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February 2020 Movie Reviews

March 4, 2020

Welcome to the Letterboxd era. Someone told me about this movie app in late January and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. The app basically functions as a social media film diary and you can make it as comprehensive as you want it to be. You can simply log whenever you see a movie and keep a watchlist… or you can go all out like I have and log every movie you’ve ever seen and copy and paste reviews from your blog to the app, and pay a little money for an upgraded experience so you can track all sorts of stats that are fun to look through. If you’re a fan of cinema, I can’t recommend this app enough. It’s a must have.

Link to my profile: Dark Knight on Letterboxd

The Invisible Man (2020, theater) – It’s weird how fond of Elisabeth Moss I am. Looking through her filmography, I’ve seen 6% of the movies she’s ever had a role in and I’ve never seen anything she was the star of. I’ve never seen Mad Men. I’ve never seen The Handmaid’s Tale.

You know what I have seen? I’ve seen her performance in last year’s Us. It was a small role, but it caught my attention. I was wondering why this actress was going all out and how she could seem so familiar and yet I’d never heard of her.

And now I’ve seen The Invisible Man and seeing her crush this role is one of the least surprising things ever. I don’t know what it is about her, but she conveys every emotion in incredibly convincing fashion. I buy everything she’s doing on screen.

Moss is the biggest reason to go see this movie but I thought it was a very good reboot of the classic Universal Studios monster as well. Its story is grounded, driven as much by spousal abuse and control as by the more fantastical elements you’d expect in a movie about an invisible man. Even the way the villain turns himself invisible feels like technology that could happen in the not too distant future.

I wouldn’t exactly call this movie scary, but it is thrilling and tense, and people highly susceptible to such things will probably find it plenty unnerving. The third act of the movie is fun, but it’s also a bit confusing and briefly threatens to send things completely off the rails. Overall, I was satisfied with it though and The Invisible Man is the first really enjoyable movie of 2020.

Also, I owe it to Elisabeth Moss to watch more of her work. She is truly brilliant.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Doctor Sleep (2019, blu-ray rental) – I got about 10 minutes into this before I seriously considered turning it off… not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I felt like I really needed to revisit The Shining before taking Doctor Sleep on. It’s been long enough since I’ve seen The Shining that I don’t remember much of it – sure, I easily recall Jack Nicholson’s tremendous performance and multiple iconic scenes have stuck with me over the years, but I don’t remember the nuances of the film, like the themes it tackled or if it uncovered why Danny “shines” or why The Overlook hotel is the way it is.

So when Rose the Hat and The True Knot show up on screen and the script acts like we are supposed to be familiar with them, I was like huh?

I decided to power through and I’m glad I did because Doctor Sleep is a great sequel that stands on its own while paying much tribute to the original, including a finale that is about nostalgic as it gets.

I’ve only seen three of Mike Flanagan’s films (Gerald’s Game and Hush also), but he’s already proven himself one of the horror genre’s most capable directors. Doctor Sleep is probably more psychological thriller than straight up horror movie, but it does have plenty of scary elements and I’d say it’s right up there with Jordan Peele’s Us as the genre’s best film of 2019.

I wouldn’t consider myself an Ewan McGregor fan, but I liked him just fine in this movie. The whole time I was watching his performance, I kept thinking of Jason Bateman and wondered if he would have been better in the role. That’s probably not fair, but I couldn’t shake it. Kyleigh Curran as Abra Stone was great and that character really made the movie. It was kind of refreshing to see a young child experiencing unknown supernatural abilities and immediately embrace them, rather than be terrified about what’s happening to her like every other kid we’ve seen in similar situations.

Doctor Sleep has a bit of an epic feel to it and that should be no surprise since it clocks in at a whopping 152 minutes. Even so, I thought it was paced just fine, giving plenty of development for side characters and adding some unexpected emotional impact.

This is another win for Mike Flanagan and yet another successful adaptation from a Stephen King novel. One of the cool things about using Letterboxd is that it unlocks all sorts of interesting statistics. I’ve already spent a significant amount of time scrolling through movies on the app and marking everything I’ve ever seen and I was somewhat surprised to see that I’ve seen more movies written by Stephen King than any other screenwriter (Well, written by or adapted from his novels). Well, if you’re a fan of King or a fan of the horror genre, then Doctor Sleep is a must watch.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Bad Boys For Life (2020, theater) – The first Bad Boys was an all-time favorite for me as a teenager, but I revisited it on Netflix last year and found it nearly unwatchable and Bad Boys 2 was completely forgettable, so I can’t say I was looking forward to a third entry in 2020. I was kind of surprised though – I didn’t hate it. It was entertaining enough and Martin Lawrence was pretty funny. I don’t think it’s going out on much of a limb to call in the best entry in the franchise, so if you like this series, you can’t really go wrong here, but at the same time, it’s nothing special either.

5/10 (Decent)

Missing Link (2019, Hulu) – A fun, but not great animated adventure that inexplicably won a Golden Globe over the far superior Toy Story 4. I watched because I like to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as I can, but this is one you can skip if you’re not watching with your kids.

