Movies You Watched in August 2020
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Chief Seattle
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This is a geeklist to discuss the movies you watch throughout the month. Please feel free to post them as you see them, or if you prefer post a summary of all films at the end of the month. Also you can comment and discuss freely as others talk about films they've seen.

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1. Board Game: Fateful Days: The Marne Campaign of 1914 [Average Rating:5.87 Unranked]
Board Game: Fateful Days: The Marne Campaign of 1914
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Watched Fateful Findings by Neil Breen. Always a classic for a good laugh. Neil Breen is an enigma.
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2. Board Game: Shark Alarm!!! [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:15283]
Board Game: Shark Alarm!!!
"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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Caution: May contain wargame like substance
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Sharknado

It’s easy to see why this is a cult classic, and there are some solid cast members - no A-list, but certainly some B-list ones.

My friends eight-year-old put it best. “This is the best worst movie ever!“

I’m not sure it’s the best worst movie ever, but it’s pretty terrible. Nonetheless, I’m not disappointed that I watched it. I can’t say the same for other movies I’ve rated this poorly.
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3. Board Game: Shaun of the Dead Card Game [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Shaun of the Dead Card Game
Tony C
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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Watched this last night. I think of the three movies, I like it the least but it was still a good Saturday night movie. I had not seen it before. (Hot Fuzz is my favorite.)
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4. Board Game: Dunkirk: France 1940 [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:8313]
Board Game: Dunkirk: France 1940
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Finally got around to watching Dunkirk and, wow. It was just a phenomenal film. Very tense and moody. Definitely recommend.
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5. Board Game: Kingdom of Heaven: The Crusader States 1097-1291 [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:3129]
Board Game: Kingdom of Heaven: The Crusader States 1097-1291
David
Switzerland
Buchs
St. Gallen
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Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut

Recently stumbled over the director's cut on YouTube and figured there would be worse things than watching some Eva Green...

And I have to say the director's cut really adds some much appreciated context to the story.

For example the beginning is much more fleshed out. The thieving priest is revealed to be Balian's half-brother, constantly bullying him. In the original it was somewhat contrived that the quiet Balian would get into a murderous rage over a stolen necklace (one he was willing to have burried in the first place.) It's also revealed that Godfrey and thus Balian were in line to inherit the nearby castle if the current lord were to die. This explains much better why the soldiers sent after Balian were so ruthless. The murder of Balian's brother was merely a convenient excuse to force a confrontation.

There are two scenes I don't remember from the original where Balian consults with the king and then much later is offered the hand of Sibylla but rejects it based on the king's advice from their first meeting.

Finally Sibylla's turn from a queen supporting the peace of his brother to supporting Guy's war was jarring in the original cut. Added scenes show that Guy essentially blackmailed her with the life of her son. There's an interim period shown where the child rules the kingdom and upholds his uncle's peace but falls ill with leprosy and is euthanized by his mother.

The final addition - the sword fight between Guy and Balian is probably the least significant.

Overall: definitely worth the 3 hours.
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6. Video Game: Mad TV [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:4715] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Video Game: Mad TV
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Minnesota
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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"‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked. ‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter."
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I rarely watch movies, but I started to watch one last night--one that just popped up on my YouTube list: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," a 1963 American comedy.

Later in the 1960s I bought a Mad magazine paperback titled "It's a World, World, World, World Mad." That's how I heard about the movie (and probably read a spoof of it), but I never saw it until now.

I only watched less than half of it, though, before I lost interest. I was impressed that so many famous comedians were gathered together in one film, so I watched for a while just to see the familiar faces and hear the voices. But there was too much slapstick humor for my liking.

Fun movie, but not fun enough to stay up late for. Maybe I'll watch the rest of the movie some other time.
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7. Board Game: Disney's Sword in the Stone Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Disney's Sword in the Stone Game
Jesse Hickle
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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THE SWORD IN THE STONE - 1963
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This was one of my favorite Disney movies when I was a kid, and I enjoyed getting to watch it again with my 5-year-old.
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8. Board Game: 8 the Liar [Average Rating:4.85 Overall Rank:17415]
Board Game: 8 the Liar
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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8 Women
(2002) =

I have to imagine that the target audience for 8 Women is remarkably small. There are so many genres thrown together that finding someone who enjoys them all is going to be tough. This movie is a family drama, a romantic drama, a murder mystery, a period piece, a chamber piece, a comedy, and a musical (there might be more genres in there but these are the most obvious.). Yet, even if the target audience is tiny, it seems I fit within that narrow demographic. I quite enjoyed 8 Women, because it kept getting more wacky as it went. There are movies where I am intrigued because I don’t know what the plot will do next, but this was a movie where I didn’t even know what the filmmakers would do next. For all I knew, we were mere minutes away from big space aliens walking into the room and abducting some of the women.

