2020: The Year in Reviews (June)

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 June.

June

The Last Days of American Crime

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“What the fuck is this movie? Remember that movie from a few years ago that was about cops and bank robbers? The heist movie? Gerard Butler is the cop and Ice Cube’s son was one of the robbers? It was like this standard thriller that was 2 1/2 hours and felt like it was trying to be some sort of auteur version of this story. This is that… but worse.”

“Don’t let the rating fool you… I’m predisposed to being okay with movies like this. This is not a good movie.”

“It’s two-and-a-half hours and just nuts. There’s no coherence whatsoever to this movie.”

“Edgar Ramirez is the star and is quite literally sandpaper. He’s just there. His character does nothing of consequence for 2/3 of the movie. Michael Pitt is in it and is channeling Jerry Lewis for half the performance. No fucking clue what’s going on there.”

“Completely meaningless, and almost an exercise in making the absolute wrong decision on every conceivable level. If this movie got made in the 90s, it would have been written by Joe Eszterhas, Paul Verhoeven would have directed it and Nicolas Cage would’ve played the Michael Pitt character and knew he could do whatever the fuck he wanted because everything was so insane there was no limit to how crazy he could be and he’d have been the most memorable thing in it. And it would have been better than this, because there would have been that element of satire to it that was lampooning this stuff.”

“This movie is deadly serious, and deadly awful. This is destined to be one of those movies people do funny commentary tracks for because it’s so goddamn nuts.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This movie is fucking insane. But, in a way, I appreciate that it’s bad and insane rather than just being competent and forgettable. Because at least now I can talk about how nuts it is, and while most people will never (and should never) see it, at least it’ll be talked about.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Judy and Punch

January’s preview:

“This looks insane. In a good way.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“It’s… not the film I was hoping for, but was perfectly fine.”

“The subtext is nice, but the execution is just okay. I appreciated it more than I liked it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I do wish I liked this more than I did. I was hoping for a bit more… revenge. But I get what they were going for. It just didn’t do a whole lot for me.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Shirley

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Bring it on.”

The review:

“It’s solid. Well-made. Can’t say I think it amounts to much other than solid direction and good performances, but movies were built on less. I think in the hands of another director, this would not have been nearly as interesting as it is.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked Decker’s previous film better (Madeline’s Madeline), which was a lot more deliberately weird than this, which just sort of hinted at weirdness but also tried to be a little more mainstream. Solid movie but not one I’d ever particularly write home about.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

You Don’t Nomi

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“A documentary about Showgirls. I’m honestly kinda surprised there hasn’t been one before now.”

“I’ll be honest. I wish it were more an in-depth look at just how it turned into this disaster and gained the cult following rather than a love letter to the strangeness of it all, but it’s adequate enough.”

“I’m not gonna pretend like real resources really needed to be allocated to telling that story, but if we are gonna discuss the doc, I do think it could have been a little less about how much the filmmakers love the film. But hey, is what it is. We now have a documentary about Showgirls with a pun title. And that is very okay by me.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

They should make a breakdown doc like 78/52 (the doc that analyzes the shower scene in Psycho) but for the pool scene in this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Artemis Fowl

January’s preview:

“Looks like a 3 star movie.”

“Looks like a big budget family movie, the kind with a budget so high it can’t really go below 3 stars unless it’s truly awful. And even Kenneth Branagh’s worst films as a director didn’t go below 3 stars. So I trust him to keep this watchable.”

The review:

“The only reason I was curious about this was because Kenneth Branagh directed it. I’m still not entirely sure why Kenneth Branagh directed it, but he did.”

“I can see where there maybe was the idea for a better movie in this, but I don’t know where it went wrong. It’s watchable, but it’s not great.”

“It feels like a movie they didn’t like and cut up to try to maximize it.”

“Not good, very much a disaster they tried to salvage, but if you watch as many movies as I do, this one’s perfectly fine in a throwaway kinda way.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s watchable, owing to how much money went into it, but it’s not good. I appreciate Branagh’s attempts to try things in different genres. But this is definitely a huge misfire.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Da 5 Bloods

January’s preview:

“The cast looks great, and it’s Spike. I have to assume solid. 3.5 stars. Could go higher, but I’m just not entirely sure what this is gonna be. So we’ll split the difference and hope it goes higher.”

