I recently went on an overseas trip, and was subjected to a cumulative forty hours of flying time with only a small, low-quality screen to entertain myself with. Since any kind of flying feels like a strange experience in a time-vortex, I found myself selecting a variety of films that, in any other situation, I may never have seen before. My criteria for ideal in-flight viewing is a lot different from what I would usually quantify as a ‘good selection of films’. First of all, the exhaustion and uncomfortable nature of spending time on a long-haul flight usually turns my brain into a gelatinous liquid, so I find myself gravitating towards ‘mindless entertainment.’ This means that rom-coms, children’s films, and dog movies are my go-to choices when I am in the sky.
So, in order to make my tortuous journey through the skies—and my binge-watching of ‘mindless’ films, worthwhile—I am going to review every film I watched on my long journey (except Ant-man and the Wasp and Venom, the only two films I had seen before selecting them). So buckle up, take advantage of the free wine, and try to avoid the haunting smell of the microwaved food as I give you my run-down of my plane-viewing extravaganza.
Crazy Rich Asians
Rom-com? Check. Pretty visuals? Check. This film ticked all the boxes for whittling away a couple of hours of travel time, and due to the hype surrounding its release, I was expecting something of a higher quality than the majority of my list. I feel like the following sentiments may be controversial, but after watching the film, I was glad I watched it on a plane and didn’t pay to go see it, as I feel like I would have been slightly disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is fine. The characters are watchable enough, and I’m sure it did wonders for tourism in Singapore due to its very beautiful portrayal of the country. The small, intimate, cultural moments were the film’s highlights. However, apart from the representation-argument, the film itself was… average. The plot was trope-laden, without inching into any kind of self-awareness or parody, the performances were average at best, and while the characters were ‘Rich’ and ‘Asian’, I didn’t see how they were really that ‘Crazy’. Most characters were cut-outs of your usual rom-com cast: the loved-up couple, the disapproving mother, the comedic bestie, and the witty gay friend all made an appearance. Really, this film was a good enough way to kill a couple of hours, but nothing special.
The Spy Who Dumped Me
This film had flown under my radar throughout 2018, my only memories of it being in the cover of the DVD in the ‘new releases’ section of JB Hi-Fi. Once again, this film was a perfect choice for in-flight viewing, as the mild comedy was entertaining enough without being too mentally taxing. Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon play best friends who, after Kunis is dumped by a secret agent, are caught up in an espionage plot throughout Europe.
The plot was nothing special, but it did get a few laughs out of me. Kate McKinnon, in particular, was a pleasure to behold, and the film would have been a lot worse if she was not in it. While, once again, I wouldn’t have wanted to pay to see the film, it was a surprisingly fun romp and worth a stream if it ever pops up on Netflix.
I love dogs, and dog movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Most films regarding dogs are, well, not very good—but without any way to watch my usual twenty minutes a day of dog videos on YouTube, I needed my fix. Dog Days, starring Vanessa Hudgens, Eva Longoria, and Nina Dobrev, is an anthology film following a variety of dogs and their owners in Los Angeles. It is a completely frivolous film, but sweet enough to make your viewing worthwhile.
With a title like ‘Dog Days’, it is clear that you’re not going to be watching Citizen Kane. Really, the film does what it says on the tin—there are a lot of cute dogs, some cheesy dialogue, and sweet relationships. This film was the cinematic version of an ice-cream sundae; it’s by no means healthy, but once in a while you can splurge on one for a nice, happy time.
Speaking of dog movies, when I saw a cheesy poster of a pug, with the dot on the ‘i’ in Patrick being a little paw print, I of course chose to watch this film. Patrick follows the relationship between a spoiled pug, Patrick, and Sarah (Beattie Edmonson), an English teacher that hasn’t quite got her life together (relatable for some). The usual schtick happens—woman gets dog forced upon her, dog gets up to some antics, dog ends up fixing woman’s life in a roundabout way, and there is a happy ending where our heroes end up as forever-companions.
