The Films of 2020
(Recommended Films Released This Year)
The Vast of Night
This little gem about a 1950’s small town UFO encounter is a must watch. There are so many original cinematic touches that work a charm. I loved the ‘fades to black’. The overlapping dialogue is energetic and realistic. The soundscape is brilliant. The camerawork is mind-blowing. The ending is pitch perfect. Great storytelling!
9.0 / 10
Oksana Akinshina (from the legendary 2002 film “Lilya 4-ever”) stars as a doctor assigned to a remote Russian facility to study a Soviet cosmonaut, whose mission crash landed under mysterious circumstances. I was fully immersed in 1983 cold-war Russia. The mood was eerie. The effects were seamless. The story riveting.
9.0 / 10
The Burnt Orange Heresy
Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, Mick Jagger & Donald Sutherland are all in top form with a superb script. The film deals with fine art… the criticism of art… the truth of art… and the theft of art. It is brilliant little heist movie that will have you thinking about every spoken word.
8.8 / 10
Lost Girls and Love Hotels
Alexandra Daddario gives one of the best performances of 2020. She stars as Margaret, an American in Tokyo, who lives as a flight attendant instructor by day, and a submissive broken sex-addict for random strangers to enjoy by night. It is moody and atmospheric… Shot beautifully and acted impeccably. It is an exercise in blistering cold cynicism, with a smattering of hope and romance.
8.7 / 10
The ethereal beauty, Liu Yifei, stars as the legendary Chinese character, “Mulan”. This is a grand epic that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. The battle sequences are breathtaking. The cinematography is gorgeous. However, the main reason to watch is the superb central performance by Liu Yifei. I was fully immersed in this version of the famous Chinese folk tale.
8.5 / 10
“Ozark” star, Julia Garner stars as a young, naive assistant to a film producer. Only in the position for five short weeks, she is beginning to realize that the entire office is complicit with the boss’ culture of sexual harassment and abuse of power. The film closely observes one day in the life of this young woman’s job… from lights on to lights off.
8.2 / 10
Tzi Ma stars in this wistful tale of the lifelong memories of a Taiwanese immigrant to the United States. “Tigertail” is a patient film with superb performances and a truly touching conclusion that will warm the soul.
7.4 / 10
The Trip to Greece
The fourth in the renowned travel series is yet another success from Steven Coogan and Rob Brydon. While none of the sequels have fully lived up to the masterful 2011 original, all of them have had solid laughs and surprising poignancy.
7.3 / 10
Come to Daddy
Elijah Wood is summoned by his estranged father to visit him after vanishing for thirty years. When he arrives, things get very creepy indeed. This film bounces from thriller to comedy to horror… all in a breezy ninety-minute clip. This wacky trip entertained throughout.
7.3 / 10
The Man Standing Next (KOR)
Lee Byung-hun stars, in this true story, as the right hand man to South Korea’s 1979 President. The film details his actions in the forty days that preceeded his decision to assassinate that President. The film is a well made and superbly acted recreation of that event.
7.0 / 10
Mark Wahlberg has teamed up with director, Peter Berg, yet again, to deliver a solid run-of-the-mill cop corruption drama that hits all of the familiar beats. It is meat and potatoes film-making that comfortably clears the bar for acceptable entertainment.
6.5 / 10
Chris Hemsworth delivers a solid action flick with “John Wick” level visuals and choreography. It is fast paced and generally easy to follow. Character development is at a bare minimum, but it manages to wow with some cool one-take sequences and great fight scenes.
6.4 / 10
Escape from Pretoria
Daniel Radcliffe heads to prison in this true story of a 1970’s group of freedom fighters and truth-tellers in apartheid South Africa. Their ingenious plan makes for a decent film — although it does skip over some key plot points that would have been interesting to see.
6.3 / 10
Hugh Jackman gives a terrific performance in this true-life story of a high-school superintendent who embezzled millions from his own school district. The film slightly over-estimates its magnitude, but nevertheless manages to hold interest throughout.
6.2 / 10
(Forgettable Films in the Middle of the Pack)
The Social Dilemma
This is a documentary that tells us we are addicted to social media… and that it is bad. No shit! I don’t disagree with much of the information in “The Social Dilemma”, but it failed to offer up concrete solutions. The fact is that society is getting worse and we are all simply along for the ride. This doc announces the obvious and changes absolutely nothing.
5.8 / 10
Listen, director Kelly Reichardt’s films are always extremely methodical… verging on slow. They are always gorgeously shot and tremendously well acted. However, sometimes the languid pace masquerades as cinematic depth. Sometimes it is simply dull.
5.8 / 10
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as the pilot of a hijacked plane heading to Paris. The movie has some tense moments, but flounders due to multiple stretches of dead-air and a poorly written character in Vedat, the hijacker with a change of heart. The film feels cheap.
5.3 / 10
Eurovision Song Contest
“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” is a harmless spoof of the infamous competition. The jokes are mild. The romance is tepid. The songs are thankfully better than the real contest normally delivers. At two hours, it is far too long. And the best thing about the film, “Volcano Man”, is barely even featured. A mediocre effort.
4.6 / 10
The Night Clerk
A man with aspergers syndrome gets a gig working the night shift at a local hotel. In order to learn how to interact socially, he records the guests and mimics their conversations. One night, he sees something that he shouldn’t have. It all feels sub-par and not daring enough.
4.5 / 10
This Korean zombie flick is filled with clichés. It feels like a weaker version of the 2018 French film, “The Night Eats the World”. There are far too many scenes that strain credulity. Park Shin-hye is the film’s strongest piece… but even her talents cannot save the experience.
4.4 / 10
A weak-sauce rip-off of “Groundhog Day”, but with particularly unlikable characters who never really show the growth that Bill Murray did in that 1993 classic. It is all so slight and insignificant. I chuckled twice.
4.2 / 10
The sequel to “Train to Busan” does so many things poorly compared to its predecessor. The effects, action and zombies are all so overtly CGI that they have zero weight or visual impact… It is like watching a video game. Also, the characters are all rather thinly drawn, so we don’t really care much about them or their survival.
3.8 / 10
This is a brilliant concept for a 30-minute short film, dragged kicking and screaming out to a 97-minute feature. This metaphorical tale of suburban angst and relationship boredom has very little to say and no place to go. It becomes aimless and meandering.
3.5 / 10
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Charlie Kaufman is so odd that his films become very hit or miss. Sometimes he hits and misses in the same film. In this absurdist tale, there are stretches of fascinating dialogue performed masterfully by the entire cast. However, the overall abstraction becomes so manic and personal that only its creator, Kaufman himself, could make any sense of it. In classic form, he leaves it so vague that some rabid fans will claim genius where there is none.
3.5 / 10
The Old Guard
An overlong, overly self-serious mess. Charlize Theron headlines an immortal group of ethnically and sexually diverse soldiers, who are being hunted for their DNA by an absurdly cheesy bad guy and his henchmen. Remove Theron from the production and you have a straight-to-hulu’s bargain bin movie that would be seen by no one.
3.4 / 10
One of my most anticipated 2020 films lands with a dull thud. Excluding credits, this movie is 78 minutes long… and 75 of those minutes are spent listening to Hanks scream orders like, “Left Full Rudder! Bearing Two Niner Zero! Hard to Starboard!” There is zero character development… and Elisabeth Shue (who gets second billing) has exactly 15 seconds of screen-time. What a disappointment.
3.4 / 10
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee’s 2020 effort starts off nicely, but dwindles into implausible absurdity in the second half. Some weak performances, and a plot that goes completely off the rails, makes for a massively disappointing film. Also, the “message” is so on-the-nose that it feels like the director is winking at us while whispering, “Do ya get it?”
