What We're Watching: April 23, 2021

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Brock: "When I watch a movie called Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), I expect to see just that. However, we don't see her in her large state until the last 10 minutes of the movie, she doesn't really attack as much as walk around, and by comparison to the objects around her she is at most 30-35 feet tall, tops. One of the most famous B movies of all time has one of the most misleading titles of all time. Meanwhile, Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) is extremely derivative of many Disney and Marvel movies; a head-scratcher why eight people are credited with THIS story. I found the comedic stylings of Awkwafina undercut the majesty of the movie. That being said, there is so much good here: the movie is absolutely gorgeous, features great visuals, two strong lead characters in Raya and Namaari, great depth of field, camera movement, pacing, and the fluidity of the animation is breathtaking."

Jakob: "Perhaps Ryan Reynolds should have been a little more selfish and demanded a better script for Self/Less (2015). An aging Ben Kingsley attempts to achieve immortality by transferring his consciousness into a bioengineered young body played by Reynolds. What unfolds is an action-thriller that offers middling action and low-stake thrills where I guessed all the twists and turns about 15 minutes in. However, I was much happier to be Buried (2010) with Reynolds; an anxiety-inducing 95-minutes with him trying to escape the buried coffin he wakes up in. The film never feels stale despite solely taking place in a claustrophobic pine box thanks to a smart script finding ways to continuously add new developments and Reynolds performance selling the panic and terror."

Stuart: "I'm trying to cram in the last of the Oscar-nominated flicks before Sunday's awards show. Most of what's left for me is a bunch of unappetizing animated and live action shorts, but I'm actually pretty jazzed to catch The Mole Agent (2020). Typically, the Best Documentary Feature category is filled with feel-bad message movies about the Holocaust, but this Chilean expose looks surprisingly funny as it sends an 80-year-old man undercover into a nursing home full of sex-crazed spinsters looking for medical malpractice."

Jason: "My love of Las Vegas and mob movies drew me back to Casino this week. Martin Scorsese’s 1995 opus chronicles the Chicago Outfit’s influence on Strip gaming and the infamous “skim” that Robert De Niro’s Sam “Ace” Rothstein oversees at the fictional Tangiers hotel. Joe Pesci plays his childhood mob buddy, Nicky Santoro, who comes to town and basically takes over the movie, dropping lines so quotable I’m still breaking them out today. This is “based on a true story” and though much of the film is dramatized, it does a tremendous job capturing Las Vegas in the 70s and early 80s. I get such a kick out of seeing De Niro’s house in my old neighborhood, or the former mayor (playing himself) when he was a mob attorney. If you love Las Vegas, you should love Casino, and you should love Heath’s pick too…"

Heath: "Do you ever have a film that you are happy to rewatch constantly whenever it pops up on TV even though it's really not that great? For me that film is Vegas Vacation (1997). It's probably the third-best in the series and is a film that’s more affable than hilarious. I think it just comes down to the fact I like spending time with the Griswold family, but it's Randy Quaid's Cousin Eddie who provides pretty much all of the laughs in this one. I believe in the Listener's Group someone recently suggested this as a series they'd love to see Now Playing cover in the future, and I'd be all for it, especially to hear the hosts' thoughts on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure."

Santiago: "Seis Manos (Six Hands, 2019) is an animated grindhouse show on Netflix with some comedy and horror elements mixed in. It's gory as hell, and the animation in the action scenes is a ton of fun to watch. The characters are also pretty likeable, despite being kinda cliché. I don't have much else to say about it since the plot is a mere excuse for the action scenes. But again, those are so well done and take advantage of being animated that it's a big recommend for any martial arts/grindhouse fans, just don't go looking for a deep plot."

Adam: “This week I plan to watch Mortal Kombat (2021). I hold a little nostalgia for the original films, even though revisits perhaps haven’t been kind to them. The 1995 movie is hailed by some as the best video game movie of all time. If so it is a rather low bar. The trailer is interesting, and the recent Scorpions Revenge (2020) had good moments, so here is hoping for one that I will be able to recommend to others!"