open/close all folders
- Sahara: Reviewed it in his early days as a blogger. It may be a Strictly Formula action-adventure movie, much like the Dirk Pitt Adventures series it's based on, but if you're a fan of these sorts of films, you'll probably enjoy this one. He gave it a 7 out of 10 on the strength of its action scenes, Matthew McConaughey's performance as Dirk Pitt, and its refreshing honesty about what it was.
- Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom: To this day, still a very difficult film to watch. Didnt review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial Test Your Might, a discussion of extreme movies.
- Salt: Casting Angelina Jolie in a role originally written for a male action star (namely, Tom Cruise, who was the first performer to sign up for the script) turned out to be a brilliant decision. Plus, the plot works far better than it should, and the action scenes are slickly done and unlike the Bourne movies, you can actually tell whats going on in said action scenes.
- Samson: Hasn't reviewed it yet, but he named it his seventh least anticipated film of 2018. It's made by Pure Flix Entertainment, a studio that specializes in preachy Christploitation films like God's Not Dead (a series whose third installment also made the aforementioned list), and seeing them trying to make a Sword & Sandal action epic out of a Biblical story that doesn't have a whole lot of big action moments is probably going to be a spectacle in the worst way.
- Santa Claus: The Movie: Devoted an episode of Good Enough Movies to the film. He describes how the film was a Box Office Bomb at the time that was lambasted by critics for its rampant Product Placement, only to be Vindicated by Video and become a nostalgic holiday classic for many children of The '80s, Bob included. The first half is easily the standout part of the film, one that makes viewers believe in Santa Claus the same way that Superman: The Movie made viewers believe a man could fly (perhaps not surprisingly, the same producers made the two films), and which functions less as a conventional story and more as a step-by-step walkthrough of the whole mythology showing how its protagonist Claus became the jolly old figure we know. It loses steam in the second half, however, where it turns into a Darker and Edgier version of itself in which an evil toy company tries to take over Christmas. While John Lithgow makes for a great bad guy as B.Z., his Card Carrying Villainy is too cartoonish for anybody to take it seriously, while the fact that Santa isnt a fighter, and that he and B.Z. never meet, means that the story meanders all over the place and never comes together. Regardless, while its a very weird Christmas movie, its still great for getting into the spirit of the season with your family.
- Sausage Party: Well! This is a lot better than anyone had any reason to expect. Bob gave it three and a half stars, calling it the best parody of modern Pixar-esque animation ever made and probably the best spoof movie period since The Naked Gun, taking what should be a mindless, one-joke stoner comedy premise and turning it into one of the funniest films hes ever seen. Its main genius is that it doesnt merely make fun of the idea of anthropomorphized objects (fish, bugs, toys, et cetera) seen in so many such animated films, but takes it into the realm of full-on Deconstructive Parody that it then uses to satirize religion and atheism, all without feeling like its lazily punching down at easy targets. In this sense, he views Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as the Spiritual Antithesis of late-period Kevin Smith in how consistently they make seemingly dumb movies that often turn out to be far deeper and more intelligent than they imply, describing the film as a modern version of early South Park before it jumped the shark.
- Savages: Good, not great, in case you were wondering. Didnt review it, but he mentioned it at the end of his second video on The Amazing Spider-Man.
- Saving Mr. Banks: In the Intermission editorial Winter Is Coming, he said he was intrigued by the premise of a film about the clash between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers on the set of Mary Poppins, and between this and Tomorrowland, wondered if Disneystalgia might become a new subgenre. Later, he reviewed it in another Intermission editorial, Saving Ms. Poppins, saying that, though good, it was hurt by the liberties it took with Travers story, liberties that Travers herself would likely have been as deeply offended by as the Adaptation Decay of Mary Poppins. He also talked about how the legend of the kindly Uncle Walt has been reversed by revisionist portrayals into one of the biggest jerkasses in The Golden Age of Hollywood, portrayal that he feels is just as inaccurate and unfair as the Disney myth.
- Saw: The original film still holds up very well as a horror film, but even when you look at the sequels, it's a franchise with more good installments than one might expect. While it's best known for its ridiculously gory death traps, the filmmakers went out of their way to craft an engaging, if often bonkers, storyline that put care into continuity and call backs to events and characters in previous films. As such, while he doesn't love the series, he does respect it. Also, the realization that it's now old enough to be nostalgic made him wonder where all the time went. Discussed the series in his review of the eighth film...
- Jigsaw: Despite its different title, it's basically Saw VIII with all that that entails. The traps were refreshingly back-to-basics after the last couple of films started pushing suspension of disbelief, the story was Saw boilerplate but handled well, and while the ending felt like a cheat, it's not enough to derail the film. Overall, it was a nice comeback for a long-dormant series that earned two-and-a-half stars from Bob.
- Scary Movie 5: Dont. Even. Start. It was Not Screened for Critics, so he didn't bother to review it, but he discussed it at the beginning of his review of 42, saying that the fact that 42 was the only other movie released against it, seemingly out of fear of its inevitable box office domination, shows how little faith Hollywood has in the intelligence of moviegoers.
- Scooby-Doo: He discussed both the 2002 film and its sequel, Monsters Unleashed, in the In Bob We Trust episode "Let Me Tell You a Story", mainly about the circumstances under which he watched the latter. He hated the first movie at the time (though he admits that nowadays he'd just find it harmlessly dumb), and so Monsters Unleashed was the last movie he expected to find himself going to see. However, after going through a legitimately scary experience with a former employer who turned out to be a religious fanatic and quite possibly insane, and after hearing that it was better than the first movie, he went and saw it in order to take his mind off of things for ninety minutes. He wound up loving it for basically feeling like a modern-day episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! without any of the first film's half-baked pretensions towards Post-Modernism or Deconstructive Parody, such that he left the theater feeling downright relieved. His own personal experience with Monsters Unleashed wound up figuring heavily into his fandom of the film's writer, James Gunn, such that he brought it up with Gunn when interviewing him around the time Super came out, and it was a big part of the reason why he was so furious over Gunn's firing from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: One of the best films of the year. He noted that, if you're seeing it just for the action, you'll probably be disappointed, but you'll appreciate it a lot more if you go in knowing that its also a Romantic Comedy not unlike Edgar Wright's previous genre film, Shaun of the Dead. He also praised it for having a much better grasp on love, romance, and relationships that any number of formula rom-coms, particularly the concurrent Eat, Pray, Love. Years later, he came back to it in the In Bob We Trust episode "Solo: A Box-Office Story", comparing this film's initial Box Office Bomb to the disappointing earnings of Solo: A Star Wars Story and finding a similar narrative in both. He argues that the treatment of this film, a niche property based on an obscure comic book, as a potential blockbuster simply because of the success of Iron Man was a sign that focusing too much on the tastes of fan-culture tastemakers (himself included, admittedly) can isolate studios from what mainstream audiences actually want.
- Scream: Bob has hated the series for a very long time, feeling that its "insightful satire" of slasher movies was nothing more than Jamie Kennedy making lazy wisecracks about the genre he was in, and that the suspense was undone by the winking, self-aware nature of the films. He says that the hip, trendy attitude that the series popularized has ruined mainstream American horror, viewing it as one more reason why "the '90s sucked", and believes that the only reason why '90s teenagers remember them as classics is because of Wes Craven's direction salvaging them from their awful writing and providing halfway-decent horror thrills in a decade that was sorely lacking in such. (To prove his point, he cites the fact that the Follow the Leader slasher flick I Know What You Did Last Summer was a similar hit, despite mostly lacking the self-referential humor of Scream.) He also has personal reasons for hating the series — namely, he feels that it made his movie geekery into "just another douchebag party trick".note He discussed the series in his reviews of Cursed'' and the franchise's fourth entry...
- Scre4m: All the above criticisms apply, and it doesn't even have any good, original kills to smooth the ride. Bottom line: if you want a great, insightful horror-comedy, watch Shaun of the Dead instead. He also mocks the film's numerical title by referring to it as "Scre-Four-m" throughout the review.
- Searching: "Go see it. Just go see it." The basic premise of "Taken, but as a cyber-thriller set entirely on a computer screen", while seemingly silly and gimmicky at first glance, wound up being his favorite film of 2018 at the time of his review. It made just about every other internet thriller look bad with how effortlessly it made its protagonist's use of contemporary technology feel engaging while still being both realistic in its portrayal of such and an incredibly good-looking film to watch, its portrayal of social media was remarkably even-handed and avoided falling into the preachy New Media Are Evil pitfalls of many such stories, and most importantly, it was powered by a core of rock-solid human drama, enough to more than make up for a fairly predictable central mystery. He gave it four stars and called it the most "original and game-changing" movie of the year, and his opinion that it was the best movie of 2018 held up at year's end.
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Not impressed. While it's gorgeously shot (even comparing it to Spike Jonze's work in that regard), he found it to be a mess of Product Placement, bad Cutaway Gags, and Adam Sandler-grade shenanigans that misses the point of the original short story. Reviewed it in the Intermission editorial "Rhymes with Mitty".
- Selma: Didn't review it, but at the end of 2014 he named it one of his top ten movies of the year. It takes the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and manages both to de-mythologize him and both demonstrate just how revolutionary and savvy he was (as opposed to the popular history of him being the 'safe' civil rights leader), painting him as a smooth political operator in crafting the image of the Civil Rights Movement in order to fight for justice.
- Set It Up: Called it a workplace-focused, Romantic Comedy take on The Parent Trap that got a "B+ for effort" and two stars, making for a fine Genre Throwback on the part of Netflix to both '90s rom-coms and the sorts of mid-budget movies that used to make up the bulk of Hollywood's output. The plot was Strictly Formula to the point where it felt like it was written by Netflix's algorithm, and it felt like it was barely trying in the story department, but it was elevated by a solid cast (save for an underwhelming turn by Glen Powell), and it ultimately met the low ambitions it set for itself. Overall, he liked it, but he ended the movie hoping that Netflix puts in a bit more effort with its original movies going forward.
- Sex and the City: With quite a bit of "WTF?" He considered the plot incomprehensible and a tad misandrist, and thought it felt like several episodes of the series strung together and then labeled a movie, though he noted that he was as far from the film's target audience as one could get. He also wondered what kind of black magic Kim Cattrall was using to keep looking that good into her sixth decade.
- The Shallows: "Holy shit! This was really fuckin' good! What a surprise!" He was in shock that this film, a B-grade shark movie starring an actress of whom he'd never thought all that highly before then, proved to be one of the best movies of summer 2016 while all the heavily hyped blockbusters were duds to varying degrees. It's no masterpiece, but it delivers exactly what it promises and works very well on a storytelling, logical, and basic technical level, which is all that matters at the end of the day, especially given how many of the bigger movies failed to accomplish even that. It's the sort of movie that would have become a Cult Classic in the days of home video and drive-in theaters, and Bob considers it a good thing that such films can still do well in this day and age.
- The Shape of Water: It's pure Guillermo del Toro in the best possible way, taking the basic premise of an R-rated Spiritual Adaptation of Creature from the Black Lagoon and elevating what might've been a sleazy B-Movie into "something haunting, beautiful, heartbreaking, and rapturously entertaining" that still honors its inspirations. It's got a fairly predictable outcome, but it's a movie that's more about the journey than the destination, with outstanding performances from Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, and a who's who of character actors, and Doug Jones' fish-man deftly balancing the job of being the romantic lead without declawing the genuine danger inherent in him being a literal monster. He gave it three-and-a-half stars and said that it's a testament to Del Toro's track record that this is only around the middle of his filmography in terms of the quality, the film otherwise being a much-needed antidote to the Oscar Bait and family films that show up in December. At the end of 2017, he named it his fourth-favorite movie of the year. In his 2018 Academy Awards preview, he said that the awards for Best Director and Best Picture would likely be split between this film and Get Out, with this his favorite to win Best Picture due to it being a safer, more "Academy-style" film in both its style and its messaging.note
- Sharknado: Hasn't reviewed any of the films, but in the Big Picture episode "#WalrusNo" he explained that the first movie worked fairly well for him on a So Bad, It's Good/"found art" level because all the performers played it completely straight, though they had to have known how ridiculous it was. Conversely, Sharknado 2: The Second One takes its winking irony too far to be that enjoyable.
- The She-Creature: Said that the titular monster was way ahead of its time, looking more like something from a modern Kamen Rider series than a '50s B-Movie. He also made fun of how the film's plot mashed up then-contemporary pop ideas of hypnosis and Evolutionary Levels. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Big Picture episode "Moviebob's Forgotten Monsters".
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: "Really sucks." The plot rips off The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, the action scenes are awful, and Noomi Rapace is wasted. While Bob didn't do a video review of it, he did discuss it in his weekly Intermission editorial, where he compared it to Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol.
- Shooter: "The boring version of Machete." Didn't review it, but he mentioned it in his Broken City review.
- Shrek: The first movie was great, a refreshing, character-focused parody of the overblown, corporatized Disney Animated Canon with a great cast. Sadly, the sequels wound up turning the film into everything the original had mocked, while Disney itself managed to turn itself around from its Dork Age. Didn't review it, but he was compelled to mention it in his review of
- Shutter Island: You'll see the twist coming from a mile away, but Martin Scorsese still knew how to make it work, and work extremely well.
- Sicario: Didn't review it, but at the end of 2015 he named it an honorable mention for the best films of the year.
- Sicario: Day of the Soldado: Gave it one and a half stars and called it a film "you might end up settling for if Ant-Man & the Wasp is sold out." Going by the marketing, he went in expecting an Actionized Sequel to the first film that pandered to the Lowest Common Denominator instead of continuing to explore its deconstruction of the War on Drugs (or as he called it, "my kind of stupid"), but what he got was a film that actually tried to be a proper sequel, except without anything close to the finesse that helped elevate the original above the sort of junky crime drama that this film wound up being. The story felt like the result of a paranoid Fox News bender with its questionable taste, made worse by a half-hearted third-act stab at nuance that felt more like the film was trying to cover its ass than anything. On top of that, it was simply boring, with lazy plotting, characters who were one-note cliches and stereotypes, and a lack of any visual flair, which, when taken together, he felt drew that much more attention to its ugliest qualities.
- Signs: The film that, to Bob, proved that M. Night Shyamalan could make legitimately good movies when he wanted to, and didn't merely get lucky with The Sixth Sense. This film particularly shines on a technical level, with the cinematography looking downright beautiful and the whole cast turning in great performances, though it ultimately stumbles in the writing and is held back from greatness with a mess of third-act silliness. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Nightfall", a retrospective of Shyamalan's career.
- Silence: He wishes he liked it a lot more than he did. It's exceptionally well-made on a technical level, far less kinetic than Martin Scorsese's usual work but still a gorgeous film to watch, one that makes some bold stylistic choices and gives plenty of room for its big ideas to breathe. However, it just felt too detached from its subject matter to really click with him, while Andrew Garfield was miscast as the lead and couldn't pull through with the film's dramatic weight. It gets two stars from Bob, and is only recommended for Scorsese completists. He also notes its Audience-Alienating Premise, in that secular viewers might not be inclined to watch a sympathetic take on Catholic missionaries in feudal Japan (Bob himself felt that the Japanese side of the story might have been more compelling), while Christian audiences might be turned off by its cynical, morally ambiguous take on the subject matter. He sees the fact that it got made at all, largely because it was a passion project for Scorsese, as a miracle.
- Silent Hill: It's not perfect, but it's still one of the best video game adaptations yet. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his fall 2012 preview while discussing its impending sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.
- Silver Linings Playbook: Yet another Manic Pixie Dream Girl indie rom-com of the kind that's been done a hundred times before. He feels that it isn't anywhere close to deserving of the near-universal praise and Oscar buzz that it received, comparing it to a cheap sitcom and going so far as to say that most of his fellow critics had lost their minds. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his review of Life of Pi and in the Intermission editorial "Gold Bugged".
- A Simple Plan: A dark, dramatic effort that is arguably Sam Raimi's strongest overall film, proving him as more than just a 'genre' director, but don't read about the plot before you see it. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Sam the Man - Part II", a retrospective of Raimi's career.
- Sin City: He reviewed it in his early days as a blogger, where he gave it a 10 out of 10 and heaped praise upon it for both its gorgeous visual style and its inversion of conventional moral standards (the criminals are the good guys, the political and religious authorities are the villains), viewing its success as a rebuttal to the claims of conservative Christian Moral Guardians that audiences want more wholesome films. By the time its sequel came out, however, his opinion seems to have cooled. He still views it as a guilty pleasure, mainly for its style, but he thinks it's the sort of movie that, much like the comic it's based on, works best if you're just too young to be watching or reading that sort of thing. Overall, it's the sort of movie that's fun in the same way that a prank or a magic trick is fun, in that if you've seen it once, you've pretty much seen everything it has to offer.
- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For: "Not bad, but it was better the first time around." The first of the film's three stories is easily the standout thanks to Eva Green's amazing, scene-stealing performance, which reminded Bob of hammy, larger-than-life Hollywood icons like Joan Crawford. However, the film goes downhill afterwards once she's out of the picture, as the other two stories feel repetitive and rote. At the end of 2014, he named it one of his twenty least favorite movies of the year, with Green being its only redeeming factor. He also did the review as a Noir Episode, putting on an affected Hardboiled Detective voice and making the background Deliberately Monochrome with constant rain.
- Sing: It's a premise that Bob is surprised nobody in Hollywood thought of before — combine Reality TV with funny cartoon animals, two things that have arguably more global mass appeal than anything else in the 2010s — and the result is actually pretty good. The story is very much an Excuse Plot to get to the music, but the characters, all parodies of archetypal Talent Show contestants, are great, and it's surprisingly earnest and unironic in its appreciation of shows like American Idol and The Voice, embracing their goofiness while recognizing the inherent appeal of their "star for a day" setup. He sees it as the Looney Tunes version of something like Zootopia (the obvious point of comparison), an undoubtedly weaker film but one that's working on a very different level. He gives it three stars and calls it "the best movie of its kind since School of Rock", and rock-solid cinematic comfort food for the holidays.
- The Sitter: Very well-written on the character and story side of things, but it was written and marketed as a comedy, and on that front it just falls flat.
- The Sixth Sense: Even with the famous Twist Ending being common knowledge by now, this is still a legitimately great thriller, playing out like a really good, feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone. Its real genius is not the big twist, but how it hides the foreshadowing of said twist in time-worn conventions (such as the Satellite Love Interest) that a first-time viewer wouldn't think twice about, but which becomes noticeable upon repeat viewing. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Nightfall", a retrospective of M. Night Shyamalan's career.
- Skyscraper: He spent nearly half the review doing an intro joke detailing what he imagined the thought process behind the film must have been like at the studio, mainly because there really wasn't much he could say about the film otherwise. A key part of this joke was commenting on how many times the Die Hard formula has been recycled under different circumstances, e.g. Speed being Die Hard on a bus and Air Force One being Die Hard on a plane. It was a pretty good movie that, to use a comparison he heard elsewhere, was basically to Die Hard what Jurassic World was to Jurassic Park: same premise, but incredibly beefed up, in terms of both swapping out The Everyman Bruce Willis for the Hollywood Action Hero Dwayne Johnson and setting the action in a much bigger skyscraper that's also on fire, such that it felt like a parody of Die Hard that later had the jokes taken out and everything played seriously. The cast was solid, the action scenes were well-shot, and the set design in the titular skyscraper was breathtaking, but the film moved at such a breakneck pace that it left him no time to appreciate it and, more importantly, develop a lay of the land to follow for the action scenes. Overall, it was a quintessential two-and-a-half-star movie, a disposable action flick that's good, but which you'll likely forget about in a week.
