Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Mar
17
10. The Avengers
I’m not sure this ones going to hold up well over time, but it was a big deal.  Maybe it makes the list more on its significance.  Second half much better than the first.
 
9. Captain America: Winter Solider
Sure it gave up the MCU’s lamest character in Bucky Barnes that we had to put up with ever since, but otherwise this is a pretty solid action flick.  The elevator scene is great, and I like the old spy movie elements.
8. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Made two lists.  How about that.
7. Avengers: Infinity War
The culmination of all the MCU that came before.  Some great pairings in this movie with a strong villain at the core.
6. The Dark Knight Rises
The conclusion of Nolan’s trilogy.  Its the weakest of the three perhaps, but its still really good.  Its interesting seeing Bruce have to come back from his lowest point.  It gets a little outlandish with the level of chaos the city falls into, but it works for the drama created from it.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy

Does this really count as a superhero movie?  I mean, its part of the MCU, so that’s why its here.  But there’s an argument to be made its more sci-fi.  Bah, genre classification is stupid.  It ties in with Marvel,so its here.  Regardless, its a heck of a lot of fun.
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
This is sort of like the Endgame of the x-men universe.  All kinds of stuff gets thrown together here, past and present, and it all works really well.  Centering Wolverine and the central character traveling back to the past is a brilliant stroke.  We get crazy action in the future time, and solid drama in the past.  They could have needed X-men here and it would have been a great send off.
Although then we wouldn’t get this great send-off…
3. Logan
In 2009, we got a long awaited Wolverine spin-off, and then wished we hadn’t.  But a few years later, we wound up with Logan, a contemplative look at the toll of Wolverine’s years and lifestyle.  Adding in Patrick Stewart was a great movie as well.  This movie looks great, is deeply felt, and still has that comic book action we crave.
2. Wonder Woman
I feel like this may go down as a superhero classic.  It has the elements: great protagonist, strong motivation which says something about heroism, an iconic look and an iconic scene (no-mans land).  I appreciate it more every time I see it.
1. Avengers Endgame
The most financially successful movie of all time, built on the backs of 20 other films.  Its a ridiculous smorgasbord of Marvelly action, but its also a pretty solid story, especially in the first half.  The world is dealing with the “snap”, and thinks are looking bleak.  But a ray of hope brings the team back together and then things really get rolling.  They really nailed this one.  I was very impressed.  In a year of big franchises letting us down with their endings, MCU did anything but.
Feb
29
10. Isle of Dogs
I’ll admit that when I first saw this, I was let down.  It doesn’t reach the heights of Anderson’s other stop-motion Mr. Fox and the human parts of the story in particular were uninteresting.  But I’ve caught it on tv a few times before then, and every time I do I like it quite a bit more.  Somehow Anderson can make a dogs furtive glance funny.  It works.
9. The Peanuts Movie
This didn’t and still doesn’t get a lot of fanfare, but I really liked what the Peanuts movie did.  It really seemed to capture the heart and soul of Schultz’s comic in both story and animation.  Its really a solid little cartoon.
8. How to Train Your Dragon
I think this one surprised a lot of people.  This came out at the height of 3D and got a lot of hype for the flying scenes, but I guess this is a reflection of how vivid the animation is.  The story works well and can be quite touching at time.
7. Coco
I’m just a sap I guess.  That scene with the song at the end clinched this for me.
6. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
I suspected that this was mostly people getting over-hyped, but when I decided to watched it I ended up liking it quite a bit.  The mix of animation styles is cool, and the death of … someone major at the beginning and its fallout really won me over.

5. Moana
I don’t know why I like this one as much as I do.  Ts not really my kind of movie, but there you have it.  I even like the songs.  Like, a lot.
4. The Lego Movie
I’ve always been a big lego maniac, but even so I was skeptical of a movie about lego.  But low and behold, what I got was great.  The animation was creative, the themes spoke to the purpose of lego itself, it was funny… it was awesome.
3. Toy Story 3
This might be the best of the series.  I think maybe it is.
2. Your Name
As far as the animation is concerned, the is the most gorgeous looking film on this list.  And the story, though weird, is really quite wonderful.  Your Name really took me by surprise.  It was very close to topping this list.
1. Inside Out
This is Pixar reaching back to its glory days of a decade earlier.  You know, when it made Cars.  I love the themes of Inside Out and how they mesh with these characters.  There’s a lot of imagination happening here.  I seem to like Inside Out more every time I see it.  It also has the added memory of me taking my niece to see this as her first movie when she was 4 years old.
Feb
24
10. Black Swan

Does this count as a horror movie?  Its sort of psychological horror, right?  Anyways, I haven’t seen it in a while, but remember really liking it.  So it makes the list.

