Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. In the last episode, I showcased my top ten best films of 2020 just to light up the darkness in this horrific year. Now, it’s time for me to count down the top ten stinkers of the year, just to add insult to injury. Great, it’s bad enough that I had to deal with surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, now I have to talk about the ten films that I wasted my time on. 2020 was a very interesting year for me. For those who are new to my top ten list, I do the best I can to explain why I didn’t like my personal choices on this list in a mature manner because let’s face it, we don’t need any more of this stinking negativity. Just like with my top ten best films of 2020 list, this list is from my own personal opinion. If there’s a film on my list that you actually like, that’s completely fine. Don’t let my opinions change your own views on it because again, everyone has their own perspective on film, especially critics, and they have the right to share them without being judged. With that in mind, allow me to share mine as I count down my worse films of 2020.
Let’s start this list off with the latest comedy from the husband-and-wife duo, director Ben Falcone and comedian Melissa McCarthy. Or was it a romantic comedy? An action romance comedy? “Superintelligence” is a glitchy system that has no idea what it wants to be, resulting in it being one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Aside from its respectable cast and a passable final act, the film suffered from a series of malfunctions such as Falcone’s direction, its poor execution on the humor, and its tedious story. It didn’t take an artificial intelligence to figure out what went wrong with the final result.
Peter Berg is known for making some of the best fact-based thrillers in his promising career, but he’s also known for some of his disappointing misfires. His latest film, “Spenser Confidential”, is one of them. The film adaptation of Ace Atkins’s 2013 novel Wonderland saw the reunion of Berg and Mark Wahlberg, and while it’s a bit more tolerable than “Mile 22”, it’s another underwhelming collaboration between the duo. Despite a suitable cast and some decent action scenes, this action thriller from Netflix wasn’t able to provide plenty of riveting mystery elements because of its underdeveloped characters, its uneven tone, and its bland screenplay. This is a pretty big slap in the face for me and the fans of the source material.
Family films with talking animals usually spell trouble for critics, save for “Babe”. While cute in their own way, their stories can be a bit too nonsensical for their own good. My next pick happens to be one of them, but sadly, it wasn’t as entertaining as it could’ve been. “Dolittle” took a more faithful approach to the source material it’s based on, but its execution lead it to become a bland and CGI-bloated mess that’s more accessible to kids rather than their parents. To its credit, it did its part in providing some charm in its messages and the voice cast for the animals. However, it wasn’t enough to prevent the film from being a mediocre voyage that’ll make several people question Robert Downey Jr.’s career choices outside of his Marvel Cinematic Universe role. With its poor screenplay, unmemorable characters, and its stale humor, this latest iteration of Hugh Lofting’s character made the Eddie Murphy version look like Shakespeare by comparison.
A not-so-good comedy from Happy Madison Productions and Netflix? Surprise, surprise. “The Wrong Missy” is a forgettable and unsatisfying romantic comedy that may not impress people who aren’t fans of the recent works that Adam Sandler and his gang were involved in. While I admittedly enjoyed Lauren Lapkus’s performance, I’m afraid that she wasn’t enough to save this disastrous blind date because of its cliched screenplay and its mediocre humor.
With the combination of the Disney brand and a popular book series it’s based on, this could’ve been the next “Chronicles of Narnia” or the next “Harry Potter". Instead, it wound up being one of the studio’s biggest disasters in its recent years. “Artemis Fowl”, which is available on Disney+, failed to impress both the fans of the source material and newcomers who are unfamiliar with the characters. I wasn’t expecting this film to that bad, but to my surprise, Disney managed to prove me otherwise. The plot was extremely thin, the characters were one-dimensional, the narrative was way too rushed and underwhelming, and some of the performances from the cast weren’t really that impressive. This is definitely something that the studio should leave behind in order to maintain their dignity.
There were times when a film not only failed to meet our expectations, but was also overshadowed by backlash due to their concepts. “The Last Days of American Crime” is one of those times. Controversy aside, this latest thriller from director Olivier Megaton is an overlong and tasteless experience that tried way too hard to be an epic and thought-provoking crime blockbuster. With its excessive runtime, uncaring characters, and its lack of strong thrills, the film has committed a crime that should not go unpunished.
