Bob's 2019 Retrospective (200 Mini Reviews -Part 1: The Merely Average

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Happy New Year fellow geeks!

Introduction (repeated on all parts)

I can’t believe another year has passed!

I watch a lot of movies. This year I banked just around 210 2019 films. If you count, you’ll see this list is little shorter than that. I removed festival films that will be wide released in 2020 and those I watched for Crypticon Film Festival that haven’t received distribution. (hey, go to Crypticon!)

And because I love you all (except for one of you… you know who you are), I went through all all of those movies and wrote up a short statement for EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Some of the statements are direct copies from my 100 Days of Horror notes or from the Short Review section (I’ll get that going again next week). If I did a review for anything, it’ll be linked here too.

There are still many I want and need to see, as I watch them over coming years, I’ll update and leave a note for them.

Curious of 2018? Did the same write-ups then too!

Want more thoughts from the rest of the crew? Our year-end podcast!

I’ll link here for Parts 2 and 3 when up! And TV series will follow.

How I did it

At the end of the year I took all those movies and separated out into a 1 through 5 ranking overall. Hard picks to do – five seems right, but often a 3 can be a bad movie with just enough good to push up, or a good feature with some issues. Thus, the little write up. Sometimes they may be wildly different than my “just saw it” review in looking back in comparison to what came after or just revisiting later.

Without further ado: I present…

The 3 out of 5s: The Average-ish flicks.

Also see this list sans review on Letterboxd. It is in order but as we have wildly different genres, I’ll admit may be different if I ranked them tomorrow. This list is worst to best. It is not numbered as easier when I do updates, but we’re generally around 90 to around 130 or so, depending on what gets added over time.

Little – A slightly different take on a body swap comedy has a couple great moments but usually doesn’t work. Young producer of the film (it was apparently her story idea too) Marsai Martin, who is great on Black-ish, is just awful. I’m sorry but she is

The Convent – This nunspoitation almost works but just doesn’t come together. See The Nun or St Agatha for a better one.

Eat Local – The feature from this year’s BoneBat Comedy of Horrors (hey go to 2020’s – 11 hours of horror-comedy shorts and features – linkie!) is often groan inducing. Sorry Steve and Gord, I love you but I didn’t love this movie. It feels like they were aiming at comedy but it all falls flat with a messy story and characters. 

Pledge –  Want to meet the most annoying characters in a movie this year? You got them right here. A couple of nerds pledge a frat but end up in a bigger, bloodier hazing ritual than the expected. Well shot and filmed. I liked it enough when I saw it in January (review here) but it kinda slid away with time. REVIEW

He’s Out There – Mostly standard home invasion. There are a few decent twists but as normal, so many stupid actions done to keep the plot going. Decent enough for a single view if it’s your thing.

It Chapter 2 – After the tons of love I have on the first chapter of the Stephen King adaptation, It Chapter 2 was a huge let down. In the adult end of the tale, the actors are mostly as good as the kids from two years ago, and it’s better than the TV version but it also leans too heavily on the “hey you liked this last time!” scares and is far too long. A solid 45 minutes could have been cut and nothing lost. REVIEW

AMI – Had its moments and ideas but don’’ really pan out

The Highwaymen – Wastes two great performers in a different look at Bonnie and Clyde, this time from the guys hunting them. Turns out two police officers are far less interesting than bandits. Untouchables this is not.

The Beach Bum – It may be the point for Harmony Korine’s film to meander; and for the audience to be continually annoyed at Moondog’s (Matthew McConaughey) actions. He’s essentially Hunter S Thompson without wit.  Do enjoy as a condemation of the shiftless rich.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile – Zach Efron is very good as Ted Bundy in this “greatest hits of the Bundy story” nailing his cocky bravado and evil charm. Maybe I shouldn’t have watched it right after Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, but if I hadn’t I might have been rather confused as the movie barrels through Bundy’s story. Originally set to look at the killer from the eyes of his longtime girlfriend, that aspect gets lost pretty quickly and it’s a shame. But fuck yes John Malcovich.

Bloodline – Good to see Sean William Scott in a serious role, and I always love seeing Dale Dickey! Scott plays a high school councilor with a new baby in the house, and the urge to kill at all times. A very bloody but repetitious film.

Mercy Black –  A take on the Slender Man attempted murder (what if one of the girls comes home 15 years later… and the monster may be real) has a good look and solid performances but a tepid script and slow story. But a zillion times better than Slender Man.

Cold Pursuit – This year’s Liam Neeson killing people who wronged his family can’t decide if it’s a drama or a dark-comedy leading to tonal whiplash and an underwhelming film. 

Harriet – Cynthia Ervio is astounding as Harriet Tubman, the rest is barely above a made-for-TV movie. At least this allows to avoid the rape and bloody-beating cliches and focus on a different set. Outside of Harriet herself, much of the movie is a twist of history inventing heroes and villains out of whole cloth, and changing key aspects including her seizure – I really don’t like them becoming direct premonitions. PS the music never fits and is damned awful at times. 

