In 2018, I kept track of all the movies I watched throughout the year. This 3-Part Series is my quick reflections on those movies and a labor love. Love of myself. Love of movies. Love of progress towards my dreams.
Looking at the list of movies I watched between May and August, I had plenty of fun. Most of this list is either action, comedy, or superhero-related. The summer is meant for fun. I had a lot of my fun indoors.
If you haven’t already read my reflections on the movies I watched between January and April 2018, you can take that opportunity here.
Before Max Landis was accused of sexual misconduct on the Internet in Winter 2017, I was a huge fan of his. I knew almost nothing about Power Rangers from my childhood. I was never obsessed with them in the way that Kinda Funny’s Tim Gettys is/was. But Max Landis made a pass at the script for Power Rangers. At a time where I was struggling (again) to read novels, I went through the entire script in a matter of hours. I could see the entire movie in my head. I enjoyed the script enough that I added the movie to my Watchlist.
The lambasting the movie received from some fans about its manipulation of the source material actually made me more curious. I enjoyed the cast’s diversity and the way that some of the cast members performed showed great potential. Rita Repulsa was not written well. She was not a very interesting or sensical villain. But the movie itself isn’t very serious either. Saban took a very safe approach to the story; they satisfied the requirements of a complete story. No risks were taken, so no rewards were reaped. At least not with me. I didn’t nerd out at any point.
The Big Sick
Allow me to define “nerding out” when it comes to my viewing experience. I spent large amounts of my youth watching movies (and TV Shows) on my laptop. Out of that came a passion for analyzing them and perhaps writing them one day. But it was the love of how movies could manipulate my emotions. The fact that a movie could make the whole world disappear. Movies that can suspend my disbelief and make me excited about things as trivial as “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain” or make me worried about whether or not Kumail Nanjiani’s current wife would survive the hospital stay that sprouted his true love for her. Fun movies like The Big Sick make me nerd out big time.
I watched this movie with my mother and it made for a lovely bonding time. It is not the type of movie that I think of when it comes to the Oscars, especially when put against some of the innovative films that came out around the same time. But it was definitely a fun romantic comedy. Not my favorite of the genre, but the couple wrote a believable version of their love and had my mother and I laughing and riffing off the situations. My favorite romantic comedy comes later on in this article.
xXx Franchise (xXx, xXx: State of the Union, xXx: Return of Xander Cage)
I remember watching these one day and just allowing myself to enjoy watching something without having to analyze or profess anything about them. I knew who Vin Diesel as a child by the hit movie “The Pacifier”. I did not start enjoying the Fast and the Furious franchise until Fast 5. I’ve enjoyed watching those movies and seeing a car franchise become a hyper-real franchise with insane action and impossibly powerful characters.
How the hell does Toretto fight while making Eskrima sticks out of concrete-encrusted steel beams? And then how does he break the concrete with grounded bury Hobbes with his feet? THEN, how does Hobbes survive that and the subsequent fall out of a building onto a car? Ridiculous.
But I digress. My point in bringing up the Fast and Furious franchise was that people had been saying for years that Vin Diesel was hot and never understood it. But I can say now that I get it. Watch a young Vin emit so much charisma and sex appeal in xXx combined with the over the top action movie. And that fur coat. I get it now. I really do. Still not physically interested in current Vin Diesel at all. But young Vin Diesel can have my phone number.
State of the Union was fun. I grew up on watching Ice Cube the actor and not Ice Cube the rapper. That movie felt like a black back to elementary school. Return of Xander Cage was the weakest of the three movies. But after watching the first two films, it felt great to see Xander and Darius working together was fun. They missed the opportunity for the nerdy, horny hacker girl to actually be the villain. That would have been interesting though still predictable.
