Thursday, June 16, 2016

First Time Watches: May 2016

At the end of March, I wrote a post about the movies that I had watched for the first time that month.  I did it because I felt that they all deserved attention.  Whether that attention was just me writing about them or somebody reading about them, the attention was deserved.  I did that again at the end of April (though the post just came out because I was late on finishing it).  Now I’m going to write up a post for May.  Hopefully this one comes out quicker.

Like I already said, my reason for making these posts is twofold.  I want to write about the movies to better understand why I did or did not like a movie.  I can go back to these posts and see what helped to form my opinion.  It’s a record for my own memory.  The second reason is so that other people can see what I thought.  With a quick little blurb, you can see whether or not I like a movie and whether or not I think you should watch it.  I might have a weird taste in movies, but if you agree with my opinions at all, there might be some sort of reason for you to take my thoughts into consideration.

I’ve taken up enough time writing about why I do these posts.  I should get on to actually discussing the movies.  Here’s a brief summary of this past month of movies.  In May 2016, I watched fifteen movies for the first time.  Seven of those were movies that I was going to write about outside of this post.  Some were reviews, some were my blog, and one was me adding my two cents to someone else’s column.  That leaves the other eight movies as only being written about here or on Twitter. (I don’t count letterboxd because I’m usually just filling blank space there)  Eight movies will have their written debut in this post.  What were these fifteen movies?

Dead Rush
This was a first person point of view in the zombie apocalypse.  The whole movie was shown through one character’s eyes as he experienced the beginning of a zombie outbreak, the early isolation involved in keeping safe, the forming of groups in order to survive without going insane, and his eventual infection.  There were moments that were great, though the lesser moments kept them from shining like they deserved to.  It had the potential to be a classic but got lost somewhere in the execution.

Captain America: Civil War
This could have been called Avengers 3, since it was basically an Avengers movie.  It was better than any of the Avengers movies that came before.  The fighting involved teamwork.  The different characters had to play off of each other to succeed in a fight.  This hasn’t been depicted too often in the earlier movies.  Sure, the Avengers had been in fights together in the other movies, but they tended to be fighting their own battles within the bigger fight.  This time around, they were working as a team instead of simply fighting on the same team.  It’s a slight difference that improved the fights.  The story was okay.  The whole point of the movie was to get the superheroes fighting each other.  The spectacle and fight scenes were the reason to see it, and they delivered.  Good stuff.

Linklater is a director whose movies I could put on at any time and be entertained.  He finds the right mixture of cinema and realism, and complements it with great soundtracks.  All of his movies are like this.  He captures the most relatable aspects of any situation so that viewers feel themselves a part of what is unfolding.  He shows life, and turns that life into movies.  Boyhood is a prefect addition to his filmography.  It captured what it is like to grow up.  There wasn’t much of a story, but there isn’t much of a story to a person’s life.  The movie just brings you along for the ride as the family grows and figures out what their lives are going to be.

Funky Forest: The First Contact
This is one of the strangest movies that I have ever seen.  It came from Japan and there are cultural differences between that country and my country of Canada.  It was a very strange surreal comedy that didn’t always land.  It was always interesting, though.  It’s hard to describe this movie without actually letting you see it.  I watched the entire thing on YouTube.  You should find it and watch it too.

Bark Ranger
Where do I even start?  This is a terrible movie.   A talking dog (voiced by Jon Lovitz) named Ranger, who never talks to people, goes on a journey with his child owner and the kid’s girlfriend to find treasure.  Two bumbling idiots try to stop them.  It ends up being The Goonies, only with fewer kids and an annoyingly jokey dog.  I own this.  I bought it solely to write about it in my bad movie blog.  This is a decision that was made when I saw the title Bark Ranger.  For some reason, I thought it would be better than it was.

Magic Mike XXL
The word is right in the title.  This movie is magic.  It’s all about being friends and being good people.  It is about finding the good things in life and having a great time.  It’s about making your dreams come true and helping other people fulfill their dreams.  This is one of the most positive movies of the past few years.  In a cinematic landscape where everything has to be dark or snarky, where all of the characters have to be brooding or dicks, Magic Mike XXL is a ray of light, bringing positive vibes to everyone.  The dancing is pretty damn great too.  If I were to choose one scene to encapsulate everything, it would be the gas station scene.  It has dancing.  It has one character picking up his own mood while cheering up the clerk.  He’s makes her happy by realizing his dreams.  Great stuff.

