2020: The Year in Reviews (April)

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 April.

April

Coffee & Kareem

January’s preview:

“It’s Ed Helms and a kid, too… yeah, I can’t go higher than 2.5 stars. Maybe I can get 3 out of this, but I just know me and I know how this whole setup feels like it’s gonna go for me.”

The review:

“I was fully ready to hate this movie.”

“And as it started off I thought, ‘Ugh, it’s gonna be one of those, isn’t it?’ But the minute the child showed up on screen, the movie got better.”

“Children cursing is usually funny, but the way this kid does it, it’s really funny.”

“And the plot actually held my attention and was kinda fun, even if it was really obvious all the way through. But you don’t go into a movie like this for the plot, you go into it to laugh. Which I did. So I was actually quite fine with this.”

“Would not have guessed that at the beginning of the year, but here we are.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I get why I had no faith in this going into the year, but I also did laugh. A child cursing is almost always funny, and the pairing with Ed Helms worked for me. The movie wasn’t that good, but I laughed. Maybe it was just quarantine, but who cares. I got everything I needed to get out of this.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Trolls World Tour

January’s preview:

“Okay, they made a sequel.”

“And it looks stupid.”

“The first one was dumb, so I’m not gonna think this can be any better.”

2.5 stars. I’m sure I will be properly indifferent toward this.”

The review:

“I barely got through the first one, but at least that had some nice original songs in there, even if it’s basically just an advertisement to sell toys.”

“This one is just an orgy of pop music. They just take fifteen second snippets of famous songs for kids to groove along to. It might as well be a Kidz Bop album.”

“There’s really no point to this at all, and they’re just selling merchandise. So I’m leaving it to whoever the hell this is for, because it sure as hell isn’t for me.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is the Kidz Bop of animation. That about covers it. Colorful, though, so I’ll give them that.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Tigertail

January’s preview:

“Sounds solid.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“I really loved this film as an idea, and wish it had been executed better.”

“Part of me thinks this is a guy going, ‘I wonder what my father’s life was like. I bet it was like in the Mood for Love.'” But also part of me thinks that I only think that because the film gave me tantalizingly little of that section of the film.”

“I feel like the proper version of this movie is at least an hour longer, has much more about the father’s life in Taiwan, shows you just what the romance meant to him and what his ultimate choice meant to him, and just put more meat on the bones.”

“I’m not surprised to find out that the writer-director is a TV comedy writer, and it feels like he streamlined his story to fit for a certain time slot rather than letting the story be what it should be.”

“It felt like an outline to something longer. So, while it was a solid film, it feels like I’d feel about a really well-executed short film… now give me the feature version of this story.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this, but I do wish there were more. More time spent on the story, more character stuff. Just… more. Which is usually the sign of a good movie that you know you could keep watching it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Love Wedding Repeat

January’s preview:

“Honestly, it being a remake it should be okay to get to 3 stars, so we’ll go with that.”

The review:

“I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe it’s the quarantine, maybe it’s actually okay.”

“I thought it was gonna be cheesy, but the characters didn’t feel entirely one-dimensional, the chemistry and dialogue between the leads worked for me, and even the goofy side shit didn’t diminish it.”

“I will say that I think the plot is a little too dependent on people just not saying the truth to one another in a given (many given) moments, but nevertheless I was entertained.”

“Overall, perfectly watchable piece of forgettable streaming fare.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The fantasy aspect kept me okay on this. And by fantasy, I mean the Wayne’s World time manipulation of, “Well this was one scenario, so here’s another.” And then you see all the characters play out the other scenario. So that worked for me, for the most part, and the actors overcame a lot of the generic stuff (of which there was a lot). So, watchable, forgettable, but perfectly fine the one time.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Main Event

January’s preview:

“Netflix movie. Sounds kiddie.”

“I guess 3 stars.”

The review:

“I thought maybe I’d get something out of this even though it looked really kiddie. Turns out it was too kiddie for me.”

“It does show the far cry from how things were made in other decades versus how they’re made now.”

