2020: The Year in Reviews (February)

No matter how strange the year is, we still gotta do the thing. You know how it works: in January I preview and guess ratings for a bunch of movies, then most of them come out over the course of the year, and then we recap it all in December. This year will be no different, though admittedly it’s a much thinner year to review than I’m used to. But, we can only review what comes out.

It started as a game for me to see how well I could guess stuff, but really, like most things on this site, it becomes a vehicle to try to get people to watch stuff. The tallying part is just for me to make it interesting. Mostly I’m just trying to tell you about all the cool stuff I saw this year.

Today we go over February.

February

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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

January’s preview:

“This seems like it’s receding into its own corner of the DC universe, which gives me hope it’ll be fun and worthwhile.”

“It’s a 3-star floor film. 3.5 feels like the case if it’s fun and has some smarts to it. And given all the people and that they’re trying to make it more female-centric, I’m more willing to 3.5 stars than 3 here. So let’s do that and hope it lives up to it.”

The review:

“Well this was fun.”

“I’m not gonna pretend like there’s really anything good in the D.C. Universe as presently constituted, but turns out, the best stuff they’ve made since Chris Nolan left is about women.”

“I like how maintains its comic book status, almost to the point of (and maybe even including it, I can’t fully remember) someone getting hit over the head with a mallet and cartoon birds appearing.”

“I love that the writing isn’t taking itself too seriously and finds inventive things to do to make it more ‘girl power’. Some of it feels like it’s straining, but most of it I really like.”

“I like that the stakes are low and mostly it’s just Harley Quinn going around and getting into some shit most of the time.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

There was an ending to my review where I wrote an overly-complicated metaphor about what this felt like. But the point there is — the D.C. movies have been god awful since Man of Steel, and this is one of the few bright spots they had. I think they had to work with the bullshit they were given and made a fun movie that, as much as it maybe doesn’t want to be, is still tied down by the other crap. So I’m hopeful that when the eventual sequel to this comes out that it might actually push the envelope a little further. Will it? Probably not, but this is the first time a D.C. movie has given me hope in quite a while, so let’s just appreciate that fact.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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The Lodge

January’s preview:

“This got pushed from fall… which is probably all I need to know about it.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“This is kind of like the directors’ previous film (Goodnight Mommy) for me — it looked great and there were some interesting moments, but it didn’t all come together.”

“I just had trouble with the central — what’s the word, without giving too much away — I had trouble with the reality of what was actually happening.”

“It felt drawn out and boring and never really amounted to anything I cared about. And the fact that the situation ended up being what it was, it just made me dislike it all.”

“So, it was fine, and I was fine with it, but I really wish they found a more interesting way to get through this story.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It looked good but was pretty boring. You knew where it was going, and, having seen Goodnight Mommy, all I could think was, “This is basically the plot of that movie without that movie’s twist as the twist in this movie.” Because it is. So yeah, it’s fine, but I wasn’t that big a fan.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Horse Girl

January’s preview:

“It’s Jeff Baena, who did Life After Beth and The Little Hours. Which means automatic 3 stars. I get his style, and it’s not always for me a lot of the time.”

The review:

“Definitely wasn’t for me. I was fine watching it, but I couldn’t make any inroads to understanding whatever there is to understand there.”

“This style of comedy is, most of the time, not something I relate to. Some do, so good for them. It just doesn’t work for me, though.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Wasn’t for me, but it was watchable.. I know myself. I know Baena’s style is often gonna result in 3 star movies for me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

January’s preview:

“It’s Tom McCarthy, which leads me to believe it’ll be okay. And the trailer seemed cute enough, so we’ll go 3 stars. It should be able to do enough to get there.”

The review:

“I’ll always gravitate toward movies like this.”

“It’s cute. There’s a lot of great fantasy sequences with him imagining how things will play out, and it’s just good, clean fun.”

“A lot of people won’t care for it, I know. But I liked it. I’ve got absolutely no problem with this movie whatsoever.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I probably should bump this back down to 3, but I don’t want to seem like I’m only doing it to be right, so I’ll keep the 3.5, even though, while I do think it is cute, my opinion has since cooled on this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

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The Coldest Game

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Somehow I didn’t even know this movie existed at the beginning of the year.”

“Bill Pullman? Alcoholic chess master? And it’s a cold war spy thriller? That’s literally a bingo scenario for me.”

