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Movie Reviews

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Godzilla Vs. Kong': first trailer sees cinematic titans square off in epic  battle

DIRECTOR: Adam Wingard

CAST: Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, Eiza Gonzalez, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Kaylee Hottle, Shun Oguri

REVIEW:

Godzilla vs. Kong, the fourth installment in Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse (and bearing little plot resemblance to 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla), is an example of how a two-minute trailer highlight reel shows its inherent shallowness when stretched out over two hours. Sporadic monster slugfests are not enough to sustain a Saturday morning cartoon plot with inane human characters scurrying around. Fans of the “classic” Godzilla series—which regularly featured plots every bit as silly as this one—might be entertained, but for casual fans, this series demonstrates diminishing returns.

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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 Review: Sequel Floats On One Wing - The Returning Gal  Gadot - 2.5 Stars (Out Of 5)

DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins

CAST: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig

REVIEW:

Unpopular opinion time: while I acknowledged 2017’s Wonder Woman as the most solid movie to come out of the troubled DC Expanded Universe at the time (which was no great accomplishment when held up against the hot messes of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad), I wasn’t onboard the bandwagon showering it with rapturous praise, and felt it was a fairly standard-issue comic book superhero origin story. With Wonder Woman 1984, Patty Jenkins (returning to the director’s chair) has crafted a sequel that is bigger, brighter, and flashier than its predecessor, serving up flashy eighties glitz (as indicated by its title) and cheerfully campy superhero action wedded to a sometimes surprisingly heartfelt and thematically rich plotline that recaptures the earnestness and heroics first ingrained in pop culture by Richard Donner’s Superman (from which it borrows a page or two). Its tonal differences from its predecessor might gain it a mixed reception from the first film’s ardent fans, but it’s a welcome blast of fresh air and unabashedly old-fashioned comic book superhero heroics.

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Mank (2020)

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DIRECTOR: David Fincher

CAST: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton, Joseph Cross, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Tom Burke, Toby Leonard Moore, Charles Dance

REVIEW:

David Fincher’s period piece, telling the (mostly) true story of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman “Mank” Mankiewicz, filmed in black-and-white and made to emulate the look and feel of an actual movie from the 1940s with meticulous verisimilitude, may be the notoriously perfectionist and visually dynamic director’s most technically challenging (and in some ways technically accomplished) project to date, but his laser-focus on capturing the look, style, and feel of a 1940s Hollywood motion picture results in a lukewarm emotional temperature. For Fincher, this has been a passion project and a labor of love; he’s working off a script credited to his own late journalist/essayist father Jack Fincher (although producer Eric Roth, who previously wrote Fincher’s 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, also had a hand in the screenplay), who wrote what would eventually become Mank in the 1990s. Fincher had originally intended to film his father’s script in 1997 after finishing The Game, envisioning it as starring Kevin Spacey and Jodie Foster, but plans fell through (his father never lived to see it finally completed, passing away in 2003). Alas, while one can respect what Fincher has accomplished here on a technical level, whatever passion may have gone into the making of Mank is not stirred by watching it. Mank is entertaining and engaging, especially for those with an interest in the subject matter or an appreciation for “Classic Hollywood”, but it’s at times emotionally uninvolving and appeals more to appreciators of witty dialogue and technical filmmaking craftsmanship than to the heart.

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Jiu Jitsu (2020)

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DIRECTOR: Dimitri Logothetis

CAST: Alain Moussi, Nicolas Cage, Frank Grillo, Tony Jaa, JuJu Chan, Marie Avgeropoulos, Rick Yune

REVIEW:

Every once in a while, I suppose a bit like slowing down when passing a car crash, I get the strange compulsion to review something truly terrible, whose amateurish ineptitude begs the question of who funded this in the first place. The inappropriately-named Jiu Jitsu (inappropriate because, as many a disgruntled Jiu Jitsu practitioner can tell you, it’s light on any actual Jiu Jitsu) is such a movie, taking the most ridiculous premise imaginable and using it to string together a series of clumsily-choreographed martial arts fight scenes interspersed with a bargain basement rip-off of Predator, all with bad acting, worse writing, and distractingly excessive directorial flourishes. One is better off watching a stunt/fight demo reel on YouTube and dodging the tediously awful filmmaking.

