If you had asked me what movies I thought would be in my top five of the year halfway through 2020 at the beginning of January, my answer would have likely included In the Heights, Wonder Woman 1984, and Soul. But, as we all know, 2020 had other plans. None of those movies have come out yet. All of them have been delayed to later this year or to 2021, due to Covid-19. Despite the disappointment of reading “has been delayed” over and over and over, there have still been some new movies this year that are worth checking out. Whether on Netflix, VOD, or in theaters before the pandemic hit, these five movies have brought myself and others joy in the hellscape that is 2020. Hopefully they can do the same for you.
5. The Willoughbys
The Willoughbys is a Netflix original movie that genuinely surprised me. It is wonderfully animated, full of dry, witty humor, and has a lot of heart. I found myself thoroughly entertained by the hijinks of the four Willoughby children, who all have their own individual personalities. I felt like I actually knew who they were as characters. Beyond their names, they are given a shocking amount of depth. This was especially surprising as that is something that does not happen very often in animated films that do not begin with a Disney or Pixar logo. The movie reminded me of the fun I had watching old Nicktoons as a kid and I mean that as the highest of praise.
Read our full review here!
I had plans to see Onward in theaters roughly two days before all of them shuttered their doors. Unfortunately, I did not get to see it. Fortunately, I do pay for Disney+ every month and, seeing the writing on the wall, Disney added the movie to their streaming service at the beginning of April. Although it does not reach the height of other Pixar films, Onward is a solid entry in the studio’s canon.
Watching lovable characters voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland go on a quest to bring their dad back to life for a day is a recipe for happiness. Add in voicework from Octavia Spencer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ali Wong, and Lena Waithe, and you have a stellar crop of talent. Just as you would expect from Pixar, it will have you laughing then leave you in tears. The world in which they live is reminiscent of the drawn out, fantastical worlds of other Pixar films, like Monsters, Inc. Without the weight of expectations from being a new film from a studio that rarely misses, I am very excited to revisit this one when I do a full Pixar rewatch.
3. The King of Staten Island
Judd Apatow is an incredibly important filmmaker in the world of comedy. However, it has been five years since his last theatrically released film as director, Trainwreck. Due to his ability to make stars out of young comedians, seeing that he was teaming up with SNL star Pete Davidson was intriguing. Finding out they’d be collaborating on a semi-autobiographical film based on Davidson’s life was even more so. The King of Staten Island was one of my most anticipated films of the year. When it was announced it would be going straight to VOD, I was disappointed. Comedy always hits harder when you are surrounded by others laughing along with you. That being said, being surrounded by others sounds like a literal nightmare right now. So I sucked it up, paid for the movie, and watched it at home because it’s 2020.
Despite looking forward to it, I was still surprised. The film is both hilarious and tender, warm and raunchy, a blockbuster with an indie feel. Davidson shows a range of emotions that I did not know he had in him. But, like most Apatow films, it is the supporting actors that shine. Bill Bur, Bel Powley, and Marisa Tomei are all characters of their own and more than just people pushing Davidson’s character to grow up. They have dreams and needs and frustrations that are given a chance to be expressed. The film does have the classic Apatow problem of being too long. But it utilizes its runtime better than any of his past work and gives the story a chance to breathe which does the film wonders.
Read our full review here!
2. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Birds of Prey had a lot going against it. Well, not a lot. Just one, giant thing going against it. This, of course, being Suicide Squad. The 2016 bad guys turned good guys film was a disappointment. To say the least. People had been clamoring to see many of the characters onscreen, especially Harley Quinn, so the disappointment was vast. Hearing that Birds of Prey would be a continuation of Suicide Squad, in a way, was not promising. Luckily, Birds of Prey got it right. A diamond in the rough of the previous film but here, Margot Robbie is an absolute star. She not only looks like she is having fun but you can tell that she feels a lot more free this time. She has a cast and crew supporting her and that shows throughout the film.
Director Cathy Yan shoots the action scenes in a kinetic and exciting way that feels unique to the film which is important when these kind of movies often look way too similar. And when there isn’t action, the film has a fun, light tone to it. The supporting cast of Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor are all consistent with campy performances that may seem over the top in other films but really play well in Birds of Prey. It’s a genuinely fun film that is one of the more unique comic book movies to come out recently. It also features a breakfast sandwich that can make anyone’s mouth water.
1. The Invisible Man
Elisabeth Moss stars in this terrifying film about abuse and the psychological and emotional trauma that victims go through. After her abusive ex commits suicide, Cecilia (Moss) begins experiencing strange situations and feels as if she is being watched. But she can’t be. Her abuser is dead. Right? The Invisible Man is a strong acting showcase for Moss, who has had plenty of great roles in the past but never in large enough films to breakthrough.
With a premise as personal and triggering as an abusive relationship, I was very nervous to see how it would be used in the film. To my very pleasant surprise, the filmmakers were respectful to the experience that Cecilia and so many real people go through. They kept the film realistic by touching on the unfortunate trend of women not being believed when sharing their experiences. Where the film really succeeds is by putting the audience in a position of knowing what is happening to be true but feeling trapped by not being able to express our support of Cecilia. The Invisible Man is suspenseful, terrifying, and the best of all 2020 movies so far.
Read our full review here!
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