It’s that time of year again, so here we go! We’ll start, as always, by comparing this year’s numbers to those of previous years:
In 2010, I watched 152 movies.
In 2011, I watched 198 movies.
In 2012, I watched 300 movies.
In 2013, I watched 368 movies.
In 2014, I watched 299 movies.
In 2015, I watched 367 movies.
In 2016, I watched 250 movies.
And in 2017, I watched – drumroll please – 206 movies! That’s my lowest number since 2011! But, I think you’ll find that this list makes up for the lack of quantity with a surprising amount of quality.
Hey, listen – just a quick tutorial before we start. The title of the movie will almost always link to the corresponding IMDB page, and the date on which I watched it will follow. In addition, when applicable I’ve added some handy links to streaming sites where the movie can be viewed. They’ll come immediately after the title and date, and will look like this: . Due to the ever-changing catalog available on these services, some of these might be inaccurate if you’re reading this far in the future. For that I apologize, but you’re probably too busy zipping around in flying cars to care all that much!
Okay, without any further ado, let’s get right to it! Here are the movies I watched in the calendar year 2017:
The Disappointments Room (January 2)
I start the year with a dose of aggressively same-old-same-old haunted house bullshit, starring Kate Beckinsale and her stupid husband who speaks with such an annoyingly raspy voice that he ought to have subtitles. If you’ve ever seen a movie about ghosts before, then you can go ahead and skip this one.
Arrival (January 15)
This movie can be read in a couple different ways. If you interpret it as a “give peace a chance” parable, then it works well enough I suppose, but that’s kind of boring to me. I was way more interested in the central sci-fi concept, which has to do with – and I’m trying to only be semi-spoilery here – our understanding of linguistics influencing the way we perceive the world. It’s a fascinating concept that the movie plays with, but unfortunately the way it’s presented is pretty confusing. I wish that exploring the mechanics of this idea had been more of a priority for the movie.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (January 21)
I abhored the original Alice in Wonderland back in 2010, and somehow this one manages to be even worse. I’m not even how the fuck that’s even possible, but they pulled it off. It’s a miracle, sort of. An awful, miserable miracle.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (January 23)
A father (Brian Cox) and son (some guy) run a funeral home together, where they encounter a very unusual corpse. This movie’s title, poster and general description led me to the conclusion that it’d be a generic yawnfest, but I guess that’s why George Washington said all that shit about judging books by covers. It turns out that great acting, a really creepy setting and a surprisingly imaginative plot all come together to form a goddamn entertaining movie. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is not in the tippy-top tier of recent horror movies, but it’s a good way to waste away a stormy night.
Justice League Dark (January 25)
Aside from the decision to awkwardly shoehorn Batman into the story, this animated adaptation of Justice League Dark is, like, okay. Since “like, okay” has become a very high bar for these DC cartoons, this was a pleasant surprise. DC’s spoooooky supernatural characters are generally overlooked, so it was fun to see them running around doing magic and shit – Deadman, with his unexpected New York accent, especially. My biggest disappointment was that my favorite dude – Swamp Thing – was relegated to a brief cameo. Why?? Swamp Thing deserves much better than that, so hopefully they make another one of these.
Split (January 26)
After I found myself loving The Visit back in 2015, I wondered whether M. Night Shyamalan – a director usually known for miserable pieces of wretched shit – was going to continue this bizarre new trend of making watchable movies. Well, Split answers that question with a resounding YES. It’s very confusing, and it’s going to take some time for me to adjust to a world in which Shymalan isn’t a total and complete hack asshole, but man is this a fun movie! Unfortunately I can’t go much futher into it, just in case you’re one of the eight people on Earth who remain unaware of Split’s deal. Just watch it.
Laser Mission (Rifftrax version) (January 27)
Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe (Rifftrax version) (January 30)
Attack of the Puppet People (Rifftrax version) (January 31)
2017 consisted of a lot of repeat viewings of Rifftrax movies. I will probably not write much about these here, so feel free to go digging around in past write-ups if you want to read more. Or, alternately, go fuck yourself.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (February 1)
I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I don’t really care for Harry Potter, and this movie manages to take the few redeeming qualities of that franchise and strip even those away. Are you a fan of childlike whimsy? Well eat shit, because here’s a bunch of boring, ugly adults with briefcases and porkpie hats! It’s like if they made a spin-off of The Goonies which focused on the staff of the country club, and then populated it with shitty CGI creatures that someone made in Spore. Having said all that, I always enjoy early-20th-century New York City as a setting, so the film was visually engaging. Not enough to recommend it though, not by a fucking long shot.
Ouija: Origin of Evil (February 3)
I despised the original Ouija when I saw it back in 2015 (in fact, it seems I despised it so much that I misspelled its title repeatedly), so it was a bit of a shock how much better this sequel turned out. It shouldn’t have been though, considering that the director Mike Flanagan was responsible for a bunch of movies I’ve enjoyed over the past few years. So when you’re deciding whether you want to watch Ouija: Origin of Evil, all I ask is that you don’t use the original Ouija as your barometer. Instead, use Absentia, Oculus and Hush. Deal?
Tammy and the T-Rex (February 3)
Someone recommended this movie to me at a Christmas party last year, and on February 3rd, I finally got around to checking it out. It’s from 1994, and stars Denise Richards as a teenage girl whose boyfriend (pre-death Paul Walker) has his brain transferred into the body of a T-Rex by evil scientists. As you can probably guess from that description, the film is a phenomenal masterpiece. If you’re into this kind of thing, this shit is a must-see.
The Wonderful Land of Oz (Rifftrax version) (February 4)
This very bizarre b-movie Wizard of Oz sequel from 1969 gets the Rifftrax treatment, and the results are predictably hilarious. Pair it with their excellent take on the original for even more laffs!
Passengers (February 4)
Even if you haven’t seen this astronaut romance movie, you’ve probably read some blog posts or facebook statuses about how gross and rapey it is. They’re all true – it’s fucking disgusting. Not because it depicts a lonely desperate guy doing a horrible thing, but because that guy is the hero of the movie, and the disgusting thing he does ends up being no big deal. The sad thing is, this story is built on a really cool concept that could have made for an interesting movie. Here’s how I would have done it:
-Jennifer Lawrence is the hero and POV character of the movie. Fucking duh.
-She is woken up from her space-coma and discovers that hunky spaceman Chris Pratt is the only other person around
-After a series of “falling in love” scenes, she – ALONG WITH THE AUDIENCE – learn of Chris Pratt’s deception. Twist!!
-From here on in, Chris Pratt is rightfully depicted as a fucked-up motherfucking villain. DUH.
-She obviously doesn’t trust the evil villain Chris Pratt anymore. Much less love him. But since she is stuck on a spaceship with him for the rest of her life, she makes a choice – she is going to stay with him, her need for companionship outweighing her awareness that he is a shitty fuckhead. This is a tragic, thought-provoking, dramatically interesting ending.
So much better than the piece of shit we ended up with, where she forgives him for destroying her entire life because boys will be boys, right? SO MUCH BETTER! Why doesn’t anyone in Hollywood ever ask me about these things?
R.O.T.O.R. (Rifftrax version) (February 4)
Firehead (Rifftrax version) (February 6)
The Magic Sword (Rifftrax version) (February 9)
Rifftrax – especially those that you’ve seen before – are the perfect thing to put on in the background while you’re doing something else. That’s the answer to the question, “Why do you rewatch so many Rifftrax?” which you probably never asked.
Replica (Rifftrax version) (February 10)
Rifftrax digs up an unreleased early film by James Nguyen of Birdemic fame and debuts it to the world, while at the same time making fun of it. Nguyen is an interesting guy because, as I said in my review of Julie and Jack, he has legitimately interesting science fiction ideas but completely lacks the competence that would allow him to execute them properly. As a result, instead of halfway decent sci-fi movies, we get hilariously shitty disasters. And we’re better for it! Rifftrax offers both an unriffed and a riffed version of Replica. You should obviously choose the latter.
The LEGO Batman Movie (February 11)
The LEGO Movie was my second-favorite film of 2014, so you can imagine how excited I was for this Batman-centric spin-off. Unfortunately, it turns out that Will Arnett’s take on Batman is a joke that only really works in small doses. Add in Zack Galifianakis’ completely lame version of The Joker and you have a recipe for extreme disappointment. Also, hey, can we stop it with these love stories between Batman and Batgirl? Between this and The Killing Joke, that’s twice in two years that this gross shit has happened in a Batman movie. Knock it off!
Carnival of Souls (Rifftrax version) (February 11)
Carnival of Souls is a pretty great movie on its own, so much so that the Rifftrax commentary honestly takes away more than it adds. If you’ve never seen this classic before, watch it clean first.
Beware the Slenderman (February 15)
I thought this documentary would be about the Slenderman and creepypasta phenomenon in general. However, it turned out to be focused a specific incident in which two little girls stabbed another little girl to appease the titular monster. It wasn’t really what I was looking for, but it was semi-interesting anyway. The main lesson I learned from this film is that you shouldn’t stab people because of slendermen.
The Monster (February 17)
Intensely emotional story about a mother and daughter’s strained relationship, told through the prism of creature feature cinema. Great movie!
Most Likely to Die (February 18)
I realized about ten minutes into this high-school-reunion-themed slasher that I’d seen it before. But it was released in 2015 and doesn’t appear on my lists for that year or for 2016! So just know that there is a movie missing from one of those lists! I am very, very sorry. Also, this movie sucks!
Odd Thomas (February 18)
This is a fun little horror comedy about a guy who can communicate with ghosts, and uses that power to solve crimes. I guess it’s based on a series of books by Dean Koontz, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out.
X-Men: Apocalypse (February 19)
I’d been warned how bad this was, which is what kept me away from it for almost a full year. Finally I got around to watching it, and wow – this is fucking awful! I’m thought First Class and Days of Future Past were both great, so I’m not sure how this one wound up so fucking dreadful. But it totally did, so avoid this nonsense and watch Legion instead.
The Neighbor (February 19)
IMDB’s synopsis reads:
In the town of Cutter, most people keep to themselves. But when John comes home to find his girlfriend missing, he becomes suspicious and sneaks into his neighbor’s house. What he finds there is unnerving, to say the least. Will he escape the house alive or become another victim?
I don’t really remember what John finds in his neighbor’s house, to be honest. Maybe his neighbor is a serial killer? Something like that? I don’t know. This movie obviously wasn’t very memorable.
Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (February 19)
This anthology film from the early 90’s feature three segments, all of them very loosely based on stories by H.P. Lovecraft. The stories themselves are all pretty lousy, but the movie might be worth watching just for the wraparound sequence, which features Jeffrey Combs as Lovecraft himself, having a spooky adventure in a library.
