I haven’t been writing as much this month as I have been for the past year or so. I could say I’ve been really busy with my different comedy and performance related obligations as well as work, and technically I wouldn’t be lying, but that isn’t the complete truth. The truth is after this long ass Oscar season I’m a little burnt out. I can’t handle the sheer volume of complex, demanding content that is being fired at me like I’m some threatening rebel force.
I was going to review some Oscar leftovers, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed and EO, that sad Polish donkey movie, but I just couldn’t find it in me to give a shit. Why? Well, I wanted to watch something light this weekend like the Back to the Future trilogy and Zak Bagans’ Ghost Adventures. I had planned to watch and review the new History of the World Part II show on Hulu because an actress I did kid’s theater with is in it. She’s very good in everything but the thought of having to rewatch the original (it’s been 16 years since I’ve last seen it) and then eight or so episodes to tack onto my John Wick 4 review (dropping this Friday btw) seemed like a bridge too far. It just felt like a chore despite how light and not emotionally-demanding I’m guessing the sequel series is. Probably not as intense as Twin Peaks: The Return. I’ll probably review it sometime in April.
So what MOVIES did I watch this month?
Well, I started doing these movie nights with two old comedy buddies from college, trying to watch ones neither they or I had seen before. The first one we landed on was Atom Egoyan‘s Exotica (B), the only movie I’ve heard of that has won both a slew of pretentious critics prizes and an AVN Porn Award for non-porn enterTAINTment. It’s very sexual but not very sexy, which is totally the point. It’s about a bunch of sad and lonely weirdos living in Canada who are all loosely connected because they were all involved in a search party for the dead body of this one dad’s daughter. Now, one of them (Don McKellar), a closeted loner who picks up random dudes at the opera, is operating an exotic pet store and illegally smuggling endangered eggs into the country. The dad of the dead daughter, expertly played by one of Canada’s finest actors, Bruce Greenwood, is a Fish and Game agent or something and uses what he has on the gay egg nerd to make him wear a wire into a strip club where his dead daughter’s former babysitter (Mia Kirshner) is dancing. The goal is to record/check in on the former babysitter/current stripper because her boss/boyfriend?, played by Elias Koteas, has banned the sad dad from the strip club. The Boyfriend Boss is the movie’s most bizarre character, an entitled asshole in love with the smell of his own farts. He’s super possessive over his female employees and thinks MC’ing a strip club gives him free reign to read his rambling, incomprehensible poetry while the dancers are doing pole gymnastics or muff-riding customers. I kinda love it. I hate strip clubs, they’re tacky and make me sad, so the thought of some shitty dude’s haikus about roses and pay inequality being overlaid on some graphic twerking is super appealing to me. Most other people, probably not.
We also watched a special effects movie my dad used to talk about but I never saw called F/X (D+), a dreadfully dumb and narratively messy action movie about a Hollywood special effects maestro (Bryan Brown) commissioned by corrupt FBI agents to stage the fake assassination of a big mob guy (Jerry Orbach), so he can easily disappear into the witness protection program after he rats everyone out. Of course, shit goes haywire and the FBI tries to kill the special effects guy who then must use his special effects Home Alone-style to trap and kill the evil FBI agents in order to get his old life back. Brian Dennehy plays a cop who calls every woman he encounters “sweetheart”. This sounds like it should be way more entertaining than it is, but the majority of creative choices made here from the overly complicated plotting to the poorly calibrated performances, really drags the picture down. Nothing is executed very well and the film comes from a time when you could just make up random shit about how special effects work in movies and the audience couldn’t Google it. In 2023, F/X feels impossibly dated.
