Films I Saw in June 2020

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.

Jun. 1—The Natural (1988)

An unknown middle-aged batter named Roy Hobbs with a mysterious past appears out of nowhere to take a losing 1930s baseball team to the top of the league. The Natural should not work. It’s a film in which the main character has no conflict to bump up against, has no obstacles to overcome, and doesn’t learn a lesson at the end. He has no narrative arc; he’s amazing from frame one and never stops being amazing until the end. On a purely storytelling level, he’s a terrible main character and the plot itself isn’t that great either. The Kim Basinger subplot isn’t compelling, the mystery at the center of his character isn’t interesting and the bad guys trying to bribe him lacks any stakes because you never for a second think he’ll take the money.

Nothing about this film works on any fundamental level, and yet, I loved every frame of it. This film isn’t a drama about a mysterious ballplayer and it’s really not about baseball either. It’s a fantasy. Roy Hobbs is both Odysseus and Percival. This is Greek mythology with bats and Arthurian legends set within a baseball diamond. This isn’t supposed to be real life; the characters that inhabit those legends don’t make sense and their journeys are typically clichéd and predictable but it doesn’t matter. They’re legends for a reason. This film is about a legend playing a sport the film is also in love with. Every time he picks up Wonderboy (his bat) the film treats it like an event. So much so, that it contains the single best homerun in film history. There are much better films about baseball out there but few are as deeply in love with the sport as this one is.

Grade: A

Jun. 2—Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

While in prison together, a gay man narrates scenes from a film he once saw to a political prisoner who could care less. Although he received an Oscar, a lot of critics have criticized Hurt’s performance as outdated and camp, which baffles me because not only is he the best thing about this film but the easier target is right there and nobody seems to care. Whenever the film is just about Hurt and Julia, it’s fantastic. The two of them are great and they play off each other beautifully. It honestly could’ve just been a one set two-actor film and I would’ve been just fine. But every time it cuts to the film Hurt is describing, the film screeches to a halt. I know the novel it’s based on had a lot more of these scenes and I understand why the ones they chose to focus on were included but they look like shit and are never compelling. The film easily could’ve cut them completely and it would’ve worked just as well. I also think the film should’ve leaned a bit more into the homosexual elements of the story but I understand why It didn’t. I ultimately wish I liked it more but what I like about it, I really love.

Grade: B

Jun. 3—A Man Escaped (1956)

A captured French Resistance fighter during World War II engineers a daunting escape from prison. The prison escape film all other prison escape films aspire to be, A Man Escaped is so damn good, that even though the title of the film gives away the ending, it still somehow manages to keep you engaged and captivated throughout its entire runtime. Since the man the film is based on acted as a consultant, the film stays as true to the facts as humanly possible. He forbade the use of any manufactured drama or tension, so there’s never a sense of artifice to the story.

It feels real because it is real. This really did happen and it’s as close to the truth as any documentary could be about the subject but since this isn’t a documentary, you also get the added bonus of the human element. The main character lacks emotion by design, he’s not meant to be a typical protagonist. He’s supposed to be a blank slate for the audience to project their fears and anxieties onto. We’re rooting for him to succeed because we are him.

Since we’ve sat and watched him meticulously plan every step of his escape down to the most mind-numbingly repetitive tasks for most of the film (including the extremely long sequences of him just fastening strips of bedding together to make rope and him chipping away at his door in order to make a hole big enough for him to get out) we feel as though we’re the ones escaping, not him. Which is probably why it’s called A Man Escaped instead of The Man Escaped because we’re all the titular “man” and we’re all escaping together.

Grade: A

Jun. 4—The Verdict (1982)

A down-on-his-luck lawyer, reduced to drinking and ambulance-chasing, is handed a golden goose of a case: a malpractice suit where everyone wants to settle. An easy slam dunk that would keep him in whiskey money for at least two years but as he starts to investigate the case, he suddenly realizes that the case should go to court. Will he be able to punish the guilty, get a decent settlement for his clients, and restore his standing as a lawyer, or will his sudden conscience be too little, too late?

