Bob’s 2019 Retrospective (200 Mini Reviews -Part 2: The Pretty Good and the Pretty Bad

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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!

Part 1: The Average

I’ll link here for Part 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.

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.

Without further ado: I present…

The 2 out of 5s: The Pretty Bad. (around 130 to 170ish)

Unicorn Store – Brie Larson’s directorial debut is a twee mess. She drags along her Captain Marvel co-star Samuel L Jackson to force a woman-child to grow up. An annoying moving all around. Review

A Dark Place – Andrew Scott stars as a mentally disabled man trying to solve the mystery of a missing boy. Screams film school final script. 

Perfect – Could be a look at we continually modify yourself to appease everyone else, but this Sterile Sci-fi is so slow and plodding.

Reborn- It has Barbara Crampton! That’s a plus. The rest is a mess of Carrie. 

Miss Bala –  This isn’t my type movie at all so maybe I’m not the best judge. Bad characters, motivations, with no tension and a droll script.

Men in Black International: Painfully unfunny update to the series. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth have good chemistry and it has Rebecca Ferguson. Thosem plus some decent effects (along with so many shit ones) keep from failing completely.

Isn’t It Romantic – I wanted to like this despite my dislike of Rebel Wilson. The director of Final Girls in another genre send up? Sounds good. But the script is just awful. Instead, the jokes consist of Wilson directly stating the cliche they are making fun of. That got grating and the movie never stopped this take. If you have to explain the joke, it doesn’t work. 

Peterloo – Mike Leigh’s look at the events that led up to the 1819 massacre in Manchester, England. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzz

Black Christmas – I feel really bad putting this movie so far down. I love the message. I love the writer/director pair (please watch Always Shine). But the movie itself just fell flat with awful characters that all fell into stereotype on both sides with awful shots, editing, and a third act that just falls apart. Despite all that, go see it. 

The Current War (Director’s Cut) – Hell of a cast, a boring ass slog of a movie. Reading like a Wikipedia article, the story of Edison vs Westinghouse (with some Tesla tossed in – he feels like a late add but he’s part of the real story) should have been much more interesting but I found myself wanting to watch a 10 minute “Drunk History” instead. This melodrama is about two steps away from parody (a few others this year will see this same line, just be warned).

Glass – What a disappointment. After the love I have for Unbreakable and generally digging of Split, Glass was badly written tripe. M Night shows he doesn’t really know about story-telling and comic books despite waxing on both in this and other movies. I don’t think he realizes comics and comic book movies have become huge since Unbreakable. Bruce Willis giving a shit is nice, but the rest is a drawn out, over written let down. McAvoy’s Horde is overused, losing the awesome of the changes in Split and the titular character isn’t around for 30, and doesn’t do a damned thing for 70. The movie does nothing for 130. Review

Aladdin – Disney’s live action update to the 1993 animated film works best when trying to be its own thing (Dahlia!) and not a copy of the original film. It often feels like a stage show you’d see at the park, artificial but not in the good way (for an example of the good way see 1981’s Pirates of Penzance – review for that) or a cosplay recreation. Will Smith does an admirable job making Genie his own. Disney wants to spin off Billy Magnuson’s character. Why? Review

The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot – B-movie title for a not-B-Movie. Sam Elliot is as good as always but the movie itself is a slow moving character piece that thinks it’s more thinkie and character driven than it is. 

The Upside – The remake of France’s 2011 film The Untouchables is another step removed from the real story (the changes are rather insidious if you ask me), and also removes all the charm and charisma. Hart, Cranston, and Kidman all seem like they’re annoyed to be stuck in this flick. I was annoyed to be watching it.

The Prodigy – A creepy kid story with a handful of well-done scare scenes but mostly refuses to let the audience think for themselves or be shocked – such as telling us exactly what is wrong with the kid in the opening sequence. Each time the film could have used its R rating, it holds back. So damned disappointing in this manner. The kid, who played Georgy in IT, does great work though. Review

Noelle- Disney+’s first Original Christmas movie feels like a script stolen from ABC Family’s trash bin. Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Billy Eicher, and a welcome Shirley MacClaine try to bring life but inconsistent characterization and bad jokes just make it all fall flat. 