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
When I found out that this special dropped, I was mad at myself for not keeping better track. I enjoyed her first special a lot and this one even more. I don’t know why but the honesty and crassness of her comedy is a lot easier to receive than if the same things were said by a white woman. If I had to guess, it could be because I relate to her as a POC and as a person who wishes they could retire already. Or it could be my subconscious activating the sociocultural programming that I have received that make me relate WASPs as sinless authorities and incapable of anything less than lily-white comedy. I know that everyone is capable of crass behavior and humor, but the stimuli we are subject to growing affect our entire Weltanschauung in an automatic and almost irreparable way.
Guardians of Galaxy 2
I have a weird relationship with the GOTG. I love all of the MCU on some level but after watching the first movie, I completely wrote it of as mediocre. Then on the 2nd viewing, I liked it even more, but still didn’t expect much from it. Even weirder is that I was incredibly hyped to see GOTG 2 because of that incredible Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” trailer. I remember now that I nearly cried at the end of the movie. Somehow I forgot all of that joy by the time I watched the movie for a second time.
This second time was even better than the first. The way that James Gunn spun the thread of this film is commendable. Every character has a clear and crucial trajectory of development. The humor and stakes do not cancel each other out. In fact, they make for unexpectedly earnest moments. The music is well-curated and even enhances the story instead of hinders it, unlike a certain Academy award-winning superhero film that used popular music (cough Suicide Squad cough).
It is disappointing that James Gunn will not be part of GOTG 3 due to scandal involving some very inappropriate jokes made years ago. I am not aware of what else Disney found out in relation to these jokes, but I wish he would be able to finish the trilogy at least. DC and Warner Bros. have him now and will put him to good use on their films. My hope is that they allow him to write something different from GOTG and expand his screenwriting and directing chops.
Avengers: Infinity War
The following are the notes that I wrote for this entry when prepping for the Roundup back in November:
“This was such an outstanding achievement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I wasn’t hit as hard by the calamity of it all (Thanos did what Thanos does) but I am excited to see what they will do with Avengers 4 and how Captain Marvel will affect the outcome.”
My opinions on Infinity War have evolved since then. I watched the movie again on New Years Day and for a 3rd time of January 15th. Not only is Infinity War an achievement the entertainment industry, the film franchise’s milestone film is complex and rich. In the years to come, scholars in film will study this film and every minutiae of work that it took to make this film as layered and effective as it is. I am going to study myself for my own fiction writing. This is what a universe can look like when all of the foundation is laid down.
My only gripe is that all the Guardians with Iron Man on Titan were the butt of every joke and looked incapable alongside the other Avengers. I have not yet seen Ant-Man and The Wasp. I want to watch it and Captain Marvel before Avengers: Endgame comes out. This will not be the last time that I write about Infinity War and the MCU.
The premise for this movie is the equivalent of an Isekai story in anime. The main character has been plucked from their world and placed into another. It filled with different rules and yet the main character is the only one that can save the group from utter collapse. The plot of The Outsider is the kind of story I usually love, so much so that I have had multiple story idea that were similar to this going as far back as when I was in middle school.
I could use this opportunity to discuss my opinions on the often problematic America/White Savior Complex found in a lot of stories, but I would be doing a great disservice to such an important topic. Instead I will leave it at this: The Outside is not a good movie. I really wanted it to be, but it’s not. The story cut an unacceptable amount of corners in the story. Jared Leto’s attempt at stoicism comes off as stunted. Really the overall execution of this movie leaves much to be desired.
W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro
I remember enjoying this comedy special. I had heard him before on the Joe Rogan Podcast, but I haven’t seen any of his other work. W. Kamau Bell made great observations about life . It was refreshing to hear a comedian discuss the black experience in a way that sounded more like the way I think and speak. I wish I could remember my favorite joke from the Special, but comedy specials are more likely to be forgotten when you watch as much media as I watch.
Batman vs. Two-Face
This was a fun one to watch. DC continues to maintain its incredible track record in animated movies. The movie was in the style of the 1966 Batman TV Show. If I remember correctly, it was also one of Adam West’s last movies. I’m not old enough to have had the TV show as part of my childhood, but I have been able to appreciate the classic show and its Batman through the eyes of Hollywood Babble-On’s Ralph Garman. Here is a clip of Ralph Garman talking about the hero that became his friend. Rest in Peace, Adam West.
