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Stew’s September 2022 Movie Thoughts: Barbarian, Hocus Pocus 2, More

October 3, 2022 | Posted by Rob Stewart
BARBARIAN Image Credit: 20th Century Studios

I made a lot of people mad this month.

It’s not my INTENT ever. I just had feelings on movies that really seemed to perturb some others. And that’s fine! I’m the king of “You Like What You Like, And That’s Great!”, so I never mind if people like something I didn’t or vice versa, but I saw a few highly-regarded flicks this month that gave some folks consternation over my scores.

Some things just aren’t for me! I don’t know what more to say. Again, if you love those flicks, I think that’s great! I’m not here to say you are “wrong”.

Anyway, thanks for checking back in on my journey to 300 movies by the end of 2022. With three-quarters of the year over, I’m just shy of 250 in the bank, so to hit about 50 across the next three months? Should be a piece of cake.


But let’s get on with how I did in September!

FIRST TIME WATCHES: The Lost City, The Invitation, Watcher, Starship Troopers, Barbarian, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, Highlander

Boy, a lot of new releases to start off with. We have four movies there that all came out this year! Let’s start with those.

I had just about zero expectations for The Lost City going in other than a hopefully merciful way to spend two hours. What I got instead was the best comedy of 2022. I laughed out loud frequently throughout. What a surprising gem of a movie that understates its humor and leaves it up to the audience to catch several of the gags and jokes. If you slept on this flick, give it a try. The very definition of “a pleasant surprise”, this.

A three-and-a-half feels SUPER high for The Invitation, and maybe my standards are all over the map these days. I worry so much about what my scores are going to be, I just obsess over stuff by the time a movie is in its third act. That said, this mixture of three parts Get Out, two parts Dracula, and one part Ready Or Not was a decent amount of fun with a nothing story that didn’t really matter. I feel like the trailer gave away too much, but I still had a good time with it. Is it a 3.5 movie QUALITY-wise? Nah. But I enjoyed my experience in the theater.

Less of a good time was had with Watcher, a predictable flick that feels like it might have an interesting swerve in the third act, but then just decides… not to, and instead goes super safe. It just goes exactly the way you think it’s going to the whole time, and it felt like a waste of my time. I wanted a twist or turn.

Lastly for the new watches here was Barbarian, and AGAIN with the 3.5 score that already feels bloated. An IMPECCABLE first act carries everything here and drowns out how middling the rest of the movie is. Like Watcher, this is an outing that felt like it could have done something unpredictable but decided against it. The story is more or less fun nonsense, but the characters have to actively start making ludicrously unbelievable decisions to keep everything going. But… great first act, so what do I know?

Barbarian is a movie that is creating a lot of strong feelings one way or another, and that’s unusual to me because I found it overall just… good. Neither memorably great nor horrible.

I know, I know… I had never seen Starship Troopers or Highlander before. What’s my problem, right? Well that’s the point of this journey to 300: filling in gaps!

Look, apparently the book “Starship Troopers” is super pro-fascism and military superiorism and white imperialism. Whatever. I watched this flick and couldn’t help but pick up the idea that it was mocking those notions. We have digs at mindless wartime bigotry, we have the idea that the military outright deceives you to get you to join up, and we see the fact that war is god damn hell and that people die and die brutally.

So Verhoeven got his hands on a source material and then took the piss out of it? That’s ballsy as fuck. Good for him.

As for Highlander, this movie straddles a strange line between being absolutely silly and absurd (the magnificent Clancy Brown just being off-the-wall, the completely unexpected climactic Quickening effects, the swords that occasionally seem powered by electricity and/or dynamite), and then actually having heart and showcasing the downside of immortality. In one bit, we get both: We get the Highlander saving a child from Nazis by gunning one down after a quip, and then we see him raise her as his own daughter even as she ages past him.

That leaves us with How To Lose Friends And Alienate people, a movie with a derivative story (“The Devil Wears Prada was popular recently!”) and some charming mid-2000’s transphobia as “humor”. Simon Pegg dragged this movie kicking and screaming against its will to mediocrity. But I don’t recommend it. I already regret giving this a 2.5. It should be a 2. But I DO love Simon Pegg.