Lady and the Tramp – And now we come to Disney+’s other launch day movie and it’s not good either (fear not, Mandalorian, Togo, The Imagineering Story, and others make it worth it). Weird to have the best of the Disney Live-Action redos so low. Of the four, I’d not expect this to the best. Lack in energy, though I do like using real dogs – pound dogs too – but way too long for it’s story.

Brightburn – Such a let down. A horror/evil-kid take on Superman is a GREAT idea. But the movie is just awful. There are so many places this could have gone, David and Elizabeth Banks both internally struggling with what’s happening, a good build. But it’s so surface level and on-the-nose, it feels like a big missed opportunity. Some good (CG) gore and the diner killer is very well done. Review

Trespassers (aka Hell is Where the Home Is)- Faituza Balk! Best part of the movie right there. The Strangers with really annoying characters doing really stupid things. 

What Men Want – Exhausts its concept really quickly. Humor is surface level and repetitious. I never saw What Women Want so can’t compare there.

Scary Stories – Not the narrative feature but the documentary about the books. So much filler and shallow look at the controversial book series. 

In the Shadow of the Moon – Boyd Holbrook falls flat on his face and brings down in a concept that would be a good sci-fi novel but is a bad movie. Watch the similar Predestination instead.

Little Monsters – Lupita N’yongo is great as always. The rest? meh. The main protagonist – yes, not Lupita, is a pudgy white man child. Should not have been the lead. Josh Gad has been getting notices for his performance but it’s a joke we’ve seen before.

The Dirt – Netflix’s Motley Crue biopic was a mess, but I think that was the point. As much as a satire of this type of movie as being one. I loved the awful wigs, and wildly inconsistent memories and sheer “fuck it” attitude of the movie. 

Greta – Everyone involved should be better than this. 

Head Count – Would have been a great short. The kills are great and I liked where it went but was a hell of a waste to get there. One brother visits his ne’er do well brother in the desert but soon leaves him to hang out with some college kids. But there seems to be a doppleganger or two hanging out. This was almost one level higher but it takes forever.

Five Feet Apart – Competently made sick-teen flick. Offers nothing new but Haley Lu Richardson’s optimism is enchanting.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot – I really wanted to like this. I make no secret that I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith, warts and all (except Yoga Hosers. That remains one of the worst pieces of shit I’ve ever seen; that movie is PAIN). I talked about Clerks being one of my influential movies on our podcast a few months back. After the break post Clerks II I was interested in seeing how Jay and Silent Bob would translate to the modern cinescape. Not well, sadly. Smith takes on the reboot/remake trend (not really a trend, but people talk about them more now) with essentially a remake of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. But with less plot, more random sequences and a zillion shoved in cameos and meta-jokes. Many of the jokes do land and Smith obviusly loves his fans and characters. But just as many jokes fall flat and somehow the filmmaking has gotten worse. For Smith fans only (I’m one and still disliked it)

Motherless Brooklyn – Edward Norton directs a dull as watching paint dry detective story based upon a novel I’ve not read. The film reads like a pile of cliches and and has an aiming at awards feel. It just doesnt’ work on any level. An easily solved mystery with about 50 minutes of plot for a 2.5 hour long film.

Joker – Yes. I placed this correctly. Both Tony and myself were not on board the hype train on this one. A mishmash of ideas that desperately wanted to be a Scorsese flick but had no idea why his films works as well as they do. The latest film for edgelords to jump on. Review

The 4 out of 5s: The Pretty Goods (40sh to 100ish) Letterboxd

My biggest category by far. I generally like movies and find good things, that and seeking out the better movies – as much as I love dreck.

The Vanishing – This year’s other film about lighthouse keepers going mad. Here Gerald Butler and others fight between themselves when there is gold to be had. Very tense and with great use of atmosphere.

Fast Color – Family drama of three generations of women with superpowers in a world that blames supers on the massive famine. Impeccably acted and written, I recommend with noting to not expect an action packed super-hero flick. Think more Unbreakable in style. Seek it out.

