Stuff I Watched in April

Continuing a series, I started just last month, I’m looking at the burnt ends of my movie-watching, movies, and television I don’t get to review. These could be classics I’m just now seeing or films I’m rewatching for the 20th time. I watched less stuff in April than in March, but I watched a few notable things – excellent and awful.

I watched The Great Escape (B+) for the first time two or three weeks ago and I understand what all the commotion was about. Huge commotion over this movie. For the past 60 years in fact, but the one annoying thing about The Great Escape is that everyone refers to it as a “Steve McQueen” action-hero movie. It’s actually an ensemble-driven drama, meaning there is no single main character. McQueen doesn’t even have the most screen time out of the four essential leads; I’d say that’s a toss-up between James Garner‘s American bullshitter and Richard Attenborough‘s (the Jurassic Park guy!) methodical Englishman. Regardless, the three bros plus Charles Bronson, sporting a genuinely pathetic Polish accent, band together and plan to escape a Nazi POW camp by any means necessary. I’d be lying if I said this felt short because, like most three-hour movies from the 1960s, it could have easily functioned just as well as a two-hour film. Fuck, better even. The third act after the infamous escape especially gets drawn out about twenty minutes too long, but that ending scene featuring a bittersweet walk down a familiar hallway was just about perfect. An imperfect movie with a perfect ending and a near-perfect cast. Donald Pleasance (Dr. Loomis) plays a blind man, and he’s spectacular.

I really had no innate desire to watch The Warriors (B-), but my roommate kept bringing it up for months. I had initially planned on seeing a Harkins’ Tuesday Night Classics screening of it down at the Camelview, but the date conflicted with The Majestic showing The Exorcist III: Legion. Sorry guy in baseball costume, George C. Scott screaming nonsense won out. Anyway, we’re hanging out at home one night and I decide, hey fuck it, it’s free on Tubi, let’s watch it and then I can say I’ve seen one of the most iconic movies of all time. I watched it and enjoyed parts of it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bored most of the runtime. This is a real visual feast of a movie and it features great scenes in actual NYC locations, that aren’t sets, and featuring maybe hundreds of extras that aren’t CGI, but real motherfucking people some poor PA inevitably had to wrangle. Walter Hill is a good director and it shows here, James Remar is also really good. He should have had (and maybe still can?) more of a career because he’s damn good in everything he’s in. So, The Warriors – I respect it, it succeeds with a lot it sets out to do, but it’s just not for me. I probably won’t rewatch.

I was looking for a new hidden gem classic I could see for the first time and love and never stop recommending to people and I was really expecting to love The Opposite of Sex (D+) but holy shit, it was fucking terrible. It’s about a troubled teen (Christina Ricci) who runs away to go live with her distant half-brother, an openly gay school teacher (Martin Donovan) who is dating a former student (Ivan Sergei). Ricci seduces her brother’s boyfriend, who gets her pregnant and the two run away together after stealing a bunch of money from the brother. But they’re not getting away with it because hot on their trail is the brother and his sad-ass sister (Lisa Kudrow). Sounds like it could be funny but the whole thing is kind of a bummer.

I kknow that writer/director Don Roos is gay but this often feels viciously homophobic and mean-spirited to the point of where I’m distracted from what’s going on with the characters. None of the jokes are landing either because the bummer vibes are just squashing punchlines left and right. Cool, not every movie needs to be a comedy, but as a drama, The Opposite of Sex fails even harder because of how flippant it is. It’s flippant to the point of where it gets in the way of mining any real truths from its characters. Everyone seems two-dimensional and the choice to have Ricci’s garbage human character be the unreliable narrator is annoying to the point of grating. I mean, so much of the aesthetics and dialogue of The Opposite of Sex represent the absolute shittiest and most dated parts of mid to late 90s cinema. No disrespect to actors though, especially Christina Ricci who plays the hell out of a part that just isn’t that compelling. Martin Donovan, Lyle Lovett and the great Lisa Kudrow also get stuck in flat roles. Johnny Galecki delivers maybe the funniest and best performance of the movie, a small but impactful role as the brother’s boyfriend’s ex-boyfriend. My dad would say, “They should have titled it The Opposite of Good…because it sucks. ” I think I’ll end my review here.

Let’s move onto movies I’ve seen before, but not since I was a kid. I remember the first R-rated movie I ever showed to my friend, Jimmy, was Joe Chappelle‘s gloriously mediocre adaptation of Dean Koontz‘s beloved novel, Phantoms (C). I say beloved but I’m joking because Dean Koontz is an airport bathroom author, meaning you buy the book at an airport, read it on the plane and when you land/get off the plane and have to use LAX’s bathroom to take a massive dump, you know your stall is going to be out of TP so you can just rip out pages of one of Koontz‘s so-so paperback and wipe your stupid butt with it. Phantoms is about an older sister (Joanna Going) and a younger sister (Rose McGowan) visiting an aunt in a small town, but when they get there everyone is dead, like brutally murdered in some cases, and no cars or electronics work. You see, there’s an ancient evil from the B.C. times that has emerged to take the form of the living to murder the living and some are just mosquitoes. Folks, this movie makes no sense but luckily Ben Affleck and Liev Schrieber show up as hero cop and pervert cop, respectively, to both save and fuck the day. The legendary Peter O’Toole also shows up as a scientist who knows about the ancient evil and how serious it is. It’s dumb but it’s well paced and never boring. Schrieber saves every scene he’s in and sells a real hack ending like it’s premium cinema. Stop reading and give Liev Schrieber a round of applause please. Thank you.

