Films I Saw in May 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.

May. 1—Hell Night (1981)

Four college pledges are forced to spend the night in a deserted old mansion, where they are stalked by a hideously deformed man who stalks the grounds. Linda Blair’s post Exorcist career is just sad. You would never know she gave one of the best child performances ever based on her work in everything else she ever did and if you did know who she was beforehand, you would think her agents or managers had an ongoing bet to see if they could keep her from ever appearing in a good film. Hell Night is far from the worst thing she’s ever done but that’s saying more about her career than it is about the quality of this film. It’s a mediocre, straight down the middle slasher that delivers what it says on the tin. People will die, girl(s) will get naked and there’s a moderate amount of blood. If you’re looking for a decent horror film you haven’t seen a million times, Hell Night scratches the itch.

Grade: D

May. 2—DeepStar Six (1989)

At the bottom of the ocean, the DeepStar Six mining company has just discovered a new and deadly alien menace. The legacy of this film will forever be defined by how not great it is. Due to it being slightly better than Lords of the Deep and the Rift but leagues away from Leviathan, it’ll always be the second best aquatic horror film of 1989. And it’s reputation is well earned. It’s the kind of movie that just feels like a silver medal. There’s some good performances and some great gore effects but nothing about it really sticks out. It’s not boring but it’s not memorable either. It just kinda exists.

Grade: D+

May. 3—Meet the Hollowheads (1989)

An offbeat, satirical look at the nuclear family of the 1950’s but filtered through the prism of Burton, Gilliam and insanity, Meet the Hollowheads is the Jetsons if the Jetsons were created by Adam Rifkin. It’s the kind of film you have to throw a lot of reference points at in order to adequately describe it because while it’s weird and unique, it does take on the shape of familiarity. There’s things about it that will remind you of other things but it’s also clearly not ripping anyone off. The world the Hollowheads inhabit feels like a demo reel for it’s lead art director/set designer(s). There’s tubes on the walls, weird monsters that eat your garbage, weird mechanical shit everywhere and there’s not a single flat surface anywhere. It’s remarkable how fully realised this alternate future is and how interesting the universe feels with just a couple of rooms.

The film never leaves their house but every room has as much time and detail put into their creation as any other sci-fi epic released at the time. But the great set design and unique world building is really all this film has to offer. The plot is bare bones: the father wants a raise so he invites his boss over to dinner to try and sweet talk him but the boss immediately gets rapey, so then they have to attack him and hide his body from the police. Most of the film is all the various characters getting ready for the dinner and then the third act is a slightly unpleasant Looney Tunes cartoon that isn’t funny or particularly interesting to watch. If the plot was even remotely good, this could’ve been a great cult classic but as it is, it’s a mediocre hidden gem.

Grade: D+

May. 4—Remo Williams: the Adventure Begins (1985)

A dead cop is brought back to life and trained to become an assassin in service of the US President. If I was to describe this film with one word, it would be quaint. I mean, I could also use the word problematic due to Joel Grey’s casting as the old wise Asian master but I’m going to look past that and focus on the films scale. There was a time when films like these were considered “action packed”. When all you needed was a couple of small scale set pieces and a slightly bigger finale to be considered a successful action film. Today, this entire film’s plot would be condensed down to thirty minutes and the other hour would be non-stop car chases and scenes of ridiculous hand-to-hand combat. I kinda like how small this film is and how low stakes everything is. There’s no huge beam shooting into the sky signifying… something or some portal that needs to be closed before apocalypse monsters come out. I think the entire plot boils down to Remo Williams having to karate chop a gun manufacturer. That’s it. Again, it’s super quaint and kitschy but it’s kinda fun.

Grade: C

May. 5—Nightmare at Noon (1988)

Scientists poison the water supply of a small town, turning the residents into homicidal maniacs who kill each other and anybody who passes through. If you told me this film was actually two episodes of an obscure Bo Hopkins show from the 80’s edited together, I would believe you. It has the same structure as your typical guy-walks-into-a-town-saves-the-day-then-moves-on kind of show but with a slight twist. Instead of our rugged hero taking on a group of bikers or whatever the hell Renegade or Walker Texas Ranger fight in their shows, there’s lunatic cannibalistic people and an albino. Which sounds like it could be potentially entertaining but nope. It’s a slow, meandering “action movie” that’s about as interesting as a root canal and twice as painful.

