Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category

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Movies – December 2020

January 3, 2021

I don’t think I will be posting movie reviews on my blog much longer. At least not in my traditional manner. It just seems silly to copy and paste everything from Letterboxd. It’s a lot of wasted time and energy. I’m not really sure how best to combine my blog and Letterboxd, but this ain’t it. I went crazy in December, watching easily the most movies of any month of the year and really started checking some movies off my 2020 watchlist.

https://boxd.it/5jdaM – Best Feature Films of 2020 (ongoing list)
https://boxd.it/aHeHg – Best Documentaries & Docu-Series of 2020 (ongoing list)
https://boxd.it/armXY – 2020 Movies I Haven’t Seen (ranked by interest level)
https://boxd.it/5FLKe – Movies new to streaming in January 2021 (ranked by interest level)

Mulan (2020, Disney+) I’m shocked at how poorly this is doing with general audiences because I thought it was enjoyable and I’m a harsher critic than most. I watched the animated version sometime in the last few years, but it’s been long enough that I already forgot most of it again. I know there’s a talking creature that accompanies Mulan in the original and I don’t think the witch character was in that version either, but other than that, I couldn’t cite too many differences. As such, it’s hard for me to compare the two and say that the live action one didn’t live up to my expectations – I didn’t really have any. I thought Liu Yifei did a fine job in the lead role and it was cool seeing Gong Li as the witch. I liked the addition of that character and thought it gave some added weight to the story even if it wasn’t all that well fleshed out. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this a good movie, and I suppose it could have been a lot better, but I wasn’t overly disappointed with it either. 5/10 (Decent)

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge (2020, rental) Shockingly gruesome and plenty of fun. I’m surprised the MK franchise doesn’t have loads of these kinds of animated movies already. Definitely worth a watch for fans of Mortal Kombat. I’d be happy to see more of these kinds of MK films. 6/10 (Recommended)

Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995, HBOMax, re-watch) Finally, our New York City cop gets a New York City movie! This is the best of the Die Hard sequels (and the last good one) by a long shot and Samuel L. Jackson is a welcome addition – he has great chemistry with Bruce Willis. The initial scene they have together is unforgettable and will always be a classic. Jeremy Irons makes for a good villain and I like that his motives tie back to the first movie (somewhat). The use of the “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” music (possibly better recognized as “the ants go marching one by one?”) for such an extensive sequence is equal parts insane and awesome. This is always a fun 90s action movie to revisit. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Citizen Kane (1941, HBOMax, re-watch) Many think this is the best movie ever made. I’m not one of them. I don’t even love it. I’m sure it was a technical marvel for the time it was made, but that was 40 years before I was born and I just haven’t seen enough movies from that era for me to say that it stands heads and shoulders above its peers. That said, I did enjoy Citizen Kane. This is my second viewing and I think I liked it more this time around. Orson Welles is great, the music is great, and the story and search for the meaning of Rosebud is fun. Perhaps I’m a bit uncultured, but I feel this is a very good but not great movie. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Mank (2020, Netflix) There’s a lot to like about this movie. It has a wonderful 1930s/1940s aesthetic to it and the music is great. There’s plenty of top notch acting, especially from Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, the latter of whom gives easily the best performance of her career (the guy that played Orson Welles was not great though and his final scene was borderline cringe). Herman Mankiewicz was quite the character. But at the same time, this movie just wasn’t overly interesting to me. I didn’t really understand why he wrote Citizen Kane about William Randolph Hearst and all the politics involved were over my head. Mank is technically great, but the movie as a whole isn’t all that entertaining.  6/10 (Recommended)

Elf (2020, Netflix, re-watch) Can’t go wrong with this Christmas classic. This was more of a background watch than a dedicated one, but I kept finding myself wanting to tune in rather than focus on the board game we were playing, so that says a lot about Elf’s enjoyability. Always a good one to revisit in December! 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Johnny Tsunami (1999, Disney+) I was only loosely watching this while my wife had it on. I can’t say it was all that interesting, but it had its charm and wasn’t unwatchable.  4/10 (Meh)

Sinister (2012, personal collection, re-watch) A hidden gem. This movie was truly thrilling and actually quite scary. I kind of loved it. This is a must watch for fans of horror. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Freaky (2020, rental) I was pretty eager to watch this because it looked fun. Sure, the concept is not even remotely original, but I’m not sure it’s ever been used for a horror-type film. I was totally expecting a PG-13 movie, so I was pretty shocked by the gore in the opening sequence – it’s incredibly over-the-top and bloody. Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton both give fun performances, but I would have liked to see more screen time of Newton as the killer. Director Christopher Landon seems to be making a niche of taking popular story gimmicks and applying them to horror movies. Happy Death Day spawned a franchise and I wouldn’t be shocked if this does also. I’d be there to watch it. 6/10 (Recommended)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020, HBOMax) This movie is probably going to pop up on a lot of top 10 lists for 2020, but it’s worth noting the wide discrepancy between critical and general audience receptions: Rotten Tomatoes has the critic score at 99% favorable while the audience score is 20% favorable. I’m not too surprised by that. I wouldn’t call this movie riveting. The story follows a young pregnant girl in her quest to get an abortion without her parents find out about it, which proves to be quite the challenge considering she is underage in her home state. So yeah, I can see why some audiences are turned off. Imagine someone that is pro-life thinking this is a good movie. I’m sure there are people in that camp that are trashing this without even watching it. Secondly – and this is a stereotypical assumption – but I wouldn’t expect males to be overly interested in this one. Personally though, I enjoyed it. It’s a brutal psychological and emotional journey and Sidney Flanigan is really, really good in it. Some questions here go unanswered and we are left to fill in the blanks, but this movie still made me feel something so even though I didn’t think it was overly entertaining, it was still powerful. 6/10 (Recommended)

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020, documentary, Netflix) I was expecting a biography type documentary and while we get some glimpses into Attenborough’s life, this is more about his quest to urge people to understand global warming and save our planet for future generations.  It does have plenty of amazing visuals of animals and jaw-dropping scenery of various landscapes.  I actually did learn a lot watching this and it was good, even if it wasn’t what I was hoping for. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Shocker (1989, HBOMax) I put this on my list after listening to Wes Craven’s biography on Audible because it sounded interesting and I’m a fan of most of the horror pics I’ve seen from him. This sucked though. It was so cringy and you can tell Craven was trying really hard to recreate the magic of his Nightmare on Elm Street series. It just didn’t work for me at all. The fact that Craven uses dreams as a main plot point again is weird and the villain was just kind of lame. I may have liked this if I saw it as a kid when it initially came out, but seeing it for the first time as an adult, I thought it was pretty stupid. 3/10 (Bad)