Nail Gun Massacre (February 19)
Super schlocky and low-budget 80’s slasher. The killer in this is hilarious, sporting a ridiculous motorcycle helmet/camo gear combo, and constantly spouting off one-liners like “Don’t fall to pieces over me!” while killing people with a nail gun. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then this is a great time!
The Screaming Skull (MST3K version) (February 19)
I think this is at least the third time I’ve watched this since I started doing these movie write-ups, but I will repeat myself one more time. The Screaming Skull is not only one of my favorite MST3K episodes but also – in my opinion – a legitimately decent suspense movie. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend watching it without the riffs (I never have), but I bet it’d hold up better than most of the movies they’ve covered.
XX (February 22)
A horror anthology featuring four short films which are all directed by women. Female creators definitely don’t get enough credit in the horror genre, so this is a really cool idea. Unfortunately, all the films suck. Like, really badly suck. The segment directed by Karyn Kusama (of Jennifer’s Body fame) comes closest to not sucking, but it still sucks. It’s a shame, and hopefully they try something like this again except without all the suckiness.
Jack Frost (MST3K version) (February 25)
More classic MST3K, this time the bizarre Russian fairy tale nightmare that is Jack Frost. I love this shit.
The Atticus Institute (February 26)
Scientists researching telekinetic abilities hit paydirt when their new subject proves to be telekinetic as fuck. However, it turns out that she doesn’t truly have inherent abilities – she’s just possessed by demons! If memory serves, this movie was okay. My memory doesn’t always serve though, so keep that in mind.
A Monster Calls (February 26)
Hokey, overwrought fantasy about a magical monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who helps a young boy cope with his mother’s terminal cancer. I’m usually a sucker for this kind of thing, which is why I watched this, but man is it poorly done here! Plus the monster’s design is a shameless rip-off of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, to the point where it’s embarrassing to even look at. Skip this and just watch Pan’s Labyrinth or something.
iBoy (February 26)
A Netflix original movie about a teenager who merges with his smartphone and becomes a superhero. That sounds dumb as fuck, but I really liked this movie! It’s got pretty fun violence and action scenes, the superpowers on display are relatively unique, and Arya Stark turns in a great performance as iBoy’s love interest. I don’t remember this movie getting much attention when it was released, which is a shame. It’s not a masterpiece or anything, but it’s worth watching for superhero fans.
The Girl With All the Gifts (February 26)
Every time I start to get really sick of zombie movies, I see one that reignites my love for the genre. Last year it was the brilliant Train to Busan, and this year it’s The Girl With All the Gifts. This movie’s fleshed-out post-apocalyptic society helps it stand out from the pack, but the real VIP here is the lead child actress, Senia Nannua. She’s amazing and really elevates this movie to something special. Recommended for zombie fans and non-fans alike!
Retro Puppet Master (Rifftrax version) (February 27)
This 1940’s-set prequel stars Greg Sestero from The Room as a young version of the puppet master with a hilariously bad French accent, and that’s about all I can remember. The Rifftrax commentary is funny as usual!
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (February 28)
This gothic ghost story (directed by Anthony Perkins’ son), like most gothic ghost stories, is verrrrrrrrrrrry quiet and slow-moving. If you’re into that kind of thing, like I am, this is a real treat. If you’re not into that sort of thing, this is likely to bore you right to death. Proceed accordingly.
Squirm (MST3K version) (March 1)
Mystery Science Theater creature feature about killer worms. The worms aren’t giant or anything – they’re just regular worms, except a little more eager to kill people. If you’re wondering how that could possibly be scary, the answer is that it isn’t. In fact, it doesn’t even make sense. Great movie!
Logan (March 2)
My primary memory of Logan is that I went to see it immediately before waiting in line at Best Buy for the midnight release of the Nintendo Switch. My secondary memory of Logan is that it fucking ruled. It’s wonderful to see characters like Wolverine and Professor X – who have been in movies for fifteen goddamn years at this point – recontextualized in this super-serious R-rated drama. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both wonderful, adding levels of depth to their characters that previous X-Men movies just didn’t allow for. But the real stand-out here is Dafne Keen as X-23 – the way her character alternates between heartbreaking vulnerability and mind-blowing ass-kickery is no small feat for a kid actor, but she pulls it off seamlessly. After the mind-numbing disaster that was X-Men Apocalypse, this was a huge breath of fresh air. Also, the Nintendo Switch is the best thing to ever happen to me.
Get Out (March 7)
Get Out was a fucking sensation this year, and I don’t have much new to say about it, except to add my voice to the choir: this is just as riveting, scary, funny, and thought-provoking as you’ve heard. And that’s coming from me, a white guy; I can’t even begin to imagine how much this movie might speak to me if I were an African American horror fan. Probably the most impressive thing about Get Out, for me, is that this brilliant horror movie is the directorial debut of a guy who had previously worked primarily in comedy. I mean, that’s fucking astounding. I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele does next in this genre, and I’m really looking forward to his Lovecraft County TV show.
Ator, the Fighting Eagle (Rifftrax version) (March 13)
Day of the Animals (Rifftrax version) (March 24)
More Rifftrax! I don’t remember Ator much at all, but Day of the Animals features a pretty memorable performance from Leslie Neilsen as the villain. Check them out here and here.
Sleepaway Camp (March 31)
Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (March 31)
There are two types of slashers: (1) whodunnits where the identity of the killer is a mystery – a very obvious mystery most of the time, but a mystery nonetheless, and (2) movies where the killer is the iconic star of the show. Most of the time, the first film in a franchise falls into category (1) and then the sequels all fall into category (2). The Sleepaway Camp franchise is a really good example of this. I hope you’ve enjoyed this observation.
Gangs of New York (April 8)
At this point in the year, I’d been listening to a lot of The Bowery Boys, a podcast focused on New York City history. As a result, I felt like watching a movie which takes place in old-timey NYC. So I threw on Gangs of New York, and regretted it almost immediately. I mean, it’s a beautiful film visually and definitely scratched the itch I was looking to scratch, but man what a dull slog. Fuck off, Scorsese!
The Void (April 8)
The Void combines Lovecraftian horror with one of my favorite genre tropes – a bunch of people trapped together in one location (a small-town hospital in this case). It’s so much fun! If you’re into eldritch horror complete with totally awesome creatures, do not miss The Void.
The Penguin Pool Murder (April 8)
Another movie I was inspired to watch by the Bowery Boys podcast, this time their episode on Castle Clinton. For those who don’t know, this was an old fort constructed on the southern tip of Manhattan in the early 1800’s, as a measure to defend against British forces prior to the War of 1812. From 1896-1941, this structure served as the location of the New York Aquarium, before it found its home at Coney Island. The Penguin Pool Murder is a dopey-ass detective movie from 1932, which both takes place and was filmed inside the old aquarium. It’s not a very good movie even by 1932 standards, but it’s worth it for NYC history fans just to see this cool old place during its heyday. And you can watch the whole thing on YouTube:
Body Parts (April 8)
A movie I watched along with the How Did This Get Made? podcast, this one starring Jeff Fahey as a psychologist who gets a serial killer’s arm transplanted onto his body. I wonder if this is the inspiration for that one Simpsons Halloween episode where Homer gets Snake’s hair? Maybe? Anyway, this movie is a lot of fun, mostly thanks to Fahey’s completely off-the-wall performance.
Sleepwalkers (April 10)
Another How Did This Get Made? assignment. I believe this is the first (and maybe only?) feature film with a screenplay written by Stephen King, but don’t let that get your hopes up because Sleepwalkers is an extremely shitty movie. It’s shitty in a fun way, though, if you’re into that kind of thing. It also features Mädchen Amick at peak beautifulness, which is reason enough to check it out.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (April 14)
Dull, watered-down adaptation of the classic story of the same name from Marv Wolfman’s legendary New Teen Titans run. You know the deal with these DC animated movies by now – a great one comes along once in a rare while, but for the most part they’re painfully mediocre crap. This one is painfully mediocre crap.
Kong: Skull Island (April 15)
King Kong is so fucking big in this movie. Like way bigger than you could ever imagine a gorilla being! Think of the biggest gorilla you’ve ever seen, and King Kong is probably at least 100 times as big! That’s pretty great! And it’s just about the only thing I remember about this movie. But frankly, that’s good enough for me.
The Bye Bye Man (April 15)
If you want your horror movie monster to have an air of mystery and terror, then rule #1 is this: Don’t name him the fucking Bye Bye Man! A great movie could probably transcend the unbelievable stupidity of that name, but since this movie fucking sucks, that’s irrelevent. Perhaps the worst movie of 2017.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (April 16)
This is, believe it or not, the sixth film in the Resident Evil series! In this one, Mila Jovonovich returns to The Hive – the setting of the first film – which inspires the appropriate amount of nostalgia for moderate fans of the franchise like myself. Look, I know that this series has been totally soulless nonsense, but I found it to be a pretty fun ride, and this was a pretty fun conclusion. I just hope that the inevitable reboot brings us something a little bit more faithful to the source material.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (April 16)
In the grand tradition of weird-ass movies from Australia, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is about a socially maladjusted ice cream truck driver who becomes obsessed with a soap opera star. Like a lot of gonzo black comedies, this one never 100% figures out what it wants to be, but thankfully it’s pretty successful at everything it dips its toe into: it’s effectively sad, funny, scary, dark, gross and just plain crazy. If that sounds like something of interest to you, you should probably check this out.
Reptilicus (MST3K version) (April 16)
Cry Wilderness (MST3K version) (April 17)
The Time Travelers (MST3K version) (April 18)
Avalanche (MST3K version) (April 20)
The Beast of Hollow Mountain (MST3K version) (April 21)
Starcrash (MST3K version) (April 21)
The Land That Time Forgot (MST3K version) (April 22)
The Loves of Hercules (MST3K version) (April 22)
Yongary, Monster From the Deep (MST3K version) (April 22)
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (MST3K version) (April 22)
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (MST3K version) (April 22)
Carnival Magic (MST3K version) (April 22)
The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (MST3K version) (April 22)
At the Earth’s Core (MST3K version) (April 22)
So, this was the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. There’s a wide range of opinions out there regarding this reboot, and I’d say mine probably falls right in the middle – this season was overall okay, not great. My main criticisms:
1 – The skits are awful. I was never a huge fan of the Mads’ storyline, even during the original run, but this time around it’s nearly unwatchable. Add in a lot of embarrassing novelty songs and cringeworthy celebrity cameos, and it’s just unbearable.
