Films I Saw is a self explanatory monthly column dedicated to cataloging each and every film I saw within that month. Each film will be given a grade and a mini review.
Apr. 1—Home on the Range (2004)
To save their farm, the resident animals go bounty hunting for a notorious outlaw.
For a while it looked like Home on the Range would be the last traditionally animated movie Disney would ever release and if that had been the case, the art form would’ve went out with a wimper, not a bang. The most puerile and juvenile the company has ever got. Burps are punchlines, every bonk is accompanied with a kiddie sound effect and about every character ranges from annoying to forgettable. The only good and/or memorable thing about it is the villains admittedly catchy yodel. The fact that a yodel is the only good thing about this film should tell you all you need to know about its quality.
Apr. 2—Dinosaur (2000)
An orphaned dinosaur raised by lemurs joins an arduous trek to a sancturary after a meteorite shower destroys his family home.
The only noteworthy thing about Dinosaur is its place within animation history. This is Disney’s first computer animated film. This is the film — a film that looked as impressive as the BBC special Walking With Dinosaurs that was released the same year — they thought was going to be the future of cinema and they were hilariously off the mark. It looks ugly as sin and even if it didn’t, it’s still a poor man’s the Land Before Time. It’s only saving grace is that it’s not annoying or boring.
Apr. 3—Frozen II (2019)
Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leave Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest of an enchanted land. They set out to find the origin of Elsa’s powers in order to save their kingdom.
Apr. 4—Strange Wilderness (2008)
With the ratings dropping for a wilderness-themed television show, two animal fans go to the Andes Mountains in search of Bigfoot.
There is nothing worse than an unfunny comedy. Bad horror or action movies can turn into comedies through their own incompetence but a bad comedy is just bad. It’s the only genre that isn’t afforded the luxury of a “so bad, it’s good” label. No amount of ironic laughter can suddenly turn a bad joke into a good one. Now, it could be argued that Strange Wilderness, a comedy about stoners involving stoner “humor”, only works if you’re high but to me, that excuse makes as much sense as saying, “the food is really good if you can swallow it without tasting it.” Since I wasn’t high when I watched it, I guess I’ll never know but I truly doubt there’s weed strong enough to make any second of this film bearable. Willie Nelson himself cannot get you high enough that you’ll laugh even accidentally. That’s how bad this film is. It can’t even make you laugh unintentionally.
Apr. 5—Saint Bernard (2013)
A classical musical conductor unravels into the abyss of insanity.
Structured almost exactly like Alice in Wonderland, Saint Bernard is a trippy mind fuck of a movie where the main character does nothing but interact with crazy people doing random crazy shit until the story decides to just end. There’s just enough plot to string these interactions together but not enough to explain anything. The first fifteen minutes or so are boring as hell but once the main character finds the severed head of a saint bernard on a highway overpass, the film begins to click into place.
From there, the main character runs into: mutated policemen, deranged homeless people, bizarre dwarves and numerous other oddballs. Chickens fall from the sky, a grotesque abomination creates a portal to an otherworldly dimension with his piss and a group of mysterious lumberjacks have to help the protagonist fight off an army of animated stick people. Again, with no explanation given to any of it. Some will find it tedious, others will be put off by it’s uncompromising strangeness but I kinda loved it.
Apr. 6—Melody Time (1948)
An anthology of animated vignettes set to contemporary music.
The proto Fantasia, Melody Time is a grab bag of musical segments that never come together to feel like a cohesive whole but much like Fun and Fancy Free, the majority of its entertainment comes from its last segment. The Pecos Bill section (the longest in the film by a considerable margin) is a rollicking good time. It’s not as good as Mickey and the Beanstalk but none of the other shorts in this are as boring as that circus bear one is either.
Apr. 7—Onward (2020)
In a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on an extraordinary quest to resurrect their dead father for 24 hours.
