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! 

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