Regal Unlimited

If you remember, it was only almost 11 years ago that I blogged about the need for movie ticket subscriptions back when MoviePass was first announced. The deal wasn’t so great then, but they had a killer deal in 2018, something like less than $100 for a whole year for any movie at any theater, with no monthly limit. Unfortunately the deal was so good that it completely bankrupted the company months before the end of that year. They’ve sinced relaunched with some more sustainable deals, which you can check out on their website.

Still, I’d prefer the wider selection of cheaper DVD rentals from Netflix. But that’s no longer an option, as they shut down the service at the end of last month. The movie industry in general seems to want to move toward a future where you have to stream everything and can never own anything. And you’ll be happy!

Anyway, with my Netflix DVD subscription now in its eternal grave, I wanted to give Regal Unlimited a try, especially with a discount deal they offered earlier this month, which was a little over $200 for a year of unlimited movies at any Regal theater. (Usually it’s $260, and they offered a $60 discount.)

So now I just have to see all the movies at Regal I can to make that worth my money.

Granted, although their ads often say “see any movie”, that’s a lie.1 It won’t work for special screenings, such as Fathom events (a lot of anime, film anniversary screenings, operas, etc.) and foreign films from foreign distributors (we don’t get many of those around here anyway). And you’ve gotta pay surcharges for IMAX or 3D films. (Although our flat-screen IMAX is usually not worth it, and there are hardly any 3D films anymore, sadly. And our Regal does not have the newer 4DX or ScreenX stuff.)

Still, that works out to a pretty good deal, assuming you see lots of movies and don’t buy too many snacks.

(I wonder if the popularity of MoviePass in 2018, although it failed by itself, proved to the theater that such a model could work?)

So far this month I’ve seen five movies at Regal: The Nun II, Dumb Money, The Exorcist: Believer, The Creator, and Saw X. So far, Saw X was the only one I really enjoyed. The rest would definitely not have been worth the usual $10 to $14 ticket price.

Movies watched in August 2023

Oh no, I’m two months behind! Here are the films I watched this August:

Boarding School

A 2018 horror mystery about a troubled 12-year-old boy who’s sent away to a boarding school with an overly strict headmaster. When a student dies, the boy begins to unravel the mysterious truth behind the boarding school’s dark purpose. Bit of a cliche premise, but the mystery begins somewhat interestingly. Unfortunately the grand reveal falls very flat. Some pretty poor-looking CGI blood splatter and fire as well.

Drifting Home

A 2022 anime film about a group of kids who explore an abandoned apartment building which holds some of their childhood memories. They suddenly find themselves stranded when the building randomly begins floating out to sea. Very weird film that ultimately didn’t work for me. I just didn’t get it. Too artsy for me, I guess.

The Meg 2: The Trench

I did not much care for the original film, The Meg, so why watch this 2023 sequel? Because it was in 3D! Research divers on sci-fi-ish subs must once again survive an encounter with prehistoric shark monsters. Although the plot is ridiculous, I actually thought it was a fun film, and better than the first film as it takes itself less seriously this time around. Looked nice in 3D too! Some very unrealistic portrayals of water pressure (which the audience might only pick up on because the Titan submersible disaster put the perils of water pressure in the news for a couple weeks).


A 2022 horror film from Japan in which a group of high school students get stuck in a time loop in which they must battle a creepy monster. While it offers an interesting variation on a time loop plot, and the monster looks pretty cool (it looked like they used practical effects in some shots rather than overly-obvious CGI, but it could’ve been just really good CGI), the film unfortunately doesn’t ultimately satisfy. The film ends up being a bit forgettable.

The Wretched

A 2019 horror film in which a teenage boy slowly discovers that his neighbor is an evil child-killing witch. It’s nothing too special, and is a bit silly at times, but overall it’s a fun popcorn flick as far as horror films go, and features an interesting twist at the end.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

A 2023 animated reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I only went to see because it was in 3D. I hated this movie. I suppose the main reason was because it’s just so different in spirit to the ninja turtles I grew up with in the late 80s and early 90s. Some of my main complaints include:

  1. The character design is just plain ugly.
  2. The turtles’ motivation for fighting is to be accepted by the human world, which is hardly intriguing. One of the main appeals of being a superhero in secret is the secrecy of it, and the heroes fight crime because they actually care about the people they’re fighting for. Being insecure about being a mutant turtle is just lame, and fighting to impress others is even lamer.
  3. In the original franchise, being a ninja is more than just fighting, there’s a philosophy behind it, even if it may not be that deep in a children’s franchise. In this movie, being a ninja hardly means anything. Splinter just learns and teaches ninja fighting arbitrarily, perhaps because he was too stupid to find some guns to fight with.
  4. Splinter is made to be overly stupid. In the original franchise, he’s a wise mentor and father figure. Here he’s a stupid comic relief character who often gets in the way. Why do the turtles even listen to him?
  5. Spoiler: In the end, the turtles don’t really need to learn much of a lesson. Rather, it’s humans who have to learn the lesson of acceptance so that the turtles can have their happy ending. I hate this modern trope in which all the supporting characters are really the ones at fault, while the main characters only needs to prove themselves worthy. This was also the problem I had with Wreck-It Ralph. A movie that avoids doing this is Shrek; in the end, commoners are still prejudiced against ugly ogres, but Shrek overcomes his insecurity by focusing on the ones he loves without depending on “acceptance” from everyone else.

