We are now 26 days into the new year, and I have seen a movie every single day. Except the 4th. And the 14th. And the 23rd. But either way, I’ve seen 22 movies, 2 animated short films, a video game, and finished 2 TV shows (only one of which I bother talking about) so far this year, and I have at least a little bit to say about all of them, so here they are:
Jan 19: Bad Times at the El Royale (random streaming site)
As you may know, I’m a sucker for movies that take place in a single location. All the DPTs (Dinner Party Thrillers), The Hateful Eight, any TV bottle episode, and now, Bad Times at the El Royale. While it assembles a slightly smaller group than one would usually find in ensemble casts, it makes up for any lack of variety with its fantastic characters. The movie is split into sections, each having a focus on one of the guests at the El Royale and beginning with a quick snippet of backstory; just enough to make us intrigued as to why they’re there, and whether they’ll make it out alive. The dynamic is great, the writing is great, the acting is great, so why do critics not like it? This and The Hateful Eight, two rather similar movies that I adore (although The Hateful Eight a lot more), and both relatively shafted by critics. Not only that, but El Royale bombed hard, not even making its money back. I hope the best for you, Drew Goddard, I really do. You make some very underappreciated movies.
Jan 19: Vice Principals (Crave)
It’s a TV show, I know, but I’ve decided to add these in too once I’ve finished a series. It’s called What’s Joey Been Watching, not What’s Joey Been Watching But TV and Video Games Don’t Count. Anyway, is Vice Principals great? No. Is it even good? I’m not really sure… all I can say is that for some reason it kept me coming back for 18 episodes. The characters are horribly unlikeable and do despicable things, but the show doesn’t treat them as if they’re redeemable (until the end, bafflingly). At points it’s entertaining to watch bad people get what they deserve, but I felt myself yearning for some good to cling on to. For a comedy, it’s really not all that funny, but I suppose Danny McBride and Walton Goggins are a good enough pairing that it matters a bit less. Why did I watch all of it? I think it might have been because of the cliffhanger that ended season 1, a mystery finally solved at the end of the second and final season. Was it worth it? I don’t think so? But if you’d like to hear various faculty members say “fuck” a lot, this show is for you, I guess?
Jan 20: FYRE: The Greatest Party that Never Happened (Netflix)
I tend to find documentaries kinda boring. I know, I shouldn’t generalise an entire genre, especially since I haven’t seen all that many and the ones that I have seen, I’ve enjoyed quite a lot. I can really only name four: Tickled, Jim and Andy, The Sisters Tolchinski (which I highly recommend, entirely unbiased), and now FYRE. FYRE is a fascinating breakdown of how lies and complete incompetence can take something that sounds like the best getaway of all time and make it into an absolute nightmare. I find it remarkable how honest everyone interviewed is. I don’t want to spoil too much, but one of the higher ups says he was at some point willing to literally go down on the head of customs so that he would let them bring drinking water onto the island. It’s extremely entertaining to watch the ship go down, but it’s also horribly depressing knowing how many innocent people got royally fucked by one man’s tainted vision.
Jan 21: Adaptation (Amazon Prime Video)
This is my second time seeing Adaptation, but this time I introduced it to my friend, Rebecca. There’s nothing I enjoy more than showing a friend a movie I love, especially when it’s a movie like this one that rewards multiple viewings. I thoroughly enjoyed Adaptation the first time I saw it; there’s a strangeness to it that has never been replicated other than in other Charlie Kaufman movies like Being John Malkovich. It’s a genius concept, to have a movie about the screenwriter of the movie writing a movie based on a book that turns into a movie based on him writing a movie based on a book. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman and his fictional identical twin brother, Donald Kaufman, and the interactions between them are hilarious and seamless. He sets out to write a screenplay in which nothing much happens and nobody changes, and for the first while of the movie, that’s exactly what it is. But once a specific event happens, the story takes a wild turn and becomes this ridiculous scandal, ending, of course, with a chase scene and a deus ex machina, the exact thing Charlie said he didn’t want to write. It’s a hilarious commentary on mainstream cinema that’s arguably even more relevant today, and I love it.
Jan 22: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Amazon Prime Video)
This is (hopefully) the worst review I’ll ever write. I’d just finished an essay and was tired as shit, but hadn’t seen a movie yet. Both of these things are because I’m still a student. I also really wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and also really wanted to go to sleep. I decided to play Smash for the first third or so of the movie, half paying attention to the Jason Segel comedy, half paying attention to honing my skills as Ridley. I then started paying attention once Mila Kunis was getting more screentime, and that also distracted me from being able to write a real review. Then, during the last third of the movie, I finally started to watch it like it’s an actual movie, and it turns out Forgetting Sarah Marshall is pretty funny!
Jan 24: Mandy (random streaming site)
This would be my least favourite Nicolas Winding Refn film, that is, if it were directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Mandy adopts the visually unique, slow moving, pretentious, and painfully arthouse style of Refn, but forgets what makes those movies (well, most of them) work so well. The easiest comparison to make here is to Only God Forgives, unanimously Refn’s worst movie. It’s glacially slow, Ryan Gosling gives the most hilarious performance of his life, and you’re left wondering what the hell happened at the end because the movie tells you very little directly. Mandy is arguably even slower, and left me somewhat confused but mostly bored. Only God Forgives, despite being bad, still intrigued and kept me interested the whole way through, and me and my friend, Vic, scoured the internet for theories after. With Mandy, I’m writing this review right after because I don’t care enough to understand what really happened, what it was all a metaphor for, or perhaps what Mandy’s death represented. I spent most of the movie bored out of my mind, grasping at anything that could be considered actual plot progression. I finally started to perk up with about 20 minutes left, once the movie briefly stopped trying to be something deeper than it is and finally showed its true colours as a B-movie gore-fest (albeit with a disappointingly tame amount of gore).
This begs the question, who is this movie for? The people who want to see an unhinged Nicolas Cage bash brains in with a giant axe will walk out of the theatre an hour in since a brain has yet to be bashed, and the people who want a philosophical Refn-style gruesome social commentary movie are going to be treated to a relatively straightforward plot with little metaphorical subtext, that I could find at least. I’m soundly in the latter category, and spent the entire two hour runtime waiting for all of it to come together and have a bigger meaning, but I never found it. And yet this movie has good reviews, so I can only imagine the people in the first category fell asleep for the first hour and a half, woke up to see a chainsaw vs longer chainsaw battle, and decided this movie is gnarly as fuck, man. But it isn’t. It’s just boring, and did not quench my Refn thirst in the slightest. I need Too Old to Die Young to come out ASAP.
Jan 25: Dark River (Amazon Prime Video)
I watched all 89 minutes of this movie just to write a single sentence about how boring it is.
Sorry to end on such a short review, but when I have nothing to say, I have nothing to say. It’s been a decent week for movies; nothing blowing my mind but also nothing making me blow chunks. This week’s shoutout goes to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for ending on such an unremarkable and boring and low effort 6 episodes that I’m not even gonna bother talking about it!