Hello, all, and welcome back to The Friendly Film Fan! It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any full movie reviews (more on that at the bottom of this post), but since we’re mid-way through May, and I haven’t quite got the patience to write full ones for most of the movies I saw that I didn’t like before theaters closed, this catch-up post will serve as the first of the Mini Review segments for the year of 2020! For those of you who are new here, Mini Reviews are exactly what they sound like – compressed versions of reviews for a series of films I saw this year that are comprised of a single paragraph spanning 3-4 (or more) sentences. These are accompanied by a score out of 10. And that’s it! I usually do three or four of these in any given year since I don’t often find time to write full reviews for movies I see in theaters, but given that theaters are shut down at the moment, I left a few movies off this list to actually write full reviews for, so getting back into the swing of things wouldn’t be as jarring. Now, without further ado, here is the very first Mini Reviews piece of 2020!
Dolittle may not be the first thing you think of when Robert Downey Jr’s post-Avengers career comes to mind, but that’s probably for the best. Very little about this movie works in its favor, and in fact, almost nothing sticks in your mind long after the credits roll apart from a complete wasting of Jessie Buckley’s talents, the absurdly under-developed motivations for Dolittle to go on this “adventure,” and the fact that the climax of the movie is literally a dragon fart. It might be fun for kids under the age of whatever age it is when they start to use their brains, but for anyone remotely intelligent enough to notice, its ridiculously convoluted plot, messy character arcs (if they can be called that), and frankly overly distracting editing make it almost the worst film of the year so far. 3.8/10.
The Last Full Measure
This movie about an un-honored air force veteran finally being recognized for his valor in Vietnam, and the government’s attempts to cover up their foiled operations therein, looked to be about as “Ra Ra Maga” as a military worship movie released in January could get. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and The Last Full Measure is actually far more of a tempered, measured, respectful, and thoughtful film than its trailer lets on. In fact, it some parts, the film is genuinely moving. It can feel a bit repetitive and long at times, and Sebastian Stan’s lead is really only serviceable, but it is better than most January movies that aren’t Paddington tend to be, regardless of the fact that it’s still not a great movie. 6.2/10.
This might be the most bland, generic, and generally pointless PG-13 horror movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not bad enough to be interesting, and it isn’t interesting enough to be good in most ways. Mackenzie Davis and Brooklyn Prince are fine in their performances, but Finn Wolfhard (talented though he is) seems like he’s in a completely different movie here. The twist at the end leads to nothing, and whatever metaphor the director was attempting to spell out is so detached from the main narrative that it’s impossible to parse out, rendering it meaningless. I’m not kidding either – the ending literally leads to nothing. It just cuts to black, and then starts in on the most annoying end credits music/imaging probably ever. There have been worse movies this year, but this one in particular seems tailor made for the phrase “waste of time.” 4/10.
Gretel and Hansel
This movie flopped pretty hard upon release, and that’s a real shame. It’s not a particularly effective horror movie, but it has enough merit to at least be an interesting entry into the genre. While it gets somewhat lost in itself by the end, director Oz Perkins has a patient eye for horror imagery, and the performances of Sophia Lillis and Alice Krige in particular are entertaining to watch. The film is a bit bogged down by how it looks, to the point where its straightforward narrative doesn’t offer much of substance after a while since the thematic side never gets explored in much detail. It’s not particularly scary or unsettling, but the set design and cinematography are certainly worth looking at, even if they ultimately don’t lead to much. 6.7/10.
The Rhythm Section
I get that Blake Lively is attempting to rebrand here as an action star in the making, and she does an okay job holding her own in the more physically demanding sections, but this movie’s plot is so convoluted and messy, it’s impossible to care about, even if you can manage to follow it. Rhythm Section’s idea of action seems to be “the louder and more chaotic, the more exciting the sequence,” and that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are some sequences (namely the ones with Jude Law) that are entertaining on their own, but connected to the larger narrative at play, they don’t last long enough and ultimately don’t come to bear in any meaningful way. 4.8/10.