Another movie buddy of mine is my roommate, a stand-up comedian and professional joint roller who really likes 80s movies and Al Pacino. Naturally we ended up watching 1980’s Cruising (C+), directed by William Friedkin who is known for The Exorcist, The French Connection and slapping his actors. Cruising explores the underground gay BDSM scene of New York City in the late 70s by placing an undercover cop character, a nice young Catholic boy played a way too old Al Pacino, in the middle of the action. For a mainstream movie in the year 1980 this is a surprisingly gritty portrayal of pre-Giulani New York, and while I can’t really speak on the accuracy of what it presents (sorry, I wasn’t cruising the BDSM scene in New York in the late 70s, I was still my daddy’s sperm), I can say I didn’t find this as homophobic as I thought it would be. Still, for all the strength of the world-building and gritty atmosphere, the main character is really flat and the serial killer mystery at the film’s center is super vanilla. There is one scene where Al Pacino is being interrogated by a group of cops, and the door opens and a toned black dude with a mustache in nothing but a cowboy hat, a gold chili pepper necklace and a jock strap steps out and smacks the shit out of Al Pacino. If Cruising had just been this for 100 minutes, it would have been the most culturally significant movie of the 1980s, but as it stands it’s pretty mediocre.
I also had never seen Back to the Future Part III (C+), so I watched all three of them over the course of last weekend. My roomie assured me 3 was the worst of the bunch, but I told him it had a fresher score than 2 on the tomatoes’ website so we’d just have to wait and see. We waited, we saw…the third one was definitely the worst. 2 is a huge drop in quality from the excellent original, but it at least tries to do more with disrupting the time/space continuum by juggling a bunch of different timelines. 3 is just a dumb western with a weird child actor pointing to his dick at the end.
Generally my friends look to me for movie recommendations, but sometimes my friends have some gold for me. My buddy all the way out in goddamn Glendale showed me his favorite movie recently and I have to say – it wasn’t terrible! Detention (B-) loses points in 2023 for adhering to a lot of the nauseating genre tropes and common editing tricks of the late 2000s/early 2010s but gains more points by basically being Everything Everywhere All at Once before Everything Everywhere All at Once. Sure, it’s nowhere near as accomplished or polished as that movie, but Detention’s willingness to constantly bounce from sub-genre to sub-genre in a plot involving masked killers, time travel and body swapping, without any hesitation, is quite admirable. I didn’t care about any of the characters though. Not one bit. That’s a big one for me. I’ll never marry this movie.
On the other hand, I cared much more about the central character/real-life person at the center of the film(ed concert) my actor friend recommended – Stop Making Sense (A), an amazing 84-minute Talking Heads concert gorgeously rendered by filmmaker Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia). I recently re-discovered Talking Heads and got super into them, so seeing a wildly energetic and visually stunning collection of some of their greatest songs performed live to a practically orgasmic audience was just the boost I needed three Saturdays ago. David Byrne is a master at combining guitar strumming and calisthenics.
Talk about painfully outdated movies, Hackers (B-) and The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyber Space (F) are two mid 90s sci-fi pictures that are aggressively stupid and follow absolutely zero logic. The significant difference between them is that Hackers is an enjoyable experience while Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace is a seemingly never-ending bore.
Hackers stars Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy from Trainspotting) and Angelina Jolie (Sick Girl from Girl, Interrupted) as two RAM-crossed lovers (you like that?) who are both super good at hacking. When their dumb friend, played by Jesse Bradford of Swimfan fame, gets in trouble for hacking an evil organization, they have to put their heads together to save their buddy and expose the evil organization for its terrible misdeeds. Their friends are played by a thoroughly entertaining Matthew Lillard and Laurence Mason, the dude who got turned into a human pin cushion in The Crow. One of their friends is an openly gay character that quite refreshingly, isn’t a stereotype at all. While this is super uncommon for a mainstream 90s movie, he is played by Renoly Santiago, the guy who was Sally-Can’t-Dance in Con Air, arguably the most offensively drawn gay character in all of 90s movie history. You win some, you lose some I guess.
