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.

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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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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).

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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 Pixar Films Ranked

Now that Incredibles 2 has been released, Pixar AnimationStudios has twenty full-length films in its library. This is a good number to rank the Pixar films. Bear in mind that these animated films are among the best films ever made and even those that rank at the bottom have their moments. Be sure to comment below on how you would rank the Pixar films, which are universally considered the gold standard with animated films these days.

20. Brave

It was neck and neck between this and Cars 2 for the bottom spot.  What made Brave earn this spot was that ultimately the story was dull and came off as a generic Disney princess-proves-herself yarn we’ve seen too often. The hair animation was nice, though.

19. Cars 2

This is possibly the most unwanted sequel in Pixar’s history. The only thing going for the first sequel to Cars is its above-average animation, but the story about ‘Mater caught up in a spy caper is strictly aimed at kids who won’t know any better.

18. Cars 3

The third film in the Cars trilogy has some good moments about making comebacks and passing the torch for the next generation. Although the animation is up to Pixar’s loftiest standards, Cars 3 cannot shake the stigma of being an unwanted sequel to one of Pixar’s lesser efforts.

17. The Good Dinosaur

It seems as if Disney (and Pixar) has a hard time coming up with a memorable dinosaur film. How hard can it be? This film about a dinosaur and his pet human boy was interesting to watch but it lacked the special Pixar touch. What’s worse is that there isn’t anything remarkable about this film.

16. Cars

This can be considered Pixar’s first misfire, but that is unfair. Cars is not a bad movie, it’s just that it didn’t knock it out of the park as previous Pixar films have done. It’s an enjoyable film though its underwhelming plot about a hotshot racecar finding himself in a backwater town was lifted straight from Doc Hollywood.

15. Monsters University

The prequel to Monsters, Inc. (and the first Pixar prequel ever done) presents the unasked for tale of how the leads Mike and Sully first met as college roommates. It’s a fun watch, and much of the humor was aimed at children, but its message about accepting your limitations in life came off as a downer.

13. Finding Dory

The sequel to Finding Nemo is a worthy followup that further explores the enchanting underwater world and the popular characters from the first film. We also meet great new characters, and overall it’s a fun film with some tender moments, though its message about animal captivity is a bit too-on-the-nose.

13. Monsters, Inc.

The fourth Pixar film introduced a fascinating world of monsters that was quite hysterical at times. The highlights of the film were the voice acting by John Goodman and Billy Crystal who had great chemistry and timing. The relationship between Sully and the human girl “Boo” was simply adorable and would melt any cynic’s heart.

12. A Bug’s Life

The sophomore effort from Pixar kind of got lost among all of Pixar’s other offerings. This is because the animation is a bit rough by today’s standards and other films better captured fans’ hearts. Still, A Bug’s Life is a splendid tribute to Seven Samurai (or The Magnificent Seven) with a great score.

11. Ratatouille

This animated film stood out from the others with its ode to the art of cooking. It’s an unusual tale about a rat that wants to become a great chef which may not resonate as well as other Pixar films. But it’s beautifully animated and the themes about perception and artistry are well executed.

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Fifteen Films To Look For In 2015

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This year’s slate of genre films looks incredibly thrilling for fans. We have the return of Star Wars, the Avengers and many high-profile sci-fi wannabe epics, plus a slew of fantasy, horror and animated films. Of the many scheduled releases, these are the ones to look for in 2015.

15. Jupiter Ascending

This eye-catching space adventure jupiterfilm starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum can be either a magnificent comeback vehicle for the Wachowskis or another in a long string of flops for the directors after their early success with The Matrix. (Release Date: February 6)

14. Inside Out

Pixar is offering two animated films for 2015 and the first one out is about the emotions of a young girl being played out in her mind by distinct characters. Think of that old Fox show Herman’s Head for the younger crowd. (Release Date: June 19)

WELCOME TO YESTERDAY13. Project Almanac

Usually January is a dumping ground for inferior movies, and found footage films are now considered passé. But Project Almanac has an interesting premise: A bunch of young adults record their discovery of time travel and its negative repercussions. It could go either way. (Release Date: January 30)

