Hotel Mumbai

Part of my personal resolve to watch less movies and only choose those I really want to see (don’t worry, that’s still way too many) means that if I don’t see the trailer in theaters, unless it’s got a filmmaker I love and trust, it’s not gonna make my watch list by default. The info’s gotta come to me and tell me why I need to see it. If the studio doesn’t care enough to put in the minimum effort (really, it doesn’t take much for me to hear about it), it suggests they may not have faith in the film. Such was the case with Hotel Mumbai. I vaguely knew about it, but except for catching Armie Hammer doing a show or two on the late night circuit, I had seen zero press for it. But then I saw nothing but positive reviews on Stardust and a coworker sold me on it pretty hard when I said I hadn’t seen it yet. Turns out this one deserved way more publicity and attention.

This movie is the true story of a multi pronged attack in Mumbai India in 2008. A group of terrorists attacked various public areas before converging on a large glamorous hotel. We follow a few guests in the hotel (that’s where Armie Hammer comes in) as well as some of the staff (oh hi Dev Patel) as they fight for their lives on that harrowing night.

This is easily the most suspenseful story I’ve seen this year. The first act in particular didn’t let up. Any time someone even thought about moving, bang! DEAD! I almost wish I didn’t see this though. Remember, I’m an actual movie girl and I eat up any sorta shoot ’em up with explosions and blood and gore and kill counts. This is different. This is very real and graphic and terrifying in a this-actually-happened sort of way. I really didn’t want to know that people were capable of such horrors, and I feared the nightmares that would come.

The nightmares didn’t come tho, thankfully. Mr Rogers says to look for the helpers and there were some wonderful ones here. The staff of the hotel in particular were so selfless and wonderful. I focused on them.

Hotel Mumbai – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Hellboy

I was not looking forward to this. I’d rewatched the Ron Perlman/Guillermo del Toro ones recently, and after seeing the trailers, I had concerns. Perlman is a big goofball, but the trailers made this Hellboy seem very gruff and serious. Then the reviews came out and they were hellish. And on top of that, I started to get sick earlier in the day I’d planned to go. Something had been going around at work, and it was apparently my turn on Fri. I was determined to go to Disney the next day, so I chugged so much Gatorade. I took a quick nap before the movie, then felt okay enough to make the trip. Maybe it was something in the Gatorade, but I didn’t completely hate the movie.

Is there a plot? I don’t know. Something about a witch being dismembered and King Arthur was involved. Look, I’ll just come right out and say it. This movie is dumb. It’s very poorly written, with bad expositional dialog and strangely twisting plotlines. I think this is what most people aren’t able to get past.

I felt like I had just enough that I could work around that. The fight scenes looked GREAT! They had some rock music playing underneath (songs I didn’t recognize, prolly to save money) and they had great personality. I also really liked the supporting characters played by Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim. If anything, it took too long to get to those guys.

As far as David Harbour, he was pretty good. Still no Ron Perlman, but I liked him. I’d been concerned he wouldn’t have the humor, but that was the one thing that consistently worked throughout the film. One liners all over the place, and it did feel like Hellboy had that adolescent mentality I worried he’d be mising. Maybe we could get a condensed version of the film that just had the fights and the banter?

Hellboy – \m/ \m/ \n

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Depending on your level of film buff-ness, you either have no idea what this movie is, or you know exactly what it is and you’re wondering how it’s possible that I could be writing it up. Short version, is this is a movie that Terry Gilliam has been trying to make for nearly 30 years.

Here’s a brief kinda paraphrased recap of the film’s history. But I highly encourage you to look up the full story. It’s pretty insane. Back in the late 80’s, Terry Gilliam (you may know him from 12 Monkeys or Brazil or Monty Python, the list goes on) had this idea to do a film about Don Quixote. It took him ten years to get the financing. It wasn’t until the early aughts that he finally had everything in place and started filming. Then one of his leads got injured and had to drop out and a flood wiped out the sets and the whole movie was scrapped.