After seeing the first trailer, I was worried that this was going to be the point in which Pixar finally transitions into DreamWorks type films due to the celebrity voices being the focal point of the marketing (never-mind the fact that it just didn’t look good) and while I was ultimately proven correct in my assumptions, it still maintains enough of that Pixar magic that it succeeds for the most part. The relationship between the brothers is easily the best part of the film. The other shit — the fantasy setting, the mother subplot, the quest itself — are all inconsequential.
As long as they didn’t mess with that core mechanic, this could’ve been set anywhere and been about anything and it still would’ve worked. It’s not like they took full advantage of the universe they created anyways. For all its faults, I’d still rather take this over a DreamWorks or Illumination film any day of the week. That’s how strong Pixar is, even when they phone it in, they’re still better than everyone else in the biz.
Apr. 8—Massacre Mafia Style (1974)
Mimi Miceli Jr. is, the son of a Mafia don who was exiled back to Sicily. He wants to get back into the family business and transplant it from New York to Hollywood. After the kidnapping for ransom of a West Coast Mafia boss, Mimi is back in the “life.” With the blessing of the local clan, Mimi attempts to take-down a Hollywood pimp named Superspook, who turns out to no easy mark.
After watching The Godfather and thinking it was garbage, popular lounge singer (and Dean Martin impressionist) Duke Mitchell set out to make a film about the real mafia. Having seen multiple passion projects from multiple amateur directors, I had a good idea of what this was going to be before I saw it. An ego project who’s only purpose is to make the lead look amazing that also doubles as a thinly veiled excuse for him to make out with gorgeous women. But much to my surprise, Massacre Mafia Style is not that at all.
Imagine a far less talented Scorsese doing a gangster film for half of the budget of Mean Streets and that’s this film. The only thing holding this back from being a certified classic, is the fact that the cast is comprised of actors who can’t act and that it was obviously made for no money. And the second thing isn’t even that big of a deal because if this had the cast of Mean Streets, this would easily be better than that film.
Apr. 9—Bloodshot (2020)
Ray Garrison, a slain soldier, is re-animated with superpowers.
Vin Diesel picks films according to how cool he thinks the premises are but the thing is, his idea of cool hasn’t changed since he was thirteen. X-treme sports and fast cars and alien convicts and Dungeons and Dragons (The Last Witch Hunter was based on a campaign he created in D&D. Seriously.) and badass super soldiers are all cool things to Diesel, so he makes films about those things. Or alternatively, he is a thirteen year old boy who underwent some sort of magical age progression ala Big and is now living the most incredible movie career of any prepubescent ever. Either way, Diesel makes films for the coolest teenagers ever, so if you’re not a cool fucking teen, get the fuck outta here.
Apr. 10—Disco Godfather (1979)
Retired cop and celebrity DJ Tucker Williams (aka The Disco Godfather) takes to the streets as a dangerous hallucinogenic drug called Angel Dust begins to take hold of the neighborhood.
The last of the Rudy Ray Moore films, Disco Godfather is Moore’s desperate attempt to cash in on the disco craze of the time but his efforts were too little, too late. Not only was disco on its death bed but blaxploitation had come to an end as well. This was made for an audience that didn’t exist anymore and because of that, no one went to see it. Which resulted in the film’s inevitable failure and the death of Moore’s career. While it would be easy to blame poor timing and an unfortunate shift within the culture, the truth is, even if those two things didn’t happen, it still would’ve bombed because frankly, it’s not very good. It doesn’t have the charm of his previous films and while it does try to get a bit weird towards the third act, it’s still nowhere near as crazy as the Human Tornado or Petey Wheatstraw. This is Diet Coke Rudy Ray Moore.
Apr. 11—Tron (1982)
A computer hacker is abducted into the digital world and forced to participate in gladiatorial games where his only chance of escape is with the help of a heroic security program.
I’ve seen a lot of movies. I’ve seen a lot of weird and crazy movies. I’ve seen a lot of nonsensical foreign movies. But Tron, a Disney movie made for children, might be the fastest I’ve ever been confused by a movie. Within the first five minutes, the film loses me and it somehow gets more confusing from there. At no point, did I ever understand what anyone was doing, why they were doing it or how any of it worked.
