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Letterboxd Film Diary, October 2018

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Letterboxd Film Reviews

10/2/2018 Demons 2, 1986 (Rating: 2/5)

As much as I wanted to write off this sequel, it incorporated similarly great practical effects as the first, along with another solid soundtrack, and plenty of witty charm (without getting too gag-heavy). Though not the biggest zombie fan, “Demons 2” feels less cliched than most zombie films on that front, presented in a way that’s grotesque yet palatable.


10/2/2018 It Follows, 2014 (Rating: 3/5)

The creep-factor to It Follows is… refreshing. By that, I mean it’s refreshing in its capability of driving tension without forcing tension, allowing time and patient pacing to produce anxiety (at least as much as anything else) in the movie.


10/2/2018 Martyrs, 2015 (Rating: 1/5)

I remember little from the first time I watched this “Martyrs” remake other than a feeling of lukewarm appreciation. It was mistakenly downloaded when I invited a friend over to watch the original, and clumsy me – I didn’t even know there was a remake at the time, so I wasn’t paying close attention when picking it up.

This time around, it feels completely different. (Maybe I just appreciated the company during the first screening?) Looking a little into the creation of the remake, one of the directors was quoted saying that their goal was “to focus on the script that was given to us,” which sounds both like an excuse for why it strays (emotionally, if not cinematically) from the original, and a cop-out for why their version translates as flat (it’s because of a script which they had no control over). Either way, flat it is.

Beyond its emotion, the remake lacks the true terror of the original. Though even if approached as its own film, there isn’t much worth appreciating.


10/3/2018 Burial Ground, 1981 (Rating: 1/5)

With such wonderfully strange characters, great wardrobe choices, and curiously designed sets, it’s a bit puzzling how absolutely trash the zombies in “Burial Ground” are. The more clumsily crafted masks look hastily shaped out of clay, while others couldn’t pass for grade school art-class projects. Sure, zombies move slow. I get it. But their biggest threat shouldn’t be that they’ll bore you to death.


10/3/2018 Mama, 2013 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Not to discount everything else about it, but revealing the face and form of “Mama” cheapened the movie considerably – plucking the amorphous presence from the abstract and slapping a silly CGI mug on it didn’t quite register with the intended effect. The rest of “Mama” holds up fine, save for cramming the entire backstory into the tail-end of the movie. Much like not seeing specifics, not knowing them wouldn’t have hurt the movie at all. Then again, if you took all my criticisms into account, the movie would be about 30 minutes long and focus only on the young girls’ story. Actually, that does sound better.


10/4/2018 As Above, So Below, 2014 (Rating: 2.5/5)

Catholic-creep is one of my favorite sub-genres in horror, and “As Above, So Below” delivers a great story steeped in just enough history to keep things interesting beyond the scares. Save for a few weak shocks (CG stone monsters, etc.) the drama is high and the thrills are satisfying throughout.


10/4/2018 Scream 2, 1997 (Rating: 2/5)

With a great cast, “Scream 2” works as a solid slasher movie that should never be lumped in with the campy teen horror sub-genre. Also: Luke Wilson can’t possibly not be Luke Wilson, can he?


10/4/2018 The Purge, 2013 (Rating: 1.5/5)

For The Purge to work, there had to be a reason to give a shred of a damn about any of the characters, considering how it wholly depends on the viewer caring about the survival of one set of wealthy murderers more than another. It’s a good concept, but one I expected to be stronger in execution considering how many follow-ups it’s spawned.


10/5/2018 Cloverfield, 2008 (Rating: 2/5)


10/5/2018 Ocean’s Eleven, 2001 (Rating: 3/5)


10/5/2018 Planet Terror, 2007 (Rating: 2.5/5)


10/7/2018 Blazing Saddles, 1974 (Rating: 3/5)


10/7/2018 Insidious: Chapter 2, 2013 (Rating: 1/5)

To its credit, the movie does well to pick up where the original left off and blends nicely into the back-story. It contributes little to the ongoing narrative, however, and beyond that, it’s almost two hours of shrieking strings and crashing piano used for effect in place of anything particularly interesting or scary.


