Hey, remember when I used to actually write things for this blog? Things about comic books and video games and all sorts of fun stuff? Or hey, how about when I started slacking off, but the awesome Jenny Incompetence kept the blog going in spite of my laziness? Perhaps 2014 will be the year where I get this shit rolling again, but in 2013 I was busy watching way, way too many movies.
Let’s run the numbers! In 2010, I watched 152 movies. In 2011: 198 movies. In 2012: 300 movies. All of those are really disturbingly high numbers, but in 2013 I upped the ante to a crazy degree, clocking in at a disgusting total of 368 fucking movies!! For those of you unwilling or unable to do the math, that is an average of about 1.008 movies a day. God damn it, I am so ashamed. Read on for the full report on every movie I watched. For your convenience, I’ve included a link to the movies which are available to stream on Netflix – sorry I didn’t do the same for Hulu or Amazon or any other services, but I don’t have them, so fuck it. Anyway, here we go:
Django Unchained (January 1)
In a somewhat unprecedented turn of events, I saw my first movie this year by actually going to a movie theater! I know very little about the original Django character (aside from the fact that he dwwags his coffin awound, all awound town), but I like westerns and I still sorta reluctantly like Tarantino, so I wanted to check this out. I had some issues with the movie, specifically with the Christoph Waltz character. While he was both highly entertaining and emotionally stirring, I felt like his presence really prevented this from being Django’s own story. And in a movie with race issues so up front, it seems problematic to have the whole story be about a noble white man constantly saving a downtrodden slave’s ass. But, these issues have been written about by many people far more articulate than myself, so I will just say that they did not prevent me from loving what was otherwise a moving, fun, and badass revenge flick.
FDR: American Badass! (January 3)
The recent trend of pitting important historical figures against monsters has been one I’ve welcomed with arms wide open, and FDR: American Badass is the cream of the goddamn crop. The premise – that the axis leaders of World War II are all secretly werewolves who President Roosevelt must destroy – is an inspired one to begin with, but what elevates this to the status of AWESOMEST MOVIE EVER is Brian Bostwick‘s brilliant portrayal of the Delano. This is the funniest movie I have seen in a long, long time, and if you’re not already foaming at the mouth to see this thing, you might want to check your fucking pulse.
Django (January 4)
As I said, I’d never seen any of the classic Django movies, so I decided I should rectify that. I was somewhat surprised to discover that the Tarantino movie had literally nothing in common with the franchise it was supposedly rebooting, aside from the same general historical setting, and the lead character’s name. I mean, I hadn’t assumed that Django Unchained was a shot-for-shot remake of anything, but why even dwag Django’s name into your project if it’s an entirely different character and story? Weird. Anyway, this was pretty much like any other spaghetti western I’ve ever seen: long periods of boredom interrupted by brief moments of moderate entertainment, and lots of pretty scenery. It was a pleasant enough thing to have on in the background while I played Super Mario Bros. on my Wii U gamepad, but it didn’t exactly inspire me to seek out its six trillion sequels.
The 4th Square (January 4)
Years ago, Chris Clavin of Plan-It-X Records made this feature-length movie with his friends, and he recently put it up on youtube for the world to see. Despite being a long-time fan of this dude’s bands and record label, I hadn’t been previously aware of this project, and I found it delightful. It’s a fun little coming-of-age type story about a punk kid who attempts to win the heart of a girl by forming a four square team with his friends. Featuring appearances from members of This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, The Max Levine Ensemble, and other rad bands, this movie is sweet, charming, and fun. If you are the type who doesn’t mind budgetless, sub-Troma DIY production values in a motion picture, then why not give this one a shot? Here’s the entire thing on YouTube:
Rise of the Black Bat (January 5)
Studios like The Asylum make a mint by releasing cheap knock-offs of the latest blockbuster movies, but the producers of Rise of the Black Bat came up with a really inventive twist on this concept. By taking advantage of the huge amount of superheroes who are in the public domain, the studio was able to produce an adaptation of an “authentic” superhero, while at the same time releasing a Dark Knight Rises mockbuster. Clever! Yes, Black Bat is a real superhero from the 1930’s, and he is actually pretty damn cool, almost like an early prototype of Daredevil. Sadly, however, this movie is super dull. If you’re interested in checking the character out, I’d recommend skipping the flick and reading the comic Masks from Dynamite Entertainment instead.
Hitchcock (January 5)
The Girl (January 6)
These are two separate, unrelated Alfred Hitchcock biopics. However, since Hitchcock focuses specifically on the making of the classic film Psycho, and The Girl focuses on the making of Psycho‘s follow-up The Birds, the latter ends up acting as an immediate chronological sequel to the former. The two films also share the same agenda: exposing Hitchcock’s disgusting treatment of the women in his life, from his ever-suffering wife to all the various actresses he obsessively tortured. Hitchcock paints the man in a slightly better light than The Girl, but both portray him as an insanely abusive womanizer. Man, if even half of the shit in these movies was true, Hitchcock was basically an evil fucking ogre! Anyway, it’s pretty fun watching these movies back to back if you’ve got the patience for like four straight hours of this crap, but if you must pick only one, go with Hitchcock. It’s a much better film, and you get to see Hitchcock portrayed by the excellent Anthony Hopkins, rather than a creepy little circus monster.
Lincoln (January 6)
On to yet another biopic, this time highlighting everyone’s favorite vampire hunter and San Dimas High School football fan, Abraham Lincoln. A lot of people warned me that this movie was super boring, but I found myself completely transfixed from beginning to end, mostly due to My Left Foot’s incredible, almost hypnotizing portrayal of Lincoln. Obviously, this is far more serious fare than the gonzo alternate history nonsense I’ve been raving about lately, but Lincoln is just one of those dudes who is just as interesting when he’s debating about constitutional amendments as he is when he’s chopping a zombie’s head off.
Frankenweenie (January 7)
The original Frankenweenie is one of my favorite things ever, so I was a little bit apprehensive about this feature-length re-imagining, especially in light of the fucking travesty which resulted from the last Burton/Disney team-up. Well, I am pleased to report that the new Frankenweenie is just as charming, magical, adorable and heartbreaking as the original short film, if not more so. In fact, if it wasn’t for the bizarre and gross inclusion of one shockingly racist character, the movie would be perfect.
Psycho (1998) (January 10)
The original Psycho has been one of my favorite movies for years, but I always had two major problems with it: Janet Leigh was way too beautiful and interesting, and Anthony Perkins was way too subtle when he jerked off. Thank god for this remake!!
Cleanflix (January 10)
This documentary is about a company that edited Hollywood movies to make them more “appropriate” for lunatic Mormon audiences, and then rented the ruined movies from a handful of Utah stores. This is obviously a gross, immoral and pathetic thing to do, but is it legal? Spoiler alert: No, it’s not. And there is nothing more satisfying than watching these scumbags (one of whom is a genuine fucking pedophile) get their shitty little organization sued into non-existence.
Searching For Sugar Man (January 11)
I knew the basic premise of this documentary ( an American musician wallows in obscurity, only to find out years later that he has achieved Beatles-like fame in South Africa), but put off watching it because, due to the title, I assumed that the guy in question would be some kind of shitty funk musician. His name is Sugar Man, for god’s sake! Sugar Man!! I finally forced myself to check it out, and found that Sixto Rodriguez is actually an excellent Dylanesque folk singer type. So in addition to a fascinating, heartwarming story, this film also offers up some really great music.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (January 12)
The animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s classic continues. I was really looking forward to Ben Linus’s performance as The Joker in this one, and he did not disappoint. It was a lot of fun to see all the iconic moments from the story come to life, and it’s amazing how consistently great these DC animated films are. I cannot wait for the upcoming movie based on Grant Morrison’s Batman & Son.
Iron Sky (January 12)
Since the end of World War II, the Nazis have been in hiding on the moon, and hilarity ensues when their secret base is discovered by an African-American astronaut. This type of material can wind up being really funny or really boring, but this movie strikes just the right balance of social satire, goofball comedy, and legitimately awesome sci-fi action. I think the film’s one major misstep was the decision to make the President of the United States a Sarah Palin analogue. This is a little too on-the-nose satire-wise, and instantly dates the movie. Aside from that, this shit is super fun, hilarious, and even better than the similarly-themed Nazis at the Center of the Earth. Highly recommended!
Bad Kids Go to Hell (January 13)
Several forty-year old teenagers have to contend with a ghost while serving detention. One interesting thing about this movie is how much it alludes to The Breakfast Club, from its premise, to its lookalike set, to an appearance by Judd Nelson himself. Aside from that little fun fact, this is one of the shittiest movies I have ever seen in my entire goddamn life.
Paranormal Activity 4 (January 15)
I thought the first three movies were tolerable enough, but at this point, fuck it, I’m done with this shit.
Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (January 15)
This is a summer camp slasher movie from 2012 that strives for the spirit of summer camp slasher movies of the 70’s and 80’s. It falls short of that goal, in my opinion, but it gets an E for Effort.
All Superheroes Must Die (January 15)
The problem with making a low-budget superhero movie is that superheroes by nature are dazzling and spectacular. There are certainly ways to circumvent this obstacle, but dropping a bunch of kids in shitty masks into junkyard sets is not really one of them. This is awful.
House at the End of the Street (January 16)
This sucked. Sorry I watched so many sucky movies in a row, you guys!
Age of the Hobbits (January 16)
This film’s claim to fame is that it was the first Asylum mockbuster to be successfully sued for copyright infringement, leading to its title being changed to Clash of the Empires. The irony is that, while the original title was clearly meant to capitalize on that other Hobbit movie, this is one of the Asylum’s least rip-offy rip-offs. Rather than furry-toed fantasy creatures, the film focuses on a tribe of homo floresiensis, a prehistoric ancestor of mankind that actually existed, and have apparently been nicknamed “hobbits” by the scientific community. The Asylum bent over backwards to create this loophole, and in doing so, accidentally stumbled upon a fairly unique idea for a movie. You can tell, when watching it, that the filmmakers actually gave a little bit of a shit this time around, and the result is a movie that is on the upper tier of watchability for this type of crap. That being said, like most Asylum films, it still is boring as hell for at least 40% of its running time.
Cockneys vs. Zombies (January 17)
As you’ve surely realized by now, I will pretty much watch any zombie movie. I’m not sick of them yet, and I’m beginning to suspect that I never will be. Of course, this obviously leads me to watching a lot of awful, awful movies (many of which you will read about later on this list). So it is always a glee-inducing surprise when I throw a zombie movie on, and it ends up being great. Cockneys vs. Zombies is great. Watch it.
Dredd (January 18)
I have never read Judge Dredd comics, but even I realized that the Sylvester Stallone movie was really, really wrong. And while I have no idea if this new version gets the character and world “right,” I do know that it is an excellent action movie. While most movies of this type feel the need to have their action constantly moving from one elaborate set piece to another, this one takes its cues from the granddaddy of modern action, Die Hard, and traps everyone in a single shitty skyscraper. This choice really works to the movie’s advantage, and allows it to focus on action and tension, instead of establishing a new setting every ten minutes. I wish more movies in this genre would allow themselves to be a little bit smaller, because it really, really works.
Some Guy Who Kills People (January 19)
I loved this sweet and funny little movie about a lonely guy who was recently released from a mental hospital, and wants to get his life on the right track, but just can’t stop killing people. If you are a person like me, who really wished Dexter had lived up to the potential of its premise, maybe you will also like this film. Plus, FDR himself – Barry Bostwick – makes another incredible appearance here, so that alone should be enough incentive to check it out.
Dial M For Murder (January 19)
A running theme of my annual movie write-ups has been my sloooow quest to catch up on the works of Hitchcock, and here is another one checked off the list. This was an entertaining enough caper, but it really should have been called Dial K For Key because holy shit you guys, this is basically a story about a fucking key, and who has the key, and where is the key, and oh my god I didn’t expect you to have the key! For fuck’s sake, doing a Ctrl-F for the word “key” on the movie’s wikipedia description brings up 15 goddamn results! By comparison, the word “murder” appears twice. So yeah, the movie was fine, but by the end of it, I was just so sick of hearing about this fucking key.
Life of Pi (January 20)
I loved this book and was super skeptical that it could be properly adapted as a film. As such, I skipped it during its theatrical run, and oh my god do I regret that decision! Aside from the story, which is translated almost perfectly from the novel, the visuals in this thing are just breathtaking, and I can’t believe I missed my chance to see them in a big-ass IMAX 3-D setting. Oh well. On a similar note, the tiger in this movie is one of the most lifelike CGI creations I have ever seen in my life. I dare you to watch this shit and accurately guess when you’re looking at a real-life animal, and when you’re looking at a computer-generated creature. You can’t do it, you fucking liar. This movie is perfect.
2010: Moby Dick (January 21)
Barry Bostwick had been stealing my heart all month with his hilarious performances in FDR: American Badass! and Some Guy Who Kills People, and I figured that throwing him into an Asylum film would either allow him to chew the scenery up perfectly, or would weigh his performance down with a dull, plodding narrative. Unfortunately, the latter turned out to be the case. Yawnsville.
Night of the Living Dead: Re-Animation (January 21)
Despite its title, this movie has a hell of a lot more in common with the Return of the Living Dead franchise than it does with George Romero’s series of films. If you’re like me, you might initially think this is a good thing, since Rave to the Grave was light years better than anything Romero has done since 1985. However, like me, you’d be wrong. This movie sucks.
Silent House (January 21)
This psychological thriller starring the Olsen Twins’ hot sister is most well-known for its gimmick of having the entire movie appear to have been filmed in real-time in a single shot. This is actually an illusion, it turns out, but it’s a damn well-crafted and effective one, which adds a great deal of immediacy and tension to what otherwise is a pretty slow film. So I give this one high marks for its inventiveness, but I was still bored to death most of the time.
Nature Calls (January 22)
Patton Oswalt as a tragically old-fashioned and posi Scoutmaster leading a troop of kids who couldn’t give a fuck about scouting on a camping trip – sounds like a great premise for a comedy, right? I thought so too, but this is seriously one of the least funny movies I’ve ever seen. What a shame.
Sinister (January 23)
It seems like Ethan Hawke is becoming the go-to guy for boring, gutless mainstream horror movies. His utter blandness is a perfect fit for this story about a family who moves into a scary house and then scary stuff happens sometimes.
Resident Evil: Retribution (January 24)
Another year, another dumbass Resident Evil movie, another instance of me being completely entertained in spite of all logic and self-respect. If I remember correctly, this one introduces the concept of Las Plagas to the Resident Evil movie universe, and it’s just as stupid and disrespectful of the source material as anything else in this franchise, and I am ashamed to find myself grinning like an idiot anyway.
McBain (Rifftrax version) (January 25)
Not to be confused with the classic Ranier Wolfcastle character, this is a shitty action movie from 1991 which inexplicably stars Christopher Walken. As the Rifftrax guys point out, it is mind-blowing that this is the kind of thing Walken was stuck doing a mere three years before Pulp Fiction (and just ONE year before Batman Returns). Anyway, this is a typical dumb 80’s action movie which was released a couple of years too late to truly fit into that category, and the Rifftrax guys have a lot of fun with it.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (January 26)
I never made it through the Lord of the Rings books as a kid, but I loved the shit out of The Hobbit. The reason for this is that the two stories have entirely different styles and tones, and holy shit I wish somebody had pointed that out to Peter Jackson before he made this fucking movie! Maybe then he wouldn’t have felt the need to inject a dark and foreboding ambiance into what is essentially a light-hearted fairy tale for children. Maybe he wouldn’t have shoehorned a bunch of shitty Lord of the Rings characters and concepts into the story, emulating the most embarrassing moments of the Star Wars prequels. But even all that bullshit would have been more palatable if this had been a fun little movie based on The Hobbit instead of the first of three 180-minute epics based on a single 300-page children’s book. I mean, the most frustrating thing about this movie is that the scenes which are actually taken from the novel are fantastic, and bring the story to life wonderfully. Unfortunately, while waiting for these iconic moments, you have to sit through hours of pointless filler, created solely for the purpose of milking this franchise for a few more years. I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, and I loved the book The Hobbit, but I fucking hate what happened with this soulless, cash-grabbing fucking movie.
The Collection (January 27)
The Collector (January 27)
This is a series of two awesome serial killer movies, which I unfortunately watched in the wrong order. If you ever want to watch them, please remember that The Collector is the first movie, and The Collection is the sequel. And they definitely should be viewed in the correct sequence, because the second movie really ups the ridiculousness ante to an insane degree. I guess I’d put this series in the same general category as stuff like Saw and Hostel, but I think there is way more imagination at play here. Recommended!
Chopping Mall (January 27)
Slaughter High (January 27)
Like many horror movies of this era, I was well aware of these solely from looking at their awesome box art at Blockbuster Video, but had never actually seen them. This Dinosaur Dracula article inspired me to rectify that situation, and I’m so glad I did. Slaughter High is a typical slasher, but Chopping Mall has more of a weird technology-gone-wrong sci-fi element to it. Still, both will deliver exactly what you expect from them: teenagers hanging out and having a good time until blood starts inevitably gushing from their sliced throats. Pure fun!
The Hole (January 28)
Remember all the joy Joe Dante brought you with stuff like Gremlins and Explorers and that one awesome episode of Amazing Stories? Well, he’s back putting children in peril again, and he hasn’t missed a goddamn beat. The Hole is about some kids who find a mysterious hole in their basement, and what ensues is the perfect blend of adventure, scariness, pathos and heart that you remember from Dante’s best work. If you have fond memories of the way this guy’s movies made you feel, The Hole will make you feel that way again.
So Undercover (January 29)
First of all, I am going to resist using this movie as a platform to comment on all the wacky shit Miley Cyrus has done since its release. I choose to ignore that shit. All I know is that she was Hannah Montana, and I loved Hannah Montana, and I wanted to see what she would do next. Unfortunately, in addition to all her other problems, she also has a really fucking boring and pointless movie on her resume. I’ve seen a lot of Disney Channel Original Movies, which have a reputation for being really cheesy and cloying, and this is infinitely worse than any of those. Sigh. I really had high hopes for Miley, and this is more disappointing than any amount of twerking or Beetlejuice-humping could ever be.
American Mary (February 2)
This movie came very highly recommended by people I trust, was undeniably a well made movie, and starred one of my favorite horror movie actresses, but for some reason, I just found myself really disliking it. I can’t really articulate what went wrong here, because all the right pieces seemed to be in place, but this one definitely crashed and burned for me. Maybe you’ll feel differently?
Small Soldiers (February 2)
I guess watching The Hole inspired me to revisit Joe Dante’s previous kiddie movie, and holy moly, Small Soldiers passes the test of time like a motherfucker. Once again: adventure, character, heart, blablabla. Also, I had the hugest fucking crush on Kirsten Dunst back when I first saw this movie, and now I am so ashamed of myself.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (February 3)
If you know me at all, you know that I get the biggest boner for stupid Nicolas Cage movies. The stupider the better. This fetish is so out of control that I even enjoyed the first Ghost Rider movie. But you guys, even going into it with that kind of mindset, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is unwatchable. UNWATCHABLE!!
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (February 3)
I watched the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo back in 2012, and I really enjoyed it. The American remake sticks pretty closely to the same story, and as such, a lot of the impact was lost for me. But that’s my problem – both versions are good, and worth seeing, so choose either one and check it out.
