Films That I Saw: March 2019

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.

  Mar. 1

Film: Frog Dreaming

Random thoughts/mini review: A charming kids film set in Australia from the director of Turkey Shoot, Deathcheaters, the Man from Hong Kong and Stunt Rock and starring the kid from E.T. 

Grade: C

Mar. 2

Film: Mr. Deed Goes to Town

Random thoughts/mini review: Remember that Adam Sandler film Mr. Deeds? Well, picture that film but instead of it sucking all the ass, it’s really fucking likable and charming and that’s Mr. Deed Goes to Town.

Grade: A

Mar. 3

Film: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Random thoughts/mini review: If the most brilliant minds on the planet all came together to build a computer who’s sole purpose was to write 1000 screenplays a day for 1000 days in the hopes of creating the ultimate cult classic, nothing it produced would be anywhere near as perfect as Buckaroo Bonzai. A wholly original bizarre mini masterpiece unlike anything else being made at the time. It feels like a pitch perfect parody of a film series that doesn’t exist. I desperately wish the inter dimensional portal fun from Rick and Morty was real so I could visit the alternate universe in which this film got a sequel because that’s clearly the better universe. 

Grade: B+

Mar. 4

Film: Fanny and Alexander

Random thoughts/mini review: Try as I might, I can’t seem to conquer mountain Bergman. I haven’t seen many of the director’s films but every one I’ve seen, has left me cold. They’re all visually stunning and the camerawork is next level great but since I don’t relate to or even care about any of the characters. I can never find an entry point. Fanny and Alexander is a huge, sprawling family drama that feels like 5 different movies French pressed into a single film and I think I would’ve liked it more if it focused more on the two kids the film is named after instead of the myriad of different family members. The film is called Fanny and Alexander and I’m pretty sure Fanny has maybe 15 minutes of screen time out of an almost 4 hour movie. That’s a problem.

Grade: D+

Mar. 5

Film: Birdy

Random thoughts/mini review: Birdy is the story of two friends (Cage and Modine), both of whom are obsessed with birds but while Cage’s obsession is common amongst adolescent men, Modine’s is not. Because unlike Cage, Modine isn’t interested in chasing every skirt he sees, instead, he’s fixated on the idea of becoming an actual bird. Told mostly in flashbacks set before the war, the film is a beautiful story of one man’s attempt to save his friend from the depths of madness. 

Grade: B+

Mar. 6

Film: Generation Wealth

Random thoughts/mini review: Lauren Greenfield‘s doc is an anthropological take on the societal norms of consumerism in the world of the 21st century, and the psychological effects this can have on families and individuals. The film becomes a bit much in its depictions of excess but eventually becomes interesting once the director turns the camera on herself and documents her own obsessions and how they’ve negatively effected her life. Ultimately, it lacks a thesis but it’s still entertainingly nevertheless. 

Grade: C+

Mar. 7

Film: The Founder

Random thoughts/mini review: The story of how McDonald’s became the most successful fast food restaurant in history should be a guaranteed slam dunk of a biopic. All the elements are there: greed, betrayal, the dark side of the American dream and a terrific lead performance from Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc. But like the product it’s inspired by, It’s barely good enough to satisfy. With a better director at the helm, this could’ve been a brilliant dark, biting satire but the end result feels like a low rent TV movie.

Grade: C

Mar. 8

Film: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Random thoughts/mini review: Released a dozen years after the original show ended, Star Trek finally made the jump to theaters to capitalize off of the success of Star Wars, but while the producers were smart enough to follow the money, they weren’t however, smart enough to copy the right film. For some inexplicable reason, the filmmakers thought it would be a good idea to take their inspiration from 2001: A Space Odyssey instead of Star Wars. The end result being a film so slow and boring, it makes Shoah feel like Mad Max: Fury Road. Besides having a glacier pace, the costumes are hideous and the story is bland. It does have some of the best performances from Shatner and Nimoy though, so that’s something.

