Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002). Another example of my favorite made-up genre, “It Wasn’t What I Expected.” Critics have long given Adam Sandler movies poor reviews ... he received several Emmy nominations for his work on Saturday Night Live, but he also has three Razzies and countless nominations in the latter category for his films. His movies are popular, which is why Netflix finances them (contracted now for eight), and they are probably critic-proof. I’ve mentioned a few times that I hated the first Sandler movie I saw (Billy Madison) so much that I immediately gave up on him. In all the years since, I’ve only seen two I can remember: Click, and Funny People. Like Punch-Drunk Love, those movies are somewhat atypical for Sandler movies, which may be why I’ve seen them. Perhaps most important, I like some of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies, especially Magnolia and Boogie Nights. I didn’t like Punch-Drunk Love as much as I liked those two, but I liked it more than any other Adam Sandler movie I’ve seen. I’ve admitted before that I see decent acting chops peeking out of his work when he isn’t being an idiot, and in Punch-Drunk Love, he does very well at swinging between a man frightened of his own shadow and a man with terrible anger inside who can explode at any given moment. Emily Watson is good as the love interest, and as usual, Philip Seymour Hoffman makes the most of his small part. I guess this is now my favorite Adam Sandler movie. #27 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century (uh, no), and #467 on the TSPDT all-time list.
10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016). I liked Cloverfield very much, but it’s been more than eight years since I saw it, so hopefully I’m forgiven when I say I couldn’t remember it. My wife actually had me beat on this ... when I asked if she wanted to watch 10 Cloverfield Lane, she went on about Godzilla, which is about right (all that came to my mind was the found footage angle). Luckily, despite there being some connection between the two Cloverfield movies, in fact this most recent film keeps its attachment to the original so obscure that it doesn’t matter if you’ve ever seen the first one. I was taken by the adrenaline rush of Cloverfield (“it brutalizes the audience by sticking us right in the middle of the horrified emotions of the characters that only a few minutes earlier seemed so mundane”). I noted that there was no suspense in Cloverfield, which is what sets 10 Cloverfield Lane apart from its predecessor, for it is mostly suspense until the final section. It’s just a different kind of movie from Cloverfield. John Goodman makes a great is-he-a-villain, and the movie is never boring. But it isn’t brutal. And it’s 20 minutes longer than the original, and there’s no reason for that.