2020: The Year in Reviews (August)

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 August.

August

An American Pickle

January’s preview:

3 stars. I don’t wanna assume anything more with a comedy, but this sounds awesome.”

The review:

“Overall the film has a lot of charm and there’s some really terrific moments in it. It’s fun. That’s all you need.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It almost lost me at times, but there was definitely a real charm there that kept me going. I’m a fan of this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Tax Collector

January’s preview:

“All Ayer’s crime stuff has, for the most part, been at least 3.5 stars, so that’s what we’ll guess here. I can’t imagine he’s been completely ruined by the studio stuff. But we’ll see how this goes.”

The review:

“This is definitely closer to the David Ayer I remember.”

“It’s not a perfect movie, but it definitely reminds of of the stuff he came up making.”

“I feel like this film is the result of either them not letting Ayer have his full cut or Ayer lacking his earlier confidence after bad experiences in the studio system. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Either way, it feels like a nice rebound for him and I hope he’s able to continue it through whatever he does going forward.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I feel like my opinion’s cooled a bit, but honestly, I’ll keep the rating just because it did make me think of the old Ayer before Suicide Squad and Bright ruined him.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

I Used to Go Here

January’s preview:

3 stars. I’ll err on the side of indie comedy and not ‘studio’ comedy, which are similar, but very different things.”

The review:

“Nice enough little indie.”

“It’s very indie, very much one of those things I’d normally not care for. But it’s fine.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Too indie, but watchable.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Work It

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“This movie lost me within 90 seconds, when the first line of dialogue was voiceover and began: ‘Albert Einstein once said…’ I knew exactly what movie I was getting right there.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nope.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Made in Italy

January’s preview:

“Stars Liam Neeson.”

“Okay.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Fairly generic father/son road trip movie.”

“Nothing you haven’t seen before, but it is nice to see Liam Neeson not having to play action roles all the time. Reminds you that he is an actual real actor. Which is always nice to see.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was a generic movie, but it was laid back and it was nice to see Liam Neeson in a non-action role for once.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Waiting for the Barbarians

January’s preview:

“Mark Rylance and Johnny Depp are in this. Which is cool. Can’t guess more than 3 stars, but it’s still cool.”

The review:

“It’s okay. Watchable. Looks really nice.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It looks good but otherwise is just fair.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Secret Garden

January’s preview:

“Oh hey, they remade this.”

3 stars. Automatic family movie rating.”

The review:

“I feel like this is a book everyone knows, even if you haven’t read it.”

“They made it into a movie in the 90s and also way back when in the 40s and probably even earlier. It’s one of those where, seen one, seen ’em all. But you know what? It’s fine to keep remaking it because some new generation of kids is gonna come across it and this will be their version of it. And that’s fine.”

“I don’t really care about this as a movie past that. It’s watchable, well made, the usual thing. But it hits the mark for who it’s intended for.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Didn’t care at all, but it’s perfectly fine.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Howard

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Mostly I’m surprised that Disney put out a documentary that openly talked about him having AIDS. But I guess they didn’t remotely get into that he was a gay man. That would be a bridge too far for Disney.”

“Still, a nice doc about one of the major voices behind the best stretch in Disney history.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m more interested in the stuff they didn’t talk about, but as far as documentaries go, I didn’t even think they’d go there, so good for them for that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Valley of the Gods

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“I don’t really know what this movie was meant to be. It’s like if you took Kubrick doing 2001, Terrence Malick, Jodorowsky and a tub of acid and then wanted to say something about Native Americans, you’d get this movie.”

“I couldn’t get into it even though it looked really terrific.”

“I can’t tell if this is a whole lot of good-looking nothing or if there’s really something here.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This movie is like someone saw Tarsem Singh’s The Fall and said, “I can do that, but badly.” There’s no discernible plot here, but it sure looks nice. Half this movie in static shots could be the set of screensavers that come with your device, that’s how good it looks. But the problem is you don’t wanna actually pay attention to the rest of it because there’s nothing there.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Project Power

January’s preview:

“No plot details at all, so I can’t really guess higher than 3 stars, but I’ll see it.”

The review:

“It’s good shit. The premise is great, and while the movie never really does more than skim the surface, I like the premise it sets up enough to start considering all the potential uses of it rather than think about what it doesn’t do.”

“Reminded me of In Time with Justin Timberlake. Not the greatest movie ever made, but I really liked it because whenever it did something obvious or got boring for a minute, I thought about all the possible applications of the premise and little things that the world the film created would bring about.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked the premise and I enjoyed myself for the run time. That’s all you can really ask for in a movie.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Endless' Sneak Peek Clip – Reel Talker

Endless

January’s preview:

“Oh boy, overly serious high school romance movie. And looking at the director’s previous output… 2.5 stars. And it’s lucky for me to be guessing that.”

The review:

“So they took Ghost and then decided, ‘You know what would make this better? Making it a YA movie.'”