I won’t say that 8 Women was totally successful at everything it tried, because I struggled with some aspects. The mystery never felt like one you could figure out yourself, instead they just kept layering on more and more reveals to make it clear everybody was hiding something. I also found the ending to be a bit frustrating. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’ll say the reveal of the truth in the muder mystery was satisfying, but then there was a final twist that left me a bit sad instead of smiling like I had so much before that. Otherwise, I thought 8 Women was a delight. The vibrant colors in the costumes and sets were playful and fun, plus they worked well for the musical numbers. The actresses were all wonderful, and it was enjoyable to see a number of familiar faces in the cast. I won’t say 8 Women is perfect, but it’s weird how well it all works as a cohesive film.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against Raising Arizona
Wins against Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Loses to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Loses to Joe Versus the Volcano
Loses to Django Unchained
Wins against Imitation of Life
Wins against A Mighty Wind
Wins against In the Heart of the Sea
Loses to Artists and Models
Loses to The Red Shoes
Wins against Black Dynamite

8 Women ranked 524 out of 2375 or 78%
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9. Board Game: Mulan Magical Board Game [Average Rating:2.33 Unranked]
Board Game: Mulan Magical Board Game
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Mulan
(1998) =

Mulan is an entertaining tale of a young girl who takes her father’s place in the Chinese army. I think what I appreciate most about this film is that they don’t spend a massive amount of time on her possibly being discovered. There’s one scene that creates that kind of tension, but otherwise she remains hidden until the movie is ready for her to be revealed. The rest of the time she’s just treated like any other soldier who is trying their best to become an effective warrior in the battle against the Huns. I like the training sequences, I find the other soldiers that she meets to be charming, and I’m always a sucker for those scenes when the instructor presents a seemingly impossible task and our protagonist figures out how to make it happen. The film manages to condense the war down to a single moment, but I thought it was a surprisingly effective way of making our heroine a savior on such a grand scale that it allows people to ignore centuries of tradition that minimize the role of women.

Where I think Mulan suffers to some degree is that the creators felt beholden to the Disney animated tropes. The small cricket and dragon are not important to the plot and mostly provide slapstick comedy breaks. I’m all for Eddie Murphy being silly in an animated film, but the tone of Mulan feels less suited to his antics. In fact, I suspect the live action remake of this film will be one of the best because they will probably excise Mushu and Cri-kee from the script. The musical numbers are good songs, but they also feel a bit unnecessary in this story. I wouldn’t say they bothered me, because the tunes are catchy, but I didn’t think they needed to be there. My only other complaint about Mulan would be that the entire film feels a bit rushed. This might also be based on the fact that they were trying to meet some Disney animated movie standards, and keep it under 90 minutes for the young kids. I just felt they could have used a little more time to let some aspects of the story breathe and develop some of the characters a bit more. However, Mulan works quite well as a film, and it also looks great. This is definitely one of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ successes.


Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against Raising Arizona
Wins against Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Loses to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Loses to Joe Versus the Volcano
Wins against Django Unchained
Loses to The Pink Panther Strikes Again
Loses to The Night of the Hunter
Wins against District 9
Wins against Glass
Wins against Trouble in Paradise
Wins against The Little Drummer Girl

Mulan ranked 499 out of 2376 or 79%
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10. Board Game: Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling) [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:14741]
Board Game: Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling)
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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My Darling Clementine
(1946) =

My Darling Clementine is another interpretation of a story I’ve seen a few times before, the shootout at the OK Corral. This time we get Henry Fonda playing Wyatt Earp, and I quite liked how he used his matter-of-fact delivery in this role. It was nice to see a lawman who simply presented obeying the law as a forgone conclusion that he just assumed everyone should understand. He’s also subtle in his delivery because he doesn’t need to be brash when he has his brothers backing him up. Victor Mature plays Doc Holliday in this film, and I also found his performance to be good. He is not an actor I’m all that familiar with, but I thought he was able to express some of the pain and regret that haunted this character in his final days. I particularly loved the early scenes between these two men, because they have a powerful standoff without needing to draw pistols. You can feel the tension between them and I also like how that eventually evolves into a begrudging respect. These are men with a strong presence, without needing to puff themselves up with big words.

