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.
Random thoughts/mini review: A boring Blade Runner-esque cop drama that is almost saved by a fantastic performance from Gene Simmons.
You can read more about it here.
Random thoughts/mini review: Made during the atomic holocaust scare of the 1980’s, this made for TV movie is arguably the best and most frightening of the lot. The aftermath of an atomic blast as depicted in this film, is the scariest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen because it could easily happen.
Film: Boss Nigger
Random thoughts/mini review: Fred Williamson plays a bounty hunter that rolls into a town without a sheriff and decides that he’s the new law now. His first law? To immediately outlaw the word Nigger. The town ain’t having it, so they hire some goons to come take care of it. Violence ensues.
Film: The Holy Mountain
Random thoughts/mini review: There was a time where Germany made nothing but films about skiing and mountains. Honestly, it was a huge genre with a shit ton of films released that were nothing but shots of mountains and people skiing.
This was one of them.
Film: Smokey and the Bandit
Random thoughts/mini review: Every single thing about this film works. Burt Reynolds was never more charming, Sally Field was never more adorable, their chemistry is among the best in any film and Jackie Gleason plays one of the best comedic foils of all time.
A good goddamn time of a movie.
Film: Prom Night
Random thoughts/mini review: A moderately entertaining thriller with a goofy ass villain. Surprised they never made a sequel, though.
Film: Soultangler (The Director’s Cut)
Random thoughts/mini review: Full disclosure: I watched the director’s cut, which is considerably shorter than the regular version but from what I’ve read, I missed nothing but bullshit filler.
Thirty minutes of bullshit, to be precise.
The version I saw was sixty minutes of break neck, hallucinatory nonsense that made little sense but was never boring. This is not a good film. It is a veritable shotgun blast of terrible to your face but if you can handle it, It’s one of the weirdest experiences you’ll ever have.
Film: Summer of 84
Random thoughts/mini review: Can 80’s nostalgia fucking die already? Even in a world that doesn’t have Super 8, IT or Stranger Things (all of which do what this film does infinitely better), I can’t imagine this film ever being considered original. A kid suspects his neighbor of being a serial killer and recruits his buddies to help him solve the case. Now, close your eyes and picture that film in your head. The only thing this film does differently than the film you’re currently picturing, is it’s last act.
This film goes way darker than you’d imagine but to get to the only original part of the film, you have to swim through 75 minutes of uninspired meh.
Random thoughts/mini review: There’s some great action in the beginning and some great action at the end and a whole nothing in the middle.
You can read more about it here.
Film: Five Fingers of Marseilles
Random thoughts/mini review: A mediocre Africa set western with a cool as hell villain but not much else.
You can read more about it here.
Random thoughts/mini review: One of the most impressive no budget films I’ve ever seen. The story is a typical cop drama but there’s tons of action and impressive camerawork.
Film: Dawn of the Dead
Random thoughts/mini review: This is one of those films I was positive I had seen due to cultural osmosis. I had seen so many clips of the film throughout the years, that my mind just edited them together to create a weird amalgamation of this and Day of the Dead. It’s a very weird feeling finding out that the film that’s been in your head for twenty odd years doesn’t exist.
It’s like when Nelson Mandela found out that Sinbad was never in a film about a genie. Or when the Berenstain Bears realized that Jesus is a lie and that the government allowed 9/11 to happen.
It’s kind of like that.
Film: The Beaver Trilogy
Random thoughts/mini review: One of the single greatest works of art I have ever seen. In 1979, Trent Harris met “Groovin Gary” (the film doesn’t reveal his real name), a instantly likable awkward teen who loves doing celebrity impressions. He does a few for Harris and then shows him his car, which is covered in pink shag and has Olivia Newton-John (his favorite) decals all over the windows. They strike up a friendship and “Groovin Gary” invites Harris to a talent show and Harris not only decides to go but decides to film it for a local television station.
Before the talent show, Harris follows “Gary” around for the day, where the two chit chat and where we’re introduced to “Gary’s” alter ego–Olivia Neutron Bomb. “Gary” is going to be performing at the talent show in drag. A talent show in an extremely conservative town.
