The Shallows: Bought It Before I Watched It

Here is a well-known, irrefutable fact about myself: I am old.

Now you might be thinking, “But Jesse, you’re only 29! You’re still a young man,” and that’s exactly what you would think given my age and appearance, but that’s without taking the following into account: I listen to a ton of classic rock, I still pay for cable, I try to avoid long lines and crowds, I’m just as content with a quiet night inside as I am going out and doing something fun, and I still buy physical copies of movies.

That’s right, every single movie I own is perched upon a bookshelf in my guest room. Whenever I have to move (which thankfully isn’t very often), I have to take them down, pack them up and put them all back up again when I get to my new place. That probably sounds awful to you, which is why most people who still collect movies (instead of just streaming everything) opt for digital copies, so they don’t have to deal with all of the clutter. Marie Kondo would definitely prefer the latter approach.

And I wish I could tell you that I have a bulletproof reason for buying and storing all of these optical discs, like that they provide me with superior audio and video quality (which is somewhat true) or that I don’t like relying on the internet to have access to good movies (for the two times a year that my internet doesn’t work), but maybe it just brings me to joy to see all those plastic cases twinkling at me from their respective positions on my shelf.

If you think that sounds crazy, then this little nugget will really blow your mind: I will sometimes buy movies that I haven’t even SEEN yet. Now in my defense, I do look at the reviews for a film to determine how well it was received and if it might be unique, but that’s still weird, right? Why pay money to own something that I’m not even sure I’ll enjoy?

I won’t even attempt to come up with a good answer for that question, but what I am going to attempt to do is start a series of posts where I watch a movie that I bought without seeing it first, and then write about whether I regret it or not. I’ll even do a mock interview of myself. We’ll see if I regret that.

First up, The Shallows.

Why did I buy The Shallows?

You can count the number of good shark movies on one hand, or maybe even one finger. On a side note, I bet you thought my answer was going to be, “Blake Lively in a bikini.” Get your mind out of the gutter, pervs.

Really, people are expected to believe that?

Hey, I love Jaws. It’s one of the greatest feats in film history and the piece of cinema that put Steven Spielberg on the map. I loathe virtually every other shark movie I’ve seen, although I do respect the Sharknado franchise for fully embracing its own ridiculousness and just running with it (they released a sixth one just last year!). The point is, I wanted to believe that The Shallows brought the survival horror element of Jaws without the stupidity of all its sequels, so I took the plunge… erm, the dive.

Alright alright, so what did you think?

Much to my relief, The Shallows is a perfectly watchable summertime horror flick. Lively makes for a compelling lead, as she’s proven in some of her more recent work, and the great white shark is a force of nature that lays waste to anyone stupid enough to be in the water (basically everyone). I don’t think a bigger boat would’ve helped Lively in this one, or a bigger surfboard for that matter (unless the Silver Surfer let her borrow his and she could just fly out of there). Director Jaume Collet-Serra tried his hand at horror previously, including the graphic 2005 remake of House of Wax, but he seems to have tightened the reigns a little bit here by favoring suspense over gore. The mere threat of the shark is equally as imposing as when it’s actually chowing down on something, which I found rather effective.

He also found a pretty clever way to visualize Lively’s smartphone on the screen, which is something we’re seeing more and more of in film with things like texting and Facetime.

Do you think you’ll come back to it again?

I’m sure I will someday, but it was brutal to watch by myself (my fault for putting on a scary movie while I was home alone). My fiance also hates survival horror, so the chances of getting her to sit through it someday are between slim to none. Maybe I can convince Kevin to fly back from New York for it? You never know.

Moment of truth… do you regret purchasing it?

Thankfully, no. While it’s certainly not on the level of Jaws, all I wanted was something to shock me, awe me and make me scared to get in the water. You can check all three boxes for The Shallows. On top of that, there is a seagull in this movie named Steven Seagull. How could I ever regret buying a film that features a bird named after a 90’s action star?

What’s next in this series?

Good question. Kevin has been badgering me to watch Enemy and Sorry to Bother You, so probably one of those two. Stay tuned!

It’s a Long Shot to Go to the Movies

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret – Flimsy Film Critics is all for romantic comedies!

I know, I know. We don’t write about them much (except when I’m critiquing Netflix’s autoplay feature) but it’s true. We like to see the hero wind up with the object of their desire, we find humor in the critiques of modern dating and we find satisfaction in people growing as individuals and ditching their lousy significant other for someone much better. Mainly, I think we are just relieved that we no longer have to endure all the awkward moments that being single can bring cascading into your life.

That’s why when I saw the trailer for Long Shot, I was instantly intrigued. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron are both actors that I admire, but they’re an unusual on-screen couple. I figured that was a good sign that a little more thought went into making this film other than, “Get two attractive people together and let the sparks fly,” especially since Rogen also served as a producer. My fiance was equally intrigued, so seeing Long Shot in theaters seemed like a great potential date night and an opportunity to support an original movie.