See You Yesterday – I wanted to like this more than I did. A young girl discovers time travel and tries to use it to keep the police from murdering her brother. A solid concept with timely messages; but it’s also one with very annoying characters who make one dumb decision after the other. When the audience is screaming a bunch of alternative ways to get a better result, it shows a weakness of script.

The Kid – Vincent d’Orofrio directs Billy the Kid vs Pat Garrett through the eyes of a frontier kid caught between them. Good performances lead an alright film that doesn’t feel anything different than any other newer western.

3 From Hell – Rob Zombie returns to the Firefly clan in a follow up to Devil’s Rejects that is just as much a cheaper remake of that film once the first hour’s overly long prison escape finishes. Sad to see SIg Haig in such a state just before his death this year; but seeing Bill Mosely and Sheri Moon again is a joy – and she’s actually really good! Big notes to Richard Blake in a role obviously meant to be Sid Haig in making it his own. Review

Deadtectives – A truly awful, grating and annoying opening 45 minutes balance a hilarious and wonderful back half, thus landing this horror-comedy in the middle on the list. There is a particualr moment half-way through where the humor they’ve been going is now able to work. Too bad gotta sit the first half. Review

Party Hard, Die Young – Pretty standard slasher. Review

Ad Astra – The Heart of Darkness in space with more daddy issues. It’s a beautiful film and I can appreciate a slow burn, but dammit this is just a slog of dullness. 

Smoke and Mirrors: The Tom Savini Story – A wank fest to Tom Savini. A good reason too as he is one of the best and it’s great to see the creation of many of the effects he’s known for – the slide show of making Creepshow’s Fluffy was a highlight. But it’s also putting him on a giant pedestal and doesn’t try to hide it. The random multiple minute highlight reels with repeated effects was odd. Really more of a special feature on a disc than a movie, but it’s on Shudder so the people who do watch the special features on Shout Factory discs also have Shudder so it’s the same in the end. Plus, I gotta give love to anything that shows how awesome practical effects are. This alone makes it worth i your time if you like effects. 

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – In both this and Ad Astra, Brad Pitt is wonderful. He’s the best part of QT’s latest mess. What the hell happened to him? (Sally Menke died is what happened) Since Django Unchained, Tarantino has become more and more shaggy and loose with his stories. His loveletter to 60’s Hollywood is languidly paced and filled with such excess and reference it’s annoying. Not to mention doubling down on the criticism against him – unneeded violence against women, the feet, etc.  But I will say – the scene of Pitt at the Spano ranch is one of the tensest of the year. So you got that.

MA – Octavia Spenser really gives her all in a film that wastes her and its premise. Lean into the exploitation that sits right there! The film keeps pulling back it’s punches and weakens itself.

Always Be My Maybe – Solid romantic comedy that almost succeeds by subverting many of the tropes. Almost. So much is the standard, but flashes of humor and brilliance – looking at you Keanu Reeves!

Room to Rent – I’ll watch anything with Lin Shaye. My horror gramma (Carrie Fisher IS space gramma – and kick ass General, and the real hero of all of Star Wars). Well Shaye plays a lonely, unhinged woman who lost her husband recently. With no money, she rents her extra rooms to some young people and starts to get too involved in their lives and her lies. In many ways it feels cheap, but Shaye is great and its creepy enough.REVIEW

47 Meters Down: Uncaged – Even cheaper looking sequel to the cheap but actually pretty good shark movie from a few summers back. Enjoyable as purely popcorn entertainment but is brought down by very murky cinematography and interchangeable characters – so interchangeable that they wear the same outfit (all in black wetsuits) I had no idea who was talking at any particular part. Wastes a neat location (sunken temple), but does have a few good sequences, including the rather tense climax. Review

Itsy Bitsy – Spider-movie with Bruce Davidson in a side role. Like Lin Shaye above, I’ll watch movies for him. He hires a housekeeper/nurse and she and her kids move to his estate at the same time a vengeful brother-in-law delivers a spider-god to destroy him. Big props to using a practical spider.

In the Tall Grass- A good one-time watch. King and Hill mix Children of the Corn and Triange .Love me some Patrick Wilson. A bit repetitive and draggy in the first half. Great look and has it’s moments. Cut 20ish minutes and a much stronger film. Review

Hail, Satan? – This documentary about The Satanic Temple is a bit self-congratulatory and often serves as a PR piece for the organization. I do like the organization as they fight for religious freedoms and it is great to see their victories despite the bull-headed detractors who wont’ listen to what the Temple is trying to say. But I wish the feature’s scope was a little bigger.

Pet Semetary – The new adaptation of one of Stephen King’s best and most gut-wrenching novel tries hard to not just copy the 1989 Mary Lambert version, and ultimately comes out a fine-enough mixed bag. Some good ideas to change it up by killing Ellie instead of Gage aren’t explored as well as could be and the end undoes the themes of the book and film. Review

Rust Creek – Sawyer is a college student who just scored a great interview in DC. Too bad she must drive through West Virginia to get there. Since this is a movie, driving through WV will lead to trouble. The trouble is a set of meth dealers who first try to kidnap, then kill the young woman when she fights back from their violence. Thus, begins a cat-and-mouse game of her the hillbillies.