Rolling Thunder Revue – Scorsese’s other film this year is a rambling documentary of Bob Dylan’s massive tour in the mid 70s. Fascinating in comparing the artists and then and now – and the memory difference of 45 years along with the filmed performances of the tour. Review

Ask Dr Ruth – Wonderful documentary on Dr. Ruth (of course), as she looks at her history before her fame, how it has (or hasn’t) affected her and the good she’s done for culture with her work. I can only wish I had that energy when I’m her age. Review

DisneyNature’s Penguins – In the 10 years of Disneynature presenting a new animal documentary on EarthDay, I’m sad to say I’ve only seen three: Monkey Kingdom, African Cats (which I watched a few days after Penguins, expect its own write up soon)  and Penguins. I need to fill in the rest. I always love seeing slices of nature and animal life in any documentary.

Penguins is cute, cute, cute. That is to be expected and a lot of the charm is banking on the cuteness. In the documentary, we see a penguin named Steve as he woos and mates with a female and raises two chicks with her. The writing and narration make Steve out to be a loveable, clutzy, and a little bit of a social outcast. Of course, we’re putting human emotions on a bird, but I’m fine with it. The other entries in the series do as well, and these are made to help children appreciate nature and these added characters help the kids identify with the animals. I’m curious if the Steve and family we see throughout the film are really the same penguins the whole time or if a narrative was made from a handful as they do look alike and Steve doesn’t really have any distinguishing characteristics.

The Antarctic plains are gorgeous to look at with their bright white snowfields, the seas the penguins fish in, and the other animals (and penguins) our hero set come across. Damn, I’m sure I could smell the seals. Whew.

My bone of contention comes from Ed Helms narration. He’s a little all over the place with his tone and delivery. I found it often grating and forced with (okay this isn’t on him) awkward and odd transitions – he’s working a line and the infliction changes with a cut or the subject changes. I fully admit, this happens to me a great deal for my own videos and narrations, but I’m new to editing and working in my movie room when when I have a few minutes, not professional editors. Just feels a little sloppy.

Penguins is just as one expects it to be, and that’s a-okay. It’s cute and fun, even with narration hiccups. 

Charlie Says– Marry Harron of American Psycho takes on another, this time real, American Psycho in Charlie Manson, played by former Doctor Who Matt Smith (making this one of many Charles Manson flicks this year, the 50th anniversary of his acolytes killings). It was as great choice to move the focus from him to the a few of the women in prison to tell the story. Helps to lessen any glorification of him knowing it’s coming from people who adore him instead of a straight forward look. 

The Kid Who Would be King – Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish’s follow up was a re-write away from greatness. Pacing is very off, feels like ramping up for a climax about 1h20 but still has 40 minutes left. But on the plus side Louis Serkis, Andy’s kid, is absolutely fantastic, and there is a solid sense of character and chemistry to push it along. 

Lords of Chaos – Rory Culkin as one of the founders of Norwegian Death metal is wonderful, and the built around his character’s murder (not a spoiler, let’s us know pretty quickly) is very well built as all the pieces come together. 

Happy Death Day 2U – A solid sequel to the surprisingly awesome first film. Moving more into a sci-fi territory saves from too much joke repetition. Jessica Rothe is just as awesome as Tree. She’ll be a star soon. Review

Who Let the Dogs Out – You wouldn’t think a documentary about the authorship of one of the most annoying songs of all time would make a good one, but it does! There is a surprising depth to tracing the history of the song. Every time you think we can’t get any weirder or down to another level it does. 

