2020 was a weird fucking year. Fortunately, it opened up plenty of time to watch some movies here and there. Of course, the issues being: many major releases were delayed, studios had nowhere to distribute their content aside from streaming services (fine but not ideal), movie theaters closed (many permanently), jobs were lost, projects abandoned, and a whole lot of other crap that waddled the amount of “NEW” available film content down this past year down to a mere splinter of anything really significant or cinematically solid. That being said, still worth reviewing – as always.
This is only a handful for now, but we’ll be releasing more in the next whenever with some other favorites (don’t these question marks just add to the suspense?!?). Including:
- Mank – Comedy / Drama – (?/10) – another favorite from 2021…
- Processor – Horror/Sci-Fi – (?/10) – hint: this could be a classic…
- Kajillionaire – Comedy – (?/10)
- Bill and Ted Face the Music – Comedy/Adventure – (?/10)
- The Dark and the Wicked – Horror/Mystery (?/10) – This was one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen in my life and I almost regret watching it. Brilliantly made, complete dread and deep, deep horror to the point of something much more evil. Fun for the whole family!
- The Rental – Horror/Thriller – (?/10)
+ more! Read on my friends for my thoughts and some of my favorite clips from each.
The Gentleman – Guy Ritchie – 9/10: I already reviewed this bad boy, but hell – this was maybe my favorite of the whole year. In Short Summary: Outstanding cast, fun plot/premise, and Ritchie’s trademark style of fast-paced, constant content delivery and clever camera angles/changes/cuts in his films that keep you glued to your seat (oh, and hysterical dialogue). If you like action, comedy and crime – this is about as good a bundle as you’re going to get. Here’s my review from April of 2020:
I am a huge fan of Guy Ritchie’s work, particularly Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Sherlock Holmes (all top 20s for me). So, naturally when I see another new film by him, I jump on the opportunity – and I finally got around to seething this. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. In brief summary, it follows the attempts of one man, Mickey, attempting to sell his business. Mickey is an American expatriate who became rich by building a highly profitable marijuana empire in London. When word gets out that he’s looking to cash out of the business, it soon triggers an array of plots and schemes to undermine his sale. It’s different from many of his previous works, in that the plot focuses on only a few characters at a time, but it still has those wonderful elements that make a GR film great: fantastic music, quick cuts, clever transitions, outstanding dialogue, all wrapped up in an engaging and fast-paced story led by the one-and-only Matt McConaughey. Matt leads a great cast here and is as cutthroat, believable and authentic as ever in his role as the classy drug “connoisseur” – he is always such a showman and I eat it right up. Packed with an excellent supporting performances with Collin Farrel and Charlie Hunnam leading the way, this fast-paced film keeps you interested, laughing, and generally intrigued the whole way through without being at all overbearing. Its a fun, easy-viewing experience and worth your time. Certainly one of the most unique and fun directors out there.
Nomadland – Chloe Zhao – 7.5/10: One of my favorites of the year came with Nomadland, a Netflix original. The story is a melancholy, largely somber, but surprisingly hopeful picture starring and older Francis McDonald – an RV-bound traveler across the US who roams from place to place, campsite to campsite – with little agenda but to explore the country with the little funds she has left. What begins as a heartbreaking tale of a woman losing everything to the Great Recession in 2008 turns into an unexpectedly optimistic look into the sprawling natural beauty of the amazing country we live in.
There were more than a dozen shots that I had to sit back and just be in awe of – shots of long desert expanses, mountains, forests and long roads ahead that envoked a sense of peace and wonder. This movie had minimal dialogue, but it really – not much needed to be said, and that I truly appreciated. As a viewer I felt like I learned much more was told through McDormand’s face and the folks and landscapes she encountered along the way. I loved this film for its cinematic beauty, as well as its understand message. I’m sure everyone takes away something a bit different from this movie (another element I’ve enjoyed discussing with friends). But if I’m talking from a personal perspective, I loved the risks that were taken to boldly say little and show much more through action and images. An absolutely beauty through and through…
Side note… Props to Netflix honestly for taking the reins this year and creating an absurd amount of fresh content for the quarantined. Not that the Golden Globes are anything to be considered respectable in terms of awards (another topic for another day – and no offense to any of the winners), but you saw it win Best (Drama) Picture, and I would imagine it will be a candidate for inclusion in the Best Picture category come Oscar season.
Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin – 7/10: A strikingly solid cast and topical subject matter is sure to make this one a favorite at the Oscars this year. Not to mention, it won best picture at the Globes. Great performances came from Sasha Baron Cohen (who also won best Comedy at the GGs), Alex Sharp, Eddie Redmayne, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt amongst others. In brief, the story covers the trial of 7 individuals (including leader of the Black Panthers – Bobby Seale) following the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which became a trial of natural fascination. A great historical piece, fantastic acticing, and beautiful camera work – which you tend to get when Sorkin is writing and directing. Top 3 of the year for me.