Over the next few years, Gilliam would make another attempt here and there. There were money issues and casting issues. Actors were swapping in and out. Even two who had been cast as Don Quixote passed away before being able to film. I’d hear rumors of it every so often, but usually in the context of “this is never going to happen”.

Then one day, I’m scrolling thru FB and a friend posts a link to buy tickets with some sorta “OMG” status. Wait ,what? Gilliam made it? And it’s done? And it’s being released as a one night only Fathom Event? *click link* *buy tickets* *wait two months*

Adam Driver takes on the role that had Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor and varioius others attached as a film director working in Spain shooting a Don Quixote themed commercial. The shoot’s not going well, and he’s seeking inspiration. A mysterious character gives him a DVD of the student film this director had created 10 years earlier about Don Quixote. He realizes that the small town he filmed in is nearby, so he decides to visit. He finds that many of the townsfolk he worked with are still there, including his lead actor who now believes he truly is Don Quixote. He believes the director is Sancho Panza. Stuff happens and long story short, the two adventure across the countryside and encounter many of the characters and events from Don Quixote.

This film is very Terry Gilliam, for better or worse. On the better, it’s got a sharp sense of humor that is incredibly funny. It’s not a constant laughs type of movie, but the ones that are there are very good ones. It’s also got a great sense of whimsy that only Gilliam can provide. Realities are blurred and you feel like you are living in a fantasy world.

But those blurred realities bring us to the first signature Gilliam pitfall: it doesn’t always make sense. The deeper you get, the harder it is to keep the story straight and follow what’s going on. I eventually had to give up on trying to figure things out, and it turns out there may not have been anything to figure.

The other issue I tend to have with Gilliam’s films that was at play here was the pacing. His films always have a weird flow where it just feels like it’s dragging thru mud, where you’re simultaneously enjoying and wanting to move forward.

Overall, I enjoyed this, but I didn’t love it. I’m not sure that this was worth the long journey it took to get to the screen, but as a film lover, I am very happy that it exists. Gilliam is a treasured filmmaker and it feels good knowing that he finally got this vision realized

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – \m/ \m/ \m/

The Best of Enemies

This very much felt like a take-it-or-leave-it kinda movie. If scheduling worked out, I’d go. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t sweat it. Since I’d seen Shazam early and needed to see Pet Sematary opening night, scheduling worked out.

Sam Rockwell and Taraji P Henson play CP Ellis and Anne Atwater. Ellis is the president of the local KKK chapter and Atwater is the leader of a local activist group. The two are hired to lead opposing sides of a “charrette”, basically a large multi-day conference/discussion group, in this instance discussing the options for integrating their public schools.

Rockwell and Henson are incredible actors and I really wanted to see these two powerhouses go head to head. Unfortunately, this felt like watered down versions of better performances we’ve seen from either of them. It just lacked oomph.

The story itself was interesting in the details, but it played out kinda dull. I just don’t think we learned anything new about the world that we hadn’t just been thru. It was like BlacKkKlansman meets Green Book, except Klansman had some scathing commentary to go with it. And we’re still debating the “we solved racism!” vibe of Green Book, so did we really need another one of those so soon? I’m thinking no

The Best of Enemies – \m/ \m/ \m/

Pet Sematary

I read a lot. At different stages in my life I’ve always tried to find a consistent window I can dedicate to some pages. Right now it’s on my lunch break. Because I go thru so many books, I don’t always remember them or how I experienced them. I still remember when I read Pet Sematary. And a lot of those books that I’ve read are by Stephen King. This is my favorite of those.

I got thru a huge chunk of the book when I got to be an extra on Stronger. We were left in the holding room for a very long time. That’s when I read the whole bit about the demon cat. Now we know I got two vampire cats of my own. Nosferatu spends most nights in my bed, as long as it’s not too warm out. Lestat rarely did. That night, not only did Lestat sleep in my bed, she stretched out against the length of my leg. Fehr was cuddled up beside my head. I have never been more creeped out by my furbabies.

But not only is the book scary is hell, it’s got hella layers to it. We know I love my horror best when there’s deeper meaning to it, and Pet Sematary is full of it. If you’re not aware of the backstory, it was inspired by an incident in King’s life where he nearly lost his toddler son. The book takes it further and explores how people deal with grief and what happens if you try to avoid it.