Compliance (February 8)
This thriller is about a man who calls a fast food restaurant under the pretense of being a police officer conducting an investigation, and proceeds to manipulate its employees into performing abusive and humiliating acts on each other. This guy is a real jerk! As the orders he gives the employees intensify, you will find yourself growing more and more skeptical about the film’s realism. This is completely implausible, you’ll say. I know human beings, and no human being would behave the way these people are behaving! I’m not buying it, you dumb bullshit movie!! And then you will read about how it’s based on a true story, and you will need to spend an hour watching Disney Channel sitcoms and holding yourself just to feel human again.
The ABCs of Death (February 8)
This anthology of 26 mini-movies, each inspired by a letter of the alphabet, got a lot of attention this year due to its clever gimmick. And the gimmick definitely works – new concepts, styles, and visuals fly in and out of your consciousness so quickly that you find yourself perpetually dazed and excited, almost like a fucked up horror movie WarioWare. Once you catch your breath, however, you sort of realize that it all amounted to maybe 4 or 5 cool segments among 26. The crap definitely outweighs the gold here, but as a whole, The ABC’s of Death is interesting and different enough to be worth your time.
The Tunnel (February 9)
An Australian found footage movie in which a team of journalists venture into an abandoned subway tunnel and encounter scary stuff. I guess it says a lot about my impression of the movie that, sitting here right now, I cannot remember what the scary stuff even was. Monsters, maybe? Like, some kind of mutated creatures? I don’t remember at all. I guess don’t bother with this one.
My Boyfriend’s Back (February 9)
Warm Bodies had just come out, and although I wouldn’t end up seeing it until May 18th, I was kind of stoked on it. Mostly because the trailers reminded me of an old favorite of mine, My Boyfriend’s Back. So I just watched My Boyfriend’s Back. It was free.
What About Bob? (February 9)
Another old favorite, and one of Bill Murray‘s awesomest performances. It’s kind of frustrating to watch though, because everyone is constantly mad at poor Richard Dreyfuss for being mean to Bob, but he is well within his rights to be mean to Bob! It drives me crazy that his family would chastise him for denying a psychopath’s attempt to completely invade his life. It’s infuriating! But now that I think about it, I guess that’s the whole point of the movie, right?
WarGames (February 9)
Believe it or not, this one is not an old favorite, and in fact, I had never even seen it before! But I had recently read the brilliant novel Ready Player One, which I don’t think I’m spoiling too much by saying that the plot heavily involves the movie WarGames at one point. So I decided to finally check the movie out, and hey whaddaya know, it’s as great as everyone says it is! But you don’t need me to tell you that since you’ve probably seen it 50 times, so instead let me tell you that you should go read Ready Player One!
The Cabin in the Woods (February 9)
I rewatched my favorite movie of 2012, and one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Check out last year’s movie round-up for my thoughts on it. Hey, did you guys hear about the Cabin in the Woods haunted house at Universal Studios?? I would have killed every single person reading this, slowly and painfully, to walk through that thing.
Flight of the Navigator (February 10)
Another childhood favorite, this one blew my fucking mind as a kid. If Something Wicked This Way Comes sparked my interest in horror, and The NeverEnding Story got me into fantasy, then Flight of the Navigator gave me my first boner for science fiction. More so than even the spaceship and the aliens and the Pee Wee Herman computer, what really intrigued me was the concept of the boy aging at a different rate than his family. His little brother was older than him! That set my imagination on fire, and started a lifelong love affair with all things time travel. And if that wasn’t enough to love, there was also the puckmarin. THE FUCKING PUCKMARIN!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hiding Out (February 10)
Strangely enough, this is my favorite 80’s teen movie, eclipsing The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles and all that stuff, in my head and in my heart. I’m honestly not sure why, since it’s not really that great a movie, but it just always spoke to me somehow. I’m not sure if anyone besides me has even heard of this movie, so I’ll tell you that it stars Jon Cryer as a businessman who is on the run from the mob, so he poses as a punky-haired anarchist teenager and enrolls in high school with his nephew or cousin or someone, who is played by that kid from the babysitting movies. Fish-out-of-water hi-jinx, barely legal love interests, and crazy gymnasium shootouts ensue.
Blazing Saddles (February 10)
For some reason, Mel Brooks movies just do not hold up for me. I loved them as a kid, and I recognize them for being brilliant and groundbreaking and blablabla, but nowadays when I watch them, I don’t go “ha” ever. I’m not happy or proud, people, but that’s the way it is. I think the work of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker holds up way better.
Goobers! (February 11)
I was about to type that this shitty movie was a cheap attempt to cash in on the Gremlins/Critters/Ghoulies trend of the mid-80’s, but then I looked it up and realized it was from 1997. What the holy fuck??
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (February 16)
Disney freak that I am, I kind of wanted to see this movie anyway, and then the wonderful How Did This Get Made? podcast finally gave me an excuse to. I liked it quite a bit. It would be difficult to defend the film against accusations that it’s overly saccharine or that it has a totally bizarro premise, except to say that it all makes sense if you think of the story as a whimsical fairy tale. And isn’t that what a Disney movie is supposed to be?
Pop Punk Zombies (February 17)
As a lifelong pop punk kid, I was really hoping this teeny indie movie might finally provide a fairly accurate representation of my little subculture. But it turned out to be the same old dumbass representation of the music scene that is in every movie ever – managers and hits and “big breaks” and stuff like that. You get the idea. Very disappointing, and on top of that, the music sucks too. Oh, and so does the movie. Not recommended for a fan of pop punk or zombies. To make up for this piece of crap, here is Barbara by the Connie Dungs:
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (Rifftrax version) (February 17)
It was high time for another viewing of Birdemic, which has achieved classic status to me over the past couple of years. This time I was hangin’ out, hangin’ out, hangin’ out with the Rifftrax guys, having ourselves a paaaaaarty! Oh god, what am I doing with my life?
Dick Tracy (February 18)
What I’m doing with my life is watching Dick Tracy on my birthday, and that’s pretty cool! Right?
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (February 19)
The very first movie I wrote about back in 2010 was the original Night at the Museum, and now I’ve finally seen the sequel. A little bit of the charm of the first movie has evaporated by this point, but this is still a pretty fun time.
Song of the South (February 26)
The last time I was at Walt Disney World, I was perusing a gift shop when I happened to notice a multi-pack of vinyl action figures specifically featuring characters from Disney theme park attractions. Figment was included, as were a Country Bear, a Hitchhiking Ghost, and… Br’er Rabbit. So it seems like Disney is bending over backwards to insist that the Br’er characters originated from Splash Mountain, and movie – what movie?? For me, this begs the question of why the hell Disney decided, in 1989, to base a major new attraction on a film which it had actively been trying to sweep into the dustbin of history – especially considering that, in my opinion, the ride is no less troubling than the movie itself. And the movie is problematic, but nowhere near as much as its reputation might lead one to assume. Its portrayal of post-slavery race relations in the Southern US might seem disgustingly revisionist from a modern perspective, but I honestly believe that in 1946, this was a genuine attempt to be progressive and elevating, and its failure was one of naivete rather than malice or irresponsibility. And more than anything, it’s just an extremely fun and charming movie, which deserves more of a legacy than sitting in a log and getting soaked. So here’s to you, br’ers! I’m sorry your laughing place ended up being so hard to find.
Mystery Men (February 26)
Comedic deconstructions of the superhero genre have been a dime a dozen for at least a decade now, so it’s easy to forget that when Mystery Men was released in 1999, this was still a somewhat fresh and unique concept. So maybe if I had seen it for the first time back then instead of in 2013, it would have been more enjoyable to me. But in a post-Kick-Ass world, it just kind of lands with a dull thud.
The Avengers (Rifftrax version) (February 28)
The thing about superhero movies is that even when they are legitimately great (and The Avengers is, without any doubt, a fucking masterpiece), they are still completely ridiculous and absurd at a base level. Far from being a flaw, I think this makes such films uniquely qualified to stand up to repeated viewings through a variety of different lenses – including the irony-soaked eyes of a jaded and detached MST3K fan. And the Rifftrax for Avengers is consistently hilarious, but in the interest of full disclosure I should say that the biggest laugh for me was when Kevin Murphy called the Incredible Hulk a “big dumb homo.” So yeah, this is a fun experience, but make sure your inner dickhead 12-year-old is along for the ride.
Man-Thing (February 28)
On the far opposite side of the comic book adaptation spectrum from The Avengers is crap like Man-Thing. The Marvel character upon which it is based is a great one, with an interesting story that these filmmakers obviously did not give a flying fuck about. I honestly can’t understand the logic behind licensing a character like the Man-Thing for a film that is similar to its source material only in name and in its most basic aesthetic features. Even a complete travesty like Catwoman makes way more sense to me, because at least the name “Catwoman” carries enough weight in the larger mainstream world to potentially get asses into seats. But the only seat-asses a lesser-known character like Man-Thing could possibly attract are the same handful of dedicated fans who will be unanimously pissed off at such a dismissive portrayal. So why not save yourself the licensing costs and just make up your own swamp monster for your shitty low-budget slasher movie? Mind-boggling. Anyway, Man-Thing is cool, and I hope one day he gets the movie that he deserves. Because this one just isn’t giant-sized.
Masters of the Universe (February 28)
Even as a kid I couldn’t understand the thinking behind this movie. With a fictional universe as colorful and fun as this one, why bring it all to life only to awkwardly set it in the mundane real world? This kind of weird meta-adaptation can sometimes make sense, if it is released as a nostalgia-fueled self-satire decades later (The Brady Bunch Movie is a great example), but this shit was released right at the height of He-Man mania and presented itself as a serious, straight-faced big screen version. So kids go see it expecting epic battles in Eternia, and have to watch He-Man going to the high school prom or whatever the fuck. Having said all that, this movie is fun and bizarro enough to entertain me on a Super Mario Bros-esque level, but man, what a wasted opportunity.
Alter Egos (March 1)
This is a way more successful attempt to create a low-budget character-driven superhero movie than All Superheroes Must Die, but it was still mostly sucky.
Dark Tower (March 1)
Sadly, this is not the long-rumored adaptation of Stephen King’s epic series of novels, but is rather an excruciatingly dull 80’s movie about a haunted skyscraper. Later this year, I would find myself falling in love with its star Michael Moriarty, but he owns my heart in spite of Dark Tower, not because of it. Avoid.
This Film is Not Yet Rated (March 1)
The goal of this documentary is to prove that the MPAA – the organization responsible for attaching content ratings to movies – is completely full of shit. And while I totally agree with the filmmakers’ opinions, and the reasoning behind them, I despise the disgusting, troll-like methods they used to reach their conclusions. There are points in the movie where the founders and higher-ups of the MPAA are put under a microscope, and that is perfectly reasonable and to be expected. However, there is another avenue the filmmakers concurrently pursue, and that’s the part I find super gross. Now, it is entirely possible I misinterpreted certain things while watching this, but here is the situation the film presented from my point of view: There are people hired by the MPAA to watch movies and then use their judgment to assign ratings to them. The documentary’s assertion is that this system is flawed, due to these employees being specifically chosen to fit the MPAA’s agenda, and being wildly unqualified to make the judgments they are asked to make. These facts are undoubtedly true. However, the employees themselves are just that – employees. The shitty agendas being pushed are not necessarily their agendas, and the shady demographical reasons why they were chosen were not their choice – they are just regular people who got hired to do a job, and then went out and did the job they were hired to do. And as a result, the people making this documentary decided they deserved to be spied on and harassed by private detectives, and have their names and personal information exposed in a movie, as if they’re fucking war criminals. It seems to me like a completely unscrupulous invasion of privacy, aimed at people who don’t deserve it at all, and are not really the root of the problem. It really bothered me, which is a bummer, because it dilutes the very valid and important point the movie is trying to make.
The Frankenstein Theory (March 5)
I am unapologetic about my enjoyment of the found footage genre, but even I would never have wagered that such a movie about the goddamned Frankenstein monster could be successful. But surprisingly, this movie was pretty damn solid. Like a lot of movies of this ilk (especially the lower-budgeted ones) the focus is way more on the characters talking about the monster than actually encountering it, but that kind of tension is specifically what I dig about these films.
The Losers (March 6)
Recently I have become slightly obsessed with Jack Kirby, specifically the comics he wrote and illustrated, and even more specifically, his DC Comics stuff from the 1970’s. One of the things I read and really enjoyed was his run on the WWII-set war comic The Losers, and so I got excited to see the recent film adaptation. As it turns out, the movie has little in common with the comics I read, and was actually based on a more modern Vertigo reboot of the concept by Andy Diggle and Jock. This was slightly disappointing, but I still found myself really loving the movie, largely due to its excellent cast (which features, among others, Captain America, Charles Miner, and The Comedian). Writing about the movie reminds me that after I saw it, I meant to check out the Vertigo comic but never did, so let’s add that to the list of New Year’s resolutions!
The Dream Team (March 6)
A team very different than The Losers are The Dream Team, the stars of a movie I inexplicably fucking loved as a 10-year-old. I think I just liked seeing Batman and Doc Brown running around New York together. Revisiting it for the first time in 20 years went like these sorts of things almost always go: little trace is left of the magic that somehow captured me as a child, but it’s still an enjoyable enough way to pass a couple of hours.
The Man with the Iron Fists (March 6)
An excellent kung fu movie written, directed, starring, and soundtracked by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. Martial arts stuff is the one niche genre I never really developed any particular affection for (aside from Riki-Oh of course), but you’d have to be clinically dead not to enjoy the off-the-wall, insane-ass action on display here. RZA is the best!!
Cool as Ice (Rifftrax version) (March 6)
I saw this for the first time back in 2011, and wondered why this incredibly zany Vanilla Ice vehicle wasn’t regarded as a cult classic among people who love bad movies. Now, with its very own Rifftrax commentary, it’s one step closer! Imagine that.
Riddle (March 7)
Ugh, this shit is fucking dreadful. People love to complain that there are too many near-identical slashers or creature features or found footage films, but you never hear anyone bitch about the absolutely bottomless well of crappy, half-ass psychological drama type movies that are all over Netflix. Well, I am raising my voice, and I will be heard! Movies like this need to fucking go.
Robot & Frank (March 8)
I feel like I end up using the same adjectives over and over again in these descriptions. Wonderful, magical, beautiful, touching, hilarious, unique. All perfect descriptors of Robot & Frank, a science fiction film in which an elderly ex-jewel thief suffering from dementia reluctantly accepts a robot caretaker into his life. But I’m sick of those words! So I will consult www.thesaurus.com. Robot & Frank is pleasing, spellbinding, graceful, poignant, lively, and uncommon.
Oz the Great and Powerful (March 8)
I love Disney, probably to the point of mental illness. I completely adore Sam Raimi. I grew up with both the film The Wizard of Oz and the Oz book series, and hold them both in the highest regard. I think James Franco can be a brilliant actor. So as you might imagine, my anticipation for Oz the Great and Powerful was through the goddamn roof. And while I was definitely setting myself up for disappointment, there’s no way I could have anticipated that this might end up being THE WORST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SAT THROUGH IN A MOVIE THEATER. But unless I’m forgetting some other awful piece of shit, then I think that’s exactly what this was. March 8th was a long time ago, but I will do my best to remember some of the many things I hated about it:
-Oz is meant to be a boisterous turn-of-the-century carnival conman, who is suddenly swept away to a dangerous and mystical fantasyland which challenges all his notions of reality, as well as his own morality. Yet, James Franco’s portrayal of this character is nearly identical to that of his bored, apathetic teenage stoner character from Freaks and Geeks. I know Franco is a good actor who is capable of range, so this had to be a conscious choice that somebody made at some point. Baffling.
-The three witches from the Oz stories are really iconic, and this movie was a great opportunity to explore their motivations in a new and interesting way, and make them awesome, powerful, three-dimensional characters. Instead we get some of the most pathetically sexist female characterizations since, like, Silver Age Lois and Lana. Their motivations are pretty much all about petty jealousy, wanting to be pretty, and how much they all want the wizard of Oz to kiss them. Gross.
-The Oz stories are almost all about lengthy, adventurous journeys through a variety of mystical landscapes. This is portrayed in the film by having the actors walk in place, while a green screen displays screenshots from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in the background. What makes this especially crushing is that the very few times actual sets are used, they look great!
-That horrible, horrible Scrubs monkey. Fucking kill it.
-When Mila Kunis turns into the Wicked Witch of the West (SPOILER!), she looks exactly like Jim Carrey Mask:
There was way more that I hated, but I can’t really remember any more now. Hopefully that’s enough to convince you that this isn’t worth your time at all. Go watch the original or Return to Oz again. Or reread the books, or – oh my god – check out Marvel Comics’ incredible Oz series. Anything but this shit.
Would You Rather (March 9)
Sigh… well, we are finally at the point in my movie blogging career where I feel compelled to share some of my masturbation habits. It was bound to happen sooner or later. So, sometimes I watch pornography on the internet, and like anybody with a penis and any taste at all, I think of Sasha Grey as the best porno person of all time. Now look, you guys, I enjoy porn sometimes, but I’m not, like, a porn aficionado or anything. I usually don’t get attached to any specific porn movie or actress for more than about ten minutes at a time, tops. But I like Sasha Grey enough that I was actually rooting for her foray into real-deal movie-acting to be successful. So my penis and I were heartbroken to learn, via Would You Rather, that she is actually an exceedingly awful actress. Like, even worse than you would expect from a porn star. God damn it. Aside from that, Would You Rather is a lousy, entirely forgettable attempt to mix a House on Haunted Hill-esque “trapped at a mysterious dinner party” concept with the calculated brutality of something like Saw. Despite the presence of some decent actors like Jeffrey Combs and the dad from Home Alone, this shit falls pretty flat. Sorry, Sasha! I still want to have sex with you!
Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (March 10)
I guess that after my falling out with Sasha, I felt the need to regain some of my lost innocence back, so I popped in an old Disney Davy Crockett movie. What can I say? It was great.
Castle Freak (March 10)
Here’s Jeffrey Combs again, this time in a movie I love. I saw Castle Freak about fifty times when I was in high school and college, but this is my first time revisiting it since I read the Lovecraft story on which it’s based, The Outsider. It’s about as true to the original story as Combs and Stuart Gordon‘s other big Lovecraft movie, Re-Animator. Which is to say, not very true at all. But I still love it, and the Castle Freak is still one of the grossest, scariest movie monsters ever.
Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach (March 10)
Holy mother of god, has anyone else seen this movie? Has anyone else even heard of it? Forget about the Bob Hoskins or Lou Albano versions – this animated Japanese feature released in 1986 (just a year after the first game) is simultaneously the most insane and the most authentic Mario adaptation ever. Its look brings back fond memories of the art style Nintendo was sometimes using to promote the game back in the 80’s (as exemplified by my beloved childhood sheet set), and the story is the exact kind of hallucinogenic Japanese mindfuck that Super Mario should always be. Plus the music is so great! Ah hell, just watch the entire movie on YouTube right now:
Sorority Party Massacre (March 11)
I don’t really remember this one at all. I’m sure it sucked.
Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver (March 11)
The original Gingerdead Man was a lot of fun, due largely to a fantastic performance by Gary Busey. Busey unfortunately sits this one out, and the film suffers for it. It also suffers for its attempts to split its theming between the original’s cookie/baking/sweets concept, and a new 1970’s theme (I assume I don’t even have to say this, but this sequel sees the Gingerdead Man time-traveling back to the Disco era). I’d like to say the movie is still decent in spite of these shortcomings, but it’s really just a total bore. In case you’re wondering, yes there is a Gingerbread Man 2, but I didn’t watch it until later in the year. Stay tuned…
A Talking Cat!?! (March 12)
So there’s this director named David Decoteau, who sort of made a name for himself by directing a billion horror-tinged softcore gay porn movies, each one stupider and more generic than the last. When a guy like that attempts to branch out with a heartwarming family film, the result is the type of fascinating clusterfuck that only comes along once in a blue moon. A Talking Cat!?! (those are the title’s official punctuation marks, by the way) features an obviously drunk Eric Roberts stumbling into a recording booth to voice the titular feline, who is determined to use his folksy feral wisdom to help two families with their mundane struggles. Almost all the action takes place in a huge, sparsely-furnished tackily-adorned house which was so clearly designed to host gay porn filmings, but is re-purposed here as the home of eccentric software designer Johnny Whitaker. The talking cat’s crudely CGI-animated mouth gradually helps Whitaker to grow closer with his son, and to form a relationship with the single mother and daughter who live down the road. Along the way, we are treated to ridiculous special effects, completely gonzo prop decisions (an itty bitty booklight is re-purposed as a scanner at one point), and because DeCoteau couldn’t help himself, long scenes of shirtless teenage boys in swimming pools. The end result is a work so deliciously horrible that it deserves the elite status reserved for films like The Room and Troll 2 and Birdemic. It is that bad, and that entertaining, and that special. Any fan of bad movies would be remiss to skip this one.
Sand Sharks (March 12)
Sand Sharks is a bad movie that was in the unfortunate position of having to follow up one of the best bad movies ever, so my estimation of it suffered a little because of that. Which is unfair, because CGI shark fins racing through sand is a novel enough concept, and the movie is no less fun than any others of its ilk. If you like shitty SyFy-esque shark movies, this is one of them.
Sound City (March 15)
Guess what, guys? Dave Grohl has a favorite recording studio! Bands he likes went there and made records he likes! This movie is about as entertaining as somebody talking to you for 90 minutes about their favorite recording studio can possibly be, which is to say, mostly unentertaining.
Fun Size (March 15)
This is a Halloween-themed teen comedy that was released on October 26th, 2012. Who the hell releases a Halloween movie on October 26th?? That gives a window of only six days during which anyone might give a shit about your movie! Consequently, no one cared or even heard about this movie until me on March 15th. I went in expecting a Disney Channel-esque teenybopper parade (which, of course, I wouldn’t have minded), but I was pleasantly surprised to find something closer to a teen comedy from the 80’s. Just the fact that the existence of alcohol and sexuality are acknowledged as part of teenagers’ lives is surprising and refreshing to see in a movie like this. It’s also pretty funny, charming and Halloweeny, so yeah, go ahead and add Fun Size to the lighter side of your October playlist!
Nailbiter (March 15)
A mother and her daughters wind up trapped in a storm cellar during a tornado, when mysterious monster-related shit starts happening to them. Nailbiter offers up some unique concepts, which might have been really interesting in a less boring film.
The Mooring (March 15)
Usually, any horror movie that starts with teenagers on a camping trip will end up bringing me some joy, even if it’s not that great. The Mooring is an exception.
The Bay (March 16)
Barry Levinson‘s The Bay freaked me out more than any other found footage movie I’ve seen in a long time. Mutated parasites infect the water of the Chesapeake Bay, a plague is unleashed on a small seaside town, and I become terrified to drink tap water for a week. If you can afford a few days’ worth of Poland Spring, then The Bay is definitely worth watching.
From Justin to Kelly (March 17)
Another assignment for How Did This Get Made? For those who might not remember, this is the film that resulted from the first season of American Idol, as an attempt to elevate its winner and runner-up into Hollywood superstars. The movie is weird and awkward as hell, but I kinda liked it. It felt like a throwback to the time in history when pop stars were given vanity movies just to showcase their talents – the film careers of Elvis and Annette Funicello come to mind. There’s barely a plot or characters here – just pretty locations, goofy hi-jinx, and excuses for songs to break out. Look, these types of films are stupid and shallow, and I understand that they went extinct for very good reasons, but I still appreciate this one little attempt at a resurrection.
Cloud Atlas (March 19)
This is one of those movies that people call pretentious and impenetrable, but don’t listen to that bullshit – it’s a great movie, both thought-provoking and fun, and I think anyone who gives it a chance will love it. The film anachronistically tells several stories from several different time periods, with common themes running through them, and with the same troupe of actors playing different roles. What I like is that a lot of different genres are represented in these subplots – from period romance to farce to action to science fiction. Each individual thread is easy enough to follow, but the format can make it confusing to piece together the bigger thematic picture. If you’re like me, this is one of those movies that you’ll be googling articles about for hours after it ends, so you can go into a second viewing properly equipped. In my opinion, that’s almost always the sign of something special.
Creep Van (March 19)
I’d call this awful low-budget slasher unwatchable except, well, I obviously fucking watched the whole thing. I don’t know what’s wrong with me sometimes. This movie makes me hate myself.
A Little Bit Zombie (March 20)
Another goofy zomedy, specifically the type in which we see the world from the living dead’s point of view. These can be hit or miss – this one is pretty damn good.
Suspicion (March 20)
Murder! (March 21)
Two more Hitchcock movies under my belt. Neither of these really stand up to the man’s best work, but they’re both pretty good. Suspicion is the better of the two, due mostly to Cary Grant, who is always fun to watch.
Breaker! Breaker! (Rifftrax version) (March 23)
Chuck Norris is a trucker who punches other truckers in this 70’s trucker-themed action movie. This movie is boring as hell, and Rifftrax only helps marginally. If you are able to, I would recommend skipping this and watching the similar but much funnier MST3K episode Riding With Death.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 – Dream Warriors (March 23)
As I previously declared in 2010, this is absolutely my favorite Freddy movie, mostly due to the Dream Warriors themselves. They are all interesting and distinct characters with their own kick-ass dream powers, and the story plays out like the secret origin of some fucked up superhero team. Like Darkseid or Galactus, Freddy is too much villain for any one hero to face alone, and it’s awesome watching these kids come together to battle him. FURTHER READING: This concept was explored further in the excellent comic book Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors, and if you want to read me gushing about that, kindly click here.
Five Minutes to Live (March 23)
The legendary Johnny Cash delivers an awesome performance as an unhinged bank robber/kidnapper in this surprisingly great crime suspenstory from 1961. The movie is small in scope, almost like a stage play, but it’s tense as hell and Cash is electrifying in his role as a truly fucked up villain.
The Evil Dead (March 23)
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (March 23)
Army of Darkness (March 23)
The remake was right around the corner, and I was counting the goddamn minutes. I spent 250 of those minutes marathoning the original trilogy, and those were probably the best minutes.
Waxwork (March 23)
A group of teens, including Zach Galligan in his only significant non-Gremlin-related role, must contend with an evil wax museum in this 80’s horror classic. If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie which features both Dracula and the Marquis de Sade, don’t miss Waxwork!
The Slender Man (March 25)
The internet’s scariest meme comes to shitty life in one of the worst horror movies I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit through. I dig the concept of the Slender Man, and I hope one day someone makes a decent movie about him.
The Guy From Harlem (Rifftrax version) (March 25)
The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (Rifftrax version) (March 26)
I briefly covered The Guy From Harlem last year. The Bubble movie is new to me, and while Mike and the gang spent most of their time making fun of John Travolta (and rightfully so), what really shocked me was the ending. After establishing throughout the whole movie that the Boy has a terrible disease and CANNOT LEAVE HIS BUBBLE, the last shot of the movie is him confidently walking outside bubbleless. This is played as if it’s super inspirational, but really it’s a terrible, irresponsible message. If you have a terrible disease, you can’t just wish and hope yourself healthy, even with all the pluck and optimism in the world! Attention people with life-threatening diseases: please don’t cease your treatment and walk out into the sunshine smiling! Please!
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (March 26)
In one of his first movies, Paul Rudd plays the little kid who Jamie Lee Curtis babysat, all grown up. Other than that fun fact, this sequel is totally forgettable. Source: I’ve forgotten all about it.
Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines (Rifftrax version) (March 27)
I remember having extremely mixed feelings about this after seeing it in the movie theater. It sticks closer to the first movie’s ideas about determinism, rather than T2‘s “fate is what you make it” philosophy. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on where your allegiances lie, and all these years later, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. Anyway, Rifftrax makes fun of it real good.
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (March 27)
I bought this DVD at a dollar store years ago, based solely on the title, and only now got around to actually watching it. The internet tells me that this is a shameless rip-off of the Martin and Lewis comedies that were popular at the time of its release in the early 1950’s, but since I’ve never seen any of those, that didn’t really bother me. I mean, it was obvious that the one guy was doing a dead-on impression of Jerry Lewis, but I figured that’s just what people did in 50’s comedies. Bela Lugosi himself is great as a mad jungle scientist, and there are lots of people running around in gorilla suits, so overall, I found this surprisingly entertaining. Does that mean I should check out some of the real Martin and Lewis movies?
One Hundred Years of Evil (March 27)
This semi-comedic faux-documentary explores the idea that Adolf Hitler survived World War II and lived through the 20th century under a false identity. It’s a great concept, and for brief moments here and there the movie lives up to its potential. But for the most part, it’s pretty boring and less imaginative than the premise deserves. You’d be better off just watching this.
Phil Spector (March 28)
This TV movie focuses like a laser on Phil Spector‘s murder trial, which was disappointing to me. I mean, I guess that’s what Spector ended up being most famous for, but FUN FACT: before that all happened, he was an amazing, revolutionary record producer. As a fan of his, and of music in general, I would have liked to see his career in the music industry depicted in the film as well. No such luck. Al Pacino is great as Spector, and this works perfectly fine as a TV movie about a celebrity scandal, but if you’re looking for some kind of overview of Spector’s life and career, look elsewhere.
Killer Mountain (March 28)
Chief from Battlestar Galactica stars as the world’s greatest fat mountain climber, who has to come out of retirement to climb one last mountain, which happens to be swarming with monsters. I forget whether this was good or not, but my guess is that it probably was not.
Friday the 13th Part III (March 29)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (March 29)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (March 29)
I wonder if there was a Friday the 13th marathon on TV or something, because otherwise, this seems like a weird order to watch them in. It is worth noting that each of these movies represent a landmark in Jason’s murdering career. Part 2 introduces him as an all-growed-up killer. In Part III, he first dons his iconic hockey mask. And Part VI is when he sort of transitions from just a fucked up dude living in the woods to an unkillable supernatural zombie monster. So maybe this was just my own little personal Jason highlight reel?
Nothing But Trouble (March 29)
I raved about Nothing But Trouble back in 2010, and this year I had to watch it again to keep up with my How Did This Get Made? duties. Here is what I said about it in my original write-up:
I found myself completely swept away by this movie, which I hadn’t seen since it originally came out in the early 90′s. This is the kind of movie that CGI bullshit has unfortunately rendered almost completely extinct – a movie overflowing with brilliant, imaginative set designs, creature designs, and special effects. It’s not anywhere near as funny as it would like to be, but you won’t care much when you’re poring over all the little details in the rich world presented here. I definitely recommend giving this one a second chance; I guarantee you’ll find something to love about it.
I stand by that opinion.
Forgotten Silver (March 30)
Now this is how you do a mockumentary, 100 Years of Evil! This film by Peter Jackson purports to explore the career of the (fictional) early 1900’s filmmaker Colin McKenzie. McKenzie supposedly made huge advancements in movie-making, which were years ahead of their time, but still languished in obscurity. There are times when this movie is so realistic that you’re almost fooled, and other times when it’s so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh: the perfect formula for a mockumentary! It’s a bummer that this little gem from the middle of Jackson’s career isn’t remembered more fondly. If you’re a fan of Jackson, or have an interest in early film-making, do yourself a favor and check it out.
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (March 31)
Another assignment from How Did This Get Made? Uwe Boll has garnered a well-deserved reputation for making truly dreadful movies based on video games, and this one (apparently based on a PC RPG that I have never heard of) is no exception. Even the usually-entertaining Jason Statham can’t save this misguided, boring piece of garbage. Watching this movie made me realize what a dark age it was for fantasy movies between their heyday in the 1980’s and, well, Game of Thrones. Can you think of more than a handful of truly great fantasy movies from the 90’s and 00’s? I can’t!
Creepshow 2 (March 31)
What is your favorite story from this classic? Most people would probably pick the one about the cigar store Indian, but I have a soft spot for The Raft, because I loved the short story as a kid. They’re all great, though! Still, I like Creepshow 1 slightly better than this.
Hemingway and Gellhorn (April 1)
I don’t know why I watched this. I guess because I like Ernest Hemingway. But this was just a long, boring, watered-down, schmaltzy TV romance movie. It reminded me a lot of the awful Elizabeth Taylor biopic I watched last year, and I cannot overstate what an insult that is.
Spice World (April 2)
Sporty Spice is the hottest Spice Girl. There, I said it.
Hot Fuzz (April 2)
I love Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, but for whatever reason I hadn’t gotten around to watching this one yet. It wasn’t quite as perfect as the other stuff, but it was still really great. I generally despise British comedy, but I love the shit out of these dudes.
LEGO Batman The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite (April 4)
I am reasonably certain that this direct-to-video “movie” is actually just a compilation of all the cut-scenes from the video game LEGO Batman 2. That means that the movie’s flow occasionally feels a little bit awkward, as if a big chunk of the action is happening off-screen between scenes. But if you’ve played any of the LEGO games, you know how clever and funny the cut-scenes are, and so the film ends up working surprisingly well. I especially loved its depiction of the relationship between Batman and Superman – they are such adorably unlikely best friends! Oh and if you’re a soundtrack fan, I thought it was cool that this features both John Williams’ Superman theme and Danny Elfman’s Batman theme. They are both such iconic pieces, but I don’t think they’ve ever appeared together in the same thing before this. All in all, this is great entertainment if you’re looking for a lighter take on the Justice League, and man oh man did it get me pumped for the upcoming LEGO Movie.
Evil Dead (2013) (April 5)
I went in to this movie with super high expectations, and amazingly, they were not only met but exceeded. What impressed me most was how well the movie straddled the fence between reboot and sequel – accessible enough for newcomers without alienating old fans of the franchise. So all the old familiar Evil Dead elements are there, but subverted just enough to make them feel totally fresh and old-shoe comfy at the same time. And the filmmakers had enough sense to avoid any major mistakes like, say, recasting Ash. It’s also worth noting that this is probably the nastiest, goriest movie I’ve ever seen in a movie theater, so set aside those worries that shit has been watered down. Honestly, if you’re an Evil Dead fan, and you’re not one of those militant anti-remake weirdos, I don’t see how you could avoid flipping out for this entry. It’s simply wonderful.
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore (April 6)
Marvel makes such incredible live action movies on such a consistent basis, so it’s kind of shocking that they still can’t get their shit together with animation. Every cartoon Marvel movie I’ve seen has been pretty bad, and this is no exception. However, I should note that this is very anime-influenced, and I’m allergic to that shit, so I might be biased.
Viva Knievel! (Rifftrax version) (April 6)
It sucks that I missed the era in pop culture where certain celebrities had big enough personalities that they could be transformed into fictional characters in action-adventure movies. Here, Evel Knievel plays himself, but a version of himself that uses his motorcycle stunt skills not just to entertain idiots, but also to foil the schemes of evil drug lord Leslie Nielson. Also, as the Rifftrax guys point out, Knievel’s real-life wife and kids are completely ignored to allow for a romantic subplot with intrepid reporter Lauren Hutton. This shit is the 70’s-est movie you will ever see, and it’s a complete trip. Recommended with, or even without, Rifftrax.
Grabbers (April 6)
In this great little Irish sci-fi flick, getting and staying drunk is the only way to stave off invading aliens. The clever mash-up of science fiction themes with explorations of alcoholism and maturity makes this a nice companion piece to The World’s End.
Come Out and Play (April 6)
Nothing fills me with glee quite like killer kid movies, and this is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. A traveling couple stumbles upon an island inhabited solely by creepy evil children, and that’s all I will say. A bit of research I just did right now has revealed that this is a remake of a movie called Who Can Kill a Child? that I’ve never seen. I ought to seek that out, because since I loved every minute of this, it stands to reason I’d love the original too, right? If you dig stuff like Children of the Corn and Devil Times Five, then do yourself a favor and check this one out.
Zombibi (April 6)
I’ll happily admit my ignorance when it comes to the demographics of the Netherlands, but I was really surprised by the diversity of this Dutch zombie movie’s cast. The main characters range from Arab to African to native Dutch descent – it’s pretty cool to see, and not something I’ve often encountered in European horror movies. The movie itself is great too – a really solid mix of humor, action, and heartstring-tugging. I’ve seen about a zillion zombie flicks by this point in my life, so it’s always a treat to see another culture’s take on the genre. Zombibi did not disappoint.
The Barrens (April 8)
My little streak of great new horror/sci-fi discoveries had to end at some point, and this dreadful Jersey Devil flick ended it with a fucking vengeance…
The Quick and the Dead (April 9)
The Gift (April 10)
A Simple Plan (April 11)
Crimewave (April 11)
I was in a Sam Raimi mood, so I had a little marathon of his lesser works. Aside from The Gift, I hadn’t seen any of these before, and they were all pretty good. My favorite was The Quick and the Dead, due largely to its amazing final scene.
Troll 2 (Rifftrax version) (April 12)
Rarely does the addition of Rifftrax to a bad movie make for a lesser experience than the movie on its own, but this is one of those times. Troll 2 is a classic for good reason, and is best viewed on its own asinine terms.
The Lady Vanishes (2013) (April 12)
There’s nothing particularly wrong or offensive about this remake of the Hitchcock classic, but it doesn’t really add anything to justify its existence either. This is perfectly decent, perfectly passable, and as long as the original exists, perfectly unnecessary.
Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts (April 13)
I am not even a Warren Ellis fan, so I have no idea why the hell I watched this documentary about him. I guess I was hoping to figure out exactly what I’ve been missing with this guy, but I came out of it less eager than ever to read his works. Enjoy your Transmetropolitan and Planetary, people. I’ll be over here reading good comic books.
Shadow People (April 13)
One of my weirdly specific preferences is horror movies focused on radio DJs. I feel like a radio studio can be a really spooky and desolate atmosphere in the context of a scary movie, and the idea of a lone voice breaking through the darkness is really appealing to me. This concept worked great in movies like The Fog and Pontypool, and there are fleeting moments in Shadow People where it almost works. But in between those moments are really flimsy concepts, lousy acting, and an overwhelming dullness that cancels out any positives the movie offers. Sadly, this is not the only time I’ve been disappointed by a DJ-themed horror movie this year. Stay tuned…
Storage 24 (April 17)
Surprisingly decent character-driven British horror about a group of friends trapped in a storage facility with an alien beast. Cool monster, tense atmosphere, and I actually cared a teensy bit about the characters’ interpersonal drama, which is more than I can say for most movies of this ilk.
Street Fighter (April 18)
Seriously, Van Damme as the American?? What the fuck???
