As Hollywood began to cope with the realization there would be no Summer blockbuster season this year, May 2020 gave us a slew of straight to streaming and straight to VOD releases with very rare minimal limited-theatrical releases. What that gave us what a whole set of less than stellar offerings though two did stand out for me. Here my thoughts and quickie reviews on the 12 films I watched from May of this 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: Shy, straight-A student Ellie is hired by sweet but inarticulate jock Paul, who needs help wooing the most popular girl in school. But their new and unlikely friendship gets tricky when Ellie discovers she has feelings for the same girl.
- The Review: What seems like a fresh take the romance comedy with some queer representation ends up feeling like what I’d expect from a YA drama adaptation and this isn’t even one of those. This is a film that belonged as a straight to streamer I’m afraid to say. C- for THE HALF OF IT.
- The Plot: After losing her waitressing job, Katie Franklin takes a job as a caretaker to a wealthy elderly man in his sprawling, empty Chicago estate. The two grow close, but when he unexpectedly passes away and names Katie as his sole heir, she and her husband Adam are pulled into a complex web of lies, deception, and murder. If she’s going to survive, Katie will have to question everyone’s motives — even the people she loves.
- The Review: This could have just passed as a worthy of Netflix straight to stream thriller for audiences to watch at home during a boring night in, but it couldn’t even manage to do that as the final product is a laughable mess that I’d just recommend you skip. D+ for DANGEROUS LIES.
- The Plot: While serving life in prison, a young man looks back at the people, the circumstances and the system that set him on the path toward his crime.
- The Review: There’s moments in this that this could have been turned into a MOONLIGHT type of Oscar contender, but what you get is a pretty standard made for TV cautionary tale with commendable performances and a stand out one from Jeffrey Wright. This is where it belongs as a straight to streamer, C- for ALL DAY AND A NIGHT.
- The Plot: Kyle and Swin live by the orders of an Arkansas-based drug kingpin named Frog, whom they’ve never met. But when a deal goes horribly wrong, the consequences are deadly.
- The Review: Critics came away mixed from this one and I have to say I’m big time on the pro-camp. An enjoyable Quentin Tarantino -eque film from a first time filmmaker with good performances and interesting subplots, characters, and twists and turns. I have to say for me this was one of the better films of the year. A- for ARKANSAS.
- The Plot: In Scooby-Doo’s greatest adventure yet, see the never-before told story of how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined forces with young detectives Fred, Velma, and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, toughest mystery ever: an evil plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone ever imagined.
- The Review: A grating, over-produced, badly cast, film that leaves you annoyed and offended that they’d put beloved childhood icons through this. I’d recommend parents only watch this if their kids are begging them to, and even then wait for it to come to streaming or television. Once you put it on, get ready to cringe. C- for SCOOB!.
- The Plot: A guy meets the woman of his dreams and invites her to his company’s corporate retreat, but realizes he sent the invite to the wrong person.
- The Review: This isn’t anything special or overtly good, and it belongs as a stay at home watch. But for me, I didn’t find one the worst films of the year like I was promised by other critics. I found this to be a pretty standard paint by the numbers gross-out romantic comedy that was right where it belonged. So I guess that’s why I can’t say I’m that mad at this even if it isn’t an above average film either. C+ for THE WRONG MISSY.
- The Plot: The 47-year old Al Capone, after 10 years in prison, starts suffering from dementia and comes to be haunted by his violent past.
- The Review: Painful film to watch that will leave you triying to pull out your hair as you attempt to understand why they would even waste such potential by turning an interesting historical mystery thriller into a film that devolves into cringe literal farts moments and non sensical story beats that take us nowhere really. Don’t bother watching this no matter how big a Tom Hardy fan or Josh Trank defender you are. One of the worst films of the year bar none. D- for CAPONE.
- The Plot: A couple experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme – and hilarious – circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.
- The Review: It should be illegal how wasted the talent involved in this ended up being. I’m still in shock that this couldn’t even get away with being a passable standard romantic comedy. Instead I’m happy it ended up as a straight to streamer on Netflix. C- for THE LOVEBIRDS.
- The Plot: A disgraced doctor and his family are held hostage at their home by criminals on the run, when a robbery-gone-awry requires them to seek immediate medical attention.
- The Review: I’m convinced the filmmakers made this story up as they went and had no clue how they were going to run the pad time. The only thing saving this from a worse grade is that I can see someone like my dad finding a one-watch value in it on a boring afternoon. But honestly everyone should stay away from this lame attempt at a hostage thriller film. D+ for SURVIVE THE NIGHT.
- The Plot: Actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan continue their travelogue series with a visit to Greece.
- The Review: I enjoy THE TRIP films which themselves come from a series, but you really could tell it was getting time to hang it up for this small British franchise as the film feels formulaic and predictable, matching all the other entries into the series. That said the chemistry between our leads and the good conversation still elevate it. I actually would not have minded seeing this on the big screen. B- for THE TRIP TO GREECE.
- The Plot: Set in the dazzling world of the LA music scene comes the story of Grace Davis, a superstar whose talent, and ego, have reached unbelievable heights. Maggie is Grace’s overworked personal assistant who’s stuck running errands, but still aspires to her childhood dream of becoming a music producer. When Grace’s manager presents her with a choice that could alter the course of her career, Maggie and Grace come up with a plan that could change their lives forever.
- The Review: As a sucker for romance in media I should have been a good target audience for this but I ended up feeling little of nothing for our two main leads and this film feels like it just goes through the predictable motions. The only thing that mostly keeps it from a worse grade is that it did get some chuckles out of me and it did get me with a twist at the end. This is more a date night in movie than a date night out at the movies sort of film. C+ for THE HIGH NOTE.
- The Plot: At the dawn of the space-race, two radio-obsessed teens discover a strange frequency over the airwaves in what becomes the most important night of their lives and in the history of their small town.
- The Review: This film is as close as it comes to almost being a masterpiece of cinema with its Twilight Zone type aesthetics, its long one shot takes, engaging dialogue and great cinematography, commendable performances, etc. Unfortunately the climax is a bit of a rough landing, but other than that this stands out to me as not just the best film I saw back in May, but perhaps one of the best films I’ve seen this whole year. A- for THE VAST OF NIGHT.
And that wraps up a whole month of quickie movie reviews from me for the month of May 2020. In the next post for this newsletter I’ll be running down my quickie reviews for the June 2020 films that caught my attention. Stay tuned…