February 2020 Movie Reviews
Looking Back At Some Films Released For Public Consumption In February 2020
By February of 2020, the 92nd annual Academy Awards had come and gone with the historic result of PARASITE becoming the first non-English language film to win Best Picture. The origins of what would become a global and catastrophic pandemic and recession were barely noticed outside of news from China, and Hollywood would attempt to start releasing some major films this month. I ended up watching 14 movies in total from the second month of the year, and the following are my quickie reviews for all of them.
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: It’s open season on Harley Quinn when her explosive breakup with the Joker puts a big fat target on her back. Unprotected and on the run, Quinn faces the wrath of narcissistic crime boss Black Mask, his right-hand man, Victor Zsasz, and every other thug in the city. But things soon even out for Harley when she becomes unexpected allies with three deadly women – Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a 2020 American superhero film based on the DC Comics team Birds of Prey. It is the eighth film in the DC Extended Universe and a follow-up to Suicide Squad (2016).
- The Review: I’m honestly baffled this was as much of a critical success as it was, but it seems audiences didn’t warm up to it as much as critics did and frankly I side with audiences more on the lackluster reception. This film is a tonal and pacing mess that left me feeling like I was just watching flashy visuals and loud noises up on the big screen. The definition of a slapped together superhero flick that promises a team up that doesn’t even come until the climax of the film! The better choice is just to rent this for a boring Friday night in at home than any theatrical experience. C+ for BIRDS OF PREY.
- The Plot: A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.
- The Review: Its too bad that artful technical achievements and good acting performances from this film wasn’t enough to distract me from what was a painful long dragged out and silly plot capped off by an ending that left looking around the room and saying to myself, “What the Hell was the point of watching that?!”. This managed to be even more of a pest to get through than even THE TURNING. Do yourself a favor and stay away from this one. D- for THE LODGE.
- The Plot: An 11-year old boy believes that he is the best detective in town and runs the agency Total Failures with his best friend, an imaginary 1,200 pound polar bear.
- The Review: This film is incredibly charming (though I feel strange using that word myself) all thanks to our quirky protagonist and the great set of characters placed around him coupled with some great visuals for the scenes when we get some insight into his wild imagination. The film is mostly fun to watch, but in the middle it does start to feel like you’re watching a television show’s greatest hits, as it almost starts to feel episodic in a strange sort of way. That said I enjoyed myself with this one and were it released on the big screen instead of streaming, I would have recommended it to those looking for a film to take their kids to. B- for TIMMY FAILURE.
- The Plot: A socially awkward woman with a fondness for arts and crafts, horses, and supernatural crime shows finds her increasingly lucid dreams trickling into her waking life.
- The Review: Honestly I feel a tiny bit bad for how much I loathed this as I understand its a passion project for Alison Brie and to her credit she acted fine in this. But I’m sorry (well, not too sorry) this is hands down my least favorite and in my mind the most pointless movie of the year. In fact, I actually think its one of the worst films ever made just off the fact the plot feels like a senseless series of nothingness and the ending feels just as pointless. An experimental mess that asks the audience to do more work than it does. Do not even think about bothering with this one, no mattered how bored or curious you are. F for HORSE GIRL.
- The Plot: Based on the global blockbuster videogame franchise from Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog tells the story of the world’s speediest hedgehog as he embraces his new home on Earth. In this live-action adventure comedy, Sonic and his new best friend team up to defend the planet from the evil genius Dr. Robotnik and his plans for world domination.
- The Review: My best friend is a MASSIVE Sonic fan and I’m happy for him and the fans of this franchise that this ended up being as big of a success as it did; plus all props to the studio for actually listening to the fans on this one and fixing that awful original design for the film. All that said I kinda’ came away just seeing this as a poor man’s DETECTIVE PIKACHU with Sonic trying (and frankly failing) to be as witty. And for a video game movie we sure didn’t get to see many in-game elements. And while I chuckled at times at Jim Carrey as our antagonist, it felt more like Carrey being Carrey than playing his role as Doctor Robotnik. In the end I came away from this thinking it was a better as a film to rent for a Friday night than a visit to the big screen. C+ for SONIC THE HEDGEHOG.
- The Plot: A group of contest winners arrive at an island hotel to live out their dreams, only to find themselves trapped in nightmare scenarios.
- The Review: I think this film is flawed but nowhere near the disaster its been played up up to be. The movie does try some interesting twists both with story beats and characters, and I kinda’ liked the “attraction gone wrong” feel coupled with another strong score by Bear McCreary. But the film does lose its mind big time in the final act, leaving me thinking this was the kind of film you rented for a boring night in than actually spending the resources to see it on the big screen. C+ for FANTASY ISLAND.
- The Plot: Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other.