12. Monsters: Dark Continent

Even though Gareth Edwards, the monsters dark continentdirector of the first Monsters film, isn’t returning, he is still involved in this sequel that expands the premise of Monsters. Now the alien behemoths have spread throughout the world and this film chronicles a soldier looking for a comrade in monster-infested territory. (Release Date: February 27)

11. Terminator: Genisys

Fans of the Terminator films have been burned by the last two entries in the series. The production team behind this latest entry hope to start afresh with this semi-reboot/sequel that returns Arnold Schwarzenegger as an older version of the killer cyborg. The trailer was a bit offputting, yet somehow intriguing with the idea that the original timeline of the first film has been radically altered and combines elements of Terminator 2: Judgment Day with the original film. (Release Date: July 1)

10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part Two

The final film of The Hunger Games saga promises to deliver the ultimate confrontation between the young victor of the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), and the District 13 rebel forces against the tyrant President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his armies of Panem. (Release Date: November 20)

scott lang9. Ant-Man

This film is probably a case of any publicity is good publicity. Ant-Man has always been an obscure superhero. The only interest in this film was due to director Edgar Wright’s involvement. Awaresness ratcheted up a thousand fold when Wright quit the film and Marvel Studios went through a very public search for a director, any director to take over. It’s easy to right off Ant-Man because of its behind-the -scenes headaches, but this is Marvel Studios, who were able to sell the just-as obscure Guardians of the Galaxy. (Release Date: July 17)

8. The Good Dinosaur

Out of the two Pixar releases for this dinogoodyear, this film seems the more interesting of the two. It’s about dinosaurs for Pete’s sake! And according to publicity material The Good Dinosaur takes place in world where the mighty giant reptiles never died off, making the film a rare alternate history film. Even though it’s had a troubled production, Pixar should be able to pull off another winner. (Release Date: November 25)

7. The Martian

Based on the book by Andy Weir. Ridley Scott directs this outer space survival tale starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars. Think of Survivorman in space or rather that underrated cult classic Robinson Crusoe on Mars, but with today’s scientific knowledge and special effects. Hopefully Ridley Scott might have better luck with The Martian than he did with Prometheus. (Release Date: November 25)

6. Chappie

Neill Blomkamp’s third film stars Hugh Jackman and is about a sentient chappierobot finding his way in the world. From the bits shown in the trailer, Chappie might become the latest endearing robot to capture our human hearts in the mode of WALL-E or R2-D2. In any case, this film offers Blomkamp a chance at redemption after Elysium failed to match the success of District 9. (Release Date: March 6)

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

Everyone’s favorite futuristic Road Warrior is back! In the newest Mad Max film, the titular hero is now portrayed by Tom Hardy and is being directed by series creator George Miller. If what has been shown on the trailers is true, we’re going to be treated by the same high-octane road thrills that defined the original films and make the Fast and the Furious films seem pedestrian. (Release Date: May 15)

4. Jurassic World

Dinosaurs never get old on the silver screen! With that said, we’ve been itching for a return to Jurassic Park even though the last film, which came out in 2001, was a bit disappointing. Chris Pratt stars as a park warden in a perfected dinosaur theme park that has a front-seat viewing of dinosaur genetic experiments gone awry. (Release Date: June 12)

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3. Tomorrowland

The newest film by Brad Bird is still a mystery at this point and the teaser released served only to bring up more questions and entice us even more. Bird has proven to be a phenomenal director and the imagery shown in the trailer were beyond entrancing. Fingers crossed that Tomorrowland will be as extraordinary and scintillating as the teaser, well, teased. (Release Date: May 22)

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Yes, this latest Star Wars film is on the top of many anticipated lists for 2015. This is just based on director J.J. Abrams’ credentials and an exciting teaser trailer. But remember how we were all excited when the trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out. Then there is the undeniable fact that Abrams has his critics, especially with his overuse of lens flares. And depending on one’s point of view this is the first Star Wars film not under the guidance of George Lucas. Putting all those reservations aside, it’s freaking great that we’re actually getting a brand new Star Wars films that takes its inspiration from the Original Trilogy. (Release Date: December 18)