Here’s the thing though, and why this is the best example of what King does best, it’s all about the characters. You go thru half the book with only maybe one kidna sorta freaky thing happening. But it doesn’t matter. You get invested in this little family. I would have been perfectly content to see horror-less story play out with them. It makes the scares that much more heightened because you care about what happens to them. You feel it all more. It means more.

All of that is just to background that I know and love this book. I felt like the original adaptation missed the meat of the story and focused on the supernatural. I very much had a high bar set. And I think they came pretty dang close.

So a quick recap. A doctor moves his family from the big city to rural Maine, hoping to slow his life down a bit. On the edge of their property is a burial ground the local children use for their beloved pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge. Beyond that is a sacred ground of tremendous power that may be home to something sinister.

The film certainly nailed the scares. I saw it in Dolby, which amplifies the sound on all the jumps (especially the 18 wheeler trucks that barrel down the road by the house). Those speakers ensured that my heart was in my throat for the whole film. I heard legit bloodcurdling screams from behind me in the auditorium.

As far as the character work and deeper meaning and all that, I’m a little mixed. I could definitely see the groundwork was there, but the storytelling was a bit rushed. The pace was good in that it kept the movie humming along without a moment wasted, but it didn’t really give you a chance to dwell on what was happening. I hope that people who haven’t read the novel can pick up on the themes and reflect on them later.

A big part of why I have that hope and I believe it can happen is that the cast was phenomenal. I could tell that they knew this material and knew the full weight of what they were trying to convey. As soon as I heard that master actor John Lithgow was cast as kindly neighbor Jud Crandall, I knew he would nail it. Jason Clarke was also the best I’ve ever seen him as the patriarch of the family. He wasn’t just reacting to the moment, he carried everything that happened on the page and the film. Newcomer Jeté Laurence also blew me away, but it’s best not to say too much about what she does.

Even the cat impressed me. He looked just a bit too much like my girl Lestat (who already takes her vampire name way too seriously). Should I be worried?

Pet Sematary – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Dumbo

I talk about movies being forgettable, but this one truly was. I had completely forgotten I’d seen this and was ready to write up the next one. I’d even left it off of my 2019 spreadsheet. It was only because I was going thru my Stardust reactions to post on my Twitter that I was reminded of it. That’ll tell ya how memorable this movie is

We know the story of Dumbo, yeah? Tiny elephant. Giant ears. Separated from Mama. Flies in a circus. Even though I’m a Disney kid, he’s always been kinda low on my list (hey something’s gotta be on the bottom). A big part of why I’ve never cared for him is that his story is rather thin. I was hoping this remake would really flesh out the story, but it doesn’t so much flesh it out as extend it. It still felt as thin as before, now it was longer.

Now there are some great elements in this. The cast is great (Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, etc). There are some wonderful moments. The elephant is adorable and he has some incredibly heart warming scenes. There’s some heart wrenching ones as well. But those were moments. There wasn’t much connecting those moments. I expect much more magic from Disney and from Tim Burton, and even moreso with their powers combined.

It’s like that line from 10 Things I Hate About You: You can be overwhelmed or you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed? Turns out you can. This movie whelmed.

Dumbo – \m/ \m/ \n

The Beach Bum

Harmony Korinne is a bit of an anomaly to me. He’s one of those filmmakers who I absolutely respect: he’s got a solid vision and great artistry and a voice that’s unmistakable, buuuuut I just don’t like his films. I very much appreciate what he was trying to do with Kids, but it made me so uncomfortable, I can never see it again. Spring Breakers had me all over the place. His stuff is just a little too slow and artsy for my taste, and that’s cool. We all like different things. Just from the trailers for The Beach Bum, I knew it wouldn’t be for me. But there were two reasons I went anyways: Jonah Hill was in it (for what looked like five minutes maybe) and I wanted to get an overpriced, crappy salad from the dine in theater. Seriously 17 bucks with tip for a Caesar salad that was too salty last time and kinda bitter this time, and I was hungry again by the end of the 90 min movie. I had to stop at Panda Express on the way home.

