September 2022, I did something that I had never done before. My accomplishment is going to likely seem mundane to hardcore movie aficionados, and to most of my friends and family, it seemed somewhat unfathomable (or fanatical).
On my yearly Film Quest, I found myself at the start of September with some decent momentum, and I tried to keep it up. A week into the month, I realized that I MIGHT be able to sustain, for the entire month, the one-movie-per-day pace I had established at that point. Or, at least, I’d see how far I got.
A change to my sleep schedule left me with the perfect opportunity to watch more movies. Waking up early to see my son before he goes to school (a full two hours earlier than last year due to having reached Middle School), I find myself in an empty, quiet house, not fully awake, certainly not prepared for work. It became very apparent that watching a movie was a great way to help me wake up and enjoy the morning.
Here are the movies I watched in September, and a little bit about how I liked it and maybe a little info about why I watched it and how other people might (or might not) enjoy it.
Having watched the excellent DRACULA series from BBC at the end of August, it seemed natural to check into this Hugh Jackman film about the famous vampire hunter. I had also otherwise identified that Kate Beckinsale Action Movies are something of a blind spot in my “movie viewer resume”, having not seen the UNDERWORLD movies, so that’s all the more reason I needed to see VAN HELSING. I would have been disappointed by the film had I any expectations of the quality being good, but its reputation preceded it and so I didn’t expect anything special. And it wasn’t. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. [43 out of 100]
I’m not a James Franco fan, but I’m trying to see all of the movies nominated for the Academy Awards Best Picture, so I gave it a try. Director Danny Boyle is a talented filmmaker, so I knew there would be a significant level of quality to the film. For me, it fell short. The story is one of incredible perseverance and survival; that it’s based on a true story is fascinating. Unfortunately, the film didn’t do enough to help me get beyond my personal bias against James Franco, so I didn’t find myself caring about this character enough to have the emotional attachment that others potentially developed. The situation seemed impossible to survive, the character seemed foolish to not be better prepared when taking this dangerous adventure alone, and knowing that I would give up hope if placed in that situation, I just found myself wanting the movie to be done. I was also dreading the gory scene that I knew was coming, having heard about it when the movie was first released. My experience wasn’t great, but I survived it. I’d recommend it to people who don’t dislike James Franco, if they think they can withstand a gory scene and some potential emotional trauma, but I don’t think anyone should go out of their way to find it. [58 out of 100]
Hearing considerable buzz about it when it hit theaters, I knew I’d check it out eventually, and to my surprise, it showed up earlier than expected on streaming (Peacock, I believe). I went in with modest expectations, as I’m not always a huge fan of movies set prior to the 1950s, and this seemed like something of an action adventure. What I found was something more along the lines of a Shakespearean tale, though with more easily understood dialogue. It doesn’t end up as one of my all-time favorites, but there are certainly some really good moments in the film, a twist or two, and great cinematography (especially the final few minutes). I’d absolutely watch it again, and anyone who likes Hamlet should give it a watch. [84 out of 100]
MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU *
Although it’s now available on streaming as I write this, at the beginning of September this MINIONS sequel wasn’t available to view for free at home, so it’s the only movie I saw in theaters last month. Though I went because my son and his friend wanted to see it, I’ve enjoyed the Minion characters in all the movies I’ve seen them in thus far. There were plenty of laughs and a decent plot, and with modest expectations, I wasn’t let down. A subsequent viewing and more analysis might set my score for it lower, but it was enjoyable. [78 out of 100]
Growing up, one of my favorite math teachers was obsessed with Elvis (or at least pretended to be), so I’ve always had a slight interest in knowing more about the cultural icon. Happy to find it streaming, I dove in one of the first nights it was available and found it informative but a bit jumbled. The first half of the film was a weird mix of spending too long on certain topics and not long enough on others. Discussions about racial inequities and cultural appropriation were touched on and then mostly abandoned. The extent to which the story focused on Elvis’s manager, Col. Parker, was not what I was necessarily expecting, but found it fascinating to learn about the extent to which he defrauded Elvis and ruined significant aspects of his life and overall fame. Great performances in the primary roles, but the pacing of the film, its length, and how parts felt disjointed left a weird after taste. Absolutely worth seeing, but I’m not sure how many will revisit it. [71 out of 100]
An action film in 2022 with Sylvester Stallone in the lead role… and it wasn’t getting terrible reviews? That piqued my interest enough to check it out on free streaming. It certainly won’t become a classic, but there was enough meat to the story to make it something I’d recommend. The performances and action weren’t over-the-top, so while it won’t be in discussion for any awards, it’s also not fodder for ridicule. I don’t think it’ll be anyone’s favorite movie of the year, but it might make for an entertaining evening. 
Jake Gyllenhaal is great, and although I heard decent things about this indie film where he plays multiple roles, it never made its way to the top of my list to check out… primarily because the film’s poster featured a giant spider towering over a city. Having watched a couple other mind-bending movies this year and at least one other Gyllenhaal film, I decided to check it out when I saw it was on free streaming (a term I keep using, when actually, I’m paying for the services, I just mean that I don’t have to pay $3+ to watch the film specifically). It was really well done and featured two good yet distinct performances from Jake. “Enjoyable” isn’t the word I’d use to describe the experience, but I don’t think that’s necessarily what they were seeking.