“Doctor Zhivago” (1965)

This film is a visually sweeping experience, with incredible set design, a grand scale, and an epic feel. Unfortunately, the film is also meandering, never truly feeling like it earns its 3 hour plus runtime. I found the film to be more melodramatic than actually romantic, and the characterizations too simplistic. The film is simply more interested in its historical context and its huge grand set pieces than its main characters. I never felt compelled by the actions these characters took, and the ending, which should’ve been an emotionally wrenching sucker punch, just kind of fizzles out. Like I said, it’s hard to dislike this film, and given there are fantastic sequences in here, and how insanely popular this film was back in the day, it’s impossible to recommend skipping this film. It’s worth checking out once, but the film simply isn’t compelling enough to warrant more than a singular viewing.

Rating: 3/5

“Sand Sharks” (2011)

What did I expect? A rip-off of Jaws with a bit of Tremors thrown in. Well, I got that. I actually got more of that than I was expecting. There’s a scene that plays out exactly, and I mean exactly, like it does in Jaws. In fact, this entire film is structured almost exactly like the first half of Jaws. The characters are simply avatars for their Jaws counterparts. This film even makes a reference to one of the characters being in deep with the mafia, something that occurred in the original novel, but not in the movie (the jury’s still out on whether that was accident or not). Every other common complaint about these B-shark movies applies here; the visual effects on the shark are awful, the acting is bad, the characters are one-dimensional and stupid, and the film’s budgetary restraints are painfully, painfully clear (there’s a moment where it’s supposed to look like over a thousand teenagers on a beach, and it looks like there’s no more than fifty). I’ll say this about the film though, it’s at the very least self-aware; certainly a lot more self-aware than the last rubbish shark attack film I watched (I will never forgive you Two-Headed Shark Attack). The pacing is at least passable, and it’s laughable enough to prevent it from being boring. Although this movie’s entire existence was worth it, just so we could hear the line “Eat this, you sand of a bitch!”

Rating: 1.5/5

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008)

This is a slight improvement over the first film. It has everything that was good about the first film (Ron Perlman, the makeup, the visual, the creativity, and Guillermo del Toro’s whimsical-esque direction) but it also fixes some of the issues I had with the first film; namely here, the villain is extremely interesting and memorable, and he’s even given a reasonable and compelling motivation. It’s also quite a bit funnier than the first film, with some genuinely funny and even memorable comedy set pieces that don’t feel out of place. But even though this film is an improvement of its predecessor, there are still some issues. For starters, some of the character development from the first film is backslid, and even some of the elements in this film seem to contradict things set up in the first. And by doing so, they wind up covering ground that other superhero films have done before and done better (like having the general public think of Hellboy as a “monster” and a “freak”), especially when this angle is just kind of dropped halfway through and never resolved. Also, at one point the main characters can literally foil the villains plan simply by destroying an artifact in their possession. But they don’t. For some reason. Still for all my complaining, this is an entertaining film. The visual creativity, as well as its likable characters really shine through in this entry.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Hellboy” (2004)

This superhero film is entertaining, if a bit on the flawed side. There is quite a bit to like about this film. Ron Perlman is a great Hellboy, the action is good, the visuals are extremely creative and impressive, and the makeup work is absolutely incredible. So why am I not singing as high praises for this film as I feel like I should? I think a lot of it is because of missed opportunity. Whenever I think of the name “Hellboy” I conjure up some really dark and twisted imagery, and incredibly dark humor. But overall, this felt surprisingly tame and safe. Also, the villains are just completely dull, lifeless and forgettable. But is this film solid? Absolutely. It’s a nice, creative and entertaining film that definitely benefits from having Guillermo del Toro in the director’s chair. There’s not really much else to really say; it’s a solid, enjoyable film that could’ve been better.

Rating: 3.5/5

“The Queen’s Corgi” (2019)

I’m… at a loss for words. I never thought I’d see a “kid’s film” which opens up with our main character nearly getting raped by President Trump’s dog, played for laughs. I’m not kidding. This is an actual thing that happens in this film. Things don’t improve from there. For starters, this film’s premise is very generic, taking elements from films like Flushed Away to Lady and the Tramp and even Fight Club of all films. You can predict every plot beat that happens; there’s nothing outstanding here whatsoever. The film’s humor is either too inappropriate for its target audience, or too stupid to appeal to anyone other than kids. This film is so tone-deaf it feels like it wasn’t made with any demographic in mind. Also, the main character is horribly written; he’s a typical prissy animal who winds up out of his element, and on top of that, he often acts inconsistent from scene to scene. The only true saving grace here is that some of the decisions made are so baffling, so downright bizarre that honestly, you cannot believe this even exists. It’s so bad that it almost becomes fascinating in how it manages to fail.

