Dandy Cat

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘Mr. Corman’ Canceled By Apple TV+ After One Season

Despite its relatively small catalog, Apple continues to prove that it won’t hesitate to cancel an underperforming show. A failed show is always a shame, but I will forever prefer quality over quantity.

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.

Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd! 🎥

After watching the first two episodes of the enjoyable Apple TV+ show, Foundation, the story appears to boils down to this:

“Hey girl, would you like some politics to go with your math?”

This week, on Stream Dream Team, I’ve broken two of my own bones (so far?), Lee is the most Greek person around, and we’re wrapping up our journey with Violet Evergarden (for now) with the first feature-length movie.

Give this special episode a listen right here! 🎙

Despite having to finish the edit on a new podcast episode, today has felt like a rare Monday off.

To celebrate, I’ve gone out and gotten one of the new iPads for my mom. I’m also planning to catch up on some tv that has been waiting for me. Cheers!

On this week’s new Stream Dream Team, I watched a horrifying documentary called Tickled, Lee is working on slappin’ that bell, and we all go back in time with Violet Evergarden as she helps an opera star write a love letter to someone important. 🎙

This last week was full of some unusual moments for me.

This week feels like a weird success (except for that no good, terrible, awful movie)!

In this week’s episode of Stream Dream Team, I want all of my popped corn to be dusted with nutritional yeast, Lee wonders what she would do in a Groundhog Day situation, and Violet Evergarden experiences closure and triumph. 🎙

I find it curious how rumors about the Series 7 Apple Watch got to the point where it became generally accepted that the new model would have flat sides, à la the recent iPhones and iPads Pro, Air, and now mini. This would have been a completely new body design for a watch that has not seen a notable one since it debuted in 2015.

The screen on the new Series 7 is indeed larger than the previous Series 6. 20% more screen area, in fact. It must have been speculated that, to accomplish such a feat, a curved edge on the watch just wouldn’t provide enough internal room for more screen. I see this as a misinterpretation on the part of supply chain leakers about what facts they were able to glean from the access they have.

A possible series of events:

  1. It became known that the new Apple Watch would feature a larger screen. Nothing else of substance about this year’s model was learned.
  2. A larger screen may necessarily demand a different watch body.1
  3. This new, incorrect correlation was posted on various social media accounts.
  4. The rumor sites picked this up and, as is their wont to do, this misinformed news became gospel and spread.

We’ve all got a new Series 7 Apple Watch with curved sides. It looks like a neat update. Maybe the flat-sided Apple Watch will come next time. Until then, rumor sites, as they have always been, are best explored with an enormous grain of salt.2

  1. This, clearly, was not the case. You know what they say when you assume something… [return]
  2. And maybe, in fact, never, ever believed until the moment Apple themselves actually announce something. [return]

Gonna start the trend of putting a completely pointless mini-trailer for a movie after the main trailer. Pre-trailer mini-trailers are so passé.

“Hello, I’m the trailer you just watched. Don’t you remember all the fun we had? Wasn’t it cool when that car blew up and those two sexy, shirtless people kissed? And then they had the comedy man say all that funny comedy stuff! Ha ha HA! Anyway, GOWATCHTHEDANGMOVIE!”

I don’t know where the mosquito in my house currently is, but I do know that it’s enjoyed chewing up my leg.

Maybe it would be a bad thing if all mosquitos in the world disappeared, but I also wouldn’t mind that one bit.

In this week’s episode of the Stream Dream Team podcast, I’m a bigger fan of Christmas than Halloween, Lee wants to eat all the strawberry bonbon candies, and things are starting to get action-packed and deadly serious for Violet Evergarden. 🎙

After finishing Crazy, Stupid, Love. for the… I don’t know how many times, I’ve realized just how much of an unabashed rom-com fan I am.

I’ve always enjoyed them, but I’ve never vocally appreciated the genre like I should. 🎥

Letterboxd Diaries—August 2021

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

Total movies watched: 32.

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

Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd! 🎥

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

On this week’s episode of Stream Dream Team, Lee wants to be a Michigander, I want to be a Wisconsigoose, both of us are infatuated with Matthew McConaughey, and Violet Evergarden helps a dying soldier send his love to his family. 🎙

On this week’s episode of Stream Dream Team, I have no experience with cheese curds, Lee has fallen down a true crime tv show rabbit hole, and Violet Evergarden befriends a young girl with a dying mother in one of the most moving episodes of this show yet.🎙

After having watched nearly the first couple seasons of Cheers for the first time now, I’m struggling to see the allure of Sam and Diane. These two train wrecks need to break up before one murders the other. 📺

In the latest episode of Stream Dream Team, we’re saying gesundheit, waxing on about turtles of the ninja variety, and Violet Evergarden falls into a tempestuous whirlpool of grief before being saved by the Santa of Letters.🎙

In this week’s episode of Stream Dream Team, Lee is clearly and undoubtedly a vampire, Sean is angering up his blood, and we’re going back in time to experience more of Violet Evergarden’s violent, tragic past.🎙

‘The Suicide Squad’ Bows To A Disappointing $26.5 Million; Still Snags Top Spot At The U.S. Box Office

By Chris Nashawaty:

Five summers ago, the DC supervillain extravaganza Suicide Squad had a massive $133.7 [million] opening weekend at the North American box office. Despite those eye-popping numbers, critics and audiences were left unimpressed by the film. This weekend, the complete opposite happened: critics and audiences loved its big-budget follow-up, The Suicide Squad, but its theatrical receipts were underwhelming, pulling in just $26.5 million in its debut weekend. In the age of COVID, it appears that up is down, black is white, and blockbusters just ain’t what they used to be.