The plot of this film was so generic that the majority of the ancillary characters were left unnamed. My favourite part about this film was that Patrick had his own little character arc, which is a difficult thing to achieve when your main character is a non-animated dog. Was it good? No, not really, but in typical guilty-pleasure fashion I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. If you’re looking for a movie with some cute dog stuff in it and some sappy romance and light comedy, this will hit the spot; just don’t expect much more here.
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Based on the divisive Teen Titans animation reboot, Teen Titans Go!, this film is your typical cartoon network-fare, with some added DC characters and references in the mix. After seeing it get such good reviews, I was genuinely excited to put this on when I saw it was part of the in-flight entertainment section. Oddly enough, I found this one of the least enjoyable films of the flight, and found myself more annoyed than enjoying myself throughout.
I suppose if you like Teen Titans Go!, this film will be just what you asked for. As someone who has just seen a few episodes, none of which I had really enjoyed, I found the film dull and, at points, irritating. Most of the meta-comedy jokes were a little too easy for me to truly find clever, and I probably only chuckled a couple of times. The characters weren’t really interesting enough for me to care about them, and Robin was so exhausting on his quest to have his own movie that I found most of the run-time a slog. In the end, I didn’t like it, but I’m sure a lot of people would.
This was, by far, the highlight of my viewing journey. It follows Annie (Rose Byrne), the suffering girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), a man obsessed with Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), a Jeff Buckley-esque singer-songwriter who had only released one album before mysteriously disappearing. After posting a critical review of his previously unreleased collection of demos, Annie sparks up an email correspondence with the real Tucker Crowe, as both of them deal with the shortcomings of their lives.
The performances here were excellent, and Ethan Hawke has continually proven that he can do no wrong in my eyes. Every character felt real—all trying to make changes in their lives, but unsure how to do so. When I first started watching the film, I was afraid about being bored to death with any kind of love-triangle element, but the film avoided that with grace. The clever writing and genuine performances catapulted this film above the standard romantic-comedy affair, injecting some realistic humanity into its heartfelt storytelling.
Almost entirely filmed from the perspective of smart-phones or laptops, this is a thriller film following a father (John Cho) investigating the mysterious disappearance of his teenage daughter. While this style of storytelling has been used before in the horror genre (Unfriended comes to mind), it was interesting to see such an inventive manner of presenting a mystery/thriller story for the modern age.
The mystery itself was engaging enough to keep me entertained throughout its runtime, but did get a little too silly at the end. John Cho did well in the leading role, and his performance did a lot to carry the emotional weight of the mystery. I am happy I saw it and, while it didn’t blow my mind, the idea was fresh enough to keep it in my mind after viewing.
The House with the Clock in its Walls
When I heard that horror-director Eli Roth was heading a children’s film for Amblin entertainment, I knew I wanted to see the film. When a child’s parents die in an accident, he is sent to live with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), a practising Warlock living in a sentient house. Aided by their neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), also magically inclined, they must defeat the big-bad Isaac (Kyle MacLachlan) and learn about family and friendship along the way.
Everybody obviously had a blast on this, and the adult actors in particular were very fun to watch. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett had some great bickering, and Kyle MacLachlan wasn’t afraid to ham it up when necessary. The plot was interesting enough, and the film’s unique rules of magic were explained well enough that we weren’t left scratching our heads, but was not restricted too much that some magical whimsy couldn’t happen. My biggest complaint about this film is that at one point, Jack Black’s head ends up on a baby’s body and that haunted my nightmares as I tried to sleep a few hours later.
“Cinema is entertainment, and people go to the movies because they want to feel good and forget about everything,”
What’s interesting here is that I liked more of these films than I actually expected to. Whether that be because my quality control diminishes as my altitude increases, that my brain stops working due to how uncomfortable travelling is, or that I was merely exposed to films I wouldn’t usually watch on my own terms, I found myself happy that I watched the majority of this list. Sure, none of them will be winning any Oscars, but they kept me sane throughout an excruciatingly long travel experience. I have learned that, while for the most part I would detest the thought of an average film, there is a time and a place for them. So, next time I fly, I should not just be hoping to get to my destination, but enjoy broadening my cinematic horizons when I am forced to consume a large amount of movies in a long block of time.