Matthew McConaughey is Moondog, the beach bum in the title. He lives his life writing poetry and partying on the beach. He’s inexplicably married to the beautiful and rich Minnie (Isla Fisher) whom he sees when the tides draw him to her town. There’s eventually some plot that kicks in, but mostly we’re just watching Moondog live his best life.

When there was plot involved, I was kinda into it. That bit of story was unexpected and I really dug it. But only a few scenes really revolved around that narrative. The slice of life-y type stuff was just too slow and dull for me. I kept waiting for the server to bring my check, signaling that there were only 20-30 minutes left in the movie (again, 90 minute movie).

McConaughey is wonderful, fully giving himself over to this role. His antics just got old for me pretty quick. Espeically since I had some plausibility concerns about how he could feasibly get away with half of what he does. I think the bit he did on Jimmy Kimmel, pretending to give out CBD infused food on Hollywood Blvd is all the Moondog I can handle in my life. Those who are more inclined towards artsy film may feel differently.

The Beach Bum – \m/ \n

Expletive Dleted Top 100

As promised, here’s the updated Top 100. Woo!

And a recap of the disclaimers previously stated
-Ranking could be different from one min to the next, based on whatever my mood was when I set the list. Don’t read too much into it
-Full commentary will be on Stardust over the coming weeks
-I’ll fill in the pending posts in the coming weeks as well
-I’m calling them favorites not best. There’s a semantic difference

Shut up and just post the list already? Ok.

100The 40 Year Old Virgin4/9/2011Return!
99Mystery Men1/17/2011Return!
98Juno4/6/2011-41
97The Babadook12/8/20143
96Fargo3/18/2015New!
95Cruel Intentions 11/6/2012Return!
94The RingPendingNew!
93Masterminds6/4/2011-4
92Scream5/4/20142
91The Fast and the Furious (franchise)5/25/2013-43
90Pulp Fiction5/15/2011Return!
89Baby Driver7/3/2017
88Lars and the Real Girl1/16/20113
87The Lobster6/5/2016-2
86Romeo + Juliet5/7/2011-31
85Goodburger1/15/2011-36
84Hostel Part II11/6/2012-4
83The Big Sick6/20/2017New!
82It follows4/1/2015-28
81HookPendingNew!
80Funny Games1/25/201115
79Saved!6/7/2011-11
78Stay2/24/20148
77Black Swan11/9/2012-18
76Terminator 2: Judgement Day11/10/2012-33
75Rocky1/18/2010New!
74Mission Impossible4/1/20113
73The Princess Bride10/21/2014New!
72Planet Terror3/4/2011-27
71Magic Mike XXL7/6/2015-6
70Lucky Number Slevin7/10/2011-3
69Memento2/13/2011-27
68Star Wars Saga4/4/20102
67Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny1/17/2011-15
66American History X2/13/201113
65Kung Fu Panda2/8/20111
64The Wedding Singer1/23/20119
63Equilibrium6/14/2011-10
62Primal Fear5/8/2011Return!
61Apollo 13PendingNew!
60Death to Smoochy5/29/2011-21
59The Little Mermaid7/2/2011-12
58Boondock Saints7/4/2011-28
57Whiplash10/25/2014-19
56Ready Player One3/19/2018New!
55Frailty3/5/2011-15
54Inglorious Basterds8/19/201215
53Interview With the Vampire7/9/2011-25
52Final Destination8/30/201838
51Dumb & Dumber3/26/201736
50Battle Royale11/28/2012-21
49Drop Dead Gorgeous3/16/2014-22
48Toy Story 311/30/2012-4
47Inception6/10/201149
46The Green Mile2/17/2011Return!
45Fanboys1/29/20116
44The Goonies6/24/2011-26
43A Clockwork Orange4/1/2011-10
42The Greatest Showman12/28/2017New!
41Detroit Rock City4/4/201134
40Mean Girls1/24/2011-16
39Mrs Doubtfire5/28/2011-2
38Clueless3/21/2011-2
37Almost Famous7/9/2011-2
36D2: The Mighty Ducks5/29/201120
35Snatch7/11/20119
34That Thing You Do1/15/201127
33Kill Bill6/6/2011-1
32Ferris Bueller’s Day Off5/14/2011-15
31Requiem For a Dream6/27/2011-5
30Cabin in the Woods11/29/20125
29Serenity7/2/2011-15
28Home Alone5/31/20110
27Father of the Bride5/30/20116
26The Matrix2/9/201115
25Selena4/23/201560
24Elf3/18/2011-8
23Jurassic Park3/26/201436
22Magnolia5/30/20112
21Psycho3/20/20111
20Die Hard3/11/2011-2
19The Martian10/5/20152
18MCUPendingNew!
17Harry Potter3/19/2011-2
16Reservoir Dogs7/2/20117
15Heathers7/3/2011-7
14Forrest Gump7/3/2011-1
13The Dark Knight5/22/201160
12The Godfather3/13/20118
11Zombieland6/25/2011-4
10Muppet Christmas Carol7/6/20111
921 Jump Street11/9/20120
8Clerks7/7/20112
7American Psycho7/8/2011-1
6Fight Club7/31/2011-4
5SLC Punk!7/27/2011-1
4Angus7/26/20111
3Lord of the Rings7/3/20119
2Donnie Darko7/29/20111
1Aladdin8/1/20110

