The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
Premise: What was intended to be a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent clash with police and the National Guard. The organizers of the protest—including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seale—were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the trial that followed was one of the most notorious in history.
Kicking off this crazy and horrid year’s awards season offerings is writer/director Aaron Sorkin’s solid historical courtroom drama, The Trial of the Chicago 7. In telling the story of the notorious trial following riots that broke out during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Sorkin holds a mirror to our country’s continuing fight for social justice while keeping his camera focused on the historical struggle he’s depicting. Chicago 7 has a lot to say and is a confident entry in Sorkin’s still young directorial career. However, while it is a marked improvement over his directorial debut Molly’s Game, Sorkin seems to still be finding his footing behind the camera.
Premise: A large mining accident sets loose prehistoric insects and giant pterosaurs on Japan.
Ishiro Honda’s Rodan certainly lacks some of the character and subtext from some of his other Kaiju films. But that’s not to say it is a bad film by any means. The rise of the pterodactyl-esque creatures and giant insects to wreak havoc on the citizens of Japan make for an engaging monster movie with some surprising (or not so surprising, given Honda’s pedigree) imagery. With each act of Rodan offering nearly its own movie premise, this creature feature is one that offers plenty of action, if nothing else. Continue reading
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Premise: A typhoon washes ashore a gigantic egg. It’s soon claimed by greedy entrepreneurs who refuse to return it to its rightful owner, Mothra. Soon Godzilla arises near Nagoya, washed ashore by the same typhoon.
In the aftermath of an intense typhoon, an enormous egg and a strange, radioactive piece of debris are discovered. Capturing the attention of Japanese citizens, the objects naturally kick off a tale of greed and a gargantuan fight of finders vs keepers. It all leads to a fight for the ages as Godzilla takes on Mothra!
Premise: Amy, an 11-year-old girl, joins a group of dancers named “the cuties” at school, and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity – upsetting her mother and her values in the process.
Perhaps you’ve already heard of Cuties because you saw it advertised on Netflix. Perhaps you heard of it through word of mouth. More likely, you’ve heard of it because of the controversy the film has stirred up which has caused it to be shared on social media and even, yes, Ted Cruz. But to really talk about Cuties is to talk about America’s political discourse in 2020. Continue reading
Enola Holmes (2020)
Premise: When Enola Holmes (Sherlock’s teen sister) discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord.
Based on the YA series of books by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes is a solid period adventure with aspirations for a franchise. Those aspirations are warranted by the performance of Millie Bobby Brown as the titular Enola, sister of the famed Sherlock. Brown’s talent and range continues to impress as she simultaneously does narrative heavy lifting through fourth wall breaking monologues and carries the film’s sense of fun and adventure. The end result is a solid vehicle for the gifted young actress and a fun mystery.
Premise: A giant, ancient moth begins to attack Japan when coming to the rescue of its two, foot-tall worshippers who were taken by shipwreck survivors.
Mothra, a giant moth monster, made her entrance into the kaiju scene in her eponymous 1961 film directed by Ishiro Honda. The queen of the monsters’ debut on film is a lackluster one, unfortunately. There are impressive scenes of monster chaos to be found in the film’s last act, but the road to that destruction is paved with uninteresting characters and a plot line that, for the most part, plays like a lazy riff on 1933’s King Kong.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Premise: A newspaper and television station funded by a pharmaceutical company want a sensation, which happens to be the discovery of King Kong on an island. He is captured and brought to Japan, where he escapes from captivity and battles Godzilla.
The US version of King Kong vs Godzilla is certainly a less piecemeal repurposing of its Japanese original than Godzilla, King of the Monsters was to 1954’s Godzilla. Instead, the film plays into the spectator sport aspect of this monumental confrontation. Bringing Godzilla into color film and taking Kong to Japan to do battle with him, King Kong vs Godzilla, while over the top in its silliness at times, provides a worthy payoff to the hour (and then some) of set up and contrivances to get these two monsters to duke it out. Continue reading
All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020)
Premise: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
A call to action against voter suppression in the lead up to this year’s divisive and objectively bizarre presidential election, All In: The Fight for Democracy aims to educate and inspire. In its approach, the documentary makes its point clearly and thoroughly as it informs its viewers of both the history and the modern practices of voter suppression in the United States. Backed by data, archival footage, and filled with vibrantly animated visual aids, All In gives the viewer the knowledge needed for its call to action to fight voter suppression while also being eye-opening to the rampant practices occurring today.
