Legacy Capsule

Secret Admirer (1985)

Yikes. For starters, you have a really rough, entirely predictable teen romantic comedy that wants to be fun like Animal House, but is just a chaotic mess. The romance portions are maybe passable, but if so, only barely. (I do like Lori Laughlin here.)

Where it nosedives into catastrophe is the other half of the film, where an entirely misguided romantic farce involving the teens’ parents is thrown into the mix. It’s baffling, but not in a fun way. Just a total misfire.

Legacy Podcast Rating Capsule

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

For whatever reason I am a total sucker for teen dramedies where supposedly platonic best friends have romantic sparks. I’m determined to watch every one of them.

This John Hughes-penned (but not -directed) example of the form is a pretty solid one, but one that stumbles over itself in the ending with some plot points and bits of dialogue that don’t make sense. Also Eric Stoltz is a total piece of plain white toast this entire movie. Flat and bland.

Nov 2020 update:

Rewatched to record for a podcast. There is exactly one great character/performance (Watts), then a bunch of clunkers. Enjoyable and very much up my alley, but still marred by some weird, head-scratching plot and character points in the third act.

Legacy Podcast Rating Capsule

The Founder (2016)

The McDonald’s founding story segment generates almost all of the goodwill this movie earns. Keaton is also kind of fun if not very nuanced. The script is a catastrophe, though.

Legacy Capsule

Trojan War (1997)

Major segments of this are racist and/or problematic.

BUT! I found this really funny and charming (albeit horny) teen comedy. Will Friedle has awesome comic chops. I love him as a lead. Jennifer Love-Hewitt is a smokeshow and has awesome chemistry with Friedle. I love “one epic night” type stories — it heightens and literalizes the teenage experience of everything seeming to happen at once.

(Plus romances where best friends end up falling in love is one of my favorite tropes, so I’m probably overrating this a little.)


Troll 2 (1990)

There is no film I can think of to better inaugurate my new collection of full-length movie reviews than Troll 2, watched here in honor of the 10 year anniversary of a Facebook movie request thread in which my brothers’ friends have recommended Troll 2 (and only Troll 2, occasionally in roundabout and shaggy ways) for over 1,000 comments. At its peak, it was getting dozens of comments a day — now somebody thinks to post the comment only once a month or so.

Troll 2 is an unrateable movie, but I’m going to rate it anyways. As with the capsule reviews I’ve been writing, I will be using the “Is It Good?” rating scale that I conceived of for the podcast that Brian and I are starting.

This has a reputation for being one of the worst movies of all time, but this is patently not true. To be clear, it is not a good movie in many ways that filmmaking is typically measured. But it’s not a gutter dive, either — there are some production values, here. Claudio Fragasso knows how to use a camera and compose a shot… every now and then, even well. And whatever the movie’s sins are, it is certainly not boring. How could a movie be the “worst” if it is genuinely fun to watch?

But yes, its craft is indeed equal parts incompetent and mind-meltingly bizarre. The two strangest components are the writing and the acting. I have not seen Best Worst Movie, the documentary of the making and reception to this film, and have no knowledge of the film’s production history, but the screenplay feels as if it was written by someone for whom English isn’t their first language and never revised. The actors, meanwhile, always look as confused about the film’s vision as I feel when I watch. Their deliveries are often baffling and over-the-top.

It might just be the goodwill of the para-movie context of so many friends (especially Brian) embracing Troll 2 with open arms and hearts — but there’s something magical about actually watching this movie. You can’t go more than a scene, sometimes more than a shot, without finding something genuinely hilarious and unexpected. Some of these scenes are so crookedly inventive, it feels like a modern art deconstruction and reassembly of the basic matter of horror movies. Or maybe it’s more like one of these scenarios where a sentence is passed through Google Translate back and forth a bunch of times until you almost can’t recognize the sentence, but you still sort of can: that’s the relationship Troll 2 has with horror movies.

Unquestionably, I would rather watch and rewatch this than the majority of most technically-“better” movies. So, I ask again: Are they even, then, better movies in my eyes?

Asking if Troll 2 is “good” is like trying to divide by 0. There’s no correct outcome. All answers to the question are simultaneously possible but also invalid. So while part of me wants to slap top marks on this just for the anarchic hell of it and to honor the movie’s “I have no idea what is happening or what might happen next” giddiness, I’ll instead exhibit just a hair of restraint and land a couple steps south of the top “Tour de Good” tier.

Recommended reading: Brian’s review from when he ranked it his #11 favorite movie.

Update (Jan 2023):

I watched Troll 2 again and I stand by everything in this review, but I also want to point readers to my expanded thoughts on “so bad it’s good” movie-watching in my George of the Jungle 2 review: I basically don’t believe in it, or, maybe, I do, but I view it as unironically good, just maybe not in conventional or intended ways.

If you’re a guest who happened to click on this as the oldest review on the site: Welcome. I learned an important lesson from this film about hosting visitors: “Do you see this writing? Do you know what it means? Hospitality. And you can’t piss on hospitality!”

Legacy Capsule

Back to the Future (1985)

The ultimate “blockbuster” movie for my money. Great cast, great premise, ultra-tight script where even the smallest details get a payoff down the line, a soaring score… There’s something exquisite watching all components of the movie-making process come together into a satisfying whole.

The cherry on top is that the precision and color of its contemporary details makes it feel like an inadvertent “period piece” — the movie just feels 1980s in its slang, fashion, and aesthetic.

One of my favorites.

Legacy Capsule

Ratatouille (2007)

One of Brad Bird’s and Pixar’s best films — and that’s saying something in both cases. The story of an unlikely chef with a great gift being the literal symbol of filth is mined for all its potent power, and the payoff of Anton Ego embracing the titular dish is one of my favorite moments in any movie. It has all the sense of danger and visual power to not let you forget that you’re in the perspective of a street-roaming pest. Masterpiece.

Podcast Rating Deprecated Review Legacy

Suspiria (1977) – 2020 Capsule

Note: This capsule has been superseded by a full-length review.

Visually, Suspiria is a stunner. One of the most striking uses of color I’ve ever seen, with lighting that illuminates every tinted surface of every space we see. The soundtrack is disorienting weirdness too: a ringing, whispering drone.

The script and pacing, on the other hand, have some hiccups that really pulled me out: The weird U-turn of exposition when Suzy meets the psychologist and professor is jarring, and the apocalyptic ending lasts all of 30 seconds, with the credits rolling just when I was getting into it.

Reviewed on The Goods in our first episode here

Edit: This is my first movie since I started logging and reviewing again during the pandemic. It’s also the first movie I discussed on my podcast with Brian. In other words, this is the moment I officially launched my return to film criticism, so this specific film will forever hold a special place in my heart.

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