- The Review: Word I got was this film actually got booed when it screened at Sundance and the critics really went after it themselves. I saw a lot of comparisons to the source material this is off of, a Swedish film called FORCE MAJEURE and to be fair the marketing campaign for this promised a much more lighthearted comedy than what the final product was. That said I honestly did not mind this film as much as others, I found it to be a nice balance of comedy and drama though the ending did feel a bit flat. If you were curious enough about it, I think you got your money’s worth watching it at your local cinema. B- for DOWNHILL.
- The Plot: When famed photographer Christina Eames dies unexpectedly, she leaves her estranged daughter, Mae, hurt, angry and full of questions. When Mae finds a photograph tucked away in a safe-deposit box, she soon finds herself delving into her mother’s early life – an investigation that leads to an unexpected romance with a rising journalist.
- The Review: As a sucker for romance in stories, I was easily hooked on this. Not only is the chemistry great between our two leads but the side characters are fun to watch on screen as well and the soundtrack to this is a great combination of music that matches well with the scenery and moods of the film. The only big gripe I’ll admit is that the film does seem a bit uneven during some wonky flashback scenes. But overall this was a great romantic movie to go to the movies for with a date during the weekend for the holiday of romance. B+ for THE PHOTOGRAPH.
- The Plot: Buck is a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life is turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Yukon during the Gold Rush of the 1890s. As the newest rookie on a mail delivery dog sled team—and later its leader—Buck experiences the adventure of a lifetime, ultimately finding his true place in the world and becoming his own master.
- The Review: This felt like a big budget version of those straight to television kids’ book adaptations that they would play on Fridays when I went to school as a kid. The marketing has you thinking its an epic adventure with Harrison Ford’s character playing a big role, but he barely shows up and there’s not so much adventure as just the audience following around a painfully obvious CGI dog that comes off like a cartoon jumping around a bunch of real people. This is one of those films you might watch if you’re bored when you notice its on a streaming service or on television. C- for THE CALL OF THE WILD.
- The Plot: After a family moves into the Heelshire Mansion, their young son soon makes friends with a life-like doll called Brahms.
- The Review: Imagine sitting through almost 90 minutes of staring at a doll sitting on a sofa or bench not doing anything, and when it finally does the film is almost over and the teenage girls sitting in front of you are laughing at how silly the film has played out. That’s what you’re in for with this one. Skip it unless you’re super curious (on top of being super bored) to see what they did with the sequel to its predecessor. D+ for BRAHMS: THE BOY II.
- The Plot: In 1800s England, a well-meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.
- The Review: Beautiful looking film that feels like you’re looking at old art pieces at times, great and quirky characters played wonderfully by the cast, and subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) comedy that hits well. I truly enjoyed my time with this one and couldn’t believe this was a first time film for the director. A great adaptation of a literary classic. A- for EMMA.
- The Plot: At the turning point of the Iran-Contra affair, Elena McMahon, a fearless investigative journalist covering the 1984 US presidential campaign, puts herself in danger when she abandons her assigned task in order to fulfill the last wish of her ailing father, a mysterious man whose past activities she barely knows.
- The Review: Painful and confusing film to get through and I’m not sure whether I should blame the Director (Who was behind one of my favorite films from 2017, MUDBOUND!) or just crappy source material as this is based off a novel. The characters in this feel as bland as ever and our protagonist comes off like one of those annoying hardened cynical types who is still living in the past and whining that the 1980s didn’t go their way politically or culturally. And after traveling with this annoying character for two hours and being confused as to what story the film was trying to tell, it has an ending that will make you want to get up and flip your television in anger. Don’t bother watching this one for any reason. D- for THE LAST THING HE WANTED.
- The Plot: When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
- The Review: As someone who enjoys the classic Universal Monsters, I appreciate this new take on this particular “monster”, and I’ll give them props on trying some new genre and story beats that other films about invisible dangerous men haven’t tried. Not to mention a good performance by Elisabeth Moss and some great camera techniques that play with the invisible man gimmick. But I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a high budget lifetime movie with a twist much more than a sci-fi horror flick. I wouldn’t recommend a trip to the theatre for this one, but its a harmless movie night rental. C+ for THE INVISIBLE MAN.
- The Plot: Two teens facing personal struggles form a powerful bond as they embark on a cathartic journey chronicling the wonders of Indiana.
- The Review: This film (and story as a whole as this is an adaptation) deserve props for the realistic behavior and language of these high schoolers compared to other teen dramas. That said the movie does every trope of the YA teen drama and we all know how this will eventually end as it does with every predictable YA teen drama like this. The two lead performances are commendable but in the end YA is YA, and that’s what I got. This is where it belongs as a Netflix straight to streamer. C- for ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES.
And that wraps up a whole month of quickie movie reviews from me for the month of February 2020. In the next post for this newsletter I’ll be running down my quickie reviews for the March 2020 films that caught my attention. Stay tuned…