Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Top 20 Favorite New Discoveries of 2020

Trust the Dice doesn’t only review new films. We like to dig into streaming services to find other gems. We don’t delve too far into the past, but we do always find some good watches.
Here, I'm going to outline some of the best films from past years that we reviewed in 2020. Some were exceptionally popular, but others came straight out of left field and knocked my socks off. I'm not just looking at the best of the best. I'm also considering those that flew above my expectations.

20 – Santa Jaws (2018)
I know this is a really weird choice.
Santa Jaws didn’t make the list because it’s a perfect film. It made it because it soared through my expectations.
I thought it would be a basic B-movie creature feature. Instead, it had a cute little storyline for teens and a pretty decent shark cgi. (Compared to other B-movies.) It turned out to be a cute flick.
It was a wonderful little break from the basic Hallmark rom-com holiday film cycle. It stood out as a ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ kind of movie. I just had a great time watching it – which was a pleasant surprise.

19 – Madness in the Method (2019)
I hoped Madness in the Method would be good, but wasn’t entirely sure how it would go. I was happy with what I saw.
It was an entirely meta story where people played alternate versions of themselves. I love films like that, because it’s a bunch of friends getting together to make something. You can tell that the actors are having fun. Stuff like that comes out in their performances.
In most of those cases, even if the acting is off, it’s still fun to watch – which is what really matters.
The ending also threw me off. I thought I knew where it was going, but I was very wrong.

18 – The Shed (2019)
What would you do with a vampire trapped in your shed?
It’s such a simple, if imaginative, question. That’s at the core of the film.
From the moment I heard the concept, I was into it. I’m a vamp purist. I like the concept of any film about the bloodsuckers that brings us away from the romance version and back into horror. This movie definitely did that.
It had a few cringey moments, but it was still solid. It even went into how the jealousy of a situation, even a bad situation, could affect relationships. I thought it was very well done.

17 – Nekrotronic (2018)
Nekrotronic is campy, action-packed, ridiculous fun.
It didn’t entirely reinvent the wheel, a lot of it utilized tropes from both the horror and comedy genres… but it did so in a way that brought them into the 21rst century. Instead of finding a way for characters to lose their phones, it utilized them. As well as a ton of the other technological advancements we’ve had since the 80s that horror movies like to try to ignore, or handicap, so the writers don’t have to think of modern solutions.
It’s face-paced and well done. It’s no where near perfect, but it’s entertaining as hell.
No pun intended.

16 – Assassination Nation (2018)
Watching this film was a trip. It took on so many newer social issues and tied them to problems humanity has had since the dawn of time. It went into the lack of privacy online and social media, then tied it all into issues like mob mentality. It took cancel culture and tied it into the Salem Witch Trials, then showed why it was all bullshit because we never get the full story from what we’re seeing.
None of the character were likable in the least. Still, the situation was so well crafted that it didn’t matter if you liked any of the characters. There was a clear right and wrong.
It was brilliantly done, and that climax was a great watch.

15 – Blood Quantum (2019)
This was a zombie flick that took a different approach.
There was a basic zombie apocalypse story to start, but the audience learns that Indigenous people are immune to the bite.
The concept was really intriguing. Not only because the plot examined what would happen if a group of people were immune to a zombie disease, but how the rest of the world would react. How would they ask for help? Would the immune group do anything? Could people survive together in that kind of situation?
It had some plot holes, but it was still amazing.

14 – The Cured (2017)
I liked this one a lot more than Cat did, but I managed to successfully argue its way on the list.
The Cured is about a man who was turned into a zombie. A cure is found, and he’s one of the many that’s receptive to it. It’s a different kind of zombie flick. It isn’t about people running away from zoms and trying to rebuild civilization. It’s about people who’ve been cured and their journey to live with what they’ve done and reenter society.
I've never seen anything like it before. 
The acting throughout is amazing but, it’s the setting and the script that really stick out. It parallels some of the trials that ex-cons go through when trying to return to the world after prison, but it’s not a social justice kind of film.
The ending is very interesting.

13 – Descendants Series (2015-2019)
I had never seen any of the Descendants before this year, now I’ve seen all of them.
I really thought the whole thing would be more Disney Channel-esk. You know what I mean. Overly campy. Eye-rolling script. Nothing that anyone but a preteen could really tolerate. I was wrong.
The music is extremely catchy and the acting was decent. Some of the CGI made it impossible to forget that it was made-for-TV, but that was easy to forgive because the films were super endearing.
Every one of these are films I’ll be happy to watch again when my daughter is old enough.

12 – The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
This movie got some awful ratings, but both of us loved it. It was bloody and hilarious.
Sure, it utilized a lot of spy thriller tropes, but it felt different because of who the protagonist was as a character.
Also, the chemistry between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon was great. I believed they were the best of friends in a weird-ass situation.
I spent almost the entire runtime laughing. I think the critics were a little stuck-up with this one.

11 – Crawl (2019)
I love realistic creature features. The campy B-movie stuff is fun, but a realistic creature feature with terrifying graphics is where it’s at.
Crawl fell right into that category. The alligators looked real, and the acting brought everything up to max thrills. I believed they were stuck in the water. I believed that they could die. It was an extraordinary addition to the creature feature sub-genre.