Interesting story based on a true event. We see a lot of white shooters labeled as mentally disturbed instead of as terrorists. In this movie, a young black man is conditioned into a cold-blooded murderer by his adoptive father and taught false doctrine of how to treat society.
I know a lot of POC in my life who don’t wan to accept that our young men and woman could also become school shooters if not monitored and given proper psychological help when necessary. We are perhaps more susceptible since we are subjected to constant oppression in our society. At some point we may feel like the only options are to lash out or die from that oppression. The latter is especially possible in Black women. There have been multiple articles about how the constant stress Black women experience can cause them to be unable to carry a child to term. This is an article on the subject from NPR.
Set It Up
This Netflix Romantic Comedy is my favorite movie in the genre. Zoey Deutch is probably everything I want in a woman/partner. I tweeted about this movie immediately after I watched it. Here is the first tweet of that thread:
I had so much fun watching this movie. I may analyze this film more because of just how much I love the way it does something interesting with the hackneyed Romantic Comedy format. It would make sense to do that kind of this for February, but I am already quite booked as far February goes (You’ll see soon).
Justice League vs. Teen Titans & Teen Titans: Judas Contract
I watched these two movies together since they are part of the same storyline. These are two more good DC animated movies. They had to manipulate the comic book material in order for it to make sense in their world. This causes some interesting changes to the dynamic. Damian Wayne is such a broodingly pouty asshole and I love him for it. Raven’s story in JL v. TT was an interesting version of the story that I became familiar with through the Teen Titans animated show on Cartoon Network. Judas Contract was a comic story that I had been hearing whisper about for years. A classic Teen Titans story with Deathstroke. This movie’s version was full of twists that I didn’t expect. So far, every version of Terra’s story has broken my heart. We will see how things play out this season of Young Justice: Outsiders. Plus the addition of Beast Boy being on a podcast with Kevin Smith was a heartfelt way to end the movie.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Anyone who follows me on Twitter know just how excited I was to watch the film for months straight. I even wrote a thread analyzing the Super Bowl trailer with so much zeal.
I wrote a quick 3-Star review of the film on Letterboxd right after I got out of the theater. I have had a lot of time to think about my disappointment with arguably the best pure action film of 2018 since then. I have plans to share those thoughts this year in an analytical article.
I enjoyed the movie, but in a different way than I enjoyed the first Deadpool. This movie somehow managed to maintain an air of sorrow and empathy around Deadpool in even the most absurd situation. Throughout the whole movie, Deadpool acts out because of his loss. It would have been nice to have seen VFX for 2017’s Ghost in the Shell be as great as the futuristic technology and cybernetic system effects for Cable. There are a few moments where the movie take shortcuts in Deadpool learning his lesson. The X-Force build up and payoff were my favorite part of the movie *Obviously).
Jack Ryan loves his family a lot. Ryan’s brave actions in the 3rd Act are justified only by his love for his family. If it weren’t for that love, the sudden shift from quietly angry analyst to enraged action star would have been jarring. The pacing was as slow as can be expected from older movies like this. I enjoyed the moments of actually seeing Ryan toil with his circumstances and his attempts to analyze his way to a vengeful solution. There are a few nonsensical things that happen for the purpose of plot, but they did not subtract anything from my viewing experience.
The following is verbatim my 3-star review of Gringo (with typos):
“Gringo is an enjoyable mess of a movie. The movie has a lot of ideas but it doesn’t let any of them grow enough to properly pay off. Like the Houdini thing. I completely forgot about that part because it seemed like a random joke and I didn’t think Harry wanted to disappear.
Also was Harry’s father correct? The rich people got what was theirs and now Harry happily owns a bar. Am I supppsed to believe that good things will happen in the end? The plot is so jumbled that idk what lesson or thesis this movie is supposed to be showing me through its spectacle of almost funny scenes.”
I really like the lesson that I think the movie was trying to impart to viewers, but their failure to execute a logical plot got in the way of that.