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🎬 "Ouch town! Population: You, bro!"

Late this week, and I have no excuse. Well, no good excuse: When I was initially planning to write th
🎬 "Ouch town! Population: You, bro!"
By Eric Johnson • Issue #73 • View online
Late this week, and I have no excuse. Well, no good excuse: When I was initially planning to write the newsletter, on Thursday night, I instead wound up learning how to play Trogdor: The Board Game, a very fun cooperative game based on the Homestar Runner cartoons I was obsessed with in high school.
Anyway… I watched a lot of movies this week. Let’s get into it.

👞 Frost/Nixon
Anchored by an incredible performance from Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon tells the story of the famous 1977 interview between TV comedian David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
Director Ron Howard does a great job of keeping the tension up, even if you already know how the true story ends, and Michael Sheen does a fine job of realizing Frost’s seeming unfitness for the job, as he squabbles with researchers played by Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell.
However, on this re-viewing, two of Howard’s creative choices stuck out: One, he occasionally cuts away to older versions of the characters remembering what happened, shooting them like talking heads in a documentary, which robs the movie of some momentum; and two, he tries to shoehorn Frost’s girlfriend Caroline Cushing, played by Rebecca Hall, into the story. In theory, I appreciate the effort to have a non-male character in the picture, but in practice, Cushing the character only distracts and adds almost nothing.
Frost/Nixon - Official Theatrical Trailer
Frost/Nixon - Official Theatrical Trailer
Frost/Nixon is currently streaming on Starz and DirecTV. You can also find it on all the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $12.99 to $14.99 to buy.
🏊‍♀️ Creature From the Black Lagoon
Creature From the Black Lagoon has a dead-simple story — people go in, monster comes out, people try to get out — but parts of it worked better than I expected.
Admittedly, the Creature’s costume looks a little silly by today’s standards. However, I really appreciated the filmmakers’ commitment in a pre-CGI era to the conceit that this is an amphibious monster, which means that in the several underwater sequences only the humans are using oxygen tanks; the Creature is a stuntman (Ricou Browning) holding his breath while swimming acrobatically.
I can’t say I was moved or riveted by the filmmaking that happens out of the water, but I can respect there was more craft put into this B-movie than most. The tension between scientific discovery and cowardly hunting is hinted at, but not taken far enough to be engaging.
What was more interesting to me was watching this for the first time having already seen The Shape of Water. I can totally understand now how Guillermo del Toro sympathized enough with the Creature; like him, I imagine, I wish it was less overtly aggressive and that the movie left it ambiguous whether it was behaving in self-defense.
Creature from the Black Lagoon (4/10) Movie CLIP - Underwater Stalking (1954) HD
Creature from the Black Lagoon (4/10) Movie CLIP - Underwater Stalking (1954) HD
Creature From the Black Lagoon is not currently streaming anywhere, but you can find it on most of the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $4.99 to $14.99 to buy.
🐊 Crocodile Dundee
Crocodile Dundee is an “empty calories” sort of movie, with a great premise and some funny jokes, but not much to recommend about it in the end. In other words, it’s a “good sit,” led by the charismatic Paul Hogan, who meets a pretty newspaper reporter and leaves the Australian outback to follow her to New York City.
There’s some tepid commentary on the state of NYC in the 80s, but Crocodile Dundee doesn’t have much to say beyond “some rich people are jerks” and “some New Yorkers are men dressed as women and it’s OK to grab them by the genitals without consent” (sigh).
My favorite part of the movie is the first half hour, in the Australian bush, because it’s more unfamiliar to me and — I would assume — most viewers. In that act, Linda Kozlowski is the fish out of water and it feels like she’s only scratching the surface of a big adventure. Once she and Dundee arrive in the more recognizable setting of NYC, the film has much less to offer.
Crocodile Dundee - That is not a knife scene!
Crocodile Dundee - That is not a knife scene!
Crocodile Dundee is currently streaming on Starz and DirecTV. You can also find it on all the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $8.00 to $14.99 to buy.
⛹️‍♀️ Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Let’s not mince words: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is a very dumb movie.
However, it’s redeemed by two things: A steady drumbeat of good jokes, mostly delivered by Ben Stiller and Jason Bateman; and a commitment to satirizing underdog sports movies by way of a sport that is itself weird enough to be an underdog.
Vince Vaughn is a likable enough protagonist as the schlubby owner of a failing gym, and the rest of his team — including Stephen Root and a very young Justin Long — gets a couple good jokes in. But the movie really clicks into place once we get past the setup and arrive in Las Vegas to watch a high-stakes dodgeball tournament, carried on ESPN 8 (“The Ocho”).
