Dandy Cat

Title Card: Double Indemnity (1944)

The title card for the film, Double Indemnity.

Double Indemnity was written by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder, and was directed by Billy Wilder. It was released in 1944.

The film was produced by Joseph Sistrom, along with Paramount Pictures. 🎞

Letterboxd Diaries—November 2021

  • Violet Evergarden: The Movie: Two hours and twenty minutes is a long running time for any movie. This one was no exception. On the plus side, nothing about this story felt rushed. We’re allowed to luxuriate in the beautiful artwork and dramatic storytelling. This story was a long time coming, and I’m glad to see its titular character finally receive the closure and happiness she’s been craving for so long. (★★★★)
  • Army of Thieves: Star and director Matthias Schweighöfer seems assured beyond his years. I really can’t wait to see more of his work because he’s a great filmmaker. The plot of the film becomes repetitive early on. There are only so many ways you can show somebody cracking a safe before it becomes tired. A shorter running time would have helped keep its momentum up. However, it is a beautiful film. It’s a pleasure to look at. (★★★½)
  • Home Alone: Charming, certainly. There’s a lot to like about this film. However, I think it stumbles into its “classic” status mainly by virtue of stubborn nostalgia. In lesser hands, it would be a sadistic, interminable bore. The confidence and adept hand of director Chris Columbus keeps this holiday film afloat. I don’t disparage anyone’s love of this film, but it doesn’t capture my attention. (★★★½)
  • Happiest Season: I could really use a whole bunch of movies like this. It’s really well done, is full of amazing actors, and presents a complex issue. I want 31 days of movies like this every December. I’m glad this didn’t shy away from tougher moments. I hope Clea Duvall will write and direct many more movies because they are very talented. (★★★★)
  • This Beautiful Fantastic: I missed a lot of what could have been depth under the surface of this film. If it were a little bit longer, some of these characters’ pasts could have been fleshed out more. However, its breezy and eccentric spirit kept it from being disappointing. It had a charming story that can easily bring a smile to your face. Every one of the actors seemed like they were having so much fun during the production. (★★★½)
  • Buried: Jeez. What a decently made, well-acted, bummer of a film. It was pretty effective. Ryan Reynolds gave this performance 1000% of himself at all times. That ending wasn’t totally unexpected, but it still leaves you with despair. Complete and utter despair. This is not a happy or triumphant movie in any regard whatsoever. There’s no real catharsis. No lessons learned. No good reason for the character to be subjected to this ordeal. Just abject cruelty performed on an innocent person. “Cruel” is a good word to use here—this was a cruel film. (★★★)
  • Red Notice: I’d feel better about giving this one another half-star if it was significantly shorter. Unfortunately, it was long to the point of being boring and insufferable. There was very little compelling action. Only the tiniest bit of character development. Trying to find any humor in it was like trying to find Cleopatra’s third egg. Considering its three leads, this one should have been so much better. (★½)
  • Margin Call: This is another one of those films that’s steeped in financial terminology and history, which means great portions of it largely go whizzing by over my head. In this case, there’s still enough mood-setting, amazing performances, and confident direction to keep those without extensive knowledge about the 2008 financial crisis riveted. It’s wonderful to watch a film that takes place over the span of a single day not get bogged down by its adherence to its clever storytelling gimmick. As always, extra points are awarded solely for the inclusion of Stanley Tucci. (★★★★)
  • Thirst: What a strange freaking movie. It felt so frantic and all over the place. It hardly lets you get a feel for what was happening before whisking you off to another location or another personal crisis. But it was good. The journey it takes you on is exhaustive. It had weight and spectacle and was shocking in many places. Few characters were who they appeared to be. It keeps you guessing, which should always be welcome. I think I would have liked this more if it was a bit shorter. (★★★½)
  • Psych 3: This Is Gus: Is this a biased review because Psych is probably my favorite show ever? Why, yes. Absolutely and without question. James Rodriguez, Dulé Hill, and the rest of the always stellar cast give performances reminiscent of the best parts of the television show. The film feels energetic, there’s a great mystery at the center, and as always, there’s an undeniable love imbued in every single frame. I had a blast watching this one. I hope they’ll make many more films because they bring joy into this world. (★★★★½)
  • The Edge of Seventeen: It wasn’t until the last half hour of this one that I thought it was going to be a well-made and perfectly enjoyable story about a unique teenager and the authentic issues she’s dealing with. Also, any moment Woody Harrelson was in it was the best moment. That third act proved that there was more intelligence and care put into this one than it seems. There’s some real devastating emotion and catharsis on display here that’s just impossible to look away from. I’m glad my teenage years weren’t so tumultuous, because I think it’s a very real depiction of high school life. Hailee Steinfeld was magnificent. (★★★★½)
  • Yes Man: I don’t think I can ever go so far as to say that this is a great film. Maybe it’s not even that good all the way through. But it sure as hell is fun and lighthearted, and damn it, isn’t that just all a person can need sometimes? Breezy, funny, earnest at times, motivating. There’s a lot of good that can be found. I enjoyed Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel together. They’re always good in anything they do. This is a perfect movie for when you’re feeling down or you’ve got a lazy afternoon on your hands. (★★★½)
  • The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected): I can’t call this Baumbach’s strongest work. He’s done amazing things before and after this one. However, of the films of his that I’ve seen, this one is probably filled with the most heart and familial love. His writing is always top-notch, but he should really be credited far more than he already is for the flawless direction of his actors. He always finds a way to tap into the best talents of his formidable cast. (★★★★)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Ah, this was such a refreshing change from the usual Marvel fare (and I’m a huge fan of that stuff). I absolutely loved the history, culture, and mythology that fills this entire story. The performances are at their typical best, as are the visuals. It’s beyond clear that everyone had a great time making this one. I was more films felt like they had that kind of care and energy in them. (★★★★)
  • The Fate of the Furious: Breaking up the family made for an emotionally weak installment to this series. It certainly amped up the drama and intrigue, but it didn’t do anything to help create a strong connection with any of these people. It’s a dang shame, too, because they should feel very familiar by this point. Just goes to show you that a strong and emotional story will always be better than impressive spectacle. This is a middle of the road entry. (★★★)
  • Venom: Let There Be Carnage: What’s most frustrating about this film is it should be so much better than it is, considering how much formidable talent is behind it. It only gets halfway toward being great, and then stops. Making an R rated film may have been a good first step. Utilizing Woody Harrelson, who was still delightful, better would have been another good idea. There’s nothing particularly bad with this film, but it’s also unremarkable. It’s unlikely to stick with you any longer than it takes the credits to roll. (★★★)
  • The Fundamentals of Caring: I’m racking my brain to try and figure out if I’ve ever seen a bad Paul Rudd movie, and I’m coming up with nothing. Nope, he’s been great in everything. This movie proves to be no exception. The entire cast takes a story about friendship, exploration, and overcoming your fears and imbues it with warmth and humor. It’s eminently watchable, and at 97 minutes, it just breezes by. The film’s short running time may make some of the earlier moments feel rushed and lacking, but it makes up for it with some strong character development later on. (★★★½)
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Steve Martin and John Candy are always immediately and effortlessly magnetic, but I found the film’s story to be a slow burn. Del and Neal’s warring relationship makes for a pair of characters that aren’t especially relatable (or likable) at the beginning of the film. As time passes and you learn more about them, though, they start to feel like old friends, both in the film and for the viewer. By the end of this insane and exhausting road trip, I wanted it to keep going. Begone, end credits! (★★★★)
  • Ride the Eagle: I don’t mind a long, epic movie, but sometimes you want to watch something that knows the value of brevity. This is one of those movies. Jake Johnson, as always, is excellent at playing the character he’s cultivated since, at least, his time on the show, New Girl. It works, and it’s a delight to see in this story. You’d never think that a family relationship that develops entirely through a VHS tape would be so affecting, but here we are. This one is pleasant and it has a cute as heck dog. (★★★★)
  • A Mighty Wind: I haven’t come across a Christopher Guest film that isn’t a delight. They’re all varying degrees of fun, hilarious, and excellent. This one doesn’t hit the high bar set by its predecessor, Best in Show, but it is full of the style and deadpan humor that makes his films so unique and memorable. I enjoy folk music, so this one was right up my alley. However, I would have appreciated more humor and less music. The ratio seemed off this time. (★★★½)
  • Love and Monsters: A very strong entry into the post-apocalypse genre. Instead of zombies or aliens, we’re treated to enormous, macabre versions of creatures we’re already familiar with. It’s an interesting concept that’s bolstered by a capable lead performance and some excellent relationships that form during its story (who can resist the charm of the dog, Boy?). The ending was unexpected considering the title; “happily ever after” doesn’t seem to apply here. It’s unique, thrilling, and fresh. (★★★½)
  • Minari: A heartfelt, loving, and tough family drama with an underlying core of desperation running underneath its surface. It’s no wonder why this film was so revered and received so many accolades. Yuh-jung Youn was particularly deserving of the Oscar she won for her performance as Soonja, the family’s grandmother. “The American Dream” always seems so cruelly out of reach to this family, and it’s heartbreaking to see them struggle and nearly unravel. You hope nothing but the best for these characters. This is a film that will surely stick to you, as it has to me. (★★★★½)

Total movies watched: 22.

