Like everybody else at F This Movie I'm marathoning as many 2020 movies as humanly possible as I'm crafting my Top 'XX' list for the year. A few recent ones:Patty Jenkins' WONDER WOMAN 1984 (HBO Max) isn't as polished, entertaining or coherent as its seminal 2017 prequel. That doesn't make it a terrible superhero movie anymore than being helmed by a female director equals tonal perfection. The positives (Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, the go-for-broke action set-pieces, giving sexist 1980's pop culture a rightful smack in the face, etc.) outweigh the negatives (underwhelming-for-2020 special effects, Kristen Wiig's shtick, Chris Pine's unnecessary presence, etc.) despite falling for the contemporary blockbuster trap of not trimming the fat from a 20-min.-too-long running time. It's no "Soul," but what else was in 2020? Worth the eventual 4K UHD purchase.Michael Almereyda's TESLA (Hulu) leans heavily on Alex Cox's 1987 biopic "Walker" to excuse the fourth-wall breaking narration that fills in the historical blanks that 2019's "The Current War" (a victim of the Harvey Weinstein scandal's financial fallout) could indulge with better production values. Despite playing the titular character with a perpetual worried look on his face Ethan Hawke is fine as Tesla, with supporting actors being either hits (Jim Gaffigan's Westinghouse, Donnie Keshawarz's J.P. Morgan) or misses (Kyle MacLachlan's Edison) when contrasted with the in-your-face artificiality of the projection screens and narrative shortcuts. A curious biopic worth sampling just to hear Tesla's sung rendition of Tears for Fears' best-known 80's pop tune. :-ODavid Koepp's YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (Peacock) would have been icky/gross if the filmmakers hadn't constantly made references/jokes about the age difference between Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried's "power couple." Bloodless for a Blumhouse R-rated picture, the minimalist setting and reliance on jump scares get repetitive but never cross into transgressive annoyance. A serviceable "Blair Witch"-inspired time waster aimed at a demographic a little older than Blumhouse's typical teenage/young adult crowd.BAD EDUCATION (HBO Max) makes the most of Hugh Jackman's star charisma to convince viewers his Long Island high school superintendent character cared about his students' well being back in the early aughts. As JB pointed out in the podcast, the scene where Frank Tassone talks a roomful of angry parents into not pressing charges against Allison Janney is masterful. More sad than dark-funny or dramatic (you can see where it's going from the first cheerleader chant), "Bad Education" has enough moments of genuine discomfort and bewildered amusement to pass muster. Highly recommended.Last and certainly least, THE ROADS NOT TAKEN (Hulu) is a disappointment coming from director/writer/producer/composer/co-editor Sally Potter ("Orlando"). A thematic remake of Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain," we're forced to watch Javier Bardem's catatonic writer Leo go through a humiliating New York City day-from-hell with his grown daughter (Elle Fanning) while his troubled mind brings two additional alternate stories about himself to cinematic life. A misery porn arthouse narrative combined with actors exposing their inner demons (badly) equals the longest 85 minutes of your life. YMMV, but kudos for showing a Gotham bilingual household (Fanning's bad Spanish actually mirrors my experience with USA-born siblings) casually and believably.
