The Hunger Games (2012)

Gary Ross directs Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson in this dystopian teen sci-fi where kids are forced to take part in an annual tournament to the death.

I’ll admit I was harshly dismissive of this on first watch. Who wants to go to the cinema to see a PG rated Battle Royale where everyone mopes about? Turns out… everyone. My wife and my Dad both love these films. Jennifer Lawrence is a big part of their connection to the watered down material I’d wager, though for very different reasons. I’d still contend that it is way too dour a fantasy to truly enjoy, the plankish boys Katniss is offered hardly get the juices flowing and Lawrence has to quietly add a lot physically to a blankly written avatar role. But I’m not a teenage girl, so what do I know? In my eyes, they even fumbled the easy to execute makeover scene… so are Cinderella dress-up moments and child-on-child violence awkward bedfellows? The world building is impressive, the adult support cast also match their new star and do lots with very little. Once that tame violence begins I did care about seeing at least how our heroine will survive to the finish line this cautious rewatch. In genre terms, this is pretty toned down business but as an introduction to a franchise or a form, there are far worse first steps out there.

6

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Ghost (1990)

Jerry Zucker directs Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg in this supernatural romance fantasy where a deceased man tries to protect and make contact with his grieving love.

Slick, polished and orchestrated to an inch of its (after)life. This actually plays wonderfully. There’s a comedy strand, a thriller strand, a kid friendly terror strand, a romance strand and they all bind together to make a strong entertainment. Something for everyone! Swayze works best with the quirkier character actors but his heat generated with Moore is undeniable. The SFX are obvious but actually fit visually with a man who is now no longer in sync with the temporal world. You wouldn’t want to be dragged by the hell shadows or stuck in a door, that’s for sure. It is ultimately an undemanding entertainment but in difficult times there’s nothing wrong with falling back into a well constructed sentiment. Stick a dime in the jukebox, pop the Righteous Brothers on, join your lover at the potter’s wheel, get steamy and dirty and lovely.

8

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

The Mystery of Picasso (1956)

Henri-Georges Clouzot directs Pablo Picasso, himself and Claude Renoir in this documentary where the great artist doodles out a dozen canvases like Rolf’s Cartoon Club.

Mainly filling the screen with works in active progress rather than the topless man himself, this often feels like a very sophisticated screensaver. What might have been fascinating over a couple of artworks becomes background noise at feature length. We see every line and daub added without context or explanation but none of the finished works are Picasso gold standard. A nice film to pop on (sound off) in a hipster pub or cafe.

4

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

The Cable Guy (1996)

Ben Stiller directs Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick and Leslie Mann in this dark comedy where a broken hearted yuppie finds himself stalked by the man who installed his television cable.

Uneven but better than it’s bad reputation. When Jim Carrey unexpectedly came from nowhere and overtook Tom Hanks, Arnie and Bruce Willis to become the mid-90s biggest box office star, he could suddenly command the biggest payday. An unprecedented $20 million for any project he wanted to make. The project he chose to break star salary records was a small indie script, set mainly in one apartment that spoofed the babysitter / affair / cop “from hell” sub-genre. His check doubled the production budget, quadrupled the expectations of a small quirky production. And the critics sensing the world was off kilter, bundled on and tore apart the end result. The released film has issues… it is a little too dark and strange for a big summer tentpole. The final act is badly edited, skipping scenes and plot points, not really making any narrative sense but moving so fast you can’t stop to catch up. The scope shifts between intimate stagey scenes in a single setting, to big lunatic set pieces where Carrey can let loose and gurn and improvise and overkill to perfection. These bolted on set-pieces are the best parts of the film. Funny, full of relentless energy and unhinged. They just never slot comfortably in with a housebound unsympathetic Matthew Broderick seeing his life destroyed by his malevolent new “friend.” But who bought a seven dollar ticket for that? This is Jim’s show and, taken out of context, his jousting tournament, basketball hijack, toilet assault and karaoke jam sequences are high points of his pure comedy acting career. He’d go on to find drama projects that housed his less crowd pleasing sensibilities far snugger… but this curio demands a cult reputation.

7

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Oldboy (2003)

Park Chan-wook directs Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-Tae and Kang Hye-jeong in this Korean thriller where a middle aged drunk is kidnapped, imprisoned for 15 years and mysteriously let back out in the world with a bestial vengeance programmed into him.