“I loved it. It’s not the greatest movie ever made, but it’s one of those movies that I was destined to like more than others because it checks my personal taste boxes.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s tailored to me, but I did think it was a solid movie. Not gonna change your life, but it’s good for a watch for something you likely know nothing about.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“I’d be really surprised if this got up to the level of the first one. This feels like standard sequel drop and borderline ‘I’m done with this’ because it’s completely generic and lacks any of the interest and good writing of the first movie.”

The review:

“The first one was a really charming surprise. This one was kinda charming, but it lost the element of surprise, and seemingly lost the plot too.”

“The premise was really good the first time. Now, it’s basically just the same as all these other movies — will she pick this dude or that dude? Problem is, I don’t care.”

“Also, hilarious how these movies go from, ‘Oh my god I can never get a date,’ to, ‘Wow, the two hottest guys in the school want to date me! What shall I do?!’

“But it is what it is. I get it. At least it has some of the charm of the first one, so I’m fine with it, even if I have lost most of the interest I had in this series.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Exactly what I’d suspect a sequel would do. Exactly the type of quality I’d expect. Not gonna be disappointed that it’s not as good as the first one. Just gonna enjoy that the first one even was that good and appreciate that this was at least watchable (before the inevitable ‘don’t care’ happens with the third one).

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Downhill

January’s preview:

“It’s the American remake of Force Majeure. Which automatically means at best it’s fine and at worst it’s unnecessary.”

“The important thing to remember, for you people with strong opinions out there… it does not affect the quality of the original in any way. If people will only see this and not watch the original, that says more about them than the quality of either version.”

“I have to go 3 stars on this. I can’t assume it’s as good as the original.”

The review:

“I will start by stating the obvious — just watch Force Majeure. Otherwise, if you have to watch this, it’s fine. It’s not that, and it will never be that. But otherwise, fine. Totally fine.”

“Like all American remakes of foreign films, it’s just okay. You can set a watch to them all turning out the same. Secret in Their Eyes, After the Wedding — they’re all just 3 stars and lack whatever it is that made the foreign versions good.”

“I guess what I’d say is: watch it all you want. But just know, there is a better version of this movie out there that just requires you to read a little bit more.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The real thoughts are “just go watch Force Majeure.” But speaking of the film itself, it’s watchable. It doesn’t achieve what the original did, and it’s pretty much what all those American remakes of Foreign films are — watchable 3-star movies with good casts that make those who saw the original go, “Why did you bother/”

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Fantasy Island

January’s preview:

“Blumhouse is doing a horror version of Fantasy Island. That sounds so stupid.”

2.5 stars.

“Do. Not. Care.”

“Stop making horror versions of famous IP. They’re all shit.”

The review:

“Why? Why is the trend taking famous IP and turning it into horror movies? Just to make the IP relevant again? I don’t get it.”

“This is a shitty horror movie that I didn’t care about, and then somehow by the end, it becomes a prequel to how we got the show?”

“But boy, does Blumhouse have one of the biggest con jobs in the world going, so good for them.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nope. Not for me. Don’t like this horror-fication of famous IP. Not here for this at all. Stop it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Sonic the Hedgehog

January’s preview:

“Remember when this was gonna come out in November but then they pushed it because the Sonic designed looked creepy as shit?”

“So now they’ve released a new trailer that basically gives you the entire plot of the movie and further establishes it as something purely for 8 year olds that people who grew up with the game are not gonna like.”

“I’m not even gonna pretend like I’m gonna care about this and go 2.5 stars. I’d normally say 3 on pure instinct because I love Sonic, but that trailer tells me exactly how little I’m gonna care about this.”

The review:

“Loved Sonic when I grew up, had no expectations for this to even be watchable. I suspect that if I were in the 10-15 range, I probably would have been okay with this, but honestly… I didn’t get much out of this.”

“Sonic at least wasn’t creepy looking like the original design was, and there were sort of charming family elements to him, but by and large it was just dumb stuff with humor that would really only appeal to the 8 and under crowd.”

