2020: The Year in Reviews (May)

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 May.

May

The Half of It

January’s preview:

“Seems like your standard high school movie.”

3 stars.

The review:

“I like how every year or so Netflix ups their game when it comes to something new and fresh in the high school rom com genre.”

“It’s kind of a same-sex Cyrano, in a way. It’s progressive in all the right ways, but also really smart and well-written. And charming as hell.”

“It’s definitely one of the better (if not best) Netflix movies I’ve seen, particularly of the high school/rom com genre. Netflix has a lot of junk out there, but this is definitely one of the worthwhile ones.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I quite liked this. I like the twist on the usual story, and I like how charming it was without having to resort to a lot of the ‘usual’ scenes in this kind of movie. One of the better Netflix movies out there.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

All Day and a Night

January’s preview:

“The combination of Netflix and the plot makes me think I shouldn’t go higher than 3 stars, but I think I could get 3.5 out of this, potentially.”

The review:

“It’s fine. Looks nice, otherwise pretty standard stuff. I didn’t get too much out of it, though it’s perfectly watchable.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Looked nice, didn’t amount to much.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Deerskin

January’s preview:

“This looks weird as hell and I can’t wait.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“You know what you’re getting with the filmmaker. It’s wonderfully weird and funny.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s the guy who made Rubber. You know what you’re in for.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Endings, Beginnings

January’s preview:

“Drake Doremus movie. At this point he’s basically a high-end 3 star filmmaker.”

The review:

“It’s Drake Doremus, whose claim to fame is Like Crazy and has spent the rest of the past decade making either dramas that really take relationships seriously (Breathe In, Newness) or high concept sci-fi (Equals, Zoe). This is the former.”

“It takes itself way too seriously. Not in a pretentious way, but one of those where you watch the characters and go, ‘Your shit isn’t that big a deal.”

“I find characters in movies like this unlikable and unrelatable, and despite liking the actors in it, felt the same way here.”

“It’s well-enough made and I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t find myself caring past ‘sure’.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Doremus makes one of two movies: high concept romance or romance film with a way serious tone. This is the latter. It’s watchable, but not something I ever need to see again.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Arkansas

January’s preview:

“Vince Vaughn is playing Frog.” (This is my ‘Zendaya is Meechee’.)

“On cast alone, I’ve gotta say 3 stars. Seems like a straight thriller, which is interesting, but that also doesn’t give it much upside either.”

The review:

“It reeks of ‘first screenplay by an actor’ and is one of those movies you write when you really like stuff like Pulp Fiction and want to make something like that.”

“It’s perfectly watchable and the actors get you through. The plot isn’t all there, but it’s capable and watchable.”

“I’m more likely to give stuff like this a pass and enjoy it, so I think it’s perfectly watchable, especially with the cast it has. I suspect most people wouldn’t give a shit, though.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

You’ve seen these movies a bunch before. Not particularly great, but the cast makes it watchable.

Also, Vince Vaughn is Frog.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Sweetness in the Belly

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“I’ve been tracking this for far too long to mess around with it.”

The review:

“Overall it’s watchable. Nothing too outstanding, but it’s honest and has its heart in the right place.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Watchable. Nothing more.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

How to Build a Girl

January’s preview:

“Sounds very British.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Largely it’s just okay, and ends up getting pretty formulaic toward the end. But overall it’s very watchable and if it seems like it’s something you’d be into, is worth the watch.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s okay. Not totally for me, but not the worst movie I saw this year.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Valley Girl

January’s preview:

“Hopefully it’s an original musical and not a jukebox musical. But whatever. Sounds fun as hell.”

3.5 stars. I’m in for this.”

The review:

“Somehow I didn’t despise this. I don’t know why. Maybe it caught me on a good day.”

“I don’t like how a lot of the songs barely got any time. It was like a musical for people with ADD.”