2 – I like Jonah Ray as the host, and Crow’s new voice is pretty good, but I hate the new voice of my favorite character Tom Servo. Not only has his voice radically changed, but so has his entire personality. I’m sorry, but this is not my Tom Servo. And don’t even get me started on Gypsy!
3 – There is a weird pacing to the riffing itself, particularly during the first couple of episodes. It moves at a breakneck pace, leaving no time for the audience to absorb a joke before they’re already in the middle of the next quip. This improves as the season goes on, thankfully, but it’s extremely off-putting at first.
Having said all that, I still think the season is worth watching for fans. Once the rhythm stabilizes, there are some really huge laughs in some of these episodes. Not surprisingly, the riffing style is closer to the classic Joel era than anything else, but that is by no means a bad thing. Cry Wilderness and Carnival Magic were the standout episodes for me. Overall, I’m very glad this exists, but I’d still choose a good Rifftrax any day of the week. And if I ever watch this again, I’ll definitely be skipping the fucking skits.
The Devil’s Candy (April 23)
Ethan Embry is a painter who gets involved with some kind of Satanic cult or some shit like that. Who can remember all these movies? Not me!
The Standoff (May 1)
Disney Channel superstar Olivia Holt is a teenager who participates in one of those contests where whoever keeps their hand on a car the longest gets to keep the car. Do these contests exist outside of doofy movies, sitcom episodes, and the midwest? I’ve certainly never participated in one! I totally would though, so please keep me in mind for any car-touching contests you might organize in the future! Anyway, she has to do this with a boy who she thinks is a totally grody lame-o, but then of course they fall in love with each other. This movie is great.
The Edge of Seventeen (May 1)
I usually like these coming-of-age movies about outcast teens, but this one just didn’t grab me for whatever reason. Shrug.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (May 4)
At this point, I was rabid with anticipation for the new season of Twin Peaks, so I prepped by rewatching Fire Walk With Me. I’m glad I did, because the new season relies just as much on this movie as it does the original series, if not more so. If you’re planning to watch Twin Peaks: The Return, this is an essential prerequisite. Also, it’s fucking great. The new season is great, too. Twin Peaks is just so fucking great!
Nerdland (May 6)
Really shitty animated movie full of totally edgy material for super-mature adults. This movie has an incredible cast full of hilarious people, so it’s a shame that it turned out to be horseshit.
Guardians of the Galaxy (May 6)
The sequel was about to come out, so I decided to rewatch the original. Do you have a fucking problem with that?
Colossal (May 7)
Anne Hathaway plays a down-on-her-luck woman who returns to her hometown, only to discover that she is mysteriously connected to a series of Godzilla-esque giant-monster attacks in Korea. I went into this movie under the assumption that it’d be a goofy comedy, but it turned out to be so much more than that! It was funny, but it also had moments of tension and pathos that really caught me by surprise. I don’t want to spoil anything, except to say that if this one fell under your radar, you should try to check it out!
The Spiderwick Chronicles (May 7)
This kid’s fantasy movie is only ten years old, but special effects have come so far in the intervening decade that it’s extremely jarring to look at the CGI creatures who appear. They are so janky, in fact, that it’s hard to believe they weren’t shitty-looking even for the time. Other than that, this is a perfectly decent little adventure about Norman Bates moving into a manor house full of fairies and trolls and shit.
White God (May 9)
This tremendous movie from Hungary is about an abandoned dog who assembles a dog army and declares war on humanity. The dog-acting in this movie is un-fucking-believable, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I have no idea how they got these animals to do some of the things they do, but holy shit it’s amazing. Unfortunately, while all that dog stuff is going on, there’s also a concurrent storyline which follows the dog’s former owner (a little girl) as she searches for him. The little girl is a great actor, and there’s nothing really wrong with this plotline, except that it takes precious time away from the dogs. Who the hell wants to watch a human being run around for minutes at a time, when we could be watching kick-ass dogs instead?? That’s just a small gripe though. I think this movie is a must-see, but be warned: there are some pretty brutal depictions of animal abuse (all staged of course). In my opinion, these scenes only make it all the more cathartic when the dogs get their inevitable revenge, but your tolerance may vary. If you can stomach that sort of thing, don’t miss this awesome movie!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 10)
This was pretty damn good, but a pretty big step down from the original. It’s hard to hold that againt it though, since the original is, like, perfect. What really impressed me about this one is how far Marvel were willing to let James Gunn go with the silliness of the humor. The first movie is famously funny, of course, but this one takes it to ridiculous, almost cartoonish levels. The fact that this doesn’t completely disrupt the film’s more earnest moments is sort of a miracle. The story itself is a little bit bleh, unfortunately, despite a fun performance by Kurt Russell as Ego the Living Planet. The Guardians themselves are still as lovable as ever, though, and I really look forward to seeing them meet the Avengers in Infinity War. Oh, one more thing: It strikes me as really odd that two Marvel movies in a row (Doctor Strange and then this) featured climactic battles with giant CGI faces. I hope that’s not a trend that continues, because it’s pretty boring!
ARQ (May 14)
Another time-loopy Groundhog Day-y movie, this one is a sci-fi action thriller type thing. It fucking sucked.
Primer (May 14)
Upstream Color (May 14)
A little Shane Carruth marathon to wash the taste of fucking ARQ out of my mouth. Both of these movies are absolutely brilliant. If you haven’t seen them, see them.
Stargames (Rifftrax version) (May 20)
Goofy movie where an Earth boy and an outer space boy hang out together in the woods, featuring – for reasons that are no doubt very depressing – an appearance from Tony Curtis. This movie is extremely odd, even by Rifftrax standards, and in fact features (in the words of Mike Nelson himself) one of the “strangest moments ever captured on film”. Check out the 4:25 mark of this video to see it for yourself:
2 Lava 2 Lantula! (May 21)
I thought the original Lavalantula was fun enough back in 2015, but now that the novelty of the Police Academy reunion has worn off, there’s really not much to grasp onto here.
The Legend of Tarzan (May 21)
There’s nothing super offensive about this Tarzan movie, but nothing particularly memorable either. If you’re only gonna watch one movie this year about Samual L. Jackson running through the jungle screaming at gorillas, I’d recommend Kong: Skull Island over this one. Another good option would be to watch neither.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (May 27)
I’ve only seen a handful of Tim & Eric stuff, but have always enjoyed their sense of humor. They seem to be heavily influenced by David Lynch, except they use the tension of surrealism to create comedy rather than drama. I was skeptical that this formula could work in a feature-length film, but Billion Dollar Movie proved me happily wrong. If you’re into that Lynchian/Adult Swim strangeness, this will be right up your alley.
Inland Empire (May 28)
Speaking of David Lynch, we were a week into the new season of Twin Peaks, and I was feverishly watching/rewatching all his movies in between episodes. This was the first time I’d seen Inland Empire and upon first viewing, it’s not one of my favorites. It almost seems like a remake of Mullholland Drive, except a bit more boring, and a lot more incoherent. However, I cannot really trust my own first impressions of David Lynch movies – sometimes it takes a second viewing for things to really come together for me. We’ll see some definite proof of that a little later down the list! So, for now, I will withhold judgment of Inland Empire until I revisit it at some point in the future.
Moving Violations (May 28)
Screwball 80’s comedy about a group of people forced to take a driving course after getting their licenses suspended. It’s from the same director of Police Academy and Bachelor Party, a fact that becomes really obvious while watching the movie. This features John Murray (Bill’s shitty brother), a young Jennifer Tilly, James Keach, Fred Willard, and a bunch of other goofuses. If you enjoy this director’s other work, or this style of comedy in general, then you’ll get a kick out of Moving Violations.
Dune (May 28)
Another first-time viewing for me, this was an interesting thing to watch after seeing the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary a little while back. So, what did I think? Well, as a science fiction movie in the shadow of Star Wars, it’s difficult to argue with the common criticisms that Dune is dull and incomprehensible. However, as a Lynch fan, those are pretty much the exact qualities I’m looking for! As a result, I really enjoyed Dune even if I didn’t understand a fucking minute of it. And I’ll be damned if the Guild Navigator isn’t one of the most disturbing and interesting creatures I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi movie:
Mulholland Drive (May 29)
Mulholland Drive is not only my favorite Lynch movie (with the possible exception of Fire Walk With Me) but is also the movie I’d recommend most to a newbie. It’s the one that most effectively straddles the line between the surreal weirdness Lynch is known for, and a relative comprehensibility that makes it fairly accessible for a new viewer. It’s also really fun, tense and gorgeous to look at. And that scene in the diner is just something every movie fan needs to see at least once.
Enemy (May 29)
Stupid movie starring stupid Jake Gyllenhaal as a stupid college professor who discovers he has a stupid exact double. This leads to stupid intrigue and, ultimately a really, really stupid ending.
A Cure For Wellness (May 29)
A Cure for Wellness is about a young businessman who travels to a remote “wellness center” in the Alps, only to encounter all sorts of fucked up secrets. The premise here is great – and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking – but the movie fucks itself by stretching its story out to two and a half goddamn hours. If this was a tight 100-minute movie, it’d be really great. As it stands, it’s just not worth it.
The Elephant Man (May 29)
This was Lynch’s second feature, and it’s remarkable how effectively he was able to transition from the arsty batshittery of Eraserhead to a more conventionally mainstream biopic in just a couple of years. The Elephant Man still has lots of moments that reflect its director’s trademark surrealism – the subject matter almost demands it – but for the most part this is a movie that, like, your grandma could watch and appreciate. Pretty impressive!
Sandy Wexler (May 31)
I am kind of ashamed to admit how much I enjoyed this movie. I didn’t find the character of Sandy Wexler funny per se, but I did find him immensely likable. This is something about myself that I can’t explain, and that I’m not particularly proud of. But there it is, right out in the open. My name is Chadd, and I liked Sandy Wexler.
Captain America: Civil War (June 1)
After a year or so of reflection, I think I can say that Civil War is my #1 favorite superhero movie. Just in terms of comic book action scenes, I am having trouble imagining how anything could ever top this movie’s airport battle. Hopefully Infinity War proves me wrong.
Wonder Woman (June 4)
During an action sequence in this movie – where Diana leaps over a battlefield landing on an old crumbling tower, and then proceeds to start kicking the living shit out of her enemies – I started crying like a baby. Because finally – FINALLY – I was seeing one of my precious DC Comics superheroes having the type of triumphant cinematic moment that they deserve. It made me really emotional, and I imagine a lot of other DC fans felt the same way. It’s a shame that it took three godawful movies for us to get to the point where Wonder Woman could exist, but I’m so glad it does. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a damn, damn good one, and one that can actually be favorably compared to the Marvel movies. My hopes are still very low for the future of DC movies, but if all else fails, I’m thrilled that at least we have Wonder Woman.
