Movies & TV / Columns

Stew’s June Movie Thoughts: The Black Phone, Morbius, More

July 4, 2022 | Posted by Rob Stewart
The Black Phone Mason Thames Image Credit: Universal Pictures

It’s the halfway point of the year, and with it, the 50% marker of my journey to 300 movies watched within the span of January 1st 2022 to December 31st 2022.

It’s almost quaint to remember this started as a mission to 250 when the year changed and I saw I’d surpassed 200 total movies watched in 2021. It wasn’t until I saw my numbers after February that I realized 300 was so easily attainable. I’m on pace to crush 300 as it is, AND there are more days in the back half of the calendar than there were in the front. I’ve got this!

It was just two years ago, shortly after the start of COVID, that I decided to really amp up my movie watching and fill in so many holes in my film history blindspots. I’m over 70 movies that I’ve watched for the very first time ever this year (not including movies that were released this year), and some are kind I really should have seen by now.

I’m very excited to continue growing my movie culture all so when I do Best Of / Favorites lists, they can STILL be filled up with the comic book movies and horror franchises my reptile brain loves.


Anyway, let’s see what I devoured in June as I work toward The 2022 300!

FIRST TIME WATCHES: The Girl In Cabin 13, The Bunker Game, Dracula, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Hustle, Boss Level, JP: Dominion, Mother’s Day

Leading off with not one, but TWO below average indie horror flicks, we have The Girl In Cabin 13and The Bunker Game! TGiC13 is mostly memorable for 1) having a poster that looks like Cabin In The Woods’ if you squint, and 2) being a lame Strangers-esque home invasion story. Storywise, it was honestly fine, but the acting was ROUGH. You could tell this was these folks’ first real go around at emoting and delivering lines in front of a camera.

The Bunker Game was about… well, I won’t give it away because the first 10-15 minutes were the only part that worked for me. It just falls off a cliff after that, though.

Continuing my slow march through the classic Universal horrors, I finally got around to Dracula, which I can’t believe wasn’t the first one I watched. It’s been a lot of fun visiting these films for the first time and seeing where Hollywood first designed its iteration of these characters. Bela Lugosi is great here. It’s not the best of the lot so far–that’s still easily The Invisible Man–but it was better than some others.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was a letdown from its predecessor, as it felt like it had less heart at the expense of more silliness. It probably should be 2.5, but I gave it an extra half a star for having the balls to have Robotnik give a “There were very fine people on both sides” line.

When my wife turned on a movie starring Adam Sandler, I had very little hope for it. But Hustle turned out to be a quality, low-key story about a budding basketball star and the scout who discovered him. Is the movie essentially just a reason for Sandler to hang around his sports buddies and icons? Absolutely. But some actual soul went into it.

I was highly recommended Boss Level by a buddy at the end of 2021, so I finally gave it a try. You know what? He was right. It’s Groundhog Day John Wick, and I irrationally love almost all timeloop based movies. Why haven’t those gotten old for me yet? I’m stuck in my own timeloop.

Frank Grillo does a surprisingly good job as a lead in BL. The flick balances action, humor, and some actual melancholy all very well.

Jurassic Park: Dominion is about as soulless of a cash grab sequel as you can get. How on Earth do you manage to make a movie about dinosaurs attacking people BORING? And it’s not even that the shtick is stale for me by now–Dominion is only the second JP franchise movie I ever saw!

But after about the 15th time one character or another survived a by-the-skin-of-their-teeth, last second escape from being eaten, I was just tapped out. Clearly no one was in any REAL danger, so what was the point? The screenwriters would just save them all.

Mother’s Day is an 80’s horror-slasher outing that seemed like it could have been decent for a bit, but then descends into just… rapey horror with awful antagonists.

Is there a semi-major holiday that HASN’T been turned into a horror flick? Maybe Yom Kippur?

REWATCHES: 50/50, Batman & Robin

I once called 50/50 my #2 movie of the 2010’s (some stipulations applied), and I watched it again to verify that, yep, I still love it.

I rewatched Batman & Robin because it was pulled for a future episode of the Stew World Order podcast. It’s… not great. But you know what? Definitely better than Batman Forever!

FIRST TIME WATCHES: Changing Lanes, Happy Gilmore

I very vaguely remember when Changing Lanes came out that I wanted to watch it, and then… never did. OR! I thought “A movie about a minor accident? That’s dumb”. I can’t recall. I just remember having feelings. Either way, I finally watched it 20 years later!

