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.
Max Payne - I've been wanting to watch this film since it came out. I'm a huge Max Payne fan and I knew it wasn't well received, but I've always been curious. I should have stayed curious. This was horrendous.
Evil Dead (1981) - This will go down as one of my favorite horror movie watching experiences. I watched Evil Dead on VHS for the first time in a very long time and I enjoyed the hell out of it. What a great film that still holds up and looks great on VHS.
Clerks - Once Kevin Smith was my favorite director and Clerks was one of my favorite films. I haven't seen it in a very long time and I really enjoyed revisiting it. It made me laugh quite a bit despite knowing all the jokes.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - See my A Year in Star Trek review.
Frozen in Time: Dawson City - This documentary was fantastic and slow. It tells the story of the small Yukon town of Dawson City where silent films went to die. It was the last stop on the distribution ring and a ton of the films were buried in an old swimming pool hole. The permafrost preserved these treasures and tons of of lost films were found. This documentary is made like a silent movie and is very arthouse, but interesting.
Star Wars Episode One: Cloak of Deception (Phantom Menace Fan Edit)/Star Wars Episode Two: The Approaching Storm (Attack of the Clones Fan Edit)/Star Wars Episode Three: Labyrinth of Evil (Revenge of the Sith Fan Edit) - I wanted to watch some Star Wars and had heard good things about these fan edits. I gave them a shot and boy was I surprised at how much they improved the films. I was so impressed I almost want to buy a blu-ray burner just to preserve these as the definitive version of Star Wars for myself.
The Final Terror - A low budget 80's horror film by the director Under Siege starring Daryl Hannah and Joe Pantoliano. It was slow and not worth the 83 minutes I spent on it.
Mortal Kombat - This wasn't bad. I definitely wouldn't say it was great either, but I felt like it was a good step in the right direction. I'm interested in seeing some sequels.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - This was a surprise. I'll be honest, I struggle with alot of movies pre-1978. The pacing just kills me. But The Day the Earth Stood Still was great. It reminded me a lot of an episode of The Twilight Zone and overall it was a fantastic movie.
Grownups - I watched this film in 2020 and just felt like watching it again. I needed something mindless and fun and it was just what I wanted.
The Benchwarmers - After finishing up Grownups, I decided to give The Benchwarmers a shot. I have this mini goal to watch all of the Happy Madison films and this was one I hadn't seen before. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Like Grownups, it was simple, stupid, but fun.
Zookeeper - Another Happy Madison film, this one was okay. Actually, the first half was pretty solid but it really started dragging by the end. Definitely not one I'd watch again.
Senseless - I loved this movie when I saw it back in the late 90's, and when I saw it streaming on HBO I knew a revisit was in order. To my surprise, I loved it again. Like some of the other films I watched this month, this was a fun, goofy film with a great performance by Marlon Wayans.
Spontaneous - This film has been on my watch list for a while. It was written by the same guy who did The Babysitter, so I knew I'd appreciate the humor. To my surprise, the film is actually quite deep and sad. It's this weird mixture of smart-ass nerd comedy with existential questions about what it means to live. It was not what I was expecting, but it was a solid flick and well worth my time.
Star Trek V - Welp... you probably saw my Year of Star Trek, and if not I'll save ya some reading.... it sucked.
Days of Thunder - I've seen this film a couple dozen times and it never grows old. Always a classic.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It - The Conjuring series has been getting worse and worse with each sequel/spin-off and this film is no exception. It was lazily written and not that enjoyable.
Spiral - This was such a strange film. The last ten minutes are great, but the rest of the film is pretty meh. It's not something I'd recommend for Saw fans and I think folks who didn't like Saw won't have enough here to be entertained.
Take Shelter - One of my favorite slow burn films. Excellent performances all around, great soundtrack, and amazing atmosphere.
Airheads - This is one of those movies I never get tired of watching. It's been well over fifteen years since I've seen it and it still holds up incredibly well.
Late Bloomer - This was an interesting low budget comedy. It wasn't great and was quite forgettable but I enjoyed it while I watched.
