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.
June. 1—The Stunt Man (1980)
If this picked a genre and stuck with it, this might be one of the best films of the 80s. As it stands, it’s still a remarkable piece of film, just in bite sized increments. The performances are all great (O’Toole is amazing but Railsback deserves more recognition for his work here. He’s really giving it his all) and the premise is great, it’s just can’t pick a lane. O’Toole plays an overbearing director who enjoys tormenting his new stunt man (Railsback) after he discovers he’s actually a fugitive on the run from the police. Now, that’s a solid premise that can go any number of ways and the problem is, it does. It never fully commits to the comedic potential of it, so it never feels like a comedy. There’s definitely tension and dramatic weight behind their volatile relationship but you’re left wondering why they’re playing this weird dance with each other more than you’re ever worried the director is going to turn him in, he’ll die from a stunt gone wrong or the stunt man will finally snap and kill him.
There’s a scene where the director shows a sex scene the female lead (Barbara Hershey) shot to her parents and in order for her to capture the correct emotion in the scene he’s currently shooting, he tells her he did it. She breaks down emotionally and he gets what he wants. If the entire film was that, that would’ve been great. It would’ve lived up to its Satan behind the movie camera poster but that’s just one jarringly out of place scene as opposed to the rest of the film which never gets that pitch black cynical. If you wanna punch Hollywood in the mouth correctly, you first gotta aim your fist and this movie has no idea where it’s even looking.
June. 2—All the Way (2016)
Since acting is my favorite element of any film, biopics are a guilty pleasure. An actual, legitimate guilty pleasure because they’re almost all the exact same movie and I feel guilty for falling into the trap. If you’ve seen any film about a president, you’ve already seen All the Way. It brings absolutely nothing new to the table but as you’d most likely guessed, the performances are outstanding. Anthony Mackie, Bradley Whitford, Frank Langella and Melissa Leo are great but you’re watching this for Bryan Cranston and he more than delivers. I still think I prefer Randy Quaid in the role due to his size and inherit dickbagery (LBJ was a notorious asshole) but Cranston channels him a bit better. He has the voice and mannerisms down pat and with that superb makeup, he fully embodies the former President. I just wish the film around him was half as good.
June. 3—Synchronic (2019)
I’m a huge fan of the directing duo Benson and Moorhead. While I wouldn’t call any of their films great, they’ve gotten close enough to the ring that I’ll always check out whatever they make. They specialize in high concept films with Synchronic being their best one yet. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play two EMTs who are witnessing firsthand the effects of a new drug that sends its users back in time. When Dornan’s daughter takes it and gets trapped in time, they have to come up with a plan to bring her back. It’s a novel approach to time travel that feels condensed for feature length. Like it was adapted from a comic book or something along those lines. The film still works, it just feels like there’s a lot of material they had to leave on the cutting room floor. What I hope wasn’t edited out however, is any scene involving Mackie and Dornan together. They have a great rapport and their friendship is the best thing about the film. I’m glad Marvel picked these two to be the showrunners on Moon Knight because they’re the kind of cats that would actually get me interested in it.
June. 4—Bo Burnham: Inside (2021)
I’ve long maintained that not only is Bo Burnham a comedic genius but that he’s the future of comedy. The subversive pranksters that were born out of Adult Swim and Andy Kaufman might be dominating the landscape now but like Tom Green before them, they have an expiration date. As much as I enjoy the antics of Eric Andre, do I honestly think I’ll be thinking about him in five years? Bo Burnham on the other hand, is subversive in another way. He actually does the exact same thing as the Tim and Erics and the Eric Andres but goes about it in a completely different way. What they’re all trying to do, is blur the line between the act and the “act”. They’re pushing up against the conventional norms of what is and what is not funny. I think that’s what makes Inside genius; I honestly don’t know how much of this to take at face value. Once the pandemic hit (which is never mentioned by name once throughout the special), Burnham decided to self isolate and over the course of a year, decided to create a special. A one man show without an audience.
