Friday, June 15, 2018

First Time Watches: April 2018

These posts are almost caught up.  I’m starting this one as we transition from May to June, which means I’m only a month behind.  This is the post for the first time watches I experienced in April.  There weren’t too many as school was winding down for the year.  It was busy time, with final projects, exams, and lots of studying.

All in all, twelve movies were seen for the first time, and they crossed all kinds of genres.  There were a couple superhero movies in there, a movie rooted in virtual reality, some movies involving aliens, and a movie about a gigolo.  April was a month of variety, and it was a month of movies that won’t be forgotten.  Let’s get into them without wasting too much more time.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
After the campy fun of the first Street Fighter, this one was a bit of a letdown.  It took itself too seriously and ended up being goofy because of it.  Neal McDonough tried his best to make something good, but there’s no saving whatever the hell Chris Klein was doing.  It was about Chun-Li getting vengeance for what M. Bison did to her father.  She took on a mentor, joined up with the police, and did whatever she could to take down the crime boss of Bangkok.  The action was as crazy as the performances, though neither was intentionally that crazy.  The only good thing to come out of it was a bunch of still images of Chris Klein’s facial expressions.
Ready Player One
Stephen Spielberg has made great live action films his entire career.  He proved in 2011 that he could also make a great animated film with The Adventures of Tintin.  Ready Player One was an attempt to blend the two through the world of virtual reality.  It didn’t land too well.  Though both the in and out of virtual reality were enjoyable enough, it felt like the stakes were put in the wrong place.  The story was about solving the puzzles that the game’s creator had put into the game upon his death.  It was about saving the game by using the friends made in the game.  Yet, for some reason, the stakes were made greater in the outside world.  The stakes of the game world were simply having to restart without the resources that were made.  The real world was life or death.  The story was focused on the game.  There’s no getting around that, and it made the movie fall apart.  It was still a fun ride.  Messy, but fun.
Having seen The Babysitter and When We First Met, I wanted to finish off the group of movies that I considered a creative Trilogy.  The DUFF was the first one to come out, but the third in my viewing order.  It was pretty much what I expected.  A girl had issues with her looks and found love in an unexpected (for her) place.  Mae Whitman should definitely star in more movies.  She brought the character to life in a way that I’m not entirely sure anyone else could have.  The rest of the cast was pretty good too.  Whitman was the driving force, though, pushing everything forward to entertaining heights.
Ballad of a Soldier
One of the best movies we watched in film class was this Russian movie about a soldier traveling home on leave to help his mother fix a roof.  The relationship he built with a stowaway on the train was one of the more captivating examples of a blossoming relationship that I’ve seen put to film.  The ending left me wanting more, even though it was the perfect place to close things out.  I want more, but I wouldn’t change it.  It’s a great movie.
The Babadook
For a few years, it was tough to talk about horror films without hearing about how great The Babadook was.  It has the reputation of being a modern horror classic.  I finally got around to checking it out and it didn’t work for me.  The kid was super annoying to the point where I wanted to shut it off and not continue watching at any point.  I’m a person who will keep watching something if I’ve started it.  The ending didn’t quite land either.  All in all, it was a disappointment.
The Gleaners & I
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  That’s the lesson to be learned from this artistically made documentary.  Gleaners are people that take what other people don’t want.  They’ll take the harvested fruit that isn’t good enough to sell, and is instead discarded on the ground in orchards.  They will take furniture that people leave on the street.  Some of them even forage in the garbage of grocery stores and restaurants.  The people were strange, as was the storytelling, which made the documentary stand out.  I wasn’t a huge fan of it though.  It was too off-putting.
Midnight Cowboy