There are good horror films, there are bad horror films, and there are horror films that made me pretty angry. This film belongs in a category where “angry” isn’t enough to describe my reaction towards it. “The Turning” is the type of horror film that managed to turn my head for all of the wrong reasons. Despite its gloriously creepy atmosphere and a passable cast, the film was an infuriating experience that’s neither scary nor captivating enough to capitalize on its gothic tone. The scares were forgettable, the plot and the characters were poorly-handled, and the ending…my God, the ending. That has got to be one of the worst things I have ever experienced in my life. If you want to know why I hated the ending, go read my full review of the film. This was another horror experience that completely wasted my time, and the same should be said to those who dare to view it themselves.
What seemed to be a dream come true for fans of the “Fantasy Island” show from the 1970s actually turned out to be an unwatchable nightmare. Helmed by Jeff Wadlow, the guy behind the terrible “Truth or Dare”, Blumhouse’s “Fantasy Island” attempted to transform its light-hearted premise into a full-fledged horror film about the dangers of wish-making. This resulted in a cliche-heavy and tame dream that’s extremely easy to forget. Due to Wadlow’s weak direction, mediocre characters, and a severe lack of scares, this is one vacation that you shouldn’t take. The film also shows further proof that Jeff Wadlow should take a break from the horror genre and move on to something else.
Yes, this film existed. Yes, the title was meant to be a joke, and yes, it’s as bad as you thought it would be. After directing the entertaining “Stuber” last year, Michael Dowse immediately went downhill with a comedy that wasted the cast’s talents like they were pieces of unused paper. Lazy, repetitive, offensive, and downright unbearable, “Coffee & Kareem” is quite possibly the most embarrassing buddy comedy that Netflix had to offer. It was a massive joke that’s more insufferable than funny.
What a way to end off this year’s top ten worst list: with the first 2020 film I reviewed way back in January. You know, before the virus showed up and kept us inside our homes for months. There were plenty of films this year that reeked of horribleness, but none of them reeked as badly as the latest installment in the “Grudge” franchise. The 2020 version of “The Grudge” got the same treatment as the “Hellboy” reboot, in which it received an adult rating compared to the PG-13 rating that the previous installments had. While the “Hellboy” reboot was an okay watch despite its easy-to-digest flaws, “The Grudge” is an intolerable experience that used the R rating as an excuse to justify its existence. It just goes to show that just because a specific franchise got a rating upgrade, it doesn’t make it better. From its dull story to its poorly-developed characters, the continuation of the horror franchise is not only a major disgrace to Takashi Shimizu’s version, but it’s also one of the most painful theatrical experiences that I had ever sat through and the absolute worse film of 2020 in my eyes.
There you have it. Those are my ten least favorite films to cap off the year. Overall, 2020…was an ugly introduction to the new decade. Every year has a series of ups and downs, but this year happens to be special for all of the wrong reasons. Every time we have some good news, they’re immediately replaced by something that kept dragging us down to the abyss, especially the coronavirus deaths. If you happen to be one of the people who have been deeply affected by the virus, whether it’s one of your family members that died or the fact that you’ve been tested positive, I would like to say I’m sorry this happened to you and I hope you get through it okay. After everything that we’ve been through, including the COVID-19 lockdown and the infamous presidential debate, it’s safe to say that this is one year we all want to leave behind and never look back. As we all look forward to a new year filled with highly-anticipated films, let us all remember that as long as we show our continued support for one another and keep ourselves strong and healthy, we’ll return to our normal lives sooner rather than later, and we can go back to celebrating the art of cinema at our own cinemas. With that in mind, everybody, stay safe out there and have a happy new year.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. Well, guys, we finally made it. 2020 has officially wrapped, and my God, it has been one heck of a year. Not just for us, but also for the film industry. We had a share of good moments this year, like getting a decent “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. However, those moments were quickly overshadowed by the coronavirus. As a result, most of the films that were supposed to come out in 2020 were either pushed back to next year or released straight to streaming. There were also some pretty bad stuff that happened this year, such as losing so many people to the virus, the death of George Floyd that sparked a ton of “Black Lives Matter” marches, and the loss of many talented people from the film industry like Sean Connery and Chadwick Boseman. Yeah, I guess you can say that this is a pretty horrible start to a new decade. But you know what they say, in every bad year, there’s always a silver lining, which is seeing some of the best films either in the theater or on streaming (mostly the latter). That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I am once again finishing off the year with my top ten best films list. Now this list was a bit challenging for me compared to my previous top ten lists because I haven’t got the chance to review all of the movies that came out in theaters or on demand or on a streaming service and again, almost all of the films I wanted to see were delayed to next year. I also realized that there were also some more well-received films that came out already in the theater or on demand, but due to some circumstances such as saving money and staying safe, I wasn’t able to get to them. So for those who wanted me to review something like “Wolfwalkers” on Apple TV+ this year, I apologize for not getting to watch it before I make this list. I heard a lot of great things about it, but sadly, I got enough streaming services on my plate as it is, and I already used the free trial deal to review “Greyhound”. If you’re wondering why I didn’t use it again to review “Wolfwalkers”, the only answer I can give you is…I have no idea. As always, this is my personal list of the films that I believe were exceptional or just plain fun experiences. If you’re expecting it to be like the other critics’ top ten lists, then you’ve come to the wrong place. With that said, let’s count down the winners.