I’m not so sure the romance angle worked as well for me in My Darling Clementine. The film’s title implies it is supposed to be about this innocent young woman who comes seeking Doc Holliday, but her part felt rather superfluous to the story. Chihuahua was the more vital romantic role in driving the story forward. I also felt there was a slight disconnect in the plot because so much of what happens in the film feels like it is Doc Holliday’s story, but Wyatt Earp is constantly treated as the protagonist. It is Earp who is given the motivation and a vendetta that drives him to arrest the Clantons, and Holliday feels like a tagalong in the climax. The final act is also a bit rushed so I didn’t get as emotionally affected when people started dying. I think, perhaps, my opinion of My Darling Clementine was damaged slightly simply because I couldn’t stop thinking of other movies (about the same story) that I liked better. This one is still a well-made movie that I enjoyed, but I’ll probably choose to watch the more modern takes in the future.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against The Final Girls
Loses to Pillow Talk
Wins against Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Loses to The King of Comedy
Loses to The Orphanage
Loses to Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Loses to Zero Dark Thirty
Wins against Equilibrium
Loses to Life of the Party
Wins against The Fall
Loses to Life of the Party

My Darling Clementine ranked 874 out of 2377 or 63%
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11. Board Game: Rambo: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked]
Board Game: Rambo: The Board Game
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Son of Rambow
(2007) =

Son of Rambow is the story of a pair of young boys who see First Blood and are so inspired that they decide to make their own sequel to the film. The entire concept is hilarious, and watching these kids trying to create a good film is adorable. The funniest part of the entire movie is a montage where they show one boy putting his body on the line for the stunts. I also appreciated that they used whatever props they could find in order to make their vision become a reality, like you’d expect from kids their age. It was cool to see these very distinct characters forming a friendship. They both have completely different home lives, and come from wildly different backgrounds, but they find a way to bond despite all of that. There were even some powerful emotional moments in the movie that worked well for me, and had me close to tears. The ending, when we finally get to see the movie that they were able to cobble together with the footage they filmed, was extremely charming.

I think where Son of Rambow fell a bit short for me, is that it introduces too many points of conflict. Let’s see, we have...Will’s religious beliefs, Lee’s family issues, the trouble with teachers in the school, the divide over the fact that more kids were enlisted to help, and other minor issues. It simply feels unfocused, and I felt like they didn’t have time to address it all. In fact, at the end there didn’t seem to be proper resolution on at least 2 or 3 of these issues, and I wanted to know more about what happened next. That doesn’t take away from how enjoyable the film is to watch, though. The child actors they hired were extremely good, which is such a challenge to find. Finally, I liked that this was a film set in the 1980s, but it never looked too much like the exaggerated “movie” version of the 80s. There is one character who dresses in cliched clothes of that era, but that’s part of the joke. Son of Rambow is an enjoyable film that I’d watch again any time. I only wish it had a bit more focus in the plot, because then it might be truly great.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against The Final Girls
Wins against Pillow Talk
Loses to Misery
Loses to Swing Time
Loses to Duck Soup
Wins against Our Idiot Brother
Wins against Twister
Loses to Black Dynamite
Wins against Mindhunters
Wins against In the Heart of the Sea
Wins against Advise and Consent

Son of Rambow ranked 528 out of 2378 or 78%
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12. Board Game: Locke & Key: Shadow of Doubt [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Locke & Key: Shadow of Doubt
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Shadow of a Doubt
(1943) =

Hitchcock has a style that he uses in his thrillers that always manages to captivate me. Shadow of a Doubt was no exception as it instantly had me intrigued and anxious to see why Uncle Charlie was hiding. It keeps you on tenterhooks for the entire film, first wondering what is going on, and then wondering if our heroine will be safe. I love this kind of mystery, and how it fills me with excitement because I don’t know what will happen next. Teresa Wright is a brilliant actress, and runs the gamut of emotions throughout the film. It’s easy to empathize with her as she transitions from joy to fear. Joseph Cotten is also excellent in Shadow of a Doubt. He plays the enigmatic uncle with precision so that we could see him as both benevolent or dangerous depending on the situation.

But I think where Hitchcock or the writers may have stumbled slightly with Shadow of a Doubt was revealing the truth about Uncle Charlie too early. To be clear, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be clued in on what he is running from, because that helps escalate the tension. However, I wish they played it a bit more coy with the truth of why he’s running. I don’t know, perhaps that wouldn’t work because he keeps acting guilty of something, but I still would be fascinated if there was that extra level of intrigue added, where we don’t know if young Charlie should be scared at all. This is a minor tweak I’d make to the script, but certainly not a massive flaw in the story. I still appreciate that they maintained a level of taut thrills throughout, and had a surprising conclusion to the film. This definitely goes on my list of favorite Hitchcock movies, just not quite at the top.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against Becoming Bond
Wins against Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Loses to Misery
Wins against Swing Time
Wins against Diamonds Are Forever
Loses to Serendipity
Wins against Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Loses to The Garden of Words
Wins against Out of Sight
Loses to The Stranger
Wins against Pete’s Dragon

Shadow of a Doubt ranked 345 out of 2379 or 85%
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13. Board Game: Joyland [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Joyland
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Joyful Noise
(2012) =