10/7/2018 Night of the Living Dead, 1968 (Rating: 3/5)


10/7/2018 Quarantine, 2008 (Rating: 0.5.5)


10/7/2018 Troll, 1986 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Torok the Troll sort of reminded me of the Gwildor character from the Dolph Lundgren “Masters of the Universe” movie, which I loved as a kid. Maybe that’s why I feel surprisingly warm to “Troll.” There’s some charm to the dialog (“Doctors talking about recessive genes — I thought they were talking about pants”) throughout this thing, and I can’t help but appreciate parts of it. (And WTF – a half naked Julia Louis-Dreyfus wood nymph?!?!) I mean, it’s still terrible, but it’s the kind of terrible I can appreciate.


10/8/2018 Troll 2, 1990 (Rating: 0.5/5)

I watched Best Worst Movie long ago, and any time spent with Troll 2 seems best served by learning about what the movie is, and what it’s become, in advance of checking it out. The documentary does well in adding charm and character to the entire production, but that said, Troll 2 is still awful.


10/10/2018 Frailty, 2001 (Rating: 2/5)

I remember feeling like I bonded with my mom over Frailty when watching it upon its VHS release. I think she appreciated the dark religiosity to it, given the fundamentalist leanings of her father (I’ll have to ask her), and I remember enjoying it because: a) I felt vindicated as a teenage punk, using this as blanket evidence for why religion was clearly bullshit; and 2) the twist! Now, that same twist seems a disservice to the rest of the story, being used the way it was, and in collaboration with the soft lighting throughout, leaves Frailty feeling vaguely like a well done Lifetime movie. (Update: My mother has no recollection of this movie. My life is a lie.)


10/11/2018 Feast, 2005 (Rating: 1.5/5)

I enjoyed the cheekiness of Henry Rollins’ motivational speech (though I still prefer his real motivational speeches) and Judah Friedlander had some good moments, as well. There’s a self-aware silliness to it all which has its moments, but every time there’s an action sequence it’s like the camera person starts having a seizure. That’s the style and I get that. But it doesn’t make it any easier on the eyes.


10/11/2018 The Replacements, 2000 (Rating: 2/5)

The Replacements opens with Lit’s “Zip-Lock,” and within the first few minutes we’ve seen Gene Hackman & John Madden, the cook from the Ernest movies, Roy from The Office, and Orlando Jones chasing down a Twinkie thief. With lines like, “I’ve seen monkey shit-fights at the zoo that were more organized than this,” this movie isn’t trying to be anything but the bucket of clichéd caricatures it is. It’s stupid. Stupid and fun.


10/13/2018 [REC], 2007 (Rating: 2.5/5)

Having recently watched Quarantine, the power of [Rec] holds up even that much more this time around. I’d forgotten how patiently the story builds, allowing tension to develop while the contagion spreads among the apartment’s tenants. The graphics of the final “monster” don’t really hold up with time, but all is forgiven as they didn’t try to beat the point of the scene over the head of the viewer, as was done in the remake.


10/13/2018 Any Which Way You Can, 1980 (Rating: 2/5)

Lynn finally comes to her senses and falls in love with the bare-knuckle street fighter who stalked her across the country with his orangutan and ne’er-do-well sidekick in Every Which Way but Loose. Clyde gets laid. Philo makes a friend. Then he almost beats him to death.


10/13/2018 Don’t Breathe, 2016 (Rating: 2.5/5)

Don’t Breathe‘s twists hold their shock value upon a second viewing, and a few other things stood out this time around: The staging shots were beautifully colored, and the lights out sequence in the basement traded in the cliched green night vision for spooky black and white visuals. I liked that. That said, that blind man just won’t die… and at the end of it, he’s relatively unscathed after how many bone-shattering blows to the head? I can suspend disbelief, but I find it hard to believe that being blind means that his sense for avoiding traumatic brain injuries is heightened.