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (3/5) Movie CLIP - Dodgeball Training (2004) HD
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (3/5) Movie CLIP - Dodgeball Training (2004) HD
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is currently streaming on HBO Go/Now/Max. You can also find it on all the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $13.99 to $14.99 to buy.
🎳 Kingpin
Speaking of oddball sports comedies that feature a climactic tournament in Nevada … Kingpin is a serviceable one, directed by the Farrelly Brothers, that makes up for a shortage of jokes with solid lead characters.
Woody Harrelson plays a former bowling star with a rubber hand and Randy Quaid plays an Amish naif, but neither is as cartoony as those descriptions might lead you to believe, and Bill Murray slinks into the final act as a cocky and deceitful pro bowler from Harrelson’s past. He is pretty one-note, but it’s Bill Murray and he pulls it off.
Kingpin has all the makings of a good roadtrip/buddy picture, but unlike another roadtrip movie featuring two of these actors, Zombieland, we don’t really see the characters grow that much. Almost until the end, Harrelson is eager to backstab his supposed friend, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you he has a sudden change of heart. 
And this may be one of those things that’s nigh-impossible to film well, but it’s unavoidable: The bowling itself in this bowling movie is boring. It’s no mistake that the film leans heavily on the build-up to the tournament instead of the sport itself.
Kingpin - Trailer
Kingpin - Trailer
Kingpin is currently streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. You can also find it on most of the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $13.99 to $14.99 to buy.
🧛‍♂️ Dracula
The effects are primitive and the acting is a bit much all the time, but I still enjoyed Dracula and getting the chance to finally appreciate the role that made Bela Lugosi a star.
In contrast to Creature From the Black Lagoon (above), it helped that in this movie we can understand the conflicting desires of the humans and the monsters both, and Lugosi is so effectively creepy (in a cheesy but not unlikable way) that there is real suspense about whether he’ll get his way.
The supporting cast is less well defined, but I liked Van Helsing, played by Edward Van Sloan and wish the movie were longer so that the characters could do more together. By the standards of modern vampire media, Dracula has a pretty low body count and therefore feels a little less threatening, but I love the fact that Lugosi’s brief performance is still the iconic way we think of vampires 89 years later.
Dracula (4/10) Movie CLIP - Children of the Night (1931) HD
Dracula (4/10) Movie CLIP - Children of the Night (1931) HD
Dracula is not currently streaming anywhere, but you can find it on most of the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $12.99 to $14.99 to buy.
🛰 Enemy of the State
The first half of Enemy of the State, in particular, is super tense, as a law-abiding lawyer played by Will Smith finds himself in the crosshairs of a sinister privacy-trampling National Security Agency (and this is before 9/11, too!).
Unfortunately, the movie version of the NSA is a little too sinister, and the ethics are cartoonishly one-sided: The opening scene sees our villain, played by Jon Voight, murdering a congressman in broad daylight. And Smith’s ability to continually evade capture begin to strain credulity around the midway point, when he tries to Spider-Man his way down the balconies and ledges of a hotel … hmm, “produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.” That adds up.
Luckily, that’s around the time we meet Gene Hackman, an embittered ex-NSA agent who turns Enemy of the State into an off-kilter buddy picture. I didn’t totally believe their relationship, but both actors individually are great, and overall, I liked a lot of what this movie had to offer.
Enemy of the State - Trailer
Enemy of the State - Trailer
Enemy of the State is currently streaming on DirecTV and MaxGo. You can also find it on most of the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $17.99 to $18.99 to buy.
💎 Romancing the Stone
Much like a hidden treasure, there’s a good movie buried somewhere in Romancing the Stone. But the finished work — Robert Zemeckis’ pre-Back to the Future throwback to adventure movies — largely falls flat.
I liked the protagonist, a romance novelist played by Kathleen Turner, as well as one of the chase scenes. But Turner’s main partner, an expat American scoundrel played by Michael Douglas, is more creepy than charming, and there are way too many antagonists here.
All of them, and our heroes, are chasing a Macguffin that will bring untold riches, but none of the baddies is ever a plausible threat, perhaps because they cancel each other out. It was such a letdown to be uninvested in the characters here, in a genre I like that has largely fallen out of favor. But not all that glitters, etc.
ROMANCING THE STONE - Trailer ( 1984 )
ROMANCING THE STONE - Trailer ( 1984 )
Romancing the Stone is currently streaming on Hulu and DirecTV. You can also find it on all the big video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $8.00 to $10.99 to buy.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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