My Cultural Diet

Quick reviews of movies, TV shows, books, restaurants, etc., as I enjoy them. My own private Goodreads, Letterboxd, and Yelp all rolled into one (more info here). Ratings are 100% subjective, non-scientific, and subject to change. May contain affiliate links. 

Parallel Love worked on multiple levels for me: as a nostalgia-filled document of an important era in Christian music; as a heartfelt look at a rock band and the twists, turns, and tragedies of their career; and as a thought-provoking rumination on faith, spirituality, and art. Luxury was a band like no other in Christian circles, and I’m glad to see them getting some long overdue attention as a result of this film. Also cool: Some of my Cornerstone photos appear in the film’s archival footage. (Read my review)
I watched this with my oldest and we both agreed: Prey is a lean, mean action movie par excellence. The Native American characters and setting didn’t just put a fresh spin on the Predator mythos, story-wise; they also helped to ground the movie and give it a sense of authenticity and immediacy that was immensely satisfying.
The interviews with Woodstock ‘99’s staff, promoters, artists, and attendees as they reflect on the festival’s disastrous end are equal parts fascinating and infuriating, and a showcase of naïveté, incompetence, and greed. It’s all further proof that when art and capitalism meet, it’s often to art’s detriment. Unfortunately, Trainwreck stumbles in its coverage of the sexual assaults that occurred at the festival; the clips of half-naked women getting groped and mobbed by men were no doubt included to highlight the reality of the problem, but they end up feeling gratuitous and exploitative.
Carter is based on a gimmick: that it all takes place in a single take. It obviously doesn’t, but to achieve that effect, director Byung-gil Jung relies on migraine-inducing camerawork and editing as well as some truly awful visual effects. It’s a shame because Carter has some cool ideas and incredible stunts, and lead actor Joo Won gives a committed performance (even when wearing nothing but a G-string). I’m actually kind of mad at the waste of time and talent this movie represents.
One of my top 3 favorite Pixar movies alongside Toy Story 2 and Inside Out. Everything about The Incredibles — the mid-century modern aesthetic, the story’s perfect balance of comedy and family melodrama, the voice acting, Michael Giacchino’s score, the action sequences, etc. — is so well-crafted and well-executed. My appreciation for what Brad Bird et al. accomplished here has only grown in the last two decades.
This Netflix original is nothing mind-blowing, nor does it approach Pixar’s heights, but it’s still pretty entertaining in its own right (especially John Cho as the voice of the titular dragon). There are definitely worse things to watch on a family movie night.
Day Shift is pretty much what you’d expect from a gory movie about vampire hunters that culminates in Snoop Dogg mowing down dozens of vampires with a minigun. Oh, and has a running gag about Dave Franco peeing his pants. It did make me laugh out loud several times, the stunts are pretty awesome, and I want more of the Armenian vampire-hunting brothers played by Steve Howey and Scott Adkins.
A true action/sci-fi classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his ’80s prime. It works on nearly every level, and every time I watch it, I’m impressed by how efficiently it tells the story, sets up the characters, etc. And of course, Stan Winston’s creature effects for the Predator itself are some of the greatest of all time.
I think this movie wanted to be both a hard-boiled thriller and a buddy action comedy, but it ended up being neither. Spenser Confidential isn’t a terrible film, but it could’ve been a better one had the filmmakers actually figured out what it was supposed to be.
This movie clearly wants to be suave and sophisticated, and maybe it was back in 1999. But now, it’s just… not. Also, it’s hard to believe that John McTiernan — of Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for Red October fame — directed this. Those films are so lean and efficient in their storytelling, and The Thomas Crown Affair is… not.
My second viewing. Predictably, it didn’t blow me away like it did during my first viewing, and some of its flaws are more apparent. But it still remains as weird and earnest and ambitious as ever, and the family drama hits just as hard. The last 20 minutes or so get pretty heavy-handed but not going to lie: I definitely got choked up. I want to be Waymond Wang when I grow up. (Read my review)
I’m not sure why this cost $200 million. Was it all of the crazy drone shots? Chris Evans’ mustache? All kidding aside, the movie’s OK, but it’s basically a series of ludicrous action sequences looking for a reason to exist. (Mind you, some of the action sequences are pretty impressive. I wouldn’t mind hearing some behind-the-scenes stories in a “Stuntmen React” video.)
I liked the film’s concept and the first half is filled with delights not too dissimilar from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Unfortunately, the script feels unfinished. Several story points just end and aren’t explored to a satisfying degree despite being presented as really significant. As such, the film founders about halfway through. I did appreciate its underlying anti-elite message; I just wish more had been done with it.
It seemed only fitting to watch this in light of James Caan’s recent death. Stylish and technically precise to a fault, as expected from a film directed by Michael Mann, with a trippy score by Tangerine Dream. I’d love to visit the rain-soaked, neon-lit version of Chicago as captured through Mann’s lens.
So maybe Sam Raimi and the MCU weren’t such a great match, after all. Some cool visuals, but the obvious Raimi-isms really felt out of place to me. As for the story, it was OK, but nowhere near as thrilling, interesting, or thought-provoking as the first Doctor Strange movie.
I’m pretty sure that if I’d seen this back in high school, when I was discovering anime, it would’ve blown me away and seemed really radical and subversive. As it stands, it’s a decent hard sci-fi film with a dystopic bent and some bizarre mecha designs, though the mid ’80s animation and gratuitous content haven’t aged too well.
What a tedious film. I don’t think I felt a single moment of fun, excitement, or wonder in its 146 minutes. The performances are phoned in, the script’s a mishmash of ideas and nostalgic throwbacks, the visual effects are OK, and the action sequences just feel like they’re checking the boxes (like the obligatory T-Rex battles). Also, I’m sure that making the villain CEO look like Apple’s Tim Cook seemed clever at the time, but it’s really just eyeroll-inducing.
Still holds up after all these years. A classic. Naturally, our kids became obsessed with the crane kick, and I suspect we’ll be hearing “wax on, wax off” for awhile now.
This clip of audience members on their feet cheering amidst confetti and streamers is a good indication of RRR’s vibe. It’s over-the-top in every way possible, from the protagonists’ bromance to the anti-colonialism to the final 30-minute-long battle that makes Avengers: Endgame seem like an indie film production. Also, I can only hope someday to grow a mustache as manly as Ram Charan’s.
A throwback to the sort of low-budget action fare that seemed to dominate cable TV in the ’90s. As such, it’s entertaining but totally clichéd, right down to the heroine’s one-liners. Even its “wokeness” — the heroine is a military sexual abuse survivor, the villain is (supposedly) driven by his disgust with America’s inequities, one of his henchmen is basically a Proud Boy — feels rote.