He says he did this for two reasons: 1) to take his mind off the pandemic and 2) to create a special that required no live show because the live shows were giving him intense anxiety. It’s at this point, that he reveals that he’s deeply depressed and that creating his cathartic but performing is painful. He then lightheartedly jokes about suicide and then sings a song about how climate change is going to kill us all and the futility of jokes during a crisis. Every new bit is tinged with a deep sadness. Or is it? We only know he’s depressed because he says he is. We only know he self isolated because he told us he did. He has no reason to lie but then again, the truth could be part of the act. He could be using his truths to get to a bigger universe truth. Which is that we were all Burnham trapped in a room going crazy for a year.
June. 5—That Championship Season (1999)
The only reason I watched this, was that I got it confused with the 1982 original. I remember hearing good things about that one from the 80s All Over podcast. I’ve never heard of this one and there’s a reason why. The cast, while not as good as the original, is still filled with great character actors. You have Vincent D’Onofrio as the rich asshole, Gary Sinise as the drunk asshole, Tony Shalhoub as a Mayor (a job in which being an asshole is a prerequisite) and Terry Kinney as a duplicitous asshole. They’re four legendary college basketball players that come back to their hometown after twenty years to hang out with their old coach played by Paul Sorvino. There’s melodrama, a lot of yelling and over acting and a shit ton of hysterical laughter every time Shalhoub is on screen because of his hideous wig. The original play is probably great but this ain’t it.
June. 6—Decoder (1984)
I don’t know if industrial German art porn is a sub-genre, but that’s the only way I can describe this movie. Decoder is kinda like Liquid Sky if Liquid Sky was made for people who love the band KMFDM and who cheered at the William S. Burroughs cameo. It’s a movie made for the specific audience who would love it and I’m not that audience. The premise hooked me: a teen figures out a musical frequency that messes with people and uses it to terrorize a popular fast food chain. A private detective is hired by said fast food chain to find and stop him. That kind of bonkers story is right in my wheelhouse but so much of the movie is not that at all. There’s many scenes involving a Tank Girl looking chick reading vaguely communist poetry to frogs, another guy fiddling with music, some other scenes involving other characters doing God knows what and so on and so forth. It’s my least favorite type of indie movie. The kind that wants to convince you it’s smart by being slow, confusing and impenetrable. Just because you’re esoteric, doesn’t mean you’re interesting.
June. 7—Imprint (2006)
In the early 00s, Showtime had a horror anthology called Masters of Horror that ran for two seasons. It was created by Mick Garris and had episodes directed by John Carpenter, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, Larry Cohen and a whole slew of other horror icons. One director who technically didn’t get to participate is Takeshi Miike. He directed an episode called Imprint that was deemed so excessive, the network refused to air it. For the longest time, the only way you could see it, was a stand alone DVD that proudly displays on the cover “banned from TV.” Does it live up to its reputation? Abso-fucking-lutely. Miike put every controversial thing you can think of in one episode and uses them as cudgel to wail on the viewer. Nothing is safe and anything could happen. The film involves Billy Drago going to Japan to find his love after a time away and finds out she was sold into prostitution. He then learns she was murdered and then the film unravels like a Rashomon of the most fucked up shit to explain what exactly happened to her. Her death has only one explanation but the why behind it gets crazier and crazier until you legitimately question the sanity of the director. Only a madman would make something this depraved. A madman named Miike. Long may he reign.
June. 8—The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)
Within a minute or so, I correctly guessed that Lord and Miller were involved and a second after that realization, I was hooked and with each subsequent second I fell more and more in love with the movie. I’m already a fan of Lord and Miller’s type of comedy and fast paced editing but what they don’t get enough credit for, is the heart they put in all of their films. Even the 21 Jump Street films, which are silly buddy cop movies, are deep down about a bromance between two dudes. Their films start with likeable characters that you immediately love and then build the comedy around them. That, more than anything, is how they’re able to adapt the seemingly unadaptable. Even when this film started to drag in the third act or when a couple of gags didn’t land as hard as they should’ve, I was still invested because I loved the Mitchells so much. I loved the technologically incapable father, the awkward, dinosaur loving brother, the supportive mother and especially the movie loving and totally gay daughter. This is the type of film I wish Pixar made again. Ditch the gimmicks, focus on the characters and add in a fat pug and you’ll win me back.
