Saturday, February 4, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, January 2023 Part 1

I said last month that I was going to try to put more reviews up and watch more movies, and I think I've done that so far. In fact, I caught up with so many movies in January that I can't fit all of the names in the labels section, forcing me to split this post in two. There will be another chunk of movies tomorrow. It honestly feels right and good to feel back in the saddle here and watching movies again. There were a few dark months last year, but I feel like I'm back in a lot of respects. Tune in tomorrow for some additional catch-ups.

What I’ve Caught Up With, January 2023 Part 1:
Film: The Darjeeling Limited (1995)

This was the one feature-length Wes Anderson film I was missing, and so until his next one releases, I’m now completely caught up to his filmography. The Darjeeling Limited is still early enough in his filmography that he hadn’t devolved completely into twee quirk, but this is clearly heading in that direction. Three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman) attempt to rebond with each other and have a spiritual experience in India, and things go badly. The characters are quirky, none more than Owen Wilson, and while it’s frustrating, it clearly has the earmarks of Anderson, it’s mildly charming. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely lesser Wes Anderson.

Film: Kick-Ass (2010)

A sort of spoof of superhero movies and kind of a superhero movie in its own right, Kick-Ass would probably come across better today with a more saturated market. High school loser Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) desperately wants to be a superhero and his first attempt goes terribly wrong. However, this gives him the equivalent of superpowers—metal-laced bones and an immunity to pain. It’s hyper violent, especially thanks to the presence of Bat-Man/Robin adjuncts Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz). It’s fun, but I don’t know how well it has aged. For the non-superhero-loving crowd, it’s not close to essential viewing. That said, what we really need is a Hit Girl movie.

Film: Hitch (2005)

I like it when a film subverts genre expectations, and Hitch really goes for that. On the surface, this is a rom-com where a serial player named Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) finally falls in love with a woman (Eva Mendes) who eventually outs him and his occupation. However, in this case, we have a main character who genuinely likes women and is a sort of “life coach” teaching men not how to get laid, but how to succeed in relationships. It’s a rare film that makes Kevin James entertaining, but this one does. The downside is that this succumbs to genre expectations in the third act, which probably drops it a full star in my estimation. It’s also at least 20 minutes too long at nearly two hours.

Film: Tumbling Tumbleweeds (1935)

A classic Western in the sense of good guys versus bad guys, this one features the singing talents of Gene Autry. Autry plays a character literally named Gene Autry, who is kicked out of his home for defending the “nesters,” settlers on his father’s ranch. Gene turns up with a traveling medicine show five years later, just in time to help one of his best friends, who has been framed for murder. This is pretty harmless and comes from a much more innocent time. It’s hard to dislike, but at a mere 58 minutes, it’s also hard to take very seriously. Still, it’s a good example of what passed for this kind of entertainment a good nine decades ago, which includes a bit of casual racism, naturally.

Film: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

I tried to watch the second Doctor Strange movie last year, but realized that without having seen WandaVision, I was lost at least in terms of some of the plot points. Now, having watched WandaVision, it made sense to try it again. The MCU has been really unkind to a lot of its women. As much as Black Widow and Gamora were shafted in the Infinity War series of films, no one was done dirty like Wanda Maximoff. This film doesn’t change that at all. It’s fine for what it is, but in a year where we got two movies that required a multiverse to tell the story, the MCU’s version is the one I feel like I never need to see again.

Film: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2005)

My goodness, what a lovely surprise this was. A sort of platonic Harold and Maude, widow Sarah Palfrey (Joan Plowright) moves to a retirement hotel in London, where she is promptly ignored by her family. By chance, she falls outside of the apartment of a young Bohemian author with the improbable name of Ludovic Meyer (Rupert Friend). They form an unlikely friendship, with Ludo posing as her grandson. The two of them discover a great number of similarities, and their lives are inexorably changed by having met each other. It’s a quiet and small movie, but lovely, and Joan Plowright is wonderful. There are some solid performances by other elderly British actors, notably Anna Massey, whom I’ve always loved.


  1. The Darjeeling Limited is one of my all-time favorite films by Wes Anderson as I just love how loose it felt, the setting in India, this story of three brothers trying to be brothers again, and that soundtrack which is one of my favorites. BTW, did you watch the film with the short film Hotel Chevalier?

    1. I did watch Hotel Chevalier. In fact, it was the first movie I officially watched in 2023.

  2. I was pretty indifferent to both Darjeeling Express and Hitch, they were okay time passers but once was plenty and I'll never rewatch them.

    I don't know if Gene Autry ever made a film where his character wasn't named Gene Autry, at least it always has been in the handful that I've seen. Tumbling Tumbleweeds was about par for the course for him. I'm sure the kids at the Saturday matinees that his films played at ate them up and they are harmless enough, but if you've seen one....

    I was likewise charmed and delighted with Mrs. Palfrey! I know Joan Plowright is very respected but she really is such an under-heralded actress. She was able to impart such depth into her characters with seemingly minimal effort. It's a pity that her loss of eyesight has ended her career. Rupert Friend is good in the picture but Joan makes it something special.

    1. Hitch is harmless, and I like that it subverts the genre for at least the first two acts, but I agree that it's a one-and-done film.

      In this first set, though, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont was the clear winner. Wholly unexpected and delightful, and absolutely all about Joan Plowright.

  3. Hitch is a good movie mainly for Kevin James stealing the show and out-dancing Willy-Will. I also enjoyed Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as I am not convinced that it's not the end for Wanda Maximoff.

    1. I hope it's not the end for Wanda. If any MCU character deserves a slice of happiness, it's her.

  4. I'm still so irritated with what they did with Wanda in MoM. It basically threw all her development in Wandavision away. They could've written that better.

    1. Right? It seems so easy to be abusive to a strong woman character, something that the MCU likes to do on the regular (see Gamora, Natasha, etc.).