Where blockbusters and tentpoles have been indefinitely delayed, it’s given smaller films a chance to shine bright and probably get an audience they normally wouldn’t have. So while I do eagerly anticipate Black Widow, Tenet and A Quiet Place II, and of course the opportunity to get back to the movie theatre, I’ve quite enjoyed the limited offerings 2020 has been able to give us.
Palm Springs takes the fun premise of a temporal loop, explored famously in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Edge of Tomorrow, and of course Groundhog Day, and pushes it further into philosophical and scientific extremes. Fortunately, its lofty, high brow aspirations never get in the way of the film’s comedic heart. Likewise, the comedy and emotion never speak over the more intellectual ponderings. Andy Siara’s script strikes the balance with tact and skill, which crafts an absolutely stunning character piece about lost souls finding meaning in hopelessness. The whole film would fall apart if it didn’t have the comedic and romantic chemistry between Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti.
Available on: Hulu
The Vast of Night
It’s a quiet, careful, deliberate film. Sci-fi doesn’t quiet get the chance to go quiet and careful these days, not the way horror gets to do. But minimalism does this sharply written mystery film a world of favours. The Vast of Night never aspires to reinvent the genre or sub-genre, but it takes the ball and runs with it. You can feel the bleak fear exuding from the screen, reminiscent of 50s era sci-fi and The Twilight Zone, but there’s a twinge of hope in the mystery, to reassure you it’s not all dire, calling back to Spielberg’s classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This is high concept at it’s finest, and can’t recommend this one enough
Available on: Amazon Prime
Da Five Bloods
The themes of brotherhood and camaraderie are ones everyone can relate to. Spike Lee bringing the black experience and shining those themes through that lens spin Da 5 Bloods into essential viewing for 2020, as it dropped in the midst of the protests against police brutality. We get the multiple facets of how that brotherhood can change and evolve over time, as the men involved grow, change and evolve. Delroy Lindo’s Paul is one of the more intricate characters brought to the screen in the past several years, and Lindo’s particular style really brings him to life.
Available on: Netflix
The Invisible Man
Elizabeth Moss owns and dominates the entirety of The Invisible Man. It is her film, everyone else is just along for the ride. Leigh Wannell takes the well-worn H.G. Wells story we know, facelifts it to the 21st century with a modern setting and commentary to delivers frightening saga of a woman trying to escape her tormentor. The fear and panic and unease of Cecelia is perfectly captured on screen. It was one of the last films I saw in theatres before the shutdown, and definitely a high mark in cinema-going experiences.
Available on: VOD services for rent
The Old Guard
In what very well could be a year without Marvel or DC in theatres (both have films penciled in for the fourth quarter), Charlize Theron steps in with The Old Guard to bring an exciting thriller and franchise starter to the super-action game. The two origin stories it tells, that of the Old Guard as a team and of KiKi Layne’s Nile, are never labouriously plodded through like too many superhero origin stories. They drop us in the action, get us up-to-date with expert level show-don’t-tell, and push through on the story to get us to the franchise establishing plot. The action is tight and exciting, and it’s just an all around fun watch.
Available on: Netflix
Birds of Prey or the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn; Underwater; Lovebirds; Sea Fever; Colour Out of Space
Still To See:
The Assistant, Never Rarely Sometimes Always; Emma.; First Cow