Apex Predator's Reviews

→ in

A long time ago, I started a thread on Rotten Tomatoes to examine my feelings on the films I've seen. I also did a separate horror thread because I haven't seen nearly enough of the genre at the time, but it was kind of unnecessary considering there was a perfectly fine thread available.

When RT went under, I went to first Kateland and then Corrierino with the same thread. Kateland still is up. The other one? Not so much.

Now that I'm starting to settle into my new threads in Movie Forums, I think it's time to revive an old tradition. Starting with the new year, my plans are to keep this up to date with the latest films that I've tackled. Simultaneously, I plan on recapping the last year which led to some nice discoveries in what was a trying year.

I should warn you that I dive into all sorts of films, from the newest to the most ancient. From comedies and dramas to westerns and Bollywood and all points in between. I end grading them like they do in school from A+ to F (although I could adapt to the popcorn box idea as well).

Trying to finish up the last films of the year now, but I look forward to the discussions and reviews yet to come.

Heading into January, I have plans to see the following:

Taxi Driver (1976, RW)
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, RW)
Chef (2014)---Several on Twitter recommended this one

But what films would you like me to tackle? Keep in mind, I can stream with the following:

Amazon Prime
Hulu (re-joined because of that $2/month deal)
PBS Documentaries

If it's free and I didn't mention it, I don't have it. Curious to see what you'd recommend.

Heading into January, I have plans to see the following:

Taxi Driver (1976, RW)
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, RW)
Are these first viewings or rewatches?

But what films would you like me to tackle? Keep in mind, I can stream with the following:

Amazon Prime
Hulu (re-joined because of that $2/month deal)
PBS Documentaries

If it's free and I didn't mention it, I don't have it. Curious to see what you'd recommend.
Here's a brief list of films I love which I've seen recently:

Cabaret (1972)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
White Heat (1949)
Scarface (1932)
Predator (1987)
Perfect Blue (1997)
A Moment of Innocence (1996) This one might be harder to track down though.
Ivan The Terrible, Part 1 (1944)

Also, as for some 2020 films, I love First Cow and Dick Johnson is Dead, in particular.

You've probably seen some of these films, but hopefully this helps.

Speling Error, I've labeled the re-watches with RW. Blade Runner is a first time view.

I'm gonna take another look at the films in January, but Scarface and Cabaret look promising.

Best and Worst of 2020 in Review:

I had started plans in early January of last year to see 100 films. The plan was to see an average of 9 new films a month. 9 times 12 is 108 films. Easy peasy, right?

Then the pandemic happened. The 2020 election got incredibly heated. My headspace wasn't always in a good place due to all the anxiety and news coming 24/7/365. As well as the constant fear of getting ill due to this virus and the physical and economic devastation due to all that.

I ended up with 75 films, 2 of which were classic re-watches. So yeah, it could have been better.

But what's left will show every film that I watched in 2020 and rank them from worst to best.

I'll kick this off with films that didn't make it due to not finishing them or re-watches:


A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
A Charlie Brown Christmas

Both were fine choices over the holiday season. With Apple getting the rights to the Peanuts library, I felt like this was my last opportunity to see either one for a while. If I had to pick one, I preferred the Christmas one by a hair.

The ones I didn't finish:

7 Boxes: The story of a kid looking to make enough money to buy a cell phone with a camera looked decent from what I could tell. Just ran out of time.

Arctic Dogs: I was getting funny feelings I've seen this one before as Norm of the North. I hope those songs Jeremy Renner sings are way better than The Main Attraction.

Black Sea: I was hyped for a submarine heist movie and then it turned into K19: The Widowmaker. At least, Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn had better accents.

Saving Christmas: It felt like Jerry Falwell U told Kirk Cameron and company "Just make Christmas with the Kranks, but Christian". Seemed a bit less obnoxious so far, but it was kind of plodding for a film under 80 minutes.

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks: It shows that this was based on a 1980s play despite the efforts of Gena Rowlands. Jacki Weaver, fire your agent please!

Next, the worst I've seen in 2020!

Bottom 10 Films I've Seen in 2020:

73. What the Waters Left Behind (2017)

This Argentinian horror film wants really, really badly to be the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But this film, about the making of a documentary at Epecuen, the home of a real life tragedy, feels like it's cobbled together from 4-5 horror films. The majority of the characters are either generic or annoying which means there's nobody to root for.

It's a nice setting. Too bad there isn't a film that can tell what really happened there. Or that the story they chose was way worse than its setting. (F)

72. A Moment in the Reeds (2018)

Slow moving Finnish tale about a student who comes home to spend time with his father where he takes interest in a Syrian hired as the caretaker of the house. The dialogue between the two would be lovers is excruciating and outside of a couple of lovemaking scenes which seems like it escaped from a different film, the story is a predictable snooze heading to its ending. (D-)

71. 6 Underground (2019)

In the opposite of the previous film, this slice of Bayhem won't lull you to sleep. From the opening 20 minutes which features a techno version of O Fortuna, nuns flipping people off and cars driving through Roman museums, you're definitely gonna be awake seeing this one. But outside of the opening and one scene featuring a phone app and a boat which is admittedly bravura, there's an awful lot of flash for what's otherwise an ordinary story of a newcomer joining in with a crew interested in recreating the plot of The Man in the Iron Mask with the father/husband from A Separation as the good leader.

It's good to see Bay trying to come to terms with what's going on in the world. But I do wish it was better implemented than it was in 6U. (D-)

70. Two Night Stand (2014)

A one night stand between an unemployed single woman and a bank employee gets real when they wake up to a snowstorm in New York City. The result is a mostly forgettable romcom about the ups and downs of the burgeoning relationship. But then, the film has to take a third act turn which is just cringey and took this from maybe a C- to its final grade.

Kid Cudi makes the most of his few scenes as the woman's roommate's lover. D

69. Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words (2020)

This documentary takes a look at the life of Thomas from a liberal college student to the conservative judge. The film makes allusions to To Kill a Mockingbird and Robert Frost's poem The Road Less Traveled, but it treks on some very familiar ground particularly when we get to the Anita Hill hearings and its aftermath.

You do get to hear Thomas speak here. Too bad, the documentary isn't hear to listen to his words but turns him into a martyr against the liberals. And it's facepalm worthy to hear him point out how hard it was for him to get a job post-college only to see him hiring those who didn't need any help as his interns on the Supreme Court. D

68. London River (2011)

English woman and a French Muslim head to London to search for their children who disappeared during a bus bombing during the 2005 attacks. Along the way, they learn some truths about their offspring.

Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyate offer good performances here, but it's in a service of a film that treads slowly down a path towards a predictable outcome. It's a shame too, because with a better script, this could have been a pleasant surprise. D

67. Meteor Storm (2010)

More or less made for TV movie that sounds like what you might expect from a Syfy original movie. Thankfully, they try to play this one straight. But cheap special effects and walking cliches keep this one from reaching the goofy heights of Sharknado.

Kinda funny though that the black leather jacketed, motorcycle riding hero was able to get strangers to follow his instructions with no questions asked, but can't keep his kids from wandering around from dangerous situation to dangerous situation. D

66. Goodbye World (2014)

The Big Chill meets the apocalypse in this tale of how a bad text can bring down the US power grid and social structure in near record time. A group of thin characters and silly situations bring down a capable cast which tries its best.

And not even Gaby Hoffman wearing a clean mop head reciting a George Washington speech can save this one. D

65. Toya (1956)

A refugee who lost her family in a war gets adopted by a family and all is well until some money goes missing and she's accused of taking it. So she runs away looking for the kind man who placed her in the new home while her new father searches for her.

The Norwegian scenery is lovely and the little boy who sings comes across as a young Wayne Newton vocally. But combining a sitcomish plot with dialogue straight from Dragnet isn't a good combination.

Oh, and there's apparently a sequel. D+

64. Vultures in the Void (2014)

A Mexican standoff occurs in space between the hijacker of a valuable cargo, the pilot, and two space pirates. Loyalties keep shifting as the clock is ticking.

It's complete, but it feels like a concept short for a longer one with better special effects and actors. The ending also feels a bit off.

Rest in peace to Tiny Lister who played Space Clown in this one. D+

Tomorrow is the honorable mentions:

Don't leave others behind as you try to cross the road.
Although murder is a bad idea, if you stick together with your significant other, you can accomplish great things.
If you're willing to sacrifice for the one you love, you can move beyond the clouds.
And some time with fresh air is good...maybe you can redeem yourself for some mistakes made in the past.
You may not be in control over yourself right now, but be careful when revealing the truth to your closest friends.

Dishonorable Mentions time:

63. The Chaperone (2019)

A woman stuck in a marriage agrees to watch over mischievous Louise while she takes a dance class in New York City. She may have other reasons for agreeing to do this. This may be one of those "If you love Downton Abbey, you'll like this" films. Which is a problem because the series doesn't appeal to me despite the charms of Maggie Smith (the creator of the series, Julian Fellows, directed this movie). Despite the charms of Haley Lu Richardson as Louise who may or may not have a big future ahead of her and the solid support of Elizabeth McGovern as her guardian, the film never rises above a slow pace even as revelations pop up.

Disappointing because there's enough here that could have led to some fireworks in better hands. D+

62. A Recipe for Seduction (2020)

This short film isn't quite finger licking good, but unlike some terrible big screen misadventures (Leonard Part 6), it doesn't go overboard with product placement. A woman on the verge of marrying a rich man who could save her family out of debt starts to fall for the new chef Harland (two guesses what his last name is).

There was potential for this to be a solid parody of Lifetime films like A Deadly Adoption, but unfortunately this has all the cutting edge of one of those sporks they give you with the mashed potatoes and gravy. Not even Mario Lopez can save this. C-

61. Macbeth (2015)

The classic tale from William Shakespeare dives into the Scottish highlands with talented actors like Michael Fassbender as the successful general driven to murder by his wife played by Marion Cotillard. Although they give life to the words, the direction by Justin Kurzel leaves a lot to be desired. Outside of a few cool moments such as the witches showing up in the middle of a battle, this feels closer in spirit to the album that Theo and Cockroach rented in that one Cosby Show episode so they didn't have to read the play...yeah, it didn't work for them. And it doesn't work here. C-

60. Made for Each Other (1939)

Could be a case of misplaced expectations, but what I thought was going to be a comedy with James Stewart and Carole Lombard quickly turned into melodrama as his character gets thrown into the wringer with a crummy job where his boss doesn't seem to appreciate him and his mother and mother in law disapprove of the union.

The third act goes from hmm...to ridiculous in a blink of an eye. C-

59. Turandot (2019)

Yes, for some reason I saw an opera this year. Pandemic 2020, folks!

The vocals were fine, the sets were solid and there seemed to be a bit more depth to the story than I expected, but its runtime proved to be a bit long for its own good. And the story took its sweet time getting to the end in its third act.

Probably doesn't help that it reminded me of the superior The Thief of Bagdad. C

58. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)

The equivalent of going to an amusement park after eating candy and drinking soda.

I mean there's a quirkiness at times I can't completely shake off, but too much of this feels like something that might appeal more for 10 year old me than now. It takes an intriguing premise of a kids world without parents and can't come up with anything interesting about it.

Probably didn't help that I saw a superior animated film a few weeks before. C

57. The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)

And no, it's not this one.

Proof positive that half of the franchises should have stopped with one film, this take might as well be subtitled Max and Duke Go Country. Harrison Ford offers some gruffness as the resident country dog who helps Max find some courage. Meanwhile, Snowball pretends he's a superhero to impress Daisy and Gidget has to pretend to be a cat to get Max's favorite toy from an old lady and her cadre of not so nice cats.

The animation is lovely to look at, the voice cast does its best, but there's neither enough laughs or story for them to sink their teeth into. C

56. Minesweeper (1943)

Alright, I kind of like the jib in this film's sails. A guy joins the Navy while in World War 2 and falls for the sister of a guy who saved his life. But as he's sweeping mines for the cause, his secret starts to unravel. There's Robert Mitchum as one of the sailors!

It kind of falls apart towards the end, but it's an OK B-picture with a short run time that does manage to keep moving. C

55. JD's Revenge (1976)

A trip to a hypnotist show is enough for a law student/cab driver to start acting and behaving like a gangster who was murdered 30 years ago. For some reason, he's being drawn to a charismatic street preacher and his family. His girlfriend and friends start to be concerned.

Good performances from Glynn Turman, Lou Gossett Jr. and Joan Pringle and an interesting story keep you going to the end. But an underwhelming climax and some unchivalrous attitudes towards women keep this from being fully embraced.

Although it's nice to see that his girlfriend stand up for herself on the bus after he attempts to apologize for his actions. C

54. Nothing to Hide (2018)

An idea to spice up a party for several couples and a single stag friend is thwarted when it forces them to reveal their secrets to everyone in the room as they have to answer every phone call and text. Berenice Bejo (The Artist) led the solid, game cast as the film manages to mix the humorous with the more serious moments.

And then that ending happened. Boo! Boo! C+

Tomorrow 53-44!

You may have to be alone to save the forest.
The horror of different class groups struggling to get along in the dark.
Someone from upstairs is watching a person battling the elements
Edgar Allan Poe will give a hand to a woman fighting for the truth about her sibling.
Man's good intentions lead to larceny.

58. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)

The equivalent of going to an amusement park after eating candy and drinking soda.

I mean there's a quirkiness at times I can't completely shake off, but too much of this feels like something that might appeal more for 10 year old me than now. It takes an intriguing premise of a kids world without parents and can't come up with anything interesting about it.

Probably didn't help that I saw a superior animated film a few weeks before. C
I love Jimmy Neutron. I have probably seen it over a dozen times, no thanks in small part to it being one of a handful of movies I could play in the video store because it was rated G.

I love Jimmy Neutron. I have probably seen it over a dozen times, no thanks in small part to it being one of a handful of movies I could play in the video store because it was rated G.
I've seen bits and pieces of it along with some other animated films (Toy Story 2, Despicable Me, Wall-E, The Lorax) due to where I work and the break room doubling as the family dining room with playground.

53-44 Reveal:

53. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) C+

I think one of the biggest sins you can make of a Star Wars movie is to be ordinary.

But once you deal in Ron Howard whose track record on adaptions is all over the map in place of the Russo brothers, ordinary is more or less what you get here. Played decently by Alden Ehrenreich, Han is crazy enough about trying to save a girl that he's willing to join a military and then a group of smugglers in the hopes of having enough money and a ship to rescue her. But maybe along the way, he'll find some other reason to do what he does?

To Marie Kondo's disdain, there's not enough joy here and the film feels like it's more interested as a highlights reel for other movies than in doing its own thing. Not sure who was to think/blame for Phoebe Waller-Bridge's freedom fighting droid, but at least that felt different.

Thanks to its box office, we're unlikely to get that Lando prequel. Which is a shame because Donald Glover killed in that role.

52. The Lorax (2012) C+

As far as Dr. Seuss films go, this one was less painful than Jim Carrey's Grinch and had a bit more of a point than Benedict Cumberbatch's version.

After a promising beginning, the main story sets up where this boy wants to impress this older girl by finding a real live tree. This puts in path with the hermit Onceler who tells his tale of woe. The result is a brightly animated film with some solid voice acting (Betty White and Jenny Slate shine), but whose story takes a few bumps on the road onto a finish everyone can see coming. Some good laughs keep it on the right side of the ledger.

Strange though that one takeaway message (beyond the obvious "Care for the environment" one) is don't try to rise above your station. Hmm.

51. Terror By Night (1946) C+

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce prove to be a winning team as Holmes and Watson, but this mystery of a jewel and murder is missing a few segments from its train. A brisk runtime and Frederick Worlock as the easily ticked off Professor Kilbain are the highlights outside of the Rathbone/Bruce banter.

But your mileage may vary based on your opinion on the film withholding of crucial information until later on. And the ending is a bit murky.

50. Z-O-M-B-I-E-S (2018) C+

Outside of the possible cringeworthy use of zombies as a symbol for race relations, this one was decent.

As the intro sets things up, half of a town became zombies and half stayed human after a nuclear plant meltdown. But thanks to what appears to be a Fitbit, zombies no longer feel the need for eating humans. But they're basically second class citizens.

But in the middle of all that, a zombie who just wants to play football and a cheerleader start to fall for each other. While there's some uneasiness and some opposition among those on the squad, things might take a turn for the better.

Some of the songs are catchy and the film kind of has an ingratiating side to it that smooths out the rough spots.

49. The Girl on the Third Floor (2019) C+

It takes about 5 minutes for you to realize that the lead actor is CM Punk (his Pepsi tattoo is a dead giveaway). He plays a scummy lawyer who apparently got away with some things, but not without being disbarred. For redemption, he decides to fix a house for him and his wife and kid to live in. But as you can guess, things don't end up the way he was hoping.

Punk's performance is nicely subtle here and a major improvement over his previous job as MMA punching bag. Some elements to this movie work (such as the foul-mouthed priest who offers good advice), some not so much.

For those who value animals, this may be a pass.

48. Alone in the Wilderness (2004) C+

PBS Pledge Week(s) for the win!

A bit of a downgrade from the last two documentaries I've seen during Pledge Week, but anything would be a downgrade from Won't You Be My Neighbor? and 8 Days a Week. But it's oddly relaxing to see Dick Proenecke first build a cabin and then find food in the Alaska wilderness with only a little bit of help from other people.

It's kind of low stakes, but manages to be entertaining enough anyway.

47. The Raven (1943) C+

French doctor finds himself part of a smear campaign by a writer who calls himself/herself The Raven. Eventually, the Raven changes their focus to the town itself revealing everyone's dark secrets.

Honestly, I may have briefly dozed off due to a hard day at work that morning. But, there's some clever moments as the letters come out in a wedding procession and a church and the search to find out who's responsible.

Considering this was one title he wanted to see on Letterboxd, RIP Mysterious F.

46. Sister Street Fighter (1975) C+

Some casual misogyny spoils somewhat this kung fu tale of a woman trying to find out what happened to her missing brother. But some good action and the presence of Sonny Chiba makes this a decent watch. And Sue Shiomi has a solid presence as the titular character.

Sue Shiomi retired after getting married in the late 1980s, but apparently she's switched into flower arrangement. Good for her!

45. The Man Who Tried to Feed the World (2020) B-

Some interesting ideas in this documentary on Norman Borlaug, a man who won the Nobel Prize for his work of creating new breeds of wheat that helped India fix their issues with food insecurity and revolutionized modern farming in the process. It's not a glowing take on him as they also take a look at the drawbacks that were created by his processes, particularly in the environmental areas.

The largest problem is that 60 minutes is not enough time to do this story justice.

44. The Great Train Robbery (1903) B-

As a hint of what could be, this short film is pretty good. It showcases several techniques like simultaneous action, outside filming and a moving camera in a narrative of some train bank robbers and the posse brought together to stop their escape.

As a movie, it's decent. But that last shot was nicely done.

Tomorrow 43-34!

Dive into the volcano to find the killer/thief.
Learn about puppy farms, while finding a property with an interesting history, chief.
Tape the news so the cops can't call you liars.
Learn about French farming while an older couple stokes the fires.
I don't know how to love them, but have to respect the crew of a sub.

52. The Lorax (2012) C+

As far as Dr. Seuss films go, this one was less painful than Jim Carrey's Grinch and had a bit more of a point than Benedict Cumberbatch's version.

After a promising beginning, the main story sets up where this boy wants to impress this older girl by finding a real live tree. This puts in path with the hermit Onceler who tells his tale of woe. The result is a brightly animated film with some solid voice acting (Betty White and Jenny Slate shine), but whose story takes a few bumps on the road onto a finish everyone can see coming. Some good laughs keep it on the right side of the ledger.

Strange though that one takeaway message (beyond the obvious "Care for the environment" one) is don't try to rise above your station. Hmm.
I've seen it a couple times and my rating would be about the same as yours.

I might break these into 5 to get through them faster:

43. Into the Volcano (2016) B-

Ah, that wacky Werner Herzog!

This time he's diving into volcanoes with the help of a few friends while exploring the impact that it has on the cultures of a few countries. An extended sequence where they search for something on the grounds of an archilogical dig takes too long to go nowhere, but sequences in North Korea and Vanuatu stay interesting with some insights from Herzog and the people who live there.

But Werner, for future reference, don't refer to a schism in a religion based on an American serviceman and not show it to other people. We wanna know more.

42. Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) B-

I guess there were only so many stories that could be told in the Nick and Nora saga, eh?

Apparently, the Charles family has managed to expand to include a small child who's pretty darned precocious (trying to convince Nick to drink milk instead of alcohol). They're famous thanks to their exploits which leads them to a case where they solve a case involving murder and some missing books. Someone is falsely accused, but a big party together (at a hotel room this time) sorts things out. Some nice set pieces such as a carousel, but this feels like a later entry in a series.

Still the repartee between Powell and Loy is as delicious as ever.

41. Dog by Dog (2015) B-

A suitably disturbing, yet somewhat hopeful documentary about puppy farms and those fighting for laws to give the canines a fighting chance. Of course, modern laws haven't caught up to technology and there's those who fall in line with lobbyists who use confusing language to scuttle attempts at reform (more reason to hate Mitch McConnell here, but apparently Amy Klobucher shows up as well?).

This documentary hits all the expected points, but you'll still not want to see a dog show again (unless it's Best of Show).

40. The House That Dripped Blood (1971) B-

Perhaps a bit too sedate for the average horror fan, but it does have its charms.

A real estate agent regales a cop with several stories about the various owners of a house including a writer and his wife, a man looking for a sedate retirement, a father who strictly raises his daughter, and an arrogant actor trying to make his way through a shoddy Dracula adaption. Perhaps the best segment is the one with the actor as Jon Pertwee hams with aplomb (even though he does seem like he walked off the set of Doctor Who at one point), but Christopher Lee as the father and Peter Cushing as the lonely man are solid as well. The segments feel a bit on the thin side, but it's a good intro to horror if you're a bit on the squeamish side.

39. Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019) B-

I get that I'm watching something interesting and all, but the why feels a bit on the fuzzy side.

Marion was a civil rights activist whose run ins with the FBI might have influenced her decision to record TV from 1979 to 2012. She wanted to capture the unfiltered truth. And they show one sequence on what was airing as the second building fell in 9/11.

The film could have dove deeper into her cold nature when dealing with her family and her inability to throw things away. And it felt like it could have used an editor in places. But at least there's a happy ending involving the footage.

Tomorrow: 38-34

And thus, we continue:

38. Monster House (2006) B-

This film almost has a Goonies type feel without that annoying song. Three kids try to solve the mystery of a cranky old man and a house that seems to eat people. Not all the humor by writer Dan Harmon (Community) connects, but you can see the potential for his future here. The animation is a bit wonky, but the voice acting is solid and the story does manage some real heart while skating the line between kid friendly and a Halloween film.

It's a nice try, but falls short of making it to Coraline/ParaNorman territory.

37. After Winter, Spring (2015) B-

Decent documentary focusing on the challenges that small farms have in France as well as some opportunities to make a solid living. Not much different than American farming, but at least the film offers some glimpses at hope and that's enough.

36. Our Souls at Night (2017) B-

The star power of Robert Redford and Jane Fonda is able to make this an above average Netflix original. As two widows decide to explore life together, the lived in chemistry between the two of them is palpable whether it's walking around the town holding hands or a road trip to a hotel. It kind of takes its own time going where it's going, but you don't mind. Not with Bruce Dern as the leader of a coffee club, Phyllis Somerville as Fonda's concerned friend or even Iain Armitage as Fonda's grandson.

The weakest link is Matthias Schoenarts as Fonda's struggling son. Perhaps it's the accent that he can't pull off. Or maybe it's the walking cliche character he's been handed. But every scene with him qualifies as bad.

35. Jesus Christ Superstar Live (2018) B-

As far as "live" musical productions from TV go, it's a bit behind Grease Live. But it's in the same ballpark as Hairspray Live.

John Legend comes with great voice and good looks as the Messiah who seems a bit cagey about his future plans. Meanwhile, Judas (Brandon Dixon) is left with a tough decision made more complicated by his feelings that Jesus is going too far.

The musical goes in a familiar direction, particularly if you're familiar with the story. And Alice Cooper as Herod has a disappointing section, largely because his voice doesn't explode the way it needed to..

But the smaller venue does allow you to feel the excitement and the pulses of rock music and good singing (including Sara Barellies as Mary Magdalene) do make for a fun time as long as you don't take issue with the musical's story. Otherwise, maybe watch The 10 Commandments again?

34. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) B-

About 35-40 years before Crimson Tide, a similar story of a captain and the first lieutenant who clashes based on their different takes of a critical order. But here, Clark Gable plays the disgraced captain who gets another shot at running a sub that was heading to Burt Lancaster before the captain pulled rank. Good acting from the two leads who are able to keep their intensity intact. A solid supporting cast including Don Rickles and Jack Warden and firm direction by Robert Wise help keep this sub movie moving. Some storyline issues keep this from rising the ranks of the great sub films.

But at least they do manage to avoid making cheap stereotypes of the Japanese sailors who are the villains. And that's appreciated.

Tomorrow: 33-29

Hit the streets with a man looking for his identity
Travel to Paris in search of fortune and enlightenment
The organ plays so beautifully in the background
I guess that it's really over
A good man has fallen through the cracks of society.

Heading closer to the good movies and the honorable mentions:

33. I Am Another You (2017) B-

Director Nanfu Wang directs an uneven but at times compelling look at a young drifter named Dylan and what has made him this way. I may have my qualms about how close she embeds herself to Dylan, but at the same time, it's a compelling story of a man dealing with a less than stellar hand he's been dealt with by life and how he deals with it. One stand out scene has Dylan reunited with his family, but not everyone is happy about it.

There's things I'm not revealing because of spoilers, but I do think it's on Amazon Prime if you do decide to check it out.

32. Funny Face (1957) B-

Fashion photographer convinces bookworm to model for a magazine in Paris. She agrees because a leading professor in her chosen philosophy gives lectures at various cafes in that city. But perhaps something else will brew under the City of Lights?

Some very lovely dance sequences (one involving Astaire, his hat, coat and an umbrella is magical) and some nice songs (the improvised song that Astaire and Kay Thompson have to perform at the guru's apartment called Clap Yo Hands and Bonjour Paris which feels like made for the Parisian tourist bureau) mean a good time is had for the most part. There's also a strong visual sense throughout which should be credited to director Stanley Donan.

But I couldn't get past the fact that Fred is old enough to be Audrey's father. Or that accent Audrey has throughout which doesn't sound like it came from Brooklyn.

31. Pipe Dreams (2020) B-

Keep in mind that I saw a 60 minute version of this on PBS. The full film is available on Prime and features a fourth person we don't hear or see about until the end.

This documentary showcases several competitors in what would be considered the Olympics of pipe organ playing in Canada. A Chinese player deals with high expectations, a German competitor seems to have an uncanny ability with the instrument, an American from Pittsburgh tries to add some risk to his strong technique and an American from Texas tries to use his gospel and jazz roots to prevail. Over the course of the competition, bananas are eaten, people deal with doing better and worse than expected, and music is played.

For a film that encourages risktaking, it's a bit sad that it doesn't take a lot of risks in telling its story.

30. After You Left (2019) B-

Short film that features the ending of a relationship between two lesbians. One is moving on with a new job while the other keeps thinking back about their time together. While waiting, we get flashbacks to the good and bad parts of their life together.

April Maxey is able to fit in enough story in 10 minutes that you get the gist of what was going on. The ending could have been a bit better, but director Maxey has a promising future. Mark my words.

29. Hell's Hinges (1916) B-

A man of the cloth gets his first assignment trying to build a church in a wayward town in the Wild West. But one of the guns hired to run him off has some second thoughts. Could it be that he's fallen for the preacher's sister? Or is there something else at play?

A bit melodramatic in places, but this western isn't half bad despite the age. Lead William Hart reminds me some of a weathered Tim Blake Nelson. Film manages to blend in some religion/faith in with the gunplay and carousing, That last act is impressive considering when it was made.

Next Time: 28-21

Seek revenge without giving in to it.
The artist makes his comeback.
A drive in theater finds fact stranger than the films they play.
Surf around the world while the monster looks for a mate.
Break out of danger while a family tries to come home.
Keep your wits to place your mitts on some nice cash.

Let's finish the rest of the titles before the honorable mentions, shall we:

28. Dragonheart: Vengeance (2020) B-

Much better than the fifth film (and third direct to DVD/Video) than you're expecting.

Young farmer (Jack Kane) watches as his family is brutally murdered by four savage raiders. He seeks the help of a mercenary to seek revenge, but only a swashbuckling mercenary named Darius (Joseph Millson) is willing to help. The farmer also seeks the help of dragon Siveth (Helena Bonham Carter), but she's reluctant at first due to his desire of revenge rather than justice. As the trio starts to come together, it also appears that Siveth has issues with King Razvan because she wouldn't give him part of her heart in order for him to be healed after a battle.

There's several surprises in the film as well as a nice take on mercy versus revenge that churns this film throughout its 97 minute runtime. Carter does fine as the voice of the dragon and although the dots feel a bit too predictable as they are filled in, the film was fun to watch.

27. Return of the Hero (2018) B-

The Artist makes his return and this time Shoshana has him.

Anyway, when Elizabeth (Laurent) sees her sister struggling with illness, she decides to fake letters sent to her by her fiancee Neuville (Dujardin) who's away at war. Elizabeth adds juicy details that give her hope to fight through the sickness and make a full recovery. She then kills him off on page allowing her sister to find love with new suitor Nicolas. But things take a turn when Captain Neuville returns home a floundering drunk and military failure. But everyone else looks at him as a hero...so what can they do?

Funny in places (Dujardin spends several minutes playing around with a gun while trying to forestall a duel with her new lover), but also it gets kind of formulaic at times. The chemistry between the two leads carry the day and the film does manage an unexpected twist or two along the way.

26. Ruby (1977) B-

This film deserves more than its reputation as the film done by Laurie Piper right after Carrie. And yeah, there's similarities between the adaption of the Stephen King novel and this film as both involve a child who may or may not have supernatural powers.

But there's an odd quirkiness about it that allows you to ignore the unanswered questions and at times slowish pace. Ruby (Piper) isn't an entirely unsympathetic character. Sure, she stood by while gangsters shot and killed her mobster boyfriend. But she was pregnant and the murder caused her to give birth to mute Leslie. She had dreams of being a nightclub singer. And although she employs the killers at her drive-in theater, she may still have a thing for her dead boyfriend even though she has a new lover in Vince.

Since they work at a drive in, I think this could serve as a good doubleheader with JD's Revenge.

25. The Endless Summer (1966) B

When winter hits sunny California, two surfer friends decide to head around the world to ride the waves. The soundtrack by the Sandals is lovely, the scenery which changes from Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii is breathtaking and the surfing visuals are crisp. The two leads are likable in this documentary.

The narration is a bit over the map. Some of it is funny and informative, other lines come across as dated and cringeworthy.

24. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) B

A weakened Henry (Colin Clive) just wants peace and quiet away from his science. But while he may want out, his monster (Boris Karloff) escapes certain death and Dr. Praetorious (Ernest Thesiger) drags him back in with the idea of creating the monster's mate.

There's an impressive, eerie look to this film that came from the brilliant mind of James Whale. Boris Karloff offers some subtleties and quirks as the monster whether it's learning to bond with a blind hermit or the joys of drinking wine and smoking cigars. There's some solid bursts of humor and it's nice to see Dwight Frye as Praetorious's assistant.

But for a 75 minute horror film, it kind of feels a bit padded. It's a solid film, but is it better than Frankenstein? Nah.

23. Celebrity Escape Room (2020) B

In a middle of a deadly pandemic that maybe only Stephen King could have predicted years ago, it was nice to stumble across an hour with several people we know just trying to get out of a series of rooms.

Ben Stiller, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and Adam Scott are tasked with escaping from several rooms after they're captured by Jack Black who seems to have snapped because he's played the straight guy in one too many House with the Clock in its Walls/Goosebumps movies (probably not). They have to do various tasks and work together before time runs out on them. They use a red nose to get hints from Black and earn money for Red Nose Day for every puzzle solved.

It's fairly low stakes, but there's enough here that I wouldn't mind this being a yearly thing (better than trying to turn a British film into a short sequel).

22. Back to Bosnia (2005) B

A solid documentary about a family of Bosnian Muslims (including the filmmaker) return from their Florida home to where they grew up. There's some chilling sequences as we visit morticians who are trying to sort out the corpses of those killed in the ethnic cleansing. And there's some touching moments as their family meets the family who have chosen to squat at their home.

Was a bit harsh on this on first review, but after going over things with others who've seen it, I'm giving it the new and improved grade you see in front of you.

21. The Cat and the Canary (1927) B

Silent thriller film about a girl who wins the inheritance of a wealthy man after the reading of his will. But there's the catch of she has to remain sane throughout the night or the fortune heads elsewhere. And between ghosts and the guard of an insane asylum running around, it's going to be a long night.

Some solid effects for the time period, clever interstitial titles, and some good acting overcomes a bit of lack of character depth (for two men, it came down to which one was wearing pinstripes and who wasn't.) Still, it was pretty good.

Tomorrow: The Honorable Mentions begin!

Two young men travel around in search of fortune and find ecoterrorism.
A bear searches of his past and finds young girls taking their fortune.
A cop questions a suspect as an artist learns to appreciate his life and wife.
A man thinks he can control his alter ego but finds himself jumping for joy at the sight of Santa.
Men look for fortune, but find a musical among the drama.

Hopefully, I can be done with these by Sunday.

Honorable Mentions:

20. The Young Offenders (2016) B

Two dimwitted blokes going nowhere in a small Irish town hear of some bales of cocaine escaping from a drug trafficking boat, they borrow some bicycles and go on a road trip to retrieve it which is worth 7 million Euros. But they got a determined police officer who has had run-ins with one of them in hot pursuit.

Funny and full of energy, this Irish comedy was a pleasant surprise. The debut of director Peter Foott offers similar promise that other confident debuts like She's Gotta Have It, Shallow Grave and Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels had. That climax in a kitchen was...chef's kiss.

For those concerned about animals, do feel free to skip it.

19. If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) B

To me, OK documentaries tell the tale. Good ones allow you to get inside the feelings, hopes/dreams and emotions of the participants.

If a Tree Falls is a good example of the latter. As Daniel McGowan is in house arrest while trying to avoid being locked away in prison, the film dives into the formation of the Earth Liberation Front, which fought against businesses they accused of destroying the environment. When protests failed, they turned to arson to meet their goals. The FBI snapped to attention and decided to try to shut them down.

Both the ELF and prosecution are able to argue their cases without bias and manipulation by director Marshall Curry. At its center, Daniel is a compelling person who wants to see his kids grow up and be with his wife.

Definitely make time for this one.

18. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) B

Remember the animated film I was talking about in my Jimmy Neutron review? This is the title.

Po now works with the Furious 5 and appears to have bonded with Shifu. But after being overcome in an early battle, Po recognizes a symbol and decides to search for his mother. Meanwhile, Lord Shen makes his return after a lengthy exile determined to conquer China with a bold new weapon. And meanwhile, Shifu is trying to teach Po inner peace.

Bold, bright animation, good voice acting, a compelling story, good life lessons to learn: this animated film has it all. Maybe 20-25 percent of an overreliance of Po is fat jokes, but its good nature is undeniable.

And the climax was the strawberry on top of the cake.

17. Spider Thieves (2017) B

Three girls who live in a shanty town outside Santiago decide to rob wealthy apartments to get the cool things they see on TV and magazines. But the notoriety of their success brings complication to both their relationships with each other as well as their families.

There's some depth to this story that moves beyond the "breaking into rich people's places " plot. The film also looks into income disparity and the desire for a better life as well as their desire to fit in with the in crowd. I thought this was fairly well done.

And hopefully, this won't be the last Cinema International film that I get to see. School shut down for online classes the next week. They're taking a break this spring due to the pandemic.

16. What Did Jack Do? (2020) B

A police interrogator confronts a possible suspect in a disappearance: a cappuchin monkey. What did Jack do?

To say more will be spoiling the peculiar joys of this short directed by and starring Lynch as the cop. Music is sung, questions are asked and I think we have a film that captures the insanity of the last year that doesn't involve politics in any way, shape or form.

If you haven't seen it yet, see it.

15. Cutie and the Boxer (2013) B

Documentary focusing on the 40 year marriage between artist Ushio Shinohara, best known for his metal sculptures and for painting using boxing gloves with sponges in front of them and his wife Noriko who also serves as his faithful assistant. But it turns out Noriko has her own talents which may lead to some changes.

Not only do you get to peer in the art of two fascinating people, you also get to take a look at their lives and souls. Although the relationship's beginning feels a bit odd (I guess age differences are less of an issue in Japan than the US?), I do get the sense that the marriage is on solid ground. Interesting documentary, to say the least.

I do feel like they dropped the ball on a subplot about their son and his struggles to adjust.

14. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) B

In late 1880s London, a medical doctor named Henry Jekyll treats poor patients while experimenting in his lab. But his fiancee's father doesn't care for him...he humiliates him in front of their mutual friends and makes a hypothesis about there being two selves in every person in constant battle. This gets Jekyll to the lab to test that theory.

A great performance by John Barrymore and some startling transformations carry this thriller/horror film which dives into heady topics as personality and the duality of man. Some key differences from this to the Robert Lewis Stevenson novel do make this a better film, although some questions aren't quite answered satisfactorily.

I can only imagine what people in 1920 thought about this.

13. Elf (2003) B

OK, I finally got around to seeing this Christmas tale. Yes, for the first time.

Man learns that his belief that he's an elf was false (perhaps the lack of speed of building etch-a-sketches and small doorways weren't clues?) and decides to head to New York City in search of his real father, a book publisher pressured to find a big hit after poor editing ruined his last one. Buddy hopes to try to bond with his family while trying to help Walter (James Caan) find the true meaning of Christmas along the way.

Another bright funny comedy that features a solid turn from Will Ferrell as he stays on the side of ingratiating as Buddy. Supporting ably are Zooey Deschanel as a potential love interest, Mary Steenbergen as Walter's wife, and Peter Dinklage as a potential new client.

The film falters when it focuses more on homaging great Christmas movies from the past instead of standing on its own two feet. But complaints about the sentimentality of the last third fall hollow to my ears...it's a Christmas movie, what were you expecting?

Also had to take points off for that scene involving Baby, It's Cold Outside...didn't the director understand that came across as a bit creepy?

12. A Field in England (2014) B

In the middle of a battle, four weary souls decide to head towards a pub and get a drink before going their separate ways. But a fifth person comes by and demands their help unearthing a treasure.

Not sure what's always going on in this, but this mix of Apocalypse Now, The World's End and psychedelic drama is one delicious film frappe. And that one song got stuck in my head for a few weeks after which is something.

11. The Band Wagon (1953) B

I've now seen at least two Gene Kelly films. After this, I think I need to see more Fred Astaire ones.

An actor (Astaire) on the wrong side of stardom agrees to work on a Broadway play written by two old friends. Things take a turn when a top Broadway star/director hears the pitch and agrees to sign on. Unfortunately for them, he sees it as a modern day version of Faust. Meanwhile, the actor struggles to work with star ballerina Cyd Charisse who gets signed as the female lead.

Ignoring the fact some of the material has been performed already by other musicals, the film works as both a cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for as well as a story of redemption as the play becomes transformed by the cast and crew into a workable format. The last number with Astaire playing Mike Hammer in a film noir is a stand out and allows us to ignore some of the weaker numbers that lag a tad.

What's some good films he did with Ginger Rogers? I think I need to see that pairing next.

Tomorrow, the top 10:

A boy searches for his love in the Wild West. As if!
To the tunes of Hank and Dolly, a Christian looks for a missing woman.
Jazz plays while James is on the case of two musicians who find success and love in Miami.
As bracing as a hot coffee, a king searches for his place in the world.
An agent and a hot reporter debate a serial killer as In the Hall of the Mountain King plays.

And here's the rousing conclusion.

The Top 10 Films I've Seen in 2020:

10. Slow West (2015) B+

Here's another promising debut from a director...this time it's John Maclean with this modern take on the classic western.

Scottish young man (Kodi Smit-McPhee) heads to the West in search of the woman he loved but lost. He hires a bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender) to escort him and help him in his search. Of course, the bounty hunter has his own reasons to help him.

All the classic Western tropes are given a fresh spin as Maclean finds ways to subvert the expected outcomes. Plus the acting from Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn as a bounty hunter wearing a fur coat with questionable ethics.

Five years is a long wait for something new from this guy, isn't it?

9. Clueless (1995) B+

Speaking of confident directors who I haven't seen or heard of in a hot minute, here's Amy Heckerling.

On the surface, this 1990s take on Emma is a marshmallow soft comedy about a self-absorbed high schooler who learns to care for other people and for important causes. But look deeper than the matching plaid jacket/skirt outfits and you'll find more intelligence than you'd expect. And its messages of being comfortable in who you are and not trying to control everything are lessons that still work today. Throw in a supporting cast including Dan Hedaya as her no-nonsense dad, Paul Rudd as her former stepbrother turned legal assistant and Jeremy Sisto as a popular kid and this film holds up well 20 plus years later.

Did have to take points away for the Kentucky dis. As if!

8. Country Music (2019) B+

This one might be controversial. But if the director (Ken Burns) can argue that this is a movie even though it's about 14 1/2 hours, who am I to disagree with him?

Although it doesn't get into everyone who appeared in country music...with its runtime, of course it can't...what it does do well is get into the major players of the industry from the Carter family and Little Jimmie Dickens to Garth Brooks and the Judds. Thanks to the interviews and stories told, I know a lot more about the genre than I did coming in so kudos.

I just wish the last couple hours had more of the insight the previous episodes did instead of turning into a lengthy version of We Didn't Start the Fire.

7. The Wicker Man (1973) B+

Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward, The Equalizer) is a Christian cop who makes his way to Summerisle in search of a missing girl. But what he finds are more questions and strange pagan rituals. What happened to her and where is this going?

While a couple of the songs are a bit overused, the film drops us in the middle of this island with only Howie leading the way. Director Robin Hardy is able to ratchet up the tension between the policeman trying to do his job and the town until we reach the climax. And Christopher Lee is memorable as the civil, determined governor of the island.

And I don't think we can forget Britt Ekland as the beguiling Willow, either.

6. Anatomy of a Murder (1959) B+

Wily defense attorney (James Stewart) ends up defending an Army Lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) accused of murder of the man who raped his wife (Lee Remick). But the prosecutor has gotten the help of the Michigan Attorney General (George C. Scott) to win the case for the state. Who prevails?

The film does great at diving into the feelings and thoughts of both sides of the case which is kind of unusual for a film that primarily takes place in a courtroom. The film takes on the feel of a heavyweight bout with a man's life and freedom for the prize. Throw in a nifty jazz score and Eve Arden as Stewart's secretary and it's a first rate film.

Although it does have a few unanswered questions, the film does manage to give a blueprint for future courtroom shows like Law and Order, JAG and Murder One.

5. Some Like It Hot (1959) A-

And now for something completely different.

A couple of struggling musicians become witnesses of a mob massacre and agree to a job that will take them to safety in Miami. The catch is that they'll have to dress up and pretend to be women to fit in with a traveling jazz group. Complications ensue when one of them (Tony Curtis) falls for vocalist Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) while the other (Jack Lemmon) is pursued by millionaire Osgood (Joe E. Brown).

Film's a bit long and the violence does clash with the humor at times. But thanks to the witty script from Billy Wilder, a bravura performance from Monroe and real chemistry from Curtis and Lemmon, the film rises from what could have been a cringeworthy premise in lesser hands to a hilarious comedy with some heart.

Also, a kudos to the film never losing sight of the consequences of the character's actions.

4. The Big Heat (1953) A-

I kept getting this film confused with Public Enemy for a long time based on the description.

But once I saw it, I think I can separate the two now. An honest cop (Glenn Ford) is facing a tough week. He lost a key witness in a cop's suicide case and his wife to a car explosion. But he's determined to get to the bottom of both cases even if it kills him.

Thanks to Fritz Lang, this is as bracing as a hot cup of coffee and as dark as I've seen from film noir. And its tight pace allows for the tension to rise until it explodes towards the end. Gloria Grahame is fine as a gangster's woman who ends up proving to play a key role and Lee Marvin proves to be dastardly as the gangster. Ford is fine as the stolid cop who at times lets his desire for revenge overcome his oath of following the law.

It's definitely a very good film, but follow it with something light and mindless.

3. Black Panther (2018) A-

This is one of the last films I saw before the world went south.

Wakanda is a beautifully realized world full of lush beauty. It's also the home of vibranium which figures prominently in the Marvelverse. Under leader T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Wakanda is a peaceful country that tries to stay out of the way of the world posing as a third-world nation. But this legacy is threatened by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who has his own beef with T'Challa that may have involved their fathers.

Boseman is superb as T'Challa with Jordan matching him as perhaps Marvel's best villain so far. Letitia Wright and Lupita N'Yongo are good as fierce Wakandan warriors. The film doesn't skimp on the story either as they allow Killmonger to have enough room to make his case and he has his points. Ryan Coogler allows the story to keep moving and not get overwhelmed by the CGI, but there's some super set pieces whether T'Challa is fighting for his throne at the waterfall, the driving sequences at Busan, South Korea or the final fight at the train station.

Due to the primarily African-American cast and the story that it tells, Black Panther breaks the at times cookie-cutter mold that plagues other Marvel films. And that soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar is great as well.

2. Sweet Smell of Success (1957) A-

This has all the bite of an arsenic cookie.

Small time publicist Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is desperate to get his clients the attention from big time newspaper columnist JJ Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster). To get his approval, Sidney will have to break up Hunsecker's sister Susan (Susan Harrison) with jazz musician Steve (Martin Milner) through any means necessary.

Lancaster oozes menace as Hunsecker who can make or break many people in New York City and is more than willing to do so. As Sidney, Curtis comes across as an opportunistic snake willing to do what it takes to move up the ladder. It's clear that they see something in each other, but Sidney appears to have something that JJ does not.

Film is well written and directed and it feels like a bad car accident that you can't look away from but you feel compelled to watch. But thanks to the run time and the wonderful way they shot New York City, Sweet Smell of Success does end up being quite successful indeed.

1. M (1931) A

Berlin cops desperately search for a man who murders children. As it turns out, this also draws the attention of the criminal element who wants him brought to justice due to the police putting pressure on them during their search.

Fritz Lang draws a compelling yarn of the underbelly of Berlin as he uses tracking shots to amp up the tension. Peter Lorre makes a memorable turn as Hans who is a big fan of In the Hall of the Mountain King. The whistling of the tune proves to be chilling. Hans goes on a roller coaster ride throughout M's running time, moving from menacing to pathetic. The film raises questions with no easy answers about who is ultimately responsible for the children of society.

To correct an earlier review of mine, this is now my fourth Lang film (Metropolis, Destiny, The Big Heat, M) and three of them have been very good to excellent. This joins Metropolis as a masterpiece.

Next, we'll start up with the 2021 viewings!

La Souriante Madame Beudet (The Smiling Madam Beudet) (1923)

A woman is stuck in a loveless marriage to an obnoxious man given to chortling and pretending to commit suicide by gun (as a joke). She dreams of escape, perhaps in the arms of a tennis player in a magazine. One night while he's off to watch Faust, she decides to slip a couple of bullets in his gun. But she starts having second thoughts...

Directed by Germaine Dulac, the feminism in this piece mostly shines through. Its focus is clearly on the Madame on the title. The film explores things from her viewpoint, such as why would her husband lock the piano so she couldn't play it. And it doesn't flinch when it comes to exploring the awful ways he treats her.

The ending felt a bit abrupt and unconvincing. The film never really seemed to kick into gear for me.

I'm glad that I'm getting to explore new types of film in this 2021 list challenge. I do hope they get better for me.

Welcome to Pine Lake (2020)

Seen previews for this documentary for a while now. When I found it on YouTube, I had to give it a go.

Pine Lake is a sleepy little town outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The mayor, city council, chief of police and judge are all women. It has a beach, various concerts and is generally welcoming to all. Seems like a nice, quiet place to live, right?

But this town has a secret. An aggressive police force has turned one of its main roads into a traffic trap. The town also feels split between City Hall and the residents inside town, most of whom are white, and the African American businesses on the main road.

What's does Pine Lake do to fix their problems and start to grow?

Interviews with the mayor and several business owners allow you to see the gaps and lack of communication issues clearly enough. There's an interesting contrast between the mayor who's struggling on what to do to fix things and her efforts to volunteer for Stacey Abrams in her race for Georgia governor. She comes across as a cross between Jane Fonda and Glenn Close.

Perhaps more interesting are the stories of the chief of police and judge, both of whom are African American. The chief came in originally as a cop for a primarily white force and seems to have cleaned things up. They do more talking with the residents and the relationships there seem to have gotten better. Although it's a bit disturbing that there's an allegation made by a man who pointed out that he was being watched closely by a cop while enjoying a swim with his young daughter. The judge runs her court with fairness and compassion and a bit of tough love if necessary. She started out as the solicitor to the court and moved up.

Perhaps if the film had focused more on their stories or did more of a deep dive in how a town that's seemingly woke and liberal is able to work through the racial divide, this might have been a better movie. But when the biggest decision is made off-screen, it doesn't help with keeping your attention. Much like the town, the film seems content to look at the surface of what's going on and not moving much past that.

Despite hitting a few hot topics, Welcome to Pine Lake turns out to be disappointingly shallow.