So, I did a lot of movie watching this summer. Just, y’know, trying to get up to speed with some old series, trying to stretch my movie-review-writing legs by going to the movies often, et cetera, et cetera. And I had a lot of fun! I watched some good ones and some… pretty bad ones. So I’m happy to chronicle this experience for you, and maybe you can get some sweet movie recommendations out of it! Enjoy!
18. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
This movie was… not my favorite. It had things I liked about it, like how we got to see Indy around kids and stuff. We saw some interesting sides of him, that way. But I mainly had … a lot of problems. This movie was WAY too long — it drew out its ending fight scene for such a long time, I didn’t even really care about anything anymore. Indy’s female companion feels more like she was just put there to fulfill a quota than to be relevant and interesting to the story; she does next to nothing and complains the whole time. Another thing I disliked about it was how strangely demonizing it was toward POC cultures. The representation of those people groups rubbed me the wrong way.
I’d give Temple of Doom an F as its rating.
17. The Mummy (1999)
I’m sad that this movie is near the bottom of my list, mainly because this wasn’t necessarily a movie I disliked — it just wasn’t a movie that was super impressive, either. When watching it, one kind of wonders why one isn’t just watching their favorite installment of Indiana Jones. Their characters are a tad unoriginal (although charming), and the plot goes on just a little too long for my taste. But overall, this is a pretty okay, albeit throwaway, action adventure film.
Generally, I’d give it a D as it’s rating.
16. For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Man, I got so into the Dollar Trilogy this summer. But For a Few Dollars More had to be my least favorite installment of the three, just because it wasn’t … interesting. There wasn’t the same personality that was in the other two movies; we didn’t learn anything new about Blondie, and the plot was all build up and no payoff. And the build up itself wasn’t really, in itself, that enthralling. I feel like Few Dollars More was a very, very rough version of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly— half due to Lee Van Cleef’s role in the movie, half due to the ending battle being three dudes in a ring pointing guns at each other. I will say, though, one thing I did like about it was learning about Mortimer and how much he cares about his late sister. I wish the whole movie had been really focused on that bond between Mortimer and Blondie instead of trying really hard to make the villain sympathetic and the action exciting, et cetera, et cetera. It had potential, but still no dice. Sigh.
I’d give Few Dollars a D+.
15. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
I did a full review of Valerian here! Yeah, I wasn’t a big fan of this movie — it sure had a lot of problems that I’m definitely not gonna restate here, haha. But it was entertaining enough, if you like a lot of world building and Star Wars-esque universes and science fiction. Just… yeah. Go read the review if you’re really curious. The aesthetic and animation parts of it were really flawless, though, I gotta say.
Valerian gets a D+.
14. I Love You, Phillip Morris (2009)
Gosh, when I saw that this movie was about gay criminals Ewan Mcgregor and Jim Carrey, I was completely on board. And there were a lot of things about this movie that I did like, like Ewan’s sensitive character, the romantic parts of their relationship, and just what a completely shameless horrible person Jim’s character is. I liked seeing a gay relationship onscreen that was just … kinda normal. Them having their bad days, them fighting, them making up, et cetera. But sadly… a lot of things about this movie were pretty tasteless, I think. I know that this is based on a true story so there’s no stopping that, but using a gay character’s death by AIDS to give more dimension to the movie’s literal antagonist just comes off as insulting to me. I also didn’t like the very iffy-sounding phrases like “Being gay is sooo expensive!” and “I’m going to be a f*ggot!” and stuff like that. As a queer person, it rubbed me the wrong way. But oh, well. This is a comedy movie with Jim Carrey in it, so you obviously can’t take it too seriously.
I’d give this movie a D+, maybe a C-. Not worth much more than that, sadly.
13. The Mask of Zorro (1998)
I was so pumped that I found and bought this! I loved Zorro as a kid and was glad to finally be reconnected with that part of my childhood. And that being said, this movie was mostly good. It was super charming, and almost all of the comedic points hit. It was a very keen revenge story, and it spurred a lot of emotion in me. It’s the type of movie I’d probably recommend more to people’s dads than people my age, though. There were some bad parts, like how it dragged or was just utterly ridiculous/nonsensical at some points, or sometimes felt like a ripoff of Count of Monte Cristo — but generally, they don’t distract from how heartfelt this movie is. Besides the fact that it’s long-ish, it’s a painless and enjoyable tale. Not bad, but not crazy great either — just good.
