Week Of 12.31.2020 Movie Reviews

Finishing Up On My 2020 Season Of Movie Watching

With the 2020 movie season (and the year as a whole today) wrapping up, its time for me to finish the season as well on my end. With a sliver of titles releasing at the end of the year, and highly regarded films that I didn’t catch the first weekend they released, I have pin-pointed 17 whole films still left for me to watch from 2020’s wide releases that I believe are worth my time watching and reviewing after seeing them show up in some others’ best of the year lists. 2021 movie season doesn’t begin for me until next week so that gave me the time to do all the catching up I had to do - quicker than I expected to really. So without further adieu, here are those 17 last 2020 films I was able to watch last second for the year.

But first, a reminder of what my grading system for movies works like:
- S Grade; 5.0 Stars: The Best Film I’ve Ever Seen, Everyone Has An S Graded Film
- A+/A- Grade; 4.0/4.5 Stars: One Of The Best Films Of The Year, If Not All-Time
- B+/B- Grade; 3.0/3.5 Stars: Worth A Trip To The Theatre For First Viewing
- C+/C- Grade; 2.0/2.5 Stars: Watch From Home For First Viewing
- D+/D- Grade; 1.0/1.5 Stars: Don’t Bother Watching This At All If You Can Help It
- F Grade; 0.5 Star: One Of The Worst Films Of All-Time
- Reminder: Reviews For These Films Can Change Over Time And Will Be Reflected Over At Our Letterboxd

With all that out of the way, lets get to those quickie reviews already…

- The Plot: Four high school teachers launch a drinking experiment: upholding a constant low level of intoxication.

- The Review: A film about getting drunk that somehow doesn’t turn into a PSA and instead ends up a moving piece on friendship and mid-life crisis that delves cleverly between humor and drama before finishing with potentially the most wholesome final scene of any film this year - maybe even ever. I really liked this and its one of my favorite films of the year easily. A- for ANOTHER ROUND.

- The Plot: Bacurau, a small town in the Brazilian sertão, mourns the loss of its matriarch, Carmelita, who lived to be 94. Days later, its inhabitants notice that their community has vanished from most maps.

- The Review: If ANOTHER ROUND was good at balancing humor and drama, this was able to balance everything from thriller to scif-fi to mystery and so many other genres all at once. This feels like a Tarantino film and yet its a great masterpiece out of Brazil that left me on the edge of my seat. I do wish we got more character development but its obvious the main protagonist of this film was the town itself. Definitely one of my favorite films of the year as well. A- for BACURAU.

- The Plot: Set in post-WWII Leningrad as two female soldiers return from war and attempt to rebuild their lives in the ravaged city.

- The Review: Lots of controversy as to whether this should count as a 2019 or 2020 film, but a lot of praise from critics for this one. Unfortunately I can’t say I’m with them on that bandwagon. This felt like SHIRLEY all over again where great technical film making can’t make me get the bad taste out of my mouth of nihilistic and unlikable characters in a story that ultimately left me feeling like I had a cold, wet rag dropped on me. I’d say just stream this online and save yourself the money if you want to give it a chance. C- for BEANPOLE.

- The Plot: A taciturn loner and skilled cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune; soon the two collaborate on a successful business, although its longevity is reliant upon the clandestine participation of a nearby wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow.

- The Review: This film has made some big waves in critical circles and even won some best film of the year awards, and I have to say I don’t see why. Its got its fun moments and the technical aspects are all there doing their job - hell the story itself ain’t half bad; but ultimately I kind of just felt okay about this movie and felt like the ending was a big weak point going for it. I think this would be a solid movie night rental, but I can’t say I enjoyed this anywhere near as much as many others seemed to. C+ for FIRST COW.

- The Plot: After making a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, a young refugee couple struggle to adjust to their new life in a small English town that has an unspeakable evil lurking beneath the surface.

- The Review: Found this to be a pretty decent indie horror flick backed by Netflix. I wouldn’t say I was as wowed as many others seemed to be but in this brave new world of more arthouse and message oriented horror, this was a nice watch during a rough year for horror movies in my estimation. I would not have minded seeing this in a theatre either. B- for HIS HOUSE.

- The Plot: Set during the Meiji reformation era in a small village in Kyushu, Japan. The story revolves around a young boy named Izana and a blind woman named Takiri, the two encounter the large monster Nebula who since ancient times was feared as the god of lake Amenosagiri. Theme of the film focuses on the Japanese concept of light and darkness, as told by puppetry and model miniaturization of the films’ world with practical special effects by Keizo Murase.

- The Review: Offering amazing puppetry worked, art direction, cinematography, and creature effects, and all on a small independent budget, this small film doesn’t end up just one of my favorite movies of the year, but a must watch for any fellow kaiju fans. A- for HOWL FROM BEYOND THE FOG.

- The Plot: Two con artists have spent 26 years training their only daughter to swindle, scam and steal at every turn. During a desperate and hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger into joining them, only to have their entire world turned upside down.

- The Review: The acting and characters in this weren’t un-interesting, but the story itself kind of felt like a flat aimless journey with a sort of bland ending? It just came off like a well shot film that didn’t have much to say for me, and I’m honestly once again finding myself baffled that critics have placed so much love on this one. I’d recommend you just stream this one for your first viewing. C- for KAJILLIONAIRE.

- The Plot: The tale of an individualist proletarian in a time marked by the rise of mass political movements. In early 20th-century Italy, illiterate sailor Martin Eden seeks fame as a writer while torn between the love of a bourgeois girl and allegiance to his social class.

- The Review: This is beautifully done film that’s well acted and I can see why some have fallen in love with this. However I do find the second half to have sort of lost me and while I understand that ending is source material friendly it does leave one with a bad taste in their mouth. I think this is a nice film to see on the big screen if you’re curious, but I can’t say I enjoyed this as much as I did other foreign films like ANOTHER ROUND or BACURAU. B- for MARTIN EDEN.

- The Plot: A Texan traveling across the wild West bringing the news of the world to local townspeople, agrees to help rescue a young girl who was kidnapped.

- The Review: A touching and fun western that delivers a much grander adventure than I even anticipated, and anchored by great performances from our two leads, this is a great film to finish the year off for those who have been starving for more western genre films. A- for NEWS OF THE WORLD.

- The Plot: In the aftermath of Cassius Clay’s defeat of Sonny Liston in 1964, the boxer meets with Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown to change the course of history in the segregated South.

- The Review: In a year with stage plays coming to film, this one felt more like an actual film than its source material and is anchored by a great ensemble cast and a fun overall story that will be a crowd pleaser among the best films of the year. A- for ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI.

- The Plot: A heartbreaking home birth leaves a woman grappling with the profound emotional fallout, isolated from her partner and family by a chasm of grief.

- The Review: Anchored by an incredible performance from Vanessa Kirby that better get an Oscar nomination, this is a decent family drama that is elevated by its actors. While I wouldn’t call this one of my favorites from the year, its definitely a powerful film worth your viewing if you’re itching for something more meaty with the acting. B- for PIECES OF A WOMAN.

- The Plot: Tasya Vos, an elite corporate assassin, uses brain-implant technology to take control of other people’s bodies to terminate high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment, Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.

- The Review: This had a THE PLATFORM sort of vibe to it but instead of mixing dystopia and horror this mixed thriller and horror. Ultimately its a decent film, but it is a bit artsy and snobby and could lose a casual viewer who watches it. I’d say this is worth the big screen experience, but only if you’re curious enough to want to see it badly. B- for POSESSOR.

- The Plot: When Edna—the elderly and widowed matriarch of the family—goes missing, her daughter and granddaughter travel to their remote family home to find her. Soon after her return, they start to discover a sinister presence haunting the house and taking control of Edna.

- The Review: I pretty much can say everything I said for POSSESSOR for this one as well. Its a decent enough artsy type of horror flick that uses some interesting concepts but I think its best made for a certain niche audience for horror who’d I’d recommend the big screen watch for. B- for RELIC.

- The Plot: When Edna—the elderly and widowed matriarch of the family—goes missing, her daughter and granddaughter travel to their remote family home to find her. Soon after her return, they start to discover a sinister presence haunting the house and taking control of Edna.

- The Review: I don’t mean to sound too harsh in ignoring the commendable lead performance in this one, but I loathed this film as it gave me vibes of both HORSE GIRL and THE TAX COLLECTOR in its nihilism and long, dragged out pacing. This might be the film I disagree with critics on the most this year, this was painful to get through and I have to recommend you stay away from this two hour torture of a film that flirts with getting the dreaded F grade. D- for THE ASSISTANT.

- The Plot: Desperate for a breakthrough as she nears the big 4-0, struggling New York City playwright Radha finds inspiration by reinventing herself as a rapper.

- The Review: This actually went in some paths I didn’t see coming, and for anyone struggling as a “starving artist” this really hits home. I found this to be a decent film, even though I wasn’t as blown away as other critics were, and yet I would not have minded seeing this on a big screen either. B- for THE FORTY YEAR OLD VERSION.

- The Plot: Rory is an ambitious entrepreneur who brings his American wife and kids to his native country, England, to explore new business opportunities. After abandoning the sanctuary of their safe American suburban surroundings, the family is plunged into the despair of an archaic ’80s Britain and their unaffordable new life in an English manor house threatens to destroy the family.

- The Review: I liked this movie and sort of saw it as a more modern and more dark sort of Downton Abbey-esque story. Ultimately though the pacing and the questionable rewatchability does make me think this a niche film that I’d only recommend to those who are interested in dramas like these. B- for THE NEST.

- The Plot: A young woman haunted by a tragedy in her past takes revenge on the predatory men unlucky enough to cross her path.

- The Review: I came into this worried this film would be “too woke” for its own good. I ended up being annoyed with its good ideas and concepts which were just not well executed in my mind and that includes not doing much with the “wokeness”. I think a lot of the critics love for this is blinded by a great lead performance, but the movie kept disappointing me with what it decided to do with each story beat. And then it gave me a huge “F*ck you” ending that just left me feeling weird about the movie as whole. I honestly would sort of compare this to an UNCUT GEMS, but where as that had some interesting story beats this just left me frustrated at every turn good technical aspects of the film aside. I think this could be a solid movie night rental, but I wouldn’t praise this as much as other critics seem to be. C+ for PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN.

And that wraps up my personal 2020 season for watching new wide released films. Stay tuned…

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