The review:

“Spike does some really interesting things with it, namely making the Vietnam stuff look like old war footage of the era, on 16mm, as well as putting all the older actors in the flashbacks rather than casting young actors to play them.”

“It’s a largely successful film. It doesn’t succeed the way BlacKkKlansman does, and unfortunately a lot of people are gonna compare it to that, since this is the first film he’s released since. But it is a very solid film and fits very well among Spike’s other films.”

“He’s one of those directors where, no matter what you think of the results, his films are always vital and always worth the effort to see.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Love Spike, love watching his films, really liked this. It’s not BlacKkKlansman, but it also doesn’t need to be. It’s a really well-made film.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The King of Staten Island

January’s preview:

3 stars. We’ll assume watchable, but I cannot assume I’m going to like it at all.”

The review:

“So, having seen Big Time Adolescence a few months ago, I saw the range Pete Davidson has on screen. He can play one character — himself, basically. The lovable fuckup who smokes too much weed and likes giving tattoos to children. And that’s what this movie is. And you know what? He’s charming in that one role, given the right material. So this movie works because of that.”

“Otherwise — it’s Judd Apatow, so it’s at least 20 minutes too long, too indulgent, meanders. The usual thing. Some good, some bad.”

“Mostly I just like that it stayed in its lane and did its thing and had a certain charm to it. I just wish they gave more to Bel Powley to do and I’m so goddamn sad that Marisa Tomei is now relegated to ‘mom’ roles.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I completely understand why I guessed 3 in January, and if I’m being honest, my feelings toward this (and almost all Apatow movies) are closer to 3 stars, but I stand by the 3.5 rating for this one time. But rating aside, my feelings for this are a general shrug and “it’s fine.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Sometimes Always Never

January’s preview:

“Interesting premise. I’m wondering where it’s gonna go, but I think it can be good. Can’t guess more than 3 stars, but I’m hoping I can get 3.5 out of this.”

The review:

“Really charming little British indie.”

“It’s not quite what you expect it to be and is largely very small in its scope. But I quite liked it.”

“I liked Scrabble as the central unifying object and I thought Bill Nighy was terrific.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s charming. Bill Nighy is excellent and he carries much of the film. It’s a solid piece of work all around.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Mope

January’s preview:

“Oh yeah, the porn murder movie.”

“Guessing this isn’t out because no one knows how to sell it.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“It’s the kind of movie I almost expected to be directed by one of the Daniels.”

“I like it because it’s one of those oddball films about weird subject matter. Outside of that I’m not sure who this would appeal to. But hey, now you know it exists.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is just so fucking weird. One of those movies that I’d rather just tell people about than have them see, just because it’s… I really don’t who this is for. It starts with a bunch of dudes running in to do a bukkake scene and ends with someone murdering someone with a samurai sword and falling off a cliff. And… it’s based on real events. It’s insane, and I still don’t know how this wasn’t directed by one of the Daniels. It’s not good, but it’s unique. It’s definitely unique.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

A Whisker Away

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“The kind of anime that I am generally not a fan of.”

“It’s perfectly well-made, but like Your Name and like Weathering with You… they only go so far for me. It’s not really my genre.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I try, every year, to try to like these movies more than I do and it almost never happens.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

7500

January’s preview:

“This seems like a pretty straightforward thriller, so I’ll say 3 stars.”

The review:

“Single location thriller that takes place in near real time.”

“Nothing too crazy, which means you’re only gonna get so much out of it, but I like that it’s perfectly tense, doesn’t do too much and doesn’t try to make the situation any larger than it is. You get what you get in the moment and there’s no excess fat.”