Favorite movie of the month: Psych 3: This Is Gus. I’m a little biased here—Psych is one of my favorite things ever.

Least favorite movie of the month: Red Notice.

Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd! 🎥

According to my Letterboxd account, I’ve just watched my two-hundredth film of the year. The one that got me there was Park Chan-wook’s unique vampire film, Thirst.

I wonder how many I’ll have watched by the end of the year…

Letterboxd Diaries—October 2021

  • The Desperate Hours: A slow, trembling burn ignites into a tense inferno. Bogart gives a menacing performance in his penultimate role. This is a tragic story with a doomed trio of antagonists. The suspenseful mood is heightened by the excellent nighttime stagings. It’s a thrill from start to end. (★★★★)
  • Double Indemnity: Baby, this feels like one of those watershed films that shook the industry and continues to make waves long after its release. There are many films that can count this one as an influence. Billy Wilder, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, and Edward G. Robinson were all exemplary. You know what, baby? This was a wonderful movie, baby. It’s got tension to spare and a thrilling story, baby. Never count out Keyes and his stomach of knowledge, baby. (★★★★★)
  • Incendies: The twist in this one can stand up to any of the greatest in film history. What’s more, it’ll punch you in the gut hard enough to make you double over. Is it any surprise that Denis Villeneuve would go on to have the career that he’s had? This guy is clearly a master storyteller, and I think he’s still got a long career ahead of him. This one may not have the polish of his later films, but it does have more gut-wrenching emotion and one of the most unflinching eyes of any film. (★★★★½)
  • The Nice Guys: I can’t think of a single Shane Black film that isn’t fun as hell. Whatever “it” is, he’s got it. Story-wise, this one isn’t nearly as strong as, for instance, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or Lethal Weapon, but it makes up for that lack with a perfect buddy pairing. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling shine as a mismatched private detective team, with both of them bringing unique flavors of comedy to their roles. Angourie Rice holds her own against these two towering (both in talent and stature) actors. (★★★★)
  • Free Guy: Undoubtedly fun, but not nearly as funny as I was hoping for. It’s got everything going for it—Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, a high concept, unique story—but it still can’t manage to be anything extra special. The amount of video game-inspired Easter eggs brings a welcome bit of fun. Otherwise, it’s perfectly fine, but it isn’t a film that’s likely to stick in my mind for very long. That’s its greatest tragedy: it’s forgettable. (★★★½)
  • Batman Returns: There’s an unfortunate lack of Batman in this Batman movie. And I saw this one at the wrong age. I bet I would have loved and appreciated the camp when I was younger. Instead, I saw it in my mid-30s and all I could notice was an over-reliance on its cartoonish villains. Where’s the development of Bruce Wayne? It’s supposedly his movie, so where’s his story? Why is this film about little but local city politics? Admittedly, it did look unique and remarkable. Tim Burton of this era definitely had a distinct aesthetic and it works in a Batman movie, for the most part. (★★½)
  • Tommy Boy: If somebody ever asked you to point out an example of a film that was designed to appeal specifically to boys in their teenage years and early 20s, then this is your perfect pick. It’s sophomoric, loud, and repetitive. What keeps this movie from sinking into terrible territory is its genuine heart. There’s an earnest story about family, friendship, and legacy here. There’s also no denying the obvious charm and appeal of Chris Farley. A movie like this one proves that he could have gone on to create many more indelible and cherished films. (★★★½)
  • Official Secrets: Give me all of the British people talking about spycraft, intrigue, and do-goodery that you’ve got. I could watch that stuff forever. Next to the brooding courtroom drama, it might be my favorite genre. I guess I’m just a big fan of watching people who are more adult than I’ll ever be try to solve impossible problems (and sometimes while wearing barrister’s wigs). Oh, and of Keira Knightley. She’s just great and I hope she’s living a good life. (★★★½)
  • Denial: Along with Official Secrets, I’ve been watching a lot of films that feature posters of women with severe looks on their faces being bordered by frowning men. I had no idea this genre existed. This one was well-done, with performances that felt impassioned and exuberant. It depicts an important moment in history, and one that more people should be aware of. Also, barrister’s wigs galore! (★★★½)
  • Squid Game: More of a tv mini-series, but it was on Letterboxd, so why not? I’m not in the least bit surprised that this one has captured the attention and adoration of so many people. It’s well done, affecting, and comes with a powerful, anti-capitalist message (which is more necessary than ever these days). We are all Seong Gi-hun, or should strive to be more like him. I was hoping this would be more of a mini-series, but I’ll gladly watch another season. (★★★★)
  • Die Hard: After each viewing of this film, I spend time trying to figure out if it would be anywhere near as great if the inimitable Alan Rickman was not in it, playing the German terrorist, Hans Gruber. It’s undeniable that Bruce Willis is great, and he’s ultimately the reason why, so far, four sequels have been made. However, would this one be the certifiable classic it’s become if not for Rickman? I’m not so sure. Suffice it to say, this is about as fun and thrilling as action movies can get. It’s pretty damn brilliant. (★★★★½)
  • Old: Like an extremely well-funded student film. It looks amazing, but the writing never fully delivers. It feels like it’s always aware of how clever it’s trying to be. While everyone tries their damnedest to act out their parts as well as they can, and largely succeed, the film also suffers from a hectic edit that ends up being tiring instead of tense. Shyamalan is capable of making a great film, but he seems insistent on beating us over the head with how ingenious he thinks he is. (★★)
  • Still Walking: I wish I could live in this movie. It’s the perfect mix of pleasant, peaceful, ravishing, startling, melancholic, and hopeful. Hirokazu Kore-eda has a way of dramatizing the everyday routines of humans that is so approachable, and yet still retains a great amount of depth. A movie like this, with its placid tone and pacing, sets you at ease. Until, that is, a tense and revealing moment hits you like a brick across the face. I loved every moment of this one. It offers no easy answers, but rewards engaged watching like few others can. (★★★★★)
  • The Rainmaker: In the genre of “takin’ down the assholes in dramatic, triumphant courtroom dramas,” this one ranks as pretty good. It’s delivering on all of its promises. Great performances abound (despite an, as usual, criminal lack of Mickey Rourke). There are antagonists that engender vitriol and disgust. There’s a blossoming love story that earns its affections, both from the viewer and inside the movie. It’s pretty decent all around. I suspect that it’s the source material that holds this one back from being stellar. Coppola does what he can, but you can only push average so far. (★★★½)
  • Just Mercy: This is a fascinating and heartbreaking film that was based on a true story. It depicts the cruelty and unjust treatment of Walter McMillian, a man who was sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. It continues to anger up my blood to see that the death penalty is still an acceptable form of punishment in some places and, according to the film, that 1 in 9 people on death row are innocent. This film does a great job of dramatizing the earnest work of the Equal Justice Initiative, the disgusting treatment of black people, and how necessary true change still is in the world. All of the performances were great. Michael B. Jordan was a driving force. Jamie Foxx was moving in every one of his scenes. For having received such prominent billing, I would have liked to have seen more of Brie Larson. (★★★★)
  • Fast & Furious 6: At the beginning of this film, Toretto promised O’Conner that their old life would be over now that a kid’s in the mix. Dude lied. This was still fast and furious. I was expecting slow and mostly content. A baby should not be anywhere near this many speeding cars and brooding speeches! I guess you can take the family out of the fast and furious, but you can never take the fast and furious out of the family. (★★★)
  • The Fog of War: It’s not often when you think, “Gosh, this complete and utter asshole sure has lived a remarkable, awe-inspiring life. I’d like to give him a handshake and a punch in the mouth.” Watching this, I had one of those moments. That’s all thanks to Errol Morris’s unwavering attention to detail and his total willingness to let his subject speak for himself. There appears to be very little leading going on, which allows McNamara to, seemingly unknowingly, explain just how much of a monster he really is. Unfortunately, he’s allowed to squirm and wriggle his way out of responsibility far too often. I would have liked to see more fire and pushback from Morris, but that probably would have made McNamara do in the interview what he should have done in Vietnam: pull out of it. (★★★★)
  • The Night House: This entire damn movie boils down to a woman being terrorized by a ghost stalker who can’t get over a girl he likes? That’s it? I surely must be missing the deeper message. Well, the award for most misleading trailer for a movie goes to this one. It’s a good thing Rebecca Hall is always so great because, otherwise, this wouldn’t be intriguing at all. It would have nothing to draw a person in, and that’s pretty inexcusable for something that purports to be mysterious and spooky. This sets an excellent mood, but then it leaves so much on the table, instead preferring a limp ending with no actual resolution. (★★½)
  • Dune (2021): Enormous in scope. Superb in execution. Thrilling in story and spectacle. I suspect that this film will be even more grand and affecting when paired with the better be forthcoming Part Two. Denis Villeneuve continues to prove that he’s one of the very best directors working today. There’s hardly anyone else who can match him in vision and storytelling ability. (★★★★½)
  • Hellboy (2019): Inferior in just about every single way to Guillermo del Toro’s superb pair of Hellboy films. Watch those instead. They are much better films. (★½)
  • Furious 7: I wouldn’t have minded if this movie was about a half-hour shorter than it was. The dang thing ended up being kind of tiring by the time the credits rolled. However, that was because it’s so full of action, explosions, glowering looks, surprising emotions, and oiled-up muscles that a person can’t help but be worn out by the end. This ain’t no pleasure cruise. They’re saving the world, damn it! The send-off to Paul Walker at the end caught me off guard and was more moving than I expected it to be. It was well done. (★★★½)
  • Kate: It’s got style for days. Unfortunately, the story and the action don’t quite live up to its appearance. There’s very little lore to inform its world. I would have loved to see more of what makes Kate into Kate. What was more of her childhood like? Why is Japan so central to the film? It’s a damn shame, because Mary Elizabeth Winstead is always great and always gives it her all. This one will surely draw a lot of John Wick comparisons, but it doesn’t match the world-building in John Wick. (★★★)
  • 28 Weeks Later: Goes by in a flash, but never gives you much of a chance to make any strong connections to any of the characters. For a movie that’s all about threats and terror inflicted on the characters, not feeling for them makes for a hollow experience. At that point, what makes this film worth watching is the exhilarating thrill of watching these people try to survive their predicament. (★★★)