The Apple (Rifftrax version) (April 18)
In their description of this 1980 musical, the Rifftrax guys imply that it was created as an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Xanadu. But since I’ve never seen Xanadu, and know literally nothing about it aside from having heard the name here and there, the point of reference is totally lost on me. So all I’m left with is total confusion and disgust at The Apple‘s existence.
Mutant (Rifftrax version) (April 20)
Nightmare at Noon (Rifftrax version) (April 20)
Nightmare at Noon is a remake of Mutant, and they’ve both been rifftraxed, and I talked about them in greater detail last year.
Creep (April 20)
The Midnight Meat Train (April 20)
Inspired by this Bloody Good Horror article, I decided I needed to see some subway-themed horror movies (and I needed to see them fucking quickly apparently – the article was originally published on April 20th!). I loved both of these movies, but Creep was the more interesting of the two, and had a completely gross and fascinating villain. I’d honestly recommend them both though, preferably in the same marathon style that I tackled them. I don’t know why I didn’t also watch Raw Meat and End of the Line on April 20th, since I’ve never seen them either. There’s always next year!
Mama (April 20)
Because it was “presented by Guillermo del Toro” (whatever the hell that means), this film got a shit-ton of hype last year, and maybe those heightened expectations led to my disappointment when I finally saw the thing. It’s not bad at all – it works perfectly well as the modernized fairy tale it aspires to be – but I just found most of it to be exceedingly meh. I’d definitely recommend The Devil’s Backbone or The Orphanage over this.
It’s a Disaster (April 20)
The first of many end-of-the-world comedies I’d see this year. I guess the tension of the 2012 apocalypse really got the creative juices flowin’ for a lot of comedy writers. This movie was okay, elevated above mediocrity mostly due to a typically strong performance by David Cross, and I’d probably think of it more fondly if it wasn’t released along with a flood of similarly themed films. As a straight-up comedy, it’s funny but not as funny as This is the End. As an exploration of relationships during end-times, it works, but not as well as The World’s End or Seeking a Friend For the End of the World. The movie is decent, but suffers by comparison to similar films – it is definitely more Gordy than Babe.
The Dark Sleep (April 23)
This low-budget Lovecraft-inspired flick is very bad. Please make no mistake – it’s really, really, really fucking awful in almost every conceivable way that a movie can be awful. I want to be very clear about that. Now, having said that, there is one thing I really loved about it – its old-school use of stop-motion claymation monsters. The creatures in this film (including an appearance by Brown motherfucking Jenkin himself) are AWESOME, and I was giddy with delight watching them chase the protagonist through surreal dreamscapes. If you’ve also got a soft spot for these types of effects, then I’d recommend the movie for that reason alone, but please remember that I warned you how horribly bad it is.
Superman Unbound (April 24)
Between this cartoon, Scott Snyder’s new Superman Unchained series, and the Man of Steel poster, DC sure got a boner for Superman-in-chains imagery this year! Adapted from Geoff Johns’ 2008 story Brainiac, the movie has Supes fighting everyone’s favorite outer space computerman, and there are spaceships and bottle cities and blablabla. Honestly, if there has been a DC animated movie more boring and rote than this one, I can’t remember it.
The Last Stand (April 24)
The Last Stand isn’t great by any means, but one thing I admire about it is how much Arnold‘s first big comeback film immediately embraces all the old Schwarzenegger tropes – including my absolute favorite, and my least favorite. My favorite: the ludicrous conceit that Arnold is supposed to be some all-American joe, all aw shucks and apple pie. Here he plays Ray Owens, small-town Texas sheriff, and if anyone notices that he’s a huge, insane-looking Austrian who can barely speak English, they’re keeping it to themselves. My least favorite: the comedy relief sidekick, a role filled here by Johnny Knoxville, who I often find surprisingly charming in movies, but oh god not in this one. Still, he’s less annoying than Tom Arnold, if that means anything. Anyway, the movie isn’t perfect, but it’s hella entertaining. If you’re a fan of Arnold’s filmography, then you can breathe a sigh of relief that this one fits right in.
Kingdom of the Spiders (Rifftrax version) (April 25)
A fantastically pervy William Shatner fights an army of spiders, as Rifftrax provides commentary. Warning: Unless I am very mistaken, it really seems like many, many spiders were actually killed while filming this movie, so animal lovers should beware. If you can stomach that, then there are some laughs to be had, mostly at the expense of Shatner’s hilarious character.
The Lords of Salem (April 26)
Here is the other disappointing radio-themed movie I alluded to earlier. Rob Zombie’s gross wife is a DJ, and she plays a record by a shitty goth band which brainwashes listeners and turns them into witches or something like that. I don’t really remember the details, because this movie was crazy boring and had an extremely scant plot. Friends of mine have opined that the visuals and atmosphere are what drive the movie, rather than the narrative, but I didn’t find those especially compelling either. This was a dud for me, and therefore House of 1000 Corpses continues to be the only Rob Zombie movie I have ever enjoyed.
Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (April 27)
I guess I shouldn’t have expected that the Birdemic magic could be repeated, but I was still hoping against hope that it would be. No such luck. The crux of the problem is that writer/director James Nguyen makes the (understandable) mistake of bringing back all the wacky supporting characters from the first installment – the weird scientist, the woods-dwelling hippie guy, etc. The thing is, the appeal of those characters in the original Birdemic was not just that they were eccentric – it was also the way they were randomly and awkwardly inserted into the story. So the trick here would have been to come up with new weirdos for our heroes to encounter, rather than just parade the familiar ones across the screen. That may seem like a small nitpick, but it really made a huge impact on my enjoyment of this film compared to the first. Oh well!
Pegasus vs. Chimera (April 27)
A typical SyFy creature feature – I barely remember this one. Chances are it was stupid.
The Zombie King (April 27)
I don’t remember this one either, except that it was a voodoo zombie movie, and that it sucked!
Maniac Cop (April 28)
Totally deserving of its classic status, mostly due to its all-star cast. Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, Richard Roundtree and Robert Z’Dar?? Sign me the fuck up! Add in a pulpish narrative, a great villain, and the old-school sleazy NYC setting that I love so much, and you have a fucking masterpiece.
Elevator (April 29)
Why can’t anybody get trapped-on-an-elevator suspense movies right? It seems like such a no-brainer! This one is particularly bad, on account of a really annoying cast, including the obnoxious, hideous friend from The Single Guy, here playing an obnoxious, hideous stand-up comedian. Skip this crap. If you’re interested in experiencing a really great elevator story, I recommend the short story The 11th Day by Christopher Fowler. An audio version is available on this podcast.
Texas Chainsaw 3D (May 2)
This movie takes all the wicked fun out of the franchise by re-imagining Leatherface as a sympathetic victim, and recasting society, maaaan as the villain. It could be possible to make this tactic work, but it would require a great deal of subtlety, and you can probably guess how subtle a movie like this is. I am usually the first one to laud remakes/reboots/sequels as both fun and necessary for the horror genre, but this is just a really misguided attempt.
Iron Man 3 (May 5)
I haven’t yet rewatched this a second time, so I am still stuck with the very mixed feelings I walked out of the theater with on May 5th. On one hand, I really love how director Shane Black tapped his strengths to make this feel like a traditional old-school action movie, right down to the Christmas setting and the little kid sidekick. On the other hand, the story was kind of nonsensical and I am among the many people who were disappointed by this interpretation of the Mandarin. Ultimately, this was merely okay – it was a huge improvement over the legitimately shitty Iron Man 2, but still didn’t quite live up to the level of quality I expect from these Marvel films.
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (May 7)
Another How Did This Get Made? assignment. I was glad to finally have an excuse to check out this notoriously shitty comedy, and man, it is really difficult to figure out what the hell they were going for with this one. Sylvester Stallone’s character is just so goddamn bizarre and creepy, from his strangely set-designed apartment to his freaky mommy fetish. There’s a lot about this movie that is just head-scratchingly weird, but I think it can all be summed up in one photo:
Prom (May 11)
One of the very few Disney teen movies to actually see a theatrical release, Prom is of noticeably higher quality than the likes of, say, Stuck in the Suburbs. Don’t get me wrong – this is still the same brand of sugar-coated teenie-bopper silliness as the TV movies, but the production values are much higher, and the cast is just charming enough to make it a fun watch. For me, at least. Probably not for you.
Maniac (2012) (May 12)
The much-hyped Elijah Wood remake of the ultra-sleazy 1980 classic Maniac. And yes, this version is much more polished and “mainstream” than its predecessor, and it definitely suffers as a result, but I think it’s still pretty good. Elijah Wood brings a creepiness to the role of Frank that is entirely different from the original actor‘s creepiness – the public perception of him as the squeaky-clean, cute little hobbit really works to his advantage here. I liked a lot of things about the film, but what really stood out to me more than anything was its score – it is a near-perfect emulation of 70’s/80’s synth-heavy horror soundtracks (think Goblin), and the degree to which it enhances the movie’s atmosphere cannot be understated. So, if nothing else, check this one out for the music!
Joyful Noise (May 15)
More than any other How Did This Get Made? movie, I was really hesitant to sit through this one, because it just seemed like it would be so fucking unbearably bad. And indeed it was. Joyful Noise is a godawful melodramatic musical, in which Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton are the leaders of rival gospel choirs, and it’s somehow even worse than that description makes it sound. Even if you’re following along with all the HDTGM? movies (and you should be), you might want to learn from my mistake and kinda “forget” to watch this one.
Warm Bodies (May 18)
This big budget romantic zomedy turned out to be really funny and sweet, with some interesting new ideas on how to approach the concept of the living dead. It’s an excellent movie, but it also made me feel really stupid, because I didn’t realize until halfway through the film that it was meant to be a retelling of Romeo and Juliet! You’d think the characters named Julie and “R” might have tipped me off, or maybe the fact that it’s a tale of two star-cross’d lovers – but what it took for me to finally get clued in was a goddamn balcony scene. God I am an idiot!
Psycho II (Rifftrax version) (May 18)
This cash-in sequel is kind of crazy and kind of bad, but not quite crazy or bad enough to deserve a Rifftrax treatment, in my opinion. The riffs were funny and all, but since I’d never seen the movie before and it turned out to be slightly more interesting than I would have guessed, I found myself mostly wishing that they’d shut up and let me watch the movie!
Star Trek Into Darkness (May 22)
This movie and its predecessor are the only Star Trek related things I had ever seen, and I am pretty okay with that, because these films are great and completely accessible to a newbie like myself. This one was just as fun and action-packed as the first one, and adding the awesome Benedict Cumberbatch to the mix only made it that much better.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (May 22)
When I got home from the theater, I guess Star Trek was still on my mind, so I decided to watch that famous Wrath of Khan movie for the first time. I obviously chose this particular installment because I knew that Into Darkness took a lot of its inspiration from it, but I hadn’t realized that the new movie was pretty much a direct remake of this one! Boy, that must have been boneriffic for hardcore Trekkies! For me, however, The Wrath of Khan made me wonder what the hell people see in these old Star Trek movies. This is supposed to be one of the best ones, I think, but it was boring and corny almost to the point of being unwatchable! I’ll stick with the new Star Trek, thank you very much!
Hook (May 23)
When Rufio matter-of-factly calls Robin Williams a fart factory, it might be my favorite moment in film history. God, Rufio is the best.
Dr. Who and the Daleks (Rifftrax version) (May 24)
Aside from one episode of the TV show, which I don’t think even featured a guy named Dr. Who in it, this is the only Dr. Who thing I have ever seen. Which I guess is weird, because the tone of the riffing seemed to imply that this is a pretty major deviation from the franchise’s typical tone. But whatever, this is my Dr. Who, and I find it extremely difficult to imagine that any other version could possibly be this entertaining!
A Good Day to Die Hard (May 24)
Man, I thought it couldn’t get any worse than Live Free or Die Hard, but this shit makes Live Free or Die Hard seem like Die Hard With a Vengeance by comparison. At this point, whoever is slapping these movies together has completely fucking forgotten everything that made the first few Die Hard movies so captivating, and just seems to be attaching the franchise name to any shitty, generic action movie that comes along. What a sad, pathetic shame. On the plus side, this movie provided 2013’s only brief glimpse of my future wife Ramona Flowers, so at long last here’s this again:
Albino Farm (May 25)
Marginally decent creepy-small-town-full-of-secrets horror movie, that rightfully portrays albino people as horrifying monsters.
Monsters, Inc. (May 27)
Revisiting this in preparation for its sequel, I realized I hadn’t sat down and watched this in years, and had forgotten so much about it (such as the awesome Yeti scene). It was still as funny and charming as I remembered, and the relationship between Sulley and Boo still tugged at the same heartstrings that these guys used to tug at when I was a kid.
Tasmanian Devils (June 3)
Speaking of Looney Tunes, I wish someone would make a horror movie about the Tasmanian Devil because it turns out that real Tasmanian Devils (even CGI-rendered supernatural ones) are not very scary or interesting as monster movie villains. This film continues the SyFy Original Movie tradition of showcasing some has-been star who has fallen upon desperate enough times that they are willing to humiliate themselves in one of these things, and this time around it’s Winnie Cooper‘s turn. So maybe you like her enough for it to be worth suffering through this? I don’t.
High School (June 5)
A teenage pot comedy which I recall enjoying, but I guess not that much, because I don’t remember a damn thing about it.
The Battery (June 6)
Unless I’m forgetting something, this is by far the best zombie movie I’ve seen this year, and probably the best one since Exit Humanity. There’s barely a zombie in sight for the majority of this film, which is mainly a character study of two former baseball players who are forced to travel together after the apocalypse. It’s up to these two actors to carry the entire film, and they pull it off magnificently – it was a great choice to make these dudes former casual acquaintances rather than great friends. They like each other, but they are also annoyed by each other, and their personalities clash too frequently to make them ideal traveling companions (hence the title – a battery needs two opposing charges to function). It made me think about people who fall into that category in my own life, and what it would be like to be paired up with them permanently, and have my life in their hands. By taking this more intimate approach, the movie allows for a lot of situations that I don’t think have ever really been explored in a zombie movie before – including one scene (which I won’t spoil) that had me simultaneously grossed out, laughing my ass off, and dumbstruck by its originality. The ending is also really unique, applying a structural technique which many might find frustrating, but which I found refreshing. If you’re a fan of character-driven stories and/or of zombie movies, I cannot recommend The Battery enough.
Terror in the Family (June 9)
Carla and I once again hooked up with our friend Crystal to participate in a movie-viewing for her excellent Live-Blogging Lifetime Movies blog. This time around, we were treated to a young and stabby Hilary Swank, a disgruntled Wonder Years dad who finds solace in an unusual hobby, a bleeding Joanna Kerns, a drunk 12-year-old, and rollercoaster sex, among countless other wonderful little nuggets. Read all my thoughts on the movie (as well as those of some other awesome people) right here.
The Dinosaur Project (June 10)
It’s very rare that a found-footage technique is utilized outside of the horror genre, and while The Dinosaur Project sometimes teeters on the edge of scariness, it is essentially an adventure movie for children. And a damn good one, too. Although it was made with a low budget, the CGI creatures are shockingly decent looking, the scenery is beautiful, and the acting is just fine. If you’ve been looking for a fun creature feature that you can watch with your kids (or someone’s else’s kids – I don’t judge), you can’t go wrong with this.
Chupacabra vs. the Alamo (June 13)
This creature feature, however, should not be watched by kids. Or anyone ever. Why the hell do I keep watching these? Won’t I ever learn??
Man of Steel (June 13)
I came out of this movie with mixed feelings, but unfortunately my opinion grows more negative the further I get away from it. My problems with it are the same problems that everyone seems to have: Superman shouldn’t kill, and he certainly shouldn’t callously destroy the entire city of Metropolis. Look, I know those might seem like petty, nerdy things to judge an entire movie by, but the whole point of Superman is that he is supposed to be symbolic of something bigger than just a story about a space orphan who punches people in the face. He is supposed to represent hope, and goodness, and the very best of humanity’s potential. I know that sounds cheesy, but do you honestly think a character could remain popular for 75 years just because he’s strong and can fly? That corny boy scout optimism is precisely what has kept that character relevant, and it ought to be represented in any Superman movie. But in spite of all the shallow skin-deep nonsense about how “the S stands for hope,” it’s just not present here. It’s okay for Superman to be conflicted and to grow as a character, but this Superman is just kind of a dick (and not in the good way). On a more positive note, Henry Cavill is really awesome, and I’m confident that in a movie with more respect for the character, he could be the perfect Superman. But forgive me if I’m skeptical that the people who decided to cast Ben Affleck as Batman are capable of making a respectful Superman movie.
Bullet to the Head (June 14)
Great title, boring fucking movie.
V/H/S 2 (June 15)
Last year, I was pretty underwhelmed by the original V/H/S, so I am pleased to report that the sequel is a vast improvement. It starts off on about the same level as its predecessor, with a rip-off of The Eye and a fairly run-of-the-mill zombie story. But the two segments that come next are a total blast, documenting a news crew’s investigation of an Indonesian cult, and a slumber party with some uninvited guests. If you are like me and were kind of meh about the first movie, do yourself a favor and give the sequel a chance anyway. It’s worth it.
The Last Exorcism Part II (June 16)
Don’t give this sequel a chance, though. The Last Exorcism Part I was excellent, but this one (which completely ditches the original’s found-footage format) is not just bad, but really really fucking bad. When people bitch about sequels and how interesting movies are ruined by being put through the cynical Hollywood boardroom wringer, this is the exact type of movie that anger should be directed at. It really does feel like a committee of suits sat down and figured out how to drain all the life out of this promising story, and it’s a fucking shame.
Beware the Gonzo (June 17)
Nothing comes off as phonier or more cynical than a movie which attempts to adapt a rebellious anti-authority stance and fails, and Beware the Gonzo might be the most glaring example of that I have ever seen. Especially annoying is the main character, who attempts to channel the spirit of someone like Hunter S. Thompson, but just comes off as a whiny, spoiled little shit. It’s weird because the actor has done a great job in other films (such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and We Need to Talk About Kevin), but here I just wanted to reach into the TV and strangle him to death.
One of My Kind: The Story of the Mystic Valley Band (June 18)
I will admit without any shame that I love Bright Eyes and I think Conor Oberst is a genius, and one of the best songwriters of all time. However, it was really pathetic to watch him being idolized by a side project full of sycophants in this self-serving documentary. And on top of that, “the Mystic Valley Band” seems to represent the very worst music in Oberst’s vast catalog. Honestly, even the most rabid superfans of this dude won’t be missing anything by skipping this.
Howard the Duck (June 20)
I rewatched George Lucas’ infamous Marvel flop for How Did This Get Made? purposes. Like Super Mario Bros, this fails as an adaptation of its source material, but still has a kind of kooky wackadoo charm of its own. I like it a lot. Plus, Lea Thompson is smoking hot, and has sex with a duck.
The Journey of Natty Gann (June 21)
A little girl runs around searching the 1930’s for her father, with only a wolf and a Cusack for company. I hadn’t seen this one since I was very young, and while it’s as sluggishly-paced as most live-action Disney movies of this era, I found it very enjoyable.