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace, also known as Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe’s War, also known as Lawnmower Man 2: Mindfire, is a piece of shit no matter what stupid subtitle Bob Shaye or New Line Cinema attaches to it. The first Lawnmower Man is terrible but this is something else. It replaces its lead actors with the Max Headroom guy and a dude from movies and TV I’m too young to ever have heard of. The kid from Last Action Hero and Prehysteria is also in this, sporting a black beret and often visiting the lawnmower man in his Minecraft grotto. He helps him or a doctor or something explode the cyber building landscape universe from within or something because the world, which is bright green BY THE WAY, is going to explode any second now. I’m having a hard time remembering anything that happened in this because NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS. Lawnmover Man 2 manages to be one of the most generic, forgettable genre movies I’ve ever seen while also being wildly incompetent in everything it attempts to accomplish.
Out of all the new movies I saw in March, the hardest to track down was Japan’s bizarre 1989 Aliens wannabe, Sweet Home (B-). Seriously the final confrontation between the main character, her boss’ daughter and the giant ghost/demon/woman monster thing with one eye and dirty corn teeth, who shoots purple lightning from her sharp baby corn claws is a straight rip-off of the Queen Alien Battle in James Cameron‘s Aliens. Inferior in every way, but still a good deal of fun. As are all the ridiculous effects in Sweet Home, the problem is having to suffer through a surplus of rote and uninteresting exposition/characters to finally get to them. The final 20 minutes of this are great, the first hour or so is a chore. The movie was released in Japan along with a Capcom game based on the movie. The game looks pretty basic but it’s interesting to note that its success in the Japanese market led directly to the development of the first Resident Evil game.
NOTE: The writer/director of Sweet Home, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is NOT related to Akira Kurosawa but nevertheless went on to direct two globally acclaimed Japanese horror films, 1997’s Cure and 2001’s Pulse.
Top 5 Best Re-Watches of March
- The King of Comedy (1982) – dir. Martin Scorsese
- Paris, Texas (1984) – dir. Wim Wenders
- Election (1999) – dir. Alexander Payne
- Misery (1990) – dir. Rob Reiner
- The Exorcist III: Legion (1990) – dir. William Peter Blatty
I rewatched a lot of really good movies in March, including The King of Comedy (A) which I’ve seen a total of five times since I first watched it six years ago. It’s Scorsese‘s best film besides GoodFellas, better than Taxi Driver or Raging Bull and also one of the single most underrated films of the 1980s. It’s available on Hulu right now and I can’t recommend it loudly enough. Let me try…
PLEASE🙏WATCH🙏THIS🙏MOVIE,🙏KING🙏OF🙏COMEDY🙏IS🙏REALLY🙏GOOD🙏AND🙏YOU🙏SHOULD🙏WATCH🙏IT 🙏 ON🙏HULU PRESS🙏PLAY🙏RIGHT 🙏 NOW!!!!!
I also watched Paris, Texas (A-) for the first time in ten years and loved it even more, it’s a beautifully mediative movie that manages to remain fascinating even when not much is objectively happening. R.I.P. Harry Dean Stanton & Dean Stockwell.
I had seen Election (A-) just two years ago during the height of Covid quarantine, but my buddy all the way out in goddamn Glendale hadn’t so I figured I’d gift him the experience of experiencing that movie.
One of my go-to comfort movies is Rob Reiner‘s Misery (B+). I can’t explain how this disturbing body-horror-centric domestic thriller calms my nerves, it just does. I’ve seen it six times in the last five years.
Finally, I got a chance to see Exorcist III: IT IS NOT IN THE FILE! (B) with six of my hot nerd friends in a movie theater and it was an amazing experience. Hearing George C. Scott scream at people in your house is one thing, but hearing it on the silver screen surrounded by a hundred people hanging on every word that man can muster is quite another. I saw God that night. Everyone did.