And a handful of non-2020 flicks as well.Bruce Beresford's new-to-me DOUBLE JEOPARDY (1999, Netflix) is exactly the Lifetime-woman-in-peril-on-Hollywood-steroids mainstreal flick I thought it'd be based on its premise and cast. Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones are on autopilot until the former escapes the latter in a submerged car she's handcuffed to, the cue for the female "Fugitive" tropes to come out swinging. Bruce Greenwood's boy scout image is perfectly used against type, and even Tommy Lee Jones phoning in a discount version of his Samuel Gerard character is worth watching 'till the ho-hum ending. A mainstream popcorn muncher.Renny Harlin's new-to-me CLIFFHANGER (1993, Amazon) forgot the 80's were over and carries an overdose of testosterone macho men (Rooker, Leon, Winfield, Linn, McGill, etc.) as back-up to Sylvester Stallone's action comeback after years in the box office doghouse ("Rocky V," "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" and "Oscar"). Even good actors like John Lithgow (whose British accent is as believable as Alan Rickman's American accent in "Die Hard") are sucked into a vortex of cinematic ineptitude (too-obvious green screen/studio shots, fake snow galore, Michael Rooker being an unlikable douche even though he's one of the good guys, etc.) that should sink this dud. Credit the hard-working filmmakers (composer Trevor Jones sweats every single note) and stuntmen who persevere and make "Cliffhanger" an entertaining spectacle. Come for Sly pretending to drop two actors (including "Northern Exposure's" Janine Turner) to certain death, stay for Renny Harlin's "Die Hard 2" ice-stabbing fetish and the "Con-Air" hijack/crash portion (the perfect mixture of optical, miniature and photographic effects).Last but certainly not least, on its 100th birthday on New Year's Day (which is when most of its story takes place) I watched 1921's THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (Criterion Blu-ray). Whenever the story focuses on the titular carriage and its ghostly riders (Tore Svennberg's Georges and writer/director Victor Sjöström's David Holm) its gripping stuff, particularly the good-for-the-time special effects. Shame there are way too many scenes of characters telling each other lengthy flashbacks, to the point I often forgot whose flashback we were watching (and/or who was narrating it). And coming so close to Christmas this viewing made me realize how much (a) Frank Capra stole from Sjöström's pic for "It's A Wonderful Life" and (b) it influenced Kubrick's 'Here's Johnny!' door axing scene in "The Shining." Tremendous atmosphere for an early 20's Swedish silent horror movie, one worth seeing at least once around New Year's.Looking forward to reading everybody's end-of-the-year Top 10 lists next week. :-)
The titles for Lifetime Channel movies can be very amusing. They tend to be simultaneously generic and sensationalistic.
One of my great regrets is that, statistically, at least 1 or maybe 2% of Lifetime's movies must be accidentally or unintentionally entertaining in a so-bad-it's-great way. But l'm not gonna start wading through the heaps of trash to find someone else's idea of a fun trashy movie. Life's too short... but there's so much potential fun fodder out there in Lifetime-land. 😢😫🥴
Is this how it is with "Hallmark movies", too? Everyone keeps talking about how good they are and I'm like - which one? Be specific! These are all crap!
I know i liked a few Hallmark movie. Mainly because i liked the actors. I agree they're all pretty much interchangeable and predictable, but they are what they are. Hallmark is basically a genre by now. Can't blame anybody for not liking them.
Yep. Lifetime movies, BET movies (NOT the same as Tyler Perry ones), Hallmark movies, etc. By sheer mathematical process of elimination some of them have to be great... but who decides which handful rise up above the rest? 🤓🧐
ok you guys can say which ones are worth it
Happy New Year to everyone.A stint of dog sitting kept me from posting last week, but I did get around to many watches during the last week of 2020. Once again I leaned heavily into the exploitation side of cinema.AMAZONS (1986) – The tackiness of this sword and sorcery tale was exactly what I was in the mood for. It could not have a stronger 1980s B-movie vibe. It does not make much sense but delivers on all of the dubious thrills of the genre in an economical 76 minutes. On Tubi. THE SISTERHOOD (1988, dir. Cirio H. Santiago) – This one of those throw-everything-in-the-blender kind of films I associate with the Italian exploitation filmmakers, yet it does not come out of Italy. There are random post-apocalyptic, sword and sorcery, and the western elements in a plot about female warriors with special powers. In the beginning they are fighting with swords and arrows but somehow progress to commando raids using machine guns and armored personal carriers. There is no consistency with anything in The Sisterhood, particularly regarding costuming. It might foster a few laughs in the right mindset. On Prime.EQUALIZER 2000 (1987, dir. Cirio H. Santiago) – As low-budget 1980s action films go, this is a decent effort. Santiago does a better job in Equalizer 2000 at keeping the production values and tone consistent. That is not to say anything here is even at an average level of quality. It is a post-apocalyptic adventure and war film very much in the Mad Max mold with a dose of Rambo mixed in. Although the lack of budget is very apparent, the set-pieces do not fail to entertain. I have seen much worse mindless 1980s VHS trash. On Prime.STREET GIRLS (1975) – Paul Schrader's Hardcore is a far more competent telling of the story of a father searching for his daughter in a sexual underworld than this is. Where Street Girls does get interesting is the non-judgmental depiction of alternative lifestyles, almost becoming an underground movie in certain scenes. This is definitely more of a watch for fans of sleazy 1970s exploitation. Interestingly, Barry Levinson participated in writing and shooting the film. During my time dog sitting this week, I had access to Netflix’s streaming service. I ended up watching a bunch of music documentaries. Martin Scorsese’s ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY was the best of them, utilizing footage shoot during one of Dylan’s most famous tours, 1975’s Rolling Thunder Revue. The doc features multiple perspectives on the tour, including thoughts from Bob Dylan himself. QUINCY would come second in ranking, an engaging documentary about Quincy Jones. With him being a musical hero (what has he not done?) of mine, I am predisposed to enjoy this. ECHO IN THE CANYON and THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE were the others I saw. Neither were great, but I would place ECHO higher. The Cooke documentary delves too much into conspiracy theories about his death, none of which I found convincing.
