Freaks is a Pre-Code horror movie released in 1932. Way back then in early Hollywood, the Hays Code was a series of guidelines all films had to follow. We would later come to know it as the MPAA rating system. Freaks was among the earliest films to truly shock audiences. Less likely by today’s standards, but it was a very different time. Freaks was meant to uncover the cruel manner in which people with physical deformities are treated. While at the same time portraying “normal” people as the real monsters. A bold statement to make at the time, but it’s one that I firmly believe in. No one deserves to be mistreated for something they can’t control. In fact, Freaks enlisted the help of real life physically deformed individuals at the time. Little people, people with shrunken heads, a bearded lady, conjoined twins, a man with no legs, a woman with no arms, a man with no limbs, and a hermaphrodite. While Freaks gives everyone screentime, its main story focuses on a little man in love with a big woman. The beautiful trapeze artist who (along with the strongman) takes advantage of him for his money. Until they’re found out and taken care of by the so called “freaks.” Due to its frank depictions of sex and violence, Freaks was at first banned, then recut into a short 64 minutes. All that footage is lost, but Freaks is still capable of shocking people even now.
Metropolis is the first movie I’m reviewing from the 20’s. It’s also the first authentic silent feature length film I’ve seen from beginning to end. The interesting thing about the 20’s is that nearly every movie released was silent. The music was actually added in later. It’s part of the reason why I’ve hardly touched this decade. However, Metropolis is a must watch for all film buffs. It’s considered the first feature length science fiction film. Some lists would even classify it as the greatest film released in the 20’s. And it’s not hard to see why. Well sometimes it is, but that only depends on how bad the picture quality is. Metropolis was actually made in Germany, it came out in 1927, and is considered expressionist. The very valuable poster features an image of a robot with skyscrapers in the background. Metropolis is an enormous futuristic city fueled by the workers below and ruled by the wealthy above (no Superman though). The robot is a design I’ve been familiar with for years. I’ve always thought it looked like a female version of C-3PO. I just never knew the meaning of the rings or the pentagram. I’m still a little confused, but I think I understood Metropolis well enough. The movie is nearly 3 hours long, but I luckily saw a much shorter cut. If you can find it, you’ll see that Metropolis was a true pioneer, whose influence can still be felt today.
Happy Feet Two is the sequel no one needed. Even though Happy Feet was such an unprecedented success that guaranteed a sequel would get made. The animation is as good as ever, George Millar is still director, and the songs are well chosen like the first. But that’s where my admiration stops. Happy Feet Two takes place some time after the penguin colony was saved. Mumble and Gloria (replaced with P!nk) now have a son named Erik who tries to discover what his thing is. The new problem plaguing penguins is a massive wall of ice keeping the penguins inside. There’s also a flying penguin guru named Sven that everybody looks to for guidance. As well as a couple of krill named Will and Bill voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon yapping about their own existential crisis. This story is completely separate from everything else. Which brings me to the biggest problem with Happy Feet Two. It can’t focus and has no idea what it wants to be. Sure the environmentalism was a little pretentious in the first movie, but this is ridiculous. Happy Feet Two is nowhere near as Oscar worthy as Happy Feet was. At least George Miller eventually got back to his violent roots.
Preceded by: Happy Feet
Happy Feet is one of the best penguin movies to come out of the mid-2000’s. One of the most weirdly specific crazes was the penguin craze. From March of the Penguins to Madagascar, there was no escaping penguins at the time. Among the most acclaimed was Happy Feet. An animated movie about a tap dancing penguin that managed to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Making it the first non-Disney movie since Shrek to beat Pixar (then again, Cars wasn’t much competition). Happy Feet was a true phenomenon at the time. If he didn’t already direct Babe: Pig in the City, I would also find it strange that Happy Feet was directed by Mad Max director George Miller. Enlisting the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, and the late Robin Williams and Brittany Murphy. Happy Feet is set in the snowy tundra of Antarctica. Where emperor penguins have to perform a “heartsong” in order to attract a mate. By using a variety of well known pop songs. When Mumble’s father accidentally drops him on the egg, it gives him an inability to sing. Instead Mumble dances using his happy feet. It makes him an outcast, but with the help of some rockhopper penguins, Mumble can bring the fish back to his colony. Oh yeah, this is a mid-2000’s movie. So expect an interjected environmental message. Regardless, Happy Feet is a beautifully animated groovy flick that kept the love for penguins alive.
Followed by: Happy Feet Two
Eighth Grade is basically my life. With the exception of being a girl or the generation depicted. Other than those 2 things, it’s pretty much to a T. Like most great independent movies nowadays, Eighth Grade is from A24. The best studio for unique and/or personal stories. A current trend in Hollywood is unlikely first time directors delivering something unexpectedly good. In this case that’s musician and former YouTuber Bo Burnham. Eighth Grade is about a socially awkward eighth grader named Kayla. She doesn’t have many friends, but she does have a small YouTube channel where she gives life advice. Like her, I was (and still am if I’m being honest) really quiet, but talkative when you got to know me. My eighth grade year was also kinda similar. Where it mostly sucked, but I tried to make the most of it near the end. We even both blog as a means to express ourselves. Elsie Fisher is very believable in the role. You may recognise her as the former voice of Agnes in Despicable Me. In fact, every performance feels real. Which can be cringy, but hey… that’s life. They don’t even hide the acne. Speaking of life, Eighth Grade received an R rating. Even though it’s supposed to appeal to its title audience. If you spend just one day in a public school, you’ll see how much kids swear and talk about sex. So the rating is understandable. It’s also notably one of a few movies about “Generation Z.” While there constant phone use and occasional ignorance of reality does get on my nerves. I have nothing but love for the honest down to Earth movie Eighth Grade is, “Gucci.”👌
The Incredible Shrinking Woman is the gender flipped remake of The Incredible Shrinking Man. It was released in the 80’s, but the idea actually isn’t a new one. There was originally a sequel planned for the original titled The Fantastic Shrinking Girl. It didn’t work out though. The Incredible Shrinking Woman takes the general template of the original book, but its choices are questionable to say the least. For one thing the movie is more of a straightforward comedy. She shrinks because of perfume. It’s not really a problem, it just doesn’t always match the fundamental tragedy of shrinking continuously. Lily Tomlin doesn’t just play the titular shrinking woman, but another character as well. Sometimes coming across more as a variety of sketches. Most of which fall flat. This is also a Joel Schumacher movie. So it’s very colorful and too bright at times. The Incredible Shrinking Woman also chooses to have human villains. With a plan that makes no sense. The shrinking effects are alright, but its gorilla riding climax is way too on the nose. Be sure to expect a happy ending. The Incredible Shrinking Woman can’t compare to a classic.
