Wednesday, April 6, 2016

First Time Watches - March 2016

Here I am, sitting at my computer two nights before the end of the month.  It’s just after midnight.  I’ve been updating my Letterboxd diary and thinking about what movies might make my top 5 first time watches for the month.  I saw a wide variety of movies and felt the need to discuss each one in some way.  It’s tough to do that with a simple ranking.  My mind immediately jumped to a blog post.  That’s what this is.

This is the first time I’ve gone this far with first time watches.  Usually I just Tweet what my top five of the month were, mention the worst first time watch, and move on with my life.  But the movies deserve more attention.  The movies deserve elaboration.  They should get something that might direct people to them.  Or in the case of the bad ones, keep people away.

These are all my personal opinions.  Not everybody will agree with me.  Knowing my taste , most people will disagree with me.  That’s how things go.  I wanted to do these movies justice.  So here we go.

Species III
I kicked off March with a rewatch of the first three Species movies.  I’d seen the first two many times, but this was the first time for the third.  It was an early 2000s direct-to-video movie.  It wasn’t a great follow up to what came before.  The only cast member to return was Natasha Henstridge, who was barely in it.  The redeeming quality was that it took the franchise in a new direction.  Rather than rehashing the “stop spreading the disease” story, it told a story about the alien race dying out.  The first two movies started the epidemic.  The third ended it.  It’s watchable but nowhere near great.

I heard a lot about this comedic take on espionage before going into it.  Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law (who is probably pissed that Jennifer Lawrence is JLaw), Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham headline this action comedy about an office worker getting her first field mission.  It was funny.  Nobody told me beforehand that Peter Serafinowicz was in it, and he was the best part!  My one drawback is that Melissa McCarthy shouldn’t be in the lead role.  Melissa McCarthy is a great comedic actress, but she’s better suited to supporting roles.  Having her comedic style take the lead can be overwhelming and take away from the movie.  It hurt Spy.

Cabin Boy
Chris Elliott was once the star of a movie.  It wasn’t good but it was interesting.  There’s a solid cast of recognizable people.  There were interesting visuals from Russ Tamblyn playing a merman to clouds with faces blowing a storm around a ship.  The problematic part was that none of the characters were likeable, even though it was supposed to be goofy fun.  Nobody wants their clowns to be jerks.  Sets and visuals, good.  Characters, bad.

One of the biggest surprises of the month.  I had no idea what this movie was before watching it.  I went into it completely blind, and came out the other side a happy and satisfied man.  It’s an anthology without introductory segments, transitioning through story connections instead.  Each segment worked, though some were stronger than others.  As an added bonus, two of the segments were made by Radio Silence, a great collective of horror filmmakers.  There needs to be more horror anthologies like this.  When anthologies are good, they’re really good.  This is one of the good ones.

10 Cloverfield Lane
This is the movie that the internet was talking about two weeks ago.  I adored the first two thirds.  The claustrophobia mixed with the underlying threatening nature of one of the characters to make a tense journey.  All three leads were great.  The final third was what threw me off.  Most of what I’ve seen online has been people praising and throwing their undying love at it.  I have one big problem that goes into spoiler territory, but it has to do with where John Goodman’s character goes in that section.  This third was fine.  It was a good half hour or so.  But it felt like a completely different movie.  It didn’t feel like the same movie that came before it.  That’s a problem.

A Haunting in Cawdor
There were many promising ideas behind this move.  It felt like a mishmash of many ideas that never completely gelled.  A performance of Macbeth going wrong is a fascinating concept for a horror movie, which has likely been done already.  A play being performed by young adults in work placement from prison is another fairly interesting idea.  A girl falling in love with the ghost of a murderer… Yeah, I would watch that.  Put them all together though and it feels like a mess.  It doesn’t work.  There are too many stories at play.  The writing needed to focus on one storyline and build it rather than throw everything at the wall and hope something worked.

The Voices
It was not a perfect movie, but I’m glad that it exists.  It was a very dark comedy that worked some of the time.  I don’t want to say too much about it for fear of giving away what the story was.  It had a solid cast, with Ryan Reynolds trying his hardest to fit a character type that he doesn’t suit.  There was a moment where he got stood up on a date.  That would never happen.  I do think he’s good at comedy, though, so he makes jokes land.  It’s worth a watch.  It also has one of my favourite final scenes in a while, so there’s that too.

Blue Ruin
This was something that I meant to watch long ago.  I heard good things about it.  It wasn’t great, but it was a solid revenge thriller.  The lead actor was the right mixture of normal guy and badass, managing to capture the raw nature of murder while also feeling like he was out of place in the story.  It was a more down-to-earth portrayal of a revenge movie in a time when the market is oversaturated with Taken and knockoffs of Taken.  I wasn’t too into Blue Ruin, but I need to rewatch it.  I feel like I would enjoy it more on a second viewing.

