Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 movies

And it's also THAT time of the year, when I post a recap of all the movies I've watched over the past 365 days.
71 this year, which is about normal.  Enjoy!

Movies seen in 2018:

1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – it’s a good thing Ron’s wand broke, eh? Also, Voldemort has a habit of using people against their wills. Interesting. Also also, for a giant creature that can kill people simply by looking at them, the basilisk is pretty crap at killing people.

2. Wonder Woman - cool.

3. Jeepers Creepers 3 – this was pretty dumb. Not that the first two were masterpieces or anything, but this just felt amateurish and stupid.

4. 77 Minutes – a documentary about a mass shooting that took place in 1984 in San Ysidor, California. This focused on the victims and aftermath, the filmmaker didn’t name the shooter and really went in depth on how this tragedy affected those who had to go through the ordeal. The actual crime scene video was really rough to watch. This was the worst mass shooting at the time, it’s now ranked the 7th. (The film is only two years old, and it had a slate that read that it was the 5th. I’m writing this pretty early in 2018, I sadly wouldn’t be surprised if it gets moved down again by the time I post it at year’s end.)

5. Star Wars episode IV A New Hope – charming.

6. Star Wars episode V The Empire Strikes Back – Trickster Yoda is still one of the best things about this series.

7. Star Wars episode VI Return of the Jedi – “From a certain point of view” MWAHAHAHA oh, Ben, you lying bastard.

8. Star Wars episode VIII The Last Jedi – awesome, if a little bit long. Absolutely a great passing of the torch. Bring on episode 9!

9. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – this…hasn’t aged all that well, sadly. I know it’s meant to be a mindless actiony fun movie, and there are bits of it that still work, but the whole thing looked a lot like the Jungle Cruise from Disneyland. Even the bits that were ‘cool’ when I watched as a young’un were …less so now. The boulder scene, the shooting of the sword fighter, the iconic shot at the end …all seemed …larger than life back in the day. This viewing had a lot of the tarnish rubbed off. Even the music, as great as it is, felt subdued somehow. As averse as I am to remakes, perhaps this series needs one.

10. Kingsmen The Golden Circle – slightly more over the top than the original, slightly less entertaining overall (but just slightly). It felt a little bit bloated, like they had to squeeze EVERYTHING in. Still fun

11. Despicable Me 3 – for the most part completely mediocre and forgettable. There was a bit that pissed me off, though. The mom (I forget the character’s name now; Judy, maybe?) forcing the girl (Margo?) to have a date with the boy. Totally totally uncool. Margo repeatedly said she wasn’t interested, and didn’t want to have anything to do with the French kid, and she FORCES her to go and “bite his cheese”?!? What the hell?? Sorely disappointed that was a) written and b) left in.

12. Happy Death Day – Tree, a rather unlikable young woman in college, wakes up hungover on her birthday, and ends the day getting murdered by a stranger in a mask. After her murder, she wakes up hungover on her birthday, and ends the day getting murdered by a stranger in a mask. … this was mildly entertaining, but felt like it could have (and should have) been so much better than it turned out. I blame the PG13 rating, honestly. But, I’ve got a soft spot for “loop” movies, so I'm glad I watched this.

13. Jigsaw – a semi-reboot of the Saw series, it was far better than Saw 7 (although, admittedly, that’s a low bar to clear), but, really, the amount of planning and coincidence-ing these people pull off is unfreaking believable.

14. It – a new adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel. Just like the novel, the movie felt like things could have been cut or trimmed somewhat. But, just like the novel, overall it was rather impressive. The life in Derry was in many ways, more terrifying than Pennywise (which is intentional, I’m sure). I’m curious how the adult story will play out, especially since they’ve updated the timeline from 50s/80s to 80s/2010s.

