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).
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.
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.
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.