Grade: F

May. 6—Hal (2018)

It’s always hard for me to write about these kinds of documentaries. It’s a talking head doc about the director Hal Ashby. You’ll hear from famous people who either knew him, worked with him or are inspired by him. If you like his work, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for his uncompromising vision and if you’ve never heard of him or his movies, it makes a great case for why they’re important and why they’re essential. While I wish it would’ve delved a bit more into the films of his that are terrible (why the fuck did he sign on to do a Rolling Stones concert film?), the films it does cover do get a lot of love. This isn’t a comprehensive deep dive into his filmography that details the ups and downs of every production. It’s a fluff piece but as fluff pieces go, it ain’t bad.

Grade: C

May. 7—My Scientology Movie (2015)

I kinda don’t get what Theroux was trying to do with this documentary. I get the targets he’s aiming at but he shoots so many arrows at the board, that I don’t think he really nails any of them. The problem with the film, is that it’s three films happening simultaneously. There’s the expose, in which he’s investigating the infamous horror stories that go on deep within the Church of Scientology. There’s the recreation bits, where he hires actors to play some of the top Scientologists and their victims and then there’s the comedy. The film wants to be a hard hitting farce that takes down and exposes the heads of the cult but I think it gets bungled in it’s own ambition. There’s too many things happening for the weight of these crimes to really hit home and the crimes he does choose to focus on, aren’t really that bad. Scientology is filled with nothing but crooked, abusive monsters, so show me that. Don’t hire a Tom Cruise impersonator and then not show him beating or belittling SPs (Suppressive Person), which he’s been accused of doing. Either make a comedy of the absurdism of the cult or give me a hard hitting expose that really goes after these assholes. Don’t do both, it doesn’t work.

Grade: C

May 8—Rock ‘n’ Roll Highschool (1979)

A Ramones fanatic battles it out with the strict new principle of her High School. The plot is paper thin, the acting is, for the most part, bad and the jokes hardly, if ever, land but there’s an undeniable charm to the film. If feels like a hyper active puppy that pisses itself every time it’s excited to see you but the problem is, it’s always excited to see you. The cast is great and is game for what they’re asked to do (Clint Howard has never been more Clint Howard-y), there’s a recurring sight gag involving mice that’s pretty funny and the last fifteen minutes or so is a lot of fun. If you’re a fan of the Ramones, I say check it out. Everyone else, tread lightly.

Grade: C

May. 9—McMillion$ (2020)

A detailed account of the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam during the 1990s as told by the participants in the case, including the prizewinners and the FBI agents involved. Talking about having all of the air being sucked out of the room. If it wasn’t for Tiger King (and then later The Last Dance) this would’ve been the documentary event of the year. The story is insane and fascinating, the characters involved are all memorable (especially FBI agent Doug Matthews and ex mob wife Robin Colombo) and the absurdism of the entire thing will keep you hooked but as many critics and viewers have pointed out, it’s far too long. There’s at least two maybe even three hours you could cut from this thing without missing anything important. But even at the length it is, it’s still incredibly entertaining.

Grade: B

May. 10—The Beastmaster (1982)

Armed with supernatural powers and a lust for revenge, the beastmaster and his animal allies wage war against the evil wizard who murdered his family. The fact that this is arguably the fourth best fantasy adventure film of the 80’s and is still in the top five greatest sword and sorcery films of all time, just goes to show how disrespected that genre was and continues to be. Directors either didn’t take it seriously or made it as cheap as humanly possible. Conan the Barbarian is literally the only one that was a legit film and due to its popularity, everyone ripped it off badly. The Beastmaster, while not directly lifting anything from the film, was only made to capitalize on that film’s success and as quick cash-ins go, it ain’t half bad.

Coscarelli clearly didn’t have the budget to realize his vision and worse of all, we may never know what is vision even was since the producers took the film away from him. This isn’t the film he wanted to make but every couple of minutes, you can see some glimpses of his unique vision shining through. It’s uneven and at some points quite dull but there’s a lot to like about it. The actors are all solid, the action is serviceable and the ferrets are adorable. Sometimes just being good enough is good enough.