Expletive Dleted Top 200

I think I’ve been trying to revamp my top list off and on for the past year or so, but I’ve finally locked it in! I’ve always been curious as to what my top 200 would look like since the last few spots in my top 100 tend to be movies that I just can’t leave out.

Turns out, it seems that when I expand my list that much, movies that I’ve recently rewatched get priority. I made the mistake of starting a Letterboxd right after I locked in my list and I found that lots of films it was reminding me about could have been on here had I made it a week later. Oh well. It’s all for fun anyways, yeah?

For the back 200, I’m just gonna post the list, no commentary, no fancy links on the graph, and it’s not gonna get put on the Top 100 page when I update it shortly.

What I am gonna do is go thru my full list (all 200) on Stardust over the next few weeks (months?). I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about 90% of these on there at least once before, but some of my really old reactions kinda make me cringe now. They’re due for an update.

Oh and a reminder that these are my favorites, not what I’m calling the best. I’m weighing quality against nostalgia and personal preference. In other words, don’t @ me (but actually do @ me with friendly debate)

So without any further ado, here’s the back half of my top 200. The front half will be in my next post

200Cool Hand Luke
199Night at the Museum
198I Feel Pretty
197Joe’s Apartment
196The Lost Boys
195From Dusk Til Dawn
194End of Watch
193Eastern Promises
192Doubt
191The Good Son
190Easy A
189The Fifth Element
188The Italian Job (2003)
187The Client
186The Transporter
185The Professional
184Quiz show
183Top Gun
182The Raid 2
181The Santa Clause
180Tom and Huck
179The Mist
178Upgrade
177Beauty and the Beast
176A Very Harold and Kumor Christmas
175Existenz
174Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
173A Star is Born (2018)
172How to Train Your Dragon
171Hell or High Water
170Mad Max: Fury Road
169Children of Men
168Desperado
167Blood Diamond
166Kick Ass
165The Stanford Prison Experiment
164Austin Powers
163Edward Scissorhands
162Little Miss Sunshine
161Slumdog Millionaire
160Swiss Army Man
159School of rock
158Sunshine
157Sky High
156Tropic Thunder
155Good Will Hunting
154The Breakfast Club
153(500) Days of Summer
152We Need to Talk About Kevin
151Chasing Amy
150The Lego Movie
149Apt Pupil
148Keeping the Faith
147Indianna Jones
146A Knight’s Tale
145A Christmas Story
144John Wick
143Independence Day
142Ghostbusters
141Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
140Happy Death Day
139Ace Ventura
138The Shawshank Redemption
137Shoot ‘Em Up
136Cabin Fever
135Begin Again
134A Quiet Place
133The Disaster Artist
132The Devil Wears Prada
131Team America: World Plice
130Tag
129Mulholland Dr
128Can’t Hardly Wait
127Catch Me If You Can
126The Faculty
125Minority Report
124Choke
123Bubble Boy
122BlacKKKlansman
121Blindspotting
120Beetlejuice
119Hairpsray
118The Sixth Sense
117Tucker & Dale Vs Evil
116Revolutionary Road
115Se7en
114V For Vendetta
113Hedwig and the Angry Inch
112Birdman
111Wonder Woman
110Bohemian Rhapsody
109Back to the Future
108South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut
10710 Things I Hate About You
106Sin City
105The Addams Family
104The Princess Diaries
103Repo: The Genetic Opera
102Saw
101The Lion King

