By: Henry J. Fromage –
The lead-up to the first article of 2020 found me understandably focused on 2019s flicks I missed, aided by some international plane travel.
1. 63 Up
Boyhood was spectacular and audacious, but Michael Apted has been doing the same thing in documentary form for going on 57 years, following a cross-section of British children from the age of 7 to their now 63rd year. The way he summarizes their lives up until now with excerpts of his every-seven-years interviews is stunning. You may not come out of his latest feeling any closer on a definitive answer between nature and nurture, but there’s no denying there’s something to the series’ motivating phrase of “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”. Two Beers.
2. Queen & Slim
The trailer to this film was one of the very best of the year- and it may have worked to the film’s detriment. It assured us that the film would drip with style and character (Bokeem Woodbine for every role, please), and it certainly does, but what it lacks is much of an emotionally coherent story, with incident after incident driven by some of the most unbelievable character decisions and choices of the year. Sometimes you have to pick a lane between Mythic and Character-Driven. Four Beers.
3. Honey Boy
Contrast the above with this film, also shot with style and chutzpah by Alma Har’el, but full of such emotional specificity and genuine reaction that it’s you empathize with the characters despite the plot and situation, not because of it. Shia LaBeouf lays his soul bare in playing his own showbiz hanger-on father, with Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedge both turning in affecting work as Shia at two different ages, reconciling that childhood with his perhaps too quickly won stardom. Two Beers.
4. 6 Underground
At least Michael Bay’s done wasting his time on the Transformers franchise. Here he shows that he’s lost none of his defining characteristics- spectacular practical action filmmaking, too aggressive editing, and streak of misanthropy. You shouldn’t really root for these outside the law mercenaries, earnestly pushing “regime change” as a positive concept (because that’s always worked out, right?), but damn if all that Netflix money isn’t right there up on the screen. Bay- you love him or you hate him, and this film will sway you neither way. Four Beers.
5. Blinded by the Light
Somehow our second British musical film of a young man of Indian Subcontinent heritage undergoing sweeping change thanks to a popular music this year, but no complaints here. Director Gurinder Chadha and star Viveik Kalra with the help of The Boss craft an engaging period coming-of-age tale full of positive energy. As airplane films go, choice. Three Beers.
6. Brian Banks
Likewise, this based on a true story tale of a former high school football star who works to get his wrongful but already served conviction overturned because freedom as a felon is barely better than imprisonment is great plane fare. While the film isn’t terribly different than other courtroom-driven dramas you’ve seen before, Aldis Hodge delivers a magnetizing performance as a decent man who is determined not to give up no matter how high the odds. Three Beers.
7. The Kitchen
Another film that turned out to be lesser than the sum of its parts despite an engaging trailer, perhaps my expectations were lowered enough (and, again, airplane film) to appreciate what we did get- a lower rent mob drama than expected, but one well-acted by its vastly overqualified cast. Just don’t expect much besides that. Four Beers.