“But otherwise it’s competent and fun enough and the cast is game for a very particular kind of tone. To their credit, they picked a style and stuck with it, and overall, I’m surprised it wasn’t worse.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Well that was a fun progression. “Hopefully it’s original and not a jukebox. 3.5.”

“It is a jukebox. 3.”

That about covers it. Honestly it could have gone lower.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Pretty much just 90 minutes of famous people describing what it’s like to be on hallucinogens. Which sounded pretty damn fun to me.”

“It’s a little more ‘documentary’ than I’d hoped.”

“What I really wanted was more crazy stories people had while on shrooms or acid. And maybe it’s better that there weren’t any crazier stories on here, but I feel like I was hoping for more than I got, even though what I got was perfectly fine.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Who doesn’t like famous people talking about being on hallucinogens?

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Capone

January’s preview:

“On Hardy playing Capone alone, I have to guess 3.5 stars. What else could you guess on that?”

The review:

“When they didn’t release this last year, I got worried. I thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t a good movie.’ Turns out… it’s just too weird to market.”

“It’s a very odd kinda movie, with Capone slipping in and out of dementia. But it works because Hardy is so committed to it, voice and posture and the makeup. It’s not a performance that’ll ever win an award, but it is a nice entry in Hardy’s impressive body of work.”

“The film isn’t for everyone, but the performance is great.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Hardy is committed, and the film was interesting. Not sure if it was any good. But it was weird and committed to what it wanted to be, and that was enough for me.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Wrong Missy

January’s preview:

“Netflix movie starring David Spade.”

“‘Nuff said.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“You kinda knew what you were getting going in. It’s just straight drivel all the way through.”

“It’s so over-the-top. But apparently that’s what a certain section of people want, since Netflix makes so much money off of these things. So hey, I leave it to those people. For me, this was straight garbage.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

Has David Spade made a solo movie in the past 20 years that’s been anything other than terrible? (I grew up enjoying Lost and Found and, to an extent, Joe Dirt, so I will give him those two and absolutely nothing else.)

* * (2 stars)

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

Scoob!

January’s preview:

“Oh hell no. It’s bad CGI animation.”

“I love Scooby Doo, but not when it looks like this. It’s an origin story too, and they’re really stretching that plot pretty thin to make it like one of the bad animated movies we see today.”

2.5 stars. I can’t in good conscience guess any higher than that. It looks awful.”

The review:

“Why must we ruin everything?”

“I’d normally say the only reason for something like this is because they were gonna lose the rights to it, but Warners has owned the property forever, which means that it’s just another shitty excuse for trying to make money by using nostalgia to real some people in and putting no effort into the writing or filmmaking whatsoever.”

“I hate these kinds of movies. The 3D CG animation looks disgusting, especially since this franchise began with visually interesting 60s animation, and the humor is designed for every 7 year old who grew up with an iPad in their hands.”

“It’s what all bad studio animation is nowadays, designed to appeal to nothing except people who are children right now. This movie is already dated, and it’s a damn shame that they had to do Scooby Doo dirty like this.”

“Plus they tried to create this Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe from this, which is doubly gross.”

“I’m glad I retired the Unforgivables list, because otherwise this would have had to be on it. It’s that gross a film to me, on every conceivable level.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

What an unholy piece of shit this was.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Castle in the Ground

January’s preview:

“Sounds like a standard indie drama, though, so I’ll go 3 stars.”

The review:

“I assumed this was gonna be a horror movie. Doesn’t that just sound like some atmospheric horror movie about a family moving into a palatial country estate that’s got some dark secrets?”

“It’s not that.”

“Kinda slow. Goes into some places that maybe it didn’t need to toward the end. But Poots is always good (especially so here) and Wolff does a good job, even though his character is morose for the majority of the film (kinda like Hereditary).”

“It’s an uneven, but watchable film. Can’t say I’d recommend it to too many people. I’m not really sure who the audience for this film is.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really expected this to be a horror movie (because I forgot what my preview was and just watched it cold). It’s fine. Too serious, but the acting is good. Flat 3.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Military Wives

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Generic, feel-good British film.”