Total movies watched: 23.

Favorite movie of the month: Still Walking.

Worst movie of the month: Hellboy. By a mile. Although, Batman Returns was a close second for me. Not because it was poorly made, but because it was so underwhelming while also being so well-regarded.

Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd! 🎥

Letterboxd Diaries—September 2021

  • The Fast and the Furious: If what you crave is a bunch of dumb man-children getting into fights over dick-measuring contests gone awry, then boy, is this the movie for you! It would have been a rough watch when it was released in 2001. Watching it now, it’s still not great, but in the way that, ironically, a horrific car crash on the freeway where several cars are overturned and there are some suspicious sheets draped over areas of the ground is not great. You don’t really want to watch it, but you find yourself oddly compelled to keep your eyes on it as you creep past and a worrisome, desperate part of you wants to see more of it. Luckily, humanity has seen fit to give us all at least eight more of these things (and a spin-off!). Truly, we live in the most halcyon days of all recorded history. (★★)
  • Gerald’s Game: A remarkably effective telling of Stephen King’s book of the same name. Cuffing your main character to a bed, where she remains trapped for most of the film, would have been an insurmountable challenge for most filmmakers. Director Mike Flanagan figured out how to make this constraint into a compelling aspect of the film. Personifying the inner terror and madness of Jessie in the forms of her dead husband and herself makes for a ghostly back and forth that drives the story. It may not be the best King adaptation, but it’s miles away from being the worst. (★★★½)
  • The Place Beyond the Pines: A sprawling, deep, twist your emotions until they’re about ready to snap sort of film. It’s separated into three distinct portions, telling complete tales of fathers and their sons. This is beginning-to-end wonderful and sticks with me for days every time I watch it. Ryan Gosling gives a restrained and unpredictable performance. Bradley Cooper gives a familiar turn, but one that still works. The rest of the phenomenal cast turn in some career-high performances. This is lush filmmaking on many levels, and with few failed notes. (★★★★★)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love.: Look, this may not be the best film ever made (and what would that really be anyway?), but it’s one of the most pleasant and joyous films ever made. This is a watch multiple times a year because it’s just so much damn fun kind of a film. What’s surprising about the story is how much more complex and heartfelt it is when stacked up next to something of this romantic dramedy genre. It’s not just a story about some guy getting his groove back. It’s about an entire group of people learning how essential love is in this world. Also, I would give both of my kidneys to have Ryan Gosling dress me up like a stylish god. (★★★★½)
  • The American President: In typical Aaron Sorkin fashion, there’s a whole lot of talk-talk-talking about desperately important stuff, interspersed with some witty jabs and friendly jibes amongst the characters. It’s such a good thing that Rob Reiner directed this film, otherwise, it could have been dreadfully inflated by its own importance. There are also some lovely performances by Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, et al. These days, it can feel a little tough to watch a film that’s focused entirely around a presidency, but luckily President Shepherd (and the crew making the film) appears to have everyone’s best interests at heart. Come for the excellent writing, stay for the nice love story. (★★★★)
  • Reminiscence: Too long, overly convoluted, and it trips up over its own story before finally drawing back the curtain on the central mystery. But hey, at least there’s some top-tier Hugh Jackman growling going on here. Also, it looks damn gorgeous. If only the quality of the writing had been as high as the quality of its visual effects and cinematography. There might have been something special here in that case. (★★½)
  • 2 Fast 2 Furious: In the annals of obviously (except to the characters themselves) homoerotic cinema, this one stands tall. Well, except for the other, so far, seven films in the series. Let’s just call this what it is: an octilogy of movies about men who wish they could kiss each other, but because of the desperately masculine world they live in, just can’t. This isn’t so much an action movie as it is a great tragedy of forbidden love. I enjoyed all the Miami colors, but there were too few Miami beaches. (★½)
  • Midnight Run: Oof, that’s a rough Danny Elfman score. I think he took the idea of “buddy comedy” a little too far in his writing. Everything else, though, just sings. It all works so well. I want this one to be far more well-known than it currently is. Let’s raise Charles Grodin and Yaphet Kotto from the dead and get the band back together for another film! (★★★★½)
  • Grosse Pointe Blank: Why isn’t this movie more well-known and loved? I enjoyed the hell out of this one and I’m really looking forward to when I’ll get to watch it again. John Cusack and Minnie Driver shine with an energy that’s hard to find in a movie from any year. Who would have ever guessed that a story about an assassin with a great deal of aimless ennui would be so much dang fun? (★★★★)
  • Sharknado: I’ll never get this hour and twenty minutes of my life back. What a piece of crap this thing was. Please send anybody else to save the world if there’s actually some sort of future insane weather emergency. (½)
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift: Despite the protagonist being an absolute cocky moron, this one was way more enjoyable than the previous installment. I appreciate that the director knew both how to make a good-looking film and how to direct their actors to deliver genuine emotion. Both of those qualities were sorely lacking up until this one. I am disappointed that it took well over half of the film to get to any sort of real plot. Hey, at least Han was cool, right? (★★½)
  • The Terminal: Like a bowl (or entire pint) of your favorite ice cream, this one goes down easy. The pairing of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg is something you can bet money on. There’s delightful energy to the film, and its central conflict is weighty without becoming too melancholic. At over two hours, it’s too long. That’s probably my biggest criticism. With a film like this, one that wants to be fun, energetic, and even a little romantic, overstaying your welcome is a perilous thing to do. Unfortunately, that happens here. Good thing it’s got national treasure Tom Hanks to buoy everything up. This is a pleasant film. (★★★½)
  • Sleepless in Seattle: The whole conceit of the film is absolutely, certifiably bonkers. One person pines away for someone who doesn’t have any idea she exists. She flies across the country, eventually leaving her too-good-for-her fiancé behind, to see (and presumably spend her life with) this person she’s only heard a few times on the radio. At one point she tracks down where the guy lives, hires a private investigator to surveil him, and stalks him around his home. Put all this nonsense aside, and you’ve got a perfectly fine romantic dramedy. The best thing this movie has going for it is the strong chemistry between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (when they’re finally onscreen together). (★★★½)
  • Luca: I sure could have used a lot more pasta dishes. But, Santo Mozzarella, there was still a good amount of food and friendship! This wasn’t as soul-crushing or life-affirming as some of Pixar’s best-known work, but not everything has to be. Instead, we’ve been given a nice slice of Italian-styled animated goodness. (★★★½)
  • Fast & Furious: As hollow as ever, but at least they’ve finally gotten a real handle on how to tell these stories in an exciting way. This one looks, sounds, and thrills better than any previous installment. I can only hope that they’ll continue to improve as the series continues. I don’t expect them to get any less vapid, though. (★★½)
  • The VelociPastor: I’ll never forgive my friend for making me watch this. But hey, at least it was better than Sharknado? This one had more style, even if every second was more insane than the last. Also, I hope one day the director can marry Tarantino since that’s clearly what he wants to do more than anything in this world. (★)
  • The Hitman’s Bodyguard: 85% “motherfucker.” 13% action. 2% comedy. (★½)
  • You’ve Got Mail: Despite this one being laughably dated, it was such a delight. I enjoyed it more than Sleepless in Seattle. There was real conflict, a relationship that took its time to bloom, and a charming little bookshop around the corner. Oh, and also dial-up internet. And also an enormous corporate bookstore that has no idea it’ll one day crash spectacularly under the mighty weight of Amazon. Sooner or later, Bezos ruins everything. (★★★★)
  • Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard: 50% everyone’s yelling at each other all the time. 49% nausea-inducing shaky camera action shots. 1% comedy. (★)
  • Zombieland: Double Tap: The first Zombieland had clever characters, a unique story, and some decent character development. This one is lacking in much of that. It’s a good thing that the world of these movies is predicated on fun and the cast is wonderful, otherwise, they would be interminable. Sadly, there’s just not enough new stuff to make this rehashing of the first movie better than average. (★★★)
  • The Hustler: I shouldn’t have been surprised that this film isn’t more about pool playing, but I’m still surprised. You know what makes up for that lack? Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, and the brilliant Jackie Gleason. I mean, my goodness. The celluloid must have melted itself for how hot all the acting and pretty faces were in this thrilling, devastating film. Give this one a watch and then immediately follow it up with The Color of Money. (★★★★½)
  • The Grifters: I was hoping and expecting to like this one more than I did, but maybe I wasn’t in a Stephen Frears mindset when it started. Not being in that headspace, this one drags a bit and the intrigue feels half-baked. Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening, though. My gosh, they brought a freshness and energy that just wouldn’t have been present if they weren’t in this. If the film relied on John Cusack’s nearly catatonic performance, this would have been dull and dreadful. (★★★½)
  • Fast Five: Oh yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about. They’ve finally gotten to the point where things feel modern and interesting. Director Justin Lin has been this series’ saving grace. The action is thrilling and there’s a decent story with some real stakes. Dwayne Johnson’s new presence is a welcome addition. It’s all still nonsense, but at least now it’s well-made nonsense. (★★★½)
  • The Devil Wears Prada: I could watch Stanley Tucci movies every day for the rest of my life and be perfectly content. It certainly helped make this one more pleasing for me. I find the world of fashion that this movie presents to be daunting and unappealing. Perhaps that’s because my wardrobe entirely resembles that of Andy Sachs before she meets and works for Miranda Priestly. I mean, I can clean up like the best of them, but there’s not one thing wrong with a comfy, cable knit sweater. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But yeah, Tucci all day. (★★★½)

