COVID-19: A Movie Journal

Not BAMF 2

Look.

By no means am I about to say COVID-19 has been a good thing.

(Shit, I’m already off to a bad start here; gotta right the course)

COVID-19 is unquestionably a global pandemic that has killed an extraordinary amount of people in an incredibly short amount of time. No matter what you think about quarantines or stay-at-home orders or businesses shutting down, this epidemic is no less than a tragedy all around. And I’m sure we would all give just about anything for it never to have happened or for life to get back to normal with everyone safe and sound.

It’s awful, and its effects are long-reaching and all negative. It’s wildly unbelievable to me that this is happening in the world, and I have sympathy for everyone directly affected by this disease.

THAT SAID

Man, I have gotten to watch a LOT of movies lately.

I mentioned at the turn of the decade that there were a lot of flicks from the 2010’s–to say nothing of other decades in filmmaking–on which I missed out and wanted to catch up. I have taken the time to get through a lot of those… and more. It’s not a good thing! It’s not! I’d rather everyone was healthy! But I’m trying to make my own positives from a terrible situation.

According to my Letterboxd account, I have seen 19 movies since the first weekend wherein my state decided to tell us not to go out any more than absolutely necessary. Some of those were rewatches of flicks I haven’t seen in years; others were films I was getting around to for the very first time. Combined, nineteen movies in a month is a pretty good pace, especially since I moved during that stretch and went almost an entire week (nothing logged between 4/9 and 4/16) without watching one.

So I’m going to share with you how I have been making the most of my extended time at home (even as, as I said, that home itself has changed). When we get through this, I want you to share your experience with me. This isn’t about me; it’s about ALL OF US. What have you been doing to get through these days? What have you read or played or watched? What’s been the best and worst of them?

As for me, I’ll start off with…


THE REWATCHES

It's not unusual: We're screening 'Mars Attacks!' at the Avalon on ...

Because you can’t ALWAYS just watch new things! Whether it’s an old favorite or something that you haven’t seen in ages, sometimes you have to go backwards a bit to go forward. And out of my nineteen CoronaMovies, I had a small handful of trips down Memory Lane.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER – March 15th – 1.5 stars – This was the first movie I watched when all this started because my wife and I were supposed to go visit our pregnant friends but had to cancel. So, instead, we watched a Jason. In addition to being the first movie chronologically on this list, it’s also the lowest rated. I love me some Jason. Seriously. But this one isn’t very good. It’s more of a collection of scenes that feel like peak level Jason stereotypes. It never gets to be so cheesy that it’s fun; everything just sort of… is.

STREET FIGHTER – March 26th – 2.5 stars – I had not seen Street Fighter since it first came out on VHS back in the 1990’s when I was a kid staying with my dad on weekends and watching every action movie and old wrestling show under the sun. This movie has obviously taken on cult status, so I felt the need to revisit it, and you know what… it’s fine. It’s actually NOT as much fun as I thought it would be. Maybe the hype machine from the past twenty years went too hard, but I thought this could have been cheesier. It was still fun, though. Raul Julia, man.

JOHN WICK – March 31st – 4.5 stars – I rewatched this as an appetizer to finally get around to watching parts 2 and 3 of the Wick series. It is superb. So stylized and brutal and wonderfully shot. For my money, it’s clearly one of the top 3 action movies of all time, next to Terminator 2 and The Matrix. This is so close to a 5-star flick.

MARS ATTACKS – April 17th – 3 stars – To this point in my journey, my first movie was a rewatch and my latest movie was a rewatch, as I went back to Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks for the first time in decades. It is quite fun, even if there is only one or two genuine Laugh Out Loud moments (“Don’t run, we are your friends”). At just shy of two hours, it is about twenty minutes too long (shave the beginning down, man; we don’t need to have all the stars pushed at us. Michael J Fox is great, but his character is irrelevant), but this was Burton back when he was still fresh and quirky and not a parody of himself.


THE NEW EXPERIENCES

Onward' wins the weekend for Disney with sluggish $40 million ...

So four out of nineteen were trips back to yesteryear to see how older films held up or to just enjoy some comfort food. But one mustn’t live in the past! There are new movies coming out EVERY DAY (well… less so now…), and they also need some love.

BOOKSMART – March 16th – 3 stars – This was a fun movie with some good sentiment and fantastic acting that occasionally just ground to a halt (the hallucination sequence) or fell into conflict tropes. It was solid and far better than the comparable Superbad (to be fair, I kind of hated Superbad), but it just didn’t feel as clever as I had hoped it would be.

GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS – March 19th – 2.5 stars – Sometimes you need a movie that you can turn on and watch at, like, 40% effort while fooling around on cell phone games. Enter: Godzilla. This was exactly as you’d expect: the visual effects and the monsters were great; the “plot” of Friday Night Lights Guy trying to rescue Stranger Things girl from the villain from The Last Action Hero is, at best, a nuisance that interrupts the big monsters running at each other. If I had to sit in a theater and absorb the whole movie, it would stink. But as something to look at between Clash Royale battles? Fine.

THE MIDNIGHT MAN – March 21st – 2 stars – Wow, was this a two star movie? I barely remember it. It was a pretty basic horror movie–dumb teenagers play a game in which there is no prize for winning and the promise of death for losing. A malevolent spirit hunts them. Lin Shaye was her normal wonderful self, at least.