June. 9—The Honeymoon Killers (1970)
Martin Scorsese was once famously attached to this and while I can definitely see that, oddly enough, it feels more like a less comedic John Waters movie to me. The Honeymoon Killers were a couple of murderous lovers, he — a suave con man named Ray Fernandez who swindled old ladies out of their money and her — a bitchy nurse named Martha Beck who isn’t afraid of murder, who pretended to be brother and sister so that they could still be together while he was newly married to his latest mark. He’d find them as apart of a “correspondence club”, sweet talk them till they fell in love and then once they were married, his “sister” would either go through her stuff and steal whatever was valuable or they’d talk her into emptying out her savings account and then kill her. If it was more gratuitous and a little bit more funny, it could easily be mistaken for a Waters film. Mostly due to its tone, low budget and performances from Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco. I don’t know where they came from or where they went after this but they feel created to play these roles. Like actually manufactured to portray these killers. It’s better than a great performance, they’re performances that feel real. They inhabit these roles so completely, they feel like subjects of a documentary. Even though one of them was attached and I’ve mentioned the other one quite a bit, I don’t think Scorsese or Waters could make a better film. This has that undefinable magic that only applies to low budget films.
June. 10—Harlan County, U.S.A. (1976)
What originally started as a documentary about Kenzie, Miners for Democracy and the attempt to unseat Tony Boyle as president of the UMWA turned into a year long document of the Harlan County miners strike. Director Kopple initially tried to film the residents on the sly but once they got wind of her and her crew, they confronted her and made damn sure she was on the right side. She would spend the next four years proving she was. She lived with them, watched them work, listened to their stories and gave them a platform so that everyone could hear their voices. If Harlan County, U.S.A. was just a PSA on how awful mining companies are and how important unions and strikes can be, then it would still be an important work of cinema. But like all great documentaries, it puts a face to history. If you heard that miners went on strike against Duke Power Company in June 1973 and that it took over a year for them to reach a fair compromise, you’d absorb it, maybe get angry for a bit because nothing has changed but you’d eventually forget and move on. This movie makes it impossible to forget. The faces of these miners and their families will latch onto your memories like ghosts from the past and the many folk songs they sing will stick with you forever.
June. 11—Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (1990)
Troma has released about a billion movies and of the ones I’ve seen, it wasn’t the Toxic Avengers or the Sgt. Kabukimans that I responded to, it was their little known Evil Dead ripoff: Frostbiter. Replacing deadites with a Wendigo and Ash and those teens with drunken redneck assholes, the film is damn near a beat for beat remake but even though it follows Evil Dead so closely, it never feels like a rip-off. The reason for that is that it throws so much craziness at you, that it’s impossible to think about anything other than what you’re looking at. There’s rubber monsters, stop-motion, claymation, hand-puppet monsters, miniature sets, copious amounts of gore and TWO songs about chili. It might tie with Demon Wind as my favorite of all the Evil Dead ripoffs
June. 12—Deadly Prey (1987)
This is the kind of trashterpiece that feeds my need to watch “so bad, it’s good” movies. This sub-genre has a well earned reputation for the outlandish, the insane and the hilarious. Good or bad is irrelevant when you’re this consistently entertaining. Deadly Prey is The Most Dangerous Game by way of a madman. David A. Prior has made many a piece of schlock (Killer Workout, Future Zone) but this might be his masterwork. A group of sadistic mercenaries kidnap Michael Danton (Ted Prior) from his home, and set him loose on the grounds of their secret camp to be used as training for new recruits. What they don’t know is, that Danton is a badass Vietnam vet and now they’re all as good as dead. Almost the entire runtime is dedicated to Danton running around in short shorts dispatching of guys one by one. You would think that would get old but somehow, it never does. I mean, there’s a scene where he cuts a guys arm off and then beats him to death with it. If that’s not enough for you, I don’t know what is.