Then we didn’t go. But we did order it on-demand because I’m old and still pay for cable. That still counts, right?

Alright, so it’s not the same. I always kick myself for not forking over the $20 that it takes to go see a film that deserves our money, because these movie studios are always listening with their wallets. That’s why we have all those Fast and Furious movies and just got Angel Has Fallen, the third installment of a trilogy that most people have forgotten even exists. Long Shot barely made its budget back, which only compounded my guilt. We as a society always complain that we don’t get enough original films, but then we rarely put our money where our mouths are when we have the chance. Why is that?

I think a lot of it has to do with the impact that streaming has had on the industry. If people see a trailer for a movie that captures their interest but isn’t  something they have been eagerly anticipating, what are the odds that they just wait it out and catch it on Netflix or Hulu someday? Exponentially high, and only increasing with the additional streaming services that have been starting up (just wait until Disney+ is released, families will never leave their homes again!). For people who aren’t passionate about film or just watch movies to pass the time, they are probably ecstatic about this trend. They get to sit on their couch and save money on something they aren’t even sure they’ll like. But for cinephiles like the two goofy guys who run this blog, it’s an upsetting development in our film loving worlds. Try as you might, you just can’t replicate the experience of going to the theater with the streaming device at your home, and you never will.

And of course I liked Long Shot. It was a fun and refreshing rom com, which is all the more reason why I should’ve gotten off my butt and traveled the 10 minutes to see it on the big screen. Imagine a world where public movie theaters don’t even exist and everything is released right to your Smart TV or Roku Stick.

It’s a lot closer than you might think.

Wes Anderson’s Criterion Journey: The Royal Tenenbaums

There is a scene in The Royal Tenenbaums that always mesmorizes me. No matter how many times I see it, no matter what else I’m doing, I instantly get swept up in its beauty and simplicity and come to admire it even more than before.

Margot and Richie have been in love for a long time, dating all the way back to their childhood. Summoned back home after a prolonged absence, they arrange to meet at, “the pier by way of the Green Line Bus.” As Margot steps off of the bus, and spots Richie awaiting her arrival, their eyes lock and their expressions soften and not a word is needed to understand how these two truly feel about each other. They are wearing nearly identical colors, casting off a dreamlike hue as if they are the only people in each other’s worlds that stand out. Nico’s cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” plays over the scene, suggesting that these two never really got to be together and that their love as a whole was a missed opportunity.

Of course, none of this takes into account that Richie is Margot’s brother and Margot is his adopted sister. It wouldn’t truly be a Wes Anderson movie if there wasn’t one absurd little tidbit that threw the entire idea of this potential courtship out of whack. Richie later discusses his love for Margot with his father, Royal (played by the legendary Gene Hackman) and the following exchange takes place:

Royal: “It’s illegal though, right?”
Richie: “I don’t think so, we’re not blood related.”
Royal: “But probably frowned upon. But then again, what isn’t these days?”

That line made me wonder about what the reaction would have been if The Royal Tenenbaums had been released these days. Would there have been a giant backlash towards the Margot/Richie relationship on the internet or would they have been in the clear thanks to Game of Thrones’ portrayal of full-fledged incest? It’s safest to assume that people will get offended about anything that is even the slightest bit controversial. But as I rewatched the film recently, I realized two things: 1) I’m glad that certain movies were made before the advent of social media and 2) I really miss seeing Gene Hackman in new movies.

Probably a lot more than the other people in this movie missed his character.

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Auto-Play Will Always Be a Maybe

One of the most annoying features on Netflix is how it auto-plays trailers for movies and shows as you are scrolling through its vast library of content. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. Auto-playing a trailer for something that I’m not sure I even want to watch sounds like a classic first-world problem, and oftentimes you can simply move on and completely forget about that new Adam Sandler movie. I’ve been doing that for years anyway.

No, what really bothers me about auto-play has more to do with the nature of trailers these days. There have been too many instances recently where I will watch a teaser and come away feeling like I just saw the whole movie. In a digital world where spoilers are waiting for us at every turn, it’s downright disheartening that movie studios willingly give away plot details like free tickets to a WWE pay-per-view. It’s gotten so bad that rarely do I ever watch more than a single trailer for a film that I want to see, and even then I hesitate before I hit the play button. Netflix’s auto-play function makes it that much harder to sidestep those previews, and as a result, all the more difficult to go into a new movie completely blind.

Lovers of film know this plight all too well, which is why after my fiance and I finished watching a movie on Netflix, and then it immediately jumped into the trailer for Always Be My Maybe, I was certain that I knew all the ins and outs of this “new” romantic comedy: childhood friends Sasha and Marcus hit adulthood and have an awkward sexual encounter, contact between them is severed, they randomly encounter each others years later and feelings are rekindled, but then Keanu Reeves (playing himself) emerges as a romantic rival for Marcus, creating a huge obstacle to win Sasha’s heart (seriously, that is all in the trailer). To be fair, romantic comedies all more or less hit the same beats (minus Keanu playing a sardonic version of himself), but if you feel like you know the outcome before you even start the movie, then it just feels like a waste of time.