REWATCHES: The Addams Family, Addams Family Values, Speed

So the original Addams Family movie is unquestionably a better-made and more polished effort than its sequel. The story makes more sense and feels like something we needed a major motion picture to tell us.

And then the sequel is just straight up far funnier.

Maybe I’m just turning into the easiest mark alive, but yeah… Addams Family Values and The Lost City both slayed me. It wouldn’t be the last time this month.

I’d been meaning to rewatch Speed for a minute since I put it in my Top Ten Summer Blockbusters Ever list! It really holds up! The movie starts fast and never really slows down (har har), and Keanu and Bullock just have wonderful chemistry. It’s still a highly intense action flick all these years out.

FIRST TIME WATCHES: Pearl, Saloum, The Wedding Singer, OUaTiH, Neighbors 2, Kingpin

I have gone SO IN-DEPTH on Pearl between THIS article or THIS podcast. It really wasn’t for me. I was intolerably bored through the whole thing. And the Projectionist subplot? What was that? Pointless. I’m apparently off the pulse of critics and society on this one, but boy… I REALLY don’t get the praise here.

Saloum is a very interesting movie available on Shudder that I definitely recommend but don’t want to say much about in case you watch it. It takes some TURNS, and even though I kinda saw one coming, it was a good turn regardless. Check it out!

I’m not a particularly big Adam Sandler fan, despite what this image tells you. So I never had any interest in watching The Wedding Singer until a whim hit me. You know what? This is my second favorite movie of his now. For most of the movie, it cruises along at about a 3/5 in my head; it has moments, but it was very… Big Budget Sitcom Episode, you know? All dumb coincidences and characters just missing each other.

But then you get to the climactic plane ride scene, and I just had a blast with that. So I bumped it up dramatically for the smile it put on my face.

I ticked another movie off my Quentin Tarantino list with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, leaving only The Hateful Eight and the Kill Bills as unwatched by me. I kind of had a mental block while watching it where I was expecting the movie to be… about something, I guess? But it’s more or less a true crime fan-fiction that let QT create his own sandbox to play in. When I accepted that, I quit anticipating something magical. And boy, the climax here was another treat. Such mayhem.

Neighbors 2 is a FAR funnier movie than it should have been, and I laughed throughout. Like I said… I’m becoming such an easy hit for some comedies.

The first Neighbors is funny in that awkward, uncomfortable way. The sequel just goes more in on pure fun, but also adds in something to say about feminism and sexism. It’s not taking itself too seriously or anything, but it feels somewhat more… necessary. And I adore Chloe Grace Moretz.

Conversely, I’m pretty sure I’m just not much of a Farrelly Brothers brand of humor guy. So Kingpin worked in parts, but the whole middle hour just dragged for me. Any time Bill Murray wasn’t on screen felt tedious. Also, I’m not a big gross-out humor guy, so stuff like drinking a bull’s semen? Yeah, not my thing.

REWATCHES: The Cable Guy, The Pacifier, Little Evil, The Waterboy

Cable Guy is BARELY a rewatch for me; I saw it back when it came out, but had forgotten most everything about it. Matthew Broderick is exciting as room temperature water here, and Carrey is a bit too 90’s Jim Carrey for me here. There’s a delightfully fun dream sequence I loved, but the rest was just… okay.

The Pacifier is what it is: an unabashed kids’ movie with a stupid plot just kind of barely existing as a means to the end of Vin Diesel acting off of some charming child actors. It’s an inoffensive nothing movie that kills 90 minutes or so. It’s not well made, but Diesel and the kids are trying their hardest.

I really dig Little Evil, a movie made by the guy who did Tucker & Dale Vs Evil but got a lot less affection than its predecessor. There’s a lot to enjoy here, and Adam Scott is an actor who can really play any kind of comedic role, hero or villain. I would say that the weakest part is that Owen Atlas as Lucas is not the best child actor on the planet, but he’s not bad, either. He starts off decent enough as a creepy child, but once he gets to start having dialogue, he’s just kind of… adequate.

Despite what I said earlier about not being a Sandler fan, The Waterboy remains probably one of my ten favorite pure comedies EVER. This flick is ceaselessly hilarious from beginning to end. I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes Waterboy better than, says, Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore. It just feels less like a SNL skit that went too long and more like an actual movie. Henry Winkler is a blast in this.

