Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Some of the best and worst movies of 2020

Boy, who could have ever predicted what 2020 would bring, huh?  It was supposed to be the year of the female superhero, with Harley Quinn, Black Widow and Wonder Woman dominating the screen.  That didn't quite happen, but the Harley Quinn movie did end up being one of the top grossing movies of the year.  That probably wouldn't have happened without COVID-19.

Despite the pandemic, there were some good movies released in 2020. 

A lot of the movies you'd expect to see in theaters were released on HBO Max, Disney+ or one of the other dozen streaming services that exist these days. 

I saw one of the movies pre-pandemic and most of them after the pandemic while in the movie theater, in the past 2 months. 

So let's take a look at this years relatively small list (be warned, SPOILERS are below ...)

The Kid Detective
I saw this trailer and thought, 'Huh, I'd watch that.' It's not one I probably would've ever gone to see in the theater typically, but in 2020?  It made the cut. I'm glad it did. It's a quirky dark comedy that has some surprising depth, tackles a serious subject matter and gets a few chuckles. 

 The actors were all engaging and the story had a couple of twists that I didn't see coming.  Usually I see the twists from a mile away, so I was surprised it got me.  

There was some unneeded swearing (I wasn't offended by any means, but it just wasn't needed) but that was probably one of the only negatives.  It was a comedy some a few unrealistic situations can be forgiven.  It's not meant to be serious.

It's not a movie that will leave you walking away happy, but the story was complete and I think it probably ended the way it should've. 

Final rating: 3 stars 

I wasn't sure how good this movie would be. Disney's live action movies have a pretty spotty record. They range from bad (Maleficent 2, Aladdin) to boring (Dumbo) to okay (The Lion King, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast) to really good (Maleficent) to awesome (The Jungle Book). I thought Mulan may be a little better due to the fact that it was an action movie. That didn't help. 

It was an OK movie but nowhere near as good as the animated version. I'm not sure why they change things from the original. I'm not sure what the actual story of Mulan entails --- if there was a version before the Disney version and, if so, if Disney took liberties with it --- but the movie version included unnecessary changes. 

The female villain really wasn't needed in this story.  The main villain (Bori Khan) didn't compare to Shan Yu. The actor did a fine job, but I'm not sure why they didn't just use the Shan Yu character instead.

There never really was a great, epic moment or a scary moment. The movie didn't drag but it never really took off either.  The action was OK, but certainly nothing that impressive in the age of Marvel movies.  It seemed like a few too many people had the power of the chi, too. 

When 4 or 5 people in the movie can do all kinds of flips and twists and turns, it takes away the excitement.  It's not special anymore.

It seemed like this movie focused a little too much on female empowerment instead of the main character, Mulan. 

Final rating: 3 stars 

Birds of Prey
I was probably one of the few who liked Suicide Squad, but I was hoping this movie would be really good and provide some fun.  It did provide some fun but I wish it would've taken itself a little more seriously.  Harley Quinn taking out a squad of police and an entire cell of inmates in the matter of minutes was hard to believe, superhero movie or not.

That being said, the visuals were not boring.  Margot Robbie was entertaining in her return as Harley.  There was a different flavor than Suicide Squad so the character is evolving.

The rest of the cast was OK, too.  Rosie Perez was probably my favorite of the rest of them.  Jurnee Smollett wasn't a great Black Canary.  She didn't seem intimidating or athletic.  All of the Arrow versions have been much better.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress wasn't that impressive either.  She wasn't bad, but I doubt the character will be remembered 5 years from now.  Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain was a good casting choice.

This version of Victor Zsaz wasn't very good.  I'd have preferred the Gotham version.  Ewan McGregor as Black Mask was a bit off.  I don't think the character or the casting really delivered.

The format of the story was disjointed but it worked.  The ending though?  That scene on the docks?  Anti-climactic.  Cheap looking set and visuals, too.

It was good advancement for Harley Quinn but you need a good supporting cast of characters to carry a movie.  One good character just doesn't do it.

Final rating: 3 stars.

Wonder Woman 84
There's some controversy about the movie reviews right now.  Some people liked it.  Others didn't.  I can see both points of view because I'm somewhere in the middle of this debate.

I don't know enough about the Wonder Woman character, so I can't speak as to whether Patty Jenkins followed the origins of the characters here.  I've always been familiar with the character, but I never watched the TV show or read a solo Wonder Woman comic.  Everything I know about the character is from team up comics or Justice League appearances.

It seemed like Patty threw some treats the way of the more avid Wonder Woman fans (the invisible jet, a  Lynda Carter cameo) but apparently she changed the origins of Cheetah and Maxwell Lord.  I didn't mind seeing as how I don't know the origins of those characters.  Also, if we're complaining about that, we have to complain about Hela and others in the MCU.

Kristin Wiig was a good choice for Cheetah.  She was a compelling character.  She was one of the best parts of the movie, frankly.  I'd like to see her return at some point, but I'm not sure that will happen.

Visuals were off and on in this sequel.  The 80s vibe was definitely there in terms of the outfits.  The soundtrack could've taken a page out of the Guardians of the Galaxy playbook and used some classic songs to set the mood, though.

The action sequences left a lot to be desired.  They weren't fluid at all.  I think the original Superman movies had more fluid, convincing flying sequences.  If they can make Aquaman seem like he's really swimming under water, I'm not sure why Wonder Woman's flying and leaping and running seemed so poorly enhanced.

One of the best scenes of the movie was the opening one, with the games being held in Themyscira.

The story was a little bit all over and, as a result, it hurt the pacing of the movie.  There were some sloppy moments that the writers just didn't seem to care about (an airplane from the Smithsonian just happens to have enough fuel to make it across the Atlantic??).  There were other moments that were just too convenient (they quickly found a guy with a book that explains exactly what the Dreamstone does). There were also some really fun moments like the mall scene and the White House scene.

I don't know that I laughed once.  There were some one-liners but D.C. (or at least Patty Jenkins) just doesn't do comedy like Marvel does.  Gal Gadot is a gem and delivers all of her lines as they should be delivered.  Chris Pine is convincing in his role as well.  Maxwell Lord was fine, but it felt a bit too much like the writers were trying to duplicate the 90s Batman movies where one villain just wasn't enough.  I don't think that's always needed.

All of that being said, Wonder Woman continued to evolve and, while this adventure wasn't needed, I can't say I'm disappointed it happened.  I am hoping the third version gets back on track because while this was an OK pit stop, it seemed a bit off course.

Final rating: 3.5

Finally, the best of the bunch, was a version of Freaky Friday.  It mixed comedy with horror.  It was released on Friday the 13th.  The name is a play off of Freaky Friday.  It was a fresh take on a classic tale.

The movie was part comedy and part horror, so you can't really take it seriously, but the actors believed in themselves and I did too.  Sure, you sit there and think 'a head doesn't really split that way when put through a table saw,' but as one of the only comedy / horror body switch movies there is, it doesn't really matter.  

The scene where the Blissfield Butcher approaches Millie on the football field is somewhat intense because you want her to escape, but it's also entertaining seeing her run in the mascot uniform.

Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton were equally entertaining as they reversed roles.  The rest of the supporting cast was really good, too.

This kind of movie doesn't really lend itself to a sequel, but if you're a fan of the body switch genre, this was a fun movie to see.

Final rating: 4 stars

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