What I Watched In… July 2017
In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!
July’s favorite of the month is a rare tie. Dunkirk was an excellent war movie. The Big Sick was a romantic comedy that struck me on a remarkably personal level. The two films are so different from one another that I simply couldn’t rank one above the other.
- Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), C
- Invasion of Astro-Monster aka Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero (1965), B+
- Mothra Vs. Godzilla aka Godzilla Vs. the Thing (1964), B+
- Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), B-
- Godzilla’s Revenge aka All Monsters Attack (1969), F
- Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah (1995), B-
- Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003), B
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), B+
- Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), B+
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), B
- Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth aka Godzilla Vs. Mothra (1992), B+
- Despicable Me 2 (2013), B
- Minions (2015), B
- The Secret Life of Pets (2016), B+
- Rodan (1956), B+
- Airplane! (1980), A
- The Lego Batman Movie (2017), A
- Dr. No (1962), B
- Harvey (1950), B+
- From Russia With Love (1963), B
- Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s the Fantastic Four (2015), B+
- The Time of Their Lives (1946), B+
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), A-
- Goldfinger (1964), B+
- The Amazing Spider-Man (1977), C
- Sing (2016), B+
- The Car (1977), D
- Thunderball (1965), C
- Return of the Fly (1959), C
- Godzilla 2000 (1999), C
- Father of the Bride (1950), A
- Jaws (1975), A+
- Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), C-
- Bratz (2007), D
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), A-
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), A
- Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978), C-
- You Only Live Twice (1967), B
- T.J. Miller: Meticulously Ridiculous (2017), C-
- Gymkata (1985), F
- War For the Planet of the Apes (2017), B+
- The Big Sick (2017), A+
- Galaxy Quest (1999), A
- Summer Magic (1963), B+
- Spaceballs (1987), B+
- Lifeboat (1944), A-
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), A
- Kong: Skull Island (2017), B
- Dunkirk (2017), A
- Ducktales: Treasure of the Golden Suns (1987), B+
- Ducktales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990), B+
- Daffy Duck’s Movie: Fantastic Island (1983), B-
- The Man Called Flintstone (1966), B
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), B-
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), A-
Remakes, reboots, resolve
Tom Holland was great, right? We can all agree on that. He was perfect as young Peter Parker, and we can’t wait to see what else he’s going to do for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s a good thing. He is the Peter Parker for our time.
With his amazing turn in Spider-Man: Homecoming, though, have come the inevitable thinkpieces, blogs and professional sites alike trying to rank not only the different Spider-Man movies, but the different Spider-Men themselves. How does Holland stack up against Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield? If you want to get ultra-nerdy, how does he stack up against Nicholas Hammond?
And I get it. I’m a nerd too. There’s something about being a lover of movies or comics or TV that makes you want to rate and debate and rank and “prove” to everybody that your personal favorite version of something was the best, and that debate is one of the driving forces of fandom. I’ve done it myself.
I’m here to tell you today, though, friends… I don’t think it needs to be.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with my attempts to mentally reconcile the world of remakes. They’re not stopping, they’re not going anywhere, and it’s true that a lot of them suck. But it’s also true that not all of them do. The second Maltese Falcon is the one everybody remembers. Hitchcock himself remade his own The Man Who Knew Too Much into a tighter, more engaging adventure. And re”boots”? Well, that’s what gave us The Dark Knight. And the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies. And if there’s only one tentpole movie left this summer I absolutely HAVE to see, it’s War For the Planet of the Apes.
Here’s another analogy I like to use: they didn’t stop producing Hamlet after Shakespeare died, did they? And not just theatrically, but cinematically. There have been dozens — no, hundreds of films produced over the years based on his works, and a lot of them have been really good. Were it not for people reimagining older stories, we wouldn’t have Bela Lugosi as Dracula or Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster, either. And when you ask somebody who their favorite Ebenezer Scrooge is, you can quite literally spend hours debating the merits of Alastair Sim versus George C. Scott versus Michael Caine versus Patrick Stewart versus Albert Finney versus Scrooge McDuck.
I’ve started to put superhero movies in the same category as these works. The same as James Bond. The same as Doctor Who. These are stories and characters, that, every so often, will go through a facelift and become something different. And I’m okay with that. We all should be. The real question — the important question — is therefore NOT “is the new guy better than the last guy,” but rather simply, “is the new guy good?”
This isn’t to say that every character should be recast. I’ve yet to see any evidence that someone other than Robert Englund should be allowed to play Freddy Krueger, for instance. And while I’m open to having new characters join the Ghostbusters (I’m not debating the merits of the 2016 movie, I just mean in general), I don’t ever want to see somebody besides Harold Ramis play Egon Spengler.
But times change and iconic characters can and should be refreshed for new generations.
That said, this means we also have to accept the fact that someday, people other than Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr. will play Wolverine and Iron Man. I know, that’s hard to hear. But it’s true. And when it happens, just remember what I’m saying here, and try to judge the new guy for who they are rather than who they aren’t.
Looking ahead to 2017…
We’ve got 12 months of movies ahead of us. Now that we’ve looked back at 2016, let’s see what’s coming out this year that’s got me excited…
- The LEGO Batman Movie (Feb. 10). The first LEGO Movie was one of the most unexpected gems of the last few years. The trailers for this first spinoff look to be unfettered fun.
- John Wick Chapter 2 (Feb. 10). Another unexpected hit was the first John Wick movie. I can’t wait for the sequel.
- Logan (March 3). Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine looks like it’s going to be a much darker, more intense take on the character than we’ve seen before.