I didn’t get the rules, the universe or anyone’s motivations. None of it. I didn’t understand a single fucking part of this film. But it being confusing isn’t why I gave it a low grade. It’s also ugly as sin, boring as hell and extremely uneventful. One of the big action set pieces involves two men (one horribly out of shape, I might add) throwing a frisbee at each other kind of fast. That’s the level of high octane adventure you can expect to find in Tron.
Apr. 12—Tiger King (2020)
A rivalry between big cat eccentrics takes a dark turn when Joe Exotic, a controversial animal park boss, is caught in a murder-for-hire plot.
A victim of its own popularity, Tiger King went from a great documentary, to a film you had to see if you wanted to be part of the discourse, to an annoying meme, all in the span of about a week. It’s all anyone could talk about for a month, which inevitably meant that annoying people were obsessed with it as well. Truth be told, if I didn’t see it when I did, I most likely would’ve skipped it because Netflix films that are trending this hard, always end up mediocre, like The Platform or The Perfection. While I think the obsession has gone on for far too long now, I do understand it. It’s extremely easy to fall in love with these people and/or their lifestyle. Or conversely, utterly repulsed by but still captivated enough to binge watch it.
There hasn’t been a documentary that I can think of that has as many fascinating characters as this and frankly, I can’t imagine one will ever exist. Every single person in this film is either insane, chaotic neutral or high out of their minds. There’s a polygamist cult leader, an alleged murderer, an actual murderer and various other unsavory characters. All with bizarre, unbelievable tales. None more so, than Joe Exotic.
The byproduct of a love affair between the Weekly World News and the great state of Florida, Exotic is a documentarians wet dream. Every aspect of his life is a fucking gold mine. His feud with Carole Baskin, the fact that he was a magician, his tigers, his multiple husbands, his presidential campaign, his music career, all of it. As a documentary, the film is serviceable at best. It does Its job without any flair or technical proficiency but honestly, the subject matter was so captivating to me, that I never cared.
Apr. 13—Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission.
Rambo’s supposed swan song, Last Blood is Stallone’s ultra violent take of Taken. Now, I have no problem with Stallone wanting to finish his franchise nor do I have problem with him wanting to do a Taken film (God knows everyone else has) but the main issue I have with this film is that it doesn’t feel like a Rambo movie. Yeah, he does the ol’ hide and sneak attack thing and yeah, he fights in what is essentially a cave at the end but nothing else about it feels like Rambo.
Without rewriting this character at all, this film easily could’ve been a sequel to any other Stallone film. This could’ve been an Expendables spin off or the return of Cobra. That’s how far removed this film and in particular, Rambo himself, is from the rest of the franchise. Having said all that, it’s still a really enjoyable schlocky action movie. There’s tons of violence and the body count is as high as any other Rambo film. Maybe even higher. This isn’t the finale I wanted for this character and I’d probably would’ve liked it more if it wasn’t part of the franchise but I still liked it for what it was.
Apr. 14—Flesh Gordon (1974)
Emperor Wang is leader of the planet Porno and sends his mighty “Sex Ray” towards Earth, turning everyone into sex-mad fiends. Only one man can save the Earth, football player Flesh Gordon.
A loving homage to old sci-fi serials, Flesh Gordon is a porn parody of Flash Gordon made years before his cinematic debut. One of the most important sex flicks made in the 70’s, this film helped legitimize the industry or at the very least, lessen the stigma attached to these films. Because while there’s definitely fucking in it (barely but there’s enough to classify it as a porno), it’s a legit film. The miniature work is stellar, the special effects are fantastic (Rick Baker worked on them) and the creature designs are fun. The only problem the film has, is that it’s crazy boring. If I saw this as a teenager, I probably would’ve loved it but as an old man, I just want the characters to do something besides fuck. Hey look! There’s some fun monsters, I bet…oh, now y’all are fucking the monsters. That’s cool. Oh hey! There’s a funky looking creature voiced by Craig T. Nelson, this’ll be…oh, now he’s trying to fuck y’all. That’s… fun. Hey! There’s a… Oh, it’s a rape robot. I wonder what’s going to happen.