Home Alone (1990, Disney+, re-watch) The most amazing thing about Home Alone is that I’ve probably seen it more than any other movie in my lifetime and yet, I still enjoy it. Even as I enter my late 30s I still don’t mind watching it every single year around Christmas time. This movie is full of plot holes, nonsense, and unbelievably dumb characters, but I still love it and it’s charm is undeniable. A true classic, even if it isn’t exactly a great film. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020, Amazon Prime) Not as good as the first Borat movie, but it still made me LOL many times and that’s saying something. The girl that plays Borat’s daughter did an excellent job, especially considering how brutal some of her scenes were. Speaking of which, I could have done without the daddy/daughter dance scene. Sometimes Sacha Baron Cohen takes things a bit too far and that would be a good example. I really like the whole premise of Cohen playing his characters and getting real time and authentic reactions from unknowing victims. I wonder about how this particular film was created. It seems like Cohen set out to make this thing before the Coronavirus pandemic started (as evidenced by him interrupting the speech in which Mike Pence says the U.S. has had 15 total cases of the virus) but by the end of the film, Covid dominates the narrative. So… what movie was he planning to make before the virus took over? If you liked the first Borat, this is definitely a must watch. Personally, I found it to be wildly entertaining, especially the first half. Strong recommendation. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Love & Monsters (2020, RedBox) This was an enjoyable and easy watch. I know it’s not meant to be a deep-thinker, but I couldn’t help but wonder how the mutated monsters wiped out humanity – with all of our advanced weaponry, transport, and military numbers – when they seem to be rather scarce once the story moves to the surface. You’d expect their presence to be overwhelming, but we only see a handful of monsters the entire movie and they are always seen attacking as a solo act. So… how exactly did humankind fall to these things? Our hapless and untrained hero also continuously takes them out with a homemade crossbow, so I was having a hard time believing the entire premise of the movie. Ignoring that though, I thought the cast was cool and the monsters were creative and looked pretty good. This is a solid family flick that was quite fun even though it’s pretty damn silly and gets a light recommendation from me. 6/10 (Recommended)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, Disney+, re-watch) I can’t blame anyone involved for making this, but it’s basically just a retread of the first film set in New York City under even more unbelievable circumstances. I guess it’s still kind of fun, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the magic of the original. 5/10 (Decent)

On The Rocks (2020, AppleTV+) Bill Murray is pretty great and I like Rashida Jones but I’m not sure she’s all that interesting as an actress.  This movie was good enough but I think the narrative is kind of manipulative and that ended up bothering me by the end of the film.  I walked away pretty unsatisfied.   5/10 (Decent)

Wolfwalkers (2020, AppleTV+) Wonderfully animated, unique and plenty impactful.  The voice acting is stellar and the mystical story about the relationship between man and wolf is top notch.  Robyn is a great character – one of the better heroines of the last few years.  I was tempted to label this a Must Watch and I wouldn’t blame anyone for doing so, but it fell just a bit short for that lofty level for me.   7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Soul (2020, Disney+) Absolutely loved it.  This hit me in the feels.  Typical elite Pixar that is wildly creative and tells an emotionally moving story.  The animation of the “on earth” scenes is incredible.  The voice acting from Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey is good.  The music is great.  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hit another homerun.  Those dudes don’t miss.  This is a legit great film.  My second Must Watch of 2020.   8/10 (Great/Must See)

Beastie Boys Story (2020, documentary, AppleTV+) I was never a huge Beastie Boys fan but I did like their popular songs.  They peaked before I really got into music and Hello Nasty in 1998 was the first and only Beastie Boys I bought when it came out.  Unfortunately, I’ve never really gone back and dug into their discog but I still appreciate their place in music history and something like this is right up my alley.  It was cool to see how the group came together and found success in a genre that had didn’t really have any white artists.  It’s kind of strange how seamlessly they seem to have blended in to the early hip-hop scene considering how groundbreaking it felt when Eminem broke through over a decade later.  Ad Rock and Mike D share their story on stage with a live audience and a video background.  This is not your typical documentary, but definitely a must watch for any Beasties fan and a worthwhile watch for fans of music history.   6/10 (Recommended)

Boys State (2020, documentary, AppleTV+) This is a documentary about an annual event in Texas where hundreds of high school age kids get together and form a government from the ground up, making policies and voting on officials to represent one of their two parties. I’m not even remotely interested in the politics of our country, but I did get completely invested in the stories of the various kids the film crew decided to focus on. This has been receiving high praise for good reason. Even if a politically ignorant/uninvested person such as myself found it to be an absolute delight.   8/10 (Great/Must See)

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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

December 26, 2020

Director: Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman, Monster)

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal

Anticipation Level: Very High

How Was It?

Ugh.  I was really excited for this and it was such a slog.  How are you going to make a Wonder Woman sequel and have Gal Gadot in costume for maybe five minutes in the first hour and 45 minutes?  The narrative moves at a crawl and that’s not how I want my action flicks, especially if the exposition and character development isn’t particularly riveting.  Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah was fine (well, until the final act), but I did not enjoy Pedro Pascal at all.  He’s great in The Mandalorian but his performance as Max Lord here was just hard to watch… and not in a good way.  There were some charming and funny moments (mostly between Gadot and Chris Pine) and the conclusion of the movie was dangerously close to being touching, but I’m struggling to find the positives.  This movie was way too long and bored me for most of its run time.  I’m super disappointed.  I honestly can’t imagine watching this again.  My score below is probably generous.

Replay Value: Very little

Sequel Potential: They had a winning formula going here and I can’t imagine they’d replace Gal Gadot, but this movie was a huge step back. I assume they will keep moving forward with Gadot as Wonder Woman, but DC has plans to shake everything up in the near future.

Oscar Potential: None.

4/10 (Subpar)

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Sound of Metal (2020)

December 18, 2020

Director: Darius Marder (Loot)

Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci

Anticipation Level: Moderate

How Was It?

This one had my anxiety levels rising from the jump. Imagine suddenly losing your hearing one day. Imagine suddenly losing your hearing when music is your passion and only source of income – not to mention the strongest bond you have with your significant other. It’s difficult and disturbing to watch Riz Ahmed’s character go through all the various stages of grief in dealing with his hearing loss, but we get an immersive glimpse at what that might be like if it happened to us. Ahmed gives the best performance of his career and will be a strong contender for a Best Actor nomination. Sound of Metal is possibly the best movie I’ve seen this year and it’s really sticking with me. I wouldn’t mind re-watching it again relatively soon. It’s heartbreaking and the most powerful movie I’ve seen that was released this year. After sitting on it for a few days, I’ve decided Sound of Metal is the first must see film of 2020. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime now so check it out ASAP.