There has never been a film as elaborately plotted and unpredictably executed as Oldboy. It is a lunatic thriller completely uninterested in norms, form or comfort. Even now as Oh Dae-Su’s lurid quest matures into cinematic adulthood it still makes for a pretty wild ride, even when you know the hairpins and bumps. Not perfect, the noticeable age difference between antagonists never gels for example, but pretty fucking unmatched.

9

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Sacrilege (2020)

David Creed directs Tamaryn Payne, Emily Wyatt and Sian Abrahams in this British horror where four girlfriends find themselves in a “Wicker Man” lite kinda situation.

We had an early afternoon train to catch and this was the only new release that fitted our time constraints. Little did we know it might be last cinema trip we will take in the near future… our lives… maybe forever. Before bigger events overtook this terrible choice of a matinee trip, I would have still hands down said it is THE worst film I’ve paid to see at a cinema. Sub-Hollyoakes production values, Babestation casting, acting and writing that belongs in porno. Every scene is set-up in exactly the way a bit of barebones plot driven hardcore might be. I expected them to start undressing and tribbing or rimming or at least heavy petting each location change. That doesn’t happen. Neither does any horror. There’s at least an hour of inane soap before a bit of mild terror imagery is trotted out and then it really is all over at a plot point where most genre films are just getting started. Abysmal.

1

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Jay Roach directs Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley and Michael York in this spoof of Sixties Swingin’ Spy flicks where a sexist gentleman espionage lothario from that era finds himself resurrected in the modern, self aware 1990s.

I remember going to see this with two mates from college and having an absolute blast. From the deranged escalation of the spot-on credit sequence to the delirious pop rock closing number about the BBC. But then ubiquity, and sequels, and morons spewing catchphrases and endless self parody made it all seem rather naff. Whenever I watched 10 minutes in a hotel room it had seemingly lost its charm. So sitting down and devoting time to watch it teeth-to-tits 20 years later, I was incredibly surprised at how packed it was with good gags, weirdly inspired moments and warm heart. Elated! It is not as brilliant as Wayne’s World but far better than the relegated drawer my mind had filed it away in. I laughed a lot… I wanted to watch it again immediately. AP1 is also far superior in action, cool, sexiness and larks than the very movies it spoofs (Bond excluded). I know Goldmember is awful but I might give The Spy Who Shagged Me a second go. Or Shrek. Probably not The Love Guru though. GROOVY, BABY!

9

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Winter Light (1963)

Ingmar Bergman directs Gunnar Björnstrand, Ingrid Thulin and Max Von Sydow in this Swedish arthouse tale of a priest wrestling with his doubts and the fragility of his small community.

Natalie kept telling me it is like First Reformed, needling me to watch it. She was right – it is beat for beat without the vigilante eco warrior aspects. A really absorbing drama. Possibly the first Ingmar Bergman I’ve enjoyed more than admired. Like Almodóvar persevering through the catalogue of “a great I don’t rate” has finally paid off. This is a superb piece of dry, intelligent cinema.

8

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Mother (2009)

Bong Joon-ho directs Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin and Jin Goo in this thriller where a woman investigates the murder of a school girl her simpleton son has been accused of.

Class satire, Hitchcockian wrinkles and dysfunctional families. Exactly what you expect from Bong Joon-Ho. This lacks the focus of his best work… the hopping from incongruous tones does not work here, the plot holes are more glaring and the meandering pace does not suck you in like Parasite or Memories of Murder. Not something I’d give a second chance to, although flashes of brilliance are there.

4

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

John Madden directs Penélope Cruz, Nicolas Cage and John Hurt in this adaptation of Louis de Bernières’ literary sensation about a WWII romance in occupied Greece.

A whipping boy for critics and book fans on release, this turned me off on initial visit. There’s a lot wrong. A Greek set prestige production with glaringly barely any Greek actors in speaking parts. The beats of the novel stuck to even when they do not flow cinematically. Which is strange as the more adult, tragic edge of the hit novel has been allegedly softened. And two very ungainly performances from guaranteed unrestrained screen chewers Cage and Christian Bale. These boys don’t do subtle. And yet on this lazy, half arsed rewatch… it is Cage’s warm, largesse that saves it. The film looks gorgeous, Cruz is sympathetic… why wouldn’t she be woo’d by the wild eye, unashamed ham bristling with oomph? “Bella bambina at-a 2 o’clock!” I was this time. Not the write-off you once thought. Don’t treat it as an Oscar contender, watch an easy peel, mindless pap weepie. It hits a nice saccharine spot. Well done, Nic.

6

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/