“Maybe if they make another one it might be watchable.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m used to my childhood being desecrated at this point. Fortunately I realized early on that these movies don’t affect me in any way. So I’ll just stick with my Sega Genesis memories and the melody of “Green Hill Zone Act 1” that I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a thousand times in my life and forget this movie exists.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Ordinary Love

January’s preview:

“I love the idea that it’s about a regular couple. I’m not crazy about the breast cancer aspect. I kinda just want it to be a look at the average couple when nothing particularly special happens. That would, to me, be the point of seeing an ‘ordinary’ couple. But hey, I like Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville and it looks like it’s gonna be perfectly fine.”

“I’m going 3 stars, but I want this to be 3.5. I can’t assume it’s going to be, because this feels like a clear 3.5 trap that only goes 3 in the end. It has a shot at 3.5, but I can’t assume it. I’ve been burned too many times on these early films.”

The review:

“I really appreciated this one. It’s just a low key drama about regular people and everyday life.”

“It doesn’t do anything huge or cinematic. There aren’t any big speeches or emotional reservations or tearful monologues. It’s just regular people going through life.”

“Sometimes it’s worth making a movie about the shit regular people go through.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I loved that this was just a simple movie about real people going through some shit. Literally, this could be your neighbors. They don’t do anything overstated, and it’s just comfortable. And I like that. Of course, the cinema going public often demands more than this, but I like stuff like this more than I like stuff exploding. Good for them for making this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Buffaloed

January’s preview:

“This has a shot at 3.5 stars. My gut says to stick with 3 stars and let it go 3.5, but honestly, let’s aim high.”

3.5 stars.”

“I’m getting 3 at worst, but this feels like it’s got enough going on that it could pretty easily get to 3.5. And I’m hoping it does. It looks fun.”

The review:

“This is my kind of indie. I love these types of movies.”

“I like a movie that uses voiceover well.”

“This is one of the nice little gems of the year so far and I hope people see it, if only to see what is, at the quarter pole, one of the best performances I’ve seen so far this year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

A really terrific performance from Zoey Deutch and one of those weird little movies that I love having in my back pocket to tell people about. Because it’s the ones like this that I remember more than the ones that have more standard plots. It’s a nice little hidden gem from this year.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Photograph

January’s preview:

“Normally one these serious romance movies I go 2.5 stars, but with that cast I have to go 3 stars. How can I not?”

The review:

“This was really solid. Could have veered a lot more into Nicholas Sparks territory, but it doesn’t.”

“A lot of it works because of the chemistry between Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae.”

“I think it’s a little overserious at times and pushes too hard on the subplot instead of the main romance at hand. But honestly — it’s really well shot and has a lot of charm to it, and it’s not like there are a lot of romances about and featuring people of color, so I’m all for this in every way.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I didn’t love the movie, but I respect the shit out of them for making it. You don’t get many films with all-black casts, especially a romance with two black leads. And you know what? Keep making them. I’ll watch. Stop relegating all black casts to horror and genre movies and just tell black stories across the board. There’s room for it. No one gives a shit about another boring cybersecurity thriller. Give us more stuff like this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Olympic Dreams

January’s preview:

“It’s co-written by Olympic runner Alexi Pappas, who did Tracktown, which I quite enjoyed.”

3 stars.

The review:

“I love everything about this movie.”

“What I love about it is that they shot it at the actual 2018 Winter Olympics.”

“It’s really sweet. It’s so unassumingly sweet. It’s hard to dislike this movie.”

“I think everyone should see it and support it. Because this is how movies should be made. There’s not a selfish bone in this movie’s body. This is as pure as cinema gets, and truly this is one of the best pieces of product to have come out this year.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Honestly, the amount I’ve brought this movie up and how it continues to make me smile thinking about it, I’m bumping it up to 3.5. It’s really charming and I just like how they made it. It’s the kind of movie we should be championing.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?:

The Kindness of Strangers

January’s preview:

3 stars, on the cast alone. Though reviews haven’t been great, so I’m thinking a very slight 3 stars.”

The review:

“It has its moments.”

“Zoe Kazan is the best thing in the movie, as she often is in most movies.”

“It has other subplots that I kinda cared about, and I was very interested for stretches of time. But ultimately it felt like the movie had nothing to say and didn’t really get anywhere all that interesting in the big picture sense.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

These ensemble dramas almost always go 3 stars for me and they’re always mixed bags. Almost a year later now (and with the pandemic it feels like two), the only real thing I remember from this movie is that I liked Zoe Kazan’s storyline and the rest was forgettable.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Brahms, The Boy II

January’s preview:

“Oh god. Why?”