10/13/2018 Every Which Way But Loose, 1978 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Makes a guy long for a time when society respected a man’s rights to take his orangutan to a peep-show without being hassled by every Tom, Dick & Harry. You know, the good old days when you could just track a woman across the country, only to insult her when she questions the integrity of your one-sided pursuit. Gosh, back when Neo-Nazi biker gangs were just a fun, lovable bunch of losers who never got a fair shake… those were the days.


10/13/2018 Let’s Go to Prison, 2006 (Rating: 2/5)


10/13/2018 Lights Out, 2016 (Rating: 2/5)


10/14/2018 Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, 2004 (Rating: 1.5/5)


10/14/2018 Horrible Bosses, 2011 (Rating: 1.5/5)


10/14/2018 I Know What You Did Last Summer, 1997 (Rating: 1.5/5)


10/14/2018 Ocean’s Twelve, 2004 (Rating: 2/5)

Ocean’s Twelve starts off with a similarly cheeky tone as Ocean’s Eleven before diverting from the blueprint that made that movie so much fun. It then goes full-on heist, rather than a casino-games fantasy set to the theme of heist as the original did. It’s beautifully shot, with fine performances, but there are a few scenes such as Julia Roberts (who’s pretending to be Julia Roberts) and Bruce Willis’ together, which feel like a snake eating its own tail.


10/14/2018 Sudden Death, 1995 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour is in net for the Chicago Blackhawks going into game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, where the team faces Pittsburgh on home ice. A little fun fact here, as my family’s first and only pet was named Eddie; the result of drawing names from a hat, with one of those names being submitted by a young hockey fan in his early teens. An appreciation of Eddie Van Halen might have also impacted the decision, but the influence on me was primarily from that of “The Eagle.” He was my one and only “favorite” hockey player, winning both the Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars and Olympic Gold Medal in 2002. Well, he gets scored on by Luc Robitaille with no time remaining to force sudden death overtime

But not before JCVD murders a woman by sending her head first through an industrial dishwasher, kills a man by stabbing him in the neck with a turkey bone, and almost burns another to death with a makeshift flamethrower.

Five stars.


10/17/2018 Wedding Crashers, 2005 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Insane sex fiends deceive wealthy, socially detached lunatics, only to fall in what they consider love. No one seems to get what they deserve, while probably getting exactly what they deserve. Will Ferrell shows up. Everyone gets laid.


10/18/2018 Snatch, 2000 (Rating: 2/5)


10/18/2018 The Others, 2001 (Rating: 2.5/5)


10/18/2018 The World’s End, 2013 (Rating: 1.5/5)


10/19/2018 Bulletproof, 1996 (Rating: 1.5/5)


10/19/2018 The 40 Year Old Virgin, 2005 (Rating: 2/5)


10/19/2018 The 400 Blows, 1959 (Rating: 4/5)

I’m thinking back now to one scene when Antoine is hiding out for the night, sleeping in a factory to avoid his family, and he steals a bottle of milk. He runs into an alley and guzzles it down, before continuing his night-time walkabout. Then, passing a sewer, he slips the glass bottle down the mouth of the drain, destroying the evidence and distancing his act from his conscience. I know that feeling.


10/20/2018 Airheads, 1994 (Rating: 2/5)


10/20/2018 Escape from Alcatraz, 1979 (Rating: 2/5)

I’m not really sure what element of this movie triggered some lingering feeling of appreciation for me, but something in me cared for it in the past. Maybe it was some vague, general fondness for Clint Eastwood or the sliver of heart behind the inmates who were trying to free themselves of the prison’s confines. It’s probably been a decade-plus since I’ve last watched Escape from Alcatraz, but those emotions—whatever they were—are gone now. Now there’s nothing that makes me want to see Clint Eastwood “win” in escaping Alcatraz. Even when Home Alone‘s “Old Man Marley” is deprived of his art and makes his horrific stand against the injustice, the heartstrings fail to quiver. If they escaped, fine. And fine if they merely died trying.