To finish off the school year, our film teacher showed us Midnight Cowboy.  It was a Hollywood example of the French New Wave techniques that he had been in love with.  Many of the elements were there.  It switched between colour and black and white.  There were jump cuts.  The storytelling played with time.  Had more of our lessons been laid out like this, where we saw the inspiration and later visited what it inspired, I would have appreciated the class more.  This might be the best performance Jon Voight ever put in, and the direction was superb.  I couldn’t get past Dustin Hoffman’s accent, though.  Oh well.  It’s still pretty great.
Aliens vs. Titanic
People love versus movies.  Freddy vs. Jason put two slasher favourites against each other.  Alien vs. Predator brought two space originated creatures into a battle.  Batman v. Superman bonded two superheroes over their moms being named Martha.  Aliens vs. Titanic had a lot to live up to.  It wasn’t good.  There’s no way to say it could be.  It was sort of fun, though.  The story got so dumb that it was tough to not enjoy it.  Aliens possessed people to mate with them and take over the human race, but they were on a deserted planet.  One woman had psychic powers and one man had pills to make people horny.  It was ridiculous.  There was no Titanic.  There was a spaceship called the Titan-1C.  Goofy fun.
Beyond Skyline
This sequel to the 2010 science fiction movie vastly improved on its predecessor.  The first movie had been about people trying to escape from an apartment building while aliens were outside.  This sequel put the people on the offensive.  They weren’t just trying to get away anymore.  They were fighting back.  Frank Grillo led a cast that included Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian from The Raid.  It was a solid cast of action stars fighting aliens in Los Angeles, Laos, and the spaceship itself.  It might not be the greatest action flick to come out in the past few years, but it’s still a hell of a time.  If you want to see the guys from The Raid or the guy from the Purge sequels doing their thing against aliens, this is the perfect movie for you.
Sometimes a movie will come out that subverts all expectations.  I went into Suburbicon expecting an action movie set in a 1950s style suburbia.  That’s not what the movie was.  Not at all.  Suburbicon was about a kid unravelling a conspiracy involving his parents and his aunt, while a race riot was about to break out because a black family moved in next door.  There was a little bit of action, but the movie was mostly about sleuthing out answers for a situation that seemed wrong from every angle.  What seemed like it would be a Matt Damon movie was about a kid trying to figure out what Matt Damon was doing.  It was darkly humorous and highly enjoyable.  It got a bad reputation when it came out.  It’s better than that.
Avengers: Infinity War
Ten years of Marvel movies have led to this moment.  That’s what we had been told in the months leading up to the release of the third Avengers movie and nineteenth in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Audiences have gotten to know many of the characters through the years over many movies.  Even the newer characters are beloved.  Marvel brought most of them together for this battle against Thanos, a guy working to gather all of the Infinity Stones so that he can wipe out half of existence.  It’s not the best Marvel movie, though it has one of the best villains.  Thanos thinks that what he is doing is right.  And he has a background that can back up his stance.  It was fun seeing the Earthbound heroes interact with the more cosmic characters, and the way all of the heroes worked together was the best instance of Marvel having different superheroes working together with their varied powers.  It’s a solid superhero action movie, and I’m excited for the follow up.
Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD
The 1990s were a strange time for comic book movies.  DC was making the biggest movies with the Batman series.  Meanwhile, Marvel was letting anyone take their property and make movies.  That’s where that weird Captain America movie came from, and why there is a low budget Fantastic Four movie out there somewhere.  There were television movies, too, including this movie about Nick Fury, the SHIELD agent that we all know and love from Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in the MCU.  David Hasselhoff took the mantle in this one and chewed as much scenery as he did cigars.  It wasn’t a terrible spy/action movie made for television screens.  There’s something to be entertained by in it.  There have been much better, though.  This pales in comparison to other superhero movies that came out soon after, including X-Men and Spider-Man.  Still don’t regret watching it.