NEW TV I’M CURRENTLY WATCHING
It’s the end of March and television is back. Succession (A) just premiered the first episode of its final season and it was a banger. Filled with tension, terrific one-liners and dialogue (THE DISGUSTING BROTHERS!) and the best acting you’ll see on television. On the other hand, the Yellowjackets (B+) season premiere was pretty good but a lot of it was lost on me. I think I forgot half of what happened last season and some moments had me scratching my head trying to remember the context of things. Yellowjackets was my #covidshow, I watched all ten episodes of Season 1 while confined to my domicile, not being able to taste or smell anything. I think my brain was Campbell’s soup that week.
I’m three episodes into the new Donald Glover-produced thriller, Swarm (B+), about an insane not-Cardi B fan who straight up murders people who speak ill about her queen. Part of me is dreading how this show most likely won’t be able to sustain its level of shock and tension after going so hard less than halfway through it’s run, but regardless of whether it sticks its landing, Dominique Fishback (Judas and the Black Messiah, HBO’s The Deuce) should definitely get an Emmy nomination for her stunning performance as Annie Wilkes 2.0.
After all the hype and awards, I finally got into Abbott Elementary (A) and I have to say it’s the single best network sitcom I’ve seen in the past decade. It has some of the best writing on television and the ensemble cast is just about perfect, with Janelle James (Principal Ava) as the clear stand-out. On the polar opposite side of the spectrum is the most disgusting and immoral reality TV show I’ve seen since the early 2000s – Milf Manor (F). 8 middle-aged moms who love fucking barely legal dudes go to an island where they’re promised a young wiener buffet, only to find out that their eight eligible bachelors are actually their young sons. Would you hook up with a kid young enough to be your son (or in some cases, younger) while your son was there to witness it? The biggest bummer of this show is that once you get past how icky the set-up is, the real life disasters they cast aren’t even all that interesting. The show is not only gross but boring and uninspired as well. I’ll stop talking about it now cause I’m reviewing it alongside Dungeons & Dragons next week.
OLD TV I’M CURRENTLY WATCHING
SO SAY WE ALL! Watching Battlestar Galactica (B+) again for the first time since I initially saw it fifteen years ago is quite the frakkin’ eye opener. It gets super cheesy and some of the religious stuff is a bit much, but the characters are so well drawn you get sucked right in. I’m halfway through the third season right now and it’s the best the show been so far. Also, I have a huge crush on Grace Park even though she’s a former NXIVM member.
Continuing my quest to punish myself as hard as I can, I’m still watching the occasional Freddy’s Nightmares (F) episode on Tubi. They made 44 of them, all ranging from terrible to make-it-stop-please!. The last two I saw were about a guy having a nervous breakdown on a plane and the most boring haunted house in Ohio. Most of these episodes only existed to show horny teenage boys glimpses of what a boob what might look before the era of internet porn. The 80s sure were tough…
Even more cringe than a show about a pizza-faced pedophile telling us spooky stories with plenty of side boob is the biggest boob in television history, Zak Bagans. His show Ghost Adventures (F) follows him and his friends as they scream and run around abandoned buildings and blame every creaking floorboard on demons and ghosts. To prove they aren’t making it up, they whip out super complicated equipment and say “THE F METER ON THE ZOGGLE BOX READ AN 860!” and I’m supposed to be like, “Oh, that proves it!” Seriously, what the fuck is a ZOGGLE BOX??!!???!!!! I’ll never stop watching this stupid show.
MAJOR CRITICAL RE-ASSESSMENT
When I first saw The Neon Demon (B+) in theaters back in 2016, I loathed it. I found it to be a real disgusting and misogynistic piece of trash from the dude who had just made the truly bad Only God Forgives. Watching it now, seven years later, I really fucking dug it and I was able to see the clear satire I somehow missed. Maybe it was just too effective at being gross but well into the #metoo era a lot of the movie plays extraordinarily well. Elle Fanning for one is excellent, is she the better Fanning sister? Is Dakota better? What do you think? Email me your response at firstname.lastname@example.org.