--'Sit, Ubu, sit while l "borrow" your master's Netflix account without him knowing. Good dog.' 😉--'WOOF!' 🐶
The owner of the dogs has a Roku box. I had permission to use it.
I know, l know. Where's your sense of humor, canine exercise consultant? 👋😉
I got the joke, J.M.
Watched THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) on New Years Eve. Still holds up! Motown legends and tons of car crashes, what's not to love? CLIFFHANGER (1993) Yes the movie is dumb, but it certainly entertains. Renny Harlin and co. keep the flick moving at such a quick pace that you enjoy all the fights and escapes, and not wonder how Stallone had time to build that snowman. JOHN CARTER (2012) Here's one that's not the disaster everyone says it is, but still not the best. The action is thrilling at first, but Carter's super-jumping starts to feel silly after a while. We're supposed to care about the fate of the green tusk aliens, but they're not quite endearing characters. I enjoyed on a cheesiness level, but I wish it was better. HONEY WE SHRUNK OURSELVES (1997) Honey, we diminished our returns. READY OR NOT (2019) This movie rules! I like how we get right into the premise in the first few minutes, not bothering with an overly-expository first act. The audience is here for the chase, so the movie goes ahead and starts there. And this is totally a shared universe with Knives Out, right?
Let's see. "Ready or Not" has a kick-ass, take-charge female lead, and "Knives Out" has suave Captain America hitting on Batman's girlfriend. So yep, shared universe indeed. 😎🤠
My long comment got deleted before I posted it so here's some short takes.Soul: watched it twice. Amazing. Possibly pixar's best, at least top 3. Possible "spoiler" here: I had to wonder if it might have been more powerful, yet still in touch with the theme, if the ending (like last 30 seconds ending) went a bit differently. Regardless I loved this movie. go pete doctor ily.Incredibles 2: Super fun, creative action nonstop, funny and well written dialogue all around. Enjoyed it more than I thought I would, esp considering how much I love the og. Look forward to watching them back to back and seeing how that plays. go brad bird.Toy Story 4: Can't believe this was praised so much, and considered a better sequel than incredibles 2. bs! It was the same rehashed plot, generic hijinks that honestly bored me, and a forced emotional ending that felt rushed and weird. Point being, it did not justify it's existence after the great ending of 3. The only thing I liked was Bo Peep; maybe if it did something a bit more interesting and focused on her completely it would have been something. Was it "bad"? No. But I didn't plan on watching it and almost feel lied to that it got so much praise that I did.Ratatouille: For the, idk, 15th time. I think I came to terms that this might just be one of my favorite movies, period. I think it's pixars best, only rivaled by Soul, I'd say those two and incredibles are prob their three best movies. It's so wonderful. This time I appreciated how relatable and realistic Linguini is in a way, esp compared to other animated characters. I noticed many details I haven't even seen despite how many times I've seen it over the years.
Hi gang! I've been meaning to go over a lot of 2020 movies, but I'm just not feeling it, so I realized I don't actually have to watch anything I don't want to. So lately, I've watched The Fifth Element, Apollo 13, the RoboCop trilogy, and Godzilla movies. They're all great! (Well, not RoboCop 3.)