9. Halloween

Despite how much I hate that they want this to be a sequel to Halloween, yet called it EXACTLY THE SAME THING, I really ended up liking it.  It felt solidly constructed with lots of weight behind it.  Michael Myers returning as an old man is good stuff.
8. Train to Busan
Again, this might be considered action instead. look; I don’t want to get into a big war with you people on genre semantics.  Its got zombies, its got scenes full of tension, its fine.  It works fine.  Also, its an awesome movie.
7. It
Its one of the more pedestrian choices for the list, and that’s fine!  I like this movie!  Pennywise is creepy, the kids have a good story going, they are able to filter the Stephen King-ness out to keep it essential.
6. The Witch
Bloody freaky, I tell you.  Love the old timey setting.  Really made my skin crawl, especially near the end.
5. Midsommar
I’m still not sure the ending sits right with me.  It’s all kinds of messed up.  But this movie pulled me in quickly sand then just held on.  The Scandinavian colony idea was intriguing and haunting.
4. Hereditary
Hey, same director. How about that.  Again, that ending…   Is Ari Aster okay?   Should someone check on him, make sure he’s doing alright?
3. A Quiet Place
A great premise with execution to match.  Lots of cool details here, lots of tense scenes, an oddly quiet theater experience.  Loved it.
2. Get Out
This one has grown on me more and more.  A nice mystery build up, and a good twist moment when you realize what is happening.  You know what? This is going in my collection.  I just ordered from amazon.
1. It Follows
I was not expecting It Follows to grab me as much as it did.  On first glance it seems like one of those horror movies only teenagers would like, but when I watched it I realized there was a lot of craft behind it.  I also think the idea of the creature constantly and slowly stalking you is very creepy.
Feb
20

Looking ahead to 2020… I’m actually not looking forward to much.  I’m hopeful there will be great movies coming out, but at this point, not quite sure what they will be.  So this is just more of a few that caught my eye, mostly because of who is making them.

5. Wonder Woman 1984
I really liked Wonder Woman and think it might last as one of the best of the super hero films.  I’m very skeptical of the sequel to be honest.  I really don’t know what it could add.  But I’m still interested to find out.
4. Onward
Another one I’m skeptical on; the trailers didn’t actually look that good.  But its Pixar so I’ll give them the benefit of a chance.  I am interested to see what the world building is like.
3. Mank

David Fincher hasn’t come out with a film in seven years, so of course I’m going to be excited to see what he does next.  Its going to be a biopic about the screenwriter of Citizen Kane.  Um, alright.  Seems esoteric, and not necessarily something that excites me.  But I have to remember that ten years ago we were saying”He’s making a Facebook movie? Really?”

2. Dune
And now we are getting to the movies which are really exciting me.  Dune is one of my favourite books, and so far there has just been a poorly developed movie from the 80s and a faithful but cheesy tv movie.  So maybe, hopefully, we get some justice done to Frank Herbert’s masterpiece.  Why am I hopeful?  Simple; the director.  Denis Villineue has quickly become a director to trust, especially after Sicario, Blade Runner, and one of my favourite movies of the past few years, Arrival.
1. Tenet
And of course the top spot goes to the new Christopher Nolan film.  I’m a Nolan fanboy; sorry.  His movies are always big, bold, and above all interesting.  I have no idea what this is about, and I want to keep it that way.  Very excited.
Feb
15

This was a pretty solid year for movies.  But not all can be winners.  Sometimes we have to look at what doesn’t work to appreciate what does work even more.

5. I Am Mother

Netflix has been going all out on producing sci-fi movies and TV shows lately.  Clearly they must be finding it popular, based on their secret statistics.   The problem is that they tend to just want this stuff out there as “new content” and don’t tend to focus on quality.  I Am Mother has the somewhat intriguing premise of a child being raised by a robot.  However, its not actually interested in exploring what a girl who is raised by robots would actually be like.  She just seems like a normal girl.  Its actually rather dull.

4. Alita: Battle Angel
I know that a lot of people actually really like this movie and found it to be a pleasant surprise.  I’m glad it found an audience, but I’m just not a part of that group.  I found the world-building to be lame, the storytelling sloppy, and the main character of Alita wildly inconsistent.  It looks great, but otherwise falls apart at the seams.
3.The Laundromat

Its easy to compare this to 2015’s The Big Short, as they are both trying to explain some sort of confusing financial incident using a lot of fourth wall-breaking techniques and merging multiple stories.  But hooooboy are they different.  Where The Big Short actually helped you understand what was happening, I still don’t really know what The Laundromat was about.  The “merging stories” also seemed wildly disconnected and very unbalanced in the editing.  And it did absolutely nothing to make me care about any of it.

