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The State of Cinema in 2020 So Far

by Ben Rolph

Currently, cinemas are on a worldwide shutdown – though, some places are reopening! One factor that has been consistent is that no new films are being released. Studios have been pushing back releases left, right, and center. Many of 2020’s most anticipated films have been pushed back, such as Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch and John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part II. While Christopher Nolan is perhaps the one anomaly, with his latest film TENET aiming to stick with its July release date.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

With all this now considered, we can move forward into looking at 2020’s releases so far. Peering at the films I was able to consume prior to cinemas shutting down, I haven’t been so impressed, bar a few films. It can be presumed this could be a cause of the virus hitting right after January and February. These two months are notorious as studio dumping grounds. However, there are always exceptions.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2020

The Exceptional:

The Invisible Man (dir. Leigh Whannel)

Leigh Whannel’s follow-up to the incredibly-sharp Upgrade. The Invisible Man is by far the best film of 2020. Whannel masters tension to the point at which it’s almost unbearable, it never lets up. A masterful horror film that builds a distinct atmosphere through the use of fantastic filmmaking. Whannel’s direction paired with the wide-angled cinematography forms said atmosphere, primarily building through the visuals and the human fear of the unknown. Along with this, so much is in the subtext to be interpreted and pondered upon after. It’s unforgettable, effective, and makes you think. The horror is cruel, blunt, and although inventive – it remains frighteningly realistic and grounded.

Courtesy of Universal Studios

The Good:

Seberg (dir. Benedict Andrews)

Seberg tells the tragic and yet, incredibly fascinating story of actress Jean Seberg. The film is intensely engrossing and moving. There is a poetic quality to the images relating to the innocence of Jean Seberg as the film visually tracks along the breakdown of her mind and soul. Seberg is a meditative film of brilliance. It’s beautifully shot, carefully tuned and Kristen Stewart is brillinatly understated and sometimes explosive.

Birds of Prey (dir. Cathy Yan)

Birds of Prey is a stylishly fantastic ride. Margot Robbie is on top-form, Harley has never been quirkier and more lovable. Well-made, shot with beautiful use of color and overall, a sleek piece of grand entertainment. Unlike the rest of ‘The Good’, both Birds of Prey and Seberg edge on the excellent.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The Gentlemen (dir. Guy Ritchie)

Guy Ritchie’s latest is a neat exercise in style. It’s well-written with a sharp sensibility. While it gets a bit hammy at times, it’s able overcome those faults elsewhere. Charlie Hunham and Colin Farrell steal the show. Though Matthew McConaughey is just as great as usual. It’s always intriguing and is a sleek piece of cinema.

And Then We Danced (dir. Levan Akin)

Levi Akin’s film is often electrifiying and boasts an ace performance by Levan Gelbakhiani. The cinematography expresses so much and the film is clearly devout to the story. Passion is evident.

Courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures

The Truth (dir. Hirokazu Kore-Eda)

Catherine Deneuve continues her reign as one of the best French actors ever. The Truth (La Vérité) is a beautifully quiet and sensitive film. A tale of memory, redemption and cinema, it’s a reflexive exercise for Kore-Eda, who directs an admirable little film.

Capone (dir. Josh Trank)

Capone is a muted film that plays like its titular character – a meandering journey into the final days of Al Capone. Josh Trank does a great job in crafting an effective film that is consistently proficient and engaging. Capone is a praiseworthy film with an excellent Matt Dillon backing Tom Hardy’s odd performance.

Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

The Alright:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (dir. Terry Gilliam)

It’s a commendable film. Although it certainly isn’t bad, it does get lost. Lost within its own self-knowing nature. Its a mish-mash of absurd hilarity that works but feels incomplete and overlong. However, Adam Driver is fantastic.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (dir. Armando Iannucci)

Even though the U.S. release date has been put on hold, the film actually breathed some short life in the U.K when it was released in January. The Death of Stalin was tremendously funny and whip-smart. Iannucci’s latest has glimmers of that excellence while never reaching those heights. The story is interesting, it’s well-directed and performed. But its effect doesn’t last too long.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

Emma. (Autumn de Wilde)

Shining aspects scatter the film, oh how I wish it could’ve been nearly as perfect as such recent witty period dramas (such as The Favourite). Although, it’s beautifully shot and Taylor-Joy is outstanding. The film never reaches a point to which it could be called great. Emma. is a well intentioned and modest attempt.

Bad Boys for Life (dir. Bilall Fallah & Adil El Arbi)

Brash, exciting, and bombastic. All these words describe the thrill ride that is Bad Boys for Life. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are a dynamic pair, they get to show off their comedic chops. But if you’re looking for depth, you shall find none here. It is an enjoyable time at the cinema, but nothing more than that.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

The Bad:

Dark Waters (dir. Todd Haynes)

A competent excercise in style, it’s shot quite beautifully. But that’s about it. Todd Haynes delivers a prolonged trudge into middle America. Put simply, it’s bland, tiresome and often repetitive, which becomes a little tedious. There is a message buried within it, but Haynes doesn’t know how to convey it.

Courtesy of Focus Features

The Ugly:

Brahms: The Boy II (dir. William Brent Bell)

An extremely archetypal film with all the usual horror elements. Nothing works. It’s a hilarious failure and there is sincerely no reason for this film to exist. As a horror it may be a little tense at points, but nothing comes of anything. It’s just a mishmash of conventions crammed into a slog of a film. Additionally, I’m just confused as to who thought a sequel to The Boy would be a good idea?

Sonic the Hedgehog (dir. Jeff Fowler)

Word for word, action to action, Sonic the Hedgehog is a exemplar of Hollywood churning out films just for namesake. It’s insanely bland. The only redeeming factor is Jim Carrey, he’s actually funny. As a film it has no meaning and is simply a product.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Follow editor and writer Ben Rolph on Twitter: @THEDCTVSHOW

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