Movies Watched, July 2020

Still from “Da 5 Bloods” by Spike Lee

Netflix is the multiplex now, and it feels like a bit of a gift every time the service rolls out a new original movie direct to our living rooms. In July I was enthusiastic about getting to see “The Old Guard” and “Da 5 Bloods” in their “first runs.” Both were made exclusively for Netflix, and both feature pedigrees I’m inclined to favor: Charlize Theron giving, again, everything she has in an action thriller; and Spike Lee diving into the legacy of the Vietnam War with an unhinged, transfixing performance by Delroy Lindo. But both left me unimpressed and worse, with this nagging feeling that the filmmakers just didn’t think it mattered that much whether they delivered the best possible movies they could. In fact, looking back over the past few years of Netflix’s original films, with the clear exception of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” they almost all fit this description: flashy, star-studded productions that just didn’t feel fully committed to their own success. Forget it Jake, it’s Netflix.

To be fair maybe this isn’t just Netflix; maybe it’s just another kind of “new normal” we must all accept in this time where everything is up for revision. Take Tom Hanks in “Greyhound” (the first thing I’ve ever watched on Apple TV+). It’s a taut, efficient little wartime thriller and a fun ride, but at its edges—the perfunctory love story, the rough CG effects, the scant running time—it still felt lower stakes and less ambitious than a “true” feature film release. As a genre, direct-to-streaming is higher profile and frequently higher-budget than direct-to-video, but I’m not sure it’s proven yet that it can be higher quality.

I watched seventeen total movies in July. Here’s the full list.

  1. The Adventures of Tintin” (2011) ★★★
    Rewatched. Better and less distractingly uncanny valley-esque than I remembered.
  2. Missing Link” (2019) ★★
    Amusing but insubstantial, and quixotically stop-motion-animated by Laika Studio.
  3. Blood on the Moon” (1948) ★★★★
    A very manly Robert Mitchum-led western, gorgeously shot and begging for a proper film restoration.
  4. Greyhound” (2020) ★★★½
    Totally acceptable, sturdy, dad-optimized battleship thriller.
  5. Station West” (1948) ★★
    Noir-ish western with a completely implausible badass for a protagonist.
  6. The Old Guard” (2020) ★½
    Charlize Theron gives us so much, yet this overly serious movie serves her so poorly.
  7. Emma.” (2020) ★★★★
    Rewatched. Tried to figure out what annoyed some people about this movie, but I had too good of a time to bother.
  8. Captain Blood” (1935) ★★★★
    Bracingly entertaining, old fashioned pirate highjinks that my kids hated.
  9. Mad Max 2” (1981) ★★★★
    Rewatched. It would’ve been depressing if it wasn’t so excellent.
  10. Akeelah and the Bee” (2006) ★★★
    By the numbers but made with feeling.
  11. One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961) ★★★★
    Aesthetically gorgeous; I’m not sure CG animation has equaled it.
  12. Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018) ★★★★½
    Rewatched. Possibly the high water mark for action sequels.
  13. Da 5 Bloods” (2020) ★★
    So much talent and so much effort, and yet so many shortcuts taken.
  14. Duplicity” (2009) ★★★★
    Rewatched. Crackerjack little corporate adventure film from a time when they used to make movies for grown ups.
  15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (2007) ★★★★½
    Harrowingly authentic story of a young woman helping her friend seek an illegal abortion.
  16. The Secret World of Arrietty” (2010) ★★★
    Less ambitious—and highfalutin—than other Ghibli productions, for the better.
  17. Destroy All Monsters” (1968) ★★½
    A true cheese-fest featuring Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and more kaiju in what amounts to an episode of “Star Trek.”

This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I watched in June, in May, in April, in March, in February, in January, and a full list of everything I watched in 2019, in 2018, in 2017 and in 2016. And, if you’re really interested, you can follow along with my movie diary at