The Best Movies of 2020 So Far
THE INVISIBLE MAN
The horrors you can’t see may be the worst of all. It’s unsuspecting and unpredictable. This relevant, riveting reboot brilliantly plays the unseen game to terrific, terrifying results. Physically and psychologically, it’s easy to see that writer/director Leigh Whannell rips into both with social relevance and mounting tension. Staying in touch with its classic roots, he’s brought to life a marvelous modern day monster movie that’s clever, chilling, and conscious of women being believed in the here and now.
While not everything is in plain sight, Whannell and Elisabeth Moss superbly show what happens to the human spirit when it’s bent but not broken. What Moss is able to depict is beyond incredible – going to a place of overwhelming pain, anguish, and terror. This is far from a madman dallying with his clever invention to punish. Through the twists and surprises, it’s something way more haunting and honest of the monsters that hide in plain sight and getting what they undoubtedly deserve.
DA 5 BLOODS
Director Spike Lee has never been subtle in the stories he tells. So don’t expect anything less with his latest that’s part war film and part heist thriller, in which he teaches us a hellish history lesson of African Americans protecting a country that’s not willing to do the same. Within a phenomenal cast, Delroy Lindo as Paul stands out with a powerful performance, boiling with intensity and anger from living a life of loss and guilt. Jonathan Majors is also riveting as Paul’s son who wants to fix his fractured relationship with his dad.
In Lee’s impassioned, confrontational storytelling, the hatred that arises from war isn’t one-sided, its effects are widespread through generations, countries, and cultures. The outrage and injustice that’s projected onscreen is profound and of the moment, yet the presence of hope and love is just as impactful. Da 5 Bloods is entertaining, violent, funny, and leaves a lasting impression on what patriotism looks and feels like.
THE VAST OF NIGHT
Set in the 1950s, this indelible invasion thriller beams with brilliance and ingeniousness that captivates from its opening scene to its final one. The artful storytelling from first time director Andrew Patterson provides mystery, eeriness, and unease through the night as two kids hear a strange sound through calls and signals that may be coming from the sky. Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick have an infectious energy the moment you’re introduced to them. Giving stellar performances, they make for a dynamic duo as a DJ and switchboard operator, respectively, hot on the trail of what’s disrupting their small town. Without question, less is much more in this small scaled yet stupendous sci-fi movie where you find yourself hanging on every word.
A SECRET LOVE
Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel share a bond that most will never know. As two lesbians, they have had to hide their love from practically everyone – including their closest family members – for almost 70 years. In Chris Bolan’s extraordinary, emotional documentary, these two ladies are in their twilight years and ready, at long last, to let their remarkable romance be known. Contrary to what A League of Their Own tells us – for which Donahue’s baseball playing days inspired – crying can’t be helped with this one.
Sprawling over a lifetime of memories, this bittersweet yet beautiful story relishes in the happiness and devotion of an inseparable couple, but not without a past of difficult choices and unimaginable sacrifices that should have never had to be made. Sadly, society had no intention of making it easy for them. Hearing the lengths they were forced to go to when it came to not getting caught is heartbreaking. Though, Donahue and Henschel have no regrets and would do it all again – for the sake of love.
This juicy true crime story of the largest school embezzlement in American history is razor-sharp and darkly comedic. Passing with flying colors – it has style and brilliance to go right along with a fabulous feeling of an investigative thriller. Nothing is as it seems while director Cory Finley teaches us a few things about those who educate feeling under appreciated and when good people with the best of intentions make bad choices. The immeasurable misconduct and the lies found within are nothing shocking; yet, it’s still just as gripping when the shit hits the fan. Allison Janney is superb, and Hugh Jackman is like you’ve never seen him before. His topflight performance alone will blow you away.
THE WAY BACK
The story itself may not score a ton of points as it’s formulaic to a fault. Though it’s also not the underdog sports movie you may think it is. Basketball is only the instrument used to play a deeply personal song about redemption. Director Gavin O’Connor satisfyingly spins this into an emotional drama while keeping the audience invested in the game. And in one of his greatest performances, Ben Affleck is outstanding, making us feel as though he’s battling his own demons right in front of us. It’s difficult to separate the man from the role – but it’s because of that that the anguish and authenticity that’s shown on this road to recovery is so quietly stunning.
Romana Edith-Williams is cute as can be, and writer/star Kelly O’Sullivan is phenomenal as a babysitter who connects with the child she’s babysitting in unexpected yet wonderful ways. From director Alex Thompson, this small yet smart, genuine, funny, and empathetic film takes big risks on talking about what women go through on a daily basis that’s not said out loud. There’s not a single character who has it all together or holds all the answers. It’s a dose of real life as they steer through the storms of friendships and relationships, holding tight to those critical connections we live for. This kind of storytelling is rare, riveting, and refreshing.
Michael Stuhlbarg and Odessa Young are sensational, yet no one is more magnetic than Elisabeth Moss as the famed horror author who is angry, enigmatic, trapped, and terrifying. Living out a story she could’ve written herself, this psychodrama is maniacal, taking total pleasure in the mind games being played on us and the young couple who move in with her and her professor husband. Intricate and intense, director Josephine Decker exceedingly explores Jackson’s toxic marriage, her grueling writing process, and her defiance to the role she’s expected to play as a woman. Emotions run high and stay there in this bonkers biopic that feels fitting for its titled character with its fair share of style and suspicion.
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND
Pete Davidson gives a great, genuine performance that’s no doubt personal to the SNL star. And while the crown fits comfortably on him, the stellar supporting cast (shout-out to Bill Burr, Marisa Tomei, and Bel Powley) is indispensable. Writer-director Judd Apatow lets them make every second of their screen time count. And speaking of Apatow, the guy behind The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up has quite possibly outgrown his childish ways. Maybe that’s stretching it a bit, but the level of immaturity is noticeably turned down a few notches. It’s a compliment and the right move for a narrative that dives deeper than anything he’s previously done before.
An awe-inspiring documentary of a hippie summer camp that became a saving grace for a group of disabled youngsters who would change the world. What starts out as a story of a safe haven where for those who are marginalized from the moment they were born could be themselves flips to something more personal and significant. And through that, none of their lives would ever be the same. It’s a historical, wholehearted journey of the non-stop fight to be seen and heard, and the hope that’s given with each small victory for equality. Directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht powerfully present the lifelong friendships formed through extraordinary experiences that lead to a revolution – a civil rights movement to make the future more accessible for them all.
Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.