I might regret a half star here, but damn if this isn't the sweetest and loveliest high school romcom I've seen in a long while. Perfectly calibrated relationships, sharp script, excellent '80s score (any movie that pulls out "Only You" turns me to putty), and sufficiently toned-down TikTok banter such that I can imagine this came out when I was a teen for the most part. Milo Manheim and Peyton Elizabeth Lee are legit terrific here.
The Cloverfield Paradox 2018
Not an especially deep experience, but I was absolutely digging the parallel universe wackiness and abrupt tone shifts. Just right for sci-fi glop. The worst parts of the movie are when they try to tie it to the Cloverfield monster and attack.
Sarah, Plain and Tall 1991
The production values are outstanding for a TV movie, but padding the lovely 58 pages of a perfect kids chapter book to feature length really shows. Glenn Close is great, Christopher Walken is.... Christopher Walken.
Palm Trees and Power Lines 2022
I guess it accomplishes its goal of being an immersive and naturalistic and plausible representation of teenage grooming. Every scene is more harrowing than the last. Director and writer Jamie Dack does a remarkable job placing us inside the head of a 17-year-old girl as it unfolds, avoiding any skeevy sense of exploitation. Kudos to Lily McInerny and Jonathan Tucker who deliver fully-realized performances as leads.
But the movie is so devoid of anything other than dread. It's such a…
The Old Way 2023
"The Old Way" is a double entendre, of course. The movie is about Nic Cage's character reverting to his "old way" of gunslinging and extrajudicial killing. But it's also a western made "the old way" -- simple, linear revenge plot in the old west with a morally gray desperado, a slightly corrupt but kindhearted sheriff, a crazed villain, and a final shootout.
It's mainly a vehicle for Nic Cage to do Cagey things, and it works well enough, zipping through…
Trojan War 1997
This movie made $309 at the box office.
It's a teen sex comedy and extremely silly, but very much my kind of trash. I'm always a sucker for dumb romcoms about best friends who need to realize their romantic destiny.
Will Friedle is legitimately funny, he should've starred in more movies. This also stars prime Jennifer Love Hewitt, one of the important actresses to teenage/early 20s Dan. Lots of random bit appearances here, too: Danny Trejo, Kathy Griffin, Anthony Michael Hall, the guy who voices Max in A Goofy Movie.
(Podcast episode discussion coming soon)
Wide Awake 1998
This movie is bananas. M. Night Shyamalan's second movie, made only a year before Sixth Sense, is absolutely nothing like what he'd write or direct ever again. Nothing like what anyone would write or direct, for that matter.
This movie follows a kid who gets up to shenanigans at a Catholic school while mourning his dead grandfather and facing a deep existential crisis.
I almost can't describe it. It's got the tone of Home Alone, the scenarios of a mediocre…
Scream VI 2023
The Scream series has pretty low fan consensus on which elements and outings rise above the others (though nobody I've met especially likes 3). I was a little skeptical coming into this latest outing because I was much lower on the confusingly-titled Scream (5) than most other fans of the series.
Maybe it was the low expectations, but I found Scream 6 to be significantly more interesting and rewarding last year's entry. It's very clearly mimicking and paying homage to…
The Myth of the American Sleepover 2010
There's no movie quite like this, David Robert Mitchell's debut. It's a jokeless hangout comedy but hazy and wandering, with scenes and settings that feel like they came straight out of a half-waking dream.
The acting sucks, and the script feels like a first draft (there's a disastrously bad subplot about a guy who has a crush on twins that Mitchell probably intended to feel uncanny and Lynchian but totally bombs). But I ultimately liked it for its unique texture…
Praying with Anger 1992
It's almost impossible to evaluate Praying with Anger -- M. Night Shyamalan's debut student film -- with any specificity because the only way to watch it is via ultra-grainy YouTube rips. What is clear, even in its muddy form, is that Shyamalan is an unpolished but promising talent, moreso as a director than a writer or actor (in his lone starring role). With the context that he'd eventually migrate to thrillers, the moments that stand out are scenes where he…
Scarlet Days 1919
Imagine it's 1969 and someone has finally discovered an intact print of DW Griffith's only feature-length western, long assumed lost. Then you watch it, and it's a boring, half-assed slog. Drowning in intertitles instead of action. What a downer it must have been.
Scarlet Days is quite well-acted, and the last 20 minutes have some momentum. But that's as far as I can go for nice things to say. (Oh, I guess it's also pretty non-racist as far as Griffith goes!)
The Phantom Tollbooth 1970
An astounding piece of animation by Chuck Jones carrying a story that really can't escape how unfilmable the source material is. Linguistic puns don't make for thrilling cinema! It ends up, instead, a lethargic Alice/Oz knockoff with some of the most bracing and adventurous backgrounds and visual designs of any animated movie I've ever seen.