Total movies watched: 24.

Favorite movie of the month: Grosse Pointe Blank. It would have been Crazy, Stupid, Love. if I hadn’t already seen it.

Least favorite movie of the month: Sharknado. I had to watch it for More Movies Please! This was one of the worst things, and not just movies, that I’ve ever witnessed.

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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.

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

Letterboxd Diaries—July 2021

  • I’m Gonna Git You Sucka: Of Keenan Ivory Wayans’s films, this one is certainly better than A Low Down Dirty Shame. Its quality rests completely on the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. If this one wasn’t a parody of blaxploitation films, it would have been insufferable. Thank goodness for Bernie Casey and Isaac Hayes. (★★)
  • The Tomorrow War: This was overly long, felt like it had some major logic holes, and it underutilized Sam Richardson and Mary Lynn Rajskub (which is a serious crime in itself). The alien design was pretty dang effective, though. They seemed intimidating and were clearly capable of actually destroying all of humanity. By the end, they unfortunately just ended up becoming nothing more than some bugs to be squashed. They lost all their power when the humans figured out how to kill them. There was very little challenge for anyone. If you’re looking to watch a film that depicts a thrilling and moving future war, then you’d do much better to watch Edge of Tomorrow. You can never go wrong with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. (★★★)
  • Predator: I’m not sure why I was surprised that this one was as violent as it was, but who can ever prepare for the sight of human beings that have been removed from their skin? I certainly wasn’t ready for it, and then POW! Loads of dead people in a jungle. This was gruesome for an ‘80s film. It also became so much more than just terrible deaths. The first half of the movie is a decent examination of masculinity and its shortcomings. The back half is a great cat and mouse game between Arnold and the titular alien monster. I’d call this one pretty dang decent. (★★★★)
  • Clueless: I wish there were more movies made like this today. It was a perfect, low-stakes way to spend some of my time. There was no real antagonist. Everyone was very goofy. The main character, Cher, had far more depth than one might expect at the beginning of the film. Heck, the people who could have resembled an antagonist aren’t given much screen time. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering it’s obviously, and famously, based on a Jane Austen novel. It was just a pleasure to watch, even if it was the most ‘90s thing I’ve seen since the ‘90s. (★★★★)
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1: This is about as faithful an adaptation as you can get. Lines are taken straight from the graphic novel. Plot points hit at exactly the same time. Even visually there’s little difference between the two. That begs the question, if the source material is nearly perfect, then why wouldn’t I rank this adaptation higher? For me, the voice cast doesn’t quite work. The shadow of Kevin Conroy is long. Peter Weller doesn’t have the kind of gravelly gravitas I’d expect from an aged Batman/Bruce Wayne. I don’t know what’s going on with Commissioner Gordon. That voice is higher and reedier than I’d ever have expected. The acting is fine, but the sound of the characters is enough to make this one less effective. (★★★★)
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2: You can just refer to the entry above this one. It applies to this film, as well. (★★★★)
  • Black Widow: With this being the first new Marvel feature film since Avengers: Endgame, there was a lot riding on its success. The recent Disney+ tv shows have proven that Marvel still has the good stuff, but could they deliver again on the big screen? The answer, for me at least, is a pretty resounding yes. However, this isn’t a film that drives the long arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe forward. This one exists in the past. That’s not a bad thing—this one is a blast from beginning to end—but it’s hard to see Marvel’s future plans if you’re using this film as a landmark. It seems to exist out of time. I loved Scarlett Johansson and everyone else who was featured. (★★★★)
  • Another Earth: For a film about a spectacular celestial event, there’s so little science in this film. Indeed, the titular other Earth is really only referenced in news reports, radio programs, and either hopeful or frightened whispers. I appreciated the effective drama between the two main characters, but boy did I ever want more information about the world-changing event the film depicts. If it had a larger budget to work with, that would probably have been seen. This wasn’t a disappointment, but there was still a lot more that could have been done with it. (★★★½)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums: This is arguably the film that first showed Wes Anderson’s unique, symmetrical, colorful style as we would come to know and refer to it now. It works on every level. For a long time, this was his standard-bearer, and the film that worked best as an introduction to his work. Having seen this several times before, I was struck this time by how complete and well-crafted the screenplay was. His work with Owen Wilson on the story created a tale that’s always propellant, intoxicating, and hilarious. It was the last film the pair wrote together and I would love to see them collaborate in this fashion again. This, combined with their previous work on Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, showed a pair of filmmakers that were creating eccentric beauty. I want more of that. (★★★★½)
  • Big Night: A simple plot that was turned into a full-length film. This one hinges on the strong relationship between Tony Shalhoub as Primo and Stanley Tucci as Secondo. Without them and their amazing chemistry, it would have been just an okay film. There’d be little substance to support the enjoyable cooking scenes, of which there aren’t enough to buoy the film without the family drama. This one takes its time and trusts that you’ll go along for the ride it presents. It’s hard to find such a confident film these days. (★★★★)
  • How to Steal a Million: There are surely some credible knocks to be made against this film, but none of those matter to me. What does matter is just how dang fun this one is. It’s a lovely caper film with great energy. It’s also got Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Are there any greater two reasons to watch this film than them? I think not! This is probably one of the best lazy weekend films I’ve ever seen and repeated viewings won’t go to waste. (★★★★½)
  • Wild Wild West: What an affront on every level. Plant a tree, kiss a puppy, eat some ice cream. Do anything but watch this film and you’ll have spared almost two precious hours of your life. (★)
  • No Sudden Move: Along with Killing Them Softly, Ray Liotta is making a real career out of getting the crap kicked out of him in front of a car in the rain. I can’t wait to see where he gets beat up next. Otherwise, this was a well-made film. It’s one of those things that throws non-stop names, connections, and dates at you. Much like a high school history class, it probably helps to take notes. (★★★½)
  • Gunpowder Milkshake: The story of this film really isn’t all that impressive, but damn if its style doesn’t push this over the edge into something more impressive. Karen Gillan was as lovely as ever. The cinematography and lighting were particularly top-notch. This is one of those films where it’s clear every cast and crew member enjoyed making it. Mostly, it felt hollow, and it’s a shame that there was little substance below its flashy exterior. (★★★½)

