Sunday, January 3, 2021

Top 20 Best Movies of 2020

2020 was crap. The vast majority of the world dealt with quarantines, sickness, and death. Those that didn’t, at the very least, had to deal with fear. Something that helped people press on when everything seemed hopeless was entertainment.
Trust the Dice was lucky enough to have the chance to continue on through the year, and we enjoyed a lot of great films that helped take the edge off of the real world. So, we’re here to talk about the highlights of the now-past 2020 (good riddance).
Throughout the next week, we’ll look at the best and worst of the movies that came out, the best and worst of the older flicks we reviewed, and the most memorable (or forgettable) films that crossed our path.
Today, we’ll go into the best of 2020’s releases. Keep in mind, we had our own difficulties that kept us from seeing such highly regarded films as Never Rarely Sometimes AlwaysMinariBill & Ted Face the Music, and others. Either due to timing or funding issues, we had to skip some big movies. Even Soul which came out while we were on our holiday break. Don’t see their exclusion as a snub or oversight, we just weren’t able to include anything we didn’t see for ourselves. The same goes for the worst films of 2020.

20 – Project Power
Wait! Hear me out!

We’re well aware that a whole lot of people didn’t really prefer this one – to put it mildly. Never-the-less, it was a stand out to us. It was packed with great performances and absolutely insane visuals. There were CGI moments that top just about anything we’ve ever seen.
Clearly, we’re not the only ones who saw a lot of potential here, since the writer – Mattson Tomlin – was tapped to write The Batman (2022).
We continue to believe that this movie was underrated.

19 – Spiral
Spiral was one of the Shudder films we saw this year that completely destroyed our expectations.
I was lucky enough to get a screener for it, and was really impressed with the progressive and psychological tone involved. It took some cues from relevant social issues, such as homophobia and racism, and really gave a visual on what the fear of such things could lead to.
The only reason I couldn’t put it up any higher than this is because of a small, but significant, pacing issue that made the flick seem a little longer than was necessary.
I’d still highly recommend it.

18 – Sonic the Hedgehog
I’m not seeing Sonic the Hedgehog on many “Best of” lists. I have to admit, I’m not sure why.
Let’s just ignore the part where the production company actually listened to fans and reworked the entire film in order to give us visuals of our favorite speedy hedgehog that were outstanding. They could have easily made plenty of money by releasing the original flick with the first design of Sonic. People would have gone to see it just to see the train wreck.
Aside from that, the movie was actually good. There was a decent story and we got to see Jim Carrey return to form. How is that not worth mentioning?

17 – Extraction
Granted, the ending of this film was divisive, at best. Especially since the announcement of Chris Hemsworth’s return in Extraction 2 (release year unannounced). Still, Extraction felt like a revolution in direction.
There wasn’t all that much special about the story, it’s all the behind the scenes stuff – the stunts and the camera movements – that make this film one of the greatest of the year. The way it was filmed broke ground that will change the way some future action movies are created. With a stunt man directing, it felt like absolutely any shot was possible.
On top of that, it is a fun film to watch. The action scenes get your heart racing, and the emotional scenes do tend to work.
Personally, I’d put it higher – but I know that, in general, most would disagree. Call this a compromise.

16 – Synchronic
I loved the trailer for this film and when I got a chance to see it, I jumped. Anthony Mackie is just a god wandering around on earth. He pulled off his part in this movie so well. I believed he was the playboy he was shown to be in the beginning, then I felt it when he hid his cancer diagnosis to help his partner try to find his daughter – who was lost in time.
Not going to lie, I ugly cried a bit.
It was a great film, with an interesting and fresh story that was supported by a particularly interesting ending.

15 – The Devil All the Time
The Devil All the Time was a dark film. It touched places that could easily trigger a lot of people, and that makes it a little more difficult to recommend, but it was still one of my favorite flicks of the year.
Tom Holland is a great actor, but he’s young. Before this film, I’d only seen him in parts that shared personality aspects. In The Devil All the Time, I got to see a darker, more grown-up Tom… and I liked it. I’m willing to bet on him now, in a way that I just wasn’t before. In twenty-years’ time, I believe he’ll be a titan of the industry – provided he can keep from being type-cast.
If you like darker stories with a talented cast, this one can be found on Netflix.