Replay Value: I didn’t think so at first, but the more I’ve thought about this movie the last few days, the more interested I am in watching it again sooner rather than later.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: Riz Ahmed should be in the Best Actor mix and I expect this to be one of the ten or so movies that get a Best Picture nomination. I suppose a Best Pic nom means it’s also a fringe contender for screenplay and directing. The use of sound in this movie was pretty interesting, so maybe there’s a nomination in there, but I’m not sure if it would be for mixing or editing.

8/10 (Must See)

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Movie Ratings (July – September 2020)

November 30, 2020

So this is what happened: I wrote a lengthy review for Disney+’s Hamilton on Letterboxd (which doesn’t autosave like WordPress does) and I never saved it and wanted to proofread it before submitting, but I forgot about it and my computer reset on its own and that review disappeared forever. I didn’t have it in me to type it all up again. And then I lost motivation to write any reviews at all and here we are four months later and I have heaps of movies I’ve seen that I’ve never talked about or rated.

Hamilton (2020, Disney+) The writing of this play is next-level genius and seeing the original cast perform it is awesome. This whole show is pure brilliance and Lin-Manuel Miranda never has to do another thing in his career and he will still be a legend forever. 10/10 (Perfection)

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (2020, docu-series, HBOMax) This docu-series about true crime writer Michelle McNamara and her pursuit of The Golden State Killer starts off a little slow and rough but gets very interesting in the last three episodes, even to someone that has read Michelle’s book and has devoured most of the media related to this case.  It’s truly a mind-blowing story but the presentation in the first couple of episodes left a lot to be desired. 6.5/10 (Recommended/Highly Enjoyable)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991, Netflix) An all-time great thriller with two all-time great performances, courtesy of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. Foster is wonderful, but Hopkins is unreal. His portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in this movie is one of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen and he never quite captures the same magic when he reprises the role in future franchise installments. A true classic and one of the few films I’m saying is damn near perfect. 10/10 (Perfection)

42 (2013) I gave this a very distracted viewing back in the day and thought I didn’t care for it, but after Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing, I wanted to watch one of his films and decided to give this Jackie Robinson biopic another shot and I liked it quite a bit more this time around. 6/10 (Recommended)

The Gentleman (2020) This was a nice return to form for director Guy Ritchie. It’s an entertaining and humorous movie and I thought Colin Farrell was great in it. I guess since I’ve seen very few original 2020 releases, this one quite easily sits in my top 5 of the year at the moment, but that’s not saying much. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

High Score (2020, docu-series, Netflix) This docu-series examines the evolution of the video game industry through the eyes of pioneering game developers and the people that excelled at playing them. There’s some interesting stuff in this and it’s a nice trip down memory lane for someone that remembers when Atari was a technological marvel, but it also has a bit of a corny presentation and focuses on the players a little too much. 5/10 (Decent)

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals (2010, HBOMax) Fresh off reading Jeff Pearlman’s book about the Showtime Lakers, I was interested in diving deeper into the legacies of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, so I was quite pleased to find this documentary on HBOMax. It was very entertaining and explores the rivalry and blossoming friendship, on and off the court, between these two legends as their basketball careers developed and they continued to face off against one another on the biggest stage. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Back to the Future (1985, Netflix) A classic that still holds up well today. I’ve seen it many times and it’s still tons of fun. 8/10 (Must See)

Mortal Kombat (1995, Netflix) This came out at a time when the games were still seen as controversial (and maybe they still are), so it’s not that surprising that the studio pussed out and made a PG-13 film out of what was clearly R-rated source material. I can’t say this is exactly what I wanted as a 13 year old fan of the games, but I thought they made an enjoyable movie – and I still feel that way. At worst, this is cheesy fun, but considering the limitations of the rating, I think this was a pretty solid win. I’m very curious to see what they do with the R-rated reboot that’s due out in theaters in January (uh, if that’s a thing by then). 5.5/10 (Decent/Recommended)

Starship Troopers (1997, Netflix) This is a cult classic that I remember as being a little better than it probably is. It’s got some cheese in it, but I still found this to be lots of satirical fun. I think the writing and directing in this space epic are pretty good, but the cast brings the overall quality down a bit – it would almost certainly be better with a stronger leading man. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Taxi Driver (1976, Netflix) Here I am trying to write about a movie I watched two months ago… I know this much: this movie has reason to be considered as one of the all-time greats, it’s Scorsese’s first truly amazing film (I think Mean Streets fell a bit short of that level), and Robert De Niro is unbelievably good in it. Jodie Foster is also great in this and Scorsese even has a wonderful acting scene as a cab passenger spying on his cheating wife. At worst, this movie is amazing. At best, it might be a perfect film that is one of the greatest movies ever made. I’m excited to watch it again and I won’t wait 20 years between viewings this time. 9/10 (Spectacular)

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Tenet (2020)

September 4, 2020

Director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Interstellar, Inception, Memento)

Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It?

Christopher Nolan is smarter than the rest of us and he wants everyone to know it. Sure, he’s done plenty of high concept films before (Memento, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar), but in all of those movies the plots are relatively easy to follow and you know who the characters are and why they are doing what they are doing. Tenet? I’ll be damned if anyone can honestly say they know what the hell is going on in this movie the first time they watch it. Things are complex enough as it is, but Nolan has made a habit of drowning out the dialogue with extraneous noise in his last couple of films (see also: Dunkirk) and when that dialogue is needed to explain critical plot points, it makes Tenet pretty much impossible to follow. This film would benefit a lot from having subtitles even though it is almost entirely in English.

At some point, I just turned my brain off and tried to enjoy the spectacle. Tenet definitely has some A+ action sequences and plenty of amazing visuals so it scores really high in those departments. This movie will have no issue racking up award nominations in all the technical apsects, although the sound editing and/or mixing is more of a problem than an asset here. The concept of inverting time makes for some really cool moments and some brilliant-looking shots.

I can’t say I cared about any of the characters in this movie so there was no emotional weight to the story during my first watch. It’s hard to say whether that’s a result of things being undeveloped or because I just didn’t get it, but either way, I didn’t feel any type of way about what was happening. I think the acting in this movie is pretty good and that’s not surprising as John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki all have good performances on their resumes already. This movie is light on comedy, but Washington still finds a couple of moments to say something funny.

