Movies in 2020

Flesh + Blood

Paul Verhoeven, 1985

Flesh + Blood

After the death of Rutger Hauer at the end of last year, I watched some of his films. This medieval, semi-historical tale shows the stark reality of Europe in the times of the black plague, as it follows the misadventures of a band of mercenaries that go from war to war.

And I mean the starkness. The full cut of the movie contains a rape scene that, even if it's anthropologically plausible, it may end up offending more currently situated sensibilities.

The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers, 2019

The Lighthouse

Absolutely masterful work by Eggers. Shot in black and white and avoiding the widescreen format, the extremely stylized visual quality with emphasis on light and shadows sometimes bordering on chiaroscuro, only adds to the atmosphere.

The movie is set in an isolated lighthouse in the XIX century and tells of the tribulations of two lighthouse-men during their round of duty, played by Willem Dafoe and a brilliant Robert Pattinson.

Pluto Nash

Ron Underwood, 2002

Pluto Nash

Eddie Murphy vehicle from the early 2000s, when his fame was already dwindling. A low standard film for Hollywood, but a striking one despite its mediocre structure.

It garnered some attention in the visual effects circles due to its use of video mixing effects. In that era, the fusion of an actor's face in the body of someone else was a very sophisticated effect.

The Big Short

Adam McKay, 2015

The Big Short

Slightly fictionalized retelling of the events that triggered the huge economic recession of 2008, and how a few guys anticipated and reacted to it, getting filthy rich in the process.

Entertainingly told, engaging and with good interjections to explain financial concepts that shed light on the systemic failure that ended up causing the first financial collapse of the XXI century. A nice way of understanding what caused such failure.

Rock & Rule

Clive A. Smith, 1983

Rock & Rule

Odd adult animated film with a rock & roll theme and folks like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry or the band Cheap Trick in the credits.

It was a box office flop when it premiered and it's not hard to see that in this case it was deserved. Ugly designs, a bare-bones setting, and a cliched plot don't help. It's not aesthetically pleasing or rocking enough to attract that demographic, and it's too adult to be suitable for children.

I am Mother

Grant Sputore, 2019

I am Mother

Post-apocalyptic SF story that explores the central theme of a shelter built to recreate the human population after a planetary catastrophe.

Moderately interesting and with good visual production, although the veterans of the genre will not find much new here.

TMNT

Kevin Munroe, 2007

TMNT

Pretty good animated adaptation of the comic book, made in that period after the classic cartoon stopped airing, but before the Michael Bay live-action adaptations premiered.

The Turtles have fallen off the mainstream, but this is a decent flick that can fuel the imagination of those who have yet to meet them.

My Dad is a Heel Wrestler (パパはわるものチャンピオン)

Kyôhei Fujimura, 2018

My Dad is a Heel Wrestler

This is Hiroshi Tanahashi's film debut. The New Japan Pro Wrestling champion stars in a surprisingly moving family drama between the relationship of a wrestling fighter and his son.

Tanahashi, who in real life is a face, plays here a washed-up heel or "bad guy" in wrestling and he must juggle his parenting duties with the realization that his fame is on the decline.

Knives Out

Rian Johnson, 2019

Knives Out

Rian Johnson's work in the genre of mystery, using the by now classic template of the murder at the mansion of the wealthy family.

You can see the twists coming from the first moment, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. It shows that the movie pays attention to details and doesn't try to deceive the audience with conflicting or deliberately hidden information. Plus, it's still entertaining to see how events unfold.

The photography has a high aesthetic appeal and the cast is very fitting.

1917

Sam Mendes, 2019

1917

Incredible war story set in World War 1, with the visual gimmick of being presented in one long shot. The legendary Roger Deakins as director of photography achieves some spectacular visuals.

While I was watching it I was drawn to find the "stitching points" where the different shots were joined with one another to give the illusion of one continuous take, and paying a bit of attention one can find many of these points. This may be a little distracting from the story while watching the movie, but it's clear that the priority was in the cinematic feat of an (almost) feature-length take without the narrative overshadowing the visuals.

Absolutely a must-see.

D.E.B.S.

Angela Robinson, 2004

D.E.B.S.

Parody espionage action movie but refreshingly sincere (it was still only 2004, after all). A secret agency of schoolgirl spies who work for the government and a young Jordana Brewster in her first movie since The Fast and the Furious playing the megalomaniacal villain this time. There is, of course, a twist.

