Films That 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.
You can find previous catalogs here.
Film: The Elephant Man
Random thoughts/mini review: I am a fan of David Lynch but I am not a fan of his movies. As hard as I try, they are impenetrable. They’re either too boring or too obtuse to hold my interest. Except for the Elephant Man.
Lynch has always pushed the boundaries of storytelling, breaking whatever rule he wants but with the Elephant Man, he takes a more stripped down approach. He doesn’t let his style dominate the story or the performances. He removes any hint of his trademark abstract surrealism and just let’s the actors carry the story and they do a phenomenal job.
Random thoughts/mini review: There are certain films that have gained a reputation or certain level of prestige that make them impossible mountains to climb. For any multi-Oscar winner or frequent “greatest film ever” contender, the hype can be almost too intimidating to even bother. How can any film live up to such praise?
Thankfully, Amadeus more than lives up to its reputation, and then some. It’s an expertly crafted tale of jealousy, musical genius and madness. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Film: Ghost Stories
Random thoughts/mini review: Even though the vast majority of them are terrible, horror anthologies are one of my favorite subgenres of film. Ghost Stories might be the most aggravating one I’ve seen in a long time. It has a solid premise, a great cast and an interesting third act reveal but not a single one of the stories is scary, with each one taking far too long to set up with very little pay off. The Martin Freeman segment is by far the best but it lasts less than ten minutes. It’s not a bad film, just disappointingly mediocre.
Film: Godmonster of Indian Flats
Random thoughts/mini review: AGFA (American Genre Film Archive) is exactly what the acronym says it is– an archive that specializes in genre film. They recently partnered with Something Weird to create a their own distribution label and although they’ve only released a handful of films so far, they’re quickly becoming one of my favorites. They may not have the vast libraries of a Criterion Collection or a Shout Factory but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in crazy. They release shit no one on earth would ever dream of putting on DVD.
Case in point: Godmonster of Indian Flats.
I have no idea what this film is trying to accomplish. It clearly wants to be a monster movie with a message but I have no idea what the message is. 90% of the runtime is dedicated to a mining dispute between the mayor of a shitty town located somewhere in bumfuck Arizona and a company stooge, 8% is a monster on the loose movie and the remaining 2% (which is including the credits), is some weird ass environmental message/political statement. I have no idea why this film exists, what compelled AGFA to release it but I’m happy they did because even though it’s nigh unwatchable, there’s nothing else in the world like it.
God bless AGFA.
Film: Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Random thoughts/mini review: Mission Impossible is one of the most consistently entertaining movie franchises around and while Fallout doesn’t hit the same highs as Ghost Protocol, it’s easily as good as Rogue Nation. It has the best plot since the first, the second best villain after 3 and some amazing stunts. It’s popcorn entertainment done right.
Film: The Magic Curse
Random thoughts/mini review: Vodquil strikes again. I don’t remember a single thing about this movie. There’s a snake that bites off a guys dick and a curse that makes another guys dick the worst contraceptive imaginable. Because you can’t get pregnant if you explode into a pile of snakes.
You can read more about it here.
Random thoughts/mini review: An extremely underrated Australian kidnapping drama that turns into First Blood in the third act. Definitely worth a look.
Film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Random thoughts/mini review: I think it’s adorable that this is the film to break Star Wars fans. Not the terrible Christmas special or the horrible Ewok films or the painful Droids cartoon or the terrible additions he made to the original trilogy (which inspired the song “George Lucas raped my childhood”) or the awful prequels. No, this is the one that made the fans tap out. And to a certain extent, I understand why.
Because this film does not even attempt to cater to the fans. It is the exact opposite of the Force Awakens which bent over backwards to accommodate the fans. It was literally “fan service” the movie. The Last Jedi tried desperately to burn nostalgia to the ground in order to move the series out from under the shadow of the original trilogy and while I don’t think it’s entirely successful, it at least tried.
Film: Battle Beyond the Stars
Random thoughts/mini review: When Lucas was making the original Star Wars, he used many an inspiration to create his vision. Most notably Flash Gordon and the film The Hidden Fortress. When John Sayles was hired to write a Star Wars ripoff, he went back to the same source of Lucas’s inspiration–Kurosawa. But instead of using the Hidden Fortress as a template, he decided to use Seven Samurai instead.
This wouldn’t be the first or last time that Seven Samurai would be ripped off but it is easily one of the weakest attempts. The sets, costumes, SPX and action are all dire. It’s impressive for a Corman film but that’s not saying much.