June. 13—Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
The fact that John Carpenter wrote a full on Giallo is kinda insane to me. The Eyes of Laura Mars isn’t an homage or a pastiche of genre tropes, it’s a legitimate Giallo. And if someone who was well versed in the genre was behind the camera, like an Argento, Bava or Fulci, it could’ve been a really great one. It has all the elements, it’s just missing the style. A fashion photographer (Faye Dunaway) suddenly starts seeing through the eyes of a serial killer as he hunts and kills everyone around her. The detective on the case (a baby faced Tommy Lee Jones) immediately suspects her of the crimes because her controversial photographs eeriely match old unsolved murder cases but since he has no proof, he has to wait and see if she’ll strike again. Is he right? Is she suffering from disassociative disorder or is there really a killer targeting everyone around her? If you’ve seen a Giallo, you can probably guess the answer (and you’ll definitely see through the obvious red herrings) but for someone who finds that Genre to be interminable, this one was a pleasant surprise.
June. 14—The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995)
I so desperately want to like the films of Philip Ridley. He clearly has an eye for visuals but the stories he tells are impenetrable. The Reflecting Skin is like a Terrence Malick vampire flick and The Passion of Darkly Noon is a slow burn artsy witch movie and while neither one of those things is intrinsically bad, you really gotta deliver a great third act to reward my patience and neither one of these films do. I’ve said it a million times but a slow burn only works if the promise of an eventual fire pays off and while the film literally ends with a giant fire, it’s not enough. Brendan Fraser plays the son of two insanely devout cult leaders named Darkly Noon who befriends a local witch (played by Ashley Judd) who then becomes increasingly unhinged when her hubby (played by Viggo Mortensen) comes home. The film is built around Darkly’s slow descent into madness and acts like a ticking time bomb you’re waiting to explode. It would be disingenuous to say it doesn’t but there’s far too much set up what eventually happens. It’s worth it to see Fraser go unhinged but if you’re not a fan of his in the first place, I doubt to get anything out of this.
June. 15—The Last Tycoon (1976)
The Last Tycoon is the cinematic equivalent of a deflated souffle. Even though it has all the right ingredients, since there’s nothing holding it up, it crumbles immediately. And that’s not hyperbole, this film has all the right ingredients. There hundreds upon hundreds of classics that have less than half of what this film has. First of all, it’s based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished final novel that was adapted to the screen by Nobel Prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter. It was directed by two-time Oscar winner Elia Kazan and stars Robert De Niro at the very height of his acting career. That alone would be enough, but it also boasts one of the all time great supporting casts. Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Nicholson, Ray Milland and then in smaller roles you have Donald Pleasence, John Carradine, Dana Andrews and Anjelica Huston. This should be the greatest movie ever made, so what happened? I think on the macro, the biggest issue is the fact that the story is incomplete. Whatever Fitzgerald’s point was, is just not here. There’s no resolution to anything. It just ends.
And on the micro, I think the love story at the center of it is dull and lifeless. De Niro becomes immediately taken by Kathleen Moore (Ingrid Boulting) because she reminds him of his deceased wife but I have no attachment to his dead wife, so I don’t see it. He is willing to ruin his entire career for her and since she barely likes him, let alone loves him, I don’t see it. Again, there was probably a pay off to this in original novel but since it wasn’t on the page, it’s not in the movie. The only two things about this that almost justify its existence, is the fact that this is still the only movie where De Niro and Nicholson act opposite each other and all the thirst reviews that were written on Letterboxd about how hot young De Niro is. The young lady who said she wanted to create time travel just so that she could go back in time to [blank] De Niro’s [blank] is more believable and entertaining than anything in this movie.
June. 16—A Glitch in the Matrix (2021)
One of the reasons The Matrix has endured for as long as it has, is the philosophical question it posed about reality — what if we’re all living in a simulation and we didn’t know it? It’s an interesting thought experiment and a great foundation for both the film and the comic The Invisibles that it took it from. It could also be a great jumping off point for a documentary but A Glitch in the Matrix isn’t it. There’s two ways to approach this subject matter: 1) by focusing on the question or 2) focusing on the people asking the question. The doc tries to do both and ends up saying nothing about either. If you focus on the question, you need legit philosophers and scientists to examine what that would mean and to provide at least somewhat of a credible hypothesis to support their theory. If you focus on the people asking it (who are not scientists and philosophers), then they become the documentary. The handful of talking heads the director assembled are all masked by ridiculous CGI and everyone of them sounds absolutely insane. Their evidence boils down to “Elon Musk mentioned it once, Philip K. Dick wrote about it and The Matrix, Rick and Morty and Minecraft existent. Isn’t that interesting?” Since they offer nothing you could’ve find on a Reddit subpage, their only reason for being included should be to examine how and why they got to the point where they lost touch with reality. It should be an examination of insanity but instead, it’s incels spouting nonsense about coincidences and ridiculous pseudoscience.