- Kong: Skull Island (March 10). With Legendary planning an MCU-style connection between this and their Godzilla franchise, I’m really looking forward to the new take on King Kong.
- Beauty and the Beast (March 17). Disney’s rash of live-action remakes of their classic animated films has been hit or miss for me, but Emma Watson as Belle is perfect casting. I’ve got high hopes for this one.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5). After a thrilling, joyful first film, I’m hoping director James Gunn can do the same with this one.
- Wonder Woman (June 2). It’s almost a crime that it’s taken this long for there to be a live-action Wonder Woman movie. Gal Gadot stole every scene of Batman V Superman, and I can’t wait to see this one.
- The Mummy (June 9). Universal is hoping to revive its classic monster franchise with (again) an MCU-style shared universe. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7). Marvel and Sony coming to an agreement for Spider-Man is the best thing that could have happened for the character. Tom Holland rocked in Captain America: Civil War, and I’m hoping for more of that in this film.
- War For the Planet of the Apes (July 14). The first two films in the new Apes franchise were phenomenal — deep, thoughtful films with mesmerizing performances. I feel very good about this next one.
- Dunkirk (July 21). Christopher Nolan doing a World War I epic. How can you not be excited?
- The Dark Tower (July 28). Stephen King’s self-proclaimed “Magnum Opus” is a work that has a need personal meaning for me. I want this movie to be great. The casting is spot-on, although the information that’s come out so far leaves me wondering exactly what angle they’re intending to take on the material.
- It (Sept. 8). Another Stephen King adaptation. Although not as personal to me, it’s still a great book that had an okay TV adaptation. Can any film truly capture the novel?
- Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3). Although the Thor movies gave the MCU its most charismatic villain, they aren’t quite as memorable as the rest of the franchise. This time out, having Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange along for the ride may finally give us a great Thor movie.
- Justice League (Nov. 17). I’ve been waiting for this movie since I was a kid, and the promotional materials have looked fantastic. I can’t wait.
- Star Wars Episode VIII (Dec. 15). Little independent movie. You probably haven’t heard of it.
2014: The Year in Film
It’s been quite a year. I got married. My wife and I put together a little home together. I directed one play, I’m currently in rehearsals for another. I wrote a new book that — God willing — will be available relatively early in 2015. And in the meantime, I managed to see a few movies.
Not all the movies, mind you. There are still several 2014 releases I haven’t seen yet, often because the aforementioned activities got in the way of my movie time. I still haven’t seen Boyhood, for instance, and I’m dying to. I’m delinquent in keeping up with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and despite all my efforts to the contrary, I’ve yet to get around to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
So consider this list highly incomplete. These are all the films from 2014 that I have seen, in order of my favorite to my least favorite. This includes direct-to-video and made-for-TV movies. I’ll leave comments for the ones where I have comments to leave.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel has had a good year — a good couple of years, actually — but this to me was the movie that really elevated their universe beyond simple superhero action into something with greater depth and meaning.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Similar to Captain America, this film took what Rise of the Planet of the Apes began and ran with it, creating a larger world and a highly intelligent, powerful science fiction film.
- Guardians of the Galaxy. This was just pure fun.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past. Easily the best X-Men film to date, and so good that it actually erases some of the sins of the previous films.
- The LEGO Movie. Again, pure fun, but with a surprising amount of heart to it.
- Gone Girl. Incredibly tense and engaging.
- Interstellar. One of the most engaging, entertaining pure sci-fi films in years
- Godzilla. Fantastic reboot of the franchise.
- Edge of Tomorrow. Great movie hurt by atrocious marketing.
- Big Hero 6.
- Stripped. Fine documentary about the comic strip form.
- I Am Santa Claus.
- St. Vincent.
- Doc of the Dead. Interesting documentary about zombie fiction.
- Stage Fright. Little seen but actually entertaining musical horror comedy about a slasher killer attacking a theater camp. It’s on Netflix streaming right now. Meatloaf is in it.
- A Merry Friggin’ Christmas. One of Robin Williams’s final performances, alongside Community‘s Joel McHale.
- Son of Batman.
- Justice League: War.
- Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
- Big Driver.
- Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear. Okay anthology, but the premise holding the segments together is paper-thin.
- JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time.
- Maleficent. Could have been a great remake from the villain’s perspective, but a horribly invasive voice over and some poor performances really hurt.
- Print the Legend.
- Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The original remains one of my favorites. This film seems like further proof that Frank Miller has lost his mind.
- Robocop. Unnecessary, lifeless remake.
- Lucky Duck. Treacle-filled animated kiddie film I watched with my niece. Just because a movie is targeted for children is no excuse for making it bad.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2. After a first movie that I thought was just as good as — maybe better than — the Toby Maguire films, I couldn’t believe how utterly this one fell apart.
- I, Frankenstein.
- Happy Christmas. “Hey, you know all those dull, unscripted movies about obnoxious people who can’t get their lives together? Let’s make one at Christmas. And put Lena Dunham in it.”
- Sharknado 2: The Second One. In fairness, they weren’t trying to make a good movie. They succeeded.
- Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. All I can say is that the title was accurate.
The Summer Movie Preview
Hey, folks — as always, the All New Showcase podcast is kicking off the summer movie season with our special preview episode. This week, my fiance Erin and I talk about all the upcoming releases, which ones we’re psyched for, which ones we think are gonna suck, and so forth. Check it out!
Episode 304:The 2014 Summer Movie Preview