Just in case it needs to be said- obviously, the world went to a standstill back in March with the spread of COVID-19, then again with the protests from last month. (By the way- please go sign as many petitions and donate funds to Black Lives Matter.) We haven’t been able to watch any “new” movies since February and that interrupted my system- I’d go see a movie at the theater, think on it, come back to type something up, and have it up for all three of our readers.
Watching movies at home and then writing about them at home… it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I’m distracted by my proximity to snacks and the internet. I browse all my streaming channels for a good chunk of time trying to figure out what I want to watch. Then, for the last two months and by default if I can’t find anything, I’ve been revisiting wrestling from 2000 because it’s easy entertainment/noise value and I’m not running out of content any time soon. (WCW is still not good.) This is an article for another day.
That being said, here’s a dump of short reviews of things I’ve watched while Safer at Home is still going on and on and on. There’s no great way to organize this so if you’re looking for something to pass the time, here are some recommendations. Movies I regret watching and therefore, please don’t waste your time- that’s on the way. Also, miniseries or television is also in the works. Mostly, it’s some practice for me and an attempt to get back in the groove of writing more again, so forgive how rambling it is. I tried writing some full ones, but with the exception of the John Wick series, to no avail. I even had to consolidate that one. It just feels wrong to sit and watch something for two hours and then not do something productive. Quarantine watching is just different. Anyway, let’s go!
Yeah so, this is actually one of the last movies I saw in the theater and put the review off for a while to let it seep and then BOOM- quarantine! Looking back, I’m really glad I got to see this in the theater- it’s a quietly weird movie that deserves your full attention in order to appreciate it. Lots of little details in the framing and indicators in the music to fill the overall theme, as well as the many interpretations of the title that pop up throughout the film. Of course, Parasite would cause a hullabaloo at the Oscar’s for winning lots of big awards, including Best Picture- I’d say it deserved it, especially after the mistake that was Green Book. Parasite reminds me that innovation and technique still exists behind the camera and makes me a little more determined to not watch the big studio blockbusters. I’d rather spend my time with films like Parasite.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
This was my first viewing of Pan’s Labyrinth in a good number of years and it still hit as hard as the first time I saw it in a theater. We’ve said it enough here: Guillermo Del Toro is an unparalleled artist and Pan’s Labyrinth is my favorite work of his- it’s a coming-of-age tale so well-crafted and made with love that permeates through the screen. It’s a goddamn visual feast for the eyes, using a mix of makeup and CGI (Doug Jones, that rascal), practical effects, some really outstanding lighting, fantasy violence juxtaposed with war, and that creative camera-work Del Toro is known for. What I love most about Pan’s is its multiple layers of storytelling: it’s a fairy tale on its surface, but you can also analyze its commentary on class, sex, the female body, etc. Mmm, and that score! 14 years later, Pan’s still holds up.
Hell or High Water (2016)
I had the benefit of watching the two previous movies in the theater at some point, but Hell of High Water was viewed from my couch and it’s one of the few movies where I didn’t check my phone at all. I’m a fan of Taylor Sheridan from his time on Sons of Anarchy and have been meaning to get into his writing. He makes a much better writer than an actor; it also helps he has the likes of Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, and Chris Pine to carry his minimalist script. There’s not a lot of dialogue here and the bits that do exist provide authenticity to each interaction. Each scene, each word is important and necessary to understand how things unfold or why characters take action in certain ways. This movie also made me realize how much I’ve been sleeping on Pine. I chalked him up to a pretty face, but with this, Into the Woods, and his hosting of Saturday Night Live, I was wrong. Count me as a fan!
Police Story (1985)
It’s common knowledge that Jackie Chan is a big fan of Gene Kelly and MGM musicals, but I never really “got it” until I saw Police Story recently, in which Chan both stars and directs. While I don’t think the dialogue has aged particularly well and some of the plot points are plain old silly, Chan’s stunts, both action and for comedic effect, are a lot of fun to watch and just well executed to highlight physical talents. I’ve said this plenty of times, but I miss practical action that I can actually see, like wide or medium shots where I can see a full body, minimal CGI, cuts that last for more than half a second, and no more than three cuts in ten seconds. It makes me appreciate Chan a whole lot more and I might just take the time to watch the Shanghai series again, thanks to this one.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Another old classic I haven’t seen in a long time. There was a lot of chatter around Kung Fu Hustle when it first came out but I feel like it’s largely been forgotten today which makes me sad. For me, Kung Fu Hustle is in the same conversation as Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead– a clever, loving, well done homage to a specific genre. Some of the jokes don’t quite land the same way (comedy is fast to feel outdated and the choppy translations only contribute to this), but it’s still delightful to watch all the way through. There are also some really unexpectedly beautiful shots that highlight the choreography and fight sequences that I entirely forgot. Regrets rewatching this = 0.
Da Five Bloods (2020)
A Spike Lee/Netflix joint with a special appearance by The Wire and a cameo from Stage Javert in Les Miserables, Da 5 Bloods is a movie about Black veterans of the Vietnam War who return to the battlegrounds in search of a comrade’s remains and a pile of gold they buried. As expected, Lee dots in a little bit of history, a couple of popular references, some really excellent actors that I always want to see more of. Mostly, I enjoyed this because we got to see the Vietnam War from a few other perspectives than American Hero, as well as dynamics between non-white and non-American characters, specifically, groups of people that have been emasculated and disenfranchised by Western ideologies trying to overcome their place in society. It’s no BlackKklansman, but I’m not against watching more Spike Lee and Clarke Peters.
Is this the part where I am supposed to compare this movie to Apocalypse Now (and thusly Heart of Darkness)? I have no further comment on that since uh… I haven’t seen Apocalypse Now. You know. Time. Maybe one day I’ll break it out but when I’m not locked on my own mental, wartorn island for now.
Air Force One (1997)
What do we watch during July 4th weekend? AMERICA MOVIES. I remember going to see this with my dad (there is a long list of movies I shouldn’t have watched in theaters as a kid) and not really understanding what was going on but THE PRESIDENT WAS IN DANGER AND SAVES THE DAY. Does this movie hold up? Kind of. It was made in 1997 but very much feels like it’s from 1994. That CG plane at the end hasn’t aged well, but the fighter jet scene is still badass. Most obviously, it’s hilarious that Russia and the US are best friends in this movie and remain friends even though the US asks Russia to basically go through social turmoil by releasing (and then killing) one of their top rebels. I’m 99% sure that would lead to more political unrest in that country.
I’d also like to hear more on Jim’s policies and why he’s so beloved as a president. And I have a lot of questions at the end now that I understand how the system works. Like, after being taken hostage and going through all that, would a president remain president? Because I imagine he’d have to step down after so much trauma. Continuing to trust him with- you know- the safety of the world and breaking up an international relationship, just seems a little wrong. And insensitive. And in the event he stays in office, do the other members of his cabinet and Vice President Glenn Close feel ok with it? Is he mentally stable enough to lead? If I were a citizen in the movie, I’d feel better with President Close at the end. Let’s get a sequel!