Let’s start this list off with a documentary that you might not have recognized until I mentioned it. After premiering in theaters two years ago, “Howard” finally made its way to our televisions as a Disney+ original, and it’s something that should not be missed, especially for Disney fans. This is such a heartwarming and informative tribute to one of Disney’s most inspiring workers of all time, Howard Ashman, the man behind such memorable songs like “Under the Sea” and “Be Our Guest”. With its unique presentation, its passionate essence, and a subtle musical score, “Howard” is a fascinating and interesting look at the songwriter’s career and how he inspired those around him. He may be gone, but his work will live on forever.
Christopher Nolan has reinvented the scientific wheel in his films for quite some time, and the final results were nothing but spectacular, and this film is no different. “Tenet” saw the filmmaker combining time and quantum physics with its spy thriller elements to create one of the best theatrical experiences I have ever witnessed. This was one of the first two films I saw in theaters since they reopened back in late August, the other being “The New Mutants”, and while I can admit that it has problems, it reminded me why I enjoyed the cinematic experience in the first place. It’s far from Nolan’s best film due to its troubling sound design and its uninteresting main character, but it’s an engaging and well-directed thriller that features a talented cast and some incredible technical qualities. Yes, the story can be convoluted for some people, but that’s what makes Nolan so special to begin with. He likes to challenge his audience’s brains as well as entertain them. Once you get used to its complexity, you’ll also be enjoying the ride in no time.
If I have to choose which day I want to relive over and over again, it would have to be the day when I first experienced this charming time-loop comedy. “Palm Springs” is a refreshing and humorous take on the plot element that was made famous thanks to the likes of “Groundhog Day”. Max Barbakow’s directorial debut features plenty of suitable moments that overshadow its rom-com cliches, such as the irresistible chemistry between Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, its humor, and a well-executed screenplay by Andy Siara. If you have a Hulu subscription, make sure you put this film on your watchlist.
We can all agree that war is just as hellish as 2020, but we can also agree that no one can represent that nightmarish death trap from an African-American veteran’s perspective better than Mr. Spike Lee himself. “Da 5 Bloods” was the first great film I saw this year, and it deserved to be on my top ten list for numerous reasons. It’s ambitious, it’s honest, it’s unnerving, and more importantly, it’s crucial to the current problems we’re facing today in terms of race. Lead by a strong cast (most notably Delroy Lindo and the late Chadwick Boseman), Lee’s direction, and a stellar screenplay, the film honored its sole purpose and delivered an emotional story about a broken brotherhood in the midst of greed, war, and trauma. Its grisly imagery and its runtime might be a bit too much for those who are squeamish, but for fans of the brilliant filmmaker, it’s another call to action that must be answered.
Two years ago, Aneesh Chaganty made himself known to the public thanks to his directorial debut, “Searching”. Now, he managed to continue his winning streak with another amazing low-budget thriller. “Run” is a tension-filled and small-scale thrill ride that’s packed with tons of surprises and plenty of effective scares. Sarah Paulson delivered her most frightening performance of her career, and Kiera Allen made a stunning acting debut as the wheelchair-bound teenager. Combine them with Chaganty’s direction and its splendid use of anxiety-inducing suspense, and you get one of the best thrillers in recent years. Here’s hoping the filmmaker can maintain his success with his next project.
The next film on my list is something that’s completely different compared to my other picks because this isn’t really a film at all. It’s actually a live recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s successful Broadway musical, “Hamilton”. I know that this isn’t technically an actual movie, but hey, how else am I supposed to fill up this empty slot? I had not watched “Hamilton” when it first came out, but thanks to the power of Disney+, I was now able to, and honestly, it’s just as fantastic as everyone said it was. The cast was phenomenal in their roles, the music was energetic and catchy, and its narrative was unique, but also respectable given its culture. Excessive runtime aside, the musical succeeded in celebrating both America then and America now. This is one of the reasons why you should subscribe to Disney+.