Grade: C

May. 11—Lu Over the Wall (2017)

The story centers on Kai, a gloomy middle school student whose life changes after meeting Lu, a mermaid. One of the most unabashedly adorable films I’ve seen in awhile, Lu Over the Wall is a charming, touching, and visually dazzling musical fantasy film with gorgeous and kinetic animation and a heartfelt story that somehow avoids even the most common of tropes. You would think films like Ponyo or the Little Mermaid or Splash would’ve mined this concept of all of it’s gold but apparently there’s still some left for director Masaaki Yuasa to use. There’s merdogs in this. Dogs that, once bitten, turn into half mermaids. That’s just one of the many completely adorable and original ideas this film has and the film is loaded with them.

Grade: B

May. 12—Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister’s romance with a jazz musician. If you’re a fan of the Safdie Bros (Uncut Gems, Good Time) and wondered where they got their signature manic, ticking time bomb-esque energy from, look no further than the Sweet Smell of Success. A quick-witted and jazzy film noir that crackles like a firecracker and moves like a runaway train. Burt Lancaster is quietly menacing as gossip columnist JJ Hunsecker, and he’s on a relentless campaign to smear any and all rivals. Tony Curtis is Sidney Falco, the unsuspecting player in Hunsecker’s dangerous personal chess game.

The game is simple: remove one of the pieces off the board (his sister’s fiance) and everyone gets what they want but the thing about chess is: there’s only one king and multiple pawns. It’s a tense light noir with brilliant performances, amazing dialogue and a story that feels like an ever tightening noose that’s going to end up hanging everyone, you just don’t know how.

Grade: B+

May. 13—The Chinese Boxer (1970)

Just like Rodney Dangerfield, Jimmy Wang Yu gets no respect. Before Bruce Lee, Yu was the first superstar of chop socky action and his film The Chinese Boxer, was instrumental in making Kung Fu flicks a cottage industry. After his entire school is massacred by a disgraced former student, a noble young martial arts student must train vigorously if he is to stand a chance at getting revenge. Yu deserves a place in the history books for helping kickstart the genre and while he would reach critical acclaim for his One Armed Swordsman series, his work in this is nothing special. He’s no Bruce Lee and this ain’t no Enter the Dragon but it’s got a lot of great training montages, some great villains and there’s a fight in the snow that’s particularly noteworthy. It’s a solid little action film and if you’re a fan of the genre, you could do far worse.

Grade: C+

May. 14—California Split (1974)

For my money, nobody did character drama better than Altman. He was a master at putting people with problems into a room together, watching them bond over those problems then eventually self implode. He let the characters (and extension their friendship) drive the story and had their issues (and how they dealt with said issues) create the drama. He proved that all a film needs to be great, is a great cast and some great characters. And what a cast it is.

Elliott Gould is dynamic and hilarious as roving hustler Charlie, a whirling dervish who projects the confidence of a con-man but lacks the follow-through to actually succeed at any game for longer than a hot hand or two. He takes on the broken, defeated Bill (George Segal) as a kind of ward, and the two get into messy, squalid hijinks, but gradually their buddy energy warps and bleeds, revealing their own dark, myopic souls, and those of the people in their seamy world of compulsive gambling. Things get so bad that even when the guys win, they feel like they’ve lost, and of course they have, just not money.

Grade: B+

May. 15—The Mighty Ducks (1992)

A self-centered Minnesota lawyer is sentenced to community service coaching a rag tag youth hockey team. If you are a fan of this movie, you are blinded by nostalgia. This film barely works as a comedy, let alone a credible sports movie. The kids are all obnoxious (except Goldberg because he’s the best), there’s very little actual hockey played in it (they have about four training montages that last less than five minutes apiece that are more ridiculous than the last. Somehow skating through a mall will teach someone how to skate and slapping some eggs will teach you how to handle a puck) and Emilio is horribly miscast. It’s not his fault he’s not Alec Baldwin but this role was totally written for an Alec Baldwin/James Woods type. There are tons of films that I can’t judge objectively due to their nostalgic value, so I get why people love this but removed from your childhood memories, this isn’t a good movie. It’s a subpar kids comedy and an even worse sports film.