- Smokin' Aces: Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his review of Proud Mary, referring to it as "Suicide Squad but, like, good." He specifically discussed Taraji P. Henson's role in the film, saying that, having seen her in this, he wasn't surprised by her ability to carry a legitimate action flick in Proud Mary.
- The Smurfs: He didn't review it, but during the second half of his Knight and Day review, he talked about his opinion of it going by the trailer. He felt that moving the setting to New York sucked out the magic of the original cartoon and replaced it with Product Placement and the sort of Gen-X humor that's only funny in brief snippets, and also insulted the source material (which is Belgian) by Americanizing it.
- The Smurfs 2: At the start of his review of 2 Guns, he pretended that he was actually going to review this instead, only to cut to a "hell no" explaining that there was no way he would even consider watching it, let alone reviewing it.
- Snow White and the Huntsman: "It only sort of makes sense if you force yourself to never, ever ask the question 'why?'" It's a cynical attempt by Hollywood to cash in on the fact that female-focused genre films have proven themselves to be box office titans just as grand as your average superhero movie. The script jumps all over the place and feels like it went through several rewrites, the main characters are underwritten and are often just "there", and the love triangle is especially jarring. Charlize Theron's Large Ham performance as the evil queen is the only thing that stands out — and she feels like she belongs in a much better movie. Overall: not worth your time. At the start of the review, he also discusses how the Snow White story can be read as a metaphor for female puberty and our culture's obsession with beauty, and how this may explain why the story has been so popular with women for such a long time.
- Snowpiercer: Didn't review it, but at the end of 2014 he named it one of his top ten movies of the year, comparing it to The Hunger Games if they just jumped straight into the revolution and the violence instead of spending the first two movies ripping off Battle Royale and The Running Man. And it has Captain F***ing America in it — what's not to love?
- The Social Network: One of the most exciting, watchable and well-made movies of the year even if, like Bob, you're not a fan of Facebook, and proof that you can make a great movie out of any subject matter.
- Society: The graphic violence that the film is infamous for doesn't kick in until the end, but once it does, it goes completely crazy. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial "Test Your Might", a discussion of "extreme" movies.
- Son of God: Bob hated the miniseries this film was adapting, finding it to be a mess of faux-300 visual aesthetics and TV-movie production values, and nothing about this film changed his opinion. He considered it a bland, cynical, disgraceful cash grab exploiting people's sincerely-held faith (he quoted Matthew 21:12note to describe exactly what he thought of the producers), with nothing to distinguish it from other, far superior adaptations of the Gospels. That this film was edited down from five hours to two meant that a lot of the meat of the Gospels was lost, the film merely feeling like it was going through the motions of the most famous passages, and poor execution ruined the few aspects he liked (the actor playing Jesus, the period-appropriate ethnic diversity). He also started off with a Bait-and-Switch opening about Jesus being in Avengers: Age of Ultron and this film being the introduction to his character for wider audiences.
- Sorry to Bother You: Gave it three and a half stars and called it "a brain-melting yet spirit-cleansing blast of righteous originality" that reminded him of the '90s Golden Age of indie filmmaking, and would likely wind up among his favorite films of 2018. It left him slack-jawed as to how it came out of nowhere to blow his mind, though he couldn't really go into further detail without getting into spoilers on its Genre-Busting outrageousness, such that he opened his review telling viewers to skip what he had to say and head out to see it immediately. It was a satire of the "gig economy" that started out energetic and over-the-top and only got more bizarre and audacious as it goes on, feeling as though it shouldn't exist and that Boots Riley and his cast and crew made it without the studio's knowledge like they'd never get such a chance again, and yet it always felt like a cohesive film that never came apart at the seams. Plus, while the marketing focused on the satire, the sheer density of geeky references and shout outs, in both quality and quantity, was another treat.
- Source Code: Very good, though a bit too long. Didn't review it, but he mentioned it at the beginning of his Your Highness review.
- Spaceballs: Devoted the first episode of Good Enough Movies, his "bite-sized version of Really That Good", to it. He discussed how polarizing it was among Mel Brooks fans at the time, mostly along generational lines his older fans, used to the subtle sense of subversion of Young Frankenstein and the cutting sociopolitical satire of Blazing Saddles, were disappointed that Brooks made something so much less 'mature' than those. Conversely, Gen-X/Y kids, who grew up with Star Wars (the subject of this film's parody) and home video, elevated this to 'classic' status. Bob thinks Both Sides Have a Point, but comes down as liking it more than not: it relies a bit too heavily on slapstick and sight gags, but it is well-made with hilarious performances across the board, and it was arguably where kids his age learned that one could make a Deconstructive Parody of a movie or genre. It also helps that Brooks, whose previous movies had lampooned popular culture contemporaneous with his youth and middle age, was now mocking a then-new Hollywood trend (Star Wars and the popular culture of The '80s, and how Merchandise-Driven they were, in the film's near-universally recognized Signature Scene) as a comic of the older generation going for insight rather than "get off my lawn" potshots.
- Spider-Man Trilogy: Didn't review them, but he discussed them in the Intermission editorial "Sam the Man - Part II", a retrospective of Sam Raimi's career, and in a special Escape to the Movies episode after his review of The Amazing Spider Man 2 (which he hated), and he later devoted an episode of Really That Good to the first two films. He credits the films, together with Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with kick-starting the geek culture boom in Hollywood, arguing that Raimi's translations of the Spider-Man comic to the screen were the first superhero films that attempted to be truly faithful to the source material rather than adapting it to the action movie template of the time. For this reason, he calls it "the prehistory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe" despite standing separate from it continuity-wise, especially with how the two films (especially the second one) feel like the first and second half of a greater story. He loved Raimi's embrace of Peter Parker's dweebish nerdiness (which Tobey Maguire brought to life perfectly), the more dramatic and humorous sides of the comics that serve to elevate the action and story, and the more fantastic and optimistic portions of the Spider-Man mythos, especially just coming out of The Dark Age of Comic Books, and laments the fact that they're now considered silly and campy for those very reasons. It's all brought together by astounding direction that bears an auteur fingerprint while still honoring the source material, an excellent cast that felt perfectly picked for their parts, and top-flight special effects that, in his words, made audiences believe in Spider-Man as much as 1978's Superman: The Movie made them believe a man could fly.
Digging deeper, he also found that the villains of the films, the Green Goblin (in both his Norman and Harry Osborn incarnations) and Doctor Octopus, were excellent realizations of the themes that the films are built upon, particularly the famous motto of "with great power comes great responsibility". They're not evil, but decent men whose circumstances drive them to villainy, and reflect how Peter Parker might have turned out if his moral compass was skewed. Furthermore, he argues that the reason for the films' great success was because they were the summer blockbusters that Americans needed after 9/11 — defiantly optimistic, and rooted in the virtues of people coming together that marked the best parts of the reactions to the attacks, something that is only made clear by the fact that the films take place in New York. What few flaws the films have (a design for the Green Goblin armor that doesn't really work well on screen, the subplot in the second film of Peter's powers starting to fade, and most substantively, Mary Jane not really working as a character in her own right) are only minor in the grand scheme of things given the quality of both films.
- Spider-Man: Talks about the massive nerdgasm that occurred across the internet when it was announced that Raimi was going to be directing, and how he and the Spider-Man films proved to be a match made in heaven. While it lags a bit in the second act, the rest of the film is "damn close" to perfect, bringing to life everything that was great about the comics. It features a fully fleshed-out world that begged to be explored by sequels, yet it still remembered to tell an interesting, self-contained story that ends on a perfect note.
- Spider-Man 2: Calls it the greatest superhero film of all time and a textbook example of a great sequel. Having gotten the origin story out of the way, this film was free to take on a bigger and better story and special effects that built on the foundation laid by the first film. Raimi felt more assured directing blockbuster action, the returning cast members felt more at home in their roles, and Doctor Octopus is the best villain the series has had, a great reinvention of the comic book villain that actually made him more interesting.
- Spider-Man 3: It's a very flawed and disjointed film, the obvious result of a Troubled Production and easily the worst film in the original trilogy. In particular, he found the reveal that the Sandman had killed Uncle Ben to be an incredibly dumb retcon. That said, he doesn't think it's a truly bad film, let alone as bad as its reputation suggests. He found the film's version of Venom to be a more interesting character than the one in the comics, and he was one of the few people who liked the "emo Peter Parker", feeling that to have been a better decision than the cliche of having the symbiote turn him into a badass Anti-Hero. After all, it's Peter Parker; having him act like what he imagines a cool badass to be like (and failing miserably) is far more in-character than making him genuinely cool. He also thought it was well-acted all around, with special credit given to Bryce Dallas Howard and Thomas Haden Church for taking the film's poorly-written versions of Gwen Stacy and the Sandman and making them interesting and watchable on screen.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming: Before he reviewed it, he named it his most anticipated film of 2017 and discussed it in a handful of In Bob We Trust episodes, one of them discussing the casting of Zendaya as (what was assumed at the time to be) Mary-Jane Watson, and the others being a two-part episode discussing how he'd have hypothetically done this film. He didn't think it would be the best film of 2017, but he was just happy to wash the awful memories of the Amazing Spider-Man films out of his mind. Furthermore, he was interested in seeing how Marvel would fare in a situation where, for the first time, they were working with a character who already had an iconic film adaptation in the form of the first two Sam Raimi films, which he saw as an extremely Tough Act to Follow. In fact, Bob's version of this film would have dodged the question via Canon Welding with the Raimi films and bringing back Tobey Maguire as a thirtysomething, semi-retired Peter Parker, banking heavily on nostalgia for the Raimi films while rebuking the Amazing Spider-Man reboots. He thought they were doing right by the character, giving him a great introduction in Captain America: Civil War and playing up his youth and inexperience in a big way, while everything he'd seen from the film looked good. As for the controversy over the casting of a mixed-race actress as Peter Parker's Love Interest, he found it to be ridiculous, especially since there was no such outcry over the casting of Marisa Tomei as a much younger version of Aunt May instead of the old woman she was portrayed as in the comics and previous films. He found Zendaya's casting to be perfectly in line with not only the more modern take on the story that Homecoming seemed to be going for, but also with how the character of Mary-Jane was conceived; for much of her run, Mary-Jane's main defining character trait was being Ms. Fanservice, a description that Zendaya fits to a tee.
When he reviewed it, he gave it two and a half stars and a qualified recommendation, admitting that much of his disappointment had to do with the film being in the shadow of Raimi's trilogy. As he expected, it was far better than the Amazing movies but not up to the standard of Raimi's first two films, while within the MCU, it was the most disposable-feeling film since Thor: The Dark World and like a less-involving version of Ant-Man; he would later say that it was his third least-favorite film in the MCU, ahead of only The Dark World and Iron Man 2. He liked the Teen Drama better than the superhero parts, though Robert Downey Jr. clearly came to play and Michael Keaton played Vulture well given the thinness of the character's writing (until it deepened towards the end). The diverse casting worked well, as did the comedy and character work, but while he commended it for not rehashing the death of Uncle Ben, the movie didn't find an adequate substitute locus point for emotional investment. Overall, this was "The Good Enough Spider-Man" (which also served as the title of an In Bob We Trust episode on the film a few days later), and Bob left the theater looking forward to how the character would be handled later on in the MCU, since it left many opportunities open. He expanded on his thoughts in the aforementioned In Bob We Trust episode, where he said that, while he hopes the next Spider-Man film is more substantial, disposable-but-fun popcorn blockbusters like this have an important place in the MCU and the superhero movie genre in general, serving as breathers between the weightier films while preventing their franchises from getting too self-serious for their own good.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Before he reviewed it, he named it his fifth most anticipated film of 2018. He still thought Miles Morales should have been the MCU's Spider-Man and the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire version acknowledged as the definitive live-action interpretation of Peter Parker, but he was still excited to see Miles get his own movie (even a non-canon animated film) made by Phil Lord & Chris Miller. He was rewarded with the best animated movie (and perhaps the best-looking movie) of 2018, the first good Spider-Man-centric movie since Raimi's second, Sony's first actively good Spider-Man spinoff movie, and his fourth-best movie of 2018. It merited a full four stars, not least because it used the freedom conferred by animation to be a more direct adaptation of a Spider-Man comic. Its incredible look combined with a strong story that upheld the Comes Great Responsibility and "personal choice" themes superbly and a fascinating meta-gimmick rather like Lord and Miller's own The LEGO Movie, while the other Spider-characters were great treats for fans that transcended what might have been obnoxious Product Placement and Pandering to the Base very well.
- Splice: Loved it on all levels, comparing it to The Fly (1986) and District 9 as both an intelligent sci-fi film and a character-focused drama, and appreciating how it didn't sink into the anti-intellectualism so common to movies of its ilk. He also noted that Dren was "likely to keep DeviantArt busy for the rest of the year."
- Split: "An M. Night Shyamalan genre movie opening in January" turned out to be the director's first truly good film since Signs (merely noting that it's his best movie since then would be damning it with faint praise). This followed in the tradition of a "very distinguished" string of B-Movie Psychological Thrillers, which really played to Shyamalan's strengths in terms of getting great performances out of actors (in this case, James McAvoy playing nine personalities) and diving headfirst into some grimy, lurid subject matter. However, Shyamalan's Achilles' Heel of inappropriate tonal shifts also appeared, mainly in a subplot explaining why Anya Taylor-Joy's character was tougher than her fellow captives, and its portrayal of dissociative identity disorder dips into Unfortunate Implications territory, though Bob understood the appeal of connecting the straight-up sci-fi the movie ended up becoming to a real condition. He gave it three stars and encouraged people to see it (especially the Twist Ending) for themselves before the Internet spoiled it for them (and also discussed it himself in a supplemental article).
- Spotlight: Named it his tenth-favorite movie of 2015, comparing it to All the President's Men and Zodiac as one of the great newsroom dramas. As somebody who grew up around Boston and was an altar boy in his youth, the Catholic sex abuse scandals that burst open at the Turn of the Millennium hit especially close to home for him, though he doesn't feel that this lends him much in the way of insight or a personal connection to the film. He feels that this is mainly because of its refusal to sensationalize its subject matter and descend into lurid details, instead operating more like a procedural and focusing most of its moral righteousness on the reporters and the community itself for ignoring what was happening for so long even with all the clues laying right there. As such, the sordid events that the film is detailing hit that much harder, and the Boston Globe reporters' crusade carries personal weight. And while Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo are the standouts in the cast, everybody here is amazing. It's a film that he feels is slightly overrated by his fellow critics, but still deserving of the Oscar buzz it received.
- Spring Breakers: Compares it to "Disney meets Natural Born Killers", and calls it one of the all-time great pop crime dramas and one of the best films of 2013. It's far more than just another teensploitation flick, a tale not of innocence lost, but of "existential emptiness found", and will likely go down as one of Generation Y's great cultural cinematic touchstones.
- Spy: "Finally, I can feel 100% good about 'defending' Melissa McCarthy." It's the best film of both her career and that of writer/director Paul Feig, and easily one of the best comedies of the year. McCarthy finally gets the opportunity to play an actual character rather than her usual persona, with a story about her character being underestimated that not only serves as a nice metaphor for her own career up to that point (as well as for "invisible working women" in general), but also helps build a very interesting and well-rounded heroine who's easy to root for. That's before getting into the fact that the film was just really damn funny, especially with Jason Statham's turn as a buffoonish parody of his Action Hero persona, helping to easily make up for a shaky plot and merely passable action scenes.
- Spy Game: It's good, but it's easy to see why it disappointed at the box office — it's a spy movie with a worldview rooted in the Cold War released just two months after 9/11 made that worldview obsolete. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial "Remembering Tony Scott, Part 2", a retrospective of the late Tony Scott's career.
- Ssssssss: Didn't review it, but in the In Bob We Trust episode "Keep Circulating the Tapes" (a list of ten movies he'd most like to see riffed on a hypothetical twelfth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000), he named it at number two. He had to point out that that was truly the movie's title, and said that any riffers worth their salt should be able to get at least a half-hour of good jokes from such low-hanging Snark Bait.
- A Star Is Born: Before he reviewed it, he named it his third least anticipated film of 2018, primarily citing the cast (particularly Bradley Cooper, who was also writing and directing, which required him to add a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer) and the massive shoes it had to fill in comparison to earlier adaptations. His ultimate review was somewhat more charitable, calling it a decently-made piece of Oscar Bait and giving it two-and-a-half stars and a "nominally approving but hardly bowled-over shrug". He said that the first act was a genuinely great short film and that Cooper, Lady Gaga, and (surprisingly) Andrew "Dice" Clay were all outstanding in their roles, but while the writing for Cooper's aging rock star was great, it gave short shrift to Gaga's character, treating her supposed once-in-a-generation talent as an Informed Ability and relying more on Gaga's pop culture persona and singing chops to convey such than anything else.
- Starship Troopers: Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the third part of his Really That Bad episode on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, specifically when talking about deconstruction in film. He described it as one of his favorite movies, not only because it's an incredible action film, but also because of how Paul Verhoeven took Robert A. Heinlein's original novel and, in the process of adapting it to the screen, made a Deconstructive Parody of it that deliberately tore apart everything that the source material stood for, in a textbook example of satire as adaptation. It is probably "one of the most staggeringly mean-spirited things that an artist has ever done to another artist or their work", but all of it was done with a very clear artistic purpose, one that is consistent with the broader themes of Verhoeven's filmography (particularly RoboCop and Total Recall).
- Star Trek alternate-timeline movies:
- Star Trek (2009): Bob went in with the lowest of expectations, since the film had been written by the writers of Transformers (which he hated) and seemed to be marketed towards the Lowest Common Denominator, almost to the point of insulting fans of the franchise. While the end result didn't suck like he had feared, it never rises above strictly average either, with Chris Pine giving a wooden performance as Kirk and the screenplay being too reliant on coincidences moving the plot forward. He never understood why so many other critics gushed over the film, and he came back to it in his review of District 9 to argue that that was the kind of movie that this one should have been like. He was a lot harsher on it in his review of Star Trek Beyond, saying that the supporting cast and the score were the only good things about it.
- Star Trek: Into Darkness: Commented during his review of Killing Them Softly on how similar the film's marketing seemed to be to that of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight films. Later, in the Big Picture episode Mystery Bonks, he expressed concern over what he felt was the reason why Paramount was holding out on screening the film for certain critics even though it had already been released in some other countries and gotten mixed-to-positive reviews: that J. J. Abrams was once again employing his "mystery box" marketing strategy, putting a big twist into the movie to build hype over while making it difficult for critics to have a spoiler-free discussion of any problems the film might have.
In his eventual review, he felt that his fears about Abrams' mystery-heavy marketing were confirmed, though obviously, he couldn't say why without spoiling the film. Then he did just that anyway because he didn't want to keep playing the filmmakers' "mystery box" game. He found this film to be inarguably worse than the 2009 film, ironically because it tried to be deeper than the mere big dumb action flick that that film was, and failed miserably. Its big twist, besides coming off as winking, pandering, and ultimately meaningless Fanservice, also invites many unfavorable comparisons to one of the greatest Star Trek movies ever made, making it look that much worse in comparison. He also felt the "magic blood" and the allusions to 9/11 conspiracy theories to be extremely obnoxious plot turns. At the end of 2013, he named it one of his ten least favorite movies of the year and suggested that forgetting the alternate timeline and resuming the existing Trek movies with a followup to Nemesis might be a better idea.