In order to be successful, you have to find your own voice. This is another film that you may not be familiar with, but is worth checking out. “The Forty-Year-Old Version” recounts the real-life experience of Radha Blank’s career as a playwright and a rapper through the eyes of the woman herself. This is an inspiring and well-written comedy-drama that’s not only gorgeous to look at in terms of its black-and-white cinematography, but also subtle and truthful with its social themes. Lead by an outstanding performance by Blank and her direction, the film signals a bright future for her as both an actor and a filmmaker.
You want to know what living with hearing loss feels like? Try checking out this small film from Amazon Studios. “Sound of Metal” doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to its subject matter, and because of this, it transforms itself into a realistic and well-made representation of the difficult struggle towards acceptance. Riz Ahmed delivered his best performance of his career, and the sound design perfectly reflects the perspective of the person who’s experiencing hearing loss. Darius Marder also did a fantastic job at understanding the process and paying respect to how the deaf community operates in terms of his direction. Not only does it work as an engaging and thoughtful drama, but it also works as a learning tool for its viewers because it gives them an idea on what they would expect if it would happen to them. These things alone make this a must-watch for Amazon Prime subscribers.
Haven’t heard of this part of history before? Don’t worry, this film has got you covered. This couldn’t have come at a better time when it comes to the racial tensions we’re dealing with today, and the fact that it’s brilliantly well-handled and no one has ever mentioned the trial it’s based on makes its existence even more worthwhile. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is an emotionally-driven and thought-provoking legal drama that showcases Aaron Sorkin as a gifted screenwriter and a skilled filmmaker. The performances from the cast were spectacular, the dialogue-driven sequences were heart-pounding and powerful, and its screenplay honored its political and legal themes through stellar dialogue. This is one film that you definitely don’t want to miss out on, especially during this time.
I’m pretty sure you guys saw this coming a mile away. Given how much I love Pixar and animation, you should already know that the studio’s latest film is worthy enough to join this list as my number one pick. Pete Docter returned to take audiences on a life-changing journey through creativity and animation, and boy, was it a marvelous one. “Soul” is not only beautifully animated, but it’s also emotionally compelling when it comes to its visual storytelling and its themes. It shows why Pixar is one of the best animation studios of all time and why Pete Docter is one of the best animation directors ever. They create stories that entertain the kids with their charming characters and colorful worlds as well as the adults with their meaningful messages and emotional depth. I’m happy to say that “Soul” is one of the films that fit that description perfectly. The story was superbly well-told, the characters were great, its screenplay was smartly-written, and the animation was sensational. This is something that I can easily relate to because I have a strong passion for movies, and I always dream of being a part of the film industry. After watching the film, it made me realize that life is more than just following my dream. It’s also about spending every minute with the ones I love and the world I live in. The film serves as a perfect reminder to appreciate every little moment we have in our lives, and that is why it deserves a spot as my favorite film of 2020.
That concludes my list of the top ten best films of 2020. While the year will be remembered for its infamous moments, it will also be remembered for its amazing films, whether they’re in theaters or on a streaming service. I also want to apologize for not including an “honorable mentions” section on this list, which happens to be a first for me in terms of top ten lists. The reason why is that I haven’t seen enough films this year that managed to impress me as much as the films on my main list. Hopefully in 2021, I’ll have enough great films to bring that section back for my next top ten best list. Until then, this will have to do. Stay tuned for my next episode where I share my top ten least favorite films of 2020.
“Soul” stars Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett. Released on Disney+ on December 25, 2020, the film is about a music teacher who accidentally gets transported to the land of souls.
The film is directed by Pete Docter, who also directed “Monsters, Inc.”, “Up”, and “Inside Out”. How do you want to spend your life? That’s the question that’s been on our minds ever since we arrived on Earth, and what better way to represent this question than with the magic of Disney and Pixar. Originally scheduled for a summer release, the film fell victim to the pandemic curse and had to settle for a fall/winter release. Seeing that the theaters weren’t going to be reopened in time for its big screen debut, Disney decided to go with a much different approach, and that approach is releasing it straight to Disney+ on Christmas Day at no extra cost, making this the first Pixar film to not have a wide theatrical release. So for those who are worried that it’s going to get the “Premier Access” treatment like the “Mulan” remake, worry no more. Even though I was disappointed that I won’t be able to see this latest Pixar film on the big screen, I was still extremely excited to see it regardless, mostly due to Pete Docter’s involvement. Docter’s track record as a director so far is nothing but fantastic as he had already directed three original films for Pixar that became critical and commercial successes. In terms of the reviews it got, it looks like this film is already on its way to become the next Pixar classic. Now that it’s here, is it soulful enough to earn this title? Let’s find out.