Uninvited (Rifftrax version) (June 10)
Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident (Rifftrax version) (June 10)
Uninvited is a horror movie about a gentically engineered killer housecat. Missile X is a James Bond rip-off starring Peter Graves. Neither are particularly memorable, as movies or as Rifftrax.
It Comes at Night (June 16)
I saw this movie in the theater with two other horror fans, and it made us all so angry. First of all, it’s just a very shitty movie. Secondly, it has maybe the most offensively deceptive marketing campaign I’ve ever seen in my life. Just so you are aware – this is not a horror movie, at all. Also, perhaps more importantly, nothing comes at night. I’ll repeat that: nothing fucking comes at motherfucking night. If you’re about to tell me about how the coming at night was metaphorical or something, go eat a big pile of shit and die. I suppose it’s possible that one day, years from now, I’ll rewatch this movie and be like “huh, this isn’t so bad after all.” Stranger things have happened. But right now I’m just too angry. Fuck fuck fuck this movie.
The Good Neighbor (June 17)
Another movie about a mysterious neighbor, and much like The Neighbor, I really don’t remember anything about this. I guess I am just bad at remembering neighbor movies! Hopefully you’ll forgive me.
Viral (June 19)
Shit, I don’t remember this either! I watched this? What is this? What was going on with me in June? Anyway, this movie is called Viral.
Cat-Women of the Moon (Rifftrax version) (June 23)
A couple of years ago, Rifftrax started releasing short films riffed by Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson. The more casual, conversational style of these riffs differs greatly from the regular crew’s joke-a-minute approach, but I grew to really enjoy them. Cat-Women of the Moon was the first attempt to apply this style to a feature-length film, and unfortunately it doesn’t really work as well in a long-form format. I do recommend their shorts, though!
Resident Evil: Vendetta (June 25)
Another animated Resident Evil movie. The villain in this one was pretty fun, from what I remember. I wonder if these spin-off cartoons will ever get around to the events of Resident Evil 7. That’d be neat.
Okja (June 28)
I loved The Host and Snowpiercer, so I was really looking forward to Joon-ho Bong’s new film. And it starts off great, with a sweet and funny introduction to Mija, a young girl living in rural Korea with her grandfather and her beloved pet, an enormous pig-monster named Okja. Okja herself is a CGI creation, but she looks amazing, and it was hard not to instantly fall in love with her. So far so good, but then the movie takes some bizarre turns that are too stupid and complicated to even go into. The result is a total mess with an inconsistent tone, unbearably obnoxious characters (Jake Gyllenhaal is especially offensive), and Birdemic levels of shameless preachiness. You can see all the pieces of a good film while watching this, but they’re just not put together properly, if that makes sense. Sad to say, but go ahead and skip Okja.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (Rifftrax version) (July 1)
Samurai Cop (Rifftrax version) (July 2)
Psycho II (Rifftrax version) (July 5)
Rolling my eyes at Okja‘s sanctimoniousness made me want to rewatch Birdemic for the 200th time, and I opted for the Rifftrax version this time around. Then I watched more Rifftrax.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 8)
As has become tradition with superhero movies, I will present my musings in bullet-point format, so that I won’t have to organize my thoughts in any kind of cohesive way. I’ll start with the negatives:
-I didn’t want another retelling of Spidey’s origin story, but I found that the film really suffered from the absence of Uncle Ben. Not his physical presence – I thought putting that in the past was a good idea – but his influence on Peter’s life and worldview. The whole great power/great responsibility thing is meant to be Peter’s MO, and without it we’re left with a character whose entire motivation seems to be to impress Tony Stark.
-It wasn’t just Uncle Ben, though. There was also the glaring absense of the Daily Planet and J. Jonah Jameson, the radically different characterizations of Aunt May and Flash Thompson, the lack of spidey-sense… It all added up to a world that felt kinda unrecognizable. I understand this is the third Spider-Man reboot in like ten years so they wanted to mix it up a little bit, but in my opinion what makes this version distinctive is simply that it takes place within the MCU and that Spider-Man can pal around with Iron Man and the Avengers and shit. I wish that had been the major change, and that the rest of Spidey’s world felt traditional and familiar.
-Spider-Man suit having an AI companion is lame. Hopefully that goes away in the future.
On the other hand, there are a lot of positives:
-Tom Holland is perfect as Peter Parker, the best version of the character yet. This was already pretty apparent from his performance in Civil War, but this movie erases all doubt.
–Ganke (or whatever they named him in this movie) is also really great, although him being Peter’s best friend makes me wonder what they’re gonna do when Miles Morales eventually makes an appearance in this universe.
-In spite of me bitching above about radically changed characters, I thought Zendaya’s Ally Sheedy version of MJ was a really cool interpretation of the character. Oh, spoiler alert I guess.
-In fact, all the high school stuff was wonderful. I hope we get a few more Spider-Man movies with this John Hughes vibe, because it really really works.
-Michael Keaton was also great. I don’t really have much more to say about him; he was just fucking great.
-The real star of this movie is fucking Sunnyside, Queens. Peter Parker lives in the same neighborhood I lived in a couple of years ago, and I was filled with uncontrollable glee by every shot of him running around Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue and the 7 train. Watching him web-slinging down the same streets I used to grumpily walk home from work on was such a thrill, and putting Blitzkrieg Bop on top of it was almost too much for me to handle!
So yeah, there was some stuff in this movie that made me a bit nervous about the new Spider-Man, but it was also just so charming, joyous, ass-kicking and wonderful that I am nothing but optimistic about the character’s future in the MCU. Can’t wait for Infinity War!
Night of the Living Dead (Rifftrax version) (July 10)
I’m pretty sure this was the three-riffer version of the Night of the Living Dead Rifftrax, but I actually prefer the original Mike Nelson solo version. Both are funny though, and the movie is obviously a masterpiece even without a bunch of middle-aged men from the midwest making fun of it.
Wild at Heart (July 13)
This was my first time seeing this, and unsurprisingly the combo of David Lynch + Nicholas Cage did not fail to entertain the hell out of me. It’s not near the top of my Lynch list, but it’s still worth checking out!
The Little Unicorn (Rifftrax version) (July 15)
I was disappointed when I figured out that this wasn’t The Last Unicorn (which I’ve never seen), but was actually a live-action movie from 2002 featuring George Hamilton as an evil circus owner. I guess I’ll have to find a different excuse to finally watch The Last Unicorn, but this dopey movie probably works much better as a Rifftrax.
Man Vs. (July 20)
This is a pretty run-of-the-mill found-footage horror movie, except that near the end it takes a turn so outlandish and insane that it kind of blew my mind. If you start watching this movie and can accurately predict the ending, I will eat a shoelace live on youtube.
Final Girl (July 22)
Not to be mistaken for the brilliant The Final Girls, this one stars Abigail Breslin as a secret agent posing as a teenager to take down a group of serial killers. It’s, like, okay.
The Wraith (July 22)
Perhaps the 80s-est movie I’ve ever seen, this one’s about a drag racer who gets killed and comes back in the ghostly form of Charlie Sheen to punish those who wronged him and to kiss Sherilyn Fenn on the lips. I don’t know how I went my entire life so far without seeing this movie, but now I’m planning to see it at least a hundred more times before I die.
Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (July 28)
I went to see this documentary at a theater in New York City, and afterwards my friend Larry Livermore and a few other people from the movie did a Q&A. My main memory from this evening is that the entire time he was doing the Q&A, Larry had an umbrella sticking out of his back pocket. It wasn’t one of those small umbrellas either; it was fucking enormous and came up to his upper back. It wasn’t raining either, so I don’t know why the hell he even had an umbrella with him, much less why he decided to keep it in his back pocket while doing a Q&A.
Anyway, the documentary is really, really great, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t usually enjoy music documentaries. It exhaustively covers everything about the old East Bay punk scene, from the huge breakout stars like Green Day to the individual personalities whose mere presence at shows made the scene what it was. If I have one complaint, it’s that Iggy Pop seemed like a weird, random choice for the film’s narrator, and I found him pretty jarring. On the other side of the coin, Tim Armstrong steals the goddamn show. The anecdotes he slurs and mumbles his way through are among the film’s most memorable and hilarious. Somebody give this fucking guy a reality show already! In the meantime, do not miss this terrific movie!
Lost Highway (July 29)
My first viewing of this movie was way back in 2010, when the entirety of my write-up was: “Fuck this movie”. I can understand how 2010-me felt, but since then I’ve jumped into the deep end of the David Lynch pool, and so my opinion of the movie has softened quite a bit since then. I found that the new season of Twin Peaks – which had been in full swing at this time – really helps to unlock some of what’s going on in Lost Highway, or at least it did for me. It’s still not my favorite movie in the world, but I no longer think it should get fucked.
Really cool movie about a small-time scam artist and all-around scummy dude named Marty, whose paranoia drives him to go on the lam in Detroit. The plot here is pretty sparse (and downright silly at times), but Marty is such an interesting character that Buzzard is totally captivating. There are some bits in the middle that could be trimmed (specifically, the time Marty spends with his annoying friend), but as a whole, this is a very engaging little movie that I highly recommend.
I stand by all these opinions!
Haunter (August 1)
Another Abigail Breslin horror movie, this one about a ghost stuck in a time loop or some shit like that. I only vaguely remember this movie, so I can’t tell you whethere it’s good or not. Probably not.
It Stains the Sands Red (August 2)
This zombie movie pulls off a few neat tricks, and one of the best is that it introduces us to it’s clichéd party-girl protagonist – who you immediately strongly dislike – and gradually makes her an immensely likable character. I never would have expected that from the first few scenes of the movie! The plot is that the girl gets stranded in the desert during a zombie apocalypse and must slowly make her way back to civilization while being followed by one lone zombie. It’s a great spin on the genre (which, of course, usually relies on hordes of the undead), and the “relationship” that forms between the protagonist and her pursuer is completely captivating. Even if you’re sick of zombie movies, this is one you shouldn’t miss!
The Dark Tower (August 4)
Look, we all know by now that The Dark Tower is a bad movie. It’s an unpleasant thing to sit through for a regular movie-watcher, and for huge fans of the book series – like myself – it’s absolutely rage-enducing. In the theater, I started getting angry when Jake was introduced, and then something new happened to trigger my fury like every five minutes. By the end, I was almost shaking with anger. I know how ridiculous that sounds – I don’t usually get this angry over shitty adaptations (just ignore the past 7 years of me writing about movies and take my word for it, okay?) But the thing is, when a bad Spider-Man or Batman or Star Wars movie comes out, it’s no big deal because you know there’ll be another one in a couple of years max, and that the next one might be awesome. But I’d bet that this was our one and only chance at a Dark Tower adaptation for at least a goddamn decade. This was it, and it was a fucking disgrace. Fuck. FUCK!!