Apr. 15—Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)
Filmmakers and stars discuss the filming and social effects of Galaxy Quest, a comedic take-off of Star Trek, with brilliant commentary not only on the Star Trek series but on the real-life actors themselves.
A documentary about one of the most beloved flops to ever turn into a cult classic, the film looks at the making of, release, failure and subsequent reappraisal of the film Galaxy Quest. It’s a typical talking heads doc where cast and crew (and Wil Wheaton for some fucking reason) reminisce about how much they love the film and how much it means to them and why they think it resonates with as many people as it does. It also turns into a loving tribute to Alan Rickman for about ten minutes, which is great. It’s an easy watch and if you like the film, you’ll most likely enjoy listening to the people who made it talk about it for 90 minutes.
Apr. 16—The Purple Ball (1987)
While traveling in space, Alisa and her father professor Seleznyov meet their old friend Gromozeka, a four armed archaeologist who’s just discovered a dead planet who’s inhabitants all succumbed to a deadly virus. Realizing they left the virus on Earth hundreds of years ago, Alisa and Gromozeka decide to travel back in time to when witches, dragons and magicians lived alongside people, in order to find the virus and save the planet.
The sequel to a very popular Soviet miniseries following the adventures of Alica (kinda sorta the Russian equivalent of Pippi Longstocking), The Purple Ball is a weird mashup of sci-fi, folk, fantasy, and Slavic mythologies. The space station stuff is a bit slow but once they get into the fantasy shit, the film starts picking up steam. There’s adorably ramshackle puppets, wizards, cannibals and even a witch queen. The only negative, is that it’s far too short. It really needed at least another twenty minutes to adequately tie up all of those loose ends. Right when the third act should start, it just ends. But I guess when you’re a kid, you don’t really notice when films have a proper third act structure or not. All you care about is whether or not you’re entertained, and to that end, it’s a success.
Apr. 17—White Lightning (1973)
An ex con teams up with federal agents to help them with breaking up a moonshine ring.
The first of Reynolds’ “good ol’ boy” films, White Lightning set the template the actor would follow for the majority of his career. While not all of the iconic pieces are in place yet (there’s no mustache, no laugh and no Sally Field or Dom DeLuise), the general plot has already codified, which is essentially a bunch of yada yada yada and then a ten minute car chase at the end. There’s typically moonshine and/or corrupt cops involved and usually a comedic sidekick. The parts don’t all have to be the same. All that matters, is that at some point, Reynolds has to get behind the wheel of a car and then drive it fast. It’s not the greatest formula ever but it was his and he knew goddamn well how to make it entertaining.
Apr. 18—Underwater (2020)
A crew of oceanic researchers working for a deep sea drilling company try to get to safety after a mysterious earthquake devastates their deepwater research and drilling facility located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
The late 80’s were the best and worst time for fans of aquatic horror. Within a span of a year and a half, five undersea monster films were released. Leviathan, DeepStar Six, Lords of the Deep, the Rift and for the purposes of my point, The Abyss. It was a veritable smorgasbord of mutated crustaceans and biological monstrosities but that wonderful buffet came at a terrible price. Hollywood, never wanting something this amazing to happen again, collectively decided to ban aquatic horror for thirty years.
That’s the only logical explanation as to why Sphere is the only horror-ish film set underwater released between The Rift and this film. Which is a goddamn travesty due to the fact that the world needs more aquatic horror and more importantly, because Sphere is a fucking awful. After three decades, audiences were finally able to see another film involving a group of people fighting some monster under the sea. Was Underwater worth the wait? No, but it’s still an enjoyable film nevertheless.
A solid creature feature that isn’t afraid to dip its toes in the absurd, Underwater acknowledge its sub-genre predecessors, while also providing some interesting tweaks to the formula. In addition to its brisk pace and unforgettable climax, the films biggest strength is its cast. Kristen Stewart does a great job anchoring the film, while the rest do just enough to make you almost sad when they get eaten. All in all, it’s a great addition to the sub genre and here’s hoping it did well enough to jumpstart a resurgence.
