Thursday Movie Picks: 2020 Releases – Worst Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 2020 Releases.

This week’s topic kind of leaves it pretty wide open to do whatever we want with our list. Well, I had just posted my Top 10 Best List of 2020, so in order not to be repetitive, I thought about posting about those the opposite of such a list. I already had a draft post of WORST MOVIES, so I might as well post it here instead. I usually pick just 3, but for this occasion, I decided to go with 4.

In any case, here are my four picks of WORST 2020 releases

The Last Thing He Wanted

(full review)

I read about the terrible reviews prior to watching this but I still didn’t think this was going to be this bad. The Last Thing He Wanted seems to have all the ingredients of an intriguing political thriller. Helmed by acclaimed writer/director Dee Rees (Mudbound), the film is based on Joan Didion‘s Orange Prize-winning novel, the UK’s ‘s most prestigious literary prizes.

I have a penchant for movies about journalists and here Anne Hathaway plays a veteran D.C. journalist who Reagan’s re-election campaign suddenly got a call from her absentee father to be his sub to complete a ‘deal of a lifetime,’ which involves flying to a mysterious location with a huge amount of mysterious cargo. Of course things started go awry, and so did the movie. Despite the star-studded cast that includes Ben Affleck and Willem Dafoe, this one turned out to be a disjointed mess that moved at an aggravating pace.

Fun Trivia:
Ben Affleck replaced Nicolas Cage in the role of Treat Morrison.


Kissing Booth 2

Now, I feel like I only have myself to blame for even thinking that watching this movie is a good idea. I never watched the first movie, but the only reason I saw this was to Maisie Richardson-Sellers (for a film project I’m developing), who despite only seeing her briefly here, I think deserves a better movie.

Oh man, this movie is absolutely awful that I could barely finish it. This Roger Ebert review summed up my dread perfectly, it’s “…a movie about cookie cutter characters in contrived situations set in a make-believe world…viewers may find its artificial sweetness and simplicity off-putting.” I can’t stand anyone in this movie, including the lead, Joey King with her bee-stung lips. There’s only so much suspension-of-disbelief one can muster. I mean, even superhero movies made way more sense than this, even baby Groot has more personality than any of these characters put together! I fast-forwarded so much of it and STILL it felt too long… as the running time is 2h 14min (I kid you not!) I’m surprised at the 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it should’ve been waaaay lower than that!! Oh and I saw in the recent Netflix promo video announcing 71 new movies coming this year, one of them is a third installment to complete this garbage trilogy! [face palm]

Fun Trivia:
Joey King shaved her head for her role in The Act, so she had to wear a wig when filming this movie.


The Secret: Dare to Dream

(full review)

I’ve never heard, let alone read the self-help book series called The Secret where this movie is based on prior to watching it. I guess I don’t pay attention to Oprah’s book club as apparently this massively-popular book was endorsed by her. I really tried my darnedest to suppress my cynicism and just enjoy the film for what it is. It’s really tough to do as I’m not into Lifetime or Hallmark-inspired dramas which tends to be filled with cloying plot and even more cringe-worthy acting. Katie Holmes is actually did her best here and her kids are pretty adorable, but Josh Lucas‘ smarmy acting was really tough to stomach. In the time of uncertainties amidst a pandemic, I generally welcome a film with a hopeful and uplifting message, sadly this one is pretty much drowned out by its own schmaltz.

Fun Trivia:
Andy Tennant directed from a screenplay he wrote alongside Bekah Brunstetter and Rick Parks, based on the 2006 self-help book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The book has been translated into 50 languages and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks.

Wonder Woman 1984

(full review)

So my fourth pick is a controversial one as I know many people love this one. I wish I could say I even like this one, but given all the release delays and huge anticipation surrounding it, this turns out to be a huge disappointment for me. I think I’m quite generous in my ratings generally, so to give a movie 2/5 rating means it’s got to be pretty bad. Not only bad, this one is problematic, esp. in regards to how Patty Jenkins resurrected Steve Trevor. We all love Chris Pine and he’s still fun to watch despite some of the idiotic stuff he and Diana were involved in WW84 (somehow the fighter jets at the Smithsonian are fueled + ready to fly?!)… but I was cringing the entire time I was watching it given Diana was using another man’s body as an Uber as all she sees in him is Steve. There have been many articles discussing this, but this one by the Mary Sue sums things up nicely. It’s not even the worst of it, the talented Kristen Wiig has to prowl around as the poorly-written CGI and horrendous CGI effects. Let’s hope the 3rd movie would be at least on par with the original!

