Mini-Reviews #29

More mini-reviews of stuff that I’ve seen over the last couple of months…

Film

Boogie Nights
Another rewatch, and I still like it (I had remembered it even a bit more raunchy, but it was so long ago, when I wasn’t so numbed by more extreme movies).
In a whole, the story, characters, actors, and direction are all really good; recommended.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
The Clapper
On the positive side, it’s a nice tale of a slightly weird underdog – on the negative side: Nothing that hasn’t been told or shown in a very similar fashion by hundreds of other small/indie movies. That’s why it’s sitting somewhere between average/mediocre and below for me; with an final verrdict of … below, because the only possible distinction (the actors/characters) didn’t gel with me much. It may be a different case for you and other viewers, so ignore the rating and read the summary and/or watch the trailer and make up your mind for yourself.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
Any Given Sunday
Watched it again, since I remember that I was pleasently surprised when I saw the first time, years and years ago.

And it still holds up: Good cast, good production etc. That being said, I’m still not a fan of American Football, so the many scenes of playtime are not helping it for me; and some of the story has also some well-known clichés; above average/bordering on good.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

This Island Earth
A Sci-Fi blast from the past (1955). I caught this incidentally and have probably seen it already as a kid on some midnight showing on local TV, but couldn’t remember anything about it. Of course, you’re dealing with a very old movie, so one shouldn’t apply modern standards to it.

That being said, I liked the first half or third of it more than the rest: there were some nice scenes, but overall, I lost a bit of interest during the runtime, because it’s simply not really an outstanding film (even for it’s time, I think).
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

Psycho Goreman
Now this was an unexpeced, low-budget, dark-humored gore/splatter/horror ride that I really enjoyed.
Recommended, if you have a taste for this kind of material (and by the way, despite my fear after reading/watching a few reviews: Yes, the way of the female lead kid actress needs some time to get used to, but after a while, I actually liked her style of portraying her character).
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Hotel Artemis
Interesting setting, but as a movie, it simply didn’t work for me. Not so bad that I felt the urge to turn it off, but also nothing that grabbed or hooked me much.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
The Kid Detective
Although I saw the potential in the plot and some scences, the overall execution left me pretty cold. It was just “medium well done”, which results in a ‘below medium’ rating, due to the sheer amount of better alternatives out there.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
House Of The Flying Daggers
Maybe I have seen it before, maybe not (and I’ve got just the impression, due the amount of clips from it that I’ve watched over the years); regardless: Asian movies and I have also a difficult relationship (due culture gap etc.), with tops and flops. And this one falls sadly more on the flop half: Visually it’s totally gorgeous, but the whole package was not really my cup of tea.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
A Bad Moms Christmas (Bad Moms 2)
This one showed up on Netflix one evening, and I like the actresses and the first one wasn’t the worst movie ever, so I thought: Why not… And it’s actually quite OK for what it is; maybe I was also just in the mood for this king of ‘light entertainment’. In the end it was as I expected: a pretty mediocre/average/standard Hollywood comedy – but not bad…
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
It’s actually no so long ago that I had reviewed this one already, but since I was going through the Blu-ray boxset, I now watched it again. And I stand by my verdict from last time also on a second viewing: A very good, entertaining action flick; not perfect, but pretty close.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Le passager de la pluie | Rider on the rain | Der aus dem Regen kam
A french movie from 1970, with Charles Bronson. The first and only time I saw it was many years ago, while idly hopping from TV channel to TV channel one very late evening (missing the first couple of minutes) and then couldn’t turn it off.

Some time later, I discovered the DVD as cheap buy, but didn’t find the time/muse to watch it again for a long time, and so it sat on the shelf for years, until now.

The issue with these kind of surprise experiences you had, back when one was (much) younger, and at a different place in one’s life: Trying to get back to that state won’t happen – but to end this on a postive note: In this particular case, it was different, but as good/even better as the first time, due the aquired lifespan and film knowledge in the meantime, I think.

As mentioned earlier: A (slow) french movie from 1970. That means it’s not the usual Hollywood mainstream movie, but luckily also not too much of an european arthouse film; it sits somewhere in the middle.

After finishing the second viewing, I felt the need to read up on it, because quite honestly, I didn’t catch one or two important things, it seems. And normally, this would mean I’d downvote it (“if I need to read up on a movie to fully understand it, it can’t be any good”), but in this case, it really helped me to understand and appreciate it even more.

Bottom line: It’s special film (maybe it wasnt’t for 1970s France…), that requires a certain amount of receptiveness and state of mind from the viewer when watching it.

(That being said: It’s not perfect, not by any time’s standards, but I’ll give it this high rating, because it’s actually a good film, in my opinion, and due to my nostalgic reminiscence of it, which held up even many years later.)
★★★★★ 5/5 stars

Zack Snyder’s Justice League
I barely remember Justice League, because for one, I’m not a big superhero fan (anymore) and two, it was really, really bad (that much of a lasting impression it left).