Ghost Ship - I remember being super excited for this film when it came out and then being very disappointed. I've been wanting to revisit all the Dark Castle films and when I saw Ghost Ship streaming I decided to give it a shot. To my surprise, it was way more intelligent than I remembered and I felt like it utilized the setting quite well. It's not a great story, but it's a decent film.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - Check out my Year of Star Trek.
Bug (2006) - William Freidkin directs Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon in what essentially is a body horror play that descends into madness. I liked it, alot.
Virus - Wow. I remember this not being well received and I totally understand why now. Just a waste of Jamie Lee Curtis in this cyberpunkish/Transformers sort of horror film.
Psycho Goreman - Psycho Goreman promised a 90's style film with tons of humor and self-awareness. In that way it delivered. It isn't great, but it's a fun watch if you know what you are getting into.
The Mask - One of the 90's films I've wanted to revisit for some time now. It holds up reasonably well, and Jim Carrey's performance is great, but I doubt I'll watch this one again.
The Hero - A great cast, interesting premise, and terrible script. The last forty minutes are just atrocious as it throws away everything it built up.
The Dentist - A 90's horror film starring Corbin Bersen that I recall being a lot of fun in the mid 90's. It still is fun but it does drag a bit.
Bruiser - George Romero's take on a slasher film that never quites get up to speed.
Stir Of Echos - This movie was overlooked because of the success of The Sixth Sense, which is sad because it's a better film. I wasn't sure how well it'd hold up 20+ years later, but it held up quite well. Kevin Bacon is wonderful as a blue collar man who begins to struggle with the supernatural that enters his life.
Idiocracy - A fun Mike Judge movie that gets too much credit for predicting the future. It's fun, but stupid. It's been a while since I've seen it and I enjoyed it, but that was my final watch.
Fear Street 1994 - A 90's influenced slasher film dragged down by terrible acting and very unrealistic actions by those characters.
Speed - This blew me away. I loved Speed as a kid, but haven't seen in since the 90's. It holds up incredibly well and is still a blast to watch.
Dante’s Peak - I was so happy with Speed, I decided to watch another 90's action film and this one didn't hold up nearly as well. The miniature work is amazing in it, but overall the film is medicore.
Grandma’s Boy - My watch thru the Happy Madison productions brought me back to one of my favorites: Grandma's Boy. The film is still quite funny, but is beginning to feel dated due to The Matrix references, old video game graphics, and pop culture references/props.
Fear Street 1978 - The best of the Fear Street films, this 70's influenced slasher was miles better than the 90's film, but still left something to be desired.
Footloose - Surprisingly, I've never seen Footloose until now. It was about what I expected and a one time watch for me. Glad to say I've seen it.
Cliffhanger - Another 90's action film I had never seen. It was enjoyable, but nothing to write home about.
Fear Street 1666 - The final Fear Street movie was slightly better than the first one, but not as good as the second. Again, the cast hurts this film along with some forced wokeness.
Beverly Hills Cop II - Wow, this film was a blast. I loved it as a kid and after watching the first film earlier this year, I felt inspired to check this one out. It holds up well and is definitely worth a watch.
Bucky Larson - Another Happy Madison film that is better than expected, but quite stupid.
The Rock - Revisiting old 90's films that I loved as a kid continues and I'm still impressed with how well these films hold up. It's almost always enjoyable and it inspires me to keep watching.
Mallrats - I picked up the new Mallrats blu-ray and had a blast watching it. I loved Kevin Smith's films years ago, and I thought I'd probably watched them too much. It was nice to revisit Mallrats and inspired me to keep watching the View Askew films all over.
Dogma - Dogma holds up well and I still stand by the fact that I feel the ending drags just a little too much.
Daylight - Another favorite 90's film that I watched a ton. It didn't quite hold up to my memory but it was still very solid and had great score.
Get Shorty - I haven't seen this since the 90's and I'll say it holds up well, but I didn't love it like I did the first viewing.
Jack and Jill - I've heard for the longest time that this is one of the worse movies ever made. It wasn't, not by a long shot. Is it great? No, but its not half bad. I made me chuckle and Al Pacino goes all out which makes it a fun watch.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back - Another View Askew rewatch, Strike Back was never my favorite Kevin Smith film, but it's cartoonish antics are quite fun and hold up well. Lots of the references are dated, but that is part of the appeal to me.
