This year has been extremely hard for everyone around the world. This pandemic has got us down in more ways than one. That includes the movie industry, with theaters being shutdown causing films to delay their release dates and films currently in production to be shutdown and put on hold. With theaters shutdown, we only got a handful of films we were able to see in theaters. Thanks to streaming services some theatrical films went straight to streaming and other films were released directly to streaming skipping the wait for theaters to re-open. From the beginning of the year up until now, I’ve had the privilege of still being able to see some great films. Therefore I’ve compiled a list of my ten best films I’ve seen in 2020 so far. Majority of these are available on the plethora of streaming services. I highly suggest you seek them out and give them a watch. I ranked them from number’s 1 – 10, starting from the top being number 1.
#1 – 5
•The Way Back
Starring: Ben Affleck
Directed By: Gavin O’ Connor
“The Way Back” proves that Affleck the actor gives one of the finest performances of his career. The strength of Affleck’s work is uncanny as he is the reason to see the movie and this is the reminder of how great an actor he is. It looks like it may be based on a true story, but in fact it is not a true story. The battles Affleck’s character deals with in alcoholism is to an extent the truest part of the story and what he is currently dealing with in his personal life. The script by Brad Ingelsby is solid, while director Gavin O’Connor (who directed Affleck in “The Accountant”), directs in a strong docudrama-style, directing a lean and powerful drama. “The Way Back” wins both the playoffs and the championship, and is a complete victory in itself.
Starring: Michelle Obama
Directed By: Nadia Hallgren
Higher Ground, a production company created by Barack and Michelle Obama has scored big with their Netflix documentaries “Crip Camp” and the Oscar-winner “American Factory”. Their newest Netflix produced documentary “Becoming” is a flattering portrait of the former First Lady as we follow her on her 2019 book tour. We are treated to a first hand account of her backstory through wonderful archival footage, old photos, Michelle’s on-camera reminiscences, celebrity interviewers and friends. Selling out massive arena venues, Michelle is treated as if The Beatles were performing. Michelle tells great stories as she admits that she’s struggled to find who she is and in candid accounts we hear her urge others to fearlessly do the same. “Becoming” isn’t trying to court any controversy, it wants to inspire young female supporters with the philosophy that “your story is your power”. For every uplifting moment, she has sobering moments too. But Michelle’s journey is a lovely one to watch and one to become inspired by.
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Issa Rae
Directed By: Stella Meghie
“The Photograph” is an intelligent and mature love story, with one of the most magnetic and lovely on-screen couples. LaKeith Stanfield is a revelation and Issa Rae is stunningly beautiful as she radiates the screen in every scene. Both stars have pure chemistry that absolutely ignites the screen. Powered by a soundtrack of classic R&B hits and a soothing jazz score by jazz musician Robert Glasper. “The Photograph” plays as a throwback to an old-school love story, where it’s characters are treated and written as real adults. Superbly crafted and acted. Romantic on every level, while never being overly dramatic, but always captivating.
•I Still Believe
Starring: KJ zap, Britt Robertson, Gary Sinise
Directed By: The Erwin Brothers
“I Still Believe”, the newest film from the Erwin Brothers, is the most Nicolas Sparks film, not written by Nicolas Sparks. Based on the true story of singer Jeremy Camp. KJ Apa playing Jeremy is a great stepping stone for a leading man career. KJ does an admirable job, doing his own singing and guitar playing. While Britt Robertson as Melissa, brings such warmth, strength and beauty in every sense of the word. Apa and Robertson are marvelous together and have great on-screen chemistry. Veteran actor Gary Sinise in a supporting role exhibits a natural ease and reminds us why he’s one of our finest actors. It’s a heartfelt, engaging movie bristling with a great soundtrack. It’s that kind of movie that brings hope and we could all use that sorely right now. “I Still Believe” proves there is always hope in midst of tragedy, and that faith tested is the only faith worth sharing.
•Bad Boys For Life
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens
Directed By: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
25 years since the first film and 17 years since the sequel. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence stick to their oath as “Bad Boys For Life”. The third film in the franchise directed by newcomers Adil and Bilall, pump new life into the lives of Mike and Marcus, while still sticking to the nostalgia of the franchise. The two filmmakers prove they got a big future ahead as filmmakers while Will Smith and Martin Lawrence give their best performances, pumping human elements and real emotion into their born to play roles that was missing from the first two films. “Bad Boys For Life” is what fans have been waiting for, as it all feels earned and rewarding.
#6 – 10
•Trolls World Tour
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick
Directed By: Walt Dohrn
“Trolls World Tour”, the sequel to 2016’s “Trolls” just may have broke the seal on the skip the theatrical run and go straight to video on demand movement. Three weeks since released on digital, “Trolls World Tour” has racked up nearly $100 million in rentals. While it’s dominating home screens, it’s one that I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to see in theaters. The five credited writers make creative choices toward the sequel by focusing on world building. There aren’t as many catchy tunes this time around, and the Justin Timberlake Oscar nominated infectious smash “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” isn’t even close to being replicated. Although it’s a great introduction to introducing your little ones to rock music, from Scorpion to Heart to Ozzy Osbourne. “World Tour” is a stronger endeavor than its predecessor, with the production more mindful this time around of what elements work for the feature, increasing the use of bright colors, big musical moments, and humor that earns your laughter.
•The Roads Not Taken
Starring: Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning
Directed by: Sally Potter
British director and writer Sally Potter’s “The Roads Not Taken”, has a quiet, drifting tone and a batch of excellent performances that allow for powerful moments of emotion. Javier Bardem is brilliant in a physically demanding performance. Potter shifts back and forth through three different timelines of Leo’s life, that includes his daughter Molly played in a performance filled with maturity by Elle Fanning. Sally Potter gives us a lot to think about and offers a unique perspective on the human condition. With two powerful lead performances, “The Roads Not Taken” is a potent portrayal of the bond between a parent and a child and how that bond can never be taken for granted.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Writer and director Guy Ritchie takes a break from a string of big budget films, to go back to his roots with the British gangster flick “The Gentlemen”. Ritchie and his spot on A-list cast delivers a hilarious, clever, sharp and quickly paced crime comedy. “The Gentlemen” rises to the top of Guy Ritchie’s talents as a writer and director. It’s the first film of 2020 that earns the title of brilliance. This is Guy Ritchie at the top of his game making a movie that just bleeds cool.
•The Rhythm Section
Starring: Blake Lively, Jude Law
Directed By: Reed Morano
Legendary producers of the James Bond 007 franchise, inject some freshness into the spy and assassin genre with “The Rhythm Section”. Director Reed Morano assembles an assassin origin story with an adrenaline-rush of violence, but always maintaining a character centric approach to her visceral guerrilla style filmmaking. Blake Lively stars as the assassin to be and Jude Law as her trainer, both are mesmerizing in their roles and give great career performances. The style of “The Rhythm Section” isn’t the polished cool of the 007 films. This is a spy thriller that is both shaken and stirred.
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel
Directed By: William Eubanks
“Underwater” takes from the playbook of Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, where in the ocean no one can hear you scream. Originally to be released three years ago, director William Eubanks “Underwater” calls back to the era of a nineties creature feature. Led by a game performance from Kristen Stewart, who’s cast as her version of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. The suspense and tension Eubanks creates is a chaotic viewing experience, making “Underwater” a claustrophobic nail-biter. The action, suspense and tension underwater is effective, but can become hard to look at and understand. It’s as if we are watching the action through a dirty aquarium glass. “Underwater” is the perfect way to spend your Friday and Saturday night at the movies.