“No twenty minutes in the airport for side stories, no cop subplot, and the movie ends the minute they leave the plane. That’s it. That’s all you get. And that, to me, was worth the extra half-star. It was a perfectly solid thriller that did exactly what it needed to.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like that it’s a real-time, single location thriller. Not something I need to see again, but it was really solidly done.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Mr. Jones

January’s preview:

3 stars. Hard to go higher given the premise, but hey, I like the actors.”

The review:

“It’s an interesting film that could really only be made in the U.K.”

“It’s solid. I quite enjoyed it and think it’s worth a shit if you like this sort of thing.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This was so much more engaging than I thought it was gonna be. I’m a fan of this, even though I know most people won’t give a shit.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Feel the Beat

January’s preview:

“Netflix family movie. Not interested.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“Completely by the numbers, nothing original, to the point where they manufacture the most insane reason to get to the end of act two low point.”

“It’s one of those movies that some people will watch and think is fine, but is more like a movie most people will never see. And don’t worry, you don’t really need to.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nah. Too generic for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

You Should Have Left

January’s preview:

“This, unfortunately, seems like one of the not interesting ones. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say 3 stars, but I’m not sure I can hope for much more than that.”

The review:

“Blumhouse movie. I usually don’t care for these. You get Kevin Bacon, so sure. Otherwise there’s not much of note in this one.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was extremely bored by this, as I am by most Blumhouse movies.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Wasp Network

January’s preview:

3 stars. I generally don’t love Assayas movies, but they’re usually fine.”

The review:

“It was watchable. Couldn’t say I particularly cared much about the content, though.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Lot of great people in this. Problem is — didn’t care. As is the case with me and most of Assayas’ films. Some people just don’t click for me. It happens.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Miss Juneteenth

January’s preview:

“This played Sundance. Reviews were positive. I guess 3 stars?”

The review:

“It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a solid character piece with lots of social overtones, even though they don’t get too far into it.”

“The fact that the cast is all black really makes it feel different than if it were about white people (like, say, Dumplin’). And I liked that about it.”

“It’s a solid film that’s worth an audience.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really enjoyed this one and do think it’s a nice gem from the year that deserves a proper audience.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Babyteeth

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I didn’t know what I was getting with this. This is Australian Fault in Our Stars, but it’s not sugary, teen bullshit. This is the punk rock version of that story.”

“It’s a really nice tenuous family relationship, but never one that goes full ‘indie movie’. Which I really like. And I like that this is about a girl who’s like, ‘Look, I’m dying, so fuck it, I wanna live first.'”

“Scanlen is so incredible here. It’s clear she’s going to be a star one of these days. And I just like how the film never fully goes where you expect it to go (past the obvious, but even that’s handled well).”

“I’m a big, big fan of this and think this is for sure one movie from this year everyone needs to see.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I loved this movie. Big fan of this and think its director and young star have really bright futures ahead of them. Go see this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Ghost of Peter Sellers

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Sort of a comedic Hearts of Darkness.”

“It’s an interesting documentary about Sellers as much as it is the ill-fated attempts to make this film.”

“I wish it weren’t as much told from Medak’s point of view and is done much more oral history style, but it’s his film, he can do what he wants.”

“The best stuff here is more about Sellers and about moviemaking in general than it is about anything else, but it does have some worthwhile stuff in it even if it isn’t wholly successful.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked hearing the story, even though it was tainted by being from the filmmaker’s point of view rather than a more objective one. But whatever. It was solid.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

January’s preview:

“I’m not really sure what to make of this. Ferrell’s comedies have been really bad these past couple of years. I’m not sure I can give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

I think (Dobkin) mixed with the fact that it’s about this absurdly specific thing and has this weird Icelandic charm to it (made me) ultimately fine with it.”

“It’s not a good movie by any stretch.”

“I’m gonna assume Dobkin brought an integrity to the script that kept it from bad topical humor and tried to make it a story that felt worthwhile, and it’s because of that I’m fine with the movie instead of disliking it. And that’s truly the best I could have hoped for.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I appreciate Dobkin making this feel like a coherent narrative and not like how most of Ferrell’s recent comedies have been. But it didn’t really do much of anything for me at all.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Irresistible

January’s preview:

“Looks fun. 3.5 stars. Hope I can get to 4, but this feels strictly 3.5. Still, this looks like it’ll be one of the good ones.”