Total movies watched: 14

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Letterboxd Diaries—June 2021

  • Point Break: While watching this, I became even sadder knowing that Patrick Swayze is dead. He was a great talent, but more than that, we’ll never get to see a sequel where Bodhi is somehow still alive and finally makes everyone’s dreams come true by getting it on with Utah. Surf-style. Also, I will never not enjoy John C. McGinley yelling his damn head off at other people. That’s my happy place. (★★★½)
  • Capernaum: This is an amazing, moving, important film that I never want to see again. It sapped me of so much energy and was one of the toughest watches I’ve ever had. There can never be enough praise given to Zain Al Rafeea for his supernaturally good performance. What he did, and at his age, is beyond comparison. It was truly something special. (★★★★½)
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: An extended version of a show that’s already one of the best superhero cartoons ever made is sure to be excellent. This one did not disappoint in any way. In fact, it elevated Batman. By delving into Bruce Wayne’s history, we’re shown more about the motivations and hindrances that the Caped Crusader faces. Throw in a great Mark Hamill performance and a mysterious new antagonist and you got something timeless. (★★★★)
  • Bo Burnham: Inside: A melancholic, introspective look at isolation, humanity, the desire for connection, and creativity. This is a moving and imaginative work of art. It comes with frequent bouts of brilliance, as well as songs that can stand on their own. I’m astounded by how much Bo Burnham was able to accomplish on his own. He’s got true talent. After watching this, I wish nothing but the best for him. (★★★★½)
  • An American Tail: That damn mouse! So much heartache and terror just because a kid wouldn’t listen to their parent, but I guess that’s just reality when it comes to children. There was some pretty astounding animation shown off in this film, and it was apparently unique in its classic feel. It goes a long way to making a somewhat thin storyline feel more robust. This film gains depth by providing some astounding eye candy. (★★★½)
  • Shadow of a Doubt: The peculiar editing of this film threw me off so much that I thought there was something wrong with the video file itself. To find out that this is one of Hitchcock’s favorites of his own work takes me aback even further. Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton are thrilling and excellent, to be sure, but this one just didn’t do it for me like the director’s other works have. It’s a dang shame because the story is clever and unique. I wanted to enjoy it more than I did, but alas… (★★★)
  • Say Anything…: Watching this felt like I was peering through a portal into my teenage years. So much of this felt familiar. It’s astounding to know that this is Cameron Crowe’s first feature film. His first outing is this damn strong? Who the hell does he think he is?! If I had watched this film when I was Lloyd Dobbler’s age, I’m sure I would have related to him the most. I’d be sick of the world, man, and I’d be head over heels for Diane Court (Ione Skye is breathtaking). Now that I’m almost twice his age, I find myself more enamored by John Mahoney as James Court, and I don’t think that’s just because of my love for Frasier. The tragedy of his character is so palpable that I want nothing more than to spring him from his prison cell in a daring, midnight prison break. Maybe one day. (★★★★)
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004): As a first feature film, this is a strong offering. Zack Snyder, along with the incredible help by the usually amazing James Gunn, has somehow managed to take a classic of the genre and not turn it into a flaming dumpster fire. That’s usually much harder to accomplish than it should be. However, there’s not a huge amount of depth to the characters. They’re all caricatures of their upbringing/profession, and until the very end of the film, are never given a chance to be anything more than a police officer, a nurse, or a homophobic loudmouth. (★★★)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: I watched the extended edition of this film, which is probably the only way this trilogy should be watched, and it continues to hold up. The visual effects are beginning to show their age, which is no surprise considering the age of these films. For my money, the main draw of this trilogy has never been the visual effects. The adventurous, thrilling, and at times, heart-wrenching story of the Fellowship was what captured my imagination and what keeps this movie engaging. It’s a timeless good vs. evil story that has begun to acquire the same fame and importance that its source material has developed over its long life. (★★★★½)
  • Wall Street: The notoriety this one has developed since its release led me to believe that it would be far better than it ended up being for me. By the end of it, I found its strongest aspect to be Michael Douglas’s performance. No wonder why he received an Oscar for it then. Its quick pace and the finance-centered script made it something of an inscrutable watch for someone who has no foot in the world of Wall Street. Beyond that aspect, it’s just a fairly good downfall drama that Aaron Sorkin probably would have written if it had been made in the last decade. (★★★½)
  • Airplane!: Oh boy, did I ever see this one at the wrong time of my life. I should have watched Airplane! when I was a teenager because that’s clearly the target audience for this film. I think I would have appreciated it far more than I did. I would be hard-pressed to call it a bad film—it’s not by any stretch—but I don’t think it achieves the legendary comedy heights that so many people believe it has. This is worth a watch for Lloyd Bridges and Leslie Nielsen in one of their first comedic roles. (★★★½)
  • Thelma: I can’t figure out why, but something about Joachim Trier’s films really does it for me. His previous film, Reprise, was a transformative experience. This one takes that same Norwegian drama feel and adds a supernatural aspect to it. It works on every dang level. Some people may be put off by its slow pace, but if that’s not an issue, then you’ll be treated to a great mystery. The fraught love story at its core gives the film balance and momentum. A woman who has grown up in a religiously oppressed family falls in love with a woman. There’s no way that’s not going to be an emotionally charged story. Throw in possible mind powers and you’re left with a film that’s going to stick around for a long time. (★★★★)
  • Army of the Dead: Compared to Dawn of the Dead, this film is clearly an improvement in many ways. Thanks primarily to a healthier budget, the scope of the film, the visual effects, and the sheer bombastic attitude have been elevated to extreme heights. When it comes to something like story, there’s not a huge amount of improvement. Everyone’s trying their damnedest to inject more dimensions into their characters and, aside from Dave Bautista, it largely fails. As with Dawn of the Dead, it’s hard to create something that just isn’t there on the page. The unique premise makes for thrilling fun, though. (★★★½)
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet: I truly enjoyed the first film. I thought it was filled with fun and had a lot of heart. Where that one taught the important lesson of loving yourself for who you are, this one throws all of that out with the message that you should try your damnedest to be someone else if it’s attractive to you. I feel that so much effort was put into visualizing the grand and intimidating world of the Internet. I wish more was put into asking whether this film truly needed to be made. (★★★)
  • Network: I want so badly to call this film something like an adult dramedy. It goes to lengths that seem absurd, including giving our poor, dear Howard Beale his own sensational, televised soapbox from which to yell. The last decades since the release of this film prove that it is instead a sad, prescient satire. This film shows that it’s still okay to be “mad as hell,” so long as your anger doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s money. If it ever does, there will be hell to pay, because life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness only apply to the richest among us. Once it infringes on their money accounts, you’re a problem to be squashed (unless you too somehow become rich, and then, hey, you’re actually worth a damn). Dream, dream, why don’t you, but don’t you dare make any real noise. Don’t you dare try to lift the boot that is squashing you out. You’re here to make the rich richer, and that is your only value. You could make this movie today without changing a thing and it would still be exactly as relevant. Still… there are some extremely funny bits. Faye Dunaway earned the hell out of her Oscar. (★★★★★)
  • Boss Level: I really should have just watched Groundhog Day or Palm Springs. Those were more engaging than this thing. I expected more from Joe Carnahan. (★★)