“It’s funny, because it’s not markedly different from a movie that would have been made in the 80s. But it just feels different. There’s no emotional hook, the editing and pacing is too fast — but you know. That’s filmmaking now. It’s really for 10 year olds, so hopefully they get something out of it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was too kiddie for me. I wished it were better and more charming, but absolutely no money was spent on this and without Netflix it would’ve been a Nickelodeon original movie. It’s that level of quality. It’s for 8 year olds. I get it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Sergio

January’s preview:

3 stars. Iraq movies… things like this… generally not for me, but usually watchable.”

The review:

“Oh, I bet everyone’s lining up to watch a biopic of a U.N diplomat, right?”

“I just did not care about any of this, even though they definitely cared about the film they were making. So I’ll give them that. But it just wasn’t for me at all.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m always respectfully bored by these political drama/thrillers. I just don’t care. It’s fine, the people in it are fine… the story just doesn’t matter to me. So, it’s well made and all, but — *shrug*.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Selah and the Spades

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Feel however you want about the film, but the one takeaway that everyone should have from this is that Tayarisha Poe has a really bright future as a director.”

“You get the sense that Poe is completely in command of that story and is telling exactly the story she wants to tell. So even if I wasn’t totally invested in it, I took comfort in knowing that I was in good hands regardless.”

“I was impressed with the film as an effort more than I was entertained by it. I think it’s worth seeing, and I think it shows an exciting new voice that hopefully should be giving us more cool stuff in the future, which is way better than seeing some generic garbage that they throw out that no one will remember in six months.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Incredibly well-made first feature loaded with style and voice. Watch out for Tayarisha Poe. She’s got great movies in her.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Quarry

January’s preview:

“Sounds like 3 stars.”

The review:

“It’s pretty good. Not gonna blow you away, but you could do a lot worse for 100 minutes.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Perfectly acceptable drama. People I like in it. Not something you need to go out of your way to see, but if it’s on, you could do worse.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Butt Boy

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“What a weird fucking movie.”

“The male equivalent of the film Swallow.”

“It’s a very sure-handed film. There’s talent behind this, which still begs the question — why?”

“I don’t have the answer to it, but at least this now goes into that weird subsection of ‘weird cinema’ for people to find. That’s always an interesting place to go.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is so fucking weird. The third act takes place inside this dude’s rectum. I like it because it’s bizarre and I like that I can tell people about it, but I’m not sure who this is for or what most people are ever gonna get out of it. But I love that it exists. Does that make sense?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Willoughbys

January’s preview:

“The images I saw aren’t promising, so 2.5 stars has to be the guess. It’s hard for anything outside of Disney/Pixar to get above 3 stars maximum anyway, and most of the time I just don’t care.”

The review:

“It’s fine. Perfectly affable animated family fare. Animation looked solid, I just didn’t care all that much about the story, as I often don’t about these things.”

“No reflection on the film whatsoever, just my usual reaction to most animation. I wish I cared more about this film, but I didn’t.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I wanted to not care about this, but the animation style was fun and the story kept me engaged enough to be okay with it. Did I love it? No. But I wasn’t totally indifferent. Just largely indifferent. Which is a step up for how these things usually go with me.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Extraction

January’s preview:

“Sounds like a standard 3 star action movie to me, so that’s where I’m going.”

The review:

“Plot-wise, it’s pretty much your standard action-thriller.”

“Most of the film is based on the fact that it’s been directed by a stunt coordinator, so the action scenes are directed with some nice flourishes.”

“Overall, I recommend it. It’s probably a 3-star movie, but I went 3.5 just because the action scenes were so entertaining. They kept what could have been a very over-serious tone from permeating the rest of the film.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It is a 3-star thriller, but it’s the style with which they told it that made me exuberantly go the extra half-star. It’s made by stuntmen, and you can tell. Sort of like how you could tell with John Wick. The sequences had flair, and they weren’t the usual thing. I really enjoyed this one way more than I ever thought possible.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

To the Stars

January’s preview:

“Played Sundance. Feels like 3 stars.”