World War Z (June 22)
Max Brooks’ World War Z has become one of my all-time favorite novels, and when it was announced that it was being made into a movie, I dreamed fanciful dreams of the perfect adaptation. Which, in my opinion, would be a mock History Channel-esque documentary full of talking heads and “archival footage.” When the movie’s trailer was released, I immediately realized that this was not going to be a good adaptation, and likely wouldn’t really be an adaptation at all. So I shrugged, and readjusted my expectations, now simply hoping for a kick-ass big-budget zombie movie. I didn’t even get that. World War Z, the movie, is fucking horrible. It fails as an adaptation, as a horror movie, and even as a blockbustery action flick. Watch it if you feel you must, like I did, but make sure to counterbalance that experience by also reading the book or listening to the incredible audio version.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (June 23)
Heather Graham is super lovable and fun in this movie, and her spirited performance made this a very fun kiddie romp.
Horrid Henry: The Movie (June 23)
This is not a fun kiddie romp. It’s fucking disturbing, annoying and unbearable. British people are never more horrifying than when they are attempting to entertain children, and if this movie isn’t proof enough of that, please refer (at your own risk) to Grandpa in My Pocket.
Upstream Color (June 23)
Shane Carruth took nine years to follow up his masterpiece Primer, and that time was well spent because Upstream Color might be even better. Like Primer, it’s a difficult film, and it holds your hand even less. But once you are able to sort out its structural puzzlebox and extract its underlying narrative (it took me two viewings and a bunch of internet-readin’), it’s almost unbearably beautiful, emotionally resonant and philosophically challenging. I cannot wait to see what this dude creates next, and if it takes another nine years, so be it.
Primer (June 23)
I love Primer, and have seen it many times, but watching it while still basking in the glow of Upstream Color made it seem lesser somehow. I think the later film adds such a strong emotional element that this one feels so cold and mechanical by comparison. But that’s not really fair to Primer, which is still absolutely brilliant in its mind-fuckery, even all these years and viewings later.
The Arrested Development Documentary Project (June 25)
It’s a documentary about Arrested Development. Lots of interviews with the cast and crew of the TV show, but bafflingly, there are even more interviews with off-the-street fans. Why would I give a shit about some fan’s opinion? I’m a fan, and I can just listen to my own thoughts about Arrested Development inside my own head. Other dipshits are not necessary for that process at all! This is entertaining enough for fans of the show, I guess, but it mostly just seems like a glorified DVD extra. In other words: completely unnecessary.
Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (June 26)
Joe Estevez and a bunch of rebellious teenagers incite the wrath of Paul Bunyan after they disturb the resting place of his beloved pet ox during a community service outing. This is like a shittier version of Grizzly Park except with Paul Bunyan instead of a bear. Surely that is a helpful comparison, since everyone has seen Grizzly Park, right?
Spring Breakers (June 26)
I think Selena Gomez is genuinely talented as an actress, and I was really interested in seeing what she did with the post-Disney phase of her career. I find it really refreshing that she did Spring Breakers and Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex in the same year. Most of these Disney girls think they need to severely distance themselves from their roots in order to move forward, but she proved that you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as you’ve got the chops. And she’s great in this (and, incidentally, so is James Franco), but otherwise this movie is a steaming pile of pukey horseshit. All my instincts tell me that, since Harmony Korine is a grown man, his intentions with this movie had to be to condemn the awful, evil rape culture that it depicts. But you guys, I think the movie is actually meant to glorify it. I think it’s all supposed to seem exciting and fun and dangerously sexy, an experience to aspire to. If that’s true – if I’m not misreading things, and that was really the intention here – then this movie is one of the most disgusting and irresponsible things I have ever seen. But whatever, Selena is great in it.
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam (June 30)
I eat cheese, but only on pizza please. And sometimes on a homemade quesadilla. Otherwise it smells like feet to me.
Despicable Me 2 (July 3)
In the absence of a real job, I babysat my 10-year-old nephew all summer, and so I ended up seeing every single kiddie movie that got released to theaters during the season. This was the second-worst one. I never saw Despicable Me 1, but I’ve heard it described as one of the few non-Disney/Pixar CGI cartoons that is actually tolerable. Having seen this one, I can’t imagine how that is possible. I figured the great Steve Carell might elevate this, but his comedic style is unable to break through his character’s ridiculously broad characterization. I thought maybe the Minions would be amusing, since I feel like I’ve been seeing them everywhere for a decade, but they are unfunny and irritating on a Jar Jar Binks level. The plot felt like a rejected episode of Inspector Gadget and the animation looked like a cut-scene from some shitty Wii shovelware with the word “Party” in the title. The movie theater was air-conditioned though, so that was pretty awesome. Five stars.
Fangs of the Living Dead (Rifftrax version) (July 3)
This is a Spanish vampire movie from the 1960’s, and that means it might as well be called NyQuil: The Movie. Luckily, there are riffs and shit to make it slightly more palatable.
Detention of the Dead (July 6)
I don’t remember this one, and I don’t care to.
Demolition Man (July 7)
This movie is mostly really stupid, but I think I would love eating at a super fancy Taco Bell. If that’s the grim vision of a dystopian future, then I’ll just pledge loyalty to Big Brother right now!
Legend (July 9)
Somehow I’d gone my whole life without seeing Legend, which is a shame, because man oh man I would have loved this when I was a kid. A young Tom Cruise basically plays Link, with my childhood crush Sloane Peterson as his Zelda, and Tim Curry as his Ganon. There are unicorns and midgets and monsters, and they all look fantastically real, as opposed to fantasy movies nowadays, where every creature looks like it was pulled right from a God of War cut-scene. Oh Legend, where have you been all my life?
The Lone Ranger (July 10)
Sometimes a lack of fandom can really come in handy. If I had been a childhood fan of the Transformers franchise, for example, I probably would have been more outraged than delighted by my favorite romantic teen comedy of 2007. Likewise, if I was a Lone Ranger fanboy, I’d probably be upset by his characterization as a bumbling fucking jackass in this movie. But since I’ve never had any particular attachment to the character, I found myself loving the living shit out of this! It is probably a little bit too long, and the fact that they cast Johnny Depp as Tonto is pretty problematic, but aside from those quibbles, this is pure joy. If you are a fan of Disney’s recent live action action/adventure films (Pirates, Prince of Persia, etc) and/or a fan of Westerns, you will absolutely find something to love here. If you are able to watch the action sequence on the train without grinning ear to ear, then you are probably on a mountain overlooking Whoville right now. This movie rules, and I’m proud to have these little guys on my shelf:
House (July 10)
It seems the night of July 10th was dedicated to finally seeing some classic 80’s horror movies which had previously only existed in my mind as Blockbuster Video shelf art, beginning with House. Yup, I had somehow managed to go my whole life without seeing this one, and – surprise surprise – it’s totally great. Bull Shannon is in this movie! Who knew? Everybody but me, probably.
The Stuff (July 10)
House was a nice little aperitif, but The Stuff stole the fucking show, and immediately became one of my favorites. Like some weird, goofy lovechild of Halloween III and Street Trash, this is the tale of a mysterious and delicious yogurt that turns anyone who eats it into into a brainwashed zombie, and the evil marketing executives who exploit it. The story won’t win any awards for originality, but what really makes this special is Michael Moriarty‘s brilliant performance as the protagonist. Mo Rutherford is simply the greatest action hero of all time, and if there was any justice in the world, he would be the focus of a decades-spanning, 007-esque film franchise.
Minutemen (July 11)
I watched this Disney Channel movie back in 2011, but it seems I didn’t really have much to say about it back then. Well, that’s a wrong which much be righted, because this is a pretty fun movie about three high-schoolers who invent a time machine, which they use to protect their fellow nerds from bullies. As an added bonus, this features not one but two kids who would later star on Good Luck Charlie, which is probably the best sitcom of the decade.
Sharknado (July 12)
About five thousand doofy SyFy/Asylum monster movies get released each year, and they are all pretty much identical, so it’s really confusing to me why Sharknado in particular became such a buzzed-about sensation. Even if we focus solely on SyFy shark movies released in the past couple of years, this one barely cracks the Top 5 (Sand Sharks, 2-Headed Shark Attack, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, and Ghost Shark are all better films). It’s almost as if the cultural zeitgeist threw a dart, and this happened to be the movie it landed on. The only theory I can come up with is that people tuned in to witness Tara Reid return to the spotlight after her transformation into some kind of frozen-faced xanax Frankenstein. Having said all that, this movie is perfectly enjoyable for fans of this type of dumb bullshit. There’s sharks in tornadoes, yknow? No amount of cynicism can make that not fun.
Avalon High (July 13)
Yet another Disney Channel movie, this one an adaptation of a young adult novel about high school kids who discover that they are reincarnations of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The movie was pretty bleh, but it was worth sitting through for the experience of browsing its IMDB message board, where a bunch of kids completely LOSE THEIR FUCKING MINDS with anger over the ways in which the movie differs from the book. Seriously, go read that shit; it’s hilarious!
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (July 16)
Long-time readers of the Sense of Right Alliance ought to remember how much I loved the 2011 DC Comics crossover event Flashpoint. Most notable for leading directly into the New 52 reboot, the story dealt with Barry Allen getting trapped in a crazy alternate universe where up is down and left is right. This isn’t a concept new to comics by any means, but it will always hold a special place in my heart for being the first big event thing to happen after I got back into DC comic books. I feverishly read (and blogged about) Flashpoint as well as all 7,000 tie-in miniseries, and loved every stupid panel of it. The movie version, of course, must focus solely on the core narrative, and so unfortunately many of my favorite little side-stories (GRODD OF WAR!!!) had to be exorcised by necessity. But the good news is that the core story of Flashpoint is great, and this is a damn good adaptation. If you’re a DCU fan, you need to experience this story, whether it’s in comic or movie form. You’ll get lots of kick-ass action, crazy Elseworlds versions of all your favorite characters, and most importantly, an extremely strong emotional core (Batman fans in particular might want to have some Kleenex handy). Plus, holy shit, I cannot believe the mother fucking Canterbury Cricket got to appear in a movie! Flashpoint, you guys! Flashpoint!
Turbo (July 17)
Another movie theater outing with my nephew. I had insanely low expectations for Turbo, which is a cartoon about a fucking snail who aspires to be a racer in the goddamn Indianapolis 500. I mean, have you ever heard a stupider premise for a movie in your entire fucking life? First of all, the Indy 500 is a race for cars, and you cannot race in it without a car, even if you’re a fucking cheetah or an ostrich or some shit. Much less a fucking snail. Fuck. Anyway, due to those shit-low expectations (as well as the fact that I’m pretty sure I fell asleep for at least a half hour), I found myself pleasantly surprised by Turbo. It wasn’t good or anything, but it was so much better than Despicable Me 2 or Ice Age or anything else Dreamworks shits out of its soulless asshole. So yeah, how’s that for a ringing endorsement?
Cars 2 (July 18)
As I said back in 2011, I think Cars 2 gets a bad rap. Sure, it doesn’t have the creative spark or the heart of most of Pixar’s output, but it is a really solid action comedy, with tons of laughs and beautifully animated scenery. A lot of people seemed miffed that the story focused more on Mater than Lightning McQueen, but I’m totally fine with that because I think Mater is a great character, almost like a Goofy for a new generation. So yeah, this movie definitely had much different goals than its predecessor, but I think it hit them perfectly.
Saturday Morning Mystery (July 21)
Parodying Scooby Doo is a bit of a cliche, but this movie manages to do it successfully by keeping the connective tissue to the cartoon thin and subtle. The idea that this will be a typical Scooby Dooby Doo story is quickly shooed away, and you find yourself reacting to these characters and situations on their own terms, with the cartoon in your mind just enough for the divergences from it to still have impact. What you end up with is a very dark mystery/horror story with some very unexpected turns. It’s immensely entertaining, and a must for horror fans.
Pacific Rim (July 22)
The parts of this movie that involve giant robots fighting giant godzillas are everything you could hope for: thrilling and brutal and visceral. Seeing these fights in 3D on a big IMAX screen turned me into a wide-eyed, slack-jawed little kid, which is great, because it’s exactly what a movie like this should be about. Too bad every scene that wasn’t a fight scene was unbearably bad. Between the horrible acting, the cheeseball character arcs, and the nonsensical, over-complicated bullshit about how the robots are piloted, Pacific Rim does not seem to understand how fucking simple its premise is. Robots vs. monsters – it writes itself! All del Toro had to do was resist the urge to bury that perfect hook beneath mountains of unnecessary, contrived garbage. He failed. I still feel like I have to recommend this, because the battle scenes are really that good, but be prepared to be bored out of your mind while you’re waiting for them to happen.
Teen Beach Movie (July 22)
If you’re like me and watch a lot of Disney Channel (and oh god, I really hope you’re not), then for a couple of months you could not escape the hype for this Ross Lynch vehicle. This is a musical about two kids who get magically transported into a 1960’s surf movie, and have to find their way back home. This clever premise allows for a more innocent kid-friendly version of Grease, and since it’s all a movie-within-a-movie, the need for even the slightest bit of human realism is quietly swept under the rug in favor of cutesy meta-dialogue (“Why is every always singing?” and whatnot). This is slightly more high-concept than the usual Disney Channel fare, and the results are very entertaining, especially the music. It’s all pseudo-doo-wop with a hint of modern teenie-pop sprinkled in, and it will get stuck in your head for weeks. Here’s one of my favorites:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (July 23)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (July 24)
The closest I’ve come to reading the Wimpy Kid books was when I read a shitty parody called Diary of a Zombie Kid on Free Comic Book Day last year, so I wasn’t sure what to expect going into these movies. I ended up enjoying them quite a bit, and being frequently reminded of the Louis Sachar books I loved as a kid. That’s high praise from me!
Casa de Mi Padre (July 25)
I finally saw Will Ferrell’s absurd tribute to Telenovelas, and it was delightful, hilarious, and full of surprises. Watching it with friends and allowing the laughter to become infectious makes it even better.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (July 26)
The Wimpy Kid marathon continues. Watching this immediately after the other two movies makes it really apparent how old these kids are getting, which is actually pretty jarring. I have to imagine it will be impossible to continue this series, at least without significantly aging the characters to match the actors. That’s a bummer, but I suppose all good things must end. Life is bleak and meaningless.
Over the Top (July 28)
How Did This Get Made? forced me to finally see the infamous Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling epic, and it’s every bit as stupid and pointless as I ever assumed it would be. What I didn’t expect was for it to be super creepy, but the bizarre quasi-romantic father-son relationship covered that angle as well.
Monsters University (July 30)
This was predictably sweet and funny and just generally entertaining as hell, but man I hope that after Finding Nemo 2, Pixar finally get over their unfortunate case of sequelitis, and get back to doing what they do best – creating breathtakingly amazing original material.
Hell Baby (August 2)
Rob Corddry, a bunch of State alumni, and the guy from The Planet’s Funniest Animals star in this comedic take on demonic possession films. It has some funny moments, but is pretty bleh for the most part.
Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust (August 2)
I loved Gingerdead Man 1, and (as you read earlier) was pretty disappointed by Gingerdead Man 3. This one falls somewhere in the middle – it lacks the greatness that Gary Busey brought to the original, but still stands on its own two feet, due to an interesting premise which puts the Gingerdead Man in the middle of a small-time horror studio as they prepare their next film. This allows Full Moon Studios, the small-time horror studio which produces this franchise, to poke lots of meta-fun at itself, and the result is funny and charming. The only other thing I remember about this movie is that its theme song is a complete rip-off of Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation, except with the lyrics changed to be about the Gingerdead Man. So, in other words, it’s the best song in the history of the world:
Condorman (August 3)
Memories of this 1981 Disney flick have mostly been swept away by the cruel sands of time, but that’s a shame, because it’s a rollicking take on both the superhero and espionage genres. Rumors have been swirling that Disney is poised to bring the character back, possibly as part of the Marvel Universe, so that’s awesome. Fingers crossed for Condorman the Avenger!
Frankenstein’s Army (August 4)
My girlfriend had been anxiously anticipating the Nazi zombie film Worst Case Scenario since seeing the awesome teaser trailer a few years ago. Apparently that film got cancelled, and the director made the similarly-themed but smaller-in-scope Frankenstein’s Army instead. It’s a shame about Worst Case Scenario, but the good news is that, as consolation prizes go, Frankenstein’s Army is fucking incredible. During World War II, a group of Russian soldiers stumble into the secret lab of a Nazi scientist who has created an army of horrifying creatures. The plot doesn’t get much deeper than that, but oh my god the monsters in this movie are insane! Their Silent-Hill-meets-steampunk design is some of the most original, scary creature work I have seen in a long time. And since a movie like this more or less lives or dies by how cool its monsters are, I deem this one to be a roaring success.
The Smurfs 2 (August 5)
By far the worst kid’s movie I saw in a summer full of shitty kid’s movie. The Smurfs 2 is awful for a lot of reasons, but the most prominent problem is the same one I bitched about in my Masters of the Universe write-up earlier – why the hell would you remove the Smurfs from their Smurf Village, and stick them into the boring-ass real world? The fantasy setting of the original Smurfs cartoon is what provided most of the show’s whimsy and charm. Is it really worth sacrificing that just so these little assholes can pal around with Neil Patrick Harris and sing along to modern pop songs? I sure as fuck don’t think so, but maybe I’m wrong, since these movies really seem to have struck a chord with young children. Actually fuck that – I’m a lot smarter than children, and I say The Smurf 2 sucks. Smurf this movie in its smurf.
The Wolverine (August 8)
Remember how shitty the first Wolverine movie was? Well, put that out of your mind because The Wolverine makes up for it in spades. Wisely pushing aside the whole “mutant” concept, this mostly-faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s classic 1982 miniseries puts Wolverine on a solo adventure in Japan. Hugh Jackman continues to totally own this character, and the setting provides both gorgeous scenery and unique action set pieces. Between this and First Class, the X-Men movie franchise seems to be back on track after a couple of missteps, and it’s got me giddy with excitement for Days of Future Past.
The Great Gatsby (August 11)
More than any movie I can remember since Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, I’ve gotten a lot of weird looks for admitting I like The Great Gatsby. I’m not sure if that’s because people think it’s an affront to the novel (which I haven’t read since high school), or because of the recent trend of “Gatsby parties,” which confuse the story’s condemnation of decadence as a celebration of it. But for whatever reason, people fucking hated this movie at a base level. Not me. I thought it was pretty great – Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire were both awesome, the themes were efficiently conveyed, and the scenery was beautiful.
My Amityville Horror (August 11)
A documentary focused on Daniel Lutz, the kid from the real-life Amityville house upon which all the books and movies were based. Daniel is a really sad, mentally unhinged dude, a grown man who seems to still believe, even all these years later, that his family was haunted by ghooooosts. Either that or he’s just completely full of shit. I sincerely hope it’s the latter, but either way, watching him whine for 90 minutes is a totally boring waste of time.
Planes (August 12)
It’s no surprise that Planes was originally intended to be a direct-to-DVD release, since it reeks of cheap-ass production values and phoned-in creativity. Promoting this thing as a Cars spin-off was a pretty ballsy move, considering the fact that it rips off the plot, characters and feel of the first Cars movie wholesale. Planes isn’t completely awful – it’s an entertaining enough diversion, but it lacks the soul and honesty of Pixar or Disney proper’s “real” features.
Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (August 13)
Did you even know that there was a third Crocodile Dundee movie from 2001? I sure didn’t until How Did This Get Made? set me straight. The movie is pathetic and not worth your time, but you should check out the podcast anyway, if only to find out what an awful fucking prick Paul Hogan is.