June. 17—10 Rillington Place (1971)
Before he was the lovable elderly eccentric in Jurassic Park, Richard Attenborough was famous for portraying stone cold killers. His first big role was the unstable Pinkie in Brighton Rock and twenty two years later, he’d follow that up with an even more duplicitous character. Based on the true story of British serial killer John Christie who would pretend to be a doctor who specialized in abortions to lure unsuspecting women to his flat (which he shared with his wife) in order to strangle them to death. Pinkie might be an iconic British baddie but Christie blows him out of the water in terms of pure evil and Attenborough might actually top his performance in the former in this film. The way he tricks people into believing his lies — which not only resulted in the aforementioned murders but the miscarriage of justice involving Timothy Evans — is as chilling as it is unsettling. Even though he’s soft spoken, his words somehow find a way to get under your skin. It’s a tremendous performance in an equally great film.
June. 18—A Shot in the Dark (1964)
A million years ago, Kane and I made a list of the most overrated/underrated movies (which can be be found here) and on it, I picked two films from Blake Edwards with one of them being the original Pink Panther film. I found it horribly boring and barely funny, so color me shocked that I liked A Shot in the Dark as much as I did. This film does everything right. It puts Peter Sellers front and center, introduces two new and iconic characters (Inspector Dreyfus played by Herbert Lom and Kato played by Burt Kwouk), has an actual plot and is not just a series of loosely connected gags and is laugh out loud funny. Literally. I had a smile on my face throughout but there were at least ten moments that made me laugh loud and for prolonged amount of time. Although I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, I’m comfortable naming this one of the best comedies ever made.
June. 19—The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)
After the release of the odd 1968 pseudo sequel Inspector Clouseau, The Return of the Pink Panther sees Sellers/Edwards back to the franchise they created and the result is better than the last film but nowhere near as good as A Shot in the Dark. Going back to its roots, the film brings back the gentleman thief of the first film (this time played by Christopher Plummer instead of David Niven) and while that character is the best thing about this, his inclusion signals the beginning of the end of the franchise. I’m going to go on record and say that Inspector Clouseau worked in exactly one film and every other film that used him didn’t know what to do with him. They lean on his penchant for prosthetic disguises and crank up his incompetence to an unbearable level. It’s the same gags over and over again with the same punchlines. I didn’t hate either this or the next one, I just forgot everything about them.
June. 20—The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
Turning Dreyfus into a villain who’s hellbent on killing Clouseau once and for all is an interesting concept that gives Herbert Lom more to do (which is always welcome) but like the one before this, it suffers from the exact same problem. The less screen time Sellers gets, the less funny the film is. Since the series is clearly running out of steam at this point, I doubt he could’ve saved it but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the films in which he has to share screen time with another character don’t work. The evolution of Dreyfus going from an angry boss to a full on Bond villain is funny but all of his scenes in this are not. Besides the fact that he’s now the bad guy and his plan is ridiculous, the only thing I remember about this is the scene in which a bunch of assassins all try and attack Clouseau at the same time. It’s mildly entertaining and I wish it was funnier. Which basically sums up this film.
June. 21—Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
Due to a cross dressing crook stealing his clothes and vehicle and then getting mowed down by some hired goons, the world believes Clouseau to be dead. Taking advantage of this, he decides to use as many disguises as possible to figure out who put out the hit on him and why. Along the way, he runs across Dyan Cannon (who is always a delight) who teams up with him because of similar circumstances. While I love me some Cannon, this film gets somewhat of a pass from me due mostly to the fact that Kato finally has something to do other than jump out from behind a wall and kick Clouseau when he wasn’t looking. He’s actually in it a bit and is integral to the plan. It’s not much and his presence doesn’t save the film but when the plot is boring and the laughs are non-existent, you take what you can get.