I wouldn’t call Joyful Noise obnoxious or annoying, it’s not coherent enough to earn one of those adjectives. This film is more baffling than anything else. The plot is an absolute mess of nonsense, and it feels like an insane person had a hand in writing it. There are so many moments in this movie where it takes a left turn and starts another subplot out of nowhere, as if Todd Graff (the writer/director) was just sitting there saying “I’ve seen something like this before in a movie, let’s do that.” This movie is so overrun with B-plots, that it feels like they forgot to even have an A-plot. Then there are moments of conflict that come out of nowhere and are resolved by the next scene. Perhaps the most blatant example of the failings of this odd script is the scene where Keke Palmer’s character confronts her mother (played by Queen Latifah) and suggests that her mom is jealous of her because she is beautiful. The rant that Latifah spouts is one of the most hilariously off-the-wall things I’ve ever heard. I was crying because I laughed so hard at that nonsense, and one scene later the two reconcile as if none of that ever happened. (I recommend everyone scout out a youtube video of that speech for just a taste of the nuttiness Joyful Noise delivers.)

I’d like to say the music saves this movie, because I am a sucker for a good song even in a wretched film. I will say that the quality of the singing in Joyful Noise is superb, but I was surprised to find the songs themselves so uninspiring. Even the big number at the end is a lackluster medley of songs that didn’t exactly gel into something remarkable. The best songs are actually in the smaller moments when people don’t even have a great reason to be singing. There’s a strange enjoyment I got out of Joyful Noise that is the closest I’ll probably ever come to liking a “so-bad-it’s-good” movie. I could literally write for hours on all the little things going on in this movie and discuss how it handles none of them well. I don’t think someone could construct a movie this bad on purpose, it feels like something that has to start from a sincere desire to make something good, and then you stumble all the way through. I want to be offended as a Christian because Joyful Noise is yet another Christian movie that caters to the lowest-common-denominator and makes believers look bad in the process, but I’m not even sure this was intended to be a Christian film at all. Every message or lesson it may be teaching is incomprehensible, but in a strange way that made it funny.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Loses to Becoming Bond
Loses to Norma Rae
Loses to An American Tail
Wins against Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Wins against Where the Wild Things Are
Loses to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Wins against Once Upon a Time in the West
Loses to The Hangover Part II
Loses to Persona
Loses to The BFG
Wins against Häxan

Joyful Noise ranked 2126 out of 2380 or 10%
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14. Board Game: Snake Clash [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
From gallery of BoardGameGeek
Black Snake Moan

Liked this. I do feel it's underrated.

Fresh concept for me as well.

Everyone's messed up in some shape or way, but there are reasons for it!

ADDITION: There's some semblance of bondage (just look at the movie poster/box cover), and racism (
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Samuel Jackson's character would've called the police, but he wasn't feeling particularly safe about being a black man in the south, saying he "wandered upon a white girl", or that she's chained to his house
), but those are hardly the main themes. Dare I say, there's heart and soul to this
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15. Board Game: Comanchería: The Rise and Fall of the Comanche Empire [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:1837]
Board Game: Comanchería: The Rise and Fall of the Comanche Empire
David H
United Kingdom
West London
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Comanche Moon (2008) (Mini Series) Steve Zahn, Val Kilmer, Karl Urban - Watched on DVD

This is no 'Lonesome Dove' but then again very few Westerns are. Detailing the early days of when Gus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call were Texas Rangers out in the plains of Texas. I thought Steve Zahn absolutely nailed the affectations and mannerisms of Robert Duvall as Gus McCrae. I think it's far better than just imitation and I actually felt like it was the younger character. The rest of the cast are fine and do a good enough job but Val Kilmer plays it a little bit too much on the absurd side. I haven't read Comanche Moon so can't say how far it deviates from the book but it didn't really show any epic exploits and both of them spend most of the time riding around doing very little whilst serious events happen when they aren't there.

6/10

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood (2019) Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie - Watched on DVD

I'm not a big fan of Tarantino, my two favourite films of his are two he didn't direct, 'True Romance' and 'Natural Born Killers'. So after the opening few minutes I was a bit worried this would be too much like his recent films. Thankfully it settles down and takes its time to create a real sense of time and place. I can feel the affection he has for this particular era, it's intoxicating and I could have easily watched another few hours of it. Although I feel the ending lets it down a bit, I can understand why he went with it but I think it would have been a better film without it. For me it's his best film since Jackie Brown.

8/10

Talk Radio (1988) Eric Bogosian, John C. McGinley, Alec Baldwin - Watched on DVD

Back when Oliver Stone still had fire in his belly. Set over one night, albeit with a weak flashback segment ruining the flow in the centre of the film, about an abrasive late night radio talk show host highlighting the anger in the underbelly of America. This is a one man show and Eric Bogosian mostly holds it together, although it indulges him a bit too much at times, especially during the final monologue that falls a bit flat with Bogosian wild eyed and unconvincing. It's interesting but not one of Oliver Stone's best, still a lot better than his recent output though.

