Films That I Saw: November 2018

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.


 

Nov. 1

Film: Deadbeat at Dawn

Random thoughts/mini review: You can read my review here.

Grade: A


 

Nov. 2

Film: Suspiria (2018)

Random thoughts/mini review: There’s no better example of the idiom “you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t” than remakes. Nobody wants them, the die-hard fans will be hyper critical of every decision and even if they’re great, its nigh impossible to not help but compare them to the original. For any remake to work, it has to do something radically different than the original but then everyone complains that its too different. I understand why studios greenlight them (money) but from a directors standpoint, It’s a no win situation.

Having said that, I applaud the balls of Luca Guadagnino in even attempting to remake Suspiria; which could very well be the greatest Italian horror film ever made. He tackled the impossible and unlike the recent Halloween (2018) reboot, he did something completely original with the material. I appreciate the effort and outside of some interesting deaths, that’s about the extent of the films positives.

If I was to attempt to make a complement sandwich out of this film, it would be the exact opposite of those old Wendy’s commercials.

I didn’t like a single thing about this film. It’s too goddamn long, the pace is glacier slow, Dakota Johnson is terrible in it and there was no hook to keep me engaged. I didn’t care if Johnson became a good dancer, I don’t care about what the witches are doing and really don’t give a fuck about old man Swinton and his storyline. The original has always been accused of being style over substance but this one is just….boring.

Grade: F


 

Nov. 3

Film: Sorry To Bother You

Random thoughts/mini review: This movie is frustratingly flawed. The direction, premise and performances are all top notch but the story is undone by its own tone. For the satire to work, the film needed a much more realistic ending. The entire movie is building to a specific climax but the film stonewalls itself. But the film is still enjoyable and I’m really interested to see what the director does next.

Grade: B-


 

Nov. 4

Film: Filmworker

Random thoughts/mini review: Filmworker tells the story of Leon Vitali, a promising up and coming actor that gave it all up to be Stanley Kubrick‘s personal assistant/slave. It’s a fascinating look at obsession and professional star worship.

Grade: B


 

Nov. 5

Film: Fantastic Planet

Random thoughts/mini review: Although he only wrote ten novels, the work of Stefan Wul is monumentally important to the sci-fi genre. His concepts and ideas were so wildly inventive, that L. Ron Hubbard later ripped them off to form the basis of his “religion.”

French animator René Laloux adapted two of Wul’s works–the under seen Time Masters (1982) and the influential Fantastic Planet (1973).

If you’re a fan of high concept sci-fi films that favor story over action, both films (as well as Laloux’s other film Gandahar) are worth checking out.

Grade: B


 

Nov. 6

Film: Evil of Dracula

Random thoughts/mini review: In the late 60’s, Toho–the studio responsible for all of those awesome Godzilla flicks–decided to throw their hat into the horror ring with a trio of Hammer inspired Dracula films. Each film is indistinguishable from the last in terms of plot and style, which, depending on whether or not you dig the Hammer formula, is either a positive or a negative. I personally don’t like Hammer, so they did nothing for me.

If you like the slow burn style of the British Hammer films, check these three films out. If you don’t, stay far away.

Grade: D


 

Nov. 7

Film: Lake of Dracula

Random thoughts/mini review: Since all three films bleed together in my mind, I’ve decided to copy and past the Evil of Dracula write up for the sequels because there’s literally nothing else I have to say about this series.

In the late 60’s, Toho–the studio responsible for all of those awesome Godzilla flicks–decided to throw their hat into the horror ring with a trio of Hammer inspired Dracula films. Each film is indistinguishable from the last in terms of plot and style, which, depending on whether or not you dig the Hammer formula, is either a positive or a negative. I personally don’t like Hammer, so they did nothing for me.

If you like the slow burn style of the British Hammer films, check these three films out. If you don’t, stay far away.

Grade: D


 

Nov. 8

Film: The Vampire Doll

Random thoughts/mini review: 

Since all three films bleed together in my mind, I’ve decided to copy and past the Evil of Dracula write up for the sequels because there’s literally nothing else I have to say about this series.

In the late 60’s, Toho–the studio responsible for all of those awesome Godzilla flicks–decided to throw their hat into the horror ring with a trio of Hammer inspired Dracula films. Each film is indistinguishable from the last in terms of plot and style, which, depending on whether or not you dig the Hammer formula, is either a positive or a negative. I personally don’t like Hammer, so they did nothing for me.

If you like the slow burn style of the British Hammer films, check these three films out. If you don’t, stay far away.