- Star Trek Beyond: In the months before it came out, he devoted the Intermission editorial "The Fast and the Trekkiest" to approving of the announcement that Justin Lin had been tapped to direct the film, albeit with reservations. He's not a fan of the Fast and the Furious series (even if he likes some individual films), and the idea of a director best known for action movies helming the next Star Trek film bodes poorly for a return to the "thinking man's space adventure" for which the series used to be known. However, he still thinks that Lin is a legitimately great cinematic stylist (and not just with action scenes), and the F&F films, even at their worst, still have a better sense of camaraderie among the main characters than either of the last two Star Trek films had. Furthermore, despite their (admittedly deserved) reputation as Lowest Common Denominator action flicks, Bob finds the F&F films to be remarkably progressive and diverse with their casts, the sort of thing that meshes almost perfectly with the Star Trek vision of a better world in the future.
When it came time to review it, he had six words: "This movie is so. Fucking. GOOD!" He went into this expecting to hate it just like he did the first two films in the reboot series, only for it to blow him away right off the bat. He called it the closest thing that there's ever been to a big-budget version of Star Trek: The Original Seriesnote in terms of its aesthetic, storytelling, and themes, avoiding the mistakes of its predecessors (which it ignores as much as possible outside of Broad Strokes, to his gratification) and delivering a back-to-basics adventure story that uses big action set pieces to drive character dynamics and the story — a feat to which, as he predicted, Justin Lin proved remarkably well-suited. The only things he didn't like were Chris Pine's performance (the weak link in the cast in his opinion, which is why he loved that this film gave equal focus to the entire ensemble), a few shots that felt like they were too stylish for their own good, the movie as a whole feeling a bit too short, and the fact that it took them three movies to get it right. Overall, he gave it three and a-half stars and a full recommendation. He later listed it as the third-best film of summer 2016, calling it "the best Star Trek since The Voyage Home."
- Star Wars: A big fan, but that's to be expected, and he's gone in depth on it a few times. In his Intermission editorial "Consequences", he discussed how chaste and masculine the movies were compared to prior bodice-ripping Space Opera stories. The Big Picture episode "That's No Moon" also discussed Disney's buyout of Lucasfilm, and what Bob felt that meant for the future of Star Wars — namely, re-releases of the original trilogy without George Lucas' later edits, a lack of recognition of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (since Disney spent big money for Lucasfilm, they will probably take a far more mass-market direction than that), and the hopeful possibility that they'll take similar risks with the new Star Wars films that they did with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope: In another Intermission editorial with a self-explanatory title, he made the blasphemous case for remaking the film, stating that everybody now knows the plot of the series and what had worked in the other films, meaning that they could go back and fix the things that needed fixing. In addition, it might well protect the original trilogy from further tampering by George Lucas, giving him a whole new sandbox for him to realize his ideas in (
or not). In the process, he argued that the plot of the film was, essentially, what World War II would have looked like if it had been fought by the Baby Boomer generation in a sci-fi world.
He has a Really That Good episode on the film in the works, having so far released two segments of it as previews, the first one focused on Han Solo and the second being about the world of entertainment before Star Wars changed everything. In the former, he described Han as the 'key' to the entire film, a character who looked and acted like the sort of everyman Action Hero that the film's late 1970s audience would've normally expected from a contemporary action film (Bob used Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, incidentally the second-highest grossing film of 1977, as an example), one whose mannerisms helped that audience identify with him as the guy who shared their reactions to, and helped them get invested in, the film's weird mix of Heroic Fantasy and Space Opera tropes and contemporary New Age mysticism. In the latter, meanwhile, he disputed the popular narrative that Star Wars was an out-of-the-blue Sleeper Hit that nobody, not even George Lucas himself, saw coming, arguing that, between the Planet of the Apes films, Star Trek, Heavy Metal magazine, the boom in High Fantasy, The Bronze Age of Comic Books, and the rise of a grittier sci-fi aesthetic in film, pop culture in 1977 had already been well primed for a movie like Star Wars by the emerging geek culture of the era.
- Star Wars prequel trilogy: Did a retrospective review of The Phantom Menace for its 3-D rerelease in 2012. For a very long time, Bob counted himself among the Star Wars fanboys who felt that The Phantom Menace had contaminated their childhood memories, though he's since changed his mind, coming to regard it as So Okay, It's Average — just another technically excellent big-budget Hollywood genre film let down by comparatively thin writing, like any number of others — rather than the total disaster the more vocal parts of the fandom proclaim it to be (and yes, he's seen the famous Plinkett review). In fact, he doesn't even think it's the worst Star Wars movie, that dubious distinction belonging to Attack of the Clones, the only film in the prequel trilogy he felt to be genuinely terrible. He feels that so many people hate the prequels only because (A) they weren't jam-packed with fanservice and shout outs to the original trilogy, and (B) they had the weight of sixteen years of anticipation on their shoulders, which turned a pair of mediocre films (the first and third) into awful experiences for many old-school fans. He regards his realization that the Star Wars prequel trilogy was less bad than it's commonly made out to be (though still undeniably sub-par) to be a major turning point in his evolution as a film critic.
Later on, in the Big Picture episode "Destined for Disappointment, Part 2", he used the prequel trilogy as an example of a series of films that deconstructed the idea of Because Destiny Says So, namely with how Anakin Skywalker's belief that he is the prophesied Chosen One, combined with his own personality flaws and Palpatine exploiting the prophecy, leading him on the path to becoming Darth Vader. He finds the idea that the infamously flawed prequel trilogy managed to handle a 'destiny' plot better than many contemporaneous summer tentpole movies (name-dropping The Amazing Spider-Man, Man of Steel, and the Star Trek reboot) to be an indictment of how hackneyed he feels Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking has become.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "It keeps coming back; corrupted, evil, and out to harm us."
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Before it came out, he discussed his thoughts on it in the Big Picture episodes "A Disturbance in the Force" and "Stars, Worn", as well as the special Escape to the Movies episode "Trailer Park". He felt that J. J. Abrams was a horrible choice to direct a Star Wars movie, one of the few people he could think of more ill-suited than late-period George Lucas. Going through his filmography, Bob feels that Abrams, while a hard-working filmmaker who will probably make a pretty good movie, lacks the kind of vision needed to elevate a movie from "pretty good" to truly great. He attributes some of this choice to fandom for demanding slavish, superficial dedication to the source material, saying that this is preventing potential visionaries from applying their own touch to the material and resulting in safe films that are constrained by fear of Adaptation Decay. Likewise, he felt that the announcement that Lawrence Kasdan would help write the screenplay for Episode VII was little more than Pandering to the Base. That said, the film's first trailer got him interested again; he felt that it highlighted everything that it should have and made the film look really good, and he admitted that the film might actually be in good hands.
As for the oft-reported production troubles surrounding the film, he wasn't surprised, again criticizing the old-school Star Wars geeks (Abrams included) for demanding "a $200 million original trilogy fan film" rather than something with new characters and ideas that would advance the Star Wars 'verse. While he got why Abrams' vision for the film would be appealing at first glance, and admitted that it might work well as the film's B-plot, he pointed to films like Blues Brothers 2000 and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to assert that these sorts of films rarely turn out well.
When it came time to review it, he breathed a sigh of relief, his first words being "It's fine. Relax." He called it "a pretty damn good movie" and much better than he was expecting, and while his hypothesis that it would turn out to be a big-budget fan film ultimately proved correct, it was still a movie that he had enough fun with to forgive. Abrams did a good job both in understanding what was great about the original trilogy and in managing the subtext of the film being fundamentally about living up to it, and while the dialogue was imperfect and he rested a bit too much on what Lucas had done before him, he remembered the importance of engaging characters and a good sense of humor in getting the audience invested in the material. In the end, Bob admitted that his fandom probably prevented any real objectivity, but it still earned his full recommendation. He still said he enjoyed it when it came time to review The Last Jedi, even acknowledging the backlash it had received for being too similar to its predecessors, stating that he doesn't find this to be a flaw in and of itself given the film's meta-narrative about the legacy of Star Wars.
- Rogue One: "...it's good! But I do have concerns." While he finds that making Star Wars into a Modular Franchise that they can release annual installments of is a pretty cynical move on Disney's part, he finds that this film's attempts to make something different from the usual Star Wars formula, namely a gritty military/spy story set in that universe, works like a charm. It offers the franchise a breath of fresh air: it's the first film that's not just copying A New Hope's style, editing, and story beats, and it puts a spotlight on the more morally gray side of the rebellion against the Galactic Empire and the 'boots on the ground' folks instead of the Jedi, the generals, and other leaders. It's in these moments that the film approaches The Empire Strikes Back in terms of quality, and fortunately, they make up most of the movie, especially as it roars to an awe-inspiring finale. The only weak parts were the bits that felt like they were thrown in just to remind viewers that they were watching a Star Wars movie, most notably a fairly derivative score and a pair of cameos that were a bit overly reliant on Conspicuous CG in order to de-age the actors. Overall, though, it's a damn good movie that demonstrates a ton of potential for the franchise going forward, earning three-and-a-half stars.
- The Last Jedi: Before he reviewed it, he named it his ninth most anticipated film of 2017. He hadn't planned to include it because little was known about it and it didn't have the hype that The Force Awakens had, but the sudden and tragic passing of Carrie Fisher would likely lend it Reality Subtext as her swan song. When it came time to review it, he said "thank fuck it's good!" and gave it three-and-a-half stars. Whereas The Force Awakens, while good, had him worried that later films would coast on nostalgia, this film answered that concern right away with an opening scene that was "refreshingly different" from virtually anything that Star Wars had done before, a tone it kept up for its entire runtime. It's still unmistakably Star Wars, taking the barest plot structure from The Empire Strikes Back, but its themes here were almost a Spiritual Antithesis to The Force Awakens, focusing on how the First Order and the Resistance needed to grow past being expies of, respectively, the Empire and the Rebellion, and how Rey and Kylo Ren needed to get over their own hero worship of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader — something that he discussed in greater detail in a spoiler-filled In Bob We Trust episode, where he defended the film from some of the more common criticisms of it. The focus was clearly placed on the characters, producing a feeling reminiscent of a war movie with characters having to respond to events unfolding around them frantically, and save for an overly-long second act it worked remarkably well. Carrie Fisher and Adam Driver were the MVPs in the cast, with Fisher a standout final performance and Driver making Kylo Ren far more menacing than he was in the last film. He felt that, as long as Star Wars movies keep coming, he can only hope they're all this good. At the end of 2017, he named it his fifth-favorite film of the year, calling it the first Star Wars film since Empire to feel like a genuine classic.
- Solo: Even with its Troubled Production and being an ultimately unnecessary origin story to Han Solo — a character whose charm came from being a minor character — he felt it was "almost the perfect in-betweener Star Wars movie." Alden Ehrenreich didn't just do an impression of Harrison Ford's original portrayal, the rest of the cast was as great, and it was a really rollicking Space Western for its first two acts to great effect. All Bob really felt was 'wrong' with the movie was act three, when it reverted to being a conventional Star Wars good-versus-evil story and a recurring plot detail he refused to spoil but regarded as insufferably unsubtle foreshadowing, though even with these quibbles, it still merited three stars and got him excited to see more from this franchise. A week later, in the In Bob We Trust episode "Solo: A Box-Office Story", he discussed the film's disappointing box-office returns, saying that they were perfectly in line with what he expected from a movie that was just "pretty good" and aimed squarely at nostalgic, diehard Star Wars fans. He felt that Disney was wrong to expect another box-office smash on the level of The Force Awakens, and that the expectations placed upon it to be such a monster hit were a sign of how the relationship between Hollywood and fan culture had turned into a closed feedback loop.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope: In another Intermission editorial with a self-explanatory title, he made the blasphemous case for remaking the film, stating that everybody now knows the plot of the series and what had worked in the other films, meaning that they could go back and fix the things that needed fixing. In addition, it might well protect the original trilogy from further tampering by George Lucas, giving him a whole new sandbox for him to realize his ideas in ( or not). In the process, he argued that the plot of the film was, essentially, what World War II would have looked like if it had been fought by the Baby Boomer generation in a sci-fi world.
- The Stepford Wives (the 2004 remake): Didn't review it, but in the In Bob We Trust episode "Top 10 Worst Remakes Ever", he ranked it at number four. While the original is a classic sci-fi horror film, this version trades that for awful humor and ultimately chickens out on its predecessor's message. He also likened it to the next year's Bewitched movie, citing their mutual problem that their screenwriters apparently forgot to write plots because they thought, erroneously, that casting Nicole Kidman as an idealized 1950s housewife archetype was inherently clever enough that they could coast on that.
- Steve Jobs: He thinks it's ridiculous how many biopics and documentaries about Steve Jobs are being made, mainly because he doesn't find the man himself to be that interesting a figure for a biopic, viewing his popular image as a tech genius more as media hype built on the strength of his showmanship than anything. However, he actually liked this one, chiefly because, unlike the similar Jobs from a few years back, it doesn't buy into the image that Jobs promoted of himself during his life and that the media picked up after he died, instead exploring his personality flaws and the backstage details of his famous product presentations. Aaron Sorkin's writing is a natural fit for the Silicon Valley setting, one of the few places where people actually talk like that in real life, while Kate Winslet is the film's unsung hero as Jobs' assistant. He does wish, however, that the film spent more time focusing on the disputes between Jobs and Steve Wozniak, as he felt that that was where most of the film's dramatic heft really laid (especially with Seth Rogen's great performance as Woz) as opposed to his relationship with his daughter (which forms the core of the story). Even so, he still enjoyed this film, closing the review by saying that it was good enough to get him to find Jobs almost interesting.
- Stoker: Called it "pretty nuts" and said it played out like a "really good Brian De Palma movie." Didn't review it, but he mentioned it at the beginning of his review of Jack the Giant Slayer, telling people to go see it instead of that film.
- Stonewall: Before it came out, Bob discussed his thoughts on the trailer and the controversy surrounding the film. On one hand, he saw the point of the people raising complaints about the film and its portrayal of history, particularly its insertion of a White Male Lead into an event that in real life was characterized as much by transgender activism (especially among trans women of color) as by gay activism, and he used this as a jumping-off point to discuss the fractures in the LGBT community between its more media-friendly elements (read: the clean-cut, "straight-acting" people) and its more radical members. On the other hand, at the time (having not yet seen the film) he viewed it as a case of using fictional characters to tell a Broad Strokes version of a real historical event that's more conductive to a traditional narrative arc, something that he doesn't find fault in as long as the actual history isn't mangled in the process.
He changed his tune, however, when it actually came time to watch and review the film. He called it a misfire, saying that, while many critics may have been too quick to jump to conclusions just from the trailer, as it turned out their complaints were pretty well warranted. While he gets the idea of using a clean-cut, all-American boy from the Midwest as an Audience Surrogate, the filmmakers badly botched the execution by making him the focus of the story at the expense of the real figures in the Stonewall riot. Furthermore, he felt that it simply didn't work at all as a movie, its sprawling, "epic" storyline and Loads and Loads of Characters quickly degenerating into a Kudzu Plot that leaves more loose ends than resolved storylines. Most importantly, the protagonist's Coming-Out Story and the events leading up to the Stonewall riot feel like two different films that never come together, the transitions between them feeling jarring and the attempts to link them feeling artificial and mechanical. He doesn't doubt the sincerity of Roland Emmerich's intentions in making this film, but he still believes that it should have been so much better than it was.
- Straight Outta Compton: Calls it an "almost-classic" that fires on all cylinders in its first half but sinks to just decent in its back half. He felt that its main flaw was that it played everything too straight, giving a sanitized, "greatest hits" version of the history of N.W.A. even though they were a group that reveled in controversy — and that the film missed a lot of the more interesting stories in the band's rise and fall as a result. However, the good parts are still more than good enough to elevate the whole — the soundtrack is electrifying, director F. Gary Gray makes the film come alive, it almost perfectly captures the lightning-in-a-bottle moment in which Gangsta Rap arrived on the scene, and it's simply a very entertaining film that will likely be remembered and discussed for years to come. At the end of 2015, he named it an honorable mention for the best films of the year.
- Straw Dogs (2011) (the remake): Totally missed the point of the original film, turning a bleak, nihilistic thriller about the breakdown of morality into a preachy, redneck-baiting, values-affirming Wish Fulfillment power fantasy. Without spoiling anything, the manner in which it handles a pivotal moment from the original not only removes the moral ambiguity that made that film such a classic, but leaves a ton of Fridge Logic in its wake. He admits that the ending is awesomely cathartic, but it's not worth sitting through the rest of the film to get to.
- Street Fighter: He discussed a new adaptation in a "How to Fix" episode of In Bob We Trust. He wonders why past film adaptations of a fighting game series haven't just used a fighting tournament as the premise like so many Martial Arts Movies before it, as the setup of the games is practically tailor-made for such; all that is necessary is getting the characters right.
- The Stuff: "It's pretty awesome." It's a mishmash of the monster from The Blob (1958) and the anti-consumerist satire of They Live, and he's surprised that it hasn't been remade yet. Didn't review it, but he discussed it at the end of his review of Branded, a film that he felt to be a pale imitator of this film, and in the Big Picture episode "Moviebob's Forgotten Monsters".
- Sucker Punch: It may look like fanboy-bait and a fanservice vehicle on the surface, and it's often cluttered, unfocused and more ambitious than what the filmmakers can actually pull off, but Bob found it to be a lot deeper than his fellow critics did. In his opinion, a lot of people missed the fact that the film is actually condemning, and not celebrating, the fetishism and objectification (particularly of women) that runs rampant through male geek culture, somehow ignoring that the film seems to scream out its intentions to the viewer at every turn. He compares it to both burlesque and to Starship Troopers, another film that was mistaken for exactly the opposite of what it actually was.note
He also views the film as a criticism of third-wave or "sex-positive" feminism, in the sense that women like Baby Doll who allow themselves to be objectified for their own empowerment are portrayed as childish and fail to escape the confines of the male-dominated asylum (i.e. patriarchy), while Sweet Pea, who is the least sexualized of the main characters and is often the voice of "traditional" feminism throughout the film, is portrayed as the most mature of the group and is the only one who escapes. Ultimately, its main failing was that it tried to say something about some delicate subject matter and failed to successfully pull it off, meaning that its intended message got lost and mistaken for exactly the opposite. He discussed his thoughts on the film both within the review and, a year and a half later, in a two-part Big Picture episode.
- Suddenly: A pretty good movie, but better known now for how it became a "lost film" after the John F. Kennedy assassination due to its unfortunate subject matter and, possibly, the demand of its star Frank Sinatra.note He also discounted the Urban Legend that Lee Harvey Oswald had been watching this film before he shot JFK. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Space Invaders".
- Suicide Squad (2016): "Will [this film] save the struggling DC Extended Universe? No." Bob considered this a major letdown from Villain Protagonist specialist writer-director David Ayer, a minor improvement on Batman v Superman (because it seemed to be trying less hard and therefore had less far to fall), and a Rule-Abiding Rebel of a film. It's clear watching it just how much of a Troubled Production this film endured, though what he saw of the original story looked little better. Decent performances from Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Viola Davis are offset by poor ones from Jai Courtney and Jared Leto (the latter playing the worst Joker in a movie yet), the tone is all over the place, the story relies on a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! moment by the Squad, and its Conspicuous CG makes the film look like it came from The '90s. As such, he says "Aesthetically, tonally, structurally, and quality-wise, the film Suicide Squad resembles more than anything is Mortal Kombat: Annihilation." He gave it one and a half stars and later listed it as the worst film of summer 2016, and among the worst of the year, he placed it at number three.