“I appreciate what they tried to do, but I intrinsically hate YA movies in general and especially when they’re played for melodrama.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Why would you YA Ghost? They barely made Ghost work the first time, and you wanna just do that again?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Fearless

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Really low-grade Netflix animated movie. This is for under 7, and isn’t even worth the time. But most kids under 7 aren’t that discerning, so I get it. Not remotely watchable for me at all.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nah.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Spree

January’s preview:

“This played Sundance. Feels like that kinda movie. 3 stars feels like the guess on this.”

The review:

“This is not my area at all. Fortunately it’s played more as a dark comedy than a horror movie, so at least there’s that. But this just wasn’t for me at all.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I feel like there was a better movie to come from this premise, but on the other had… probably not.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Magic Camp

January’s preview:

“Sounds bad.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“I expected to hate this movie.”

“It’s very by the numbers, but it’s the kids that largely lead the way. And while it hits a lot of the notes you’d expect to see, there are some nice little magic moments and some heartfelt ones as well.”

“It won me over by the end. Not that it’s good, but it made me feel at least generally positive toward it even though it’s not that great a movie. So good for them.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really expected to dislike this more than I did. Maybe it caught me on a good day, because there’s really not much here.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Unhinged

January’s preview:

“It looks schlocky, but that doesn’t mean anything. I’m the person who gets something out of these things.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Watchable road rage thriller. It works because they got lucky with Russell Crowe as the villain. If not for him, this would be a completely forgettable piece of drivel. Here at least it’s watchable and reasonably entertaining before you forget about it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nice to see Russell Crowe play a villain like this. Almost out of nowhere. I also like that he decides, “I’m just gonna gain 50 pounds here.” Because why not? He can do what he wants. I do kind of want to see him in more ‘acting’ roles, but I’m guessing based on his output lately, most people don’t want to work with him. Because he’s been in stuff (some of it good) but he’s basically disappeared in big movies the past decade. Bring back Russell Crowe, guys. He’s a good actor.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Emperor

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“Slavery movie. Looks crisp, looks well made… not really that much there, in the end. Totally fine, heart’s in the right place. The film just isn’t that gripping past being just watchable. Shit happens.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Ehh. Doesn’t really amount to much. It’s hard to make slavery movies work. Because you just have to overcome so much in terms of tropes and things. I won’t begrudge when someone tries, but man, it’s hard.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The One and Only Ivan

January’s preview:

“I guess I go 3 stars, just because it’s Disney. And if it was straight animation and anyone else, I’d say automatic 2.5. But because it’s Disney, I have to at least assume their dedication to mediocrity.”

The review:

“Pure Disney family movie stuff.”

“It’s a weird one. But it hits all the usual family movie notes and is perfectly watchable, even if it’s not all that good.”

“But hey, there’s a dog voiced by Danny DeVito in it. So there’s that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Generic forgettable family stuff. You know exactly what this movie is without ever seeing it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Sleepover

January’s preview:

“Oh, that sounds fun.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Nothing really of value here. So we shrug and move along.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nope.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Cut Throat City

January’s preview:

“I know I should say 3 stars on this, but I’m going 3.5 stars. So long as they stick to the message and don’t descend into unnecessary subplots and shoot-em-ups, I think this can be really solid.”

The review:

“I get what he was going for and what he wanted to tell and what message he wanted to get across. I’m just not sure the movie actually has a lot of substance beneath that. And honestly? That’s fine.”

“It’s a perfectly watchable and well made movie with good actors in it. I do wish, though, that it was better than the sum of its parts.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Wished I liked this more.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Words on Bathroom Walls

January’s preview:

“YA movie, but the cast is okay, so 3 stars.”

The review:

“Interesting twist on the YA genre.”

“I did really respect how they handled this one. I thought about a 3.5, but there was enough by-the-numbers genre stuff to keep me from fully going there.”

“All around, a very respectable movie and a nice way to use a well- (and probably over-) worn genre to highlight real world issues that aren’t just ‘oh my god, am I gonna get a date to prom?’ or ‘I might not get into the college that I want!'”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked how open this was with dealing with the kid’s condition and how it focused on that rather than just being the usual thing. Did I love it even with that? Not really. But at least it was more interesting than most of the stuff within this sphere. So good on them for that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Chemical Hearts

January’s preview:

“Seems like a high school romance sort of deal. Not sure that particularly appeals to me whatsoever.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“YA romance. These generally go one of two ways for me. This one ended up on the better side of things, as I found the unorthodox romance more fun than the usual stuff.”

“It just felt like a nice movie about people getting to know one another and only really gave me the overly serious YA stuff in the last half hour.”