Grade: D+

May. 16—Arthur (1981)

Arthur spends his time with booze and whores. His dad has a wife lined up for him that he keeps rejecting – until it’s her or being cut off from $750,000,000. Then he goes shopping where he falls in love with a shoplifter. A film so great, my only complaint I have with it, isn’t even the film’s fault. This thing was nominated for damn near every goddamn Oscar in the book but they couldn’t throw one to Liza fucking Minnelli? Dudley Moore and John Gielgud are fantastic in their respected rolls (especially Gielgud who steals every scene in the film. Seriously, he should be arrested for straight up taking the film away from every other actor) but, and maybe I’m in the minority here but I don’t think their roles were that difficult to pull off.

One’s a comedic drunk and the other is a sardonic butler. Now, the actors do do everything in their power to keep them from becoming one note and cliche but the heavy lifting was already done for them. There’s plenty of performances they could’ve pulled from to help craft their characters. Minnelli on the other hand has to create her character from the bottom up and has to make you fall in love with her with considerably less screen time than either of them. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say she’s the glue that keeps the film together but she is definitely it’s secret weapon. She’s funny, she’s sassy and she’s immediately lovable. She was robbed an Oscar nom, goddamn it! Oh and the rest of the film is pretty great too.

Grade: B

May. 17—Die Hard 2 (1990)

John McClane attempts to avert disaster as rogue military operatives seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. I love how one of the main complaints of Hollywood blockbusters nowadays (and I’m primarily talking about sequels), is that they’re not but nostalgia bait. Repacked films that hit the same notes and have the same characters and do the exact same things as the first film. While those complaints are valid, to point to this decade in particular as the root cause of the trend is simply ridiculous. Sequels being nothing but nostalgia bait ain’t nothing new folks. This film is literally the exact same fucking movie as the first except worse in every conceivable way.

It’s a lazy, cynical cash grab that feels like it was made by an algorithm instead of an actual director. But I guess I was in a forgiving mood when I watched it because while I acknowledge that it is lazy and uninspired, I still had a decent enough time watching it. It ticks all the boxes you want a mindless blockbuster to tick. There’s some good enough action, there’s a good enough villain and Willis looks like he’s actually trying. I kinda wish this wasn’t a Die Hard sequel. I think it could’ve worked a bit more if it was a Wesley Snipes vehicle. Because then all of the annoying callbacks and in jokes would be removed. Leaving just fun, albeit less than impressive action set pieces behind.

Grade: C

May. 18—A Wind Named Amnesia (1990)

A wind has swept the Earth taking all the memories from everyone. No one knows who they are, how to speak, or how to use the tools of modern civilization. Two years later a young man who has been re-educated travels across America on a mysterious journey. Talk about a film ripe for a remake. The premise is fantastic but the film doesn’t really do much with it. It’s episodic, so every twenty minutes or so, there’s a new set of characters with a new conflict/resolution. One involves a cult that worships a huge crane, another is about a perfect society that lives in a virtual reality simulation and there’s a couple others about robots or some shit. It doesn’t all work and much like the amnesia inducing wind at the center of the plot, there’s a good chunk of it I don’t remember but premise at the center of it is solid enough that I recommend it.

Grade: C+

May. 19—Rabid (1977)

A young woman develops a taste for human blood after experimental plastic surgery, and her victims turn into blood-thirsty zombies, leading into a city-wide epidemic. I love the way Cronenberg’s mind works. The way he sees the world is just fascinating to me. Always ahead of the curve, his films are shocking prescient. Videodrome and eXistenZ are the best example of his capacity to look into the future but I’d argue Rabid is just as prophetic. The man predicted the AIDS epidemic just four years before it happened. It’s not exactly a one to one compassion (the infected in this are more like rabid zombies than weathering husks) but it nails the confusion, fear and paranoia that came with the virus at the beginning.