- Sully: Before he reviewed it, he discussed it, together with Hacksaw Ridge and the 2016 The Birth of a Nation, in the In Bob We Trust episode "The Artist and the Art", about three 2016 fall-season prestige films that found themselves Overshadowed by Controversy due to the real-life circumstances of their creators (in this case, director Clint Eastwood's outspoken conservative politics and public statements). He uses this to go into a discussion about the idea of separating the artist from the art when it comes to judging a work on its own merits, arguing that, while seemingly noble, this is a terrible way to review a film, as it not only ignores how a film fits into a creator's wider body of work, it can also cause critics to miss the point the creator intended to make as well as any Reality Subtext that may be lurking beneath the surface. In this case, deconstructions of traditionally masculine archetypes (such as this film's hero airline pilot protagonist) have been Eastwood's stock in trade throughout the later phase of his career, and one would be remiss to ignore that and how it fits into his filmography.
When he reviewed it, he gave it three stars, calling it a welcome return to form for Eastwood after the "depressing misfire" of American Sniper and especially admirable in its refusal to sensationalize the material. The acting is excellent, as per usual from its cast, and the film plows through its story with utter professionalism and not an ounce of fat, even holding off on the inevitable comparison to 9/11 until the last few minutes. The only problems he had were that he felt the film leaned too far in make the NTSB a Designated Villain for doubting Sullenberger's heroism when the entire film up to that point was adamant that he was just a guy doing his job, and that Eastwood's trademark lack of flourish was a double-edged sword that brings the film within a hair of greatness but just misses clearing the bar. Considering how well the film does what it does do, though, Bob has no problem forgiving that and recommending it.
- Super: "As awesome as you've heard." It's dark and brutal, but also hilarious and strangely uplifting, with Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page knocking it out of the park. Didn't review it, but he mentioned it at the beginning of his Your Highness review, and at the end of 2011 he listed it as one of his top ten movies of the year.
- Super 8: Bob went in viewing the film as a test of his integrity as a film critic: it had been tailored to appeal to the twenty-to-thirty-something geek audience that he counted himself as part of (he called it "weaponized nostalgia"), so he worried that he might let the geeky sci-fi references and Shout Outs to classic Amblin films overwhelm him to the point where he couldn't judge the film objectively. In the end, he said that the film was "not bad", but didn't really work all the way through, with the handful of great moments making the bad ones look that much worse. The narrative is overly complicated and doesn't come together in a cohesive whole; while the main story focusing on the kids making their movie is outstanding, the B-plot about the alien and the related Government Conspiracy falls flat, especially once it takes over the film in the second half. While it's clear that the makers of this film are huge fans of films like The Goonies and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, they don't quite get what made those films work. Bob also found the Lens Flare to be so annoying that he filled a good stretch of the review with lens flare in order to riff on it.
- Superman: The Movie: One of the three films that he counts in his "canon" of the greatest superhero movies of all time, the other two being Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight, and he discussed the film in the Big Picture episode "Superman Revisited" and in an episode of Really That Good. He talked about the massive uphill battle the makers of the film had in getting people to embrace it, given that Superman was, by 1978, an icon of American culture, and that to pull this off, they had essentially to strip Superman down to his core essentials, figure out what those were to begin with along the way, and then update them for contemporary expectations. As such, a huge undercurrent to the film concerns it directly tackling the doubts many people had as to whether or not a character as seemingly corny and old-fashioned as Superman could work in modern times, similar to how much of The Avengers was about how they could possibly pull off this sort of superhero crossover. By extension, the film often feels like it's also tackling the growing cynicism that had emerged in American society by the late 1970s, a time when fifteen years' worth of rapid social change had overturned everything people had taken for granted; in this world, Superman emerged as a beacon of hope to provide people with something to believe in, much like he did in the similarly troubled 1930s.
As for the cast, Christopher Reeve was a perfect Superman in both his appearance and his mannerisms, one who will probably remain the greatest take on the character for the foreseeable future. He defined the image of the character for decades to come — no small feat, given how Superman was already a pop culture icon when this film came out — hence why Man of Steel tried so hard (too hard, Bob thought) to change various aspects of Superman's origin so as to make itself distinct from this film. His relationship with Margot Kidder's Lois Lane is also beautifully realized, barring how it ruins what could have been a classic scene by inserting Lois' distracting internal monologue. Meanwhile, Gene Hackman's stylish and charismatic Lex Luthor is a Super Villain on par with some of the best of the James Bond films (the obvious influence for him), and also an excellent thematic foil for Superman in many ways. It also still holds up amazingly well as an actual movie, largely due to Richard Donner's conscious effort to make a superhero film that respected the source material rather than indulging in camp, while drawing on the tropes of Hollywood movies rather than those of comic books or trying to make the film "realistic". The ending where Superman goes back in time to save Lois kind of undoes the consequences of what had happened and raises a whole bunch of questions, even if it's a great scene on its own both visually and thematically. Beyond that and other minor faults, however, it's pretty much the best possible version of the movie that its makers set out to make, and a classic superhero film on its own merits that helped kick down the door for the explosion of geek culture in the mainstream. He also gave his thoughts on three of the films that were conceived as direct sequels to this one:
- Superman II: Both the theatrical cut and the 2006 DVD Re-Cut are good, but not great.
- Superman III: Called it the most accurate adaptation of the majority of Superman comics: "a big, weird, gangly comedy with vaguely defined stakes that doesn't really make any goddamned sense, but is kind of charming anyway because it's just an excuse to take a crazy yet awesome scenario and just run with it." He thought the junkyard fight between Superman's Literal Split Personality (Evil!Superman versus Good!Clark Kent) was worth it, but admitted that the movie overall was not good.
- Superman Returns: It tries too hard to live up to the 1978 film, and it's definitely not great, but Bob thought it was underappreciated.
- Super Mario Bros. (rough cut of the reboot): A great way for Nintendo to kick off its new film studio project, with a hip, gritty sense of realism to its story, as well as some surprisingly inspired casting. Only none of it was real. The entire review was an April Fools' Day joke parodying just about every trend in contemporary (late '00s/early '10s) Hollywood moviemaking, such as overuse of green-screen and computer animation, exorbitant budgets and ticket prices, 3-D post-conversion, Stunt Casting, the focus on sequels and franchises, and the attempt to shoehorn properties into the Darker and Edgier template popularized by The Dark Knight.
- Super Mario Bros. (upcoming film): He has released a blog article and an In Bob We Trust episode detailing how he would go about making it. For starters, he'd do it as a Live-Action Adaptation, despite both the legacy of the 1993 film and the fact that everybody involved with the new movie seems to be leaning towards making it animated, as outside of a handful of studios, he feels that modern Hollywood animated films are in something of a creative rut and that an animated Mario film would wind up trying to copy the success of films like Despicable Me and Ice Age in the worst way. (He would revisit this subject when it was announced that Illumination Entertainment had ultimately gotten the rights to make the film, saying that their involvement did not give him hope for a great movie.) As for the plot, he describes it as "The Lord of the Rings meets 21 Jump Street". His pitch largely keeps the "classic" backstory of Mario and Luigi being two plumbers from Brooklyn, as not only does it provide plenty of room for characterization while solving a lot of the Fridge Logic that would otherwise be inherent in the setting, he loves the idea of a fantasy parody in which two average, blue-collar Joes are sucked into an epic fantasy world; he specifically name-drops The Wizard of Oz and the Road to ... films as a great way to handle this sort of story. Princess Peach is still the Damsel in Distress (at least for the first film), as the Save the Princess plot is an iconic part of the series, but she'd have more layers beyond that, getting plenty of quieter dramatic moments with Bowser to develop both characters as she tries to escape.
- Super Troopers: Liked it, though he finds it to be one of those stoner comedies that gets way too hyped up by its fanbase. Its genius lay in its hook, a comedy about a bunch of slacker highway patrolmen on a rural stretch of Vermont road where nothing happens, which allowed the Broken Lizard crew to basically make a feature-length Sketch Comedy about them being assholes to each other and the people they pull over without much need for a real plot. He thinks that a lot of its Sleeper Hit popularity, beyond just its endorsements from prominent early '00s film geek websites, came down to nostalgia among college-aged kids around that time for the raunchy comedies of The '80s. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his review of its sequel...
- Super Troopers 2: Found it to be a "twenty-year high school reunion" for Broken Lizard that didn't really work, largely because it abandoned the Excuse Plot of the first movie in favor of focusing way too much on its story while recycling its best jokes from the original. It's still a funny movie with a number of good moments, but it never really comes together, with Bob describing the feeling of watching it as like meeting an old friend again only to find out that he hasn't moved on with his life (knowing that, in real life, the Broken Lizard guys had grown as comedians and made better movies since 2001 only made it more puzzling). He gave it two stars and called it an "inoffensive nothing of a movie" while wishing he'd liked it more.
- Surrogates: "Pretty damn good." A bit more than So Okay, It's Average. Sets out some reasonably ambitious goals and hits them; Bruce Willis carries the emotional core of the movie; an interesting exploration of its premise and there's not much more to say. "Pretty damn good." He ended the review by mentioning Ginger Snaps and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (he liked both of them).
- Suspiria (1977): Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his review of its 2018 remake, calling it an exemplar of Italian horror in the '70s and '80s and how it fused high art with low art. He's always been a big fan of it, calling it a "trip" and admiring how its style, vivid violence, and metaphorical themes made up for its Excuse Plot.
- Suspiria (2018): Whoever decided to remake Suspiria picked a good time to do so given the proliferation of arthouse horror films in the late '10s, and this one very much felt like its contemporaries, taking the absurdity of Dario Argento's original film and playing it completely straight as a serious, artistic take on the same story that leaned heavily on the historical and political context of its '70s West Berlin setting. For most of its runtime, it felt fairly portentous, almost like a parody of "post-horror" films, until a spectacular ending made it all pay off in a big way. It was an extremely well-made film, too, with Tilda Swinton in her dual roles and Dakota Johnson (hereby forgiven by Bob for the Fifty Shades films) being the standouts. It was a very weird and confusing movie, one where he couldn't really tell if it was schlock or True Art and which of those things it was pretending to be, but it was a hell of a movie that he gave three stars.
- Taken: "Ridiculous, but fun, I'll admit." Felt it to be shameless pandering and Wish Fulfillment for conservative middle-aged dads, calling it "not just Father Knows Best, but Father Knows Everything." However, it was still a very well-made action flick that still holds up years later, most notably for how it didn't try to sugar-coat what Liam Neeson's character did to save his daughter, avoiding the hero worship and Black and White Morality that so frequently comes with such films. He also said that there are likely to be a lot more badass action movies coming out not just because of this film's success, but because the lucrative Baby Boomers are growing older. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his reviews of its two sequels
- Taken 2: "A great premise, but not even [Neeson] can save this one." It began with a great setup — Neeson's character's actions and behavior in the first film coming back to haunt him — but then fell apart by breaking Bob's Willing Suspension of Disbelief while losing the moral ambiguity that made the first film work so well. The action scenes weren't nearly as effective, and the "evil foreigner" implications, which came off as ironic in the first film (partly because it was made by French filmmakers), were cranked Up to Eleven and felt downright xenophobic here. Bottom line: you're better off rewatching the original. He opened the review with an imitation of Neeson's famous "I will kill you" speech from the first film, blasting this one.
- Taken 3: A film so boring that he actually opened with a disclaimer stating that he may have outright fallen asleep partway through it, and that for all he knew (though he doubts it), the movie might have improved greatly in its second half. It might as well have had no connection at all to the first two movies, with a plot that's more a ripoff of The Fugitive than anything, and all returning cast members except Neeson looking like they were just too polite to say no to it. The paucity of outrage over Lenore getting Stuffed into the Fridge in the opening shows just how little anyone cares about the series by this point. He gave it one star, saying that the studio had the right idea consigning it to a January release.
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (the remake): Bob didn't enjoy it as much as many others did. Denzel Washington is great as usual, but John Travolta is gratingly hammy as the villain, and the action scenes, while quite nifty, sometimes feel shoehorned into the narrative. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial "Remembering Tony Scott, Part 2", a retrospective of the late Tony Scott's career.
- Tammy: Didn't review it, but at the end of 2014 he named it one of his twenty least favorite movies of the year. It's a waste of Melissa McCarthy's talent that feels like she made it just to tell her critics "I'll show them what 'she just makes gross fall-down movies' looks like!", and Bob hopes that she gets back to better movies very soon.
- Tank Girl: Felt that it didn't get the appreciation it deserved when it first came out, and likes how it's become a Cult Classic since. It's one of those movies that, between its Desert Punk aesthetic and its '90s Riot Grrrl attitude, needs to be seen to be believed. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Big Picture episode "Don't Watch Dis-Topia, Watch Dat-Topia", a discussion of five dystopian films he felt were better than The Giver (which he reviewed that week).
- Team America: World Police: Mentioned in the Big Picture episode "Monster's Movie". He regards its parodies of celebrity activism as shallow and rather dated, though its hammy portrayal of Kim Jong-il wasn't far off from what the man was like in Real Life.
- Ted: The plot follows the Judd Apatow-style "bromance" formula almost to the point of self-parody, and your enjoyment of the film will depend on your tolerance for Seth MacFarlane's blue-collar, pop-culture-obsessed Yankee humor, but Bob found it hilarious, calling it the best mainstream comedy of the year and one of his top ten movies of 2012. Ted is a great character, the house party scene will likely go down as one of the great comedy moments, and it's nice to see a "girlfriend" character in a male-oriented buddy film who's an actual character rather than a plot device.
The real genius of the film, though, is in how it takes the "slacker best friend" of many modern buddy comedies who is holding the protagonist back and turns him into a literal representation of immaturity — in this case, a walking, talking teddy bear who the main character has owned since childhood. The fact that this film, an R-rated comedy built around an original idea, was one of the big hits of that summer comes to Bob as a positive sign. And as a Massachusetts native, seeing the dinosaur statue at the mini-golf course in Saugus, MA in a movie "almost made [him] weep." A while after his review, he discussed it further in his Intermission editorial The Tao of Ted.
- Ted 2: Found it to fall into the same trap that many comedy sequels fall into, putting too much focus on plot and the mechanics of how the titular Ted is supposed to 'work' while ignoring what made the first film such a success. It's funnier than MacFarlane's last live-action effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West, but it sports many of the same flaws, most notably an over-reliance on 'set-piece' gags that fall flat more often than not. The loss of Mila Kunis' character from the first film is also a big hole in the central cast, with her presence sorely missed, while the film's attempts both to have An Aesop and send up that style of 'message movie' descend into a Clueless Aesop.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Discussed how he might run the franchise in a "How to Fix" episode of In Bob We Trust. He sees it as one of the few films where going the Modular Franchise route might actually work, given the vast wealth of characters available; a Casey Jones movie could easily be a Lighter and Softer family-friendly version of Wolverine or Deadpool, a "Splinter vs. Shredder" movie would be good for a prequel, and even Shredder could support a film of his own.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original live-action trilogy): The first film was very good, with Bob calling it the best version of the franchise in any form. It's a fun, family-friendly riff on 1980s vigilante films that combines the gritty urban feel and stories of the comics with the fun characters of the cartoon, avoids going too far in either direction like those versions did, and comes out all the better for it with a very unique aesthetic. While it's far from perfect (the low budget is very noticeable, and the subplot with the troubled kid didn't really work), the quality of the action, comedy, and writing elevates it into a very memorable kids' movie. The second film was decent too, but the third MUST NEVER BE MENTIONED AGAIN. Didn't review them, but he discussed them in the Big Picture episodes "Shell Shock" and "Turtle Power," the latter the week after reviewing...
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) (the live-action reboot): Before he reviewed it, he devoted considerable time to discussing it, starting with two consecutive Big Picture episodes, "Mutants and Masses" and "Shell Shock". He thought it likely to suck by virtue of its production company Platinum Dunes' track record, though he thought that the Internet Backdraft over the initial rumor about the turtles being aliens was overblown, noting that the animated series that most of Generation X remembers was itself very different from the dark, gritty, satirical comics that it was based on — but then again, to many fans, the cartoon was the defining version of the franchise, so they do have a right to demand it stay faithful.
Later, after the project fell apart initially and after Bob had read the leaked script, he came back to it in the Intermission editorial "That (Also) Almost Happened" to state his thoughts on it. In short, he was happy to see that it fell into Development Hell (even if only temporarily), finding to to have failed as both a Ninja Turtles movie and as a Summer Blockbuster. After it was put back into production with a new script, he criticized the new version (in the Big Picture episode "Destined for Disappointment, Part 1") for what he felt to be attempts to copy The Amazing Spider-Man, particularly the story elements from that film that he disliked. He used this as a jumping-off point to discuss what he felt to be an overuse of 'destiny' themes in superhero movies.
When it finally came time to review it, he greatly disliked it despite all efforts to find something redeeming about it, calling it the worst film he'd seen all year and the worst Ninja Turtles adaptation he'd ever seen. The plot was a mess of clichés, outrageous backstories, and all his least favorite elements of the Amazing Spider-Man films, frequently contradicting itself and feeling as though it was written by one hand that didn't know what the other was doing. Furthermore, the film's world felt cheap and lazy, the acting was terrible across the board (with Megan Fox being a particularly bad offender, grossly unsuited to carrying a big summer blockbuster), and the action and special effects aren't up to par with modern blockbuster films. Finally, the Turtles' Flanderized dudebro personalities (particularly Michelangelo's horniness) are not only annoying, but when combined with the fact that they tower over Megan Fox's April, they make every scene where the Turtles and April share the screen feel incredibly uncomfortable. It's an awful film whatever your feelings regarding Ninja Turtles; Bob closed the review by saying that kids deserve better films than this and excoriating everybody who directed, wrote, or produced it. At the end of 2014, he named it one of his ten least favorite movies of the year.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows: Better than its predecessor, though thats damning it with faint praise, as its still pretty fucking bad. The plot and writing are nonsensical and treated as an afterthought, the subplot about the Turtles possibly being able to become human is stolen from the worst of the X-Men films, the action scenes are mediocre at best, the visual aesthetic (especially the Turtles hulking appearance) is much too dark for a film whose plot and characters seem designed for a family audience, and while Megan Fox does at least try a little harder, shes still not a good actor. He reiterates that kids deserve better films, arguing that the logic of using its just for kids as an excuse to slack off is how you end up with tainted baby food.
- Teen Titans Go! To the Movies: Found it to be "an almost perfect version of exactly what it wants to be", which is a kids' version of Deadpool that served as a gag-a-minute parody of the superhero genre in the vein of MAD magazine. The humor was neither all that original nor all that sophisticated, but the target audience was young enough that they were probably hearing these jokes for the first time, and it told them well enough that he found it to be quite hilarious. He gave it three-and-a-half stars and said that it was as good as The LEGO Batman Movie, saying that, had he been a kid watching this, he probably would've laughed for days afterwards. He also noted the enormous Periphery Hatedom that Teen Titans Go! had among now-adult fans of the original Teen Titans cartoon (to the point where a good chunk of the show's humor came to revolve around a meta parody of that fact), finding it quite ironic given his memory of how polarizing the original show was in its time for its animesque aesthetic rather than trying to translate the look of the comics directly to the screen. In that respect, he found it heartwarming to see children's media like this explicitly deconstructing and taking the piss out of itself, hoping that it might spare another generation from growing up into the sort of grumpy manchildren who treat children's cartoons as Serious Business.
- Teen Wolf: Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his review of Truth or Dare, which featured one of the stars of the TV adaptation, Tyler Posey. While wondering if any of that film's actors were recognizable, as he was pushing forty and was out of the loop on teen culture, he was surprised to learn that this film was remade for television, before telling viewers that it was a terrible movie and proof that his generation tends to overestimate the quality of '80s films.