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1. Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Avengers was as influential on superhero films as The Dark Knight and Superman. A large measure of thanks had to go to director Joss Whedon, who crafted a well-balanced character/action piece that was exciting, witty and plain fun. Avengers: Age of Ultron looks like it will take the route of other well-regarded sequels in adopting a darker tone. This came across with the trailer’s use of a chilling rendition of “I Got No Strings”, which accompanied despairing scenes of our distressed heroes as they faced off against the robotic Ultron, voiced unnervingly by James Spader. Also it’s been hinted that the film’s events will lead to 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, which pits superheroes against one another. The takeaway impression is that Avengers: Age of Ultron will not play it safe. (Release Date: May 1)

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In addition to this list there are many more genre films currently scheduled for 2015. Some of the more interesting ones include Predestination (January 9–next week!), a time-travel piece starring Ethan Hawke; Seventh Son (February 6) features Jeff Bridges in a medieval knight story with fantastic monsters and witches; The Divergent Series: Insurgent (March 20), the sequel to last year’s Divergent is also an adaptation of Veronica Roth’s second Divergent novel and stars super popular Shailene Woodley; Home (March 27), Dreamworks Animation presents this sci-fi buddy comedy about aliens invaders; Ex Machina (April 10) marks the directorial debut of 28 Days Later writer Alex Garland in a tale about artificial intelligence; Pan (July 24) is a prequel to Peter Pan featuring Hugh Jackman; Pixels (July 24), Chris Columbus directs this sci-fi comedy about 1980s-era video game characters used by aliens to invade Earth; Poltergeist (July 24), a remake of the Tobe Hooper horror classic; Self/Less (July 31) stars Ryan Reynolds as a dying man whose consciousness is transferred into another body; Sinister 2 (August 21), the sequel to the surprisingly scary Sinister; The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (Sept. 18), based on another popular young reader sci-fi book series, it’s the sequel to last year’s The Maze Runner; Victor Frankenstein (October 2), James McAvoy stars as the infamous scientist while Daniel Radcliffe plays Igor; The Jungle Book (October 9) is a live-action version of the Disney classic adaptation directed by Jon Favreau; Crimson Peak (October 16), a Gothic romance directed by Guillermo Del Toro; and Midnight Special (November 25) is a sci-fi chase film about a father and son who go on run after the son develops special powers.

José Soto

Forget Summer 2011, Bring on Next Summer’s Films!

Well the summer 2011 movie season is drawing to a close. Yes, August isn’t even here yet, but almost all of the big guns from the studios have been fired. There are just a handful of anticipated, genre flicks that haven’t been released yet. They include Rise of the Planet of the ApesConan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Final Destination 5. With this year’s Comic-Con, all the buzz is still about next year’s, and more specifically, next summer’s film releases. Here’s a list of what to look forward to:

May 2012

May 4–The Avengers–What better way to kick off the summer movie season (and Free Comic Book Day) than with a Marvel superhero film? Continuing a years’-long tradition, Marvel Studios is releasing its most anticipated film that teams up its A-list superheroes; Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. Plus, it’s directed by fan favorite Joss Whedon so expect it to make some moolah.

May 11–Dark Shadows–Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp (again!) in this remake of the popular 1960s soap opera about the vampire Barnabas Collins which predates True Blood, Twilight and all the other hot vampire shows and films.

May 18–Battleship–The Internet’s been percolating with a newly released teaser trailer. At first people were scratching their heads over the idea that Universal Studios canceled Ron Howard’s production of The Dark Tower saga in lieu of this reportedly $200 million sci-fi film directed by Peter Berg (who’s last film Hancock didn’t exactly thrill audiences). But the sight of U.S. Navy ships getting ready to square off against Transformer-like alien ships won over many doubters.

May 25–Men In Black III–Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld reteam for the third outing of Earth-based illegal alien hunting agents. Little is known about the film, only that it involves time travel which is impossible according to some scientists in Hong Kong.

June 2012

June 1–Snow White and the Huntsman–Starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, this reimaging of the classic fairy tale is supposedly more action packed and darker. Already people are clamoring for it or dismissing this as another Twilight clone. Given Stewart’s popularity with Twihards it may do well at the box office.

June 8–Prometheus–Perhaps the most anticipated sci-fi film of 2012 as Ridley Scott returns to the director’s chair to helm this prequel (?) to the Alien franchise. Little has been revealed about this film that might be about the alien space jockey whose skeleton was seen in the first Alien film. This veil of secrecy hasn’t been seen in a film for a while and its whipping up interest among fans burned out by the awful Aliens vs. Predators films.

June 8–Madagascar 3–Dreamworks Animation’s big offering for the summer brings us the further adventures of Alex the lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo as they try yet again to find their way back to New York’s Central Park Zoo. Reportedly the gang winds up in Europe and a traveling circus; the kids already can’t wait!

June 15–Jack the Giant Killer–Bryan Singer directs this fantasy epic about a young farmhand who battles against a race of giants. Described as an adult take of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale this film features Ewan MacGregor and Stanley Tucci.

June 22-Brave–Pixar’s latest film has many firsts for the acclaimed animation studio; its first fairy tale, its first film directed by a woman and the first one to feature a girl protagonist. Its appeal to young girls who favor Disney films and Pixar’s brand for putting out animated masterpieces  should make a killing at the box office.  

June 22-Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter–Based on the popular novel of the same name it’s directed by  Timur Bekmambetov (his last film was the action-packed Wanted). It’s an interesting alternative for moviegoers who may not be into the month’s fairy tale releases.

June 29–G.I. Joe 2–The first film wasn’t exactly beloved even by those who swear by the Transformers films. But it made enough money to warrant a sequel. The question is how will it hold up to the heavy hitters released around the same time? It has got to have a killer trailer or word of mouth to get some momentum.

July 2012

July 3–The Amazing Spider-Man–Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man film series has many Spider-fans torn over the need for a re-imaging so recently after Sam Raimi’s flicks. Yet again maybe the studio wants to get rid of the ill will the last film generated. Still no matter what critics say about Andrew Garfield looking like an emo, he does resemble Peter Parker and the mechanical web shooters will be used!

July 13–Ice Age: Continental Drift–The prehistoric mammals (featuring a wooly mammoth, a saber-tooth cat and a ground sloth) from the kid-friendly movie series return in this story that has them trapped on an iceberg and off on a seagoing adventure.

July 13–TedFamily Guy’s Seth MacFarlane makes his live-action directorial debut about a man (Mark Wahlberg) and his childhood teddy bear that comes to life. Sounds like a combo of Harvey and the recent TV show Wilfred. If Mike Judge could make the live-action transition then so could MacFarlane.

July 20–The Dark Knight Rises–OK hands down this is the BIG ONE for moviegoers. Whether or not you are a Batman fan you can’t deny the phenomenon of the last Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film. Touted as his last film and with Catwoman and Bane as the villains it might be the year’s biggest hit. In fact it’s expected to be so successful that it seems as if the rest of the summer season is drawing to a close afterwards.

August 2012

August 3–Total Recall–Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston star in the remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi movie that was based on a Philip K. Dick short story. Farrell stated recently that the film, like the original, will differ from the author’s tale.

August 17–ParaNorman–A stop-motion animated film that takes place in a town besieged by zombies. The citizens then call upon the services of a boy who is a sort of zombie whisperer to take care of the problem.

Of course, these release dates are subject to change and will most likely do so. Already, the new Star Trek film that was scheduled for the summer has been pushed back, so it won’t be surprising to learn that one of the above films has been removed from the schedule or another will join the list. No matter what, it’s good to know that there are plenty of films to choose from for next summer.

José Soto