The film tells the tale of Joe Gardner (Foxx), a middle school music teacher who dreams of performing jazz music onstage with the other musicians, including jazz legend Dorothea Williams (Bassett). After impressing them during an opening act, he finally gets the opportunity to make his dream come true. However, an untimely accident causes Joe’s soul to be separated from his body and wound up on the path towards the Great Beyond. He managed to escape to the Great Before, a realm where souls develop personalities, quirks, and traits before being sent to Earth. In order to get back to his own body, Joe would have to teach the souls in training about the values of life, including 22 (Fey), a soul who has a much different perspective on the concept. The film has the Pixar team once again exploring one of the main qualities that make us humans tick. Docter’s last film, “Inside Out”, represents a person’s emotions and how each of their roles are equally important in their everyday life. In “Soul”, the main focus is placed on…well, people’s souls. Souls that define who we are as well as our interests. This is Pixar’s way of teaching young viewers about life and death through creativity and animation, but more importantly, it teaches them about the true purpose of our existence. With the assistance of co-writer/co-director Kemp Powers (the man behind the 2013 play One Night in Miami), Pete Docter was able to place this story within the African-American culture, which showcased the continuous strength of Pixar’s support for diversity. It didn’t follow in the same shoes as “Coco” when it comes to the narrative’s structure, but it’s suitable enough to let other filmmakers know that we need more animated films that showcase all types of cultures. As for the film itself, well, it’s actually no surprise that it has a big enough soul to stand alongside some of Pixar’s top-tier classics like “Toy Story” and even “Inside Out”. The story was basically simple like many other Pixar films that came before it, but it’s told in a way that the animation studio is known for since its inception. It’s fun, endearing, and colorful for the kids, but it’s also meaningful, thought-provoking, and emotional for the adults. Pete Docter is known for his ability to showcase the realities of life in an imaginative and thoughtful way without dumbing things down for the young viewers like most animated films do nowadays, which made his past two films, “Up” and “Inside Out”, beloved classics to begin with. I’m glad to see that his ability still remains undefeated thanks to his direction and a smartly-written screenplay by Docter, Mike Jones, and Kemp Powers. The characters also remain as one of Pixar’s strongest points not just because of how memorable and charming they are, but also because of how relatable and heartfelt they are, and Joe Gardner (who is voiced marvelously by Jamie Foxx) happens to be one of those characters. He’s likable enough to take me on his personal journey to rediscover his true purpose in life. Tina Fey was also great in her role as 22. Her character was able to balance her dim and snarky personality with some pretty effective humor without making herself a bane of one’s existence. The next element I really want to mention is the film’s animation. Wow, where do I even start? Everything about it was pure Pixar magic, including its detailed settings, the jazz sequences, and the ingenious character designs. The New York setting looked absolutely stunning from start to finish. The lighting and the realistic details on…well, pretty much everything helped made the setting look and feel like actual New York. For the humans characters, the animators made an effort to make sure that they don’t appear as “stereotypical” because as you can already tell, the world of animation has its share of issues when it comes to racist imagery. I thought they did a nice job with how they design the characters, especially Joe Gardner. These characters are distinct enough to make themselves look like actual people. The animators really knocked it out of the park with this one. Then we have the “Great Beyond”, which is Pixar’s version of the afterlife, and the “Great Before”, and they were also beautiful to look at, but not as much as the animation for New York. They definitely have that unique sense of creativity on how these elements are presented, similar to what “Inside Out” did with the human mind, which helped provide a good amount of world-building and a strong metaphoric essence within those realms. I also loved the designs of the souls and the soul counselors in general, especially the latter due to their own animation style compared to the rest of the characters. The souls themselves were definitely something that only the artists from Pixar could come up with, and I wasn’t disappointed with the final result. The music is also something that I have to talk about because it sounded incredible. The original score was composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the same team who created music for some of David Fincher’s works, including the recently released “Mank”, but it also featured jazz music from musician Jon Batiste in order to fit the authenticity of its jazzy setting. The score had its own sense of energetic flair and emotion behind the given tracks, especially the jazz sections, which were my favorite parts of “Soul”. This might be one of the best scores I had ever heard in an animated film in my opinion, let alone a Pixar film.