Clear History (August 14)
Larry David’s HBO movie is pretty much a long, weird episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. In fact, it is so similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm that the elements that aren’t like Curb Your Enthusiasm feel a bit off-putting. Still, if you like Curb Your Enthusiasm, you will like this. Just imagine it’s a dream sequence or something.
Gymkata (August 24)
The worlds of martial arts and gymnastics collide in this completely fucking bonkers 80’s action movie. Our hero is a champion gymnastics guy who gets sent by the US government to the fictional nation of Parmistan to gymnastic bad guys in their faces. Luckily, the hostile nation is full of parallel bars and pummel horses right out in the streets, so he doesn’t really have much trouble succeeding! Honestly, I can’t even begin to count the ways in which Gymkata is insane – any fan of cheesy 80’s action should definitely add this to their Must-Watch list.
Mud (August 28)
As I do these write-ups, I dread reaching a movie I truly loved, because I feel like I have way more to say about shitty movies than great ones. I loved Mud, and I feel like I have nothing to say about it that a zillion reviews haven’t already said, so just go read those
Abandoned Mine (August 28)
Then again, sometimes I have absolutely nothing to say about shitty movies either.
R.I.P.D. (August 31)
Man, this looked so much like a Men in Black movie that I found myself excited to see it, against my better judgment. I wanted it to be great, but knew deep in my heart that it wouldn’t be. Still, I never thought for a second that it would be this fucking bad. This movie is this fucking bad.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (August 31)
August 31st, 2013 will live in infamy as the day that Steve Carell and Keira Knightley almost made me cry! This film explores a fear that I assume is on the top of nearly everyone’s list: dying completely alone. The concept of finding companionship in a manic pixie dream girl is a trope that has been done to death, of course, but the desperation of the apocalyptic scenario makes it work really well here, as does the awesome chemistry between the two leads. Don’t get me wrong – the movie is just as schmaltzy as you think it is, but it’s really effective schmaltziness, and it completely reeled me in.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (September 3)
My Steve Carell fever really led me astray this time! This really sucked, and all I kept thinking was that they should have just made a movie about GOB Bluth instead. For me, this movie was mostly notable for its bizarre, Reefer Madness-esque portrayal of kratom, a drug so safe and so legal that it is often available over the counter at corner convenience stores. If this plot required an opiate with the magical power to immediately render the user unconscious, why not just create a fictional one instead of straight-up lying about one that actually exists? Or, why not just make up a better plot? Or, avoid making a movie this dumb in the first place?
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (September 5)
How has this movie flown under my radar for so long?? Made in 2001, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra attempts to emulate/satirize 1950’s sci-fi B-movies, and it nails it. The sign of a good genre parody is when it exploits tropes that you’ve never even been consciously aware of, but immediately recognize when they’re lampooned, and The Lost Skeleton pulls this off again and again and again. If you’re at all familiar with these types of movies (perhaps, like myself, via MST3K), then you will love this.
The Lost Skeleton Returns Again (September 6)
The Lost Skeleton sequel unfortunately abandons a lot of its predecessor’s subtlety in favor of more in-your-face satire. It feels broader and quippier, and more reminiscent of something like The Naked Gun. It definitely has some hilarious moments, but it loses a lot of the original’s pinpoint focus, and that’s a shame. If you loved the first movie, I’m not going to try to dissuade you from checking this one out too, but just make sure to adjust your expectations.
The Dictator (September 6)
Like all of Ali G‘s movies, The Dictator is at its most cringe-worthy best when it’s pulling real-life pranks on real-life people… but unless I’m very mistaken, those moments seem less frequent here than in Borat or Bruno. The remainder of the film is a pretty weak narrative with one-dimensional characters and well-worn jokes which seem at least a decade past the expiration date of their shock value.
Waiting… (September 11)
Ryan Reynolds and Anna Faris are the king and queen of actors who are usually cast as if they’re hilariously funny, even though they’re only marginally funny once in a while. Here they are together again, making me go “heh” every twenty five minutes or so, as only the greatest comedic performances can. Skip this and watch The Slammin’ Salmon instead.
Brainscan (September 11)
Edward Furlong is forced by an evil video game to start murdering people. As I watched Brainscan, I wondered if it had been inspired by the news stories accusing video games of inspiring real-life killing sprees – but the first time I remember hearing about that kind of thing was Columbine, which occurred five years after this movie’s release. So I guess it’s more prescient than reactive? In any case, it’s boring.
This is the End (September 13)
The first time I saw a trailer for this movie, I was skeptical, to say the least. It seemed like a bunch of millionaire movie stars jerking each other off – and, well, that’s exactly what it is. But the thing is, it’s also really, really funny. If you enough of a fan of these dudes to be able to handle a display of narcissism this extreme, then you will enjoy this a lot.
Bad Milo! (September 15)
Between Bad Milo and Hell Baby, it’s kind of weird that two horror/comedies came out this year which feature members of The State being plagued by evil puppet babies. In this one, the puppet in question comes out of Ken Marino‘s asshole, and it’s by far the better of the two. Based on the premise, you’re probably expecting a lot of gross-out humor, and you’ll get it, but the movie also has a surprising amount of pathos and heart. If you can only watch one State-related puppet horror flick this year, choose this one.
You’re Next (September 15)
I don’t really get why this run-of-the-mill home invasion horror movie got so much hype this year. It’s not bad or anything, and it has some great moments, but the characters are boring, the plot is totes stock, and the twist ending is frustratingly predictable. Still, it’s light years better than The Purge, so there’s that.
Much Ado About Nothing (September 24)
Joss Whedon made my two favorite movies of 2012, and if I had seen his version of Much Ado About Nothing back then, it surely would have made my Top 10 list as well. Shakespeare’s comedies are particularly difficult to adapt for a modern audience while keeping them, y’know, funny. But Whedon really pulls it off here, due to a minimalist approach, a slapsticky tone, and an excellent cast. Especially awesome are Agent Coulson as Leonato, Amy Acker as Beatrice, and Nathan Fillion’s hilarious CSI Miami take on Dogberry. If you’re into Shakespeare, you will definitely love this, but even if you’ve always felt alienated by the Bard, this might be the movie to turn you around.
Toys (September 25)
Like most people in the world, you’ve probably never seen this but assumed it was creepy and gross. Congratulations, you’re absolutely right. It alternates between pathetic attempts at Raold Dahl whimsy, and pathetic attempts at circa-1992 “hipness”. If you’re like me, you were expecting the former but not the latter, so once Robin Williams starts making horrifying MTV-style music videos, you’ll be cringing so hard that your body might just completely shut down. Ugh. Fuck you, Robin Williams.
Curse of Chucky (September 26)
I love Chucky and actually found him fucking terrifying as a kid. The first three movies are perfect, and while I also enjoy Bride and Seed, they feel almost like a separate franchise, and didn’t do much to ensure Chucky’s longevity as a horror icon. Well, I apologize wholeheartedly to any readers who might happen to be named Jack, because the real Chucky is finally back! What I really love is that although Curse of Chucky feels more like a continuation of the first three movies, it doesn’t discount the Jennifer Tilly era, and in fact, manages to mold every previous Chucky movie into something resembling a cohesive mythology. This movie is all about mythology, delving way deeper into Charles Lee Ray’s pre-doll past than ever before, and also projecting a possible future for the series that is super exciting. Seriously, any Chucky fan will squeal with delight at the final scene of this movie, and will mostly likely enjoy the hell out of everything before that too.
Get Over It (September 27)
Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster and Sisqo star in a teen romantic comedy that, three months later, I don’t remember at all.
Whatever It Takes (September 27)
Another teen romantic comedy, this one starring Stephanie Tanner’s big-tittied best friend, and a cast of kids who would go on to become famous (James Franco, Shane West, Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad, etc). The move itself is a take-off on Cyrano de Bergerac, and it’s pretty good.
Heavy Weights (September 28)
One of my girlfriend’s all-time favorites, this is a Disney movie about a bunch of kids at a fat camp. Written by Judd Apatow and starring Ben Stiller as the militant camp leader, this film is way more funny and charming than it has any right to be.
Another State of Mind (September 28)
I am generally bored by music documentaries – they usually feel like extended episodes of Behind the Music, with a bunch of talking heads telling boring stories over old photographs, or trying to convince me that the band in question was just so goddamned important. The punk rock documentary Another State of Mind is an exception, because instead of a bunch of old people looking back on the glory days, it was actually filmed and released during the glory days. Specifically, during a time in 1982 when Social Distortion and Youth Brigade went on their first tour together. I would literally kill myself if I had to watch a 50-year-old Mike Ness with a little microphone on his shirt talking to the camera about his early days touring… but actually watching it happen, watching these bands (along with some other now-well-known figures such as Ian MacKaye) back when they were no big deal, and just a bunch of dopey punk kids, was wonderful. Recommended for anyone who likes punk rock, especially those who, like me, cannot stand retrospective documentaries.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (September 28)
Another, very different, music-related documentary, this one focused on the careers of Robert and Dick Sherman, Walt Disney’s go-to songwriters in the 60’s and 70’s. This is the exact kind of documentary I bitched about earlier, all talking heads and grainy photographs, and as such, it was a bit of a slog to get through. But the subject matter is one that greatly appeals to me personally, so I remained relatively entertained throughout. However, if you’re less of a Disney fanatic than I am, approach with caution or you’re likely to be bored to death.
My Babysitter’s a Vampire (October 1)
October’s perpetual scary movie marathon kicks off with a whimper, with this Canadian kiddie comedy. It’s about a babysitter who is a vampire. It’s pretty dumb, so I loved it.
The World’s End (October 1)
The final film in Edgar Wright’s so-called Cornetto trilogy, we have another story about friendship and growing up, presented against an extreme genre backdrop. This time, Simon Pegg plays Gary King, a grown man who cannot move on from the wild days of his youth. When he badgers his old friends (Nick Frost, Watson from Sherlock, and a couple of other dudes I don’t recognize) into returning to their home town for a pub crawl, they are surprised to learn that the place has been taken over by body-snatching robots. This movie never shines brighter than it does in its first half-hour, when the estranged friends are first reunited, and are forced to either devolve back to their adolescent dynamic, or to confront the issues that caused them to drift apart in the first place. The chemistry during these segments is so strong, so heartbreaking, and so funny, that it’s almost a shame when evil robots show up. But, as in all of Wright’s films, the outlandish genre concepts merely serve as metaphors to illustrate the very adult themes, and this movie might be the best example yet of that approach. A perfect movie for those of us who feel as if we’ve watched our world blossom into adulthood around us, as we remain stuck in the mire of adolescence. Plus, robots.
The Purge (October 2)
The Purge has a fairly interesting near-future dystopian concept, and I would love to see a story that takes full advantage of it, instead of using it merely as the set-up to one of the stupidest home-invasion thrillers you will ever see. If the bulk of this movie somehow fails to make you completely hate it, the fucking absurd ending will surely do the trick. Fuck you, Ethan Hawke.
The Black Hole (October 3)
This Disney sci-fi feature was released in 1979 and features a bunch of adorable merchandising-ready robots, so it seems certain than it was produced to capitalize on the success of Star Wars. But the movie itself feels more like House on Haunted Hill with a tiny dash of 2001: A Space Odyssey thrown into the mix. As I watched this, I could not shake the feeling that I was watching some old Vincent Price haunted house b-movie, and for me, that’s a huge plus. If nothing else, it gives The Black Hole a creepy, fun ambiance that is pretty unique for outer space type flicks. Whether or not that sounds appealing or dreadful depends on the viewer’s individual tastes, but for me it was an awesome surprise. Plus, robots!
Lake Mungo (October 3)
When a teenage girl with the last name Palmer is found dead by a body of water, her past is slowly revealed as her family grieves, and there are some seemingly supernatural elements involved as well. Why didn’t they just throw a fucking Log Lady in there too? Jesus Christ.
Devil’s Pass (October 3)
In this found-footage horror, a group of film-making students travel to the Ural Mountains in Russia to investigate the real-life Dyaltov Pass incident, in which a group of skiers mysteriously disappeared in the 50’s. Beautiful scenery, likable characters, and a great plot with an even greater ending make this one of my favorite horror movies of the year.
The Love Bug (October 3)
I’d never seen this. It definitely has the patented Disney charm going for it, but it’s also pretty boring a lot of the time, unless maybe you’re really into car racing.
Visiting Hours (October 3)
This awesome movie from 1982 features the great Michael Ironside as a brutally misogynist psycho killer, who stalks an outspoken feminist TV journalist. Throw in an appearance by William Shatner, and you have the recipe for a good time.
Monsters Wanted (October 6)
I always make sure to go to at least one haunted attraction every October (this year it was Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind the Walls), but never gave much thought to just how much work had to be put into the good ones. This documentary focuses on a married couple who sunk all of their savings into the creation and maintenance of a haunted attraction in Kentucky. Although the couple comes off as pretty douchey, the film makes you care about them by really emphasizing how much they’ve put on the line for their dream. You get the real sense that if their attraction is unprofitable for just one Halloween season, they will lose literally everything. That combination of balls-to-the-wall will and short-sighted stupidity always makes for an entertaining documentary, and Monsters Wanted is no exception. If you’re a haunted house guy like me, you will enjoy this.
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (October 6)
Pretty meh 80’s teen horror movie, which is very loosely inspired by The Phantom of the Opera. The most notable thing about the movie is that it features a pre-fame Pauly Shore. Pauly Shore is the best thing about the movie – think about the implications of that for a second. I always enjoy a mall setting in my horror movies, but you can see that done much better in Chopping Mall, so I’d just pass over this one if I were you. Unfortunately, I’m me, so I watched it.
Altitude (October 6)
This movie grabbed my attention when I read somewhere that it was Lovecraft-esque, but just so you don’t make the same mistake I did, the only thing Lovecraft-esque about it is that it features, at one point, a mystical sky-monster with tentacles. Other than that, this is more like a watered-down, unfun version of The Langoliers or some shit. Terrible.
The Willies (October 6)
The Willies came out in 1990, and I’m not sure how it passed under my 10-year-old radar at the time, but I’m really bummed out about it. The good news is, it’s just as entertaining now at age 33! Much like Are You Afraid of the Dark?, which debuted one year later, this is light-hearted, kid-focused anthology horror. The wrap-around story features Sean Astin and some other non-Goonie kids sitting around a campfire sharing scary stories to tell in the dark. The absolute highlight is a tale in which Donkey Lips plays a kid whose obsession with torturing houseflies borders on the psycho-sexual, but honestly, all the stories are great! This now has a permanent spot on my October playlist.
Congo (October 7)
Until How Did This Get Made? forced me to revisit it this year, I hadn’t seen Congo since its original theatrical release in 1995. I was pretty obsessed with Michael Crichton back then, and this movie was the first sign that not all film adaptations of his novels would be as on-point as Jurassic Park (a couple of years later, the godawful Sphere would confirm this suspicion once and for all). My most lasting memory of seeing the film back then was exiting the theater with my friends and pantomiming sign language while robotically saying “BAD MOVIE, WANT MONEY BACK” in imitation of Amy the Gorilla’s voice-box in the movie. Me and the old gang had a good laugh over that one! But seriously, this movie was awful back then, and the relentless march of time has rendered it even worse. Skip it, and read a book for god’s sake.
The Conjuring (October 8)
God-awful, watered-down, pandering ghost-hunting bullshit. Congratulations, Hollywood, I think you’ve finally made me hate ghosts. Fuck you.
Awww, okay, I forgive you, Hollywood.
Night Life (October 9)
Really entertaining little teenage zombie movie from 1989. The lead character is presented as a picked-on nerd when in reality he’s just an antisocial dick, but somehow he still remains likable enough to root for when his bullies all turn into walking corpses. And no movie has ever been hurt by a John Astin appearance, so overall this was a delight.
The Watcher in the Woods (October 10)
Maybe I was still in the midst of my anti-ghost rage, but I found this Disney spook story from 1980 almost unbearably boring. And that’s coming from me, so it’d probably make you commit ritual suicide. Or just turn it off. Whichever is easier.
Escape From Tomorrow (October 12)
Escape From Tomorrow got a lot of pre-release hype based on the fact that it was secretly filmed at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and I of course lapped up this hype like a parched puppy dog. Finally seeing the results of all this covert film-making was breathtaking. If you’re even remotely familiar with the Disney parks, a lot of these shots will have you scratching your head as to how they were pulled off without any Cast Members noticing. The movie itself is pretty abstract and Lynchian, though not so much so that the plot or themes are obscured. From my point of view, it’s basically an exploration on the futility of family bonding in a society where culture is artificial, viewed through the prism of the most artificial culture of all. However you feel about Disney as an omnipresent cultural behemoth (you should know by now which side of this particular fence I fall on), this movie should give you a lot to look at and think about.
Summer Camp Nightmare (October 14)
I only checked this out because I thought it was a horror movie, and based on that title, can you blame me? It’s actually more of a Lord of the Flies type story though, about kids seizing control of their camp away from a fanatical director. Not quite the slasher I envisioned, but still pretty fun.
Neon Maniacs (October 15)
The Neon Maniacs are a crew of monsters who crawl out from under a bridge and terrorize teenagers. This would be a pretty typical 80’s horror movie, if not for the fact that the Maniacs themselves are so goddamned cool! Each monster is so weird and goofy and distinct that they almost seem like villains from some rejected 80’s action figure line, or grown-up Garbage Pail Kids. If that sounds awesome to you, please check this one out! If it doesn’t, I dunno, go kill yourself or something.
The Whisperer in Darkness (October 16)
The filmmakers behind the excellent silent film adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu return to tackle another Lovecraft classic. Since this one is a feature-length movie (as opposed to Cthulhu, which was only 47 minutes long), some padding had to be added to flesh out the original short story. This includes a bizarre new ending which includes, among other things, a crazy biplane dogfight sequence. I could have done without all the weird additions, but overall this is a pretty faithful adaptation (especially when compared to the vast majority Lovecraft-inspired movies), and really entertaining. Start with The Call of Cthulhu, and if you dig that, move on to this one.
Highway to Hell (October 17)
This dark fantasy is about Chad Lowe traveling to Hell to rescue his girlfriend Kristy Swanson from the clutches of the Devil. Hell is depicted as an endless stretch of Nevada desert, populated by a legion of colorful characters (including Gilbert Gottfried as Hitler!) and fantastical monsters. Highway to Hell is from 1991, and is a perfect example of the imaginative sets and creature designs that have become sadly obsolete in the age of CG effects. It’s a fucking tragedy, but at least we still have access to awesome movies like this to remind us of a time when fantasy movies were more than just assholes walking in front of green screens.
Memorial Valley Massacre (October 18)
This movie isn’t awful or anything, but in a world where there are so many great campground-themed slasher movies, it’d be kinda pointless to waste your time with this one.
Among Friends (October 19)
This movie is extremely similar to the aforementioned Would You Rather, except it somehow manages to be even worse than that piece of crap. Much, much worse.
Slime City (October 20)
1988’s Slime City plays out kind of like a poor man’s Street Trash, and while it’s nowhere near as great as that film, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. It’s ultra-low-budget (to the point where two completely different female characters are inexplicably played by the same actress), and kind of nonsensical, but the story and characters are fun, and the amazing climactic sequence is worth the price of admission alone. Also, I can’t be positive about this, but I am pretty sure that some of the exterior street scenes were filmed in my hometown of Astoria, Queens. If anybody more knowledgeable about Slime City than myself can confirm or deny this, I’d really appreciate it!