2. Shazam!

If someone was to ask me ‘what is the one primary aspect of a bad movie that makes it bad?’, I would have to say the editing.  Editing is important in creating the right pacing and also adds a lot to the tone of a movie.  If these things don’t work, the film falls apart.  And this is Shazam in a nutshell.  The pacing is all over the place and there are so many extraneous and displaced scenes that it just becomes one big mess. Oh, and for trying to be DC’s fun, light-hearted movies, the jokes and gags simply fell flat.

1. Men in Black: International
This is the epitome of soulless franchise milking.  Its “Hollywood safe” movie-making at its worst.  There is no reason to bring the Men in Black series back (not really that great a series in the first place) other than that its a recognizable product, so why not?  Its bland, its boring, its clearly made by committee; in other words, its everything that’s wrong with the movie industry right now.
Feb
11
5. Silicon Valley
Season 6
This is a comedy I’ve enjoyed the whole way through its run.  Its never the best thing on, but its always enjoyable.  This final season was consistent with that.  And Gilfoyle just kills me; love that character.  Especially his relationship with Dinesh.
4. The Expanse
Season 4
I’m a big fan of the books, but it took me a while to get into the show.  It seemed too much like Battlestar Galactica when it started, but it didn’t take long to find its own voice, and since then its been steadily getting better.  This last season, with a lot of the action being on-planet, might be their best yet.
3. The Mandalorian
Season 1
Baby Yoda. Nuff said.
2. Watchmen
Season 1
I’ll admit I was hesitant about Watchmen at first.  It seemed very loosely connected to the original story and seemed pretty scattered.  But it works.  It all works.  All the threads come together in ways you don’t expect.  There are people out there who didn’t bother watching Watchmen, who thought it juvenile superhero trash, or didn’t like its politics, who will want to know why I liked this show so much.  And they will cry out: “Convince us.”  And I will whisper: “no.”
1. Chernobyl
Damn this was good.  The drama was perfectly pitched, the stakes were high, the details incredibly interesting.  There are so many good lines, so much great imagery, and so much I learned about this infamous incident.  This is top notch television film-making.
Jan
20
10. Parasite

Parasite has been making waves in the last part of the year, and it really is a strong thriller.  It has something to say about the divide between social classes and the lengths people will go to to keep up.

 

9. Yesterday

I know this didn’t win over a lot of people, and I was honestly dubious about it, but it did end up winning me over.  I liked it both as a tribute to the Beatles and as a story in its own right.
8. The Irishman
This is a 3 1/2 hour movie released on streaming video about some old gangsters being old.  And yet it drew me in enough to watch it all in one sitting even when I didn’t have to.  It was really good.  The acting was, well, what you’d hope to expect from the cast.  I’m not always on board with what Scorsese does, but I was this time for sure.
7. Knives Out
I really enjoy murder mysteries, though there aren’t a lot of really great ones.  I enjoyed Knives Out a lot.  It really had a Clue-like feel.  Daniel Craig was a lot of fun.  The plot was neat in the way it switched up the information reveals.  Check it out!
6. Midsommar
This movie is really disturbing.  I just want to preface with that caveat, because to be honest I am really bothered with this ending.  But the atmosphere fo this movie leading up to it, especially in the first act, is superb.  You feel like you are in the hands of a true craftsman of horror
5. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
Tarantino’s new effort is definitely a slow burn, but I enjoyed just sitting in this period with these characters.  As with Midsommar, I’m still not sure how I feel about the way it concluded, but as I reflect on it I’m not sure any other ending would have been appropriate.  Both DiCaprio and Pitt are excellent, and its great seeing them finally on screen together.
4. Avengers Endgame
I was impressed with the way the climax of the MCU was able to pull everything together without feeling overwhelming and give me legitimate surprises in a genre that is often seen as formulaic and repetitive.  The reason this movie works is because we like these characters  and we like seeing them fight through this ultimate challenge.  There’s a reason Marvel is at the top of the box office lists; they know what they are doing and they know how to entertain while focusing on great characters.
3. Ad Astra
Ad Astra isn’t a film for everyone, and I wasn’t sure it was going to be a film for me.  But I really latched on to the themes it was exploring, as they matched my mood of the moment very well.  Ad Astra on the surface is about an astronaut going to the far reach of the solar system to find his father, but underneath its really about mankind’s struggle with faith and struggle against nihilism.  So like I said, not for everyone, but it was for me at this particular time.
2. 1917
An adventure film inside a war film, but without losing the profundity often required of war films.  This was an exciting movie; the kind of movie that got me really interested in films during my younger days.  One thing that really struck me was how the characters are built by tiny moments that humanize them, like the choice to rescue a man they maybe shouldn’t have, or how one character sacrifices his rifle to knock out an enemy rather than kill him.  This is the most recent movie I’ve seen from this year, and it really made an impression on me.
1. Apollo 11
This is the first time my movie of the year has been a documentary.  I’m not a big doc-head; I tend to strongly prefer narrative films.  But this year is an exception, because Apollo 11 was released for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  First all, I will say I am jealous of everyone alive during that time who were able to see it live (thought I am very eagerly anticipating the eventual Mars landing).  But seeing this documentary of almost entirely stock footage of the mission was perhaps the best alternative I could hope for.  The technical aspects were fascinating, the dramatic moments were tense, and the momentous achievements they reached were very uplifting.  I was entranced by this film and I am very happy it exists.
Dec
23

