In 1990, I got into “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and eventually learned that the source material was adult-aimed comic books. The same year, the “Toxic Crusaders” cartoon was on TV and the Playmates action figures were right next to “TMNT” toys on the shelves. The source material here makes “TMNT’s” look tame by comparison, and I can only hope not too many kids checked out the 1984 “Toxic Avenger” movie and became traumatized.
It’s been three years since the previous season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO), so Larry David and his writers had plenty of absurdities from the real world to turn into absurdities on the show. Suffice it to say Larry gets into a lot of trouble in Season 10, which recently wrapped a 10-episode run that’s a nice mix of political correctness inanities and everyday annoyances that only “Curb” would latch onto.
The Last Boy Scout” (1991) has some of the best one-liners in action-film history. I was 13 when the film came out, and I recall that this was among the first “edgy” movies that my friends regularly quoted from. All of the Shane Black staples (he writes the screenplay here, while Tony Scott directs) are in place, including the thrown-together buddy (pseudo-)cops and the child who is incongruously in the mix. However, the back half is a big step down from the first half, like a football team that blows a big lead.
The two most remarkable things about “Jojo Rabbit” (2019) are 1, that it’s a mainstream comedy about a kid who loves Hitler, and 2, that there’s nothing odd about this premise once you get into the flow of the movie. Writer, director and Hitler actor Taika Waititi locks into the unusual yet correct tone for this story of a Hitler Youth, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who looks to his imaginary friend the Fuhrer for guidance and falls in love with a Jewish girl hiding in his walls.
Sky High” (2005) is totally formulaic, and that’s why it succeeds for most of its run time but ultimately flattens out into something safely disposable. It came out during what I like to think of as the Disney comedy boom of the early 21st century, the time of “Lizzie McGuire” and its ilk. Although the writers and director have worked almost entirely on Disney kids’ and animated projects, “Sky High” is a smart movie with a lot of too-wise-for-school humor.
Writer Shane Black, in one of the most assured directing debuts ever, delivers a great modern detective noir while also poking fun at the genre in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005). The film marks the last great Val Kilmer performance before his slump and the start of the superstar portion of Robert Downey Jr.’s career. It’s RDJ’s first team-up with Black; they’d join forces again for the underappreciated “Iron Man 3” (2013).
When it came out, I underrated “High Fidelity” (2000) because it’s not as good as the 1995 novel by Nick Hornby. But like its fellow 2000 love-letter-to-music “Almost Famous,” it now stands as an unassailable classic – if you can accept the intense internal focus of Rob Gordon (John Cusack, also one of the four screenwriters). I can see how Gordon’s obsessive self-analysis could be off-putting to some viewers, especially since Cusack (and presumably Rob) is in his mid-30s — unlike, say, Dawson Leery. If you accept the fourth-wall breaking of a man who refuses to grow up, though, “High Fidelity” is an all-time great movie about romantic love as filtered through the male mind.
Foreign filmmakers, particularly in Asia, have been making long, engrossing, surprising statements about human issues of the day for a long time, and “Parasite” (2019) may not be the elite example of the form, but it’s a worthy Best Picture winner. If this first-ever foreign film to win Best Picture gets people to check out more subtitled gems, it’s worth it. Director/co-writer Bong Joon Ho, along with co-writer Jin Won Han, crafts a darkly funny commentary about South Korean class relations that the American film “Us” wishes it could’ve approached.
Marriage Story” (2019, Netflix) is both a stark portrayal of why people should never get married (it costs way too much to get divorced) and a surprisingly good love story considering that we meet these people amid their divorce proceedings. In stage play-like fashion, writer-director Noah Baumbach portrays the daily lives of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson). While there is one extreme shouting match, the couple is mostly calm and mature; it’s actually the legal process of divorce that gets a viewer’s blood boiling.
Today, the TV Tropes website catalogs TV and movie tropes, but “Last Action Hero” (1993) did it before the internet was around. The film, which has a Shane Black vibe even though the writer is one of several collaborators, feels ahead of its time as it makes fun of action cliches but also works them into an engaging multiple-reality narrative.