Grade: D


 

Nov. 9

Film: BlackKklansman

Random thoughts/mini review: I’m not typically a Spike Lee fan. I feel like all of his movies are yelling at me because I’m a white man but BlackKklansman was thoroughly enjoyable. It isn’t without is flaws however. It is a good 20 minutes too long and the movie never quite nails the tone but I thought the two leads were good and the story was interesting enough to keep me engaged.

Grade: B


 

Nov. 10

Film: The Spy Who Dumped Me

Random thoughts/mini review: Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon get caught up in an action packed spy spoof that is in danger of being sued for false advertisement due to the fact that it is neither action packed nor a comedy.

The script is terribly written and predictable, the action, while competently directed, is uninspired and every line that comes out of McKinnon’s mouth feels like a stranger in the room that periodically stabs you in the face. It’s painfully unfunny and doesn’t do anything Spy (2015) didn’t already do better 3 years ago.

Grade: F


 

Nov. 11

Film: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

Random thoughts/mini review: An insightful documentary about Orson Welles‘ career and the making of the film The Other Side of the Wind.

Grade: B


 

Nov. 12

Film: River’s Edge

Random thoughts/mini review: I would argue that River’s Edge is one of the defining films of the 90’s. Millennials have become the go to generation to mock and criticize but generation x is by far worse. This is the most accurate depiction of teenage apathy gone awry.

After watching this film, you’ll immediately think two things:

1. 90s era teenagers are literally the worst.

2. Why the fuck didn’t Crispin Glover become the Marlon Brando of his generation.

And you’d be right about both.

Grade: A


 

Nov. 13

Film: Rituals

Random thoughts/mini review: Taken from my Monsoon’s Buried Treasure list that you can find here.

If you’re the type of guy that watched Deliverance (1972) and went “This movie is good but I wish it was more disturbing and fucked up”, well brother, do I have the movie for you. Rituals is one of the rare horror films in which none of the characters do anything dumb. They don’t make any wrong turns, they don’t throw their map into the creek and they certainly don’t make fun of the locals. They’re just in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Much like the film It’s aping from, Rituals is half character study and half brutal backwoods thriller. It’s unrelenting bleak but it never sacrifices character for gore. You care about the characters before the shit hits the fan, which makes their fates all the more tragic.

Grade: C+


 

Nov. 14

Film: The Ginseng King

Random thoughts/mini review: You can read my review here.

Grade: WTF


 

Nov. 15

Film: The Pink Panther (1963)

Random thoughts/mini review: This film’s popularity is one of the most inexplicable things in history. There’s many things I consider overrated but for most of them, I at least understand why they’re beloved. That is not the case with the Pink Panther. The Pink Panther films (starring Peter Sellers) are all hailed as comedic masterpieces but I dare you to laugh at anything that happens in this film.

You know those two cliched comedy scenes you’ll find in many old tv shows and cartoons, where a character is hiding someone in their room from someone else and they have to keep moving them around or else they’ll get caught and the mirror gag where one person pretends to be another’s reflection? Now take those two scenes, stretch them both to 40 minutes and that’s this film.

Grade: F


 

Nov. 16

Film: Dogfight

Random thoughts/mini review: Taken from my Monsoon’s Buried Treasure list that you can find here.

Just like his idol James Dean, Phoenix generated a cult following due to his untimely death at a young age. Most remember him for his roles in Stand by Me (1986), Running on Empty (1988), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and My Own Private Idaho (1991) and even the lesser known he’s made have been fondly remembered since his passing accept for Dogfight, which I’d argue includes his best performance.

There’s a million examples of romantic comedies that don’t work because of the lack of chemistry but one of the best examples of a film that does, is Dogfight. Phoenix and Taylor‘s chemistry is off the charts in this sweet, underseen gem. Their natural chemistry, as well as their fantastic performances anchor a genuinely sweet tale that deserves to be more well known.

Grade: B


 

Nov. 17

Film: Widows

Random thoughts/mini review: Alongside prison escape films, heist films are my favorite subgenre. The planning, the execution, the double crosses, every aspect has the potential for great action and suspense and if the film is really good, it also leaves some room for great drama.

This film is one of the really good ones.

With one of the best casts in recent history, Widows is a superb drama that constantly unfolds revealing new mysteries. It’s easily one of the best films of the year.

Grade: A


 

Nov. 18

Film: Safe

Random thoughts/mini review: Using the AIDS epidemic as its backdrop, Safe tells the story of a woman named Carol (Julianne Moore) who suddenly becomes allergic to the environment. Perfumes, colognes, diesel exhaust, even strong smelling soap, become dangerous to her. She eventually joins a self help commune/cult and then the film shifts in tone.

Are the attacks self inflicted? Is the environment actually causing her harm? Does the spa have ulterior motives or are they actually trying to help? The film is wonderfully ambiguous. It has just enough evidence to support any theory and all of them are equally satisfying.