Luz – What a wonderfully weird what the fuck flick.  I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I know I liked it. In a quick but perfect length 65 minutes, a woman recreates a car accident she was a part of, but there is extra levels between the police, her history, and a demon. You want weird? We got weird. Review

I am Mother. This Netflix original finds a robot  in a cave raising a girl after an apocalypse, telling the girl it’s unlivable outside. You can probably guess the plot points, but that doesn’t mean this Netflix original isn’t a great watch and doesn’t have surprises. Rose Byrne does great voice work as the robot, Hilary Swank is great as the woman from outside who messes up the system, but the star shine comes from Clara Rugard as the Daughter. Tense as hell with strong writing. Review

Frye & Fyre Fraud It’s hard to separate out this set so just grouping as one as together they tell the full story (or as close as one can). Together they tell the story of Billy Macfarland and his co-conspirators, followers, and people wrapped up in the glam as they get in way over the their heads failing at ever step in creating a glammed up vapid-fest. It is easy to get schadenfreude over rich kids getting ripped off but both – especially the Netflix version – show the effect on the island itself and how others got screwed by these idiots. Both are fascinating looks at the festival – I prefer the Netflix one as it shows the wider range and does a better job at building the blocks to how it got there. I felt if I watched Hulu’s first, I may have been a little lost for the overall story. Hulu’s does have Billy on camera and damn if he’s not interesting to watch flounder.

Relaxer- What a wonderfully odd film. A guy with some sort of obvious mental issue takes a series of inane bets with an abusive brother, usually based around a video game score and not leaving the couch. On Dec 31, 1999 he takes one to beat the Pac-Man record set by Billy Mitchell (of King of Kong). At first we see his attempts to eat, drink and relieve himself while doing this… then things get really weird. It’s one of those movies where time and place slowly start to exist in liminal space instead and it’s delightful. 

The Breaker Uppers – This Kiwi comedy is one of the funniest films of the year. Two women disenchanted by love run a service where they break up with people for the other partner in fun and interesting ways. But as is often the case for films, one is ready to move on and the other is stuck in the groove. Lots of humor from their sharp dialogue and the situations, and lots of heart as their characters grow and evaluate their lives. Charming and hilarious, I highly recommend.

Confessions with the Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Focusing on the tapes in the title is a bit of a misnomer as they factor in occasionally to give insight. A fascinating, tell all documentary of Ted Bundy. In no way does it try to make him a folk hero or exonerate him from his crimes but it does do well to get into his mind. A must for all true crime fans.

Phantom Mary – Written and Directed by my friend and Seattle University Film studies classmate Nello DeAngelis, But that isn’t why I like this thoughtful look at immortality with consequences. Mixing vampire and angel mythos in a creative way, Phantom Mary looks at an ageless angel who’s tenure on earth has forced vampirism on her. After she passes it on to a listless ne’er-do-well, they both have to face their lives, as they were, and how to move forward. 

The Addams Family – The new animated take on the classic macabre family is a loving tribute to the previous iterations and a good push for them in the modern era. A ton of a clever gags fill three sitcom plots. Those involved know and love the material and it shows through. However, the animation is lackluster and the story is rather slapdash but still a snap snap-y good time. Review

Arctic – The better, much better, Mads Mikkleson cold-titled movie. He’s a survivor of a crash stuck on his own in the middle of the frozen tundra. His fight to survive is kicked into higher gear when he has to keep alive a comatose pilot. This survival story is harrowing and hauntingly lonely, is not a little stretched with suspension of belief and length. 

Escape Room – The first release of the year, both horror and otherwise, was a surprise. Escape Room could have easily been a cheapie throwaway, but there is care here. The characters are distinct with just enough backstory to make us care – and now want them to die immediately.Just enough, as character isn’t why we watch a film like this. The escape rooms are very well designed, have their narrative of the puzzle with the minimum of cheating. The rooms are the star, my favorite being the upside-down bar room.  Yes, there is a Saw feeling here, but a nice saw. It’s a refreshing change to see everyone working together instead of incessant bickering. It’s solid work. Review

Countdown – Yes. I placed this correctly. Final Destination as an App (similar to last year’s Truth or Dare being Final Destination with a game). Silly, light, but a good time. A popular app tells you when you’ll die. Seems fun until it comes true. Yeah, dumb concept but a well-done enough execution. Eschews the stereotype group of friends for a nurse, her sister, and a dude also cursed she comes across. This gives a different character dynamic and I liked that, although even with those changes one can guess how it plays out beat by beat. The scare sequences were also rote, but yet I dug them. There is a skill there. This is the writer-director Justin Dec’s first feature and I look forward at what can do in the future. The creature design was nice and there a low-level meanness to it. Not many moments of humor outside of one particular character. I’ll admit it, one jump scare actually hit well. Review