Fun Trivia:
In a brief shot outside Max Lord’s HQ, as police and crowds are running in the background, a motorcycle cop in beige passes right behind Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as he walks toward the HQ with Diana. The cop is wearing the California Highway Patrol uniform, a homage to the 80s police show CHiPs (1977), which starred Pine’s father Robert Pine as Sergeant Getraer.


Thoughts on my picks of WORST 2020 movies? Which one(s) have you seen?

DECEMBER 2020 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

Hello everyone!! Happy New Year! Wow, I’m still not used to saying that, ahah. Well, do you feel different now that 2020 is behind us? No? Well, me neither. But hey, I am hopeful for 2021, I mean there is only one way but up after the year we’ve had right? It has to!!

Ok well, I watched quite a few movies/series in December, partly because I had a few days off and as the weather turns colder, we stay in more often.

So here’s what I watched in November:

New-to-me Movies

Mulan (2020)

I had been anticipating this for sometime but I wasn’t going to pay 30 bucks to watch it, so I finally watched it when it became available for free on Disney+. Well, I’m glad I didn’t pay for it… I mean, it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I just wasn’t moved by it. So overall it’s not a terribly memorable film, I’m not sure I’d even review it.

Much Ado About Nothing – ShakespeaReTold (2005)


I saw this at my friend’s house, mostly because Tom Ellis is in it. It’s alright, it’s an amusing take on Shakespeare with famous Brits.

Last Christmas (2019)

I was a big fan of George Michael growing up so naturally a movie based on his Christmas hits intrigued me, esp. when it’s written by Emma Thompson. It’s a charming rom-com, a bit on the frothy site but it has a big heart. Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding have a sweet chemistry and the scenery definitely gets me in the Christmas mood.

Effie Gray (2014)

Ok, I was curious to see this one as it’s also written by Emma Thompson, but I’ve never even heard of it before. Well, this one turns out to be really, really slow and dull, there’s barely any spark in this movie to make you want to be invested in the story. Despite the beautiful scenery, it’s almost unwatchable. I wouldn’t even recommend this to fans of period dramas.

Wander Darkly (2020)

This romantic drama is well-worth a look for the two leads. Read my full review

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Check out my Music Break with songs from this jubilant Christmas movie.

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

To be honest, I only watched this one because of Ethan Peck (yep, Gregory’s equally dashing grandson). ‘Twas the season, so I was up for watching more Christmas-themed movies than usual. Unfortunately this one turns out to be one of the meh ones with a corny and predictable story. Kat Graham seems to be popular in this genre, as she’s also in Operation Christmas Drop. Nope, not going to even touch that one.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas (1965)

I live in Minnesota but for some reason I’ve never seen this movie! Yes I know, crazy right? Well, I’m glad I finally did. It’s such a cute movie and it’s actually refreshing to watch a simple, traditional animation style.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

The Movies that Made Us – Elf (2020)

I really enjoy watching this Making-Of series that explored the journey of how some famous/iconic movies got made. As a filmmaker, it’s entertaining as well as insightful… it’s amazing that most of the producers were relative newcomers. David Berenbaum had definitely written a brilliant script, and they were able to get Will Ferrell AND director Jon Favreau, who’s proven to be one of the most talented filmmakers working today.

News Of the World (2020)

Tom Hanks is one of the most reliable actors working today. Apparently this is his first Western and it’s a good one. Full review upcoming.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)


Check out my full review of WW84

Soul (2020)

Full review upcoming

WolfWalker (2020)

Full review upcoming

Death To 2020 – Mockumentary (2020)

I was intrigued to watch this because it’s by Black Mirror‘s creator Charlie Brooker, and it’s got some big name stars as talking-head ‘experts.’ A parody of a year that’s been beset with, well too many things really, is a provocative premise, but overall this mockumentary isn’t all that funny and pretty lame. Heck, it’s more amusing to just watch real news!


TV Series

The Mandalorian Season 2

Bridgerton

Two very different shows but both are worth watching for different reasons. As a fan of period dramas, obviously I enjoy Bridgerton, which is far juicier than any Jane Austen movies, ha! It’s more in line with Outlander in terms of its juicy sex scenes, but no blood/violence to speak of… yet.

I’m still thinking about the finale of both shows, thankfully they have been renewed for season 3 and season 2, respectively. Too bad we have a long time to wait for this as they probably haven’t even started shooting yet.