Nobody knew what it was, where it came from and who had it and that’s what this film is about. It’s ultimately a horror film about a woman with AIDS who just can’t stop infecting people but also doesn’t know she’s doing it. She’s portrayed as both monster and victim and legendary porn star Marilyn Chambers does a fantastic job depicting both sides of that coin. It’s not a pleasant watch and it’s not exactly scary but it is classic Cronenberg, which means you’re either into this kind of weird body horror or you’re not. Me personally? I love it and I’m sad he’s done making movies because Hollywood desperately needs more weird shit like this nowadays.

Grade: B+

May. 20—Death Ship (1981)

The survivors of a sunken cruise ship climb aboard an abandoned freighter and discover that it used to be an old World War II Nazi torture vessel. Proof positive that George Kennedy will sign on to do any movie with a paycheck and a buffet table. I can’t imagine what was in this script to get him to agree to do it. Hell, I honestly don’t know what producers saw in it it that made them want to bankroll it. It’s an aimless, scare free dumpster fire that’s structured like a haunted house film but is actually a convoluted possession story. Kennedy gets possessed by the ghost of a Nazi and then he slowly kills everyone off. And I do mean slowly. And the second part isn’t even accurate because he’s not solely responsible for every murder.

The ship itself is haunted and it’s killing people off too. Why? Who the fuck knows and more importantly, who the fuck cares. The highlight of the film comes around the mid way point and involves a woman getting blasted by blood in a shower and after what feels like six straight hours of her screaming, it suddenly cuts to Kennedy throwing her lifeless corpse into the sea. What killed her? Was it the ship or was there a cut scene in which Kennedy did but we never saw it? Those questions coupled with that painfully long and pointless scene along with that jarring edit, is this film in a nutshell. Nothing makes sense and everything takes far too long to get nowhere.

Grade: F

May. 21—Brain Damage (1988)

Frank Henenlotter’s films make me want to take a shower. He, like Troma, makes films that feel diseased. They feel like you’d catch something if you touched them for too long. Some fans are attracted to that level of sleaze but it ain’t my bag. Which is why I put off watching Brain Damage for so long. I just assumed it would be another one of his grimy ass sleaze fests, so color me surprised when it turned out to be legitimately funny and kinda sorta smart.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a fair amount of nastiness (it’s still a Henenlotter film after all) but the grossness feels in service to something rather than just being there for shock value. Or maybe it isn’t and I’m just looking past it or accepting it because I loved the creature so much.

Alymer (John Zacherle) is a brain eating creature that attaches himself to the brain stem of a host and pumps them fill of hallucinogenic drugs in order to make them more compliant. He’s an ugly little puppet who does terrible things but he oozes so much personality, you can’t help but love him. I wouldn’t call him funny per say, but he is definitely a ham. He, along with Henenlotter working at the top of his game, make Brain Damage one of the most underrated horror comedies of the decade.

Grade: C+

May. 22—D2: The Mighty Duck (1992)

After Gordon Bombay’s hockey comeback is cut short he is named coach of Team USA Hockey for the Junior Goodwill Games. Bombay reunites the Mighty Ducks and introduces a few new players, however, he finds himself distracted by his newfound fame and must regather if the Ducks are to defeat tournament favourites Iceland.

While it’s still not a good movie, I actually prefer this to the original based solely on the chemistry of the leads and the fact that there’s far more hockey played in this than the previous one. The hockey is utterly ridiculous but there’s at least at lot more of it. There’s a romantic subplot between Gordon and a woman from the evil Norwegian team that goes nowhere, there’s manufactured drama that doesn’t amount to anything, the actor they got to replace Joss Ackland is horrible, the comedy is still annoying and most of the kids don’t get to do anything but the new additions are fun and the tone is more palatable. Again, it’s not great but I was slightly more entertained by this one than the last one, so I’d say it’s a marginal improvement.

Grade: C

May. 23—Ernest Borgnine on the Bus (1997)

One day, Cris Borgnine got a call from his father, Ernest Borgnine who was calling to tell him the exciting news. That he just spent his entire inheritance on a bus. Cris laughed but then after a couple of minutes of Ernest rattling on and on about the Sunbeam, Chris realized his father wasn’t joking. He actually went out and bought a huge ass bus. So he did what any son would do: he hired a cameraman to follow his father around on a road trip. Ernest Borgnine on the Bus is 45 minutes of good ol’ Ernie traveling around the United States, encountering strange and unique people along the way. Since the man oozes affability like none other, it’s utterly delightful watching him just interact with people. It’s like watching home movies of your favorite grandfather. Just delightful.