April came to close on a couple of movies based on the Marvel comics.  One was pretty good and the other was okay.  They were only two of the movies I watched for the first time that month.  All around, things weren’t too bad.  They weren’t great, but I had a good time watching movies.  That’s all you can ask for.

The month that followed was one where life hit me hard, which meant I only got around to eleven first time watches.  That may be the least amount of them since I first began writing these posts two years ago.  Of course I saw the new Star Wars movie.  I also saw an older Star Wars movie.  I’ll get to those in the next post, though.  I’m not there yet.

Before I end this post, I want to toss a few plugs in here.  As always, you can find me on Twitter here and here.  I write the Sunday “Bad” Movies posts every week.  Check them out.  I also write about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers sometimes.  For other people to check out, maybe try my bud Jaime Burchardt.  He’s a good guy who sometimes does some writing.  He does the Netflix Weekly posts for Cinepunx where he writes about whatever Netflix release he wants to.  Check out a post he once wrote for Handsome – A Netflix Mystery Movie.  You could also head on over to Talk Film Society, a group of great people who like to write about everything film.  The staff recently came together to write a post about their favourite performances from the Ocean’s 8 cast.  That’s all I have for now.  See you next time.

Monday, June 4, 2018

First Time Watches: March 2018

As I’m beginning this post, we’re two thirds of the way through May.  I’m nearly three months behind on these posts, working hard to catch up when life is being horrible.  I’m not going to get into that side of things right now because I’m not ready to talk about it.  This post is for movies, anyway.  It’s for the first time watches that were experienced in March of 2018.

Much like any of the other months that I’ve written these posts, there were a bunch of movies that I watched for the first time in March.  In fact, there were fifteen movies that I watched for the first time.  That’s not as many as most posts, which make it to somewhere around twenty movies a piece.  That’s what happens when you take on a bigger role in film projects than you’re used to.  All of your free time disappears.

