The Tall Man
In this 2012 thriller, a small town suffers from recurring missing child cases. Folks say they are taken by the “tall man.” One day the lead character’s son disappears! Oh no! But, like the film Gone Baby Gone, everything is not as it seems, and “twists” reveal a deeper truth. Unfortunately, I did not find the “twists” or truthful revelations all that interesting, so the movie overall was a bland and boring one for me. Gone Baby Gone was much more interesting.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
A 2018 anime film about a woman named Maquia who is from a race of elf-like beings who never age, or at least age very slowly. After her homeland is invaded, she escapes and adopts an orphaned child who ages normally. Hilarity ensues. Actually, not much of anything ensues. The child has very little personality, so the film plods along without much of interest happening. The film did have a nice musical score, however.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
A popular 1989 anime film from Studio Ghibli, one of their few films I hadn’t yet seen. This was another I wanted to see before the Joe Hisaishi concert I attended last month, which was fantastic! As for this film, I also really enjoyed it. It’s episodic and feels a bit slice-of-life at times, so it could easily put you to sleep if you’re tired, but if you’re alert and focused, it’s definitely one of their better films, especially near the end when Kiki fears losing her powers. I think anyone who’s struggled with creativity or learning a new skill (e.g. the dreaded “plateau”) can relate to that sort of pit of self-doubt. And of course Hisaishi’s score is instantly memorable.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
2017 comedy revisiting Jumanji. Been meaning to watch this for a while as I have it on Blu-ray 3D. (Got the sequel too, need to watch that at some point.) I thought this would be a complete reboot, but it’s more of a reboot-sequel as it doesn’t overwrite the previous film with Robin Williams; the Jumanji board game just magically turns itself into a video game to lure a new generation. When powered on, it sucks in its unfortunate victims into its jungle world and makes them play a real-life adventure there. So I guess it’s a bit of an isekai sort of thing. Anyway, fun movie overall, Jack Black is especially hilarious as a teen girl trapped in a Jack Black body. The plot itself doesn’t really offer anything new for seasoned viewers, though.
Sound of Freedom
2023 true story action drama of a government agent who leaves the force in an effort to rescue child victims of human trafficking. Overall, the film does a great job given the sad and disturbing subject. Perhaps it’s a little too Hollywood-ish at moments, though, especially in the final act. Such Hollywood flourishes do make the film more engaging, but at the cost of it feeling less a “true story”. Granted, it’s a film, not a documentary, and interested viewers can always look up the facts vs fiction accounts afterward. Press surrounding the film also became oddly political, at least on Twitter, but there’s really nothing political in the film itself. Overall, great film, and good that it can draw some attention to such a sad, disturbing topic.
Insidious: The Red Door
2023 horror film, sequel to the first two Insidious films. The kid from those films is now in college and, through his artwork, is starting to remember disturbing things from the previous films that he and his father had tried to forget through hypnosis. Ultimately he and his father must once again face the demons that tormented them before. Like the previous Insidious films, this is a cheesy ridiculous story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Having enjoyed the previous films, I enjoyed this one as well. They could definitely keep the series going if they wanted to.
2020 thriller about a woman who, after her father’s death, discovers that her father has been keeping Simon Pegg chained up in a secret underground bunker. As the woman tries to unravel why her father did this and tries to decide whether or not to let the old man go, the audience tries to keep watching because it’s really stupid and boring.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
2023 fantasy adventure based on the popular RPG. A thief escapes from prison and sets out on some other heist job, hoping to reclaim his daughter from an old partner who betrayed him (Hugh Grant). Fun movie overall. The humor was kind of hit or miss for me; some was great, some was groan. I know nothing about the source material, but that didn’t seem a requirement.
One critique might be that, if this world is full of so much magic, why isn’t there even more constant chaos? Or why isn’t everyone a lot more cautious of magic’s potential for harm and trickery? Or, if the magic the main characters use throughout is supposed to be rare in this world, isn’t it just super-convenient that they have access to it? Perhaps that’s overthinking it, but it does feel unbalanced one way or another.
Still, I enjoyed it.
A 1990 live-action Disney pirate film about a boy who ventures out on a ship to earn some money, which is overtaken by pirates. A bit similar to Treasure Island, but with a somewhat less adventurous plot. Might’ve enjoyed this if I were younger, but as a very serious and mature adult, this was a bit too cheesy for me.
2022 film from director Jordan Peele, somewhere between horror and thriller, but not really either. It’s about some siblings that are trying to keep their family business going when a UFO begins appearing over their horse ranch. And then the entire movie is about them… wanting to get a picture of it so they can sell it for money. Such a silly goal hardly makes for an engaging film, even when the siblings find themselves having to battle against the UFO for their lives. Boring, didn’t work for me.
2022 horror film about an AI robot prototype for kids who becomes deadly after becoming over-protective. Although such a premise is cliche, they could’ve done so much more with it than they actually did. They spent way too long setting up the story, and not nearly enough time having the rogue robot terrorizing foolish victims. Ultimately it’s a big letdown.
2021 drama about a woman trying to reconnect with her daughter after being let out of prison for murder. It was too slow and brooding for me, and the “twist” revelation at the end was both completely predictable and uninteresting.
There’s Something Wrong with the Children
A 2023 horror film about a couple looking after their neice and nephew (or was it just friends’ kids? I don’t remember). But the children are replaced by imposters after being lured by demons or something to jump to their deaths in a giant hole in the ground. The imposter children then act creepy because it’s a horror movie, and things do downhill from their as the imposters want to make everyone into imposters as well. Needed more humor and for the adult characters to act a lot less dumb and argumentative all the time.
Detroit Rock City
1999 comedy about a group of teenagers who want to see the band KISS in concert, and spend the entire film attempting to get tickets one crazy way or another. Kind of like the hit Christmas classic, Jingle All the Way! Some of it was funny, but some of its humor was too gross or raunchy for me.
2018 biopic about the early life of famous Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren. While it was interesting to learn about her early life (which the film presented rather matter-of-factly, as her actions were rarely very prudent), it did not really make for a very engaging film.