Apr. 19—The VelociPastor (2019)
After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. At first horrified by this new power, a hooker convinces him to use it to fight crime. And ninjas.
This is the kind of shit Full Moon Pictures has been trying and failing to make for the last two decades and what Sharknado and all those other animal hybrid versus movies like Sharkzilla vs Whalewolf should’ve been. It’s a low budget film that knows it’s dumb as shit, embraces it but layers jokes on top of its ridiculous premise instead of winking at the audience. There’s no terrible celebrity cameos, no jokes pulled from memes or other immediately dated pop culture references and most importantly, it doesn’t wink at the audience. I cannot stress how refreshing it is to see a dumb fun movie that doesn’t seem forced.
Apr. 20—Nighthawks (1981)
Conservative street cop Deke DaSilva reluctantly agrees to terminate an international terrorist who has demanded media attention. But DaSilva’s “at-home” tactics are very much put to the challenge.
Imagine if a director like William Friedkin or Walter Hill helmed this bad boy. Those are two wildly different directors, who’s styles would’ve made two wildly different films but that’s kinda what this film needs. It needed to either be deadly serious without an ounce cheese (which this film has an abundance of) or done in that stylised, hyper reality Hill is so great at doing. Instead, the film kinda splits the difference, which makes everything that much more ridiculous. I can’t buy the melodrama when the plot is so preposterous, and I can’t enjoy the cheese because the film doesn’t want me to. It’s a shame too because Hauer is great in it and I actually like the chemistry between Stallone and Billy Dee Williams. I just want to pluck those individual elements out and place them in a film worthy of them.
Apr. 21—The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
A high school student’s slumber party turns terrifying as an escaped mental patient with a drill decides to crash the evening.
Directed by Amy Holden Jones (in fact, every entry in the series was directed by a woman, which makes this the only franchise with that honor) and written by Feminist author Rita Mae Brown (as a parody of the genre, but filmed as a straightforward horror flick) The Slumber Party Massacre is far better than it has any right being. It’s clever as fuck, with intentional tongue in cheek humor, tons of blood and tits and the titular power drill makes for a great instrument of death. The only thing this film is missing is a cool looking villain.
Apr. 22— Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
Courtney Bates and her friends go to their condo for a weekend getaway, but Courtney can’t get rid of the haunting feeling that a supernatural rockabilly driller killer is coming to murder them all.
A Nightmare on Elm Street clone that spends an interminable amount of time on its terrible characters and zero time setting up the dream killer. I’m assuming the main character was crazy and it was all dream (due to her being the survivor of the first film I guess) but if she was crazy, why would she imagine an Andrew Dice Clay clone and not the killer from the first film? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because even if the mythology was airtight, it wouldn’t make a difference. The characters would still be annoying, the pace would still be snail like and the murders would still be lame. Skip it.
Apr. 23—Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
A worldwide epidemic encourages a biotech company to launch an organ-financing program similar in nature to a standard car loan. The repossession clause is a killer, however.
The only reason I don’t absolutely loathe this film, is the fact that their was an attempt made to do something original. Bousman tried to do something new and unique and while he failed spectacularly, he at least gets points for trying. The only thing this film has going for it, is his vision. He clearly has spent a lot of time thinking about the universe and the characters (this was originally planned to be the second part of a trilogy) but has no idea how to pull it all together.
Nothing ties into anything; It’s just a collection of kinda neat ideas that are ultimately in service of nothing. Not even the opera, the thing the film is named after, has any bearing on the plot. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The film’s biggest problem is that it’s a musical where none of the songs are good and most of the performers are bad at singing. When Paris Hilton is the third best singer in your film, you’ve made a grievous mistake.
Apr. 24—Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Lewis is a brilliant inventor who meets mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson, whisking Lewis away in a time machine and together they team up to track down Bowler Hat Guy in a showdown that ends with an unexpected twist of fate.
