Top Ten Films & TV Shows Of 2020

2020 has certainly been a strange and troubling year with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the entertainment industry.

As the film studios and theaters suffered greatly from the mass closures for public safety, the television arm of the entertainment industry saw a boon since they had literal captive audiences eager for any new content.

Films

Even though many films scheduled for 2020 were postponed for the year, there were many other films that either had limited theatrical releases or managed to come out in the early months of the year before COVID-19 created the lockdowns. Hopefully as the now-availalbe vaccines are administered throughout the population, 2021 will see more of a return to normalcy as theaters will be able to safely re-open.

Please note many films that were released solely digitally or through streaming platforms were not considered for this list; a film had to have some kind of theatrical release even if it debuted in few theaters at the same time they were released digitally. Here are the ten best theatrical films of 2020.

10. Onward

Pixar’s other animated cinematic offering for 2020 was an uplifting and fun adventure that took place in a world where mythical and magical beings and creatures exist today. In the film, two elf brothers set out on a road trip across the country to temporarily resurrect their deceased father. As with most Pixar films, the characters and their emotions took center stage as the two realized their brotherly love for one another. 

9. The New Mutants

The sole Marvel film of 2020 turned out to be the coda of the Fox X-Men films, which was a surprise given it has been delayed so many times. Fortunately, The New Mutants turned out to be a decent superhero film about teenagers coming to grips with their superpowers and life as the film was tinged with chilling horror elements.

alone at the midnight sky

8. The Midnight Sky

George Clooney directed and starred in this introspective sci-fi film based on a book by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Clooney played a lone scientist in an arctic outpost who tries to warn the crew of a returning spacecraft not to come to Earth because it has undergone an extinction-level event. The film was a quiet and captivating character study of the scientist and the spacecraft crew as they struggled to survive in their hostile environments.

7. Underwater

Director William Eubanks is perhaps the most underrated director of sci-fi films today and his latest film continued to demonstrate this. Underwater may be filled with the usual tropes of a crew in an underwater research station being hunted by unknown, Lovecraftian creatures, but it was well crafted, claustrophobic and had the right amount of jump scares and unexpected character studies which elevated this film. 

6. Greenland

Gerard Butler starred in a surprisingly effective disaster film that smartly focused on a single family when cometary fragments crashed into the Earth. By staying with the family as they tried to make their way to safety, Greenland was able to directly show how the catastrophic event affected the family as they grappled with fear, uncertainty and confusion. 

5. Sonic the Hedgehog

Who would have thought that 2020 would have given us a winning film based on a popular video game character? It is more remarkable given the negative reaction to the first trailer which led to Sonic being radically re-designed more to fans’ liking. The effort paid off as Sonic the Hedgehog was a fun and endearing road trip/buddy film that delighted many viewers and not just fans. The road trip/buddy aspect of the film may be familiar but it worked as Sonic, the cartoonish alien, experiences life on Earth for the first time. 

4. #Alive

This South Korean film took a tired zombie/survival trope and reinvigorated it. In the film a young adult gamer is trapped in his apartment during a zombie apocalypse and as he undergoes bouts of loneliness and struggles to keep his sanity, he learns about survival and finding one’s inner strength. This character study made the film very engaging as we found ourselves rooting for the young gamer.

 

3. Color Out of Space

Nicolas Cage was in rare form in this macabre adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story. This horror/sci-fi yarn was quite unsettling in its first half which told the story of a crashed meteor’s unearthly physical effect in a nearby farm. By the second half, Color Out of Space metamorphized into a vivid and disturbing body-horror ordeal that was literally mind bending and shattering as the meteor’s alien influence transformed all life surrounding it, including the hapless farmer and his family. 

love and monsters dog

2. Love and Monsters

This exciting and more light-hearted post-apocalyptic film was a actually a coming-of-age story about a young man who learned to believe in himself as he set out across the ruined landscape of the U.S. to find his supposed true love. Sometimes it is compared to Zombieland, though that is not entirely accurate. In truth, Love and Monsters focused less on laughs and more on its endearing characters and imaginative, giant mutated animals that the film’s hero and his companion dog had to face during his difficult journey.

1. Soul

Two big films were released on streaming platforms (and had very limited theatrical releases), even though one of them (Wonder Woman 1984) had much more buzz and attention, Soul was not only the better of the two films but the best film of the year. The underlying themes may go over the heads of the younger viewers, though they and everyone else will be delighted by the film’s plot of Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), as a struggling musician who dies and refuses to go to heaven. From there, he sets off on a spiritual and metaphysical quest to return to life filled with solid characters and relationships. 