10/20/2018 Timecrimes, 2007 (Rating: 3/5)


10/21/2018 Michael Clayton, 2007 (Rating: 3/5)


10/21/2018 The Great Escape, 1963 (Rating: 3/5)

This might have been a VHS of my dad’s, otherwise I’m not really sure how I’d have been exposed to The Great Escape as a child. There’s a certain warmth to it: The good natured Americans share a sense of humor and the Nazi soldiers are civil (though proper villains are no less evil). The pacing is even and the acting enjoyable, but I’m straining to conjure the significance of it that I once felt.


10/23/2018 The Great Outdoors, 1988 (Rating: 1/5)

The idea here is to push John Candy’s character to a point where he breaks by having Aykroyd’s character grind his gears. And it’s a testament to Dan Aykroyd’s ability to play the part of an egotistical schmuck so well that by the end of the movie I hate him, personally. I do. But until that point where Candy finds his backbone, he’s cast as a sad boring pushover. Then for a brief moment he stands up for himself. Then Aykroyd nearly swindles him out of his savings, and he becomes the compassionate pushover. Then Aykroyd comes clean about being an ass for the sake of his own family, and Candy becomes the soft-hearted pushover. It’s supposed to be fun and heartwarming, but it’s just so damn frustrating.


10/23/2018 Turner & Hooch, 1989 (Rating: 1.5/5)


10/24/2018 The Mask, 1994 (Rating: 1/5)


10/25/2018 Chasing Amy, 1997 (Rating: 1.5/5)

“If this is a crush, I don’t think I could take it if the real thing ever happened.” Then she kisses him. Even after that stupid ass speech, even with that stupid ass goatee. Then he pins her into a corner over the details her sexual history and rejects her. Probably because he’s the sorta guy who would say something like “If this is a crush, I don’t think I could take it if the real thing ever happened.” “Look that this morose mother fucker right here,” Jay says. And I don’t care but I keep watching. I’ve kept watching for almost twenty years. “It’ll be cathartic,” he says, as if he has any idea what that word means. It’s fitting that Public Enemy’s “Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man” plays during the fingercuffs story. It should play through the entire damn movie. I hate it, but I don’t, too. I’m so conflicted.


10/26/2018 Aftermath, 1994 (Rating: 1/5)

As far as flavors of shock go, Aftermath is notorious for its hyper-vulgar imagery. It might not be the content here that really separates it, but that it preceded so many other movies that have used similar storytelling tools to create affect. Either way, it hit the mark if the aim was to be disgusting.


10/26/2018 The Awakening, 1990 (Rating: 0.5/5)


10/27/2018 Genesis, 1998 (Rating: 1.5/5)


10/27/2018 Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, 2002 (Rating: 2/5)


10/27/2018 North by Northwest, 1959 (Rating: 3/5)

I might not be “tragically disappointed,” but I am feeling let down. Cary Grant is charm repellant in this role, and while North by Northwest is (rightfully) in the Classics conversation, I don’t think I’ll feel like I’ve missed out if I never return to it. There were some beautiful shots (the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray was on point… duh), but why did Hitchcock need 2+ hours to tell this story?


10/27/2018 Spaceballs, 1987 (Rating: 2/5)

I can’t stand the music in Spaceballs, but an hour and a half of Mel Brooks’ meta jokes more than make up for it. And Michael Winslow is a national treasure. Never forget it.


10/31/2018 Nightmare City, 1980 (Rating: 2/5)

Aggro-zombies with machine guns… Finally. Stelvio Cipriani’s theme song is pretty good and doesn’t feel utterly ridiculous despite being used on repeat for damn near the entire run-time of the film. Granted, the effects used to enhance the zombies’ overall zombie-ness was as about lackluster as they were in Burial Ground, but I enjoyed the the direction and acting well enough, given what we’re talking about here. I mean, the story wasn’t godawful, which is kind of a rarity for zombie movies of this vintage. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that “not terrible” is being graded as a grand-slam here, but that’s how I’m looking at it.