2020: The Year in Reviews (July)

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 July.

July

Hamilton

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“As a film – I appreciate that they tried to make it feel as much like a live performance would as they could. There are times at the beginning when they’re rapping so fast and the audio sounds like it would when you’re in the audience that I couldn’t even catch some of the words, even though you generally know what’s going on the entire time. And then I liked that they shot one performance without an audience so they could put in some timely inserts and get angles on things to enhance the cinematic experience. It’s a nice mix of both, and I really appreciated how they put it together. It was well thought out.”

“As for the show itself… everyone knows it’s great. You can pick nits with it, but for something that does Broadway in a fun and different way, teaches you history that you may not have known about and promotes a diverse, non-white cast in a type of story that’s usually white people in boring wigs and costumes, you can’t ask for much more.”

“Two things I loved most about it: 1) the staging. The way they stage this is incredible and puts most (which is admittedly few) other musicals I’ve seen to shame. I can’t imagine other shows are organized nearly as well as this one is. And 2) that a really entertaining, globally beloved, Pulitzer Prize winning musical openly lists DMX in its credits.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I did really like this a lot, both as a film and as a musical. I (as is always the cast with me and anything that isn’t movies) never saw it when it was big on stage (which is admittedly still the case) and so my first real exposure to actually seeing this (as opposed to snippets and/or parodies of two or three songs) was this film. And it was great. Late to the party, I know, but… I get it now.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Desperados

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Ah yes. This movie. I remember them announcing this like a decade-plus ago. One of those ‘hot’ high concept scripts destined to be mediocre. Add ten years of development hell, countless rewrites and lowering the tier of people involved and this feels like the appropriate result.”

“It’s a heightened comedy, to the point where everything is so over-the-top that it can’t even be construed as funny.”

“It’s supposed to be funny and raunchy, but mostly it’s just bland. Fortunately it’s only a throwaway Netflix movie and fits with the countless other throwaway Netflix movies out there. There’s really nothing of value here and anything resembling a good script or idea was lost long, long ago.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Terrible. Skip it. Really just another indictment of the Black List (since I’ve found that the only films that get made from that list are very often bad and the script that are actually good never get made because they’re considered impossible… or they’re screwed up when they are because they try to manufacture audiences for them).

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Outpost

January’s preview:

“Directed by Rod Lurie, whose films are always more solid than you think they’re gonna be. But also… Afghan war movie. So 3 stars has to be the guess. I’m almost never interested in these.”

The review:

“It comes down to personal preference. Some people will like this, others won’t care. I liked it for the war stuff, didn’t like it for the specifics of the war. Overall, just fine.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Generic war movie. It’s fine, though I did have a problem differentiating all the different white dudes with shaved heads who all looked and sounded exactly the same.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Family Romance, LLC

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“I love that Werner is still making movies.”

The review:

“I love that he just makes whatever the hell he wants. Always has, too.”

“It’s a very unique little movie. And like all of Herzog’s stuff, totally watchable.”

“Mostly I just love that he just wrote this movie that takes place in Japan and is entirely in Japanese. That feels so quintessentially Werner Herzog that I just love it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I love that Werner Herzoe made a movie entirely in Japanese. Because of course he did. Long live Werner.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Old Guard

January’s preview:

“Okay.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“It’s really enjoyable. Nothing I really need to see again and again, but well made and just a good time at the movies. In a way, a perfect Netflix movie.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s a lot of fun. Really solid piece of entertainment. Not great, and not something I need to see again, but say they made a sequel to this? I’d see it. Especially since I think they got a lot of the foundation laid to situation and characters and could go more balls to the wall with it the way John Wick 2 did.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Palm Springs

January’s preview:

“I know nothing about it, which is apparently what I should be doing. So I guess 3.5 stars, based on the Sundance excitement. They don’t always work out, but there’s gotta be something to this people like, right?”

The review:

“It was wonderful.”

“For a while it started out with me just liking it and thinking it was fun and solid, but at a certain point it really won me over, largely due to the smart writing and fun performances, particularly from Cristin Milioti, who I’ve been waiting to see in more things (and hopefully it’ll stick this time).”

“There’s a real heart to this, and they make the best use of people’s understanding of these types of movies to not do the obvious thing you’ve seen everywhere else.”

“I’m not gonna say it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen, but in a year with abject mediocrity at every turn, it’s nice to see something that feels fun and fresh.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really enjoyed this. I want to watch this again just to see if it held up between August and now, but this was a real breath of fresh air in the empty void that was 2020.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Greyhound

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Gotta go on the Hanks factor.”

The review:

“In practice the film is very much just a lot of naval warfare. If the battle scenes in Hunt for Red October are your cup of tea, then you’re gonna love this movie.”

“I’m honestly impressed with how good it looks for how little money they had.”

“Overall, this is a really solid thriller with a lot of good stuff to it (I love how he ends it). Not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s not even a film so much as it is watching naval battles for two hours. And I’m fine with that. I enjoyed it for what it was.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Guest of Honour

January’s preview:

3 stars. Not sure it’ll be good, but I’ll see it.”

