Dandy Cat

Letterboxd Diaries—August 2021

  • Memories of Murder: There are some clear allusions to the Zodiac Killer amidst this story. I do not doubt that this film inspired great portions of David Fincher’s Zodiac. The parallels are there. They both tell fascinating and compelling stories about dark moments in our history. What’s remarkable to witness in Bong Joon-ho’s work is the ineptness of the police officers. I don’t recall seeing people being tortured into admitting fault in Zodiac, but that’s a prominent story point here. Indeed, the desperation of these officers only serves to set them back in their investigations. It makes for some truly heartbreaking moments that continue to stick with me. (★★★★½)
  • Ocean’s Eight: A soundtrack of catchy spybeat music does not an entertaining movie make. What would have helped this movie is any sort of unique and energetic style, but that’s nowhere to be found. Instead, we’re given nothing but hushed-tone exposition in dark rooms. If it weren’t for the immense talent of all the actors, then this would be immediately forgettable. As it is, it’s as exciting and unsurprising as plain yogurt. (★★½)
  • Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar: When there’s color and style on display in this film, it just sings (sometimes literally). Unfortunately, like a lot of modern comedies, in the first half, it leans a little too heavily on people sitting around and talking at each other for its humor. For a movie that includes full-scale dance numbers, shooting a young person out of a cannon, and a bumbling Damon Wayans Jr., I wanted to see even more of that craziness. Luckily, it picks up quite a bit in the second half. It does get an enthusiastic extra half star for Andy Garcia playing Tommy Bahama. (★★★★)
  • Suicide Squad: Sadly, the film commits a pair of unfortunate sins: it’s nonsensical and boring. If director David Ayer is to be believed (and why not?), then the film we were given is the product of intense studio meddling. They never believed in his vision. We could have seen a thoughtful, thrilling, and weighty film. As it is, this one is just a damn shame. It had all the potential to be amazing, but instead, it’s severely lacking in stakes, clarity, and heart. It’s empty. (★½)
  • The Suicide Squad: Watching this one immediately after its predecessor is like finding water in the middle of a desert. It calms, quenches, and soothes on every level. It’s also a hell of an action film, and one that actually cares about its fiendish characters. James Gunn should be given all the money and leeway in the world to keep making films for both Marvel and DC. He’s proven time and again that he knows how to make an engaging blockbuster. Every cast member was a standout. Truly, I couldn’t pick a favorite (although King Shark got pretty dang close). (★★★★½)
  • Watch the Sound: More of a mini-series than a movie, but I was so transfixed by this fascinating documentary that I had to include it here. Mark Ronson takes viewers on a trip through music creation. He offers clear explanations about the technical side of making the sounds we’re familiar with and couples those with in-depth history. You can tell he breathes and loves what he’s talking about, which makes this all the more watchable. I’m not a music creator, but I am a music lover, and this ticked all my interest boxes. (★★★★½)
  • Hell or High Water: This gets better every time I watch it. A Robin Hood-esque tale of screwing over the banks to find justice for a recently departed loved one is something that people can find enthralling. Writer Taylor Sheridan has found a gritty and unflinching niche to inhabit. Coupled with his previous work on Sicario and he’s quickly become a filmmaker that’s worth watching. Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Gil Birmingham all give contemplative, brooding performances. A tale of family love has hardly ever been so righteous, violent, or engrossing. (★★★★½)
  • Spontaneous: Surprisingly affecting by the end. I wasn’t expecting the serious turn. It seemed like it was going to go the quirky indie film route, but it ended up in the indie film with a point to make territory. I worry that large swaths of it are going to stay stuck in time. This is clearly a post-Trump film and it makes no effort to hide its justifiable anger towards those hellish four years. This may not be one of those timeless films that we all treasure decades from now. Frequent snarky references to current events tend not to make for work that transcends time. The point it makes by the end is affirming, though. Live the best life you can because who knows what the hell the future holds for each of us. Enjoy yourself before you explode, too. (★★★½)
  • Like Father: This is mostly fluff, but it’s the sort of fluff that can also be a healing balm when you most need it. Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer are immediately believable as a distraught father and frustrated daughter. The entire damn movie seems to be a clear advertisement for the Royal Caribbean cruise company, and that’s not the most welcome addition to an otherwise fine family dramedy. Look past the corporate shilling and you can be treated to a bit of lightweight fun that I found to be great for some relaxing weeknight watching. (★★★)
  • Best in Show: This is a rare film that has no visible missteps. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s perfectly funny. Leave it to Christopher Guest to turn the drama, anxiety, and ridiculous glory of a dog show into one of the funniest things ever made. Much of the credit needs to go to every single one of the performers in this film. There are too many to list, but suffice it to say that they’re all giving career-best performances here. This is a film that inspires repeated viewings and every one of them will be worth your time. There’s sure to be something new and hysterical to find each time. (★★★★)