“Gary” performs as Olivia Neutron Bomb (singing Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting) and nothing happens. The show ends and we never see “Gary” or Olivia again.
Then the second part of the documentary starts, which is a shot-for-shot reenactment of what we just saw but with Sean Penn in the role of “Gary.” He goes through the same impressions, makes the same jokes and sings the same song but now, unlike before, we get an additional scene after the performance. Where a local town member humiliates him for dressing up as a woman and making a fool of himself.
This “Gary” calls up Trent Harris to beg that the footage never be shown on TV because he can’t live with the shame. Harris denies his request and afraid of looking like a fool, “Gary” puts a gun in his mouth and contemplates suicide.
The third part of the documentary is again, a shot-for-shot recreation but now Crispin Glover is “Gary.” Unlike the other two, this one has scenes of “Gary” without the director. He goes to a diner to awkwardly hit on a girl and gets into a fight with his mother. It even goes further than the one with Sean Penn, where we see what happens post suicide attempt.
The director said he kept remaking it because he wanted to get the story right and even though he clearly meant the story of the doc, what he actually did was remake the story of “Groovin Gary.” His fictionalized version of events actually gave “Gary” the fame and the happy ending he always dreamed of.
It’s a masterpiece that brilliantly blurs the line between fact and fiction to create a new form of art.
Film: Beaver Trilogy Part IV
Random thoughts/mini review: A fascinating doc that details the making of the Beaver Trilogy as well as exploring what happened to its star “Groovin Gary.” The absence of Sean Penn and Crispin Glover interviews really hurt the film but it’s still watchable without them.
Film: The Sure Thing
Random thoughts/mini review: An entertaining ripoff of ‘It Happened One Night‘ with a never more charismatic John Cusack and a cuter than a puppy Daphne Zuniga.
Film: Wake in Fright
Random thoughts/mini review: William Tecumseh Sherman thought war was hell. Jean-Paul Sartre said it was other people. Pat Benatar thinks it belongs to children (she ain’t wrong.) I ain’t saying any of them are wrong but none have been as convincing as Wake in Fright in painting a picture of an actual hellscape. In Wake in Fright–Australia is hell. Both literally and figuratively.
The only thing it’s missing is Donald Pleasence wearing a devil costume and holding a pitchfork. The locals are all terrible demons that delight in torturing the poor lead through every sin imaginable including kangaroo boxing.
This is a surreal character study that is unlike any other film in existence.
Film: Rubin and Ed
Random thoughts/mini review: Remember that time when Crispin Glover went on the Late Night show with a box of glass eyes and then did some karate moves and David Letterman freaked out and got up and left the stage? Glover was actually in character as Ed from this film.
The proto-Napoleon Dynamite that created quirky non-comedy long before Adult Swim existed; Rubin and Ed is about a failed salesman and an eccentric loner going on an adventure to bury a cat. But it’s far crazier than that.
If I had seen this when it came out, it might’ve been my favorite film but the time has long since passed.
Film: Long Weekend
Random thoughts/mini review: A unhappily married couple decide to spend the weekend camping at the beach. While there, they do everything in their power to be as disrespectful to mother nature as humanly possible. They litter, kill wildlife and are just generally unpleasant people.
Mother nature decides to take revenge. Or does it?
The brilliance of this movie is that it’s ambiguous. It’s entirely possible that the random animal attacks are just a coincidence. The film provides no answers and is satisfying either way.
Film: The Endless
Random thoughts/mini review: Set in the same universe as the director’s previous film Resolution, The Endless is a flawed but ambitious film about two ex-cult members that decide to pay a visit to their old cult after decade or so apart and find out that there might be more to the religion than they could ever possibly imagine.
The film has issues but it has a lot of interesting ideas and moves along nicely.
Film: Men at Work
Random thoughts/mini review: A fairly predictable, laugh free comedy that is only watchable whenever Keith David is on screen. Repo Man this ain’t.
