I’m fully vaccinated by now but I have yet to make it out to see a movie at the theater. I briefly considered doing that for “Nobody,” the latest action movie written by “John Wick” scribe Derek Kolstad and directed by Ilya Naishuller, which looked like it was going to be a lot of fun. I just couldn’t make it work with my schedule though so instead my wife and I rented it to watch at home. In retrospect, that was probably a better use of money.
“Nobody” is indeed fun in that it delivers on the dependably irresistible premise of an underestimated everyman exacting revenge on the worst of society. But it’s also a retread of similar themes we’ve seen many times in recent years in the various “Taken” installments and their many knockoffs, to say nothing of “John Wick” itself, which shares more than a little of the same DNA and even many of the same plot details. Hey, I’ve got a lizard brain that slurps this stuff up like a Big Gulp as much as the next person, but after a while the charm of excessively staged fight and gun choreography starts to fade amidst the poverty of truly original ideas. It’s too bad, too, because comedian-turned-dramatic actor-turned-action star Bob Odenkirk does a terrific job as the titular “Nobody,” investing the movie with impressive pathos as well as impressive punching. The movie just falls short of matching that commitment.
One film I watched that would’ve been much better served by a theater viewing was “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest installment in, heaven help us, the so-called “monsterverse.” If you haven’t been following along in this latest “shared cinematic universe” where Godzilla, King Kong and, for all I know, Barney the Dinosaur all co-exist, it’s now four movies strong and I have to assume that someone out there is interested in them more than me. On a whim, I decided to watch “Godzilla vs. Kong” via HBO MAX and I was pleasantly surprised that my very, very low expectations were surpassed in just the slightest way. This is a dumb-as-rocks movie, don’t get me wrong, but it’s relatively fleet of foot and the final act’s huge knock ’em down, drag ’em out, no holds barred, destruction-porn brawl between the two title monsters is actually kind of fun. I would’ve liked to have seen it on a big screen.
By the way, I’m trying something different for this movies roundup. You’ll notice an illustration at the top of this post, a photo collage with images from “Nobody” and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” obviously, but I also threw in some of the other films I watched last month that I thought were notable: “The Kid Detective,” “Midnight Run” and “The Big Gundown,” all of which were varying degrees of highly enjoyable. Making this collage is me putting some of the illustration ideas that I’ve been tinkering with for a while into play, to see what comes of them. I don’t get much opportunity to be visually expressive these days, and this was a way to burn off some of that creative energy. For those interested, it’s mostly all done in Photoshop with a smattering of Illustrator vectors. With luck, I’ll be doing a new one each month along with these roundup posts.
Here’s the full list of thirteen (it was a lean month) movies I watched in April.
“Zootopia” (2016) ★★½ Rewatched. A lot of moralizing, even for a kids movie.
“The Apple Dumpling Gang” (1975) ★★ Rewatched, I think? Completely forgettable except for the comedic eloquence of Mr. Don Knotts.
“Man of Steel” (2013) ★★ Rewatched. Zack Snyder is that kid from high school who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stop drawing skulls and knives and demons.
“Flushed Away” (2006) ★★ Shockingly inert Aardman animation—computer-generated, this time—that suggests that the appeal of their stop-motion clay work might be solely in its manual execution.
“The Big Gundown” (1966) ★★★★ What looks like a merely serviceable, B-level spaghetti western is actually a politically complex, highly astute morality play. Superb.
“National Treasure” (2004) ★★ Seems quaint that it once used to be possible to create an action movie franchise out of little more than a bunch of visits to tourist traps.
“Nobody” (2021) ★★½ Everyman actioner that’s hard to resist except for how familiar and tired its tropes are.
“Midnight Run” (1988) ★★★★ Rewatched. Nearly flawlessly constructed Hollywood road movie with what might be DeNiro’s most convincingly inhabited role ever.
“Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993) ★★★½ I saw all the maudlin story beats and the soaring climax coming a mile away, and yet I was defenseless against it all.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” (2021) ★★★ Dumb as heck, but fleet of foot, plus it has a giant ape and a giant lizard knocking the stuffing out of one another.
“The Kid Detective” (2020) ★★★ The premise of a grown up Encyclopedia Brown who refuses to really grow up is almost too cute by half, except it’s executed with just enough gentle humor to see it all the way through.
This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I watched in March, February, in January, and in 2020, 2019, in 2018, in 2017, and in 2016. Finally, you can always keep up with what I’m watching by following me on letterboxd.com—where I’m also writing tons of capsule reviews.