Tuesday, July 4, 2017

First Time Watches: May 2017

It’s halfway through June as I’m writing this (beginning of July as I post it).  I’m still playing catch-up on a bunch of writing and stuff that I’ve been doing.  But I’m going to get this done before the month is done because I don’t want to start falling behind again.  I want to get this out as soon as possible (sorry), and that means getting it out within a week of writing this sentence (didn’t happen).  We’ll see how that goes.

Welcome, everyone.  This is my monthly post about my first time watches.  As it is currently June (July now), you might be able to guess that this will be covering what I watched in May.  There’s a lot to get into, though there have been months with many more watches than May had.

May was a big month for my first time watches.  I would still consider it a bit of a letdown.  There were a few good, solid movies in there, but the majority of the fifteen first time watches were underwhelming.  There was a stand-up comedy special with an old Weekend Update host, and a deadly fighting tournament.  A sailor went up against various foes, while some vegetables tried to wipe out the human race.  Mothers were celebrated and zombies attacked a small town.  All of this happened on my viewing screens during May, and now I’m going to tell you about them.  Where do I begin?  The start of the month, that’s where.
All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
I’m not a record collector by any means.  I’m pretty sure that I don’t have a single record in my music collection.  But I always like to know more about influential pieces of pop culture, and Tower Records sure was one of those.  It was the premier place for people to get music throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.  The movie delved into how the company grew out of a pharmacy into one of the biggest music stores.  The ride was fun and insightful, with the only real lacking part being the ending.  It was true to how the life of the company fell apart quickly, thanks to online music piracy.  However, it felt too quick of an ending for the story being told.  Considering part of the full title is “Fall of…” it would have been nice to have a more in depth look at how Tower Records fell apart.  It was still a good watch though.
Enter the Dragon
A major subgenre of video games is the fighting game.  Franchises like Street Fighter, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat have made it big.  When brought into film form, many of them have resorted to tournament style fighting.  Enter the Dragon is the pinnacle of that style of film storytelling, bringing together a wide array of characters to fight in a tournament that ends in blood and death.  The physicality of everyone involved made the martial arts fighting film highly enjoyable.  There’s not much to dislike, though I wasn’t a fan of the fighting to the camera style that was sometimes employed.  I would have rather the camera moved around the fighting.  Anyway, still a great movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Let’s start with the music.  The soundtrack wasn’t as good as the soundtrack for the first film, but the songs were used much better.  The way that nearly every song tied into the story was near perfection.  It was a story about family and how the team was their own little dysfunctional unit.  Peter Quill was dealing with parental issues.  Gamora and Nebula were working things out as sisters.  Rocket was being a father to a young Groot.  Even Drax was getting in on it, telling stories about his deceased family.  The story worked, the music was perfect, and it was an all-around great experience.
At Dawn They Sleep
This metal music inspired action horror movie wasn’t good.  It was pretty bad.  It still managed to somewhat entertain.  The action was solid and the effects were well executed.  The problems came in the acting, the direction, and the writing.  The movie was about two friends being turned into vampires by angels who wanted to take over the world.  Eh.  There was also a needlessly large amount of nudity in the movie.  It just didn’t do anything for me and I was left cold.
Mother’s Day
The third movie in Garry Marshall’s holiday trilogy, and the last movie he directed before his death, was more of the same while not reaching the highs of the first movie, Valentine’s Day.  A group of mothers in Atlanta were dealing with their motherly issues as Mother’s Day approached.  There were some solid topics that were covered throughout, from bigotry to jealousy over a stepmother, to adoption.  Yet none of it landed the way it was intended to.  It felt like Atlanta wasn’t the right setting for many of the stories, and the resolutions felt like they came out of nowhere.  There were the big points of story arcs, but because of the intertwining stories, the connective tissue seemed to be missing.  It didn’t flow.  That’s the biggest problem.  It’s watchable.  It just could have been more than it ended up being.
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
I guess you could say that I continued the theme of mothers with this Martin Scorsese directed movie.  Alice was a mother who picked up her things and moved with her son to a new city to try and start fresh.  Things didn’t go too well for her.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie.  The acting was good.  The direction was good.  The story just wasn’t quite for me.  I’ll give it another try sometime.  Maybe I can come around on it.  As a first time watch, though, it is probably my least favourite Scorsese that I’ve seen.
xXx: State of the Union
The first xXx was a solid action movie, if weakened by the time when it was made.  It used extreme sports to tell a James Bond esque story that was meant to be cool by the early 2000s standards.  The sequel turned into a big budget CGI mess from the director of a James Bond movie that was a CGI mess.  Everything that made the first movie work was missing in the second one.  Vin Diesel, gone.  Real action, gone.  Samuel L. Jackson’s face prosthetic, gone.  I wasn’t in love with the first movie, but it was leagues above whatever this mess was.  I’m glad Ice Cube had a good film career later on.  This movie didn’t do him any favors.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