Far worse than a lame Dean Koontz adaptation is a ham-fisted, confoundingly stupid Natural Born Killers rip-off from the early 2001. 15 Minutes (D+) is a laughably cynical and over-the-top police thriller about an insane Russian and an insane Ukranian running around NYC murdering people and videotaping it. They want to be famous because from watching the news and Jerry Springer, they figure America wants to see the most fucked-up shit ever and with unethical lawyers, no one is responsible for what they do. So they can kill a bunch of people, plead insanity and then get a massive book deal and a Geraldo interview. Well, that doesn’t fly with two people – celebrated and famous? NYC old school coperino, Detective Robert DeNiro, and a lame arson investigator played by Edward Burns. They make it their lives’ missions to find and arrest the two killers. The movie really tries to force this buddy cop friendship thing cause one dies halfway through at the hands of the killers. Ooops, spoilers. Fuck off, though, I can’t spoil the movie you were never, ever going to watch in your entire stupid life. That’s impossible.

SIDE NOTE – Kelsey Grammer plays an unethical news reporter.

When I saw 15 Minutes when I was 12, I loved it. I thought it was the wake-up call America desperately needed about how corrupt the media was and how it needed to change. And violence? Yeah, America loves it! Eats it up along with bad values and disrespect for NYPD. I remember going on a trip to Kartchner Caverns with my mom and being pissed when the hotel didn’t have this available to rent. You see when we checked into the hotel, the movie was on the rental menu, but after a day of seeing Kartchner Caverns and coming back to our hotel for dinner and rest, it was taken off. I made my mom call the front desk and demand they put 15 Minutes back on the rental menu. They said there was nothing they could do because they switched over the movies cause it was “that time of the month.” Fucking Comfort Inn assholes.

David Lynch has made a career of making inaccessible and difficult to watch movies that drift off into ObscureLand more often than not. The dude has made some of the wildest cinema that exists, but Inland Empire (B) is his weirdest, most unhinged and most unfocused movie to date. It’s also the most recent movie to date…made 17 whole years ago. For as messy, overlong and erratically paced as it is, it features roughly a dozen or so seriously good scenes. It also showcases a career-best performance from Laura Dern who really runs the acting gauntlet here. It makes Blanchett‘s marathon in TÁR seem dull by comparison. THIS IS SO MUCH FUCKING ACTING AND LAURA DERN IS N.A.I.L.I.N.G. IT! E.V.E.R.Y. M.O.M.E.N.T. L.A.U.R.A. “T.H.E. H.A.M.M.E.R.” D.E.R.N. I.S. N.A.I.L.I.N.G. A.W.A.Y. She plays an actress making a movie with Justin Theroux (co-star) and Jeremy Irons (director) that’s a remake of a cursed unfinished movie of which the two lead actors were mysteriously murdered. Also, there’s witches in the hotel lobby that dance to the Locomotion. They’re her friends right?

There’s three franchises I have to rewatch to properly enjoy some of my most anticipated summer sequels – Guardians of the Galaxy, Fast & the Furious, and Insidious? Yes, I thought I had given up on the Insidious franchise as well but something about having the kid actor from the original (Tye Simpkins) all grown up into an adult actor, return to play his character as an adult has me oddly nostalgic for seeing this movie in college with my sister. When we saw it back in 2010, we both loved the original Insidious (B-), although today I think it’s merely all right. Not bad, pretty good I guess. The first sequel, Insidious Chapter 2, is downright awful is memory serves me right, guess I’ll find out in May when I inevitably watch it.

I’ve been zooming and drifting through the Fast & Furious franchise though, having re-watched the first seven films of the franchise (out of 10). I’m doing a franchise review when the new one comes out so I won’t spend much time on it here, though I will state two controversial opinions – 2 Fast 2 Furious (D+) is more enjoyable overall than the far too heavy and melodramatic fourth entry Fast & Furious (D+), and Tokyo Drift (B-) is one of the most purely enjoyable movies of the franchise.

Moving onto Guardians of the Galaxy franchise which I barely started watching. I made it 25 minutes into the first one before I fell asleep on my couch due to fatigue from a hard day’s work. This will be the third time I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy (B+), one of the absolute best cinematic offerings of the entire Marvel universe. Don’t tell Marty I called Marvel “cinema.”