Good Boys – I wasn’t wowed by the trailers focus on “hey, kids swearing, talking about sex and drugs!” as that’s over done; but the movie won me over pretty easily. Much of the humor is that, and just as expected, but there is a surprisingly sweet character piece built in of 3 kids at a crossroads of their adolescence and how they approach these changes. This gives a good heart to the debauchery. That debauchery has some well-written and performed jokes and a great escalation of many of these jokes and ideas. Each of the three main kids has fantastic comedic timing and great chemistry with each other.

Starfish – An quiet, lonely take on an apocalypse. Introspective but still with monsters! Virginia Gardner does a hell of a job being alone most of the movie, playing off of both live radio and recorded voices. I loved piecing the bigger story together. Might be a good double feature with Freaks (see a later post) Review

Deep Murder – This dropped on shudder recently and could have been the dumbest waste of 85 minutes, but I had a blast. If you dig Adult Swim style humor and messing with genres, this will work for you. A softcore porn from Cinemax in the 90s is invaded by a slasher, throwing off the character’s basic tendencies and expectations. I’m glad it stopped the direct style parody after 10 minutes, but it kept the joke that the porn is still trying to go on with the stereotypes and expectancy in the genre and the characters trying to work out the mystery and survive with the basic-knowledge set they have from their purposely thinly sketched characters. For many, the concept may grow thin, but for me it worked.

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience- This Lonely Island short film is hilarious through and through, looking at the rivalry between Mark McQuire and Jose Conseco in the 1980s. Clever songs with smart and snappy lyrics in a variety of styles performed perfectly with a great look and a zillion other gags.

Piercing – A man has an unrelenting urge to murder, so his wife lets him pick up a sex worker to kill her. Of course, things don’t go to plan as they lock themselves into a hotel room. This fucked up parable is as gleefully twisted as you’d expect from the director of The Eyes of My Mother (his next film is 2020’s The Grudge reboot), based from a novel by the writer of Audition. Yes. That’s how fucked this is. And it stars Mia Wasikowska. 

Under the Silver lake – Fucked up in slightly different way, this Lynchian neo-noir is often infuriating with it’s narrative cul-de-sacs and rambling incoherence. But is also brilliant and breathtaking. While I was watching I couldn’t decide whether I loved it or hated it. But when making my filmed review, I worked out that his worked for me. But I can see if others despised it. Review

Get My Gun – Fantastic acting from the lead and went a different direction than expected. My only issue is the opening and credits said “grindhouse” but the movie itself wasn’t in the mode. Review

Family – I came into this flick with no expectations and no knowledge. But I found a loving look at two family outcasts with all sorts of issues connecting and trying to make it work. An overworked, pain in the ass crass aunt is forced to watch her awkward niece over a week. Both forced out of their comfort zone leads to humor and character. I laughed very often and very hard as they navigated each other and the world; and i may have teared up a bit. Seek it out.

I Trapped The Devil – Though it wasn’t quite what I expected, it was brooding and well acted – a taut, small indie film driven by three strong performances. I’m a sucker for a handful of people in a single location and it did it well. Review

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase – Sofia Lillis has an infectious energy which carries this light, but fun pre-teen mystery smartly updating the long running series. 

Dora and the Lost City of Gold –  I’ve never see the show but the trailers were charming enough. As was the movie. Mainly thanks to the infectious energy (yes, I used this same phrase above) of Isabela Moner as Dora. Her wide-eyed optimism is so fun. There’s some genuinely funny parts as well. But it is a very small adventure – there aren’t any large set-pieces you’d expect from a movie like this, it’s one step above a made-for-tv. Outside of Dora the other kids are just so lacking of energy and are rather flat and bad. Lead adult Eugenio Derbez is fun, and Michael Pena and Temeura Morrison do what they can for the limited time they are given. Despite my writing above, I still gave this a 4 as months after writing that, I remember it well enough.

