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The Master

Every Film You've Watched in 2018

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Barbershop, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Barbershop: The Next Cut:

After watching this series from start to finish, (the first two the first time in several years, the third one for the first time) I've many thoughts that can't really be bubbled into the space of this post. I'll zero in on saying the first two have their share of needless subplots and regrettable jokes (The Luther Vandross one at the end of the second one might as well be erased from all future versions), but those really don't greatly weigh down a pair of wonderfully cast, well written movies. Tim Story directs the first one, which has more panache and style to it than the directing of its successor. The second one is slightly less focused, but continues the arcs of all the characters that surprises considering the writers and directors are all totally different. Queen Latifah is terrific as Calvin's ex who gets in some of the most searing, vicious burns I've ever heard on a person (Cedric the Entertainer).

Third one is, surprisingly, darker and much more serious compared to the previous two. Whereas 1 and 2 were old-school comedies that carried a plot and subplots that weren't always 100% comedic but had comedic moments in them, the tonal balance in this is about 60/40 a drama about violence in Southside Chicago. While it's stunning after seeing the relatively light-hearted first two, it isn't out of bounds as the series always kept a strong sense of history and reflection on the legacy of Black America. The script was co-written by Kenya Burns, the creator of Blackish (explaining, in part, the return of Anthony Anderson despite the fact that he's completely different from the first film), explaining everything. He's a pretty serious sounding dude, judging from the interviews I've heard with him.

But while the third film holds up strong against the curse of third sequel movies, especially comedy sequels, its biggest and most unavoidable setback is the cast. Not that the addition of Nicki Minaj, Common, Regina Hall or J.B. Smoove is a bad thing. They're all very good actors and fit in the world of "Barbershop" like a glove. It's the fact that the cast from the first two movies has been almost totally purged, leaving only Ice Cube's Calvin, Cedric's Eddie and Eve's Terri. We get walk-on cameos from Sean Patrick Thomas' Jimmy and Troy Garrity's Isaac, but the overwhelming majority of the film is nearly unrecognizable from the first two. I can't emphasize this enough: the cast made those first two films. While Dika (a burly African dude) was kind of a minor supporting character, Isaac and Michael Ealy's Ricky had arcs that cemented the strong writing of the series. What's weirder is that in the twelve years since the second one (these films taking place in real time), Common's Rashad has been subsumed in the cast and is treated like a major character we all know and value as if he was always there (Regina Hall, to a lesser extent, is as well). It's as if trading on the popularity and familiarity of the actors substituted for in-series continuity. In fairness, twelve years is plenty of time to form new friendships that matter to the remaining barbers. It's not unrealistic, but for a film series where its cast was fully formed and defined its "franchise", it's an earthquake. Imagine a Star Trek Next Gen film done with only Picard, Data and Deanna Troi, with brief cameos from Geordi and Worf but everyone else has been replaced and they're never referenced. I can't get across how jarring that was, and made the movie sadder than it already was.

I really enjoyed this series of movies. The first two films have fun, laugh-out-loud moments with some dated humor but stand the test of time as ensemble comedies. The third one is barely a comedy but the cast, while practically rebooted, is still very likable and the film is probably the most relevant black comedy in the past few years with how it confronts gun and gang violence head-on.

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Black Wake: feature for the festival

Immortels/The Rocky Roads!/FleshFlower: shorts for the festival

Features: 12

Shorts: 25

Documentaries: 1

Rewatches:

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Batman: Gotham By Gaslight: S'alright. Better'n the last few DC DTVs I've seen. Not as fun as the Judas Contract. About the same level as Batman vs. Two-Face. I'll add that the "R" rating is bullshit. Yeah things get kind of bloody, but Gods and Monsters was way gorier than this thing. Hell, Dark Knight Returns was more visceral. I feel that the "R" rating for these DTV movies is just for show. The Killing Joke only earned it through the photos of Barbara which was well realized. Otherwise, they've yet to actually seem darker or more disturbing than some of their original animated series, Return of the Joker, or other DTV movies.

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Rogue One: While it isn't anywhere near the greatest Star Wars film, it's certainly still got a lot of highlights. 