Now, this new 4-hours-plus cut was different: Not so much, as that it would make it a really good movie, in my opinion, but at least better than the botched previous edition.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars

I Care A Lot
Yet another Netflix production that has the same problem as many others: It’s not bad, but misses the mark of being really good by quite a bit.

The premise and the first half or so of it are really interesting, but it then loses traction, or rather focuses on the wrong things. Additionally, the amount of plotholes/plot conveniences increases drastically.

The final ten minutes are a good comeback though, and I wish we could have spent more time on what was just indicated there; but sadly, that’s when the film ends.

So, I’m torn; but since it’s more regress than progress of quality as runtimes goes on, I’ll give it this rating:
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

Godzilla vs. Kong
Let me begin with a confession: I’m not really a fan of Godzilla or any other Kaijū franchise. I have been watching films of that genre occasionally (like 1998 and 2014’s Godzilla or Pacific Rim), because the hope for a good film dies last (but in the end, it always does, with these kind of movies).

The only notable exceptions that come to my mind at the moment are King Kong (2005), which was OK(ish); and the more recent Kong: Skull Island, which I found really great – but those are not really of the same type as the Godzilla stuff (even though Kong: Skull Island is supposed to be set in the same universe as Godzilla vs. Kong).

Anyways, enough background. The point is: Usually I’d have skipped this one (like I did Godzilla: King of the Monsters , but this one got suprisingly much praise from some online reviewers that I do follow. Of course always with the caveat “Just glance over the humans and story, turn off your brain and focus on the effects and battles”.

Well, first of all, I can’t really turn off my brain ever, at all, when watching a movie or TV show. At best, I can willingly ignore plotholes, gaps in logic etc. if required (otherwise I’d never be able to enjoy any SciFi, Fantasy or Superhero movie), but then the rest has to offer something unique or better.

And this film here does neither: The “characters” and “story” of this garbage dump are as bad as they come, and to be honest, the visuals in some settings are also not as good looking as I had hoped (Hollow World, anyone?). And just one monster bashing after the other is also not really varied.

So, in the end, in my opinion it would have been enough to cut this almost two hour movie down to (max.) 15 minutes, as a showcase on YouTube for the VFX companies behind it…
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars

How to Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon 2
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Watched the Dragon 1 and Dragon 2 again, after a longe time and then watched the third and final part, Hidden World for the first time.

The first part is from 2010 and the animation was still stunning to me; and watching the three movies now back-to-back over a week, I recognized how much better part three (from 2019) looked – even though I was blown away from the animation quality of part one only a few days earlier; progress is a wonderful thing! 😁

On the other hand: The slight “mismatch” of the more limited/reduced look of the characters (head, body, etc.) compared to the very naturalistic environment was becoming a bit more irritating on each sequel, but as I’ve learned from watching the Making of, this was a deliberate choice.

Still, I think in part one, these two worlds blended very well, while by part three, it looked occasionally like two worlds worlds colliding (a tiny bit…). But I can also understand that it was good and neccessary to stick to it for building a connection between the characters and the audience: If the characters are depicted in part one more in a more ‘cartoon-like’ way, and then suddenly later on would show up with high-resolution faces from the Uncanny Valley, the loyal viewers of the trilogy might have lost the emotional bond to them.

Anyways, enough about the technical merits and deficits. The plot and characterization of the trilogy are also very well done. Of course, one should consider that is also a family-friendly film, but the themes and story have depth and weight and grow with each subsequent film.

On the downside: Some themes/threats get repeated a lot – that aspect of the second part was especially annoying for me, and also the third one had its share of “Again?!” plot points

So, my rating:
Part 1: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Part 2: ★★★★ 4/5 stars
Part 3: ★★★★ 4/5 stars

Uncut Gems
I really wanted to like this one: Despite the fact that hate and loathe almost anything “comedic” that Adam Sandler has ever created, I do think that he is a good actor, which he unfortunately shows far too seldom. And the film critics and reviews I read and saw seemed all very positive about this one.
But alas, it was not for me: Plot, characters, … – nothing stood out for me, I couldn’t relate to anyone and the whole plot(?) made no sense to me.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Love and Monsters
OK’ish and entertaining – and that says a lot for a ‘Netflix’ movie nowadays.
I know they didn’t produce it, just bought it, but still, it’s now tied forever to them, in my mind).
Anyways: Good, short, bit generic fun; quite watchable if you have nothing better to do…
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Color Out of Space
Another case where many reviewers liked it and saw a return to form for both actor Nicholas Cage and director Richard Stanley. Well, what can I say: It has a few moments, and Cage is a bit more toned down than usual. But overall, it’s lacking any coherence. The family drama felt rushed and not well thought out, the effects were bearable, but not special (considering the budget, I won’t hold it against the film).
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Another film where I almost automatically discount one star just because of the fact that Netflix bought the rights to it.