- Terminator: With the franchise now stuck in a ditch, Bob thinks it's time to reboot the whole thing, and that the series' use of Time Travel and alternate universes offers an easy way for them to do this. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Big Picture episode The Boot, Part One. A few years later, he revisited it in the In Bob We Trust episode How to Fix the Terminator Franchise, wherein he advocated another kind of reboot for the series: make another film that was a logical continuation of Terminator 2 and ignores the last three movies and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. He lays out a plot for such a film: in a 20 Minutes into the Future techno-utopia built on the pioneering research of Miles Dyson's daughter Blythe, a Jaded Washout Jerk Jock travels back in time to kill her due to his skill-set being made obsolete by technology. In the present day, Blythe must program one of her experimental robots to serve as her bodyguard, which winds up serving as a proto-Terminator. To him, this is a Terminator movie with all the right pieces, and neatly inverts the franchises preexisting technology will kill us all premise to boot.
- The Terminator: Called it a "scrappy, nasty, hardcore eighties bone-cruncher" of a film, and his favorite movie in the Terminator series, as well as the only one that was genuinely great. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his review of Terminator Genisys, along with its sequel
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day: He loved this film as a kid, and while he thinks the action, the special effects, and Linda Hamilton's performance as Sarah Connor still hold up very well, he also found it to have a number of problems that kept it from being a classic in his mind. Most notably, he found Edward Furlong annoying as hell as the adolescent John Connor, with his interactions with the Terminator ruining that character's mystique. Overall, he thinks that it's a solid blockbuster, but one that doesn't hold a candle to the original film, and that the franchise's attempts to recapture this film's glory (or rather, the nostalgic memories people have of this film) rather than the original ever since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has sent it spiraling downhill into irrelevance. That said, he still feels it followed on logically from the first film, being an Actionized Sequel that was structured similarly to its predecessor but turned everything up a few notches, and he especially applauds it for providing what could have easily been a definitive, clear-cut ending to the series.
- Terminator Salvation: For some reason, his review of it fell off The Escapists website, so a lot of people (including on this site) think he didn't actually review it at all. He started the review by discussing the "Hail Mary" attempt the filmmakers took by casting Christian Bale (who he described as "a full-fledged geek god" in the aftermath of his first two Batman movies) as John Connor, and is surprised to admit that the plan works. "Kinda. Sorta. Almost." He described the movie as "painfully average" and criticised the amount of stuff it cribbed from other sources and the awful script, but praised Sam Worthington's turn as Marcus and Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese, as well as describing the visuals as being "fantastic" and the action as "genuinely well-executed". His final verdict was that, despite myriad flaws, it was not bad and worth checking out.
Later, in the Intermission editorial That Almost Happened, he discussed the original ending that was planned for the film, how it would have radically altered the foundation of the series, and how it was changed (to the film's detriment, in Bob's opinion) after it was leaked and caused a fan outcry. He's much harsher to the film whenever he refers to it later than his original review implied, describing the climactic scene where a 1984-perfect version of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a brand new Terminator shows up as the only good thing about it.
- Terminator Genisys: Before it came out, he discussed his thoughts on the trailer in the special Escape to the Movies episode Trailer Park. He doesn't much like Jai Courtney, finding him to be yet another bland, forgettable Action Hero wannabe, but the twists the film seemed to be serving up briefly had him excited. When it did come out, however, his review was scathing, calling it "not so much a bad movie as it is barely a movie at all" and the culmination of all the misplaced nostalgia the series and its fans have for Terminator 2. He disparages it as Terminator Fansirvys for all its attempts to reboot the series with only the stuff that fans liked, the result being a convoluted mess that he compares to a comic-book Crisis Crossover; he had to put multiple "Not Making This Up" Disclaimers on his spoiler-filled plot recap. Furthermore, Jai Courtney's wooden performance confirmed Bob's skepticism of him, the rest of the characters were empty, the film's Take That! at Apple and Steve Jobs has been done to death by this point, and the tepid attempts at feminist commentary with Sarah Connor's character fell flat (and were done much better by Mad Max: Fury Road). He opened the review telling Hollywood to stop making Terminator movies, and he closed it by telling Terminator fans to stop seeing them and supporting Hollywood's continued abuse of their beloved franchise.
- That Awkward Moment: The trailer alone made him cringe, as did the fact that the film's title was based on a Twitter meme (which made him feel old), and he reviewed it only because nothing else came out that weekend. There's only one funny joke in the whole movie, which is otherwise another stupid and contrived "bro-mantic comedy" that thinks it's far more original and insightful than it is.
- That's My Boy: "It's a vile, puerile, lowbrow, totally disposable junk movie, but I can't deny that it works as one." If nothing else, the film's R rating was great for Adam Sandler's brand of humor, allowing him to take it to its darkest extremes. On the other hand, Bob's always felt that Sandler does better as a Straight Man than as wacky characters, and he often comes off as grating. He doesn't recommend it, but you can do far worse. He discussed it in his Intermission editorial What It Is.
- The Thing (1982): Finds it to be one of the best monster movies ever made. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his review of its remake/prequel
- The Thin Man: Reviewed it as a G.E.M. here. Bob feels it worked as well as it did mostly by focusing on the two relentlessly likeable leads and the way they play off each other, with their Snark-to-Snark Combat coming from being happy with each other rather than bitter and argumentative being a refreshing take. However, he is somewhat uncomfortable with its glorification of binge drinking and unrealistic, idealised vision of alcoholism — both of which he admits are products of their time, with people rejecting the harsh realities of drink exposed by social science as nonsense designed to justify the USA's unpopular, unsuccessful, and recently-repealed Prohibition laws, but are still a tough pill to swallow.
- This Is the End: Said it will likely end up on his "best of 2013" list at the end of the year. This should have been one of the worst, most self-indulgent vanity projects ever to come to theaters, but instead, it's both hilarious and brilliant, constantly taking its setup and cranking it up to the next logical conclusion every fifteen minutes. Whether it's from shock value, celebrity cameos, references to the stars' past films, or the interplay of the main characters, the gags come a mile a minute, and your gut will hurt from laughing even if only some of the jokes hit their mark. Reviewed it in the Intermission editorial "Apocalaughs."
- This Means War!: "Not cute. Not funny. Not worth it." Yet another steaming turd trying to copy the success of Mr. & Mrs. Smith's action/rom-com hybrid, with a misogynistic premise, no chemistry between the leads, and protagonists that act like stalkers. Bob wishes that it hadn't been screened for critics just so he wouldn't have had to suffer through it. At the end of 2012, he listed it as one of his ten worst movies of the year.
- Thor: Very positive review. He appreciates the subtler nods to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and notes that it's the most kid-friendly superhero movie since the first Spider-Man film. In the Big Picture episode "Ranking the Marvel Movies", he named it his fifth-favorite Marvel movie (out of nine at the time), finding it to be a "more confident and self-assured" film than its sequel
- Thor: The Dark World: In the Intermission editorials "Winter Is Coming" and his analysis of the film's trailer, he said he was worried by reports of a Troubled Production, but he was excited to return to the first film's world, as well as by the return of Loki. When it came time to review it, he said that, while it was a good film that was arguably better than the first (particularly in terms of visual design and ambition), it was the first MCU movie since The Incredible Hulk that disappointed him. He felt that Malekith didn't work as a villain and that good chunks of the film felt missing, particularly when it came to the slower, more nuanced scenes that built up the characters (such as with the thin Thor/Jane/Sif Love Triangle); he'd love to see a director's cut of the film. In the Big Picture episode "Ranking the Marvel Movies", he named it his third least-favorite Marvel movie, below the original, and a reevaluation in 2018 saw him rank it as his least favorite film in the entire franchise for how disposable it felt. That said, it's simply too much fun for him to be seriously upset with it, especially when Loki is involved, comparing it to the '80s Flash Gordon movie in the best way. Oh, and if you can help it, do not see it in 3-D, as the conversion looks utterly terrible.
- Thor: Ragnarok: Before he reviewed it, he named it his eighth most anticipated film of 2017. He was intrigued mainly by director Taika Waititi and the promise of some major changes to the MCU status quo, and he's always liked the Thor films' offbeat take on the universe even if the films themselves generally aren't as important as the lore they provide to it. When it came time to review it, he said that it felt like a response to the main criticisms of its predecessor being too serious and boring, of Thor himself being the least interesting Avenger, and of the "apocalypse fatigue" that comes with constantly having to raise the stakes with each new sequel, the result being the best of the Thor movies and a return to form after the merely "pretty good" Spider-Man: Homecoming that earned three-and-a-half stars. It's an intensely entertaining film with an offbeat pacing that feels both fast-moving and easygoing, favoring Character Development over world-building while offering up action scenes that are packed with highlights over empty spectacle. The story manages to find stakes in Thor trying to figure out what the stakes actually are, Cate Blanchett was having the time of her life as a campy villainess lifted straight from a Black Metal album cover, and Mark Ruffalo and Tessa Thompson are both outstanding. At the end of 2017, he named it an honorable mention for his favorite films of the year.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: It was well-intentioned and had a great cast (even if they were all very much playing to type), such that, in his 2018 Academy Awards preview, he pegged Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell as likely winners for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively (and turned out to be right about both). Unfortunately, he also found it to be overrated Oscar Bait that tried to be nuanced, authentic, and righteously pissed but instead felt manipulative, dishonest, and insufferably twee, comparing it to an 'ironic' hipster cover of a '90s Gangsta Rap track that still thinks it's conveying the same power in its message. Not even the work of veteran Black Comedy writer Martin McDonagh could save it. He gave it two stars.
- Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie: Bob's a huge fan of Tim & Eric, mainly due to the way that their parodying of corporatized middle America actually understands what it's like to grow up there (unlike Hollywood's frequent condescension), though he acknowledges that their humor is definitely an acquired taste.note Regarding their first feature film, it's quite funny, particularly with the huge supporting cast, and is recommended for fans of both Tim and Eric and of surreal comedy in general, though it falls into much the same trap that many TV comics turned first-time filmmakers fall into — namely, switching from a 15-minute TV show to a 90-minute, R-rated feature film causes them to rely too much on Vulgar Humor and lose the rapid-fire comedy that made them famous.
- Titanic (1997): Devoted an episode of Really That Good to the film. He approached it as something of a challenge, as it was a film that, even though he liked it, wasn't one of his personal favorites. It's also a film that, despite its jaw-dropping success with both critics and moviegoers, has become a fiercely polarizing one in the years since, with a large contingent of critics viewing it as a crime against cinema even while others view it as one of the greatest romances of The '90s. As far as he's concerned, it should be obvious why this movie was so successful: it's just a well-made Epic Movie that's not particularly deep, but is straightforward, well-shot, well-directed, and yes, well-acted (Bob singles out Kate Winslet as giving the film's best performance). In particular, he praised the Framing Device of an elderly Rose telling the story of her experience with the RMS Titanic disaster to the modern oceanographers, which he felt justified the film's deliberately melodramatic flourishes and went very well with them. He feels that the film's Misaimed Marketing, combined with pop culture's dismissal of female-oriented entertainment as fluff, were major contributing factors to the Hype Backlash that it endured. The posters and trailers played up the Disaster Movie side of the story rather than the romance out of a desire to avoid the Chick Flick stigma, so quite a few moviegoers felt ripped off when they got a very different movie than the high-octane thrill ride that had been promised — and when that movie went on to become the biggest box-office hit of all time, furious critics began attacking not only the film itself, but also its fans, who were roundly dismissed (often in a highly gendered manner) as a horde of immature, Tiger Beat-reading teenage girls who wouldn't know quality if they saw it.
Going beyond that, he also looked at how this film was one of the only works of mainstream popular culture at the time that was even discussing issues of class conflict, which, by the late '90s, had essentially vanished from mainstream debate and were only popping up in Gangsta Rap and other fringe, underground genres. It may not have been a particularly deep exploration of such themes, but the fact that it was saying anything at all about them made it resonate with a large segment of the population. As for real criticisms, he didn't appreciate the film's portrayal of First Officer William Murdoch as a killer rather than a hero, and he felt that it was underwritten and that many of the characters could have been less arch and more fleshed-out, but beyond that, he felt that most of the complaints were more nitpicking than anything. It's odd to consider a film that won eleven Academy Awards to be underrated, but that's exactly what he feels about this. It set out to do one job, and a perfect storm of factors coming together ensured that it did it very well.
- Tomb Raider (2018): It borrowed only the surface elements of the 2013 video game's "female John McClane" take on Lara Croft and none of the actual characterization or storyline, producing a film that looked like the game but felt more like an adaptation of its launch trailer than anything. Alicia Vikander is a good actor and her Lara looked the part, but she had no character to latch onto in what amounted to an empty origin story, such that Bob found Karen Gillan's Lara Croft parody from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle more compelling, and the plot was so generic and lifeless that it made him nostalgic for the similar, more bizarre version of that story found in The Amazing Spider-Man Series. The subplot featuring Daniel Wu and a host of other Chinese actors also felt shoehorned in, a blatantly pandering attempt to get the film into Chinese theaters. It also looks cheaper than its budget suggests, and in a weird American version of the Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting trope, everybody seems to know how to fight MMA/CQC-style even when their character background doesn't suggest that they're skilled fighters. He gave it one and a half stars and said that it felt more like a demo reel for Vikander as an Action Hero in a better film than anything, and that the older films with Angelina Jolie, for all their faults, at least had a personality and ambition that this lacked.
- Tomorrowland: Before it came out, he discussed his thoughts on it in the blog article "Atlas, Hugged?". Going by the trailer and the Viral Marketing, he felt it to be something of a reconstruction/literal Disneyfication of the basic premise of Atlas Shrugged (i.e. society's best and brightest withdrawing from a society they feel doesn't respect them), replacing its militantly capitalist ideology and arguably sociopathic morality with nostalgia for the Space Age and disappointment at the state of science in society today. He also briefly discussed how Ayn Rand's philosophy of independence tends to hold an innate appeal to creative types, even those who would disagree with the politics that she was espousing.
When it came time to review it, he said that, despite the film being seemingly tailor-made to appeal to his mindset, preferences, and biases with its embrace of retro-futurism and defense of scientific progress, he still found it to be a patronizing, anvilicious mess that completely failed on a storytelling level. The narrative was dominated by the annoying "mystery box lore-building" that Bob loathes in the work of co-writer Damon Lindelof, focusing on the least interesting parts of the world it's created, and by the end the story degenerated into dumbing down most of its big ideas for the sake of a generic "stop the bad guy and his doomsday machine" plot that felt shoehorned in. The only worthwhile part of the film came at the end, when the characters literally turn to the audience and lay out the whole point of the movie in a "truncated TED talk" that gets that point across far better than the film's narrative does.
- Top Gun: Didn't really like it, but he gets why so many people did, saying that it was pretty much an Excuse Plot designed for the sole purpose of putting tons of fancy fighter jets up on the screen. The fact that director Tony Scott made it into a good movie is a testament to his skill. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial "Remembering Tony Scott - Part 1", a retrospective of the late Tony Scott's career.
- Total Recall (the original): Either the last great action movie of The '80s or the first great one of The '90s, and a must-watch for any fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger or science fiction, though Bob does admit that his generation probably overstates how good it actually was. He regards it as a "bridge" of sorts between the machismo-heavy action flicks of The '80s and the sort of "big idea" sci-fi/action blockbusters that The Matrix popularized. Didn't review it, but he was compelled to discuss it in his review of its remake
- Total Recall (the remake): "A few good ideas, but not as good as the original." It's a boring movie whose action scenes, while very well-shot and slickly made, are uninvolving due to how thin the characters and story are. Its attempts to recapture the original's mind-bending, "is it real or just part of the simulation?" feeling likewise fall flat due to how dour and serious the entire affair is. In addition, while Kate Beckinsale is a standout as the Dark Action Girl villain, Colin Farrell can't really carry the film, making a much better character actor than a leading man.
- Tower Heist: Bob found it to be utterly forgettable, lifeless and a symbol of all of the worst features of the studio system, with the only thing memorable about it being its role in the controversy that surrounded Universal's on-demand release plans. Making it worse was that there was a lot in it that he felt could have made for a great movie if it had a competent writer and director.
- Toy Story 3: Couldn't have been made at a better time (the kids who grew up with the first two movies are now high school- and college-age, much like Andy), and an emotional rollercoaster that's both hilarious and heartbreaking. Part of the strength of the whole series, in Bob's opinion, is that it has never shied away from themes of mortality and obsolescence the way that other kids' movies do, and now, it's hitting those themes head-on. At the very least, the discomfort caused by the 3-D glasses will make a handy excuse for why you're crying crocodile tears during the last fifteen minutes.
- The Toxic Avenger: More relevant now than ever, and just as enormously entertaining as it was back in 1984. He also found it funny how they made a Merchandise-Driven Saturday Morning Cartoon (Toxic Crusaders) out of a movie so violent that he couldn't even show that much of it for the episode. Didn't review it for Escape to the Movies, but he covered it in his "Schlocktober" special for The Big Picture, one day after Halloween.note
- Trainwreck: Didn't review it, but at the end of 2015 he named it an honorable mention for the best films of the year.
- Transcendence: " a movie that's trying really, really hard to be smart, but ultimately comes across more insulting instead." He described it as the worst kind of dumb movie, one that thinks it's making a profound statement about something (in this case, about artificial intelligence and transhumanism) but which proves itself to be grossly out of its depth on such topics. It feels more like a B-Movie than anything; Bob compares it to the '90s sci-fi thriller Virtuosity, whose makers at least realized that it was a dumb B-Movie. Worse than that, though, it has an anvilicious Science Is Bad message that he found genuinely offensive, and that's before he got into the Unfortunate Implications regarding its portrayal of women in science. Its stupidity extends to the rest of the plot, which is full of massive holes, wishy-washy character motivations, science so poorly researched it's laughable even if you're not a tech geek, and a second act in which virtually nothing happens. He was so annoyed by this film that he devoted his Intermission editorial that week to detailing The 5 Dumbest Things in Transcendence, and at the end of 2014 he named it one of his ten least favorite movies of the year.
- Transformers: He was a fan of the original cartoon as a kid and stands by it, even devoting an episode of Really That Good to The Transformers: The Movie, though as an adult he's acknowledged how cheesy it is. Of the Live-Action Adaptation films made in the 21st century, however, he has been consistently condemnatory. They're films that always inexplicably do well at the box office even though he can never seem to find anybody who actually likes them, given that they always feel overly long, uninterested in the source material, way too interested in their own Ancient Astronauts mythology that feels like it's made up as they go along, and loaded with racial and sexual humor that wouldn't have flown even in 'simpler' times. In a "How to Fix" episode of In Bob We Trust, his best recommendation for how to get the franchise back on track was to go "back to basics" with designs and stories inspired by the original cartoon and comics, while using the robot forms sparingly so as to make them more awe-inspiring when they do show up. The old cartoon What on Earth! also give him a cheeky idea for why the Transformers might choose to disguise themselves as cars, while also commenting on American society's love affair with them (and in Megatron's case, guns as well).
- The Transformers: The Movie: It's not a good movie by any objective measure. The pacing is all over the place, the story is convoluted and can only really be appreciated by Transformers fans, the animation whips between Visual Effects of Awesome and horribly Off-Model, the sense that half the voice cast was just there for Money, Dear Boy is palatable, Hot Rod sucks, and it wears its Merchandise-Driven nature on its sleeve, such that Bob skipped the traditional "On the Other Hand..." section of the episode because the film's flaws were so obvious and self-evident. However, it has held up as a Cult Classic for a generation of '80s kids in a way that none of its contemporaries ever did. He attributes part of its continuing legacy to the incredibly inventive visual design of the Transformers themselves. Every character was immediately recognizable, and the fact that they could transform allowed the film to tap into many genres for its action scenes, from car chases to gunfights to Good Old Fisticuffs to more esoteric sci-fi/fantasy action, while the fact that they were robots meant that the film could show more in the action while remaining family-friendly. It's also a very well-directed movie, filled with great shots and smart use of color that's only boosted by an excellent score, often feeling like an old-school '70s sci-fi epic in its design.
