What I Watched, (And Sometimes Enjoyed),Mostly in July

I watched a lot of things in July, but most of those things were something I’d already watched multiple times. Here are, in order of most enjoyed, to least enjoyed, are the new movies and series I watched in the month of July. Okay, technically, Suicide Squad came out this month, but I couldn’t resist including it on this list, because of all the things I watched, it was the most fun, and I had the most to say about it.

MY ABSOLUTE FAVES!

These were my absolute favorites. Movies that definitely lived up to the hype, at least for me!. They’re the kinds of movies I would watch multiple times, and enjoy them every single time. Lets get to it, because I got a lot to say about two of these.

Suicide Squad

I was most ecstatic to see one major character in this movie:

STARRO the CONQUEROR!!!

First some background, though. The first time I encountered this character was in The Justice League comic books, and I’ve been horribly fascinated by this character ever since. The character has always been both deeply funny and horribly grotesque and James Gunn managed to totally capture that aesthetic, and even manage to make the character sympathetic, as well. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d see a big screen, live action, version of Starro!

That said, I have no f*cking clue who any of the other characters are in this movie, because I only read a handful of the comic books as a kid, so in a sense, I was kind of walking into this one blind. I trusted that James Gunn would bring bring the absurdity, and I was not wrong. This is one of the most enjoyable movies, I’ve seen all year, with the zany plot that I was hoping for, even crazier characters, and the movie is just fun. Its horrifying, and funny, and tragic, and mortifying, and disgusting, and I loved it! This was everything that the first movie should have been, although I was one of the few people who didn’t hate that one.

All of the characters are great, but the standouts for me were:

Ratcatcher 2: Who is the heart and soul of the movie. She really does have a heart of gold.

King Shark: There was an amazing amount of pathos for this character, and I loved that he had a full character arc, from a friendless predator, to a real sweetheart, who uses terms like nom-nom.

Sebastian: Sebastian is RatCatcher’s constant companion. I love this little guy. He just wants to be friends with people! I can’t stand rats, though. I got an issue with them to the point where I refuse to even watch Ratatouille but Sebastian is an exception.

I even managed to like Peacemaker, and the Polka Dotted Man. That I liked Bloodsport goes without saying.

Rating this movie is really hard, because I’m still so jazzed up about it, that I can’t yet point to anything I disliked. I normally don’t rate films, but I’m gonna have to give this one an A for now. I’ve always been a fan of James Gunn, since his Dawn of the Dead/Slither period, and I’m glad he got a chance to just let loose and show out like this, in a way he can’t with the Disney films.

Anyway, I have a lot more to say about this film, so look for a later post, devoted entirely to the characters of this movie!

Rurouni Kenshin:The Beginning/The Final

The last two movies in this five part series was just released in July and are available on Netflix. I have a lot more to say about this franchise, although I have gushed about it on this blog before. It is one of a handful of great Samurai movies that make my favorites list, and I’ll go into it with some depth, a little later this year. Its based on the manga, and anime, of the same name, which I’ve never read, and I don’t really want to. This most excellent live action version is enough for me.

MOVIES THAT WERE ALRIGHT!!!

These movies I really enjoyed. They’re very well made, the plots and dialogue were intricate enough to hold my attention, and the fight scenes were well done. Now, all of these were horror vehicles, so your enjoyment of them may vary. Its hard to say something was “enjoyable” when I was scared shitless, and sitting on the edge of my seat, the whole time, but there it is.

Sweet Home

Oh wow! This series was a harrowing exercise in tension, fear, terror, and suspense…all those good things. I haven’t been this scared in a good long while, so that’s why this TV series is so high on this list. I love monster movies, and this show is like one long monster movie that never ends. I had to watch this over several days. I simply couldn’t binge my way through this. I had to take breaks, because its a bit much. The plot seems simple enough, but this goes on for several episodes. It all has a very Attack on Titan/Train to Busan/The Thing mashup feel to it.