14 – The Cleansing Hour
The Cleansing Hour would be lower on this list, but it was such a surprise that it has to be acknowledged. The trailer made it seem like a pretty basic exorcism/possession film, with a slightly interesting set up. It turned out to be something much more than that, even if it did have some of the involved tropes.
The acting was light years better than expected and the ending really brought it to a very memorable place.
I’m burnt out on the exorcism sub-genre. I am. To the point where I just don’t care about new films coming out that deal with it. This film made me second guess that.
It’s on Shudder, and I still say it’s worth subscribing to the streaming service for.

13 – Palm Springs
This one also caught me off guard. The trailer indicated that it had a typical plot that made it difficult to see as anything more than a quirky Andy Samberg vehicle.
It turned out to be SO much more.
Palm Springs had heart, some really smart laughs, and even a bit of intrigue. It took a well-known trope and elevated it to such new heights that it seemed to reinvent the sub-genre. What could have been a ridiculous Groundhog's Day rip-off, wound up being extraordinary.
This film could not have been better.

12 – Host
Like Palm Springs, this horror flick took a basic sub-genre and wove it into something new.
It was found-footage, without the shaky cam and it was séance/haunting without a lot of the dumb over-done jump scares. Not only that, but it was filmed and released very quickly so that it both showed the feel of the quarantine, and allowed us to relate while still escaping our situation.
Honestly, the effect that Host had on me was not unlike the way The Blair Witch Project (1999) affected movie-goers in the 90s. (The biggest difference being the marketing ploy that made people believe the latter was a documentary.)
Host was a phenomenal film, and it’s another reason to get Shudder if you don’t already have access to it.

11 – An American Pickle
This film could have gone so wrong, so easily. With Seth Rogen playing two very different parts, and the inclusion of a very religion person out of his time, An American Pickle could have easily turned into a replica of Jack and Jill (2011) or something seriously offensive. It didn’t, though.
Instead, we got a brilliant portrayal of both parts by Rogen, and a story that was ridiculous – but a whole lot of fun.
If you have HBO Max, chances are you didn’t get access because of this less-discussed film, but you should definitely take a peek.

10 – Black Box
Black Box was every bit as great as I expected it to be. I learned the gloriousness of Mamoudou Athie and got to see Phylicia Rashad in a film she could be proud of.
Aside from the cast, the story was incredibly engaging and the twists that were woven throughout really kept me on my toes. It probably wasn’t the most scientifically sound, but it’s not a documentary, so I don’t believe it matters.
I adored Black Box. If you’re a sci-fi fan, or a fan of Black Mirror (2011- ), I believe you will, too.

9 – The Old Guard
The Old Guard was clearly the start of a series of films that Netflix intends to put out. Quite frankly, I’ll be watching any sequels that hit the screen.
Charlize Theron – and her stunt double – moved flawlessly. They made me believe she was an old-as-dirt semi-immortal that was well trained in battle. She also held that kind of ‘seen-it-all’ posture that I would expect from such a character. I was also introduced to the gorgeous and talented KiKi Layne, an actor I believe we will hear a lot more from in the future. Especially after we get to see her in Coming 2 America (2021).
The main plot was fun, but it also snuck in some bits and pieces of back story for the side characters that really stuck out. I particularly loved the handling of the relationship between two of the male semi-immortals. It was treated the way it always should be: normal. The movie didn’t revolve around their sexuality, nor did it focus on it so lightly that you question if it was even a thing. There’s a chemistry and adoration woven into their micro-actions and lines that just works. It’s perfectly done.
Yes, it was a bit corny in the end – setting the story up for sequels – but even with that, I’m here for it.