I feel like it’s unfair to give this movie a rating after one viewing considering I didn’t really understand it. I think even if the dialogue wasn’t so hard to hear a lot of the time and I had a better idea of what was going on, I’d still need to do extra research online to really get to the bottom of everything. I’ll eventually do that, but I’m guessing the average moviegoer isn’t too interested in all that. As a result, I expect most people not to like this movie and they will probably dismiss it after one viewing. I’m sure everyone is going to see it anyway (when they feel safe to do so), but I don’t recommend it unless you are okay with being clueless while watching it and spending extra time reading about it later. Tenet is quite easily my least favorite Chris Nolan film after one viewing and with a 150 minute run time, I can’t say I’m super excited to get back in the theater again and figure things out.

Replay Value: Required, but I don’t know how enjoyable it will be.

Sequel Potential: I don’t expect Nolan to make sequels to his original movies.

Oscar Potential: Cinematography, Visual Effects, Production Design, Film Editing, Original Score noms all seem likely. Dunkirk won Oscars for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing but I couldn’t hear the dialogue in that movie either so… I wouldn’t be shocked to see this get Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay noms because it’s a Chris Nolan movie, but not because it actually deserves them.

???/10 (???)

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

August 21, 2020

Director: Chuck Russell (The Mask, The Blob, Eraser)

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It?

This review may contain spoilers.

The last good Freddy movie before a long stretch of total crap. I still haven’t revisited Part 2, but I’ve never liked that movie and I don’t expect that to change, even after watching the Mark Patton documentary. I felt fine skipping Freddy’s Revenge because this movie ignores that sequel anyway (Note: I do plan to watch it again soon [Note: and I did obviously]).

Dream Warriors holds up really well and has some of the most iconic moments (the Freddy worm, the whole puppet sequence, the T.V. death scene) of the whole series, but it is also probably responsible for making Freddy a punchline factory. I love the whole “welcome to prime time, bitch” scene, but let’s be real, that’s the moment that started the transition from a relatively scary Freddy to the cornball jokester he’d become over the next three movies.

This movie seems to answer the questions about the ending of Nightmare 1. Nancy’s friends and mom really died, the grey streak in her hair is back, and I guess whatever happened after she turned her back on Freddy and made him disappear was a dream?

The concept of the Dream Warriors is pretty cool. There’s a girl that can pull other people into her dreams and when she does so that person can come in with a superpower (i.e. super strength, wizardry, etc.) and that makes these kids quite a bit more formidable than the standard issue group of horror movie victims.

I think the acting in this movie is mostly fine. You don’t realize how good Patricia Arquette is until you watch someone else play the same role in Nightmare 4 and, well, it’s a night and day difference in quality. Heather Langenkamp returns as Nancy Thompson and while her presence gives the kids hope and credibility, I can’t say Langenkamp is a strong actress by any means. Somehow, it seems she has gotten worse at her craft in the three years between the original Nightmare and this one. Robert Englund has a lot more scenery to chew in this movie compared to the original. He’s wonderful. While Freddy was already a thriving entity, I’m pretty sure this is the movie mostly responsible for making him the pop culture icon he still is today.

Dream Warriors is a strong entry in the Elm Street series and one of my favorite flicks out of all the slasher movies featuring horror’s biggest icons. This movie builds really well on the original – thanks in large part to Wes Craven returning as a screenwriter – and provides some of the best kills and special effects of the whole series. A proper horror sequel and a must see for genre fans.

Replay Value: One of two Freddy Krueger movies I could probably watch over and over again as an adult.

Sequel Potential: We’re not even halfway yet.

Oscar Potential: None.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)

August 16, 2020

Director: Roman Chimienti & Tyler Jensen

Starring: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Englund, Robert Rustler, Heather Langenkamp, Jack Sholder, David Chaskin

Anticipation Level: Medium-High

How Was It?

I’m not going to lie, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge has always been my least favorite entry in the ANOES series – and one of my least favorite in any of the biggest and long-running horror franchises. It just didn’t do anything for me. I’ve seen it multiple times and only a few scenes have stuck with me all these years: Freddy emerging from the lead character’s body and Freddy getting loose in the real world and terrorizing a pool party. Cool stuff. The rest of the movie? Not so much.

This documentary is about Mark Patton, lead actor in the movie and how the backlash from it ran him out of Hollywood and into self-isolation for the next several decades. This doc examines the homosexual “subtext” in the film – something that has come to light in a positive way in the last half decade or so – and how Patton, a closeted gay man in the 80s, was blamed for how the film was perceived after its released, with the writer even denying that any subtext existed and implying that it was the actor’s fault it came across that way.

I’m pretty interested in anything related to the major horror franchises (I’m also reading Taking Shape, a book about the Halloween movies, and a Wes Craven biography right now), so I was immediately intrigued when I saw this documentary pop up. I can’t act like I was never homophobic. I graduated from high school in 2000 and no one my age dared come out of the closet back then because questioning someone’s masculinity or sexuality was the ultimate insult. I can’t change the past, but I’ve definitely grown over the last 20 years – and I think a good portion of society has as well. Mark Patton starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in 1985, over a decade before my high school years, back when being homosexual was seen as a certainty to get and spread HIV and AIDS. This documentary examines all of that and shows how brutal it was to be a gay man in the mid-80s, but also highlights how things have changed and how Nightmare 2 has become a very important movie to a lot of people.

This is definitely an interesting watch. If you’re any sort of fan of the Nightmare series, I’d recommend it, but you should definitely watch Nightmare 2 again first (which I did not). However, since watching this, I have re-watched every Nightmare movie except Freddy vs Jason (that’s next) and the shitty remake (which I actually re-watched earlier this year), so this doc made me revisit the entire series again for the first time in maybe 15+ years for most of the entries.

Replay Value: Not much, but if I ever decide to revisit the series again (as I’m doing right now), I’d probably watch it again.

Sequel Potential: N/A

Oscar Potential: No Best Doc nod for this one.

6/10 (Recommended)

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

July 21, 2020

Director: Wes Craven (Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4, Last House on the Left, People Under the Stairs)

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxson, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund

Anticipation Level: N/A

How Was It?

A chronological, as-I’m-watching-it review with MANY SPOILERS:

I absolutely love this movie. It’s easy to forget how great the original Nightmare is because of how bad many of the sequels were. Of all the horror franchises that I loved as a kid, I think the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies have arguably aged the worst. I think about half of them are nearly unwatchable as an adult. But not this one. This one is great.

Right from the jump, the theme music is unique and creates an unsettling tone. The opening dream sequence also does a great job of teasing an ominous presence while not exactly revealing what Freddy is. How about that close up shot of Freddy’s eyes behind the pipes? Ah yes, back when Freddy Krueger was actually scary.