Lady Dragon

David Worth, 1992

Lady Dragon

A martial arts one featuring Cynthia Rothrock. Not very memorable, to be honest. The fight choreographies are competent, of course, but it's nothing particularly remarkable.

Dragon Quest: Your Story

Takashi Yamazaki, 2019

Dragon Quest: Your Story

Animated adaptation of the story from Dragon Quest V, perhaps the DQ game with the best narrative in the entire series as of this writing.

The rendering and animation quality is excellent. Without spoiling anything, I'll mention that there are some alterations to the plot that caused some controversial reactions, but I personally thought it was a pretty good way of setting the movie as something apart from the game.

Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy (葉問外傳:張天志)

Yuen Woo-ping, 2018

Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy

Entertaining martial arts yarn, which follows the path of Cheung Tin Chi after his defeat at the hands of Ip Man.

Dave Bautista plays a role in this merely OK action flick, a spin-off of the recent Ip Man series.

The legendary Yuen Woo-ping helms the direction and, while not his best work, it doesn't disappoint.

UHF

Jay Levey, 1989

UHF

The entrance of Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic in the world of cinema resulted in a histrionic movie with outdated humour that may still appeal to some.

It certainly reminds one of a time where comedy, even low brow comedy, wasn't as politicized.

And, even at its worst, Weird Al will always be more enjoyable than Jim Carrey

Terrorvision

Ted Nicolau, 1986

Terrorvision

One of those horror movies with practical effects and puppets, in this one an alien life form emerges thanks to a satellite TV antenna.

It's not the kind of movie I'd normally watch, but it holds up as fairly entertaining and it's not excessively gory. By today's standards, it's more comical than serious. Nice '80s aesthetic and it has at least enough budget to be pretty watchable

Underwater

William Eubank, 2020

Underwater

Horror SF flick that goes straight to the point, and does it well.

Top-notch aesthetics and a structure that reminds one of Cuarón's Gravity except under the ocean. Unlike Gravity, though, the cast of Underwater is excellent. The protagonist, played by Kristen Stewart particularly stands out.

The plot development could have been smoothed out somewhat, particularly as it pertains to the movie's climax but in general it's a good movie in the tradition of classics like Abyss.

Knight Moves

Carl Schenkel, 1992

Knight Moves

Vehicle for the ostentation of Christopher Lambert, who is usually fun to watch. Crime mystery set during a chess tournament, with Lambert playing the role of a Grandmaster, and Diane Lane as a reporter, in a little-known role.

The plot doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's funny to see how its developed, via scenes that exist to make Lambert look cool.

Flashout

Richard Lerner, 2019

Flashout

Weird film where three girls enter an immersive simulation videogame where they must find three specific characters and cause them a "flashout", a sort of explosive orgasm that removes them from the game.

Despite the themes and certain elements of the plot, the movie itself has no erotic/pornographic visuals of any kind. What it includes is a strange story of parallel realities involving a shady-looking character that is trying to help them but is unable to communicate effectively.

Interesting due to how purely weird it is, although it's by no means an easy recommendation.

T-Force

Richard Pepin, 1992

T-Force

Trashy video store action with an intro ripped straight off Die Hard plus some science fiction elements. It follows the perspective of a special forces unit that comprises cyborgs.

Of course, some of these cyborgs rebel against their creators, but one remains loyal and questions their methods and must buddy up with a cyborg-hating cop to stop them.

Ready Player One

Steven Spielberg, 2018

Ready Player One

Spielberg wanted us to clap in the theater every time we recognized a pop culture reference in this adaptation of the embarrassingly bad Ernest Cline novel.

Supposedly, the novel is little more than a poorly veiled excuse to shoehorn '80s and '90s references in an unearned nerd power fantasy narrative that takes itself too seriously. This movie doesn't even provide that, since the references are limited to what they were able to license and nothing else (with a good dose of anachronistic sponsored cameos, like Tracer from Overwatch)

Overdone CGI, bland and predictable plot, characters with no charisma or redeeming qualities...

Good to watch out of curiosity, but in the same way that the millions invested in producing his movie would have better spent in making something else, your time is also probably better invested in watching a different movie.

Sonic

Jeff Fowler, 2020

Sonic

"A movie so bad it brought Jim Carrey out of retirement"

As I already mentioned before, I would have liked it if hey kept the original awful Sonic version that leaked in trailers before release. In that case, it would have been an enjoyably bad movie to laugh at.

As it stands, it ended up being an inoffensive yet formulaic movie, without much to do with the Sonic videogames —the movie score doesn't even include any leitmotiv from the game's soundtrack—.