8 – Happiest Season
I thought Happiest Season was going to be a basic Christmas romantic drama with minimal depth. Even knowing that Kristen Stewart is painfully underrated due to her Twilight years, I made the mistake of going along with it.
I won’t be doing that again.
Happiest Season was one of the best LGBTQIA+ films I’ve seen in a very long time. It really dug into that fear people have of coming out to their families, and the guilt they feel for not being out yet. It also showed how their interpersonal relationships were affected by the pressure to hide their nature. Still, it managed to have some very funny moments woven in.
I think this may be my favorite Christmas movie (not including stuff like Die Hard that’s a little more controversial).

7 – The Platform
Although the ending is a bit divisive, The Platform is unforgettable. It’s brutal and really digs in with the social commentary. Some of the scenes sent shivers down my spine so violently that I get the exact same reaction when thinking back on it.
Although this film came out before 2020 in other areas, we do operate mostly on the USA wide/limited/internet release schedules – which is why it’s still eligible here.

6 – Freaky
Who could have seen this coming?
Freaky was supposed to be another dumb body-switch film with a minor upgrade in story. Imagine my surprise when I had a fantastic time watching it.
The body-switch trope is one of my least favorite. I find it overly corny and limited. At least, in the ways its been used in the past. This film made me see that it still has some interesting uses if writers are willing to take spectacular leaps of faith.
It was hilarious. I found very few jokes that didn’t land. It was a phenomenal film that reminded me of the first release of Scream (1996).

5 – Onward
This was one of the last films I saw in theaters before the lockdown. It is also one of my favorite Pixar films EVER. It took some serious risks that I have NEVER seen any kids film take before it.
Of course, you had some of the immature jokes and minor giggles that any kids film might have, but there’s a thread of maturity running through it that indicates it’s for the adults in the audience, too. In fact, there are parts in it that may only fully hit adults.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews for Soul (which I haven’t seen yet) saying that some of the concepts really aren’t going to land with kids. That the movie feels more like something meant for their parents. If that’s the case, then I believe Onward walked so that Soul could run. The ending of the film was poignant, but would be completely lost to younger generations. At least, the deeper meaning and relatability would be.
Me, however? I ugly cried. In public.

4 – Birds of Prey
I’ve heard a lot of people throwing hate at Birds of Prey, but I saw it in theaters 4 times. There’s nothing about it that I didn’t like. The action was outstanding, the story was amusing, and Margot Robbie is the absolute perfect Harley Quinn.
I felt like I related to scenes in such minor ways that could have been overlooked and no one would have thought twice. Like during a fight when Black Canary’s hair keeps impeding her vision and Harley just hands her a rubber band. It was done so naturally and felt so real, that it helped with the immersion for me.
Plus, the entire thing was gorgeous. It was, in my opinion, the perfect Harley movie.

3 – Da 5 Bloods
You expect a Spike Lee film to be socially relevant and a thrilling watch, but he’s not even the star here. Sure, his direction and writing were on par with what I expected, but it was Delroy Lindo that brought the film to a higher level.
Lindo was ON for this one. His character’s reactive beliefs and personality had such a thread of honesty, and were portrayed with such depth and intensity, that he steals the show. Everyone else was great, and the story was interesting. Even the use of real images of war felt right… but without Delroy Lindo it would have been so much worse off.

2 – The Invisible Man
This film absolutely blew me away. 

I knew I’d like it. Leigh Whannell, Elisabeth Moss, and Aldis Hodge’s involvement made it impossible not to know. In fact, I had HIGH expectations for The Invisible Man. That can often be a death sentence for a film, because it’s easy to not rise as high as expected.
I was thrilled with what I saw.
The movie went into the mental anguish and terror of being in, and trying to escape, an abusive relationship. It displayed gas lighting and the effects, the isolation…
It was terrifying from a basic horror stand-point, but even more so from a psychological point of view.

1 – Hamilton
Some people are going to argue that this isn’t a movie. I don’t care. It’s the best thing in general that happened this year.
Even before it’s release on Disney+, I had the soundtrack memorized. Seeing it on screen made it a thousand times better. It makes for engaging storytelling. Hamilton is heartbreaking, funny, and just a hell of a lot of fun to watch – even at it’s significantly long run-time. I absolutely believe it’s the best movie that was released this year.

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