Such short movie reviews! In order of when I watched or rewatched them.
X-Men and X2: X-Men United. I don’t care what you think, these are still my favorite superhero films. The first one is very emotional and the second one does more than any other live-action superhero film I can think of to convey the sheer wonder of superpowers: the aesthetic strangeness. Nightcrawler’s attack in the White House, Magneto’s escape from his plastic prison, the death of Lady Deathstrike, even the fight between her and Wolverine or the scene where Storm and Jean meet Nightcrawler or the Museum of Natural History sequence–all these scenes show the sublimity of the mutants’ powers, and show you how surreal it might feel to live in a world where people can be like that.
Vicious Fun: Shudder original about a horror fan who accidentally crashes a serial-killer self-help group. Shudder originals seem to have a formula, and this one fits the formula to a T. Hot visuals, fun mayhem, a cool idea, too much genre awareness, and preachiness, usually about feminism in some way. In this one the action already tells you not to be a Nice Guy, but God forbid anyone miss the point, so the hot fighting lady has to give an actual speech about it. C+, would’ve been B without the lecturing. I enjoyed the look of this a lot but it should have been better.
The Social Network: An emotional and suspenseful story about how only wanting the best of everything destroys your soul. It’s sort of like the digital age’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre: a moral tale about the sweet smell of success.
Fires on the Plain: Adaptation of a harrowing Japanese novel of the Imperial Japanese Army’s WWII defeat in the Philippines. As a movie, it’s most notable in the way director Kon Ichikawa choreographs movement. Many scenes show people moving wrong: lurching, crawling, just all crooked and haunting and awful. Also, just so you know what you’re getting into, a lot of the back half of this movie is about cannibalism.
Sleeping Beauty: Basically everyone says that this movie is dumb but gorgeous. Basically everybody is right! The plot is whatever, the characters are perfunctory, but this thing is just chock-full of stunning frames and backgrounds. Maleficent is a ferocious creation and her dragon form is persuasive and frightening to a degree that I feel shouldn’t be possible given that I am in my forties and she is a Disney villainess. Also the scene where the good fairies give the princess baby their gifts is psychedelic to a degree that I did not expect from a 1959 children’s cartoon, although I guess Fantasia was two decades earlier.
Werewolves Within: A genuinely funny Trump-era werewolves-or-human-killer? tale completely drained by its inability to decide what it wants to say. It wants to say something, which is fine, but figure it out! Or decide not to say anything and just give us werewolves. But don’t get all in your head about political divisions and environmentalism and community and then say nothing beyond, “Sometimes, for absolutely no reason that we’ve seen and with zero actual change or growth, the performatively threatening white guy in the Unabomber cabin can become the best neighbor of them all.” I watched this movie for Harvey Guillen, who is a treat and a snack (does this mean what I think it does?) in more than one sense as the longsuffering familiar of the vampire Nandor in the What We Do in the Shadows tv show; he’s fun here but underused.
Pet Sematary II: I mean this movie is not what the philosophers call “good,” or even really “competent.” I agree with Kindertrauma that it feels like director Mary Lambert decided the tragic horror vibe wasn’t working out for her and just switched over to camp comedy halfway through. The floating heads at the end are ridic and yet also somehow perfect for this janky sequel. THAT SAID I enjoyed almost all of this film, mostly because the soundtrack is entirely women grunge-rockers. It’s just a great, unexpected soundtrack and it gives the film individuality and verve.
Night Comes On: Drama about a girl getting out of juvenile detention and trying to put her life together. Or is she? Small-scale, persuasive, free of ideology or a need to teach us stuff; personal. The best scenes let Angel interact with her little sister, Abby. Abby is streetwise enough to sell her Ritalin and cut her foster mom in on the profits; Abby is naive enough to think she can lie to her sister without consequences; Abby is bubbly and unguarded enough to befriend a group of beach-town rich girls, in one of the movie’s strongest sequences. Angel teaches Abby how to use a maxipad. And Angel has to decide if she’ll teach Abby a different, much harder lesson, at the film’s climax. Both lead actresses are excellent, and Doninique Fishback as Angel is especially good at showing Angel’s tenderness without making her an object of audience pity.