Bob’s 2018 Retrospective: 200 Mini Reviews [Part 2: The Pretty Good and the Pretty Bad]

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The Endless

Another fantastic film from two filmmakers who continually get a great deal from so little, after Resolution (of which this a semi-sequel – you need not watch that first), and Spring. (let’s not speak of the V/H/S Viral segment). The Endless, in it’s plot of two brothers (the writer/directors) visiting the UFO death cult they escaped from years earlier, is about revisiting your youthful memories and finding something else than you remembered, the great unknown, and some fucked up time loop weirdness. The pair allow the audience to figure out what the hell is going on their own (there may be a truth to the cult’s beliefs), even when they allow the movie to get weird. Believe you me, this goes in much different direction that you’d expect. The film has a sense of unease with every frame. Not for every taste, but for those who will dig something so damned weird, it’s a damned fine movie.

The Final Year

A documentary about the final year of President Obama’s presidency could just have focused on President Obama himself and been compelling as he faces the changes looming the nation, especially late in the year when Trump was elected. Wisely, the filmmakers elect to follow his staff just as much, akin to a real life The West Wing. Fascinating to see the workings of the workers, a worthy watch to those of us missing having good people in the White House.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

This Netflix produced film is as much about the traditional biopic as it is in presenting it’s subject. It’s the story of National Lampoon so you wouldn’t expect anything less. Martin Mull and Will Forte play Doug Pietre, the founder of the magazine, first as Harvard Lampoon, then National. As Doug died young, a fictional older version telling the events makes a new turn and allows further commentary on how these movies feature their stories. Aforementioned favorite young actor Domhall Gleson plays Petries partner. Very odd to see him with jet black hair and in a straight comedy (with this and Peter Rabbit, odd mix). Stocking the supporting roles are many comedians and familiar faces, as one would expect. Very funny look at very funny people – there is the sadness that comes hand-in-hand with exploring comedians and that helps keep the movie from being just a fluffy retelling. Forte is fantastic as Doug as well.

Game Night

Like Blockers, dumb trailer – smarter movie. First, Jesse Plemons steals this movie from his hilarious co-stars as the creepy cop neighbor. His delivery is perfection. The plot involves the weekly game night of a set of married couples being interrupted with a real kidnapping they think it just a big interactive game. This creates many well-written and acted situations of couples arguing though what they think is a game to perplexed baddies. It’s a good mix in the writing and performances – hilarious banter performed with fantastic timing.

Gemini

The John Cho in amazing movies train continues. Last year had Columbus, this year had Gemini and Searching (spoiler alert: it’s higher on the list). Cho isn’t the focus of the movie,but the most well known of the cast in this modern noir mystery.  When a high strung acrtress (Zoe Kravitz) is brutally murdered, her assistant (Lola Kirke) has the blame laid upon her. Thus, she must navigate her way though ultraviolet colored LA to solve the murder before she’s held for it. It’s a solid mystery for much of the run, but unravels a little towards the end.

Ghost Stories

My wife saw the play this film is based upon in London a few years ago, and said it was the most terrifying experience of her life. After seeing the film, I can see why the stage version would be so frightening. The movie isn’t quite as scary as the play – according to her, and she scares easily. That’s not say they are well done. They are, the scares are all well designed. The set up is thus: a debunker of paranormal stories meets with three people who share their experiences. However, there is a connective tissue that becomes more apparent with each story coming together in a very weird and wild climax.  How everything turns out might turn off some viewers who thought they were in for a standard anthology, but damned if I didn’t love it although some elements were slightly mishandled. I was a little let down by the stories, they start out strong but seem short, just ending. The lead into the stories (like the kids house) are also teeming with mystery but not played out completely. .

Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse

This German film is similar to The Witch, examining tales of Witches in the past. Here, in 15th century Austria. Told in four parts, it follows the life of a witch though her youth, middle age, and death. It’s quiet and beautiful. Don’t go in expecting a straight horror film, but an examination of how fearful villages treat those outside of themselves.

Hellfest

Here’s one that I’ve seen pop up on many Worst of Lists, and was trashed on Metacritic but dammit I loved it. I admit, I know one of the writers, but that’s not a factor in my enjoyment of the flick. The production design is killer. I want to go to Hell Fest so fuckin’ bad. Each haunted attraction looks like a blast, with an amazing design. They do seem misrun – I’d hate to actually be there as if each house is run that empty many of the thousands of people would never get in any house! But we need that to have the scare sequences. It is an issue as it stretches disbelief but, eh, it makes the stalk and slash more palatable in the moment. The characters are likable and I don’t immediately want them dead (unlike say Truth or Dare). The kills are well done, although there is one particular death I thought was going to get Italian horror mean, but was pulled back. Blah!  But TONY TODD! We need more TONY TODD! It’s too bad the film didn’t do very well, as I would like to see more stories in Hellfest.

The House with a Clock in its Walls – REVIEW

I have no idea why I never heard of the book series Eli Roth’s new film is based upon before the movie came out. This would have been right up kid Bob (hell, adult Bob’s) alley. So is this Spielberg produced flick. I loved so much of it. The banter between Jack Black and Cate Blanchett is top notch. Love their chemistry – and I appreciate we can have platonic connection, no forced love story. Kyle McLaughlin as the villain. A sense of the macabre, including BLOOD MAJICK! Fuck yeah. It’s fun 60s kids movie goofy. The downsides are some iffy CGI and the kids arent’ all that good. But there is a lot to love here. Family friendly horror! 

I Kill Giants

Based upon a graphic novel, this flick is an underseen gem. Madison Woolf shines as Barbara, a pre-teen going through some tough times. She has a sick mother, a struggling family and is bullied at school. She acts out by creating an intricate fantasy world on top of her own to keep out the monsters at bay. Through a new friend and a sympathetic counselor, Barbara is able to start to face her issues as they are, rather than as monsters.  Anders Walters performs a balancing act in presenting tougher material with a precocious kid with a big imagination without sliding into schmaltz (looking at you Book of Henry… fuck that movie). Seek this hidden fantasy out.

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