The second dream sequence is AWESOME. I’ve seen this movie so many times that I feel like I know it shot-for-shot and Tina’s second dream just has so many iconic moments: Freddy coming out of the wall above Nancy; Freddy with the stretchy long arms; Freddy slicing his fingers off; Tina pulling his face off while he just laughs through it; and then the unbelievable death scene that sees Tina thrashing through the air as some unseen force slices her to death while her boyfriend Rod watches helplessly and then her body just drops to the floor with a thud. BLOOD IS EVERYWHERE. Holy shit, what a scene.

It’s a bit disturbing when the news report of Tina’s murder says that she was 15 years old. I mean… Tina and Rod were having some pretty loud, raucous sex off screen there. Granted, the actress playing Tina was 24 or 25 when this filmed, but still…

LOL @ Nancy getting private access to Rod, a murder suspect, when he’s in jail. How does that happen? Sure, her dad is a cop, but it’s obvious that he wants her nowhere near this guy and his co-workers should be aware of that. Later, we see Nancy barge in to the police station and demand to see Rod again, bullying the cop at the desk to let her through before dad puts a stop to it.

I have to say the acting in this movie is pretty good for an 80s horror flick. And by “pretty good,” I mean it’s not laughable like it is in a lot of the genre pics of the time. Interestingly, I’m inspired to type this by Heather Langenkamp’s super cringy delivery of “how can you say I don’t take her death seriously?” after her mother says, “I guess you don’t think murder is serious.” It’s a brutal moment in an otherwise reasonably acted flick.

I really like how Nancy’s teacher walks by her when she’s falling asleep in class and gives her a knowing touch. It feels like a rare authentic human moment from a meaningless character in a horror movie. It would just be so stereotypical for the teacher to walk by her and startle her awake for having the nerve to fall asleep in class like what she went through the night before is not public knowledge. Also, shoutout to Lin Shaye playing the teacher here. She will later star in the Insidious movies as Elise Rainier.

Another iconic scene from this movie: Freddy’s glove coming up out of the bathtub water between Nancy’s legs. Not sure how you can grow up watching these movies and not think about that scene when you’re taking a bath as a kid. I think this scene is also the first time we hear the famous Freddy nursery rhyme from the jump rope girls. This scene also has more awkward sexualization of a supposed 15 year old – you can see Nancy topless when Freddy pulls her under the water. Heather Langenkamp was really 20 (and it was probably a body double anyway), but Nancy is 15! Why are we seeing her breasts? It’s weird.

I love when Johnny Depp asks Nancy what happened to her arm and she replies, “I burned it in English class.”

Let’s give Nancy some props. She’s a fighter. How many heroines in horror movies do you see that are ready to take on their tormentor less than halfway through the movie? Nancy asks Glen to watch over her while she sleeps because she needs to go “look for someone” and that someone is Freddy Krueger. Her friends are being killed and she knows the dream world has real world ramifications. This is a BOSS move. Of course, Glen shits the bed and falls asleep. What an ass.

The sleep clinic is another nice touch of giving the main character some credibility. This is a scene where the stereotype would be for the results to show that everything is normal and Nancy is just making this stuff up… but instead, mom and doctor see that things aren’t even close to being normal. Nancy’s dreams are off-the-charts FUCKED.

This prompts mom to tell Nancy the truth about Krueger being a local child murderer and reveals that she’s been keeping his bladed glove in their basement furnace like a serial killer holding on to a souvenir from a murder. This part of the movie is a bit muddled. Fred Krueger got off on a technicality in a case that got the “lawyers fat and the judge famous?” Uh, okay. If you say so. And none of the teenagers in the area know about this obviously super infamous case that happened right in their own backyard? Uh, no. Not even in the pre-internet age is this even remotely believable. Literally everyone in that town would know about what Fred Krueger did.

Ugh, the ending of this movie is brutal. Craven really botched it. There is just so much going wrong. How is Nancy barricaded in her house exactly? Her mom is a semi-functional alcoholic and though it’s never explicitly said, all indications are that Nancy’s parents are divorced and her dad doesn’t live with them…. so who made their house an inescapable fortress? Mom? Yeah right. I guess it’s feasible that she paid some professionals to do this, but… I’m rolling my eyes here.

How absurd is it that Nancy is linked to three murders, she’s a police officer’s daughter, there’s a bunch of cops at a murder scene right across the street (including dad!), she’s screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs and shattering windows trying to get someone’s attention… and her dad’s co-workers are just standing there looking at her like, “what’s that crazy kid on about now?” This is the kind of stereotypical bullshit that always happens in these movies that A Nightmare on Elm Street was doing such a good job of NOT doing. This whole sequence just blows.

There’s such a Home Alone vibe to Nancy’s final encounter with Freddy. She has booby traps set up all over and he runs right into them. She even says, “come and get me” at one point, a line straight out of the Kevin McCallister playbook. But Home Alone came out in 1990, so does that mean that Home Alone has an A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe?

How bad is the mom’s death scene? Nancy and dad walk in just in time to see a fake looking corpse descend into the bed and disappear. Then Nancy says to her dad, “now do you believe me?” with zero emotion or regard for the fact that her mom was just murdered. For a movie with tons of awesome visual effects, I can’t believe how pathetic her mom’s body looks here.

Finally, this conclusion just doesn’t work for me at all. How anticlimactic is it that Nancy defeats Freddy by simply turning her back on him and taking away his “power” by not believing in him? The fact that she turns around to see if he’s there afterwards is proof enough that she still believes in him. Somehow this ending also brings her mom and friends back from the dead, so essentially nothing that happens actually happened. But then they drive off in a Freddy-themed car and mom gets pulled through the door by Krueger, so wtf? I suppose Wes Craven answers this question in Nightmare 3 because when Nancy shows up her hair is streaked grey and she says her friends were killed by Freddy. I dunno. It’s all just so bogus and leaves a gross stain on an otherwise wonderful horror movie.

I forgive A Nightmare on Elm Street for all its flaws. The first 80 minutes of this movie are just way too enjoyable for the last ten minutes to ruin it. It is chock full of iconic moments and Freddy is a looming, sadistic, and scary figure. This Freddy gets off on scaring and toying with his victims before he kills them and the corny one-liners that he eventually becomes known for are nowhere to be found in this film. This movie is not completely absent of camp, but I think Nightmare 1 strikes the perfect mix of camp and scary.