“Spare me this.”

2.5 stars.

“If there’s one thing I can guarantee you about this movie, it’s that my reaction to it, should I actually see it, will be a very pronounced yawn.”

The review:

“Did not care about the first one, did not care about this one. I don’t understand why they needed to make a sequel to something that wasn’t particularly interesting in the first place. I guess this is a prequel, but still. Yawn.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Told you I was gonna yawn.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Emma

January’s preview:

“We know how these movies go — they look good, costumes are great, they’re colorful, the performances are perfectly charming, and they’re only 3 stars.”

“It doesn’t feel like we have another Little Women on our hands, so let’s just assume the norm until the movie proves otherwise.”

The review:

“It’s fine.”

“Anya Taylor-Joy is a star, which we knew, and she’s delightful, and Mia Goth is also quite good, and Bill Nighy is welcome in anything, and the costumes are nice and it looks great… otherwise didn’t care.”

“Which shouldn’t come as any surprise. This is how I feel about almost all of these types of costume dramas based on famous novels.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is how I feel about all of these period costume films — especially ones based on famous novels — they’re just okay. They don’t do a whole lot for me. I’ve seen them before. It feels like when you go to see a high school play or something. You know the material, so really it’s just about how well they put it on. So it’s fine. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, but it was nice to look at. So there’s that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Call of the Wild

January’s preview:

“It’s a DOG MOVIE.” 

“That being said, 3 stars. Can’t see how it goes higher than that, given the dog movie angle and the bad-looking CGI.”

The review:

“It’s a very weird film. Even weirder because THEY DIDN’T PUT A REAL DOG IN IT. Harrison Ford was acting by a guy in a mo-cap suit pretending to be a dog. Which is just insane.”

“It is watchable, I’ll give it that much. BARELY watchable, but watchable. Still, I just did not want another dog movie and this was really something… I’m not gonna say I was looking forward to it, but I at least had hopes that it would be fine, and it was not fine, and that disappointed me a lot.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I usually hate dog movies, but I also really liked the 1935 adaptation of this novel. So I hoped this would be closer to that. And it kind of was, but not really, since it focused entirely on the dog and the section that film handled was just a segment of this one. It’s fine. I still don’t like these dog movies, especially since they CG all the dogs and it looks creepy. Am I the only one weirded out by the slick and obvious CGI that’s in everything? I feel like I’d prefer it if we just went back to people in costumes most of the time. But yeah, dog movie. Not a fan.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Color Out of Space

January’s preview:

“Starring Nicolas Cage.”

“I’ve heard varying things about this, as it played some festivals late last year. Judging from the trailer, it looks cheap and low rent, so the insanity of his performance (assuming it’s there), will be tampered by that.

3 stars.

The review:

“I was sold a bill of goods on this.”

“I didn’t think it would be amazing, but I had hope that it would be at least sorta nuts. And turns out… nope. Just real dark horror.”

“Not sure who this is for except hardcore sci fi people. I love Cage, and this to me barely rises above the crop of ‘insignificant VOD fare’. And that’s only because at least weird shit happens like mutant bugs and people being fused together. Other than that, I did not care for this movie at all.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This was a lot more of a hardcore sci-fi film than I was expecting. It’s nuts in the ways I didn’t want. I’d have preferred Cage doing crazy shit, and instead people are getting fused together and it’s all fucked up body horror. That’s not for me. Film was fine, but very much not my genre.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Standing Up, Falling Down

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“Strange one, but I do like when Billy Crystal does movies.”

“While it’s not a great movie, I do appreciate part of what they did here and think it might be worth seeing for people.”

“I think it’s an interesting misfire, and you can often learn and gain more from those than you can from most straight up good or bad movies.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The movie’s your standard indie festival movie, but mostly it’s a reminder that Billy Crystal is amazing and you forget just how good he is and just how much you miss him until you see him in a role like this again. More Billy Crystal!

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Last Thing He Wanted

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Should at least be that.”

“I’m wondering if people don’t like this because it’s badly made or because it’s just not Mudbound. I find a lot of times when someone changes tones like this, the bad reviews tend to just be because people wanted them to do the same damn thing again. I’ll give Dee the benefit of the doubt here.”

The review:

“I can see why it got bad reviews. Kind of falls apart as it gets to the third act. But the setup is interesting and it’s well made.”

