You know what I realized I needed? A score card to correlate my ratings. Because a 2.5 for me is perhaps very different than a 2.5 for you. So here’s my little cheat sheet:
5/5 – Essentially perfect
4.5 / 5 – A top-tier, extremely high-quality and rewatchable movie. The difference between this and a 5 is that maybe I need to watch it again to appreciate everything, or it’s just not a movie that changed how I felt about filmaking.
4/5 – A truly great movie. Maybe has a few niggling issues with runtime or something, but I was mostly wowed by it.
3.5 / 5 – A Very Good movie. One I really enjoyed and will happily watch again. There might be some things about it that bothered me or felt like misses, but it’s on the cusp of greatness
3/5 – Good. Above average. I think “Well, this is better that most movies”.
2.5 / 5 – The average movie. Possibly good, but forgettable. Possibly just an inoffensive time waster.
2/5 – Not quite average. Possibly fun, but of generally low quality in how it was made. Or it could be a very high quality film, but I couldn’t get into it.
1.5 / 5 – Lower quality, less competent film making, even if aspects of it are enjoyable enough. Or something that I thought was well enough made, but I just didn’t enjoy it at all. Boring. Most big studio / big budget movies kind of bottom out here for me unless I find them particularly abhorrent.
1/5 – Generally a movie that is very low budget but had something about it I caught onto, even if briefly.
0.5 / 5 – A low budget camp film that I didn’t even enjoy for fun in a guilty way. OR a movie that just enraged me for one reason or another.
Does that help?
Let’s get into it.
FIRST TIME WATCHES: Contamination, Real Genius, Crazy Rich Asians, The Cellar, Howl’s Moving Castle, Dr. Strange 2, The Twin, Lethal Weapon
Have I already completely forgotten Contamination? It seems entirely possible! Let’s read the summary again to remind myself! All I remember was that it was for a D flick watch party…
OH! Something about alien eggs/seeds things. Yeah, it was not a good movie.
I watched Real Genius for a review on an episode of The Pint: A Pop Culture Podcast. I had heard of this movie before, but… barely. Mostly from its brief mention on Kilmer’s documentary flick Val last year. It’s a strange one because, as we noted, it feels like there was a real drama flick that could have been made here, but they used it as a vehicle for zany Val Kilmer instead. Not saying one is necessarily better than the other; it just felt like a weird juxtaposition at points between the Chris and Mitch characters in their own movie.
Crazy Rich Asians is a modern day fairy tale, and that’s all there is to it. It’s about a girl who falls in love with a rich boy, and the trials and tribulations between them until they are happy ever after. But you know what? It’s funny and sweet and just solidly acted. I’m pretty sure anything Awkwafina is in gets an instant 3 star rating, and it’s all up hill from there. Or down hill. Whichever means “getting better”. I hate that phrase.
Whatever, the movie is a joyful watch, and it made me feel good the whole time. I dug it.
The Cellar was a pedestrian find on Shudder (we know how these things go). The story is fine, and it’s creepy enough. It loses some steam late when the movie can’t seem to figure out it’s own resolution. And the characters make moronic decisions throughout, which you would think we would be past as a society in horror films. But this FEELS like a movie that should have come out in 2000, not this year. It’s worth a watch if you have the time. Like I said in the intro: inoffensive.
I went back to the anime well I started the year off with to visit Howl’s Moving Castle, and you know what? It’s just… good. It felt a little extra bizarre at times where things seemed to happen just because they worked for the plot, and not exactly because they were built to. I get that showing off Miyazaki’s imagination is usually the point, but Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke both felt more cohesive than Howl’s did. It IS wildly imaginative! But the story didn’t wow me nearly as much as the visuals.
Sam Raimi’s return to comic book movies is next! Dr. Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness was released this month, and I was there opening weekend, of course. Sentiment on this seems to be all over the map, but I quite enjoyed it, plopping it into #12 on my current MCU rankings. There are clear and definitive flaws–the kind I find in most Raimi big blockbuster flicks, like goofy nonsense scenes and bad dialogue–but I’ve been WAITING for an MCU horror flick, and Sam gave us that in spades.