I wish the ending was better, but this is still an all-time horror classic to me and its replay value seems unending. I’m sure I’ve seen this at least ten times and I still enjoy it thoroughly. Wes Craven created one of the most memorable villains to ever grace the silver screen. 35 years later and a decade since the last Freddy movie (and arguably 25 years since the last good one) and Freddy Krueger still feels relevant today. A must see horror flick and one of the best the genre has ever had to offer.

Replay Value: Plenty. I’ve seen it so many times and I’m still eager to re-visit it with each viewing.

Sequel Potential: None. Well, except for seven sequels, a remake, and endless amounts of merchandising. And it’s not going to stop there either – though we are currently in the longest stretch between Freddy movies since he debuted in 1984.

Oscar Potential: Nightmare 1 received zero Oscar nominations, but I think it should have at least been considered for Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects. Having watched both A Nightmare on Elm Street and (loosely) visual effects nominee Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom recently, I think Nightmare was clearly better in this department.

8/10 (Must See)

A Dark Knight Classic

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June 2020 Movie Reviews

July 5, 2020

Check out my profile on Letterboxd if you want to follow along as I write my reviews throughout the month and also because the site/app is amazing for film lovers.

Wow, this is getting a bit pathetic. My movie watching has gone way down. I went two weeks in between movies in the second half of June. I wonder how far I’d have to look back to find a gap that long between flicks? Of course, it doesn’t help that theaters have been closed for four months now. Even worse, my Martin Scorsese project has really lost steam – it’s been almost three months since I watched a movie of his! I’ve had Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore at home since April 29th. Yikes! I have just been preferring to watch T.V. shows instead movies when I have the time. Check out my TV Show Ratings page for scores for Dead to Me, The Crown, Hannibal and Ozark.

Long Gone Summer (2020, ESPN+)

I’m a baseball megafan… well I used to be. 2020 is challenging how I feel about the game. I’m not even sure I want a season at this point. But I remember the Summer of 1998, how magical and enthralling it all was, and how it helped restore interest in the national past time after the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995. It seemed like someone was making an assault on Roger Maris’ 30+ year old single season homerun record on an annual basis and yet it still seemed like some magic number that could never be reached. 61 home runs? Are you kidding me? And then McGwire and Sosa came along in 1998 and not only made a run at the record, but both of them demolished it, with any suspense about whether it was going to happen pretty much erased by the end of August.

I actually have some memory of when I found out McGwire broke the record. I didn’t get to watch it live because I was on a road trip with my high school’s girls soccer team as an acting sports medicine athletic trainer and our bus was stopped at a gas station somewhere.

The whole thing seemed surreal at the time and that’s probably because it wasn’t real. It takes a while for this movie to get to steroid allegations and I don’t think it really asks the hard-hitting questions. Prior to this documentary, Sosa hasn’t publicly admitted to juicing and while he all but confirms he was using PEDs here, he still can’t just come out and say it. Sosa is completely unapologetic for his role in The Steroid Era and maybe that’s something that should be applauded instead of vilifying him while McGwire gets inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Are any of these guys really sorry that they juiced and put up crazy numbers, made tons of money, and entertained the hell out of us? I doubt it. They are only sorry because they got caught and are faced public scrutiny. You kind of have to appreciate someone like Sosa that doesn’t even bother to pretend like he gives a shit.

I really enjoyed this documentary and as a huge baseball fan, it’s something I’ll probably revisit somewhat regularly. Regardless of how they did it, the Summer of 1998 will always hold a special place in my heart and memory.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

The High Note (2020, iTunes rental)

I liked this well enough. It’s about a passionate music-lover that is a personal assistant to superstar singer but has aspirations of making a name for herself as a producer. This movie largely works for me because of Dakota Johnson and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. I just like what they bring to the table. Both of them have such natural screen presence and likability. Considering Johnson’s biggest role is as Anastasia Steele in the 50 Shades franchise, I didn’t see myself becoming such a fan, but I’ve really enjoyed her in pretty much everything else I’ve seen. Harrison Jr. builds on a breakthrough 2019 that saw him crush his roles in both Luce and Waves with yet another impressive performance – he can sing too! His song “Track 8” from this movie is a really nice song and possibly a certified banger. I think the rest of the music in this movie ranges from decent to good though, so I wasn’t exactly blown away by that aspect of it.

I felt like this movie dropped the ball on the ending. It just didn’t make sense to me and seemed completely unnecessary. It could have had a feel good conclusion without going in such a forced and unbelievable direction. Still, I enjoyed it overall, so I’ll give it a light recommendation.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Greatest Showman (2017, Amazon rental)

I wanted to see this at one point in time but ultimately skipped it with no plans to go out of my way to watch it because critical response was decidedly poor. But a friend of mine listed it as one of his Must See movies and was willing to put his rep on the line over it, despite resounding skepticism from our group chat. I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be good, but I showed him respect and watched it.

I knew 15 minutes and three songs in that it probably wasn’t going to win me over. It’s not like I have an aversion to musicals – I count Chicago, Moulin Rouge!, Dreamgirls, School of Rock, Frozen and Moana on my list of recent musicals that I really enjoyed. But The Greatest Showman immediately has a campy feel, the songs weren’t impressing me, and the actors didn’t even look like they were actually singing. Obviously, they record the songs separately, but it should still look like the words are coming out of the characters’ mouths.

It gets better. The song performed by Rebecca Ferguson’s character midway through the movie was pretty powerful and there were some other standout songs. Hugh Jackman is always pretty good and that’s the case here. I’m not a Rebecca Ferguson fan but I liked the rest of the cast, even if Zendaya and Yahya Abdul-Mateen are underused.

The Greatest Showman just never pulled me in. It’s all spectacle and no substance. It doesn’t help that it appears to paint P.T. Barnum in an inauthentic light. At least that’s what I’ve read. But I don’t know anything about him, so that didn’t influence my own viewing of the movie.

At best, I’d say this was mildly entertaining, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. You can probably find clips of the best songs/scenes on YouTube and save yourself 90 minutes. Somehow this Must See/Can’t Miss recommendation went 0 for 3 in our group chat. Take that for what it’s worth.