7/10

Bloodshot (2020) Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Sam Heughan - Watched on DVD

This is probably the worst film I've seen this year, it's lazy, badly written, badly acted nonsense with meaningless lightweight action sequences that have no real consequence. This is Vin Diesel at his worst, he's still trying the same act after all this time. The story, or what there is of it, is about some regenerated soldier created to do the bidding of Guy Pearce's (phoning it in) tech boss as they wipe his memory after each job. The lightweight floaty fight sequence on the elevators brings to mind the weightless and unbelievable battle at the end of Black Panther. It's so lazy they even set part of it in London whilst filming in a location that looked more like somewhere in South America, just awful in ever single way. Avoid.

2/10

Thelma and Louise (1991) Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel - Watched on DVD

I had never seen this all the way through before and for all its supposed message about female empowerment I found it too superfical and slick to convey any real convincing message. This is probably the one film where you can see Ridley Scott's background in commercials as it visually resembles a cigarette and car advert throughout. It's an entertaining ride though as they run out of road as the police catch up with them and has some good performances.

7/10
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16. Board Game: Toy Story 3 Alien Claw Rescue [Average Rating:3.40 Unranked]
Board Game: Toy Story 3 Alien Claw Rescue
Jesse Hickle
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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TOY STORY 3 - 2010
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After the release of Cars, Pixar and Disney's distribution agreement was up. Pixar had three movies in production (Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up), and Disney was demanding a Toy Story 3. Had Pixar struck out on their own, Disney would have made TS3 on their own. They had even started working on it. But Pixar did agree to Disney's terms, and I truly believe they did it just to have a say in how this movie was made. And I'm so glad.

I hadn't seen this since I saw it in the theater back in 2010, and I watched it today because I'm working my way chronologically through the Pixar canon with my five-year-old. Being a father now, which I wasn't back then, there are a number of things that hit me harder now than they did a decade ago, especially Andy's mom's reaction when she walked into his now empty room right before he leaves for college. But I do remember some of the others, especially Andy giving up Woody, and the toys as they face the incinerator (which I would put up there with one of the best scenes Pixar has ever put together).

I have not seen Toy Story 4 yet. Part of my hesitation is that Toy Story 3 was such a perfect ending to the series, I haven't wanted to. It's coming way down the line, but I have to get through some other sequels first. Like the next one in line, Cars 2. I am NOT looking forward to that.
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17. Board Game: Atoms [Average Rating:5.17 Unranked]
Board Game: Atoms
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN

This was a 1955 noirish SF flick. First, a quibble with the title. I mean, I have atoms in my brain and I'm a creature. Also, "atomic" would be the correct form, not "atom". And finally, there was more than one creature. C- grammar in the title, sorry.

Anyway, the premise is some mobster called Buchanan got deported (not an American citizen apparently) and with his riches hired some German scientist who had a way to animate dead people with radioactive stuff which makes them incredibly strong to boot. Buchanan, a man of little ambition, uses these reanimated goons to kill people who had pissed him off (like another mobster, the district attorney, and the like).

The cops get the army and air force to help and in the end there is an unintentionally hilarious fight scene of radioactive zombies fighting (with arms out like Boris Karloff or something) the cops and soldiers.

Forgettable.
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18. Board Game: Secret Hitler [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:178]
Board Game: Secret Hitler
J.L. Robert
United States
Sherman Oaks
California
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Jojo Rabbit (2019)


I liked the premise much more than the actual film. By trying to make light comedy and keeping reverence to the surrounding history, the movie fails to do an adequate job of either. The acting was fine, but ultimately, I simply didn't care enough about any of the characters, which is vital if I'm going to like a film.
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19. Board Game: Huddle [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Huddle
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Hud
(1963) =

Hud is the type of movie that I would typically dislike, because the titular character is a jerk who seems to thrive on making the lives of others miserable. There’s an unrepentant quality to Hud that I would have struggled with if it weren’t for the fact that he is surrounded by people who serve as a stark contrast to his laissez-faire attitude. I was enthralled by the growing conflict between father and son, and always wanted more information. I think what was most fascinating about their relationship was that I sensed some underlying respect and affection that neither one could admit. In the hands of a lesser actor, I’m sure Hud’s animosity for his father would be unpleasant and 100% contentious, but Paul Newman is able to add subtext that makes you wonder if they could reconcile. The entire cast is superb in Hud. Melvyn Douglas has just as much nuance in his portrayal of Homer, so you also see more from him than just a self-righteous frustration with his son. Patricia Neal was a delight, as well, playing the tough-as-nails housekeeper.