The Hole in the Ground – Gorgeous folk horror of changelings and parent child relationships. I don’t want to spoil anything in going forward but this was a fantastic film. Seana Kerslake gives and A+ performance as a woman restarting her life and having to deal with whatever is happening with her son. Very Babadook

Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster Frankenstein – This is technically a short, but eh, whatever. David Harbor plays a version of himself, his father, and his grandfather as he presents a history of his father’s Masterpiece Theater type adaptation of Frankenstein. A hilarious take on the creative process, clashing egos, & filmed live theater with all of its errors, awkward sounds and pauses and everything. Laughed hard and often. Recommended. Review

Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire – The final entry in the shudder Exclusive series is a great conclusion to this made-for-a-buck but innovative and decently spooky series. After the more meh-second entry this brings in a new plot to keep from being repetitive and offers new surprises and characters. Good job taking in the whole series and giving it a new point of view. Review

The Isle – 3 shipwrecked men end up on a nearly deserted island, with only 2 older men and a handful of odd women. Wonderful atmosphere and great character. Big folk horror vibe. Review

Furie – This Vietnamese action film is one of the best of the year. A former mob enforcer’s daughter gets kidnapped and she goes on a rampage across everyone in her way. So many great hand-to-hand action beats and a furious (of course) performance drive the movie.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu – This could have been awful (if you ask Cody, it is), but a fine kids noir flick that’s very funny to boot. The mystery may be easy to solve, but it does of not being too dense in Pokemon to keep out those of us who know little of the franchise (like myself). And it has Bill Nighy! Review

Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw – Just as advertised, a butt ton of dumb fun with a wink and charisma. Would you believe my wife and I both laughed a cock joke we didn’t see coming though it seems really obvious in hindsight. And it has my boyfriend Idris Elba as the villian .The movie knows exactly what it is, just as the main series has done over time, and that allows it to play to its strengths and deliver. 

Captain Marvel – Brie Larson is great as the semi-amnesiac Carol Danvers and has great report with the de-aged Nick Fury. Though the action sequences are kinda standard, everything around them comes together – Ben Menndelson as the Skrull leader! I loved what they did with the Skrulls in making a story that reflects to current social issues. Review

Under the Silver Lake- Is it possible to love and hate a movie at the same time? David Michell’s follow up to It Follows is a shaggy-dog of a LA-Neo-noir; pulling as much influlence from David Lynch as it does Coens. Many narrative and character cul-de-sacs, many non-sequiters of scenes, and a turn into the ultra odd. But despite it’s mess, I was wholly interested the full overlong run time. My impression at finishing was “what was that… i need to see that again.” Review

Jumanji: The Next Level – Not quite as good as the surprise hit from two years ago, but a solid action-adventure with a ton of game big name actors that bring so much fun in playing against type in new players for the avatars. Some of the jokes wear thin after several repetitions but Kevin Hart as Danny Glover brings laughs every time. Great use of video game logic and more real game type puzzles (last time was more D&D). A surprise actress to the mix is great in her imitation.Lots of fun and heart. 

Alita: Battle Angel The long gestating project for writer-producer James Cameron is a mixed bag.Visually, it’s amazing. The mixture of CG and practical is top notch with only a handful of issues with the CG. The action sequences – both battles and MotorBall are thrilling and well-designed. The story is not complete though, saving important details until a possibly never to happen sequel.  Review

Shazam! – DC’s latest is a total blast. Sure, it’s badguy end is a bit lacking (not Marc Strong’s fault, putting him in there gave something to work with), but origins stories mostly focus on the hero anywhere and thre is so much fun in watching Billy Batson and friend Eddie from IT learn how the Shazam powers work and coming to terms with how to use them. The climax pure unbridled fun and the deconstruction nature of the film works in its favor.

Braid – Another few people in a single location with fucked up things happening.. Looks at destructive cycles when two women in need come visit their eccentric rich friend knowing she makes them play childish games to get what they want. There is more to see here in what is true, what is a game, and how much everyone knows about what’s happening. Kept me on edge for the run time. 