This is one of the few Disney films that you either absolutely adore or forget exists entirely. There’s something about it that makes its die hard fans obsessed and makes everyone else completely indifferent. I’m in the latter category. While I appreciate its attempts at humor and quirkiness, every one of its jokes or visual gags, fell flat to me. Honestly, outside of the Bowler Hat Guy and his menagerie of brainwashed animal minions, there’s really not much here to recommend.
Apr. 25—Windaria (1986)
An ambitious young farmer becomes an agent in a pointless war between two nations, and tragedy ensues.
A loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Windaria is essentially the famous tragic love story but on a much bigger scale and with an additional storyline thrown in. Both additions bring with them their own pros and cons. The conflict between the two kingdoms within the film, while not original, was still compelling and the world around it was intriguing.
Magic and technology seem to coexist, which was an interesting concept but the film doesn’t really do anything with it. The main plot (the Romeo and Juliet story is more of a B plot) is filled with adventure and tragedy but it also hinges on you believing a certain character decision and I didn’t. A character decides to do something truly horrible out of nowhere and I just didn’t buy it. All in all, it’s a solid anime that doesn’t deserve to be lost to the sands of time like it is but it’s also not great enough for me to recommend you go check it out immediately.
Apr. 26—Tito and the Birds (2018)
The film tells the story of a boy who is responsible, along with his father, for finding the cure for an illness that is contracted after the person takes a fright.
With its oil painted backgrounds, digital animation and unique character models, the strength of Tito and the Birds obviously lies in its unique art style. It’s a beautiful fusion of various painting and animating techniques that, while amazing to look at, is ultimately in service to nothing. The story, while eerily prescient, doesn’t offer the viewer any interesting twists or turns nor does it have any memorable characters. There’s a virus, the main character believes birds are the key to solving it, so he tries to prove it. You can probably guess where the film goes from there. Nobody believes him, which leads to unnecessary conflict, which will get resolved about fifteen minutes later when the shit hits the fan. And when that happens, wouldn’t you know it, the one person who was right all along, just so happens to be the only one who can save the day. Instead of teaching himself to talk to pigeons, Tito should’ve taught himself to write because the script is the only thing holding this back from being a masterpiece.
Apr. 27—Wax, or The Discovery of Television Among the Bees (1991)
A man recalls the story of how his bees implanted in him a bee television, causing him to lose all perception of space, time, and self in the deserts of the American West.
Apr. 28—Bad Moon (1996)
Full, crescent, quarter – each is a Bad Moon for Ted Harrison. By day, he’s a photojournalist visiting family in the Pacific Northwest. By night, he transfigures into a horrific half-human – a werewolf.
Apr. 29—Star Time (1992)
A delusional misfit becomes suicidal when his favorite TV show is cancelled. An agent promises to make him a TV star if he kills certain people, so he becomes “The Baby Mask Killer.”
Less a slasher and more a psychological thriller, Star Time is less concerned with the blood and the gratuitous nudity of it all and instead, focuses more on tone and presentation. The end result is a unique horror film that’s a good fifteen years ahead of the curve. I don’t know if its weirdness was an intentional choice made by the director or if it’s the result of the director being horribly inept. Either way, the film is unlike anything else made in the 90’s. If the film was an equation, it would look a little someone like this: Joker – money + weird shit ÷ by early David Aronofsky = Star Time.
Apr. 30— The Initiation (1984)
While trying to understand a frightening reoccurring nightmare, a pledge is coaxed into breaking into her father’s department store by her sorority sisters, where a deranged killer targets the girls and their boyfriends.
Graded on the “slasher curve” (how good is the killer’s mask, how creative are the kills, how many tits does it have and is the location interesting), The Initiation is better than some but worse than others. Since there’s a ridiculous twist, we never get to see the baddie till the end, so no fun mask. Most of the kills are bloodless, which is disappointing but there is a good amount of them, which evens it out. Which leaves the tits and the location, both of which are great. There’s about four sets of jugs, all of which are primo and the location is a big department store, which is utilized well. If you’re in the mood for a slasher you haven’t seen before, you can do far worse than The Initiation.
What did you watch last month?