However, Brandon De Wilde played the most fascinating character in Hud, young Lonnie. We go on this exploratory journey with him to discover who is in the right between his uncle and grandfather, and who he will grow up to emulate. You can see his respect and a close bond with both, and we are left to wonder which way his future will lead him. The ending of that story was powerful, even if I felt like we were still left hanging on the fate of Hud. I did struggle a little with some of the things depicted in Hud, because the main character is so unpleasant, and his actions get quite detestable. It also didn’t offer the kind of resolution to the drama that I would have liked. However, despite the little things that bothered me, I was completely drawn into Hud in a way that only the best Westerns have achieved. The visuals captivated me to the point where I was actually looking for symbolism and metaphor in the staging and shot selection, and I’m normally oblivious to those details. That tells me there is something special going on in Hud.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against Becoming Bond
Wins against Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Loses to Misery
Loses to The Terminator
Loses to Live Free or Die Hard
Loses to The Straight Story
Loses to Jean de Florette
Wins against Godzilla
Wins against Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Loses to The Big Combo
Wins against Joyeux Noël

Hud ranked 576 out of 2381 or 76%
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20. Board Game: Invasion of the Body Snatchers [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Invasion of the Body Snatchers
(1978) =

I don’t feel I need to talk about Invasion of the Body Snatchers all that much because I covered my thoughts on this story in my review of the 1956 version of the film. The two movies are extremely similar, and I was a bit surprised how much of the same ground they cover. This version was just as effective at creating that tone of fear and paranoia, and by the end, a sense of utter desperation and hopelessness. I think the cast does a good job of reacting to all the horror, and also showing the difference between ordinary people and the emotionless pod people. My big issue with this movie is that I felt like I had seen it all before. The original covered all the same ground and managed it in a much more efficient 80 minutes. The only thing this movie added to the conversation was gross-out effects, which I certainly didn’t need. I was also a bit annoyed with the clueless behavior of Donald Sutherland as he is constantly trusting Leonard Nimoy for no good reason, and ignoring the fact that he acts totally suspect the entire time. I can certainly see how some people might prefer this version of the story, but the ‘56 version was more my style of sci-fi horror, and even that one wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Loses to Hocus Pocus
Loses to Kings Row
Wins against An American Tail
Wins against Pather Panchali
Wins against The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
WIns against Empire of the Sun
Wins against The Third Man
Loses to 16 Blocks
Wins against Gone with the WInd
WIns against The Asphalt Jungle
Loses to The 400 Blows

Invasion of the Body Snatchers ranked 1790 out of 2382 or 25%
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21. Board Game: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest [Average Rating:5.93 Unranked]
Board Game: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Ben Lott
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Mason
Michigan
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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
(2006) =

Dead Man’s Chest is on the list of least-necessary sequels I’ve ever seen. There was not a good reason story-wise to continue the adventures of the Pirates of the Caribbean, but when a studio makes that kind of money it’s hard to resist. This film tries to further the adventures of Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swan even though they had all reached a lovely conclusion when The Curse of the Black Pearl ended. Now they are thrown into excitement again because everybody wants MacGuffin #1, otherwise known as Jack’s magic compass. Surprisingly, everyone wants this little treasure, not for its own inherent value, but in order to find their way to MacGuffin #2, which is a chest containing the heart of Davy Jones. I guess everyone thinks this is vital so that they can bargain with Jones to get something from him (Although, I’m not entirely clear on what everyone thinks they will acquire with this ace-in-the-hole.) Of course, a locked chest is no good without MacGuffin #3, the key. This entire movie is a rambling nonsensical journey for these things with no clear idea of what they do, or why anyone needs them. I’m all for a good plot about a MacGuffin chase, but when they overload the story with too many people seeking too many things it becomes mind-numbing.

Then they add in all the frustrating interactions between the characters. We have all 3 of our lead actors back, loving one another but also bickering with one another. We have the return of the irritating Norrington who is trying to seek what will win him back a job, after he was humiliated in the last film. We have a new stuffy British guy who is basically Norrington version 2.0, and I kept getting the two of them confused. Davy Jones is introduced as a nasty guy who somehow manages to enslave people, because he’s got a goofy tentacle face and a boat that can work like a submarine. And let’s not forget, a voodoo witch woman who has so much power that apparently death isn’t even a problem for her. I was so disinterested in all of these people and their interactions because they never seemed to be motivated by anything. It was like every character had become Jack Sparrow at this point and they all have plans that they half thought through, and don’t bother explaining to the audience. So we’re just supposed to enjoy the ride and the constant string of double and triple crosses. I couldn’t even bring myself to care about the newly introduced father-son relationship, because it was drowning in a sea of subplots. Like a Star Wars prequel, this movie was in desperate need of an editor who could tell the director “No!”