This film is so great, that you can pick any individual element of it at random, compare it to the best examples of whatever category that thing belongs to and I guarantee it would be just as good or better than whatever it is you’re judging it against. For example: if you were to judge Paul Newman’s performance against any other male performance of the 1980s, it’s easily as good. The same can be said about the courtroom scenes, the supporting cast, the script, the direction, the character drama, the final shot, the list goes on and on. It’s as perfectly constructed a film as you’re ever going to find. It’s so good, that I don’t even think you could teach it in film schools, because there’s no way you’re going to be able to make anything this good; it would literally dissuade students from even trying. Because what’s the point?

Grade: A

Jun. 5—Punishment Park (1971)

Due to prisons being at max capacity and political dissidents trying to combat a new wave of fascism, President Nixon declares a state of emergency. All new prisoners, most of whom are connected to the anti-war movement, are now given the choice of jail time or spending three days in Punishment Park— a miles long excursion through the desert where they will be hunted for sport by federal authorities. The prisoners invariably choose the latter option but learn that, between the blistering heat and the brutal police officers, their chances of survival are slim. A fictional documentary about a dystopian future made back in 1971 is somehow as prescient today as it was back then. Maybe even more so. Nothing has changed in the fifty years since this was released. Nothing. Police brutality is still rampant, the justice system is still rigged and the powerful still twist the truth to fit whatever agenda they want to push. This isn’t a fictional documentary, it’s just a documentary.

Grade: A

Jun. 6—The Long Good Friday (1980)

An up-and-coming gangster is tested by the insurgence of an unknown, very powerful threat. This might be one of the few cases that I’ve ever seen where a great actor actually takes me out of the film I’m watching. Bob Hoskins is so good in this film, so assured and in control of every frame, that I had no idea I was actually supposed to be worried for him until literally the last two minutes. The film gives him so many plates to spin, that, in any other film, would naturally create tension because he’s inevitably going to drop all of the plates but at no point did I ever feel like Hoskins was going to. In fact, it never felt like he was spinning them at all. It felt like the film handed him plates (IRA bombings, trying to find a rat that sold him out, keeping his deal with the Americans from falling apart), he took the plates, and then they get knocked out of his hands at the very end. Don’t get me wrong, the film is good but if it wanted me to feel tense, it dropped the ball. This would be a great film for the Safdie Bros to remake.

Grade: C

Jun. 7—Juice (1992)

After acquiring some guns, four inner-city teenagers get caught up in the pursuit of power that doesn’t end well for any of them.  In a decade oversaturated with gangster films, Juice stands apart from the crowd by feeling authentic and lived in. While I didn’t like every character in it, they all felt like flesh and blood characters who’s lives existed before the film started and continue to struggle after the credits roll. It never tried to push an agenda and it never turned into an anti-gun PSA. It’s just a realistic portrait of some kids who get a taste of power and violence and how that corrupts them immediately. Read more thoughts from Double Impact! here.

Grade: B

Jun. 8—The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

I wonder what the cinematic landscape of today would look like if the directors of 1950’s sci-fi didn’t take their films seriously. You can draw a straight line from the big-budget MCU films to Star Wars to the schlock of the 50s. Films like Them! and The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Incredible Shrinking Man paved the way for everything you enjoy today. If they weren’t as smartly written and well made as they were, modern audiences might still consider genre fare to be nothing but cheese. I’m not saying Star Wars wouldn’t have been successful without this film but I am saying that without it, Star Wars may not have existed in the first place.

Richard Matheson’s epic story of a man cursed to constantly shrink (the title really doesn’t bury the lede) is one of the fundamental building blocks of the genre. It takes a ridiculous premise and injects it with actual gravitas and pathos. Not only does the shrinking man have to contend with giant house cats and spiders but also has to confront the existential dread of his situation. What is going to happen to him when he shrinks smaller than atoms? It’s an epic adventure about man vs nature but more importantly, it’s about man vs the great unknown. It’s a film that lives up to its title— the man shrinks and it is incredible.