Death Becomes Her
How did I not know that this existed? You have three great lead performances from Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis.  You have dark comedy about corpses and immortality.  You have a great gag involving a doctor who witnesses a medical miracle and can’t cope with it.  And you have one of the greatest final moments in horror comedy.  This was a movie that worked on almost every level.  It came out of nowhere, hit me in the right spot, and left me delighted.  Did I mention that it was directed by Robert Zemeckis?  This was the movie he made right before Forrest Gump.  It is a mostly forgotten entry in his filmography and deserves better recognition.

The zombie virus was brought to the public through chicken nuggets served in elementary school cafeterias.  It spread through the children.  A group of teachers must defend themselves against the cannibalistic pre-teens to survive.  With a cast made up of great comedic actors who typically have supporting roles, this is a must-see horror comedy for anyone interested in the genre.  It brings freshness to the material that makes it as enjoyable as ever.  Rainn Wilson has made some interesting choices in his post-Office career.  This is one of them.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
I had low expectations going in.  The commercials seemed like something I would dislike.  The things I was wary of were the things I actually ended up liking.  It was everything else that I didn’t like.  The cinematography seemed perfect for what the movie was attempting.  It felt like you were the world and you were being introduced to superheroes.  The performances were solid too.  I expected Jesse Eisenberg to be bad, but I enjoyed his performance.  The problem is that the story was a mess.  It tried to throw too much at the viewers and never knew how to stick the landing on any story.  Though I like Eisenberg’s performance, his character felt more like a Joker than a Lex.  I don’t know.  I’ll see it again.

Short Term 12
No movie in March resonated with me as well as this.  It’s about a caretaker at a home for troubled youth, helping kids deal with their issues while also experiencing her own issues.  This is a movie that has received praise since its release and it’s easy to understand.  The performances were great.  Brie Larson was captivating as the head caretaker.  But the real highlight was Keith Stanfield, who played Marcus.  Watching the character deal with his inner struggle over his past was the most emotional part of the movie.  He made it the most emotional part in the movie.  Larson was a great lead.  Stanfield stole her thunder.

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre
What can I say?  Attractive women get eaten by a shark that can swim through land.  It didn’t take place in a women’s prison.  It just involved the prisoners and two people taking care of them.  And some scientists too.  And two other police officers.  A notable thing is that multiple women in the movie were porn stars at some point in their careers.  There isn’t much more to say.  If you like movies like Avalanche Sharks, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Terminator Genisys
It’s not the best movie in the franchise.  It’s not the second best movie in the franchise.  I still found it a solid action movie, slightly bogged down by the fact that it wanted to set up a trilogy.  It basically looked at the movies that came before it, realized the timelines were FUBAR, and decided to roll with that.  Every time that a terminator failed in its mission, Skynet sent back another terminator to get around that.  The resistance did the same thing.  So the 1984 that they went back to had major differences.  Then the characters went to the future to stop Judgement Day.  Though, that would mean that John Connor wasn’t born in the 80s, which messes everything up.  Oh well.  It’s a Terminator movie.  They all mess up the timelines.

This movie made no sense to me.  It involved people trapped in a corn maze in a time loop but the time loop was always different.  People kept dying and coming back to life.  It’s sort of like Groundhog Day but way worse.  Where Groundhog Day had the same events happening, everything was different every time in Rows.  The acting was not enough to save a messy story.  There wasn’t enough fun to make it worth the time.

Pawn Shop Chronicles
I bought this movie because of the cast.  I was happy to find out it was directed by the guy behind Running Scared, the mid-2000s Paul Walker movie.  I didn’t know what to expect.  It was a dark action comedy anthology.  I know that’s a lot of words.  There were many laughs that it got out of me during the time I had it on.  The way that all of the stories wove together worked as well as the humour.  It’s a movie that I had never heard of that I don’t think too many other people have heard of.  Check it out.  It might be up your alley.  It’s not terribly made.  It’s watchable.  You might like it too.

That sums up what I have to say about my first time watches in March 2016.  It was an interesting lineup, giving me movies that I will watch many times in the future, and movies I hope to never think about again.  I wanted to share them with you because the ones that I did like were interesting enough that I thought other people should check them out.  I gave my thoughts to give you an idea about why I liked them.  I wanted to give you a reason to see them.

I don’t know how April will shape up for my first time watches.  There could be as interesting a selection as in March.  I will try to get another post like this up for April.  It’s nice to have this here for safekeeping.  It lets you see why I like the movies I like and dislike the ones I dislike.  It lets me remember the movies if I forget them.  This post is a time capsule.  We should all use it wisely.

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