Total movies watched: 16

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Letterboxd Diaries—May 2021

  • Room: I feel like I’m still struggling to absorb everything I saw while watching this marvel of a film. It was powerful, sad, and ultimately, redemptive. I’m absolutely amazed by the performances Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay gave. They both deserve every accolade they received for this film. It’s going to stick with me for a long time. (★★★★½)
  • The Favourite: Leave it to Yorgos Lanthimos to make a period piece as strange and uncomfortable as this one. Leave it to Olivia Colman to absolutely kill it as the petulant and demanding Queen Anne. Absolutely don’t skip over the towering performances given by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. This is a peculiar film because it’s full of everything that makes a film great, and yet it’s hard to watch at times. It’s unpleasant, in your face, and will refuse to leave your mind after you finish. It’s unique, and that’s a damn hard thing to find in the movies these days. (★★★★)
  • Z for Zachariah: Oddl,y I would have loved to see a much longer version of this film. Show me more of the characters’ daily lives after an apocalyptic event. Give me a slow burn on the increasing tensions between Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine. What I don’t want is a rushed loved triangle and unexamined hurt feelings. I loved the performances. I just wanted more story. (★★★)
  • WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn: I saw this one while recuperating from my second COVID vaccination, and I think that was a mistake. There are few things that are going to make me more sickly and hopeless than watching a smooth-talking cult leader explain in greeeeeeat detail how we’re all WE. We’re all together. We can do great things through the power of thoughts and blah blah blehch. Also, he needs gobs of money to make it happen because that’s just how swindlers do things. I won’t deny that Adam Neumann was a smooth talker, but in the end, he was way too high on his own supply. (★★★)
  • The Transporter: Jason Statham kicks people’s faces, sleeps with women, and slathers himself down with oil while half-naked. This all happens to a soundtrack that was probably called “Luc Besson’s Naked Rubbing Time Playlist” and was most assuredly made by Besson himself. (★★½)
  • Foreign Correspondent: A pretty decent Hitchcock film is still a damn sight better than a lot of other films. Foreign Correspondent keeps the thrills and duplicity going at a fine pace. As with many of his earlier films, this one is overshadowed by the towering legends of his best work, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. You can really feel the director figuring out how to tell grander stories. He’s stretching out his talents. He’s laying the groundwork for what’s to come, and that’s a foundation you can build a damn house on. (★★★½)
  • The Verdict: The film that kicked off my newfound appreciation for courtroom dramas. Paul Newman is one of the most captivating performers of his time and here he gives one of his most understated performances of his career. His beleaguered Frank Galvin is an admirable man looking to fight a system that’s intent on crushing him. He dares to fight this film’s version of The Man and it nearly does him in. Sidney Lumet directs a script written by David Mamet. The combination of these three legends is probably all you need to know about this magnificent film. (★★★★½)
  • A Few Good Men: A knock-down, exultant film about a team of military lawyers looking to bring justice to a world that often operates outside of the law. Wrongdoings are done in the name of national security and this brave cadre dares to meet the orchestrators of the crime head-on. The ending is bittersweet—justice is found, but at the loss of purpose for a pair of soldiers caught up in one person’s machinations. Nonetheless, the performances are riveting. There’s a clear reason why much of this film is still so present in everyone’s minds. It leaves an indelible mark, and sticks with you. (★★★★)
  • Philadelphia: If someone needs any indication that the ‘80s (and early ‘90s) could be an extremely rough and close-minded time, they should look no further than this film. There are some masterful performances here, but none more so than the one that Tom Hanks gives. He truly deserves the Oscar he received for his tragic Andrew Beckett. It’s quite the thing to watch a person deteriorate into nothing as his livelihood and existence is picked apart, ridiculed, and reduced to ignorant assumptions about gay people. This is powerful and important stuff. I’d call it a must-watch for everyone. (★★★★)
  • Monsters: For a film with the name it has, there are few monsters seen. I think that’s to its benefit. Much like how you don’t see Jaws until the very end of that film, the fear and power surrounding these alien creatures only grows in strength when you don’t see them. They’re spoken of in news broadcasts and frightened whispers, making them seem more fearsome than they might actually be. Indeed, I wonder if they’re actually the “monsters” that the title refers to, or is it really the human beings that keep trying to destroy them for daring to exist on this planet? Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able give great, improvisational performances. They tie the film together and give it an actual, meaningful story. (★★★★)
  • Suspicion: Boy, will this one keep you guessing throughout its entire running time. What’s going on with Cary Grant? Why can’t he keep a job? Is he actually some maniac on an unstoppable murder rampage? It’s a fun film to watch on a lazy weekend afternoon, as I did. Joan Fontaine won an Oscar for her performance in this film, and while I do think she deserves all the awards, her performance in Rebecca was the stronger of the two. Still, it’s nice all around. (★★★½)
  • A Goofy Movie: Talk about taking a step back into the ‘90s. This was a nostalgia trip all the way. It came out in 1995, and I’m certain I saw it in the theater. Probably with my dad. That’s a great way to see a film like this. Parents would do well to watch Goofy try his damnedest to bond with his son with their own children. It’s a nice ride and the music was awesome. (★★★)
  • Yojimbo: Toshiro Mifune was always one of my most revered actors. He’s quickly becoming my absolute favorite. The first thing I saw him in, as I’m sure is the case for many others, was Seven Samurai. He’s wrestled some control back from his wild Kikuchiyo character and turned himself into a confident, daring ronin named Sanjuro. He’s clearly the star of the film, but the story and the supporting cast (especially Tatsuya Nakadai) round everything out and turn this film into a classic that’s still as thrilling and fun as it must have been when it first premiered. This should be required viewing for any film lover. (★★★★★)
  • Another Round: At the end of this film, three alcoholics mourn the death of their alcoholic friend by getting wasted. Absolutely day drunk, as they have throughout the entire film. This is after they risked their jobs, marriages, and lives in the pursuit of a dumbass theory about how you can be your best when you’re always a little drunk. The film spent a good portion of its time showing how alcohol can dismantle a life—a worthy message—and then undercut itself at the very end. Although, I guess that’s part of the point: alcoholism is a pervasive, corrosive disease that’s damn hard to battle. Still, as someone who dealt with an alcoholic for most of their life in a way that was eternally unpleasant, I saw nothing redeeming or enviable about these characters. They’re not worth emulating or looking up to. They were sad, pitiable people who were all too willing to ignore their problems instead of actually working on them. Mads Mikkelsen (and the rest) were as amazing as ever. It was well-made. Its message could have been stronger, unless the message is “drink, ‘cause why not?” (★★½)
  • Safety Not Guaranteed: The film bogs itself down by adhering pretty strongly to its indie film trappings. I don’t mind quirky characters and plot lines, but a film shouldn’t be carried on those qualities alone. It’s a good thing that the running time for this one was short. Had it been any longer, the thing would have become a bore. Instead, it was brisk and had an ending that still surprises me and makes me wonder just what happened to two of the central characters. I hope they really did travel back in time. (★★★½)
  • Deep Murder: Ugh. This was just the worst. I had to watch it for my More Movies Please! podcast. The most frustrating thing is that the movie had a clever premise, but nothing landed. I’ll never get this time of my life back. (★)
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines: Whoa, the energy of this film was off the charts! I absolutely adored the visual style of this film, and not just for its clever asides. The whole thing had a painterly feel to it which made it more appealing than it would have been had the filmmakers strived for more realism. The look of it marries nicely to the daughter’s love of animation and filmmaking. It’s clear that this one was led by directors who were assured in their vision for their film. When a film has that quality there’s nothing it can’t accomplish, much like the Mitchells themselves. (★★★★)
  • The Player: So much of this film is shot with a long lens and through the windows of studio offices on film lots. It makes the viewer feel like an outsider, perpetually wanting to break into the biz, but always held at arm’s length. It’s a good analog for the reality of the film world. It’s the rare person that actually makes it in the film industry. Most people will only be able to guess what’s happening behind those closed doors. Throw in a murder mystery and you’ve got a great Robert Altman film. Shame about what happened to Cynthia Stevenson’s character. She was done so wrong. (★★★★)
  • A Quiet Place: Who would have thought that John Krasinski had such range? I’m completely sold on the man now and I want to see everything he makes. He shows off his filmmaking prowess in one of the most suspenseful and thrilling films of the last decade. By the end, I was left feeling breathless and afraid to make any sort of noise; I don’t have a hearing aid with which to protect myself! Hats off to Millicent Simmonds, too (and just the whole dang cast). She was a revelation and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future. (★★★★)
  • A Quiet Place Part II: The amazing quality of this better than average film is how well it sustains the suspense, drama, and feel of the first film. I appreciate the filmmakers expanding the world that we were introduced to in part one—you can’t stay on that farm forever. We’re shown just how this alien invasion began and how it has transformed the world. All the while, there are terrifying monsters hunting down humans and they’re very good at killing us. Even with the newfound hearing aid weapon, the creatures are still fearsome adversaries. I’m looking forward to the next film, which is sure to happen now. (★★★★)

