Uh oh! I slacked off again! Here are my quick thoughts on six flicks I saw in January, in order of how much I liked them.
After the incredibly successful 2019 Aladdin, director Guy Ritchie has returned to form and made a stylized shooty gun movie. Thank Hollywood Heaven for that, because this movie is glorious. It’s cast is outstanding (Hugh Grant and Charlie Hunnam are particularly delicious), the pacing is relentless, the accents are British, the dialogue is hilarious, the stakes are high, and it manages to be ‘meta’ without breaking the immersion of the film! It is a bullet train of cinematic joy, and I really didn’t want to get off.
Just Mercy is a heart-wrenching and inspirational drama about a lawyer who aims to save convicts on death-row. Micheal B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx give some of the best performances of 2019, (while it went wide in 2020, it technically is still a 2019 movie) and they were snubbed at the Oscars. While this movie fits the mold of a number of other movies, it is still an extremely well-crafted movie that made me do a little cry multiple times before the credits rolled. Very good flick.
Honeyland is a documentary that follows the life of a woman who provides for herself and her elderly mother by cultivating honey in the Macedonian Mountains. Then some new neighbors show up and mess up her whole flow. This is a very slow movie that relies on visual storytelling rather than constant narration. That’s the way I like my documentaries. There are some beautiful shots captured on film here, and it really gives you an appreciation of her relationship with nature. It also really makes you want to punch the dickweed neighbor dad. Pretty sweet flick. It’s on Hulu right now if ya wanna give it a stream.
The 40-Year-Old Version
‘The 40-Year-Old Version’ is a semi-autobiographical tale of a 40-year-old playwright in New York who struggles with paying her bills and finding her voice. It is not the silly Steve Carell rom-com. That’s ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’. Those two statements are probably the only helpful and definitive things that I can say about this movie. My opinion of this movie is similar to a rebellious cow that my cowboy lasso of a brain just can’t seem to catch. If only my damn lasso-brain could latch on to that opinion cow! Then I could give you a nice, helpful review. But no. That ding-dang opinion cow is illusive and speedy. If I squint, I can make out some opinions, so I’ll tell you what I can piece together. I know that I liked writer-director Radha Blank’s performance! I also liked Oswin Benjamin in his breakout role as “D”. Also I thought it was usually funny. The rest? How it tackles racism, the predictable plot, the decision to make it black-and-white, the stereotypes it criticizes, the stereotypes it partakes in, the realistic characters, the depiction of Broadway, the long takes? I don’t know. What I do know, is that it feels super personal, and I’m super glad that Blank got to make it. I also know that there are a lot of people who love this movie. You could be one of them! It premiered at Sundance Film Festival, and it looks like Netflix is going to pick this one up. When it comes out, I recommend giving it a shot if it sounds like it might be up your alley.
Gretel and Hansel
You can tell that this movie is very cool because the title’s switched.
This is a pretty bare-bones flick that is salvaged by beautiful cinematography and stunning set design. Those two elements are so good, that if this had the story and dialogue of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip, I would still walk away from this movie with a positive outlook. Any clever plot points or good character development is just icing on the cake. But the Gretel and Hansel cake has a pretty damn thin layer of icing.
This movie is one layer of good movie hidden under fifty layers of mind-numbing badness. It’s got style, and a great performance from Mackenzie Davis, and I can kinda see what they were attempting with their stupid, bad, and not good ending, but that’s it, y’all. This is one of the most unsatisfying movies I’ve ever seen, and it’s made much worse by Finn Wolfhard’s performance, which is the textbook definition of cringe. It made my skin crawl, but not in a spooky way. I would try to dissect what exactly makes this movie fail so hard, but I really don’t want to think about this movie anymore. It’s bad. Not Dolittle bad, but it’s bad.