But don’t go yet! I know, I know, you’ve seen that set up done before, in Wrong Turn, Carnage Park, and countless other films. Rust Creek uses the familiar set up to move into another sort of familiar story – the small down sheriff run drug operation that goes to shit story. I’m of two minds. I appreciate this not being a “woman in peril” movie for the full run time, the second part of the story pushes Sawyer into the background for a story of men. The actual meth maker rescues and befriends her – keeping the violent men of the operation at bay. This allows Sawyer to take the time to sit back and smell the roses in between meth cooks, for we are told she’s busy busy busy all the time.

Rust Creek is a good enough film, moving through with ease due to solid performances for stock characters in a mixture of two standard plots. It doesn’t really ramp up into something bigger in either set-up. You wont’ feel strong emotion, but neither will you be bored.

St Agatha – Darren Lynn Boseman’s convent with a dark secret flick is his best movie since Saw II. The 50s look is nice but feels incredibly digital if that make any sense but it works. The twists and turns of the story are pretty easy to see coming but I enjoyed watching it unfold. A wonderful mean streak throughtout.

Bombshell – I have very mixed feelings about Jay Roach’s take on the dozens of women who came out about Roger Ailes in 2016. It’s an important film to talk of the shit women go through in workplaces, particularly ones as toxic as Fox News is likely to be. And to note even if you willingly work for an evil empire and agree with their rhetoric, you don’t deserve to be sexually harassed. But the telling of the story is very loose, all over the place and in thinking about it later, bombshell may thrwow more women under the bus than men, coming near close to victim blaming. The lead women and John Lithgow are all great, but I can’t decide if its’ good or bad the movie steers away from how awful they are as people. 

Wine Country – Many many many large laughs come from the results of getting Amy Poeler, Maya Rudloph, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteryer and a bunch of other comedians together in the Napa Valley for a weekend of drinking to celebrate Rudolph’s character’s 50th birthday. A very funny movie that loses momentum when it remembers it has a plot and moves into that mode for a little while in between funny but obviously-improvised jokes.

The Body at Brighton Rock –  A really well done nearly single location flick – an inexperienced young ranger has to spend the night lost on a mountain with a dead body. A bear may be around. Very good performance for a woman stuck alone, mostly – and straight up thrilling and surprising. Review

Hotel Mumbai – Effective and thrilling true life story of the terrorist attacks in India. Everyone gets their moment to shine.

Frozen II – Very lesser sequel to the darned-good but overhyped animated flick. An absolute mess of a plot – I have QUESTIONS – mostly forgettable songs, and forced character bits lead to an underwhelming film. The animation is breathtaking though.

A Blue Bird in My Heart – Despite being on Shudder, this isn’t a horror film, but a drama of a man coming out of prison to rebuild his life. He makes a connection with woman who runs the motel where he lives and her daughter. Great character work works well with the escalating outside forces that make him have to make tough decisions.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – One of my most looked forward to films of the summer ultimately turned into a mixed bag. While the larger story was compelling and different with amazing atmosphere, it took time away from the stories we all came for. It was a wonder to see them brought to life, but in many ways feel like an afterthought to the non-adaptation part. Will serve as a great gateway to younger fans to the genre. Review.

The Souvenir – Sterile drama that plods along feeling very self-important. I don’t see why this is one of highest rated movies of the year.

What Keeps You Alive – I loved the twists and turns this takes. Two women celebrate their anniversary in a cabin owned by one of their families. But the neighbors come by and call the owner by a different name, this begins to unravel their idyll. Goes different places than expected and changes genres and I loved that. Plus, as I said several times elsewhere and will again – I automatically give points to a few people in a single location.

The Irishman – Welcome back Joe Pesci. His ice-cold boss was the best part of Scorcese’s newest gangster epic. Tony said to me it feels like a more mature Goodfellas and I can see that. I’m not one who lumps all of Scorcese films together as the same, but this does feel like so many of his other films. I enjoyed it well enough and was pulled into Robert DeNiro’s tale, but it’s length and familiarity kept The Irishman from soaring. The much talked a bout de-aging effects were usually well done but there were times where it looked very uncanny valley, especially at Young DeNire. We know what DeNiro looked like at that age, and that’s not it. He looks 50, and they’re calling him Kid. Weird. 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood- A good enough melodrama with Fred Rogers dropped in. Tom Hanks is wonderful as Rogers, channeling Roger’s innate and infectious goodness. Rogers was one of the most good people to every get in front of the camera, Hanks radiates that honest goodness. The film loses spark whenever he’s not on screen.

That’s it for Part 1! Follow right into Part 2! Share! Let me know why I’m wrong putting The Irishman down this far!

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