2021 Movie Reviews: Bad Trip / The Father / Godzilla vs Kong / Hillbilly Elegy

One good, two bads and one truly ugly motherfucker.

Bad Trip

The Eric Andre Show is the stupidest thing on television and I absolutely love it, so I was really looking forward to Andre‘s riff on the Bad Grandpa, wild, real-life pranks wrapped around a flimsy story format. What I got was something far lamer than I could ever imagine, a tired, raunchy stunt movie that might have seemed revelatory if released ten years ago, but now just feels old hat and relatively tame. The one bright spot in the film is Tiffany Haddish who continues to prove she’s one of the most talented comedic actors in the industry. She’s more or less wasted here, but there’s a small handful of hearty laughs the film delivers almost entirely because of her. Grade: C (Streaming on Netflix)

The Father

I walked into this major Oscar contender expecting a beautifully acted, but rather traditional Alzheimers drama. What I got was one of the most inventive storytelling devices I saw all year, putting the viewer in the confused head space of someone experiencing dementia. You’re never really sure when anything is happening, over what amount of time anything is happening and even if it’s actually happening at all. Taking over the role from Frank Langella, who won a Tony for the stage production, Anthony Hopkins plays an 80-something year old man whose grip on reality is rapidly deteriorating. His daughter, played by Olivia Colman, is trying to figure out how to properly care for him, while his asshole son-in-law ,who may not even exist, played by Rufus Sewell, wants to chuck him out with the garbage. If this sounds terribly depressing, it absolutely is. The film completely destroys you and if you ever had a family member go through this terrible disease, this might be too much to handle. For those looking for an exceptional drama that more than earns its tearjerker moments, look no further. Anthony Hopkins gifts us arguably the greatest performance of his film career at 83 years of age, while Olivia Colman and the rest of the ensemble deliver riveting work. Maybe it goes for broke a little too hard towards the end and concludes at a place anybody will have seen coming, but this is a smart, pointed film that succeeds in showing you what it might feel like to be brutalized by Alzheimers. It might just ruin your night. Grade: B+ ($19.99 rental on Amazon)

Godzilla vs Kong

Anti-Godzilla propaganda, as my friend would put it, packaged to look like a monsters clash picture positioning Godzilla as the villain. On top of the misrepresentation, Godzilla vs. Kong has possibly the flimsiest plot I’ve seen in an action film. Kong escapes his facility, Godzilla is coming to meet him and military personnel are all wrapped up in the DRAMMAAAAA! Excellent character actors like Alexander Skarsgaard and Brian Tyree Henry sleepwalk their way through the material, with Millie Bobbie Brown excelling somewhat only because she’s too young to know this is just a paycheck grab. Why couldn’t one of the older actors tell her? The visual effects on the other hand are superb. When Godzilla and King Kong finally fight, the movie becomes extremely entertaining if only for a combined total of 25 minutes. I’d have been more happy with a 25 minute short film with no context, just monster smashing. As it stands, we get one of the most bloated and sluggish blockbusters of recent memory. Grade: C- (Streaming on HBOMax)

Hillbilly Elegy

Stupid is as stupid does in Ron Howard‘s fascinatingly tone-deaf ode to Appalachian cousin fuckers, Hillbilly Elegy. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to catch a movie that is not only awful, but so self-serious it thinks it’s a masterpiece. This was the equivalent of a heroin-fueled family member promising you that their clean. Which makes sense because Amy Adams plays a oxycontin (“hillbilly heroin”) addict trying to get clean and take care of her son, while Glenn Close (doing an impression of a constipated gopher) plays her judgmental mother. The whole thing has the emotional intelligence of a bad LifeTime Original Movie, with every dramatic moment undercut by stupidity so aggressive, you can’t help but break into laughter. Every “You Stupid Bitch, I’ll Kill Ya!” moment seems like an excerpt from a Here Comes Honey Boo Boo/Cops hybrid. The characters don’t have arcs and their outright refusal to change or attempt to see things in any kind of different light provides an unnerving peek into the inherent stubbornness and irrational fears of MAGA country. My god, Trailer Park Boys is more genuine than this. Grade: D- (Streaming on Netflix)

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