The Hateful Eight
There is an online game that I sometimes play called Town of Salem.  The Hateful Eight is very much like that game.  You get eight people in a room together.  Technically nine, but one of them doesn’t really matter too much.  They’re all “strangers.”  The characters spend the entire first half of the movie in the Town of Salem type situation, trying to determine who is good, bad, or in between.  The whole point is to get rid of the bad guys before they get rid of the good guys.  Much like the game, people die in the process as the eight get whittled down in the battle between good and bad.  With stellar performances, the way the game played out was entertaining the whole time.  The only off bit was the accent of one particular character.  Tarantino made another good movie.

Dead Sushi
Japan is knocking it out of the park for me this month with some of the most memorable movie watching experiences.  Dead Sushi is a martial arts horror comedy about a bunch of people at an inn being attacked by sushi.  The sushi were reanimated to kill the people.  It was insane, but heaps of fun.  There wasn’t a lot of depth to the movie.  It was crazy scene after crazy scene, getting more batshit insane as it went on.  It had a great sense of escalation and should be watched by anyone interested in horror comedies.

God’s Not Dead
I have a lot of problems with God’s Not Dead.  It told a story that should have been about a kid sticking up for believing in whatever you want.  His college professor wanted the class to say that God is dead, and the kid wouldn’t.  The professor wanted to take away a whole religious belief system.  The problem is that this story, which the movie does hint at multiple times, gets so bogged down in religious propaganda that it became less about tolerance and more about God being the right thing to believe.  By the end, the movie told the audience to believe in God.  That’s as bad as saying that people can’t believe in God.  Other problems included side stories that didn’t affect the core story at all.  They felt like filler.

It’s a movie about good investigative journalism.  It followed the Spotlight division at the Boston Globe as they uncovered a molestation scandal in the Catholic Church.  The movie was solid.  There wasn’t a bad performance and the story was very captivating.  This is a movie that should be seen by everyone.  There isn’t much more to say about it than that.

Kindergarten Cop 2
I saw a poll online asking what new release should be covered in the Two Cents column for Cinapse.  Kindergarten Cop 2 stood out to me, so I picked it.  In order to not be killed by the guy who runs the column, I watched the movie as well.  That didn’t bother me.  I grew up watching Kindergarten Cop.  How bad could the sequel be?  It didn’t have the charm of the original, though it had many of the same story beats.  Dolph Lundgren doesn’t have the same charm as Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The modern schooling/parenting style is more annoying than entertaning.  It wasn’t the worst movie ever, but it was pretty bad.

Lake Eerie
There are some movies that I’m meant to review that are difficult because they aren’t particularly good or bad.  This one falls in that camp.  There’s some good stuff in a purgatory/Hell world that is created.  But the main character is just plain dull.  There is nothing to latch onto in her personality.  She is as bland as stale bread.  It’s not tough to sit through the movie.  It’s also not memorable, so there won’t be a single thing that sticks with you.

The Do-Over
Most people have it out for Adam Sandler and Happy Madison productions.  They don’t have a good track record.  Most of their output falls right in the 50% range for me where half of any specific movie is good and half is bad.  The Do-Over fits into that same camp.  I was hopeful because David Spade took on the straight man role.  Sandler has been doing that himself lately and it doesn’t work all that well.  That part of the movie was pretty good.  Spade being the straight man to Sandler’s wacky was entertaining.  It’s the Adam Sandler humour (sweaty nutsack during a threesome) that brings the movie down.  This could have been great.  The Sandlerisms stop that from happening.

Donald Glover: Weirdo
Sometimes I feel like watching stand-up specials.  This was one of those cases.  I’ve always appreciated Donald Glover’s screen presence and I thought I’d give his comedy stylings a chance.  He fit pretty well into my wheelhouse.  He told funny stories.  That’s the kind of stand-up that I’m more interested in.  I like funny stories more than one liners or simple jokes.  He did a good job and I enjoyed myself the entire time.  The Home Depot story that closes it is not necessarily one of the greatest closing stories, but I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

I finished the month with a movie about people being harassed by a ghost that came through a landline.  It was a poorly made movie that was strangely watchable.  I’ll probably see it again at some point.  The filmmaking itself is bad but the movie is kind of entertaining.  I want to figure out where that strange enjoyment came from.

Thus ends my May of movie watching.  It was a month that brought me a variety of movies from different genres.  If whatever I wrote about a movie got your interest up, you should check it out.  Except for Bark Ranger.  That’s not something I would wish upon most of my enemies.  The worst enemy would still get it.

With the end of one month of movie watching comes the beginning of another.  June is a new month and will have new first time watches that I haven’t written about yet.  As I’m finishing this post, I’ve already seen The Scorch Trials, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.  I’ll have another post up next month where I write about how I felt watching those movies.  Until then, you get this post.  I hope you liked it, and I hope you like the good movies.