Random thoughts/mini review: A big dumb popcorn movie that fails at every conceivable level. The action is mediocre, the characters are less interesting than Ryan Gosling‘s love interest in Lars and the Real Girl and the script is painfully stupid. This movie gives dumb movies and bad name.
Film: The Last Temptation of Christ
Random thoughts/mini review: This movie is so good, it made an atheist (me) interested in learning more about Jesus. The fact that anyone would find this controversial is asinine. It is the first time a film actually depicted Jesus as a human being complete with emotions. He’s terrified of his mission. He gets angry, vengeful. He has doubts.
But he does it anyway. Even though he knows he’s going to be tortured to death, he still has Judas betray him and that’s more interesting/powerful than anything in the Bible.
Film: To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story
Random thoughts/mini review: A really solid documentary about the most famous actor to don a hockey mask and kill people. It details his horrific burn accident and equally horrendous recovery, his traumatic childhood filled with bullying and his time as a stunt man turned actor. It loses stream towards the end but it’s still worth a watch.
Film: The Church
Random thoughts/mini review: The Church was originally conceived as another entry in the popular Demons series but director Michele Soavi insisted that the film stand alone due to his low opinion of the franchise. I respect his decision to want to make art instead taking an easy paycheck but the gamble didn’t pay off. The Church might be more “sophisticated” than Demons but it is no where near as fun. There are some interesting visuals and the concept is pretty great but it’s slow and never scary.
Should’ve taken that paycheck my man.
Film: Golden Queen’s Commando
Random thoughts/mini review: A fun riff on the Dirty Dozen from the director that brought you Fantasy Mission Force. Picture an over the top cartoon version of the Expendables and you’re half way there.
Film: Pink Force Commando
Random thoughts/mini review: A pseudo sequel to Golden Queen’s Commando that is still fun but has a plot that is damn near incomprehensible. Something to do with a stolen diamond and treachery. I have no idea but the action is fun.
Film: Oh Lucy!
Random thoughts/mini review: Oh Lucy! is the unfortunate victim of expectation and mismarketing. The trailers promised something the film had no intention on delivering. It was sold as a comedy and while there are genuine laughs through out, It’s more of a drama than anything. It gets uncomfortably bleak at times but it never stops being entertaining.
Random thoughts/mini review: Is it possible to dislike James Stewart? Long before Bob Ross captured our hearts with shrubs and bushes and before Mr. Rogers made us all his neighbor, James Stewart made Hollywood–and by extension–America fall in love with his natural charisma.
He wasn’t the greatest actor but he had an undeniable screen presence that could carry the weight of any film. Especially Harvey. I don’t think Harvey works as a film without Stewart. It’s a premise that only works with an actor you immediately like, so it’s the perfect marriage of actor and material. We believe he sees the giant invisible bunny because he believes it. He sells it effortlessly. The film doesn’t do much with the premise but it doesn’t need to. It’s a charming yarn about a man and his best friend, who just happens to be a giant invisible bunny. Nothing more, nothing less.
Film: Robo Vampire 2: Devil’s Dynamite
Random thoughts/mini review: There’s no devils and there’s no dynamite. There is, however, hopping vampires and a kung fu spaceman that kicks a lot of people.
You can read more about it here.
Random thoughts/mini review: I feel as though there’s a hive mind mentality when it comes to anything foreign or black and white. If it looks classy, it has to be great. I went through a period where I watched nothing but films released by the Criterion Collection and trust me, that belief holds no weight. Slow doesn’t always mean deep.
Amarcord is neither slow or pretentious. It isn’t aimed at the arthouse snobs. It’s a delightful coming of age story set within a larger narrative about a small village in Italy. Imagine Robert Altman and Wes Anderson teaming up to remake A Christmas Story but eliminated everything involving the holidays and that’s Amarcord.
Film: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
Random thoughts/mini review: Arguably the greatest biopic of all time. The film is split into four chapters, all dealing with the life and career of famed novelist and actor Yukio Mishima, who’s life is as bizarre as it is fascinating. If you intend on watching it, go in blind. Knowing the story puts you ahead of the film for the majority of its running time. And trust me, you really can’t predict where his life ends up.
Film: Crocodile Fury
Random thoughts/mini review: A good animal attack movie will give you about three great scenes of animals fucking people up and a couple of attacks that happen off screen to either build the tension or maintain momentum. Crocodile Fury says fuck that noise and immediately starts with a ten minute orgy of crocodile murder. Scene after scene of crocodiles eating the shit out of people until the film decides to switch gears and then it’s about witches, vampires and zombies.
Until it gets bored with that and decides to switch back to crocodile murder. This movie is bananaballs.