Films Watched: 6

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Killing Giggles/The Lovers: shorts for the festival

Features: 12

Shorts: 27

Documentaries: 1

Rewatches:

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She Was So Pretty 2: Be Good for Goodness Sake: feature for the festival

War for the Planet of The Apes: had I seen this in 2017, it would have been high on my list of the year. I haven't seen many best actor roles this year (or any year lately) but I find it hard to believe that they have more depth of range and emotion than Serkis in this movie. Fucking astoundingly beautiful (filmed just a 45 minute drive from here) and powerful. Perfect end to the trilogy, even with a little bit of Harrelson doing Brando's Kurtz. Wonderful.

How to Carve a Pumpkin: short for the festival

Features: 14

Shorts: 28

Documentaries: 1

Rewatches:

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Devilman: The Birth and Devilman: The Demon Bird.

Most people who are fans of anime have heard of Devilman, if not already seen it. These two OVAs were made in the 90s, adapting a manga that first came out in 1968. Said manga was so controversial that there were PTA groups protesting it (along with other works by the creator Go Nagai), so when combining that material with the sensibilities of early 90s anime, you can imagine how bad it could be. The Birth is wonderfully animated but really mean spirited and ludicrously violent (again, adhering to the source material). The Demon Bird is actually pretty engaging in its first half, but eventually devolves into mindless anime action that's not nearly as well animated. This did spur me into reading the manga and investigating more about the franchise as a whole, finding out that it's so bleak and misanthropic that I'll give Devilman Crybaby a pass, thanks.

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More Blood!: Documentary for the festival

House Shark: feature for the festival

Features: 15

Shorts: 28

Documentaries: 2

Rewatches:

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The Boss Baby: It's your fairly standard Dreamworks Animation movie. Not nearly as bad as most Minions movies.

Heathers: Still one of my favorite films of all time.

Snoopy Come Home: I grew up with it. It's alright.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I hadn't watched it since before The Last Jedi came out. It still works.

Films: 8

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Fright Night: review forthcoming

Housesitters: feature for the festival

3:12/Porcelain Stare/Stockholm Sweet Home/Blood Bank/Murder for Dummies/Not Long For This World/Inappetence/Lion/House Among The Trees/The Devil's Due/The Call Girls: shorts for the festival

Features: 17

Shorts: 37

Documentaries: 2

Rewatches:

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Zackman/Paralysis/Jamie: short for the festival

All Light Will End // Paranormal Demons // 10/31: features for the festival

Features: 20

Shorts: 40

Documentaries: 2

Rewatches:

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The Godfather: This is the first time I've seen this in going on what feels like twelve, thirteen years. And, well. What can I say that hasn't been said already?

Films Watched: 9

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Still Hungry/The Factory: final shorts for the festival

Features: 20

Shorts: 42

Documentaries: 2

Rewatches:

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The Cloverfield Paradox: It's a mediocre third film. I don't really get why people are calling it awful, but it ain't perfect, either. 

Films Watched: 10

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Baywatch: this is dumb. Like, not even dumb fun. Just dumb. The best laughs are in the trailer. This is literally just eye candy (which it does do extremely well), but having trouble with the conceit that the woman who plays CJ is some goddess everyone drools over while Alexandra Daddario is just some regular girl. I guess that takes some suspension of disbelief.

The Polka King: I had no preconceived notions going in and ended up with something that's firmly on my working best of the year list. Funny, heartfelt and ridiculous. Kind of like a Coen Brothers film in a lot of ways as well as an incredible comedic performance from Jacki Weaver.

Features: 22

Shorts: 42

Documentaries: 2

Rewatches:

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Ocean's 11: Just a dumb fun movie.

Ocean's 12: Just a dumb dumb movie.

Showgirls: Yeah, yeah. I've already heard it like 50 times before.

Films: 11

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When We First Met: a rom-com with sci fi leanings elevated by the cast. It's cute and fine, but without Daddario and Devine it would be mush. I never gave Adam Devine much second thought but it appears he's grown out of the "douche fratbro" role he's had for several films. He's definitely doing a bit of a mid-career Jim Carrey thing here which is certainly not original, but it works and is actually pretty lacking in modern comedies. 

Features: 23

Shorts: 42

Documentaries: 2

Rewatches:

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The Ritual: It's that new-ish Netflix 'don't go in the woods, or Nordic pagans will sacrifice you to a demigod' movie. It's alright, nothing special.

Films Watched: 11

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The Ritual/The Cloverfield Paradox: reviews forthcoming

Features: 25

Shorts: 42

Documentaries: 2

Rewatches:

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