The review:

“This one’s weirdly structured and not the easiest film to access.”

“I’m not really sure what it all amounts to. But Thewlis is good, and the film is generally pretty watchable, as Egoyan’s films tend to be.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s not a very good movie, but David Thewlis is very good in it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Fatal Affair

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Shitty thriller with a predominantly black cast. Admirable for the second part, yawn for the first part.”

“This is for women sitting at home during the day. That’s who they make these for. Some people like this sort of thing. I shrug and move on.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

These movies are so bad.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Sunlit Night

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Interesting, if aimless little indie.”

“There’s no real coherent plot here, but the setting makes the film look nice and the actors certainly are all very welcome.”

“I can’t really recommend it outside of wanting to look at Norway for 70 minutes and liking the actors.”

“It feels like one of those indie comedies that cut almost all the ‘indie’ stuff out of it at the expense of coherence of thought. But it’s fine enough for the run time. Adding an extra 20 minutes might have made it unbearable instead of just okay. So for that I’m grateful.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked it for a 70 minute movie. Any longer, I would not have.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Rental

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. I like it when actors direct, but this does not sound like my cup of tea at all.”

The review:

Dave Franco-directed horror movie that plays more like a relationship drama than a horror movie. The horror stuff doesn’t happen until the last twenty minutes. Mostly it’s relationships unraveling, a thriller-ish twist and then the horror stuff. The actors are all good too (Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White). What’s nice is that all this shit would be happening anyway and then the situation that’s set up only exacerbates it. And then there’s the intriguing ending when they sort of ‘reveal’ everything, which I liked. I won’t call it a twist so much as a smart way to unveil things without it feeling like a cheat. I usually hate this sort of thing, but I like that it focuses on the drama, minimizes the horror and then gives a solid reason for the horror (which, in a way, is not giving a reason).

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this more than I thought I would, mainly because it let the drama build and linger before the ‘horror’ stuff came into it. The actors helped make it believable too. I’m fine with 3 on this.

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Kissing Booth 2

January’s preview:

“Oh boy, more of this.”

“I’ll say 3 stars, but I really know I should go 2.5 here. The first one was decent, but these sequels almost never work out.”

The review:

“I have memories of the first movie being decent, even though I have no memory of it past being an admirable attempt at bringing back the rom com genre (which Netflix has done). Like all good things, they’ve ruined it with sequels.”

“While the first one got by on high school crushes and stuff… the entire plot of this movie is the idiot plot.”

“It’s watchable because Joey King is charismatic, but it’s too long and not as good as the first one (which was barely passable in the first place).”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s mainly watchable because of Joey King, but while the first one was more, ‘fair leaning in a positive direction’, this is more ‘fair-neutral’. It’s watchable, but whatever. It’s the same sequel shit every one of these movies does, and I wish that just for once someone would do something different.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Yes, God, Yes

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Oh, this was so good.”

“A love letter to the 90s and AOL and dial-up internet and the age when you were a horny teenager and everything around you somehow reminded you of sex.”

“And it captures the double standards of sexual rumors between boys and girls of that age and just the awkwardness of it all because no one’s properly educated or confident.”

“Plus it has the added element of the horror of religious repression and being around those people and all that insanity.”

“I really liked this one a lot.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Loved, loved, loved this. It’s so good. It’s so specific to its era and so wonderful. Please see this movie if you were between the ages of 10 and 15 between 1997 and 2002. It’s so spot on.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Radioactive

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“Nothing you haven’t seen before but done solidly and with aplomb.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I definitely messed up on that rating. This is only a 3 star movie. It’s fine, but it’s kinda boring and doesn’t really give you all that much in the end. Looks nice, though.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Summerland

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“The epitome of ‘perfectly fine British period piece’.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

That review about covers it. That’s exactly what this is

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Seriously Single

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Nothing really of note story-wise, but what is notable is that it was made in South Africa with South African actors.”

“While it is admirable that a non-American film like this got made and put out on Netflix… it’s not particularly great. Though I can appreciate how much worse this would have been if it were made here.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Secret: Dare to Dream

January’s preview:

“A HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“I assumed it was faith-based nonsense. Turns out, the book seems to be based on faith-based nonsense bu the movie is just generic standard ‘wish it into existence’ stuff.”

“By the numbers, adequately made, nothing much for me here. I’m just glad it didn’t get religious. That is truly a blessing.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

January’s preview covers it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

She Dies Tomorrow

January’s preview:

3 stars. It sounds indie, but it could be really good.”

The review:

“Interesting film.”

“I appreciate Amy Seimetz as a filmmaker. She’s someone who truly epitomizes the indie way of doing things.”

“It’s much more arthouse than mainstream, so use that to decide what you’re likely gonna think about it and whether you think it’s worth seeing. But I like it. It’s really evocative and makes its point about a particular topic in a really interesting way.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I appreciate the hell out of this movie. Didn’t necessarily like it nor need to ever see it again, but I really like that Amy Seimetz took a paycheck job (Pet Sematary) and made this movie out of it. It’s well-directed and actually is about something (if in an abstract kinda way). So good for her.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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