It’s a really intense flick of two characters who just keep upping the ante against each other. Even when one decides it’s time to de-escalate things, the other turns up the heat and everything devolves from there. I really enjoyed this!

I really expected more of Happy Gilmore! It is WILDLY amateurish, and Sandler frankly sucks here. It’s all very SNL-quality acting. And shooting. And everything-ing. I did have a couple of good laughs in the second act that saved it from an even lower score, but wow… what a middling movie.

REWATCHES: House On Haunted Hill, Jurassic Park, Collateral, Blade: Trinity, Avengers: Endgame, The Evil Dead

Geoffrey Rush is clearly having a blast in House On Haunted Hill channeling Vincent Price, and Chris Katan in perpetual doomsayer panic is surprisingly fun. But aside from that, all you have is a messy plot that has more twists than it can handle AND terrible special effects. It’s not TERRIBLE, but even at just 96 minutes, it outstays its welcome.

Also… did House On Haunted Hill, The Haunting, and 13 Ghosts all come out the same year? Wowsers. I actually thought this and The Haunting were the same movie for years.

I revisited the original Jurassic Park not long after suffering through Dominion. Some of the effects haven’t aged as well as you might imagine (just SOME!), but that actually helped the movie because it made me realize that this is not, by any means, purely an effects spectacle. There is a high caliber story here, too, with Grant’s growing relationship with the kids he is stuck with. Stellar effort from a legendary director at the height of his powers in the early 90’s.

I’m not sure if it’s because I saw Collateral before (albeit 18 years ago), but I surprisingly didn’t find this movie particularly tense or anything. It is enjoyable, but I never felt that… “Oh what’s going to happen?!” tension.

It’s fun to see Cruise take on such an atypical role for him, though. He gets to use the powers of his Tom Cruise Run for EVIL for once! But it’s Foxx that really carries the movie. He’s so frantic and drowning in his situation that it keeps you invested.

Blade: Trinity was a rewatch for a future episode of the podcast!

Avengers: Endgame was just something that came on in the hotel room while my wife and I were in Columbus. It’s inarguably in my Top Ten movies of all time and my all-time #1 MCU flick. I went into Endgame EXPECTING greatness, and the movie still overachieved for me. I know a lot of folks dig Infinity War more, but… not me.

I JUST watched Evil Dead for the first time ever this year! And then a few months later, I was invited onto The Pint podcast to discuss it, so I rewatched it to get my notes down for discussion.

FIRST TIME WATCHES: TMNT 3, The Black Phone, Elvis, Morbius, The Crush, The Lost Boys

I watched TMNT 3 for another future episode of the podcast!

I went to the theater on back to back days near the end of the month to see The Black Phone and then Elvis. The Black Phone was a very intense base-level thriller. If you want to pick nits, there are a lot of “But why…” questions you can ask, but… don’t do that. Not everything needs an explanation. Just enjoy the universe Joe Hill established. He’s clearly learned from his dad.

The first act-plus of Elvis is… visually cacophonous. It was distracting and kind of obnoxious at points. Just… weird shots and weird cuts and weird effects on the screen that seemed to be in the way of the actual story. It gets buoyed by a pair of stellar performances, but it felt like it glossed over a LOT of stuff, which… a two and a half hour movie should not be accused of.

Morbius is neither as bad nor as fun as I’d heard. It’s lazy and silly, but not particularly insipid or anything. I’m surprised it caught on with meme culture because I’d otherwise just have forgotten it ever existed. It’s just another Sony attempt at a Spider-Man universe film that feels entirely generic.

Remember when there was a whole sub-genre of movies from the late 80’s and early 90’s that I can only refer to as “Bitched Be Crazy” movies? Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct and the like? Where horny dudes’ dicks get them in trouble, but it’s presented as the crazy lady’s fault? That’s The Crush! Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, Cary Elwes kisses the FOURTEEN YEAR OLD CHARACTER played by Alicia Silverstone AND says “If you were ten years older…”! Come on! I WANT her to ruin this scumbag’s life.

Still, the whole movie is worth it for the climax, which is just Cary Elwes KTFO-ing Silverstone after all her machinations!

Finally, we had The Lost Boys on the last day of the month. So this is better than Near Dark or Monster Squad, both of which I also saw for the first time in the last year. And this is weird as a… KIND OF for kids vampire movie? But there is a [very chaste] sex scene. So what do I know? It definitely does feel aimed more at older kids or early teens than anything else.

Half the year is behind me (WOW has 2022 moved fast), and I’m at 166 individual movies on the year. Keep pulling for me to hit my target!

Until next time… take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your mental health!