Rating: 1/5

“Pinocchio” (1940)

There are two things that stuck out to me when I rewatched this film for the first time in years; first, there was a lot more padding in the first act then I remembered, and two, the film was much more grim and chock-full of dark, disturbing imagery then I had remembered. Sometimes a film being really old and completely disconnected from our time period can make them age really poorly. But sometimes, the opposite can happen, and it can make a film even more shocking than it was back then. This is the Disney film that by far has the most balls. Like I said, not just because some of this imagery is extremely unsettling and disturbing, but also because it actually portrays kids smoking and drinking, and it allows the villains, some of them being one of the most terrifying presences to ever graze a family film, to get away with their crimes scot-free. This gives the film a natural edge that doesn’t even feel like it’s even trying to be. But that’s not all this film has to offer. The characters are all fantastic and well developed, the animation is stunningly beautiful, the plot progresses naturally, the music is incredible, and the gags are great. The film’s first act does contain a bit too much padding, but outside of that, this is an excellent film, that definitely deserves a place as one of Disney’s defining classics.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Cans Without Labels” (2019)

This cartoon is rather… infamous for its behind the scenes trouble, especially with regards to its Kickstarter page. But, you know, maybe, just maybe, if the final product was actually any good, then maybe all, or at least some, could be forgiven. No such luck here, because this short is simply atrocious. It’s earned its negative reputation as one of the worst pieces of animation to ever be conceived by man. John K (of Ren & Stimpy fame) definitely has a very grotesque style with regards to his animation, but here he often does it for no discernable reason, other than to adhere to his “never draw the same face twice,” rule. Also, the blending of John K’s 2D animation, and 3D animated cans really doesn’t work. Despite the fact that the cartoon is only 11 minutes long (9 if you remove the credits and extraneous crap at the end), it moves at such a sluggish pace. The sound work in this short is horrendous. It’s just a mish-mash of random stock sound effects, and random stock music cues, seemingly placed at pure random, again with no rhyme or reason, combined with terrible voiceover work that is often so poorly mixed you can’t make out what the characters are saying. There is no better word I could think of to describe this cartoon, than “grotesque,” and I don’t mean that as a compliment. This is an insult to all the people who donated to bring this atrocity to life.

Rating: 1/5

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018)

One of the greatest action films ever made, and that’s not an exaggeration. Despite being 150 minutes, not a single second feels wasted in this adrenaline rush of a film, that actually manages to handle the different agendas, double-crossing, and twists and turns that are endemic to the spy genre with such skill and finesse, that it makes it look so easy. This is writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s second foray into the MI franchise, and he’s proving that he is not only more than capable to keep the franchise going, but that this a match made in heaven, as he’s somehow not only managed to keep this franchise fresh with this sixth film, he’s managed to make the best of the bunch. With breathtaking, exhilarating action scenes, unforgettable characters, and a load of very smart and clever moments, this is a must see for action-film aficionados, and really anyone who enjoys a good popcorn munching film. Do yourself a favor and see it.

Rating: 5/5

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” (2019)

I went into this thinking I would like it just fine. I did not go in expecting to like it this much. I also was not expecting this to be my favorite superhero film of 2019. And yet, here it is. It has everything, and I mean everything, that I would want in a superhero film. The characters are fantastic, it’s funny (including some surprising moments of dark humor), it’s creative, it’s weird, it’s both familiar and fresh, it takes some genuinely shocking twists and turns, it’s poignant, and the action is incredible. Honestly, there is very little I could complain about here. Even when it seems like the film has taken a wrong turn, it eventually ended up getting revealed as being foreshadowing, showcasing just how incredibly smart and clever this film is. And again, Marvel is proving that they’ve learned from their past mistakes with yet another incredible antagonist, making this the 8thMCU film in a row with a great villain. And the two incredible mid and after credit scenes show that Marvel is unafraid to take bold storytelling risks. What else can I even say about this film? It’s just great, great, great fun, and one of the most entertaining times I’ve had at the movies in a long time. Marvel may have closed the door on a huge chapter of this world, but if this film is any indication, they don’t have any signs of slowing down on the path to the next chapter.

Rating: 5/5

“Win Win” (2011)

This underrated and hidden gem, from Spotlight director Tom McCarthy, is a wonderful film. Ostensibly a film about wrestling, but really a complex film about relationships, this film offers us many different characters that are all given clear motivations for what they do, even when those decisions are less than stellar, and it invites us to understand them without judgment. This might be one of the more human films about relationships I’ve seen, and the relationship that sprouts between Kyle and the Flaherty family feels incredibly natural and likable. The acting is great, there are some genuinely funny moments, some very well-executed emotional moments, and the film feels genuine, like these characters are real people. If you haven’t seen this film please at least give it a chance, because it deserves to be talked about way more than it is.

Rating: 5/5