I really dug the mood. I was invested in America Chavez and her dynamic with Stephen. I liked the Illuminati universe. I just wish some stuff was more tightly wound. But that’s what you get with Raimi.
OH MAN, THE TWIN. Back to the Shudder well here, and we watched a creepy horror flick that seemed like it was going along well enough until we got to the third act and EVERYTHING COLLAPSED. Once you get to the third act, nothing that came before it makes a lick of sense. And not even in that frantic fun way a bad movie can pull off. Just a lot of your sitting there and going “But wait, what about…?”. It just ignored EVERYTHING it set up for the first hour!
IT’S TRUE. I’d never seen Lethal Weapon before. I continue to work on my movie blindspots. I am relatively sure I saw Lethal Weapon Part 4 when I was a kid, but that’s it.
It’s obviously a very good flick; I had fun with it. Don’t take 3.5 as an insult; that’s a high score in my heart. If I had a complaint (and I do, it’s 3.5 and not 5.0 after all), it’s that I thought the most engrossing aspect of the movie was Riggs’ struggle with wanting to kill himself, but not actually going through with it. The first act set up a character who really felt like he could have been tragic and heartbreaking (not saying he had to do it, but he obviously has great loss), and then, that more or less gets abandoned as it goes on.
Everything the rest of the way works! But I wanted more of that. Like when you see him on the roof with the jumper and you REALLY don’t know what was going to happen there because of who Riggs is. Best scene in the movie. I wish we’d gotten more of that and less, like, forgettable desert shoot-out fights.
REWATCHES: Friday The 13th Part 3, Man of Steel, Serenity, Spider-Man, One Cut Of The Dead
There was a Friday The 13th this month–one of my favorite third string holidays–so I was asked by TWO SEPARATE PODCASTS to come on and talk the franchise. While one (Back To The Blockbuster) was a retrospective on the whole series, Shocking Things had me on to discuss all the kills in just Friday The 13th Part 3. Of which there are many! And one if the excellent handstand kill!
Man of Steel and Spider-Man were both watched for reviews on my own podcast, Stew World Order, so if you want to hear my thoughts on those, subscribe there and check them out when they release! Or just ask me in the comments. Whichever, I’m not good at marketing, and I like talking instead.
Actually, I ALSO discussed Spider-Man on the Pods Like Us show, and that’s already out, so there is that, too.
Here’s my thing about Spider-Man 1: it’s not good. Even within a year of its release date when I immediately got it on DVD, I thought it had aged amazingly poorly. It seems to want to have campy aspects without just embracing camp and going all in. A lot of the effects are horrible. The entire World Peace Festival or whatever it is scene is terrible. I remember loving this in theaters as a kid, but when I watched it on DVD, I had a distinct feeling of… “is this movie making fun of me?”.
Watching Joss Whedon properties nowadays makes me feel a bit squiggy, and Serenity was at least the third I went back to this year (after Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Age of Ultron). I mean… dude makes good movies, though, so what am I supposed to do? Serenity remains an absolute blast, and you can watch it without even having been a Firefly fan (I 100% saw Serenity before I saw Firefly, and I never felt lost back in the day).
So I wish he was not a scumbucket of a dude, but… what can I do?
Does it seem like I watch a lot of movies for podcasts? Because I do. I watched One Cut Of The Dead again for The Pint! I simply and unabashedly love that movie, and after this, my third viewing, I put it into my Top 25 movies ever. If you’ve never seen it, you need to
a) NOT read or hear anything about it first, then
b) go fucking watch it.
FIRST TIME WATCHES: See For Me, Crystal Lake Memories, Seven Samurai, Uncharted, Countdown, One Night Only, Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers, Spell
And see?! Sometimes Shudder does things like See For Me, and I get to watch a great home invasion thriller with a nuanced protagonist and an engaging story! So this is the tale of a blind person who is house-sitting for wealthy folks when there is… you know… a home invasion. I already gave that part away.