Overall, “Soul” is pure Pixar poetry, proving once again that the animation studio can’t be beat when it comes to originality. Pete Docter has delivered another thoughtful and beautiful animated gem that respectively showcases one of the aspects of life and represents strong storytelling through the art of animation. With its well-developed characters, a superb story, stunning animation, and some great music, the film shows that it really has a soul. This is not only the best animated film I’ve seen so far this year, but it’s also one of the best films of 2020 in my opinion. It’s available to watch on Disney+, so make sure you grab your family members and check it out as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed.
“Wonder Woman 1984” stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, and Connie Nielsen. Released on December 25, 2020, the film has Wonder Woman facing off against a businessman and a formidable foe.
The film is directed by Patty Jenkins, who is known for directing “Monster”, and it is a sequel to the 2017 superhero film, “Wonder Woman”, which was also directed by Jenkins. It is also the ninth installment in the DC Extended Universe, and it is based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by William Moulton Marston. Looks like we’re about to end this horrific year off with a huge bang. After surviving a few months with a bunch of small films, we are finally getting a big-budget action blockbuster. A big-budget superhero action blockbuster, to be exact, but with a twist. This film has had a difficult journey since filming had wrapped in 2018. It was originally set for a 2019 release until it got delayed to a summer release. But then the pandemic happened, and it got stuck in release limbo. It was scheduled to be released in theaters back in October in hopes of getting people back into the cinemas, but due to “Tenet” underperforming at the box office, it had to settle for a Christmas Day release. With the virus still keeping people inside their homes, Warner Brothers then decided to do the unthinkable, the impossible, and the unbelievable. They are keeping the theatrical release, but they will also release the film on HBO Max free for subscribers…for about a month, of course. A surprising, but smart, way to let people decide whether to stay home or go to the cinema. Wonder Woman has a very good track record when it comes to film thanks to Gal Gadot’s portrayal and director Patty Jenkins’s understanding of the character. Her appearance has proven to be the best part of the Batman/Superman blockbuster and the heavily-divisive “Justice League” film, and her solo film is considered to be the best installment in the troublesome DC cinematic universe. So there’s definitely a lot of hype towards the Amazonian’s latest adventure despite it being delayed several times. Now that it’s finally arrived in theaters (and on HBO Max), let’s see if this superhero blockbuster is worth the long wait, and don’t worry, I will do my best to keep things spoiler-free for you readers.
Taking place in 1984, the film follows Diana Prince (Gadot) as she pulls double duty as both a normal anthropologist in Washington, D.C. and as the superhero Wonder Woman. She later encounters Maxwell Lord (Pascal), a businessman who has gained possession of a mysterious item that has an ability to grant people’s wishes. With the help of the revived Steve Trevor (Pine), Diana must use her powers once again to save the world from Lord’s power. She also has to battle her former friend Barbara Ann Minerva (Wiig), an archeologist whose involvement with the powerful artifact resulted in her gaining abilities similar to Diana’s. “Wonder Woman” was a fish-out-of-water story that explores the title character’s journey of heroism and represents the importance of love overcoming hatred, which was one of the things that I personally enjoyed from the film, aside from Gadot’s performance and Patty Jenkins’s approach to the character. “Wonder Woman 1984” sees the already-experienced character continuing that journey while dealing with the dangers of wishes, especially the ones that involve greed and envy, and what they’re giving up in order to gain them. I watched the film on HBO Max for this review instead of in the theater because I wasn’t willing to risk my life seeing it in a packed room. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any streaming issues while watching it. Then again, I managed to view it during the nighttime rather than during the day like a lot of people did, which might explain why I didn’t have those issues. Long story short, watching the film at home was a good experience for me due to the fact that I wasn’t distracted by other people using their stinking cell phones. Even though I would prefer to watch it on the big screen, it felt nice for me to just sit back at home and watch Wonder Woman beat up the bad guys on my family’s huge 4K television for free. But how did I feel about the film itself? Was it good enough to consider itself a wondrous end to the horrifying plague that is 2020? Yeah, I believe so. I wouldn’t say that it’s a perfect superhero sequel in terms of the story, but I can say that I had some sort of fun watching it. The major difference between “Wonder Woman 1984” and its predecessor was its tone and how it was