People are coming down with some sort of infection, and no one knows who is or isn’t infected. When people become infected, they transform into something that mimics their deepest desires. For example, a person who loved running, gets turned into an incredibly fast predator, and a man who was a peeping tom, transforms into a giant eyeball monster. There’s an apartment building where a bunch of people get trapped, because one of the monsters waiting outside to kill them is a massive behemoth type creature, that eats anything that moves. Plus they have to try to fend off anyone who turns into a monster in their group, and save each other from any monsters that already manifested in the building.

This combination of the concepts of infection, hunting, and being hunted by monsters, throughout the many dark nooks and crannies of the building, makes for some very suspenseful viewing. There could literally be anything around any corner, or inside a wall vent, or hanging outside the window. From super-fast, hooved predators chasing people through a darkened basement, to human sized arachnids wrapping people up in the walls, to giant tentacle tongued creatures skewering people through the chest to drink their blood, you never know what kind of monster will be encountered next, and it could be anyone, transforming at any time. Later, the entire situation is complicated by infected people who can transform at will, and a group of desperate raiders who invade the building and take hostages.

Kingdom: Ashin of the North

If you liked Kingdom, then this movie is well worth the watch, as its a prequel to the first season of that series, and, explains how the purple flowers that caused the zombies, managed to make their way to the rest of Korea. Its all part of a revenge plot by a girl named Ashin. The political intrigue which caused all this is somewhat complicated. I had to have some of it explained to me by a Korean lady on Tumblr, who has studied that particular era of history, to get a full understanding.

At any rate, the destruction of her entire village prompts Ashin to commit revenge of all those who conspired to have her village destroyed. Watching her cold-blooded actions was actually immensely satisfying, because you see all of this from her point of view, and identify with her character completely. I don’t agree with the killing all of Korea part, but I definitely felt some type of way about what was done to her, such that I felt no remorse for any of her victims.

Like I said, its difficult to refer to a horror movie as enjoyable. This episode is every bit as harrowing as the first two seasons of the show. Once again, there is a zombie tiger. (For some reason, zombie shows seem fascinated by zombie predators.) And for once the show does not involve someone going somewhere and fighting zombies in order to steal money, so that’s different.

So yeah, I’m calling this Zombie Summer. We got multiple zombie films, and shows, the last season of The Walking Dead, and another show I have yet to watch, now in its second season, called Black Summer.

Train to Busan: Peninsula

This movie is an unrelated sequel to the first movie called Train to Busan. It’s less of a Horror movie and more of a zombie action film. Its every bit as suspenseful and tension filled as the original, but for different reasons. The first movie contained themes of class warfare, and parental neglect. This movie wants to discuss community vs. individual responsibilities.

This is basically the same plot as Army of the Dead, only the specialist team sent in to steal some money also have to contend with the leftover survivors, on the abandoned island they’ve been sent to. Rather than focusing on random civilians, this movie focuses on how the military handled the zombie outbreak, and it also focuses on the lead character’s regret at not saving a family that got left behind on the island, and not being able to save his sister in law and his nephew from being zombified. Many of the plot points echo some of the themes in Army of the Dead, right down to the lead character being a former member of the military, although the films are done in such different styles, that they don’t feel like retreads or remakes of each other.

As with most zombie films, I didn’t allow myself to get too attached to the characters. Like a lot of these movies, part of the suspense is never knowing who will, or won’t be killed, sometimes horribly. I know, I keep saying how weird it is to say that the horror was enjoyable, but it is, because when it’s done well, it makes for some deeply compelling and engaging viewing, and I guess that’s part of the appeal. The other part is just that it’s fun to be scared under controlled circumstances.

THESE WERE OKAY!