The review:

“I think the best way to describe this is a lot of great ideas hidden in a mediocre movie.”

“The film paints with a pretty broad stereotype brush, largely aimed at liberals and political types (and the media). Which isn’t undeserved, but I was curious as to why the conservative Republican voters weren’t portrayed the same way liberals were, since it felt like it was bordering on over-the-top in the way it handled liberals. And I can only imagine that’s because Stewart knew the liberals would see his movie anyway and could handle it, so he tried to bring in more conservative minds who would be amused by the movie making fun of liberals not understanding small time values and being used to rich, ‘coastal elite’ living and then end up taking in the messages the film puts forward. Because if it’s not that then it’s just bad writing.”

“It definitely feels like there’s a better movie in there, but Stewart was either unable (or unwilling) to get there.”

“Most of the movie could be summed up over the end credits, where there’s basically a two-minute Daily Show segment that explains everything the movie is trying to say.”

“It’s basically this lightweight comedy that then tries to get serious for a minute and make a point, doing so with an ending that feels clever on paper but doesn’t quite come across with the way he handled the rest of the film.”

“While it’s not totally successful, I do appreciate the effort.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s a misfire, but its heart is in the right place. I’m just not sure it quite worked the way Stewart had intended. The cast is great, the point he’s making is extremely valid, but the film just doesn’t fully come together. It happens.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

My Spy

January’s preview:

“Every wrestler/bodybuilder/big-framed action star has to have one of these movies at some point, don’t they?”

“But it looks cute though. So 3 stars. Plus the director makes average family movies. Can’t imagine it’ll be good, but cute is enough.”

The review:

“The ‘action star dealing with cute child’ trope is well-worn. You know what you’re getting, and you know exactly all the markers it’s going to hit.”

“No surprises here.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It does exactly everything you expect it to do, and I suspect that if it didn’t come out in the middle of quarantine, I might not have been so forgiving. But whatever. It’s charming enough, owing to the stars’ charismas.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Viena and the Fantomes

January’s preview:

None. I left a 3 star blanket rating in case it ever came out.

The review:

“Let me tell you — if a movie isn’t released within two years after premiering at festivals, and it’s not something legal, there’s a reason.”

“There’s not really much here. It’s oddly paced, I’m not sure what the purpose of the story is. Nothing much happens. The only thing worthwhile in it is the cast of young, talented actors, the biggest names of whom have literally nothing to do.”

“It’s just a dud, sadly. These things happen.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I saw this coming. I assumed the cast could keep it watchable, but even a good cast can’t save certain movies.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Four Kids and It

January’s preview:

“It sounds broadly likable.”

“I’m also assuming it’s not four kids and a killer clown, which probably makes it much more magical than murderous.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Complete kids movie. Of the kind where, unless you’re 7 (and even then, in a lot of cases), you’re not gonna give any shits about this.”

“Not great, perfectly ordinary, and really not for anyone except children. You just kind of accept it and move on.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Why did I go 3 stars on this? I guess because it was British and because of the cast I figured it would be pleasant? This was — generic. In not the best way. I’m still kind of surprised I even tracked it and saw it, honestly.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Force of Nature

January’s preview:

“It’s a Mel Gibson movie. I’ll watch the shit out of this.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“This was gonna be one of those Bruce Willis paycheck movies until it became a Mel Gibson paycheck movie. I think Bruce realized he was gonna have to be in it for more than he’s used to and get wet (it takes place during a hurricane). Bruce is used to working two days and shooting his scenes alone so they can splice him in with everyone else. Mel is willing to do the thing. Plus he still tries when he’s on screen, which I like.”

“It’s fine. The kind of movie I grew up watching. Though unfortunately now there’s far too much CGI, so some of the scenes look laughably bad. But for the most part it holds together.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s your standard generic action thriller. I’ll always watch Mel on screen and this was passable. To his credit, he’ll always put forth an effort, even if he descends into ‘Willis’ and ‘Cage’ territory.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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