Movies Released in 2020 (in alphabetical order)

The Assistant

The Assistant

Julia Garner plays Jane, an aspiring young producer who is five weeks into her job as executive assistant at an unnamed film production company in New York. The Assistant icily documents a ordinary day at the office, where as the low (wo)man on the totem pole, Jane is expected to be "first in, first out" at the office – turning… read more!

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

The most remarkable thing about this movie, which I'll call Borat 2 for the sake of argument, is that it's the only major film that was shot in 2020, takes place in 2020, and was released in 2020. Otherwise, fourteen years after the first Borat came out to the disgust and delight of millions, there's not much new here. Star/creator… read more!

The Burnt Orange Heresy

The Burnt Orange Heresy

The only truly memorable thing about seeing The Burnt Orange Heresy was my timing: I caught this film, in a theater, less than a week before the Great Coronavirus Shutdown. There was already tension in the air in Los Angeles, and few people were venturing out to the movies. In fact there may have only been one other person at… read more!

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Dick Johnson Is Dead

You may snigger at the title, but Dick Johnson Is Dead is an earnest documentary about the filmmaker's father, an 85-year-old widowed psychiatrist recently diagnosed with dementia. In order to help herself come to terms with her dad's unavoidable passing, the younger Johnson decides to stage several hilarious death scenes, in which the good-natured Dick plays himself in his own… read more!

Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes

For a movie about Sherlock Holmes's sister, you'd expect an intriguing mystery, a few nice twists, and some good old-fashioned deductive reasoning. Enola Holmes, however, puts the sleuthing on the back burner, spending more time on chaste flirting between its title character (Millie Bobby Brown) and a handsome, age-appropriate swain (Louis Partridge). It's an inconsequential romp with light feminist overtones,… read more!

The Father

The Father

At first, I wasn't keen on seeing The Father; do we really need another drama about Alzheimer's? My sense was that the film would be just a soppy showcase for Anthony Hopkins. A showcase it may be, but soppy it is not. Hopkins plays a retired engineer, coincidentally named Anthony, who is deep in the throes of dementia but is… read more!

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

"I'm thinking of ending things" is the first line of dialogue in this film, uttered in voiceover by a nerdy young woman (Jessie Buckley) whose dull boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) is driving her to meet his parents. She's referring to her unspoken desire to end their relationship after just six weeks. But as the brisk snowy day slowly turns more… read more!

The King of Staten Island

The King of Staten Island

2020 has been a strange and terrible year, and one small part of that has been the closure of movie theaters, forcing blockbusters, art house films, and festivals to sit on ice until things can open up again. Supposedly that will happen in late July, with Christopher Nolan's Tenet hoping to finally put butts back in seats. But as of… read more!

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

This film is based on August Wilson's 1984 play of the same title, and despite energetic camerawork and editing, it very much feels like filmed theatre – at times, anyway. Set in 1927 Chicago, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom unfolds, mostly in two rooms on one day, during a recording session for real life singer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey (Viola Davis under… read more!

Mank

Mank

The days of the cradle-to-grave biopic are mostly behind us, with films about historic figures now choosing to narrow in on key events in their lives in order to reveal their souls. It works well in movies like The Queen and Steve Jobs because we are already so familiar with their subjects. But here we have Mank, about Herman J.… read more!

Minari

Minari

A sweet, old-fashioned drama about a Korean family who in 1983 moves from California to rural Arkansas, where the land is cheap and the soil holds promise for would-be farmer Dad (Steven Yeun). Even if you didn't know that Minari (named for a sort of Korean watercress that the family grows) was inspired by writer/director Chung's own childhood, there is… read more!

News of the World

News of the World

After just over a year of pandemic-related closure, cinemas in Los Angeles County finally reopened in March 2021, and News of the World marked my official return to moviegoing (notwithstanding last October's Tenet outing). Why this film, out of all the others? Mainly because it was playing at a convenient place and time, but also because I figured a sweeping… read more!

Nomadland

Nomadland

In an alternate universe, one without a pandemic, writer/director/editor Chloé Zhao would have had two 2020 releases under her belt: Nomadland and Eternals, the latter a Marvel blockbuster about immortal cosmic superheroes. But in the universe we live in, Eternals simmers patiently on the back burner, awaiting its November 2021 premiere; it doesn't even have a trailer as of this… read more!

Onward

Onward

I saw Onward on VOD three months after its truncated theatrical run, and I'm reviewing it a full month later. Such is life under lockdown, where there is no longer any rush to catch a film or to talk about it. For the record, I had planned to see Onward in a theater around St. Patrick's Day, but a pandemic… read more!

Palm Springs

Palm Springs

During this Covid lockdown, the line between what is a "theatrical" film and what is a "TV" film is fuzzier than ever. And so the rules I once had, regarding what qualifies for a movie review on this website, are out the window. Accordingly, there's no rush to discuss Palm Springs, which was sold to Hulu before the pandemic even… read more!

The Platform

The Platform

This dystopian allegory of privilege and greed is something of a cousin to Snowpiercer. Set in a country (ostensibly Spain) that could be the future or could be today, The Platform takes place inside a multistory prison complex – rather like a gigantic elevator shaft – in which a pair of prisoners is randomly assigned to a different floor each… read more!

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Although I'm counting this as a 2020 release, since it opened in American theaters in February, Portrait of a Lady on Fire was hailed by several critics – mostly those outside the US – as one of 2019's greatest films. On the surface, I was skeptical: trailers made the film look like a French lesbian bodice ripper, replete with windswept… read more!

Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a woman on a mission: every weekend, she goes to a bar and pretends to be blackout drunk. Inevitably, a self-described "nice guy" will take advantage of her nonconsensual state and bring her back to his place with the intent to rape her. Just before he can commit the deed, however, Cassie reveals herself to be… read more!

Rebecca

Rebecca

There's nothing about Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, 1940's Best Picture Oscar winner, that cried out for a remake – unless, of course, a filmmaker could do something new and radical with Daphne du Maurier's gothic novel. When I learned that British enfant terrible Ben Wheatley was hired to direct said remake, I figured that he, if anyone, would take that new… read more!

Soul

Soul

Soul's title is a bit of virtue signaling: This is Pixar's first feature about black characters, and they really seem to be proud of that, so they called it Soul just to make it clear. While it's a little disingenuous – after all, the film is about jazz, not soul music – its story indeed concerns the soul: not what… read more!