Movie theaters were open for like five minutes this year and it doesn’t look like their reopening anytime soon. Most all big movie releases this year were either delayed or went directly to streaming so it’s been a crap year for new movies. There were a handful that snuck out before the pandemic hit, but all the blockbusters haven’t seen the light of day yet. In fact, this past Christmas day, Wonder Woman 1984 was released on HBO Max, for no additional cost. This is the first giant movie to do this and Warner Media is continuing this strategy into 2021. All in all, 2020 was a crap year for movies, hopefully next year is better.
Academy Award Winner: Best Picture – 2018
The Shape of Water is a fantasy love story about an amphibious god and a mute woman, taking place during the Cold War era. It’s a very simple movie that seems to draw some inspiration from The Beauty and the Beast tale.
The Shape of Water is filled with glorious scenes of cinematography and color.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer. Sally Hawkins plays a mute middle-aged woman named Elisa who lives alone and works the night shift at a Navy research center near DC. Her neighbor, played by Richard Jenkins struggles with both his sexuality and his art career. Elisa and her neighbor Giles find comfort in each other during various struggles in this film.
Michael Shannon plays an eccentric antagonist who is set to torture and kill the amphibian man.
The Shape of Water is filled with glorious scenes of cinematography and color. The story is a little weak in the fact that we have no idea why the government wants this thing or what Elisa’s backstory is. There’s a lot of moving parts put into this two hour movie, but by the end, we’re left wanting more information about what just happened.
It’s easy to see what The Shape of Water won this year’s best picture award, but all in all it proved to be a weak year in terms of everlasting classic movies.
Who should see this movie? Fans of fantasy love stories, people who like the previous work of Guillermo del Toro, and if you want to see what the best movie of the year is.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who can’t grasp the fact of a “human” loving a “beast” and children because of sexual content.
8 / 10 – A great movie overall, still not convinced it was this year’s best. After watching The Shape of Water you might find yourself saying “That was weird…”.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
To publish, or not to publish.
In the early 1970s The Washington Post has to decide whether they owe it to the nation to publish secret White House documents or forever be controlled by the government.
Meryl Streep stars a Kay Graham, the first female newspaper publisher, as she navigates through one of the most important times in media / White House relations. The New York Times uncovers a report written by a former member of the Department of Defense that details the why the United States could not win the Vietnam war.
Tom Hanks co-stars as the editor of the Washington Post who desperately tries to get the papers published after the NYT was barred from doing so.
This movie is not that deep, not that complicated, and if you are up on American history, you already know the outcome. That being said, the acting in The Post is superb. Streep and Hanks show off their seasoned skills and Steven Spielberg shines through as usual.
The Post starts off slow giving us background information on how this whole thing came about. It isn’t until about half way through when it pulls you into the suspense.
This is one of the year’s best movies, but I wouldn’t call it the best. True to history stories can be entertaining and rewarding, but most of the time they are just average.
Who should see this movie? People who like American history especially dealing with Vietnam-era details, Fans of Streep, Hanks and/or Spielberg, and lovers of dramatic-suspenseful stories.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who find true stories or political dramas boring and viewers who may not fully understand the relationship of the media to the White House.
8 / 10 – The Post tells the story of the Pentagon Papers very well and Streep & Hanks make it entertaining to watch.
If you want to know what happens, read this Wikipedia article.
Deal with her.
Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is the true story behind skier turned poker criminal Molly Bloom. The film is based on the book by Molly Bloom of the same name and it’s referenced throughout the movie as it takes place after the books release.
“I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen.”
As always with Sorkin films, there is a lot of intense, descriptive dialogue and Molly’s Game is no different. Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain are great on the screen together as they argue why Molly is not the real criminal.
The story is told in sort of a flip-flop fashion with the scenes cycling between early in Molly’s life and then after her book was published. This allows the story to be told from Molly’s point of view while her legal issues get worked out on screen.
I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen. The next scene is beautifully woven into the story as to not leave you hanging. It’s a long movie, but goes by very quick.
Can’t wait to see more movies from the great Aaron Sorkin. This is one of the few films I can’t wait to watch again.
Who should see this movie? Fans of Molly Bloom’s story/book, fans of crime and gambling movies, and those who like Aaron Sorkin’s writing style
Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who find it hard to keep up with Sorkin’s writing style, movie-goers who aren’t into real-life drama tales, or those who can’t sit through a 2.5 hour film.
9 / 10 – Molly’s Game is a well-written, well-acted, true story with all the high stakes of an action movie.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
Lady Bird, time to fly.
