2020 is slowly but surely coming to an end soon, probably to the excitement of many out there. No doubt about it, this has been a tough year to get through. Could dive into more detail about the pandemic shutting down the economy, or the riots throughout North America condemning police brutality or simply the line-up of celebrity deaths that hit us the hardest.
On top of all that, movie theatres have been suffering harshly as well. Some have been walking the thin line of bankruptcy and it’s unknown if these businesses will survive going into 2021. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the line-up of films that were still released this year, praising the good and critiquing the less than average. Here are the top five best and worst films of 2020:
Best: The Invisible Man
After the disappointing reception 2017’s The Mummy brought audiences and critics, it seemed as though Universal’s Dark Universe was going to crash and burn before it even took off. However, after giving Upgrade and Insidious writer Leigh Whannell full control of their next project, we got a fiercely intense and relatable tale about how much pain abuse can inflict on someone.
Elizabeth Moss gives one of the best performances of her career, really diving into the role of someone desperately trying to break free from her torment. The film is also a new welcomed concept that transforms the original tale into something both familiar and original. While Oscar buzz for this film is unlikely, this will still go down as one of the most surprising hits of 2020.
Worst: Mulan (2020)
On the surface, Mulan can be perceived as a competently made movie with some decent performances from the cast. Unfortunately, we simply cannot ignore how much they watered down this story from the original animated classic. They wanted to take a more serious approach to this story, taking out the comic reliefs and creating something a war epic.
Unfortunately, taking out the comedy also took out the enjoyment. Instead of the bubbly and relatable Mulan from the original who must fight against her own limits to protect her family and save China, we have a stone-faced lead who is practically flawless in every way. People were hoping that this would be the Disney live-action remake that would break the cycle of disappointment, but it didn’t deliver.
And you thought Joan Crawford was bad. Run tells the story of a young girl who suspects that her mother, played by Sarah Paulson, is hiding a dark secret. No internet at night and limited phone calls are only the tip of the iceberg of the rules she must follow.
One of the reasons Run works so well as a thriller is because of how simple it is. The premise is basically a girl stuck trying to get out of this terrifying reality. She’s stuck in her wheelchair, she’s stuck in her house and she’s stuck emotionally; and her mother’s the only one with the key. Once you start this film, you won’t want to hit that stop button.
Worst: The Grudge
If you’re a horror fan, then you know about the Ju-On/Grudge film franchise. The original Japanese film has been hailed as one of the creepiest films of all time and the 2004 remake seemed to thrill audiences with the same amount of chills. So, it’s not very clear what the intention was for this misguided reboot.
Instead of the classic Kayako and Toshimo duo, we get this weak tie-in storyline that transforms the story into something that’s, for lack of a better word, “Americanized.” Despite strong performances from William Sadler and Lin Shaye, they couldn’t save what will become a black mark in the franchise.
The reaction to this film’s trailer was interesting, getting a lot of different reactions from people. Most comments were on the fact that the first half of the trailer was beautifully poetic while the second half going into all too familiar territory, with people comparing it to designs from Inside Out. Thankfully, Pixar has yet to lose its touch.
Funny enough, while still targeted towards children, this movie tells a story that might connect more to adults. It delivers a powerful message that you shouldn’t settle for less and follow your dreams, no matter how distant and challenging they may be. This might be Pixar’s most mature film to date, which is welcomed in today’s social climate.
Worst: Hubie Halloween
On one hand, fans of Adam Sandler and Happy Madison Productions probably knew what to expect from a film like this: ridiculous and childish humour with a lot of slapstick. On the other hand, after last year’s compelling and tense Uncut Gems, this is a pretty weak follow-up for the actor.
Is this the worst film from Adam Sandler? No. It’s not as annoying as Little Nicky, not as immature as Pixels and not even as misguided as the Grown-Ups movies. But, since we know now that we can expect more out of Sandler as an actor, we should really start demanding it instead of divulging in his need to talk like a mumbling loon.
Best: Another Round
Mads Mikkelsen has more than established himself as one of the greatest villainous actors working today. Starting with his chilling performance as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale and his memorable stint as Hannibal Lecter on television, he’s become that actor you love to antagonize in a role.
However, despite his background, he still manages to portray comedically buzzed and drunk quite naturally. In Another Round, he plays a history teacher who partakes in an experiment with his friends where they maintain a 0.05% BAC throughout the day. But don’t let this Hangover-esque plot fool you.
The film is surprisingly funny while gracefully exploring both the comedy and heartfelt tragedy of this tale. This is not a film you’ll regret viewing.
After his triumphant run in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Tony Stark/Iron Man, moviegoers were excited to see what would be next for Robert Downey Jr. Unfortunately, much like Adam Sandler in Hubie Halloween, this was a weak follow-up to such a previous massive triumph. Ignoring all the wasted voice talent of the animals, RDJ seems completely lost in this movie, constantly looking lost and empty with a silly Welsh accent attached. Along with painfully bad comedy, this will be a hard one to get through.
