Film Review: “The Kid Detective” (2020)

“Maybe there’s more nobility in giving up.”

A fun detective story entry into the millennial ennui (millennui) genre that uses its ‘Encyclopedia Brown but older and sad” premise to great and sometimes surprising effect, allowing the movie to break away from any Veronica Mars and Brick comparisons. It also hits all the noir beats it needs to with classic moody shots and a soundtrack that’s heavy on the smooth noir sax.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Has anyone coined the term ‘millennui’ for the genre that shows like Search Party and movies like this belong to yet? I’m not even going to Google it because I want the little bit of serotonin that comes with thinking I’ve come up with something original. That’s the stuff!”

Film Review: “Promising Young Woman” (2020)

“Your novel sounds terrible, by the way.”

A revenge comedy(ish) using the style and the idea of revenge as a bleak and inevitable, all-consuming force from those 70s revenge movies like Death Wish to make a clear and necessary modern statement. It sure goes places and an incredible Carey Mulligan leads us there.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Using ‘nice guy’ actors like McLovin, Schmidt, Seth Cohen, and Piz to play these wurst guys is excellent typecasting that’s also, like, casting against type.” 

Film Review: “Wolfwalkers” (2020)

“There’s two of us now.”

As much an animated work of storybook art come to life as Song of the Sea and Secret of Kells, featuring another story that doesn’t speak down to it’s audience and deals with stuff like colonization, Claude Frollo levels of villainous doctrine, and man’s abuse of nature in addition to the friendly magical tale of wolves and self-actualization going on.

It’s just such a treat to get finely crafted 2D animation like this from Cartoon Saloon every few years.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “This could very well be categorized as a kind of werewolf film, which is wonderful. Like if David from American Werewolf in London had gone to Kilkenny in Ireland instead of those hellish moors in Britain, he could have become a part of a beautiful tale of friendship instead of getting shot with a silver bullet in an alley.”

Film Review: “Midnight Sky” (2020)

“Just us.”

A simple sci-fi story that feels a bit like it’s been done before while still being well made and effectively moving. The bleak outlook with only the slightest glimmer of hope puts it at odds with Interstellar, one of my favorite recent sci-fi pieces, but that actually works in its favor. We’ve had plenty of hopeful space stories; I’m down for one where we totally fucked up and there’s only a very slight chance that humanity can survive beyond the end of the movie. Considering it’s 2020, that feels more realistic. Maybe 2021 will be hopeful.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “George Clooney now employs a younger actor to play his character in his like 30s, but I think he overdubs the actor’s voice with his own creamy Nespresso tones. It creates a bit of a creamy Nespresso disconnect, though, because Clooney’s voice is pretty iconic and sounds wrong flowing from the non-Nespresso spokesperson mouth of Ethan Peck.”

Film Review: “Wonder Woman 1984” (2020)

“The answer is always more.”

A sequel that I enjoyed more than the first overall (the ending action actually feels like a part of the same movie), but I guess it lacks the ‘moments’ that made WW feel so fresh. Not that we should have expected those moments to be replicated or anything. The 80s aesthetic, slight commentary on the all-consuming need for ‘more’ that defined then (and now), and ferociously optimistic tone worked for me throughout. Even the goofier stuff they pull in from the Wonder Woman canon fits with the almost Rocketeer-like tone they’re going for.

But yeah, that body swap consent issue with Steve and Handsome Guy is a real problem and an absolutely avoidable one at that. Did no one clock that at any phase of scripting and filming? Even for someone who actually liked the movie, that issue is going to stand out in my mind when I look back.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Someday they will use a 90s setting like they use an 80s setting and that will be the day that I shrivel into an old man skeleton. I fear this day.”

Film Review: “Soul” (2020)

“I don’t think you’re supposed to go that way.”

Soul (2020)

Definitely up there with Pixar’s standalone best, giving out some serious Coco and Inside Out vibes just pulled to a stylish metaphysical extreme. The “It’s a Wonderful Life” style themes dealing with the joys of life are front and center, but so too is the drive of creatives to create and what ‘success’ means after chasing it for so long (which absolutely resonated with me as a writer person).

The soundtrack is also outstanding and, of course, it’s another good step forward for the company in terms of diverse characters and leads in their films (but not so much for major representation behind the camera).

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Joe reminds me of my childhood trumpet teacher, and I wonder if he also dealt with the self-doubts and setbacks that Joe did in his life that eventually led him to teaching music as a career (a career I would love to have). I probably should have practiced more to make his job easier. My bad, Roger.”

Film Review: “Freaky” (2020)

“Having balls sucks.”

Makes the most of its genre-bendy premise and its R rating, featuring some lovely gory kills akin to the 80s slasher kills of yore where the whole point of watching was seeing creative deaths and dismemberments. Could have used even more kills during the middle, but the time spent on comedic body swap hijinks, bad Aaron Rogers Halloween masks, and developing the heart of the movie is well spent.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Body swapping with a serial killer to learn an empowering lesson about yourself should be part of every highschool’s curriculum.”

Film Review: “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” (2020)

“Quick librarian note, Ray: if someone comes in and asks to check out all the spooky books in the library, don’t come sneak up on them.”

A snappy gem of a horror comedy reckoning with the wolves among us, be they of the gruesome and classic “were-” variety or something much more ubiquitous and toxically close to home.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I usually try to pull a quote from the movie that reflects, you know, the theme and mood of the piece, but lines about librarians make me feel seen. Anyway, this contains one of Robert Forster’s final performances and he is such a warm dry, and valuable presence.

Film Review: “Bill & Ted Face the Music” (2020)

“You want some Bill & Ted, punk?”

This is like The Return of the King of Bill & Ted movies. As much a celebration of the first two as it is an examination of the way our past selves inform our future selves and our past failures (and successes) color our opinions of our younger counterparts or something. Heartwarming, well-written, and totally non-bogus. It’s a Bill & Ted movie (without the three or so dated instances of homophobic language from the first two (“yikes!” I said during a rewatch of them last week))!

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The actor who plays Ted’s dad, Hal Landon Jr., played Scrooge onstage for 40 years in California, is still alive, and is quite spry for a 79 year old. Excellent!”

Film Review: “The Rental” (2020)

“I’m not saying we’re not going to get away with it, I’m saying I don’t want to get away with it.”

A matter-of-fact unraveling of multiple relationships that takes the long, chill road towards becoming the entry in a hallowed horror genre it ultimately wants to be.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The main characters are like the high school kids who somehow all successfully escaped one horror movie, grew into their late 20s and 30s, then found themselves caught unawares in another horror movie.”