5/10 (Decent)

Honeyland (2019, Hulu) – This is the only Oscar-nominated documentary I watched and I was pretty underwhelmed by it, so I wasn’t shocked when it didn’t win last month. I have to admit I started distracting myself about halfway through this one, so I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the story when I was supposed to, but I was also expecting it to grab my attention and hold on to it from the jump and it just wasn’t interesting enough. Critics absolutely adored this movie, so take my rating with a grain of salt.

5/10 (Decent)

Joker (2019, purchased, second viewing) – Still amazing.

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020, theater) – This was better than I thought it was going to be, but I was honestly expecting an unwatchable train wreck so that’s not saying much. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was one of the few pluses in Suicide Squad and I still enjoy the character here.

The additions to the cast are pretty blah. Huntress is a cool character, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a weird take that feels a bit too aloof for my taste. I’ve long looked forward to a Black Mask appearance but Ewan McGregor’s version does absolutely nothing for me.

DC’s cinematic universe is such a mess. Wonder Woman, Shazam!, Aquaman, and Harley Quinn all exist in the same world as Ben Affleck’s Batman, Henry Cavill’s Superman, and Jared Leto’s Joker – all of which may never appear on screen again. Meanwhile, Batman is being rebooted in his own timeline and Joker just had massive success in what was supposed to be a stand-alone film. I don’t know how DC plans to get all these characters in the same world but I’m sure whoever is writing The Flash movie has had many a headache trying to figure it out.

I realize Birds of Prey is not supposed to be a good movie, but it’s definitely supposed to be a fun one. It’s moderately entertaining, but it’s probably no surprise that it’s nothing special.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Luce (2019, blu-ray rental) – There’s a lot I liked about this film, particularly the performances from Octavia Spencer and Kelvin Harrison Jr., the kid that played the title character Luce (pronounced like the word ‘loose’). Spencer is always great and Harrison Jr. oozed so much charisma I couldn’t help but think he has a bright future.

I didn’t care for the way the story unraveled. It’s supposed to be a mystery, with student pitted against teacher, and the audience is constantly guessing who is manipulating who. That’s fine, but what is annoying is how the narrative shifts perspectives, withholding and revealing information at its convenience. There isn’t a single character that is followed and established as an unreliable narrator so it doesn’t make sense for things not to unfold in a straight-forward manner. It’s done this way to keep us guessing but that’s just lazy writing.

The storytelling didn’t ruin the movie for me but it did make me pause and take note. Overall, I liked Luce. It’s intriguing and has some good performances.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Toy Story 4 (2019, Disney+, second viewing) – Enjoyed watching it a second time, but it doesn’t reach the greatness that the original and part 3 hit.

Apollo 11 (2019, blu-ray rental) – A bad ass documentary about the Apollo 11 launch into space and mankind’s first steps on the moon. This doc features real footage from the late 60s and makes it look incredibly and unbelievably crisp – it is truly amazing stuff.

Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s and that other guy’s (geez, no wonder no one remembers him) journey to the moon is a feat that still blows my mind in 2020. I can’t even fathom this happening in our day and age, let alone 50 years ago.

This is an absolute must watch documentary that somehow didn’t even get a nomination from the Academy. I mean… this was substantially better than Honeyland in just about every way possible. I don’t get it.

Check Apollo 11 out. It is truly a marvel.

8/10 (Must See)

Waves (2019, blu-ray rental) – I have a couple of friends that have been treating Waves like it is the Holy Grail of all 2019 movies and claimed that I have no credibility when it comes to opinions on films until I watched it.

Not going to lie… that kind of made me want to hate it.

But this movie is awesome. The first half shocked my face off with its frantic pacing and unpredictable narrative and then the second half slows down to an absolute crawl and gets really meaty with the character development. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. The climax is smack dab in the middle of the movie and the second half is the characters dealing with the ramifications of what happened. It was a cool concept and the filmmakers knocked the execution out of the park.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. – the same kid I praised in my review of Luce – gives another great, yet completely different, performance in this movie. I said he oozes charm and charisma in Luce, but in this movie he’s the exact opposite: scary and unhinged. Taylor Russell plays his sister in the movie and does a good job carrying the second half.

Waves is a somewhat traumatic experience. It’s kind of hard to talk about without spoiling anything, so I’ll just say it’s a must see film that you need to see for yourself.

8/10 (Must See)

Chico & Rita (2010, Netflix)) – This is the first movie I’ve watched as a result of Letterboxd. I was scrolling through one of the many lists on here and saw that this was an Oscar-nominated Animated Feature once upon a time that somehow completely slipped my radar.

I liked it a lot! It’s a love story that spans decades as two explosive personalities keep coming back to each other because of their passion for music. It’s touching and heartbreaking with cool-looking animation and a bad ass jazz soundtrack.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Movies I watched in February that I haven’t written about yet: Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari, The Two Popes, Shutter Island (rewatch)

Expect to see a lot of Scorsese over the next few months. I’m going to be going through and ranking his whole catalog. Prior to starting this journey, I’ve seen only 12 of his 26 feature films. Less than half of the filmography of one of the greatest directors of all-time? Yeah, that needs to be fixed.

Check out my list on Letterboxd (Note: only the top 12 are really ordered): Martin Scorsese rankings

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