15. Sing – the music clearance budget must have been huge for this, as they played about 840 different songs from the 60s on up, and visually, the animation was wonderful (although that’s to be expected in this day and age). I had a big problem with a lot of the characters, though. Buster, Mike, Ash’s boyfriend, Meena’s grandfather, Johnathan’s dad, and Rosita’s husband were all problematic in their own ways. (Hmm. They’re also all men. In fact… I don’t know if there was a male main character that was worthwhile…)

16. Back to the Future – damn near perfect. There are some things that bug (why did George and Lorraine wait til their 3rd kid to use the name Marty? And why’d it take George 30 years to get his first novel published? And where’s the Marty that grew up in the new timeline? And the ‘joke’ that Marty invented rock n’ roll is problematic, as is the subtle (not so subtle??) sexism that Marty displays, but again, for the most part this is still a fantastic fun ride, and I’m happy to have watched it again, and also introduced it to my two youngest.

17. Never Let Me Go – sci fi drama about an alternative universe where humans are regularly cloned in order to be harvested for their organs. The story focuses on three of these cattle who were growing up. Their love story is rather blah; the world that its set in is intriguing, but was not really given enough spotlight, in my opinion.

18. The Cloverfield Paradox – “what are you talking about, arm!?!”

19. Gerald’s Game – nice adaptation of the Stephen King novel. This wasn’t one of my favorite novels of his, but I thought the movie version complimented it well, and actually made me appreciate it more. I may reread the book later, just to see how they compare. This movie was very well done, though, with Jessie (Carla Gugino) being amazingly impressive.

20. The Girl With All the Gifts – this book was amazing. The movie was too. The actress playing Melanie was phenomenal. There were some things that I think I would have been unclear on if I hadn’t read the book, but that’s just further proof that everyone should read the book. This is a zombie movie for people who don’t really love zombie movies. And also for people who do.

21. Sleepwalkers – a rewatch of the Stephen King flick from the early 90s that is, for better or worse, pretty damn cheesy at points. There are some things that are great (Clovis steals the show, somehow, and the fact that Tanya’s parents are Ferris Bueller’s parents just makes me smile for some reason) but the constant one-liners after every death, and just the overall cheesiness don’t allow for this to get into greatness.

22. Eraserhead – so….that happened.

23. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea – independent animated film about, well, a high school that begins sinking into the ocean, and the students’ inside struggle to survive. Sort of cute, had a few chuckles, and it was pretty brief. It was okay, but not ultimately anything worth recommending.

24. Thor: Ragnarok – A lot of fun. Not all the jokes landed, but there were a lot of real laugh out loud moments. And the battle scenes were pretty great, too. Great addition to the Marvel Universe.

25. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – I’ve never seen the original Jumanji, but I don’t think I needed to in order to enjoy this. There were problems with this (the “teaching Ruby how to be sexy” scene went on WAY too long, and probably wasn’t necessary to begin with, for example), but overall this was much better than I thought it would be and was mostly a lot of fun.

26. I, Tonya – holy crap, that was a lot of abuse. And, jesus. Her whole life, she’s just been shit on and had bad hand after bad hand after bad hand dealt to her. I mean, she made it to the freaking OLYMPICS, and then, because of her crappy husband’s bad decision… boom. Taken from her. I mean, yeah, who knows how accurate the movie actually was, but the fact remains that those sorts of relationships/abuse happen everyday, and it’s just heartbreaking. On a much happier note, the budget for the music rights for this film must have been extravagant. They played like EVERY song from the 70s and 80s ever made. And this film, while very dark, was also filled with a lot of humor. And the acting. Oh, man. Margot Robbie (Tonya) and Allison Janey (Tonya’s mother, LaVona) were freaking TOP NOTCH. Outstanding job from both.

27. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Not a fan of the new Dumbledore. Snape was underutilized (it’s been a while since I’ve read the books, was he sidelined there too?). Harry and Hermione are growing as actors. Ron’s got awesome comedic timing. Cedric’s death (and in particular, “That’s my boy!”) always gets me.