Total movies watched: 20

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Letterboxd Diaries—April 2021

  • The Sisters Brothers: Between the sibling bickering and the unsettlingly realistic violence is a tale of love and sadness. Love for your brother, both by blood and found. Sadness for lost opportunities and half-realized dreams. All this is done under the guise of a western and it’s an engrossing magic trick that the filmmakers pull off. (★★★★)
  • Kong: Skull Island: The best thing this film has going for it is the glorious, beautiful cinematography by the talented Larry Fong. He elevates a fairly weak story to respectable heights. Otherwise, it’s hard to connect to any of the characters, save for John C. Reilly’s excellent Hank Marlow. Samuel L. Jackson is one-notey and there’s not a lot going on between Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston. It’s got thrilling moments, but not a lot of heart. (★★★)
  • In a Valley of Violence: It’s fascinating to watch a film that’s so derivative of works from other directors. Ti West, director of this one, definitely thinks of himself as Quentin Tarantino making John Wick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but this one never tries to be anything more than its influences. I think the cast did a fine job with the script they were given. The dog murder was extremely tough to watch, though, and lessened my enjoyment of the film. (★★★)
  • The 39 Steps: I haven’t seen many Hitchcock movies yet, but every time I have the opportunity to see one I feel delighted. This film was one of his early, British-era films, and by all accounts, remains one of the strongest films in his filmography. I had a delightful time watching it. Robert Donat and Madeline Carroll made for an excellent pairing. They played off each other so well. (★★★★)
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters: As the third film in this new, I don’t know, “Titans” series, this one had less substance than either 2014’s Godzilla or Kong: Skull Island. It sure had a lot of stylish monster battles, though. It featured a plot with a very Thanos-esque motivation of wiping out a large portion of the world’s population so that the planet can “heal.” Ultimately, its reliance on destroying cities over telling a better story made this one less effective than Avengers: Endgame. (★★★)
  • Sound of Metal: This is one of those films that I feel utterly grateful to have seen. It’s a film to luxuriate in, even as it dwells in depths of despair at times. The towering performances from both Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci are going to stick with me for a long time. They both deserve every single accolade they receive for their beautiful work on this film. (★★★★½)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much: Harrowing, weirdly humorous in places, and brisk as hell. This film tells the story of a kidnapping and the lengths that parents will go to return their child to safety. Peter Lorre gives a memorable performance as the said kidnapper. He brings a gangster attitude to his role, making him seem more menacing than the character otherwise would. This guy doesn’t care what it takes to accomplish his assassination mission, even if it means killing an innocent girl to do it. (★★★½)
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight: Next time I’m just going to watch The Bourne Identity and follow that up with La Femme Nikita. I think that would make for a far better time, and it would basically be the same movie. Except, you know, way better. (★★½)
  • Soul: When Joe falls through away from the Great Beyond, through endless black and white depths, and comes out into the Great Before, I was awestruck. No other movie I’ve seen this year caught my attention and admiration as firmly as this one did. What followed that opening sequence was a touching story that shows there’s more to life than just chasing a dream. If you spend all your days in pursuit of something intangible, you may wake up one morning wondering how you missed living your life. (★★★★★)
  • Mortal Kombat: Mortal Kombat is supposed to be a tournament. There is, however, no tournament held at any point. The film contradicts itself from the very start. What follows is nonsensical, not thrilling, and messy. What a shame that so much money was spent on creating a film that’s an utter bore from beginning to end. It’s clearly the first in what will most likely be a series of Kombats, mortal or otherwise, so at least there should be more of this nonsense in the future to look forward to. In the meantime… Man, this movie was bad. Just unpleasant all around. (★½)
  • Rebecca: I thought this one was going to be more of a ghost story. To my surprise, it turned out to be a tale of unrequited love and murder. It’s dressed up as a troubled romance between two people. Laurence Olivier has skeletons in his closet like you wouldn’t believe, and Joan Fontaine is the poor woman who has to bear the brunt of his past. In the background is the titular Rebecca, who, despite being long dead, continues to torment all who live and work at the Manderley mansion. Whether it’s with the new love between the main characters or the old love still held by the understandably severe Mrs. Danvers, there’s angst and turmoil. It’s a classic for a reason, and still as entertaining as ever. (★★★★½)
  • Shoplifters: How could anybody be ready for the gut punch this film surprises you with at the end? I know I certainly wasn’t expecting things to go the way they did. I thought this was just going to be a simple story about a family of shoplifters who fall under some hardship. While it is that, there’s a lot more happening under the surface. It’s too good to give away. What has stuck with me the most is the moment one of the characters shares with the young girl who has only known apathy and abuse. She hugs the girl close and says that love isn’t violence. Love is a hug freely given, and it lives in your heart. (★★★★½)
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Somehow the filmmakers found a way to stretch a thirty-minute story into a two-hour smash fest. This was nothing but destruction porn. What I found worse to endure was the frequent pain inflicted on the titular characters. And for what reason, ultimately? Godzilla was a savior of humans. Kong was a savior of humans. They should have some interesting common ground. It would have been far more interesting to have had Mecha-Godzilla be the thing they team up against from the start. Well, who cares about any of that nonsense? Let’s instead use a human-caused misunderstanding between them as an excuse to have them beat each other nearly to death. Cruelty, now that’s entertainment! These Titans are maybe too forgiving of the species that keeps trying to murder them. (★★)
  • Collective: You ever watch a film that feels like it’s on simmer nearly all the way through? You know something is building underneath you, but you’re not sure what it old be, and why are you starting to feel warmer than usual. This film uses its entire running time to tell what amounts to four separate stories: the tragedy of a catastrophic fire that took the lives of many young concertgoers, the journalists who uncover the governmental corruption that led to the deaths of many more victims, the minister of health who took on the role after his predecessor was ousted, and a young, badly scarred woman learning to live again after the tragedy. These stories wind around each other, each giving more information to the entire story. By the end, what everyone has gone through turns the simmer into a boil that quickly escapes the confines of the pot, leaving you gobsmacked at how corrupt a government can be, and how quickly it can spread its disease throughout an entire country. (★★★★)

Total movies watched: 14

Compared to last month, I’ve seen far fewer movies. Seems I spent more of my time watching tv shows. I may not be able to record those on Letterboxd, but I still had a good time watching stuff in April.

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Letterboxd Diaries—March 2021