The review:

“This was a beautiful coming-of-age story.”

“I love that it was set in 60s Oklahoma, which is not something you see all the time. And it’s just a wonderful story of female friendship and coming into your own and finding your way in the world.”

“I love the little things that get revealed along the way (and the things that get revealed through absence of characters), and I really liked the direction and shot choices made by Martha Stephens.”

“I just enjoyed this so much more than if there had been some sort of superhero or mainstream action movie in its place, and I’m so happy that in this year of all years that this has as much of a chance to potentially get seen as most other stuff.”

“This was one of my favorite films of this third of the year, and I recommend that everyone go see it if they can.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was really charmed by this one. The direction was nice, the two leads were really good. The film had personality, and it’s just the kind of movie that I like. Definitely a nice little gem worth checking out.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The True History of the Kelly Gang

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. How can you not with that cast and that director?”

“This looks like The Proposition, and that’s only a good thing.”

The review:

“Films about Ned Kelly have been made before. What makes this one stand out is that it doesn’t give a fuck about the facts. It purports that none of it is true and then begins with its main character writing a letter and saying, ‘Every word of this is 100% true.’ Which is a perfect way to start the film, because now we’re not tethered to the facts. And it then does what it wants.”

“It’s so much more interesting than if he told the story in a straightforward way. It’s a real solid effort. Never gonna be remembered, never gonna be shouted out as one of the best of the year, but currently one of the most beautiful-looking films you’ll see all year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s not The Proposition, but it’s fun. Great cast, well made. I like that there’s dirt around the edges of this one. And Justin Kurzel is a hell of a visual filmmaker. You knew that from Macbeth. He couldn’t save Assassin’s Creed, but here, you can see it again. That third act is fantastic, the way he shoots it. I was a fan of this one.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Beastie Boys Story

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“First, let me say, I fucking love the Beastie Boys. I grew up with them, and they’re one of the defining bands of my childhood. That ‘Sounds of Science’ anthology was one of the things I listened to most when I was 12. I love that concert film they made that was shot entirely by audience members (Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That!). They’re my guys.”

“(This is) wonderful, and so perfectly them. Because they’ve always been low-tech and doing things that amused them, and they put all the technical gaffes in this. There’s a recurring bit about a sound effect and animation that’s supposed to show up, and for the majority of the show it just isn’t there, and it becomes some of the best moments in the doc, meanwhile most people would cut that out.”

“It’s really the perfect thing for this band to do, and also a great reminiscence of the band, their impact, what it means to the members (and by extension, all of the people who love them), and a great tribute to the dearly departed MCA. It’s worth seeing as a different way to make a music doc, and definitely worth seeing if you like the Beastie Boys.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is exactly the kind of movie for me. I love the Beastie Boys and this was just two hours of a good time, perfectly fitting within that unique style and tone they’ve created for themselves over the course of their career. This might be my favorite documentary of the year. Because it’s them telling their own story their own way. And it’s incredible. This is their Springsteen on Broadway. Beasties on Broadway. It’s terrific.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Bad Education

January’s preview:

“I’m going 4 stars. I think this is gonna be great. Feels like a 3.5 star-minimum film. Jackman always picks good material.”

The review:

“Oh, this was so good. Who doesn’t love a good public school embezzlement scandal?”

“I love how they slow play everything here, starting with Jackman as the pillar of moral standing and then little by little, the cracks start to show. And you just wait for that domino to fall, and slowly see just how fucked up the whole thing is and just how not-great he is. I couldn’t wait til everything fell apart.”

“This was so good and is something from this quarter of the year everyone should see, because it’s just wonderful.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

This was so good. I do owe it to myself to see it again, because it’s been years (lockdown). But I really loved this at the time and think Jackman gave one of the best performances I saw this year. Big fan of this one.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Dangerous Lies

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Shitty Lifetime level Netflix thriller.”

“It’s not good. If you like these shitty thrillers, be my guest. Otherwise it’s not worth the effort.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

If you’re gonna watch everything, sometimes you get stuck with something like this. It’s not good.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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