Film: Haunters: The Art of the Scare
Random thoughts/mini review: A scattershot documentary that suffers from a clear point of view. The film deals with an actress that works at haunted houses, a guy that makes homemade haunts and McKamey Manor, an extreme haunt that’s frequently been called “scariest haunted house in America” but would’ve worked better if it was just about the extreme haunts.
Film: Eaten Alive
Random thoughts/mini review: This is the kind of shit that makes it very hard to convince people that Tobe Hooper was the actual director of Poltergeist. There’s some interesting lighting in some scenes and Robert Englund gives a great performance. Everything else is either terrible or boring.
Random thoughts/mini review:
That is all.
Film: Tomb of Dracula
Random thoughts/mini review: aka Dracula and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. After cockblocking Satan and running away with his woman, Dracula’s life slowly turns to shit. First, his infant son is shot and killed, then he losses his vampiric powers and is forced to pick pocket to buy hamburgers, then the spirit of his dead son materializes in the form of a vengeful spirit that wants to kill his father and to top it all off, he’s dealing with not only a pack of vampire killers (one of which is an adorable pup with a huge crucifix tied around his neck) but has to contend with a would be usurper to his throne. He’s not having a good time.
Based on the Marvel comic of the same name, Tomb of Dracula is an obscure but highly entertaining romp.
Film: Hellhouse LLC
Random thoughts/mini review: A surprisingly effective found footage film that thankfully skips jump scares for legit spooks but unfortunately drops the ball with its weak ending.
Film: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Random thoughts/mini review: The first thought that entered my brain after watching this was “This must be one of Hideo Kojima‘s favorite films.” It’s action packed, crazy melodramatic, super political and is far too convoluted for its own good.
Film: Hold the Dark
Random thoughts/mini review: This film is slow. It has almost no likable characters. It does not explain it’s inciting incident and has an extremely frustrating ending but for whatever reason, it hooked me. It reminded me of a Cormac McCarthy novel in that, evil is often times sudden and unexplainable. Bad people exist and sometimes God doesn’t let the good guys win.
Film: Two Weeks Notice
Random thoughts/mini review: The romantic comedy is so aggravatingly formulaic, that any film that breaks from the mold, even slightly, automatically gets a pass.
This film is the exact same as every other rom-com but, and this is very important, it does not end at either a terminal or bus station. The romantic lead doesn’t have to race against the clock to catch his love before she’s gone forever and because of this, the film automatically gets a C.
It gets an additional point because the leads are both great.
I really miss Hugh Grant. He had enough charisma to make even the worst of these films watchable.
Film: The Magic ToyShop
Random thoughts/mini review: Adapted by Angela Carter from her own novel, The Magic Toyshop is a surreal made-for-TV movie that weaves a girls sexual awakening and loss of innocence with magical surrealism.
After her parents die in a plane crash, Melanie, a 15-year old girl, and her much younger siblings move in with their over bearing toy-making uncle. He has strict rules and a collection of life size mannequins, which he uses to punish and torment the children.
This is a dark fairytale, a children’s horror film about what it’s like to be a child. It deals with everything from imprisonment to death and even incest and even has nudity. But none of its gratuitous of exploitative. This isn’t a fucking V.C. Andrews book. This is the film Guillermo Del Toro has been trying to make his entire career.
Film: The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
Random thoughts/mini review: Remember that commercial where, through some sort of wacky shenanigans, some one accidentally gets their chocolate in some ones peanut butter and they do the ol’ “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter! Well, you got your peanut butter on my chocolate!”
It’s like a meet cute set up to sell some peanut butter cups but I’m pretty sure all that commercial did was create at least three terrible fetishes for future senators. Which perfectly segues into this film. It’s exactly like that commercial but with Hammer Horror and Italian Giallos instead of edible politician sex lube.
The film is a terrible hodgepodge of the worst cliches of their respected genres and, much like having sex with any politician, it’s boring, it feels like it goes on forever and is nowhere near as shocking as you think it would be.
But it has an amazing poster.