Grade: D

Mar. 9

Film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Random thoughts/mini review: There may not be a better example of a higher jump in quality between a sequel and it’s predecessor than that of The Motion Picture to the Wrath of Khan. For better or worse, director Nicholas Meyer changed Star Trek for all time. From this point forward, every single Star Trek story, whether it’s for television, comics or film, will use this film’s structure as a blueprint. It fixes every problem the first film had: it’s slow pace, uninteresting plot and wasted characters and also added a story that directly ties into the show with an all-time great villain. More than almost any other movie, this is the one you point to as an example on how to do a sequel right. 

Grade: A+

Mar. 10

Film: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Random thoughts/mini review: A mixed bag of a movie. How they bring back Spock and the rescue mission to retrieve him, is all solid but the villain feels like a lazy retread of Khan (I’m going to be saying this name a lot through out these reviews) and there’s large parts of the plot I don’t remember. In a franchise that’s either great or terrible, this is the only one I consider ok.

Grade: C+

Mar. 11

Film: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Random thoughts/mini review: Nothing about this film should work. Originally conceived as a vehicle to star Eddie Murphy, the film involves the Enterprise having to go back in time to present day San Francisco to retrieve a couple of whales to talk to a world destroying satellite. This was the idea the filmmakers decided to follow up their emotional storyline about Spock with. Whales and time travel. But you know what, it works. It’s legitimately funny, the entire crew gets to do something and there isn’t a bad guy trying to get revenge. Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek film but this is the best entry point. 

Grade: B+

Mar. 12

Film: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Random thoughts/mini review: Even if you have a passing familiarity with the franchise, you probably know that II is the best and V is the worst. There’s a three tittied cat stripper, a poorly conceived fan dance from Uhura, a pointless wall climbing bit at the beginning, Spock’s never-before-seen brother and a plot that involves the Enterprise confronting God. It’s all rather ridiculous but there’s something to be said about the chemistry between Kirk, Spock and Bones. It’s not strong enough to save a bad movie but it is strong enough to keep this film from being the worst in the series.

Grade: D-

Mar. 13

Film: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Random thoughts/mini review: Wrath of Khan is the most tightly plotted, Voyage Home is the most fun, First Contact is the best directed and Beyond might be the most entertaining but The Undiscovered Country feels the most “Star Trek” out of any film in the series. The action isn’t overbearing, the villain has a motivation outside of revenge and the plot unfolds nicely. This is a fantastic send off for the original cast.

Grade: C+

Mar. 14

Film: Star Trek Generations

Random thoughts/mini review: The problem with every Star Trek film starring the Next Generation cast, is that they all feel like TV movies. There’s just something about the production design or tone that make them feel like two episodes smushed together. Generations feels like a poorly written fan script that won a contest to be turned into a movie but right before the production started, one of the producers spent half the budget on cocaine, so they had to rewrite the script to accommodate the lack of funds. Nothing about this film works. Data’s malfunctioning humor chip is dumb and pointless, Malcolm McDowell is wasted and the reason behind the two captain’s eventual meeting isn’t the worst but it’s executed in the lamest way possible. 

Grade: F

Mar. 15

Film: Star Trek First Contact

Random thoughts/mini review: Based on this, the Nimoy directed ones and Beyond, which was written by Pegg, it seems like the easiest way to guarantee a hit, is to have anyone but the captain helm an entry. It’s shocking to me that this is Frakes‘ directorial debut because this might be the best directed film in the entire series. The action is well choreographed, the performances are all solid and the borg are the best villains outside of Khan. 

Grade: B+

Mar. 16

Film: Star Trek Insurrection

Random thoughts/mini review: Just like every other film starring the Next Generation cast, Insurrection feels like a glorified TV movie. The plot (which is little more than a Seven Samurai knock off) is forgettable, the villain isn’t threatening and nothing happens to justify its runtime. You could tell the exact same story at half the time and you would lose nothing. 

Grade: D-

Mar. 17

Film: Star Trek Nemesis

Random thoughts/mini review: If I gave you 100 dollars to list every good thing about this film that isn’t directly lifted from Wrath of Khan, you’d have beer money for the weekend and I’d have a blank piece of paper. Although not as shameless a ripoff as Into Darkness, Nemesis is still little more than a carbon copy of a much better film. On the brightside, it does feature Tom Hardy, which is more than most films can claim. 

