Weekly Movie Roundup

I watched just four movies last week:

Passengers So Long at the Fair Dr. T & the Women The Day of the Beast
  • There might be a way to tell the story that Passengers tries to tell, but definitely not in the way that the movie tries to tell it.
    • Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde are good together in So Long at the Fair, and it isn’t the movie’s fault if it now feels a little familiar.
      • Dr. T. & the Women acts like a drama that thinks it’s a comedy. There are glimmers of things that work in the movie, like Gere’s central performance, but it always feels like the stakes are incredibly low, even when everything that’s happening on screen says they’re incredibly high.
        • I’m not gonna lie, The Day of the Beast is a weird movie. Most of it’s a lot of wacky, almost Evil Dead-like fun.

        I also kind of randomly re-watched The ‘Burbs, which I found about as occasionally amusing and under-developed as I did in 1989 when I was twelve.

        Weekly Movie Roundup

        I watched another half dozen movies last week:

        Road House Beau Is Afraid The Last Voyage of the Demeter
        • I have no particular fondness for—or even, strictly speaking, memory of—the original Road House, so I didn’t know at all what to expect from the remake. But it’s very bad. The trailer promises nothing more than some laidback charm, well-choreographed fights, and the occasional fun action set-piece. But the movie delivers very little of that, and none of it especially well. The plot is a muddle that grows increasingly uninteresting, even as it becomes needlessly complex, and the movie throws way too many characters on the screen, very few of whom ever make any impression at all. (A few of the actors who do make any impression might have wished afterwards that they hadn’t.) I’d like to think that the sped-up CGI that’s employed so heavily in the fight scenes was simply a misguided attempt to make those fights look frenetic and wild, but it’s all just janky as hell, and instead makes them look fake and unreal. That’s actually a problem with the movie as a whole; its stakes are confused, its characters are under-baked, and its plot seems chopped up and hastily reassembled in post—despite still clocking in at just over two hours. Jake Gyllenhaal’s charisma keeps things afloat for a little while, but even he feels desperately lost by the end. Honestly, the best thing about the movie is the live music that frequently plays at the fictional, titular bar. They could have saved everyone the trouble and just filmed those bands playing.
          • Beau Is Afraid…is a lot. But a lot of that is strikingly, even startlingly, strange—a horror movie where anxiety is the monster and unreality unspools across the screen in totally unexpected ways. It’s off-kilter and self-indulgent but also incredibly compelling.
            • Would The Last Voyage of the Demeter be better if it played coy about its source material? (“Dracula? What’s a Dracula?”) I’m tempted to say no, but it is interesting to wonder if the movie could have evaded the sense of anticlimactic inevitability that hangs over it from the very start if it didn’t so repetitively hammer in exactly which horror novel it’s supposed to be spun off from. There are no surprises here, but it doesn’t help that the movie doesn’t pretend otherwise. What it does have, though, are some impressively grisly kills and a vampire whose mean streak makes him at times genuinely frightening. That’s only in flashes, of course, and under cover of darkness; by the light of day, there isn’t very much to sink your teeth into here, and while the movie is passably entertaining, it’s also more a forgettable footnote than anything else.
            You Hurt My Feelings Pearl Friedkin Uncut
            • You Hurt My Feelings is warm and tender, perceptive and funny.
              • I wasn’t wildly impressed by 2022’s X and didn’t hold out much hope for its immediately announced—and, to my mind, totally unnecessary—prequel. Now, however many months later, Pearl arrives to exceed my expectations, but only barely. The movie feels more like an emotional endurance test for its lead actress, especially in its final scenes; and while it’s ostensibly an origin story and character study, if there’s any character development, it’s only through the sheer force of Mia Goth’s will. The movie has very little to say, and certainly nothing that connects it in any meaningful way to its predecessor, and so just feels like an empty and slapped-together exercise in style.
                • Friedkin Uncut doesn’t offer any surprise revelations about the late man or his work, especially if you’ve seen other documentaries about them, but he was an incredibly erudite and entertaining storyteller. This film offers Friedkin, and several others, the opportunity to talk at length about his impressive filmography.

                I also re-watched the still-uplifting Rudy.

                Weekly Movie Roundup

                I watched another 6 movies last week:

                Voyagers Dumb Money He Knows You're Alone
                • I don’t know how much mileage there actually is in “Lord of the Flies in space” as a concept, but Voyagers doesn’t take it nearly far enough, and the movie never travels beyond the orbit of unengaging characters and tired cliches.
                  • Dumb Money has clearly studied at the feet of The Big Short, but at least it seems to have mostly learned the right lessons from that movie. (Unlike, for instance, The Big Short‘s director.) The narrative here feels a little incomplete, and too reliant on real-life footage (and memes), but the movie is genuinely crowd-pleasing, thanks largely to a very engaging cast.
                    • He Knows You’re Alone is a tedious bore—let down by bad acting, an even worse script, and pacing that would need a half dozen jump-scares to be called sluggish. Even by the relatively low standards of early 1980s slasher movies, this is bizarre and lousy. If, like me, you’re tempted to watch it simply because it happens to be Tom Hanks’ first film credit, just know that if his brief appearance qualifies as a highlight, that’s only because there are so many lowlights.
                    Creep 2 Shirley Memoria
                    • Creep 2 adds an interesting new twist to the already oddball found-footage approach of the first movie. Maybe not interesting enough to justify its existence, but there is a certain magnetism to the two leads.
                      • I can understand why Shirley focuses so entirely on Chisholm’s failed 1972 run for President, but in doing so, the movie shortchanges the rest of her life and political career, and even the context necessary to understand that presidential bid. Regina King is very good, but the movie relies entirely on her to bring any actual character development to the table.
                        • Memoria definitely has a wavelength; I’m just not sure it’s a wavelength I’m entirely on.

