Monday, July 24, 2017

First Time Watches: June 2017

Movies are as important to me as almost anything.  I spend a lot of time watching movies.  Not as much time as some people, but more than many.  With as much time as I spend watching movies, there will surely be a large number of first time watches that I experience.  There will always be movies that I haven’t seen that I finally get around to checking out.  This is a post about those movies.

June was a big month for my first time watches.  I saw twenty-two movies for the first time, and they went through many different genres.  It was an interesting time.  There were documentaries, action movies, horror, good movies and bad movies.  There was a variety in what I watched which made for a very interesting month.

The month started off strong with a movie about a real life disaster, went into a documentary about a weird competition, and continued with a stand-up comedy act.  The month continued with a movie about a YouTube star making it big, a movie about a parking lot, and a movie about a blackhat hacker named Hathaway.  I finished June off with a movie about an alien being stranded on Earth.  Like I said, there was an interesting variety of movies.  I’m going to write about them now.

Deepwater Horizon
The tragedy behind this movie still affects the world.  It was the largest oil spill in history, and was a result of negligence in checking the stability of an oil drilling system.  That’s what we all know.  Pete Berg took that tragedy and turned it into an entertaining disaster movie with likeable characters and some of the best performances in the careers of the actors involved.  The first half of the movie built up the comradery of the workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.  It made you feel like you were a part of the group of friends trying to survive the explosions, fire, and ocean water.  This was one of the best disaster movies of recent memory, making it one of the most enjoyable movies of 2016.

This documentary was one of the weirder things I’ve ever seen.  There’s not much that I’m going to write about it because it’s better to go into it without knowing much.  I will say that it was a ride of thrills and twists and turns that I never expected.  Everyone should check this out.  It might seem like a strange subject matter at first, but everyone needs to stick out that beginning because it goes to some crazy places.  Well worth the watch.

The Marine 5: Battleground
When the franchise began, The Marine was a mess.  It pushed John Cena into a starring role that he wasn’t ready for.  There was a weird mixture of comedy and action that never quite blended.  The franchise improved with the sequel, when it moved to direct-to-video entries.  The fifth installment showed why the series is still going strong in its DTV direction.  Mike Mizanin returned for his third outing as Jake Carter, and he brought along a big cast of other wrestlers.  Bo Dallas made a great turn as the main villain, being like a WWE version of David Patrick Kelly in The Warriors.  It was one of the most entertaining movies of June, and June was packed with a lot of entertainment.

Eddie Murphy Raw
I’ve been meaning to watch Eddie Murphy’s two stand up specials for a long time, and I finally got a chance to see Raw.  It wasn’t great.  The problems have to do with the times in which it was made.  Some of the jokes were offensively prejudiced to the point of taking away how funny they probably were in the mid-1980s.  It’s a result of the changing times and how many people (but not all) have become more inclusive.  I grew up in a time where we have been understanding of other people’s lives and to hear jokes that insult people for living the way they live isn’t funny.  Oh well.

Ruby Ridge
Here’s another documentary.  This one was about something I didn’t know too much about.  It happened when I was two years old and was easily overshadowed by other violent events that occurred during my childhood.  The documentary did a good job of providing information about what the whole Ruby Ridge thing was, but it didn’t make it all that entertaining.  It was produced by PBS and felt very much like an hour long PBS special.  There could have been a better way to tell the story in documentary form.  This one was alright.

Goin’ Down the Road
Canadian films don’t usually get a lot of traction outside of Canada, and this movie was one of the ones that not many outside of Canada know about.  It is hailed as one of the greatest Canadian films, however.  There was a realism to it that made the acting and direction work well together.  A couple of men from the Maritimes moved to Toronto in search of a more prosperous life only to find that their hopes and dreams wouldn’t come true.  Their lives were much of the same.  It was a look at Canadian life that few movies manage to capture, and felt like a true piece of Canada.

Joe Versus the Volcano
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are a pair of movie stars that worked together on numerous occasions.  One of those was Joe Versus the Volcano, a movie about a man who thought he was dying and decided to become a sacrificial gift.  The visuals were exceptional.  The set design and costume work was well done, making it a feast for the eyes.  Meg Ryan played three characters who were all fun to watch, and Tom Hanks showed why he is one of the most likeable actors out there.  Even with his character going through a sad situation, you want to see good things happen to him.  He’s just a damn likeable guy.  It’s not my favourite of the Hanks/Ryan collaborations, but it’s still an interesting one to see.

