The Official Review Thread of 2020

Sabin
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby Sabin » Sat Aug 08, 2020 2:09 pm

When I saw the trailer for An American Pickle, I got excited. First, because I'm a Seth Rogen fan. Second, because I'm a Seth Rich fan. And third, because I've spent the last few months on Zoom calls with my grandparents every week. My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor who's mind is slipping a bit, but is also cheerful and lapses into Hungarian from time to time. And I'm a Jew pushing forty who has felt distant from my faith for some time, I would seem to be the prime audience for this film.

Well, it doesn't quite work for a few reasons, the first is that Simon Rich is more attracted to ideas than character. The story is very simple: Herschel Greenbaum is a turn of the century Eastern European Jewish man who falls into a vat of pickle brine after coming to America and freezes in time (like Woody Allen in Sleeper -- or Fry from Futurama) and comes to live with Ben, his only living relative, an app-developing hipster great-grandson. Both are played by Seth Rogen. What happens after that isn't very eventful. Herschel disrupts Ben's business, Herschel sets off on his own to create his own business, and Ben tries to sabotage him after Herschel does much better almost instantly. There might be some larger point about contrasting Herschel's business instincts vs. Ben's slacking and overthinking but the film is more interested in the game of cat and mouse between the two, Herschel succeeding, Ben trying to stop him, until the end of the second act where Herschel is persona non-grata in this country vis-a-vis his immigrant status and being revealed to the world as an old country bigot (there is a lot of going viral in this film). A more accurate title for the film might be Greenbaum vs. Greenbaum, but it's all about family. This fuck-around plot is all about putting them at odds to bring them together. A return to faith and family at the exclusion of everything else...and I found some of it a missed opportunity. I can't imagine I'm that much of a softy that I would've rather seen a film where Herschel learns more about the modern world of relationships and dating? Or a film about faith and returning to family rather than this plot about Herschel's business (which honestly feels like just fucking around) before arriving at its conclusion. It would also help if Simon Rich wrote the characters with any real depth. It all feels sketchy and satirical like he's wonderful show Man Seeking Woman. I think this is a missed opportunity especially when we end up with courtroom scenes featuring one minute of Tim Robinson that features more life than anyone else in the film combined. And to be honest, there's really nobody else in the film besides Seth Rogen.

This is destined to be a forgotten curio in Rogen's filmography -- a filmography that's a little more ambitious than meets the eye, which is why I was excited for this one. A nice try but hard to care.
"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." ~ FDR

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby dws1982 » Sat Aug 08, 2020 12:04 pm

Hope Gap

William Nicholson directs and re-works this version of his play The Retreat From Moscow. I'd love to read about this from someone more familiar with the play (I've read it, but it's been a lot of years), because I suspect there's a good bit to be said about the fact that the play was written when his parents were still alive, and he's waited until they've passed away* to make the movie.

It starts off pretty badly, and the problem with the movie is that too much is the setup for what the movie really could (or should) have been about; It seems to stack the deck pretty strongly against Bening's Grace (interestingly--tellingly?--the only character from the play to be renamed for the film); you wonder why kind Bill Nighy didn't leave her years before. I also think that if Nicholson was set on Bening playing this role, she probably should've just kept her American accent, and they could've explained it in the script. In the last third, it deepens into something pretty interesting and pretty moving as both Bening and Nighy as well as their son, played by Josh O'Connor (excellent) begin to make sense of their new lives and grieve what was lost. I just wish more of the movie had been at this level, because it is very good in the last 20-30 minutes. Still worth a watch though.

* - In his introduction to the 2003 publication of the play, Nicholson states that both parents are alive but "well into their 80's", so I'm assuming they are no longer alive; I don't have any proof though.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby Sabin » Wed Jul 29, 2020 6:49 pm

We've seen the future of big dollar Sundance buys and it is Hulu. I'm sure that Palm Springs would've fared better in theaters than, oh say, Late Night, but does it lose much on the small screen? Not really.