28. Mom and Dad – Selma Blair and Nicolas Cage are the titular Mom and Dad – just an average suburbuan American family with a teenage daughter and preteen son. An unexplained …event takes place that causes parents to want to violently murder their children. …and that set up is pretty much all there is to the movie. Nobody grows or changes or learns anything. There is no explanation or ending or point to this. Sigh.

29. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – it was like a writing exercise in conflict, each scene had characters interacting with one another that were in conflict. The acting was okay, and the writing was… okay (there were one or two moments that actually make made laugh) but man, this was bleak. There is no redemption, nobody learns the lesson they should learn. It’s just a lot of loss and pain and grief and anger. So, good times.

30. Justice League – it was as though they had a checklist of things that Avengers had done and they were trying to mimic them (without looking like they were copying them outright). Introduce lots of new characters? Check. CGI generic super villain wants to destroy things? Check. “Witty” banter? Check…ish. (99% of it fell flat, honestly. I think I laughed at maybe two of the ‘jokes’ that were delivered – Aquaman sitting on the lasso, and Flash’s “show our bellies” line – everything else was trying WAY too hard to be funny). Wonder Woman/Gal Gadot is still amazing, and I do like Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, but overall the DCU is just… not good?

31. Back to the Future II – when I was young, this was absolutely my favorite out of the trilogy. I thought that the future, the alternate 1985, and the re-visit to 1955/the original movie were all super amazing and really well done. Rewatching it… it’s still very fun, but, man, there was a lot of exposition that was super clunky, the gimmick of having Michael J Fox play his kids was just… dumb. I mean, his son, sure. But why his daughter as well? Just to put him in drag? And there were several ‘male gaze’ problems that were super evident (flew over my head as a kid, but they stuck out like sore thumbs now.)

32. Cell – a lowish quality adaptation of a lowish quality Stephen King book. (Cell wasn’t a bad novel, but it was really just The Stand-Lite, and the ambiguous ending felt …I don’t know. Cheap, somehow. – the movie changes that somewhat, actually, which I have to give props for. I may not have liked the ending of the movie, but it takes guts to actually go the route they did) And this movie wasn’t bad, exactly, either, but it felt like a lot of corners were cut? Like the effects in a lot of instances were not stellar, and some of the writing felt like… if I hadn’t read the novel, I might not be following this as closely as I was. [shrug] I dunno. It was …there. Nothing superb, I’ll probably forget about it in a week or so.

33. Black Panther – Damn it. Superhero movies aren’t supposed to make you THINK. (Kidding! More of this type of stuff, please.)

34. The Commuter – bland thriller with Liam Neeson on a train with a conspiracy unfolding.

35. Kidnap – true fact – if you remove all the times Halle Berry says, “Oh god”, “Frankie”, or “My son” and all the overhead shots of her SUV… the runtime of this movie becomes just under 7 minutes.

36. The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Ryan Reynolds plays a bodyguard (triple A rating!) and Samuel L. Jackson plays the hitman. Reynolds needs to get Jackson to a court to testify against a dictator (Gary Oldman, hamming it up like a boss). It’s extremely violent, extremely nonsensical and extremely funny. Very good popcorn flick that worked pretty much due to the chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson.

37. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – this might be the worst movie in the series. Umbridge, Fred & George, and Luna are all great, and the duel between Voldemort & Dumbledore was epic, but otherwise this was just a really …not great movie.

38. My Friend Dahmer – this was good and creepy and sad. A glimpse into notorious serial killer Jeffery Dahmer’s high school years, and the group of friends he hung with. The film does a good job of humanizing Dahmer, and making you feel sympathy and regret at the life he has, while also having an increasing sense of dread and doom (since we know how he’s going to turn out).

39. Slaughterhouse-Five – the novel is SO much better than this. Partly due to the fact that this was a movie made in the 70s, and it absolutely looks like a 70s movie. But, actually, considering that, it was not horrible. But honestly I would not be unopposed to a remake of this.

40. Incredibles 2 – very enjoyable. I’m normally opposed to Pixar doing sequels (they just don’t feel necessary, for the most part, and recapturing the magic usually doesn’t quite work), but this was a good ‘un. And I’d even be down for an Incredibles 3, if they wanted to expand the universe one more time.

41. Death Wish – 2018 remake of the 1974 revenge flick. I’ve never seen the original Death Wish (or any of the 4 (!!!) sequels), although I think I’ve seen bits of them before. Anyway, this was… okay? Bruce Willis is a doctor who is a pretty good person. After his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-aged daughter are attacked in a burglary, and the cops don’t produce any results, he starts to go vigilante. Hank from Breaking Bad is the main detective here. And Vincent D’Onofrio is here as Bruce Willis’s brother-in-law …whom I kept thinking was involved in the crime somehow, even though he totally isn’t. That was really distracting. Anyway, not a great movie by any stretch, but I’ve certainly seen worse.

42. How It Ends – sigh. This was a Netflix original movie. It has Forrest Whittaker in it, who I enjoy, and the acting is fine. But, so so SO frustrating. An “event” happens, where power is lost on the west coast after a massive earthquake… the military starts taking control, but nobody knows what is going on (writers included). Anyway, main character Will is having dinner with his father in law, Tom. They have a …frosty relationship, to say the least. Then, the event happens, and Tom & Will decide to road trip from Chicago to Seattle to make sure that daughter/wife Sam is okay. Along the way they encounter thugs and hillbillies and military roadblocks (that are easily circumvented through asking politely, I guess) and lightning storms and weird compass spins… which are all mostly compelling enough, I guess, but there is NO PAY OFF. At the end of the almost 2 hours, you’re left going, “That’s it??” Such a waste of time. Easily in the running for worst movie I’ve seen this year.

43. Pacific Rim Uprising – giant monsters. Giant robots. They fight. (Interspersed with a smidge too much blah blahing, but what ya gonna do?)

44. Captain Fantastic – This was really good – up to a point. Viggo Mortensen plays a father of six, who is raising his kids in the Oregon wilderness with a regiment of extreme physical and intellectual education. His kids hunt and cook and kill all their own food (the movie opens with his oldest son killing a deer with a knife!) and they read Noam Chomsky and Lolita and play instruments and speak multiple languages. It’s highly impressive, and somewhat scary. After the kids’ mother commits suicide (we find out later on that she was mentally ill), he takes them into the city to attend the funeral, and clashes with his father-in-law, who wants his grandchildren to have a “normal” life. All of this was fabulous and dramatic and engrossing and well worth watching. …And then there was the denouement. It felt like the writers decided to throw the realism (such as it was) of the first 4/5ths of the movie out the window in order to have a “happy” ending, which, while nice, also felt sort of cheap and unearned. I don’t know that a downer ending would have been better, but I might have respected them more if they’d done so. Still, though, this was an amazing movie, and I’m very glad to have seen it.

45. You Were Never Really Here – pretentious crap. Joaquin Phoenix gives a pretty great performance, but the movie was just muddled and confusing and, ultimately, pointless (I simply didn’t care at the end whether certain people lived or died because I wasn’t given enough reason to care about them). Sad, because there were definitely blocks of potential that could have been a really great movie, if it had been laid out in a better fashion.

46. Detention – If someone put Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Scream, Freaky Friday, Donnie Darko, The Breakfast Club, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and Saw into a blender, it would probably result in Detention. This was not particularly *funny* (which it was aiming for, I think. And there were a few chuckles here and there), but it was certainly bizarre, and I gotta give it credit for that.