“I can feel the conflict in you.”

Yes you can, Luke, yes you can.  Because there are a lot of battling thoughts in my head after seeing Rise of Skywalker.  Ultimately, did I like it? I mean, yes.  Its still Star Wars after all, and I really like these characters; particularly Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren.  However, Force Awakens and Last Jedi were both superior films, and there is certainly some level of disappointment in how Rise of Skywalker was executed.

I don’t think I can do this without spoilers, so I am giving my *SPOILER WARNING* right now for the rest of the review.

They tried to be as exoteric as possible with this film, even going as far as addressing the whiny nitpicks from those vocal minority fanboys who decried the Last Jedi.  This was disappointing to see, and as such a lot of this film felt like it was retracting from where we left off instead of progressing.  There were a lot of decisions made about the story that I disliked; the first of which being the return of the Emperor, but especially the decision to make Rey his descendant.  This felt like a fan theory come to life, but didn’t fit with the ongoing tale we’ve been watching for the last four years.  But whatever; I was still able to accept this as the premise and keep following the story, disappointed though I was.

The early plot consisted of a lot of searching for objects.  In fact, there was much more emphasis placed on objects in this movie than Star Wars has ever really had.  We have these diamond-shaped maps to the secret Sith location, some sort of dagger … it was weird.  Much more something Indy would be into.  There was a lot of treasure hunting.  This stuff felt very much like fan fiction (though maybe not as much as actually having Leia training Rey Dagobah style).

Some parts of the story really worked for me though, most of which revolved around Rey and Kylo Ren.  Their dynamic is electric and both actors put in strong performances to emphasize this.  Having Kylo Ren turn was predictable, but was still very satisfying.  I also liked the way in which his breaking point came.  I was really happy how their story resolved.

Another aspect I really liked was seeing our main band of characters actually go out on missions together, even as ridiculous as the missions themselves were.  These are enjoyable characters, and watching them play off of each other is a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the quicksand scene a lot.

New characters were introduced, however they weren’t given space to allow them to captivate us and seemed extraneous at best.  There’s a new character called Janna who seemed entirely unnecessary and could have easily been replaced with Rose, who is already established.  There’s also a bounty hunter (?) from Poe’s past who served her short purpose but didn’t need to return after that.  There’s a new Imperial Officer (Pride, I think they called him) who was actually important to have as the face of the First Order threat, since Hux is a joke and Kylo is sort of doing his own thing.  But he’s still pretty bland, as most Imperial officers are.  I did like the pixar droid, but again its inclusion was unnecessary.  That little technician creature was awesome though.

I could also go on about all of the blatant fan service there is in this movie, but I don’t want to belabor that point too much.  This is already an overly critical review for a movie I still got some enjoyment out of. I will say, however, that there was a moment with Chewbacca at the end of the movie that almost made my eyes roll to the back of my head.

What I find myself most disappointed in is the film-making itself.  The first act feels poorly paced, rushing from one thing to the next.  The story simply wasn’t given a lot of room to breath.  Meanwhile, the visuals and spectacle were so bombastic that it was overwhelming and caused the power of individual moments to suffer.  Compare this to The Last Jedi, which had a number of powerful scenes and let us actually live with these characters for a while.  Think about how awesome the red room scene was, or how impactful it was when Luke walked out to face the whole First Order on his own.   Nothing in Rise is at that level, because the moments aren’t set up as well, or paced as well, or scaled back to an appropriate level.  Instead we have the Emperor shoot enough lightning from his fingers to stop every ship in two fleet just cause “its big!”.  Even the nostalgic beats worked better in the previous two films.  I actually felt something when Han and Leia saw each other for the first time in years, or when Yoda showed up on Luke’s island.  Here we have moments which should be on the same level, but just come and go without much weight.  Its become quite obvious that Rian Johnson is the superior film-maker.