Film: Last Days on Planet Earth
Random thoughts/mini review: For some inexplicable reason, the 1970’s had, for a time, a huge obsession with Nostradamus. In the 1980’s, there was nothing more terrifying (besides reaganomics) than the threat of a nuclear attack. Right in the middle of that insane Venn diagram is Last Days on Planet Earth. A film that combines the ridiculous prophecies of Nostradamus with the very real threat of radiation exposure. If it was just an environmental message film, that would be one thing but LDOPE (greatest acronym ever) double downs on the crazy. There’s giant mutated bats, zombie like cannibals destroying an island and an ending so fucking batshit, it caused the film to be permanently banned in Japan. It is a rollercoaster through a madhouse.
Film: Burnt Offerings
Random thoughts/mini review: The only thing notable about this film is that it inspired Stephen King‘s The Shining. The performances are all great but it’s slow and not very scary. The ending, while not amazing, does at least deliver.
Film: Set It Up
Random thoughts/mini review: A harmless romantic comedy that is just entertaining enough to keep you from drowning your eyes in bleach.
Film: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich
Random thoughts/mini review: I have never seen a more noticeable gap in talent between director and screenplay before. You can see literally see the potential standing right behind a wall of ineptitude.
If a more capable director was at the helm, it would’ve been amazing. It’s still the best Puppet Master film by a country mile but that is such an insanely low bar, it’s not even an accomplishment.
Film: Go Gorilla Go
Random thoughts/mini review: Not a single goddamn gorilla in the entire movie. I honestly remember nothing about it other than a scene involving a slot machine dispensing bullets instead of cash and the fact that there wasn’t a single gorilla in the entire film.
You can read more about it here.
Random thoughts/mini review: A surprisingly competent ripoff of First Blood. The action is first rate and the story never drags.
Film: The Little Mermaid (Russian)
Random thoughts/mini review: Fun fact: did you know there were two completely different adaptations of the Little Mermaid from two entirely different countries released on the same exact year?
I didn’t know that either until about half way through this film. Which I only watched because I thought there was only one foreign Little Mermaid film made in 1976. You would think the fact that everyone spoke Russian instead of Slovak (or whatever the official language of Czechoslovakia is) would be a huge red flag but I didn’t realise anything was amiss until I started downloading thumbnails for this article. I saw a lot of pictures that weren’t adding up to what I was seeing and eventually I put two and two together.
Thank God this film was watchable or my mistake would’ve been a disaster.
Even though they were released in the same year and are both an adaptation of the exact same story, they couldn’t be more more different if they tried. One has fish tailed mermaids, the other doesn’t. One is a musical, the other isn’t. The little mermaid is mute in one but not the other. The sea witch is more helpful in one than the other. The sea king plays absolutely no role in this one but is a huge character in the other one.
They both end the same way though. In fact, the Disney one is the only version where the main character doesn’t bite it in the end.
Film: The Little Mermaid (Czechoslovakian)
Random thoughts/mini review: While looking up lists of the greatest depictions of fables/fairy tales/fantasy in film (it was for an extremely specific list I was writing. Don’t ask questions), the Czechoslovakian adaptation of the Little Mermaid was consistently ranked among the best. And while it makes some interesting choices (the mermaids don’t have fish tails), the fans aren’t wrong.
Besides being absolutely gorgeous, the film as an ethereal quality to it. It captures the spirit of a fairy tale better than almost any other film. Characters aren’t the most well defined but that’s by choice. They’re parables. You only need to know enough to understand their ultimate fate and the message of the story.
Don’t sacrifice everything you have on someone you don’t know or your ass will turn into sea foam.
Film: Blade of the Immortal
Random thoughts/mini review: I’m completely ignorant of the source material, so I might be wildly off base but the film feels like a greatest hits version of a very long series. Characters lack clear motivation, it has far too many subplots that go nowhere and everyone is treated as though the audience should already know who they are. It’s also a good 30 minutes too long.
But besides all that, it’s fucking amazing. If you can turn your brain off from nitpick mode, it’s a goddamn blast. The main character kills more people in the first ten minutes than the bride in Kill Bill plus everyone John Wick has ever killed in his movies. Combined.
It’s non-stop action.
Film: Bull Durham
Random thoughts/mini review: This film feels like a really well made three legged table. Because of the structure of the film, it always felt wobbly to me but I don’t know which element is to blame. I think everyone is great but it feels like the “love triangle” muddied the pacing. Each element of the triangle felt like it’s own movie that kept getting interrupted by the other half. If it was more focused, I would’ve liked it a lot more.