10 – The Big Sick (2017)
I wasn’t entirely sure I would like this one. It seemed overly dramatic from everything I’d heard. What I got was a heartwarming modern love story.
I know you hear that term a lot. A critic will call something a “modern fairy tale” or “modern love story” and then you’ll watch the film and it’ll just be another Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast rip off. That’s not what this is.
The movie shows us two character that are very much flawed and enjoying each other. Then one runs from commitment and the other develops an illness that puts them in a coma.
Ok, I know that sounds Sleeping Beauty-esk, but it’s not. There’s no rape-y vibe to anyone, and the lead male interacts more with the female lead’s parents than her.
It’s an interesting story that’s superbly acted. It’s made even better with the knowledge that it’s based on a true story.

9 – Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work (2019)
This film did not go the way I expected it to at all. By five minutes in, I thought the protagonist was going to snap and murder everyone. I thought it would be like Mayhem (2017), at least in the horror aspect. That couldn’t have been further from what I got.
Instead, the protagonist (and one of his co-workers) are invited to a dinner with his boss and, as it turns out, his boss is a fucking loon.
The concept alone feels mediocre, but it plays out in such a way – and with such good acting – that it feels fresh, and new, and fascinating.
It was a huge surprise.

8 – Seoul Station (2016)
I have heard some very upsetting things about the sequel to Train to Busan (2016) that came out this year, but I have not had a chance to see it yet. I’m a little nervous now, because I absolutely adored Train to Busan and this, it’s prequel.
Seoul Station is the animated prequel to one of the best zombie films I have ever seen. That means it had a lot to live up to.
Was it as good as Train to Busan? No. But it had its own story and charm that was engaging. In it, I got to see how the zombie apocalypse really started, before it reached the train.
The animation style fits the chaotic nature of the story, and there are some serious twists and heartbreaks woven throughout. It hits hard, and it definitely felt like an exceptional film for the series.

7 – Fighting With my Family (2019)
I was a wrestling fan once upon a time, but I lost interest. Because of that, I’m not overly familiar with Paige, the wrestler this movie was written about. 

I didn’t really think this film would do anything for me. I almost felt I shouldn’t bother, since I wasn’t the intended audience.
You know what? You don’t need to have ever been a fan of wrestling to enjoy the hell out of this flick.
It was funny and inspiring. It almost made me want to start watching again.
Fighting with my Family is one of the best sports film biographies I’ve seen in a very long time.

6 – Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
This was a zombie Christmas musical. I had never heard of such a thing before.
It was unique, it was funny, the music was catchy… and there were zombies. It would have had to suck majorly for me to not be on board.
Instead, it had great acting, directing, and writing.
The entire film was worth watching over and over again. In fact, I have watched it several times since we reviewed it in May, and I have the soundtrack mostly memorized.
I cannot recommend this one enough.

5 – Little Monsters (2019)
I was pissed off when I saw the trailer for this film. I had no idea how it managed to slip by me when I collected the trailers for the Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in October for 2019. I knew it would have made my list just based on the trailer.
So, I added it to the schedule and I was not disappointed.
Lupita Nyong’o is a goddess. She brought the whole film to the next level, which was difficult because it already had a fun and engaging story.
I’ll admit, I barely remember the face of the male protagonist. He could have been played by anyone and it would have been fine. Nyong’o and Josh Gad stick out in my mind the most.

4 – A Quiet Place (2018)
As hard as it is to believe, I hadn’t seen A Quiet Place until 2020.
It’d been on the list of movies I wanted to watch, but you wouldn't believe how long that list is. I just never got to it.
I wasn’t overly surprised by the fact that I liked it. I just didn’t know how much I would.
The creepy, silent, settings… the shocking death in the beginning that told audiences that no one was safe, even the design of the aliens was absolutely spectacular.
Personally, I even liked the ending, which I’ve heard a few people crap on.

3 – Mayhem (2017)
Ah, Mayhem. The film in which I realized that I can 100% identify Samara Weaving by her scream.
Which still sounds creepy taken out of context.
Moving on.
I thought, at the most, that I would enjoy seeing Steven Yeun being badass. I had no idea how amazing the whole damn thing would be.
It was like a revenge fantasy gone mad. Who hasn’t hated their job enough to want to fantasize about something like this? A madness disease that lasts only 24 hours and causes people to act only on impulse with absolutely no consequences, so they destroy the company that they work for.
It was fun and bloody and fast-paced. There was barely any fluff. Every moment was action or story. There was even a wonderful chemistry between Yeun and Weaving.
I’ve forced a few friends to watch it since.

2 – Jojo Rabbit (2019)
I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not Jojo Rabbit should be eligible for this list. I decided to add it when I figured that it wouldn’t be eligible for the best movies of 2020. The thing is, I saw it in theaters at the beginning of the year (before COVID). So it feels more like a movie from this year to me.
Either way, it was amazing.
I did not know if Taika Waititi would be able to pull off the parody version of Hitler in a serious comedy World War II story. That just felt like a disaster in the making.
I had to see it for myself.
It was surprisingly well done. It didn’t feel offensive, or in bad taste at all. In fact, the lessons learned at the end felt right. Even the child actor did an amazing job.
There were scenes in this film that felt like they were from a drama holocaust movie. They are burned in my brain, and I will likely remember them until the day I die.
If you haven’t seen this one, I highly suggest you do. It’s a game changer.

1 – Ready or Not (2019)
This film is #1 not just because it was the best, but because it was also the most surprising.
Ready or Not was supposed to be a basic bitch, slasher film. The trailer looked decent, but it didn’t look like it would be all that special.
It smashed through expectations.
There was nothing basic about this flick. It was gorgeously written and directed. I never knew what was coming. When something happened that I did expect, it was immediately followed up with something shocking.
I feel like it had no flaws. At all.
In fact, I like to take one of the songs from it and play it in discord when me and my friends play hide and seek in Among Us.
It just works.

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