Lady Bird is an odd-titled coming of age story set in the early 2000s. The film follows Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson played by Saoirse (Sir-sha) Ronan as she navigates high school, sex, family, and getting into college.
“With great writing and even better acting Lady Bird will be a film to remember.”
To put in bluntly, Lady Bird is a roller coaster of emotions. You get the sense of how tough it is to be a teen getting ready to enter the real world. This film feels very nostalgic to me, mainly because I was also in high school in the early 2000s.
Lady Bird offers laughter, tears, hatred, and compassion. There’s rarely an emotionless scene. You won’t get a lot of sugar-coating or TV sitcom scenarios. This film delivers a lot of truths and a lot of real family experiences.
Saoirse Ronan is fantastic in Lady Bird. She will be deserving of a Best Actress nominee for this role. Throughout the whole movie Ronan’s character is ever-changing and she plays those changes so very well. Normally she has a thick Irish accent, but I would have never guessed that from this role.
Laurie Metcalf, who I grew up watching play Rosann’s sister, is fantastic as Christine’s mother. She’s tough and loving, just like all the best moms. Her character’s actions at the end of the movie really pull on the heartstrings.
The rest of the cast was amazing as well. The director, Greta Gerwig, who also wrote the script, did a great job delivering the emotion to the screen. With great writing and even better acting Lady Bird will be a film to remember.
Who should see this movie? People who like realistic tales, viewers who want to see great screen acting, and “coming of age” fans.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? Young children and people who don’t have a heart. This is another movie I feel that almost everyone needs to see.
9 / 10 – I loved this movie. Everything about it makes me smile. Great movies impart lots of emotion and Lady Bird does just that.
Raped while dying and still no arrests? How come?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark and twisted tale about a mother and the tragic loss of her daughter. Frances McDormand plays a foul-mouthed smooth talking country woman who seems to have reached the end of her wits. After almost a year since her daughter was brutally murdered and no news from the Police, Mildred (McDormand) calls out the police chief in a very public way, on three billboards.
This movie isn’t about catching the murderer of Mildred’s daughter. It’s not about how she was raped and burned alive. It’s also not about how small town police departments are often notoriously complacent. This movie is about exactly what the title says, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The billboards go up and the the small town around them comes crashing down.
“An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises.”
Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite lesser-known actors. After Three Billboards… he cements himself on that list. Rockwell’s performance should land him an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Officer Jason Dixon. Throughout the film you can see his character evolve and by the end you start to feel sorry for him, even after almost two hours of hatred.
The rest of the cast is great and they all turn in amazing performances. Woody Harrelson somehow jerks the tears right from your face while still making you laugh. McDormand’s rough exterior eventually cracks and you can see the shining light that’s been trying to get out for the entire movie. John Hawkes has a great supporting role as Mildred’s estranged husband. There’s even a surprise role by Peter Dinklage. Dinklage’s portrayal of James is delightful and well-spoken as usual.
In summary, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri is fun, but deep down it’s tragic. We are carried through various instances of death and despair but writer Martin McDonagh peppered in enough comedy to keep us sane.
Who should see this movie?
Fans of dark comedies, viewers looking for an original movie, and people who like great screen performances.
Who shouldn’t see this movie?
People who don’t like natural (vulgar) language – It is rated R. That’s it. Everyone should see this film.
9 / 10 – An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises. One of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a long time.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
It’s more than murder on a train.
Murder on the Orient Express is a remake of the 1974 classic of the same name. Both movies were adapted from the 1934 Agatha Christie novel also of the same name. If you’ve seen the original movie this story won’t be new for you, but the directing, acting, and sets are (obviously) different.
The cast of Murder on the Orient Express has a lot of heavy hitters like Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judy Dench, Willem Dafoe, and of course Johnny Depp. We also get to see some unknown and up-and-comers such as Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, and Lucy Boynton.
“Murder on the Orient Express had me questioning the entire plot about halfway through.”
Branagh is great as Hercule (not Hercules) Poirot throughout the whole film. I would love to see him play the character again in another story. His performance reminded me of Christoph Waltz’s portrayall of Col. Hand Landa in The Inglorious Basterds.
The one thing that disappointed me with Murder on the Orient Express is how the audience was given information over the course of the story. My opinion is based off the 2017 adaptation only, the novel may have it differently. Without spoiling anything (scroll to the bottom for spoilers) the audience is given way too much information too soon. Murder mysteries have this great tendency to sway the viewers opinions and then twist their minds at the end with the real outcome. Murder on the Orient Express had me questioning the entire plot about halfway through.