As always, the Hit Sundance Comedy turns out to be a pretty mild pleasure at best. Imagine the entire series of You're the Worst condensed 90 minutes with a sci-fi device. I like You're the Worst. I enjoy sci-fi-ing comedies so it wasn't an un-pleasurable lark, especially because it's attitude is pretty fun. The most one could extrapolate from it is that it mirrors Millennial careers. It's less that Andy Samberg (and eventually Cristin Milioti) is in an existential time-loop... more that he's stuck. He doesn't know what to do to escape it but it's pretty clear he hasn't really tried much either. He's just sort of accepted it and trying to have a good time by hooking up with everybody in this wedding that will repeat forever. And there's some very amusing grim absurdity to the fact that he's perennially hunted for sport by an angry J.K. Simmons whom he got into the loop as well. But this being stuck feeling is what separates it from Groundhog Day. Palm Springs is not about eventually becoming a better person. They make that clear early on. It has more in common with Defending Your Life. It's about overcoming fear, and sadly Andy Samberg just isn't really there for that turn. Cristin Milioti is though.

It doesn't stick the landing but it's a lark that you either enjoy or you don't. I watched Palm Springs last night, on the even of my first vacation in sixteen months, with a foot injury, and three beers. It's impossible to imagine being in a better mindset for this film.
"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." ~ FDR

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 18, 2020 9:25 pm

PALM SPRINGS
Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, JK Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Meredith Hagner, Camilla Mendes, Tyler Hoechlin, Jacqueline Obradors, June Squibb, Chris Pang, Dale Dickey.
Dir: Max Barbakow.

A slacker boyfriend of a bridesmaid in a wedding meets and hooks up with the bride's older sister then we find out he's actually stuck in a time loop. Yes, another time loop movie. Yes, another sort of romantic comedy movie. Groundhog Day already perfected it. So why bother? Well, as it turns out, this film is positively delightful and actually stands as its own thing. It manages to inject a truly refreshing spin on the genre in very surprising and very funny ways. Andy Samberg's goofball charm (which I find to be often fairly limiting and one-note) actually works here and Cristin Milioti works off him quite well. This is one of the best films of 2020 and something we kind of need now.

Oscar Prospects: I can see this being a viable Screenplay contender.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 11, 2020 10:52 pm

THE OLD GUARD
Cast: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Marwan Kenzali, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Veronica Ngo.
Dir: Gina Prince-Blythewood.

A group of immortals who travel the world saving people are being hunted down by a pharma bro in order to unlock their secrets. At first glance, this may seem like a unique twist on the superhero genre but it's actually a hodgepodge of things that have been tackled in past examples of this sub-genre. But that's not to say this isn't an entertaining and enjoyable film. It is! Charlize Theron is further cementing her place as the go-to female action hero and director Gina Prince-Blythewood is actually a pretty darn good action director. That said, I'm actually more interested in what comes after this film. I won't spoil it but it seems to be setting up a far more interesting sequel.

Oscar Prospects: Doubtful.

Grade: B

FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC
Cast: Yuichi Ishii, Mahiro Tanimoto.
Dir: Werner Herzog.

A man runs a business called Family Romance in which he rents himself out to act like a friend, husband, father, family member, or whatever to people who need it. I thought this was a documentary at first. And apparently, that's how it started. Director Werner Herzog wanted to do a documentary about a real-life business in Japan where this is actually done. But eventually, it became a narrative film. And it does in a way, still feels like a documentary due to its loose, avant-garde, improvised style and non-professional actors. The result is a sincere, sweet, tender film which really kind of sneaks up on you in a way. I don't think this is Werner Herzog's best film by a long shot but it's definitely his most humane, sweetest film at least from what I've seen. It's nice to see this side of him.

Oscar Prospects: Doubtful.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Jul 07, 2020 1:47 am

Another issue solved.

And no, it shouldn't be. Filmed stage shows are not movies. They weren't in 1975 when James Whitmore was nominated for Best Actor for Give 'em Hell Harry but there was no rule against it at the time. I didn't know they amended the rule in 1997. It shouldn't have taken that long but good to know it won't happen unless they amend the rule. Even if they did, I don't think they would make it retroactive just for the sake of one filmed show.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 06, 2020 7:48 pm

anonymous1980 wrote
Oscar Prospects: I have no idea if this is gonna be ruled eligible. But Best Picture and Acting nominations will be possible if it was.

Nope.

‘Hamilton’ Can’t Win Any Oscars But Has a Shot at the Emmys

https://variety.com/2020/film/news/hami ... 234699198/

But let's be honest: should it really? It's just a filmed play.
"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." ~ FDR

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 04, 2020 11:04 am

HAMILTON
Cast: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Philippa Soo, Christopher Jackson, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Jonathan Groff, Anthony Ramos, Jasmine Cephas Jones.
Dir: Thomas Kail.