Grade: A+

Jun. 9—The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

One of the great forgotten crime flicks of the 1970s, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is about a low-level Boston gangster who decides to snitch on his friends to avoid a long prison term. What I love about this film is that it feels like an Elmore Leonard story but without the humor. It has the same basic plot structure as one of his novels (it juggles multiple characters and right before it ends, kicks the chair out from under them all and watches them hang) and even gets the day to day minutia of crime right, just like he did. Everyone in it is incredible but the real highlight is Robert Mitchum as the titular Eddie Coyle. He should’ve gotten serious awards talk as an over the hill glorified errand boy who just can’t take the weight of the life anymore. He’s tired and at the end of his rope. It’s a phenomenal performance backed up by equally great performances by Peter Boyle and Richard Jordan. If you’re a fan of gangster or heist flicks, I highly recommend you check this one out. It’s a bit slow but the pay off is worth it.

Grade: B

Jun. 10—Them! (1954)

The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization. In a less competent director’s hands, this film could’ve easily ended up as an Ed Wood level farce seeing as its about giant killer ants but since Gordon Douglas plays it completely straight, it ends up being one of the best monster movies ever made. The special effects may not have held up over time, every other aspect of the production is still startlingly good. The high pitch screeches the ants make is still effective, as is the moody cinematography. Modern audiences may not be accustomed to this era of film (i.e., the lack of action and the over-reliance of exposition) but if they go in knowing it’s not like Avengers: Endgame, they might be pleasantly surprised. Or they might just think it’s a quaint curio of the past. Either way, I doubt they’d be bored by it. Its got giant ants for godsakes!

Grade: B+

Jun. 11—Across 110 Street (1972)

Two New York City cops (Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn) go after amateur crooks who are trying to rip off the Mafia and start a gang war. Feeling like an entire season of The Wire condensed down to two hours, Across 110 Street is an ambitious undertaking that ultimately buckles under the weight of its own scope. Telling multiple stories that crisscross and intersect with each other, the film has at least four threads (the two detectives, the three thieves, the Italian mob, and the black mob) that, while all interesting and well-acted, are too truncated to fully invest in. The quality of the stories isn’t the issue, any one of the threads could’ve easily been expanded into its own feature, but the fact that there’s so many of them robs any of them of the spotlight. As blaxploitation films go, this is one of the better ones but if the narrative was just a smidge tighter, it could’ve been a legit classic.

Grade: C

Jun. 12—The War of the Worlds (1953)

H.G. Wells’ seminal sci-fi classic was first infamously adapted into a radio broadcast helmed by Orson Welles that resulted in (somewhat overblown) mass hysteria and then much later into an epic action film from Spielberg in 2005. There have been many other adaptations over the years but those two are probably the best known, so it’s funny that the third most well known, falls in the middle of the two in the release timeline and also, in quality. Since it was released almost 70 years ago, the film has unfortunately aged (you can definitely see the strings on the Blu-ray) but outside of some dodgy effects and some bland acting (Gene Barry is no Tom Cruise. Hell, he’s not even on Orson Welles’ level and all he did was read the book aloud), the film still holds up. The Technicolor is still as gorgeous today as it was then, the designs of the Martians is still creepy as all get out and the alien destruction is still impressive. It’s not a sci-fi classic but I’d say it’s definitely a minor classic.

Grade: B

Jun. 13—The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

An alien and a robot land on Earth and tell mankind to be peaceful or face destruction. Since the film is essentially one long lead up to a message at the end, it would’ve been so easy for this film to become soap box-y or preachy but it never tilts into that direction. The film ultimately boils down to “stop being shitty or face obliteration” but it wisely decides to not give a solution as to how. The man character’s alien race uses an army of fascist super robots that are programmed to kill at the first sign of aggression and while that works for them (for the most part), the film never tries to sell you on that idea. He even says it himself, “we’re not perfect.” He knows (or at least the film does) that that might not be the best message to end the film on. That the Messianic figure at the center of the film tells you that the only way to peace, is through fear. The film does not suggest this as a practical solution so much as a condemnation of human pettiness, which is where it succeeds. It’s not saying this alien superiority is ideal. It’s just saying we need to quit being so Goddamn awful.