                        I also re-watched Patton, which turns out to be a decent if unremarkable movie with a really great central performance.

                        Weekly Movie Roundup

                        The Shout Single White Female The Last Year of Darkness Jason Goes to Hell
                        • The Shout is strange and moody and pessimistic, and it gets under your skin even if you’re not exactly sure you can say what it’s supposed to be about.
                          • Roger Ebert was probably more forgiving of Single White Female than I might have been when he wrote, “No genre is beyond redemption or beneath contempt, and here the slasher genre is given its due with strong performances and direction.” Maybe that’s because I’ve seen some slasher movies I’ve enjoyed more, or because I think the performances here are fine but nothing special. There’s a mad, off-the-rails energy here that the movie rightly embraces, but it’s also strangely kind of forgettable.
                            • The Last Year of Darkness never feels like a documentary, which more often than not very much works in its favor. Occasionally, it can cause the movie to feel a little aimless, as it sets no agenda or even appears to be following a specific narrative. But it also paints an intensely intimate portrait of these few people at this very specific place and time, essentially just by hanging out with them and living in their world.
                              • Jason Goes to Hell is definitely one way to have taken the Friday the 13th series. It’s just very difficult to imagine the bizarre sequence of miscalculations that would have been necessary to think it was a good way, or that the finished movie was anything close to comprehensible. It’s more interesting than a lot of its predecessors in the series, but that doesn’t make it any good. A miss is still a miss, no matter how big the swing, no matter how lousy the other batters in the lineup. What this feels like is a very different kind of horror movie poorly grafted onto the Friday the 13th template, then chopped up in the editing bay, either because it ran too long or because somebody had the good sense to realize the performances and story made not a lick of sense. At least Jason X, for all its faults, had some fun with its bizarro take on the series.
                              Head Prevenge Hell House LLC Ox-Head Village
                              • Is Head even a movie? It’s something, all right. Whatever that is, it’s more than a little arty-pretentious, very much of its time, and it all kind of just washes over you more than anything else.
                                • Prevenge is darkly funny, sometimes surprisingly tender, and good fun.
                                  • It’s hard to tell if Hell House LLC gets some parts of the found-footage horror format exceptionally right, or if there are are just some parts of the format that are exceptionally hard to get wrong. The movie has its share of creepy moments and jump-scares, and marrying the format to the haunted house attraction is a neat idea. But it feels very padded, doesn’t do anything genuinely interesting with that idea, and really flubs the ending.
                                    • Ox-Head Village is an oddly haunting, occasionally violently gory, meditation on loss and betrayal and kinship.

                                    I also re-watched both Sorcerer and UHF, which I’ll be the first to admit make for a strange double feature. Sorcerer is an incredibly tense film, a great ’70s update to The Wages of Fear, and UHF is just silly, goofy fun, even if a few of its gags maybe go on a little longer than you remember.

                                    Weekly Movie Roundup

                                    I watched an assortment of five movies last week:

                                    American Fiction Sounder Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour Wings Warrior
                                    • There’s a lot going on in American Fiction, sometimes almost too much, and certainly a lot more than just the satire of publishing and race that the trailers suggest. That’s in there, and it’s a smart and biting satire, but there’s also a very touching character study and family drama rattling around inside too.
                                      • Paul Winfield really is exceptionally good in Sounder.
                                        • I’m not even that big a Taylor Swift fan—I mean, I like her and several of her songs well enough, but I come to even that still scattershot appreciation fairly late. And yet, it’s hard to watch the three-hour, terrifically staged concert footage of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour and not walk away genuinely impressed and wanting more.
                                          • What Wings manages to do, entirely without any special effects beyond its own invented camera trickery, is even now, almost a century later, nothing short of astounding. That this silent film also manages to tell such an engaging story is remarkable as well.
                                            • It’s easy to see how Warrior wouldn’t be half as effective if it wasn’t as well put together, or if the performances in it weren’t so strong. It’s not a terrifically surprising story, but often powerfully engaging.

                                            I also re-watched The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Maggie Smith is still fantastic in it, but I think I forgot how very much this is Pamela Franklin’s movie. Hers is the character with an actual arc—defined against Jean Brodie’s inability or unwillingness to grow, despite her constant admonishments to her girls to the contrary. I was struck, on this re-watch, how unlikable and yet tragic Brodie is as a character.