4/10 (Forgettable)

The Edge of Seventeen (2016, Netflix, second viewing)

Originally written December 17th, 2016:

The Edge Of Seventeen is one of the better coming-of-age films I’ve seen in years. Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a high school junior that feels like the whole world is against her, particularly after one of the few people that can relate to her, her father, passes away. Things are really turned upside down when her only friend begins dating her brother. While I can’t particularly relate to Nadine’s story, I do feel like the script paints an accurate picture of what it’s like to be a teenager – from feeling like your parents don’t understand you at all, to thinking of your sibling as your enemy, to making consistently poor decisions… basically, thinking of nobody but yourself. The Edge Of Seventeen features some amazing acting from the whole cast, but it’s no surprise that Hailee Steinfeld gives another performance worth of Oscar consideration. Having just turned 20, with multiple great performances under her belt already, Steinfeld has established herself as the number one actress 20 or younger. I found a lot of the situations in The Edge Of Seventeen to be quite authentic, like how Nadine swoons over the one dimensional guy she doesn’t know because she finds him attractive while putting the nerdy guy she actually relates to on the back burner. Even though I liked Woody Harrelson in his role as Nadine’s teacher, their relationship felt like a bit of a stretch. Do teenage girls ever share their pornographic text messages with their teachers and ask for advice? Especially when said teacher is a man? I’m thinking no.

There was very little not to like about The Edge Of Seventeen. It was interesting, frequently hilarious, and tells a complete story. Plus it features a ton of amazing acting. It’s not quite a must see film, but I found it very enjoyable.

Replay Value: I will enjoy watching it a second time.
Sequel Potential: I think that would be weird.
Oscar Potential: Steinfeld got a Golden Globe nom, but the Oscar buzz has been quieter. I think she’s deserving, but I haven’t seen all the best performances. A SAG snub is a bad sign.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Snowpiercer (2013, Netflix)

What a bizarre movie. Set in an apocalyptic future where all life on earth has become extinct because of a failed solution to global warming. The only survivors are on board a train called the Snowpiercer and what a strange world they exist in. The train is weather-proof and designed to withstand the cold of the Arctic and completes its trek around the world in exactly 365 days so the citizens on board know that everytime they pass a certain bridge it signifies a new year. This movie is from Bong Joon Ho, the writer/director of last year’s Best Picture winner Parasite, and is another commentary on social classes as the people in the back of the train are treated like sub-humans and fed “protein bars” while the people in the front of the train are the acting government and dine on steaks. This is one of the crazier movies I’ve seen in a while and I was definitely intrigued if not exactly enthralled. The art direction in the various train compartments was stellar, but a bit unbelievable. I didn’t love this movie, but it’s definitely worth watching and I’m at least somewhat interested in the T.V. series it has spawned.

6/10 (Recommended)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011, HBOMax, sixth viewing)

This review may contain spoilers.

Azkaban might be the best Potter movie, but this one is probably my favorite. The action is unrelenting and there are a number of scenes that still give me chills:

*Harry returning to Hogwarts and surprising everyone when he walks through the portrait

*Harry’s confrontation with Snape

*Harry going to the woods by himself to die

*Neville’s standing up to Voldemort

*Harry revealing to everyone that he’s still alive

and probably more that I’m forgetting.

The final confrontation with Voldemort left a little to be desired. Pretty much as soon as Harry obtains the Elder Wand, it’s game over. I did love how he called him Tom though. Such a nice touch that I don’t remember being in the books.

This is just such a nice cap to what is an absolutely wonderful film franchise. You have to give the filmmakers and studio credit for keeping the cast together for eight films and it was super cool seeing the kids grow up on screen. Some of them are pretty accomplished actors by the end of it.

This series is iconic. It’s inevitable that they will probably remake it at some point (hopefully not in my lifetime) but I seriously don’t want to see that happen. I think they did an A+ job the first time around.

8/10 (Must See)

Bloodsport (1988, Netflix, fifth viewing?)

This movie is pretty ridiculous with some hilarious acting – especially from JCVD – but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t still a fun watch. Chong Li is one of the more memorable action movie villains from my childhood. I’d guess I’ve probably seen this movie 5+ times but this is my first time as an adult and I still enjoyed it.

6/10 (Recommended)

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May 2020 Movie Reviews

June 7, 2020

Check out my profile on Letterboxd if you want to follow along as I write my reviews throughout the month and also because the site/app is amazing for film lovers. Movies definitely took a backseat this past month as I focused on documentaries and TV series. In addition to the stuff I review below, I also watched season three of Ozark (elite) and season one of Dead to Me (elite), so not only a few movies in May and I didn’t even get one Scorsese film in. Boo. I also hit a serious lack of motivation to write reviews. It’s so much harder to do if I don’t write immediately after watching something and that was the case for almost everything below.

The History of the Seattle Mariners (2020, Documentary, YouTube)

I love that this is on Letterboxd because I absolutely want to spread the word on it. I’m a diehard baseball fan and I’ve lived in the Seattle area my entire life, so obviously this documentary is right up my alley. That said, it seems like plenty of non-baseball and non-Mariners fans have loved what Dorktown put together here.

First off, the presentation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. This is basically the coolest PowerPoint video ever created. The use of actual archive footage is pretty minimal and it’s basically two dudes narrating over a visual storyboard the whole time. Probably doesn’t sound awesome, but I can assure you that it is. The narrators are witty and often funny, making for a very enjoyable watch despite an almost total lack of actual footage.

Obviously, being a Mariners fan this hits close to home for me, but the reason this has been made is because the Mariners have such a unique and insane history. I’ve been an avid fan for 25+ years now and I was still surprised by some of the stats and anomalies presented here. I think any fan of sports can appreciate how absurd it all is and I’d consider this a must see.

But I am a Mariners fan so this meant so much more to me. I got to learn things about the team I didn’t know already (or forgot), plus I got to relive all the magical and heartbreaking moments this team has given me over the last quarter century. I had to hold back tears multiple times. This is a must see for sports fans – and especially baseball fans – but for Mariners fans… this is just pure magic.

10/10 (Perfection)

The Last Dance (2020, Documentary, ESPN+)

Another elite sports documentary that I spent the majority of May watching. This one follows the Chicago Bulls dynasty that dominated the NBA in the 90s and particularly focuses on Michael Jordan and the 1997-1998 season, but still manages to tell the full story of how that team came to be.

I was growing up when MJ was in his prime and he was still a pretty mystical figure to me. How many NBA licensed video games did you play as a kid that had every player in it except His Airness? Was he even real? Looking at pictures and highlight reels it sometimes seems like he might not have been.

All the key players get their moment in the spotlight, but Michael Jordan is certainly the focus, as he should be. I really just loved every minute of this 10-part series and that’s quite the accomplishment. I’m not the biggest NBA fan so plenty of this information was new to me (or long forgotten) and it was cool to see all the behind-the-scenes footage of what was going on at all stages of this dynasty.

Who is the greatest basketball player of all-time? Michael Jordan or LeBron James? Or someone else? It’s certainly a debate, but The Last Dance sure didn’t hurt the argument for Jordan. If nothing else, he was the biggest larger-than-life athlete of our generation (I’m saying that as an 80s/90s kid).

