I have been a film critic for nearly 20 years and worked professionally, as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association for the past 9 years. My favorite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski because it always feels new.
Steven Soderbergh is one of our great directors. He’s a thoughtful director equally adept at thought provoking drama and suspense as he is at audience pleasing comedy. Soderbergh’s latest movie combines his talent for provoking thought and pleasing audiences. Let them All Talk is an HBO Max original movie starring Meryl Streep as an award winning author gifted a trip to London aboard the Queen Mary 2 who invites her oldest friends to join her.
The Stand In stars Drew Barrymore in the dual role of a movie star and her dumpy stand in. The movie star, Candy Black, is a comedy icon in the vein of an Adam Sandler, who became a superstar for her gross out comedies where she was paid millions of dollars to tumble to the ground and say her ludicrous catchphrase “Hit me where it hurts.” Naturally, behind the scenes, Candy is a complete disaster.
Call of the Wild is a movie without a country. By that I mean that I am not sure who this movie was made for. It’s not really a kids movie, though it is rated PG. It’s certainly not a sophisticated movie for adults either. Call of the Wild is far too old fashioned for kids to enjoy and it is far too clumsy and hokey for adults. Then, there is Buck the Dog, the star of Call of the Wild, an unruly CGI creation that looks shockingly unrealistic and robs the film of whatever minor charm remains.
Looking back at the movies of 2020, especially those that were released pre-COVID shutdown, it’s as if these movies came out a decade ago not a mere 9 or 10 months. COVID-19 plus the election made 2020 feel as if it were a decade all in one year. We all aged about a decade waiting for good news, waiting for the election to end, waiting for a time when we could talk to relatives again without worrying about killing them by sharing the same air and space.
Minor Premise stars Sathy Sridharan as Ethan, a neuroscientist in need of a nap and a shave. Unfortunately, that’s not possible as Ethan’s latest experiment has fractured his consciousness into component parts, each acting independently of the other during their time in control of his body. At first, this is presented as Ethan blacking out of periods of time over the course of an hour. However, when Ethan’s ex, Alli (Paton Ashbrook) arrives, part of Ethan’s brain figures out what is going on.
Mank stars Gary Oldman in the role of legendary Hollywood screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz. Mank is not a biopic per se, but rather, Mank is an attempt to correct a bit of Hollywood mythology. For decades many have credited Orson Welles almost solely for crafting the masterpiece that is Citizen Kane. Mank is an effort by director David Fincher to claim more than equal credit for Mankiewicz whose personal friendship with media magnate William Randolph Hearst provided the basis for Welles’ epic takedown of the wealthy and powerful elite.
The Prom has all the elements of a complete disaster. It’s a musical adaptation of a beloved Broadway musical and features big stars belting tunes to the back of the room in big voice. It also has director Ryan Murphy, he of the deeply hit and miss television vehicles and circumspect film vehicles such as Eat, Pray, Love. The potential for The Prom to be a massive, all time disaster was high.
Black Bear is a trip. This bizarre experiment in behind the scenes at the movies may be hard to make sense of but is nonetheless impressive and compelling. As much as I must admit that I struggled to follow what was happening, I loved puzzling over what I saw and pondering what was meant, what was intended, and the other movies I was reminded of from the work of David Lynch to Christopher Nolan.