I began 2021 by watching a handful of movies and to be honest, not that many good ones.
News of the World – This is an above average Western starring Tom Hanks and is directed by Paul Greengrass (Bourne Identity, Green Zone). It was my first time watching a Western on the big screen since seeing Open Range in theaters back in 2003. News of the World is a nice story that was only sullied by some questionable uses of CGI. Definitely worth a look for Western fans, but don’t go in expecting Unforgiven or even Open Range.
Brittany Runs a Marathon – Arguably the biggest surprise this month was Brittany Runs a Marathon on Amazon Prime. I’m a fan of Jillian Bell and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this film. It’s a little oddly plotted out, which allowed it to retain that independent vibe while still telling a top notch story.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – It took me three times to get through this movie, but I finally did it. One of the most recommended inspirational movies online, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was not my cup of tea. I didn’t find it inspirational nor did I find it all that interesting.
Wolfman’s Got Nards – Now this film, I loved. It’s an excellent documentary looking back on the 80’s cult classic The Monster Squad. You can read my full review at Brandon’s Horror.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Slow and dull. Read my review for more thoughts.
Chef – This movie has been on my watch list for years! I finally turned it on and found myself smiling throughout the entire movie. It’s laid back, doesn’t have any crazy drama, and is just a love letter to food. It was a fantastic movie that I could see myself revisiting in the near future.
Ghosts of War – This horror film has been on my mind since I first saw the trailer last year. It’s marketed as a World War II ghost story, although it’s really not. The first half of the film is great and the second half is pretty terrible.
In Search of Darkness II – The follow up to one of my favorite horror documentaries that focuses on 80’s horror. I loved the first film, and I found the second to be quite enjoyable. The movies chosen were not nearly as good, nor were the talking heads. Also, I felt like there was too much of a focus on foreign horror which just doesn’t interest me.
Camp Cold Brook – Wow… what a terrible film. The film stars Chad Michael Murry and Danielle Harris and was produced by Joe Dante. I went in with low expectations but the film failed to even reach those. Despite having an interesting setup the movie just never gets going and the jump scares seem to be off by a second or two.
The Big Lebowski – The first time I watched The Big Lebowski I hated it. Then a few years later I gave it another shot and I found it okay. Then I watched it again and I liked it. Then again and I loved it. Now I watch it about once a year.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – See full review on A Year in Star Trek Movies.
The Last Blockbuster – Being a former Blockbuster employee, I loved this film. It was well made and did a great job balancing the story of what happened to Blockbuster and how this one Blockbuster survives. Seeing the old POS system that was being utilized when I worked there back in 2001 still in action brought a joy to my heart. Great documentary and a must see for those nostalgic for video stores.
Ripper Letter from Hell – I saw this movie back when it was released in 2001. I loved it. It’s been on my re-watch list for years and after I picked up a copy of the sequel that I didn’t know existed, I went ahead and ordered a copy off of eBay. It took me a few months to watch it and wow… what a disappointment. This movie does not hold up well at all. There is nothing inheritably charming or memorable about it. Such a bummer.
Amityville Dollhouse – This was one of those horror films I caught on Encore at 3 AM back in the 90’s and loved it. It’s been a good twenty years since I last saw it and around Halloween I bought a copy on VHS because the DVD was extremely out of print. A month later, Vinegar Syndrome released a remastered blu-ray and a few months after that those prints hit Amazon Prime. I watched the remastered version on Amazon and it looks great. The movie itself is not too bad. It’s nothing fantastic and has some really bad acting, but I enjoy the isolated location and the special effects are quite impressive at times. Nostalgia definitely factors into my enjoyment of this flick.
New Mutants – My wife wanted to see this film so we rented it. It was okay. Not as bad as I had heard, but it’s a bit of a mess and totally lacks personality.
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone – This year we have made a goal to watch all of the Harry Potter films. I’ve only seen them once and I wasn’t sure if I needed to see them again. I enjoyed the first movie quite a bit and it holds up quite well.
Lars and the Real Girl – This film surprised me. Ryan Gosling is terrific and I think it’s a wonderful look at loneliness. It’s also a very positive film which I loved. I miss quirky little independent films like this and I need to seek out more of them. You will notice that a lot of the films that I watched after this fall into that quirky independent category.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home – Another fantastic, positive film that was much better than expected. Jason Segal, Susan Sarandon, and Judy Greer steal the show in this movie about finding your purpose in the oddest of places.
Stranger Than Fiction – I’m not the biggest Will Ferrell fan but I wanted to give his more dramatic roles a shot. I liked this film better than Everything Must Go (see below) but it still wasn’t anything I’d sit through again. The premises was interesting: a man realizes that an author is narrating his entire life and the movie gets surreal and then it sort of just ends. Maggie Gyllenhaal stole the show, but then again, when doesn’t she?
Everything Must Go – Another Will Ferrell dramedy with character who has a bit more substance. Will plays an alcoholic who loses everything all in one day. It’s one of those films that has some good depth when it comes to exploring addiction but doesn’t really tell that great of a story. It’s a very forgettable film.
Save Yourselves – Ugh… Save Yourself and don’t waste your time. Another hipster style indy film that has a decent set up but has no ending.
Captain America: Winter Solider – My favorite MCU movie, I was inspired to revisit Winter Solider after watching WandaVision. The movie holds up well and is still a great action packed political thriller.
Sonic The Hedgehog – I can’t say enough good things about Sonic the Hedgehog. I never in a million years would have thought it could be so good. The acting, graphics, music, and even script are all top notch. It’s got heart, it’s charming, and it feels connected to the source material. Kudos to all involved for making the best family/kid movie I’ve seen in many, many years.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Another indie film that has been on my radar for a while. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is about a sixteen year old kid’s time in a psych ward in a hospital. It’s cute and does have some good things to say about mental health but ultimately the film just doesn’t do anything to move it from the average category to good. A very average film that isn’t a waste of time but probably won’t be remembered the next day.