Meant to be a spoof of 50s b-movies, this was an unfunny piece of cinema.  I can’t quite place a finger on where it went wrong.  The parts were all there.  It had a story to tell, and was parodying the style of movie.  Those are my favourite types of spoofs.  Yet the jokes never worked for me.  Something kept me at a distance so that I couldn’t get into it.  I might not have enough knowledge of the genre that was being spoofed.  That could be it.  I should have laughed, though.  I should have found some stuff in the movie funny.  I didn’t.  That bothers me.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Twin Peaks was a show that I didn’t watch until a few years ago.  Considering my age when it was originally airing, that makes sense.  It began a few months before I was born and ended a month before my first birthday.  I fell in love with the show when I watched it.  Sure, there was a hiccup watching the second season, since the main story ended a little while in, and something in me tried to stop watching there.  I persevered and watched the rest of the show, realizing it was better than I had heard.  It took me a while to see the prequel movie, which I watched in preparation for the new season.  It was darker than I remember the show being (though on par with the new season), and didn’t have every character I wanted to see (also the same as the new season).  I didn’t like it quite as much as the show, but it was an enthralling watch.  Not something I fell in love with.  I’d say it was okay.  But I was into it.  I watched the whole thing through without trouble.  David Lynch has a way of pulling you in, even if you don’t like something.
Sinbad of the Seven Seas
It’s always fun to sneak back to the 1980s Cannon Films library, and this time was no different.  This action adventure starred Lou Ferrigno and followed his tough Sinbad character through a series of challenges to get some magic gems.  What worked best was how fun the action was.  The people on the quest with Sinbad provided different fighting styles, which gave a variety to the action.  The different monsters that were encountered made for different types of fights.  There was a giant rock monster, a giant sludge monster, hollow suits of armor, skeleton men, and some other stuff that fought the heroes.  All around, the movie was just fun.  It’s not good, but it’s fun.  That’s all that mattered in this case.
Killer App
Much like the ideas behind the apps that the characters pesented, the idea of the movie was intriguing.  Someone used a social media app to target and murder the people in an app design competition.  It was a slasher built into the modern tech world.  Killer App never reached the potential that could have come from the idea.  The murders themselves didn’t show enough and didn’t shock enough.  The set design wasn’t great, which was a bad intentional decision.  Basically, a solid concept was given a bland movie treatment.  It’s still an okay, mildly entertaining movie.  It just could have been much more than it was.
Automaton Transfusion
Easily the worst first time watch of May.  The movie is so poorly put together that it’s tough to watch.  The editing, the directing, and the acting were not good.  Hell, you could see the boom mic throughout the movie, and it wasn’t intentional like it was in Black Dynamite.  The whole movie was just a mess.  It’s disappointing because the story could have made for a decent little low budget zombie movie.
Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery
Most of the time when I watch comedy specials, I hope for more of a storytelling type of comedy.  That’s what really gets me.  I enjoy the people who can take the stage and tell a story in a funny way.  Norm Macdonald isn’t quite that.  He doesn’t tell stories so much as a series of jokes that all flow together.  But the way he tells the jokes is how he hooks me in.  There’s a certain style that Norm has that I’ve always been fond of.  He can take the dumbest joke and make it funny by how he says it.  Whether it’s the phrasing or his intonation, he makes it all funny.  I love his comedy.  I loved this special.
There is one major reason that Baywatch was not a good movie.  It never found the right tone for what it wanted.  The movie wanted to go the action comedy route of 21 Jump Street, but it also wanted to celebrate the camp of the Baywatch television series.  These two tones did not mix well.  It would jump from dumb wink wink stupidity to dumb action like in the Fast and Furious series and back again.  The problem was that it never mixed the two in a satisfying way.  If it had gone off the rails dumb, it would have been good.  If it had stopped the wink wink stuff and kept to Fast and Furious style dumb, it would have been good.  Trying to unsuccessfully blend the two felt like it bordered upon greatness without quite getting there.  It was almost great.  But it never went all in on anything it wanted to do and thus ended up being a shell of what it could have been.
Abbey Grace
Rounding out the month was a low budget possession movie with some interesting themes but bad everything else.  Abbey Grace tried to tackle the ideas of OCD and agoraphobia while also dealing with a standard possession story.  That has potential.  The problem was that the execution of these ideas was so poor that it buried them below a bad movie.  The acting, direction, and writing of the movie were subpar.  It was not entertaining in the least and the themes of debilitating mental conditions were wasted.

May was a month that I hoped would be so much more than it was.  I wanted to watch a bunch of different movies of different types.  It started off well but devolved into a bunch of mostly bad stuff that left me feeling disappointed.  It’s only one month though, and the next month can be different.

It is, by the way.  June is looking like a solid month of movie watching.  I’ve watched the Canadian classic, Goin’ Down the Road.  There have been three documentaries, with one being emotional, one being informational, and the other being just plain weird.  The weird one is Tickled, which everyone should see at some point.  I saw one of the Eddie Murphy stand-up specials, and I saw Deepwater Horizon.  So you have all that and more to look forward to next month.  Come back then and check it out.

To finish things off, I’m going to do some plugs.  If you’re reading this, you might like either my Mighty Morphin Power Rangers posts, or my Sunday “Bad” Movies blog.  I’d also like to share my buddy Jaime Burchardt’s post about the movie Blame (I know this plug is late at this point, but I’m still going to plug it).  I haven’t seen the movie, but his post is solid stuff.  And a final plug for my friends at Talk Film Society.  They’re doing some good stuff over there, so check them out.  Thanks for reading!

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