I admit, I’m way behind on my film watching for 2020. I’ve only seen 14 films from 2020 by the middle of October. For me, that is absolutely pathetic. I need to get that number up. But in the meantime, I think it’s important for me to look back on this years films, and reassess my thoughts as of right now.
Let’s start at the bottom, and work our way up.
14. The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson
I don’t even want to give this the satisfaction of calling this “the worst movie of 2020,” because that would imply that this travesty is even a movie. This is a gravely offensive, and horrifically awful… thing, that is so tone-deaf and tasteless, that you have to wonder how anyone on set thought this was a good idea. They could not have been more disrespectful to both Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman if they had tried, especially as it recreates the graphic murders in a manner so tasteless and disgusting that it actually made me sick to my stomach. Oh and this has so little substance that the director has to resort to using archival footage to stretch this paper-thin abomination to feature length runtime. This can burn in a fire.
13. The Grudge
This movie can only be enjoyed as a comedy, because this is an objectively awful film. This film’s composition is so sloppy that it left me feeling confused as I struggled to follow the insanely over-convoluted story. To put it bluntly, the pacing in this film is an absolute nightmare. The film’s attempts at frights are stupid jump scares you can see coming a mile away, and the characters are non-entities. Despite the fact that this was the first film released this decade, it’s going to be quickly forgotten about, and rightfully so.
This easily takes the cake for the most confused and lost film of the year. This film genuinely seems like it has no idea if this wants to be an adventure film, or a broad comedy, and thus fails at both. Robert Downey Jr. in particular seems completely lost, as he mumbles and grumbles his way through a role in which half of his dialogue is animal noises, and the other half was recorded in post. It feels as if there are entire scenes missing, like they forgot to film them, as some last-minute narration desperately tries to fill in the gaps. It honestly feels like nobody was in charge of trying to reel this monstrosity in, and as a result, the entire product just clashes together, culminating in an unforgettable climax where the titular character is farted on by a dragon as he attempts to retrieve CGI bagpipes from inside her rectum. This is peak cinema.
11. Fantasy Island
Made by the same people that made “Truth or Dare,” and while this film is a slight improvement on that film, it is far less hilarious. There are some good ideas in here, and some scenes are even kind of okay-ish. But for a horror film, isn’t even the least bit scary or frightening, the film’s plot twist is completely nonsensical, and the film’s tonal inconstancies are jarring to say the least.
10. The Call of the Wild
Chris Sanders (of “Lilo & Stitch” and “How to Train Your Dragon” fame) tries his hand at live action directing in this misguided adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel. His inexperience at directing live action really shows as his direction feels like a live-action cartoon, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Even worse is the decision to make all the animals, including the main dog, CGI, and not very good CGI either. The dog and the other animals never look like they’re really there interacting in the scene with the humans, which does nothing but create a constant distraction that severely hurts the film. That being said, some of the backgrounds look really nice and provide a good atmosphere of nature, Harrison Ford (for as little we see of him) is actually pretty good, and there are some thrilling action scenes, so it’s not a total waste of time; but it’s not really a good film.
9. The Hunt
A surprisingly biteless political satire that will make you wonder why this film even caused such an outcry in the first place. The film mostly shies away from divisive political topics, and as such, comes across feeling like it’s terrified to grapple with either side; not exactly the makings of a great political satire. The action’s alright (although not as gory as I was expecting), Betty Gilpin’s pretty good in the lead role, and it’s a breezy, relatively painless watch, but I was expecting a film far more brazen than this.
8. I Still Believe
This true story about Christian songwriter Jeremy Camp and his late wife’s battle with cancer is a competent if unremarkable faith-based film. This film does attempt to grapple with genuine issues and questions that Christians and others have pondered for millennia, mainly why a loving God would allow his followers to suffer greatly. The film doesn’t really delve too deep into the issue, but it at the very least raises them, which is a step up from other Christian films I’ve seen. It does a great deal to capture the painful emotions a couple going through this terrible ordeal would be feeling. The performances are solid, if unremarkable, the chemistry between the two leads is really great and believable, and some of imagery is actually quite stark and evocative. Had the film taken more story risks, and if they’d fixed the pacing this could’ve been great. As-is, it’s just fine, but it likely won’t compel many non-Christians to tune in.
7. Sonic the Hedgehog
The filmmakers of this film deserve a lot of credit for going back and fixing the absolutely dreadful initial design for Sonic the Hedgehog. And heck, the movie itself actually isn’t all that bad. Sure it’s a little bit cliché and derivative, this is a mostly entertaining buddy road trip comedy. The jokes are funny, the action’s pretty good, Jim Carrey is a surprisingly great Dr. Eggman, and the chemistry between the characters is solid. Not perfect, but I would’ve loved this as a kid, and it’s a decent, solid comedy adventure as an adult.
Not one of Pixar’s better entries, but a solid outing nonetheless. The world building doesn’t really feel as rich as it should, but there are some creative ideas in here and the film does take advantage of its setting, at least a little. The voice acting from Tom Holland and Chris Pratt is really good, a lot of the jokes land, and the excellent ending for this film elevates it quite a bit. The overall product isn’t great, but it’s an enjoyable little ride.
Is this an “Alien” imitation? Sure. But it’s a really solid one. It’s an old-fashioned monster movie, with good performances and good production values. It redefines nothing and the characters are pretty bland, but for what it is, and what it sets out to do, this is actually a pretty darn good film, and an entertaining time.
4. The Personal History of David Copperfield
Armando Iannucci sought to take the gargantuan Dickens novel “David Copperfield” and simplify it to a 2 hour film. He’s mostly successful, despite it’s rough pacing problems. The acting is great from the ensemble, there are lots of genuinely hilarious moments, a light sprinkling of metacommentary (although not done as effectively as Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women”) and a playful, dream-like, fantastical tone. The pacing is easily the film’s biggest problem as it jumps from one set piece to another while hardly giving the audience any room to breathe, and in its worst moments coming across like a CliffsNotes of the original novel. This is an entertaining, playful comedy, but that one key issue holds it back from true greatness.
A film for anyone who thought Nolan’s previous films were too simple and straightforward. There are some great ideas here, John David Washington and Robert Pattinson are fantastic, the action is genuinely spectacular and creative, and the editing (as always with Nolan’s films) is immaculate. That being said, this is Nolan’s most ambitious film to date, which is both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. This film is exceptionally confusing, and I’m not entirely convinced that everything makes sense. They probably could’ve benefited from reeling Nolan in a hair. And yet, despite it’s confusing story, I was constantly riveted by what I was seeing on screen, a testament to Nolan’s talent as a filmmaking. It’ll probably take a few more rewatches for me to wrap my head around this, but this is definitely good enough to check out at least once.
Just simply delightful and charming. This is the best adaptation of “Emma” I’ve seen yet. It’s beautifully shot, the acting is fantastic, especially from Anya Taylor-Joy, and it largely stays true to Austen’s original text, while very, very subtly modernizing it. All in all, this is just a nice, comforting little film.
1. The Invisible Man
Leigh Whannell takes a classic story and completely reenergizes and reinvigorates it by taking a scenario that’s already real to so many people; domestic abuse; and cranking the fear and paranoia up to eleven. The result is a terrifying, chilling horror film that is able to make things like simple camera pans absolutely spine tingling. Elisabeth Moss does excellent work, the directing by Whannell is outstanding, and the horror atmosphere is rich. A film that can be enjoyed both as a subtextual allegory about gaslighting in abusive relationships, and as a straightforward horror film, “The Invisible Man” easily outshines the rest of the 2020 films so far by a pretty significant margin.