Ugh, it’s so bad!

The Silence

A 2019 horror film with a similar premise to A Quiet Place. The world becomes overrun by monsters who hunt by sound, forcing everyone to be quiet. The women all die first. Just kidding! I did not much care for A Quiet Place, and this film somehow manages to be even worse. Given the silly premise, why doesn’t everyone just blast the air with noise everywhere to overwhelm the creatures, rather than try to be silent, which just makes it easier for them to catch prey?

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

2011 documentary about a Japanese sushi chef who has dedicated his long life to the singular pursuit of creating the best darn sushi rich people (the only ones who can afford to get an appointment at his exclusive little sushi bar) have ever had. An interesting documentary. As of writing this blog post, Jiro is 97 years old and, as far as I can tell with a little Googling, still working. Impressive!

The Life of Budori Gusuko

A 2012 anime about… I’m not even sure what this was about. It was like a series of random dream sequences in which the title character, an anthropomorphic cat, meanders about the world obtaining random jobs. I didn’t understand it at all.

To Leslie

A 2022 drama about a woman who tries to put her life together after squandering a lottery win with alcoholism. It was ultimately too depressing and boring for me.

Cocaine Bear

A 2023 attempt at comedy about a bear who goes on a cocaine-induced rampage after swallowing a bunch of cocaine. A few laughs here and there, but a lot of the humor didn’t really work for me. It probably needed to lose the whole drug boss vs police subplot and just focus on some unlucky hikers trying to escape a crazy bear.

Heart of Stone

A 2023 thriller about a female James Bond-ish character trying stop evil people from hacking into the best AI spy system ever created. Some OK action sequences here and there, but the technology of the overall plot was overly ridiculous. Hacking with Python defs in text files? The computer stuff is hilariously bad. Though can it beat this classic CSI moment?


A 1977 Disney film starring a young Jodie Foster about a kid pretending to be the long lost granddaughter of a rich old lady in an effort to find the treasure hidden on her estate. I saw this as a child, but didn’t remember much of it, except rice pudding, which I still think sounds gross. Fun movie, but ends way too conveniently with a little too much slapstick.

Till Death

A 2021 thriller in which a husband finds out his wife’s been cheating and, rather than kill her, handcuffs himself to her and kills himself. Ha ha, that’ll teach her! She then has to survive being handcuffed to a corpse before assassins find her. The premise is overly convoluted and falls apart after you realize she could just easily break the dead guy’s thumb and slide the handcuffs off him instead of hauling his bloody body around for so long.


Somebody set up us the bomb! Christopher Nolan’s 2023 biopic about the scientist who helped create the atomic bomb. Manages to be accessible by focusing on the politics of it rather than the science, but Nolan’s love of chronological mixing, which worked well in The Prestige, was much more annoying in this film, serving to just make things more confusing. Having characters stare broodingly into space against the pulsations of an overly loud atmospheric score also doesn’t create as much drama as Nolan perhaps imagines, but I guess it works for a lot of people. Overall, I rate it average. A decent film, but hardly Nolan’s best work.

The Portable Door

A 2023 family fantasy film about a young man who finds employment at a mysterious agency that uses magic to create meaningful coincidences. He is tasked with finding a portable door, whose powers allow one to easily and instantly travel anywhere in the world. Perhaps a good family film that I might’ve enjoyed more when I was younger, but as an adult, the pacing felt a bit off for me, and the overall conflict a bit too silly.

Movies watched in July 2023

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.

The Unforgivable

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.

Becoming Astrid

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.

Movies watched in June 2023

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts. (Actually, I guess it’s been a while since I’ve blogged anything.) Here are the movies I watched last month.

Glass Onion

Daniel Craig is back as the southern-accented detective in this 2022 Knives Out sequel. While the mystery and its solution were again a bit convoluted (and I think the massive flashback was a bit of a cheat, storytelling-wise), it was overall an enjoyable watch, even better than Knives Out, perhaps because they were all stuck on an island, so it had that sort of classic cozy mystery feel. I think a third film is already in the works. It was also funny to see cameos from Stephen Sondheim (referencing Sweeney Todd) and Angela Lansbury (referencing Murder, She Wrote). (RIP to both.)

Shattered Glass

A 2003 film telling the true story of Stephen Glass, a journalist who was caught making up a bunch of sensationalist stories in the late 90s, when I suppose journalistic integrity was something publishers still actually cared about to some degree. I had never heard of the true story, so this was quite an engaging film. The film reveals the truth from the perspectives of those he’s manipulating, so your aggravation for his behavior builds as his lies are uncovered. Hayden Christensen does a great job portraying someone who just can’t stop lying, and lying more to cover previous lies, and then continuously weeps for mercy and sympathy when people catch on, a real agonizing personality disorder.