I watched Miss Americana at my girlfriend’s behest, and it was…fine. It’s hardly the crash course in documentary filmmaking that one might expect from Netflix in a February release, but it’s also not particularly compelling as either a musical portrait of superstar Taylor Swift, or as an indication of where she’s seeking to take her career. Most of what the movie offers a glimpse at are things we already knew, such as her long-standing feud with Scooter Braun, and the fact that much of her early career was apolitical through no fault of her own. There seems to be a narrative early on, but the movie loses focus as it tries to switch from a visual document of a musician to a sort of quasi-proof-of-person sort of situation in terms of Taylor getting to have dissenting political opinions as a celebrity with a large conservative fanbase. The result is a documentary that doesn’t really have much to say, or much of a point to make, which means even as it works as a movie, it mostly fails as a documentary. Still, not an unengaging watch. 6.5/10.
Blumhouse has let Jeff Wadlow direct two of their horror movies now, and they’re both the worst ones to come out of the studio known for re-vitalizing and re-inventing the entire horror genre with hits like The Conjuring and Get Out. Easily the worst movie of the year so far, Fantasy Island is full of unlikable, generic characters, saying phrases like “fantasy freaking island” for absolutely no reason at all, and doing things that don’t make sense even after the movie’s biggest secret is revealed. The film actually breaks its own plot rules multiple times, and the absurdly choppy way in which the story is told, combined with weak character motivations and easily fixed issues for just about everyone there, makes it a pain to sit through. The “twist” at the end makes zero sense given what occurs earlier in the film, and the ending of the actual movie makes even less sense than that. Whoever Michael Pena’s agent is needs to be fired. 3.4/10.
Brahms: The Boy II
I’m not going to spend much time on this one, given that most of you know my feelings about The Boy having an effective first half and deflated second half that ultimately make the film not work the way it should, but suffice it to say, I didn’t expect this movie’s explanation of the events in that first film to actually undo it in a way this bad. This film is chock full of needless jump scare effects that don’t even make you jump all that much, a pretty bad plot setup, a Katie Holmes performance that makes less sense the longer it goes on, and a host of other things wrong with it that I forgot because it’s been a while since I saw it. It’s just not that memorable, and no one could ever be compelled to re-visit it. It’s also got one of the worst titles I’ve ever seen. Just call it The Boy 2, or switch “Brahms” to be after the colon. Is that so complicated? 4/10.
This American remake of a French marriage drama has a decent premise and the star power to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, no amount of star power could save a story with this little to say, and the movie has little to nothing to do with its runtime other than put Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus into increasingly unfunny situations, despite the fact that this film is marketed as a comedy. I haven’t personally seen the original Force Majeure, so I’m unsure if that movie takes the same approach this one does, but I’m almost certain that whatever it attempted to do was successful, whereas this film simply does not. The performances are good for what they are, but the script is so empty of meaning that the movie just feels like a waste by the end, and with two comic legends in the leads, a failed comedy is almost a worse look than a dumb Blumhouse blunder. 4.6/10.
Impractical Jokers: The Movie
This was never going to be the stuff of legend, and to its credit, the Impractical Jokers movie does have quite a few laughs in it. The only problem is, all of those laughs come from the non-movie sections of the movie – the pranks. Each of the increasingly absurd stunts the team pulls on their way to see Paula Abdul in concert are really good fun, but any time the movie tries to do any sort of narrative storytelling or character building, it just falls flat on its face, and the two conflicting tones cost it any re-watchability. It’s not awful all the way through, no, but there doesn’t seem to be any justifiable reason that it was made into a movie, rather than just put on tv as an extended special episode of the Impractical Jokers show. Still, the prank stuff is good enough to pull it out of ratings hell, even if the story isn’t quite “there” for these guys as filmmakers. It’s not bad, but it’s not really good as a movie either. 5.2/10.
And that does it for our first round of Mini Reviews in 2020! Did you see any of the movies on this list? Have you caught up on them during your self-quarantines? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading, and watch for my upcoming full reviews of The Call of the Wild, The Lodge, and more, coming soon!
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.