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🎬 Zombieland 1 & 2, Good Morning Vietnam, Mike Birbiglia and more

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ESJ's Movie Project

October 25 · Issue #36 · View online
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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As I did last month, I’ve been looking at the lists of what’s expiring from Netflix and Amazon Prime at the end of October and wondering what I should try to squeeze in while it’s still “free” to stream. I’ve never seen any of these movies before, but they’re all on my watchlist. If you feel strongly about any of these and want me to review them, reply away!
  • As Good As It Gets
  • Bull Durham
  • The Corpse Bride (I technically have seen this once but remember almost none of it)
  • Face/Off
  • The Fifth Element
  • Little Women (1994 version)
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Scream
  • Seven
  • Stardust
Also, I have seen these movies, and would recommend them! So check them out if you haven’t seen them:
  • Groundhog Day (leaving Netflix 10/31)
  • Legally Blonde (leaving Amazon Prime 10/31)
  • The Manchurian Candidate (leaving Amazon Prime 10/31)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (leaving Amazon Prime 10/31)
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (leaving Amazon Prime 10/31)
  • West Side Story (leaving Amazon Prime 10/31)
Pictured: Sometimes the only way to make people enjoy your banjo playing is to have a friend with a gun.
I always have a good time with 2009’s ZOMBIELAND, which I revisited this week in anticipation of the new 10-years-later sequel. Led by a perfect cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin, it’s cartoonish but also sometimes more believable than most of the “we demand to be taken seriously” zombie media you can find out there. I love the idea of an apocalyptic scenario being an inducement to be more human, not less, and the film’s repeated reminders to “enjoy the little things” and have fun. I’m not sure how widely known Zombieland’s biggest celebrity cameo is, but I will just say to the people who have already seen it: Can you think of a better cameo in a movie? Because I’ve been sitting here thinking about it and I’m drawing a blank.
Zombieland: Double Tap
Pictured: No one else has made a good zom-com since 2009, so this crew can't pass the torch.
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is like a return to the buffet line after you’ve already had your fill and you’ve been in the restaurant so long that they’ve changed out some of the dishes and turned off the warmers under others … OK, this metaphor isn’t great. The point is, this return to the Zombieland universe is both unnecessary and indulgent, and the offerings aren’t as fresh as they once were, but if you pick around the bad stuff and don’t mind the dirty looks the wait staff are giving you — sorry, slipped into that metaphor again — there’s a lot of high-calorie low-nutrient enjoyment to be found here. Woody Harrelson, in particular, seems to be having a ball playing Tallahassee again, but everyone else in the cast showed up to play, including likable new characters played by Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, and others. And even though not every joke landed, I laughed a lot throughout Zombieland: Double Tap. I’m looking forward to watching the next entry in the series, in 2029.
Good Morning, Vietnam
Pictured: OK, Robin, time to take your temperature. Open up and say "NAAAAAAM."
GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM reaches for two very wise themes — the need to have empathy for one’s enemy, and the power of comedy and entertainment for people in difficult circumstances — and, at times, it reaches them. But the majority of the movie feels underwritten, padding its runtime with B-roll of soldiers and civilians to the soundtrack of Robin Williams improvising around a string of 60s hits. Even though Williams is frequently funny here, his manic style doesn’t add as much as it would a couple years later in films like Aladdin, and the different pieces of the story never quite fit together in a satisfying way.
Thank God For Jokes
Pictured: Hey, this isn't stand-up!
THANK GOD FOR JOKES is one of my favorite kind of stand-up comedy specials, the kind that deconstructs comedy from the inside out, while also being funny as hell. I’m a longtime fan of Mike Birbiglia and went in ready to laugh, but the way he set up and paid off a series of callbacks had me guffawing every time. His bit about doing stand up with the Muppets and having to follow Fozzie Bear is the real stand-out story, but once you get a few minutes in and see what Birbiglia is setting up with this show, I think you’ll want to stick around til the end.
rorrim eht ni gnikool erroL reteP :derutciP
I had no idea what to expect from M, a 1931 German thriller that I was only vaguely aware of before this week. To a viewer in 2019, parts of it may feel overly stage-y, as filmmakers were still figuring out how to fully take advantage of the new medium. But M’s dark heart beats with timeless fears — child predators, police with too much power, and mob justice — that still send a chill down the spine today. Many of the police procedural scenes here have been copied and improved upon ad nauseam, so I would love to see a modern remake of M that focuses on the criminals who play such an important role in the film’s second half and the regular people living in fear that their kid would be next. 
A Fistful of Dollars
Pictured: A look that literally no other human being other than 1960s Clint Eastwood could pull off.
I had never seen A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS but decided to watch it and its sequel before I revisit the next film alphabetically in my collection, The Good the Bad and the Ugly — which is the third of Sergio Leone’s “man with no name” westerns, starting Clint Eastwood. As that name suggests, this is not an especially well-defined protagonist, so I didn’t expect to come away with a deeper appreciation of the character. Fistful of Dollars is a story of violence, vengeance, and not much else. But like a sip of beer or a bite of fast food, there’s something comforting about the empty calories of a well-made B movie. Now if only I could have a few dollars more … maybe next week.
🏆 Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(new additions in bold)

  1. Parasite
  2. Booksmart
  3. The Farewell
  4. If Beale Street Could Talk
  5. Us
  6. Free Solo
  7. Avengers: Endgame
  8. The Favourite
  9. Amazing Grace
  10. Long Shot
  11. The Wife
  12. The Art of Self-Defense
  13. Toy Story 4
  14. Shoplifters
  15. Hustlers
  16. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  17. Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
  18. Apollo 11
  19. Zombieland: Double Tap
  20. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  21. Aladdin
  22. The Peanut Butter Falcon
  23. Slut in a Good Way
  24. Green Book
  25. Cold War
  26. Official Secrets
  27. Ready or Not
  28. Always Be My Maybe
  29. Rocketman
  30. Roma
  31. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  32. Ad Astra
  33. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  34. On the Basis of Sex
  35. Shazam!
  36. Judy
  37. The Lion King
  38. Downton Abbey
  39. Fighting With My Family
  40. They Shall Not Grow Old
  41. Yesterday
  42. Mary Poppins Returns
  43. Captain Marvel
  44. Minding the Gap
  45. Motherless Brooklyn
  46. Tolkien
  47. The Biggest Little Farm
  48. Alita: Battle Angel
  49. The Dead Don’t Die
  50. The Great Hack
  51. Stan & Ollie
  52. Vice
  53. Bohemian Rhapsody
  54. Aquaman

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