Princess Mononoke

Going to see Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi in concert next week, so wanted to rewatch this 1997 animated film mostly for its beautiful musical score. Storywise, not Ghibli’s best, in my opinion. The first half is great, but the second act just tries to do too much, there are just too many battling factions and conflicts going on. Anyway, Joe Hisaishi’s music is some of the finest film music out there.


The new Transformers movie, Rise of the Beasts, was one of the few films coming out in 3D this summer,1 so I wanted to check out the 2018 Bumblebee first, which is about the yellow alien robot hiding out on earth when other evil alien robots attack his homeworld. And these alien robots can transform into cars for some reason. Not being a Transformers fan, or really understanding the appeal of the franchise at all (because the toys are cool I guess), this film did not really work for me. It does hit all the right story beats for a “lost alien” sort of movie (think E.T. or The Iron Giant), but if you don’t really care about the characters, it all still feels rather flat. I could understand younger audiences enjoying it though.

Dog Gone

This 2023 film is based on the true story of a teenager whose dog ran away in the mountains and he sets out to find him. An innocent family film for people who like dogs, but way too cheesy for me. The father-son relationship conflict also felt really forced.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

And here’s that Transformers movie I mentioned. I was just curious to see it in 3D. I already forgot what it was about. There’s some kind of alien device macguffin in a museum that the alien robots fight over because it’s really powerful somehow, but it’s all a prequel for the Transformers getting stuck on earth, so nothing is really accomplished. It was pretty dull for a non-Transformers fan. But it was in 3D!

Vampire’s Kiss

From 1988, one of Nicolas Cage’s first films in which he plays an over-the-top wacko who thinks he was bitten by a vampire and whose life then spirals out of control. I really just wanted to watch it because it is the source of many Nicolas Cage crazy face memes. I unfortunately didn’t find it particularly funny or interesting.


A 1995 thriller about good vigilante hackers battling against an evil businessman hacker. The depiction of hacking and teen computer-savviness is so completely over-the-top ridiculous, it’s agonizing. I prefer WarGames.

Doctor Sleep

Not the Stephen King story, but a film from 2002, also called Close Your Eyes, about a hypnotist who uses his hypnotic skills to solve some silly mystery. It’s really bland and boring, with ridiculously cheap made-for-TV CGI. Terrible.

Murder Mystery 2

A 2023 sequel to Murder Mystery, a Netflix film starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Like its predecessor, this offers more of a silly light-hearted comedy than a very thoughtful or engaging mystery, but if you go in knowing that, it’s entertaining. Nothing amazing, but some good laughs.


A 2023 Disney film about a group of kids who live on the moon. After they learn one of them is leaving forever, they steal a moon rover for one last adventure. It was a little cheesy for me, but was a decent family film, and was even free of any of Disney’s modern propaganda crap. Unfortunately Disney yanked it from their streaming platform not long after I watched it, I guess for some Hollywood accounting tax write-off scheme, so who knows if anyone will ever be able to see it ever again. But, hey, that’s what you get with the streaming business model!


A 2020 Korean film, a standalone sequel to the Korean zombie film Train to Busan. This one’s about a group of people who sneak into zombie-infested territory in search of some bags of cash that were left behind. Unfortunately they are captured by non-zombie humans who have been trapped there, and must fight both to escape. Not as good as Train to Busan, but still a fun zombie flick.

Tin and Tina

A 2023 Spanish horror film about an idiot couple who decide to adopt the creepiest kids they can find, because what could possibly go wrong? The kids are portrayed as being “overly-Catholic”, obsessed with religion, but their understanding of Christianity is just stupid, so when it leads them to do horrible things, it’s not really all that compelling storywise, because they’re just so stupid. Really stupid movie. It did have a decent long take near the end though.


A 2021 Korean thriller about a deaf woman who witnesses a crime and is chased by the criminal for the remainder of the film. It has some decent moments of suspense, but also features some agonizing cliches, such as turning your back on the bad guy after he passes out. Overall I thought it was an enjoyable thriller, though nothing overly special.

Movies watched in May 2022

It’s been about a year since I’ve done a “movies I watched last month” post… so here’s another!

Overall, not that great of a month of movie watching… all films were either average or below average. I don’t think I watched anything I’d consider above average this month. My favorite of the month would probably be C’mon C’mon, despite its flaws.

Metal Lords

I guess this 2022 film is supposed to be a drama / comedy about some misfit teens trying to form a successful metal band. Unfortunately none of the characters are likable, the music is crap, and the attempt at humor is dumb. I didn’t like it.


A 2019 faith-based film based on a true story about a teenager who falls through ice, is unable to breath for something like 15 minutes, is presumed dead, but miraculously goes on to make a full recovery. Definitely an interesting story, but like most overtly faith-based films, it tends to the overly-cheesy side quite a bit, which can be really annoying.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

I went to see this recent release in theaters just to see it in 3D, especially since Disney won’t release 3D Blu-rays in the US anymore. It was a waste of money though, the movie was awful. I don’t even quite remember what the bland story was about, it was so utterly forgettable.

