- 16 Jan - 22 Jan, 2021
HOLLYWOOD IN REVIEW
- 26 Dec - 01 Jan, 2021
2020 has been a unique year for Hollywood – many films have found a second life on streaming platforms as movie lovers watch from home, helping them overcome a challenging year. But not every film this year has wowed critics and the audience.
As we move into the new year, here’s a look back at the list of 10 hit and flop flicks from 2020. Read on:
Hits (the ball out of the park!)
Bad boys for life
In what hasn't exactly been a great year for action movies so far, Bad Boys for Life has to be the biggest surprise. Given its lengthy production history, its January release date, and the departure of series director Michael Bay, this movie could've been a disaster. Instead, Smith and Lawrence easily slip back into the roles that made them action movie icons in the 90s and the writers find a way to update the garish, over-the-top aesthetic of the series for the franchise era. In a wise decision, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah don't even bother trying to top the excess and mayhem of Bay's Bad Boys II. Bad Boys For Life is a gentler, sillier movie than its predecessor, less interested in moments of vulgarity than in scenes of sitcom-like human connection and familial melodrama. There are explosions and car chases through the streets of Miami and jokes about getting too old for this shit, but the material is given a light touch that lets the two stars do what they do best.
Da 5 Bloods
At different points of the year, for very different reasons, Spike Lee's latest joint cut deep. Part war movie, part adventure-thriller about four African-American soldiers – played by Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, and standout Delroy Lindo – reuniting in present-day Vietnam, Lee's film spoke to the intersection of American racism and imperialism in the Vietnam War. Released in the weeks after the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that were sparked across the world, it was clear that Lee's voice remains as vital and righteous as it ever has been. And then, in late summer, Chadwick Boseman suddenly passed away, bringing a whole new layer of heartbreak to the film – the heavenly imagery of Boseman's fallen leader Stormin' Norman gaining a fresh tragic resonance. Switching tones and registers with skill and ease, Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee through and through – and boasts a stunning monologue from Lindo that ranks among the year's most unforgettable scenes.
Released just before the pandemic ramped up, Pixar's adventure fell prey to cinema closures – but turned out to be the ideal film for lockdown, with its fantastical escapism, gags galore, and themes celebrating the life-affirming bonds of family. Director Dan Scanlon drew from intensely personal details of his own upbringing and the father he never got to know, channelling it into the story of elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (a charming Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) as they embark on a magical quest to meet their deceased dad for one day only. In true Pixar style, it's incredibly emotional – with a beautiful final reel that delivers what audiences need rather than what they maybe wanted. But it's also a big, joyous adventure flick, with thrilling setpieces, D&D references aplenty, a surprising elf-mom action hero, and genius sight gags. Onward brought cathartic laughs and tears in a year when people really needed both.
After the CIA-wetwork-level secrecy, the hype, the endless headlines about its release-date slippages and whether it could save cinema, Christopher Nolan's palindromic pulse-pounder turned out to be, well, just a film. But it was a film that kept us all talking throughout the dog days of summer, the actual 150-minute tale just a launchpad for feverish time-travel debates that made some turn into Charlie Day jabbing at an evidence board in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Not all the dialogue was audible. The third act required DIY flowcharts to track. And it's debatable whether it needed to wrap up with a rap whose lyrics include "Last time I did the whippets (yeah)/ Last time I live reverse (yeah, yeah, ooh)". But still, this was an all-caps EVENT MOVIE in a year with very few of them – and a staggeringly smart one too, scenes looking like a Bond flick but sounding like a Mensa convention. Tenet practically demands to be watched again at home over Christmas. This time with subtitles on.
Is it a film or not? Either way, it's one of the most outstanding and defining pieces of popular culture of the last decade, Lin-Manuel Miranda turning dry American history into a dazzlingly entertaining tale of bitter personal rivalry, revolutionary war, and the power of words. The songs, inspired by decades of hip-hop, are beginning-to-end sensational – but the real treat of the Disney+ version, filmed with the original Broadway cast in 2016, is getting up-close and personal to its knock-out performances. It's a vantage point that might ordinarily cost you hundreds of dollars. You can see the fire in Leslie Odom Jr.'s eyes as he sings Wait For It, feel Phillipa Soo's utter heartbreak in Burn, and – yes – almost feel the spray of Jonathan Groff's liberal saliva in the King George numbers. Dropped on the streaming service right in the middle of lockdown, Hamilton was vital escapism – and completely democratised a theatrical experience that everyone should seek out.
Miss(ed the spot)
There are some great movies on Disney +, but this isn't one of them. It could have been a franchise-starter along the lines of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Instead, it's a potential franchise-killer, as it is very unlikely a follow-up film will be made after the disappointing response. This tale of a 12-year boy genius finding himself in an epic battle against a race of underground fairies should have been fun. With Kenneth Branagh at the helm and Judi Dench as the head fairy, the film seemed promising. Sadly, the film diluted the character of Artemis and was an incoherent mess.
Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor, but this will be never regarded as one of the star's best films. After departing the MCU, the actor probably had his pick of movie roles, and the role of Doctor Dolittle was probably a safe choice. Eddie Murphy last took on the role of the man who can talk to animals, but that was a modern take on author Hugh Lofting's story. The 2020 film harkens back to the Victorian setting of the books, and with Downey Jr. in the lead, it should have been great. In reality, the film turned out to be a gigantic flop. What should have been an epic adventure turned out to be an epic misadventure, and the leading actor is partly to blame. While Downey Jr. is certainly very talented, his performance in the film was slated. Mumbling through his lines in a range of different accents, he was deemed unintelligible by those who struggled to understand what he was saying.
Fantasy Island is the island where people's dreams come true, but in terms of the film, audiences and critics were only presented with nightmares. This is in a literal sense, as the dreams of the characters in the film were warped into something far more sinister. And it's true in a metaphorical sense, as the film was not a dream come true for those looking for a good movie. The movie ended up being another misfire for Blumhouse, a studio with its fair share of hits and misses. Critics called it forgettable, generic, and dull, although as the 70s TV show itself was guilty of the same, this isn't so surprising.
Brahms: The Boy II
If you're looking for horror movies to watch, this might be one you choose to avoid. The original film wasn't very good, so it's surprising that a sequel was made. Of course, the concept of a child beholden to the supernatural power of a creepy doll is scary enough. After the Child's Play and Annabelle movies, it's clear that there is horror to be mined from these most-innocent of children's toys. But sadly, this film failed to impress. The first film, while being average at best, still had a few jump scares. The sequel, on the other hand, has very little. Rather than making people jump from their seats in fright, it almost had people leaving their seats in boredom. This was certainly the case for Benjamin Lee at The Guardian, who said in his review, "It's so punishingly dull to watch that even at a brisk 86 minutes, it feels like unending torture."
The Tax Collector
Shia Labeouf has delivered some great performances in his time, and he is possibly the best thing about this violent, and reprehensible crime thriller. The fact that it's so bad is quite surprising. The director, David Ayer, is no stranger to the crime genre, and he certainly has a flair for action. Sadly, this is probably the worst film of his career, and it is now being cited as one of the worst films of 2020. The film has received many negative reviews, including one in Variety, where the movie is described as being "about as fun as having your face dragged across asphalt from a moving SUV." Unsurprisingly, this is in reference to one of the many violent scenes within the film. It's a complete misfire, and if critics are to be believed, it's less fun than an afternoon filing tax returns.