So clearly I can’t help but feel let down by this movie.  That’s not to say I hated it or even disliked it.  Again, its still Star Wars, and I had quite a lot of investment in these characters.  I do wish it had been stronger and confident in what it wanted to be, instead of trying so desperately to be what it thought we wanted it to be.  But then again, if I put myself in the mindset of 1983, Jedi probably seemed a disappointment from Empire.  We have come to accept it as the conclusion of that story, and so I think I can be okay with this conclusion as well. Maybe.

6/10

Nov
30

Let me get this out of the way: this movie is visually stunning. So much so that I thought it was going to win me over, despite its flaws. Alas, it was not enough to overcome all of the problems I had with Alita.

The other day I was watching The Expanse and pontificating on what it means for a story to have great world building. If you are able to make it feel like the characters in your story have been inhabiting this created world their whole lives, and that we are just glimpsing into a part of those lives, you have success in great world building.

While the actual world of Alita seems interesting, it fails in crafting this world in a satisfying manner. The explanations of the world are clumsy, and its very obvious that certain points are outlined specifically for we the audience. A lot of it was simply outlined through dialogue.

The story also feels clumsy. Its a mishmash of this girl learning her identity, becoming a “hunter-warrior” (probably the dumbest name they could have thought of for bounty hunter), a roller derby robot, and also trying to topple the oppressive rule of the floating city above them. So yeah, lots going on. Hard to make it all flow, and it doesn’t do a particularly good job of it. There is a scene in the bounty hunter bar which epitomizes the script problems.

The other major issue I had is how inconsistent the character of Alita is. At one point shes a wide-eyed teenager taking in the world around her, at another a tough-talking brawler. She’s whatever the script needs her to be at the moment. So without having a grasp on this protagonist, I found my appreciation for this movie slipping away.

The fact that it ends on a bathetic cliff-hanger really didn’t help.

4/10

Nov
18

Tolkien is pretty standard biopic fare, however, as a Tolkien fan I probably managed to get more out of it than most would. The film is at its best when it is touching upon inspirations for his later works. And even here, this only really works when the film is being subtle about it, less so when it is being overt.

For example, we can extrapolate influences like the relationship between Faramir and Denethor from Tolkien’s own friend and father. We can sense the Frodo/Sam relationship in his military assistant. His move from the country to Birmingham visually reminds us of the scouring of the Shire.

There are also much more overt visuals as well, like the horsemen in the war reminding us of ringwraths, or the fires beyond the trenches forming into Sauron. When these are small glances they’re effective, but when they are put on full display they lose some of their power somehow.

The movie has a lot of strengths, which includes the production and the acting. Where it suffers is in the script itself. The script seems to have some problem with investment. For example, Tolken’s relationship with Edith sort of kicks off from 0-60 without much lead in to make us believe it. I seem to remember the trailer having a scene where he sees her approaching him in the woods, like Luthein. This wasn’t in the film, but would have probably added a lot to us believing his affection for her.

Another issue is when we jump years ahead, a conflict between the two is brought up about how he spends too much time on his book and not with his family. Its too late in the film to bring up this conflict, which had no build up and only really exists for the last scene.

Speaking of the last scene, and minor spoilers here I guess, this is also a good example of script issues. The movie ends with him writing his famous fist line, “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit”, with a lot of emphasis on the idea of the hobbit. However, this is a pay off which has absolutely no set up. We see nothing about how he is inspired to create hobbits anywhere in the film. Sure, the group of friends he has is strongly indicative of the four hobbits who set out from the Shire together, but the idea of a hobbit itself has absolutely no footprint on the film at all until that point.

I probably sound like a raging book nerd at this point. But honestly, most of my enjoyment in this film was pulling these little hints to his writings scattered throughout the narrative and visuals. I’m not sure this would work on someone not very familiar with his stories. I’ll give it a 7/10, but that’s based on this bias; the script would otherwise bring this down.

5.5/10

Oct
22

Okay, so let me work this out. First, maybe things are inherently less scary because its adults now, not kids? Also, what was with them not being able to remember even living in the town until they’re together again? (except for Stanley apparently). That was kinda pointless, and pretty tough to buy.

The scare scenes were monotonous. First off, they set up this plot device of the “tokens”, so it became apparent pretty quickly what the pattern was, and we had to see it repeated 6 times. Also, instead of going for the creep factor, they went for the gore/gross-out factor, which was really disappointing and far less effective. Oh, there was also a giant paul bunyon statue which just reminds me of that one halloween episode of Simpsons where the billboards come to life.