Grade: B

Jun. 14—Timecrimes (2007)

A man accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time nearly an hour. Finding his other self and making sure he gets into the machine, is the first of a series of disasters with unforeseeable consequences. Even though most make no logical sense, there are few things more entertaining than a well-executed time travel movie. If done correctly, watching a time travel film tie up all of its loops, is right up there with heist films and prison escape flicks as one of the most satisfying things ever. Like watching how all the pieces fit in Predestination or how all the different plot threads get resolved in Looper or even just hearing how time travel works at all in something like Back to the Future. Time travel is a concept we can all easily grasp but how certain films choose to depict it, is always fascinating. Timecrimes doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to the rules of time travel nor does it have an overly complicated plot, but the story it tells and how it chooses to tell it will keep you guessing till the very end.

Grade: B

Jun. 15—The Brother From Another Planet (1984)

An alien slave crash-lands in New York City while being pursued by two Men in Black bounty hunters. A metaphor for the immigrant experience in New York City at the time, The Brother From Another Planet is part social commentary and part Christ allegory but since this is a John Sayles film, it never beats you over the head with what it’s trying to say or do. All of those elements are In this film but they aren’t the focal point of the story, they’re just in it because Sayles can’t ever make a film that doesn’t deal with multiple things at once. It’s there if you want it and if you just see a film about a mute three-toed alien just trying to get by, the film is that too. No matter what you take from it, there’s a high probability that it’ll be great.

Grade: B

Jun. 16—The Thing from Another World (1951)

Since both took inspiration from the same source material, it’s almost impossible not to make comparisons to the John Carpenter remake, and while the remake is superior in every way, it’s still enjoyable to see what story elements are different (there are a lot of them) and what got changed for the better. It’s easier to approach both versions as their own thing, rather than trying to pit them against each other because the original really doesn’t stand a chance. And that’s not due to it being bad, quite the contrary, it’s because it has the unfortunate luck of being tied to the greatest remake of all time. Taken on its own terms, The Thing from Another World is a solid monster film. The pace is a bit slow but once they introduce the carrot monster around the halfway point, it really starts to pick up steam. It may not have the same game-changing special effects or awesome creature design but it does have an almost 7 ft tall James Arness dressed as a space vegetative causing havoc on an Arctic base and with Howard Hawks behind the camera, that’s enough.

Grade: B

Jun. 17—The Quiet Earth (1985)

A scientist awakens to find himself alone in the world. While searching for any other survivors, he does whatever he can to keep what little sanity he has left. How much of a film has to be perfect for it to be considered a masterpiece? Because I’d argue if a film is consistently good throughout but has an all-time great ending, it could easily be considered a masterpiece. Take The Wicker Man for example: nobody cares that 95% of it is average at best because the ending is so spectacular, it trumps everything else that came before it. The Quiet Earth is kind of the same way. The ending is so mind-blowingly good, it would be a masterpiece regardless of the quality of the rest of the film but unlike The Wicker Man, the rest of the film is actually great.

It starts off as a last man on Earth story and then, without getting into spoilers, it transitions into a completely different type of film. While I preferred the first half more, the second half is still enjoyable in its own right. In fact, both halves of the film are the best versions of their respected sub-genres. The first is unquestionably the best last man on Earth story (sorry Vincent Price) and the second is the best post-apocalyptic tale that doesn’t include a madman named Max.

Grade: A+

Jun. 18—I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished final novel Remember This House, I Am Not Your Negro uses archival Civil Rights footage and clips from television and movies to help paint a picture of who Baldwin was, what he fought for, and how important his words are today. It’s less a documentary and more an essay on a great man while simultaneously being an attempt to finish the original manuscript.