It's not exactly a film adaptation but rather a filmed stage performance of the hit Broadway pop culture phenomenon about one of the America's Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. I've listened to the cast album. I know the story. I went into this expecting it to be good...and it managed to surpassed it. Wow. I love theater and I try to watch plays as much as I could (I go on the average a couple of times a year, mostly local productions and the occasional international touring production). I would rank this as one of the best pieces of theater I've ever seen in my life. Everything here is firing in all cylinders. I'm so impressed: The staging, the choreography, the performances, the score, all great. Is it cinema? Not sure. But it's great nevertheless. I would totally pay to see it again live.

Oscar Prospects: I have no idea if this is gonna be ruled eligible. But Best Picture and Acting nominations will be possible if it was.

Grade: A.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:41 pm

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, Demi Lovato, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Graham Norton.
Dir: David Dobkin.

Two aspiring Icelandic musicians is given the unlikely opportunity to represent their country in the Eurovision Song Contest. Hilary ensues. This film has some really funny moments in it. But it's all found inside of a bloated, unnecessarily long running time (over two hours, that's very long for a broad comedy). Because of that, this film is strictly hit and miss. Will Ferrell does his usual thing which in this context is also fairly hit and miss. Rachel McAdams though is a delight through and through. She handles the comedy and the singing very well and she makes the two hours almost seem worth it.

Oscar Prospects: I better brace myself for the possibility that a song called "Jaja Ding Dong" might get a Best Original Song Oscar nomination next year. Haha.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 22, 2020 2:12 pm

The King of Staten Island (Judd Apatow)

The bar for Judd Apatow directed films is a little low. They're all shambling hang-out joints that go on a little long, but they all have their charms. The King of Staten Island starts off very well with a lived-in authenticity to the locations, to the central star (Pete Davidson, on whose life this film is based), and strong cinematography by Robert Elswitt that just gives it a different feel. For a moment, it feels as though Apatow has captured something interesting in a bottle. A somewhat uniquely interesting tragic portrait of arrested development (lazy slacker whose firefighter father died when he was seven), flirting with danger but too lazy to embrace it. Or (if you want to be more cynical) just an appropriate subject matter to wrap his shambling hang-out films around and not appear at first glance to be hopelessly derivative. But the beer goes flat halfway through. This film is seriously overlong, but more damningly it just becomes this cuddly thing that forces Pete Davidson's character towards redemption, in the process losing most of its bite. The reason is the film truly believes that Pete Davdison's character can't hit rock bottom because he already did when he was seven years old. So, it doesn't really devote any energy to put him through the wringer. It just wants to point to what might happen if he doesn't turn himself around. We see relationship's momentarily lost, friends get into danger on his behalf, etc. That said, it does feel fairly authentic to his character, who has a lazy, fuck-up slacker charm to him because all his pain is so visibly on the outside. It's not really a "Losers Losing" movie. It's a "Losers Doing Okay." The problem isn't really the direction. The problem is that it can't commit to whether Pete Davidson is going to change or stay the same, so it hedges in cuddly directions. The cuddliness is what I ultimately resist. Nothing quite feels hard enough in the second act. Judd Apatow isn't making a rom-com this time. It isn't Trainwreck. It isn't This is 40. This is a guy who has problems and is a problem and it just goes so ridiculously easy on his coming of age story that it feels like a celebration that the character (and even Pete Davidson) barely would believe or want to participate in.

I enjoyed the Staten Island atmosphere. Bill Burr is quite good and he spikes the energy levels to a fun new place when he shows up.

I saw Big Time Adolescence earlier this year which did not warrant a write-up. It's not a good film but at least in a supporting role that film commits to this character being a ridiculous doofus that needs to be left behind.
"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." ~ FDR

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The Official Review Thread of 2020

Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:38 am

BIRDS OF PREY (or THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett Bell, Rosie Perez, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong.
Dir: Cathy Yan.

This is Harley Quinn's solo film and a follow up of sorts to Suicide Squad....and it's a heck of a lot better. In this film Harley Quinn breaks up with the Joker and gets entangled in the scheme of an even worse super villain, the Black Mask. I was quite impressed by the visuals in this film. I'm not too familiar with director Cathy Yan but I'm not eager to see more of her work. Some of the scenes here are quite impressive. I hope that this film is a big hit and we get to see more of her work. The film has great energy and that's thanks to the cast. For all of Suicide Squad's faults, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is not among them. She now gets to shine here with a better movie around her. This is a solid first 2020 flick.