C’mon C’mon

This 2021 film features Joaquin Phoenix as a guy who’s tasked with looking after his eccentric nephew Jesse for a season, made harder because he’s in the midst of a media project involving traveling around to interview young people about what the future will be like. In proper drama movie fashion, both he and his nephew have some emotional baggage to go through. Phoenix’s character is still dealing with his own mother’s death, while his nephew is coping with having a father who has mental health issues. Together they joke, they fight, they apologize, they learn, they grow, the end.

I thought it was both good and really annoying at the same time. A lot of the attempts to be artsy and profound just felt too forced to me. Jesse’s character felt way too scripted and unnatural. (Great young actor though.) Still, the pacing and the characters’ emotional arcs worked pretty well, and there’s perhaps some food for thought amidst the forest of navel-gazing. So overall I didn’t find it as profound as it seemed to try to be, but it was an engaging effort nonetheless. Overall, worth a watch.

Werewolves Within

This 2021 comedy-horror-whodunit film based on a video game is about a group of eccentric characters who get stuck together during a blizzard and begin dying mysteriously because one of them is a werewolf. The plot is ridiculous, but the film doesn’t try to take itself seriously, so it’s enjoyable, if nothing special.

Stir of Echoes

I had seen pieces of this 1999 film on TV, but I’d never seen it all the way through (that I remember, at least). It’s about a guy who has his psychic sixth sense released after being hypnotized and he slowly pieces together the grim fate of a girl who had gone missing years before. A fun little thriller.

Runaway Jury

I know I saw this 2003 film before, but as I rewatched it, I remembered nothing except the ending. The twists and turns are fun, but the characters are cardboard and the attempts at making any sort of meaningful emotional statements fall flat, leaving the ending feeling empty.

2000 Mules

The subject of this 2022 documentary is interesting: phone GPS data shows a number of people (“mules”) making suspicious drives to various ballot drop boxes, providing some rather hard evidence of widespread election fraud, enough to change the election’s outcome. Not that it will change anyone’s mind about the last presidential election; people who really believe Biden won fairly probably aren’t going to honestly consider evidence to the contrary.

Nor will they shell out money to have their minds confronted, which is why this documentary, like most political documentaries, feels more like a grift. I agree with documentary’s concerns of election security, but the subject of this film could fit in a short article. The documentary itself mainly consists of a few interviews with some infographics inserted here and there. It’s unfortunately just not worth its price. Perhaps the subject of 2020 election fraud is still too contentious for a decent and more comprehensive film to be made on the subject.

Operation Mincemeat

This 2021 film chronicles the true story of “Operation Mincemeat”, a covert World War II plot involving having a dead body wash up on the shore of Spain with fake secret documents detailing the allies’ plans to attack Greece in order to trick those evil Nazis. It’s certainly a compelling ploy to make a movie out of, but unfortunately the film is bloated with some personal drama that just does nothing but slow it down and make it boring.

There’s a 1956 movie about the same operation called The Man Who Never Was. Supposedly it’s better. It’s been on my to-watch list for years, but I still haven’t seen it.


This 2003 thriller is about a number of guests who get stranded at a motel during a storm and then start getting murdered! Who could the murderer be? It starts out compelling, but gets a bit too ridiculous for me by the end. (RIP Ray Liotta, who died a week after I watched this.)

Don’t Breathe 2

In this 2021 sequel to the action horror movie Don’t Breathe, the villain becomes the central character as he tries to redeem himself by saving his young ward from kidnappers. Kind of a weird premise, turning the repugnant character from the first film into someone we’re supposed to be rooting for. I’m not sure I could quite buy it. Overall, a bit ‘meh’ for me.

Hotel Artemis

In this 2018 film, a nurse runs a hospital for criminals in a futuristic dystopia. One night, the criminals get all criminally with each other, and chaos ensues! The plot was all over the place, the characters lacked any depth and I didn’t care about any of them. Another ‘meh’!


I finally watched this 2003 semi-true story about the underdog racehorse who won a bunch of races. But the real thing he won was the friends along the way. A bit predictable and generic as far as dramas go, but it works decently enough. Released as Seascone in England! (Because they use wrong words!)


This 2022 sci-fi action movie is based on the “hollow moon” conspiracy theory, which posits that the moon is actually an alien-made structure, and the movie is just about as dumb as that sounds. Actually, it’s dumber than that. I can’t even go into how dumb it is. And I thought The Martian was pretty dumb. But that at least had plausible science. This was just dumb. Reminds me of Mitchell and Webb’s lazy writers skit.

Black Sabbath

This foreign 1963 horror film is really a collection of three shorter films. The first is about a woman who gets disturbing phone calls from someone promising to kill her. The second is about a man who stays with a family with an evil vampire in it. And the third is about a vengeful ghost who likes jewelry. It’s quite a cheesy film with its ridiculously awful 60s special effects, but its enjoyable nonetheless, as long as you don’t expect anything too special.