Good man. If you don't feel like rockin' new-to-you 2020 movies don't bother knocking them. 🥳 Stick with the tried and true champs of popcorn cinema, including "Robocop 3" (a true so-bad-it's-good entertaining dumb flick). 🥵😎
What Godzilla movies did you watch, Mikko?I have not been seeing anything recent, either.
Most recently Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, probably the most fun of them so far. (That's the one you said was your favorite, right Casual?)
The first film is my favorite, but of the silly sequels Ebirah is the best I have seen. It is supremely ridiculous. (How does Godzilla get in the volcano?) That Dr. No plot had me laughing throughout the film.
Wow. Stumbled onto some excellent-to-me 2020 movies and a handful of decent ones. :-)One of the most profound statements I've heard JB make about horror movies is that villains are best understood as sad, lonely people who wouldn't have turned bad if someone had loved them enough to keep them from going over the edge. No movie I've seen in 2020 (or many years prior) personifies this idea better than RENT-A-PAL (Hulu). Imagine if "V/H/S" was a character-focused narrative set in 1990 Denver, and followed a man (Brian Landis Folkins) developing an unhealthy relationship with a VHS talking head (Wil Wheaton's Andy). Besides 100% nailing late 80's VHS culture, the horror comes from watching a good man victimized by life's circumstances. This might be the best three-character operatic horror movie I've seen since Cronenberg's "The Fly," and I guarantee you will see Wil Wheaton's Andy sweater in your nightmares. Highly recommended if you can stand "going there," and an unexpected contender for a spot in my 2020 Top 10 list.When you're not distracted by the titanic struggle Miki Caro's MULAN (Disney+) has balancing a Disney historical fantasy with a respectful-of-China-censors culturally sensitive Asian tale, it's just a gorgeous action spectacle. The decision to jettison sidekick animals and keep the comedy to a minimum elevates the dramatic stakes, especially when Mulan (Yifei Liu) and witch Xianniang (Gong Li) share a couple of unexpectedly deep scenes. Forget Donnie Yen and Jet Li collecting a paycheck. Between a truly nasty villain (Jason Scott Lee's Böri Khan), battle scenes worthy of "Dynasty Warriors" videogame comparison and production values galore, "Mulan" entertained me more than the last few "Pirates... Caribbean" sequels combined. Enough said.AVA (Netflix) starts, ends and is sprinkled throughout with the typical action/thriller tropes and convoluted plot of a beautiful assassin (Jessica Chastain) dispatching targets for a handler (John Malkovich) who reports to a higher-up (Colin Farrell). The bulk of the plot deals with Ava's lifetime of substance abuse problems putting a damp on her relationship with sister Judy (Jess Weixler), hairdresser mother (Geena Davis) and former beau Michael (Common, surprisingly likable given his gambling addiction subplot). You've seen this one a million times before, but the ace cast and commitment to the portrayal of an addict struggling to stay sober gives it a slight edge.Thanks to Patrick for recommending Guillaume Pierret's LOST BULLET (Netflix), which lives up to its reputation as a tight little French action flick for car freaks that doesn't skimp on character development (even a-hole villain Areski gets a scene that humanizes him) or hand-to-hand combat (escaping a police station without firing a shot). It's no "Baby Driver" (Alban Lenoir's Lino is no Ansel Elgort), but it could teach the recent "Fast/Furious" pics how to tell a compelling tale of co-workers bonding over tragedy without sacrificing the thrill of a well-staged, ass-kicking car chase with life-or-death stakes. Recommended.Brandon Trost, the cinematographer of "This Is The End" and "The Disaster Artist," makes his feature directorial debut in Seth Rogen's AN AMERICAN PICKLE (HBO Max). So it's no wonder that a lot of the humor in this tale of a Jewish immigrant waking up in present day New York after falling into a pickle tank ("Sleeper" anyone?) is visual. From the switch in aspect ratios for the prologue (a clear nod to "Grand Budapest Hotel") to the obsession with corporate logos, the look of the movie contributes to its clash-of-cultures, fish-out-of-water comedic bouts. Since this is the Seth Rogen show from start to finish your mileage will vary, but often its heart/pathos (Ben G.'s lapsed Judaism) is bigger than the laughs it generates. Worth seeing.
