The Mummy (2017)
Disappointing. Or it would have been had the extremely negative reviews not lowered my expectations. But still disappointing compared to the hopes I had for the Tom Cruise-starring launch of a Universal Monsters movie series. I have no problems with old dudes in action movies, but the script clearly thinks he's at least 20 years younger than he is. And contradictory to Universal's claims, it's not actually scary. It's an adventure story that has more in common with the 1999 Mummy than the 1932 one.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing and I had a good enough time with it. It's not the strong start to the Dark Universe (hate that name) that I wanted, but it's a harmless, mostly engaging summer flick.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
The mix between drama and comedy leans more heavily towards drama than the charming and funny trailer led me to believe, but it's still really, really good. And funny. But also heart-breaking and uplifting and completely relatable. Anyone who knows what it's like to hold the simultaneous views that you are the center of the universe, but also completely worthless will appreciate what Nadine's (Hailee Steinfeld) going through.
Resident Evil (2002)
And people say there are no good video game movies.
Seriously, I don't know why this has a bad reputation. It's a simple, clear plot complicated by some cool obstacles and nice twists. And Milla Jovovich is awesome in it.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
I'm going to have to change my "I don't like zombie movies" stance, because the exception list is getting long. This one's even more straight-up zombie movie than the first Resident Evil and in spite of that, I like it even better. Alice (Jovovich) is in full-on butt-kick mode, there are a bunch of fun, new (and yes, cliché, but still fun) characters, and again: clear, simple plot with plenty of action to keep it moving.
I've been catching up on some episodes of the Cult Film Club podcast that I have bookmarked and Mannequin was next on the list. I loved this movie back in the day and saw it multiple times in the theater. It's goofy and never explains the rules of whatever fantasy or magic is going on in it, but it's also super funny and oddly sweet. Andrew McCarthy was never high on my list of favorite Brat Packers (those spots are all saved for Breakfast Club alumni), but I always liked him in roles like this and Pretty in Pink where he just gets to be pleasantly sincere. That hasn't changed.
I think I remember some culture shock about James Spader's performance when I originally saw this, because I love him as Pretty in Pink's handsome and powerful Steff and didn't like that he was so greasy and snivelling in Mannequin. But years later, after seeing him in many other things, I love what he's doing in Mannequin and that he went with a different spin on what could have been the exact same role.
The rest of the cast is great, too; especially Meshach Taylor and GW Bailey.
Rambo: First Blood, Part II (1985)
David and I watched First Blood back in January and it's just taken us this long to get to the sequel. It's not as good as First Blood, but it's still an effective commentary on the US' emotions around the Vietnam War and has some great action sequences. It's starting to get into over the top territory (tee hee), but it's still somewhat grounded and not full-on Rambo III, which I'll likely never watch again.
This Spring we watched the 2016 version and it wasn't great, but was better than expected and made Diane want to check out the '59 version. I couldn't talk her into the 1925 silent version that I like better, but I wanted to rewatch Heston, too, so we finally did that.
My dad always referred to this as the Star Wars of his generation and I can see why. It's a cool story and an amazing spectacle. I can imagine going back to the theater over and over just to rewatch the chariot race alone. And that's exactly what people did in 1959.
It's taken me a few years to understand the whole "Tale of the Christ" sub-title, because Jesus Christ only makes a couple of cameos (though they're prominent and significant). But the whole movie really is about how Christ's teachings about love and vengeance end up affecting the main character. It's wisdom that needs remembering, so I was happy to revisit it.
Three Godfathers (1936)
I think I added this to my list last Christmas, because someone described it as a Western version of the Three Magi story. Which I guess it is, but only symbolically in that it's about three men who make sacrifices for the benefit of an infant at Christmastime. But in this case they're three outlaws in various stages of hard-heartedness. I really liked Lewis Stone's character, who's the first to cave when it comes to taking in the baby, but I had a tough time buying the journey of Chester Morris' character. He's the most wicked of the bunch, so his change should be the most effective, but he doesn't sell it to me. Curious if the 1948 John Ford/John Wayne remake handles that better.
The Plainsman (1936)
Ever since watching The Young Riders for Hellbent for Letterbox, I've been interested in movies about Bills both Wild and Buffalo. This one's got both, starring Gary Cooper as Wild Bill Hickok and James Ellison (I Walked With a Zombie) as Buffalo Bill Cody. Jean Arthur pretty much steals the movie as Calamity Jane, though.
It's a fun movie that condenses a lot of history into a manageable narrative (and tells you up front that that's what it's doing). Not super essential, but it makes a nice sequel to The Young Riders.
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
As I'm closing in on the end of Disney's Zorro series, I figured to close out on the rest of the Zorro movies I've been meaning to watch, too. I've seen Mask several times and in spite of never being able to buy Anthony Hopkins as Diego, I love it. He may not be remotely Spanish, but Hopkins is charming and it's cool how he becomes the new Bernardo to Antonio Banderas' new Zorro. Banderas is an awesome swashbuckler and I like that Mask is a sequel to the original stories while also giving us the origin story that we've never really gotten before. Catherine Zeta Jones is perfect in it, too.
Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939)
I'm going to have to come back and try this again after putting some distance between myself and the other Zorro films. It's probably a decent enough serial, but it doesn't feel at all like Zorro to me. Reed Hadley is playing Don Diego and does some fencing (unlike the Son of Zorro serial from eight years later), but he's got a flat, American accent and - worse - the eponymous legion to share time and spotlight with. I'll think I'll eventually be able to enjoy it as a Western, but it ain't Zorro and I decided not to finish it.
River of Death (1989)
Speaking of not finishing things, I had high hopes for a movie about Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja) traveling a jungle river to search for a lost city and fight some Nazis played by Robert Vaughn and Donald Pleasance. But holy crap this was boring. Dudikoff is passionless and the movie does zero work to build any relationship between his character and the girl he's supposed to be risking his life to rescue. I own it (it came in a box with the awesome Brenda Starr), so I may give it another shot one day, but it'll be a while, if ever.
On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
Very well written in terms of craft. Powers knows how to create captivating characters and give them distinct voices. He's also great at period details and introducing a compelling mystery.
Where the book lost me was halfway through when the magic fully took over from the nautical adventure. It becomes full-on fantasy and the villains might as well be wearing pointy hats with stars. Also, the one female character is nothing but a MacGuffin for the hero to chase after and try to protect. I didn't finish this, either.
Jam of the Week: "How Far I'll Go" by Auli'i Cravalho
I may relate to Moana a bit too much. No one knows how deep it goes.