2020 - The Year So Far

Even though it's felt never-ending, we've made it halfway through 2020 thus far. One of the things which has got me through this year is film, and although the circumstances has changed, there are still a great selection of films available to view (many of which I'm yet to see). In my personal opinion, these are currently the 10 best, and 5 worst, films of 2020 so far.


5. Intent on kickstarting a cinematic universe based on Valiant Comics, Bloodshot follows the standard plot of a revenge film, as Vin Diesel's superpowered mercenary seeks revenge for his fridged wife. What then occurs is an array of wonderful ideas which subvert this tired trope linked to cinematic machismo, but delivers them in ways that feel flat. Between the cartoonish visual effects, the tiring use of slow-motion, and Diesel's lack of charisma, there's little to recommend here.

4. Released onto Netflix due to the state of the world, The Lovebirds follows a couple on the verge of splitting up, who are then witnesses to a murder. Not wanting to be wrongly accused, they go on the run, intent on finding the real culprit. Considering how packed with humour and emotional heft his last two films were, it's a shame director Michael Showalter misses the mark with those elements. Spare a thought for Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, whose performances sell their relationship more than the numerous empty arguments their characters have throughout.

3. Once a popular TV series starring Ricardo Montalbán, Fantasy Island got a bizarre retooling for the horror genre. Split among the ensemble cast and their different tones, we're left with a clash of too many ideas vying for screentime, where the horrific and comedic attempts just get on your nerves, and late revelations are just downright baffling.

2. It's been a while since I've seen a franchise go off the rails so spectacularly, but Brahms: The Boy II does exactly that. Where its predecessor subverted the expected story routes, this film leans into them so much, as though the filmmakers are frightened of making one move colouring outside the lines. A groanworthy feature which feels like it's made by people who didn't see the first film, but made a sequel based upon its premise. This makes it all the more puzzling that screenwriter Stacey Menear and director William Brent Bell actually returned.

1. I don't even know where to begin with Dolittle. How skin-crawlingly awkward each decision feels? The embarrassing ADR work? Whatever is going on with Robert Downey Jr's apparently Welsh accent? How the climax involves our lead character pulling bagpipes out of a dragons anus? It's all so baffling and wrong-headed, especially for such a high-profile film with such a large budget. Whatever decent ideas may have laid within, the evident reshoots have ensured they're hopelessly lost now.


10. For his third feature as a director, Armando Iannucci moves away from adapting his televisual creations and dark history lessons, choosing to adapt a Charles Dickens novel. The Personal History of David Copperfield is pretty self-explanatory, detailing the characters life from impoverished orphan child, to adult writer. A film that's utterly delightful to spend time in the company of, as Dev Patel gives a winning performance in the lead role, trying to persevere above the societal status he's been boxed into. Aided by a wonderful supporting cast, this is bursting with charm, and worth a good laugh.

9. After the passing of their 94 year-old matriarch, the residents of a small town start to notice strange occurrences happening. Their water supply has been cut off, their location has vanished from satellite maps, and animals are stampeding through their streets. If you think you know where Bacurau is going, think again. This is a tale about a small-town community putting aside their differences, and coming together to embrace their home. Sounds lovely, but it takes place in very dark and bloody ways, making for fantastic viewing.

8. What if Before Sunrise contained much more heavy metal, and ritualistic dismemberments? Sadistic Intentions is a gripping two-hander, between the talented leads of Jeremy Gardner and Taylor Zaudtke. The pair share in a twisted romance, bonding over conversations and perfecting their metal scream. However, they've both been lured there by an unstable musician, looking to overcome his artistic frustration in brutal ways. When we're not watching the chemistry between our leads, director Eric Pennycoff squeezes the tension out of this unnerving tale, of which the 90 minute runtime breezes by.

7. A neon-drenched siege flick which draws on John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, Joe Begos directs a white-knuckled feature with VFW. When a desperate teen runs into the bar with a bag of stolen drugs, a group of war veterans fight to protect her against a gang of violent punks. They barricade the bar, arm themselves with whatever's at their disposal, and ready themselves against an unrelenting attack from the punks, and their zombie-like hordes. This is a great showcase for the grizzly kills which punctuate the tense proceedings, brought alive through gnarly practical effects. Where it most succeeds is never forgetting who these characters are, no matter whether their relationships are new-found or have decades long foundations.

6. Has there been more of a double-edged sword in this day than the internet? There's a horror linked to social media, and putting yourself online, which Graham Hughes captures with this brainchild of his. Presented as a documentary, Death of a Vlogger tells the story of an ambitious vlogger who seems to have video proof that he's being haunted, but it leads him down a nightmarish rabbit hole. A true "be careful what you wish for" tale, as the spectre of social media fame manifests through online harassment and nerve-shredding scares.

5. After receiving a letter from his estranged father, Norval visits him at his secluded home, in the hopes of reconnecting, and healing their strained relationship. That's the basic premise for Come To Daddy, but where it goes from there is best discovered yourselves. What occurs is a blackly comedic ride, which can deliver horrific moments and hilarious lines in tandem, while never forgetting the human elements. Partially inspired by an event in his life, Ant Timpson's directorial debut captures underlying moments of regret, as characters come to terms with important things in touching ways, aided by the talented cast of Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, and Michael Smiley.

4. There are plenty of stories about coping with grief throughout cinema, but I'd be surprised if anybody else approached it in the way Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää has with Dogs Don't Wear Pants. A widower finds himself emotionally distant, but a chance encounter with a dominatrix has him feeling something for the first time in years. If you expect the BDSM elements to be tantalisation ala Fifty Shades of Grey, then you'll be disappointed, as this exploration of loss is bittersweet, engrossing, and even a bit funny.

3. A marine biology student joins up with a trawler crew, but while fishing in the West Irish seas, they find themselves marooned, and struggling against a parasitic infection. While the influences with John Carpenter's The Thing may be clear, director Neasda Hardiman ensures Sea Fever has enough of a singular identity to work in its own right. What's crafted is a story which keeps you on edge to discover where the danger will come from for the crew, as the rising tensions on-board are just as dangerous as the parasite lurking outside.

2. Updating a Hollywood classic for contemporary audiences is a risky move, but Leigh Whannell took the plunge, and it paid off with The Invisible Man. The story sees Cecilia escaping from her abusive partner and hiding out, only to then discover he committed suicide. As she tries putting her life back together, Cecilia comes to realise her ex is stalking her, despite not being able to see him. What's left is a story about gaslighting and the stranglehold of an abusive partner, which utilises empty spaces and silence in unbearably tense ways. A tale which makes subtle choices as well as the slick set-pieces, and delivers one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the year. When Universal reboot their other classic monsters, let's hope they're as effective as this.

1. Drawn from first-hand experiences witnessed by director Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always follows Skylar, who must travel to New York with her cousin, in order to get an abortion. Told through the perspectives of these 17 year old girls, we see a frustrating reflection of our own world, and the unnecessary hoops that must be jumped through to get an abortion. It's all handled with such grace, as this humanist story never threatens to become preachy, but told in a reserved and empathetic way. The most powerful moment sees a series of personal questions asked in a clinic, as Sidney Flanigan's conveys so much, while saying so little. One of the years most affecting scenes, which adds to my best film of 2020 so far.