I love September and I don't love August, so I'm not sad to see it go. But I did keep things interesting this month.
You know how Joker was essentially an alternate version of Taxi Driver except it sucked? First Reformed is, in many ways, a modern Taxi Driver that doesn't suck – unsurprisingly, as it was written and directed by that film's screenwriter. Like many an A24 movie, I'm unsure how I feel about the ending, but overall, I found it pretty fascinating. It brought up questions about what makes a movie "horror," and it did some things I fully did not expect, even as I was sure I knew where the story was headed. Good, strange work.
Attempt: The Wedding Planner. Including but not limited to the deeply unnerving sight of a blonde McConaughey, everything about this movie is terrible (except Judy Greer, who is always perfect). However, I will say that I love a lot of bad '00s rom-coms, and I think whether you like any given one depends on if you see it for the first time as a teenager or as an adult.
Here's the thing about Crawl: you think you know what you're getting and you do, to some extent, but you also don't. I thought this might be extremely cheesy, but it was actually really fun because it was several shades more intense than I thought it would be. It's also fun to yell at characters when they make bad decisions.
My dad had been telling me to watch this movie for probably a decade at this point, especially since I'm such a fan of The Silence of the Lambs. I am, however, not a fan of ventriloquist dummies (thanks, Goosebumps), so I was always like, "LOL, we'll see." It ended up being a lot different than I expected, plot-wise, which was interesting and it had that great '70s filmed-on-film look to it, especially at the beginning. It definitely was entertaining to watch Anthony Hopkins be insane nearly 15 years before Hannibal.
I'd known the big twist of this movie since it came out when I was in high school and I thought that might dampen the experience of watching it, but it didn't! It was still wild as hell. Although I could've lived my whole life without that opening scene.
Momento is a movie that is not only told completely backwards, but where every scene is also revealed to you in reverse. This makes for a stressful, but undoubtedly unique viewing experience. It took me a bit to get into what was going on, but once I did, I was all-in. The structure helps make for a good payoff.
Unfortunately, the film bros were right about this one. It is definitely too long and, to that end, occasionally has weird priorities (how long do we really need to see JGL float in a hallway?), but I can't really fault it for anything else. It's good.
Meh. I wanted this to be good, but it was just fine. Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick are pretty good, but it's lacking in other areas.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
"There'll be food and drink and ghosts. And perhaps even a few murders. You're all invited." My first time seeing Vincent Price in his prime. Anything else I've seen him in has been earlier (Leave Her to Heaven), later (Edward Scissorhands) or animated (The Great Mouse Detective). Much of this movie is obviously very silly, but the dialogue is great and Carolyn Craig has one of the best screams I've ever heard. Leaps and bounds better than the 1999 remake.
Rewatch: Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I've said it before, but this remains one of the most honest movies ever made about teenagers. And rewatching it after reading Brat Pack America gave me a fresh lens to view it as a bit of a critique of capitalism.
Rewatch: Valley Girl. I made Tim watch Fast Times and Valley Girl within days of each other because they go together in my brain and, to my surprise and joy, he liked both and liked Valley Girl best.
When the trailers first came out for this movie, I was convinced it was somehow secretly a horror-comedy? But it's neither horror nor comedy. However, it is good – tightly-wound, probing and a bit disturbing. Another entry into the canon that if movie makers want me to immediately distrust a character, they should always cast Jason Bateman.
Rewatch: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. If you want to know what a puppy would look like if you turned it into a human, it's Keanu Reeves in this movie. Most excellent, dude.
Rewatch: High Fidelity. I have a weird relationship with High Fidelity where I watch it about once a year to see if I'll like it more. I don't know why I do this. While I hate Rob, I do like the movie – and I liked the TV show even more.
Running on Empty
I'd never heard of this movie until reading Brat Pack America, but I'm always down to be sad about River Phoenix and this week, when he would have turned 50, seemed like as good a time as any. It's a soft, sad movie and, unsurprisingly, River gave a great performance. The world would be better if he was still in it.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Oof. While Excellent Adventure is goofy but charming and sweet, this one is just really, really dumb. It's like the people behind it went, "Bill and Ted are dumb, so if you love them, you must also be dumb"? Or they just assumed that anyone watching a movie with "bogus" in the title would be stoned at the time? One of those. Either way, it's bad.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Much better. This movie isn't perfect: it often feels like it's trying to be two movies at once, two good parts crammed together into a bit of a mess. But it's pretty fun, and it's a delight to watch Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves transform back into these two lovable goofs, weird mannerisms and all. Is the ending hokey? For sure. But I also almost got emotional at the mere idea of a concert, so this movie feels like exactly what our most non-triumphant world needs right now.
In TV, I've gotten extremely into Batman: The Animated Series, the virtues of which I could write an essay about. I also watched all of the first two seasons of Scream: The TV Series in like, three days. And Tim and I have been continuing our tradition of "Mystery Sundays," where we watch a mystery series – first I'll Be Gone in the Dark, now Lovecraft Country (the jury's still out) – followed by two episodes of Buzzfeed Unsolved.
I also did some reading this month. Maggie and I swapped books, so she read my copy of Riley Sager's Home Before Dark, while I read her copy of Maureen Johnson's The Hand on the Wall, the final installment of the Truly Devious trilogy. While I didn't love it quite as much as the first two, it was still very good. Maureen is a great mystery writer, and I hope she writes nine million more.
As mentioned a few times, I also read Brat Pack America by Kevin Smokler, which had been sitting on my shelf since Texas Book Fest 2016. My copy had an absurd amount of typos, but it was right up my alley and I learned a lot, both about films I've seen dozens of times and ones I'd never heard of.