Last not really last (ran out of space above), WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS (Netflix) ends with a killer third act that almost, ALMOST makes it worthwhile to put up with the so-cliché-it-hurts Satanic Panic set-up. Points for showcasing Ring Pop candy (plus a cameo from the van in "Onward" :-P) and name-dropping Nintendo ("I 'Metroid' like a mofo!") as a clear sign the flick's taking place in 1988 Indiana. In the end not even Johnny Knoxville as a TV preacher can distract from the fact "WSTD," unlike "Rent-A-Pal," overpromises and underdelivers.
Going through Scott Glenn's filmography was kinda fun because I would never have seen a lot of those films otherwise. (THE KEEP is still in my queue). So I've decided to do it with other actors I like because at least I know there'll be something pretty to look at. (I'm old, I'm tired, real life is very busy, my eyes hurt, etc...so...) young Paul Newman is up next!Watched THE LONG HOT SUMMER (1958), THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959), FROM THE TERRACE (1960), SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH (1962). And recently I rewatched THE HUSTLER (1961), HUD (1963) and COOL HAND LUKE (1967).So...damn, Paul Newman was a STAR. No one I've ever seen onscreen was more starlike than him. Except maybe Meryl Streep actually - he's the male Meryl. He got all the best characters, monologues, best costars, screenplays, directors, all set up for him to pretty much peacock around and be a star. I'm kind of just in awe of him.He kept reminding me of Marlon Brando, in facial expressions and posture (like EXACT). Maybe they went to the same acting schools? Hud, The Hustler and Sweet Bird of Youth were my favorite of what I watched. Sweet Bird of Youth is based on Tennessee William's play and it starred Geraldine Page (who hires Newman's character to take care of her...pleasures). Ok so Geraldine Page was AMAZING. HOLY COW. Soooo heartbreaking and maddening and relatable. I haven't given it a lot of thought but I don't know how Tennessee Williams makes sex and sexuality so..completely..depraved. Depraved. He's the best at that.
Ah, yea, Newman and Brando both studied at The Actor's Studio. That sounded familiar. Anyway, how did all the famous stars back in the day go to that one school. That's weird. But they were also all so good. Better than so many working actors today.
Geraldine Page was a great actress. My introduction to her was through the original version of The Beguiled. I do not think she was in a lot of movies. Sweet Bird of Youth is one that I have intended to watch but never got around to. The Trip to Bountiful features her most renowned performance. I read that she was being considered for the role of the mother in a film adaptation in Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie when she died. That would have been terrific performance. Speaking of Tennessee Williams, Paul Newman is in the excellent film adaptation of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Elizabeth Taylor and Burl Ives steal the show in that, though.
Young Newman was cool and all, but middled-aged and even older ("The Verdict"), sell-out Paul ("Cars") still had it.
I tend to think of Paul Newman as setting the stage for the actors that became prominent in the New Hollywood period. The rough edge of the characters he played is much closer to 1970s Hollywood roles than those of the 1950s.
Ohh, there are terms for these eras in movies like "New Hollywood". Of course. And I don't know any of those terms. Oh, please, watch Sweet Bird of Youth, Casual. I'll check out The Trip to Bountiful. The Verdict is in my queue :)I should rewatch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I saw it when I was a teenager but it's only as an adult that I really understand all the troubles in these stories.
Oh yea and thanks for reminding me I want to see the original The Beguiled. Sofia Coppola's movies make me want to poke my eyes out. But I did want to see the original.
Yes, there are lots of terms in cinema. New Hollywood refers to the period from the late 1960s to the late 1970s when directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, and Peter Bogdnovich redefined American cinema. It is my favorite era for Hollywood films.
Ah, good to know, thanks.
One more funny thing - I knew after watching Sweet Bird of Youth I had seen Geraldine Page before. And I knew it was in the animated movie, THE RESCUERS. And I just checked and I was right! That's her as the bad lady! Tons of kids know her funny face.