Who should see this movie? People who like murder mysteries, fans of Agatha Christie, and fans of the 1974 adaptation.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? Viewers who don’t like murder mysteries, hate French accents, or don’t have time to waste.
6/ 10 – Not bad, not good, and probably not better than the original.
Caution: Spoilers below:
Nothing like this ever happens here.
A white man living in 1950s cliche suburbia contracts the mob to kill his wife so he can collect insurance money and run off with his sister-in-law. This plan unravels faster than you can say Suburbicon.
First of all, I have a few problems with this movie:
- The actress that plays Matt Damon’s wife and sister-in-law is the same person, Julianne Moore. They don’t look different in the beginning and then the sister-in-law character goes a step further and basically becomes the wife.
“…it carries a lot of white guilt through the whole film.”
- We are given little to no information upfront about what is going on in Suburbicon which would be fine, but most of it never gets explained.
- The characters are so bland, emotionless, and boring that you never feel for any of them. At the end I was thinking “Oh well…”
In addition to those problems, theres a bigger, more upsetting issue with this film. While the aftermath of the mob hit is going on, there’s an entire plot around a black family moving into this previously white-only neighborhood. Suburbicon spends so much time on this, you think it has something to do with the main plot, but it actually doesn’t. I’m not sure why it was written into this movie but it carries a lot of white guilt through the whole film.
I love the Coen brothers’ movies. They have written some great American classics such as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country For Old Men, to name a few. Lately their writing has been a snooze, literally. I fell asleep all three times I tried to watch Hail Caesar! That, Inside Llewyn Davis, and A Serious Man have all been very weak in my opinion. But, as a die-hard Coen bros fan, I had to see this movie.
Unlike other Coen brothers movies, Suburbicon is directed by George Clooney which probably made a difference, for the worse.
Who should watch this movie? Fans of the Coen Brothers
Who should not watch this movie? Just about everyone
3 / 10 – Most of the acting was good, but the directing and writing was very weak.
Caution: spoilers below
The sky is never the limit
Tom Cruise plays a real life pilot in American Made who helps the CIA and Medellín drug cartel deliver goods across borders. Cruise decided to adopt an obviously fake Louisiana accent which goes a long way to making this movie somewhat annoying.
The fact that this is a true story is this films only saving grace.
Barry Seal randomly gets recruited by the CIA and ends up living the lavish life with more cash than he knows what to do with. Throughout the whole movie, Seal gets in and out trouble almost too quickly. The whole film feels rushed just to get the end result which is you can see coming from a mile.
The true story factor kept this entertaining enough to finish. When the final scene cut and the credits rolled I was relieved to know that American Made was over.
Who should watch this movie? Fans of the Netflix series Narcos, Tom Cruise fans, and people that like movies about planes
Who shouldn’t watch this movie? Fans of popcorn movies, someone expecting another Top Gun, and the person wanting to be wowed by Cruise’s acting prowess.
5.5 / 10 – The fact that this is a true story is this films only saving grace.
Read on for spoilers
Seeing is believing
Wow… what a ride. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem deliver two oscars-worthy performances in a new movie that could only have come from Darren Aronofsky’s mind. Riddled with symbolism, metaphors, and religious undertones, Mother! tries to be a lot more than it is. I appreciate Aronofsky trying to bring his thoughts and visions to light and while most of them worked, the movie will fall flat on most viewers.
A married couple are spending their days in an old house when uninvited guests begin to show up and cause disturbances. One thing leads to another and their happy lives are destroyed. Read below for spoilers and what I thought this movie represents.
The story unfolds quickly through the climax and at the end you’re left with questions, confusion, and possibly tears.
The first 30 minutes of this movie have no score, soundtrack, or ambient noise. It’s just you and the characters on the screen. This can be annoying if you’re in a theater with other humans who breathe, eat, and are just naturally noisy. The lack of music allows you to immerse yourself in what is going on between the on-screen characters. Jennifer Lawrence has great poise and there is not a scene in this movie without her. Javier Bardem shows many different sides and it’s his best performance since No Country for Old Men. The story unfolds quickly through the climax and at the end you’re left with questions, confusion, and possibly tears.
Who should watch this movie? Fans of Aronofsky, fans of great acting, and people who can look past blatant attempts of symbolism of our current society.
Who shouldn’t watch this movie? People looking for a movie to just entertain them, people who struggle with violent images, and viewers that do not wish to think about the meaning of a scene or character.
7.5 / 10 – Very moving acting on top of a weak premise.
Read on for spoilers, stop here if you haven’t seen this movie