What I Watched, What You Watched #76

We’re just past the year’s halfway point, which means it’s time for things to start picking up, at least movie-wise. That’s a good thing, because I have only seen one film that has truly blown me away, although there are quite a few that I still enjoyed a good deal. One such example is Sorry to Bother You, which I saw last week and hope to have a review for in the next few days. However, one thing is certain: it is by far the strangest film you will see all year.

At home, I saw three other 2018 releases, in the hopes of fleshing out my rankings, be they the best or the worst of the year. This started with Den of Thieves, a film I thought was awful whenever Gerard Butler was onscreen and pretty solid, albeit a blatant Heat rip-off, whenever the bank robbers appeared. Overall, I’d probably call it average-to-below-average, which could be a lot worse. Speaking of “much worse,” Tomb Raider. Man, I love Alicia Vikander, but there was nothing interesting or redeeming about this film. It somehow made a story about a badass woman solving riddles and killing bad guys boring, and that’s a feat in and of itself. And then there’s The Strangers: Prey at Night. I’m not a huge fan of the original Strangers, although I admit that it is technically very smart and very well made. Yeah, that doesn’t happen here. Everything about this film is laughable, from the cheaper design on the masks to the hilariously bad jump scares. However, while I thought this was a ridiculously bad film, there were a few moments of tension, and a sequence set at a neon pool to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” appealed to both the neon-freak and the filmmaker in me. That sequence alone almost makes the film worth it.

Outside of new releases, I started my week by watching On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the big screen. It’s always been my favorite Bond film, and after this viewing, I’d still agree, albeit with a few hang-ups. The fist fights are some of the laziest, worst-edited fight scenes I’ve ever seen, and while he’s not bad, George Lazenby is definitely too static to be a great Bond. Still, the score is incredible, the mountainside escapes are stunning, and Diana Rigg is the epitome of the perfect Bond girl. She’s so good I’m worried that no one took her seriously as an actor because she was the “pretty girl” in Bond and The Avengers, even though she was the best part of both. I also went to the theater to see the 40th anniversary rerelease of Heaven Can Wait. Warren Beatty is one of my favorite actors, and seeing his directorial debut was a real treat. Truth be told, it took me a while to get into it, but once you get to the boardroom sequence, the film really takes off. However, I was pleased to find afterwards that Roger Ebert shared my disdain for the ending, as it was just one complication too many. Oh well; c’est la vie. And my in-theater journey concluded with the 50th anniversary of Yellow Submarine, which was truly stunning and boasts a great soundtrack, but dear lord, I should not have gone sober. It takes a certain amount of booze (or something stronger…) to truly appreciate that film. And at home, I watched three classic films. The first, in honor of my brother’s birthday, was Gummo, his favorite film. Gummo is…well, Gummo is Gummo. It exists, and I agree that Harmony Korine’s direction is stunning and game-changing. However, it’s just a little…much for me. And I didn’t think the actor playing Tummler was any good. Still, there are a couple sequences I can’t get out of my head, so…a success? Much more enjoyable was Sweet Smell of Success, the classic film noir starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. I truly loved this film, from Lancaster and Curtis’ sliminess to the taut, clever script. It was a film that hit me in the face with its brains and glibness, and it’s definitely one worth seeing. And finally, I finished the four-hour beheamoth that was Ben-Hur. The film is difficult to deconstruct – I thought every sequence was a stunning masterpiece, from the opening Nativity to the climactic chariot race, but the sequences never felt like they fit together properly. Oh, and Charlton Heston is quite bad in this film, which is a letdown, because I like him as an actor. I’d still say see it if you get the chance, because the spectacle is quite something, but I would not consider it a true classic.

I’m happy to report that I actually began watching TV again this week, and decided to give Queer Eye a second chance after being disappointed in the first half of the pilot. I’m not sure if I was in a bad mood when I watched it or if it just takes a while to get going, but my God, am I on board now. I love this show, I love their creations, and above all, I love the Fab Five. Consider me a convert. I also started watching season four of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and I’m happy to say it is still the funny masterpiece it’s always been (my favorite throwaway joke involves Jane Krakowski building up to naming what we would assume are fake shows, except she only names real ones). I’m looking forward to finishing up with season four. And finally, two of my favorite podcasts involved deep dives into what we would now recognize are classic movies – Unspooled covered Oliver Stone’s Platoon in a way that made me want to revisit it (I wasn’t quite taken with it the first time), while the Filmdrunk Frotcast broke down The Book of Henry, and made sure to comment upon all of my favorite moments. After you’ve seen this nightmare, it’s definitely worth the watch.

This concludes this week’s What I Watched, What You Watched. I will be in and out of town over the next couple of weeks, but that will hopefully allow me to get as much writing and movie-watching done as possible. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what you’ve been watching, what you think of my viewings, and just anything about the week you’d like to share. Until next time!

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