976-EVIL (October 20)
Another movie forever burned into my brain from seeing the box on the Blockbuster Video shelves. Now after all these years, I’ve finally seen it, and it’s pretty bleh. C’est la vie.
Clownhouse (October 21)
Let’s get this out of the way: this movie, about some kids who are terrorized by a trio of escaped lunatics dressed like clowns, is fucking great. It’s a very scary, well-made horror movie. Having said that, it was kind of hard to watch, knowing that the lead child actor was being constantly molested by the director during filming. That really sucks, and it makes this movie really difficult to enjoy or recommend, but arghhhh, it’s just such an awesome movie! Follow your own conscience, people.
The Dark Knight Rises (October 21)
I bitched a lot last year about how lame this movie was, but I decided to revisit it, just to make sure my initial reaction wasn’t too harsh. Nope, it’s still really fucking lame. As I write this, it’s January 2nd, 2014, and I’m remembering that way back in 2010, I contemplated making a tradition of watching the Dark Knight movies during the first few days of each year. This movie is the reason why I’ve abandoned that idea.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (October 23)
Most notable for being the weird Halloween movie that doesn’t feature Michael Myers, I think Season of the Witch can stand on its own two feet as a fun, clever Halloweeny movie all its own. Ol’ Shatner-Mask might have sat this one out, but the great Tom Atkins is in attendance and kicks ass as always. Plus, I dare you to watch this and not get the Silver Shamrock theme stuck in your head for days.
Role Models (October 24)
Paul Rudd and Stifler as two ne’er-do-wells who join the Big Brother program and are put in charge of a couple of little kids. I seem to vaguely recall this movie being shit on by everyone back when it was released, but I found it surprisingly funny and heartwarming. Also, keep an eye out for Louis CK, who shows up for two seconds in a non-speaking role, for some reason.
1313: Bigfoot Island (October 26)
After obsessing over A Talking Cat!?! for the better part of the year, I decided to finally check out one of David DeCoteau’s weird gay porn horror movies, which for some reason are mostly released under the mysterious banner “1313“. Luckily, they are all on Netflix, and I picked this one pretty much at random. It is about a bunch of dudes who run around and swim shirtless, and occasionally encounter a Bigfoot. The Bigfoot is summoned, via mystical forest shamanism, by a girl who one of the shirtless guys once raped. That’s surprisingly heavy for a movie like this, but I’ve learned to expect the unexpected whenever David DeCoteau is involved. Anyway, this was boring enough to quell my curiosity about the 1313 series for a while, but maybe in 2014 I’ll get around to watching Night of the Widow or Frankenqueen.
The Monster Squad (October 26)
Haha, can you guys believe that the wolfman has nards??
Big Ass Spider (October 27)
The titular giant arachnid wrecks havoc on Los Angeles, but it wasn’t expecting to have to face as formidable a foe as the chubby cop from Heroes! This movie sets itself apart from the multitude of giant creature features by its very tongue-in-cheek and self-aware sense of humor. It almost works as a parody of typical SyFy monster movies, and it’s actually funny a lot of the time. If you’re only going to watch one big ass spider movie this year, make it Big Ass Spider.
Slime City Massacre (October 28)
This sequel to Slime City was made in 2010, 22 years after the original. Though it loses some of the original’s raw imagination (while maintaining its shit budget), it is certainly an ambitious film, which falls more into the “post-apocalyptic” sub-genre. The new direction sets it apart from what could have been a by-the-numbers continuation, and the settings are interesting, but overall this falls a little short of its predecessor.
Ghost Shark (October 29)
Bull Shannon and Ruthie Camden from 7th Heaven (who, as I creepily predicted when that show was still on the air, turned out to be pretty hot) fight a ghost shark in this SyFy feature. The cool thing about a ghost shark is that it can attack from anywhere where there’s even a slight bit of water. Highlights include the ghost shark leaping out of cups of water, slip-n-slides, and in one particularly hilarious scene, an open fire hydrant that a group of kids are playing in. Of all the shark movies I’ve seen this year, this is my favorite.
Death Valley (October 29)
Another 7th Heaven alumnus (Catherine Hicks) co-stars with a pre-Christmas Story Ralphie in this tame serial killer thriller. The horrory stuff is vanilla as shit, but I enjoyed the pretty Death Valley scenery, especially the awesome little Old West town the family visits. I want to visit that town, and buy a souvenir sheriff’s badge with my name on it!
Jack the Giant Killer (Rifftrax version) (October 29)
This is not the recent failure, but an entirely different failure from 1962. This is like the cheapo bargain bin version of a Ray Harryhausen fantasy movie, and wouldn’t really be worth anyone’s time if the Rifftrax guys didn’t have so much fun with it.
Hallow’s Eve (October 29)
I watched this accidentally, when I actually meant to watch All Hallow’s Eve. It’s an awful slasher about a killer stalking a haunted house attraction. Don’t make the same mistake I did: remember the “All“.
We Are What We Are (October 31)
We Are What We Are is the tale of a seemingly-normal family with a dark secret. Spoiler: The dark secret is that they’re cannibals. This is the American remake of a 2010 Mexican film, and for some reason I made the mistake of watching it first. Hopefully the original version is better, because this one is really plodding and cliched. The eventual pay-off is actually kind of cool, but by the time I got there, I no longer cared at all, and just wanted it to be over.
UPDATE: As of January 5th, 2014, I have now seen the original Mexican version of this. It is entirely different, and really great, and it makes me hate this shitty American version all the more. But I guess I’ll talk about it next year. See you then!
All Hallow’s Eve (October 31)
This time I got it right, and I’m glad I did, because All Hallow’s Eve is fucking great. Each segment of this horror anthology is wildly different in tone, subject, and even filming style from each other, but the thread that runs through all of them is Art the Clown, one of the scariest fucking movie villains I’ve seen in a long time. Unlike, say, The Willies or Trick ‘R Treat, this movie is NOT kid-friendly. It’s bloody and gross as hell, and features one or two instances of weird sexual violence that even I found disturbing. But if you’re an adult who wants a genuinely scary anthology movie to cuddle up with on a brisk October night, this is definitely a winner. And the perfect wrap-up to the Halloween movie season.
I Declare War (October 31)
The “gimmick” of this movie is that it focuses on a group of kids playing war in the woods, but their make-believe is depicted as reality to the viewers. For instance, a kid might pick up a large stick and declare it to be a machine gun, but we actually see that kid running around with a machine gun. It’s an extremely clever gimmick, which alone would probably be enough to carry a movie (or at least a short film), but luckily I Declare War has a hell of a lot more to offer than just that. The kids are all depicted as being approximately in the 11-13 range, and that’s important, because at its core, I Declare War is about the shift from childhood to adolescence, and how that transition affects relationships, loyalties and priorities. The movie is not always perfect (some of the kids are not especially gifted at acting, for one thing), but it manages to ably deal with some pretty powerful themes, while at the same time providing fun and imaginative eye candy. That makes I Declare War a big winner in my book.
Zoolander (November 1)
First time seeing this and it was pretty funny! And now when people quote this shit, I can be in on the joke! What is this, a center for ants?? LOL!!
The Sitter (November 2)
This felt so much to me like a remake of Adventures in Babysitting that I’d bet anything that’s exactly what it was originally meant to be, but then they couldn’t get the rights or something. This time, Jonah Hill is the irresponsible babysitter who drags his charges along on a series of impossibly wacky misadventures, and just as in its spiritual fore-bearer, the results are hilarious fun.
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (November 2)
In 2009, some dude made a documentary called His Name Was Jason, which chronicled the history of the Friday the 13th film franchise. For some reason, in 2013, the same guy decided to take a lot of the same interview footage and put together a new version of the same thing, except much, much longer. Almost 8 fucking hours long, in fact. It sounds like I’m being negative, but I actually loved every minute of this thing, and if you’re a Friday the 13th fan, this is a must-see. Covering everything from the original film up until the 2009 remake, this goes into intimate detail about every little nuance of each film (and even the TV show!) from conception to release, and features interviews with almost every cast and crew member you can think of. I came out of this documentary especially in love with Monica Keena, the lead actress from Freddy vs. Jason. I don’t think anyone has ever been more excited to talk about Jason Voorhees than her, and it makes me want to kiss her right on her puffy lips.
Ace Attorney (November 3)
The fact that Takashi Miike (best known for ultra-violent, disturbing films such as Audition and Ichi the Killer) directed a live-action movie based on a cartoony Capcom game about lawyers is one of the strangest things to ever happen on the planet Earth, and I love it so, so much. What makes this movie work is how militantly reverent it is of its ridiculous source material, not only strictly following the plot of the first game in the series, but also refusing to compromise on the franchise’s outlandishly cartoonish character designs and set pieces. It also adds in some appropriately wacky ideas of its own – crazy futuristic evidence display monitors, for example, add visual flair to lengthy courtroom scenes which would otherwise be pretty monotonous. If I have one complaint about Ace Attorney, it’s that, at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it’s a bit too long for its own good. Aside from that, however, it’s a perfect adaptation, and one that every Phoenix Wright fan needs to see.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (November 3)
There is an enemy mole planted within MI6, and Gary Oldman must figure out who it is! This movie’s title (which refers to the code names given to the various suspects) is emblematic of a problem inherent in all whodunnits: you are presented with X number of possible suspects, and then are expected to be shocked when the bad guy turns out to be one of the people you thought might be the bad guy. “The spy is either Joe, Fred, Jim, or Bill. SURPRISE: It’s Jim!” I think the trick is to make the WOW factor not about who dunnit, but rather why and how they dunnit. In my opinion, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy fails at this. In the end, it just turns out to be one of the small group of guys you knew all along it could have been, and his motivations are boring and meaningless. So, like, who cares?
Kick-Ass 2 (November 3)
This didn’t kick as much ass as Kick-Ass kicked, but it still kicked a little bit of ass. A lot of the magic/shock value of the first one has been lost, but there are still people in superhero suits having really amazing battles, so I’m still entertained.
You Can’t Kill Stephen King (November 4)
You Can’t Kill Stephen King is a really shitty little slasher movie, which is sort of half-assedly themed after the works of Stephen King. Now, there are a million shitty little slasher movies out there in the world, but the most that the filmmakers behind them have to worry about is shit-talk on IMDB or, like, a bad review on Dread Central or something like that. But with a title like You Can’t Kill Stephen King, I’d bet dollars to donuts that Stephen King himself has heard of this movie. I think it’s even pretty likely that curiosity compelled him to sit down and watch the damn thing. Maybe he even had his secretary shoot an email to the filmmakers telling them to “keep at it, guys” or some condescending, half-ass thing like that. Do you realize how depressing that is? These guys obviously idolize Stephen King, and they have to wake up every morning knowing that their hero is fully aware of how awful they are at telling horror stories. I kind of feel bad for them, but honestly, it’s their own fucking fault. Next time, call your movie Deathblood Lake or something, you dum-dums.
Astronaut: The Last Push (November 7)
An astronaut is stuck in a spaceship alone for, like, a really long time, and oh man, how does he deal with the loneliness and isolation? Mostly by bouncing a ball around, trying to memorize the names of the seven dwarfs, and talking to Kevin from The Office on a video monitor. This movie is decent, but seriously, how long does it take to memorize the seven dwarfs’ names? There are only seven of them, you stupid astronaut!
Thor: The Dark World (November 7)
While the first Thor film (and, of course, The Avengers) focused mainly on the Norse god’s fish-out-of-water adventures on Earth, the sequel takes the action to Asgard, and dives deeper into that character’s fantasy roots. It’s a total joy to see Thor and his viking friends traveling across the realms, battling rock monsters with old-timey battle axes and whatnot. But my main problem is that, for me, there is a little bit too much sci-fi mixed in with the fantasy. Once spaceships start attacking Asgard, and are responded to by tower-mounted laser cannons, everything starts getting a little bit too Star Wars prequel-ish for my tastes. To further illustrate this point, just take a look at this romantic scene of Natalie Portman and
Anakin Thor flirting against the beautiful backdrop of Naboo Asgard:
You almost expect Thor to start whining about how much he hates sand, don’t you? Another problem is the villains of the piece, the Dark Elves, who, in addition to looking like shitty Babylon 5 aliens, don’t appear to have any genuine motivations for their actions aside from just being eeeeevil. I suspect the bad guys were left intentionally two-dimensional here, to avoid shifting focus too far away from America’s favorite bad boy Loki. Which makes sense, because he is awesome in the movie. And so is Thor himself. And honestly, in spite of everything I just bitched about, there’s a lot of awesome shit about this movie, from the sword-and-sorcery battles, to Heimdall’s long-awaited moment in the spotlight, to the crazy-ass Portal action sequence near the end. If you like Thor, there’s no reason you shouldn’t like The Dark World at least a little bit, but make you go into it mentally prepared for a big chunk of Attack of the Clones nonsense.
Better Off Dead (November 8)
I’d never seen this one before, and had always assumed it would be pretty much exactly like Say Anything or Sixteen Candles, or any other teen comedy from this era. So I wasn’t expecting much, and I was not at all prepared for how wacky and surreal this movie was willing to get – I certainly wasn’t expecting dancing hamburgers! I loved it, of course, and I learned a lesson about drawing premature conclusions about things I haven’t seen.
Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story (November 8)
Watching three randos pretending to be T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye for two hours was a surprisingly entertaining experience. It was also educational, since I learned a lot of things about TLC that I never knew before. Although I guess knowledge about the history of TLC is not applicable in any way, shape, or form, so maybe “educational” is too strong a word. Also, that knowledge may or may not even be true. So, I guess I gained nothing from watching this movie, except the bizarre thrill of seeing the Waterfalls video recreated by nobodies. But it was worth it!
Resolution (November 11)
A man restrains his drug-addled best friend in a cabin, hoping to force withdrawal and eventually recovery from drug addiction. Then a bunch of weird, seemingly unrelated shit begins happening. It’s a bit confusing at first, but what this turns out to be is an exploration of the horror genre, and the relationship between its storytellers and its viewers – almost like a quieter, much more subtle Cabin in the Woods. It’s a big theme for such a small film, and its success relies almost entirely on the shoulders of the two lead characters. Luckily, the writing is sharp and authentic-feeling, and the actors pull it off just fine. If these themes appeal to you, then I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t love Resolution.
The Final Sacrifice (MST3K version) (November 11)
All it takes for an exemplary episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is for one character in the film to be so utterly ridiculous that he can be riffed on eternally without it getting stale. Castleton graduate Nick Miller from Time Chasers, for example. Or Mitchell from Mitchell. What makes The Final Sacrifice my absolute favorite episode is that there are FOUR such characters! There’s Zap Rowsdower, of course, whose drunkenness and hockey hair has made him a fucking icon. But there’s also effeminate manboy Troy McGreggor, Dr. Teeth soundalike Mike Pipper, and duck-faced villain Satoris. All are ridiculous enough to carry their own episodes of MST3k, and putting them all together creates inimitable magic. Perhaps 2014 will be the year I finally get my Final Sacrifice tattoo:
CBGB (November 15)
Alan Rickman stars as Hilly Kristal in this biopic about the legendary club-owner, who inadvertently created one of punk rock’s earliest and most iconic meccas. This is fairly entertaining for fans of punk rock, but please don’t go in expecting precise historical accuracy. For example, the Ramones are probably the band most closely associated with CBGB, but there are no Ramones songs in the movie, presumably due to licensing issues. So, instead, we are treated to scenes of the Ramones, at CBGB in the 70’s, playing songs from Joey Ramone’s 2002 solo album. Weird! Aside from the Ramones, almost every band from the 70’s NYC scene is represented, but strangely, it’s Ohio’s Dead Boys who steal the show here. Cheetah Chrome and Stiv Bators (portrayed respectively by Ron Weasley and the guy from The Hangover) are given hilarious Eddie Haskell characterizations, and they energize the fuck out of the movie whenever they show up on screen. Overall, like early punk rock itself, CBGB is kind of dumb but fun.
Killer Holiday (November 16)
One of the worst horror movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of bad horror movies. For the love of god, avoid.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (November 18)
I really enjoyed the first Percy Jackson movie, but this one seems like a pretty big step down, both in storytelling and especially in terms of its special effects budget. Everything looks like total shit in this one, particularly the cyclops kid, whose face looks like I slapped it together in Microsoft Paint. Don’t get me wrong – the film was still entertaining enough to hold my attention throughout, but some of the magic is definitely gone.
Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (November 19)
Listening to poor Christopher Lee narrate this 90-minute infomercial for DC Comics is one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Hearing this fucking legend forced to say things like, “DC Comics villains continue to shine in the New 52, culminating in the upcoming Forever Evil crossover event” is heartbreaking. Another thing I learned from this “documentary” is that Geoff Johns is even further up his own asshole than I previously thought. Nearly every time he is interviewed, he takes the opportunity to narrate full pages of his own Green Lantern dialogue, and then say how brilliant it is. Having said all that, this thing is entertaining enough if you’re a big DC fan and want to hear people wax poetic about the likes of Black Manta and Deathstroke for a million years. Did you guys know that sometimes the line between heroism and villainy can be blurry? I do, because Christopher Lee told me so about a thousand times.
Fair Game (November 20)
How Did This Get Made? forced me to watch 1996’s Cindy Crawford/William Baldwin action vehicle Fair Game. Aside from one hilarious scene in which Cindy attempts to seduce a computer nerd using some shitty screenwriter’s idea of 90’s-era tech lingo (“I want your hardware… I want to demo your unit”), there’s not a lot here to even laugh at. Cindy sure was hot though!
The Swamp of the Ravens (Rifftrax version) (November 23)
This Spanish mad scientist movie from 1974 has a little something for everyone: soaking wet walking corpses, gross leprous faces, woman-hating, fetuses in jars, and lots and lots of birds. But, as the Rifftrax guys point out, the main attraction here is when a lounge singer belts out a baffling love song dedicated to a dead robot, which must be heard to be believed:
Superman and the Mole Men (November 24)
In Superman’s first feature-length motion picture, from 1951, he and Lois travel to a small town, which is being plagued by a race of underground dwellers who have emerged from a deep oil well. I don’t really remember Superman flying or fighting or using superpowers much during the movie. He seems to spend most of his time as Clark Kent, and he only turns into Superman to try to convince the townspeople not to brutally murder the Mole Men for no reason. It’s all pretty old-timey and dull, but still, it beats Man of Steel.
Constantine (November 28)
I saw this in a $5 theater, by myself, back when it was originally released, and found it mildly entertaining. But at the time, I was not really familiar with the Constantine character. Since then, I’ve gone on to love him due to his appearances in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and his own Vertigo series, so I decided to revisit the film to see if it holds up to my now-enlightened scrutiny. It does not hold up. It’s mind-blowing to see John Constantine not only Americanized, but fucking Keanu Reeved as well! You would never get away with this sort of this in today’s cultural climate of extreme geekery, and hopefully the Hellblazer will see a more favorable silver screen portrayal in Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming Justice League Dark movie.