Most importantly, however, he sees the film as a case of Hasbro's intent to sell toys going horribly right and producing something that rose above its origins. Unlike many other Merchandise-Driven '80s cartoons where both the toys and the story were created from whole cloth, Hasbro had to create a storyline out of a plotless line of Japanese transforming toys that they imported — in other words, a manner of storytelling reminiscent of how most kids actually play with their toys, leaving little surprise as to how it connected with kids. The film's Big Budget Beef-Up allowed the writers, still operating on that "kid logic" in their storytelling, the freedom to go wild with every Crazy Awesome idea they might have had but didn't have the money to animate before, while wrapping it up in a war movie narrative that was both easy to grasp and offered up some very compelling big ideas. Moreover, the massacre of the original cast in the first act hit like a sack of bricks for many kids, many of whom, in the mid- to late 1980s, were growing up amidst widespread social change despite all the efforts of the Reagan administration and the media to hearken back to simpler times. The film's protagonists witnessed the destruction of their traditional support networks, and wound up emerging from it even stronger than before, a message that resonated with kids who were often going through similar circumstances even as they rejected the 'new' Autobots and Decepticons created to fill the newly-opened spots in the toy line. In short, despite its myriad flaws, it is a piece of commercial pop art that is far greater than the sum of its parts, having transcended its intent as a toy commercial to become a landmark.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Bob loathed it more than mere words could describe, pouring searing venom onto Michael Bay, "the biggest hack since Hot Coffee." He was amazed that it spat on its name and still found new ways of being bad at every turn, without even the mitigating factor of being fun for a five-year-old. He doesn't buy into the idea that a film adaptation has to come from 'respectable' source material to be good, while a 'great' work from another medium can translate atrociously to film, citing the contrasting cases of The Godfather and The Bonfire of the Vanities as evidence. And while bad movies do happen, he thought the makers of this one didn't even try that hard.
However, several years later he came back to his review (the first one he ever did for The Escapist) in the Big Picture episodes "Leave Michael Bay Alone" and "MovieBob Was Wrong". He stated that, while he still thought the film itself stank, he felt that this review was an Old Shame of his, saying that his personal insults towards Bay and Megan Fox went way over the line and that his analysis of the film was shallow and conflated his opinion with objective truth. He also said that, while Bay isn't a great filmmaker, many critics (himself included, admittedly) go too hard on him, noting that many acclaimed directors past and present are praised for doing many of the same things for which Bay is bashed and arguing that many of the problems with Bay's films can be found in nearly any Hollywood blockbuster.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon: It's still bad, though filming in 3D toned down most of Bay's worst tendencies as a director, leading to more coherent action scenes and a (slightly) better movie than the last one.
- Transformers: Age of Extinction: Devoted an Intermission editorial to examining the trailer. To his surprise, it actually looked decent, or at least better than the previous films. The direction seemed visually coherent, strengthening his theory that shooting in 3D has forced Bay to rely less on his Signature Style of hyper-kinetic, hard-to-follow action, while replacing Shia LaBeouf with Mark Wahlberg as the leading man earned the film instant de facto brownie points. When it came time to review it, he felt it to be the best film in the series (acknowledging that he was pretty much damning it with faint praise, though) and about as good as the animated film. It still has a senseless plot and wafer-thin human characters, and its attempts at themes and messages are horribly jumbled, but Bay's direction of action scenes has markedly improved since past films, and overall, despite its mind-boggling stupidity, it was very fun to watch.
- Transformers: The Last Knight: Before it came out, Bob named it #3 on his list of ten 2017 films that he most expected to suck. He had long since stopped expecting these films to be good (even if the fourth film, while still bad, was an improvement), and the only reason he was interested at all was to see how they incorporated the King Arthur mythology into a story about giant fighting robots from outer space. When it came time to review it, he admitted that he had trouble coming up with new ways to criticize it given that every complaint he could have thrown at this film had already been said multiple times about the last four movies, beyond mixing up the order of the Cluster F-Bombs.note All he could do was put together a list of twenty ridiculous things that actually happen in the film, one of which he made up just to see if anybody could tell the difference. He did, however, admittedly praise the film for actually following a three-act narrative story structure and for managing to pull off an epic reveal in the finale, such that he gave it two stars and said that, while watching it still felt like work, it didn't feel like punishment like the prior films did.
- Bumblebee: Before he reviewed it, he named it an honorable mention for his most anticipated films of 2018. "Yes, really." Despite the franchise's track record, he liked the cast, the involvement of Travis Knight making his live-action directorial debut, the nods to the classic cartoon (particularly Bumblebee using his classic Volkswagen Beetle form), and the fact that it seemed that Bay was finally leaving the franchise. As such, he was cautiously optimistic. In his review, he called it not only the best film in the series, but also just about the best live-action movie that anybody could've hoped to make out of the Transformers franchise. It completely abandoned the aesthetic that Bay brought to the previous films in favor of an '80s throwback style that felt like "Transformers meets Stranger Things" with its constant homages to the Generation 1 line, while also fully rebooting the mythos for good measure, both of which were good decisions in Bob's eyes given his opinions on Bay's Transformers films. What really made it work, however, was that it was a good movie even when taken entirely separate from its nostalgic fanservice, and one of the most pleasant surprises of 2018. Its plot may have drawn on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Iron Giant in equal measure, but they did it well by keeping the focus squarely on the central story of a girl and her robot while delivering some of the best action scenes in the franchise and great performances all around even from underwritten side characters. He gave it an 8 out of 10 and said that, while longtime Transformers fans were likely to overrate it, he certainly wasn't complaining.
- The Transformers: The Movie: It's not a good movie by any objective measure. The pacing is all over the place, the story is convoluted and can only really be appreciated by Transformers fans, the animation whips between Visual Effects of Awesome and horribly Off-Model, the sense that half the voice cast was just there for Money, Dear Boy is palatable, Hot Rod sucks, and it wears its Merchandise-Driven nature on its sleeve, such that Bob skipped the traditional "On the Other Hand..." section of the episode because the film's flaws were so obvious and self-evident. However, it has held up as a Cult Classic for a generation of '80s kids in a way that none of its contemporaries ever did. He attributes part of its continuing legacy to the incredibly inventive visual design of the Transformers themselves. Every character was immediately recognizable, and the fact that they could transform allowed the film to tap into many genres for its action scenes, from car chases to gunfights to Good Old Fisticuffs to more esoteric sci-fi/fantasy action, while the fact that they were robots meant that the film could show more in the action while remaining family-friendly. It's also a very well-directed movie, filled with great shots and smart use of color that's only boosted by an excellent score, often feeling like an old-school '70s sci-fi epic in its design.
- The Tree of Life: "Pretentious? Possibly. Strange? Definitely. Compulsively watchable? Absolutely." Bob didn't review it, but at the end of 2011 he named it his favorite film of the year, comparing it to 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of films that "you don't just watch, you experience."
- The Troll Hunter: One of the best monster movies of the year, with great effects and a fun, satirical take on classic Norwegian mythology and the concept of the heroic monster hunter. Plus, it highlights one of the positive effects that CGI has had on modern filmmaking: it has broken Hollywood's monopoly on blockbusters by reducing the budget needed to make them, allowing indie and non-American filmmakers to make such films as well.
- TRON: Its visuals were certainly breathtaking by 1982 standards, but it was unevenly paced and didn't really capitalize on its bigger ideas. Didn't review it, but he was compelled to mention it in his review of its sequel
- TRON: Legacy: Bob gives it a B-plus and calls it a fun nostalgia trip, saying it has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as the original — it's got gorgeous visuals, Awesome Music courtesy of Daft Punk, stunning use of 3-D, and proof of God's existence in the form of Olivia Wilde, though it struggles when it's trying to balance the needs of being the start of a new franchise for Disney with those of being a standalone film. Still, if you loved the original, you'll love this one too.
- True Grit: Discussed both the 1968 version starring John Wayne and the 2010 remake by The Coen Brothers while reviewing the latter. Bob considers the original to be good, but not a classic, most notable for being the film for which Wayne received his long-awaited, much-deserved Oscar. Regarding the remake, the entire cast (including Josh Brolin, who is officially forgiven for Jonah Hex) all turn in great performances and there's not much more to say. Both versions are fairly straightforward Westerns with little contrivance, and both are good, so go see them. Also, as the episode was released on New Year's Eve 2010, Bob opened the review pretending to be drunk.
- True Romance: One of Tony Scott's best films. He also noted that the film played out like a Wish Fulfillment fantasy for writer Quentin Tarantino (his first screenplay to be adapted to film), given how it's about a comic-shop clerk who falls in love with a Hooker with a Heart of Gold and goes on the run from the mob. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial "Remembering Tony Scott - Part 1", a retrospective of the late Tony Scott's career.
- Truth or Dare: A "cheap, trite, forgettable teen horror movie" that snapped a good-running streak of movies that turned out to be better than expected.note It can best be described as "a really overcomplicated and shitty version" of It Follows, bogged down by a terrible cast of characters and a dumb premise that the film never really elevates, instead drowning itself in convolution that never goes anywhere and giant heaps of Fridge Logic. He gave it one star and admitted that he had trouble just padding the review, as there was so little worth talking about in it.
- Tusk: Found it an attempt at So Bad, It's Good comedy-horror that largely fell flat, mainly because it was a deliberate attempt to make such a movie rather than one that just emerged naturally from a filmmaker with more ambition (and craziness) than sense. As a result, it felt artificial and calculated, a symbol of what Bob feels to be Kevin Smith's continued decline as a filmmaker and his overreliance on callbacks to his older work. He didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Big Picture episode "#WalrusNo", using it as an opportunity to talk about So Bad, It's Good horror movies and why films that try to imitate that style usually miss the point, and at the end of 2014 he named it one of his twenty least favorite movies of the year.
- Twilight: "Having to watch this movie is the most pain I've experienced at the hands of something beloved by preteen girls since I got kicked in the nuts by a pony." Bob is highly critical of both the movies and the books that they are based on, not only for their stilted writing and flat characters, but particularly for the message that they send to impressionable tween girls, which he feels is creating a generation of "Domestic Abuse victims waiting to happen." He views the series as, essentially, conservative Christian abstinence propaganda, and has said as much on multiple occasions.
After Breaking Dawn — Part 2 came out, he discussed the series in the Big Picture episode "Next Light", talking about how it awakened Hollywood to the fact that the young female dollar can be just as lucrative as the young male dollar. He took a look at several young adult series that were being adapted to film in an attempt to cash in on Twilight's success. "Point is, we might be through with this crap, but this crap ain't through with us."
- New Moon: Just as bad as the first, though he thought some of the plot points could make a good movie, even if they didn't.
- Eclipse: "Two hours of Taylor Lautner standing around not getting the message, briefly interrupted by a sad excuse for a monster battle." Found the rehashing of New Moon's Love Triangle especially painful.
- Breaking Dawn — Part 1: Painfully slow, overly tame, unintentionally hilarious, and carrying an anvilicious pro-life message that made Bob cringe. By this point, he seemed hopeful that the franchise would finally die already, given that Breaking Dawn was the Black Sheep of the book series, and that the generation of tween girls that turned the books and films into blockbusters was growing up and leaving high school.
- Breaking Dawn — Part 2: "It took five movies, but they did it. They finally figured out how to make this crap work." By indulging in all the worst aspects of the books and turning them Up to Eleven, this film, the capoff to the Twilight saga, manages to be So Bad, It's Absolutely Hilarious and the most fun that Bob's had at the movies all year. It fixes the book's anti-climatic ending by adding in one of the most awesome action scenes he'd witnessed all year, while still (for better or worse, and Bob's leaning towards the latter) staying faithful to the novel. It's a masterpiece of awful cinema that begs to be seen in theaters.
- The films of Tyler Perry: While he's never done a proper review of any of his movies, Bob has stated on multiple occasions that he regards him as a hack, and a consequence of Hollywood's failure to pay attention to black audiences. In the Game Overthinker episode "Mississippi Pwning 2", he outlined what he felt was the reason Perry was so successful — that black moviegoers had been left so alienated by the crappy, low-budget action movies and crude comedies that Hollywood sent their way that, in desperation, they latched onto Perry in order to have a filmmaker, any filmmaker, to call their own. He uses Perry's success to make the case that the games industry shouldn't ignore black gamers, lest it risk seeing the rise of its own version of Perry who gets away with making crappy games simply because he's the only developer catering to that audience.
That said, he does find himself fascinated by Perry's films, given that any film that is written by, directed by, produced by, and stars the same person usually has a very distinct feel, even if it turns out to be crap. He finds the films to be quite misogynistic, and possessing a great deal of Mood Whiplash between Perry's comedic "Madea" character and the soap opera-esque melodrama that the films are loaded with, but Perry does have a very unique presence on screen, and for what it's worth, his fans love his work. Also, while he did name his 2018 film Acrimony a dishonorable mention for his least anticipated films of 2018, he did so with a caveat, arguing that a big part of the reason why he and many other white film critics were so turned off by his films initially was that they were so weird compared to the Hollywood mainstream, and that they had a tendency to Accentuate the Negative while ignoring the areas where he shows genuine talent and the reasons why his films have the audience that they do.
- Unbreakable: Bob's favorite M. Night Shyamalan movie and the one he feels to be the most underrated, due largely to the fact that it was following The Sixth Sense. He particularly liked how Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson were Playing Against Type, and how it deconstructed and played with superhero tropes. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Nightfall", a retrospective of Shyamalan's career.
- Undercover Brother: Devoted an episode of Good Enough Movies to this film. Not only is it one of the first successful adaptations of a web show, it's also an Affectionate Parody and reconstruction of the blaxploitation genre that, in hindsight, marks a turning point in the genre's reevaluation in American pop culture. On its own, it is also a clever comedy that transcends being merely "the black Austin Powers" via its Values Resonance and a sense of humor that is surprisingly edgy to this day. Unlike many movies and real-life figures, especially those from the Clinton and Bush years (when discussion of race relations was big on "can't we all just get along?"), it's refreshingly upfront about its Politically Incorrect Villains being motivated by simple racism. Both Eddie Griffin as The Hero and Chris Kattan as The Dragon give what are easily their respective career-best performances, to boot. Being an origin story for the titular Undercover Brother, it's a little too heavy on plot, said plot jumps from thread to thread a bit too much in act two, and Dave Chappelle's turn as the resident Conspiracy Theorist is kind of uncomfortable looking back on it in 2017, but those are outweighed by the film's good points.
- Under the Skin: Didn't review it, but at the end of 2014 he named it one of his top ten movies of the year. It has a great performance by Scarlett Johansson, and it's unlike anything else he'd seen this year, mixing thriller, sci-fi, horror, and improv tropes into an amazing blend.
- Underworld: He really liked the first three movies, and was disappointed that the fourth one was Not Screened for Critics (the reason why he didn't review it). Didn't review any of the films, but he mentioned them at the end of his Red Tails review.
- Unsane: It's Steven Soderbergh doing a Genre Throwback to lurid '70s B-Movie thrillers from the likes of Dario Argento and Brian De Palma, one that takes a real-world problem with the health care system and crafts an intense little movie out of it. The central conceit, that Claire Foy's character is trapped in a sleazy for-profit psychiatric hospital that's making up excuses to keep her locked up as part of an insurance scam, not only makes for some good, topical commentary, but also does a good job explaining away the Fridge Logic of why they act as unhelpful as possible regarding the stalker who's after her (because they're covering things up themselves). It also boasts got a great cast led by Foy's flawed hero and a gritty, twisted story and style that doesn't feel like the sort of thing you normally see in theaters, such that he gave it three stars and predicted it'd be one of those films that people would be surprised they hadn't heard of before a year after its release.
- Unstoppable: It's hardly all that original or meaningful, and Chris Pine is pretty bland, but Tony Scott knows his action, and it has everything Bob loves about disaster movies.
- Up: This lifted Bob's spirits after an abysmal summer run. The video is less a review than a treatise on the success of Pixar due to their choice of stories.
- Upgrade: It's a brutal, intelligent, and well-made cyberpunk action thriller that felt like the sort of B-Movie he should've been renting from a video store back in the day rather than watching in theaters, with writer/director Leigh Whannell stretching its low budget to the breaking point and pulling off a whole lot with very little at his disposal. The beautifully-shot action scenes with their unique effects blew him away, giving him the same sort of feeling that he got the first time he saw The Matrix, and Whannell's background with the Saw movies meant that the gorn was well-placed and hit hard with that series' trademark gruesome-yet-ridiculous flair. The interplay between Logan Marshall-Green's protagonist and the AI chip in his head also worked surprisingly well given that, on set, most of their interaction must have consisted of Marshall-Green talking to himself, and while the plot is fairly heavy-handed in its themes and rather predictable once it becomes clear that there's something more going on, the journey to the conclusion is still a ton of fun. Overall, it earned three stars and a recommendation. He also joked in the intro that it looked like a better Venom movie than the actual Venom (2018).
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Before reviewing it, Bob named it his third most anticipated film of 2017. He thought twenty years was quite long enough to wait for Luc Besson to make a Spiritual Successor to The Fifth Element, this time adapted from the Valérian comics whereof The Fifth Element was itself a Spiritual Adaptation. His review called its four-and-a-half-minute introduction an all-time great visual montage that sat just above even the best of Star Trek in how it depicted its forward-thinking space boosterism, which on its own outstripped most other movies he'd seen that year and stood as Besson's Magnum Opus. The rest of the movie couldn't approach it, of course, but he did applaud it for remaining an unapologetic Genre Throwback to the best of sci-fi pulp and the Space Age and piling more ideas into any number of its chase scenes than most features contain, containing all the virtues of "a Futurama movie with all the self-aware punchlines taken out". It's a bit undercut by Dane DeHaan being insufficiently seasoned to play Valerian, the titular intergalactic police officer, as a tough guy (contrasted with his opinions on Cara Delevingne and Rihanna, in which he was actually impressed with their respective performances), some Unfortunate Character Design, and a story thread about Rihanna's character that arguably cross the line into outright Unfortunate Implications, but he still gave it three stars and encouraged people to see it on the biggest screen available. He predicted it would be Vindicated by History just like The Fifth Element before it at the time he reviewed it, but by the end of 2017, his opinion had cooled and he was only willing to name the introduction an honorable mention for the best movies of the year.
- Venom (1981): Said that it takes the cake for demonstrations of Finagle's Law in fiction, and talked about how Klaus Kinski passed up a role in Raiders of the Lost Ark for this film. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Space Invaders".
- Venom (2018): Before he reviewed it, he named it his ninth least anticipated film of 2018. He hates the character of Venom in the comics, finding him to be a "one-dimensional grimdark toss-off" whose only interesting element was his origin story, and bemoans how comics fans treat him as one of the greatest Spider-Man's greatest villains. Giving him a standalone feature film, one that doesn't involve the symbiote or even Spider-Man as a character, smacked him as a terrible idea from start to finish. He opened his review by joking that it's the sort of comic book movie that, had it come out in the mid-'90s, might have gone on to be remembered as a So Bad, It's Good hidden gem and not altogether terrible by the standards of its time; unfortunately, by the higher standards of 2018, when it came out, it was a steaming turd. Sony Pictures' decades-long obsession with getting this movie off the ground showed in how it felt like the result of decades' worth of bad ideas that they had thrown at the wall in the hopes that some of them would stick, several of which seemed to have been thrown by people who knew how awful the material was and were taking the piss out of it. The villain's plot made no sense whatsoever, the editing created plot holes, the fingerprints of Executive Meddling were all over the place, and the only redeeming value came from Tom Hardy's bits of physical comedy as "a growly edgelord version of The Mask". He gave it one star and said that the only heartfelt moment was when Michelle Williams' character said "I'm sorry about Venom." "Me too, Michelle. I'm sorry about Venom too."