I do like Pennywise as a villain, but after the established pattern I just mentioned,and the fact that his first kills proved to be essentially irrelevant to the rest of the movie, he wasn’t nearly as menacing. I also thought the ending was pretty dumb and didn’t make a lot of thematic sense.

The ending did feel epic, and much of the casting was pretty spot on. I did think they venerated the original film and the kid’s relationships a little too much, but oh well.

All in all, a disappointment.

5/10

Oct
12

In the second movie this year to involve Jordan Peele and a lost child at a carnival, the very existence of a fourth Toy Story seemed to baffle many moviegoers, as the third film seemed to wrap up the series so well.

As far as a conclusion to the series goes, Toy Story 4 does enough to make its presence worthy, as the “ending” actually works on another level on top of the one given to us in the third. However, I will say that as far as quality goes, this last installment certainly does dip from the bar its predecessors set.

Its still an enjoyable film, don’t get me wrong. but it has a lot more false-ringing moments to it and fatigue in familiar plot points is felt deeper. They have to go back for yet another lost toy. Complications, and now the same or another toy is left behind. Repeat. That does get a little tiring.

The transformation of a minor love interest into a Frozen-level action hero works for the film, but also seems like a lot of pandering. They were also going for something with the antagonist that I felt didn’t worked either.  This film really felt like it was made by committee; perhaps more-so than any other Pixar I can think of at the moment.

But that said, its always neat to see them expand the Toy Story world (though they do have some Finding Dory issues with pushing the limits too far). Visually, the film is gorgeous. Pixar certainly always seems to push their animation further with each film they do. And its hard not to like the characters, though a lot of the secondary characters you love are really left in the background here.

So yeah, its good. But when it comes right down to it, the series didn’t really need it.

7/10

Oct
01

I’m posting my second annual scary movie month post, hoping to give some recommendations (and anti-recommendations) for everyone as they plan out their October movie line-up.  What I have done is gone back to this time last year, looking at the movies I watched for October and posting my thoughts here for you for you to do with as you will.

As I am planning out my 2019 watch-list for this Halloween, please comment and give me your own recommendations.  Enjoy!

Oct. 1
The Haunting
I was quite impressed with this haunted house horror from 1963.  The vivid cinematography and elaborate set design really made this film look great.  The horror elements are pretty much reduced to banging noises and bad feelings, but it works.  The only thing that sort of bugged me was the main character’s thought narration, but I suppose its sort of necessary for where things end up for her.  I also did not understand her background at all.
If you haven’t seen this yet and appreciate the history of horror films, definitely check it out.
8/10
Oct. 5
An American Werewolf in London
I have to say, I enjoyed this one quite a bit.  The strongest part is the beginning, which always leaves a hint of disappointment I suppose, but I still liked it overall.   The idea of backpackers encountering a werewolf is cool, and I liked everything in Northern England a lot.  It drags a little in the second act, and there’s some weird stuff with dream sequences, but it picks up.
The most famous part of this movie is the wolf transformation scene, which is quite impressive on a technical level.  I also really liked the look of the final form werewolf.  Another great make-up achievement is when Jack, the friend who died, returns to visit David,with his face and neck all ripped up.  This was some great craftsmanship.  I found it less visually interesting with his subsequent visits when he’s more zombie-like.
8/10
Oct. 5
Gremlins 2
Some sequels attempt to be bigger and bolder than their original.  Others try to replicate the first film.  Gremlins 2 takes a different approach; namely, to take the initial premise to extreme levels of ridiculousness.  And as a result, its a lot of fun.
As a social commentary, Gremlins 2 tackles the procrustean ways of corporate America by setting the film in an exaggerated version of a state-of-the-art office building and in exploring caricature mindsets of the people working in this buildings.  The gremlins counteract this, causing all sorts of mischief with no respect for anything, and with the convenient geographical proximity of a secret DNA lab, they each start taking on individual characteristics (wings, spider legs, intelligence).
Gremlins 2 manages to be stupid, smart, and fun all at the same time.  The creature effects look great this time around, and a lot of pride and enthusiasm went into their design.
And extra points for the Canadian restaurant.
7/10
October 10
Play Misty For Me
This 70s thriller is Eastwood’s directorial debut where he plays a radio DJ being stalked by an obsessive fan.  Its a decent thriller with a premise which has inspired many other similar stories.  It doesn’t really get pushed into the apex levels of the film thriller canon, but its a good watch.
I do wish a little more time would have been spent just as her calling in, before they meet, but they meet rather quickly into the movie which removes a bit of tension.  The callback to the call-in does pay off later however.
There’s also a really weird love scene in the woods.  Feels very out of place, as does the jazz festival part.  However, the festival makes sense as its supposed to lull us back into a sense of normalcy for the character.
I also didn’t understand why he just didn’t go to the damn cops.  Musta been a 70s thing.
7/10
Also, I didn’t realize until the credits that the stalker was played by Lucille Bluth.
Cabin in the Woods
October 14
Cabin in the Woods is a blast.  Granted a lot of the jokes can be rather esoteric, but only if you’ve seen hardly any horror films.  Otherwise you’ll likely be in on most of the jokes and commentary.  In other words, if you get it, you’ll probably like it.
The horror tropes at the beginning of the film are pretty standard, but hey! That’s the point!  And they are interspersed with these seemingly out of place work office scenes starring Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, who channels the witty Josh Lyman here to great effect.  And when the film takes its turn it only amps up the interest and intensity.
If you want full-on horror satire, check this one out if for some reason you haven’t already.
8.5/10
Hereditary
October 20