Not only is Soul perfectly animated and chock full of visual delights, but like the best of Pixar, it examines the larger questions in life and its script is unexpected. At its heart, Soul is about…life and what one makes of it. However, it also forces the viewer to contemplate and appreciate the simpler and most relevant aspects of life, and in this tumultous year, this may be the most important message of all. 

Honorable Mentions:

Bill & Ted Face the Music, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), The Invisible Man, Peninsula, Possessor, Vivarium

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The Mandalorian Expands The Star Wars Mythos In Its Second Season

mandaolorian s2 poster

The second season of the Disney+ TV show, The Mandalorian, streamed its finale recently and not only has the second season of The Mandalorian pleased Star Wars fans but expanded its universe.

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal as the mysterious bounty hunter known to many only as the Mandalorian, though his real name is Din Djarin. The other star of the show is Grogu, the infant member of Jedi Master Yoda’s equally mysterious race known for their connection to the Force. Originally in the first season of show the Mandalorian was hired to deliver Grogu to the remnants of the Galactic Empire (the show takes place several years after Return of the Jedi and the Empire has been defeated) for nefarious purposes. However, the mysterious bounty hunter developed a bond with the Child (as he was called then) and refused. Now hunted by the Empire, the Mandalorian spends most of the second season trying to learn more about the Child and find a proper home for the aforable, little impish being.

mandalorian and grogu

As it turns out the bond became quite powerful and over the course of the second season, Djinn became a father figure to Grogu and when the small Force-wielder was threatened the bounty hunter went all out to protect his adopted son.

In its second season, The Mandalorian expanded its mythos and embellished the Star Wars Universe as we were shown how the universe evolved after the events of Return of the Jedi. What was left of the Empire had been driven to the outer edges, perhaps this was the genesis of the First Order from teh Sequel Trilogy. Naturally, the Imperials are in dire straits as the New Republic attempt to restore order to the galaxy. There are signs the New Republic is having a hard time doing this, and again this provides clues to the backdrop of the Sequel Trilogy. In some ways, The Mandalorian is fullfilling the same role that Star Wars: The Clone Wars did in that that show fleshed out the worlds of the Prequel Trilogy, which led many to better appreciate those films.

Speaking of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, characters and details from that revered animated show, as well as Star Wars: Rebels, made live-action appearances in the second season of The Mandalorian, including the exiled Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan (played by Katee Sackhoff, who voiced her in Star Wars: Rebels), and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), the popular Jedi featured in both animated shows. Seeing these characters, especially Ahsoka, was a thrill to watch and gave validity to the Star Wars spinoffs as they are rightfully part of the Star Wars Universe. Even though it was a bit odd not to hear Ashley Eckstein’s voice coming out of Ahsoka, Dawson did a fine job interpreting a more mature Jedi warrior, who provided important details about the Child to the Mandalorian, starting with his name.

djinn and fett

Another popular Star Wars character finally returned alive and well. That being the most famous bounty hunter in the galacy, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), who is more of an anti-hero in his appearances in the show. However, we do not learn how he escaped his grisly fate as a meal for the sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. But the final episode gave us the biggest surprise appearances, which elevated the show to a whole other level. More on this later.

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Marvel (MCU) & Star Wars Have A Bright Future At Disney

By now, everyone reading this must have heard of the Disney 2020 Investor Day announcements on Decelber 10, which left us geeks and nerds salivating and tickled pink with excitement over what Disney has planned with our favorite IPs in their Disney+ streaming platform and theatrically. That last point alone is enough to hearten us since Disney more or less declared that the theatrical viewing experience will not die out. The best example of their commitment came when presenter and Marvel Studios head, Kevin Fiege, affirmed that the long-delayed Black Widow film will debut in theaters next May. This squashed any rumors that the film would premiere first on Disney+ and marks a return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

MCU Phase 4

Marvelous News

Kevin Feige gave perhaps the most anticipated presentation since we’ve all been suffering from MCU withdrawal this year. Fortunately the wait will soon end as WandaVision will finally stream next month on Disney+ and the new trailer shown on Disney 2020 Investor Day was just as bizarre and trippy as the previous trailers. WandaVision looks like it will be a pivotal anchor in the MCU going forward and is rumored to be the first of a multiverse-connecting trilogy that will be further explored in the next Spider-Man film before concluding with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It was confirmed that the Doctor Strange sequel will feature America Chavez.

By the way, very little information was given about the new Spider-Man, probably because it’s a Sony film, but the non-stop reports about cast members from all the previous Spider-Man  films coming back just leaves us very ecstatic.