Rewatches

Notting Hill

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Return to Me

It’s A Wonderful Life

Wow, I must have been feeling quite sentimental as I watched mostly rom-coms, ahah. Well except for that last one… it’s been ages since I saw the Frank Capra classic and last year was definitely the perfect time to rewatch i.


MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

Soul + Wolfwalker

I saw these two back-to-back, and both are visually spectacular. They’re completely different in terms of narratives and animation styles but I love each of them in its own unique way. I highly recommend both of them if you haven’t already.


Per tradition, I usually wait until mid January until I post my Top 10 Films of the year… so stay tuned for that!


Well, what did you watch in December and what’s YOUR fave movie you saw last month?

FlixChatter Review: Wonder Woman 1984

There are few 2020 movies that are as anticipated as WW1984. No wonder, it’s apparently got seven release dates, as far back as last December 2019, then it got moved around several times mostly due to Covid, then Warner Bros shifted its entire upcoming movie schedule until it’s got its dual premiere in theater and HBO Max. Well, I live in a state where there’s a state mandate to close movie theaters, so I saw it on streaming.

The opening sequence on Diana Prince’s paradise island Themyscira is quite a visual spectacle displaying the prowess of the Amazons as young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competes in an olympic-like athletic competition against those who are much older than her. It’s a cool sequence that harken back to the amazing Amazons vs German army battle in the first movie. Now, unlike the first one, I’m not sure this sequence actually fits in this movie this time around. More on that later.

After that competitive scene ends, we’re then transported to an entirely different world – 1980s Washington D.C. We’re suddenly hit with all kinds of 80s throwbacks – leg-warmers, bat wing tops, 80s sport cars, etc. It’s actually quite fun to reminisce on 80s nostalgia, especially in the shopping mall sequence where we see places/stores that no longer exist, particularly Waldenbooks as I always made a stop in that store (or B. Dalton) before Amazon (as in the retail giant, ha!) blew its competition out of the water. I think the period world building is pretty convincing, albeit not as immersive as the WWI period that Diana was thrown into in the first film.

Our heroine now works as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian, and she exudes elegance amongst the more campily-dressed rest of the world, but then again, only Gal Gadot would look lithe and graceful in loose-fitting pleated pants. There she meets her colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a bumbling nerd who’s a bit outcast. Barbara is quite star-struck by Diana, even as the two forms a tentative friendship over a new project brought by the FBI to identify some ancient gems. As it turns out, there’s something about one mysterious stone that ties both of them with an aspiring businessman (focus on the aspiring part) named Maxwell Lord (perfectly slimy Pedro Pascal) who sells his brand of Gordon-Gekko greed with aplomb–”Life is good! But it can be better!”–even when his empire is crumbling in a mountain of debt.

The 80s is all about being loud, blatant and showy, but it seems that the movie has adopted the ‘go-big-or-go-home’ mantra from that era as well, where subtlety and nuanced seems to be deemed a bad thing. The conversations between all the characters, Diana & Barbara during lunch, and all the scenes involving Lord is campy to the max, which at times is comical. I have to say that the action scenes post the opening sequence are all big, bombastic, but largely uninspired. In fact, it’s was like a big clanging cymbal that feels empty and repetitive, which you could also say the same about the film.

The entire plot is built upon this Dreamstone that can grant wishes to anyone. Unlike Aladdin’s magic lamp, it not clear how this stone actually works but we’re supposed to just go along with it. When someone in the museum office wishes for coffee in front of the thing, then voila! it magically appears. Apparently Lord’s been searching for this magical stone for a while and naturally he sees it as the solution to his economic problems, that is to get all his investors to believe in his oil investment schemes. Interestingly, the stone would grant any wish, big or small, no matter how incredulous it might be.

Thanks to this mysterious Dreamstone, everyone’s life changes in an instant. Director Patty Jenkins, who also co-wrote the script with Geoff Johns & Dave Callaham uses the moments post wish-granted as comic relief. From Barbara at the gym being all hot, sexy and super strong (channeling Jane Fonda in her leotards, rawr!) to ALL the scenes when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is all bewildered by everything in the 80s. As to those asking why in the world is Trevor back from the dead? Well, trust me, that’s not the only thing that’ll get your suspension of disbelief stretched to its snapping point, at least he was amusing in the 80s getup. Plus, Pine and Gadot have an effortlessly-playful chemistry that’s fun to watch.