Regardless, we both found ourselves home sick one day and decided to give Always Be My Maybe a chance. The upside to rolling the dice on a Netflix film is you can always stop watching 20 minutes in if you don’t like it, and my fiance is a fan of Ali Wong’s standup, so we figured why the hell not? Much to my surprise, this latest romcom had more depth than I was expecting and featured great chemistry between Wong and co-star Randall Park. There were also (gasp!) many key scenes and developments that were NOT highlighted in the trailer. Had I not been feeling so rotten that day, I would’ve done a victory dance in my living room in celebration of a trailer that actually did its job: provide the audience with an idea of what to expect and pique our interest so that we’ll actually tune in.

Thank you Always Be My Maybe. You were not only a refreshingly fun and poignant romantic comedy, but you also didn’t ruin any of that for me beforehand. If only all of the other trailers would follow suit (or, ya know, Netflix could do away with its intrusive auto-play). Neither of these seem likely, so continue to tread lightly when it comes to previews, friends.

There be monsters out there.

Have You Ever Taken the 3:10 to Yuma?

I spent last Christmas in Arizona with my fiance and her family. On Christmas Eve, her parents suggested that we venture down to Tombstone because I had never been there before and they knew that I was a fan of that Western. Pretty good family to marry into, right?

On the way, we passed the turnoff to Bisbee and I excitedly pointed out, “Bisbee?! That’s the first town they went to in 3:10 to Yuma!” My fiance laughed, rolled her eyes a little and said, “I love how you know where places are solely because of movies you watch.” She’s not wrong, but it’s simply the catch that comes with being engaged to a film lover. To her credit, she always takes it in stride and even sits through movies that I want to review and that she could care less about because she wants to be supportive. That’s true love folks, and another example of how lucky I am and that I made the right decision by proposing.

But while I could talk about my wonderful fiance from dawn til dusk, the point is that I will forever associate Bisbee with 3:10 to Yuma, the 2007 remake of the 1957 film of the same name. And when I’m reminded of that movie, I instantly recall the clever direction, expert pacing and superb acting. I then find myself yearning to experience it all over again, and that’s the mark of a tremendous motion picture: one that you can revisit repeatedly without tiring of it or being able to spot any flaws.

I’ve certainly never been able to find any, friends, and that’s why I declare that 3:10 to Yuma is a perfect film and one of the finest Westerns ever made.

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How Did 20-Year Old Me Feel About Toy Story 3?

I’m going to be upfront and admit that I have some pretty big misgivings about Toy Story 4. Sure, on the one hand, Pixar has crafted three outstanding entries for its most popular franchise. On the other hand, Toy Story 3 wrapped up the trilogy beautifully and left the story on a high note. Sometimes, you have to know when to leave well enough alone.

But regardless of how much I am or am not looking forward to the continuation of the franchise, that doesn’t really matter. Toy Story 4 hits theaters on Friday and hopefully any worries I have will be put to rest by another worthy follow-up. That really would be the best case scenario here. While we’re waiting, I thought it would fun to revisit Toy Story 3 and analyze what worked so well for that movie. The twist is that it won’t be me providing the analysis, or at least not present day me.

Back in the days before we had a blog for publishing our film reviews on the internet, Kevin and I would share our opinions with each other on Facebook messenger. Let’s just say it was the beginning of a shared appreciation for filmmaking and the first step towards pursuing a mutual passion. One of the movies I reviewed back then was indeed Toy Story 3, which Kevin and I saw together in 2010.

It’s crazy to think that it’s been that long since the last Toy Story hit theaters. It’s even crazier to me that we’ve been writing about films for almost a decade. That’s why I thought it be worthwhile, and just a little terrifying, to publish my original review and let 20-year old Jesse have his day in the sun.

That’s what we have to do, right? Take some time to remember where we’ve been, and the truth is the Toy Story movies have always been part of my life. My original review is after the jump.

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Wes Anderson’s Criterion Journey: Rushmore

Coming-of-age stories are one of the most overused archetypes in Hollywood: familiar, relatable and uplifting. In other words, it’s a proven formula that works. So when Wes Anderson revealed that his second feature film was going to follow that outline after Bottle Rocket bombed at the box office, I’m sure his producers were thrilled.

They might’ve been less enthusiastic when they read the script and found that the hero fakes injuries to try and win the heart of the woman he loves (one of the teachers at his school, nonetheless) and when his best friend starts dating that woman, he jealously tries to cut the brakes on his friend’s car. How are people supposed to get behind this guy if he’s trying to take us to all of these dark places?

The simple answer is that we have all been to those places before, because part of growing up is learning to cope with the injustices that life throws at you without succumbing to our worst impulses. That’s why we forgive the protagonist when he tries to exact terrible revenge on the friend who betrayed him. We’ve all felt that way before, only most of us haven’t acted on it.

You see, Anderson does adhere to the coming-of-age formula: he just does it in his unique, off-brand sort of way.

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