Grade: B

May. 24—Little Shop of Horrors: the Director’s Cut (1986)

A nerdy florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed. If you were to create a Venn diagram of the greatest comedies, the best remakes, the best monster movies and the best musicals of the 80s, the one in the center would be Little Shop of Horrors. It hits every target it’s aiming at, which is doubly impressive considering how outlandish those targets are. Everything is pitched at 11 — from the musical numbers to the characters to the monster. It would’ve been so easy to fuck this thing up spectacularly but somehow Frank Oz pulls it off.

In addition to his flawless direction and the catchy as hell  songs, the cast makes this movie. Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Steve Martin, Tisha Campbell-Martin, John Candy, Bill Murray – everyone involved brought their A game. Moranis has never been better, Martin has never been wackier and Greene sings as if she’s an alien from another world; a world you want to move to immediately. It’s one of the best stage to screen musical adaptations ever. Everything about it just works.

Grade: B+

May. 25—the McPherson Tape (1989)

Predating The Blair Witch Project by a decade, The McPherson tape (also known as U.F.O. Abduction) was the first found footage film to actually convince viewers it was real. Technically yes, the director of Cannibal Holocaust had to convince a judge that the cast was indeed still alive, that controversy had happened before the film was released, so almost everyone knew it was fake beforehand. The McPherson tape on the other hand, was so convincing, there are still ufologists that maintain it’s real even though it was debunked 30 years ago. Since this is the great grand pappy of the found footage genre, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s slow and/or uneventful but the exact opposite is true. It’s paced remarkably well (it’s the birthday scene from Signs stretched out to 60 minutes) and is actually quite creepy in places. It not only set the template that everyone after would borrow from but used it better than almost all of them. This is proof positive that you can create million dollar scares with pennies if you know what you’re doing and you do it well.

Grade: B

May. 26—Kid Icarus (2008)

Eighteen year-old Leigh Harkrider has a simple dream: he wants to be the next Steven Spielberg. Believing his student film “Enslavence” will be his ticket to the big time, Leigh pours everything into his passion project in the hopes that it’ll earn him the respect and adulation he believes he’s owed but all it does is burn down every personal and professional bridge it took to make it. In the long tradition of documentaries about arrogant asshole directors who ruin everything through their incompetence and hubris, Kid Icarus is a bit different in that the arrogant asshole director is only sixteen.

This is his first ever project and yet he’s already acting like a first class douche. He makes everyone on the set, unpaid volunteers mind you, sign a 30 page contract that cuts them and everyone else involved in the making of the film out of making any sort of royalties and generally just treats everyone around him like shit. You kind of feel bad for him because he clearly lacks social cues and really has no idea what he’s doing but that quickly fades when you see him whining that he has to edit his film in class because doing so prevents him from seeing an episode of Smallville. A film he thinks could not only land him a job at a studio but is also his fucking homework. Fuck this kid, fuck his movie and I’m glad I got to watch his career crash and burn in front of my eyes.

Grade: C

May. 27—Mausoleum (1983)

Mausoleum is the type of film that if it was any better, it would actually be worse. The film’s poster sells you on a completely different film and while I’d love to see that film, the film we ultimately got is probably a million times more interesting. Nothing about this film works on a technical or creative level. The screenplay is borderline incompressible, the acting is slightly better than what you’d find in a typical porn and the direction is negligible. Every decision the film makes is the wrong one. It’s utterly inept from start to finish but like the best of the “so bad, they’re good” films, this film works in spite of it’s flaws due mostly to the fact that it’s crazy as fuck. All I have to say is two words: titty. demons. If that’s not enough to sell you, this ain’t your kind of movie.

