You thought I wouldn't get through my list of 2017 movies before 2018, didn't you? Well, this is it! December, part 2 of 2:

163. (1222.) It's a Wonderful World (1939)
This screwball comedy staring Jimmy Stewart should not be confused with It's a Wonderful Life. There's little exceptional about this, which is not to say it's bad. It's just not a classic.

164. (1223.) Ace in the Hole (1951)
Man, Kirk Douglas made some great movies. The premise of this movie, that a journalist would endanger the life of an innocent man to get a bigger story, is so 2017. Too late does he realize what this has done to his soul. Very good.

165. (1224.) The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The movie that inspired You've Got Mail with Jimmy Stewart in Tom Hanks' role. I like Tom Hanks as much as the next American, but Stewart does it best.

166. (1225.) Man-Proof (1938)
Myrna Loy isn't so much "man-proof" as she is "man obsessed." I guess that would have made a worse title. I do adore Loy, but I can't say even her presence does much to redeem this rather sappy melodrama.

168. (1227.) Dudes (1987)
A cult classic starring Jon Cryer as a New Yorker having a fever dream trip through the modern Old West. This eclectic movie has a lot of quirkiness going for it — especially Daredelvis — but despite its charm can't overcome the fundamental problem of its violent heart.

This movie included an overt bit of Coca-Cola product placement. After seeing this and the Coke bottles in Ace in the Hole, I decided from now on, whenever I see a Coke on screen, I'm going to include a screen grab in my review. So have a Coke and a Dude:

Drink Coke! (Dudes)

169. (1228.) Broadway Melody of 1936 (1936)
Jack Benny! Eleanor Powell! Buddy Ebsen! There's a lot to like about this tap-dancing musical. It has some product placement itself, as Ebsen wears a Mickey Mouse sweater for his first dance number (with his sister)! Utterly charming.

170. (1229.) Joysticks (1983)
Teen sex comedies of the 1980s have a special place in my heart (and my groin). This one concerns a video arcade that runs afoul of Jo Don Baker with all the bizarre misadventures you'd expect. Not a bad choice to end the year.

Whew! 170 movies in 2017. Can I top that? Tune in next year and see!

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I believe the technical term for dog sweaters is 'straightjacket'

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It has been brought to my attention that some of my readers have had difficulty with the new Google "I am not a robot" Captcha swallowing your comments. That problem may be especially common for users of the Chrome browser. (I've experienced it myself on other sites.)

If this has happened to you, please try using Chrome's incognito mode, deleting your cookies, or changing to a different browser before commenting. If none of these solutions resolves the problem for you, please contact me directly and let me know. (You all have my email address, right?)

Sorry for the trouble. If the problem continues or proves to be especially widespread, I'll see what I can do to build a better bot trap. (Again.)

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Let's just go ahead and get this out of the way.

167. (1226.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

I asked Dad what he wanted to do for his birthday yesterday, and to my horror he said "I want to see Star Wars." So I took him to see it. (A child's job is never done.) Dad may not be, but I'm getting too old for this shit.

The original Star Wars wasn't exactly Shakespeare, but neither was it insulting. By comparison, The Last Jedi begs its audience to forget everything it knows about science and society, physics and psychology. I guess that's why it's marketed as a kid's movie — a kid's movie supersaturated with graphic violence, copious death, and a PG-13 rating. Say, if you're going to remake Empire Strikes Back, can you at least keep it under 2.5 hours, please? Sorry, but I can't suspend my disbelief long enough for this level of stupidity anymore.

Ugh. Every time I think about it, I find something new to irritate me. Unjustifiably incompetent Hux. Edsel bumper Phasma. Smug cartoon Snoke. Topless emo Kylo Ren. Horny Rey. Pointless Finn. Stalker Rose. Traitorous mass murderer Po. Atmosphere in space. Gravity-assisted bombers. Belated use of indefensible hyperspace missiles. Not enough Threepio! Aargh!

Was it all bad? No. Mark Hamill steals every scene he's in as Mirror Universe Luke Skywalker. Dead Yoda is the best Yoda. And I particularly enjoyed Benicio Del Toro's parting "maybe." But then how did Del Toro's DJ know the crucial piece of information that led there? Damn it! It's impossible to even praise this movie without tripping into another of its innumerable flaws.

There were parts where I think I could see where director Rian Johnson wanted to take the movie's theme of loss and transcendence. These themes would sit much better in the third act of a trilogy than the second, so why here and now? How much of a role did Disney's executives play in distorting that vision to keep its golden goose laying? I don't know. At this point, I don't care.