The Blue Hedgehog ends up, where else, on Earth. The living caricature that is Jim Carrey, as always, would be better if away from the movie.

Revolt

Joe Miale, 2017

Revolt

Decent alien invasion movie, with Lee Pace playing the protagonist. Worth noting the setting where the story takes place, Kenya, which is unusual to see in this genre of movies typically focused on big American or European cities. Competently made but besides that it's not particularly memorable.

Moontrap

Robert Dyke, 1989

Moontrap

A crummy and "try-hard" SF flick featuring young Bruce Campbell and Walter Koening.

Very hackneyed. Lousy dialogue. Predictable plot. Somewhat entertaining when watching with friends, but not much else. It gives the impression of taking itself too seriously without being up to scratch for it. The same writers of this movie made a sequel a whooping 28 years later called Moontrap: Target Earth. That kinda says a lot, I think.

Masterminds

Roger Christian, 1997

Masterminds

Telefilm quality and little else. Typical story with the trope of "problematic bad boy student who is also secretly a genius". The protagonist frustrates the villain's plan of kidnapping the students of a posh private school to demand money for ransom.

Patrick Stewart as the villain. I understand everybody's gotta eat, but I don't know if Stewart was still hungry after chewing the scenery like he does here.

Besides the hilarious intro with a very '90s interpretation of how it is to hack a computer system, it doesn't have much to offer.

Battlefield Baseball (地獄甲子園)

Yudai Yamaguchi, 2003

Battlefield Baseball

Wackiness made in Japan that, I appreciate, starts presenting itself as a baseball movie, only to reveal a few minutes in that it's anything but that.

Zombies, over the top violence and baseball matches played literally to death feature prominently. It's interesting the presence of Atsushi Ito, the otoko from the Densha Otoko TV series that brought us so many good times. His role here doesn't exactly break his typecast.

The Craft

Andrew Fleming, 1996

The Craft

Relatively respected film of the teenage/goth/wiccan genre that nails the aesthetic and even shows some little-explored facets of witchcraft, but unfortunately ends up turning into a sanctimonious moralist tale in its last act, which destroys all the plot arcs built up in the first parts of the movie. Were it not for that it could have been a timeless classic. The poor character development and dull performance of the protagonist don't help either.

Odds and Evens (Pari e Dispari)

Sergio Corbucci, 1978

Odds and Evens

I haven't watched a film with Carlo Pedersoli and Mario Girotti —better known by their acting pseudonyms: Bud Spencer and Terence Hill respectively—, since you could write my age in the single digits.

Not surprising. A plot with questionable and outdated elements, cardboard performances and a purely functional structure. However, it manages to create a cozy, nostalgic atmosphere in its locations, typical of a continental Europe road movie that pretends to be in the USA.

Edge of Tomorrow

Doug Liman, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

Excellent adaptation of the light novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka —which has the much better title: All You Need is Kill

Hollywood production values. Exciting premise, well explored and well carried, with some flashy twists here and there. Highly recommended.

Mandroid

Jack Ersgard, 1993

Mandroid

Another tape from the B movie producers Full Moon. A story without much coherence that even so, aspires to be part of a cinematic universe decades before that term was popular. A story that features an android controlled by neural link, a villain that ends up looking like Q from Street Fighter, mad scientists, and other genre tropes.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Stephen Herek, 1989

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Cult comedy in the USA that I hadn't seen until now. Seemed pretty dumb to me. It has its moments, but not many. Has heart but it's not at all my style of humour.

Steel

Kenneth Johnson, 1997

Steel

A vehicle for the basketball player Shaquile O'Neal who went by without much fanfare (read: it flopped). Good as a "video rental" kind of movie. Fairly bland and predictable. Features The Breakfast Club's Judd Nelson as an over-the-top villain.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

Peter Hewitt, 1991

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

Considerably better and more interesting than the first movie (marginally better written, too). It still has several moments of purely juvenile humour and assorted silliness, but it at least incorporates conceptual themes that are a bit juicier than the first movie's straightforwardness.

The Batwoman (La mujer murciélago)

René Cardona, 1968

The Batwoman

One of those Mexican hero films which, of course, has to feature lucha libre. The protagonist "mujer murciélago" (Bat Woman) works as a detective by day and luchadora in the evening. Oddly enough, her lucha outfit covers more skin than the masked, bikini-based outfit she uses in her main job against crime.

