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

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

Hey, I promised you a review back in November and never did one. Sorry. I tried, but it was just a rant on how much this film let me down and how much of a goddamned mess it is. One of my coworkers asked me to describe the plot. After a few minutes I was able to come down to: Credence is still alive, some how despite dying clearly last time. He and some people (including a human and good Nagini… eeerrrm) are looking for his parents. Grindelwald (still Johnny Depp instead of Colin Farrell, doubling down on that groaner Scooby Doo “it was ol’ Mister Johnson! reveal) and a bunch of people are looking for Creedence. Newt, and some aurors (including doomed exposition machine Zoe Kravitz) are looking for Grindlewald. Every last one them, all three groups, are bad at what they are trying to do. Too many characters, too many extra shit we dind’t need (Kelpie scene anyone?). It’s a bunch of B-plots with no focus. Half of them, characters, plots, scenes, choose one, could be cut in half and nothing would be lost. JK Rowling has gone George Lucas. I cannot believe she wrote this shit. She needs this taken away from her. I shake my head because I know I’ll see the next three…. THREE.. Of these.

Field Guide to Evil

A series of shorts, from different regions and countries, based around a little known legend or cryptoid of that area. Sounds awesome, right?  Sadly, in actuality none of the shorts hit well with me. Many ended just as about to get good, set up without a true payoff. I don’t’ remember any of the segments I saw six months ago.  

First Purge

Confusing title aside (“First Purge… no, not the Ethan Hawke one, the latest one. No not the TV show) is more of the same. The first first Purge had a good idea and poor execution, and I enjoyed the other two. I do have my issues with the idea everyone just wants to commit crime but only law keeps it from happening. Putting that aside, this one brings nothing new to the formula except that it’s the first – woop de do- and only on Staten Island. We get even less subtlety from a series with not a lot to start with. I’ve heard the TV show is good though.

The Grinch – REVIEW

The third version of the Dr. Seuss classic is easily the worst of them. Yes, including the Ron Howard/Jim Carrey film. That one had a vision, as weird and twisted as it may be. This new film, with Benedict Cumberbatch dulling voicing the Mean One, is unassuming and inoffensive. It just exists. Grinch is even some sort of likale from the start, just grumpy. Very different from the point here. Kenan Thompson stole the show though. See Cody and I’s review here.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (Review in January Short Takes)

Based upon the short story from my favorite author, Neil Gaiman. Written and directed by Hedwig’s John Cameron Mitchell. Featuring Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Ruth Wilson. How the hell did this go wrong? Aiming at weird without a solid footage to build from. Loose and too long, meanders with a really odd directing style from Mitchell, it has moments but doens’t come together.

Insidious: The Last Key – REVIEW

Another lost opportunity. I’m a big ghost person. Kim is too. We’re both members of AGHOST, a paranormal investigation group. No, we don’t expect things to match what happens in real life. But there one thing that is big in the paranormal world: prisons are hotbeds for paranormal activity. So when this second Insidious prequel gives us a prison and not having it be part of the story – it’s a huge aaaaarrrggghhh. No. Don’t stay in the house. GO TO THE PRISON. Much more visually interesting and new a story than the same one we’ve seen. Ahem. Yes. Lin Shaye, my horror gramma, is amazing as she always is. I love her. Specs and the other assitstant have grown more annoying in each film, here so much more so. Narrative is a mess and has little scare sequences. Just stick to the first. 

Legacy of Whitetail Deer Hunter

I love Jody Hill’s work. Crude, with examinations of immature and fucked up people who may, but not always actually do it, have some growing up or changing to do. Observe and Report is a masterpiece. I started watching Eastbound and Down this year and can’t wait to watch the rest. This film, led by Josh Brolin, is unlike his other work – outside Danny McBride’s character. That’s fine. One can change, but by stripping away his standard type, we’re left with a deflated energy. It feels like he started with that type, and then paired back for more mass audience. The bite is gone.

The Long Dumb Road

While the film itself is lacking, let me say Tony Revolori and Jason Mantzoukas are great leads, although Jason is best in short doses and there is a LOT of him here playing the character he often plays. Outside of their chemistry and energy, this is pure standard coming-of-age road movie. All the beats are hit just the way you’d expect them to go. Yes, many films are formula and it’s how use the formula (cue Sam Elliot on the 12 notes in Star is Born), but it’s just glaring and so damned rote. I wish I could get these two in a better film.

Malevolent

Think The Frighteners but stupid.  A real psychic works with her skeezy brother to defraud people of clearing haunted houses for money. Too bad they end up in a super haunted house with a dark secret is more than they bargained for. This is slower than it should be, with many many pointless scare scenes and an awful truth-reveal that makes no sense with the whys of the set up.

Manos 2

Okay, this one is hard to rate. It’s purposefully replicating one of the worst movies of all time, with Jackie Raye Newman Jones involved. Jackie played Little Debbie in the first movie and is a lovely woman I’ve met on many occasions – enjoy drinking with her and her husband at the Cyrpticon afterparties. Even with aiming at a bad movie, I thought it feel through. There is a lot of leaning into “you know this!”. There was an opportunity to get it to another level of B-movie. Just some sort of energy was missing to get it where it would hold up.

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