First Time Watches: April 2016

Prologue: I quickly want to apologize for how late this post is.  I forgot to start writing it until about halfway through May.  With all of the other things I was writing and the fact that I got hooked on Uncharted 2 for about a week and a half, plus home renovations, it took until the end of the month to get this finished.  Then I shelved it because I’m lazy.  Sorry about the wait.  This is actually going to come out right before the post for my May first time watches, so you’ll get two in a row.  How about that?  Onto the post.

This post is coming to you a bit later than I would have hoped.  I meant to be doing these once a month.  It’s always nice to highlight movies and give my brief thoughts.  If you have a taste anywhere near mine, you might be interested to see what I’ve seen or hear my opinions.  It’s a way to share.  But I forgot to do this until a couple nights ago.  I’m sorry.  Let’s get to it then.  Here are the movies that I watched for the first time in April 2016.

The Beast of Bray Road
This was an early era horror flick from The Asylum.  It shied away from their usual mockbuster or shark fare that they are known for.  Instead, it was a werewolf movie where the people of a small town were being killed one by one.  It was low budget and the quality wasn’t great, but it was a promising start for the studio.  It was entertaining, and that’s all I could have asked for.  Though they would later delve into self-aware seriousness, this movie intended to be a solid horror movie.  I appreciate it for that.  It succeeded in that much.

Keeping people isolated and without food can turn them into animals.  That’s the idea behind Starve.  The main characters were kidnapped and starved until they are willing to fight to the death for the smallest meal.  It’s like a feral version of Mortal Kombat.  The first half worked really well, keeping the villain hidden, and having only his voice.  Once he revealed his face, he felt like less of a threat, but he also felt like more of a character.  It was a weird shift in the good vs. bad dynamic. The movie was still solid the whole way through.  It didn’t strive for greatness.

Young Guns
I had been meaning to watch this for years.  It has a great cast of young 80s actors.  It’s a western based on a real story.  I can’t think of too many westerns from the 1980s.  The movie is well made but I didn’t connect with it in the way that I expected to.  The performances were good, though Emilio Estevez went a little overboard in how crazy he was.  I’m still interested in seeing the sequel.  It was a good movie, just not my thing.

Fatal Deviation
Ireland has produced great movies and filmmakers.  This movie is not one of them.  It’s a no budget action movie with bad acting.  There’s decent martial arts but that’s about it.  I don’t hate the movie at all.  It’s just bad.  The highlight of the movie is a fight club type thing going on in a monastery.  Monks are getting people to fight with each other.  Other than that, it’s an action movie with decent action at best, bad writing, and terrible acting.  Only see this one if you like bad movies.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
I’ve been a fan of Thomas Mann for a few years, based mostly on two movies.  My introduction to him was Fun Size, a teen comedy set on Halloween.  Then I saw him in Project X, a teen comedy about a party escalating out of control.  Now I’ve seen him in this, a sad dramedy about a high school kid who befriends a girl with leukemia.  Though it is seeping with independent dramedy tropes, it works on almost every level.  The ending hits hard and is very emotional.

Mansion of Blood
For what most people would consider a bad movie, this one knew exactly what it was going for and nailed it.  It was campy in all the right ways, blending different aspects of horror with comedy to make for a great experience.  The acting was bad, but it worked perfectly for the tone of the movie.  It was the best experience I had watching a movie in April.  It hit all of my buttons and I’ll be rewatching this one for sure.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
This is the one Zack Snyder movie that I had not seen.  It was on Netflix, so I gave it a shot.  It’s your basic young adult story with great animation and typical Zack Snyder visuals.  This type of story doesn’t always grip me and it didn’t quite grab me this time.  I enjoyed the visuals, and some of the characters, but overall the story was something I had seen many times before done to better effect.  It’s still a good movie.  It was a hoot.

Every month, I watch an Adam Sandler movie.  It just happens.  Sometimes I get the craving for Happy Madison.  Blended had a decent story.  At its core, it is something that should be fun.  Two single parent families that don’t like each other are forced to spend a vacation together.  They learn that the families actually fit together and should be one big, happy family.  The problem was that it was infused with the typical present day Sandler humour.  There were bad, immature jokes that didn’t quite work.  Adam Sandler was playing the straight man which doesn’t usually work for him.  I would watch it again, but it isn’t a must see movie.

Home invasion movies are like road trip movies.  Once you see one of them, you’ve basically seen them all.  The beats are always the same.  The difference is how the story is told.  The flourishes that are added make the movies stand on their own.  Hush took the played out home invasion story, where a person or persons play a game of cat and mouse with the person or persons inside, and changed it up by making the victim deaf.  For the most part, it worked.  It added an interesting wrinkle to the derivative idea.  It built tension with the lack of hearing.  Hush is worth seeing.  Don’t expect anything mindblowing, though.