Jem and the Holograms
Movies based on children’s properties are a big thing, especially now, because the people who grew up with the properties have nostalgia for their childhood.  Transformers, Speed Racer, Scooby-Doo and Power Rangers have gotten their own big screen adaptations.  It was only a matter of time before Jem got one too.  The movie made Jem into a YouTube star who was making it big in the music industry, with the most important thing to her success being family.  They would always come first.  The story wasn’t great.  It has been done much better in other movies.  The music was okay, though.  If there’s one thing you can say about Jem and the Holograms, it’s that the music was decent.  What surrounded it was pretty bad though.

The Mummy
In another reboot situation, a new Tom Cruise version of The Mummy came out this year.  I went to the cinema to see it.  It was meant as the movie that would kick off The Dark Universe, a rebooted version of the Universal Monsters from back in the day.  Not my day, but someone’s day.  There were a lot of things to like about this universe starter, though not all pertained to the universe as a whole.  It was nice to see more than one important player in the monster world come into the movie without it feeling unnatural.  Dr. Jekyll was a big part of the story, as was the mummy.  It didn’t take away from the story of The Mummy either.  There was also a fun buddy dynamic between Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson.  I’d like to see more.  If The Dark Universe moves forward, it has the potential to be one of my favourite universes in movies.

I Am Chris Farley
The third documentary of June was about one of the funniest men to ever grace the stage at Saturday Night Live.  There was a little bit of the stuff that I don’t like about documentaries about people.  The people interviewed did mention how funny Farley was quite often.  The thing is, it was more like an oral history of the man than a tribute to him.  It wasn’t only about how great he was at comedy.  It was about his problems.  Chris Farley was a man with many problems but he was also a man who wanted to help everyone else feel better.  He would do anything in comedy to make people laugh.  It was about how big of a force he was and where things went wrong.  The people loved him and thought he was hilarious.  They were devastated by his death.  Some still are.  This is a powerful documentary.

Charlie Charlie
Movies always try to capitalize on fads.  Charlie Charlie was a game that became popular in English speaking culture in 2015, and a few horror movies capitalized on it.  This one was about a demonic force that came from the game when it was played.  It went after a few people who were spending some after-hours time in a haunted house that was in dire need of customers.  The location was good and the performance of Tom Zembrod as Gene The Ringmaster was leagues above the rest.  It’s not a great movie, but it’s entertaining enough.  Better actors and time spent actually building the scares instead of telegraphing them ahead of time would have gone a long way to make the movie better.

The Parking Lot Movie
Some things don’t need documentaries made about them.  A group of parking lot attendants who act like they are better than the world are one of those things.  The entire movie (minus the one guy who sang and played guitar) was filled with obnoxiousness.  Every person acted like they should be treated with the utmost respect, but they failed to treat any of their customers with the same respect.  I was aghast and irritated.  It ended on a rap song about the parking lot as well.  I still don’t know why it was made.

I haven’t seen too many Michael Mann movies.  Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Manhunter.  Other than that, nothing, really.  Blackhat was a good movie.  There was something keeping it from being great.  It might have been the look of the movie.  It wasn’t terrible to watch, but had a television digital feel.  That said, the action was very impactful.  Every single gunshot, punch, kick, and wound could be felt through the screen.  The performances were top notch.  It’s definitely not anywhere near a bad movie.

Boyz n the Hood
What is there to say about this movie?  I’m a white guy.  I don’t know what life is like for a black person in America.  This movie sure as hell felt like a look at a life that I will never know.  Everyone turned in stellar performances, in particular, Laurence Fishburne as Furious Styles.  The movie was as much about how important parenting is to a person’s life as it is about how bad life can be for black people.  John Singleton made a great feature length debut that will stick with me for a long time.

Jaws 3-D
The third Jaws movie did what most horror sequels do, and went completely nuts with the franchise’s idea.  The sharks were no longer restricted to the beaches of Amity Island.  Michael Brody was working at SeaWorld in Florida and his brother was visiting for the grand opening of a new portion of the park.  While guests from all around were visiting for this event, two sharks got into the theme park and started doing their thing.  It was the same theme of shark attacks that people loved from the first two movies.  The change in location allowed the movie to have the sharks get into different situations.  The failure of the movie was mostly in its effects.  It was made in the horror 3-D heyday of the 1980s and as such, the effects don’t always hold up.  Sometimes they look downright awful because of how 3-D was done back then.  The movie is still worth a watch but don’t expect anything great.