I mainly watched it for the second story about the vampire. I’ve recently been reading a book of old vampire stories, and one of them was The Curse of the Vourdalak by Alexis Tolstoy, so I was curious to see a film adaption of that. Of course, the film adaptation presented in this film wasn’t nearly as good as what my imagination could conjure, and they simplified it quite a bit. There’s another film based on the story, the 1972 film The Night of the Devils, which is on my to-watch list.

Roald Dahl’s The Witches

I guess the author’s name is part of the official title for some reason? To make sure people know it’s relatively kid friendly? This 2020 film is an adaptation of Dahl’s book of the same name about a couple of kids who get transformed into mice by evil witches and then must stop the witches from turning all the children in the world into mice. I read the book as a child and hated it and never read anything by Dahl again, mainly because of its stupid ending. And guess what? This film keeps that stupid ending! Other than the ending, the film was OK. Nothing special though, not really much in the way of theme, just a plot-based kid-friendly thriller. The humor and pacing were at least better than the 1990 adaptation, but the 1990 one had a better ending, as they did the intelligent thing and changed it from the book.


This 2021 horror film takes place in the 80s in England, when they were dealing with the “video nasties”, uncensored home-made VHS’s that were being distributed featuring, I suppose, nasty stuff. (Not to worry, this film doesn’t feature anything more nasty than a typical modern R-rated horror film.) The film is about a censor who has the power to officially ban films from distribution. But a particular horror film reminds her of her past and makes her think she can track down her sister who disappeared when she was a child. Horror ensues! Actually, nothing at all interesting ensues. The story is boring and drawn out and goes nowhere. This is really more of an “artsy” horror film for those who might appreciate its nostalgic aesthetic. If you’re interested in an actual story, look elsewhere.

Trailer for Jurassic World: Dominion released!

The trailer for the final installment of the Jurassic World trilogy was recently released!

The film at long last reunites the characters Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm for the first time since the original Jurassic Park film as they join Owen Grady, Claire Dearing, and Maisie Lockwood in a game of seeing how close they can get to dinosaurs without being eaten. (The trick is to always have children by your side, because dinosaurs never eat children.)

Hopefully evil mad scientist Dr. Henry Wu will get his comeuppance and suffer a grisly dino death.

The film is set to be released on June 10, 2022; audiences are advised to watch it in 3D for the best experience. I hope they will also release it on Blu-ray 3D as well, as I already have Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on Blu-ray 3D, and I would like my collection to be complete. (Studios are sadly reluctant to release films on Blu-ray 3D in the USA anymore, it’s really awful. Woe, is me!)

Movies watched in May 2021

I’m a month behind already, so here are the movies I watched this May.

Wish I Was Here

In this 2014 film written and directed by Zach Braff, an actor struggling to find work decides to home school his kids after his dying father (Mandy Patinkin) can no longer afford to pay for their private schooling.

These indie comic tragedies are hit or miss for me, usually miss, and this one was definitely a miss. A lot of the humor was just not my style, such as kids cursing and being crass. Most of the more “serious” dialog didn’t work for me either, felt too obviously scripted. “I know you don’t believe in God, but maybe you can believe in family…” What is that supposed to mean? The main character getting all Walter Mitty daydreamy also made little sense to me. I couldn’t figure out Many Patinkin’s character, why did he seem overly judgmental at random times? His dialog just didn’t feel natural.

Overall, the film was just too thematically all over the place, I have no idea what it was really supposed to be about. Is it about death, unfulfilled dreams, responsibility, fatherhood? All those issues can play a part, of course, but thematically you gotta pick one so the overall story has some focus.

Things Heard & Seen

I honestly already forgot what this 2021 film was about. I think it was some kind of ghost story? Whatever it was, it was boring and forgettable. It did feature (and take its title from) a book from a 1758 called Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen by Emanuel Swedenborg, an account of his spiritual visions, which I thought sounded interesting (though perhaps heretical from a Catholic point of view).

Third Person

This 2013 film from writer / director Paul Haggis was similar to his 2004 film Crash in that it features a small collection of characters with interrelated stories. They all share a similar theme, as they seem to involve a parent coping with losing a child to a pool drowning. As the film goes on, you start to understand what stories are only in a writer’s head and what is real. Overall, though, the story left me rather unsatisfied.

Come Play

In this 2020 horror film, a non-verbal autistic child is haunted by some kind of strange monster from an ebook on his tablet who apparently wants to take him to his creepy monster ghost world. If that sounds like a weird premise, it is. Somehow a phone recognizing a face just behind you that you can’t see isn’t really all that creepy. The film is ultimately more silly and stupid than it is creepy. The child does enjoy SpongeBob though, so it features some great SpongeBob moments.

The Suicide Song

In this 2007 Japanese horror movie, a popular song with mysterious origins seems to be involved in a series of suicides, a creepy premise that unfortunately doesn’t deliver. The story is too convoluted and confusing, jumping between too many characters and side stories, and the ending feels so random and out-of-nowhere that it doesn’t satisfy. Perhaps something was lost in translation; Japanese horror films do tend to have their own style and tropes. But I think this one was just too ambitious for its own good.