I finally got to see Hereditary.  I was going to go see it in the theaters this summer, but the day I was free to go ws the day that England lost the semi0final to Croatia, so my nerves were already fried.  I didn’t think a horror movie would help that much.
But now that I’ve seen it, I understand the buzz it got.  This is a masterful demonstration of tone and atmosphere, give you the creeping feeling that something is not right with this family and its situation but never giving you any confidence that you know exactly what it is.  The music, the sets, and the camerawork all converge on this.  Even when nothing was happening, I was feeling the doom enclosing.
I don’t really want to say anything about what the movie contains.  I went in completely fresh, and I’m glad I did.  There was a moment (those who have seen will know which) that had me actually shout out in shock.  There were many other moments where I was either completely captivated by Toni Collette’s intensity or frantically trying to figure out what was going on  (I’m looking at you ending).
I will say this about the end however; there was really no sense of catharsis.  There is no real silver lining, which leaves you feeling even more disturbed afterwards.  I’m not sure I liked that.  I’ll admit it was effective, but yeah… didn’t really like it.
Overall though, great creepfest.
9/10
The Babadook
October 27
This got a lot of buzz a few years ago, which is surprising for a title that sounds like it comes straight from Adam Sandler’s inane gibberish.  I’ve meant to give this a peek for a while, and finally got around to it yesterday on a Saturday when I was home alone and no one was available to go out for a beer or have a board game night.  And, well, I was kinda disappointed, and not just in my lack of a Saturday night.  The movie certainly didn’t win me over.
The biggest reason is that I found it really irritating.  The kid was irritating, the mom was irritating, and I was never able to find an anchor into the story.  The children’s book was cool, but also… where did it come from?  The “horror”, creepy-thing-int-the-night scenes were very effective.  But thinking about them afterwards, the babadook doesn’t seem defined enough, or purposeful enough.  It just seemed like they did whatever with it to get a quick scare, without building a lot of substance around it.
The monster ends up being a metaphor for postpartum depression, or something like that.  But by the time the metaphor becomes apparent, I wasn’t invested enough.
6/10
Halloween 2018
Oct. 30
This movie turned out to be quite a worthy sequel to its predecessor (despite the choice to give it the SAME F*&*ING TITLE!).  It really played on the idea of Michael as this soulless human being, and shows Laurie going all Sarah Conner on us.  The idea of Michael as an old man is intriguing, even though we never really see his face, and the opening where the reporters try to get a reaction out of him is a pretty good kick off to the film.
One could argue that this is just another in the long line of nostalgia-fueled rehashes we’ve been seeing lately.  It does touch on a lot of that, with the recapping on his sister’s murder, the bus crash scene being reminiscent of the asylum break out, and lines like the one that dismiss Halloween 2 (and all the others I suppose).  But it still feels like a natural progression of the story, and its interesting to revisit the events 40 years later.
As or the suspense, I thought the movie took a while to get a footing, but when it did it really worked.  The aforementioned crash scene was eerie, but there was a scene at a garage shop which lacked in suspense and felt more just like brutal violence.  But once we kick into the babysitter familiarity, the suspense ramps up well.  I really liked the final showdown.
And lets face it; that mask is damn cool.
8/10
Ghostbusters
October 31
Still damn funny.  The jokes are natural and are mostly based in performances.   This is Bill Murray’s most iconic role.  Rick Moranis is great.  Ankroyd, Ramis and Weaver are great.  The performances are what keep this movie fresh, as is the case with almost all great comedy I suppose.
There are some things that are dated.  The music for sure.  And Gozer looks really dumb.  But these are fractions compared to how well the rest of the film still holds up.  But seriously Bill, be a team player and allow yourself a little more marshmallow coverage.  It sticks out.
Also, how iconic is that siren sound?
Have a good halloween everyone.
Sep
27

Watching what is probably Tarantino’s most straightforward of his ten films, I do wonder how much knowing its a Tarantino film affects my viewing of it. And if that’s okay. Because if I was expecting a lot of the Tarantino flare, this movie would be underwhelming. There are also certain ticks he has which can be annoying. But try to take him out of the equation, and this is a really enjoyable movie.