In this case, I feel like “disappointing” is a word that should only be used by someone who hasn’t been paying any attention to the world for the last year and a half.1 I’m hoping that the people who make the decision to green light a film won’t read too deep into this sort of misleading headline.

The writer’s conclusion is correct. Blockbusters indeed “just ain’t what they used to be,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re underperforming. Streaming services don’t often publish clear data about their viewership numbers and COVID has screwed up theatrical revenue. With those two factors in mind, The Suicide Squad, if I had to bet, is by no means a disappointment. To be more accurate, nobody knows yet how to properly gauge a film’s success in a world that values streaming at home over going to the theater.

By the way, I thought The Suicide Squad was amazing and fun. There’s no question in my mind that it’s DC’s best film so far. They should never stop throwing gobs of money at James Gunn. 🎥

  1. And let’s face it—much longer than a year and a half when all will be “said and done.” [return]

Netflix: “I see you watched an entire season of a single anime show. Let me offer you some new suggestions. Have you considered watching every anime ever produced now?”

Me: “…You’re coming on a little strong. I think we need to see other people.”

In this week’s new episode of Stream Dream Team, we’re talking about armies of the undead, podcasts about people who were made dead, and a sad writer’s dead daughter.

I promise it’s a lot less morbid episode than it sounds. Give it a listen now! 🎙

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

Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd! 🎥

Title Card: Zodiac (2007)

The title card for Zodiac.

Zodiac was written by James Vanderbilt and directed by David Fincher. It was released in 2007. The film was produced by Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Phoenix Pictures. The titles were designed by Eric Ladd and Bruce Schluter.

Set primarily in San Francisco and spanning several decades, Zodiac tells the frightening story of a string of horrific serial murders that were perpetrated throughout Northern California.1 The Zodiac Killer is a still unidentified serial killer who operated throughout the late ‘60s, spreading uncertainty, paranoia, and fear. The film follows Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, a political cartoonist and one of the foremost authorities on the Zodiac Killer. His relentless investigation, helped along by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery, played by Robert Downey Jr., and Inspector David Toschi, played by Mark Ruffalo, steadily brings the killer out of the darkness and into the public. While never identified or caught, the Zodiac Killer and his crimes have devastating effects on both the people who are chasing him and the city of San Francisco itself.

For my money, this is still David Fincher’s best work.2 It’s hard to find much fault in its storytelling, its visual style, or its performances. It’s one of those rare films that was made by an entire production crew that was firing on all cylinders all the time, as they say. And yet, it’s not spoken of with the same adoration that’s afforded to Fight Club or The Social Network. Those are both fine movies, The Social Network especially, but Zodiac so captures a time and mood that watching it feels like living during the harrowing years it depicts. It’s a rare thing to witness a film that is so of its time. Fincher is an exacting and demanding director. He may even be relentless to the point of assholery, but damn is he able to tell a story that envelops you, that holds you, and that can entertain you while also shocking you to your core.

There’s a moment in the film when Robert Graysmith visits a man named Bob Vaughn, played by Charles Fleischer, a silent film organist. Vaughn had once worked with a projectionist named Rick Marshall. Graysmith had previously been tipped off that Marshall was the Zodiac. The clues surrounding Marshall are soon attributed to Vaughn by the man himself, shortly before he invites Graysmith to follow him into his dimly lit basement to look for evidence that could provide a valuable link to the Zodiac. Graysmith descends into the dark, and we are given a scene that still frightens me every time I see it. I know what’s going to happen, and yet I feel my chest tighten whenever Graysmith sets his trembling feet on those creaky stair steps. Enjoy, in all its creepy glory. 🎞

  1. And possibly even Southern California. There is a potential link between the Zodiac Killer and Cheri Jo Bates, who was found murdered on the grounds of Riverside City College where she was also a student. It’s always surreal to consider that a school you used to attend was also the site of a grisly murder, made famous by the notoriety of its potential perpetrator. Whenever I drive by the campus, I feel a small chill deep down inside of me. [return]
  2. This isn’t something I’m going to argue with anyone over, but not for the reason that may suggest. I believe that David Fincher has crafted a staggering body of work (except for, perhaps, Alien 3). Any one of his films is worthy of being his best, or at least, someone’s favorite. Zodiac just so happens to be my preferred Fincher film. [return]

I really wish Apple would spend as much money marketing For All Mankind as they do for Ted Lasso.

I just finished the amazing second season and this brilliant show deserves far more attention than it’s getting. 📺🍎