  • Tickled: …Wow. The way this documentary unfolded was like watching an exquisite statue being carved out of marble. New features would peek out and surprise me every few minutes. By the end, my mind was reeling. What started as a dive into the world of Competitive Endurance Tickling ended with a confounding question: what the hell was all that? I wish more documentaries like this existed. (★★★★)
  • The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley: The story of Elizabeth Holmes and her desperate hunt for a world-changing creation is done well enough. There’s nothing particularly innovative or astounding about this documentary. It gets the job done. However, when you have a subject like the story of Holmes, an audience deserves innovative and astounding. Her life is astounding! One thing the film does do particularly well is feature quite a lot of Holmes. Her direct input is never given, probably due to her ongoing legal tie-ups. Her absence is a shame. I don’t doubt we’d just hear more of her insistent lies if she was included, but it would have given the film more weight. It’s a damn shame that her idea never panned out. It’s even more of a shame that she and her cohorts took malignant advantage of so many innocent people. (★★★½)
  • Us: Being a fan of Get Out, I felt confident that this one was going to be just as thrilling and, in its way, important. Jordan Peele is nothing if not consistent. The second half of the film loses the creepiness that its first half was oozing with. I think that was unfortunate because it’s a hell of a concept. Why can’t it be creepy all the way through while getting its message across? In that way, I think Get Out was the more effective film. Peele is still one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next. (★★★★)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: The second film in a trilogy tends to not be the most memorable piece. They tend to exist as a bridge between the first and third parts. That’s not ever been the case with The Two Towers. Somehow, Peter Jackson was able to create a film that can stand on its own as it helps bolster the other two parts of this series. There are some astounding set pieces, complex and important characters are introduced, and the looming dread of Mordor inches closer. It’s brilliant. The extended version of this film is an ideal way to watch this monumental film. (★★★★½)
  • 1408: This is a surprising film. Stephen King adaptations are terrible as often as they are phenomenal, if not more so. This is one of those that flirts with greatness. The marketing for this film when it came out did not do it justice. Indeed, it’s probably what hurt this one. This spooky and emotionally affecting film should be better regarded than it is. It starts strong and keeps you on your toes throughout. This is a locked-room mystery where the protagonist has to fight against the room itself. It shouldn’t work well, but it does. (★★★½)
  • Chaos Walking: Goodness, I found this boring, convoluted, and underwhelming. The lukewarm antagonists were single-minded, and without any coherent motivation. I struggled to find any meaningful chemistry between Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland. The thought of having to listen to every insipid thought a man has sounds like a living hell to me. There was so much left on the table in the name of making the first part of what’s surely meant to be a trilogy. The end result makes me wonder if that’ll ever happen. I can usually expect good work from Doug Liman, but this was far from his best. (★½)
  • Shadow in the Cloud: A period piece action film with an inexplicable antagonist, forgettable supporting characters, and performances that never quite make it to 100%. There’s very little substance to all the style that’s put on display. If as much care that was put into the visual effects (which start to fall apart by the end) was put into the writing, it would have been more effective. (★★½)
  • Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll: If you enjoyed the Violet Evergarden series, then you’re sure to enjoy this. It’s quite a bit more of the same. However, when the source material is so strong, then more of the same is welcome. It’s like a warm, familiar bath. The first half of this film (or rather, extended episode) is far stronger than the second half, but they work well enough together to tell a complete and moving story. (★★★½)
  • Save Yourselves!: Either I’m getting tired of ambiguous endings or the filmmakers really didn’t know how to stick the landing with this one. I think it’s probably the second one. I wasn’t expecting a simple and tidy conclusion, but I was hoping for some sort of wrap-up. You know, something that gave any clarity about where the poufs came from or what the translucent ships were and where they were headed. This film is three-quarters of a story and it really suffers because of that deficiency. (★★★)
  • Jolt: This was ineffective, by the numbers, and just plain boring. The story was nonsensical and unfocused. The ending was cliffhanger garbage (does everything have to set itself up for sequels?). Even Kate Beckinsale couldn’t keep this one afloat. What a shame. (★½)