The biggest strength of this movie are the two leads. In an era where box office bank is determined by franchises more than movie stars, the two biggest movie stars in Hollywood presently (though Tommy boy may have something to say about that) are both starring along side each other here. And it benefits the film greatly. Brad Pitt plays to his strengths and provides much of the humour in the film, while DiCaprio gives one hell of a performance as an actor on route to washing up. He’s really something.

I love the look of the film and the “hang out” style of it. There are some things that don’t work for me, mostly with the ending. The “trick” that he pulled has already been pulled before in Basterds, but seems to make a lot more sense there. Doing it again here doesn’t quite feel right. I also wasn’t a fan of the levels of violence that he goes to and how vindictive it feels.  But this is something I’ve had an issue with for his last couple films, especially Django.

Now, I know that this is a Tarantino movie, and over the top violence should be expected, but that brings me back to my next point. Am I responding more negatively because I see the violence as his typical over-indulgence? Does the trick he plays with the narrative context only not work for me because I’ve seen him do it to better effect before? Either way, I did really enjoy the film, but I think there are thematic elements that I completely missed (like the controversial boat scene for example) and some issues with the end. I have a feeling my opinion on this one could change either up or down based on time and another viewing.

8/10

Jun
16

Yikes, that was crazy. They really brought in all of the previous movies, didn’t they? I went into Endgame avoiding pretty much everything about it, apart from the first trailer. So the whole basic plot was unknown to me, and I quite enjoyed where they took it. It provided for some great look backs and fun interactions.

The somber tone really worked somehow. The opening scene seemed straight from The Leftovers, and there was quite a bit of post-apoc stuff going on. The stakes are taken pretty high here, but not just in a generic “the world is on the line” kind of a way, but in a way where you feel their sense of desperation.

I’m going to go into some full spoiler thoughts now (as the probability that anyone reading this post has probably already seen the movie), but just in case…

*SPOILERS past this point

I basically am just going to ramble about my thoughts here.  First, the general storyline.  I liked that they immediately went off on a mission to stop Thanos, only to kill him and discover that the gauntlet, and their hopes were gone.  It really made me think to myself “okay, now what??”  I liked not knowing where the story way going.  For a comic book blockbuster, that was a refreshing sensation.  And when the main plot did start coming together, and around Ant-man of all people, I was really excited.

Considering that they were pulling from 21 different movies, they did a surprisingly great job at pulling ideas from and paying homage to almost all of them.  They even gave Thor: Dark World its due.  They were unapologetic in making this movie for the fans of this franchise, and it works.  They brought in the emotional context of Captain America’s relationship with Penny Carter.  They brought up Tony’s need for his father’s approval.  They had a bunch of cosmic stuff from Guardians. There was still fallout from Civil War that could be felt. And ant-Man and the Wasp was surprisingly really important in the construction of this film.  It all came together.

In a movie this massive there were parts that didn’t work of course, or that were just weaker links.  The final battle for example was a bit of a letdown.  The more intimate parts, like when it was the “original three” vs Thanos were great, but otherwise it got a little “battle white noise” crazy.  I liked that they kept Captain Marvel at bay, but even so her inclusion did seem a little sticky.

The parts I really liked was the general tone of the beginning; dreary, yet not overly depressing.  The impact of the last movie was certainly felt though, and each character seemed to be dealing with the grief in different ways.  I liked the importance of Ant-man and seeing him reenter the world.  I liked that they committed to fat Thor through the entire movie.  There were some great character touches from surprising places, like Rocket and Nebula, and Hawkeye’s devastating opening.

Some of the characters have reached their end in this film.  I was not one of the fans trying to predict who would make it and who wouldn’t, but I did have an inkling one of the primary cast would be gone.  In fact, there were three.  I genuinely didn’t know whether Black Widow or Hawkeye was going to go in the Vormir scene.  Iron Man’s death was probably the most predictable, but it closes off his overall arc pretty well, and really packs an emotional punch as he is the heart of the franchise.  And I really liked how Cap’s story finished.  I like the idea that old Steve was hanging around in the background secretly the whole time.

Endgame has turned out to be quite an achievement. It did everything it set out to do. I will say that at the very end things get a little muddled in that battle sequence, but before that everything was pretty great. Well done Marvel, well done.

9.5/10