Tuesday, January 19, 2021

5 Movies from 2020 That I Didn’t Care For

50. The Droving
The Droving has an excellent premise about a soldier coming home to investigate the disappearance of his sister during a local folk festival that has the same name as the movie. The location shooting is gorgeous and I love the backdrop of the festival, but the dialogue and acting and even the mystery-solving procedural itself are theatrical and artificial. It kept my attention, but I wanted to lose myself in the characters and the story and the film never let me.

49. VFW
Solid concept with a great cast. Who doesn't want to see grizzled old action stars defend their bar from a gang of punks?

Sadly, our heroes make the worst possible decisions or simply don't make decisions at all and just let things happen. The characters all have a ton of heart, but that made it hurt even more that they're aggressively dumb. (Fortunately for them, the bad guys blunder just as hard.)

World-building is a weird thing to complain about in a movie like this, but it's also super unclear how things work in this alternate reality where a popular drug has taken over the culture. Are there no cell phones here? Do ambulances and law enforcement not exist? Disappointing.

48. The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two
It's good to see Russell and Hawn back as the Clauses. And the North Pole village design is fantastic. I also like the repeated technique from the first film of having to save Christmas by splitting up the heroes to complete multiple missions. And I always like seeing Julian Dennison from Hunt for the Wilderpeople in stuff.

But all of that is overshadowed by the cheesiest, easiest dialogue, heavy-handed exposition, and performances (even by Russell, but especially by the kid actors) that can't overcome the corniness of what they're forced to say. I couldn't get invested in this one like I did the original. Even Santa's musical number lacked excitement, partly because it was so expected this time and partly because they went with a cheesy original song instead of a rocking classic.

47. Ava
Some damn fine actors doing their best with a super cliché script. The movie isn't without its charms, but its disappointing that all that drama fails to connect. Probably because there's too much.

Ava wants to be Blue Jasmine, but with assassins. The assassin stuff is fun, but diluted by extremely troubled Jessica Chastain trying to reconcile with her extremely troubled family. It's cool to try to blend those things in one story, but the mix is off and the relationships and dialogue are trite at their core (one pretty great scene between Chastain and Geena Davis notwithstanding).

46. Wander
Wander is about a mentally ill conspiracy theorist and whether the murder he's investigating is actually connected to an X-Files style government cover up or if he's imagining facts to support his suppositions. It's mostly very good at that and kept me wondering the whole time. It skips large sections of plot and comes back to them later, always leaving doubt about whether it's showing literal events or just Aaron Eckhart's interpretation of them.

Eckhart gives a great performance, as do Heather Graham and Tommy Lee Jones as his friends who support him in different ways and from opposite sides. Jones encourages Eckhart's theories while Graham believes they're imagined and wants Eckhart to get better.

But somehow in all of this greatness, the movie fails to get me invested in Eckhart. The ambiguity is wonderful for my imagination, but works against Eckart's character. If his theories are real, I want to jump on Team Tommy Lee Jones and root for him to expose the conspiracy. If Eckhart is just deeply sick, I want to join Team Heather Graham and pray for Eckhart to get the help he needs. Since the film never makes that clear, I don't know what I want for this character and that's a big problem.


Paxton said...

That's disappointing to hear about Christmas Chronicles 2. I loved the first one but with everything going on we just didn't get around to it.

I wound up liking Ava. It's messy, yes. I think that's kind of the point.
But Chastain and Farrell's charisma make up for it. It reminded me of that movie Anna, about this girl stuck in the slums of Europe recruited into this hidden russion spy ring. It's also messy, but pretty bad ass too. Ava could have been a little bit more bad ass and less messy though.

Michael May said...

I wouldn't discourage you too hard from giving CC2 a try. The whole time I was watching it, I went back and forth between being disappointed on the one hand, and wondering if I was being too hard on it on the other. I ended up going with my gut and deciding that it was okay if I just didn't like it as much, but you might not have the same issues with it that I did.


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