While the narration by Samuel L. Jackson was great and the Civil Rights footage was fascinating and the interviewees were interesting, the film never held my attention as much as when Baldwin himself was on screen. Every time he talked, I listened. I was captivated by his words to such a degree, that it made me want to read as much of his work as possible. It’s a good film that you should definitely check out because my experience was probably not the norm. I got more excited at the prospect of reading a book than I was at anything happening on screen at any given time. Which should never be the case, I shouldn’t be more excited to read a book, then I am to watch a movie but that’s how good Baldwin’s words were. They make me want to read.

Grade: B

Jun. 19—All Of Me (1984)

I have a rule when it comes to movie posters and that is: if it has anything more than a tagline, odds are, it isn’t good. Now, this doesn’t really apply to films today because studios haven’t given a fuck about posters in at least a decade but back in the day, the poster was just as vital to the success of a film as trailers. They would actually put time into the damn things but sometimes, they would overthink it to the point of overselling a movie. The poster to All of Me is three blocks of text to explain what is essentially a funny possession movie.

A crotchety old bitch dies and her soul accidentally gets put inside the body of her lawyer. Comedy hijinks ensue. The set up is a bit convoluted but once she’s in his body, the film makes sense. I don’t know why the studios thought they had to explain every element of the story on the poster to sell it but I should’ve taken it as a warning. Steve Martin keeps this from becoming a bad movie but compared to his previous three collaborations with Carl Reiner, it’s a bit of a disappointment. It’s missing that cartoon-y tone that made the other ones so special. Martin gives it his all as a performer but it feels like he didn’t collaborate as much on the making of the script. It’s missing his signature touch.

Grade: C

Jun. 20—Stir Crazy (1980)

Set up and wrongfully accused, two best friends (Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor) are sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit. For any comedy to work, they first need to be grounded in some sort of reality. The rules of a film’s universe have to be established and followed for it to work. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the concept is or how outlandish the presentation, as long as the film knows what it is and doesn’t break its open rules, it’ll at least work on a fundamental level.

The universe Stir Crazy presents is a grounded one and It’s jokes never betray that but Gene Wilder’s character does. Since he’s the main character and the straight man, he’s supposed to anchor the film but since his character is all over the place, I have no idea what the film is trying to be. He’s super confident to the point of stupidity but since he’s actually good at most of the things he signs up for, he never feels like he’s in danger.

It felt like Bill Murray was attached at the beginning of production but then dropped out but they never fixed the script when they hired Gene Wilder. He alternates between being uber-confident and unflappable, to nebbish and frightened almost at the drop of a hat. Throw in a wasted Richard Pryor and a boring as hell finale involving a prison escape at a rodeo and you have Stir Crazy, one of the most overrated comedies I’ve ever seen.

Grade: D

Jun. 21—Trancers (1984)

Angel City trooper Jack Deth is sent back in time from 2247 to 1985 L.A. to inhabit the body of his ancestor. Deth’s assignment is to find his archenemy, Whistler, who turns people into zombies before the fiend is able to kill all the ancestors of the future’s governing council. Trancers is a low rent Frankenstein made up of the best bits of Blade Runner and The Terminator and yet, even though it’s a shameless amalgamation of those two films, it’s still an entertaining blast of independent charm. Even though the film was made for peanuts, there’s just enough production design to create a unique-enough future. In fact, that’s kinda the film in a nutshell: everything is just “good enough”.

There’s just enough good to distract you from the bad. There’s just enough action to keep you from going bored, the time travel and the villain’s goal is good enough to keep you invested and Thomerson and Hunt are good enough to sell this universe. Normally, just being “good enough” ain’t exactly a glowing recommendation but compared to the rest of Charles Band’s films, “good enough” is almost Oscar level quality by comparison. Of the hundreds of films he’s produced over the years, this might be the best. It’s fun, the time travel is unique and there ain’t a single ugly ass puppet anywhere to be found. Which is always a good sign. Read more thoughts from Double Impact! here.

Grade: C

Jun. 22—Starred Up (2013)

Caught between a guidance counselor (Rupert Friend) trying to help him and an overprotective father (Ben Mendelsohn) trying to keep him in line, violent teen Eric (Jack O’Connell) must navigate both and other tricky obstacles if he’s to make it out of prison alive. An explosive prison drama full of violence both physical and emotional, Starred Up isn’t about escaping prison like most other prison dramas but is instead about learning to cope with life behind bars. It’s about the rehabilitation of the extremely violent and how the system is rigged against them.