Grade: D-

Mar. 18

Film: Star Trek Beyond

Random thoughts/mini review: Many Star Trek fans had problems with the first two of the Abrams produced reboot series. They didn’t like Pine, they thought every character (save for Bones) was a one note caricature, they thought the Spock/Uhura romance was pointless and it had an over reliance on callbacks/fan service. But even the biggest detractors were won over by Beyond. While nowhere near as good as Wrath of Khan, Beyond does as good a job in having to course correct the entire franchise. Pine finally feels like captain Kirk, the Spock/Uhura romance has a great payoff and it introduces some fun new characters. Some Star Trek purists will probably take umbrage with all the action but I think the film finally nailing the characters more than makes up for it. 

Grade: B+

Mar. 19

Film: Captain Marvel

Random thoughts/mini review: Disney has been, for many a decade now, been mocked as the McDonald’s of film and depending on how cynical you are, you can see that as a good thing or a bad thing. They make easily digestible pap for audiences that go to the movies to be entertained or they have perfected a formula that produces a product millions of millions of people enjoy. Truth is, Disney is a combination of both. They know how to make a thing that people will enjoy and they also know, that the vast majority of audiences want to turn off their brains and just enjoy a film for an afternoon. And the MCU might be the best and worst example of Disney’s formula. Each film does astronomically well at the box office but only a handful of the films feel fresh and original. Captain Marvel feels like it was made by a Disney super computer that’s made up of cliche algorithms. It’s a generic by the numbers superhero film that’s needlessly convoluted and painfully dull. The action is lame, the villain is lame and Larson acts like a robot throughout. Thank God for Samuel L. Jackson or this would be unwatchable. 

Grade: F

Mar. 20

Film: Furious

Random thoughts/mini review: IMDB describes Furious as “Martial arts heroes battle aliens from the astral plane for control of the universe” and while I don’t think that’s accurate, I honestly wouldn’t know how to describe it either. A guy is tasked with collecting some magical MacGuffins but then finds out that he’s working for an alien? who’s evil? and wants to do something to end the world or something. It doesn’t matter. What does matter, is the fact that there’s a character who works for evil alien man who’s only discernable skill, is that he can shoot chickens out of his hands like projectiles. That guy eventually gets kicked so hard in the face by hero man, that he somehow turns into a pig and dies.

And that’s not even in the top five weirdest things that happens in this film. 

Grade: WTF 

Mar. 21

Film: Sister Street Fighter

Random thoughts/mini review: After what seemed like the 15th fight scene in about ten minutes, I turned the film into a fun little game. I gave the film a challenge to see if it could go just 3 minutes without someone throwing a punch, a kick or doing whatever it is you do with nunchucks and God bless it, it failed every time. If you dig kung fu movies, this will probably be your bag but man, this shit is just too exhausting for me. 

Grade: C

Mar. 22

Film: Memories

Random thoughts/mini review: An animated anthology consisting of three shorts– Magnetic Rose, Stink Bomb and Canon Fodder. The first is haunted house film set in space, the second is a comedy about a Japanese businessman that accidentally ingests a pill that makes him so unbelievably smelly, that he becomes a walking biohazard and the third is about a little boy who wants to shoot canons when he becomes older. It’s the deepest of the three but the first segment is the most enjoyable. Overall, a pretty good trilogy of stories.

Grade: B

Mar. 23

Film: Us

Random thoughts/mini review: It’s impossible to talk about this film without talking about this film, so without getting into spoilers, I think it’s an ambitious horror film that’s executed perfectly but is never scary. I’ve also read many people complain about the logistics of certain things like the red jump suits or the scissors or how certain characters know how to do certain things or why the behave the way they do. I can see why applying logic to this film or nitpicking it would rob certain people of their enjoyment (that’s why I wasn’t in love with a Quiet Place) but the film obviously wasn’t intended to be a realistic depiction of reality. It’s a Twilight Zone parable that deals with multiple real life issues. After two movies, Peele is the real deal. I just hope his next one will be scarier.