- Veronica Mars (the movie): In the Intermission editorial "Kickstopper", he stated that the success of the film's Kickstarter campaign, while inspiring, especially for fans of the show (he had never gotten around to watching it himself), sets a bad precedent for the relationship between major studios and fans, and goes against the spirit of crowdfunding.
- V/H/S: "Somebody is going to try to tell you how great [this movie] is. Well it's not. It's really, really not." Didn't review it, but he mentioned it in both his review of The Master and that week's Intermission editorial "The Tao of Ted", where he said that he "hated (almost) every minute of it."
- Vice (2018): Felt like an unwelcome throwback to ten years before, when "otherwise-talented liberal movie stars [made] really earnest, well-intentioned, but otherwise eye-rollingly bad movies about the Bush administration." Its biopic of Dick Cheney brought nothing new to the table except making a Fake-Out Fade-Out into its actual story the thing's lone "well-aimed structural joke", most of the actors were just going through the motions of how their characters were written (especially Christian Bale's Cheney, the least underwritten, being "super intense and smug about it", playing his usual note), its running gags and attempts to compare the Bush/Cheney era to the Trump era felt anvilicious and pissy, and its Take That, Audience! for seeing dumb summer blockbusters instead of "important" movies came off as incredibly nasty. Bob's big problem with the film was that Adam McKay approached this subject as if he were dealing with The Big Short's financial esoterica, even though the Bush administration had been documented much more extensively and comprehensibly before (including in 2000s-era Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, which he recommends over this film for anybody who wants to understand that time period). As such, its smug "smarter than thou" tone, which worked for that film as it explained genuinely complicated subjects, simply came across as obnoxious here and felt like it was written by a first-year college student who listened to too much Chapo Trap House. He gave it a star and a half and finished his review by saying that "we really need to have a higher bar for [movies like these]."
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Positive, in that it's the Woody Allen spin on a well-worn storyline.
- The View Askewniverse: Didn't review any of the films, but he discussed them in a three-part Big Picture episode on the rise and fall of Kevin Smith as a filmmaker and geek icon.
- Clerks: Feels that, looking back on it as a standalone film twenty years later, it suffers badly from "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny syndrome, with a lot of its flaws (contrived scenarios, stilted dialogue, poor acting) being much more noticeable when it's removed from the context of the era in which it was made. However, when placed in that context, it's a lot easier to see why it was a classic film, as there had been nothing like it back in 1994. For all its other flaws, the film managed to genuinely capture what it felt like to be a young man in the '90s raised on geek culture in a way that no prior film had managed to do.
- Mallrats: Talked less about the movie itself (he thought it was good, and pretty much Clerks with a bigger budget) and more about how, when it was released, many of Kevin Smith's fans saw it as a Sophomore Slump and a betrayal of his earlier promise, as well as how it eventually found its audience on home video and marked the beginning of a continuity for Smith's films.
- Chasing Amy: Finds it to be one of Smith's lesser films despite its reputation as one of his best. He felt that, while it was nice to see Smith step out of his comfort zone and take on more intellectually challenging territory, the way he handled it felt unrealistic, like a teenager's impression of what sexually active adults were supposed to be like.
- Dogma: Found it to be Smith's best film by far, a legitimately great movie, and the fulfillment of his initial promise, working as both a laugh-out-loud funny comedy and an intelligent exploration of religion (one that hit very close to home for a lapsed Catholic like Bob).
- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: It was dumb fun, but it was still fun, working as a great love-letter to Smith's fans.
- Clerks II: Found that, while it didn't really work as a comedy, the dramatic parts of the film were great, making for an excellent closure to the View Askewniverse. He also noticed how the ending of the film seemed to be a metaphor for Smith's retreat from making more "mainstream" films after the failure of Jersey Girl and back into his comfort zone, and while he didn't quite agree with it, he at least appreciated the honesty and earnestness of it.
- The Village: The first M. Night Shyamalan movie that Bob truly hated. While well-shot and acted, the first half is dull and the second half, particularly the twist, is laughable. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Nightfall", a retrospective of Shyamalan's career.
- The Visit: Another M. Night Shyamalan movie, which Bob showed no restraint in tearing to shreds. Not only did he find it incredibly sloppy and cheap, but he also took offense at the cringe-inducing script and characters. He felt that the movie's obsession with framing "Eww, old people are gross" jokes as horror setpieces bordered on bigotry, and guessed the Mandatory Twist Ending about ten minutes into the film (and began the review by spoiling it). He also thought it was similar to The Sixth Sense to the point of rehash; as Bob appreciated Shyamalan having tried to grow artistically in the past fifteen years by not doing so, this kept him from feeling even Bile Fascination for this film as he had for Shyamalan's previous bad movies. All of this culminates in the last minute of the review being a giant "The Reason You Suck" Speech aimed at Shyamalan himself, calling Shyamalan out on inserting his Author Avatar into Lady in the Water, and also calling out The Visit as the tantrum of a self-entitled auteur grumpy about being thrashed by critics and taking out his frustrations with a final "money shot" wherein the villain shoves a dirty diaper into a germophobic boy's face.
- Visitor Q: Called it "a brutal satire of Japanese middle-class family life" that, while lacking in the gore that characterizes many Takashi Miike movies, makes up for it with a squicky plot. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial "Test Your Might", a discussion of "extreme" movies.
- The Void: He gave it three stars and said that it succeeds where many other indie Genre Throwback horror films fail by doing more than just homaging and mimicking the style of the films its creator grew up on (in this case, Lovecraftian films like Prince of Darkness and The Thing (1982)), incorporating their themes as well while doing its own thing. It's not a great movie, but it's original and very well-made, its fleshed-out characters and its mix of visceral thrills and creeping dread making up for its bloated feel and the fact that its story doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
- The Walk: Didn't review it, but at the end of 2015 he named it an honorable mention for the best films of the year.
- Wanted: Neutral. "It's not good, but it's definitely not bad."
- WarCraft: Hugely excited by the idea of Duncan Jones directing this, even if he wishes that a Legend of Zelda movie were coming out first. He mentioned it first in his review of Dungeons & Dragons adaptations, then discussed it in greater depth in his Big Picture recap of the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, and in the months leading up to its release, he was cautiously optimistic that it might be good. When it came time to review it, however, he called it "a colossal, monumental, staggering disaster" that he likened to a Geek Age of Cinema version of Heaven's Gate or One from the Heart, in that it's the first time when a video game-based movie wound up sucking on account of being too reverential to its game source material. It's clear that this was a labor of love for everybody involved, but ironically, this is the root of its badness: it's so preoccupied with getting the finer details of the mythology, setting, and lore right that it forgets about basic stuff like interesting characters, logic, and other important elements of actual storytelling. The end result is something that looks absolutely stunning on screen yet feels entirely hollow. He later listed it as the fifth-worst film of summer 2016, and among the worst of the year, he named it tenth.
- War Horse: "It's simple, it's old-fashioned, it's brazenly corny, but in the end it earns the right to be just that." Bob declared it to be one of the best films of the year, saying that it should have sank under the weight of its schmaltz if not for the fact that Steven Spielberg is just that good at making these kinds of movies.
- Warm Bodies: A light, gentle sendup of zombie movies that's a bit too dopey and 'precious' for its own good, and whose zombie 'rules' don't really make sense, but which has a lot of fun digging into the tropes of the genre and why it is so popular while taking its central love story entirely seriously rather than playing it as a joke. A while before his review, he first discussed his thoughts on it in the Big Picture episode "Next Light", saying that he was excited by the idea of John Malkovich and Rob Corddry starring in a zombie movie.
- The Watch: It's a bad movie, with the great chemistry between the four leads failing to make up for a very rote story, lame jokes that are stolen from better movies, and a lack of understanding of which audience to target (teenage boys who want to see an Alien Invasion comedy, or suburban dads who can relate to the protagonists). He also discussed the film's name change from Neighborhood Watch after the Trayvon Martin shooting put a less-than-rosy spotlight on neighborhood watch groups. At the end of 2012, he listed it as one of his ten least favorite movies of the year, noting just how quickly Vince Vaughn's star had fallen in just a few years.
- Watchmen: He saw this movie four times when it was new and found it shattered all expectations (even if he couldn't remember what his were). It's a brilliant piece as either an adaptation or as a film on its own merits. Years later, he came back to it to say that, while he thinks that the original graphic novel is the superior work, he preferred the film's ending over the comic's. That said, while he still thinks it's a great film, there were always things about it that nagged at him in the back of his mind. He discussed these thoughts in the third part of his Really That Bad episode on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where he argues that Zack Snyder, despite having successfully adapted a seemingly unfilmable graphic novel to the big screen while remaining largely faithful to both the text and the subtext, missed some of the finer details of Alan Moore's work, with these little things (making the fight scenes look cool and stylized rather than ugly and brutal, toning down the bigotry in Rorschach's speeches and the hard-right politics of the New Frontiersman) collectively adding up and giving the impression that Snyder didn't fully understand what Moore was going for. As Bob sees it, this film's problems foreshadowed the much greater debacle that was Snyder's work on Batman v Superman, the director having fallen into the same trap that many comics creators did during The Dark Age of Comic Books in mistaking Watchmen for a celebration of Darker and Edgier superheroes instead of a deconstruction of the entire genre.
- Welcome to Marwen: It made just about every bad decision possible in adapting the true story of Mark Hogancamp. It played its story for a lack of subtlety in its metaphors in the worst possible way, Steve Carell's performance often felt like smarminess masquerading as earnestness, Robert Zemeckis seemed to be more interested in the special effects of the animated doll scenes than anything else, and it reduced the real Hogancamp to an Inspirationally Disadvantaged figure in such a way that felt flat-out insulting. He gave it a 1 out of 10 and called it the worst movie of Zemeckis' career, saying that anybody interested in the story should watch the documentary Marwencol instead.
- Where the Wild Things Are: Bob found the film "quietly brilliant", compared its tone to Calvin and Hobbes, and stated that it almost revived his faith in humanity. He found it a near-miracle that a major Hollywood studio actually made something like this with contemporaries like The Pacifier and The Cat in the Hat.
- Whiplash: Mentioned in his Fantastic Four (2015) review as the one good movie in Miles Teller's career, mostly due to the Catharsis Factor of seeing him slapped around and abused by J. K. Simmons. (Bob thinks Teller's other movies Divergent, Project X, 21 & Over, and That Awkward Moment might as well be "a roster of charges" as a filmography.)
- White House Down: It's not the least bit subtle, but it works as both an over-the-top buddy action flick and as a shamelessly left-wing, antiwar Wish Fulfillment fantasy, its full commitment to its own craziness making for a far better "Die Hard in the White House" movie than its direct competitor, Olympus Has Fallen. Bob praises Roland Emmerich's hand behind the camera and his willingness to push audiences' buttons rather than make generic, watered-down blockbusters.
- Who Can Kill a Child?: Brilliant in the way it manipulates its audience, making the children's maliciousness appear to be just normal 'bratty kid' behavior instead of something demonic or zombie-like, making it harder to cheer on their deaths. Called the third act "one 'I can't believe what I just saw!' moment after another." Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his Intermission editorial "Test Your Might: Round 2", a discussion of "extreme" movies.
- The Wicker Man (2006): Didn't review it, but in the In Bob We Trust episode "Top 10 Worst Remakes Ever", he ranked it at number five. He considered not putting it on the list because it's So Bad, It's Good, but in the end, two factors tipped his hand: it's the film most responsible for the misconception that Nicolas Cage is a bad actor, and watching it means that you will spoil the excellent original film for yourself.
- Wide Awake: Not a bad film, but a fairly sterile and uninvolving one whose only real value now is in seeing how it contained, in embryonic form, many of M. Night Shyamalan's later trademarks as a director. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Nightfall", a retrospective of Shyamalan's career.
- Wild: Didn't review it, feeling that he couldn't get enough material out of it for a full review, but he recommended it in his special Escape to the Movies episode "Trailer Park".
- Willow: Devoted an episode of Good Enough Movies to the film. The story isn't particularly original, but a lot of the finer details are; it's still rare to see a film headlined by a little person like Warwick Davis here, Val Kilmer makes Madmartigan feel less like a Han Solo ripoff and more like a burned-out rock star, the Merlin figure is an old woman, and there are all manner of other amusing touches and twists on the fantasy genre scattered throughout the film. Overall, it's one of the few Sword & Sorcery films from The '80s that still holds up today in a post-Lord of the Rings world, a creative and interesting film with a great score that he sees as just waiting to be rediscovered by a new generation. It's also ironic how people at the time criticized this film, produced by George Lucas, for not being another Star Wars film, whereas nowadays people tend to get worried whenever Lucas is involved in a Star Wars project.
- The Wind Rises: Didn't review it, but he discussed it in an Intermission editorial. He personally thought it was one of Hayao Miyazaki's lesser films, but he was more interested in the controversy surrounding whether the film was anti-Japanese or, conversely, whitewashing Imperial Japanese behavior during World War II. Most of the editorial was made up of an interview with Inkoo Kang, a film critic who took the latter position.
- Wind River: It's more Psychological Thriller than Murder Mystery because it takes place on a barely populated Native American reservation in Wyoming. This premise lends itself well to painting an excellent picture of an ailing community, with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen giving very good performances as the leads and Graham Greene a real gem whenever he appears. Complementing the acting is writer Taylor Sheridan's direction, quite good for a second-timer, making crushing poverty in the dead of winter look breathtaking. He acknowledged that some people would inevitably accuse it of being a White Man's Burden movie, and the dialogue is imperfect, but he gave it three stars nevertheless.
- Winter's Tale: One of the worst movies he'd ever seen, calling it "Highlander as retold with Lisa Frank stickers by a 4 year-old girl to her plush dolls and then re-adapted back into a movie by Tommy Wiseau." At times, it was so comically inept that it felt like a parody of a '70s New Hollywood-style film shoot gone horribly wrong, with most of the review composed solely of his recounting of the plot with more than one "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer. It's a So Bad, It's Good movie à la Batman & Robin or the film adaptation of Flowers in the Attic, and one that begs to be seen just as an experience in bad movies. Reviewed it in the Intermission editorial "Winter's Fail", and at the end of 2014 he named it one of his ten least favorite movies of the year.
- The VVitch: Describes it as "the kind of 'serious-minded' horror movie that critics tend to go nuts for but mainstream horror fans end up regarding as 'overrated'." He personally loved it, saying that it was excellent as both an atmospheric horror film and as a period drama, a film that works not through jump scares but through building a mounting sense of dread that leaves viewers with the impression that the characters are all totally screwed. However, he can understand why somebody wouldn't like it, given its lack of the sort of visceral thrills that characterize modern horror movies (most of the extreme stuff is front-loaded into the first reel). Still, if you can handle a more 'artistic' horror film, one like Rosemary's Baby and Vampyr, this is one for you. He also remarked on the film's treatment of its colonial-era Puritan setting, and how it explored the Calvinist value system that came with that time period.
- The Wolf of Wall Street: Named it his second-favorite film of 2013, and even then, he admitted it was objectively better than his number one pick, Pacific Rim. He called it "hysterical" for its honest depiction of its Villain Protagonists, and felt that its lack of preachiness about its subject matter and themes (modern Wall Street being virtually indistinguishable from criminal excess) paradoxically gave it Values Resonance. However, he also found it the kind of work that will likely inspire a lot of Misaimed Fandom, comparing it to Scarface and Fight Club in this regard; that said, he also felt that the film went to great lengths to depict Jordan Belfort as a fundamentally disgusting person, and that critics of the film who called it "immoral" were Dramatically Missing the Point. He discussed it in his review, in the Intermission editorial "Boys Behaving Badly", and in the Big Picture episode "Junk Drawer 2014".
- The Wolfman (2010) (the remake): He notes that the change in directors ended up making the film a "hodgepodge" of Mood Whiplash, but ultimately decides it's a competent horror movie.
- Wonder Woman (2017): Before he reviewed it, he named it his tenth most anticipated film of 2017. He sees it as a massively important film, not only because he sees it as the last possible chance to salvage the DC Extended Universe (a franchise he fears is on its way to becoming worse than the Transformers films), but more importantly, it's an adaptation of the most famous female superhero and the first superhero film of the modern age whose director and lead actor are both women, meaning it can take female-centered genre fiction up, or down, with it. He was concerned about the possibility of the latter, devoting an In Bob We Trust episode to his concerns over its presentation of Wonder Woman's origin story in particular, at least going by the trailers for the film. Not only does he think that The Reveal that's being implied is loaded with Unfortunate Implications when applied to Wonder Woman in particular, he also finds it to be a cliche that's been overused in superhero movies in the recent past, detracting from the parts of the character that help her stand out beyond her being just the token woman on the Justice League.
In another In Bob We Trust episode, "Girls' Night Outrage", that came out just before its release, he weighed in on the Internet controversy that had come up over the planned women-only screening of the film at an Alamo Drafthouse theater in Texas. In short, he sees that as largely the product of insecure male DCEU fans complaining that the best-reviewed movie in the present DC-film continuitynote was also the first one that didn't aim almost entirely at them. While Bob acknowledges that one can make good Rated M for Manly movies, a description that represents established DC directors Zack Snyder and David Ayer very well, he thinks that's a major part of why the Marvel Cinematic Universe roared so far ahead of DC.
When it came time to review it, he was grateful to find that it was by far the best movie in the DCEU (even if "just being a good movie that attained basic competence in all respects" was all it really needed to do to win that title), and one that was more than capable of shouldering the weight of the massive expectations placed on its shoulders. It combined all the spectacle and action he expects from a modern superhero movie with a conventional but well-told origin story for the title character, one that was rather deeper than he expected but never forgot the sort of escapist movie that it was. The story felt a bit rushed at times, while The Reveal of the villain was predictable and made for a forgettable Big Bad, but when it came to the important stuff of introducing audiences to its version of Wonder Woman, it soared, thanks in no small part to a perfectly-cast Gal Gadot. He gave it three stars and said that, while it wasn't one of the all-time great superhero films, it was at least as good as many of the Phase One Marvel movies and a standard-bearer for the summer of 2017. He revisited it a few days later in an In Bob We Trust episode to take a spoiler-filled look at its plot, and also discuss some of the things he didn't like about it. While he was relieved that they didn't go in the direction he feared for Diana's origin story, and thought that the version of such that they went with worked well in the context of this movie, he still thought that they missed an opportunity to embrace the weirder elements of the Wonder Woman mythos and perhaps lend some more thematic resonance to Diana's story. On the other hand, the fact that the film leaned heavily on Classical Mythology means that the sequels can readily mine that source to help build up Diana's otherwise unimpressive Rogues Gallery from the comics, with a prequel about the Amazons registering high on his list of films he'd like to see. At the end of 2017, he named it an honorable mention for his favorite films of the year, saying that all that kept it from greatness was a bad third act.
- Won't Back Down: Didn't review it, but at the end of his Argo review, he compared it to Here Comes the Boom and found it to be a worse Save Our Students movie despite it having two Oscar nominees in the cast and its competition being a lowbrow comedy.