What movies did I check out?  You might be asking that right now.  Or you’re not even reading this.  If you’re not reading this, you don’t even know I’m writing about you right now.  Well, I saw some Netflix originals.  I saw a slasher movie set in an abandoned high school.  There was a transgender woman being mistreated.  There was also a man obsessed with his favourite childhood television show.  All that and more happened in March, so let’s get into it.  Here’s the first movie.
There were a bunch of promising elements to Mute.  The cast was filled with some pretty great actors, who were all doing their best.  Justin Theroux was the highlight as a creepy, pedophiliac doctor.  The director was Duncan Jones, who made Moon and Source Code, two solid science fiction movies.  The cinematography looked to have some inspiration from the big, futuristic science fiction movies people love to look at, and there was even a direct reference to another movie.  It was a crime story where the person solving a murder couldn’t talk.  There’s potential all over it.  Mute didn’t live up to that potential, though.  It fell flat, even with the actors turning in some solid work all around.  Something about the mute lead character made him less captivating to watch.  That and the odd writing.  It’s worth checking out, though people who watch it likely won’t enjoy it.
Gods of Egypt
Every year has that one early theatrical release that looks like the most ridiculous thing to come out that year.  Think movies like The Hurricane Heist and The Great Wall.  Nobody thought those would be good.  They thought they would be insane action stupidity.  Gods of Egypt is the same, except this time, it had Gerard Butler and Nikolai Coster-Waldau.  It ended up being exactly that.  It went over-the-top in every way.  There were gods fighting gods, gods fighting mortals, and gods fighting some monster that was trying to eat their flat Earth.  The action was alright.  The look of the film was the reason it seemed to be made, though.  It was a movie that succeeded on its look only.  It was brought down by white guys playing Egyptians with their native European accents.  I don’t know what to really say about it.
The Wall
Two soldiers in the Middle East were pinned down by a sniper at a wall in the open desert.  It was a Phone Booth style thriller with the sniper taunting the soldier over the two way radio system.  The Wall relied on the performances of the three main actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, and Laith Nakli.  All three were good, making the movie better than it deserved to be.  It’s a solid addition to the “man trapped in one place and tormented by an unseen sniper voice” subgenre that Phone Booth and Grand Piano fell into.
My film teacher was in love with Brigitte Bardot and the French New Wave.  He also liked movies that involved making movies.  Maybe that’s why he made us watch this one.  The whole thing was about a marriage falling apart as a woman drifted away from her screenwriter husband and into the arms of the producer of his newest film.  I wasn’t a fan.  Nothing brought me into the movie.  Maybe the French New Wave was about making movies into something you watched rather than something that you felt.  I don’t know.  Whatever the case, I felt nothing for this movie but contempt.
Lady Bird
Down to Earth and real, Lady Bird played into the teenage life that many people have experienced.  It was about a girl who wished for a better life where she could move away and go to college, and her way of trying to get that life was acting out against her parents and being selfish.  That’s any teenager, really.  The moments, though done in a cinematic way, felt true to life.  They were experiences that people regularly have.  They were experiences that were relatable.  The ending was as heartfelt as anything.  Great movie.
Brigsby Bear
Kyle Mooney has been one of the more interesting voices to come out of Saturday Night Live in the past decade.  He has never been the star of the show, but there’s a unique style to everything he does that sets him apart from the pack.  The Lonely Island let him showcase that individual style by producing a movie he wrote about a man who was kidnapped as a child and raised in a sheltered environment.  When he was rescued from his captors, he tried to adjust to his new life while being attached to the situation he grew up in.  It highlighted everything that makes Kyle Mooney’s style.  His character was childlike, with a bittersweet nature to everything he experienced.  Though the situation he grew up in was not a good one, there were moments throughout it that were special and could be used to inspire others.  They did.  A community came together to help the character work through his issues by continuing a story that his kidnapper “father” had begun.  It was heartwarming, touching, and sad all at once.  There’s a lot to be had by Brigsby Bear, even if it isn’t one of the best movies around.  It’s an important addition to the film landscape.
The Ugly Duckling and Me!
When movies take classic stories and put new spins on them, the results vary from great to terrible.  This was a case where the story around it seemed unnecessary, though some interesting stuff was done with it.  The original tale was a vain one, about a change in looks bringing about a change in how people treated the ugly duckling.  The movie took that and added an emotional story to it by pairing the duckling with a rat.  The rat was selfish and wanted to use the ugliness of the ducking to try and get money at a sideshow.  However, the time he spent with the duckling showed him how to care about other people instead of just himself.  It was the rat’s change as much as it was the duckling’s, and the pairing of the two made for a stronger story.  The comedy and animation were not great, though.  The core idea was there, and the story structure was good.  Everything else around it was problematic, which led to a less than stellar animated film.  You win some, you lose some.  Oh well.
Transformers: The Last Knight
What was Michael Bay doing with the fifth Transformers installment?  None of the creative or technical choices made any sense, sending this one off the rails as soon as it began.  For one, the aspect ratio seemed to change between every shot.  Not every scene.  Every shot.  There would be a lecture going on.  The speaker would be in one aspect ratio, while the onlookers would be in another.  Then there was the whole tying everything into King Arthur thing, which made the Witwicky family into a historical Transformers family instead of one that was just thrown into a war happening in their backyard.  Kade Yeagar’s daughter wasn’t in the movie because he was on the run from the government and didn’t want them going after her, even though they would know that she was the way to get to him.  Oh, and Merlin was played by Stanley Tucci, who had already been in Transformers: Age of Extinction as a completely different character.  The fifth Transformers film was one of the craziest rides that I never want to go on again.
