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Comments on the capsules: Hillbilly Elegy; Vanguard; and IRL




Hillbilly Elegy

Available on Netflix November 24, 2020

Movie Rating: 6/10

Doomed from the start – hatred for JD Vances’ blockbuster memoir combined with a growing dislike of director Ron Howards Americana the movie-style world translates into scathing reviews. It doesn’t help that Howards’ direct adaptation of the less effective parts of the book takes nearly an hour to prepare.

The version of Hillbilly Elegy told in this Netflix movie is about Vance (Gabriel Basso), a young man from Ohio, who manages to make the transition from a humble and poor education to military service, to a degree in Ohio State and attending Yale Law School. The sad thing is that the source material is so much more than that.

A hybrid narrative, Vances’ book follows the migration of the Appalachian Mountains from Kentucky to the more industrialized Ohio. He’s been criticized on many levels, but Vances’ deeply personal take on his family history is fascinating.

In contrast, the movie Howards, written by Vanessa Taylor (see The Shape of Water), mostly eschews these elements in favor of a familiar family drama. The film suffers from a lack of clear point of view. If only Taylors’ script would have been more ambitious and approached the material with a pirated documentary-type film similar to the exuberant Adam McKays The Big Short.

Sadly, many viewers will check out the soapy elements early on and never see Glenn Closes an Oscar-worthy moment at the end of the film. And when that moment arrives, it’s hard not to be moved by a fiery turn.

Hillbilly Elegy is a low effort of interest only for excellent supporting performance.


Rating of the movie: 5/10

Available for rent on various streaming platforms

Jackie Chan is an incredible actor with a crossover appeal that spans decades. His remarkable physique is legendary. Despite some fun and well-choreographed sequences, Vanguard does not live up to its usual standards.

In the film, Chan plays the director of a security firm (named Vanguard) tasked with protecting their high-end clients from international assassins. When agency agents foil an assassination attempt, the assassins turn to the Marks Daughter to keep the pressure on. The action quickly moves to Africa, where Chan and his team must brave an attack from armed mercenaries and the dangers of the region.

One notorious scene shows a CGI lion threatening everyone. The lion’s effects are terrible, as are some of the hokey melee fights. The unbalanced final chase sequence is a jokey mashup of acrobatic driving and poorly rendered special and visual effects. And the bad guys are hopelessly incompetent.

Vanguard fails to take advantage of the re-team of director Stanley Tong and Chan, who found success with Supercop and, most notably, Rumble in the Bronx in 1995. But fans of martial arts films have fun sets. .


Review Rating: 7/10

Streaming on various platforms

Director Ricardo Perez-Selskys’ creative love story traps its protagonist, Ian (Chase Hinton), in a very modern situation. Ian is a struggling artist looking for the love of his life online. His friend, a successful fellow painter, warns him that he’s putting too much pressure on himself. But just when Ian is ready to give up, he meets Sofia (Johanna Sol) on an online dating platform.

After talking with Sofia, Ian thinks she might be the perfect woman for him. But there is a catch, Sofia is in Mexico to take care of her sick mother. Over time, Ian begins to wonder if this ideal match is real.

IRL, an abbreviation for in real life, will resonate with millions of people who now find their daily routine carried out virtually. With the virus, online dating platforms have pushed video options and even suggested virtual dating. Although the IRI was created before the shutdown, the narrative seems more timely today than ever.

Hinton is a solid lead. He is good at playing tortured and frustrated. Given that much of the action takes place over the phone as Ian communicates with Sofia, the film relies almost exclusively on Hinton’s performance. It dominates screen time, making the most of a series of one-sided conversations.

And finally, we get a respectable appearance of Eric Roberts in a tiny but well done indie. He plays Ian’s bossy father, a role Roberts seems to enjoy. Please give me more of this from one of the hardworking actors in low budget cinema. Check it out, Roberts has 601 IMDB credits and counting.

IRL might annoy some viewers early on, but stick with it. The ending is a bit provocative, which makes the difficult journey worth it.


A Tomatometer-endorsed reviewer Jonathan W. Hickman is also an entertainment lawyer, college professor, novelist, and filmmaker. He is a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, the Southeastern Film Critics Association, and the Georgia Film Critics Association. For more information on Jonathan, visit: or

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