- Won't You Be My Neighbor?: Tear Jerker of a documentary I can remember seeing where nothing sad actually happens", largely because of its subject matter; even though Fred Rogers died after living a long, largely fulfilled life, his passing was still a great psychological blow given the joy he brought to the world and all he did for the worthy causes he supported. The film offers a humanizing portrait of the man through interviews with surviving members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and others who knew him personally, debunking popular Urban Legends about him while taking a closer look at the man behind the red sweater. He gave it four stars and called it a must-see documentary, especially in the troubled times in which it was released, saying that the experience of watching it felt like the closest thing to watching a revival of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood he could imagine. At the end of 2018, he named it his third-best movie of the year. Called it "just about the biggest
- The World's End: It's not quite as quotable or memorable as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but it's otherwise a rock-solid film and a great capoff to the "Cornetto Trilogy", taking the tropes of sci-fi horror movies and nostalgic 'reuniting the gang' comedies and using them to tell a very funny and tragic story that bucks the clichés of both genres. The fact that the main characters get progressively drunker over the course of the film is a creative solution to the problem of otherwise smart people carrying the Idiot Ball to drive the plot forward, while Simon Pegg delivers the best performance of his career and goes to some very dark places with his character. In the Big Picture episode "Summer's End", he listed it as one of his top ten movies of summer 2013.
- World's Greatest Dad: Since Robin Williams' suicide, the whole movie is much Harsher in Hindsight, but Bob felt he would be remiss to omit it from a list of Williams' most memorable performances. He called it another of Williams' great 'dark' turns, befitting what a pitch-black satire of the "grief industry" the narrative was. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Intermission editorial "Remembering Robin Williams Through Movies", a retrospective of the late Williams' career.
- Wreck-It Ralph: Discussed it in the Big Picture episode "Junk Drawer Rises". He was very excited for it, having watched the trailer a few dozen times, and had referred to it as "Toy Story for games." He didn't get people's complaints over the portrayal of Zangief from Street Fighter as a bad guy — instead, couldn't we all just focus on the fact that Disney managed to get all of these video game characters into a single movie?
In his review, he said that, while it wasn't as good as Toy Story (and probably has more in common with The Nightmare Before Christmas than anything else), it was still a great film with tight plotting and engaging, well-casted characters (especially Jane Lynch as Sgt. Calhoun, a hilarious parody of "strong female characters" in video games) that managed to throw treats to gamers without overdoing it on the inside jokes, even if he did worry that the marketing focused too much on this. It used the programming of video games as a great metaphor for being trapped in a crappy life situation, and once it got the slowly-paced world-building and exposition out of the way and settled in, it rivaled the best that Pixar had to offer. At the end of 2012, he declared it one of his top ten movies of the year, and he discussed it further in his review of its sequel...
- Ralph Breaks the Internet: Making a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph was always going to be difficult given the original film's self-contained story and lack of a Sequel Hook, and sure enough, this was a disappointment, with Bob calling it "a slightly better version of The Emoji Movie" in terms of its plot and references. The film hit the reset button on Ralph and Vanellope's Character Development, the plot was too convoluted for its own good, many segments felt like little more than excuses for Disney brand synergy, and while putting the focus on Vanellope this time around was a smart move given that Ralph had already gone through his arc in the first film, it was undercut by continuing to treat Ralph as the protagonist. Solid production values and a good cast saved it from being truly bad, but it still wasn't good, earning only one-and-a-half stars.
- A Wrinkle in Time (2018): Before he reviewed it, he named it his seventh most anticipated film of 2018. Not only was it an adaptation of a classic science fiction novel that had never really had a good adaptation, but it looked and felt completely different from just about any modern Summer Blockbuster out there, as though it was made by taking the advice of a focus group of bratty adolescent boys and then doing the opposite of what they recommended. When it came time to review it, he found it to be a movie that he wished he liked more than he actually did, though given that the book has a reputation for being practically unfilmable given its esoteric story and themes and heavy reliance on metaphor, he wasn't entirely surprised that it didn't fully work; for better or worse, it reminded him of a kids' version of John Boorman's Mind Screw-y genre films like Zardoz. It was at its best when it focused on its young heroine and framed the story in terms of her overcoming her self-esteem issues while letting director Ava DuVernay bring to life the spectacle of the film's alien worlds, but it fell apart when it tried to explain the ideas underpinning its story and logic, while also suffering some Adaptation Decay that will likely anger fans of the book. That said, a great cast redeemed it in the end, especially the two child actors at the center of it. He gave it three stars and said that its high points saved it from its low ones, and that it was probably the best version we're going to get of a book that he still thinks is unfilmable.
- Wrong Turn: Didn't review any of the films, but he discussed them at the beginning of his review of Everly. He thinks that the series is, by and large, disposable and worthless, with the exception of the second film, Dead End, which he finds to be up there with The Hills Have Eyes (2006) as one of the best Hillbilly Horrors films of the 21st century.
- The X-Files:
- The X-Files: Fight the Future: Didn't review it, but he briefly discussed it towards the beginning his Really That Good episode on Independence Day. Specifically, he discussed the scene of Mulder urinating on a poster for Independence Day in a back alley, a Take That! to what the makers of this film felt to be the exemplar of a junky, airheaded, disposable Summer Blockbuster as opposed to the more intelligent science fiction that they felt their film to be — and how that scene became fairly hypocritical once The X-Files itself suffered from (and became the Trope Namer for) The Chris Carter Effect and its own plot went off the rails. He also felt the film, and the show in general, has aged poorly due to Values Dissonance, mainly in how the stereotype of conspiracy theorists has shifted from heroic, dashing truth-seekers in the '90s to paranoid nutjobs today.
- The X-Files: I Want to Believe: "I want to be blegh, I want my money back!" He called it worse than The Phantom Menace as attempted rejuvenations of classic sci-fi franchises go, with a plot that went nowhere, poor production values all around, and a mean-spiritedness that he felt to be offensive and extremely tasteless.
- The X from Outer Space: One of the first films to try and cash in on the success of Godzilla, and not exactly one of the best. It's very slow to get moving, it only reveals the monster halfway in, the monster in question looks like a giant space chicken, and its attempts to be a 'serious' science fiction movie like The Day the Earth Stood Still clash with its campiness. The 2008 sequel, to its credit, embraced the camp and went all-out crazy. Reviewed it in his 2014 "Schlocktober" special for The Big Picture.
- The X-Men Film Series: Said that the series "probably hold[s] the record for the longest that a franchise has managed to ride a wave of goodwill generated just by being 'good enough.'" While he liked the first two movies at the time, and still thinks they have several good elements (especially the second one), looking back he feels that they've aged badly, with ugly costume design, lack of development for minor characters, Bryan Singer's direction being ill-suited for an action film (notwithstanding the fact that he thinks The Usual Suspects stands exponentially above Singer's other work), and an overall cheap feel. Overall, he thinks that First Class and Deadpool (the latter being a spinoff) were the only truly good X-Men films (with X2 getting a pass if he's feeling generous), and argues that continuing to be nostalgic for the first two X-Men movies after over a decade's worth of better superhero films is like continuing to be nostalgic for campy '80s Sword & Sorcery flicks like Hawk the Slayer after seeing Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. And since Blade was the first theatrical Marvel Comics-adapted film to hit it big, he sees no more value in crediting X-Men for that, either.
That said, he feels that, despite all their flaws, these movies absolutely nailed one key element of the mythos, that being Professor Xavier and his school for mutants, which he compares to an American sci-fi version of Hogwarts in how it managed to spark the imaginations of misfit youngsters at the Turn of the Millennium — which he goes on to argue is the chief reason why the films have been so subject to the Nostalgia Filter now that that generation has grown up. Discussed the franchise in his reviews of X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, and X-Men: Apocalypse, and in the In Bob We Trust episodes "The X-Men Movies Are Not Good" and "Phoenix Fails".
- X-Men (the first film): Finds it to be So Okay, It's Average at best watching it today, though he praised the cast and the film's attempt to treat the source material seriously rather than a campy joke, particularly its updating of the comics' civil rights allegory with a gay rights allegory. Overall, at a time when Sam Raimi's Spider-Man was still in development, many fans were satisfied that this film was just decent rather than another Batman & Robin.
- X2: X-Men United: Better than the first film, which allowed many X-Men fans to call it a great movie. Bob merely thought it was just decent, though, feeling that it had many of the same problems as the first film, with the only things redeeming it being a) superior writing, and b) the fact that most of the film took place in the corridors of the X-Mansion meaning that it was more easily able to cover for Bryan Singer's poor action direction.
- X-Men: The Last Stand: "Even worse than anyone could have imagined. A horrid, wretched, offensively awful piece of s**t that drove the series into the ground, and was spared the everlasting indignity of being the worst thing that ever happened in the forty-year history of the X-Men franchise only by the virtue of X-Men Origins: Wolverine somehow being even worse." In particular, he devoted the In Bob We Trust episode "Phoenix Fails" to detailing specifically how it flubbed The Dark Phoenix Saga, both as an adaptation of the source material and on its own merits as a film. In the comics, the point of the arc was to take Jean Grey, who was essentially a vanilla, Neutral Female Girl Next Door beforehand, and giving her all manner of new layers in a 'good girl gone bad' story that was absolutely dripping with sexual subtext and symbolism. The problem with this film (which, going by Apocalypse, looks like it'll be repeated in the X-Men reboot films), even ignoring the fact that the more exotic and weird elements of the arc would likely never fly in a Summer Blockbuster (a filmmaker who knows what he or she is doing could easily 'Hollywood-ize' that), is that it skips over all of the buildup in order to get straight to "the big stupid firebird" blowing stuff up with her mind, in a storyline that's little more than a ripoff of Carrie.
- X-Men: First Class: Not only is it the best X-Men movie yet (Bob called it "the perfect X-Men movie"), but also one of the best superhero movies ever made, with Bob putting it in the same class as The Dark Knight. A welcome return to form after the franchise-killing duo of The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, especially given its rushed production schedule. At the end of 2011, he listed it as one of his top ten movies of the year, and later on in his review of Apocalypse, he called it the only X-Men movie that's really held up over the years.
- The Wolverine: Goes back to the tradition of X-Men movies being just "good enough" instead of great. The action scenes are very fun, Hugh Jackman is great, there wasn't a lot that really annoyed him, and there's a degree of meta enjoyment to be had in watching this film strain to maintain a PG-13 rating. His big problem with the film is that he feels that it gets lost in an overly convoluted plot that's too reliant on twists and sudden reveals for their own sake rather than to serve the story.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past: Pretty good, even if it fails to live up to the high standard of First Class. It has a few massive plot holes and huge problems with story and structure, and seems to exist largely as an excuse to retcon The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine out of existence. However, it manages to make up for that by virtue of simply being fun enough for him to enjoy the broad sweep of the film, with Singer's direction of action scenes feeling much better and more assured than the last installments he directed. The cast is also, by and large, pretty good, with Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Hugh Jackman stealing the show and the return of the actors from the old films being a nice treat, though Jennifer Lawrence seemed bored as Mystique (surprising, considering how good she was in First Class) and the film's version of Quicksilver was annoying, felt extraneous, and seemed like he was there just so 20th Century Fox could hold onto the rights to the character. He was a lot harsher to this film in his Apocalypse review, however, saying that First Class is the only good film in the new series, "and yes, this is me admitting that I was way too kind to Days of Future Past. What the fuck was I thinking?"
- X-Men: Apocalypse: " a two-and-a-half-hour explanation for why Professor Xavier went bald early. Riveting." He found it tedious and only enjoyable on a So Bad, It's Good level (mainly for Oscar Isaac's performance as the titular villain), with set/production design that looks as phony as something out of one of Joel Schumacher's Batman films, Apocalypse being little more than a Generic Doomsday Villain who the film does nothing with, most of the cast seeming bored and disinterested, action scenes that are handled with utter incompetence, and an overall feel that seems like a second-rate copy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's house style (bright colors, witty banter, big CGI action scenes). It's a soulless film, and there exists little reason to see it. He later listed it as the third-worst film of summer 2016 and, at the end of the year, his seventh-least favorite, saying that it may be time just to put the franchise on ice rather than even have Marvel reboot it.
- Logan: He both reviewed it and, a few days prior, discussed it in the In Bob We Trust episode "Logan: A Good Film to Never Make Again". He gave it three and a half stars and called it the best deconstructionist superhero movie ever made, largely because of how it taps into the Reality Subtext of Hugh Jackman's advancing age, the state of the X-Men film franchise, and the audience's two decades' worth of familiarity with the franchise and the character. He noted it was a film that was "all disappointment, all the time," milking its premise of Logan (who has long since dropped the Wolverine moniker) and Professor X being (seemingly) the last Mutants ever, and their aging rapidly, for everything it was worth. Dafne Keen's turn as Wolverine's Distaff Counterpart is entirely worthy of being her Star-Making Role, with Bob being very impressed that she gets to embody both halves of the Little Miss Badass trope with no semblance of parody or exploitation to her characterization. Furthermore, it follows through on its theme of dealing with disappointment by constantly disappointing an audience that's become accustomed to the standard superhero elements (including continuity nods, cameos, and flashbacks), adding up to a film where Jackman finally gets to play his signature role in a truly good movie in his final go-around in the part.
However, he also worried about its potential impact on the genre, comparing it to The Dark Knight in calling it "a very good film that will inevitably attract a particularly loathsome stripe of ardent super-fans whose equally inevitable behavior as such will make stable people question whether they actually liked the goddamned movie to begin with." It places alongside First Class and Deadpool as one of the only X-Men films that he will call good without qualifications, but it's also a film that he really doesn't want to see become influential over either the franchise or the superhero movie genre as a whole, fearing that it could set off a Dark Age of Comic Book Movies just as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which he considers Logan to be a Spiritual Adaptation of (its ostensible basis in Old Man Logan notwithstanding), helped pave the way for The Dark Age of Comic Books. Just as comic book publishers missed the context of The Dark Knight Returns' deconstruction of Batman and the superhero genre (especially as it existed in The '80s up to that point) and only paid attention to its Darker and Edgier content, film studios could look at the success of Logan and see only the graphic violence and grim tone and not how it strips down many of its superhero movie contemporaries.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix: Hasn't reviewed it yet, but he named it his second least anticipated film of 2018. It looks like it's going to repeat the same mistakes as The Last Stand in dropping the ball on The Dark Phoenix Saga, and between that and the fact that Marvel Studios will probably reboot the X-Men franchise into the Marvel Cinematic Universe now that Disney owns Fox, he called it "the only superhero sequel this year whose existence is even more pointless than Aquaman's."
- xXx: An abysmal and carbon-dated action film that represents everything wrong with mainstream popular culture of the Turn of the Millennium. He thought Vin Diesel couldn't be "an unironic action star outside of The Fast and the Furious franchise." Didn't review it, but he discussed it in his reviews of its sequel and the 2017 reboot.
- xXx: State of the Union: Reviewed it in his early days as a blogger. To his surprise, he thought it was somewhat better because Diesel chose to leave after the first film, to be replaced by Ice Cube. It also jettisoned the first movie's pandering cynicism about itself, and was downright faithful in the office of the President of the United States (inasmuch as the President had only to say something and the public would take him at his word). While it was not at all smart and didn't pretend to be, it was a fun action diversion that he gave 6 out of 10. He returned to it in his review of the reboot
- X Xx Return Of Xander Cage: A lot of fun; he called it the cinematic equivalent of an energy drink in that, while terribly unhealthy, it was incredibly stimulating at the same time. It was clearly copying Fast and the Furious internationalist, diverse appeal, and Diesel still suffers from Dull Surprise and playing "a Poochie-esque collection of marketable trends," but the supporting players get room to express their own, genuinely charismatic, personas. While the film seemed to strain for postnationalism at times, the fact that Xander Cage's new team comprised four actors of varying Asian backgrounds who weren't stereotypes ultimately mattered immensely in a movie where not much else did. He gave it three stars, calling it the best possible version of itself.
- Yog: Monster from Space: Less a discussion of the film itself (which he called one of Toho's better non-Godzilla films) than the giant cuttlefish monster, which is "infathomably stupid-looking" but still quite charming. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Big Picture episode "Moviebob's Forgotten Monsters."
- Yogi's Ark Lark: "It's been a while since I've watched this all the way through, but I remember its heart being in the right place, but it's really preachy, and it's weird seeing characters who mainly existed for slapstick suddenly trying to be serious and learn about social responsibility." Didn't review it, but he mentioned it in the Big Picture episode "Smarter Than the Average Bear", a retrospective on the Hanna-Barbera canon (focusing on Yogi Bear).
- You're Next: "Go see [this movie]. It's kind of amazing." Didn't review it, but he gave it his firmest recommendation at the end of his review of The World's End and in the Intermission editorial "Space Invaders", where he talked about the 'home invasion' genre and why he felt it became popular. In the Big Picture episode "Summer's End", he listed it as one of his top ten movies of summer 2013 and, later, of the entire year, citing its solid writing and scares and its amazing female lead.
- Your Highness: "How much of a movie can you make out of one joke?" He felt that it will probably be a footnote in the careers of all involved (though it must have been incredibly cathartic for Natalie Portman after the Star Wars prequels and Black Swan), and that your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance for stoner humor, but overall, he enjoyed it. He opened the review with little mini-reviews of Hanna, Source Code, Insidious and Super, stating that he didn't have time to review all of the movies that had just come out (incidentally, he liked all of them).
- Zack and Miri Make a Porno: Felt like Kevin Smith's attempt to copy the success of Judd Apatow. Didn't review it, but he discussed it in the Big Picture episode "The Fall of Kevin Smith, Part III".
- Zero Dark Thirty: Went into detail on how the termination of Osama bin Laden forced a last-minute plot change to give Kathryn Bigelow's dark, somber military thriller a happy ending, and remarks on how, as a result, the first big America Saves the Day movie to come out of bin Laden's death feels a lot more morally ambiguous and a lot less 'Hollywood' than one would expect. What ultimately emerged was one of the best movies of the year, with a magnificent, Oscar-worthy performance by Jessica Chastain, equally impressive direction by Bigelow, action scenes that are thrilling while remaining firmly grounded in reality, and a fact-based tone that allows viewers to come to their own judgments about what happened.
A few weeks later, in the Intermission editorial "Tortured Logic", he addressed the controversy over the film's depiction of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. He wonders exactly where this controversy came from, given not only the film's Black and Gray Morality, but also the fact that it quite explicitly averts Torture Always Works, showing it failing to secure intel on an impending terrorist attack — precisely the opposite of the claim that the film was an endorsement of the CIA's use of torture.
- The Zero Theorem: Calls it "Brazil for the 21st century," with Terry Gilliam once again making a gripping, visually inventive science-fiction dystopia, with a lot of great commentary on digital-age tech culture and the social alienation it produces. The film's world is wonderfully realized visually and stylistically even with its low budget, while the cast, led by Christoph Waltz as a put-upon tech worker, is great. The only real weak link was Melanie Thierry's character; even though she gave a good performance, the character felt like she came out of a bad '90s cyberpunk story and didn't mesh with the modern, Apple-era image of the future that Gilliam was trying to create. Still, even if it's not quite the "last word" on digital isolation that it wants to be, it's still a very good sci-fi satire that's worth checking out just for how unique it is, with Bob giving it three and a half stars.note
- Zombieland: Thought that, while predictable, it was still fun as hell and put its clichés to great use. He spends much of the review analyzing why he thinks the zombie genre has become so popular (short answer: we all hate each other and the world we live in). He also insists that you should punch out anyone who tries to tell you about the "best thing in Zombieland" lest they spoil it for you.
- Oh, did he mean the bit whe—
- Oh, did he mean the bit whe—
- Zootopia: Called it "a movie that kind of plays out like Disney Animation got hold of an unfilmed script for a DreamWorks movie and said 'hey guys, let us show you what one of these would look like if they didn't suck.'" It's a great and very timely satire of racism (only with talking animals) that demonstrates Disney's newfound confidence in tackling heavier subject matter, plus a hilarious film that's one of the best comedies and animated films of 2016.