Jaws: The Revenge
The fourth and final installment in the Jaws movie franchise saw things return back to semi-normal.  The movie was as much a character piece as a shark attack piece, like the first.  The biggest differences were the absence of Chief Brody, and the location being in the Bahamas.  It still felt more like Jaws than Jaws 3-D.  The shark attacks were out in the water.  It wasn’t an enclosed space that held the shark.  Michael Caine was even there to help kill the shark.  It was a step up from the third movie, but that wasn’t enough to keep the series going.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Six movies were made in the Resident Evil franchise, with this being the final one.  And, oh boy, did the franchise end on a rough note.  It tried to be nostalgic to what the franchise was, rehashing many previous beats and bringing back characters who didn’t need to come back.  The five previous movies were all enjoyable and tried to do some interesting stuff.  This one tried to be the first one but with newer effects.  It felt like a waste of time, and I wish the franchise ender wasn’t as open-ended as they made it.  Alice’s story isn’t done.  She even says that at the end.

What made National Lampoon’s Vacation so great was the realism in it.  There were heightened situations, for sure, but the characters all felt real.  Clark was the wacky dad who wanted to have a great vacation.  Cousin Eddie was that weird distant family member who you usually only see at family reunions.  Rusty and Audrey were the realistic kids who weren’t too interested in the vacation but were along for the ride anyway.  The family car felt like a family car.  The places they went felt like places to go during a vacation.  It was a heightened realism.  The 2015 reboot was anything but realistic.  Everything about the movie felt like forced extremes.  The car wasn’t a car that people would drive around in.  The characters were all crazy people.  Not real crazy people.  They were insane caricatures that rarely exist in the real world.  On its own, the reboot is okay.  When taken as the sequel/reboot that it is, because of the franchise it is a part of, it feels completely wrong.

The Host
Prior to this, I had seen two Bong Joon Ho movies.  Snowpiercer was an odd film, and one that had moments I liked mixed with some stuff that left me scratching my head.  Memories of Murder was a great film that I have nothing bad to say about.  The Host ended up being closer to Snowpiercer.  It wasn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination.  It was just odd.  There were great things in it.  The introduction of the monster was one of the best monster attacks I’ve seen in any movie.  The quirky family that was put together was also amusing.  It probably needs a second or third watch to fall in love with it.

The Conjuring 2
Having their cake and eating it too is what comes to mind when I think about this movie.  The Conjuring 2 covered the Enfield Poltergeist, a supernatural event that has been seen as a hoax since it happened in the late 1970s.  Half of the movie was presented as such with the Warrens investigating the happening, with hints and clues pointing toward it being a hoax.  Only, in the movie, it wasn’t a hoax and the couple would have to help get rid of the demonic force.  The problem was that we, the audience, knew the whole movie that it wasn’t a hoax.  The family’s point of view was shown throughout the first two thirds of the movie, before the case was found to not be a hoax.  The movie wanted to both be a story about a possible hoax and a ghost story at the same time.  It would have been much better to not show the family’s point of view and simply have an outsider’s look at the situation.  That way the reveal of the Warrens finding out that it was real would hit and be a satisfying turn.  Instead, most of the movie is spent with you wondering when the Warrens will figure out it’s real and choose to help.  The writing needed a restructure to work.

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee
This was an interesting documentary, telling the story of John McAfee, mostly through his time in Central America.  It was about how dark and seedy his life became when he moved down there.  The murder of Gregory Faull was discussed, as well as a raid on McAfee’s property.  For me, someone who only knew a little bit about McAfee (his virus program and that he might have murdered someone), it was insightful and interesting.  The direction wasn’t necessarily the greatest, and some of the stuff presented was questionable (emails), but the documentary was a good watch.

The Man Who Fell to Earth
I never really got into the movie.  I could appreciate some of the stuff that it was doing, but it never captured me.  David Bowie was good.  Rip Torn was good.  There were some turns in the movie that were well done.  I just never connected with it and that’s really all I can say about it.  It’s a good movie that didn’t resonate with me at all.

June was a month filled with a bunch of first time watches that I enjoyed.  There weren’t too many that fell on the negative side of things.  I got a good dose of documentaries, and finally sat down to watch a few movies that I had been meaning to for a while.  That seems like the best of the movie world.  It seems like a great month of movie watching.

Will July bring the same?  Maybe, maybe not.  I can tell you I’ve seen a whole lot of movies so far and it doesn’t look like that will be stopping until the month ends.  So far, I’ve seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and Baby Driver in theatres, as well as some home first time watches of things like Bonnie and Clyde, Officer Downe, and The Wiz.  That’s just a taste of what the post for my July watches will bring.  I’ll see you in a month or so when I write about them.

Before you go, I just want to get a few plugs in here.  This is especially necessary since I’m pretty sure I forgot to put the links in last time.  I’ve been writing about MightyMorphin Power Rangers.  I have a blog called Sunday “Bad” Movies where some of the movies I wrote about this time got more written about them.  And then there are my friends at Talk Film Society who are always writing good stuff.  Check them out.  Bye!

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