This 2009 documentary is supposed to be about the design of everyday things, the ubiquitous items we use everyday whose designs we just take for granted. Unfortunately rather than actually explore the creative decisions designers make, the documentary makes the same sort of mistake as last month’s Steinway documentary; it turns into a bunch of talking heads sitting on stupid-looking chairs talking about their random opinions about their work. It’s such a lazy way to make a documentary. The viewer doesn’t learn much.

In Their Skin

In this 2012 horror / thriller, a family arrives at their vacation house and meets some new neighbors who are a little too friendly and won’t go away. It soon becomes apparent that these new neighbors want to kill them and take on their identities. Why? Because… whatever! The plot is nonsense and the dialog is bland. Another forgettable movie.

A Little Princess

I saw this as a kid, but hadn’t seen it in decades. Based on my 4x great aunt’s classic children’s novel, this 1995 film tells the story of Sara Crewe who is dropped off at a decadent but stiffling boarding school while her father (played by a younger Liam Cunningham of Game of Thrones fame) goes off to war. When news of her father’s death reaches the school, Sara finds herself in complete poverty, and must strive to keep her spirit alive after having her belongings and social status pulled out from under her. Although the film’s music and cinematography are fantastic (cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki would go on to work on films like Gravity, The Tree of Life, and The Revenant), the screenwriting leaves something to be desired. Still, the overall story still works well enough.


Let Him Go

In this 2020 drama, a pair of grandparents set out to rescue their grandson and daughter-in-law after their son dies and his wife remarries an abusive guy from an abusive family. While the overall story was a bit bland with some stretches that just moved too slowly for me, it had some good suspenseful moments.

The Sleepover

In this 2020 family film, a standard sleepover turns upside-down when children realize their mother is a former master thief living in witness protection. Her former criminal colleagues try to force her to pull another job, leaving the overly clever and resourceful children to set out to find her. It’s a family adventure comedy, so of course everything is ridiculous and over-the-top, but it’s a fun little movie as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

This 2016 animated film is a tie-in (I think a prequel) to the Final Fantasy XV video game. I haven’t played the video game, and perhaps that’s the reason I understood nothing at all in this film. A lot of action, but I didn’t know who anyone was or why anyone was doing anything.


This 2020 drama takes place in the 1980’s when a small Korean family moves to rural Arkansas to try and start a farm. With little money and a lot at risk, family tensions run high. A sort of slice-of-life drama, it was a little too slow-paced and meandering for me. It didn’t feel like it ever really went anywhere, I think it needed more emotional focus. It got great reviews though, so it obviously worked for a lot of people, but wasn’t quite my cup of tea. It was funny how they thought Mountain Dew was a healthy drink though.

The Woman in the Window

In this 2021 psychological thriller, a woman with agoraphobia (Amy Adams) meets a friendly neighbor from across the street who then disappears. Fearing she’s been murdered by her abusive husband, she discovers the neighbor apparently never existed. Maybe her extreme anxiety is making her delusional? Or are her neighbors hiding some dark secrets? While it’s not a brilliant genre-shattering mystery, it’s a decent movie, perhaps reminding one of Hitchcock (though not quite a masterful). It’s perhaps a bit slow at times, but it comes to a satisfying (if predictable) conclusion.

Movies watched in April 2021

I haven’t done a “movies I watched” post on this blog in something like 8 or 9 years. But let’s get back to it, shall we? So here are the films I watched for this first time in April 2021:

The Sign of Four

This is a made-for-British-TV Sherlock Holmes film, based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story of the same name. The mystery itself was not very deep or engaging, but the film was entertaining mostly because of its dated cheesiness. A digression: I’ve never been quite impressed with Holmes as a character, as his deductive powers mostly rely on the author giving him the power to correctly guess what the author wants him to based on the clues the author gives him for that exact purpose; that is, it’s all what I call a “cleverness cheat“; making successful deductions in the real world is hardly so convenient. Anyway, they also filmed The Hound of Baskervilles the same year with the same actor playing Holmes, so I hope to watch that at some point as well. (According to Wikipedia, they originally intended to film six Sherlock Holmes stories, but I guess that didn’t work out for complicated business reasons.)


This 2020 war film starring Tom Hanks is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester (best known for his other book The African Queen, the classic movie adaptation of which I still haven’t seen). The film is about a bunch of ships fighting in the Atlantic during World War II. And “fighting in the Atlantic” is really all the plot consists of. The screenplay was written by Tom Hanks himself, and I guess it shows, because it’s really not that great; no change in pacing, no character development, no subtext. Just a bunch of commands from military people and boats fighting.

One Hundred and One Dalmations

I of course have seen this 1961 Disney animated classic before, but it’s been a long time. If I recall my Disney animation trivia correctly, this was their first film to use Xerox machines to transfer the animators’ line drawings to cel sheets for coloring, a process which had to be done by hand before. This saved them a lot of time and gave the drawings a bit more of an organic look, which of course blends well with the film’s jazzy blocky-colored backgrounds. Everyone probably knows the story: a bunch of puppy dalmations are kidnapped by Cruella de Vil (you know you’re asking for trouble when you name your kid something like that), who wants their fur. They are then rescued, along with a bunch of other puppies that had been stolen. By the way, why does Roger assume he gets to keep so many stolen puppies? One thing I noticed that I never had before was the What’s My Line? parody that the puppies watch on TV while kidnapped, called What’s My Crime? That must’ve been completely over my head as a kid.