Grade: B

Mar. 24

Film: David Lynch: The Art Life

Random thoughts/mini review: 90 minutes of David Lynch talking about his art, his childhood and his film Eraserhead. Every single one of you reading that description immediately knew whether this was for you or not. 

Grade: C

Mar. 25

Film: Pom Poko

Random thoughts/mini review: Almost every Studio Ghibli film is a thinly veiled message about taking care of the environment with Pom Poko being no different. Even though the message is obvious to even the youngest viewer (over deforestation is bad) the film isn’t heavy handed and actually makes the case that everything is fine in moderation, even deforestation. It’s a cute, occasionally dark children’s fantasy that is a good 30 minutes too long but is still worth watching. 

Grade: B

Mar. 26

Film: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Random thoughts/mini review: The film is as straightforward as its logline–a bank robber gets his old gang back together to organize a daring new heist with the help of a young sidekick–but Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, like all good heist films, is all about the cast. Eastwood and Bridges have an immediate chemistry, and George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis are terrific in their limited roles. My only quibble would be that I wish it would’ve leaned more into its homosexual undertones. 

Grade: C

Mar. 27

Film: Alligator

Random thoughts/mini review: For a film that inspired a million knock offs and copycats, it’s ironic that the best Jaws clones involve alligators and not sharks. Films about killer sharks are almost always terrible but them gators have a whole slew of fun popcorn flicks. Dark Age is arguably the best but there’s something about a giant killer gator running wild in the streets of NY that’s undeniably entertaining. Plus, the kid’s birthday party pool scene is still fucking great.

Grade: B+

Mar. 28

Film: Paris, Texas

Random thoughts/mini review: I believe the worst sin a film can commit, is the sin of being boring. I’m fine with being confused if I believe the filmmaker knew what he was doing and I’m fine with amateur productions if it looks like everyone involved is trying but what I can’t abide, is a boring movie. On the surface, Paris, Texas should be the boringest film ever. The main character doesn’t talk for the first 1/3rd, there’s a kid who never stops talking and there’s almost nothing going on plot wise. It’s about a father trying to reconnect with his son after being gone for awhile. That’s it. But the difference between a slow film and a slow burn, is the payoff. The pace of the film is crucial. Every scene is building to the last twenty minutes which are, without a bit of hyperbole, among the best in cinema history. The reunion Harry Dean Stanton has with a certain character is one of those scenes that is a film school unto itself. Every element of the scene–from the staging, to the lighting, to the acting– is textbook perfect. The film would still be very good if that scene wasn’t in it or was executed half as well, but that scene alone puts Paris, Texas in the pantheon of the all time great movies. 

Grade: A+

Mar. 29

Film: A Dream Come True

Random thoughts/mini review: A Dream Come True is a Russian science fiction film that’s notable for having most of its special effects repurposed for the Roger Corman production Queen of Blood, that, along with Planet of the Vampires were the two biggest inspirations for the film Alien. Unfortunately, that bit of trivia is the only interesting thing about the film. On a technical level, it’s pretty damn impressive but the story moves so slowly, it’s hard to get engaged.

Grade: C+

Mar. 30

Film: Night of the Demons 2

Random thoughts/mini review: If the Universal monster films are top tier horror and every iconic slasher after Psycho is in the second tier, the Night of the Demons series would be towards the top of whatever tier that has Critters, Ghoulies and Demons on it. The first film is a fun, albeit forgettable Evil Dead ripoff that has its moments but the sequel is only slightly better than unwatchable. The only thing the sequel has going for it is tits, which stopped being a selling point to anyone over 14.

Grade: D

Mar. 31

Film: Beauty is Embarrassing

Random thoughts/mini review: A documentary about gonzo artist Wayne White who was the production designer and puppeteer on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, the set designer for the Smashing Pumpkins video Tonight Tonight and found universal acclaim for his series of thrift store bought landscape paintings that have block letter slogans of a lewd and profane nature added to them. It’s an insightful doc of a unique artist.

Grade: C+