“It’s nothing particularly special, but I was fine with it. Watchable, is the word for this one. Not great, but watchable.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Another YA movie that does something a bit different. I wasn’t as interestd in this as I was in the previous movie, but I got through it okay, so I’m fine with it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Hard Kill

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Another Bruce Willis paycheck movie. Are they ever any good? No. Is he ever in more than like, 10% of them? Rarely. Does he ever do anything meaningful in them or seem like he’s ever actually trying? Never. Why do I keep watching them? I don’t know. Was this as completely forgettable as all the other ones and am I gonna forget this one within days of writing this? Absolutely.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Come on, Bruce. You’re better than this.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Tesla

January’s preview:

“PLEASE make this a Sundance comedy. Oh holy shit, how amazing would that be? Him going around to a coffee shop to work on his designs, the barista flirting with him and that half-relationship ultimately leading him to never enter into a relationship and dedicate himself solely to his work. Oh my god, that would be so much better than whatever this is gonna be.”

3 stars seems like the easy guess here. But man, imagine the New York indie version of Tesla’s life. How fucking amazing would that be?”

The review:

“Not much happens, and they struggle too hard to make people sitting in a room talking about electricity seem interesting.”

“HOWEVER, right near the end of the movie there’s a completely inexplicable musical number where Hawke as Tesla sings Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World.'”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Seriously, just watch this. I don’t know why this exists, but I’m okay with it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Get Duked!

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s fun. Solid debut for Ninian Doff.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fun.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

All Together Now

January’s preview:

“I guess 3 stars has to be the guess, just because it could be YA stuff. But Haley’s made pretty solid movies to this point.”

The review:

“It’s YA, but it doesn’t feel like YA. It almost breaches the gap into full coming-of-age drama.”

“I had a mind to go 3.5 on this. It’s a really solid movie. Definitely one of the better Netflix movies to come out this year, and for sure the better of Haley’s two to come out this year.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I still have a mind to go 3.5 on this. I quite enjoyed this, I thought Auli’i Cravalho was terrific in this and like that the main character actually had some shit going on rather than the usual manufactured high school crap. Good on them for this one.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Binge

January’s preview:

“So it’s the Purge, but with drugs. Okay.”

3 stars on premise alone.”

The review:

“t’s fun. Nothing particularly outstanding, over the top at times, has a fair amount of charm other times. And it has Vince Vaughn.”

“Props to them for a full on musical number.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine. Literally just a spin on the Purge.

Plus — get it? Binge and Purge.

Yeah. We have that in our lives now.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

January’s preview:

“Directed by Armando Iannucci, which is really all you need to know.”

4 stars. I have no reason to think otherwise based on what I’ve seen from him thus far.”

The review:

“I love Armando Iannucci. His films seem to be going back in time. In the Loop was a contemporary political satire, Death of Stalin was the 50s, and now this is the 1850s.”

“I think the strength of the original Dickens overwhelms his voice a bit, which is only to say that I don’t think the movie is as overly hilarious as Death of Stalin or In the Loop is, though it’s still a very funny and enjoyable film.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Technically this is a 2019 movie, based on it having been released everywhere else but here last year. But I loved this. And it’s wonderful. Can’t put this on this year’s 2020 list, but go see tis. I mean, In the Loop, Death of Stalin, Veep. You know what you’re gonna get here.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The New Mutants

January’s preview:

“This has been pushed for so long and had so many reshoots, I can’t assume this will be good.”

3 stars has to be the guess, and if it’s gonna somehow get to 3.5, I’m fine with that. But there’s no way I can assume it with two years on the shelf and Disney taking it over. And doing new and interesting things is not their cup of tea.”

The review:

“If you’ve at all been following this movie, it’s hard not to see the years of development and reshoots and recutting that went into it as you watch.”

“There’s a lot going on here under the surface, and that’s all I can think about when I watch this. Which I guess brings me to my ultimate feeling on this — I’m really not sure it was gonna matter how this turned out one way or another. It was almost always destined to be a pedestrian 3-star movie that’s totally watchable but not really that good.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Honestly, it’s kinda time Fox lost control over X-Men, given how badly they’ve fucked this franchise up consistently. It’s like Sony and Spider-Man. You can’t be trusted, and now they get assimilated back into the machine. You guys did this to yourselves.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Bill & Ted Face the Music

January’s preview:

“I already know where this plot is going. But that doesn’t make me any less intrigued.”

3 stars. I’m not getting more than 3 out of this, unless it’s got a really nice emotional hook at the end, at which point I’ll still only say 3.5 is the max. This feels like an easy 3.”

The review:

“This was really fun. They found a way to maintain the dumb charm of the original films and continue it in a way that feels organic.”

“I found myself laughing pretty openly toward the end of the film. That, to me, is the sign of a successful movie.”

“It was just a good time, didn’t take itself too seriously and continued the tradition (whatever that is) of these movies. It’s a great sendoff to these characters.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really enjoyed this a lot. It’s so much fun, with so much heart. I really did not expect to like this as much as I did. Good for them for pursuing this the way they did. I’m proud of everyone involved in this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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One response

  1. Pingback: 2020: The Year in Reviews (August) – Kisafilms.com

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