Rat Race

This 2001 comedy, very obviously inspired by the star-studded 1963 comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, features a bunch of people racing from Nevada to New Mexico in hopes of being first to nab some treasure for the entertainment of a bunch of wealthy people betting on them. Nothing profound, but a fun comedy.

Godzilla vs Kong

This is the first film I’ve watched in theaters since the beginning of 2020. I mostly wanted to see it in theaters because it was in 3D, and there have been hardly any releases in 3D for the past year, thanks to both the pandemic and dwindling interest in 3D movies in general. Unfortunately the 3D conversion was not great, nor was the weird story, which involved taking Kong to the mystical realm deep inside the earth to find a mystical weapon to defend the world from Godzilla’s destruction. It really made no sense, but I suppose one must not think too much with a movie like this.

WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn

This 2021 documentary tells the bizarre tale of the company WeWork, whose phenomenal valuation came mostly from a bizarre CEO’s ability to convince investors of it. As far as I can tell, nothing illegal actually happened; a lot of people just got drunk on the promises, perception, and larger-than-life energy of a CEO, only to realize the company wasn’t nearly as valuable as it seemed. Interesting story, but I still get the sense there’s a lot more to the over-valuation than just what the documentary presents. What really made people believe the company’s crazy valuation without solid verification?

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

This 2007 documentary chronicles the creation of a Steinway piano from start to finish. Unfortunately it’s not very informative in terms of the how’s and why’s of piano building. Instead we just watch the workers doing random work while listening to them talk about their backgrounds and how they got into piano building. This is spliced with interviews of famous musicians waxing poetic about how pianos have their own personalities, as though anyone willing to watch a documentary on piano creation would think otherwise. I don’t think I learned anything interesting from this film.

Boss Level

This 2021 action-comedy is about a man who’s stuck in a time loop. Everytime he dies, he wakes up to start the same day again. The day mostly consists of assassins trying to kill him as he in turn tries to figure out why they want him dead, and why he’s stuck in a time loop. It’s a bit like Edge of Tomorrow, but without aliens. It’s a fun popcorn movie, but don’t expect anything deep or profound.


This 1977 Italian horror (though it’s in English) is considered a classic among horror fans, though it was too cheesy for me. It’s about a girl who enters a ballet school and slowly discovers its sinister (albeit chiché) secrets. Not sure why it’s considered such a classic; nothing about it seemed all that interesting to me.

Grand Isle

In this 2019 drama, a young man has the misfortune of being stuck with a creepy crazy Nicolas Cage and his crazy wife during a storm. Hilarity ensues. Actual, a rather dull and bland story ensues. This one’s pretty forgettable.

The Darkness

This 2016 horror is also bland and forgettable. A young autistic boy finds some weird stones in the wilderness. When he brings them home, the spirits of evil Native Americans begin to haunt the house. It follows the standard horror movie template. Not much of interest here.

Captain Phillips

“I am the captain now.” This 2013 action drama starring Tom Hanks tells the true story of how Captain Phillips narrowly survived his cargo ship being hijacked by Somali pirates. Things get especially tense when, having failed to steal much of value from the ship itself, they take Phillips hostage and wind up in a long stand-off with the US military. An interesting story but a mostly average film. Not bad, but not great.

Agenda: Payback

This 2018 action drama mostly consists of an unsavory Sean Patrick Flanery getting tied up and tortured by various figures in his life who seek vengeance on him for past misdoings. There’s a lot you can do with a minimal set and cast. Misery for example. But you’ve gotta pace yourself, vary the dramatic arcs, give it space to rise and fall. This movie is a great example of how not to do it. It’s bland, boring, and forgettable.

The Boys from Brazil

This 1978 thriller follows an old Laurence Olivier as a Nazi hunter investigating some Nazi activity and uncovers a shocking and horrible Nazi plot! I won’t spoil it, but the plot turns out to be more ridiculous, silly, and convoluted than it is all that shocking or horrible. Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck don some rather silly-sounding German accents as well.

Dolphin Tale

Watched this in my search for family friendly films. This 2011 drama is loosely inspired by the true story of a dolphin being rescued and given an prosthetic tail after being found trapped in ropes on the shore. A rather low-stakes cheesy story, but a nice family film I suppose. It’s also a rare film that was actually filmed in 3D, and so offers a very good 3D picture. The extra dimension doesn’t add much to the story here, but I still love 3D movies, especially ones actually filmed in 3D (rather than cheap conversions, like Godzilla vs Kong).


This 1990 drama stars Robin Williams as a doctor and Robert De Niro as a catatonic patient in a New York City hospital. After an experimental treatment, De Niro gains control over his body again and is eager to explore the world after decades stuck in the hospital. It’s based on a book by Oliver Sacks, so is supposedly a true story, yet it’s very obviously Hollywood-ized. Also, De Niro did not seem right for the role. Not sure if it was his acting or just the association of his persona with his more famous roles, but I just couldn’t see him as the character he was trying to portray. (Robin Williams, on the other hand, always seems to play doctors very well.)

