartstrings.
The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time
Sharknado and I have a contentious relationship.  The first one, I think is bad.  I don’t enjoy watching it.  I’ve seen it six or seven times and I’ve disliked it every time.  The second and third, I love.  The fourth is okay.  The fifth is the right kind of bonkers.  There was no way I wasn’t going to watch the sixth movie, which they were calling the last.  It took the premise up another notch and added time travel.  The characters, some who were resurrected, went from prehistoric times to the middle ages to the American revolution, and so on and so forth, until they were back in the sharknado from the first film.  It was a good way to circle back to what started everything.  Though it didn’t reach the highs of Sharknado 2 or Sharknado 3, The Last Sharknado was a good capper.  It was weird that they used archive footage of John Heard, though.
Mega Shark vs. Kolossus
Finishing off the Mega Shark franchise was another fun entry.  This one had the mega shark wreaking havoc at the same time as a Russian doomsday machine.  The two came to a head through intertwined stories.  Though they may not have brought the shark and doomsday machine together early in the movie, the stories of the people hunting them wove in and out of one another so that the two stories always felt connected.  The actors were trying, the action was entertaining, and the story chugged along.  It was possibly the best of the series, if not just below Crocosaurus.
Inline skating became a big thing in the 1990s, and like most sports when they become popular, a movie was made to cash in on the craze.  There were other movies that tapped into inline skating, but this one was infused with it right to the bone.  It was a hockey movie and an inline skating movie.  It was a fish-out-of-water movie where the main character was a surfer supplanted in Cincinnati.  Airborne was all about learning to love what you have and not just what you wish you had.  The story was decent enough.  What was truly impressive was the final act, when the main characters were involved in a race down the slopes of Cincinnati to see if the rich kids or poor kids were better.  The intensity of the race popped.  The sound, the danger, the few jokes… It all worked.  That final act was a visceral ride through dangerous traffic.
The Happytime Murders
Muppets have always been a family thing.  That’s moreso in Sesame Street than anything else.  The Muppet Show had adult humour.  Muppets Tonight and the Muppets movies were the same.  Saturday Night Live had Muppets for a bit, and they were more adult.  Then there were Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.  None of them were purely adult though.  They were still geared towards kids (SNL aside), with the adult jokes tossed in to keep the parents interested.  The Happytime Murders was directed at adults.  It was a buddy cop movie with sex and drugs and Muppets.  At first, it seemed like raunch for raunch sake, which would have been a mistake.  When the murders began, though, there was more to the movie and I began to appreciate what was happening.  I’d be up to seeing another adult Muppets movie like this one.
Mile 22
There was no ending.  Now, I don’t mean that the ending was bad.  I mean that there literally was no ending.  Much like The Devil Inside, the movie got to the part that would have pushed it into the climax, then cut to credits.  There was a character who was narrating, and when they were asked if they could tell the rest of the story, they said, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and then the credits rolled.  It came to a full stop before the story was over.  What came before wasn’t that great.  It felt like a waste of Iko Uwais’s talents, and there wasn’t enough actual story to it to keep things interesting.  I’ve enjoyed Peter Berg’s direction before.  I don’t know what he was doing with this one, though.  It didn’t work and fell flat on all accounts.
Everything I’ve watched that Spike Lee directed, I’ve liked.  That’s only about five movies from his entire career, though.  And one of those is a movie most people don’t even like.  Whatever.  I’ve liked everything I’ve seen from him and this one was no different.  Every performance was spot on.  It took place in the 1970s but felt like it could have taken place in 2018 and still played out just as entertainingly.  The beginning was strange, and the end was a tacked on “Here’s what’s happening now. It’s shit.” thing.  They felt a little out of place.  Taking the main story as it is, though, BlacKkKlansman is one of the best of the year.
Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver
In the first one, the Gingerdead Man attacked a bakery.  In the second one, he went after a movie studio.  A low budget movie studio based on Charles Band’s work, but a studio all the same.  For the third installment, he went back to the 1970s and tormented the people at a roller rink.  The comedy of the other installments was still there, though it wasn’t quite as meta as the second film.  Most of the story was an homage to Carrie, with a slasher villain involved.  That worked fine.  It just wasn’t as good as the commentary on low budget filmmaking that the second movie had.  If these kinds of movies are your thing, this one will fit right into what you want.  It’s a step down from the second movie, but it’s okay.

With that last movie, August came to a close.  It was a month of enjoyable movies, with some being better than others.  That’s the same as any month though.  There are always highs and lows.  Every month comes with them.  It’s just a matter of taking the positive out of the bad.  Daddy’s Home 2 may have been underwhelming, but it still had a great scene involving a thermostat.  There tends to be good with the bad.

September was another month of first time watches.  I saw the Ip Man movies for the first time.  I finally sat down to check out the John Wick sequel.  I even watched a movie about the Stanford Prison Experiment.  All that and more will be in the next post, so keep an eye out for that.  I’m trying to get caught up during my three week Christmas break.

Before you head off, though, let me drop a few plugs in here.  As always, I’ve got some posts about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that you might want to check out.  There’s also my Sunday “Bad” Movies blog where I talk about a bad movie every week.  My pal Jaime Burchardt is still around on Twitter.  Check him out.  And then there’s Talk Film Society, who are always doing great things.  Here’s a recent post that Sara Sorrentino wrote for them about Spider-Man in the movies.  Alright, I’m off.  Bye!

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.