Final Justice (Rifftrax version) (August 7)
The subject of one of the all-time best MST3K episodes gets reriffed by the same guys 18 years later. That might sounds like a pointless endeavor and, well, it really kinda is. I mean, it’s still funny enough and all, but why not just watch the original?
Demonic (August 10)
There was a plot twist near the end of this otherwise run-of-the-mill haunted-house that legitimately surprised me. However, just because a plot twist is surprising doesn’t mean it’s good or entertaining or that I give a shit. That’s an important distinction to make, especially when it comes to this particular movie.
The Straight Story (August 12)
You’d think the unlikely combination of David Lynch + Walt Disney Pictures would be total Chaddbait, but somehow I’d never seen The Straight Story before! And surprise surprise – I fucking loved it. This based-on-a-true-story tale of an old man riding a lawnmower across America is the only film that Lynch has ever directed without playing a part in the writing, and the result is something remarkably different from the rest of his catalog. There’s barely a trace of his trademark “weirdness” to be found here, but a more mainstream story really shines a spotlight on his flair for visuals, character and pacing without any of the usual baggage. If you’ve never been a Lynch fan, but have the stomach for saccharine tear-jerky Disney movies, please give this a try. If you are a Lynch fan, this is an opportunity to appreciate his talents in an entirely different context. Whoever you are, just go watch The Straight Story!
You Get Me (August 14)
Bella Thorne in ridiculous, trashy-ass, old-school-Lifetime-movie-esque nonsense is a winning combination! If you’re a complete weirdo like me, that is. If you’re a normal person, probably not.
The Monster Project (August 19)
Found-footage about a documentary crew seeking out real-life monsters, and bad things happen. This was a pretty bad movie. Luckily there’s a very good movie with a very similar plot: Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow. You should watch that instead of this.
Batman and Harley Quinn (August 20)
Bruce Timm writes a brand-new movie in the style of Batman: The Animated Series. Seems like a can’t-lose idea, right? Especially after his last foray into DC animation (Gods and Monsters) turned out so well. Unfortunately, it seems Timm has become a total fucking pervo weirdo, because this movie is kinda gross. Lots of overt sexual innuendo, fart jokes, bizarrely out-of-place musical numbers, and an extended scene about Dick Grayson fucking Harley Quinn. On top of all that, Swamp Thing is awkwardly introduced into the story in the last ten minutes in a dumbed-down bastardization of the classic story Rite of Spring. Hey Bruce Timm, Rite of Spring was actually a beautiful, nuanced exploration of eroticism in a comic book universe. Batman and Harley Quinn is no Rite of Spring.
Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (August 20)
More of the same, y’know? If you enjoyed the previous four Sharknado movies, then you’ll probably feel the same about this one. If you didn’t, you won’t. I kinda like ’em.
Wind River (August 26)
This is a murder mystery set in a Native American community in rural Wyoming, and a lot of people seemed to love it despite the fact that it completely sucked. Well, I’ll give it this: it’s completely captivating visually, and beautifully showcases a little corner of America that most people never get to see. Honestly, it’s almost worth watching just for the pretty scenery. The story, however, is a complete mess: boring and insulting and completely implausible. Unfortunately I can’t go into many details since doing so would spoil the shitty ending, and maybe some people want to judge for themselves. I’ll tell you the very worst thing about the movie, though, which is the way it treats its female lead. That would be Elizabeth Olsen’s character, an FBI agent who shows up to assist local law enforcement with their murder case. She’s introduced as if she’s a Clarice Starling type, and at first you think her complete incompetence is setting up a character arc that will ultimately be redemptive. But nope, the movie never allows her to be anything more than a bumbling idiot who shadows the male hero, until she eventually needs to be rescued by him. Gross.
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (August 29)
Speaking of gross, the Garbage Pail Kids are totally gross! I watched this along with the How Did This Get Made? podcast, and never has a podcast title been so appropriate for its subject. HOW THE HELL DID THIS MOVIE GET MADE? Even with source material as weird and paper-thin as the Garbage Pail Kids, it’s still shocking how bizarre and confusing and tonally inconsistent this movie is. I, of course, absolutely loved it. Especially this song, which was stuck in my head for days:
Miami Connection (Rifftrax version) (September 7)
This is my third viewing of Miami Connection since I first discovered it at the tail-end of 2013. It’s a hilarious, insane, beautiful mess of a movie – so much so that (like Birdemic and The Room) I highly recommend you avoid the Rifftrax version for your first viewing. But if you’re already a member of the Dragon Sound fanclub and want a new take on the film, then go for it!
IT (2017) (September 8)
IT is my favorite Stephen King novel, and so it makes me happy that IT (the movie) has been so hugely successful. And it’s a pretty good movie, and deserves success so much more than the likes of The Conjuring 2 or whatever. Having said that… as a fan, I have a couple of issues with IT:
First of all, the movie tweaks the structure of the story, with this installment covering only the kid-centric “flashback” sequences, leaving the modern-day adult segments for the sequel. That sounds like a good idea on paper, but in my opinion it really messes up the pacing of the story. Plus, does that mean that the sequel is just gonna be boring-ass grown-ups running around being all adulty? That sounds like a really boring sequel!
My second major issue has to do with the shitty CGI, which nearly ruins many of the Pennywise segments. The thing is, this dude Bill Skarsgard is so good as Pennywise – his take on the iconic sewer grate scene set a chilling tone from the start. But unfortunately, his excellent performance is always buried underneath a shitload of dopey-looking CGI and lame quick-motion nonsense which makes him look like he’s in a Marilyn Manson video or some shit. It really bummed me out.
So all of that kept me from truly loving this movie, but I still did like it very much. The kids are all wonderful, the 80s version of Derry is really cool, and the scary scenes all feel like they’re pulled straight from a Nightmare on Elm Street film. Overall, I’m glad the movie exists and I’m more than a little curious about how the sequel will work. It’s just frustrating when they come this close to getting something right and just drop the ball on a couple of key elements. Oh well, at least it’s not the fucking Dark Tower.
Welcome to Leith (September 10)
A documentary about what one simple white supremacist can accomplish with just a dream and some determination! In this case, the white supremacist – Craig Cobb – covertly buys a ton of property in a tiny North Dakota town, with plans to turn it into a haven for his racist asshole friends. It’s gross, disturbing stuff, but it’s also immensely satisfying to watch these bullying dipshits slowly realize that the people of Leith are not going to roll over and be victimized. I don’t wanna spoil too much, but I found this to be more uplifting than depressing, and well worth checking out.
The Big Sick (September 13)
The most notable thing about The Big Sick is that, unbelievably, Ray Romano completely steals the show! Besides that, enjoyment of this movie depends entirely on one’s tolerance for mainstream romantic comedies. Because this is a mainstream romantic comedy, nothing more and nothing less. Since it’s based on the real-life love story of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, the situations it depicts are a bit more unique than those in typical rom-coms – I can’t imagine a writer sitting down and making this story up from whole cloth. Still, at the end of the day, in terms of its general tone and style, this might as well be a thing from the 90’s starring Jennifer Aniston. Judge accordingly.
Merlin: The Return (Rifftrax version) (September 17)
Shitty kid’s movie about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table being brought to modern day by a scientist played by Tia Carrere. It’s perfect Rifftrax material, and very entertaining in that context.
Dave Made a Maze (September 20)
I was very excited about this movie when I saw the trailer, which made it seem a bit like a comedy version of House of Leaves. And while the settings and creatures – all created from cardboard and other arts-n-crafts type materials – are very neat, the movie is just so, so, so fucking unfunny that it’s almost unwatchable. It’s such a cool idea, but the end result is incredibly disappointing. Bummer.
The Psychotronic Man (Rifftrax version) (September 23)
As its title implies, this 1979 horror film is going for a very trippy, psychedelic vibe, with a lead character who’s kind of like an evil version of Doctor Strange. But, since it’s been Rifftraxed, you can probably guess that the movie is a complete failure. Even with the jokes, it’s pretty boring to sit through.
Wish Upon (September 28)
I’m not the type who immediately dismisses PG-13 horror aimed at young teens. There are some great movies which fit into that category. Wish Upon isn’t one of them. Wish Upon is complete shit.
Leatherface (September 28)
One of my pet peeves is people complaining about reboots and sequels as if they’re all soulless bullshit. But the fact is, it’s movies like Leatherface that give some semblance of legitimacy to those ridiculous opinions. Imagine everything that could go wrong with a modern, heavily-retconned, story-by-committee Leatherface origin movie. Then add in a bunch of things you wouldn’t have imagined going wrong. That’s Leatherface. It’s complete shit. Don’t watch it.
Escape Room (September 29)
I love escape rooms and have failed to complete a number of them. But, unlike the group of friends in this movie, my failure did not lead to DEATH! Escape Room isn’t great by any means, but it’s fairly adequate shrug-and-pull-it-off-the-Blockbuster-shelf horror nonsense. There are worse ways to kill 80 minutes of your life, but please keep in mind that there are also much, much better ways. Like going to an actual escape room! I recommend Escape the Room NYC!
Gerald’s Game (September 30)
When I was a kid, I used to sneak Stephen King books from my mother’s bedroom and read the shit out of them. Gerald’s Game was the first one to make me feel like I was in way over my 12-year-old head. It’s a scary, hypersexual, metaphysical tale that, to get to the point, I never would have guessed could be translated into a good movie. But Mike Flanagan – who is quickly becoming one of my favorite horror directors – somehow managed to pull it off. The film’s success is like 90% due to Carla Gugino, whose incredible performance kept me completely riveted to what is essentially a story about one woman in one room. An ultra-creepy appearance by the giant from Twin Peaks certainly didn’t hurt! Whether or not the novel scared the shit out of you as a pre-adolescent child, the movie is well worth watching. In a year overflowing with Stephen King adaptations, Gerald’s Game was by far the best one.