Shazam

A few weeks ago, I realized something. Two of the movies I’m super excited for, Pet Sematary and Shazam, were opening the same day. Which would I see first? Could I possibly choose between my love and loyalty to Stephen King or Zachary Levi? Maybe an hour after I tweeted about this personal crisis, I found out about the advanced screenings of Shazam. Hallelujah! Went online and ordered tickets. Was this close to buying for one of my usual theaters, but realized that I could change things up since I wouldn’t be bound to A-List. Turns out, Zachary Levi made an appearance at the theater I almost went to (dang it! I chose poorly) (Also, if you really think I can’t identify that theater from that little bit, you really don’t know me at all). But I got to go to Dave and Buster’s first and I won a friend who got to see the movie too. Who says Marvel and DC can’t play nice?

Right so, superhero origin story, I don’t think I need to go into too much detail there. What makes Shazam different is that he’s actually just a kid. 14 year old Billy Batson is imbued with magical powers by a wizard (like ya do) and when he says his name (Shazam, duh) he turns into a full blown superhero (my love, Zachary Levi) with abilities including lighting and speed and strength and other things he’ll discover thru the course of the film.

To be completely honest, it took me a while to get into it. We’ve seen so many of these movies, it’s getting harder and harder to suspend disbelief. It also didn’t help that the teens next to me couldn’t go five seconds without a comment. By the time we got to act two, which was when my boy first appeared and when I finally get annoyed enough to give a “Are you guys gonna talk thru the whole thing?!” to the duo next to me, that I started to get into it. Then we got to the final act and I was so amped up. I feel like it’s rare that a movie really does get exponentially better as it goes on. Superhero movies especially tend to lose it in the climax. That’s where Shazam really took off, and I very much want to see a sequel.

Yes I know, I’ve very much been a critic of the DCEU, but it comes from a place of me wanting the best out of these movies. I’ve always loved Superman and I don’t think he’s been treated right. I feel like the rushed quality of these movies is insulting to the audience, and I want to see them treated with the care and attention they deserve. All that said, this movie feels like they’re FINALLY getting something right (besides Wonder Woman, which also was oh so very right). But this movie is FUN. I don’t think I’ve said that about any of the other movies in their series, which has been one of the basis of my criticisms. I’ll say it again, this movie is fun!! It’s so much more family friendly than anything we’ve seen from them and much lighter than anything else too. This definitely felt like we were seeing supers thru a kid’s eyes, and I loved that perspective. So different from other DCEU or MCU films and it makes a standard origin story stand out.

What it really gets right though, is casting Zachary Levi. I have loved him since his Chuck days and I’m ecstatic to see him move on to . I mostly love him because he is one of the sweetest people in Hollywood (and the best person I ever met at a Broadway stage door). But he’s also a very excitable nerd who gets genuinely excited for all things comics and all things geeky, maintaining a sense of a wonder and childlike spirit about it all. All of those qualities make him PERFECT for the role of a kid who suddenly becomes a superhero and is overwhelmed and psyched by it all.

The other bit of casting I loved was the diversity, especially among the foster kids in Billy’s found family. That diversity is especially apparently at the end with an event I don’t wanna spoil. Even just highlighting foster kids is something that brought me joy. What also brought me joy was the way they showed they’re still connected to the greater DC Universe while still being apart from it. Again, it’s like how the kids see living in that world. And that’s a world I wanna live in too

Shazam – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n