“3.5 is probably too high and most people won’t like it, but I thought it was solid enough. I’ll likely never go back to it again, but the one time I thought it was perfectly fine.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

My opinion’s cooled on this, to the point where I’m questioning if I want to go down to 3. But I do remember being engaged for a lot of this, even though I’m not sure it actually worked in the end, so let’s stick with 3.5. I remember liking all the stuff with Willem Dafoe and thinking it was largely well made even though the third act made zero sense and wasn’t all that interesting. Let’s call it a misfire but not an embarrassing one.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Night Clerk

January’s preview:

“I can’t guess more than 3 stars. But I like those actors.”

The review:

“Ehh. It’s fine.”

“It never comes together.”

“At least they make it watchable. Otherwise, this is pure B movie schlock, and not even the good kind.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The cast is better than the finished product. It’s exactly the kind of B movie schlock that you can’t get away with nowadays because B movies don’t exist and you can’t shoot them in black and white. Honestly, if they did try to make this more like one of those poverty row B movies in the 50s, I’d have been way more excited about this than I was.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Greed

January’s preview:

“Not seeing anything more than 3 stars out of this. Seems like it’ll be fine but I won’t care much past that.”

The review:

“A literal version of ‘eat the rich’.”

“It’s very dark and acerbic, which is sometimes off-putting, but overall is a watchable film that deals with some timely issues.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was okay. not anything I care to see again, but it was watchable.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I love a good rock doc. And The Band is just such an endlessly fascinating entity, because they’re at the nexus of a lot of big names and events of that era, so it’s nice to have something that gets into them.”

“Easy Rider, The Last Waltz, all their stuff with Dylan, you forget just how connected to the culture of the late 60s, early 70s they are.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Love rock docs. Love The Band. Loved everything about this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Burden

January’s preview:

“This played Sundance in 2018 and is only getting released now. That tells me a lot.”

“Trailer made it feel like it could have maybe gone 3.5 if there were better stuff in the actual movie they didn’t show, but the two years between Sundance and release, plus my general history with films of this ilk tell me it’s not going higher than 3 stars.”

“The cast will make it watchable, but the result will just be middling.”

The review:

“It’s pretty by-the-numbers all around.”

“There’s not much here. Long, slow, not much of value in the end. Stuff you’ve seen before. I feel like there’s better uses of your time, even if it’s a perfectly adequate movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

When a movie doesn’t come out for two-plus years, you kind of know what you’re in for. The cast was good, but the story just… was kinda boring. Never went anywhere and never really did anything other than the usual stuff without anything to keep you invested. Oh well. It happens.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Young Ahmed

January’s preview:

“This is the Dardennes, which means it should be solid.”

3 stars.

The review:

“The Dardennes’ style is always interesting, but always feels limited.”

“They create this handheld, indie atmosphere where you immediately buy and are invested in the realism of the project, but always feel like you want more characterization and screen time invested in more fully developing the people and their beliefs and lives.”

“Overall, it’s as solid as most Dardennes films. You pretty much know what you’re getting with them.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was more invested in this than I thought. My brain said ‘maybe go back down to 3’ but I do remember thinking this was solid in the moment. Which I think is how all these Dardennes movies go for me. Kind of like Ken Loach. You’re invested in the moment but then everything fades afterward because they’re dramas about real people and real situations, so to me it’s almost like remembering encounters on the street. It’s not like a movie where you remember set pieces and things. So I’ll stick with 3.5. This was solid.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Invisible Man

January’s preview:

3 stars.

“I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt to make it decent, but I refuse to think it’s anything I’m gonna like or care about past that. This is not my genre at all.”

The review:

“I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this.”

“It wasn’t just a metaphor for abusive relationships (though he handled that part really well).”

“I liked how there’s the slow burn of everything and it’s a pure monster movie in that no one believes her for most of it and makes her seem crazy and then eventually it becomes about survival.”

“I also really liked the early stages, when he’d just pan the camera over to another corner of the room or focus on an empty hallway and just let the tension build from those moments.”

“I’m never gonna call it my favorite movie of the year by any stretch, but considering I thought I wouldn’t care, I thought it was very solid and understand the acclaim.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is a solid movie, mostly because of the direction by Leigh Whannell, and I still think this was hugely overrated when it came out. It is a solid movie worth praising, and I already know this is something I’m gonna get mad about when I see people start putting this in their top ten and saying awards should be given. It’s good, but it’s not that good. But that has nothing to do with the movie itself. The movie does exactly what it should and is a great elevated genre movie with something to say.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Wendy

January’s preview:

“I’m in, and a half.”