Grade: WTF

May. 28—The Brink’s Job (1978)

A fictional retelling of the infamous Brink’s robbery, one of the biggest heists in American history. While not successful on the whole, the film does have enough moments and character beats to almost recommend it. Watching Falk pull various articles of stolen clothing out of his coat to sell to everyone he meets is fun, the gumball avalanche that nearly drowns someone during a heist is cute and while the entire cast is excellent, Warren Oates steals the film every time he’s on screen. At it’s best, the film is amiable– it coasts along on charm but one can’t help but be slightly disappointed that a director this great and a cast this incredible, were wasted on a lighthearted caper. This thing should’ve been darker and more dramatic and it easily could’ve with very little changes. The comedic tone kinda ruins what could’ve been a late 70’s masterpiece. I recommend it for fans of heist films but for everyone else, this one is most likely a skip.

Grade: C

May. 29—Marty (1955)

A middle-aged butcher and a school teacher who have given up on the idea of love meet at a dance and fall for each other. What a delightful little romantic movie. If I had any idea that this was what Marty was about (for some reason, I thought this was like Flowers for Algernon or something similar) I would’ve watched it years ago. You can literally draw a line from this film to every romcom made today. It’s insane how little the formula has changed since this film came out. The only difference being that modern audiences really want that grand romantic gesture that this film lacks. The ending of this film is literally Marty picking up a phone to ask a girl out.

There’s no razzle dazzle theatrics, he’s not rushing to an airport to confess his undying love and there’s no asshole boyfriend he has to contend with. Hell, he doesn’t even kiss her. It’s not about that. He’s not fighting to convince her to love him, it’s about him finally getting to the point where he doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. Everyone gives him shit that she’s a “dog” or that she’s older (she’s not) or that she’s not Italian. Everyone gives him a million reasons to not date her but none of that matters because he already has one reason why he wants to: he loves her.

Marty may not have the ending modern audiences are familiar with but it doesn’t need it. Him picking up that phone is just as funny, just as uplifting as a million airport chases. But if I was being completely honest, I would pay anything to see Borgnine barrel through an airport like a drunk baby hippo. That would be glorious.

Grade: B+

May. 30— Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

An extremely fast alien hedgehog and a local police officer must team up to take on an evil scientist. I suspect even the most die hard Sonic fans wouldn’t give this more than a mild recommendation. And that’s if they’re being extremely kind. It’s one of those films who’s quality depends on the mood in which you saw it. You will either come out the other side happy that they got it right, unenthusiastically shrugging or hating it immensely. Which I guess describes any film but like I said, it’s not the films quality that is the determining factor on whether or not you like it, it’s how generous you feel like being after it’s over that will.

If you can overlook a ton of cliches and overused tropes and mildly annoying jokes and if you’re a fan of Jim Carrey schtick, you might like it. But if you hate all of those things and don’t care about Sonic and you don’t care if there’s ever a good video game movie, this might be an endurance test. I’m right in the middle. It’s fine. Sonic ran fast, Carrey was Carrey and there’s a ton of dumb jokes. I got exactly the experience I thought I would.

Grade: D+

May. 31 — Blood Fest (2018)

The game of death subgenre is amongst the best of all the subgenres in that its perfectly suited for both action and horror. All you need is a group of unwilling contestants fighting for their lives in order to survive. Whether that means navigating deadly traps, confined in an area where they eventually get violent and have to betray each other or forced in a battle arena against other deadly foes. The film can be as big as Battle Royale or as small as Cube. Character driven like Series 7: The Contenders or Cheap Thrills, mystery oriented like Circle or Exam, action packed like 31 or Slashers or crazy as hell like As the Gods Will or the Danganronpa series. The sky is the limit, which is exactly the approach Blood Fest took.

Released around the same time as the similarly themed Hell FestBlood Fest became a victim of horrible timing. It came and went with very little fanfare, which is a shame since it’s almost fun. A group of horror fans must use their film knowledge in order to survive a series of horror movie related scenarios. It’s a bit like Cabin in the Woods meets the Hunger Games with a splash of Waxworks thrown in. It’s low budget is painfully evident but the characters aren’t that annoying, the challenges are fun-ish and the pace is at least brisk, which for an independent film, means a lot. Is it better than the film that stole its thunder? Eh, not really but it definitely didn’t deserve to die an unceremonious death either.

Grade: D

What did you watch last month?