Grade: B+


 

Nov. 19

Film: The Meg

Random thoughts/mini review: This film feels like a 150 million dollar spoof of late 90’s aquatic horror movies like Deep Blue Sea (1999), Lake Placid (1999) and Anaconda (1997) but is somehow dumber and less entertaining than all of them. It isn’t scary, it isn’t funny, it has very little action and it’s not even rated R, so you can’t even see blood or tits. This film brings nothing to the table.

Grade: F


 

Nov. 20

Film: Moonstruck

Random thoughts/mini review: I’ve seen this film pop up on many overrated lists and while I can see why some people would be baffled by its acclaim, I found it charming and amusing. It’s the better acted and more affable My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).

Oh and Nic Cage is hilarious in it.

Grade: B+


 

Nov. 21 

Film: The King and The Mockingbird

Random thoughts/mini review: Taking over 30 years to be completed, The King and The Mockingbird is often referred to as one of the greatest animated films produced in France and was a major influence on both Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep”, the film is about two paintings: one of a shepherdess, the other a chimneysweep, who come alive and decide to run away together but the painting of the malevolent king also comes to life and decides to stop them by any means necessary.

If it focused a bit more on the paintings relationship and less on the mockingbird, which has almost no bearing on the plot and only serves to narrate what you’re already seeing, I’d agree with the critical assessment but there’s far too much fantasy for its own good. There’s almost no plot to speak of. It’s an elongated chase scene that never becomes boring but a little more character work would’ve made me love this film.

Grade: C+


 

Nov. 22

Film: The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird

Random thoughts/mini review: In 1948, production began on The King and The Mockingbird but after a couple of years, the studio took the film away from the creators and released a truncated version to theaters under the name The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird.

About 20 minutes shorter and with additional scenes, the film isn’t great but it is fascinating what editing can do to a film.

Grade: C


 

Nov. 23

Film: Crazy Rich Asians

Random thoughts/mini review: It’s a testament to this films charm that I even kind of like it. I’m not huge on romantic comedies and I hate rich people with a goddamn passion, so this film immediately had two strikes against it but against all odds, it won me over.

Grade: C+


 

Nov. 24

Film: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Random thoughts/mini review: There’s a reason the marketing for this film has been nothing but the Disney princess’ cameos. It’s the only thing about it that works. The first film was a fantastic love letter to old school video games; it was essentially Toy Story (1995) but with video game characters. You can tell the creators had real affection for those games but this film feels like an old man’s attempt to connect to the youth because according to this film, the internet is nothing but Ebay, YouTube and viral videos. That’s it.

They make some funny jokes about spam and they even go to the dark web but other than that, they do absolutely nothing with the location. Honestly, how do you make a film about the internet and not make at least one subtle reference to porn?

It’s nothing but wasted potential marred by plot holes and inconsistencies.

Grade: D


 

Nov. 25

Film: The Boxer from Shantung

Random thoughts/mini review: You can read the Double Impact here.

Grade: C


 

Nov. 26

Film: Island of Lost Souls

Random thoughts/mini review: The Island of Doctor Moreau, much like the novel I Am Legend, seems to be a property that’s impossible to adapt. Every adaptation cuts out the third act of the book and this film is no different. But I suspect not even the addition of the book’s infinitely better ending would’ve made this film better. It checks all the boxes a Moreau adaptation needs to check and has some great actors but it’s dreadfully boring.

Grade: D


 

Nov. 27

Film: Searching

Random thoughts/mini review: Using the same set up as Unfriended (2014) and Open Windows (2014), Searching tells its entire story through face time calls, emails, text messages and old YouTube videos and unlike the previously mentioned films, it’s more than just a gimmick. The film tells a compelling mystery that has enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Grade: B+


 

Nov. 28

Film: Brewster McCloud

Random thoughts/mini review: Every plot synopsis you’ll find about this movie would have you believe it’s about an eccentric bird lover (Bud Cort) who’s obsessed with building a set of bird wings so that he can see what it’s like to fly. That’s maybe five minutes of this film. The rest is about a series of murders and bird shit. Lots and lots of bird shit. The fact that Altman made this after MASH boggles the mind.

Grade: F


 

Nov. 29

Film: Ghost Ship

Random thoughts/mini review: It’s impossible to not channel Gene Shalit when reviewing a film who’s title is one word removed and one consonant away from being accurate. The only thing memorable about this film is its first 7 minutes. Ghost Ship is Ghost Shit.

Goddamn it.

Grade: F


 

Nov. 30

Film: Gunmen

Random thoughts/mini review: An entertaining riff on The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966) from the writer of the Mummy (1999) and Odd Thomas (2013).

Grade: C+