2020 Movie Reviews

Rated best ( + + + ) to worst ( – – – )

Latest Movie Review

“Driveways” (+ +) is a bittersweet movie about an Asian-American single mom who moves with her nine-year-old son into a suburban house she inherited from her older sister, who passed away. The next-door neighbor is an elderly man, who is a lonely widower and Korean War vet. While the initial interaction of the new neighbors is tense, they quickly come to be friends. There really isn’t much of a plot in the movie. It’s a quiet and slow-paced film that is about the bitter and the sweet moments in life. Brian Dennehy provides his usual first-class acting performance. Sadly, he passed away a few months after the movie was made.


“1917” (+ +) received the Best Picture award during the Golden Globe Awards held on 1/5/20. It was well deserved. Directed, co-written, and produced by Sam Mendes, the film is about two young British soldiers during World War I who were ordered to deliver a message deep in enemy territory to save 1,600 of their compatriots from an ambush by German forces. The acting is excellent, and the cinematography is outstanding, with very long camera shots creating the impression of one continuous take. The depiction of war’s horrors was also exceptional. Even more exceptional was the 2018 documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old,” directed and produced by Peter Jackson. That film was created using original WWI footage that had been digitally restored. The agony of war, particularly trench warfare, was remarkably graphic.

“Bombshell” (+) is a docudrama based on the accounts of several women at Fox News who exposed CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. The movie stars include Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie playing reporters Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and Kayla Pospisil. John Lithgow plays Ailes, who was a creative genius and a slime ball. A far better account of this sordid affair along with a fascinating examination of Ailes’ career at Fox News is Showtime’s seven-part series, “The Loudest Voice.” Russell Crowe is amazingly good at portraying Ailes. The series is based on Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 book, The Loudest Voice in the Room, and depicts the pivotal years in the rise and fall of Ailes. It covers when media mogul Rupert Murdoch hired him to launch the Fox News Channel and when Ailes took charge on the morning of 9/11 and promoted Bush’s post-9/11 policies. Also covered in detail is the sexual harassment case brought against Ailes by Gretchen Carlson (played by Naomi Watts), who filed a lawsuit that led to his downfall.

“Driveways” (+ +) is a bittersweet movie about an Asian-American single mom who moves with her nine-year-old son into a suburban house she inherited from her older sister, who passed away. The next-door neighbor is an elderly man, who is a lonely widower and Korean War vet. While the initial interaction of the new neighbors is tense, they quickly come to be friends. There really isn’t much of a plot in the movie. It’s a quiet and slow-paced film that is about the bitter and the sweet moments in life. Brian Dennehy provides his usual first-class acting performance. Sadly, he passed away a few months after the movie was made.

“Jojo Rabbit” (+) is about a 10-year-old boy who aspires to be a member of the Hitler youth movement. It’s a quirky movie that takes a look at World War II through the eyes of a child. Jojo quickly recognizes that there is a big difference between the propaganda that is all around him and the facts on the ground, as he sees them. It reminds us that propaganda (a.k.a. fake news) isn’t a recent development. It’s been around as long as tyrants have been shoving their version of the facts into our collective consciousness. What’s different now is that social media and artificial intelligence provide autocratically inclined people with more tools to shovel their lies more efficiently. I’ll leave it to you to decide who those malevolent people are today.

“Little Women” (+) is the seventh film adaption of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott. It is a semi-autobiographical story of four sisters starring Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. It follows their passage from childhood to womanhood. Like Alcott, Jo is a writer and writes a novel (titled “Little Women,” of course) about how she and her sisters developed their own individual personalities and pursued their goals persistently despite challenges posed by social conventions. The story is about the strength that a close-knit family can provide children to help them flourish and succeed in life as happy young adults. In other words, it’s a classic American tale about the importance of the family as a base for healthy individualism, i.e., the freedom to pursue one’s own path in life.

“Resistance” (+ +) is about the WWII exploits of Marcel Marceau, the famous French actor and mime. As a youth, he lived in hiding and worked with the French Jewish resistance network in Vichy, France during most of the war. They rescued thousands of children and adults during the Holocaust in France, mostly from the murderous Klaus Barbie, an SS and Gestapo Nazi known as “the Butcher of Lyon.” Marceau gives his first major performance to 3,000 troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. The story is remarkable. The acting by Jesse Eisenberg in the lead role is not so remarkable. (See our movie reviews since 2005.)

“Richard Jewell” (+ +) is a compelling movie based on a true story about Richard Jewell, a security guard who saved lots of lives during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta when he detected a bomb planted in an abandoned backpack. Initially, he was celebrated as a hero by the press. However, the FBI agents on the case concluded that he fit the profile of a white, male, lone bomber seeking fame. Their investigation was leaked to the press, which had a field day denouncing him as a villain rather than a hero. The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, concluded that Jewell was set up by the two most powerful organizations in America, i.e., the government and the media. It’s a cautionary tale, for sure, and highly relevant to the ongoing shenanigans of both organizations today.

“The Invisible Man” (+) is a film about an invisible man who mercilessly harasses his ex-girlfriend. She can’t get a restraining order because he is presumed to be dead, and he is invisible. The movie’s plot is obviously contrived. However, Elizabeth Moss, who plays the girlfriend, does an admirable job of conveying the fear she feels when she is repeatedly tormented by her invisible ex. We can all empathize with her as an invisible virus spreads fear around the world.

“The Traitor” (+ + +) is an Italian docudrama about a real-life Godfather, Tommaso Buscetta, who ratted on the Costa Nostra crime organization run out of Palermo, Sicily. “The Godfather” trilogy is about the fictionalized Corleone family’s exploits in the American mafia. In fact, Corleone is a village in the country region of Palermo, where an all-out war between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade broke out during the early 1980s. Buscetta’s sons and brother were murdered in the bloody melee. He decides to become an informant and violate his oath of allegiance to the Cosa Nostra because the blood-thirsty bosses butchered innocent family members of their no-longer-partners in crime. The movie’s portrayal of the courtroom scenes is both hilarious and bloodcurdling. The story told in this film is eerily similar to the one portrayed in Netflix’s outstanding “Narcos” series. The latest season (“Narcos: Mexico”) is phenomenal. Corruption is an evil human trait that is all too often exacerbated by illegal drugs.