FIRST TIME WATCHES: Schindler’s List, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Hellraiser, Hellraiser 2, The Closet, Hocus Pocus, Hocus Pocus 2

Schindler’s List is not a 5/5 strictly because I will never watch it again. It’s a stark and painful experience, and it’s like 200 minutes long. But Christ is it one of the best movies ever made. I was white-knuckling my way through this non-action movie because parts of it are just so intense and so dire. It feels like it should be mandatory viewing for all school-aged children, but I’m sure half the country would lose their minds if you tried that.

You know what’s weird, though? I couldn’t stop researching things on my phone during Schindler’s List, and I ended up finding out that Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus, HATES this movie! And now I am conflicted. He admittedly just doesn’t like Spielberg in general, I guess (he considers An American Tail to be a Maus rip-off), but he has some legitimate complaints about the film, as well. Huh.

Okay, so here’s one of the bigger areas of strife for my reviews. After catching up on so many horror classic since COVID started (The Exorcist, An American Werewolf In London, Black Christmas, a lot of the Universal Horror classics, and more…), I finally found one that just did not work for me at all: Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

I’m not here to litigate its unquestionable influence on cinema or if you love it or not: it just wasn’t for me AT ALL. The acting is ludicrously bad, the entire third act is just noise–it’s like half an hour solid of either a girl screaming or cannibals cackling–and I genuinely had a headache when it was over. Like… I just did not enjoy it or find it as well made as those others I mentioned. But that’s apparently just me, so who knows?

But as I continued with horror classics I missed out on, I was much happier with the first two Hellraiser movies. Granted, the second is weaker–it feels like it was made up as they went and lacks cohesion or direction–but the first in particular is wildly imaginative and crazy. I actually like that Pinhead and The Cenobites are barely in it, because it makes their brief appearance in the third act more powerful. The story isn’t really ABOUT them; they are just a figure of it. Watching Hellraiser just made me think “Oh wow, Clive Barker’s head is FUCKED UP”. I came away very impressed, even 35 years after the fact.

The Closet is a 2020 Korean horror flick I found on Shudder. It suffers a bit in the third act when the conflict gets a bit more direct than I thought it should (it felt like it was verging on becoming an action movie at times), but the first two acts were fantastic, and if you want to see a movie balance creepiness and some light humorous moments to lighten the tension, this is it.

And finally, in honor of the sequel’s long-awaited release, my friends invited us over to watch both Hocus Pocuses. Hocii Pocii? I don’t know.

The weird thing is that, despite the scores, I might consider the second the better actual movie. The story is stronger and the cinematography is superior. It just… it relies far too heavily on the jokes and plots that made the first movie popular, and I always ding sequels for just safely bunting their way by on nostalgia. But I liked the humanizing of the Sanderson sisters and showing they weren’t just evil with no redeeming characteristics or history.

The first HP is FINE. It’s a kids’ movie with a kids’ movie level plot that coasts by on some really fun over-acting by the leads… Bette Midler in particular because she is a treasure.

REWATCHES: A League Of Their Own, Mean Girls

I had not seen A League Of Their Own since it came out in theaters, and it still mostly holds up. The film suffers from the ironic problem of being too long but also not developing the side characters well enough. The flick is all about the relationship between the sisters, Kit and Dottie, and their story is told beautifully against the backdrop of an entertaining sports movie. That arc is extremely well done! But it feels like every one else in this 2+ hour movie gets punted into the background. Still a good watch, though.

And my thoughts on Mean Girls are conflicted: I think it is well-made and biting, but it’s also just not for me. It’s a comedy I didn’t find funny (aside from a few Tim Meadows jokes), and it all feels a bit hyperbolic and exaggerated. Which, I mean, IT’S A MOVIE. It’s supposed to! It’s a metaphor. But for me… I just wasn’t the target audience here. I appreciated it, but didn’t really care for it. Does that make sense? My thoughts had not changed since I saw it in cinema way back when.

Also, watching Mean Girls in hindsight suffers from constantly thinking “what happened to you, Lindsay Lohan?”

And that was September!

Tell me: what were the best and worst movies you watched last month? What do you think of some of the flicks I caught in September 2022? How many movies are you up to one the year?

Until next time… take care!

article topics :

Barbarian, Hocus Pocus 2, Rob Stewart