What I Watched, What You Watched #81

Man, did I go hard this week in terms of movies for you guys (Ok, I did it for myself). I mean, take a look at what I watched in theaters – not one, not two, but three new releases, all ready to be reviewed. In fact, my review for Crazy Rich Asians will be up tomorrow morning, and you can bet it will be positive. I also took in a double feature last week of BlacKkKlansman and Blindspotting, both of which I hope to have reviewed early this week. However, if you’re hoping for a teaser, I can say one of those films is truly remarkable, and the other is quite strong albeit with a few missteps.

However, those aren’t the only 2018 films I watched this week. I also started my catch-up process at home. I started with Jason Reitman’s Tully, a film I’d hoped to catch in theaters but unfortunately missed out on. It’s a real shame, because it’s definitely a return-to-form for both the director and writer Diablo Cody, rich in humor and executed brilliantly by Charlize Theron. After Tully, I attempted to get caught up on my Worst Of list, only to be caught off-guard. Oh, neither film was good by any means, but neither seemed to be true Worst Of contenders. The first was Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris, a film I expected to loathe based on Eastwood’s terrible last outings, as well as the bad trailers. And I won’t lie – this film has some truly baffling moments, from Judy Greer’s terrible lines to the film’s opening (I kid you not, this film about a terrorist attack begins with, “Hi, I’m Anthony. You’re probably wondering how I got in this situation. Well, it’s kind of a funny story…”), but while it was definitely a bad film, there was something redeeming about its execution – there was a good-hearted undertone missing in, say, American Sniper, that helped it feel passable. And while the boys definitely are not actors, most of their shortcomings land at Eastwood’s feet – they had moments of real potential throughout. It’s definitely not a good film, but you could do worse. Similarly, I also watched Melissa McCarthy’s Life of the Party with the foul taste of Identity Thief still fresh in my mind. And yet – and yet – I ended up finding it passable. Sure, there are a lot of bad scenes and bad dialogue, but I actually found myself chuckling sporadically, and there’s a real heart to the film that was missing in the past. I would always advise you find something better, but if this ends up being your family’s Friday Night Rental, you could do worse.

The good news about my week is I watched a whole series of good films. The bad news is they all left me feeling fairly depressed. For example, I undertook the FilmStruck double feature of The Virgin Spring and The Last House on the Left, two films dealing with rape, murder, and the after-effects on a family. I will say that The Virgin Spring is true art, and proves that Ingmar Bergman is a compassionate, intelligent director, and one I adore. As for Last House…well, it was something. I felt a lot of different emotions watching this film, from guilt for liking it to anger for hating it to confliction over both liking and hating it. I guess I respect Wes Craven’s filmmaking abilities, and his sense of sardonic nihilism, but it was just too much for me. Meanwhile, I also undertook a mini-Studio Ghibli double feature, in order to get caught up on my Miyazaki viewings. The first was an opportunity to see Grave of the Fireflies on the big screen, after watching it for the first time earlier this year – and yep, it’s still as depressingly perfect as I remember. Much more uplifting was Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds, a vibrant, intelligent film that stands out as my favorite Miyazaki film yet. And finally, I closed out the week with three very live action films. The first was the original Thomas Crown Affair, which featured a wonderful turn by Faye Dunaway and marvelous editing, but failed to “wow” me. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Escape From New York, John Carpenter’s magnum opus. Now this is a film; it’s funny, it’s awesome, and it really speaks to a specific time and place in American history. See it if you get the chance. And finally, I ended my week with Driving Miss Daisy, a film that was fine, but never strived to be anything better than that, often to the point of rubbing me the wrong way. It’s the type of film I would give a good review to, but would not rank on any form of awards or best-of ballot.

As for television, I didn’t get a chance to watch a whole lot, but I did manage to return to GLOW for the first time since making my Best of 2017 list. And I’ve gotta tell ya, it holds up. In fact, it’s better than I remember. Watch it if you get the chance. And in terms of podcasts, I’ve fallen behind ever since I went on vacation, but I’m slowly getting back up to speed, especially on Pop Culture Happy Hour and the Frotcast. However, I hope to get caught up on Unspooled as soon as possible – it really is the podcast of the year.

What about you? Anything good you’ve been watching on TV or at the movies? What about at home? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you all later this week with a series of reviews, and hopefully even some exciting news! Take care.

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