While I was initially enthusiastic about these films, I was ultimately disappointed in their presentation. Its not that they are bad films, but I kept noticing how much better they would have been if the directors had decided tomake other choices. What I got from these films were scenes that were either retreads of other, better movies, or scenery and plot points that were predictable and a bit lackluster, or characters I couldn’t really bring myself to care too deeply about. Y’all know me, I always like to look for a movie’s high points, see the brighter side, or give the benefit of the doubt. I rarely hate-watch a movie or show, but it was hard not to intensely dislike at least one aspect of these movies. Or maybe I just wasn’t feeling them at the time I watched ’em!

Paper Tigers

I only sort of liked this movie. Its not a bad film, and is actually pretty funny in some parts, so I’m going to give it a pass. It’s an Action-Comedy, so if you’re a fan of the original The Karate Kid, (or the Cobra Kai series), you might actually like this movie. When their teacher dies, three estranged students, who were once Kung Fu prodigies, but are now old and out of fighting trim, get together at his funeral, to figure out the mystery of his death. My biggest dislike was some of the humor is meant to laugh AT the characters, and their messed up lives, which I didn’t find particularly funny, and on occasion, the characters simply were not very likable people. There’s one character who spends entirely too much time lying to his son and ex-wife, who is of course portrayed as a nag, which is a trope I’m very tired of. (She has perfectly legitimate reasons for disliking her ex-husband.)

It’s like an older version of the cast of The Hangover, but with Kung Fu. On the other hand, the fight scenes were fun and funny. Like I said, this isnt a bad film. The dialogue is alright, and the fight scenes are cool. I’m just being persnickety, because it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be, but who knows, I may watch this again, and like it a lot more. And yeah, I’m gonna watch it again.

Gun Powder Milkshake

I really, really, really, wanted to like this movie, because it has some of my favorite actresses in it. I sat down to watch, and pay close attention, and about halfway through, I found myself being distracted by stuff I wanted to do that was laying nearby. Once again, this isnt a bad film. It’s a very competent film, with some really fun action scenes, and I didn’t feel like my time was wasted. It didn’t WOW me though, and that’s what an Action film has to do these days to get my love. As it stands, the movie gets a strong LIKE. There’s a lot of really great competition out there, and this movie was just “center of the road” good, not great. This could have been a better film if the creators had simply leaned harder into the chaotic nature of these character’s lifestyles, and just gone really big. Every scene felt like the creators were restraining themselves, like they were holding back. This movie was meant to be R rated, and instead I felt like I got PG-13.

The movie is not helped by a generic plot, of a kid in danger, who must be protected by an assassin who is on their last job, or whatever. We’ve seen this particular plot a bajillion times. Its almost its own subgenre of Action film, at this point. In this case, its an assassin whose mother disappeared on a job when she was child, being pursued by a former employer. She was then raised by a clandestine trio of assassins, who refer to themselves as The Librarians, and I did enjoy some of the literary themes they attached to different types of weaponry. Some of the movie was cute, and the dialogue was pretty slick, but none of it really stood out to me as exceptional.

Like a lot of middle-weight Action movies, it kept reminding me of much better ones, like Baby Driver, which had a much better car chase scene than this this one, although I have to admit, they really did do their very best here. They really did. Just, Baby Driver got there first, so I couldn’t help comparing the two. Like I said there wasn’t anything compelling me to keep watching it, although some people, (younger and less jaded or easily bored than me), will love this movie, because it is a really pretty looking film, its got an almost entirely female cast, and the fight scenes are alright.

What I liked most about it was Karen Gillen (from Guardians of the Galazy), Angela Bassett, and their fight scenes. What I disliked was that it could have been dialed up a bit more to maintain my attention.

MEH!

This category of movie wasn’t awful, but wasn’t especially good either. These are what I would call C- films.

Tomorrow War

What I liked about this movie was its premise. I was struck by the idea of humanity reaching back in time to ask for their ancestor’s help in solving a little problem with some murderous aliens. This plot point is not unlike some of the African religions that involve ancestral worship, and I kind of wish this movie had been made by some Black creators, because they would have caught that, and leaned into that idea a bit more. But this was not helped by the bland and predictable, secondary plot, and the bland, generic, white hero, who is on a redemptive arc to bond with the daughter he left behind, and his estranged father.