reflected by the time period. “Wonder Woman” went for the epic and grim tone for its World War I background, resulting in it being a realistic and enthralling take on the character’s origin story in my eyes. The sequel, however, managed to “lighten things up” a bit for its 1980s background by incorporating a light-hearted, vibrant, and retro style into its plot. The result is a nifty piece of superhero eye candy that’s endearing to look at, but a bit sour to eat. On the one hand, it delivered an entertaining superhero sequel that has plenty of heart and a couple of easter eggs that should please a lot of Wonder Woman fans young and old. On the other hand, it’s also a simplistic and cliched sequel that fell short of capturing the same amount of wonder as its predecessor. Gal Gadot was able to master her role as Wonder Woman almost immediately during her first appearance in “Batman V Superman” and has been consistent with her portrayal ever since. In “Wonder Woman 1984”, the fire within her performance was still just as luminous as ever. Gadot’s commitment towards playing Wonder Woman is one of the best things about the character in film, and I’m glad to see that it still exists in this film. Chris Pine also did well with his performance as Steve Trevor. However, his character did seem to fall within the lines of Diana’s fish-out-of-water scenario from the first film from time to time. It didn’t get to the point where it’s overly repetitive, but it did give me a strange case of deja vu. Then you have the film’s antagonists, Maxwell Lord and Barbara (or Cheetah, according to a lot of comic book fans), and honestly, I think they were handled a bit better than Ares from the first film in terms of their character development. While Ares is nothing but a cliche-heavy big baddie, Maxwell Lord and Barbara just happened to be villains because they fell victim to the power of wish-making. They started out as nobodies, but then they managed to become somebodies thanks to the artifact’s ability, not knowing the price they had to pay to turn their wishes into realities. I thought Patty Jenkins did a nice job at fixing the villain issue from its predecessor by injecting more personality into it. Pedro Pascal, known for his role in “The Mandalorian”, delivered a lot of charisma and energy into his role as Lord, and I got to say, it was a joy to witness. I also found Kristen Wiig to be a nice surprise as she traded her comedic side for a cheetah fur coat. At first, I was a bit skeptical about Wiig being cast as Wonder Woman’s arch enemy, but after watching her in action, I immediately became impressed at the fact that she can play a villain just as effectively as playing a comedic character. Her “Cheetah” form wasn’t too bad either when it comes to the CGI design, although her transformation from her human form to the Cheetah form felt rushed without any explanation as to how she transformed. They could have at least show her transforming into a humanoid cheetah instead of showing her in human form in one scene and then suddenly show her Cheetah form in the next. That, to me, was pretty darn lazy. Other than that, Wiig’s performance and her character both get a thumbs up from me. What I also liked about the film was its setting. In addition to writing the film’s script with Geoff Johns and David Callaham, Patty Jenkins was also responsible for combining the superhero elements with the old-fashioned and colorful 1980s setting, and she did a pretty good job with both of them. While I would like to see more of the 80s elements, it still looked nice enough to serve as a backdrop for its character-driven moments and the action sequences. Speaking of which, the action sequences were quite entertaining to watch, but compared to the ones from “Wonder Woman”, they’re also a bit underwhelming in terms of Jenkins’s direction. Aside from the final showdown between Diana and Barbara during the third act, the action scenes lacked the severe amount of thrills that made her previous outings so exciting in the first place. I also had a small issue with the film’s length, which happened to be ten minutes longer than its predecessor. With a plot that’s as simple as this, I don’t think it needed to be that long even though the character-driven scenes were nicely paced and engaging.
Overall, “Wonder Woman 1984” is another enjoyable outing for the DC Comics character and a respectable way to end off 2020 on a good note. There were definitely some elements that I believe were handled better than the ones in the first film, such as the villains and its messages, but there were also some other elements that caused it to land face first on the ground, including the story cliches and its excessive runtime. Despite those flaws, I had a good time watching this film thanks to its cast, Jenkins’s direction, and its enjoyable, yet sometimes flat, action scenes. It’s not the greatest blockbuster I’ve seen this year, but it did give me hope that there’s still some light at the end of this gloomy tunnel.
“The Midnight Sky” stars George Clooney, Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, and Demián Bichir. Released in theaters on December 11, 2020, followed by a Netflix release on December 23, 2020, the film is about a scientist who attempts to make contact with the astronauts in space.
The film is directed by George Clooney, who also directed films such as “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, “Leatherheads”, “The Ides of March”, and “Suburbicon”. It is based on the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It’s almost time for Christmas, so let’s watch something that’s a bit more post-apocalyptic. That should put us in the holiday mood…said no one ever. This film once again sees George Clooney pulling triple duty both on and off screen. In addition to acting, he also produces and directs the sci-fi feature that’s more dramatic than action-packed. When it comes to directing, Clooney has its share of hits and misses so far in his career. He delivered a couple of award-worthy masterpieces like “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “The Ides of March”, but he also delivered a couple of recent misfires in the process, including 2017’s “Suburbicon”. I haven’t actually seen that film myself, but from what I heard, it’s probably for the best. In fact, I haven’t seen all of Clooney’s directorial efforts up until now, so consider this review as my first exposure to his filmmaking vision. With that in mind, let’s see if this science fiction drama is worthy of Clooney’s directing talents.
The story follows Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), an ambitious, yet lonely, scientist who stayed in his Arctic base after a cataclysmic event affected Earth. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Augustine struggles to make contact with the astronauts in space and warn them about the situation. He found out that the remaining space craft, Æther, is still active and the astronauts inside the craft are planning on returning to Earth to report their discovery of a habitable moon right by Jupiter. Unfortunately, the Æther crew is unaware of Earth’s current state and Augustine was unable to communicate with them due to his base’s weak antenna. With the assistance of another survivor, a young mute girl named Iris (Caoilinn Springall), Augustine ventures through the decimated Arctic wasteland to search for another base that has a stronger signal. As I previously stated, this film relies heavily on the dramatic side of the post-apocalyptic scenario rather than the action-heavy side, so expecting to see George Clooney fight off mutants or zombies during this time period is like expecting to get a Playstation 5 for Christmas. It’s not going to happen. While I don’t mind watching a science fiction film that goes “boom” or “pew pew” every few minutes (as long as it’s good), it doesn’t hurt to have a post-apocalyptic film that puts an emphasis on the character’s survival against Mother Nature instead of survival against monsters…if it’s done well, of course. Admittedly, “The Midnight Sky” definitely had some parts that were well-intentioned, such as its themes and the ending, but everything else wasn’t exactly on par with what it’s going for, resulting in it being a middling directorial effort from the famous actor. One of the things that happened to carry the film out of the asteroid field was the cast, most notably George Clooney who once again graced the screen with his eye-catching performance as Augustine. As a director, he gave himself an opportunity to fully envision the internal struggle of loneliness within his character, and he was able to deliver that opportunity with ease. Unfortunately, everything else besides that had him struggling to maintain the consistency of the narrative’s dramatic depth, especially the supporting characters, which I will get to later. The rest of the cast also delivered some suitable performances, including Felicity Jones as Sully, one of the members of the Æther space crew, and newcomer Caoilinn Springall as Iris. These two characters do happen to have important roles in the film in terms of its messages, and without major spoilers, the way they were handled was actually quite endearing, especially towards the end. Another major highlight of the film was its visual effects, which looked absolutely marvelous in my eyes. They worked extremely well in bringing some of the most gorgeous sceneries to life on screen, such as the Arctic wasteland and even space itself. This is one of those moments where the visuals help drive the story forward, whether the latter is good or not. I honestly won’t be surprised if this film gets nominated for an Oscar because of its awe-inspiring visual effects. I also thought the music from Alexandre Desplat was pretty good. Known for composing music for films like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Shape of Water”, Desplat was able to find the right type of music to fit its intended tone, which is dramatic and, at some points, grim. It’s not the best score I’ve heard from the composer, but I appreciate his effort regardless. As for its flaws, I did feel that again, the story fell pretty short at what it’s attempting to be when it comes to its thought-provoking and emotional core as well as Clooney’s direction. Even though I liked the ending, the entire narrative didn’t cover all of the basics that were needed to make this type of reward 100 percent satisfying, including the characters. Some of them have enough personalities to warrant my interest, especially Augustine, but it felt like they left out plenty of important stuff to have them feel more “three-dimensional”. Even the astronauts themselves, save for Sully, were pretty average despite some noble efforts from the supporting cast. I think if they put more focus on developing these characters a bit more, it would’ve made the film’s dramatic scenes just as effective as its visual presentation, but that’s just me.
Overall, despite its irresistible sense of beauty, “The Midnight Sky” isn’t as out-of-this-world as it could’ve been. Its talented cast, its respectable themes, and its visuals are enough to make this slow-burning sci-fi drama watchable, but its execution on the characters and Clooney’s underwhelming direction prevented it from reaching for the stars. This is another film that has some pretty interesting ideas for its concept, but wasn’t able to fully expand on them in order to make its story more invigorating and thoughtful. If you’re still interested in seeing the film, it’s definitely worth watching for Clooney’s performance and its visual flair alone.