Saturday, May 1, 2021

What I've Caught Up With, April 2021

Well, another month where I didn’t actually watch a great deal off this list. There are times when it feels like I’m burning out, but I think it’s just COVID hangover. I’m tired of feeling like all I do is sit, and with spring here, I’ve been spending a lot more time outside. Expect that to continue.

What I’ve Caught Up With, April 2021:
Film: Game Night (2018)

Sibling rivalry between the highly competitive Max (Jason Bateman) and his allegedly successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Max and his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams) have game nights every week with friends. When Brooks shows up and hosts, things get real—Brooks ends up kidnapped under the guise of a murder mystery party. Turns out he’s actually a smuggler and in a lot of trouble. It’s a fun premise but requires a lot of willing suspension of disbelief. I’m supposed to like this a lot more than I did, but I honestly find a lot of sibling rivalry stuff mildly triggering. That’s more the fault of my life than it is the movie’s.

Film: Mystery Men (1999)

I don’t know why Mystery Men didn’t end up with a bigger following. A group of underpowered and bizarre super heroes find their city without protection from its chosen savior with the return of an arch criminal. Lead by the Shoveler (William H. Macy), the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), and Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), they face off against bad guy Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) and his many, many minions. This has one of the better casts for a movie of this vintage and there’s some humor that really works. Good performances here top to bottom with fun turns by Eddie Izzard as a disco-loving bad guy and Wes Studi as a hero whose main ability is being “very mysterious.” Also features Tom Waits in one of his more fun roles. This should have more fans.

Film: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Remember when The Hunger Games was everywhere and then suddenly nobody cared anymore? Yeah, I remember that, too. Based on the classic tradition of kids slaughtering each other like Battle Royale and other kid-centered death competitions like Stephen King/Richard Bachman’s The Long Walk, Catching Fire continues the story from the first Hunger Games movie and intensifies things. We’ll get the same sort of to-the-death competition, of course, but this time things are becoming more political. This was a popular enough series of books and films that the third book was divided into two films. I managed to struggle through the final two films, but this one did feel like what passes for a high point.

Film: Thank You For Smoking (2005)

The main lobbyist for the tobacco industry (Aaron Eckhart) is in the position of defending cigarettes against all comers. With a Vermont senator poised to make his job harder and a tell-all newspaper article being written about him, life is about to get a lot more complicated. Thank You for Smoking is one of those movies with an all-star cast. Even roles that have just a scene or two give us actors like Rob Lowe, Robert Duval, and more. It’s funny, but this is the kind of funny that you laugh at so that you don’t put a fist through the wall. Watch this with movies like The Big Short to really ramp up your ire.


  1. Game Night is an awesome film and it really shows why Rachel McAdams deserves more credibility for what she can do. Even in comedy as she's just fun to watch.

    There's a Mystery Men isn't some cult classic. A cameo from Michael Bay.

    I did like Catching Fire much more than the first film and wow... if they had gone rated R or NC-17 during scene where Jena Malone takes off her dress in an elevator in front of everyone. I would've gone to jail for whipping it out and doing what everyone does in a porno theater. Yet, it's Jena. She's the best in the world though lately, she hasn't been delivering due to some of the films she's been in lately like ugh... Stardust which I don't want to see as it's already offended... well everyone who loves David Bowie.

    1. I always forget about the Michael Bay cameo in Mystery Men. There's also a Doug Jones cameo as Pencilhead and Dana Gould as one of the possible heroes (Squeegee Man, I think).

      I have no real interest in the Bowie biopic. The lives of singers has evidently become a thing since Bohemian Rhapsody, and I wasn't much impressed with that one.

  2. I loved the wry humor of Thank You for Smoking as well as the spot on performances. Its outlook is terribly cynical but considering its target how could it be otherwise.

    Game Night and Mystery Men are two quite different movies but both are dumb fun if you're willing to cut them a large amount of slack.

    I've never watched any of The Hunger Game films, the whole kids hunting kids thing is a big no for me.

    I understand the whole Covid restlessness and being ready to get up and go, yet even though I'm almost fully vaxxed (only one week to go after my second shot to be completely there!) I am also feeling that vaccine hesitancy of mixing again with the hoi polloi. I'm luckier than many since we have some property, I've been able to have a lot of freedom of movement and things to do so I don't have the trapped feeling some of my friends do. Be that as it may I'm still on track with my birthday project but alas as it was last month the happenstance of stumbling across something recommendable was rare.

    I only have two that I can give a qualified thumbs up.

    The first-Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (aka Doppelganger)-was a sci-fier with a more cerebral bent. It could have used at least one more pass through the editing room but it posited some interesting ideas and had a great look.

    Speaking of a great look that's a strength of the other film as well. It's the 1930 version of Liliom (there was also a 1934 film of the same name directed by Fritz Lang that starred Charles Boyer) directed by Frank Borzage. You might know that the story is the basis for the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel and has a troubling storyline that often equates physical violence with love.
    This is missing the gorgeous R&S musical score but what it does have is Borzage's fantastic eye for visuals (and stars one of his favorite leading men-Charles Farrell) which gives it a dreamy melancholy. The performances are good too but again its storyline is darkly bleak.

    1. I'm finding it difficult right now to concentrate on a great deal. I'm hoping to put up a review tonight, but I don't know if I'll find the will to actually write it--and I need to, since I finished the movie a couple of days ago.

      Someone will get mad at me somewhere for saying this, but you can go the rest of your life without watching any of the Hunger Games films. They're...fine, and not worth a second glance.

  3. I enjoyed the first two Hunger Games books. The third one made me so mad--it was so bad--it retroactively made me dislike the entire franchise. The first movie is good. The second movie is better. The third and fourth, much like the book they're based on, are god awful.

    I want to see Game Night. I've heard from quite a few people who like it. And I quite enjoyed Mystery Men as a youth. Haven't seen it in years, but I'm sure I'd still enjoy it today, maybe even for different reasons. Also, gotta throw out love for the rare Kel Mitchell movie appearance (I liked Kel more, but Kenan ended up being the one who shot to super-stardom).

    1. The Hunger Games was not unlike Game of Thrones in the sense that everyone loved it and it dominated pop culture until it ended and then no one gave a shit anymore.

      Game Night is one that I think you'd like a great deal.