That leads to one of the biggest problems with Dead Man’s Chest, it is far too long. This entire story could have been chopped down to a 30-minute short considering how little is going on, but it is stretched out to an ungodly 150 minutes. In order to pad out that runtime the film is loaded with action sequences which are intended to create all the excitement people enjoyed from the first film. However, instead of having a plot reason for these ridiculous scenes, they are shoved in as pointless filler. So, Will can’t just find Jack in a city somewhere, he has to find Jack and the crew of the Black Pearl on an island loaded with indigenous cannibals. Won’t it be hilarious as they all try to flee from the racism!? And we can’t have everybody work together to get the heart and negotiate with Davy Jones, instead everyone must fight for sole possession of this artifact in a wacky race through the jungle on a runaway wheel. The last time I was this bored when so much loud fast-paced action was racing across my screen was in some Zack Snyder DC movie. Dead Man’s Chest is so poorly executed that it made me afraid to revisit The Curse of the Black Pearl because I’m worried I’ll find that film is just as clumsy as this one. Pirates of the Caribbean would have been better if it remained a one-and-done franchise, in a wonderful world where Dead Man’s Chest was never made.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Loses to Hocus Pocus
Loses to Kings Row
Loses to An American Tail
Loses to Love & Distrust
Wins against The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Loses to Rush
Loses to All About Nina
Wins against Evil Dead II
Loses to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Wins against The Double Life of Veronique
Loses to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ranked 2285 out of 2383 or 4%
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22. Board Game: Master Fox [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:6123]
Board Game: Master Fox
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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After the Fox
(1966) =

You can definitely feel the writing hand of Neil Simon in After the Fox. It has his brand of witty comedy and also a bit of silly slapstick for added laughs. While the comedy wasn’t always effective in this film, when it worked I was laughing a lot. Peter Sellers is a big reason why the comedy was clicking, because he has a ton of talent and can make even boring scenes funny with the right look or some inflection in his line-reading. In many ways this reminded me of a Blake Edwards film because of the style of jokes and probably because Sellers was delivering them. Unfortunately, I think the movie would have been better served with a director more adept at comedy like Edwards. It’s not that Vittorio De Sica is completely inexperienced with the genre, or that he filmed any of this movie poorly, but there was something that felt missing in the way the film was presented. It seemed the script called for things to get pushed to an even wackier and outlandish place, but it never went there, and they played certain scenes straight that needed a madcap feeling.

That being said, I still found many of the elements in After the Fox to be delightful. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a movie where the plot revolves around a fake movie being made in order to cover for something else that is going on, but I liked the way that plot was presented this time. The kind of rambling and nonsensical scenes that we see the protagonist invent on the spot feel like things I’ve seen in real movies. I laughed out loud more than once thinking of real-life directors that I imagine work with this exact kind of insane format that lacks any structure or logic. (Some of them are definitely Italian, too, so that made the setting of this film a bit more humorous.) One of the elements I didn’t love in After the Fox was the family relationship stuff. It felt like a shoddy attempt to create motivation for our main character, and didn’t amount to much in the storyline. There were certainly some jokes that sprung out of the family drama, but it never struck me as vital to the plot. There are no other specifics that I can point to as flaws in After the Fox, but I still felt it was not quite as good as it could have been. I’m certainly thinking about watching it again, and I hope it will click more next time, but for now I’d only call it good and not great.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against The Jungle Book
Loses to The World’s End
Wins against Clear and Present Danger
Loses to The Hustler
Wins against The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Wins against Rashômon
Wins against Requiem for a Dream
Wins against Million Dollar Baby
Wins against Time Bandits
Wins against The Fighter
Loses to The Hustler

After the Fox ranked 743 out of 2384 or 69%
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23. Board Game: Break Down [Average Rating:10.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Break Down
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Breakdown
(1997) =

I’ve always been a sucker for action-thrillers in the vein of Die Hard. There’s something magical about those stories of one noble man against many foes, as he uses subterfuge and sabotage to destroy their plans. Breakdown perfectly taps into that type of plotline in a wonderful way. I love the logical progression of this film, as we see our hero getting sucked down the rabbit hole in a journey to find his wife. It was perfectly constructed to take me as a viewer along with him, slowly transitioning from worry, to fear, to confusion, and finally to anger. I suppose I should be annoyed to some degree because they never explain why this everyday guy is so resourceful and good at all these things, but I think the motivation that is driving him allows me to forgive a lot, because he will stop at nothing to find his wife. Plus, this is one of the rare films in this genre where we don’t see the hero hatching any elaborate plans to defeat his foes. All he’s using is some common sense and a little quick-wittedness. He just happens to be a bit smarter than his enemies most of the time.