The worst of it is that I'm afraid this isn't the last Star Wars film I'll have to see. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to me being in the theater for whatever dreck Disney cranks out next Christmas. Let the past die, Dad!

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This year Mom woke me up early (read: noon) because she was eager to open her Christmas presents. She actually shouted that I needed to wake up and see what Santa Claus brought me. Then she tossed a small bag of coal in my bed. Bah, humbug!

When did I become the parent in this relationship?

I gave Mom a coffee press. She gave me a VR headset that turned my smartphone into a migraine-inducing nightmare machine. Together, we had a great time. I can't wait to do it all again next year.

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For no good reason, I bought a Wilton gingerbread house kit from Michaels earlier this month with the plan that Mom and I would build it together. That plan was somewhat spoiled when my father interrupted our house raising. (He needed tech support for the Kindle I bought him last Christmas that he just now decided to activate for the first time.) Mom went to bed while I was on the phone, and I finished our house without her.

We went shopping for a do-over replacement kit, but Michaels was sold out. Rather than give up, I doubled down. I found a recipe and made enough gingerbread for two more houses, one for Mom to decorate and one for me. (No tech support call could defeat this plan!)

'Are you going to make a gingerbread house?' asked the cashier. 'I did that when I was a child.'
Click photo to embiggen.

In the photo above, the shared kit house is on the left with the rainbow roof. Mom's greenhouse is in the middle. My sloppy icicle house is on the right.

For my standalone house, I decided I was only going to use candy accessories that I would eat. Turns out, I don't like the taste of rainbows. Who knew?

Though I'm reasonably satisfied with the final results, the best part wasn't decorating but baking the gingerbread. (The house smelled so good!) Therefore, next year I think we'll just decorate homemade gingerbread men. And we'll turn off our cellphones, just in case.

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I said I was going to double time these movie reviews to get done with 2017 before 2018, so here you go. First batch of movies watched in December.

157. (1216.) Foodfight! (2012)
Back when I had a brother, he said I didn't know what a bad movie was because I didn't watch enough movies. Then, when I began tracking movies watched on this blog, he said that I was being too indiscriminate and not watching good enough movies. In honor of Trey, I intentionally watched this, widely regarded as perhaps the worst animated movie ever made. Don't do this to yourself. Please, please, please, do not watch Foodfight!. I could write a whole post about the many, many things that are wrong with it, but it doesn't deserve the attention. And Trey, if you read this, know that I still think Armageddon was a worse movie-watching experience.

158. (1217.) Clash By Night (1952)
This was a better noir/romance hybrid than I was expecting, probably because I missed the opening credits and didn't realize that Fritz Lang was the director. Extra credit to "Uncle Vince" who I wanted to punch in the face for being too much like me.

159. (1218.) Trainwreck (2015)
Despite the rave reviews I'd heard, I found this to be a cute but ultimately forgettable romantic comedy in the Apatow vein, probably because Apatow directed it.

160. (1219.) The King of Comedy (1982)
I hated, hated, hated this film. Robert De Niro employs all the aspects of his film persona that I enjoy least. Yet I watched the film to the end, so it deserves some credit for keeping me watching to find out how it ended. I just wanted to see De Niro get what was coming to him. Those of you who know this movie can imagine my reaction at the final curtain.

161. (1220.) Private Parts (1972)
This low-budget horror movie, on the other hand, was right up my alley. Creepy voyeurism in a decrepit hotel flavored with coming-of-age sexuality and a double twist ending. What's not to love?

162. (1221.) BMX Bandits (1983)
Nicole Kidman's Australian film debut! It's a cops 'n robbers kids movie but still very watchable if you like BMX racing and dated tricks performed by people wearing more elbow and knee pads than any real BMX rider has ever worn.

More to come.

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Holidays are overrated

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Time to finish reviewing movies watched in November.

153. (1212.) Thunder Road (1958)
Robert Mitchum stars in this movie written and produced by Robert Mitchum! All kidding aside, it's pretty good until the rather abrupt ending. I was especially happy with Gene Barry's role as a Treasury agent seeing as he was television's Amos Burke.

154. (1213.) Minions (2015)
I really, really wanted this to suck. Dumb, evil-loving henchmen shouldn't work as cute protagonists. But they do. And this movie was made for fans of comic book super heroics (like me). Minions is a lot of fun.

