It was by late March 2020 that the gravity of the global pandemic began to become a reality for many of us and around the world. Movie studios began to delay films and theatres in time would start to close. Meanwhile the worst recession in generations was triggered, and the film industry began to realize what a rough year 2020 would be on their bottom dollar. That said we still got a major Pixar release by the start of the month and some decent streaming content by the end of it. Anyhow, here are the 12 films from Match 2020 that caught my attention and my quickie reviews for each one 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: In a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there.
- The Review: This film has a strange battle with itself in which its deciding whether its a Pixar quality movie with all of the typical magic of Pixar standards, or an average and forgettable animated film you’d expect from one of the other studios. In the end, the Pixar magic wins out but only by the climax. This was worth taking the kids out to see for a night out at the movies, but it flirts with being rental material. B- for ONWARD.
- The Plot: A former basketball all-star, who has lost his wife and family foundation in a struggle with addiction attempts to regain his soul and salvation by becoming the coach of a disparate ethnically mixed high school basketball team at his alma mater.
- The Review: Ben Affleck delivers what honestly would be an Oscar nomination worthy performance in a more just world with a better timed release. Couple that with this being a sports drama that actually tries to be different and subvert expectations of the tropes in movies like these and you get a gripping film that has you rooting for our troubled protagonist from start to finish. A- for THE WAY BACK.
- The Plot: Spenser, a former Boston patrolman who just got out from prison, teams up with Hawk, an aspiring fighter, to unravel the truth behind the death of two police officers.
- The Review: No surprise that this is a pretty by the numbers macho action flick, but it does offer some moments that get real chuckles out of you, and given that this is a straight to Netflix streamer you can’t get too mad at it being just a normal film. Honestly this would be worth the rental fee if it had been released more widely, but nothing past that. C+ for SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL.
- The Plot: After he and his wife are murdered, marine Ray Garrison is resurrected by a team of scientists. Enhanced with nanotechnology, he becomes a superhuman, biotech killing machine—’Bloodshot’. As Ray first trains with fellow super-soldiers, he cannot recall anything from his former life. But when his memories flood back and he remembers the man that killed both him and his wife, he breaks out of the facility to get revenge, only to discover that there’s more to the conspiracy than he thought.
The Review: For a superhero flick, I sure found myself bored plenty and the “twist” that occurs half-way through this movie was probably better left off a secret for us non-comic book fans from the marketing of this film. This felt like the kind of cheap substandard superhero movie you’d pass the time with at home via streaming or television and that’s where its best off first viewed. C- for BLOODSHOT.
- The Plot: Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are—or how they got there. In the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, ruthless elitists gather at a remote location to hunt humans for sport. But their master plan is about to be derailed when one of the hunted turns the tables on her pursuers.
- The Review: A lot of controversy and mixed views on this one but I got a big kick out of this. Plenty fun moments, a lot of biting satire, and a real great twist to the first half to introduce our heroine. That said it is at the end of a day a silly slapstick blood and fore fest so I’m not calling this one of the best of the year either. But I had a lot of fun seeing this on the big screen if I do say so myself. B- for THE HUNT.
- The Plot: Leo Borlock is an average student at Mica High School. He gets decent grades, is a member of the school’s marching band and has always been content flying under the radar. But all that changes when he meets Stargirl Caraway, a confident and colorful new student with a penchant for the ukulele, who stands out in a crowd. She is kind, finds magic in the mundane and touches the lives of others with the simplest of gestures. Her eccentricities and infectious personality charm Leo and the student body, and she quickly goes from being ignored and ridiculed to accepted and praised, then back again, sending Leo on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
- The Review: On paper this should be an ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES all over again, a trope filled YA drama that I consider to be where it belongs as a straight to streamer. However this movie also came off to me as insufferable given the ridiculous over the top hero worship of the main female protagonist in this that felt strange and a main male protagonist that feels bland. The tropes are there as well and coupled with characters that grated on me I couldn’t recommend anyone even watch this if bored. I feel sorta bad for hating it this bad because the actress who plays Stargirl does a decent job, but the character is just too much for me personally. I have heard she’s much more interesting as quirky than annoying in the book, but I’m judging the movie here. D+ for STARGIRL.
- The Plot: A seemingly bright and mostly innocent 16-year-old named Mo attempts to navigate high school under the guidance of his best friend Zeke, an unmotivated-yet-charismatic college dropout. Although Zeke genuinely cares about Mo, things start to go awry as he teaches Mo nontraditional life lessons in drug dealing, partying, and dating. Meanwhile, Mo’s well-meaning dad tries to step in and take back the reins of his son’s upbringing.
- The Review: I wasn’t looking forward to this, and quite frankly put it on as boredom while getting some work done. Thankfully the film proved to be a decent coming of age tale and the way things wrapped up felt like the right way for the story to finish up on. Unfortunately there are some obnoxious moments I wish got cut out of the script but overall had this come out to a wide theatre release I would have not minded seeing this at my local cinema. B- for BIG TIME ADOLSCENE.
- The Plot: When Mari Gilbert’s daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered sex workers.
- The Review: Props to Amy Ryan who does a commendable job here, but this ultimately feels like a Lifetime true-crime movie that could have been put on as a made for TV movie more so than a Netflix original. Its probably fine where its at as a straight to streamer on Netflix though. C- for LOST GIRLS.
- The Plot: In the 1960s, two entrepreneurs hatch an ingenious business plan to fight for housing integration—and equal access to the American Dream.
- The Review: The scenery, atmosphere, and tone of this film make this a fun watch through most of it, with the cast delivering strong commendable performances and a story that keeps you intrigued. That said the movies does have a sudden shift in tone towards the final act that can make it feel like some of the fun has been sucked out. This would be worth a trip to the theatre to see for those most curious to see it, but I can’t help but think it could have finished a little stronger. B- for THE BANKER.
- The Plot: While grieving for the loss of their mother, the Connolly sisters suddenly find they have a crime to cover up, leading them deep into the underbelly of their salty Maine fishing village.
- The Review: There’s a lot to like from this from what feels like a female version of a Cohen brothers film. The movie does some great worldbuilding with the town and its residents and has its moments where you’re on the edge of your seat. Unfortunately the middle gets a little choppy and our two main protagonists suddenly vanish for a while. On top of that the finish felt a little flat. But overall a decent film I wouldn’t have minded seeing up on the big screen, but Amazon Prime Video will do. B- for BLOW THE MAN DOWN.
- The Plot: A mysterious place, an indescribable prison, a deep hole. An unknown number of levels. Two inmates living on each level. A descending platform containing food for all of them. An inhuman fight for survival, but also an opportunity for solidarity…
- The Review: Some interesting artistic choices in this sci-fi dystopian horror from across the ocean. Unfortunately the film does seem to get a little too experimental for my taste as it gets to and churns through the final act. Barely an above average film thanks to what felt like a waning quality in its storytelling as it finished up. B- for THE PLATFORM.
- The Plot: Elijah must balance his dream of becoming a master sommelier with his father’s expectations that he carry on the family’s Memphis BBQ joint.
The Review: There are times this film shows the ability to be a Best of 2020 nominee, with some great artistic shots and a story that has you rooting for our main protagonist from start to finish. But the finish feels off and thus the movie just feels like it could have used something extra towards the end to make it feel less unfulfilling. Not a bad movie to see come straight to Netflix though I wouldn’t have minded a big screen viewing instead. B- for UNCORKED.
And that wraps up a whole month of quickie movie reviews from me for the month of March 2020. In the next post for this newsletter I’ll be running down my quickie reviews for the April 2020 films that caught my attention. Stay tuned…