  1. Blue Velvet (A)
  2. After Hours (A-)
  3. Pain & Glory (A-)
  4. Predator (B)
  5. Happy Gilmore (B)

A far better David Lynch movie than Inland Empire is his third best effort, Blue Velvet. I’ve seen this unnerving masterpiece at least a dozen times over the past twenty years but I always take away something new from it each time I see it. This time really made me see Kyle MacLachlan‘s hero character as a real selfish piece of shit. Sure, he’s no Frank Booth, but he targets high school girls and leaps into bed with grown women who are clearly not of sound mind. The visuals are haunting, the performances are great with Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini delivering career-best work, everything is a bit off and peculiar, but structurally speaking this is Lynch‘s most straight-forward work alongside the original Twin Peaks series. What I’m saying is that Inland Empire makes Blue Velvet look like The Fast & the Furious. No, wait, that can’t be right!

Also revisited one of Scorsese‘s most underrated and off-brand movies, After Hours. It’s a cringe-y but amusing screwball comedy about a Wall Street trader bro (a fantastic Griffin Dunne) who pursues a hook-up that leads to a domino chain of events that ruin his night and threaten his life. It’s a Wizard of Oz-type of journey movie in that it’s about one person on a quest encountering folks along the way, that either help or hinder him. The impressive ensemble cast includes Catherine O’Hara, Teri Garr, John Heard, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Will Patton, and Cheech and Chong of all people. It’s aged well considering you’re never really supposed to like the protagonist, after all it’s a Scorsese movie. He’s not as bad as the vile murderers from GoodFellas, though.

I watched Pain & Glory for the first time since theaters and I have to say I appreciated it far more than I did back in 2019. In just four years I feel like I have aged the length of Antonio Banderas‘ character and making not ever ache and pain my dumb body now has. Obviously, I’m being melodramatic, I’m not clocking 60 like his character here. Pain & Glory is as close to an autobiographical movie as acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar has made. Banderas plays an aging filmmaker who has to reunite with his former heroin-addled star for the 30th anniversary screening of the smash hit movie they made together. Really it’s about this incident prompting him to look at every element of his past and how it shaped him into the old man he is of late. It doesn’t sound very original but the devil is in the details with Almodóvar pictures, a deeply passionate auteur who can make a simple scene where a man draws a portrait of a kid feel as agonizing and heart-wrenching as a character death in some lesser movie.

Let’s step down from the prestige and deep dive into dumb. Look, sometimes you just need to unwind with something you’ve seen a million times and know so well that you find yourself loudly reciting even the most rote and inconsequential dialogue it has to offer. John McTiernan‘s Predator is that movie and if you find yourself quoting stuff Bill Duke‘s character says in the movie, you probably have seen it as many times as me. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers lead an elite team of military ass-kickers into the Columbian jungle to overthrow some rebel soldiers or something. What they don’t anticipate is that Mr. Predator is there, ready to fuck them up beyond recognition. One by one, each commando dies at the hands of this invisible dreadlock man, except Arnie who survives long enough to properly fight back.

Finally, I watched Happy Gilmore cause I’m really starting to get into golf. JK! I don’t like golf. This is a movie that absolutely would not be made today but I find myself drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It’s about a sociopathic man-child that solves disagreements with brutal violence. But he does love his grandmother, this nice woman who works for the golf thing and a quirky old man who teaches him how to golf (Carl Weathers who was also in Predator.) Adam Sandler is pretty entertaining here but the best parts of the movie come from the abundance of great character performances. Christopher McDonald gives us one of the most vividly realized and hateable comedy villains of the 90s, and I’m not just saying that cause I met him at a funeral once. The rest of the ensemble is wonderful with Ben Stiller, Joe Flaherty, Kevin Nealon, Richard Kiel, and Bob Barker all going above and beyond with their small roles. Also, Helen Honeywell as the “Mista, Mista!” lady! She’s great but I think I killed her.


The Way Way Back (C-) was a movie I really really liked when it came out nine years ago and boy oh boy was I wrong. Watching it now its flaws are glaringly obvious and some of the writing feels so forced and unsubstantial I scratch my head at the thought of the undeniably talented Jim Rash and Nat Faxon writing it. It’s like they wrote this summer coming-of-age movie in the 1970s before Meatballs, Heavyweights and Stand by Me were made, and then those movies used the shoulders of The Way Way Back to improve upon the formula. Is this movie proof that a time machine exists and was used incorrectly? We’ll never know.

The main kid, who I won’t credit here, has the opposite of charisma, far beyond the character being written as such. I mean, there is nothing believable or sympathetic about this kid that would make the viewer invest. And yet, the movie proceeds like you’re so invested with him, hitting all the obligatory shy-kid-finds-his-voice beats and wasting the time of over-qualified actors like Steve Carrell, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney and Toni Collette. It’s also kind of old-hat especially in its treatment and representation of female characters. This script had to have been written in the 1970s.

Stuff I Watched in March

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