September 1, 2021

Expanding the Universe: August 2021 (Part One)

As you are reading this, I am heading off to college, so you might imagine that my last month living at home was a busy one. However, as the summer wound to a close, I still found time to sit down and enjoy movies (and TV series) alike. Without further ado, here is what I watched in August 2021.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Gary Oldman enters the fold as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter film that dares to go deeper, and darker, with its narrative. With new revelations come new villains, and the story is so compelling you might completely forget Voldemort is completely absent. David Thewlis is also an excellent addition to the cast, in a beautiful adaptation that has some of the best character moments of the franchise. [Grade: A+]

Scream 4 (2011)

While not the best Scream sequel, the franchise continues to honor its influences and pay tribute to the horror of its time with Scream 4. Sidney, Gail and Dewey are all back, and while the supporting cast is not nearly as delightful as the big three, Wes Craven still knows how to make a damn good horror movie. Not necessarily a scary one, but a fun one nonetheless. [Grade: A-]

Watchmen (2019)

Okay, technically not a movie, but I decided to rewatch HBO’s Watchmen series on a whim, clearly not remembering how amazing it actually is. Tackling racial politics, disturbing world practices and fascinating alternative history world-building all at the same time, Watchmen evokes career-best performances from nearly every single one of its performers, not to mention stupendous twists and delightfully weird, unresolved plot lines. If he decided to embrace its popularity, this series would make Alan Moore proud. [Grade: A+]

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Read my full review here.

Spiral (2021)

The horror community is pretty tired of Saw movies at this point, so the move to create a less connected spinoff is an understandable one. Spiral is the result of that effort, and I can definitely say that it is a great Saw movie. However, even the best Saw movie isn’t the best movie-movie, even though Spiral had all the recipes for success: franchise director Darren Lynn Bousman returns, and Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson are among the highly-recognizable cast. The cons outnumber the pros, though; its ending is not well-deserved, the talents of the cast are mostly wasted, and franchise staple John Kramer (Tobin Bell) fails to make an appearance, even a post-mortem one. [Grade: C+]

Mare of Easttown 

Once again, I am breaking my own rules, but Mare of Easttown certainly receives a shoutout. I thought I had watched the best HBO miniseries with Watchmen, but I had never stopped to consider Mare as a true force of nature. Despite the fact that we have seen countless identical murder mystery series before, Mare differentiates itself with a dedicated Kate Winslet in the lead and a diverse array of characters we get to know very intimately over this seven-episode series. The final reveal is satisfying, albeit unexpected (though apparently obvious enough for Stephen King to guess it correctly), and I cannot think of a show I was more eager to follow up on than Mare of Easttown[Grade: A+]

Starstruck Season One (2021)

Screw it, if I watch an entire season of television during the month, it goes on the list. In fact, I watched the all-too-short debut season of Starstruck in one day, and I believe I was all the better having seen this solid, lightweight comedy with actors all but unknown to me. Series creator Rose Matafeo stars as Jessie, a kiwi living in Britain who sleeps with a man she discovers to be a famous actor, Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel). Throughout the six-episode first season, characters are constantly sabotaging themselves and each other, and it can be a bit frustrating to watch, but each episode brings an entirely new set of circumstances that make it a different viewing experience than the last. [Grade: B+]

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

How to sum up one of the most iconic film trilogies of all time in a brief blurb? Adventure takes on a new meaning as we follow the events of the War for the Ring in Middle-Earth, with some of the most iconic characters coupled with the most iconic film moments of all time. When in doubt, follow your nose. [Grade: A+]

The Hobbit trilogy (2012-2014)

Though slightly lesser than the trilogy that follows it chronologically, the three Hobbit films make up for lack of story material with stellar performances, great effects, and a wonderful spirit of adventure in the great wide world that rivals Lord of the Rings. I do find it to be a shame that so many references and set-ups were shoehorned in, but even today I think The Hobbit has more strengths than faults. [Grade: A]

Superbad (2007)

The teenage sex comedy came into a new era with Superbad, an awesomely hilarious film that, yes, is a product of its time, but the lead performances from Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are too giddily genuine to put down. I may always look back on this film with rose-colored glasses, but it continues to be a great time with more laughs than I can count. [Grade: A]

Scary Movie (2000)

Can you believe this came from that same production company as most of the movies it parodies? Regardless, Scary Movie is sleazy and exploitative (which you can expect from a Weinstein Company movie), but every time I swore I would turn it off it came back with a decent joke that made me stay. Maybe watching it while stoned (as so many of the characters seem to always be) would make it a better experience? [Grade: B-]

All Hail the King (2014)

As preparation for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, I decided to check out the Marvel One-Shot released on home video with Thor: The Dark World, which stars Ben Kingsley, returning as the comedically inept and clueless actor Trevor Slattery. We find him imprisoned for his role in the insanely complicated plot to kill the President (seen in Iron Man 3), and his celebrity status in the big house has led him to be sought out for an interview by a documentarian, played by Scoot NcNairy. While it might be brief, All Hail the King is a fun showcase for Kingsley and McNairy, and features many unexpected connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. [Grade: A]


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