While a good chunk of the film is set within the therapy sessions, it never once feels sappy or soap opera-esque. The film isn’t about the characters reaching some grand epiphany or revelation and there is no Good Will Hunting scene where the therapist breaks through to the main character with some fortune cookie bullshit. Real change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes many years and a lot of hard work and the film knows this. It doesn’t take any shortcuts or offer any easy solutions. It’s an unflinching and visceral look at life behind bars that pulls no punches and isn’t afraid to tackle hard issues.

Grade: A

Jun. 23—Style Wars (1983)

The gold standard when it comes to graffiti docs, Style Wars is one of the best cinematic time capsules of New York of the late 1970s and early 1980s. It’s truly remarkable how in the moment this film is. Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant were at ground zero for tagging, graffiti, freestyling, and break dancing. They weren’t just chasing a trend or reporting on a passing fad, they were documenting a moment still in its infancy. Hip hop culture was about to take over the world and they were there when it was still taking its first baby steps. And that’s just the shit in the periphery. The graffiti artists are front and center and while the doc tries to be fair and balanced by giving all sides of the debate a voice, you can tell the filmmakers are clearly enamored with this lifestyle. They find their motivations and signatures and the entire scene fascinating and because of that, you can’t help but be sucked into their fascination. It’s the kind of doc that will make you interested in its subject matter if you weren’t beforehand and if you already were, it’ll just make you love it that much more.

Grade: B+

Jun. 24—The Day of the Beast (1995)

Believing the Antichrist is appropriating, a priest teams up with a metal head and an expert of the occult to commit as many sins as possible in order to draw the attention of the beast so that he can kill it. In a day and age where every film gets a remake, it’s amazing to me that we’re not on our second or third by now. The premise is as perfect as it is ingenious. A holy man must commit as many sins as he can, as quickly as he can, in order to come face to face with Satan. You could eliminate the supernatural from it entirely and just have it be about a psycho who thinks he’s on a mission from God and it still works. The tone could be more grim like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or it could be a straight comedy. My point is, it’s mind-blowing to me that this story hasn’t been used a hundred times by now.

The story is so good, it doesn’t really need anything else. Every element of the film is in service to the plot and while it could get by with nothing more than its perfect set up, it’s its actors that make it amazing. The Day of the Beast is the ultimate one-two punch of a hook that immediately reels you in and a cast that that’ll blow you away. The three leads are all equally amazing but a special has to be given to the metal head played by Santiago Segura.

He’s the token dumbass that finds himself way over his head but Segura imbues him with courage that’s uncharacteristic within the genre. He’s not the hero but he’s also not running away either. Filled with manic energy, infectious enthusiasm, and a fighter’s spirit, José María is the best character Jack Black never played. And that’s just one small part of the film. Everything about it is either working on the same level or higher than the best of the genre.

Grade: B+

Jun. 25—Sleepless Night (2011)

Director Frédéric Jardin must’ve watched Taken and thought to himself “gee, wouldn’t this be better if it all took place over a couple of hours and there was even more action?” To rectify this problem, he decided to one-up one of the best action films of the last decade by adding higher stakes, more tension, a better plot, and more memorable set pieces and you know what? He did. A crooked cop (Tomer Sisley) must stay one step ahead of the criminal underworld if he wants to rescue his son that they kidnapped and to protect his double life from being exposed. All while suffering from a bullet wound in his gut. It’s a film so good, Hollywood immediately bought the remake rights and predictably failed to deliver a film even half as entertaining.

Grade: B

Jun. 26—The Red Turtle (2016)

After years of making tremendous shorts (one of which he animated with coffee and the other, the Oscar-winning one, made such an impact on Hayao Miyazaki, that he personally asked de Wit if he could produce his next film) Michael Dudok de Wit finally made a feature-length film and it’s simply wonderful. Entirely dialogue-free and utterly hypnotizing, The Red Turtle is a poetic fable about a man who, while shipwrecked on a deserted island, befriends a red turtle who changes his life. It’s a simple story about mankind’s reliance on nature, the beauty of companionship, and the preciousness of life. Trust me, it’s about more than just a turtle.