More font fun and other random stuff

Font rendering in OpenGL

Haven’t done so much programming in the past week, but I did try rendering fonts with NanoVG (in lwjgl). Unfortunately it’s really not much better than just using OpenGL’s NV path rendering extension. Small fonts look slightly better, but not really good enough for me to want to use them. See the example below, a zoom-in of an 8-pixel high rendering of the font “Verdana”, NanoVG rendering it on top, NV path rendering below. NanoVG is better, but it’s still way too fuzzy to look any good.

So I might just use bitmap fonts for small text; I can’t see any alternative. (Bitmap fonts basically means loading in each letter as a pre-rendered picture and plopping it on the screen. The disadvantage is that they don’t look very good when resized or positioned between pixels, but they’ll at least be guaranteed to render small fonts clearly and crisply.) I’ll continue to use NV path rendering for larger fonts or fonts that need to be animated more dynamically or rendered with 3D perspective. I do want to try using oversampling with stb for small fonts before I move on from font rendering and further develop a GUI system; the demo doesn’t look too bad.

Kanopy film streaming service

I just realized our local library offers free access to the film streaming service Kanopy, and they’ve actually got a decent selection. Not the latest blockbusters, but some good foreign and classic cinema. (They’ve even got The Red Pill, the controversial anti-radical-feminist documentary which Netflix refuses to stream. (Though they did just recently finally add the DVD to their catalog.)) Since it’s free (for library card holders of participating library systems), we’re limited to 10 streams per month, but the streaming quality is decent. It’s not full HD (at least not on my PC), but it’s better than DVD quality. Interestingly they also allow you to embed videos. Here’s “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter”, which I really enjoyed (which I guess you won’t be able to see without an account, haha):

Interesting indeed!

Some metal music

Finally, I recently discovered the band Elvenking. I couldn’t quite get in to some of their older work, but their last album, released last year, is quite catchy. Disregarding the bizarre sense of fashion metal band members tend to share, this song is some power metal awesomeness:

I also came across the latest album from the symphonic metal band Leaves’ Eyes, and found it to be quite catchy as well. Love the use of choirs, the female lead’s operatic voice, and the cheesy fantasy lyrics. (I’m not a big fan of the growl singing, it sounds so gross and ugly and demonic, why is it so popular? It sounds so awful, so unmusical. Bah!)

OK, that’s all for now.

All the movies I watched in 2017

Happy 2018! In 2017, I watched a total of of 180 movies. That’s 54 less than last year’s count, but who’s counting? Here’s my annual collage (full list here):

Favorite films…

My two favorite live-action films from 2016 would definitely be Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and A Monster Calls. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was a bit of a surprise. I enjoyed the first film, but it didn’t feel overly special to me. I enjoyed this sequel a lot more. It was funnier, the story seemed tighter, and the main conflict felt more meaningful. Baby Groot was hilarious; I fear the next installment won’t be able to compete with him being an adult again. A Monster Calls was a more serious film, and I loved the way it merged fantasy with the real world. Beautiful cinematography and music as well.

Animation-wise, no film came close to Pixar’s Coco. It was a beautiful story with super-catchy music. And I loved how its main theme song, “Remember Me”, actually played a very important role in the plot; it wasn’t just some arbitrary addition. Not only is this movie my favorite animated film of the year, I’d have to say it has become my favorite Pixar film of all, taking the place from Finding Nemo. (It’s also Pixar’s highest-rated film on IMDb at the time of this writing. Yay!)

Other enjoyable films of the year include DunkirkKing Arthur: Legend of the SwordThe Dark TowerBlade Runner 2049, and It: Chapter One. The two fantasy films were a bit cheesy and had some flaws, but I still enjoyed them.

I really enjoyed the 3D re-release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I don’t think it did very well at the box office, which is too bad. I love 3D movies and I love older films being 3D-ized. Considering how much the process of 3D-izing a film costs, T2’s box office results will only discourage the practice. Tragedy, I say!

I saw Terrence Malick’s 2011 film The Tree of Life and loved it. Long and contemplative and somewhat weird, but overall very thought-provoking. I also really enjoyed the 2014 foreign film A Hard Day, an action thriller with a lot of great twists, both humorous and suspenseful, almost Hitchcockian.

Older films I saw for the first time in 2017 and highly enjoyed include Excalibur (great fantasy with a classic 80’s feel to it), Stand By MeMan of La Mancha (Peter O’Toole is not so great in this, but I just love the musical), Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (love this series), and High Noon with Gary Cooper, a classic.

So that’s my 2017 in movies.

And guess what I got for Christmas this year? A year-long MoviePass subscription! Remember “MoviePass”? I blogged about it way back in 2013 here. Their service was a bit too expensive then; I’m glad costs have gone down. My card hasn’t arrived in the mail yet, but I’m really looking forward to it! So I’m hoping to see a lot more new releases in theaters this year.