I was all the way into this as I watched it. Surprisingly good indie thriller that jumped right into my Top 5 of 2022 (to that point).
Crystal Lake Memories is an ALMOST SEVEN HOUR DOCUMENTARY that I played all day while I was working from home. Aside from its runtime, it’s weird that I never watched this before! It’s all interviews and factoids about every single Friday The 13th movie, from the 1980 original through to the 2009 remake.
Will you believe that at no point do they confirm the Multiple Jasons theory? Bollocks.
Hot on the heels of 6:40 Crystal Lake Memories, I watched the 3:20 Seven Samurai, really boosting what my average movie length is going to be at the end of the year on Letterboxd! Seven Samurai is great! Beautifully shot and an incredibly influential story. The characters are a lot of fun, too. I’d say that virtually NO movie needs to be three hours and twenty minutes, and this still proves that true. As much as I enjoyed it, the third act felt like it dragged on.
Uncharted was fine. Just… “fine”. Tom Holland can elevate material because he’s just that great, but the story felt pretty generic. And then it gets to helicopters carrying pirate ships around, and that SHOULD be fun, but it just… wasn’t. I sat there thinking “I should be more excited about helicopters carrying pirate ships through the air than I am”.
This just felt really safe and by the numbers. It kept making references to Indiana Jones, too, and like… just make YOUR movie, guys. Don’t call out the flick you wish you had made.
I remembered seeing ads for Countdown back in the day, but I never watched it. It’s… not great. It’s a weird movie that makes me think “Hey, remember that Truth Or Dare movie with the Pretty Little Liars girl? That wasn’t so bad after all”. The story is silly, but based on interesting premise. It just kind of bottoms out with the tired reveal. EVERYTHING IS DEMONS.
So I can’t attest to having seen ALL of One Night Only, but I did get about two thirds of the way through. To that point, there were no sex scenes in what I thought was going to be basically a soft core porn. It was part of the camp movie watch party, and I eventually dozed off. I liked the young hockey star who was more concerned about drawing up plays at the orgy than the, you know, ORGY. And there was a love story between cousins!
The new Disney Chip N Dale movie is perfectly fun and a pleasing way to pass 90 minutes or so. It’s a good little movie with great voice talents. But in a post-Wreck-It-Ralph world (and WELL after Roger Rabbit), the conceit or seeing different properties interacting is kind of getting old. At least it did it better than I hear Space Jam 2 did.
Spell was SURPRISINGLY not a Shudder movie! I think we found it on Amazon Prime. It’s weird. Sometimes movies make the protagonists too stupid to be worth cheering for. They create tension simply by having people make weird choices, and we movie-goers yell at our screens.
This movie makes the VILLAINS too stupid for words. All of their problems could be solved with one word: shackles. I mean, sure they literally have magic, but it’s pretty ineffectual magic ultimately. Just, like, tie your victim to the bed. End of movie. Evil wins, hurray.
REWATCHES: The Cabin In The Woods. Wow, just that in this batch. Weird.
And see? We are BACK on the Joss Whedon bus with The Cabin In The Woods. I’m more than happy to consider this more of a Drew Goddard property these days, though, since he directed it and co-wrote it. But Joss was still… there.
CitW is arguably the greatest horror-comedy of all time, even though now that I check it out, I see that it is more like a 25/75 comedy/horror split. Whatever. It’s as clever as it thinks it is and has a wonderful story.
FIRST TIME WATCHES: Top Gun, Amy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, Top Gun: Maverick, Bob’s Burgers, Machete
I feel like I saw Top Gun when I was a LITTLE little kid. I at least definitely had the NES game. That game was a bitch, by the way. Shooting down bad guys was fine, but you had to land on the aircraft carrier at the end of levels, and it was a huge annoyance to do so. I’m not sure I ever could.