The Pool Boys – A late 2000’s teen comedy by the director of American Pie 2 and Say it Isn’t So starring Matthew Lillard. The plot is one we’ve seen a dozen times before and surprisingly they are quite disciplined with the nudity. It’s good for a few laughs, but not really worth the time to watch it. There are much better movies in this sub-genre.
Nomadland – This is a beautiful movie that takes an interesting look at loneliness and poverty. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t watch it again.
Dredd – Its been a few years since I watched Dredd and I loved rewatching it. Its a simple movie that doesn’t shy away from the gore and is masterfully put together. Some of the CGI is a bit iffy but Karl Urban is at his best alongside Lena Headey.
Amityville 1992 – I’m a fan of the low budget horror I grew up on and after watching Amityville Dolllhouse I decided to take a look at another 90s Amityville film, this one was one I hadn’t seen before. I really loved the vibe of the movie. It screamed cheesy 90s and the plot wasn’t half bad. The dad from The Monster Squad was in it alongside Megan Ward, an actress I forgot about and one of my teenage crushes.
Skin: A History of Nudity in Hollywood – This was a very good documentary that documents the use of nudity in Hollywood since the late 1800s. It’s done tastefully from a historical perspective and goes decade by decade. You hear from a lot of Hollywood names and various social commentators and listen to a variety of different opinions and experiences in getting nude for the movies.
The Craft: Legacy – I’m a huge fan of the original film and hoped this would be a decent sequel/reboot. It’s not terrible, but definitely not made for man in his late thirties. I could see teenage girls loving this film and creating a whole new fanbase for this franchise for the future.
Becky – I rented this solely to see Kevin James as a bad guy. He didn’t disappoint. In fact, I was impressed by how easily he transitioned into the role and how convincing he was. The movie itself is a fun mix of Home Alone and First Blood with Nazis.
The Mummy (1999) – It’s been many years since I’ve watched The Mummy and I gotta say, it held up way better than I expected. The Mummy was one of my first DVDs and I watched it a lot when it was first released, but I never really felt compelled to since. Over the past six months, it’s been on my mind and I finally sat down and was blown away by how entertained I was. I was worried that the CGI would be too terrible, but surprisingly there is so many practical effects it’s easier to accept some dated CGI.
Beverly Hills Cop – Another film I haven’t seen in a very long time. I purchased a DVD set of all three films in the franchise on Black Friday last year and decided on a whim to watch this one. Wow, another movie that holds up quite well and was a blast to watch. I forgot how funny this film was and I had no idea that Jonthan Banks, best known for his work on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul, played one of the main villains!
Hooking Up – This film has sat on my Hulu Watchlist for quite some time and I decided to give it a shot late one night. It was a surprisingly good road trip film that could arguably be called a rom com. The two leads were fantastic and this is one of those movies that went under the radar but is totally worth a watch.
Kid90 – This is one of the most disappointing films I’ve watched in a while. It’s a documentary about Soleil Moon Frye (Punky Brewster) and her friends in the 90’s. She took a video camera everywhere with her and has hours of voicemails and video footage of celebrity kids behind the scenes.
The problem with this film is it really doesn’t say anything. Its sorta glamorizes the drugs and partying that went on, but never correlates that with the death of so many of her peers. I couldn’t help but watch this documentary and think to myself, “This is a documentary made a by an out of touch celebrity with nothing to say.”
There is no reason for this movie to exist and I’d love to have my 112 minutes back. I should have trusted my gut and turned it off after the first twenty minutes.
Palm Springs – I finally watch this movie! I’ve been waiting for six months and I gotta say, it lived up to my expectations. It’s a fun, simple movie with a lot to say about the minutia of life.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) – I’ve loved this movie since I was a kid and I still love it. It was great to see it on the big screen.
House Arrest – This was one of those films I watched a ton as a kid. It seemed to always be on some movie channel and every time I ran across it I’d watch it. Surprisingly, it held up quite well. I found myself smiling and enjoying the hijinks of these kids as they lock their parents in the basement.
Ladybugs – After enjoying House Arrest, I decided I wanted to seek out some other films I tended to watch as a kid whenever they were on TV. Ladybugs was one of them. This simple, cute film isn’t a great film by any means but it was entertaining. I’m glad I got a chance to revisit it.
Keeping the Faith – I remember this film coming out while I was working at Blockbuster, but I never got a chance to watch it. It’s been on my list of movies to watch for years now and when I finally ran across a copy of it on DVD at Goodwill I snatched it up, brought it home, and watched it.
It’s a fun, cute movie with three great leads and a brave script that discusses religion in a three dimensional way.
Unhinged – This was the surprise of the month. I enjoyed the heck out of this thriller/horror film. It’s a simple concept and the cinematography was quite impressive at times.
Burn – This was the biggest disappointment of the month. I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for years now and after I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it I found it to be quite lacking. The first thirty-five minutes are great and reminded me a bit of May, but then it loses its focus and there just wasn’t enough substance to justify the run-time.
Tammy and the T-Rex – I’m not a fan of really bad films, but I had an urge to watch some Joe Bob Briggs so I started with his most recent special which began with this film. It was enjoyable for a terrible, low budget film.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – See my upcoming review.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – This was the second Harry Potter film in our quest to watch them all this year. I enjoyed this film more than the first, despite a couple of plot holes, and a scene or two that just didn’t make much sense. I have a feeling the book fills in all these holes.