I try to make most of my reviews spoiler free, but from time to time I simply have to talk about it. One of my biggest beef about Diana’s character here is the irritating inconsistency of who she’s supposed to represent. She’s supposed to be one the most powerful woman person in the world, but yet she’s shown as lonely and reclusive, unable/unwilling to make friends. SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read)Despite initially not believing that the stone has magical powers, she made a wish anyway and that is she wants her lover back. Diana/Steve love story was beautifully-realized in the 2017 movie, but in this timeline, that was more than six decades ago, and she hasn’t moved on in all that time?? Now, I’m not against romance or anything, but bringing Steve back in this way is problematic. Somehow the movie makes Diana comes across like a lovelorn woman, which is disappointingly at odds with the message of female-empowerment.

Thus, I feel like Jenkins just want to work with Pine in the sequel and she ended up sacrificing story integrity, or worse, the integrity of the character we’ve come to love in the first film. I’m all for bringing Pine back, I just feel like his character should’ve been written in a different way. It’s also odd that the biggest action spectacles involving Wonder Woman is at the most dynamic when Steve was around as her side-kick. I’m not saying that Steve becomes Robin to Diana’s Batman necessarily, but it feels as if he was more instrumental to her ‘saving the day’ than he needed to be. He also becomes her voice of reason, which again is a re-tread to what we’ve already seen in the first film.

Which brings me to the two villains in the movie, which is definitely not created equal. With his inherent campiness and absurdity, Lord is an entertaining character to watch. Pascal is having a moment right now and I’m glad because he’s a terrific actor who finally gets his due. His character is clearly modeled after Donald Trump (“I’m not a con man but a respected television personality” ha!) but with much, much better hair. You can almost visualize Lord twirling his invisible mustache. I think the fact that Pascal is without any facial hair makes him look unsettling, like something is off, which I guess is the point.

At the same time, Pascal is still able to make the character grounded instead of making him a full-blown caricature of a modern genie. He hits the emotional moments required that makes you still sympathize with him despite the massive chaos he’s caused all over the world. I do have to mention though, I was a bit distracted by the fact that the boy who plays his son looks more Asian (like Thai or Filipino) than Latino, but perhaps I was a bit more distracted by his unconvincing acting. His nefarious plans are so grandiose and incredulous, i.e. inadvertently starting a nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union, seem to play out like SNL skits that they’re unintentionally hilarious.

Barbara, aka Cheetah, on the other hand, suffers not only from poor character development, but also from horrible special effects. I was still scratching my head as to how she suddenly became Cheetah when suddenly she’s dressed in the furry cheetah getup, slinging and taunting Diana who’s now donning the legendary Amazon warrior Asteria’s all-gold armor that she’s kept in her home. Despite being almost as powerful as Wonder Woman, Cheetah is barely menacing nor even the least bit threatening, partly because of bad CGI, but also largely because of the shaky character motivation. Barbara is more of an ugly-duckling-turned-swan run amok as she’s consumed by her own beauty and power. I like Kristen Wiig generally, but I have to say her character makes me cringe from start to finish. Her giggling and crushing over Maxwell Lord is as hard to watch as all the Cheetah action sequences.

To be fair, none of the action sequences is all that great apart from the opening sequence. That’s why I said it doesn’t fit this movie as it feels tonally different and doesn’t really advance the story forward as we have already seen how bad-ass young Diana was in the first film. It would’ve worked better as a special feature in the blu-ray instead, as it’s still spectacular to watch. To make matters worse, the music by Hans Zimmer is too loud, boisterous and irritating… I can’t even remember any of its motif/melody at all, just the fact that I wish it could be toned down (hello Dreamstone/Maxwell Lord? Were you not listening to my wish?)

At an overlong 2 hours and 31 minutes, WW84 feels derivative and preachy, which is made worse as it’s a rehash of the same virtues that’s been delivered in the first movie. So she’s basically ‘preaching to the choir’ over and over again with her lasso of truth, adding a clichéd ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage on top of that.  I guess the one improvement that can be said over the first movie is the villain is far more memorable this time around (anyone even remember Ares God of War?). Unlike The Dark Knight where the villain upstages the hero, that is in fact part of the plan and fits the Batman story as a whole. It’s quite ironic that despite showing an extended flying sequence here, Wonder Woman fails to soar.

It pains me to write this review… though I had a bad feeling after watching all the trailers, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong. Alas, that did not happen. I still like the character and Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana though, so I’m hoping this is just a singular misstep and we’d see the character rising to greatness again in its inevitable third installment.


Have you seen Wonder Woman 1984? Well, what did YOU think?