There’s also the funny but cowardly Black man trope, who also happens to be the white hero’s best friend, and I could have done without that, even though he was the only character in the movie, that I actually liked, and who stood out as having actual character. I feel like the movie would have been better served, (it certainly would have been a more novel plot), if he had been the lead character, and his arc was one of moving from cowardice to hero. He sort of has that arc in the movie, but it would have been a far more interesting film, if he’d been the lead, rather than typical comedy relief. Actually, this movie could probably have been made better by adding any of the other Chris’es to this film! After all, Chris Pratt is the least likable of all the Chris’es.

In other words, nothing about this movie really stood out to me. Not the action scenes, not the monsters, who were not scary, and kept reminding me of better monsters in other movies, (and who also seemed a bit overpowered to me), and certainly not the “I want to get in touch with my estranged family, again” plot. What kept going through my head as I watched it was, “This is okay, but it would have been so much better if…”, and that’s not good.

UGH!

Okay, this is a movie that was deeply disappointing to me, even though I was really eager to see it when I saw the trailer. It’s not bad in the typical sense. There were themes here that I found personally distasteful. Your mileage on this may vary. If you liked, or loved it, that’s cool, but there were a few things about this movie that just irked the hell outta me, and I couldn’t get past them.

Nobody

I was really eager to see this movie when I first heard about it, thinking it would be something like John Wick, only starring Bob Odenkirk, who I happen to like, and guess what? It was something like that, except without John Wick’s imaginative worldbuilding, and generally likable, and sometimes even admirable, bad asses. In fact its a little too much like John Wick, right down to its Russian villains, except all the joy has been removed. There’s something about this movie that just felt ugly to me. This movie is basically an old suburban white guy’s fantasy of being a bad ass, and beating up PoC, and we have quite enough of those, thank you very much!

I wanted the movie to lean into the unlikableness of the characters a little more, or lean into the fact that the primary character is trying, in his hamfisted way, to seem heroic to his family, and impress the son who spurns him as a coward, but the film doesn’t do any of that. Its not a bad movie, it just didn’t have the kind of romantic and over the top messaging, that appealed to me, although those of a more nihilistic mindset will probably really like it.

The fight scenes are okay, and the acting is fine, although some of the things the characters say are a bit overdone, in an effort to make the lead character seem like a wuss. And I really wanted to like him, because, while he is something of a sad sack, he’s not actually a coward. He makes the decisions he makes out of a sense of compassion for the people who would be on the receiving end of his violence, and I wanted the film to lean into that too, but the film appears to be arguing against having compassion for people.

For instance, the initial event that sets everything in motion is a home invasion by some inexperienced thieves. When the father finds that the weapon they threatened his family with is unloaded, he lets them leave without harming them, after which, every man he encounters who hears about it, castigates him for doing so, and talks about what they would have done if it had been their family. I need hardly mention that all the men who insult him for making this choice are suburban white guys! This is what I meant by this movie being “manly suburban violence porn”…

I love Action movies though, but I don’t think this was the film for me, and I regret having watched the parts of it I did see.

2 thoughts on “What I Watched, (And Sometimes Enjoyed),Mostly in July

  1. A great list! I LOVED “Train To Busan” and after a lot of convincing, I got my wife to agree to watch it with me – and she LOVED it too! Looking forward to that new one – as for the others, you can tell films like “Tomorrow War” are beginning to seem very stale and predictable, cookie-cutter in a way…the streaming services have to be careful not to think that average films at a cheap price are going to satisfy us (see all of Adam Sadnler’s Netflix films as an example)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Tomorrow War was a “serviceable” action film. It wasn’t doing anything groundbreaking and I think it would have been if the creators had pushed the envelope a bit, starting with the lead character.

      Like

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