47. The Room – oh, hi Mark! Yes, this is as horrible as everyone says it is. The acting. Or I should say the “acting”. The incomprehensible “storylines”. The horrid sex scenes (each with it’s own lite-jazz/soft rock/I don’t even know what background song). The dialog. Oh, dear freaking lord in heaven, the dialog. “I don’t want to talk about it.” “Oh, hi, [name]”. “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA.” “Do you understand life?” … oh, this whole thing was like some horrible trainwreck of a movie. I didn’t want to keep watching, and yet…

48. Isle of Dogs – I …wanted to like this, and some of it made me laugh/chuckle, but ….mostly it was …off somehow.

49. A Quiet Place – sure, there are tons of things that don’t quite add up (WHY would you have a baby?? Why not live next to the river? Nobody discovered the weakness of the creatures before then?, etc. ) but, just turn that part of your brain off and enjoy this for what it is – a tense, unique little horror flick.

50. Okja – kind of tonally crazy; felt like a kid friendly family flick got mashed up with a very dark documentary on factory farming. Okja, a genetically designed ‘super pig’ goes to live with a little girl, Mija, and her grandfather, out in Korea. 10 years later, the corporation that created Okja comes a’callin’.

51. The Princess Bride – such a great movie.

52. Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton – so, I’ve never seen Man On the Moon – the biopic about Andy Kaufman that came out back in 1999, so this documentary on the making of that film felt a little bit …fuzzy? I don’t know. It was interesting, but also felt a little bit navel-gazey? It made me want to look more into the life of Andy Kaufman. It seems like Andy was an interesting/annoying person, and Jim Carrey is also an interesting/annoying person, and to find out that Jim went and BECAME Andy during his filming of the movie was kind of amazing. I think, maybe, what would have made the film better is if we had gotten more viewpoints. The filmmakers talk to Jim the entire time, and we get glimpses of what other people thought, but I think interviewing others would have helped it.

53. Hereditary – fuuuuuck. Holy crap, man. This one got to me bad. It’s one of those movies where after you’ve seen it, you want to watch it again, to see all the clues/hints that you missed the first time around, but there is NO WAY I want to watch it again, because it was so freaking disturbing/emotionally draining… Toni Collette is a force of nature. This movie mixed mental illness and supernatural horror beautifully. The beginning was a bit of a slow burn, but as it picks up steam, it just does not relent. Highly recommended, at least once.

54. Avengers Infinity War – Easily the best “Avengers” movie. That ending. I seriously thought it was going to be reversed – and I’m sure it WILL be – but then it just went to black and I sat there and said, “What??” But, yes, this movie was a great superhero movie – funny, action-filled, and had several crowning moments of awesome. I guess it will really depend on HOW things are resolved/fixed to help determine where this sits in the pantheon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ultimately, but, as it stands now, it’s pretty high up there in my opinion.

55. Deadpool 2 – I think more of the jokes worked in this one than in the first – there were multiple times I laughed out loud. Domino needs her own standalone movie. Even if luck isn’t a superpower. (Yes, it is.)

56. Rampage – well, that was a movie. Based on the video game. Loosely.

57. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – the first good Jurassic Park sequel. Granted, the “turn off your brain” factor was cranked to 11, and it was like 45 minutes too long, but, hey, dinosaurs hunting and mauling people who mostly deserve it? Sounds good to me.

58. The First Purge – ridiculous, but marginally entertaining. Actually, this just left me feeling empty. Partly because it was a prequel, so, duh, we know how it’s gonna end up, and mostly because of real life trying its best to imitate ‘art’. (and because it felt like it was trying to imitate real life, but with no real…message? Like, it was just “hey remember that horrible thing that happened in real life three months back? Here’s a reference to that.”) Also, because it just wasn’t a very good movie.

59. Antibirth – This was garbage. I knew it was garbage about six or seven minutes in, and I still watched the whole thing. Sigh. Anyway, body-horror shlock about a junkie loser who gets impregnated with some…thing. The plot was crap, the directing was crap, the payoff was crap. I’m mostly angry with myself for wasting the time on it.