The movie is comically awful, but in that fun way where I just kept wondering what the hell I was watching. There is no plot and there are no stakes until about 18 minutes left (including credits), at which point the movie tosses us an incredibly tacked on fight scene. It’s not good. But hey, it plays Danger Zone, like, 7 different times!
I watched Romy & Michelle for a soon-to-be-released episode of The Contrarians for their Friendstravaganza! I go into quite in depth there. Until you listen in, I’ll say here that it’s an adorably fun movie with not that great of a screenplay, but one HELL of a Mira Sorvino performance.
NOT Mena Suvari.
We got confused in the episode.
The leap in quality from Top Gun to Top Gun Maverick is one of the biggest in cinematic history from a Part 1 to a Part 2. Top Gun was a silly nothing movie that couldn’t get out of its own way. Top Gun Maverick may be one of the best action films ever made. That’s no hyperbole; this thing had me white-knuckling the recliner in the cinema.
It’s a bit overlong, and the love interest subplot feels like it’s only there because someone put a gun to the screenwriter’s head. So I dinged it down to 4, but I bet when I watch this again, it goes up to 4.5. I just wish every scene with Jennifer Connolly had been deleted (no knock on her or her performance, though; it’s all in the storytelling).
Bob’s Burgers is exactly what you expect: a 90 minute episode of Bob’s Burgers. Can the show sustain such a developed story? Not particularly, as the beginning is quite slow before the humor really picks up. There’s really nothing special here, and nothing about it screams “Oh yeah, they HAD to make a movie to do this”. It feels like they made a movie just because they could. But if you don’t see it, that shouldn’t impact your future Bob’s Burgers watching.
There is definitely some fun to be had with Machete, but on the whole, this is just far too long. An easy twenty minutes could have been cut off if this when it feels like Machete is just moving from plot point to plot point. Too many characters and too many unnecessary scenes when we should have just been having a good time for 80 minutes.
REWATCHES: Joy Ride, Friday The 13th Part 6, Dick Tracy, 10 Things I Hate About You, Nightmare On Elm Street 3
I watched Joy Ride just an irresponsible number of times in college, so I have an affinity for it I might otherwise not. Steve Zahn is great as usual. The randomness of it all adds a sense of chaos. Rusty Nail is harassed by our protagonists, but he is clearly a full-on dangerous psychopath even without that. No story. No reason. Just a crazy stalker guy. That is scarier than the supernatural.
Oh hey, they made two sequels to Joy Ride. I bet I… don’t seek those out.
SPEAKING OF SCARY SUPERNATURAL: Jason Lives! I watched this because I mentioned it in an article coming out later this month, and I was still feeling the effects of this month’s Friday the 13th. Probably the best flick in that franchise.
I had not seen Dick Tracy since I was a kid, but it was pulled for another future episode of Stew World Order!
10 Things I Hate About You hasn’t aged phenomenally, but honestly? It’s done it better than a lot of comedies from that 98-2004 window. It’s still a lot of fun, has great performances, and lets you naturally start to care about what starts off as a cast of unlikable characters. We’re all supposed to swoon over Heath Ledger who, when we are introduced to him, has just tricked a girl into thinking he sexually harassed her, and that plays poorly in 2022, but… Okay, I’m having a hard time thinking of a “but” here.
So Dream Warriors isn’t as good as part one after all, but it IS the one where they perfect the Freddy formula for just one (1) movie: the perfect blend of witty AND scary. The story here is really great. From the Dream Warriors aspect to Freddy picking off kids labeled as mentally unwell and making it look like suicide. This direction for the Krueger mythos makes a lot of sense.
Then there is the Freddy skeleton stuff… that makes less sense and feels a bit silly. Some of the acting is stiff here, too. But it’s still a ton of fun.
Up to 143 movies in five months this year, wow.
That’s all right because I expect June to likely be the first month I come in well under target since it will be the tenth anniversary for me and my wife!
In the meantime, let me know… what are your thoughts on some of the movies here?
Until next time… take care!