Cult of Chucky (October 1)
I didn’t watch as many horror movies as I would have liked in October, but I certainly did my best! I kicked things off by revisiting an old friend – a “friend to the end,” you might say! I adored Curse of Chucky back in 2013, and while this sequel didn’t quite live up to its predecessor’s level of quality, it’s still a lot of fun for fans of the franchise. The plot involves Charles Lee Ray simultaneously possessing several Chucky dolls, and you can imagine that a gang of Chuckies leads to a more comedic, quippy vibe. That’s not my favorite tone for a Child’s Play movie to take, but it’s always worked well enough, and it’s fine here. The real disappointment is that Andy Barclay – who made his triumphant return in the post-credits sequence of Curse of Chucky – is only a bit player here. I would have liked to see more of him, but Fiona Dourif (reprising her role from the previous film) is a pretty good protagonist in her own right. Anyway, if you’re a fan of the franchise, this is a fun installment. Make sure to catch the after-credits scene again this time!
Better Watch Out (October 7)
Of the two young-boy-in-suburban-house-has-a-crush-on-his-blonde-teenage-babysitter horror movies which came out at around the same time, Better Watch Out is my second favorite. That’s not to say the movie is bad or anything – in fact, it’s pretty good. It has some twists and turns that I honestly didn’t see coming, and of course I loved the Home Alone references. The only thing wrong with Better Watch Out was the unfortunate and frankly bizarre timing of its release, alongside a very similar but superior movie.
Oblivion (Rifftrax version) (October 7)
Oblivion is a fucking insane movie. Written by Peter David (who I know mostly as a writer of comic books, particularly ones featuring the Incredible Hulk), this is a sci-fi Western which takes place on an alien planet full of crazy-ass mutant monsters who all behave like old-timey cowboys. It’s a very comic-booky concept, and it’s honestly a lot of fun. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the cast is full of people like Isaac Hayes, George Takei, Julie Newmar and, once again, the giant from Twin Peaks. I’ve only watched this with the Rifftrax commentary, but I bet it’d be damn entertaining even without it.
Batman vs. Two-Face (October 7)
I loved last year’s Return of the Caped Crusaders, and was really looking forward to this sequel. Two-Face never appeared in the 1966 Batman TV show so it was a stroke of genius to add him into the mix here, and especially to have William Shatner voice him. Having said that, I found the movie a bit disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with it, but for me it just didn’t have as many huge laughs as the first movie. It’s still a lot of fun and worth watching though, especially by the usual standards of these DC animated movies. And it features Adam West’s final performance as the Caped Crusader, which is reason enough. Rest in peace, chum.
Death Note (October 11)
Apparently based on an anime, Death Note is the story of a teen boy who finds a mysterious demonic notebook. He soon discovers that anybody whose name he writes in the book will die, and decides to use this power to rid the world of evil. I am completely unfamiliar with the source material, so I have no idea whether or not this is a good adaptation, but as a stand-alone movie it’s a ton of fun. Willem Dafoe is especially entertaining as the voice of the demon who provides tutorials for proper death-book usage.
Boys in the Trees (October 12)
This Australian movie reminded me a bit of Guillermo del Toro’s early work, in that it uses fantasy imagery as a tool to tell a heartfelt coming-of-age story about teenage friendship. I love that kind of thing, and it’s done so well here. The story is an effective tear-jerker, the characters are super-engaging, and oh my god the visuals are so beautiful. To top it all off, it is set on Halloween night! Don’t miss this one.
Amityville: The Awakening (October 15)
I like this movie’s gimmick, that it takes place in a world where the previous Amityville movies and books exist and everyone who lives in the town is hyper-aware of the legends, including the new family who move into the infamous house. That made for some neat little moments, but that sort of thing can only go so far, y’know? As a whole, this is a pretty boring and pointless movie, and not really worth anyone’s time.
The Babysitter (October 15)
Of the two young-boy-in-suburban-house-has-a-crush-on-his-blonde-teenage-babysitter horror movies which came out at around the same time, The Babysitter is my favorite. It’s funnier, it’s more touching, and the layered relationship between the boy and the babysitter makes for a more interesting story. If you’re only going to watch one young-boy-in-suburban-house-has-a-crush-on-his-blonde-teenage-babysitter horror movie this year, make it The Babysitter. But if you want to watch more than one, you’ve picked a good year!
The Houses October Built 2 (October 15)
I enjoyed the first The Houses October Built in spite of its shittiness, just because all the real-life haunted-attraction footage was so fun. In the sequel, however, the shittiness is just too potent to overcome.
Hounds of Love (October 16)
I put off watching this for a long time, because I’d heard that it was a really brutal and disturbing movie, and in my old age I just don’t have the stomach for The Girl Next Door-esque violence anymore. But I also kept hearing how good the movie was, so I finally gathered up the nerve to watch it. Well, neither of the things I’d heard ended up being true. The movie is pretty tame and toothless (compared to my heightened expectations at least), and is also really dull. I don’t really understand why so many people made such a big deal about this one.
Never Hike Alone (October 17)
At 54 minutes, Never Hike Alone isn’t quite a full-length movie, but I loved it so much that I had to include it anyway. What this is, is a found-footage Friday the 13th fan-film. I know that description makes you want to roll your eyes, but I’m telling you this movie breathes new life into the franchise like nothing I’ve ever seen. Jason has never been scarier, Crystal Lake lore is pushed to the forefront in a way that’s never been done before, and there are so many delightful surprises for fans of the series. I can only hope that the next official Friday the 13th movie is half as creative and awesome as Never Hike Alone. In the meantime, please just watch this! Here it is:
Hellions (October 18)
Another Halloween-themed movie, this one featuring a teen girl being terrorized by a gang of fucked-up trick-or-treaters. I love movies about evil kids, and this one does not disappoint. My one word of warning is that although the description makes this sound like a standard home-invasion type of movie, it leans way more towards surreal, Lynchian type of shit. If that’s not your cup of tea, this might not be for you. It’s totally my cup of tea!
1922 (October 21)
Based on a Stephen King novella that I’ve never read, this stars Thomas Jane as a Nebraska farmer who murders his wife in 1922 and then is haunted by her ghost, or maybe it’s just his own guilt, or some shit like that. I like the concept of a gothic ghost story set in this non-standard time and place, but the movie nearly bored me to death.
Talon Falls (October 21)
Talon Falls purports to be a horror movie set in a theme park, which was why I decided to watch it. But, unless you consider an endless series of empty rooms in a warehouse to be a theme park, it does not live up to this description. I was far too pissed about this bait-and-switch to accurately judge whether this is a good movie or not. But I’d bet everything I own on “not.”
The Mummy (2017) (October 22)
This is the second attempt (after the dreadful Dracula Untold) to establish a new Universal Monster cinematic universe, and it too is a complete failure. I don’t understand what’s so hard about this. Doesn’t Universal understand that all we want from a mummy movie is a guy shambling around wrapped in bandages? That’s all they had to do, and instead we get this Tom Cruise nonsense. Having said that, this movie isn’t quite as awful as you might imagine. There are some genuinely awesome action sequences, and the monsters (aside from the titular Mummy herself) are all pretty rad. But if they’re trying to evoke the spirit of the classic monster movies, this is not the way to do it. Keep trying, Universal, and stop overthinking things. We don’t need these monsters to be totally reinvented – we just want the fucking monsters! One more thing worth noting is that the video game based on this movie – The Mummy Demastered – is excellent, and one of the best games of the year! Even if you skip the movie, don’t skip the game!
Brimstone (October 22)
Brimstone is a 20-hour-long western epic about an evil preacher tormenting Dakota Fanning throughout her life. I’m a sucker for westerns, and found this movie to be captivating visually. I also enjoyed the gimmick of jumping between various periods in the protagonist’s life, and most of the performances are top-notch. The only problem is just that the movie is so fucking long, and so leisurely-paced, that it becomes difficult not to keep checking the clock while watching it. But if you’ve got two solid weeks to spend watching a movie, you could do worse.
Minutes Past Midnight (October 22)
I watch a lot of horror anthologies, and I can’t remember ever seeing one this mish-mashed quality-wise. Of the seven or eight stories here, some are totally amazing, and some are the shittiest sub-Troma dreck I’ve ever seen in an anthology. As a result, it’s difficult to decide whether or not I should recommend this. I’ll say that if you ever get an opportunity to watch the segments entitled The Mill at Calder’s End or Ghost Train, please do so because they’re excellent. If you ever get the opportunity to watch any of the other segments, run.
Red Christmas (October 22)
Completely insane Christmas-themed slasher starring Dee Wallace and a bunch of weird Australian people. There are lots of things in this movie that you’ll feel kind of bad for laughing at, but you will laugh a lot. One of the things you’ll laugh at the most is the killer himself – I can’t talk about him much without spoiling some plot points, but I will say that he has the most amazing voice I’ve ever heard. The best way I can describe it is that he sounds like the voice they make up for Trumpy in the Pod People episode of MST3K. That reference will fly over many people’s heads, but really cool people right now are imagining a horror-movie killer saying “Little wing-ed po-ta-toes” and that’s right on the mark. If you’re a fan of really stupid slashers, add this to your list! I’ll be watching this again next Christmastime for sure.
Residue (October 23)
Lovecraftian horror about a private detective who becomes obsessed with an evil book, featuring Matt Frewer as a villain. That sounds right up my alley, but aside from some pretty neat creature effects, this was mostly pretty boring.
Children of the Corn (October 23)
I haven’t seen this since I was a little child of the corn myself, and it really holds up. I’d forgotten how wonderfully over-the-top the kid actors are in this movie. “OUTLANDER WE HAVE YOUR WOMAN!” Heh, that’s good stuff.
Dracula (October 26)
I’d been listening to the You Must Remember This podcast’s excellent series on Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and it made me want to rewatch Dracula for the first time in many years. What really stood out to me this time was how little of the movie takes place in Transylvania. We all imagine those iconic scenes at Dracula’s castle when we think of this movie, but those all happen in like the first ten minutes, and then the rest of the movie takes place in London! Another thing that stood out, due in part to listening to the aforementioned podcast, was just how amazing Lugosi was in this role. It’s astounding how this nobody actor in this 75-minute long movie completely set the template for vampires that still persists to this day. If you’re like me and you haven’t watched Dracula in a million years, revisit it. It’s still great!
Happy Death Day (October 29)
Another point in favor of mainstream PG-13 horror, Happy Death Day is great! Falling into the “Groundhog Day rip-off” subcategory of horror that has been surprisingly prevalent in recent years, this is about a college girl who gets murdered on her birthday and must relive the day over and over again until she discovers the identity of her killer. Whenever I watch one of these movies, I’m always disappointed that none of the characters directly reference Groundhog Day. If I found myself in this situation and was trying to explain it to someone, the very first thing I’d say would be, “Have you seen Groundhog Day? That’s what’s happening to me.” Well, that actually happened in Happy Death Day, and it made me so happy! Besides that, it’s just a really fun, clever movie with likeable characters, an interesting story, and just a shitload of charm. Please don’t be turned off by its PG-13 rating; this is totally worth watching.