Suicide Squad - WOW! WOW! WOW! James Gunn delivered big time and this movie was an absolute blast from beginning to end. Kudos!
Tremors - I picked up a copy of the Arrow re-release of Tremors and I spent an afternoon hanging with the folks in Perfection. This is a fun monster movie that holds up quite well thanks to some fantastic practical effects.
Jakobs Wife - I like to support Barbara Crampton because she's an amazing actress and is super vocal in the horror community. This movie was a bit of a passion project for her and it's quite enjoyable. It's about a bored housewife who becomes a vampire and has to deal with the rammifications of being married to a boring minister. It's got some commentary about growing older as a woman in it and while I'm not the core audience for such a message, I could see how soothing it may for women of a certain age. The effects are great and the humor is quite solid.
Stay Tuned - One of my favorite movies to watch as a kid, didn't age as well as some of my other recent rewatches. This is quirky film where John Ritter and his wife get trapped in Hell's satellite package. Then bounce between TV shows that are parodies of TV shows and commercials that were popular at the time like Northern Exposure or Wayne's World. It's a fun peek into that past and a look back at a generation's obession with cable and satellite, but ultimately it struggled to keep my attention.
Arachnophobia - I distinctly remember watching this film with my Dad as a kid. I remember sitting on his lap as the movie began and him about throwing me into the ceiling the first time a spider jumped. He was terrified of spiders and I have a feeling we didn't watch anymore of hte film. So, fast forward 30+ years later and I finally watched Arachnophobia and it's a fun flick with some fantastic performances.
Thirteen Ghosts - Another Dark Castle revisit, this movie was an intense disappointment to me when it came out originally. On this rewatch, I found it refreshing and thought the plot was solid enough to support the story. The ghosts are all incredibly meancing and I think everyone's who has ever watched this film wanted a series exploring each of the 13 ghosts.
Streamer - A super low budget film that was described as "Taxi Driver meets OnlyFans." It's about a lonley man who becomes obessed with a streaming girl who happens to live in his building. The movie was shot well and is short enough to keep your attention. I really liked the actress Tanya Lee. I thought she put on a great performance.
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo - I was a huge fan of the first film and I revisited it recently. I decided to continue my quest to rewatch/watch all of the Happy Madison films and European Gigalo is definitely one of those "meh" films. It's not terrible, but it's also not that funny. I remember being underwhelmed the first time I watched it and I remain underwhelmed.
Dumb and Dumber - I first saw Dumb and Dumb on pay per view and I recorded it on VHS back around 1995. Once I had my copy, I watched it several dozen times before forgetting all about the film. I finally gave it a rewatch and boy was I surprised at how many quotes from this film I use in my every day life. I was also impressed by its soundtrack and of course, Jim Carrey's antics.
Escape from LA - My buddy Alex and I were talking about EMPs when I thought about this film. I rewatched it for the first time in years and really enjoyed it. John Carpenter was a master at creating locations that felt both real but surreal. Sadly, the CGI is quite horrible and compared to the first film this one is a disappointment. Still, it's a fun film and I've always liked it.
Chain Reaction - I rented this movie in the 90's and was impressed by how much I liked it. I hadn't seen it since and I gotta say, my original assessment was solid. This is a great thriller from the director of The Fugitive that seemed more relevant now than it did when released.
John Carpenter's Vampires - Another classic John Carpenter film that I hadn't seen in a very long time. James Woods best performance ever and actual terrifying vampires make this a fun watch.
The Dilemma - Ron Howard directs Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, and Winona Ryder... what could go wrong? Well, take an overly wordy script that isn't all that funny and it makes for a strange dramady that just isn't that good.
Here Comes the Boom - I followed a Kevin James stinker of a movie up with this suprisingly awesome Happy Madison production. It's a shame this movie doesn't get more love but it's great!
Volcano - Another 90's diaster film that I loved watching on cable movie channels in the late 90's and early 2000's. It's been a very long time since I've seen it and I really enjoyed it. It's better than Dante's Peak, but still a bit corny in spots and the CGI is dated. It's not a great film, but a fun one.