3.2 / 10
An aging Grandma, who is grumpy and rude with everyone in her life, steals tens of thousands from a stranger, who dies on the bus seat right next to her. Her actions endanger her 11-year-old grandson’s life, and she learns nothing in the process. This bitter character is a selfish moron… and we are supposed to find her charming?
3.1 / 10
This biopic was one of my most anticipated of 2020. Sadly, it is as dull as a Wikipedia entry… sprinkled with two scenes of anachronistic music and a secondary character reciting Google search statistics. Yes, you read that correctly. Ethan Hawke is as reliable as they come… but even his talents are insufficient in bringing this dead script to life.
3.1 / 10
A decidedly uncinematic recording of the actual Broadway hit play. The story is very exposition heavy. It plays out like a high-school musical that conveniently glosses over some inconvenient historical facts. This should have been developed into an actual film or remained as a play. As it stands, unless you love the music (I didn’t), this is a bust.
3.0 / 10
(Movies That Just Didn’t Work on Any Level)
While, in principle, I support the notion of liberal elites violently executing deplorable Trump supporters, this film lacks the courage of its convictions. The satire lacks wit. The film isn’t brave enough to choose a side. This is weak sauce that tries to have it both ways.
2.7 / 10
The Worst of the year
(Hate-Filled Pieces of Crap)
Christopher Nolan’s latest film confuses depth with complexity. He wants so badly for it to be profound, but it is actually a ludicrous mess. The film is basically “Inception”, minus characters we care about, and exchanging layered consciousness for time reversal. There are times during the film’s final third that are more confusing than listening to someone explaining string theory in ancient Sanskrit… backwards! At some point, I just stopped caring entirely. I am sure there is a Nolan fanboy out there who will spend the next couple of months trying to explain away all the plot-holes with well articulated points. Please let me not meet that guy!
1.9 / 10
I like Janelle Monáe, but she is utterly wasted in this absurd film with an even more absurd twist. The woke message is an obvious one, spread too thickly, and one that comes across as preaching to the choir. The violence is exploitative and feels gratuitous. I didn’t like this film at all. It had nothing to say… and it said it loudly.
1.8 / 10
Kristen Stewart stars in this cheap “Alien” rip-off. The “Underwater” scenes are murky and provide very few scares. The characters could be described on the back of a postage stamp. A completely underwhelming film that didn’t have high expectations to begin with.
1.7 / 10
Bill & Ted Face the Music
It feels like watching a 1980’s hair-metal band, who had one and a half hits, trying to replay the glory years… but with regular middle-aged man hair, zero energy, and wrinkly skin. It’s all rather sad and pathetic. It reminded me of the disastrous “Dumb & Dumber” sequel. Note to all lazy filmmakers… Never try to recapture the magic!
1.4 / 10
The Invisible Man
Hands down, one of the dumbest films of 2020. This is a ludicrous tale of a wife being abused by a “billionaire-optics-expert” who fakes his own death in order to stalk her invisibly. It has two or three stylish moments early on… and then just devolves into cliché and silliness.
1.4 / 10
Jessica Chastain plays an international hit-woman. John Malkovich is her handler. It sounds like a Luc Besson thriller in the making. It’s not. This is a ludicrously hard-to-believe story with soap-opera level writing and stiff performances all around. Everyone has a haunted past… infidelities… alcoholism… gambling addiction… cliché after cliché. At no point did anyone convince me of their character. This feels like the first draft in a college freshman’s scriptwriting class.
1.2 / 10
She Dies Tomorrow
A 3-minute short film is stretched out to 85 minutes in this blisteringly dull, pretentious pile of trash. Vast swathes of cinematic screen time creep by at a snails pace. I felt like this film was playing a prank on me, duping me out of an hour and a half of my life. I would rather die tomorrow than watch this hate-filled piece of crap ever again.
0.2 / 10
Yes… There is a Section Lower than the Worst Movies of the Year!
I Present a List of Films That I Absolutely Refuse to Watch… (Because I am a Pretentious Film Snob).
“Bad Boys for Life”
The last time we saw this pair, it was a disaster. I have no desire to re-live that.