“It hits every note you’d expect (pun ridiculously intended) and does nothing surprising at all.”

“It just… is. If you go for these movies, you’ll like it. If you’re like me and they have to be really charming or really well-written or made to win you over, then it’ll just be fine and you can probably skip it otherwise you’ll be able to watch it just fine and then move on with your life.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s a generic, feel-good British film. That covers everything.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Last Moment of Clarity

January’s preview:

“So it’s Rear Window, but as a shitty thriller?”

3 stars.”

The review:

“A movie that wants to be Hitchcock but instead… just kind of exists.”

“There’s a lot of insane logic jumps the movie takes and forces you to go along with. They lost me at ‘immediately upon arriving at Los Angeles he runs into the younger sister of his best friend growing up’. But trust me, that’s not even the worst of it. By the time the third act happens, none of it makes sense.”

“It reeks of ‘this is the first script we wrote when we were 18’. Not sure how it got made with a budget, but here we are.”

“I was able to get through it, but it’s not really worthwhile for anyone else. Even if you love Samara Weaving — this is like one of those paycheck Nicolas Cage movies that you really gotta be die hard to want to get through.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

That’s funny. I read the plot and went ‘Rear Window but a shitty thriller?’ and then the movie was more ‘Vertigo but a shitty thriller’. Either way, there’s one constant in those descriptions.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Inheritance

January’s preview:

3 stars. Seems like a passable thriller.”

The review:

“I thought this was gonna be a horror movie at first. It had that sort of tone. Turned into more of a thriller, but still. Same deal. Most people won’t care.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Another one I assumed was gonna be horror. The ‘inheritance’ was some mental illness and someone slowly going crazy. Nope. Instead the inheritance was a dude chained up in a bunker in the backyard. Not a bad premise. Execution was spotty, but the movie was passable the once.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Lovebirds

January’s preview:

3 stars. I can’t assume anything more than that. Comedies nowadays have to prove to me they’re gonna more than just ‘whatever’. And they almost never are.”

The review:

“It’s not amazing. A lot of dumb comedy stuff. It’s grounded by Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae’s chemistry, and that’s what makes it passable. Otherwise it’s not great.”

“I’d say you can do better for Netflix, but if you’re gonna settle on this, you could do worse.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Survive the Night

January’s preview:

“Bruce Willis paycheck movie!”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“Shitty Bruce Willis paycheck movie where he’s not even really in it.”

“Not good, not worth your time. Bruce has really stopped trying these days.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It saddens me how little Bruce cares anymore.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

End of Sentence

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“It’s fine. Perfectly charming in a ‘small risk, small reward’ kinda way. Definitely worth a shot.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Small risk, small reward about covers it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The High Note

January’s preview:

3.5 stars has to be the guess, lest I know more.”

The review:

“I remember this script being on the Black List, which means that the movie was almost certainly gonna turn out to be this. Films based on Black List scripts rarely ever turn out as good as advertised.”

“It’s… pretty formulaic in the end. It’s charming enough.”

“I did appreciate some of the songs they shouted out or straight up played during the film. Those had to be in the script and were clearly the result of someone who’s got good taste in music.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m mixed on this. Very formulaic, but watchable. Soundtrack is nice too.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Vast of Night

January’s preview:

3 stars. Hope it goes higher, but based on the trailer I can’t fully tell what I’m getting.”

The review:

“Incredible first feature and just one of those really charming indies that immediately qualifies as hidden gem.”

“It’s one of those small movies that just does little things really well. It doesn’t feel the need to cater to the audience and tells the story it wants to tell in a really charming way.”

“I’m a big fan of this and think it’s one of the better movies of the year to this point. Highly recommend people check it out.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of the best films I saw this year. So unique, so well made, and so very committed to telling its story in a great way. I loved this. Please see it if you haven’t.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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