Oscar Prospects: This is actually worthy of Production Design, Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling nominations. I think Margot Robbie could score a Best Musical/Comedy Actress nomination at the Globes as well.

Grade: B+

THE INVISIBLE MAN
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman.
Dir: Leigh Whanell.

This is the updated version of the classic "Invisible Man" monster movie. This time, the Invisible Man is an abusive, rich husband who found a way to be invisible, stalking his estranged wife. We've seen the Invisible Man trope used throughout film history in various forms. But writer-director Leigh Whanell updates this to the now, using it as an allegory for the #MeToo movement and the problem of domestic abuse. But make no mistake, this is still a pretty scary thrill ride of a horror film and it is anchored by a fantastic performance by Elisabeth Moss. It has some pretty great visual effects too. I have to say, this is an excellent start for the year in horror.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects is very possible and Elisabeth Moss wouldn't be a too bad contender for Best Actress but that's doubtful.

Grade: B+

ONWARD ***1/2
Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Kyle Bornheimer, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Tracey Ullman, John Ratzenberger (voices).
Dir: Dan Scanlon.

In a world where fantasy creatures live like modern day humans, two elf brothers go on a quest to resurrect their dead father for one day. First off, I will say that this is mid-tier PIXAR but it is still a pretty darn good film. I wasn't so sure about the premise and it does kind of starts out a bit iffy but as it moves along, it builds and becomes an overall strong film that stays true to the unbeatable PIXAR formula of big laughs and a big heart. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt make a great team but I think Octavia Spencer steals the film as the Manticore. She is friggin' hilarious and I would love a spin-off film starring her. This is an excellent on the year in animation.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature is assured.

Grade: A-

THE WILLOUGHBYS
Cast: Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Ricky Gervais, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Terry Crews, Sean Cullen (voices).
Dir: Kris Pearn.

A group of siblings living in an old-fashioned home with incredibly selfish and uncaring parents plot to get rid of them by encouraging them to travel. They meet a kind nanny in return. This is far from being PIXAR or even the best of Disney but I do love the look of this film. Despite it being a CGI animated film, they make it look and feel cartoony, almost like a stop-motion animated film. The plot of the film is nothing new but I do like the twists and turns the film makes as well as it's kind of dark edgy humor (I mean, for a kids family film). It is in fact also genuinely sweet as well. It's not an all-time great but it's a pretty solid quarantine watch for the kids and the adults will not mind it too much either.

Oscar Prospects: Maybe Animated Feature and Original Song.

Grade: B

EXTRACTION **1/2
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Priyanshu Painyuli, David Harbour, Pankaj Tripathi.
Dir: Sam Hargraves.

A former Australian special forces soldier turned black market mercenary is hired to rescue a kidnapped son of India's biggest drug lord kidnapped by Bangladesh's biggest drug lord. This Netflix film contains some truly impressive action scenes including one that was stitched together to look like one long take. It's also slickly made and Chris Hemsworth is a worthy action star. But it feels all been-there-done-that and fairly predictable. The film is too silly to take seriously yet at the same time too brutal to be enjoyed as a silly action film. If you're craving for a new action flick for this quarantine, this would somewhat satisfy you but it's all a rather forgettable affair.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C

DA 5 BLOODS
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Chadwick Boseman, Jean Reno, Melanie Thierry, Jasper Pääkkönen, Paul Walter Hauser, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Le Y Tan, Veronica Ngo.
Dir: Spike Lee

The latest Spike Lee joint is about four African-American Vietnam War veterans who return to Vietnam to recover the body of a fifth fallen comrade...and to get millions of dollars worth of lost gold bars in the process. The release of this film could not be more timely. There are moments in this that eerily comments on what's been going on the past weeks. Like other Spike Lee's films, he delivers his message on this like a sledgehammer which can be both a strength and a weakness and here, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. But any reservations I have for its flaws, the film totally makes up for it by the fantastic performances of the main ensemble. Delroy Lindo is absolutely incredible in this. He is amazing in this. The rest of the cast matches him as well. Is it Spike Lee's best? No but it's definitely in the upper-tier.

Oscar Prospects: Delroy Lindo is most likely a LOCK for at least a nomination in the Best Actor race at this point (though I could see Netflix possibly frauding him in Supporting for an easier win/nomination). Picture and Screenplay are both possible as well.

Grade: A-
Last edited by anonymous1980 on Mon Jun 22, 2020 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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