Premise: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
Tenet feels like the kind of movie Christopher Nolan has been building towards from the beginning of his career – at least on a surface level. It’s easy to spot some of the elements he’s pulling from, elements that have helped to define his aesthetic as a filmmaker: you of course have the incredible mind-bending visuals like in Inception and Interstellar, the action sequences from the Batman trilogy, the third act reveal from The Prestige, the perplexing chronology of events like in Memento and Dunkirk, and the complicated romantic entanglements of The Dark Knight, to name a few. Typically when a filmmaker cribs the best of himself to be put into one film, the result is an unbridled success, but Tenet just can’t make all of its puzzle pieces into an enlightening picture. Continue reading
Love, Guaranteed (2020)
Premise: To save her small law firm, earnest lawyer Susan takes a high-paying case from Nick, a charming new client who wants to sue a dating website that guarantees love. But as the case heats up, so do Susan and Nick’s feelings for each other.
The romantic comedy phase of Netflix’s plans for world domination continues with the release of Love, Guaranteed, a legal backdropped meet-cute between hard working lawyer Susan (Rachael Leigh Cook) and serial dater/client Nick (Damon Wayans Jr). The movie is about as formulaic as they come in the romcom genre. Sparks fly between two unlikely people, they experience a hardship, they each confide in eccentric supporting characters, and well, you know the rest. However, that’s not to say Love, Guaranteed is all that bad. On the contrary, it’s a pleasantly sweet distraction from the world and thankfully doesn’t demand much commitment from the viewer. Though it misses a couple of swings along the way, it still delivers that feel-good warmth that is at the very heart of the romantic comedy genre.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
Premise: Despite second thoughts about their relationship, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) takes a road trip with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his family farm. Trapped at the farm during a snowstorm with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis), the young woman begins to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about her boyfriend, herself, and the world.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an ambitious feat of surreal relationship deconstruction from writer/director Charlie Kaufman. Adapted from Iain Reid’s novel, the film introduces us to a Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) and Jake (Jesse Plemons), her boyfriend of a month (or 6 weeks, maybe 7). As the new couple embarks on their first trip in the dead of winter, the Young Woman contemplates the doubts she has about the relationship. However, things quickly turn strange in unexpected and inexplicable ways as the very fabric of the Young Woman’s reality soon begins to unravel.
Son of Kong (1933)
Premise: The men who captured the giant ape King Kong return to Skull Island and find his likewise gigantic but far more friendly son.
A month has passed since Kong wreaked havoc on New York City, causing severe structural damage, loss of life, and untold mental anguish. In the wake of that death and destruction Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), the adventurer and filmmaker who brought Kong to the Big Apple, is having a rough time. The media is hounding him, he’s facing nearly a dozen lawsuits, and a pending indictment by a grand jury. Worst of all, he’s broke! He has some slight remorse, but it’s nothing compared to the anguish of his empty pockets.
So begins Son of Kong. Continue reading
Premise: A freewheeling take on visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, his interactions with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, and his breakthroughs in transmitting electrical power and light.
Tesla doesn’t seem to know what kind of biopic it wants to be. On one hand, it attempts the recent trend of having a character break the 4th wall to infuse cheap modern humor into an otherwise stuffy narrative. And on the other hand, well, it’s a stuffy narrative about the trials of tribulations of Nikola Tesla. Unfortunately, the film is a dud on both of those fronts. It leaves its audience with a dull, lifeless recounting of Tesla’s life that doesn’t seem too concerned about or focused on much of its subject. Meanwhile, the humor feels forced and falls flat every time.
King Kong (1933)
Premise: A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.
There’s no doubt that the eponymous Kong’s rampage through New York City at the end of the classic 1933 film King Kong is iconic. For a movie that’s almost 90 years old, the effects in King Kong hold up surprisingly well. Sure, they look dated and the stop motion work is a bit awkward, but the scope and scale of the movie itself is still breathtaking even today. Continue reading
Climate of the Hunter (2019)
- Director: Mickey Reece
- Screenwriters: Mickey Reece, John Selvidge
- Producer: Jacob Snovel
- Cast: Mary Buss, Ginger Gilmartin, Ben Hall, Laurie Cummings
Premise: Two sisters, Alma and Elizabeth, are enjoying a stay at their own family cabin, eagerly anticipating the arrival of a man from their past, Wesley. It is rumored that Wesley’s wife, Genevieve, has ended up incapacitated in a mental institution, rendering Wesley, to some extent, a new bachelor. Through the time spent together, Alma begins to suspect Wesley may be a vampire, though she also suffers from mental health issues. Elizabeth is aware of Alma’s deteriorating condition but has her own demons to face in this gothic, psychological drama.