Tenet – Christopher Nolan – 4/10: A packed cast featuring John David Washington (guy is blowing up by the minute and absolutely killed it in Black Klansman in 2019) and the supremely talented Cedric Diggory, known by some as Robert Pattinson (check out The Lighthouse from 2019 and Good Time from 2017). As I’ve mentioned before, Nolan is without a doubt one of my top 3 directors. When you love a director, I suppose you are either ride-or-die (aka love everything they produce), or you can compare each new film against their past works, perhaps your favorite(s) by that director. I take the route initially when I’m watching a film, as a novice film critic (being generous here with “novice”), to try and watch a new movie I’m interested in without bringing in any potential bias. With that being said, I think it is just the nature of films to compare a movie to others as every writer, director, producer, etc. is just borrowing from others most of the time in some way. It’s not a bad thing, its a great thing, and forming those comparisons create the emotional connections and love of the movie itself. We all do this, and probably should…
In this situation, about halfway through Tenet or earlier I started to realize while this had some excellent cinematography as is typical of all of Nolan’s films (aka it looks clean as hell and is edited/cut beautifully), it completely lacked the intrigue, character development (or even allusion to character development), emotional connections to anyone or anything, action sequences, fun plot twists and just general excitement that I love about Nolan’s films, or really any thriller/action piece in general.
What starts with the promise of time shifting, bullet reversing, and complexities that inspire style and wonder turns into a complete mess of incoherent dialogue, boring long sequences, and just unnecessary confusion throughout. The plot felt like it was pieced together with a lot of decent ideas, but was executed not only in poor order but in a way that actually made me frustrated. It’s like he was trying to take elements of complexity from Inception, but ramped up beyond human comprehension minus the intrigue and explanations along the way that tell the story.
With a history of making films like The Prestige, Interstellar, Dunkirk, Batman Trilogy, etc. I have to say this was a massive let down for me. But hey, the guy is a god damn genius and I will watch everything he puts out, and everyone is entitled to a few poor showings every once and a while.
Borat (2) – Subsequent Moviefilm – Sasha Baron Cohen: Borat was a cultural sensation when it came out of nowhere in 2006. Hysterical – but at times just WAY too over the top – you know, like the scene where he and his pal are rolling around naked at a public banquet – that’s when I turned it off the first time. But so unique it had me and my friends imitating scenes and accents for the past decade and a half.
BUT – now we’re here to talk about THIS film, which was much less ridiculous but also carried a bit more maturity, if that makes sense. I was cracking up the whole time with my buddy and I’m sure others felt the same way. The Rudy Giuliani scene alone is alone worth sticking around for, but everything in between was still the solid, Borat humor and comedy without the complete absurdness. I really enjoyed it – and the message was, believe it or not, a positive one throughout the second half (or more like last third) of the film. Worth a watch for its cultural relevance alone- SBC is for sure a genius and will go where many comedians would never dare to tread. And let’s remember, he was one of the first to create this brand of public comedy we now see in the likes of Eric Andre and others. (7.5/10)
Soul – Pixar: Out of this weird year of delayed releases and cancellations, Soul stood out like a shining star. Pixar delivers again. What was most unexpected about this one was it’s more adult-oriented subject matter. It’s like I’ve said previously – Pixar knows how to the cater to the audience that grew up watching its movies. I’m talking jokes that would go WAY over the head of my 10-year-old self. Hilarious at times, exceedingly clever, emotional (but never too much), philosophical; sewn together with outstanding dialogue. Not only this, but I found it such a clever way to display a really complicated issue of life and death (and the SOUL). From a plot perspective it’s almost not worth describing because, well, it’s a bit challenging to describe and not sound silly. An aspiring jazz musician seeks his big break and it ends up going a completely different direction than he planned. You’ll have to discover for yourself to see – but I guarantee you will feel (and be) better off after watching. Don’t watch a preview, just do it. (9/10)
1BR (3/10): Girl gets trapped in a cult-like apartment complex in Los Angeles. Horrible premise, exacted poorly. Lots of tension and building up for little payout. A handful of deliveries of long scenes but would not recommend…
Onward (2020), Disney Pixar – Decent animated, family film about two brothers who go searching for their long-lost father. A few laughs here and there, but largely forgettable for a Pixar film. Funny, because I heard a little less than a peep out of this when it released. (5/10)
Stay tuned for post next Friday 🙂