Best: Dick Johnson Is Dead
Why would a man ever agree to have himself be filmed being struck by a car, or crushed by an air conditioner, or bludgeoned to death? Simply… because he loves his daughter. Richard “Dick” Johnson was a clinical psychiatrist who is suffering from dementia. Knowing that his days are numbered, his daughter (a talented cameraperson) pitched him an idea to involve him in a documentary-style film.
She has him act out certain death scenarios, attend his own funeral and even act out how he would enter the gates of Heaven. While, on the surface, this seems like nothing more than a home movie but, at its centre, Dick Johnson Is Dead confronts a universal fear that everyone sooner or later has to bear.
With the pandemic thrusting this fear into all of us, this film reminds us that there could be something comedic or even beautiful to the end of one’s life. No other film in 2020 deserves this spot more than Dick Johnson Is Dead.
Worst: Artemis Fowl
When adapting books into films, we know that certain elements of the story need to be sacrificed in order to make it to the big screen. However, with Artemis Fowl, is really hard to understand what the idea was for such a creative premise. In the books, Artemis Fowl is a child criminal mastermind who goes through a redemption arc, making a complex and interesting antihero.
Well, in the Disney Plus adaptation, we got none of that. Instead of a criminal enterprise and kidnapping, the character of Artemis Fowl into another bland Disney hero with none of the edge the book series had. The effects are laughably dated and the story somehow manages to throw too much and too little at you all at once. Even the impressive cast of Colin Ferrell, Josh Gad and Dame Judi Dench couldn’t save this dumpster fire.
Honourable Mentions: Worst
The New Mutants
This was an unfortunate set of circumstances. New Mutants went through so many rewrites and reshoots over the years that, after being dropped this year, people were hoping that this film would bring life back into the dying X-Men franchise. That was not the case.
The sad reality is that this movie almost works by allowing us to get to know each character through their own tragic backstories. The idea of having these well-known superheroes as patients in a mental asylum is a welcomed creative turn for this genre. And while it was ambitious trying to add some horror into this franchise, it just didn’t work as a whole, unfortunately.
It’s a good thing that Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic The Room set the standard for movies that are so bad that they’re good because without that influence, Netflix’s 365 Days would’ve been forgotten pretty quickly. This film became so well-known for its low quality that it became one of Netflix’s most-watched properties this year.
365 Days follows a woman whose relationship is in shambles and travels to Sicily. There, she meets a man named Massimo who has a dangerous streak. A lot of critics were ripping this movie apart so frequently that they actually called 50 Shades of Grey a masterpiece in comparison… think about that.
It’s a shame that director Josh Trank has gained the reputation he has now. Starting out strong with his directorial debut Chronicle, he suddenly hit rock bottom with the Fantastic Four reboot in 2015. Hoping to regain some of his original glory, he tried to shine a light on the final days of Al Capone after he was released from Alcatraz to die of syphilis at home.
With Tom Hardy starring, this could have been a very thought-provoking film. Unfortunately, what we got was an uninspiring look at how the mobster spent his last hours and Hardy trying way too hard to be Marlon Brando in urine-soaked undies. The ending result of this film was pretty embarrassing, to say the least.
Honourable Mentions: Best
It’s pretty amazing how many ideas can come from the one concept of reliving the same day over and over again. Groundhog Day took a cynical-comedic approach, Edge of Tomorrow took a science-fiction/action approach and Happy Death Day took a horror/slasher approach.
This time around, Palm Springs takes a more realistic stance at the concept. Sure, there is a comedy in the film with Andy Samberg delivering his usual wacky performance, but you can really feel how stuck these people are in this situation. It almost feels like these two are stuck in a purgatory situation, doomed to do this for all eternity, which can be a frightening reality for anyone.
This mixed set of emotions really helps set it apart from the other movies and really lets it shine as an original.
Colour Out Of Space
This is a film that’ll divide a lot of audiences. Mixing the lore of Lovecraftian with old school B-movie pulp, horror fans will either love the nostalgia this movie offers or criticize the tone as “ridiculously silly.” Regardless of your opinion, you must admit that this is a very stylized, almost beautiful film.
Nicolas Cage plays a farmer with a wife and two kids who discovers a meteoroid that crashed in his front yard. Suddenly, the meteor starts shooting purple light all over his property and infecting the local water supply. The result is a bunch of goofy gorey fun that will satisfy most horror fans.
Tenet got a lot of attention earlier this year being the latest ambitious project from Christopher Nolan, who previously directed Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy. The catch? No one knew what it was about, with even the actors starring in it stating their confusion of the plot. And when the film finally released, it really divided audiences.
Some praised the performances and ambitious action scenes while others couldn’t help but point out the inconsistencies in the plot and science behind each scene. Regardless, the film allows Nolan to attempt a spy-thriller while keeping to the monotone tone he has made popular. Whether you liked the film or not, you can’t deny it was certainly an experience.