Mind Ripper (Rifftrax version) (October 31)
Lance Henriksen and Giovannoi Ribisi run around the desert fighting a monster. This is an astoundingly stupid movie, and as a result a very funny Rifftrax. Also, whatever happened to Natasha Gregson Wagner? She was so hot! And wow, I just learned on IMDB that she’s Natalie Wood’s daughter! Who knew???
The New Daughter (November 7)
Speaking of daughters, here’s The New Daughter, starring Kevin Costner. I’m pretty sure this movie was part of a prison experiment to see how bored a subject could become before they lashed out violently at the person making them sit through The New Daughter starring Kevin Costner.
Last Shift (November 7)
I kept hearing good things about this movie, which surprised me because I was pretty sure I’d seen it last year and that it wasn’t so hot. I eventually realized I was thinking of a movie called The Abandoned. The two movies have similar premises (a lady works an overnight security shift, all alone, in a spooky haunted building), but Last Shift is indeed much better than The Abandoned. Not great or anything, but better than The Abandoned. Turns out it’s pretty beneficial for movies to be judged solely on whether or not they’re better than The Abandoned.
Brigsby Bear (November 13)
Kyle Mooney (star of the best SNL sketch of the past decade) writes and stars in this hilarious and touching movie about the role that pop-culture nostalgia plays in our lives. This is the first feature that Mooney has written, which is unbelievably impressive because Brigsby Bear is an incredible film. One of my pet peeves about comedy in general is that so much of it depends on the characters being amoral assholes (I’m looking at you, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more comedies about nice people. I think that’s one of the reasons I loved this movie so much – everyone in it is nice and well-intentioned – even the ostensible villain is likeable and fairly relatable. Comedy can work without a bunch of assholes shitting all over each other and the world. Brigsby Bear, one of the best movies of 2017, proves it.
Creep 2 (November 13)
I really liked the original Creep back in 2015, and the sequel might even be a little bit better. Surprisingly, it’s pretty different than the first one, and tightens the focus even more on Mark Duplass’ fascinating character. It’s very impressive how Duplass manages to be funny and lovable and repulsive and scary all at once – Creep 2 is basically just one big showcase for this performance, and it never fails to captivate. I could watch this shit forever, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of it in Creep 3.
Rough Night (November 20)
A group of very funny women – who are unfortunately led by the remarkably unfunny Scarlett Johannson – get together for a beach-house bachelorette party, and the wackiest of hijinx ensue. Look, this is obviously just a cynical, thinly-veiled rip-off of The Hangover except with lady-people instead of men-people, but I dunno, I thought it was amusing enough.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (November 23)
Supposedly Luc Besson has been dreaming of making this movie (an adaptation of a French comic book that nobody has ever read or heard of) for decades, and this is the end result of that lifelong ambition. Congratulations, Luc Besson, you’ve dedicated your entire life to making the stupidest fucking movie in the goddamn world. Skip this bullshit and watch The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec instead.
The House (November 23)
Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukis are three of the funniest people in the world, so of course this movie is often very, very funny. Since it’s a comedy, that means it’s successfully achieved its goal, right? I mean, what the fuck else do you want me to say?
The Little Hours (November 23)
Bizarre comedy starring Aubrey Plaza about a convent of wacky nuns in the Middle Ages, except they speak with modern language, except sometimes when they don’t. The Little Hours gets points for being weird and creative and different, but unfortunately it’s not really very funny.
Snatched (November 23)
While we’re on the subject of things not being funny, here’s Snatched. My main criticism of Amy Schumer’s first movie was that it was insanely long, and luckily she seems to have learned from that mistake because this one is only 90 minutes. Unfortunately the movie is so unfunny and irritating and painful to sit through that it might as well be three hours long.
Office Christmas Party (November 23)
A screwball comedy about, well, an office Christmas party. This movie was okay. I’m kind of ashamed to admit how much I always seem to enjoy Jennifer Aniston in comedies. I dunno, I think she’s kinda funny! Judge me if you must.
Thor: Ragnarok (November 24)
I had just gotten my brand new moviepass card (which I highly recommend, by the way), and I broke it in by going to see a movie a day during the three-day Thanksgiving weekend. The first was the new Thor movie which was, oh my god, so much fun! It’s really impressive how this movie plays with tone, seamlessly blending high fantasy, slapstick comedy and crazy-ass Star Trek-ish sci-fi, all without feeling inconsistent or awkward. In that sense, it’s kind of like a microcosm of the larger MCU, while at the same time giving us Thor’s best solo movie yet. Man oh man, I cannot fucking wait for Infinity War!!
Justice League (November 25)
One of the main reasons Thor: Ragnarok worked so well is that we’ve spent years and years with these characters at this point, and feel really connected to them. On the other end of the spectrum is the DC cinematic universe, where we barely know any of the characters, and -Wonder Woman aside – certainly don’t feel any emotional connection. Now all that bullshit has culminated in this soulless, joyless, boring mess of a JLA movie, and it totally breaks my heart. The attempt here to establish bonds of friendship between these characters is goddamn motherfucking cringeworthy, and the sad part is it should be SO EASY. We’re talking about the Justice League here – these are characters whose beautiful friendships we’ve been following for half a century, for Christ’s sake. It should be a natural, simple thing! It’s unbelievable that they managed to fuck it up this badly. I can’t talk about this movie anymore. Fuck you, Warner Bros. Fuck you.
Murder on the Orient Express (November 26)
David Suchet, as far as I’m concerned, is Hercule Poirot, so it’s kinda difficult to adjust to Kenneth Branagh’s version. It’s by no means a bad version, just very different, and it can be a bit disorienting for fans of the TV show. If you can manage to put that aside, this is an awesome version of Murder on the Orient Express, chock full of excellent performances, great moments, and gorgeous scenery. It even manages to throw in a couple of little surprises for those of us who are already familiar with the ending. That’s something that might bother some fans, but I thought all the changes were fun and harmless to the sanctity of the story. This movie even managed to get my pre-teen nephews into reading Agatha Christie’s novels, which is really cool! I am very much looking forward to Death on the Nile.
Dismissed (November 28)
It makes me really happy how the twins from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody turned out. One of them went on to play the sexy new Jughead on Riverdale, and the other went on to be a commentator for competitive Super Smash Bros. tournaments. I’m not sure which of those career paths is cooler! Anyway, this movie stars the Smash Bros. one as a devious high-school student who stalks and torments his teacher. It’s very melodramatic and Lifetime-ish, and of course I loved it. Good job, Zack, or Cody, or whichever one you are!
The Man Who Invented Christmas (December 2)
The Man Who Invented Christmas is a whimsical biopic about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol, and I saw it alone in a theater at 11am on a Sunday morning. Hooray for moviepass! Anyway the movie felt a bit like an episode of Wishbone or something, very much aimed at kids even though I can’t imagine any kids would be interested at all in a movie about Charles Dickens. For me, a grown man who had nothing better to do at 11am on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it was enjoyable enough.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) (December 2)
I hestitate to say I straight-up disliked this movie, because how could I really hate any movie where I get to hear all the songs from Beauty and the Beast? The thing is – I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but there’s another movie where you can also hear all the songs from Beauty and the Beast. It’s from 1991 and it’s called Beauty and the Beast. And it isn’t bogged down by really awful-looking CGI, horrible casting, or scenes that go on for way, way too long. Also, in that movie Belle is actually beautiful. There, I fucking said it.
I Believe in Santa Claus (Rifftrax version) (December 2)
I watched this Rifftrax movie for the first time back in 2015, and here’s what I wrote about it then:
I don’t know how the Rifftrax guys keep finding new crazy Christmas movies to mock year after year, but I’m so happy that they do. This one is a French film from 1984, which finds some children boarding a plane to Finland to find Santa Claus, only to get kidnapped by an orge. Meanwhile Santa and his fairy princess sidekick travel to Africa only to get involved in some kind of dispute with warlords. It’s all delightfully insane and a worthy addition to the Rifftrax holiday library.
I don’t have much more to add to that, except to say that it still holds up two years later, and has now turned from a hot new Rifftrax Christmas movie, into a bonafide Rifftrax Christmas classic!
War for the Planet of the Apes (December 3)
I loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and honestly thought it was one of the most thoughtful movies I’ve ever seen on the subject of war. I loved it so much that it was almost inevitable its sequel would be a disappointing step backwards, and that is indeed the case. This isn’t a bad movie – no movie about talking monkeys shooting guns at each other could ever be truly bad – but it just doesn’t really have as much to say as its predecessors did. If you enjoyed the first two movies, by all means finish out the trilogy, but just maybe lower your expectations a tad.
The Lost City of Z (December 3)
I came for a rollicking “Dr.-Livingstone-I-presume”-type jungle adventure movie, but I stayed for the engaging historical drama. That wasn’t exactly what I was looking for from this movie, but I liked it anyway. They could have thrown in one or two talking animals though, just to keep things fun.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (Rifftrax version) (December 4)
I can’t keep thinking of new things to say about Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny year after year! All you need to know, if you’re stupid enough to have never watched it, is that it’s an insane Christmas-themed movie that is expertly mocked by the Rifftrax crew. If you haven’t watched many Rifftrax, move this one to the top of your list, because it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.
Mother! (December 5)
I’ve never particularly liked the work of Darren Aronofsky, so it came as a bit of a surprise that I enjoyed Mother! as much as I did. One of the things I loved about it is a thing I haven’t heard too many people talking about – the movie is fucking hilarious! There are moments, during the chaotic scenes with all the visitors, where this feels like a madcap comedy by National Lampoon, and I don’t think that vibe was unintentional. In fact, I think the juxtaposition between terrifying tension and slapstick craziness is what gives the movie a lot of its power. It can be disorienting, of course, which I imagine turned a lot of viewers off, and might well have done the same for me if I’d been in a slightly different mood. It helps to understand that the entire movie is allegorical and not meant to be taken at literal face value – I picked up on this right away and developed theories on what the movie was trying to say, but I never quite put my finger on it. Afterwards, I read an interview with Aronofsky where he blatantly spelled it all out, and I felt like “DUH!” I won’t spoil anything here, but in retrospect it all made so much sense and was so well put-together that I felt like a dum-dum for missing it. It makes me really look forward to watching the movie again, perhaps this time with the Benny Hill theme playing in the background of the entire film!
