Tag Archives: 2020

Guest of Honour (2020) Movie Review

Atom Egoyan’s latest, Guest of Honour, is a terse drama arranged to be a puzzle film. I say “arranged” because Egoyan structures the narrative with flashbacks framed from different characters’ perspectives as they tell their version of a story, a family history that unfolds on-screen like puzzle pieces presenting themselves and forming the perimeter of a picture.

Stills courtesy of Kino Lorber

Undeniably, such a structure produces intrigue. We learn first that Continue reading Guest of Honour (2020) Movie Review

Mr. Jones (2020) Movie Review

In Mr. Jones, the eponymous Gareth Jones (James Norton) is a Welsh freelance journalist who travels to the Soviet Union in 1933 to interview Joseph Stalin. But the film begins outside of this man’s story, instead landscaping a pastoral farm—animals milling about, fields of grain waving with the wind. Jones, in his journalistic pursuit, stumbles upon a nefarious truth behind Stalin’s Five Year Plan—the Holodomor, in which Ukraine’s grain was exported in vast quantities that caused mass, genocidal starvation in the region.

Director Agnieszka Holland directs some great sequences in Mr. Jones—this opening sequence; a woozy, heroin-fueled party; a quiet, haunting interlude on a train. Still, stretches of the film are rather staid. The first act relies on undercurrents of tension stemming from Continue reading Mr. Jones (2020) Movie Review

Mope (2020) Movie Review

[Warning: this review contains references to sexually explicit acts and therefore is not suitable for those under the age of 18]

mope (/mōp/), noun, “a bottom-tier porn performer willing to do the dirtiest, most depraved work in the business.”

Mope, the directorial debut from Lucas Heyne, begins with a football huddle-style chant of

Continue reading Mope (2020) Movie Review

The King of Staten Island (2020) Movie Review

Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is a 24-year-old resident of Staten Island who lives at home with his mother (Marisa Tomei); is still not over his deceased father; suffers from ADD, depression, and Crohns disease; spends his days smoking weed, although it no longer gets him high; and finds it difficult to come to terms with his mother’s new boyfriend (Bill Burr), while also being emotionally incapable of holding a meaningful romantic relationship of his own. His highest aspiration in life is to open a tattoo parlor/restaurant.

The King of Staten Island finds its focus in the Continue reading The King of Staten Island (2020) Movie Review

2020 — The Year without a Blockbuster

[Update, 6.12.20: A day after this piece posted, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Wonder Woman 1984 had moved its release date to October 2, and that Tenet had pushed back two weeks to a July 31 release date. This alters some of the context of this article—namely, that now (at least for the time being) Disney’s Mulan has the earliest release date of any major studio release, not Tenet. But these changes also reflect the main argument raised in this article: It is becoming increasingly uncertain whether any major release will see substantial theatrical exhibition for the remainder of 2020]

 

Marvel’s Black Widow was scheduled to release on May 1.

That was over a month ago. Now in mid-June, we have watched many high profile film releases slip away like sand between fingers. The decision in March to hold off on the release of the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, was the first domino to fall. Since then, theaters have shuttered, and although cities across the United States have begun to re-open, most theaters’ doors remain closed.

The largest of these theater chains, AMC (which is owned by Dalian Wanda Group), have plans to reopen all of its U.S. theaters in Continue reading 2020 — The Year without a Blockbuster

Tommaso (2020) Movie Review

Willem Dafoe’s title character in Tommaso is conspicuously similar to the film’s writer-director Abel Ferrara. Tommaso is an American of around Ferrara’s age living in Rome with Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), a wife half his age, and their young daughter (played by Ferrara’s real-life wife and young daughter). He is a writer-director trying to crack the code of his next movie, which sounds like a heavily meditative, self-reflexive piece (not unlike Tommaso itself reads).

Dafoe, no stranger to Ferrara after multiple collaborations over the years, is primed to fill this role. In an early scene at an AA meeting, Dafoe monologues expertly about Continue reading Tommaso (2020) Movie Review

Becky (2020) Movie Review

Becky, from directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, is about as barebones as a thriller can get.  A group of White Supremacist prison inmates are being transported down a county road when they spring a plan to break out. The mastermind behind the plan, Dominick (Kevin James), leads them to a lake house in search of a mysterious key. But they come up against the obstacle of a family spending the weekend at the house—a father (Joel McHale), his daughter, Becky (Lulu Wilson), his girlfriend (Amanda Brugel) and her son (Isaiah Rockcliffe).

The bloody mayhem that unfolds from this straightforward plot is Continue reading Becky (2020) Movie Review

The Last Days of American Crime (2020) Movie Review

Olivier Megaton’s The Last Days of American Crime is an ugly film. It is ugly in form, it is ugly in story, and it is ugly in spirit. The basic premise, that the government has found a way to crack down on crime by developing a signal that interrupts the brain in the process of a crime, is background noise to a dreary, hollow caper led by ugly, dour characters.

Based on a graphic novel, this premise is reminiscent of a Minority Report or an A Clockwork Orange, and in theory it is Continue reading The Last Days of American Crime (2020) Movie Review

Shirley (2020) Movie Review

Josephine Decker’s 2017 film Madeline’s Madeline was fairly electrifying. Armed with a powerhouse performance from Helena Howard, the film resonates with such a unique energy that it is hard to shake. Decker’s latest, an adaptation of a novel about horror author Shirley Jackson, is more subdued in comparison to Madeline’s Madeline. But its energy is similarly unshakeable.

Shirley is initially framed as a biopic, if not a somewhat offbeat one. We enter into the life of Continue reading Shirley (2020) Movie Review

Space Force (2020) Season One Review

Space Force, the new comedy series from Steve Carrell and Greg Daniels, is the second television show with inaugural seasons in 2020 to feature a fictionalized space program run by professionals whose expertise range from semi-competent to entirely incompetent. The Armando Iannucci-created Avenue 5 deals in, with a farcical flavor, the struggle to maintain civil stability when people are essentially stripped of civil society and placed in an insulated environment.

Space Force, on the other hand, is about a fictionalized version of America’s Space Force (the President wants “boots on the moon”). Newly promoted four-star General Mark Naird (Carrell) is appointed to head Space Force, and he soon learns Continue reading Space Force (2020) Season One Review