Latest Movies – The Short Version

Lately I’ve watched so many movies and TV shows in between working on mental_floss articles that I simply haven’t had time to review them all in-depth. So these will simply be 5-banana ratings with a few comments thrown in for good measure. Sorry, but I gots to get paid!!

Big Man Japan: 3 / 5 bananas
I was really expecting something entirely different from this film, but I was also pleasantly surprised by what I got. Think “The Wrestler” meets “Godzilla” and you’ll have some idea of where this one’s going. Interesting, but not something I feel I’ll need to revisit anytime soon.

Mad Men Season 2: 5 / 5 bananas
This season was absolutely amazing, as expected. The writing on this show, especially the zingers tossed back and forth between the characters, absolutely blows me away. Great stuff. Andrea and I can’t wait to start watching season 3 on Amazon video-on-demand.

District 9: 5 / 5 bananas
I went into this film knowing very little about it other than the basic premise – 20 years ago, aliens came to earth and have been living with us as third-class citizens ever since. I had no idea where the film was going, how things were going to turn out, or what type of film it was going to turn out to be. I’m so happy I went in blind, because I think had I known all of this, I would have been very disappointed. Actually, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Some are criticizing the film for certain aspects of the filmmaking and, oddly enough, I can completely see where they’re coming from, I just don’t care. I went along for the ride and had a blast. I can’t wait for this DVD.

Inglorious Basterds: 5 / 5 bananas
Possibly one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen that I absolutely loved. Tarantino has a knack for building tension in a scene by having his characters talk, saying so much without saying anything at all, then punctuating the scene with explosive violence. It’s a bit like sex, really, and with Basterds, Tarantino has created one of the most rewarding cinematic orgasms of his career. I worry a little about replay value for me, because often, once I know what’s coming in a QT film, the impact becomes lessened and the slow burn begins to nag on me. But I’ll rent it when available and see how it holds up.

Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus: 1 / 5 bananas
I rented this one because I thought it might make a good special review like The Asylum’s “The Terminators” film I did recently. After watching it I decided it really wasn’t worth the time. It’s bad, folks. Big surprise, huh? Seriously, even morbid curiosity doesn’t make this one worth watching.

Network: 5 / 5 bananas
A classic that I hadn’t seen in a while. It still holds up today, possibly even better than it did when it came out.

Good Night, and Good Luck: 3 / 5 bananas
While I found the subject matter – and the performance by XXX – fascinating, the film never really came together for me. I was honestly expecting there to be more to the story, but it felt like big chapters were being skipped so they could get to the end for the big payoff.

Stuck: 3.5 / 5 bananas
Based on the real-life story of a homeless man hit by a young woman who drives home with him stuck in the windshield of her car, this is a strange little film with some very interesting, “What would you do?” situations. I don’t know that the womans’ reasons for not helping the man were valid enough for her heartless actions, but I’m not entirely sure there are any reasons good enough to treat another human being this way. An interesting, little-seen film that’s worth a look.

Slacker: 3 / 5 bananas
This cult classic from wandering/wondering auteur, Richard Linklater, is one of the defining indie films of the early 90s heyday. Personally, I found it to be pretty boring, pretentious, and empty. Maybe that’s the point, but it felt like there was far too much love for its subjects to really want to be satirical. Not one I’m going to revisit anytime soon, but I can at least admire what it’s trying to do.

Step Brothers: 3 / 5 bananas
This is a great film by any means – it especially has problems in the latter half of the 2nd reel – but it definitely has its moments of sheer ridiculousness to make it worth watching from time to time. I noticed this time, though, that it’s the supporting characters that really have the best lines, rather than stars Ferrell and Reilly. I kind of appreciate that fact, actually.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: 2 / 5 bananas
I hadn’t seen this one in at least 15 years, so decided to check it out on Netflix Instant Watch. It was not good, unfortunately. It seems anytime you start injecting too much comedy and/or kids into your film, you’re doomed. See Indiana Jones 2 & 4 (though I still like Temple of Doom). See Star Wars: Episode I. See Star Wars: Episode 6. What was really disappointing was the fact that there are so many great ideas in this film that simply are not carried through. The whole thing is one wasted opportunity after another.

Fallen: 3.5 / 5 bananas
I sold this one on Amazon, so I thought I’d watch it one last time before I shipped it to its new owner. While I still really enjoy it for the story, the direction really doesn’t hold up well. The blurry, almost nightvision shots as taken from the demon’s point-of-view look very dated and, frankly, silly at this point. Unfortunately, those shots are pretty common throughout the running time, so it really hurts the overall effectiveness of the film.

The Backyard: 3 / 5 bananas
A Netflix Instant Streaming morbid curiosity entry about jackasses who beat the shit out of each other in their backyards because they want to be professional wrestlers. For the most part it’s worth watching so you can psychologically evaluate all these numbskulls. Most just do it for fun, to entertain their friends, or for a quick buck, but none of them are really doing much of anything to expand their skillset beyond figuring out the next thing they can use to hurt themselves withh. But there’s one story in particular – a guy who is actually taking steps to get into the WWE – that makes the whole thing more than mere exploitation.

Walk Hard: 3 / 5 bananas
A very good spoof of the musical biography genre. Like Anchorman, it’s the individual moments in the film that are really funny, rather than the overall plotline. In fact, there’s a pretty big section of the film that’s utterly forgettable. But there are plenty of laughs in between that make it a fun one to catch every once in a while.

The Ten: 4 / 5 bananas
I can’t help it – I like The State alumni films. This film has a few weak spots – namely the annoying rhino (or is it a hippo) cartoon in the middle that I fast-forward through now. But there are so many great spots – the two middle-aged guys groovin’ out to Bonnie Raitt, the Diane Wiest conversation, Winona Ryder getting it on with a puppet – that it’s not a complete failure by any means.

Dead Man’s Shoes: 4 / 5 bananas
This little-seen Irish film gives us an interesting take on vengeance. Ex-military brother comes home to seek revenge on some thugs who messed with his younger, mentally-deficient brother. As we see flashback scenes of what they did to the young man, you can see how they were cruel, but were their actions worth getting killed for? Throughout the film you’re meant to question if the older brother has gone too far, until you realize there’s more to the story than meets the eye. And then you’re left wondering if he was justified or if he was just deranged.

30 Rock Seasons 1 and 2: 5 / 5 bananas
I watched a few episodes of this when it first came out a few years ago and I just couldn’t get into it. I think it was just something I wasn’t expecting, so it threw me off. Thankfully I’ve caught up on this incredible show and am now chomping at the bit to keep watching as the seasons are released on DVD. Needless to say I’m very glad I gave this one another shot to win me over.

The Wrestler: 5 / 5 bananas
Wow. What an amazing, emotionally-draining film. I was with The Bull every step of the way, feeling his pain, feeling his frustration, feeling his hopelessness. I cannot recommend this one enough, but know going in that you will not be happy afterward. Such a great film with an incredible performance by Mickey Rourke.

Mysterious Skin: 3.5 / 5 bananas
What a disturbing film. I’d describe the plot, but I don’t want those keywords to start pointing people to my site from Google. Let’s just say it was a breakthrough performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and leave it at that.


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