155. (1214.) Fantastic Four (2015)
On the other hand, Fantastic Four was not made for fans of superhero comics. Or fans of movies. Think Chronicle meets I Am Number Four meets the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still but much, much worse. As with most terrible movies, studio interference is widely blamed for this mess, but it's hard to imagine how anyone could mangle the iconic characters created by Lee and Kirby that launched the Marvel Age of comics badly enough that any part of this script was ever green-lit for filming in the first place. (I'm not in favor of the much discussed merger between Disney and 20th Century Fox, but if it finally gets us a comics accurate Dr. Doom, at least there will be one good reason to let the House of Mouse become the new AT&T.)

156. (1215.) Impulse (1974)
Do you like William Shatner? I mean the real Shatner, the canned ham who pushes the other actors off camera with his over-the-top delivery of... every... line? Then stop reading this and go see Impulse. He plays a deranged con man slash playboy slash serial killer. He attacks a bunch of balloons. He makes sexual innuendos with a hot dog. He treats Goldfinger's Odd Job like a pinata. HE HAS A DEATH SCENE. Seriously. This movie is like mainlining pure Shatner, and it feels soooo good.

More to come.

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In 1977, my father took me to see Star Wars after he had already seen it once. He loved it and wanted me to love it too. I don't remember anything about that experience. I was only 2. However, we did have a VCR — it was huge with faux wood paneling — and I would watch the movie over and over and over again in the years following. We also recorded and rewatched the infamous Holiday Special.

In 1981, my father took me to see Empire Strikes Back in a theater after it had been playing a few weeks. I can't tell you exactly where. All I remember was that it had red walls in the lobby. Though at the time I was disappointed by the cliffhanger ending, I wasn't disappointed enough not to love all the cool new toys. Not long afterwards, my brother accidentally decapitated my original black-vested Han Solo figure, and my parents replaced him with a Han in Hoth gear. What a downgrade. (I retaliated by running over Trey's sensorscope R2-D2 with my bicycle.)

In 1983, my friend Greg Owens saw Return of the Jedi before I did. He complained the movie had too many purple-lipped talking dogs in it. Their catchphrase, Greg said, was "Eat your momma." When I finally saw it (again with my family, again theater unknown though probably in Stone Mountain, GA), his review was borne out. By Christmas, I had all the available Ewok action figures and a Wicket doll.

In 1999, I saw The Phantom Menace at the new Hollywood 24 theater in Atlanta with friends. The movie was fine enough — in fact I think I continue to like it more than many — but I was disappointed by how many people I spoke to seemed to love it for what they put into it, not what it was. Darth Maul, like Boba Fett before him, particularly irked me. Fans decided he was cool because he looked cool. Their love was for a thing they had created in their heads, not a character that had appeared on screen. This realization that fans loved the franchise not for what it was but for what they wanted it to be was the beginning of the end of my love affair with Star Wars. I have a hard time associating with people who worship style over substance.

In 2002, I watched Attack of the Clones at the United Artists Scottsdale Pavilions theater in Arizona with my brother. We both agreed the movie was terrible. Bad acting, worse writing. Between the forced romance and that CGI Artoo video game sequence, this film is almost unwatchable. I distinctly remember saying that the only reason anyone should pay money to see such a thing was to get out of the desert sun.

In 2005, I have no memory of watching Revenge of the Sith. My friend Keith has told me he remembers my laughter at the final reveal of Darth Vader, so I assume I watched it in Atlanta, presumably back at the Hollywood 24. It was awful. How could any so-called fans of the older Star Wars films still love this franchise after old Ben Kenobi was revealed as the kind of man who turned his back on his friends and his responsibilities, "master" Yoda was an isolationist failure, or Vader himself was a tantrum-throwing idiot? Weren't these supposed to be kids movies? Yuck! If this was the Star Wars Universe, I wanted no more part of it.

In 2015, I watched The Force Awakens at some theater on the north side of Atlanta with reserved seating in recliners that kept my feet from touching the ground. I didn't want to see it, but I'd made the mistake of saying I'd watch it if they found a way to bring Han Solo back. They did. I watched. I found it an insulting exercise in nostalgia. (Hey, guys, let's forget all that prequel nonsense. Remember what you liked about Star Wars? Here it is again!) It's now the highest grossing film of all time.

In 2016, I watched Rogue One at Regal Cinemas 11 in Panama City, Florida. It was my father's birthday present. It was a bad present. The movie was yet another excuse for brand reinforcement, a short story intended to fill gaps in the original Star Wars backstory with stereotypical yet well-costumed characters that would make good action figures.

In 2017, Disney released The Last Jedi. A new one already? As if I wasn't burnt out enough. I hear it's different. I hear this one will change everything I've ever thought about Star Wars. I feel like I've heard that before. Maybe I'll see it one day when it comes on television. Maybe. I'm not in any hurry anymore.

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To be continued...

 

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