The Incredible Shrinking Man is one of the earliest most groundbreaking examples of shrinking in cinema. It begins with a man named Scott Carey. He and his wife live a happy life, until a mysterious mist engulfs his body. It’s this event that causes him to shrink… very slowly. Unlike most modern shrinking movies that have the protagonist shrink instantly. It starts with simple things like loose fitting clothes or Scott’s wedding ring falling off. He eventually becomes the size of a child. It’s then that the public dubs him “The Incredible Shrinking Man.” After a possible cure, he takes some comfort in a little person who’s roughly the size he is. But it’s all short lived when he realizes he’s still shrinking. Now the size of a doll, Scott faces a whole new world of problems. His cat attacks him, he gets trapped in the basement, and must now hunt for food. The only thing in his way is a now giant spider. The Incredible Shrinking Man does everything it can to convince you Scott is small. Which is even more impressive considering it was released in the 50’s. My mom actually saw the movie when she was very young. The ending always makes her emotional. SPOILER ALERT! I’d like to say Scott’s wife eventually finds him or that he stops shrinking, but not everything has a happy ending. The Incredible Shrinking Man is a terrifying concept bound by the unflinching human spirit. “To God, there is no zero.”
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a hilarious cautionary tale. One that would be a nightmare for any man. As I’ve said before, I don’t often gravitate towards raunchy comedies. So a movie all about losing one’s virginity didn’t appeal to me at first. Still, I knew I had to see it, because it’s a modern comedy classic. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is Andy Stitzer. He lives alone, collects action figures, and plays video games. An obvious virgin. Steve Carell plays him in his first starring role. Proving himself as a likeable comedic lead. When his coworkers find out he’s a virgin, they make it their mission to help him lose his virginity. Romany Malco’s Jay gets him a prostitute and has him wax his hairy chest. In the famous and very real scene where he screams “Ahhhh, Kelly Clarkson!” I will definitely be doing that if I ever get waxed. Seth Rogen’s Cal tells him to do nothing but ask questions with a girl (played by a sexually charged Elizabeth Banks). While Paul Rudd’s David just lends him his porn collection. They also take him to a club, speed dating, and later, a health clinic. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is the directorial debut of Judd Apatow. His style shows in how profane and raunchy it can get. With non-stop (but hilarious) sex jokes aplenty. Not all the jokes worked with me and the runtime could be a little shorter, but that’s about it. In the end, I was surprised by how christian its message of waiting until you’ve met the right person was. The 40-Year-Old Virgin really does hit the spot.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation just might be the most ambitious live-action video game adaptation made at the time. It’s also one of the worst films ever made. Sporting a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. When will they learn that movies based on games about nothing but fighting simply do not work? Taking place mere seconds after Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation now follows the plot of Shao Kahn to take over the world using Kitana’s mother or something to that effect. Who cares when it’s clear constant mindless unprovoked combat is all they care about. This time using just about every single playable character from all three Mortal Kombat games. Even dead characters like Scorpion and Sub-Zero return. I’d name the rest, but that would take up a whole paragraph. It’s also worth mentioning that even though this came out 2 years after the first movie that clearly set up a sequel, only 2 actors reprise their role (Liu Kang and Kitana). Everyone else is recast. If you thought the effects were bad before, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Every creature looks like a poorly rendered video game effect (ironic isn’t it). While the writing and acting have somehow gotten worse. Watch the opening exchange between Kitana and her mother and you’ll get the idea. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation sets the bar even lower than it already was.
Preceded by: Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat arguably wins the battle for greatest fighting game of all time. Due to its extreme bloody violence, fantasy/horror based characters, and catchphrases. Including “FATALITY,” “FINISH HIM!!,” “FLAWLESS VICTORY,” and Scorpion’s famous catchphrase “get over here!” They all helped Mortal Kombat become a hugely successful video game franchise. However, they’re not without their controversy. Since it was one of the earliest games to depict M rated bloody kills. Which has just gotten worse since the games have evolved. So why on Earthrealm is the movie PG-13?! Mortal Kombat actually came out within a year of Street Fighter. Making it the fourth live-action video game adaptation overall. Mortal Kombat also suffers from bad writing, a cheesy approach to the story, and over-the-top performances. But it actually does have some mildly redeeming qualities. The story of several unique fighters being taken to a tournament and engaging in Mortal Kombat is true to the game. While the presence of every playable character is also fun to see. One-eyed merc Kano, thunder god Raiden, Shaolin warrior Liu Kang, movie star Johnny Cage, flaming skull Scorpion, freezing Sub-Zero, special forces Sonya Blade, four-armed Goro, villainous Shang Tsu, and sequel character Princess Kitana. Even if their fights are mostly meaningless without an R rating. Really the only thing genuinely good about the movie Mortal Kombat is that awesome theme song. “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!“
Followed by: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation