HBO managed to depict this chapter of the Chernobyl saga in a fraction of the time and never relied on manufactured melodrama to pad things out. Chernobyl 1986 tells a watered-down version of the same story, adding nothing new or revelatory – not even interesting characters – which makes its existence is sort-of superfluous. And why settle for a simple vanilla cone when a scrumptious sundae is available?
In the Heights is filled with a wide variety of other colorful characters whose stories may not get as much screen time, but are just as engaging and wonderfully realized by a terrific ensemble cast. Even running a potentially butt-numbing 143 minutes, there are almost no throwaway moments. Nearly every scene, whether presented in song, dance or dialogue, is an important component to the narrative. There’s even some relevant – and poignant – social commentary to be found, though it never drags the viewer down with heavy-handed sermonizing. And make sure to stay through the closing credits for the film’s biggest laugh.
The attention to ‘80s period detail is impressive, so Shoplifters of the World might work as a nostalgia piece for some, but probably only kindred spirits who share Kijak’s gushing admiration for The Smiths and an equally lowly opinion of anyone who only know “How Soon is Now.” Frequently interspersed with video and interview footage of the band, the film mostly preaches to the converted. Everyone else might find it kind of pretentious.
Despite an harrowing final act, Minari concludes with a quietly optimistic denouement, more hopeful than heartbreaking. Very deliberately paced, it ain’t the kind of film one would frequently revisit, but most could probably relate to its story and themes…Korean or not.
The narrative begins to unravel near the end, mainly because it’s so loosely-knit to begin with. But until then, Lapsis is chock-full of satiric commentary, mostly about conformity and greed. Quantum could just as easily be Amazon, Nestle, Apple or the phone service I have the privilege of paying 200 bucks a months for…companies whose monopolizing business practices not-only go unquestioned by John Q. Public, we’re ultimately unable to avoid them. For a grassroots piece of budget-conscious sci-fi, Lapsis ends up being surprisingly perceptive.
Judas and the Black Messiah is also massively entertaining. Not only does it shine a light on an important African-American revolutionary – and reminds us that not much has changed since then – the film features vivid, engaging characters, authentic dialogue & production design and a killer soundtrack (both the score and H.E.R.’s Oscar winning song, “Fight for You”). Easily one of 2020’s best.