Other highlights from Feige’s presentation were the news that the She-Hulk TV show will star Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, have appearances by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, and Tim Roth will return as the Abomination; two mini-series about the Secret Invasion and Armor Wars comic book events will stream on Disney+; the third Ant-Man film (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) will feature Kang the Conqueror as the villain; Christian Bale will play Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder; and from the footage shown the best were the previews of the new Loki series which will deal with the Time Variance Authority, the animated What If…, and the tantalizing behind-the-scenes footage of Ms. Marvel, who will also appear in Captain Marvel 2. Perhaps the most exciting news was the confirmation that Marvel Studios will produce a proper Fantastic Four film to be directed by Jon Watts, who directed the MCU Spider-Man films. Finally, a chance to do the Fab Four correct! Hopefully Spidey can make an appearance in that film!

Aside from Black Widow it is at this point too early to go into the release dates announced by Feige because we all know the schedule can change. But it is exciting and comforting to know that Marvel Studios is plowing full-steam ahead with their productions and 2021 will mark the Great MCU Comeback. Continue reading

The Greatest DC Hallmark Ornaments

dc ornaments

The Holiday season is when the ornaments based on popular genre start to shine as they adorn our Christmas trees or desks. Hallmark ornaments based on characters from DC comics, films and TV shows are some of the company’s most popular and enduring line of ornaments. Here is a list of the best DC Hallmark ornaments released to date.

10. Beware My Power (2012):

This Green Lantern ornament was clearly inspired by the mediocre Green Lantern film, but it still is a well-sculpted ornament with a nifty feature. Press the button and see the ornament emit a green light as Green Lantern charges his ring and recites his famous oath against evildoers. 

9. The Bat Cycle (2010):

There are many Bat vehicle ornaments released by Hallmark throughout the years. Most of them related to the Batmobile. While the vehicle ornaments are well done, the Bat Cycle is the best of them simply because of the attention to detail not just on the Bat Cycle but the heroes riding it, Batman and Robin.

8. Descending Upon Gotham (2009):

Batman, naturally is the most popular DC Comics superhero done by Hallmark. The Caped Crusader often is shown in dramatic striking poses and this one is his most dynamic one yet as the pose captures him in mid leap ready to go into action.

Superman shield

7. A Symbol of Hope (2017):

The instantly recognizable and legendary Superman symbol stands out from other DC Hallmark ornaments not just for the simplicity of the “S” symbol but because it plays John Williams’ masterful and iconic Superman theme.

6. Wonder Woman (2018):

This DC Hallmark ornament captured the best moment from Wonder Woman as the Amazonian warrior charged the enemy German line during World War I. The pose is quite dramatic and intense as Wonder Woman uses her shield to ward off gunfire.

5. The Bat Symbol (2006):

One of the best DC Hallmark ornaments has a simple yet imaginative feature of having a light projecting a small Batman logo symbol. It may not be as striking as the one Commissioner Gordon uses to summon the Dark Knight but it looks great on any Christmas tree.

4. The Last Son of Krypton (2010):

Most Hallmark ornaments about Superman have him in a flying pose, which after a while becomes unimaginative and hard to tell the difference from each other. This one differs because it shows the Last Son of Krypton in mid-flight throwing a punch, which signifies Superman is doing something heroic and action packed besides flying. 

dark knight returns ornament

3. The Dark Knight Returns (2012):

Hallmark sold many exclusive ornaments in conventions such as Comic-Con. This exclusive is a recreation of Batman as imagined by Frank Miller from his classic graphic novel mini-series, The Dark Knight Returns. Like many Hallmark ornaments this one has a sculpture which is painstakingly accurate down to Batman’s squared jaws  and bulky physique as seen in The Dark Knight Returns. 

2. Comic Heroes #2: Superman (2008): 

Remarkably, this was the only ornament in Hallmark’s short-lived Comic Book Heroes series to feature a DC Comics superhero. This ornament doubled as mini-comic book with a 3D sculpture in the front cover of Superman bursting through the pages of his comic book, which retold his origin story. It’s too bad, Hallmark never got around to doing such an ornament about Batman and a mini-comic book from his line. 

 

1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016):

Actually this diorama is made up of three separately sold ornments featuring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as seen in the controversial film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. These ornaments can be displayed separately or put together to form a diorama which represents how the heroic trio joined forces in the film and inspired the formation of the Justice League.The poses and sculpts are excellent as the DC superheroes strike dramatic poses. 

Honorable Mentions:

The following are huntworthy DC Hallmark ornaments for any fan of the superheroes or quality ornaments whether online or at a random store or flea market. 

Aquaman: Justice League (2017); The Bat: The Dark Knight Rises (2012); The Batmobile (2020); Christopher Reeve as Superman (2019); The Fastest Man Alive (2009); The Flash (2018); Green Lantern (2011); Harley Quinn (2010); Holy Hit TV Show, Batman! (2014); The Joker (2013); The Joker (2015); Princess Diana Returns: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020); Superman (1995); Villain Database (2007)

José Soto