The movie illustrates some tropes that have fallen out of favor before Hollywood rigidly codified what an action/adventure should be, which feels refreshing.

The Lair of the White Worm

Ken Russell, 1988

The Lair of the White Worm

Horror B-movie with Hugh Grant, and a young Peter Capaldi playing the role of an alternate reality version of Otacon.

A Gothic horror mystery that takes place in a village in the UK, where people are starting to mysteriously disappear after an archaeologist (Capaldi) unearths the skull of a strange creature.

Quite an enjoyable movie due to how absurd and ridiculous its presentation is, more than for its dialogue. The main star is undoubtedly the main villainess, aristocrat Lady Sylvia, played by Amanda Donohoe.

Contains possibly disturbing scenes of sex and violence.

Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature (大自然の魔獣 バギ)

Osamu Tezuka, 1984

Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature

There's a story doing the rounds about how a stash of illustrations by Osamu Tezuka was discovered in a desk somewhere which included several "sexy" illustrations of an anthropomorphic mouse, "outing" Tezuka as a furry.

It's an urban legend told to make it look like a scandalous revelation, but it's enough for anyone to be passingly familiar with the works of the so-called "god of manga" to know that his affinity for erotically suggestive animals is neither new nor secret.

Bagi is the story of the eponymous mutant cat that grows up to become a too horny cat-woman, and attaches to her "owner" since birth, Ryo.

The OVA opens with an adult Ryo gearing up to hunt Bagi, and then quickly flashes back to tell the origins of this "Monster of Mighty Nature". The animation isn't anything to write home about and the story isn't any wonder of literature, featuring the super-powerful Bagi in scenes that are purely for the director's fetish. It's not a particularly perverted film (but perhaps in '84 it was considered one). Entertaining, but I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it.

Also known as:

  • Daishizen no Majuu: Bagi
  • Daishizen no Majyu Bagi
  • Taishizen no Makemono Bagi

Hardware

Richard Stanley, 1990

Hardware

One of the secondary cult movies of cyberpunk. A work that ends up being a typical slasher horror piece, where not much happens after the initial setup. Very vague allusions to fascism and the self-complacency of the population, but they are not developed as part of the main themes.

Accomplished aesthetic but not a lot of substance beyond that.

As a curiosity, it's worth mentioning the small roles of Iggy Pop and Lemmy Kilmister in the movie, which make for enjoyable cameos.

The Endless Summer

Bruce Brown, 1966

The Endless Summer

The most lauded and famous surfing documentary ever. Product of an era where you could shoot a movie about a pair of surfers roaming the world chasing after that endless summer, looking for the perfect wave, and it would become a cult film.

The beginning is a bit slow. Especially if, like me, you have absolutely no interest in surfing. It soon gets better as a great journey chronicle, and also due to its casual and chill attitude towards these privileged guys' little project.

Equals

Drake Doremus, 2015

Equals

High-concept science fiction where the inhabitants of a dystopian world where emotions are forbidden occasionally break their conditioning and develop feelings.

Although pretty typical of these high-concept stories, and bearing some literary influences that it doesn't bother to hide, the movie is nevertheless entertaining due to its pacing and set pieces. Nothing especially remarkable, though.

36.15 code Père Noël

René Manzor, 1989

36.15 code Père Noël

French movie where a rich but rebellious child receives the visit of a psychopath dressed in a Santa suit during Christmas, and he's forced to defend himself and his ill grandpa since he's otherwise... home alone.

The protagonist kid has a knack for gadgets and is obsessed with Rambo. He finds himself in the position of having to improvise homemade traps to slow down the attacker until his mom arrives back home after a long day at work.

This movie precedes Home Alone by a year and may have been involved in plagiarism accusations. The difference with Home Alone, however is that the tone of Père Noël is less absurdly cartoonish and more grounded, even getting pretty graphic at times. And there is some actual character development and establishment of motivations.

Slacker

Richard Linklater, 1991

Slacker

Slice-of-life film that takes place during a day in the city of Austin where, several borderline socially outcast folks come and go out of different vignettes, exhibiting Linklater's characteristic pseudo-pretentious verbosity.

Instead of a set protagonist, the movie has an ensemble structure —Heck, Slacker only shows up in one scene!*— that becomes more interesting as you spend more time immersed in this very personal portrayal of Austin. Even though I personally prefer other works by Linklater, this was pretty enjoyable.

*just kidding.

© 2015-2022 Iago Mosquerasite version: 1.0issue nº 220418.1339