November 2020 Movie Reviews
Looking Back At Some Films Released For Public Consumption In November 2020
November 2020 saw a historic election result that changed the occupant of the White House and the movie industry looked to Holiday-themed films to fill the void of a very messy looking Oscar season. For this month I watched 12 films, these are my quickie reviews for each 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: Following the loss of their son, a retired sheriff and his wife leave their Montana ranch to rescue their young grandson from the clutches of a dangerous family living off the grid in the Dakotas.
- The Review: Great intimate story lifted by great performances from a great cast; my only complaint would be that the ending feels a bit choppy but other than that one of the better films of the year on my end. A- for LET HIM GO.
- The Plot: A professional thief with $40 million in debt and his family’s life on the line must commit one final heist – rob a futuristic airborne casino filled with the world’s most dangerous criminals.
- The Review: This was released months before, but I did a fun bet online that if Biden won I’d watch this and if Trump won I’d watch 365 DAYS. Thankfully the former happened and I was looking forward to watching this so bad its good looking film that has become a meme in some parts of the web. While this movie had its crazy moments to poke fun at, I was disappointed to see much of the film was just watching Adam “Edge” Copeland arguing with Kelsey “Frasier Crane” Grammer arguing over a zoom call. But anyhow this is as bad as it looks, so skip it unless you want a laugh at how bad this is. D+ for MONEY PLANE.
- The Plot: A mystical, ancient dagger causes a notorious serial killer to magically switch bodies with a 17-year-old girl.
- The Review: A really interesting concept that is executed with a lot of paint by the numbers gross out comedy and little risks. Ultimately it felt like this is something to watch from home rather than the big screen watch the studio was insistent on. C+ for FREAKY.
- The Plot: A rowdy, unorthodox Santa Claus is fighting to save his declining business. Meanwhile, Billy, a neglected and precocious 12 year old, hires a hit man to kill Santa after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking.
- The Review: Most of this film delivers what I was expecting from this wild concept, and I was enjoying myself for the most part. Unfortunately it does seem to grind to a halt and overstay its welcome by the third act. I think I wouldn’t have minded the theatrical experience with this one, but it does flirt with being a rental as well. B- for FATMAN.
- The Plot: An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever.
- The Review: The music can be mostly hit (and some misses) but overall a decent family Christmas film that’s worthy of the big screen, but available at home via Netflix. B- for JINGLE JANGLE.
- The Plot: In seaside Italy, a Holocaust survivor with a daycare business takes in a 12-year-old street kid who recently robbed her.
- The Review: A stellar performance from the semi-retired Sophia Loren in a decent coming of age film, but ultimately like CUTIES feels like a film festival type of movie that one doesn’t consider half-bad but also likely never see again. B- for THE LIFE AHEAD.
- The Plot: In 1840s England, palaeontologist Mary Anning and a young woman sent by her husband to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship. Despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realisation that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.
- The Review: Great directing, great acting (especially Kate Winslet), great cinematography. and (mostly) good pacing. However the film ultimately feels like it’s missing something, as if it were just too subtle. It’s missing an extra recipe to make it go from a solid film into best of the year tier. B+ for AMMONITE.
- The Plot: When Duchess Margaret unexpectedly inherits the throne & hits a rough patch with Kevin, it’s up to Stacy to save the day before a new lookalike — party girl Fiona — foils their plans.
- The Review: Props to Vanessa Hudgens who is clearly having fun playing three different roles, and for the most part this film is everything you expect - an okay straight to stream Christmas flick for home viewing. C+ for THE PRINCESS SWITCH: SWITCHED AGAIN.
- The Plot: After leaving their cave, the Croods encounter their biggest threat since leaving: another family called the Bettermans, who claim and show to be better and evolved. Grug grows suspicious of the Betterman parents, Phil and Hope, as they secretly plan to break up his daughter Eep with her loving boyfriend Guy to ensure that their daughter Dawn has a loving and smart partner to protect her.
- The Review: The first half of this film had me stunned at how much fun I was having with it, but the second half feels like the kind of average quality I expect from these animated Dreamworks films. Ultimately I think this was a decent film to take the kids out to the movies to but I can’t help but be frustrated by the difference in quality between the two halves for me. B- for THE CROODS: A NEW AGE.
- The Plot: A young woman’s plans to propose to her girlfriend while at her family’s annual holiday party are upended when she discovers her partner hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents.
- The Review: Long overdue queer representation here for a holiday film and Kristin Stewart really stood out in this to me in making me buy into her character’s plight and rooting for her as well. That said it does do some paint by the numbers holiday movie tropes as well. I wouldn’t have minded seeing this at the movies though its on Hulu. B- for HAPPIEST SEASON.
- The Plot: Kate Pierce is reluctantly spending Christmas with her mom’s new boyfriend and his son Jack. But when the North Pole and Christmas are threatened to be destroyed, Kate and Jack are unexpectedly pulled into a new adventure with Santa Claus.
- The Review: I wasn’t wild about the first film of this franchise, and yet I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was entertained by this one which seemed to do some actual world expansion for a sequel and the plot was much more interesting to me in this one than the first film. I actually would have seen this on the big screen if I had the chance, but its available on Netflix for no extra charge. B- for THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO.
- The Plot: An urgent phone call pulls a Yale Law student back to his Ohio hometown, where he reflects on three generations of family history and his own future.
- The Review: Not sure if the release of this at a time of an election decided by white collar suburbanites hurt this with critics, but I have to say as someone who loathes “poverty porn” I actually enjoyed this more than I expected. Its not the Oscar worthy film it was hyped up to be earlier in the year, but this was a decent coming from nothing story accompanied by a great performance by Glenn Close. I actually think this was good enough to see on the big screen for a first viewing. Maybe I’m alone on this one, but I plead guilty to liking this more than a lot of other people seemed to. B- for HILLBILLY ELEGY.
And that wraps up a whole month of quickie movie reviews from me for the month of November 2020. In the next post for this newsletter I’ll be running down my quickie reviews for (most) of the December 2020 films that caught my attention. Stay tuned…