The Golden Compass (November 28)
The series of young adult fantasy novels upon which this movie is based is most well-known for its atheistic point of view, functioning almost like an anti-Narnia. There are a few hints of that ideology in The Golden Compass, but nothing too explicit. I imagine it would have become a more prevalent theme had the movie franchise made it past one single installment. The film isn’t great or anything, but it’s sufficiently fun and imaginative, and features polar bears in battle armor, so it’s already 6 or 7 steps ahead of Harry fucking Potter. It certainly deserved, at the very least, a second chapter. But no, let’s all just get back to humbly bowing before the great and powerful J.K. Rowling, in all her glory.
Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United (November 28)
This thing was billed as the first feature-length animated spin-off of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but don’t be fooled. What this really represents is a pitiful new low for direct-to-video superhero cartoons, even by Marvel’s usual garbagey standards. Honestly, I barely made it through this one. What Heroes United offers is disgusting, cheap-looking computer animation, a disjointed and dull plot, and dreadful voice acting. It’s a shame, because in theory, a team-up story like this could make for a great movie, and there are some ideas here that could be really cool in a better movie (such as a temporarily-blinded Hulk being “steered” by Tony Stark in a battle against an army of Wendigos). As it stands, though, this is entirely skippable, even by the most feverish of Marvel fanboys.
You Wish! (November 29)
The Kid from Disney’s The Kid stars in this It’s a Wonderful Life-ish tale about a teenager who wishes he didn’t have a little brother, and then grows to regret it when his wish comes true. The Kid’s performance as the wished-away brother made the film for me: watching that little fucker waddle across the screen fills me with so much joy, for reasons I can’t quite describe. This movie is pretty stupid and childish, and I loved it.
The 12 Disasters of Christmas (November 30)
SyFy disaster movie, which makes a half-ass attempt to tie the “12 Days of Christmas” concept in with the Mayan prophecy of the world ending in 2012. It’s not the most clever idea ever dreamed up, but I guess there was only one month in human history during which a story like this could be relevant, so the SyFy Channel went for it. It reminded me a lot of a similar movie I watched last year called Snowmageddon. If you can only watch one of the two movies, choose Snowmageddon, because it features a magical snow globe, and this one does not. But if you get the chance to watch neither of them, that’s probably the best option.
The To Do List (November 30)
Aubrey Plaza stars in this funny and sweet teen sex comedy. After decades of American Pies and whatnot, it’s really refreshing to see this type of sexual coming-of-age story told from a female perspective, and Plaza nails it as the virginal bookworm determined to get herself laid (the conceit that she is supposed to be a teenager is pretty insulting, but that’s always going to be an issue in movies like this, I guess). Other standouts include Bill Hader as her dickhead-with-a-softer-side boss, and, surprisingly, Rachel Bilson as her sexually experienced older sister. If you like these types of comedies, but are tired of seeing women reduced to prizes or life lessons in them, The To Do List is a great change of pace.
Frozen (December 1)
I don’t think Frozen is the best Disney princess movie or anything, but I do kind think it might be the most important, especially for little girls. Warning: In order to talk about why I feel that way, I really have no choice but to issue a blanket SPOILER WARNING for the rest of this write-up. So stop reading this now if you give a shit about that, okay? Okay. Now, Frozen has a lot of flaws – its plot is kind of all over the place, it features the most annoying comic relief sidekick since Mushu, and while most of the music is great, there are a couple of really bad songs which stick out like sore thumbs (a special fuck you to the obnoxious-ass trolls and their rejected Fraggle Rock song). Throughout most of the movie, it feels pretty similar to any other Disney princess tale – redemption via true love and blablabla. But by the time the movie gets around to the BIG TWIST (which caused me to gasp in genuine surprise while watching a Disney movie, for perhaps the first time ever), you start to realize that there’s something else going on with this story. It’s a neat trick, playing with our expectations of its genre – waving one hand in our face, while it covertly sets up its message with the other. After an hour of playing up the same old Snow White tropes of true love between a handsome prince and a beautiful princess, Frozen finally reveals its true message – that that type of love is fleeting bullshit, and the “true love” it’s really talking about is the love between sisters – between girls, between women. It’s an incredibly ballsy move for Disney, and one that is so important for its princess-obsessed target audience. Aside from all that stuff, the movie also happens to be fucking beautiful – its wintery landscape is wholly unique for this kind of film, and with its snowflakes and snowmen and reindeer, it pulls off another neat trick by cementing itself as a Christmas-time classic without being explicitly about Christmas. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel are incredible as the two leading ladies, and there are a few songs (Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? in particular) which are destined to become part of the timeless Disney music canon along with A Whole New World and When You Wish Upon a Star and shit. Frozen is far from perfect, but it’s definitely excellent, and the most vital and responsible princess movie that could have possibly come out in 2013.
Hudson Hawk (December 7)
Bruce Willis’ ill-fated attempt to launch a character-based action/comedy franchise isn’t quite as bad as its reputation might lead you to believe, but it’s still pretty goddamn bad. And it is shockingly dissimilar to the NES game I remember playing as a kid.
Raptor Ranch (December 8)
I don’t know why this movie is called Raptor Ranch, because it mainly focuses on bright blue T-Rexes. Otherwise, this feels like an amalgamation of a really shitty teen slasher and a really shitty SyFy monster movie. It’s really shitty.
Insidious (December 8)
Insidious: Chapter 2 (December 8)
I rewatched the first”chapter” of Insidious to prepare myself for the second, and I still love it just as much as I did back when I gushed all over it in 2011. It’s scary as hell, creative, and wholly unique. In fact, the sprawling mythology this story created left the door wide open for really interesting sequels. Which brings us to Insidious: Chapter 2, a frustratingly uninteresting sequel. I understand that the concept of “The Further” from the first film left a lot of room for expansion in pretty much any direction, but this movie just seems to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks. And a lot of those sticky things end up being really, really stupid – is there any reason why time travel should suddenly be included, for instance? Hell no, but there it is anyway, for some reason. Also, the story completely abandons most of the specific plot elements from Chapter 1, focusing on an entirely new villain, which kinda makes it feel like some “monster of the week” installment of an episodic TV show. Perhaps the worst victim in this big mess is the poor, poor actress who was hired to play a younger version of Lin Shayne in flashback sequences, only to have her voice awkwardly dubbed over by the actual, old, Lin Shayne. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and it’s so goddamn lame. Ugh. Insidious: Chapter 2 was really fucking disappointing, you guys.
Crossroads (Rifftrax version) (December 10)
I always knew this movie was bad and boring, but it took this viewing (for How Did This Get Made?, of course) for it to sink in how completely nutso it really is. Something that really stuck out to me this time was how, in this vehicle for the hot new pop sensation Britney Spears, the plot revolves around another character’s ambitions to become a famous singer, and Britney is just kinda along for the ride. Also, that character is pregnant, loses her baby after falling down some stairs or something, and then everyone is laughing and singing like five minutes later. It’s fucking bizarre, almost like several different ideas for several different Britney Spears films got smooshed together in a board room and then carelessly shat onto movie screens. And how the hell did poor Dan Aykroyd get roped into this thing?? Listen, you don’t have to watch this movie. Just watch up until the scene where Britney Spears is dancing around in her underwear, pause it for 6 minutes, and then shut it off.
Home Alone Dogs (December 11)
IMDB lists this movie under the title Step Dogs, but I swear I saw it with the title Home Alone Dogs. To prove I’m not going crazy (to myself as much as to you), look at this:
It has the Home Alone logo and everything! I totally got tricked into thinking this was an “official” new direct-to-video Home Alone movie! But it took all of five minutes to realize I was mistaken – not only because of the title change, which has “cease and desist” written all over it – but because, even when compared to a direct-to-video Home Alone sequel, this movie is of an exceedingly low quality. As you might imagine, this is about talking dogs foiling robbers who are trying to break into their masters’ home. You might think – as I did – that this sounds adorable! But, like me, you are underestimating just how annoying and off-putting a guy voicing a dog can possibly be. Listen, I have seen every episode of Dog With a Blog, and I thought I’d witnessed the pinnacle of obnoxious dog voice-acting, but this movie proved me so, so wrong. I understand why you might be tempted to ignore my advice and seek this movie out – I know the siren song of Home Alone Dogs all too well. But if you need to get your shitty Home Alone sequel fix, just watch Home Alone 3 like a normal person, okay?
The Return of Swamp Thing (December 14)
I’d read somewhere that The Return of Swamp Thing was directly influenced by Alan Moore’s run, so I went into it expecting a more serious and somber take on the character than that which the first movie offered. What I got was almost the complete opposite – this movie is super cheesy and campy. But it’s by design, wearing its goofiness on its sleeve, almost to the level of satire. Because of that, I found myself enjoying it, in spite of the expectations I went into it with. As for the Alan Moore connection? It seems to come down to one scene, in which Moore’s brilliant Rites of Spring issue is sloppily recreated. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular Swamp Thing issue (#34, by the way), it features Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane confessing their love to each other, and then “making love” via a shared hallucinogenic experience brought on by eating potatoes grown on Swamp Thing’s body. It’s a strange, beautiful, and deep exploration of love and sex, and so of course it’s completely out of place in this dopey-ass movie. Regardless of that weird misstep, I mostly enjoyed this for the silly mess it is. But if you don’t feel the same, not to worry – it turns out there are other movies in existence.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (December 14)
As was the case with You’re Next, this was another instance where I was told by people whose opinions on horror movies I respect that All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was exceptionally good, but I found it to be extremely run-of-the-mill. I was trying to figure out why this kind of thing kept happening to me, and I think I’ve figured it out: I watch way, way too many fucking movies. If I was a normal person who watched, say, 2 or 3 teen slasher movies a year, then I would probably think All the Boys Loved Mandy Lane was pretty damn good. But since I watch more like a fucking hundred teen slashers a year, I recognized all the tropes and themes in this one as being the exact same bullshit that is in every movie in this genre. Randomly choose a teen horror movie on Netflix, and you are very likely to have an experience almost identical to watching this one, except maybe without the big-budget polish. And while this doesn’t prevent me from enjoying something like Mandy Lane, it does prevent me from seeing it as anything special or unique. So, my point is, I think I need to watch way fewer movies. Duh, right?
Dr. Who: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (Rifftrax version) (December 15)
A sequel to the previously-mentioned Dr. Who movie, and just as hilarious and entertaining as that one. Man, I would be so much happier if this was the only Dr. Who that existed.
Jug Face (December 15)
Jug Face is similar to the American We Are What We Are, in that it focuses on a family of backwoods weirdos, who secretly practice strange and blasphemous rituals. A decent lead actress and a handful of interesting ideas make this movie a little bit more compelling than it deserves to be, but like We Are What We Are, it’s still mostly boring and dumb.
The Children (December 15)
Another killer kid movie. This one is nowhere near as awesome as Come Out and Play, but it still features little kids murdering and being murdered (and pretty damn violently too!), so I am still 100% on board.
We’re the Millers (December 17)
By now, you might be thinking that I pretty much hate any mainstream comedy, and you’d be mostly right. But, hey, I liked this one! It stars Jason Sudeikis as a weed dealer who recruits strippers and teenage runaways to pose as his “family,” in order to cross the US/Mexico border without arousing suspicion. Compared to the likes of, oh say 21 & Over, this is a fairly creative premise, which hasn’t been done to death, and the movie makes the most of it. A great cast (Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and some kid) doesn’t hurt either.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (December 17)
I kick off the Christmas movie-watching season with this slasher from 1984. This movie is super fun, and definitely deserves its classic status, but for a guy like me, it’s just not quite “Christmassy” enough. It just feels like typical 80’s horror with a holiday “skin.” I much prefer Christmas Evil for this sort of thing, since it pulls off the impressive feat of injecting schmaltzy Christmas tearjerkery into a slasher narrative.
Eden Lake (December 20)
A couple on a romantic getaway get harassed by a gang of fucked up teenagers. I must be getting old, because I don’t really have the stomach anymore for scenes of torture or intense physical violence. And I have even less of a stomach for someone hiding out in a waste disposal container, and then spending the rest of the movie smeared with chunks of human shit. If you are still young and filled with piss and vinegar, you’ll probably like this, because it’s a decent movie. Me, I’d rather be watching Lifetime original movies about Christmas consultants.
The Christmas Consultant (December 21)
In this Lifetime Original Movie, the inimitable David Hasselhoff stars as the most annoying, counterproductive Christmas consultant in the history of Christmas consultation. Hired by really-busy-at-work businesswoman Caroline Rhea to handle the planning of holiday minutia for her family, Hasselhoff proceeds to systematically ruin all of their lives. The whole point of your job is to free up Caroline Rhea’s time so she can concentrate on work, David Hasselhoff! Stop making her miss work stuff so she can participate in snowball fights and shit with you! Anyway, this movie is great and I cried at the end. I can’t believe Crystal hasn’t covered this one yet!
Saving Mr. Banks (December 23)
This movie tells the story of the rocky negotiations between P.L. Travers and Walt Disney to make a film adaptation of Travers’ novel Mary Poppins. Since this film was made by Disney, it predictably skews the story in the corporation’s favor – even the slightest bit of research into the real story reveals that Saving Mr. Banks is mostly full of shit. However, as a movie, it’s still pretty wonderful. The scene set at a retro-fied Disneyland is especially delightful, and for me, the main attraction here. There are also some incredible performances. Emma Thompson is fucking transcendent as Travers, and thought I’m not the type to usually say dumb shit like “she should win an Oscar for this,” she should totally have won an Oscar for this. Rushmore and Ryan from The Office also steal the fucking show as the Sherman Brothers. Tom Hanks is also… good, I guess? The thing is… Disney wasn’t exactly a recluse. He was a very public figure who appeared on television every week, and as a result, everybody knows what his voice sounds like. So it’s anybody’s guess as to why Tom Hanks chose to depict him with some weird fucking accent that he clearly never had. Weird choice on his part, but he still manages to capture Walt Disney’s charm and business savvy. I guess your enjoyment of this film will depend mostly on (a) how much of a Disney fanatic you are, and (b) how much you care about historical accuracy. It is definitely off-putting how much the movie whitewashes the genuinely shitty treatment Travers received from Disney, but at the end of the day, the timeless legacy of Mary Poppins proves that Disney was right and Travers was wrong. And to the victors go the biopics.
It’s a Wonderful Life (December 24)
Last year, I went on and on about how bizarre this movie is structurally, but I think this viewing is when it finally clicked for me that the bizarreness really works in the film’s favor. Any movie nowadays which sold itself on this kind of alternate universe gimmick would set up the status quo backstory in the first ten minutes during the opening credits, and then immediately get to the shenanigans. Any details which needed filling in would get done via exposition or inference, or maybe even flashbacks. It’s a Wonderful Life has the balls and patience to take us along for the whole, long ride, so that we know the fuck out of George Bailey by the time he’s hanging out with angels and shit. I don’t know that this movie would have its famous emotional impact if it had gone with a more traditional narrative structure. This shit is great, and I’m glad I can finally stop being weirded out by it, and start really appreciating it. And crying, a lot.
Silent Night (December 24)
I didn’t even realize that this was meant to be a remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night until after the movie was over, and I was reading reviews of it online. Even though the plots are pretty much identical, they are both so generic that I figured this movie was simply emulating every cheesy slasher film that came before it, rather than one specific cheesy slasher film. This one is probably a little bit funner than the original, due to a lot of delightfully groan-inducing dialogue, and the hilarious presence of Malcolm McDowell. Plus, because of this movie, as the clock struck midnight and Christmas Eve transitioned into Christmas Day, I was watching a half-naked girl get impaled on reindeer antlers. It was a Christmas miracle!
White Christmas (December 25)
I enjoyed It’s a Wonderful Life so much that I decided to go back and check out another beloved old-timey Christmas classic that I had never seen before. But White Christmas might have been the most unbearably boring thing I’ve ever forced myself to sit through. Set in the world of 1950’s song-and-dance theater, White Christmas is a romantic comedy which is neither romantic nor comedic, is full of awful, awful music, and which has barely anything to do with Christmas. I usually love sappy old movies, but this one is a serious piece of shit. Avoid.
Mary Poppins (December 25)
Of course I had to revisit this after seeing Saving Mr. Banks. It’s funny seeing how all the things Travers was adamantly against (animation, songs, whimsy, etc) not only found their way into the movie, but became the most iconic elements of it. Disney really screwed over Travers, but in doing so, he gave the world one if its most perfect movies. The music is excellent (Feed the Birds really stood out to me on this viewing), the story is touching and the characters are all lovable as hell. Plus – and I feel almost dirty admitting this – holy cow was Julie Andrews hot!
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (December 28)
I know I am frequently underwhelmed by mainstream comedies, but the original Anchorman is a big exception, in that it is just as hilarious now as it was when I first saw it almost ten years ago. My love for this movie made me more nervous than excited about its sequel, but I bravely put my fears aside and marched into a movie theater to see it. And I’m so glad I did. The movie is not without flaws – like most comedy sequels, this one depends a bit too much on gags recycled from its predecessor. Those moments (many of which, sadly, are focused on Steve Carell’s character) can be cringeworthy, almost on the level of an Austin Powers sequel or something. But luckily, there is still plenty of fresh territory to explore with Ron Burgundy, and the movie is not afraid to take chances or get completely fucking outlandish. And it’s been so long since I’ve seen a straight-up comedy at a theater that I forgot how infectious laughter can be in that environment – I was cracking up pretty much nonstop, and it felt so fucking good. Hopefully the movie will be able to maintain some of that energy for future home viewings – the first one pulled that off just fine, so I’m optimistic!
Deck the Halls (December 29)
This is a disgusting, soulless excuse for a Christmas movie. It’s inconsistent in tone, its humor is awful to the point of being offensive, and any sentimentality to be found here is both unearned and transparently disingenuous. This isn’t worth watching, even to mock. However, the corresponding episode of How Did This Get Made? is worth listening to, if only for the hilarious behind-the-scenes gossip about Matthew Broderick during the filming of this movie. Skip the movie, listen to the podcast, and thank me later.
Miami Connection (December 29)
Miami Connection is a title I’d heard a lot lately, whispered about in the hushed tones reserved for movies like The Room or Birdemic. So I kind of figured this would be up my alley, but I knew literally nothing else about it, until I decided to pull the trigger and just watch the damn thing. Turns out it’s a martial arts action b-movie which was produced in 1987, but never saw an official release until 2012, when Drafthouse Films managed to dig it up and put it out. The film focuses on a rock band/taekwondo gang called Dragon Sound, who fight a bunch of evil cocaine-smuggling ninjas, or something like that. The plot doesn’t really matter. All you need to know is that there are five hilarious dipshits who spend half their time playing ridiculous 80’s synth rock songs, and half their time kicking bad guys. There is also a subplot based around the black guy from Dragon Sound’s search for his long-lost father. His intensely over-dramatic acting style was the highlight of the film for me, at least upon first viewing. I have a feeling that, as with The Room, I will discover new ridiculous things to laugh at every time I rewatch this. Miami Connection is a new so-bad-it’s-good classic, an amazingly fun disaster, and for me, a great way to close the book on 2013.
So that’s it! Every movie I watched in the year of our Lord 2013. Hopefully in 2014, I’ll leave the house more often. In the meantime, here’s my Top 10 movies of the year. WARNING: This year’s list is particularly boring.
10 – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
09 – The World’s End
08 – The Wolverine
07 – The Lone Ranger
06 – Saving Mr. Banks
05 – Thor: The Dark World
04 – Monsters University
03 – Frozen
02 – Upstream Color
01 – Evil Dead
See you in a year!