4 stars.”

“I hope it’s amazing.”

The review:

“This feels like a situation where, the first time Zeitlin made a movie with this energy and milieu, it felt fresh and amazing. And now, the second time (especially now eight years later), it feels like, ‘Yeah, we get it. You’ve done that already.'”

“It’s literally just Beasts of the Southern Wild but with the story of Peter Pan.”

“I’m not sure if it doesn’t fully work because it’s the same thing again and the same thing barely worked the first time because of the unique setting, or because of the actors, or just doesn’t fully work because it’s Peter Pan.”

“I liked this. I like the ‘kids making a movie’ energy to it.”

“It’s solid, but I would like to see maybe a little something different, especially now that it took all this time to basically get the same movie again.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s ‘Beasts’ done with the story of Peter Pan. It’s solid, but I saw them do this already and the magic didn’t quite work the second time. It’s well made and I enjoyed watching it, but it just didn’t stay with me the way Beasts of the Southern Wild did.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Guns Akimbo

January’s preview:

“I don’t even have to watch a trailer to know that’s an automatic 3 star movie.”

The review:

“This was fun. Difficult to watch, because the main character is so unlikable past his situation.”

“It’s just a fun action movie. Nothing more than dumb fun. I enjoy those.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was a fun, throwaway kind of action movie. Mostly I disliked just how much of an asshole Radcliffe’s character was before the plot kicked in. It was hard to root for him for a large chunk of the film, and I’m really not sure why that choice was made. And Samara Weaving yet again adds to her resume of fun, cult-y action movies. So there’s that too.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Saint Frances

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Truly loved this movie. One of my favorites of the year so far.”

“It’s a really strong film, and I like that (Kelly O’Sullivan) wrote a part for herself.”

“This is the kind of movie that we should all be seeing and championing.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I do like that O’Sullivan wrote herself a part and made a terrific movie out of it. It’s an indie, but there’s a lot of character to this. This was what I didn’t feel about Obvious Child that everyone else did. I also like that it, like a few other films I liked this year, was partially centered around the main character deliberately getting an abortion. And I like that we’re at a place now where we can frankly show women’s bodily autonomy on screen rather than simply making her a function of society or the men in her life. So good on them for that too. Otherwise, loved this, was very charming, real hidden gem for 2020.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

All the Bright Places

January’s preview:

“It’s by Brett Haley, who has made pretty solid little indies thus far.”

“However, it’s a YA adaptation. And as such, I cannot ethically go above 3 stars. The movie can go higher, but I can’t guess higher.”

The review:

“It was kind of interesting in the first half. Or rather, I wasn’t bored during the first half, but then it just totally lost me by that ending.”

“It’s basically The Fault in Our Stars with suicide. I’m not really sure what the point of it all was, but I got through it. So I’m fine. Never need to see this again.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The Fault in Our Brain Chemistry. That’s what this is. It’s doing the same boring high school romance thing, but then also one of the characters kills themselves. So, great. I have to try to care about the romance, which is usually hit and miss for me anyway (this was a miss) and then it’s just an insane downer. Not really sure why this exists, but Brett Haley has proven to me that he can take something I don’t care about and make it watchable. So good for him, I guess. Was not a fan of this movie, though.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Jesus Rolls

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. On principle. Plus, Turturro’s directorial efforts have always been interesting. I loved Romance & Cigarettes. Fading Gigolo was okay too. I can’t wait to see what this is.”

The review:

“Loved the idea. Love that he was adapting Going Places but with that character. Kind of a gimmick, but what the hell. Probably came about 5-10 years too late, to be honest.”

“Mostly the movie doesn’t really work, but it tries. I appreciated the effort more than I liked the finished product.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I wish I liked this more than I did. It was meant to be a series of vignettes turned into a film. It’s a picaresque kind of story, so I get that. But this felt like it was barely holding together and a lot of the comedy didn’t fully gel. Maybe it was the use of the Jesus character, but I just wasn’t feeling this, despite really wanting to like it. Oh well. I’ll always have Romance and Cigarettes.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

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