Joker’s Top 10 films of 2020

I’m sure there were a ton of these lists out there, but here’s another. 

10) Enola Holmes – Netflix

Look, I was as surprised as you that I enjoyed this film, but I really thought the film did a great job bringing a fun and new character to life inside of a fairly established universe. Millie Bobby Brown nailed the role, being just the right amount of charming to be a fourth-wall breaker in an only moderately comedic film. I also appreciate that the mystery at the core of the film is one worthy of a Holmes character.

9) Birds of Prey (Harley Quinn) – HBO Max

This film should have failed completely but somehow just decided to be as fun and possible and it worked. While the structure of the film isn’t the best, the performances of all of the main characters are great and the humor is on point. The action sequences, also, are some of the best in the DCU despite almost no one in the film having superpowers. Plus, it gave us more of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn despite that awful Suicide Squad film.

8) Hamilton – Disney+

I never thought we were going to get this film, but, at a time when we needed it most, Disney decided to go ahead and drop one of the absolute best musicals I’ve seen in my life. Hamilton brings everything: Amazing cast, great songs, creative choreography, and f*cking rap battles in place of boring policy debates. It’d be higher on here if it was more of a movie, honestly, but it’s still one of the highlights of last year.

7) The Old Guard – Netflix

If you had pitched me the idea of the Director of Love and Basketball doing a superhero film about Charlize Theron being a Scythian who wields a battle-axe in the modern day leading a team of immortals, I’d have offered to help you find a doctor for your stroke. However, this film worked brilliantly. Great action sequences, great acting, and deeper characters than you’d think this film could manage; this was a pleasant surprise.

6) Bill and Ted Face the Music

We had to wait a long time for this film, but it finally arrived and it managed to somehow secure Bill and Ted as one of the most successful trilogies of all time. In addition to having the talents of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, it incorporated Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as their daughters who perfectly duplicate their fathers’ idiosyncrasies. The film is hilarious and it ends with one of the best messages in a film we got all year. Just a great end to a franchise.

5) Dick Johnson is Dead – Netflix

This is the blackest comedy I have ever seen. It’s a documentary by a daughter, Kirsten Johnson, discussing and acting out with her dementia-suffering father, Dick, all of the ways in which is he likely going to die.  It’s truly disturbing because her father constantly plays along with her in a grim acceptance of her mortality. It’s also the only film I couldn’t bring myself to review on here, but it’s still one that has stuck with me and will stick with you.

4) Love and Monsters – Rent on Prime

One of my friends messaged my movie group to say that this was a great new “boy and his dog” film and that is definitely a solid aspect of this story. However, this film is much bigger than that. It’s got drama, comedy, a pupper, and, of course, an unrequited romance all contained in a well-designed apocalyptic setting. It needs to get on streaming so that more people can appreciate this.

3) Soul – Disney+

Coming in right at the end of this year, Pixar gave us a true return to form. Everything in this movie is well done. Animation, pacing, writing, voice cast, and design all combined to create something that ranks among the best animated films Pixar has done. Moreover, it’s one of the most mature stories they’ve ever done and I appreciated that decision.

2) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Netflix

Helmed by great performances by Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis, this adaptation of August Wilson’s play is captivating in the truest sense of the term. You will be completely entranced by the monologues and dialogue as the characters share their loves, losses, hopes, and dreams. It’ll hit you in places you didn’t even know you had.

1) Palm Springs – Hulu

I know people will disagree with this ranking, but this was the only film this year where I had to pause it just to let myself express how much I was enjoying the experience. This new take on Groundhog Day featured Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti and brought an amazing amount of novelty to an overdone trope. It made me laugh as hard as any movie has in a while and I needed some laughs this year. 

Disagree? Tell me in the comments.

The Old Guard: Amazing Superhero Action Film – Netflix Review

Charlize Theron leads a team of immortal warriors against Big Pharma.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Andy (Charlize Theron), Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) are four soldiers who are recruited to rescue a group of kidnapped children in the Sudan by CIA agent Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor). They’re betrayed, but end up surviving because the four are actually a group of ancient warriors with nigh-immortality. At the same time, U.S. Marine Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne) is mortally wounded in Afghanistan, but recovers, revealing her to be the next in the line of immortals. She’s soon recruited by the four and they discover that they are being hunted by Steven Merrick (Harry Melling), a billionaire pharmaceutical executive who wants them for his research.

They have been killing longer than most countries.

END SUMMARY

If you’ve never seen Love and Basketball, you absolutely should, because it is a well-crafted story that combines a tight script with a lot of non-verbal storytelling to craft a drama. This movie is basically that, except that instead of telling a romance about athletes, it’s a series of amazing action set pieces combined with some solid character moments that really flesh out what could easily have been one-dimensional characters. The reason why I compare these films is that they both are directed by the incredibly talented Gina Prince-Blythewood, who is now, officially, the first black woman to direct a superhero film (and she’s already set to direct another in the next year or so). Her films, including The Secret Life of Bees or Beyond the Lights, are marked by something that almost seems rare nowadays: Sincerity. She doesn’t mock her subject matter, regardless of what it is, and for a comic book film that can be a game changer.

There’s a lot less snark than your average Marvel movie.

It’s that same sincerity that really sets the characters apart. Rather than just telling us how each of the characters is haunted by the fact that everyone they know will die, the film gives us a number of flashbacks and memories that reflect upon the pain and loss that they’ve suffered. We’re shown the story of Quynh (Van Veronica Ngo), a former immortal who was trapped in an iron coffin and drowned over and over again for centuries, and that image is burned into the cast as well as the viewers. That’s the kind of stuff that would normally be subverted in a modern comic film, but instead here is played painfully straight. These kind of character moments are peppered throughout and make everyone a little bit deeper and a lot more complex than you would expect from a movie with a team of gun-toting immortals.

Or an adaptation of a comic about said immortals.

Neither the story of this film nor the characters themselves are particularly original. The concept of a super-regenerating or nearly unkillable action hero has been done from Wolverine to Painkiller Jane. However, The Old Guard is one of the first movies where the choreography actually reflects that these people know they can take a beating, but they still feel pain. You see them willing to use their immortality to throw people off guard, since most people would evade things like “getting shot in the heart,” but they still only do it sparingly. As a reflection of their age, they also are all experts with melee weapons that are indigenous to their origins, including Andy, who wields a battleaxe, which is basically the most kickass of backup weapons. Unfortunately, I kept waiting for someone to say “let me axe you a question,” because that seemed like a thing that would eventually happen. I was happy that such a pun did not, in fact, occur. 

I love the intricate work on her outfit, too. Details make the big picture work.

Overall, honestly, this is just a great movie. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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