  • Attack the Block: An early Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega film? Sign me right up for this one, thank you very much! Oh, and there are some of the coolest looking aliens to be shown in a film in many a year? Heck yeah! What other reason does a person need to see this film? How about thick London accents? Hot damn. This movie’s got it all! (★★★★)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: This is one of the most rousing conclusions to a film trilogy that has ever been made. What’s most astounding about this series is how consistent it is in delivering meaningful emotion, action, and spectacle. Succeeding in such a fashion is not an easy accomplishment. Doing it three times in a row is nearly unheard of in cinema history. The Fellowship’s journey comes to an end in The Return of the King and it’s worth every single minute. As with the previous two installments, the extended edition of this film is recommended. (★★★★½)
  • Young Frankenstein: This is a straight-up classic piece of comedy movie perfection. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you must see it. If you have seen it before, then do yourself a favor and watch it again. Either way, you’re in for a treat. (★★★★★)
  • The Map of Tiny Perfect Things: In the pantheon of eternally living the same day movies, this one is one step below Palm Springs, but a thousand steps above Boss Level. They’re all pale imitations of Groundhog Day. Nonetheless, watching this movie was a perfectly pleasant way to spend some time. The stakes weren’t super high and the rewards were surprisingly touching and meaningful. You’re not going to do wrong with this one. In fact, it’ll probably put a smile on your face like it did mine. (★★★★)
  • Always Be My Maybe: This was a decent movie made memorable entirely by Keanu Reeves. Ali Wong and Randall Park were also delightful. The thing may have had a story that was like any other romantic comedy, but it did also have some laugh-out-loud moments. What I want now is an entire album’s worth of music from Hello Peril. Those songs were working for me. (★★★)
  • Total Recall: An Arnold Schwarzenegger film is always a good time. Throw in a Philip K. Dick story and you’ve got the makings of something that’s both complex and completely full of lunacy. I love an ‘80s sci-fi, action film with brains, and this film has that. I wouldn’t have minded if its running time was cut down a few smidges, but ultimately, most of it works well enough. (★★★½)
  • Freaky: A body-switching film that revels in the extremes of that concept. Too often, we’re given films of this type that features characters who need to learn a lesson about empathy. This time, the characters need to get everyone back to their appropriate bodies to prevent more teens from dying gruesome deaths. I appreciate the title’s play on the film, Freaky Friday, and I’m especially enamored by Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn in their opposing roles. I can’t call this a great film, but it is a fun one. (★★★)
  • Ingrid Goes West: Um, I don’t think Ingrid learned the right lesson by the end of the film. In fact, I’m not sure that the film was suggesting the right message all along. That being said, Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen we’re all kinds of great in this film. There was a level of commitment that’s not always found in such low-budget fare. It’s well made and eminently uncomfortable to watch. (★★★½)
  • Guns Akimbo: If they gave Oscars for dizzying camera movement, way too many covers of ‘80s songs, an unpleasant fetishization of violence, and creep directors, then this film would sweep the show. Luckily, they don’t do that and this film can maintain the notoriety it has as an extra hollow piece of forgettable action schlock. If it weren’t for the complete commitment to the insanity of the story by Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving, then this would have been a waste of my time. (★★)
  • The Natural: This was a surprising film. Who would have thought a relatively simple baseball story would have so many backroom dealings, so much intrigue, and even an attempted murder? I sure didn’t. Robert Redford’s strong performance bolstered a great story. Every supporting actor added a whole world of entertainment. At the heart of everything was a person chasing their dream, no matter how long it took them to achieve it. This is a fun and lasting classic for a darn good reason. It sticks with you after you’ve finished. (★★★★)
  • Misery: An intense film about fanaticism pushed farther than it should ever go. There are three marvels in this film. The first is James Caan, who gives an exhausting, terrified, physically demanding performance. Second is director Rob Reiner, who has one of the most peculiar and fantastic filmographies I’ve ever seen. Third is Kathy Bates, who won a well-deserved Oscar for her carefully unhinged performance as Annie Wilkes. Kind of makes a person never, ever want to become famous. Who in their right mind wants to be hobbled? (★★★★)
  • Bad Education (2019): I need more films like this one in my life. I love a tightly-paced, smartly-written film with performances that can make a story about embezzling school district funds a must-watch from the first second. Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney need to be in more films together. I would risk prison time to embezzle school district money with which I can finance more films they can star in together. Without a second thought! (★★★★)

Total movies watched: 32.

Would you look at that! This is probably the most films I’ve ever watched in a single month—an average of about one a day. I’m going to pat myself on the back for that one. Perhaps, for a future challenge,1 I’ll make sure not to miss any days or watch a Criterion Channel movie every day for a month or something.

Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd! 🎥

  1. Don’t expect this to happen anytime soon, though. This month was already tough. ↩︎