We have all seen the film where a man, starting with nothing, fights and claws his way to the top using nothing but his wits, guts and sheer determination. "The White Tiger" takes this recognizable story and turns it on his head, creating a film that subverts audience expectation and creates an unforgettable movie-going experience.
The best part about the new Marvel Universe series "WandaVision," is also undoubtedly the source of its biggest frustration.
Don't worry, you won't be alone in asking yourself, "What the heck is going on here?" as that question is the central mystery of the series, at least through its first three episodes (I was given just the first three episodes for review...the series as a whole is nine-episodes long, with the first two episodes coming to Disney+ on January 15th, with new episodes unveiled each week on Fridays through March 5th).
But it's an intriguing, bizarre mystery that will take time to unravel, although the built-in army of young adults that make up the bulk of the Marvel Universe fanbase might have an even tougher time of following - or getting - the innate charm of "WandaVision."
If you've been a fan of other recent Liam Neeson action films, then "The Marksman" will hit the mark. Yes, it's another in a series of generic action films starring the Oscar-nominated actor ("Honest Thief," "Cold Pursuit," "The Commuter" and of course the "Taken" films), but of them, "The Marksman" is at least passable entertainment, if nothing more.
As stiff and robotic as the cyborg he portrays, Anthony Mackie is not able to save "Outside the Wire" from itself.
Right on time, "MLK/FBI" will be available for all to see, over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. It's the latest documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Sam Pollard (watch my recent interview with Sam Pollard), whose last two docs, "Mr. SOUL!" and "Two Trains Runnin'" were two of the best documentaries of the last decade.
As always, Pollard's latest effort could not have come at a better time, when our country should heed the lessons of Dr. King's non-violent protests, juxtaposed against the government's continuous effort to keep powerful black leaders in check.
A "not quite" remake of the legendary thriller, "Fatal Attraction," the new film "Fatale" starring Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy never rises above generic-level genre tropes, despite its twisty premise.
Serious warning: The first 30-minutes of "Pieces of a Woman" is incredibly hard to watch, especially for anyone who has ever suffered any sort of loss. You've been warned.
That being said, watching actress Vanessa Kirby pick up the pieces of her life after an unthinkable tragedy destroys it, is an absolutely riveting experience that makes "Pieces of A Woman" a vital watch for anyone looking to fill out their Oscar scorecards.
MILD PLOT SPOILERS TO FOLLOW:
2020 was certainly...a year. For my entire existence on this Earth - as it has been for every single person reading this - the movies have offered an escape from the harsh realities of life. Movie theaters have been my sanctuary, my safe haven. And since becoming a professional film critic in 2010 - a fulfillment of a life-long dream - they've become my home away from home...A place that I would visit 2-3 times per week, to catch up with friends and fellow critics and to partake in an activity and place that I apparently had been taking for granted all these years.
I haven't been to a movie theater since March 2020, and it hurts.
Movies are still my passion and a huge part of my life, and as is the case with every one of us in 2020, they've recently been relegated to home TV screens, or in a pinch, iPads or laptops.
It's just not the same, and it sucks.
But when 2020 handed the movie industry lemons, they made delicious, refreshing lemonade. Yes, in a year like no other, there were still great films being made, they just weren't playing on the big-screen. As several major movie releases were postponed or shuffled to streaming services, many smaller films carried the torch for the industry. Oh, there were great films in 2020. Don't let anyone tell you different. The problem has just been that this year, they've been harder to find, and with a slew of streaming platforms, there are just so many places to look.
Luckily I'm still here, watching movies, and organizing for you the best of the best. What follows is a list of my 20 favorite films of the year, and I hope that you get a chance to find them too.
One quick caveat before we begin...it's been harder than ever in 2020 to decipher how to categorize certain works. For this list's purposes, I'm taking the cues directly from the studios. So for example, the five-part Amazon "mini-series" (or is it a collection of five films?) "Small Axe" by Steve McQueen? Amazon is qualifying them for Emmys, not Oscars, so they're not on this list (despite this collection of TV episodes curiously being named "Best Film" by the LA Film Critics Circle). Nor is the HBO concert film by Spike Lee, "David Byrne's American Utopia" for similar reasons.
Last but not least, by far, the absolute best thing I've seen all year was "Hamilton" on Disney+. Not even a close second. But again, this is not technically a movie, so it's not on this list. Speaking of "Hamilton," check out the Hulu doc "Freestyle Love Supreme" and the HBO doc "Siempre, Luis" as great companion pieces, or just to get more of a dose of Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Here then, are the top 20 films of 2020:
Earlier in 2020, a Showtime documentary called "Kingdom of Silence" detailed the brutal murder of The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and was never heard from again. That documentary was one of the best of the year, with this being my only critique:
"While "Kingdom of Silence" does a great job in setting the stage for his disappearance, it would have been even more effective had it put into context exactly why his murder has meaning, and the political fall-out of the American-Saudi relationship being tested as it never quite has before." (Read Full "Kingdom of Silence" Review).
Well, my request has been answered in the form of a new documentary film called, "The Dissident." These two films were made independent of one another, but together they paint a brutal, shocking and unbelievable picture of not just what happened to Khashoggi, but why each and every American should care.
There isn't much that Regina King can't do. In the last year alone, the 49-year-old actress won an Emmy (HBO's "The Watchmen") and an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress for "If Beale Street Could Talk"). Now, she takes a turn in the director's chair, heading up the film adaptation of the stage play of the same name, "One Night in Miami," proving that there are no limits to her unquestionable talents.
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