June. 22—You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)
In 1996, David Arquette showed enough promise that he appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair along with actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Benicio Del Toro. That same year, he becomes irrevocably tied to the character that would put him on the map. Four years after that, he would go on to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship belt in conjunction with his film Ready to Rumble. His most popular role essentially killed any potential for him to be taken seriously as an actor and his wrestling belt made him an enemy and a laughingstock to the entire wrestling community, both the fans and the wrestlers themselves. Neither one of those were his fault but nevertheless, they are both holes he’s been trying to crawl his way out for twenty years. You Cannot Kill David Arquette documents his struggles with type casting (albeit briefly) and his attempts to be taken seriously as a legitimate wrestler. It’s a funny, heartbreaking and sometimes brutal tale of redemption that will have you cheering and rooting for Arquette.
June. 23—Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991)
Charles Band is an excellent businessman, a decent producer but a terrible storyteller. He knows what to put in his films to make a quick buck, namely animatronic puppets that can easily be merchandised, but he has no idea what to do with his money making puppets. The first Puppet Master movie was a simple concept: a group of people in a house full of murderous dolls. It’s not a good movie but it’s a good enough premise to build upon. But the thing is, none of them do. They just recycle that plot over and over again. Except this one. To give this film a modicum of credit, it does do something different. A prequel set during WWII, the film explores the origins of Toulon and gives a smidgen of backstory to his puppets. They’ve already been created by this point but this is when they go from being bad guys, to being amoral heroes. During a Nazi raid on his home, Toulon’s beautiful wife is murdered. Toulon vows revenge, with the help of his animated puppets. Blade, Six Shooter and the rest of the puppets killing Nazis is a recipe for a good time and compared to the rest of the films in the series, it is. It’s still not a great movie but if you’re going to watch any of these, this is the one to watch.
June. 24—Puppet Master 4 (1993)
One step forward and about a hundred backwards, Puppet Master 4 ditches the Nazis in favor of demons but sticks to the formula of a single location (for the most part) and a bunch of filler in between the kills. A young scientist (who’s also the caretaker of a hotel) is working on an artificial intelligence project when he’s beset upon by murderous possessed totems. Why? I honestly don’t remember. How they get there and why they want to kill him are plot points I truly can’t remember. I do know that before they show up, the main character invites over a lady he’s crushing on and she takes it upon herself to invite two other people along too. One is a colossal douchebag that wants to steal his plans and his girlfriend is a psychic. A psychic that just happens to sense that Toulon’s puppets are in the building. Around the time they decide to inject em with that life goo, the munchkin demons attack and it becomes a war between miniature monsters and puppets. A boring, uneventful war but a war nevertheless. The problem with this movie, as well as all the others, is that there’s half a movie’s worth of plot here. You cut this movie in half and not lose a single important plot beat. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to give these damn puppets something to do.
June. 25—Puppet Master 5 (1993)
Picking up after the last one left off, this movie gets points for immediately arresting the lead of the previous movie because honestly, how the fuck would he be able to explain what happened? I like horror movies that inject a bit of realism into their plots but that’s about all I can give this movie. The lawyer that bailed him out of jail is working for someone shady who is really interested in his artificial intelligence project. They believe his story about murderous puppets but they believe he created them, so they decide to get him out of jail to help them do … something. The plan is to break into the hotel, steal the puppets and reverse engineer them to figure out how they work, so getting him out of jail doesn’t really help them in any way but ok. I could also be forgetting a piece of dialogue or some boring exposition scene that explains this, so it may make sense but since the movie is boring, it’s not my fault I stopped paying attention. Once they break in, wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly when the demon from the last one decides to send his totems to eliminate them puppets once in for all. So you have scenes where the puppets are killing the thieves, scenes where the demon is killing the thieves and scenes where the puppets fight the demon and yet, none of that translates to anything even remotely resembling an entertaining movie. Because the puppets are at least visually interesting to look at, it’s not bad in the way an Amityville Horror movie is bad but it’s still practically unwatchable due to the amount of nothing that happens.