Think Like a Man Too
I watched the first in the franchise a few months ago.  I enjoyed the way that the actors played off of each other.  The ensemble oozed with chemistry.  The sequel had the same qualities.  Although the story was weaker, it was still fun to watch this cast together.  They’re entertaining, humorous and fun to be around.  I’d surely enjoy a third movie if they made one.

The Single Moms Club
Can you believe that this is only the second movie I’ve seen that was directed by Tyler Perry?  That’s crazy, isn’t it?  This is not a good movie.  It was heavy handed in its themes and the overall story wasn’t that great.  There were moments forced in to create drama where it didn’t need to be.  The acting was all over the place.  But there is one reason to watch the movie.  There is one scene that lasts about three minutes that is nothing but double entendres.  That scene is worth watching this movie for.  Though, you could just watch it on YouTube.

Z for Zachariah
This movie was on Netflix Canada and I thought I’d watch it based on the cast.  All three actors were good, but it didn’t really capture me.  It’s still a good movie and I had a good time with it.  It just didn’t meet my high expectations.  That’s my own fault.  The post-apocalyptic setting worked and the small scale story was a rather interesting take on the material.  Not many post-apocalyptic stories are as minor as this one.

Tabloid Vivant
Very rarely do movies look at a negative side to art.  They usually show how great art is, since movies are art.  Tabloid Vivant highlighted the negatives with a couple becoming obsessed with art to the point of harming themselves.  The movie wasn’t that great but the story helped to elevate it.  It made the experience of watching the movie worth the time invested in it.  The acting and direction were okay.  The story was the strength.

Piranha 3D was one of my favourite movies of 2010.  When I heard that Alexandre Aja’s next movie was going to be an adaptation of the Joe Hill novel Horns (which I admittedly never read), I was excited.  The movie ended up in that weird grey area in between good and bad.  I loved exactly 50% of it and thought the other 50% was terrible.  I would still say it is worth watching.  The highs of the movie are great moments.

Sleeping with Other People
The cast got me into this movie.  Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie as the leads in a comedy that is all about sex is something I wanted to see.  And it was worth it.  The two of them were great and the movie ended up being an unconventional yet conventional romantic comedy.  It’s not the best but it entertained me.  Plus, Jason Mantzoukas was in it and you can never go wrong with that guy.  He’s always the best.

I tend to watch a Jason Statham movie every month or two.  I had never seen Homefront, so I checked it out on Netflix.  It’s a solid action movie.  What really worked was James Franco.  He played the right kind of bad guy.  He took it over the top in some moments, but he made the movie more enjoyable.  Of course, there was also Statham kicking butt.  It was a good movie but it’s not one I’ll be rushing to see again.  There are better movies from everyone involved, including writer Sylvester Stallone.

The Horde
This is an independent kick/punch movie.  The lead actor was the writer, making sure his martial arts skills were prominent.  He’s not the best fighter, though.  He’s entertaining and takes down a lot of bad guys, but he’s nothing special.  The movie was about a group of nature photographers getting kidnapped by cannibal criminals who cook meth and the one man who must save them.  It’s not a terrible movie.  I enjoyed it.  It’s worth checking out if you’re drinking with a few friends.

The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)
It’s hard to describe the third Human Centipede movie.  There’s a loose story in there.  The movie was about a prison warden trying to keep his job by doing increasingly insane things to the prisoners.  It escalated to all of the prisoners being sewn together ass to mouth.  But that’s not the crazy thing.  Was the crazy thing that Tom Six played himself and that the first two movies exist as movies in the universe of the third?  Nope.  That’s not it either.  The second movie already tread that ground with the first movie being a movie and one of the lead actresses playing herself.  No, the craziest thing was Dieter Laser.  Tom Six let Laser off the leash to do whatever crazy shit he wanted with his performance.  It is one of the most insane performances in cinema.  Eric Roberts was in the movie too.  Laser is the reason to watch the third installment.  Roberts is the cherry on top.

That brings April 2016 to a close.  It took me a long time to get this post out.  I’m very sorry about that.  Between the stuff happening in my life, and laziness, it took longer than it should have.  This should have been ready for you guys within the first week of May and it wasn’t.  That’s my fault.  But it’s out.  There is now a permanent record of how I felt about these movies.

Next month, I’ll try to get it up sooner.  As a sneak preview of what you’ll get to see, the next First Time Watch post will include movies like Spotlight, Kindergarten Cop 2, Funky Forest: The First Contact, and The Do-Over.  It should be good.  That’s a wide variety.  Come on back next month and see what I have to say about the movies I watched in May 2016.