  • I Care a Lot: I found it difficult to reconcile my appreciation for the appearance and strong direction of this film with my distaste for its monstrous characters. I get it—not everyone’s a perfect person. But who is there to connect with when its two main characters are such evil assholes? (★★★)
  • On the Rocks: It could have easily slipped into mediocrity if it weren’t for the two towering talents of Bill Murray and Rashida Jones. These two together bring such life to the film, and ignite such curiosity in me. It was a delight and made me think of (and miss) my dad. (★★★★)
  • Promising Young Woman: Gosh, is there anyone better than Carey Mulligan? I don’t think so. She’s been amazing in everything I’ve seen her in. This was an intense and engrossing revenge thriller. I’m very interested in what director Emerald Fennell has in store for the future. (★★★★)
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this to work for me? Maybe I needed to be back in my early 20s, like I was when the first one came out? Whatever the case, I didn’t find this enjoyable. I did think Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova put in phenomenal work, though. (★½)
  • Lilo and Stitch: Well, Stitch is just the most adorable thing ever. And this was a fun film to watch on a lazy weekend. The story had some depth. While I never felt like the stakes were too high, it still offered some good thrills. (★★★½)
  • Lady Bird: Wow. Talk about a phenomenal experience. It’s easily one of the best films I’ve watched so far this year. I’m sad I didn’t watch it when it came out, but I’m so happy I got to it now. Every single person was amazing in this. Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts. I have a special place in my heart for Lois Smith’s Sister Sarah Jones character. Greta Gerwig is simply astounding. (★★★★½)
  • My Cousin Vinny: This was such a fun movie! Why in the world was this the first I’ve ever seen it? I’m adding this to my list of films that I’m definitely going to watch again sometime in the future. Also, Marisa Tomei absolutely earned her Oscar for this one. She was phenomenal. (★★★★)
  • L.A. Story: Having lived in Southern California my entire life, I can say, with absolute certainty, that everything in this film was 100% true and accurate. I also had a lot of fun watching this one all the way through for the first time. It was way more slapstick-ey than I thought it would be, but it was still a nice story about finding love in an unusual way. (★★★★)
  • Yes, God, Yes: You’ll breeze through this one, that’s for sure. It clocks in at a brisk 77 minutes, including credits, so it’ll be over before you know it. I don’t think it’s a bad film. I do feel like they clearly stretched the original short film to its breaking point, and yet it’s still too slow. Natalia Dyer, from Stranger Things fame, was as wonderful as ever. (★★★)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Definitely not nearly as good as the first of the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, but a fun time nonetheless. I appreciate that we’re finally getting a Peter Parker that feels a bit truer to his comic book persona. They’re having fun with these films, at least, and that’s always fun to experience. (★★★★)
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: Very much a tragedy of Greek and Shakespearean proportions. It’s not just a western and not just a story about trying to find your weight in gold. What’s shown here is a near-total descent into madness, and how it affects everything around you. Talk about an impressive movie in every regard. (★★★★★)
  • A Fish Called Wanda: I had a decent time watching this film, but it didn’t seem to have the magic touch with me that it does with so many others. Perhaps it was the constant cruelty done to Michael Palin’s character. Maybe it was Kevin Kline’s boorish, unpleasantly over the top acting. It wasn’t bad. It was okay. (★★★½)
  • Cherry: This was undeniably well-acted and directed. Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo were so committed and they elevate this movie. Unfortunately, the story is about a man who destroys all that he touches. His wife is nearly ruined a couple times. He nearly forces his friends into his crimes. The bank tellers he robs? Surely they’re going to experience some PTSD after being held up at gunpoint, but his own troubles are the only thing that matters. (★★★)
  • Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Damn, I was impressed with this film. It’s undeniable that it still has its issues, but they paled in comparison to the impressive storytelling that was on display. The original cut of this film suffered because of its reliance on spectacle. It lacked character development, motivations, and heart. With its expansive running time, Zack Snyder’s version was able to turn a very shaky story into something that I would love to see again as soon as possible. I want to witness more auteurism in superhero films. More of this please, DC! (★★★★)
  • Deadpool: I love a fresh take on the superhero genre, and this one provided that for me in spades. While it may have relied on the tried and true origin story we’re all familiar with, the character of Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds’s performance elevated the film to a wonderful height. This is not the first time I’ve seen this film, but it still feels fun and fresh. (★★★★½)
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: What else can be said about this film, aside from its a classic. A classic for a dang good reason. Newman and Redford together on-screen is always a dynamic combination. I wish they’d done more together. I’d forgotten just how tense a good portion of this film is. The two of them being chased for as long as they were kept me worried for them. (★★★★½)
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire: There are few more beautiful looking movies that came out in 2019. Heck, this one may still be the most sumptuous looking of the whole bunch. That alone would be a fine achievement, but the visuals are accompanied by a lovely and heartbreaking story of hidden love. This film won some major awards at the Cannes Film Festival, among many others, and it deserves every single one of them. This is a staggering work. (★★★★½)
  • Unicorn Store: What a delight, and a strong showing from Brie Larson as a director. There are some issues with the story. Bits of the plot don’t get fleshed out nearly enough, and that’s a shame. I’d like to have learned more about the actual Unicorn Store. Still, it’s a breezy film that has a lot of genuine heart. It’s a nice way to spend some time. (★★★½)
  • WandaVision: This was more of a limited series, but it’s on Letterboxd so why not? The inventiveness of this story made up for its less unique final episodes. I think it was a great way to stretch this particular genre. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany give excellent, heartbreaking performances. (★★★★)
  • Godzilla (2014): This is a far better Godzilla movie than everybody gave it credit for when it came out. It’s not the best Godzilla movie, but it’s still entertaining. It might be the best looking Godzilla film out there, save for it being an extremely dim film. Heck, cranking up the exposure of the whole film even a little bit would have probably brought my ranking up to four stars. (★★★½)
  • Superman/Batman: Apocalypse: The story was mostly nonsensical, not to mention kind of boring. This felt like a slog to get through. The whole pretty Superman character design was strange, too. This one earns its meh. (★★½)
  • Deadpool 2: This sequel continues to bring the heart and humor that the first film was chock full of, and I’m grateful it didn’t suck. It feels like one of those rare follow-ups that introduces new elements to the story, but doesn’t go overboard with it. We get Cable, we get X-Force, and we get Julian Dennison, but we still have all of the stuff that made the first film such a fun revelation. (★★★★)
  • The Wild Bunch: I can see why this film has achieved the status it has in film history. There’s a lot happening here that’s revolutionary and compelling. However, I found the whole thing a little overlong and plodding in some places. I love its energy when it has some, but there are long stretches that don’t add much to the story or characters. I think it’s a good film, but I don’t know that it’s a great one. Maybe I just need to watch it again. (★★★★)
  • A Million Ways to Die in the West: This was a silly film all the way through, and it should never be taken for anything serious. Lower your expectations for this and you’re sure to have a fun time. It relied too much on its self-referential humor for my tastes, but it was decent overall. (★★★)

Total movies watched: 24

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Letterboxd Diaries—February 2021

  • Onward: This one’s probably thought of as a “lesser” Pixar film, but I thought it was heartfelt and a lot of fun. They’re able to do that like no one else. (★★★★)

  • The Good Liar: A heist-drama for the older crowd (of which I count myself amongst). I could watch Helene Mirren and Ian McKellen play off each other all day. (★★★½)

  • Avengers: Endgame: This one is as thrilling, engaging, and affecting as it was the first time I saw it. This time I got to enjoy it with my wife, and even she enjoyed it nearly as much as I did. (★★★★★)

  • In & of Itself: I fell into the hype around this one and I’m glad I did. I had no idea what it was going to be going into it, and I think that’s the best way to watch this magical (in many ways) performance. (★★★★½)

  • A Hidden Life: This should really just be required viewing for everybody. I didn’t know the story of Franz Jägerstätter and his family before watching it, but my life has improved in great ways since. (★★★★★)

  • An American Pickle: I think I appreciate the technical accomplishment of this film more than I do the story. It was okay—not that funny, but not painful to watch. (★★★)

  • The Little Things: This might have been Jared Leto’s most appropriate role. Did he even have to act at all? (★★★)

  • WALL•E: I don’t think WALL•E will ever get old for me. It’s an evergreen film that never fails to move and delight me. (★★★★★)

  • What If: Or The F Word, I guess? Can’t make the MPAA blush, so I guess the original had to go. I wish I had seen this one when it came out. Mid-20s me would have loved it. (★★★½)

  • Heavy Metal: This film was certainly of its time and clearly made by a bunch of guys. It was more entertaining than I thought it would be, but I doubt I’ll be remembering it too fondly. (★★½)

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: I can’t say enough great things about this, the best animated film of the last decade. It breathes fresh life into the character of Spider-Man, and shows that another adaptation doesn’t have to be tiresome or stale. (★★★★★)

  • The Girl with All the Gifts: I’d call this a halfway decent adaptation of a halfway decent novel, although the novel had a slightly better ending. The entire concept is fascinating and has echoes of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. (★★★½)

  • By the Sea: Aside from this one being far longer than it needed to be, I don’t understand why it was received so poorly. My best guess is that it felt like an old French film, appropriate considering its setting, and people just aren’t used to that anymore. (★★★★)

  • 6 Underground: I had more fun watching this movie than I had any right to, and I place that honor squarely on Ryan Reynolds’s shoulders. Was the story and the editing great? Nah, but that’s what you should expect when you start a Michael Bay film. This was just a fun way to spend some time. (★★★½)

  • Loving Vincent: A relatively simple story makes way for a truly astonishing work of art. The entire dang thing is done in oil paintings. I was invested and wowed in this film the entire time I was watching it. (★★★★½)

Total movies watched this month: 15.

I really like Letterboxd, and I think you might enjoy it, too. You should sign up for it if you haven’t already. It’s a great and friendly, movie-based social site. If you’re new or old to it, you should definitely give me a follow on there. 🎥