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (December 9)
Speaking of National Lampoon, my friend Joe Evans and I went to a screening of Christmas Vacation at the Regal Cinemas E-Walk in Times Square, at noon on a Saturday. One thing that struck me was that although I consider myself a fan of this movie, I hadn’t watched the entire thing from beginning to end in a zillion years – only bits and pieces that I caught on TV or whatever. This caused a weird situation where some scenes I felt like I could recite by heart, and others felt entirely unfamiliar to me. Turns out, the entire movie is really great! Thanks for seeing it with me, Joe, and for planning out an entire day of Christmas sightseeing afterwards! The windows at Macy’s this year were adorable:
The Disaster Artist (December 10)
The Disaster Artist, for me, was a bit of a mixed bag. Having read the book, I thought it was a really weird choice to try to turn this into some redemptive tale about friendship and following your dreams. In doing so, the movie has no choice but to downplay some of the craziest stuff from the book, and the first half of the movie really suffers as a result. However, once we get into the actual making of The Room, the movie is nonstop hilarious fun. Carla and I saw this on a Sunday morning, and the theater was chock full of little old ladies, no doubt attracted by the Oscar buzz surrounding the film. After the movie, as we smoked outside the theater, several of those old ladies came up to us asking us questions about Tommy Wiseau and The Room, which they’d never heard of before. I don’t know how they knew we were the resident expert on these matters – I guess because we were the only ones under 70 in the theater? In any case, it was really cute, and the thought of all those little old ladies going and watching The Room fills me with delight!
Santa Claus (Rifftrax version) (December 15)
Much like Final Justice, this is an MST3K classic that has been reriffed. I’d once again recommend the original over this version, but Santa Claus is so crazy and great that you should just watch it any way that you can. And remember: Stealing is wrong, Lupita!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 16)
The funny thing about The Last Jedi is that I loved the thing most people seemed to really despise about it – the way it bends over backwards to subvert all the tropes we’ve come to expect from this story, and gleefully burns our preconceived notions about Star Wars mythology to the ground. I thought this was a bold move that was executed really well. The problem is that story is only good for about 1/3 of a movie, and there’s no place in it for some of our favorite characters, so they had to pad out the rest of the film with complete filler bullshit. The worst offender is the painfully boring – and ultimately pointless – sidequest to the space-casino with Finn and Rose, which felt like a mid-tier episode of Star Wars Rebels at best. Not to mention the endless nonsense on the ship with Poe and Leia and Laura Dern, and the offensively unfunny Chewbacca slapstick scenes. If this movie had just been the Rey/Luke/Kylo Ren/Snoke stuff, it would have been an excellent and groundbreaking installment, but it also would have been around 30 minutes long. Instead, we end up with the worst Star Wars movie since the prequels, and one of the most disappointing follow-ups I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Hopefully they get back on track for the next one, because this was just a motherfucking mess.
The Christmas Train (December 17)
I didn’t dive as deep into stupid Hallmark Channel Christmas movies as I have in years past, but on December 17th, I did dip my toe into those sparkly pine-scented waters. The Christmas Train was a personal recommendation from my friend Pat Smith, who has become quite the connoisseur of these dumb movies over the past few years. He recommended this one because he assumed, quite correctly, that I’d enjoy the fact that it took place on a cross-country passenger train. Like most of these movies, this one involves two people who hate at each other at first but then eventually fall in love. But they don’t fall in love of their own volition – oh my goodness no, it wouldn’t be a Hallmark Christmas movie if that were the case! They fall in love due to the aggressive interloping of a wise old sage (this time played by Danny Glover) who makes it his business to interfere with other peoples’ lives. These developments aren’t quite as egregious as the similar events of last year’s Christmas in the Smokies, but they come pretty close. It’s all completely gross, in that trademark Hallmark Channel way, except this time there’s a train! I loved it!
The Rooftop Christmas Tree (December 17)
Another Hallmark Christmas movie, I’d had this one on my “to-watch” list since last Christmas, and I finally got around to it. It wasn’t really worth the wait. This one involves an old man who defies county ordinances every year by putting a Christmas tree on his roof, when he’s well aware that Christmas trees aren’t allowed on roofs! A kindly lady lawyer decides to defend him in court, and to find out why he puts a Christmas tree on his roof, a mystery that no one in town has been able to solve. I guarantee, however, that you will figure out this mystery within the first ten minutes of the movie, even though it’s not revealed until the very last scene. In fact, I bet right now reading this, you’ve already formulated a guess that is pretty close to the truth! Are you thinking that the reason is super schmaltzy? Then you’re on the right track! Oh, and if you’re wondering if the lady lawyer falls in love with the pompous prosecutor of the case, of course she does! This is the fucking Hallmark Channel, after all! Merry Christmas!
Beyond Christmas (Rifftrax version) (December 18)
The ghosts of three dead, rich old men help a shy lady and a Texas cowboy hook up with each other in this vaguely Christmas-themed movie from 1940. It’s pretty overwrought and sentimental stuff, almost like a much shittier pregenitor to It’s a Wonderful Life, and it makes wonderful fodder for the more gentle riffing style of Bridget and Mary Jo.
Jack Frost (Rifftrax version) (December 22)
Jack Frost, the tale of a crazed serial killer who gets transformed into an evil snowman, is an old favorite of mine. So I was really excited to see it get the Rifftrax treatment, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work. The problem is that the original is extremely self-aware that it’s a stupid “bad” movie, and is very tongue-in-cheek about it. It’s a legitimately funny movie in my opinion, and as a result the riffing doesn’t really add much to it. Also, I’m pretty sure they edited down the infamous Shannon Elizabeth carrot scene! Just watch this in its original, unriffed form. It’s funny enough!
The Greatest Showman (December 24)
While in Virginia for the holidays, I went to see this on Christmas Eve with my family – 5 adults and 5 children in all! It was my father’s choice, and it was a very good choice for a joyful family outing – it was harmlessly pleasant, nice to look at, and featured some exciting dance routines. Everyone had fun, and all the kids were engaged enough to sit still and act like human beings for two hours (except my one nephew, who halfway through snuck into the adjacent theater to watch The Last Jedi). Outside of this context, however, the movie isn’t really worth watching. The songs are pretty lousy and unmemorable, and it’s just kinda boring to watch a whitewashed, watered-down version of P.T. Barnum’s life. My main takeaway from the movie is that now I’d love to see a realistic modern biopic about Barnum. So yeah, this was kind of a dud, but I still enjoyed my time with my family!
I, Tonya (December 29)
This was pretty fun, and I was really impressed by Harley Quinn’s performance as Tonya Harding. All the performances were really good, actually, which is one of the reasons I liked this in spite of my general distaste for oscar-baity biopics. The other big thing this movie has going for it that most biopics don’t is that it’s not afraid to be funny – sometimes very funny. I think if it had leaned into its comedic side just a little bit futher, it would have ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year.
Lady Bird (December 29)
While it’s not the absolute end-all and be-all of cinematic perfection that it’s been lauded as, Lady Bird is still a very good coming-of-age movie. Laurie Metcalf is a goddamned national treasure and I wish the movie had showcased her even more than it did. Whenever Laurie Metcalf wasn’t on screen, the other characters should have been asking, “Where’s Laurie Metcalf?”
The Florida Project (December 29)
At this point, two days before the end of the year, I was desperately trying to squeeze in all the movies that might potentially make my Top 10 list, and oh my god I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this one. The Florida Project is about a group of impoverished kids in Orlando, Florida. The idea of low-income families struggling to survive in the shadow of the world’s most extravagant tourist attraction sounds super-serious and bleak – and the movie often is those things, but just as often it’s completely fucking magical. It accomplishes this by focusing in on the kids, who neither understand or care that they’re dirt-poor, and find the magic and wonder in their surroundings that the adults are too busy and desperate to see. The movie’s strength is that it allows itself to slow down and really focus in on the day-to-day minutiae of these kids’ lives, which often makes it feel like a modern version of The Little Rascals or something like that. It’s one of the most authentic and beautiful views of childhood I’ve ever seen in a movie. The Florida Project had me completely riveted and emotionally invested, and that’s before it even reached its incredible ending, which completely and utterly destroyed me. The movie also contains my #1 favorite performance of the year, courtesy of Willem Dafoe. The Florida Project was my favorite movie of 2017. Do not miss it.
Coco (December 30)
Just when I’d begun to lose a bit of faith in Pixar, they hit me with this shit. Coco is not only a great Pixar movie, but honest to god, it might be Pixar’s best movie. First of all, the colorful, imaginative world it creates is dazzling to a degree rarely seen even in Disney films. Add in vibrant, show-stopping music, great characters, and an incredibly moving story about family, and you have the perfect formula for making me weep in a movie theater almost to the point of hyperventilation. I mean, you’ve seen Pixar movies before so you know how these things work, right? Coco is the fucking epitome of a perfect Pixar movie. After a zillion half-hearted sequels and shit like The Good Dinosaur, this is such an exciting return to form! Go watch Coco, assholes!
The Problem with Apu (December 30)
As much as I’ve always enjoyed Apu on The Simpsons, it’s difficult to argue with this documentary’s thesis statement that he is a grossly racist stereotype and that Hank Azaria is basically a minstrel performer. I guess my only argument would be that The Simpsons has been awful and irrelevent for close to twenty years now so, like, it’s hard to care anymore about the way the show handles one specific character. I feel a lot of empathy for the Indian-Americans who have had to deal with this shit for all their lives, but at this point I just don’t care about anything Simpsons-related, honestly. Just take it off the air and make everyone happy.
The Shape of Water (December 31)
There was a lot to love about Guillermo del Toto’s latest film. I loved the characters, the performances, the Cold War Baltimore setting, the cool heist sequences, the special effects, etc. But one thing that did not work for me, sadly, was the central love story. It felt very contrived to me, like one minute the sea monster was an object of curiousity for the protagonist, then pity, then all of a sudden – BAM – romantic love. It didn’t click for me. I seem to be in the minority with that opinion though, so maybe I need to give it another chance? Shrug.
The Snowman (December 31)
This is a mystery/thriller, in which a police detective tracks down a snowman-themed serial killer in Norway. That detective’s name is Harry Hole. Harry Hole. That’s really the character’s name. I swear to god his name is Harry Hole. And that should tell you all you need to know about this stupid fucking movie for morons. Thanks for helping me ring out 2017 in style, Detective Harry Hole.
Well, there you go. Those are the 206 movies I watched in 2017. Overall, it was a pretty good year! Here’s my Top 10:
10 – Thor: Ragnarok
09 – Brigsby Bear
08 – Mother!
07 – Spider-Man: Homecoming
06 – Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk
05 – Logan
04 – Wonder Woman
03 – Get Out
02 – Coco
01 – The Florida Project
Okay cool, that’s it! Thanks for reading, everyone. See you next year!