It’s weird, because I am actually a ‘happy customer’ of them, and am glad that I can watch a lot of stuff there. On the other hand, everything they produce and spend millons and millions is just so damn mediocre (at best).\

But luckily, Netflix again only bought the rights to release this one; and the fact that is was produced by Lord & Miller also gave me hope.

And it’i fine movie – at times. But I couldn’t really connect to it; the style breaks, random internet video memes and and so on felt misplaced (maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit, but I doubt it. No, I’m sure: It’s them, not me! Zany animation is no turn off, quite the opposite – I looove Zim and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!)

The family plot and story beats are of course nothing earth-shattering, but it works. So overall: Above average, but not a highlight for me.
★★★★ 4/5 stars

TV

Brooklyn Nine-Nine — Season 6
I liked it a bit more than the previous season – might very well have been more related to my mood/state at that time, rather than the quality of itself), but on the other hand: I still think this show is slowly losing steam.

It’s of course hard enough for a dramatic show to stay on top after 5+ seasons, and for comedy probably even more so, when is has hit a certain sweet-spot and formula; so let’s see how this one is evolving…
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

What We Do In The Shadows — Season 1 and 2
Based on a movie that I haven’t watched. I like the premise, and can imagine how it easily sustains a feature-film. For a multi-season comedy show, though, I have my doubts after this.

It works, more often than not, but on the other hand, there are some glaring holes in the ‘suspension of belief’ structure (yes, I’m aware about the topic of the show…), e.g. the whole mockumentary style, where we/the audience is supposed to be watching it (mostly?) through the lenses of an embedded camera crew.

Also, the jokes: As usual for a sitcom/comedy, some hit, some miss. For these first two seasons, the ratio was still on a (weakly) positive side, for me. But I’m not so sure yet about my future interest in it.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

Black Mirror — Season 3
So this is the season where the USA comes into play; even worse: Netflix as a co-producer (and it shows, at times).

As always: The quality of an anthology series is often unsteady; the same here: Some episodes are fine, some not so much; some come with a twist, some just burble along; some provide an interesting insight of what the future may bring, some seem rather non-sensical.

Overall, this season is again quite entertaining (although the runtime of a few episodes definitely needed trimming: Some ideas simply don’t hold up for so long, but that was already an issue in the previous seasons).

And the Hollywood-incluence is noticiable on some occasions, but that’s luckily not bad yet (and to be honest: Not all of the British TV style is or was for my liking, either. So, change is good, for now).
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood — Season 1
Usually, I’m not the biggest fan of either fantasy, or animation shows, but of course, there are notable exceptions on both sides, and even the combination of the two can be very entertaining. (Also, I have absolutely no connection to the “Dota” franchise, I just stumbled upon this by chance.)
This show is by all means not perfect, but I liked it enough that I’d watch a possible second season.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Archer — Season 4
I still like the humor, but I do acknowledge that this would/could overstay its welcome.
So, for one, I’ll try to reduce the application rate a bit, but am also confident because from what I read, the creator tried to shake things up a bit in the upcoming seasons, like season 5, aka Archer Vice.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
The Expanse — Season 5
One show that hasn’t run dry yet, and is nowhere near, it seams, is The Expanse.
Season 5 is again terrific storytelling and characterization – but it did have a few Huh? Really? Why? moments for me in this season that I didn’t expect. Also, the current main antagonist is still too one dimensional for my liking and understanding.
But, oh well, won’t change the net result of five stars (again).
(The only bad news is that season 6 seems to be the final one – but better to leave on a high note than to be drawn out too long.)
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Ash vs. Evil Dead — Season 1, 2 and 3
A totally bonkers mix of gore, splatter, slapstick comedy and good/bad one-liners.

I have watched the original first – 🤔 or at least one of the two – film(s) a long time ago, and was not really hooked; but I liked the recent remake very much (more budget, better effects, no comedy – worked better for me), and also the third one, Army of Darkness, was good fun.

It was so long ago that I saw the orginal film that I don’t think that I would have been spoiled by better looking effects at that time; it just didn’t click for me at that time. That’s why I didn’t get into this show with great expectations – and got a pleasent surprise:

It’s wild, highly illogical, has little budget (of course) and the humor is a mixed bag. But the episodes are so short and entertaining that I binged season 1 and 2 in a very short amount of time.

The final season 3 is a bit more of the same: The end of season 2 was a good closure, now the cast stays at the same place and evil rises again, of course… 🙄

Despite that, it still has some moments, but I think the concept had run its course (for what they could do with the budget/arc at that time). The ending was interesting, and maybe it would have lead to another, fresh season, but we will never know.

So, a taste that is not for everyone, but at the right time, in the right application rate, it can be fun.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars