Thursday, July 12, 2018

First Time Watches: May 2018

May was a hectic month for me.  My family was going through a medical emergency as my mother ended up in the hospital with a serious heart condition.  Work was busy since I live in a border tourist city and the job is in the tourism industry.  A Canadian long weekend followed by an American long weekend took a lot of my free time away.  Plus there was the writing that I was doing for my Sunday “Bad” Movies blog and the trying to catch up on writing I had fallen behind on.  Namely, these posts.

What are these posts?  This is a post about my first time watches for May 2018.  I do these on a sort of regular basis as a record of the things I’ve been watching with fresh eyes to share my thoughts about those movies.  That first paragraph was a way of saying that May wasn’t quite as full a month as you may have come to expect from me.

There were only eleven first time watches throughout May.  Because of work and the family emergency, my focus was elsewhere.  There were still big movies coming out that I wanted to see, and I did see some of them.  My focus was on life though, which meant that movies didn’t always come first.  There was a change in the balance.  There was a shift in the force.

The movies were an interesting bunch.  One movie had three women going on a trip to Europe.  Another had some police officers going to Canada.  A third had a band of rogues going to a mining planet, while a fourth had a comedian going to Radio City.  There were eleven movies in total, which made for a good bunch of movies.  Some were pretty great, others not so much.  But most of them fell in between.  Let’s see what the movies were and what I thought of them.

Super Troopers 2
This was a viewing that was very spur of the moment.  I wasn’t too excited about the movie because the trailers had seemed like the Canadian jokes would be just the Broken Lizard guys making fun of Canadians.  I like the Broken Lizard guys, but I’m not a huge fan of Canadian stereotypes.  Partially that’s because I’m Canadian, and partially it’s because the stereotypes are always so broad.  Watching the movie, they were very broad.  Yet, it didn’t seem like a problem.  It was still a funny flick.  The big problem with Super Troopers 2 was that the story could have been stronger.  There was the basic idea of a story, with the crime that needed to be solved.  However, it remained an idea through most of the movie.  The writing seemed much more sketch driven than anything.  They put the police officers in different, crazy situations rather than letting the story play out.  Funny.  Could have used a stronger crime story, though.
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
Ignoring the sitcom that he created, John Mulaney has a history of good comedic work.  His writing for Saturday Night Live created some beloved sketches and characters, most notably anything involving Stefon.  His comedy specials are the same level of quality, if not better.  He’s a storyteller as much as he is a joke teller, putting him right in the middle ground between the people who only do setups and punchlines, and the people who spend twenty minutes of their act telling one story in a funny way.  It’s a fairly good blend, accompanied by his personal mannerisms in how he presents everything.  I’ve enjoyed all of his specials, and this one was no different.  There were some stories, some jokes, and a lot of laughs.
Every child grows up on animated films.  Well, maybe not every child, but a lot of them do.  Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, and now Illumination have been staples in children’s lives for generations.  Back in the 1980s and 1990s, there was another mainstay in the animation world.  Don Bluth put out a few classics in his time, with movies like The Land Before Time, An American Tale, and All Dogs Go To Heaven among his filmography.  Another example was Thumbelina, though that one didn’t go as well.  Thumbelina was a retelling of the classic story of the tiny woman.  The movie had the good animation that you would expect out of a Don Bluth production.  It was the story that was the problem.  Thumbelina was a passive protagonist, letting everything happen to her, instead of being active in what she did.  She never made choices.  Others did everything for her.  It made for an unsatisfying, though pretty, movie.
Opening Night
Topher Grace is someone I’m always interested in seeing.  He really only has two character types that he plays.  The full blown dick that you can’t help but hate, or a dick who learns from his dickish ways and becomes a somewhat relatable and likable character.  Either way, he treats people like garbage.  Yet, I enjoy watching his performances.  Opening Night fit into the learning version of the character, as his character learned through a Broadway production that he had to open up to other people instead of pushing them away.  He also had to open up to himself.  Set to a soundtrack of one hit wonders, the movie hit the same sort of sweet spot as Take Me Home Tonight, and I really enjoyed it.
The Ewok Adventure
Star Wars has been one of the largest influences over the film industry to ever happen.  When the first movie came out, people went crazy.  The universe would expand to sequels, books, toys, and even television.  The Ewok Adventure was one of the television movies made after the release of Return of the Jedi that continued the adventures of Wicket and his Ewok pals.  It ended up being pretty boring.  Maybe it was more exciting to children in the 1980s when it came out, but to me, it was a slog to get through.  I like the Ewoks.  Don’t get me wrong.  They’re better in small doses, though.  Too much of them, especially paired with two annoying child characters, and you get a television movie that is kind of painful to watch.  There’s a sequel, though, so that’s something to look forward to.
Deadpool 2
Much like the first Deadpool, I enjoyed the sequel.  Also much like the first Deadpool, the sequel didn’t leave much of an impresion on me.  It was funny and the way the characters came together was entertaining.  There’s something about the Deadpool movies, though, that doesn’t stick with me.  The moments in them aren’t as impressionable as other movies.  I like them.  I would watch them again and I would like them as much as the first time.  But they don’t make me excited to rewatch.  When I’m thinking about what I liked about 2018, Deadpool won’t be near the top, even though I had a good time watching it.  It’s weird and hard to describe where it fits, which is why this entire bit of writing seems like garbage.
Home invasion movies tend to be about someone breaking into a house and tormenting the people inside.  That’s not what Intruder was.  Though it presented itself as a sort of home invasion movie, it was more a stalker movie than anything, with the intruder breaking into the home to watch the person living there.  The problem was that the movie didn’t build the tension properly to make that frightening.  The main character was never suspicious of someone being in the house, which meant that she never had any conflict with what was happening.  The conflict was presented to the audience, though it didn’t go anywhere until the final moment of the runtime.  There could have been much more entertainment mined from the concept had the main character thought something weird was going on.  The cat-and-mouse game would have been fun, and would have led to more chills and thrills.
Ted 2
For a few months, I’d been struggling with actually watching this one.  It was on Netflix, and I don’t know how many times I hit play, only to shut it off two seconds in.  I finally decided to watch it and had a good time with it.  It was completely unnecessary, yes, but it made me laugh.  Most of the laughs came from scenes involving Giovanni Ribisi’s character, which is weird since that’s my least favourite character in the movie.  It was a good time.  I’ll probably not go back to it again, aside from the highlights of my favourite moments.
Money Monster
There’s a bunch of interesting stuff to take from Money Monster.  One is the satire of stock investment television shows that it perfectly nails.  George Clooney puts in a great performance as Lee Gates, the host of the television show, while Julia Roberts does some good work as his producer.  The best part of the movie, however, was Lenny Vinito as the cameraman.  He was the last person to stick with Lee Gates through the hostage situation.  Having only seen Vinito in Gigli, it was nice to see a good performance in a movie I actually ended up enjoying.  The tension built fairly well, with the only weak spots coming when the action was taken away from Lee Gates and his hostage taker.  As long as it stuck there, the movie was great.  If only they had kept everything there, it could have tightened up the tense storytelling and garnered a better reputation.  Jodie Foster did pretty well with this one.
Sometimes, when I’m looking through Netflix, simply seeing an actor will get me to watch a movie.  That is one of their ways of getting audiences.  We all know that because of the way House of Cards came to be, and the fact that Adam Sandler has a continuous Netflix career.  When I saw Gillian Jacobs, I knew I was going to end up seeing Ibiza.  I had no idea what it was about, but I was in.  Ibiza was about three women going to Spain on a business trip, only to find parties and potential love along the way.  There weren’t as many laughs as I expected.  That’s not to say it was bad.  I enjoyed pretty much everything Vanessa Bayer was doing.  It was a great showcase of her talent post-SNL.  Maybe it was the world that the movie was depicting that didn’t really hit for me.  It was enjoyable, just not something I’d want to go back to.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars released two movies within a six month span.  Fast on the heels of The Last Jedi came Solo, a story about how Han Solo became Han Solo, except not quite.  It was really about his blossoming friendship with Chewbacca and how the two of them came to be in charge of the Millennium Falcon.  There were some major issues with how it set things up, mainly in the references to what we already knew about the characters.  The part with the first mention of his full name was one of the worst story beats in any prequel I’ve ever seen.  But, much like the other prequel spin-off movie in the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One, Solo was a solid movie doing its own thing while conforming to the way the movies already were.  Though some people are pointing out that it’s messy because of the directing issues, that didn’t seem like a problem at all.  The problem was in the callbacks to things that the audience knew.  Other than that, it’s a fun adventure movie building characters we know to the point where we know them.  Woody Harrelson’s character was pretty great too.

May the force be with you, everyone.  May came to an end on the newest Star Wars film.  It might not have been a month filled with the greatest movies ever, but I had a good time.  Even the bad movies were interesting enough to be worth the watch.  Of course, some family health issues got in the way about halfway through the month, which hampered the number of movies I could watch.  Long weekends at work cut down on free time.  It was hectic.  The movies were still there for me, though.  That’s something.

I bounced back in June, seeing many more movies for the first time than in May.  I’m not going to go into too much detail, but I’ll give you a little preview of what will be discussed in the next post.  Two different movies called Tag came upon me.  I went to the drive-in for a double feature of Show Dogs and Life of the Party.  I saw Being John Malkovich for the first time, and finally watched Game Night, possibly the best comedy of this year.  All that and more will be in the June post.

Before I start that one, I need to end this post with some plugs.  As always, you can find me on Twitter here and here.  I write the Sunday “Bad” Movies on a weekly basis.  That blog is quickly approaching week 300.  When I’m not doing that, I try to write some stuff about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  I’m not the only one doing writing though.  My pal Jaime Burchardt sometimes does some writing for Cinepunx with his Netflix Weekly column.  Check out this piece he wrote about War Machine.  If that doesn’t do it for you, check out Talk Film Society.  They’re a group of great people writing great stuff, mostly about movies.  Callie Smith recently put something up about trans casting in the wake of the Scarlett Johannson stuff.  Check that out.  See you guys soon for another of these posts.

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