I thought The Last Dance was phenomenal and I’m not a big basketball guy. At minimum, I’d say this is a Must See, but I thought it was as entertaining as possible for nearly ten hours so…

9/10 (Sensational)

The Way Back (2020, RedBox)

I’m always on board with an underdog sports story and this one features a coach that has to overcome his own personal demons in order to help his ragtag team become something… respectable. You’d think this is probably based on a true story, but I can’t find anything that says that’s the case. Ben Affleck is pretty good in this and all the cussing he does from the sidelines of his religious school makes for multiple amusing moments. I liked this enough that I’d watch it again some day.

6/10 (Recommended)

Extraction (2020, Netflix)

A fun action movie that felt like a throwback to the good ole days of the 80s and 90s when action movies were consistently fun. Hemsworth is well suited to the be the face of the genre for this generation. Not a must see or anything, but worth watching if you’re browsing Netflix and can’t find something.

6/10 (Recommended)

Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill (2020, Comedy Special, Netflix)

I wouldn’t say it’s hilarious, but I found it entertaining at least. Seinfeld fans shouldn’t be disappointed, but it’s nothing special.

6/10 (Recommended)

Watchmen (2019, Mini-Series, HBONow)

I was kind of blown away by this. It took me a while to get to it because someone told me to re-read the graphic novel before watching because I would appreciate it a lot more, so I took my sweet time re-reading that while reading three other books, but I think it paid off because everything was fresh and I could easily pick up on all the subtle references to the original content.

Honestly, I think the way they continued this story was genius level writing. And the story is set in an alternate reality but still seemed so timely and relevant – especially in 2020. Is it blasphemous to say I liked it more than Alan Moore’s story? It’s totally engrossing, the characters are fully realized and believable, and I like the decisions the writers made with the older characters. It all just clicked together perfectly. And the presentation was stunning. Plus it had great acting – especially from Regina King and Jean Smart.

Huge winner. I’d love to see another season.

8/10 (Must See)

Above the Rim (1994, Netflix)

This review may contain spoilers.

Here’s a timeline of events:

March 23, 1994 – Above the Rim is released in theaters
March 14, 1995 – 2pac releases Me Against the World, his third studio album
February 13, 1996 – 2Pac releases All Eyez on Me, his fourth studio album
September 7, 1996 – Tupac Shakur is shot multiple times in Las Vegas
September 13, 1996 – Tupac Shakur dies from his gunshot wounds
November 5, 1996 – The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory is released under the alias Makaveli, 2Pac’s fifth studio album

I turned 14 in 1996 and things just felt so different back then. Tupac was 25 when he died. Look at all he accomplished in his last two years on earth. Consider this: Eminem was 26 when his first studio album was released. Tupac still had the length of Eminem’s entire career ahead of him. Can you even imagine what that looks like if he doesn’t die?

A few things surprise me about this timeline. First, Tupac had a lot of success in the movies before he really blew up as a rap artist. I feel like Me Against the World is the album that catapulted him to rap superstar status and by the time it dropped, he’d already had prominent roles in Juice, Poetic Justice, and Above the Rim. It’s just strange to me how successful his film career was before he reached hip-hop’s stratosphere. Also, how crazy is it that the releases of All Eyez on Me and Makaveli and his death all happened in the same year? When I was 14, this whole timeline of events felt like it took place over a decade.

R.I.P. Legend

Tupac makes this movie. I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to list Above the Rim with other 90s classic hood movies like Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood but it’s just not even close to that level of quality. The soundtrack is a hip-hop classic and I think that, along with Tupac’s presence, makes people remember this movie as being better than it actually is.

Tupac is great. He’s the reason I watched this again. The man just oozed charisma and superstar potential. He had it. You take him out of this movie and replace him with an average actor from back then and I just don’t think many people are looking back on this as a classic. The rest of the movie is fine, but nothing special.

Don’t get me wrong… Above the Rim is plenty enjoyable, but it’s also pretty silly. What exactly happened at the start of the movie? They were taking turns tapping the backboard and one of them accidentally jumps off the roof? LOL. It’s so ridiculous that at first I thought it was just meant to be a dream sequence and the kid must have died some other way. But no, they stuck to that story.

This movie is also guilty of the absurd sports montage where one team scores what appears to be like 40 unanswered points. I mean… you can’t show the good guys score ONE basket? We are supposed to believe they can come back from that kind of deficit? Also, Birdie threatened Kyle’s scholarship to Georgetown and Kyle was worried enough about it that he was throwing the championship game. But then old dude laces them up and suddenly he’s not worried about it anymore? I know Bugaloo ultimately took care of that threat, but Kyle didn’t know that was going to happen.

Watch this again to remember and appreciate Tupac Shakur. Listen to the amazing soundtrack. But let’s not pretend this is something it isn’t.

5/10 (Decent)

Big (1988, HBONow)

I thought this was a rewatch, but then I didn’t remember anything about it. The piano key dancing scene is something I know, but it’s an iconic scene, so I didn’t necessarily have to watch the movie to know about it. Also, I’m familiar with the Zandar machine that grants the kid’s wish to be big. Everything else? It was like I was watching for the first time. I probably watched this as a kid, maybe once, but I thought I watched it as an adult, but it seems like I would remember Celia Hodes from the show “Weeds” being in it if I did. Nope.

I really liked Big. In fact, I just enjoy this kind of concept in general – you know, where something magical happens and the main character(s) transforms into something else but still have their normal conscious. It might not be an original idea, but it never fails to amuse me when it’s executed properly and Big does just that because Tom Hanks is really, really great. Of all the performances in similar movies, Hanks in Big might be the best I’ve ever seen (not that I’m putting a lot of thought into that statement). I just totally buy him as a 13 year old kid. He’s wonderful. I’m actually somewhat surprised Hanks got an Oscar nom for this role… not because he didn’t deserve… Big just seems like the type of movie the Academy would overlook.

Big is great. Full of charm, wonder, and Tom Hanks’ first iconic performance, it’s a film you should revisit if you haven’t seen it for many years.

P.S.: My mind can’t accept the fact that the kid that plays the best friend in Big is not the same kid that plays John Connor’s friend in Terminator 2. How is that not the same person?

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

This is Spinal Tap (1984, borrowed DVD)

An all-time comedy classic that I had never seen until now. Did it live up to the hype? Honestly… not really. It’s possible this film created the mockumentary genre so I can appreciate it for being groundbreaking even if I can’t experience what it was like to see it for the first time in the mid-80s. It’s definitely funny though and some of the original songs are pure gems. I didn’t walk away thinking this is a must see comedy, but I still liked it quite a bit.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)