Annabelle Comes Home – More of a carnival ride than a film but a helluva entertaining one. When the Warrens leave for an investigation, their daughter’s babysitter’s friend comes over and opens Annabelle’s case and releases a half-dozen demons and ghosts into the house. Each wreak havoc scaring the girls (and a boy across the street) in a a series of effective and well-designed scares. Good atmosphere and as much good character work as can be done with the concept. Review

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – the first direct sequel, after 2 side-quels in 2017, to the surprise critical and commercial hit of 2014 is nearly as good as its predecessor. Keeping the sense of fun, well-written humor, and great designs of the first, and adding several great songs and new cast members with Tiffany Haddish and Stephanie Beatriz; Lego 2 is a damned solid family-film. It’s not as good, there are some story elements that are confused and forced, but these are not enough to derail the film at all. Single Review. Review of all 4 LEGO films.

Missing Link –  Laika is one of the best films studios out there, with each film presenting exteme creativity in story-telling, both in the story itself and the manner being told (my favorite: stop-motion!). Missing Link is the weakest but still a blast, hilarious and entertaining as all hell. It’s too bad this failed at the box office, but it came out amid multiple Yeti flicks. That’s not Missing Links’ fault.

Animas – You can watch this Spanish/Belgian horror flick on Netflix and I highly suggest you do. A boy and a girl have been friend’s since childhood and as they grow into their late teens aspects of their lives threaten to tear them apart. But not in ways you’d expect. Filled with references to other horror films – but not in the elbowing you in the ribs type – such as the bathroom from the Shining just being one of theirs – and a solid grasp on storytelling makes this a favorite small release of the year. Review

Fighting With My Family – this is one I did not expect to love in anyway. While I used to watch wrestling in my youth, I’ve not followed WWE in ages. The whole thing seemed to be the standard underdog sports story – not a genre I dig. But reviews were very positive and I love Florence Pugh, one of the best up and coming actresses, in Midsommar and Lady Macbeth. Plus, Lena Headey and Nick Frost? Sure. Despite the expected flow of the story, the script and direction by Stephen Merchant is sharp and funny. There is a lot of love put in, leading to a thoroughly entertaining biopic.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The excellent Dreamworks trilogy closes out with another excellent story of personal growth and understanding yourself to become a great leader, or just a great person. There is some plot repetition from the last film, although the bad guy is about as oppose as the last, but it’s only a minor dig in otherwise great flick. The animation is breathtaking and the strong bond of Toothless and Hiccup is one of the ages. I cried buckets. I admit it. Review

Ford V Ferrari – Like Fighting with My Family, vroom vroom movies aren’t my cup of tea either. But we’re reading the top of my list and it’s highly placed. James Mangold of The Wolverine, Logan, and Walk the Line, brings an experts hand in creating a expertly-constructed film. The shot choice, and editing did a hell of a job to create an interesting look to the film. It’s beautiful. Bring in Matt Damon and Christian Bale working at the top of their game, and you’ll not even realize until it’s over how little you really get either of them. Character development is barely in the film, but it moves with such solid pacing along with edge of your seat races it’s barely noticeable. 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Get upset in 2014 that Godzilla didn’t have enough monster action? Well shut your mouth, because the sequel has that in spades. Four major kaiju and 12 other minor ones battle all over the world in over the top action sequences. Michael Daughtery gives easy to follow, full view monster battles to appease anyone coming in for just that. The human story isn’t bad, but there are maybe 2 or 3 too many humans and a few too many plot points. Review

Knife + Heart. This French film will stab right into any giallo lover’s heart. The film functions as a love letter to the Italian psycho sexual mystery slashers and to the grimy grindhouse of the 70s. A director of gay porn and her cast and crew are targeted by a killer using a knife-dildo. For fans of giallo and weird flicks, this is for you. Not a review, but watch a couple of giallos with us and a bottle of J&B on November’s Podcast.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: Gonna keep it short here (long review link). The last of the Skywalker Saga is a good Star Wars film, with great action and iconic characters and worthy of the moniker. But it also overstuffed and blasts from scene to scene moment to moment in a very jarring fashion. Review

And that’s it for part 2! Check back for Part 3!

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