60. The Fly – rewatch. Still a classic. Although there’s no real conclusion. Poor Brundlefly meets his doom, and …fade to credits. Which brings us to…

61. The Fly II – also a rewatch, and still nowhere near as good as the original. AND this one doesn’t have a conclusion, either! Both of these movies left me wanting to see what happened AFTER. (The Fly way moreso than Fly II, of course.)

62. Starry Eyes – a lowish budget horror flick that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but it was not horrible. The strength is really in the performance of the lead, Alexandra Essoe. She’s Sarah Walker, an aspiring actress, who goes on an audition for a role in a horror movie that leads to, well, some not pleasant things.

63. Skyscraper – this was a generic popcorn flick, with the Rock trying to rescue his family from a Towering Inferno and trying not to Die Hard. It wasn’t great, but it certainly wasn’t memorable.

64. Eighth Grade – Bo Burnham’s directorial debut. Focused on Kayla’s last few weeks of being in eighth grade. It felt pretty realistic about what kids today have to go through, but also realistic in that a lot of what felt important and dramatic to a 13 year old is …actually kind of dull? Still, a really decent movie, and I hope that Bo keeps producing art, no matter what it is.

65. Ant-Man and the Wasp – the lower-stakes Marvel movies are oftentimes the best ones.

66. The Dark Tower – “based on” the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, this was … well, it wasn’t really the Dark Tower series put to film. It was more like someone took the Stephen King books, put them in a blender, and poured the slop that resulted out. Would it taste like Stephen King still? Well, a little. Would it still *be* the Dark Tower? …I guess. Kinda. I mean, the cast is decent enough, but Jake Chambers being one of the main Breakers? And having a mom and dead-dad issues and a stepfather and beating kids up in school and being the protagonist??? Well… it *sorta* works, but not exactly, really. Because it’s not the Dark Tower that we want. Or deserve. I had reservations about Elba being cast as Roland at first – but he pulled it off, I felt. Same with McConaughey being the Man in Black. And, yes, books and films are different, so of course, there are going to be altercations in adaptations. I’m mostly okay with that. it just felt like… it wasn’t epic enough, somehow. And, really, how do you start ANY adaptation of The Dark Tower without starting with THE sentence?? Yes, it was said later in the film, but really, it’s kind of a no-brainer that to get things started properly, you go with what King provided. Anyway, apparently this flopped pretty hard, so any sequels are unlikely, which I’m both fine with and upset by. Because I feel like it *could* grow into the series, if given enough time (and maybe better screenwriters? There were some really fine moments in the film, after all) Oh well. Perhaps on some other level of the Tower.

67. It’s a Wonderful Life

68. BlacKkKlansman – hugely entertaining, but, like so many things relating to current world events, somewhat disheartening. Especially the end real life footage that took up the final two or three minutes. But this Spike Lee Joint about an undercover black cop in Colorado who manages to infiltrate the KKK was compelling as hell.

69. The Happytime Murders – meh. In a world where puppets are sentient, but considered lowerclass citizens, a puppet ex-cop has to team up with his partner (Melissa McCarthy) when a bunch of puppet murders start occurring. Could have been good, but the “comedy” was all derived from the unfunny setup that raunchy puppets are funny.

70. Searching – mediocre thriller with a gimmick that mostly works – the entire thing is told thru computer screens: facetime calls, YouTube videos, CCTV footage, emails… that type of stuff. John Cho plays a newly widowed father who is searching for his missing teenage daughter. Debra Messing plays the detective that helps him look. Not a great movie, but not horrible, either.

71. Assassination Nation - When someone starts hacking phones and leaking the texts, members of the town of Salem start turning against one and another. Lily, a local teenager, guides the viewer through how a town could lose its mind and turn murderous in a short period of time. Extremely dark, and surprisingly tense, this black comedy is mostly light on the ‘comedy’, but was still insanely watchable. While it was, of course, completely over the top, in the bizarre-ass world we find ourselves in in 2018… it also felt very real.

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