A Fantastic Woman
This one is one that I’m torn on.  I thought it was a fairly good movie about a transgendered woman being wrongly persecuted because she was transgendered.  When her boyfriend died, his family mistreated her because of who she was, when all she wanted was to grieve over the death of the man she loved.  Society treated her poorly.  Her love’s family treated her poorly.  It was well portrayed.  It may have been insensitive to transgendered people though, making their lives to be terrible experiences.  That’s not true to life in many cases, where people find other people who care.  Though a solid, captivating story, it’s not one that would give hope to people grappling with transitioning.  It might scare them rather than help them to embrace their true selves.  It’s a problematic movie in the message, but a good one in pure cinematics.
Buffalo Rider
There was an unbelievable amount of animal violence in Buffalo Rider.  For one, the actors who were playing hunters were actually shooting buffalo on camera.  There were animals fighting animals on camera, which is nature, but is still shocking to see.  Cougars fighting raccoons, a buffalo kicking a wolf in the head, stuff like that.  Then there was the point where a cougar jumped on the lead actor and mauled his back.  So much animal violence.  The story was about a guy riding a buffalo and taking down hunters.  Most of it felt like a documentary with a very loose story.  There’s no need to watch the movie.  Instead, go to YouTube and just watch the Guy on a Buffalo series of videos.
Pitch Perfect 3
The first Pitch Perfect quickly became one of my favourite movies.  It took the college/university campus experience, added music in a way that wasn’t the randomly breaking into song without people noticing thing, and had a group of fun characters to be around.  It’s one of those movies I watch when I’m not feeling great that will pick me up.  The second wasn’t as good, but was still a solid, fun enough watch.  The third one is kind of weird though.  The guys from the first two were written out, meaning we were left with the women.  That makes some sense, since the women are the main characters.  There was also an action storyline that wasn’t in the other two movies and felt out of place.  The action seemed like it was from another movie.  There wasn’t any real reason to include it.  Had the movie not had that storyline, it might have been stronger.  As it is, the franchise fizzled out with this one.
I, Daniel Blake
Another movie we watched in class, this was our teacher’s example of a British kitchen sink drama.  There was a guy who was out of work due to health issues, and he was being mistreated by the government, who wouldn’t let him have the money he needed to survive.  He began a relationship with a single mother, and together they tried to survive while Daniel Blake began sticking it to the man.  There were some good moments throughout, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  I’ll probably go back to it again at some point just to see if my mind will change on it.  It’s not bad.  Just nothing that really brought me in and had me thinking it was anything special.
Game Over, Man!
The guys from Workaholics put out a movie on Netflix at the end of March that was basically a comedic version of Die Hard.  They played hotel workers who were the only people in the hotel not captured in a hostage situation.  They had to take down the bad guys and save the people in the hotel while also coming to terms with their own relationships with one another.  It had some funny moments but frequently went to the edgy side of things instead of what would be funnier.  The guys were good, putting in humourous performances.  It’s just that some of the material let them down.  It was okay.
Slaughter High
Slasher movies were all the rage in the 1980s.  Thanks to Halloween and Friday the 13th, people killing people for an hour and a half was something that frequently hit the theaters.  One of the many that came out was Slaughter High.  A group of assholes in high school tormented the nerd, causing him traumatic physical injury.  When they met up for a reunion ten years later, they were picked off one by one.  The deaths were at the very least interesting, though the quality of the filmmaking was not.  Slaughter High has its place among the abundance of slasher movies, though it’s nothing that will be seen as a classic in the horror subgenre.
Street Fighter
Finishing off the month was one of the earliest video game movies, which took the fighting classic Street Fighter II and adapted it into a film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia.  It wasn’t good, but boy was it entertaining.  The fighting was fun to watch.  The ridiculous performances were entertaining as all hell.  Raul Julia was doing some great work as the over-the-top M. Bison.  There’s so much to enjoy about Street Fighter.  It’s a shame that a direct sequel was never made because this would have been a franchise I could get behind.  There probably wouldn’t have been a good movie to come out of it, but they would have been a lot of fun.  Fun movies are something too.

With that final movie, March came to a close.  There was more stuff that I enjoyed than not.  Whether it was theatrical, in class, or in home, there were a bunch of entertaining movies that made the month something special.  Some of the best, award nominated movies for 2017 were part of my March viewing.  Some other movies that I’ll definitely be revisiting were also a part of it.  It was a great month for first time watches.

April wasn’t quite as good.  There was a wide array of stuff that might be interesting to write about, but it wasn’t a month that blew me away in terms of quality.  There were some good things in there like Ballad of a Soldier and Midnight Cowboy, but that was balanced out by things like Aliens vs. Titanic and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.  It’ll be interesting to see how the next post ends up.  You’ll see that soon enough.

Before this one wraps up, though, let’s get some plugs in here.  As always, you can find me on Twitter here and here.  That second one is an account for a blog I write called Sunday “Bad” Movies.  I also write some stuff about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Then there’s my buddy Jaime Burchardt.  He writes the Netflix Weekly column for Cinepunx.  Let’s check out an older post of his for What Happened to Monday.  Why not?  And finally, there’s Talk Film Society, a great site run by a bunch of people I talk to on Twitter.  They write good stuff all the time, including this recent article about the character Han Solo.  Thanks for reading.  See you soon!