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Enola Holmes (2020)

Enola Holmes Teaser Unites Millie Bobby Brown & Henry Cavill on Netflix  This September

DIRECTOR: Harry Bradbeer

CAST: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, Burn Gorman, Adeel Akhtar, Fiona Shaw, Susie Wokoma, Frances de la Tour

REVIEW:

An adaptation of the first of a series of Sherlock Holmes spin-off novels by Nancy Springer inventing his younger (but equally deductive) sister Enola, Enola Holmes is a thin but breezy YA mystery-adventure that works almost in spite of itself. Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes mysteries might be unimpressed by what amounts to YA spin-off fanfiction, but for those who aren’t too demanding, it’s a slight but charming diversion carried by a delightfully effervescent lead performance by Millie Bobby Brown.

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The Devil All The Time (2020)

Netflix's 'The Devil All the Time' is an overheated mess: Movie review

DIRECTOR: Antonio Campos

CAST: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Bill Skarsgard, Eliza Scanlen, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Harry Melling

REVIEW:

An adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s novel of the same name, The Devil All The Time suffers from a scattershot ensemble narrative—and overly slavish fidelity to Pollock’s sprawling written work—but compensates with a solid cast and a strong sense of atmosphere and slow burn tension to be a morbidly engrossing odyssey into darkness, even if it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

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Mulan (2020)

Mulan's 2020 online release: Everything to know - CNET

DIRECTOR: Niki Caro

CAST: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li, Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Yoson An, Rosalind Chao

REVIEW:

After such titles as Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin, and Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, Niki Caro’s Mulan finally does something a little different. Partly the filmmakers had a little more wiggle room because the 1998 animated musical original is not as iconic as the above titles, and was never considered among Disney top tier, but avoiding a scene-by-scene regurgitation helps Mulan avoid the feeling of an expensive cosplay that befell the previous live-action remakes. Mulan overall feels fresher and stands on its own as an engaging adventure.

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Project Power (2020)

DIRECTOR: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost

CAST: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback

REVIEW:

Project Power is at least an attempt to do something a little different and original; an entry in the superhero genre (sort of) that’s not based on a comic book or preexisting property, and tackles superpowers as a thinly-veiled (very thinly) drug allegory. Were that the results were more memorable….Project Power, while an entertaining enough diversion for the undemanding, feels generic and half-baked and fails to utilize a potentially unique and intriguing premise to its full potential.

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Hamilton (2020)

DIRECTOR: Thomas Kail

CAST: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff

REVIEW:

Counting Hamilton as a “movie” is using the term loosely, rather a live film recording of the original run of the 2015 Broadway musical featuring its original cast, but while no filmed recording can fully recreate the immersive nature of seeing a show live, Hamilton‘s release on online streaming service Disney + (following Disney outbidding all competition to call dibs on the film rights) gives a chance for those who missed or could not afford the opportunity to buy Broadway tickets, or those who wish to revisit the play’s original run with its original cast, a chance to experience the phenomenon for themselves. A musical adaptation of Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda composing the songs, writing the lyrics, and starring in the title role, Hamilton deserves its success and popularity. While non-musical fans might not be converted, for those to whom the medium appeals, it’s a lively, lavish, passionate production of the highest quality combining rap, pop, and showtunes to turn a biography into an engaging and energetic modernized history lesson that both educates and entertains.

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7500 (2020)

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DIRECTOR: Patrick Vollrath

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Aylin Tezel, Paul Wollin, Carlo Kitzlinger

REVIEW:

From first-time German director Patrick Vollrath comes this spare thriller taking place within the closed confines of a plane cockpit. For much of its slim hour and a half runtime, 7500 is a tense, uneasy experience in a claustrophobic environment, but even at its brisk length, it runs out of gas before dragging itself across the finish line with a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion.

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