I’m not sure if my adoration for Breakdown would be quite as much if it weren’t for the fact that Kurt Russell stars in the movie. He is one of my all-time favorite action movie stars, and I love the fact that he can play so many character types. The ordinary guy he plays here is nothing like a Snake Plissken or Jack Burton, but he still sells it and delivers a relatable performance. I also like the rest of the cast of the film, particularly the brilliant stuff we get from J.T. Walsh. If I were to try and muster up any complaint about Breakdown, it would just be a general criticism of this genre as a whole. Almost all of these one-vs-many movies are 100% testosterone-fueled. It would be nice if Kathleen Quinlan were given more to do than just be a damsel in distress. I will commend the filmmakers for giving her the final move against the bad guys, but prior to that there were times when she could have taken a gun or taken the wheel and done more than scream in terror. As I said, it’s not a huge demerit for Breakdown, but more a general genre complaint. Otherwise, this movie was a total adrenaline rush of fun, and one that will definitely be added to my collection soon.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against Limitless
Wins against The World’s End
Wins against Misery
Loses to Gravity
Wins against A Man for All Seasons
Wins against In Bruges
Wins against The Little Mermaid
Wins against Cool Runnings
Wins against Executive Decision
Wins against The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Loses to The Beauty Inside

Breakdown ranked 150 out of 2385 or 94%
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24. Board Game: Smithsonian Artifact or Fiction [Average Rating:5.28 Unranked]
Board Game: Smithsonian Artifact or Fiction
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Long Time No See

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Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
(2009) =

I was always a fan of the first Night at the Museum movie because it has a fun premise and mixes enough excitement and comedy for adults with all the more playful stuff for the kids. Battle of Smithsonian couldn’t feel less necessary, though. For starters, it does one of those things that has always irritated me with sequels, it backtracks on the character development from the original film. In this case, the first film shows us Larry growing and learning that the place he belongs is in this museum, and he can revitalize the community interest in the museum by convincing the public this is where history comes alive. However, at the start of this film, we find that Larry moved on from his work at the museum, loses interest in his “friends” who live there, and the museum itself has felt it necessary to upgrade with modern technology that makes the old exhibits obsolete.

Then, after half of them get shipped to the Smithsonian we find this much bigger museum has come to life and is being controlled by an evil Egyptian Pharaoh. There’s so many things wrong with this whole storyline. For starters, there’s the harsh reality that all of the chaos that goes on in this movie would be unexplainable to those who work at the museum. How do they figure out why every exhibit is of place in the morning, and things are broken, and so much more insanity has happened? This was a key plot point in the first film that almost got our hero fired, and it took him days to figure out how to get things back in order by the morning. This is a much larger museum that is all coming to life for the first time, and none of them know they need to be back to a particular place at a particular time. It’s almost like they just abandoned the idea of it being a real museum and just had the events of the film take place in some kind of fantasy land where they aren’t changing the real world.

Then there’s the fact that the original museum had a night guard, but apparently the largest and most elaborate museum in the country doesn’t have anyone around during the night. It’s these kind of baseline obvious questions that break all logic that this franchise had set up and frustrate me because it appears the writers decided to throw out the rulebook and act as though nothing matters anymore. And that’s not all! The next thing that bothered me about Battle of the Smithsonian is that they barely include any of the loveable characters from the first film. Aside from WAY too much Owen Wilson, most of the favorites from Night at the Museum have little to do here. Instead we get screwball performances from Amy Adams and Hank Azaria with horrendous accents (along with a cavalcade of other moronic characters.)

There’s simply no heart to this film, and it requires the protagonist to learn the same lessons all over again. I was struggling to care in this movie, and the writers and director didn’t care either. The stakes never seemed all that dire, but part of that is because you can’t take Hank Azaria’s character seriously. He is so goofy, and non-threatening, it's hard to care. I won’t even go into how stupid the “mystery” is that Larry has to solve for the villain. However, despite all the terrible flaws, there were a few comedic moments that worked for me in Battle of the Smithsonian. When they actually took some time and wrote a joke, they found a way to make me laugh. There were plenty of improv moments that fell flat, and I couldn’t stand watching them trying to make the audience laugh (like the awkward exchange with Jonah Hill.) But a few chuckles saved Battle of the Smithsonian from being a total disaster, but it remains the worst film of the Night at the Museum franchise by a long shot.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against Limitless
Wins against The World’s End
Wins against Misery
Loses to Gravity
Wins against A Man for All Seasons
Wins against In Bruges
Wins against The Little Mermaid
Wins against Cool Runnings
Wins against Executive Decision
Wins against The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Loses to The Beauty Inside

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian ranked 1632 out of 2386 or 31%
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25. Video Game: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
From gallery of BoardGameGeek
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2
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The kid in me enjoyed this movie. Still painful for the protagonist to have to figure things out the hard way, but no harm nor foul in a children's movie. But the whole gang was there, so that was delightful.

The adult in me is a bit perturbed there's an island full of sentient food. The food puns and play on words were lovely though (e.g. Shrimpanzees, hip-potato-patanus).


EDIT: typo
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