June. 26—Nobody (2021)
Because it’s similar to so many things, Nobody is one of those movies that you’ve seen without having seen it. If you combine A History of Violence with John Wick, that’s this movie. So much so, that the creators of those could easily sue this for plagiarism. But just because it’s derivative, doesn’t mean it’s lesser than. In fact, it’s probably more fun than both of those movies and John Wick‘s sequels. Not better mind you, but more fun. The action scenes (which is what you’re here to see anyways) are all top notch, the cast is filled with That Guy actors who are all great in it (even RZA!) and there are one or two kills in this I’ve never seen in a movie before. It’s a popcorn flick that embraces the fact that it’s a popcorn flick.
June. 27—The Right Stuff (1983)
The Right Stuff might be the best film about America ever made. Not because it’s about legends who did the impossible and changed history forever due to their bravery and patriotic duty but because they were just a group of guys were pushed each other to go one step further. This easily could’ve focused on just of the men and their incredible accomplishments but instead, it shows that progress isn’t made by just one man. This guy breaks the sound barrier, which in turn spurs this guy to break mach two and so on and so forth until we eventually get to into space. It’s incremental steps but those steps are made by multiple people fighting to just be slightly better than the last guy.
They aren’t doing it to land in history books, they’re doing it to prove to themselves and their contemporaries that they can. No one is born a legend. They become legends through their actions and while these men certainly fit that description, it’s the little things that make them heroes that make this film a masterpiece. Like John Glenn (Ed Harris) defending his stuttering wife from the paparazzi or Gus Grissom (Fred Ward) having to deal with potentially ruining a shuttle due to technical difficulties. We’re taught about these men in school and are told the facts about what they’ve accomplished but this film shows you the men and what they actually had to do to earn their spot in history and it’s incredible.
Feb. 29—The Survivalist (2015)
In a post apocalyptic future where every stranger is a potential enemy and food is scarce, a survivalist lives off a small plot of land hidden deep in forest. When two women seeking food and shelter discover his farm, he finds his existence threatened. Unlike the action packed films that make up the bulk of the subgenre, this film is far more of a character study that just so happens to be tense as shit. It’s much closer to films like The Rover and The Road than Mad Max and Escape From New York. This isn’t a world of badasses, leather gangs and souped-up hot rods. It’s a world where every bullet counts, every piece of food is worth its weight in gold and every interaction could potentially be life ending. Leaner than a steak and meaner than a snake, The Survivalist is a stripped down version of the apocalypse that’s as unrelentingly harsh and terrifyingly realistic as it is meticulous and minimal.
June. 29—Bomb City (2017)
In 1997, in a small, conservative Texas town, a young man by the name of Brian Deneke was savagely beaten to death and his attacker walked away with probation and a fine, of which he never ended up paying. Deneke’s crime? He was a punk. This is the story of Deneke, his life, his lifestyle and the miscarriage of justice that let a killer walk away scot-free. It’s a scathing indictment on a broken system that demonizes and maligns anyone different. It’s a film designed to sadden you and to piss you off enough that you’ll want to do something about it but more importantly, it’s ultimate goal is to remind the world who Deneke was. A young man who liked punk and unfortunately became a martyr because of it.
June. 30—Bellflower (2011)
Evan Glodell (who also wrote and directed the film) and Tyler Dawson play Woodrow and Aiden, two best friends who spend their days building flame throwers and preparing for a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future. Then one day Woodrow meets a girl (Jessie Wiseman), they start dating, something happens and then Woodrow’s delicate fantasy world starts coming undone. Bellflower is essentially a mumblecore romance with a revenge twist. While not as good as the equally under seen Super Dark Times, it’s still an impressive debut made all the more impressive due to its extremely low budget. It’s the type of film I love recommending because it shows what you can accomplish with no money but be forewarned, this is a grim film. There ain’t no rainbows and unicorns in this universe—It’s just jealousy, revenge and murder.
What movies did you watch last month?