I’d give Zorro a C.
12. Ex Machina (2014)
Ooo, jeez. So, here’s the thing about Ex Machina. This movie is definitely a cinematic masterpiece. Like, it’s haunting, disturbing, very sensual and creepy — a beautiful consummation of everything that’s great about psychological thrillers, with amazing actors to top it off. But sadly… this just wasn’t a movie that I enjoyed that much. I can recognize from a critical perspective that it was amazing, but it more just … stressed me out and made me uncomfortable than anything else. Another issue I had with it was that I feel as though it didn’t end at the best moment it could’ve ended at, but that’s just me nitpicking.
Ex Machina gets a C. Sorry!
11. American Beauty (1999)
I had an almost identical experience watching American Beauty as I did with Ex Machina. Very good, deep movie, with a lot of food for thought — but there were a lot of parts that were just a little too immoral or downright dirty for me. Not the kind of movie that I’m excitedly sitting down to watch again; more of a movie that I’m kinda glad I got out of the way, so I could say I watched it. But it had some good parts, like some biting humor, and great acting (especially Kevin Spacey — I’m a fan of his because of it), et cetera, et cetera. Generally, not bad.
I give it a C, and put it right up on the shelf next to Ex Machina.
10. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
This was the first installment in the Dollar trilogy, and I really liked it, especially since I watched them out of order. We saw a lot of Blondie’s personality in this one; it was fun to see him talk and smile more! I also really loved the friends that he made and how much of a quick wit he has. It’s always fun to watch him get out of a sticky situation, because he handles himself so well, and he’s just such a selfless, good guy. Generally, it’s a really wholesome movie that I have very little problems with. Good job!
I give it a straight B!
9. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
This is a movie that I remember very keenly from my childhood as well, but never one that I’ve watched all the way through. This movie is totally iconic. It’s hilarious, it’s snappy, and it’s got a lot of charm and amazing action. I think Indy’s characterization and relationships were pretty much in their prime in this movie — it was a great way to start an amazing series! Yet the only problem I have it is one that I feel pretty consistently when watching Indiana Jones: I don’t love the idea of the white dude being the only one that can save ancient relics and whole civilizations & I downright hate the demonization of POC cultures. It has a very… colonialism feel to it, and I don’t think that’s great. But I do like this movie a lot, and I think it generally deserves to be as critically acclaimed as it is.
Raiders gets a solid B+.
8. The Matrix (1999)
This is another movie that deserves to be iconic. If you can get past the kinda cringey ’90s fashion, technology, and action, it really is a deep and thoughtful concept that they’re shooting for. I think the acting was all pretty good, and the characters — especially Neo! — were very endearing! The main thing I marvel at with this movie though is just how groundbreaking its color scheme and use of slo-mo in their action scenes. It’s really just wonderful film work, and it strikes awe in me every time I watch it.
I give it an A-!
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
This movie is a hit or miss with a lot of people, but it definitely hit with me. I LOVED this movie. Wes Anderson has such a distinctly unique style of filmmaking and I never get tired of it. Everything is so rich with color and personality and life. The humor is wry and frivolous and just so… carefree and genuinely fun. I loved the relationships portrayed in this movie; I found myself desperately wanting more content for them despite the movie’s runtime. It’s just such a sweet story. If I could live in a Wes Anderson world, I feel like I’d have no problems, honestly! I can see why some people wouldn’t like this type of movie — it’s definitely more on the artsy side of movies — but I adore it.
Grand Budapest earns an A- from me!
6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
This was my favorite from the Indy movies just because we got to see a very interesting dimension of Indiana when around his Father & when learning more about how his childhood affected him. I love a good action flick as much as the next guy, but knowing why Indy does what he does matters to me so much more. While the plot in this movie was extremely interesting and thrilling and clearly well-researched, what mattered to me most was the dynamic between Indy and his father. To me, they made a better dynamic duo than the past companions Indy has had just because a shocking amount of character development occurred. Gosh, I just — I love this movie. It exceeds words. It’s just great. I love stories about families.
Last Crusade gets a straight A. Absolutely great.
5. Easy Rider (1969)
This movie was enjoyable in the oddest of ways. Like, if someone was describing it to me — this movie has long stretches of just motorcycle bike riding set to old-school music, focuses heavily on drug use, has barely any talking, no strong plot drive and barely any character development — I’d probably raise my eyebrow in suspicion. But Easy Rider was such a profound piece about prejudice and drug use and religion and morality, and it struck very strong cords in my heart multiple times. It was the kind of movie that one watches on a rainy day, or one someone watches completely silently with their friends. It really is just a beautiful piece of artwork, and is one that really stuck with me.
Easy Rider easily gets an A.
4. Baby Driver (2017)
I had such low expectations of this movie — probably because I presumed it would be entirely a cheesy Southern romance flick. But surprisingly, it blew me away! The soundtrack was fire, the sound was on point, the choreography to everything was one of the most innovative and unique things I’ve seen in a long time, and all of the characters managed to be completely memorable and unique and very engrossing. As in, I genuinely cared about everyone in the movie: I was dying to know where they’d all end up. It was just very… charming, like Guardians of the Galaxy and Mad Max: Fury Road had a very beautiful, very Southern, very normal, Earthly baby. I’d definitely call Baby Driver 2017’s best, most pleasant surprise. There were some plot holes and some iffy moments here and there, but it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. This movie will hold your attention, no doubt.
I give it an A!
3. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Hoo, boy. Kingsman is like… my new favorite thing. I love the concept of making fun of cheesy ’60s spy movies, yet absolutely taking that satire, running with it, and making it better than literally any other movie in the genre. Kingsman is like the son of Deadpool and James Bond: it’s sharp and violent and hilarious, yet also has this really strong air of dignity and humanity and … morality, even. Although, the genre of movies like Deadpool or Kingsman and their use of very crude humor isn’t totally my thing — there were some scenes that I will admit were very tasteless and even misogynistic. But I don’t think that totally detracts from the experience that Kingsman gives you, thankfully — it really is a fun, fun movie.
Kingsman gets an A!
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Holy cow … this movie was flawless. And I mean it. Absolutely flawless. It was fun, it was snappy, it was beautifully shot, it was diverse, it was realistic, it was hilarious, it was relatable, stressful, emotional, engrossing, exciting — gosh. It really was the best superhero movie experience I’ve had since Batman vs. Superman. All of the actors couldn’t’ve been more amazing, and my already-full love for Michael Keaton increased TENFOLD. The plot twists took me by complete surprise. Generally, it was just … a movie written with such care to detail that I can’t help but be impressed. Good job, Marvel. You win this round.
No doubt, this movie earned its A+ from me.
1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Okay, so I’ve already implied that I’d die for Blondie and that I really loved the Dollar trilogy. Well, GBU carried most of my love for this series. It was a movie that was so unlike the genre & timeline that I’m used to, so everything at every turn took me by surprise. I loved the characters passionately from start to finish. Blondie had so much style, swagger, and cunning, and yet proved himself time and time again to be compassionate and respectful. Angel Eyes was a fitting villain: he was charming and ruthless, but you could tell around when he joined the military that he had heart, too. And Tuco… well, even if Tuco had been needless comedic relief, I would have loved him just because he was so hilarious and reminiscent of one of my favorite Star Wars characters that I couldn’t help but love him. And it would have been so easy to just reduce him to a laugh, too, but the movie gave him real dimension and sympathy, and I appreciate that. It really made things feel realistic to me. This whole movie was attention-catching and riveting and interesting, with beautiful scenery and an absolutely gorgeous & iconic score. Not to mention, it’s intensely quotable, which is always a plus. This is the movie that made me fall in love with the Western genre and, admittedly, with Clint Eastwood. I had a ton of fun watching it and enjoying it, and I HEARTILY recommend it to anyone and everyone who is interested in that type of thing!