The Movies of 2020: For better or worseBy Matthew Martin| January 11, 2021 Movie Blogs 2020 was easily the most destabilizing year for cinema, arguably in the history of the medium. Even during World War II, as everyone from ticket buyers to actors were heading into battle, people still went to the cinema; people still sat and watched Disney-produced war propaganda and such like. Last year was unlike anything else. People simply couldn’t go to the movies, and even later when they technically could, they simply chose not to. Countless movies were delayed, with some still without a return date. Others were dumped onto various streaming services. A few brave souls tried to go for the traditional route, but that proved enough of a bad idea to scare off anyone else from trying. Nevertheless, movies did release and there were some good and some bad to reflect on. Here are the ten movies I reviewed this year, ranked in order from worst to best! THE DISAPPOINTMENTS: NEW MUTANTS Original Rating – 6/10 – New Mutants takes an interesting premise and does little with it, leaving the property feeling more like the beginning to an “okay” TV series that would be cancelled after twenty episodes, rather than a bold new approach to comic book movies. Having had Time to Think about it – 5/10 Consider this more of a (dis)honorable mention since my actual review was more of a joke about how I never thought the movie would actually release. Following the acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Disney had little reason to do anything more than the bare minimum with this film. It was never going to be more than an indie-scaled horror film that only loosely tied in with the X-Man brand, and that’s what it was. The problem was it was half-baked, too. It doesn’t improve with age, either. BIRDS OF PREY Original Rating – 6/10 – I guess it’s better than Suicide Squad, but there’s little worth revisiting in this mess of a movie. Having had Time to Think about it – 6/10 Not much has changed in eleven months. The film is still a mediocre Harley Quinn movie smashed together with a better-than-average Birds of Prey movie. The two halves never properly come together and you can always feel and see the stitches between the two. GRETEL AND HANSEL Original Rating – 7/10 – Gretel and Hansel’s greatest sin is that it’s only okay, when it could have been so much more. Having had Time to Think about it – 7/10 This remains the most frustrating film of the year, in that one part of it is excellently done (the art design, acting, mood and tone), but the actual story is as bland as old bread. On repeated viewing, the same pros are prominent, and the same cons are too. THE FINE: WONDER WOMAN 84 Original Rating – 8/10 – As a fun little escapist movie, it does the job. Just don’t ask for anything more. Having had Time to Think about it – 6/10 My initial take on the film as a 1980’s-era comic book movie remains my belief. It’s not just set in the mid-’80s, it feels like a movie made in that “it’s just a dumb comic thing for kids” era that featured films like Howard the Duck and Superman III. Initially, I was charmed enough to overlook the story’s many problems. Once the charm wore off, the repeated viewing was not kind to it. This movie is seriously, structurally flawed. It needed an entire rewrite because what was released was a hot mess. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Original Rating – 8/10 – Sonic the Hedgehog is the best video game-to-film adaptation yet, a confident first outing for one of the medium’s historically-biggest names, and (potentially) the start of a new it-genre in Hollywood. Having had Time to Think about it – 7/10 Similar to Wonder Woman, my initial experience was clouded by how charmed I was and, especially here, how surprised I was to see a video game tie-in movie that wasn’t bad at all. I quite enjoyed it, actually, but on repeated viewings, it’s clear that the middle of the movie drags it down a peg. It needed a better plot but it was good enough to be “fine,” which is more than can be said for most in the video game genre. TENET 8/10 Original Rating – 8/10 – Tenet succeeds as a film full of incredible spectacle but ultimately misfires without a strongly-told story making any of that spectacle matter. Having had Time to Think about it – 7/10 The problem with Tenet is that I’m sure after a hundred more watches I’ll be able to understand the story and what happens and when(?) enough to let the crazy stunts and set pieces feel worthwhile, but I simply don’t have the desire to watch it other ninety-eight times. Inception I’ve seen countless times. Same with The Prestige, and every other Nolan movie. But Tenet just feels like an action reel, not a movie, and not worth the trouble of going back to over and over. THE GOOD: I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS Original Rating – 8/10 – I don’t really know how to rate this. At first, not knowing what it’s about left me loving the aesthetic but bewildered by the meaning. Now that I know, I appreciate it so much more. Do I review based on my initial viewing or what I came to understand after the fact? I’ll split the difference between 7 and 9 and give it an 8. Having had Time to Think about it – 9/10 The movie is better the second (and third) time; the subtlety of the story comes through a bit more easily and the off-kilter mood keeps things fresh. Charlie Kaufman has crafted something akin to a Lynchian dream-on-film. It’s bizarre, but in the best way. This one got better with age! ONWARD Original Rating – 9/10 – Onward is a ton of fun, filled with clever world-building, charming characters, a wonderful third act action sequence, great emotional beats, and an emotionally-rich and satisfying ending. Having had Time to Think about it – 9/10 Onward will be a movie enjoyed for generations, thanks to its timeless quality, both in its story and its art style. Watching it again brought about the same emotions as watching it the first time, almost a year ago. That’s a good sign for the many repeated viewings I’m sure to give it in the years to come. THE EXCELLENT: SOUL Original Rating – 10/10 – Soul is a testament to the incredible group of talented people working at Pixar. From a technical to a creative standpoint, the movie is a genuine high-water mark and more than worth your attention on Disney+ this holiday season. Having had Time to Think about it – 10/10 The one movie that hasn’t been given enough time to evaluate it after repeated viewings. My initial thoughts remain the same; it’s a movie that felt like the spiritual sequel to Inside Out, tackling a lot of the same ideas through a totally different filter. It probably won’t be a movie kids beg to watch on a random Saturday morning, but it wasn’t made to be. As a movie that has a lot to say, wrapped in the veneer of an “animated movie” (as if that’s a genre), it’s golden. 1917 Original Rating – 10/10 – 1917 is one of the finest war films ever made, one of the most tension-packed films ever made, and one of the best-“realized” movies ever conceived. Having had Time to Think about it – 10/10 My favorite movie of the year and one of my favorite war movies ever made. It’s a film that must be seen in the best conditions possible. It deserved a big theatrical release and I’m glad it got one before everything went to pot. 1917 will stand the test of time as a triumph of visualized style, adrenaline, and raw humanity. * * * * * So there you have it, the movies of 2020. Let’s put it behind us and look ahead to the films of 2021. Believe it or not, some are coming soon!