Grade: B+

Jun. 27—Krisha (2015)

After being estranged from her family for a decade, Krisha returns for a Thanksgiving dinner but past demons threaten to ruin the festivities. Based on director Trey Edward Shults’s cousin and played by his aunt, Krisha is one of the most captivating characters to hit screens in a long time. Krisha Fairchild’s lead performance starts off as riveting and grows ever more compelling as the film unfolds. Her relentless downward spiral is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying. You don’t know what she’s going to do or say next but you know whatever it is, it won’t be pretty. Because of her addictions, she’s become a ghost the family tolerates.

She haunts their lives not out of malice or ill will but because she has nowhere else to go. It’s a performance too real for the Academy. They hardly ever nominate first-time performances from non-actors because they can’t tell how much of the performance is acting and how much is real. Which is bullshit because no matter what you call it, it’s still acting and I’m telling you right now, no actor alive could pull this performance off as well. She’s dynamite in the role and the film itself ain’t too shabby either.

Grade: B

Jun. 28—Come To Daddy (2020)

A man (Elijah Wood) in his thirties travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father. If I said this film “tries too hard”, odds are, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about but if I was to try and put into words what that meant exactly, I’d have a very hard time properly articulating it. It’s a competently made film and everyone in it gives solid performances (especially Michael Smiley) but the dialogue and off-kilter tone turn what could’ve been a fun Coen Bros type crime film, into a bad imitation of a Shane Black film. Everyone talks like they’re in a witty crime film and behaves accordingly. Nobody feels real and every situation feels inauthentic and clichéd. It tries so hard to throw as many weird revelations and bizarre scenarios at the viewer as possible but it fails at even that because it’s never that weird and it’s nowhere near as crazy as it thinks it is. Not even Elijah Wood’s haircut can save it and that’s saying a lot because that motherfucking thing is putting in work.

Grade: D

Jun. 29—My Spy (2020)

A hardened CIA operative finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl, having been sent undercover to surveil her family. At a certain point in every action stars career, they are required by Hollywood law to make at least one film for children. A lot of them involve a covert ops specialist having to protect a child like a babysitter and/or act like a tough personal bodyguard that has to do what they say because of some plot contrivance. None of them are good and My Spy is no exception. It’s exactly like The Pacifier or The Spy Next Door or Suburban Commando (I’m pretty sure Hulk was an alien in that but who gives a shit) or any other film I’ve forgotten about or any other film that doesn’t exactly fit the criteria but still involve an action star and a kid(s). Now, while this isn’t good, it’s at least watchable. Bautista is fun, the lil girl is likable and the jokes, while not funny, aren’t cringe-worthy, so if you’re forced to watch it, you most likely won’t want to eat a bullet.

Grade: D

Jun. 30—Skate Kitchen (2018)

An unfortunate victim of bad timing, Skate Kitchen, while receiving solid reviews by critics, was quickly overshadowed by the similar Mid90s. Usually, when two films with near-identical plots come out, there’s usually a fight to see which one will do better. Armageddon went up against Deep ImpactLeviathan took on Deep Star Six and A Bug’s Life battled Antz but when it came to these two films, there was no fight. There was a massacre.

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut didn’t just beat this film at the box office, it demolished it. As of this writing, Mid90s has about 16x the number of views (or votes or stars or whatever the fuck their rating system is) over Skate Kitchen and while I understand why Mid90s is more popular (Jonah Hill has more name recognition than Crystal Moselle), what I don’t understand is why Skate Kitchen isn’t at least somewhat known. It does everything that film does but better. The characters are more likable, the plot is more believable and it’s arguably more entertaining. It’s a feel-good hangout movie for a lazy afternoon.

Grade: C+

What did you watch last month?

Author: Sailor Monsoon

I stab.