THE BELKO EXPERIMENT – March 22nd – 4 stars – This movie was appropriately INTENSE, and I was in that “lean forward” position you get in when a movie is so powerful it’s almost absorbing you into the screen. I thought the ending was “meh”, but everything leading up to it is white-knucklin’.

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING – March 28th – 3 stars – Ah, The Lonely Island: The Movie. This has a weak second act to bridge a fun opening and an enjoyable finishing scene at the Poppies. That said, at 86 minutes, it was exactly as long as it needed to be and never overstayed its welcome.

THE DISASTER ARTIST – March 31st – 4 stars –  This had been on the back burner of movies I really wanted to see for so long, I was worried I would never get around to it. Luckily, I did. James Franco’s only-slightly-turned-up performance of Tommy Wiseau as he created The Room with his best friend is absolutely engrossing. I have no idea how true it is (it’s based on a book that is based on the experience, so there’s already a hint of The Telephone Game at play), but I hope and pray it is 100%. Besides the zaniness of it all, this is a love letter to anyone with a dream and a desire to live it.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 – April 1st – 3.5 stars – I had heard that the Wick sequels were at least as good as the original, and that as a franchise it wasn’t just cashing in on a property while the ATM was hot. So I was a little disappointed that I thought the second movie was a full star lower than the first. This one, to me, felt more like the creative team didn’t have another story, but they DID have a collection of scenes they had thought of and wanted to shoot. It still looks good, and Keanu is still commanding, but it didn’t have the heart of its predecessor.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM – April 2nd – 4 stars – Fortunately, the third movie in the franchise was a pick up (and I sound like I’m trashing a 3.5 star movie, I know), and a lot more memorable. The action sets in this one are absolutely tremendous, with dogs biting everyone’s dicks and Mark Dacascos playing the most fun and engaging villain in the series yet. I’m all in for part four now that I’m caught up.

ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE – April 2nd – 2.5 stars – Glee meets Shaun of the Dead. At no point moreso than when the titular Anna and her love interest are separately and obliviously singing along to their headphones en route to meet each other, and the world is descending into chaos around them. If the movie was more of that scene, I’d score it higher, but the rest is just “all right”, and this was another Godzilla flick where I mostly played on my phone. Nothing egregious, but not much to crow over, either.

THE ROOM – April 3rd – 2 stars – Rating The Room anything isn’t quite fair because A) it’s more an experience than a movie, and B) we didn’t even finish it. It reminds me of a gem I found around 2005 called Vampires Vs Zombies, but that one gets a lot less press. It’s another stunningly bad but ludicrously fun flick that seems inconceivable that it was ever made. But sure, 2 stars. Why not? The Room.

ONWARD – April 4th – 4 stars – Like… this should be higher than 4 stars, right? This was enchanting and funny and heartfelt and emotional. But… so are almost ALL Pixar films! So this movie is graded on a steep curve against its immediate peers. It holds up to them, it really, really does, but it also feels like “Oh, another great Pixar movie, ho-hum”. It’s not fair, but what can be done?

CREED – April 8th – 4 stars – This was better than I thought it was going to be, even when I had been wanting to watch it for quite some time. Michael B Jordan is still somehow an underrated treasure. Let this man play everything. Superman. James Bond. Harry Potter. Susan B Anthony. Give him ALL the roles. Tessa Thompson and Sylvester Stallone are equally amazing here, especially Stallone for his constantly-evolving body language throughout.

CREED 2 – April 8th – 4 stars – I was amazed at the almost NO drop-off in quality in Creed’s sequel, which lets Jordan play up different aspect of his character as he is defeated and scared. I was just as pulled into this movie as I was its forefather. You know what’s odd? In BOTH Creeds, my least favorite part was the climactic boxing match. I think the actual Rocky movies did those better, and these feel like warm leftovers. But the story and the acting… wow.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION – April 9th – 3 stars – Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but I really thought this movie was going to be better. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just that as a movie entirely set around its action set pieces, it almost entirely foregoes having a story or even much sensibility. And the action sequences were just… good. Some were better than others, but I guess I just left this thinking it was fine, but a bit overhyped.

ACE ATTORNEY – April 16th – 3 stars – HA! This was… what it was. A movie that stuck stubbornly close to the very first Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game in some aspects, but also trimmed a lot of details for the sake of time. For transparency’s sake, I love those games. After Pokemon, it’s my second favorite game franchise ever. And there were parts of this that felt like a warm cookie a gentle hug. The mood is ALL OVER THE PLACE, though. It’s campy as hell to start, but then gets really serious. It should have decided on one mood and followed that. Very few others will appreciate this, but I dug it.


WHAT’S NEXT

Mission: Impossible - Fallout' is a testament to Tom Cruise's ...

I don’t know! As I go through my list of movies I needed to catch up on that I linked earlier, I am down to only needing to see Dragon Ball Super: Broly and, I guess, the Mission Impossibles. I don’t have immediate access to Broly, and the M:I movies feel a bit like homework. I could get into them, though. That will add quite a few to the ol’ Letterboxd account.

But that’s just my work from the past month. As always, I am merely your humble servant to get a conversation started. How as your past month been? Have you been able to find any pockets of enjoyment in these strange times in which we live? What have you been watching? Or reading? Or playing?

Let us know in the comments!

Until next time… and I always finish with this, but I mean it more than ever now… take care!

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