Movie Midterm - My Favorite Movies of the First Half of 2020


This has been a regular feature on my site since I launched it in 2017. The format has stayed pretty much the same. This year, things will be a bit different though. They kind of have to be.

2020 is unlike any year we've had before. There should be a ton of movies out that have been delayed due to a global pandemic. So there hasn't been a lot out there compared to what it would be, if 2020 went as expected. So instead of 3 honorable mentions and a top 10, I'd figure I would just breakdown every 2020 movie I have seen instead. There are 20 total. 20 for 2020.

Due to my location and/or financial situation, I haven't been able to watch every movie released this year that I wanted to, so there will be gaps in this list. Some are on services that I do not have access to. Other films were just too expensive for me to rent/buy at the time. I can only judge what I've seen, so I apologize if your favorite didn't make the list.

20. The Last Thing He Wanted


Yes, I know that there hasn't been a ton of movies out this year, but this is one of the worst films that did make it out. It would probably still be in the running even if there was full slate. It is needlessly convoluted, but what's worse, it commits the number one cardinal sin of a motion picture: It's boring. Large chunks of it are difficult to get through. Bad can be forgivable, if the trainwreck is entertaining. But boring? There is no coming back for that. What's worse, is the cast is incredible. Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez and Willem Dafoe? This should be the best cast movie of the year. Instead, it falls short in almost every aspect.

You can stream The Last Thing He Wanted exclusively on Netflix.

19. Artemis Fowl


A Disney funded adaptation of a beloved adventure book series directed by Kenneth Branagh? That should be a home run! Instead it is a needlessly complex and confusing slog that is badly edited and devoid of any flow and emotion. It's a shame. Disney knows how to make movies. Branagh does too. That combination should yield another smash hit for the Mouse House. But instead you get a stale, rushed, and confusing narrative that doesn't do justice to the world building it attempts. I never read the books, but I've heard good things. I can't imagine someone who read the books would be pleased with this adaptation. While the film kind of sets up a sequel (I think), the less than luke-warm reception, and the unceremonious dump on to Disney Plus probably puts the kibosh on any further installments.  

You can stream Artemis Fowl exclusively on Disney Plus.

18. Coffee & Kareem


You should never judge a film by its poster or trailer, but people do because sometimes it works. That is what Coffee & Kareem is. A shallow one-trick pony that gives away any charm that it has in the promotional material. The mismatched duo genre has been done to death. This one adds nothing to the formula. It is good for a few laughs, and has enough outrageous jokes and scenarios to warrant a chuckle or two. But it relies on racial stereotypes and a vapid script to just get by with the bare minimum. You should never "shut your brain off" to watch a movie. But if that is something you like to do, there might be some charm to be found here. Anything that Taraji P. Henson does will have some charm, after all. But if you want a smart comedy, this is something you should pass up.

You can stream Coffee & Kareem exclusively on Netflix.

17. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made


I can see kids digging this even if they never read the books. A mischievous child who acts as a detective is always a winning formula. Timmy Failure is this generations Harriet The Spy. It has unique visuals and an easy story for kids to follow. The most harm that will come from watching this is kids wanting a pet polar bear. This definitely feels like the first entry in several adventures yet to be seen. The actors all do well, and they all give their characters distinct and memorable personalities. The film noir-ish style with Timmy narrating his adventures adds an extra layer of fun. There is some surprising depth with him being the child of a single mother, and finding his place in her life. But it isn't overbearing. These kind of stories seem to come around every now and then, and this entry is a worthy one.

You can stream Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made exclusively on Disney Plus.

16. Playdate With Destiny (Short Film)


A tradition of watching Pixar films is to see the short film attached to it before the feature plays. This time, during Pixar's Onward, Disney synergy was at it's max. With Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox properties, The Simpsons now fall under The Mouse House. So Disney put a short film out to promote that fact. In a very Disney move, they didn't pay any of the voice actors extra to perform in this. So Playdate With Destiny is a silent film. Despite that, it is still oddly charming and very sweet. Lisa has a little childhood crush, and her dealing with trying to see him again is quite entertaining. They pack a lot of humor in a little space, which is especially impressive when there is no dialogue for any of the characters. It was a fun adventure, but also a message that Disney wants to take care of one of the most beloved properties in pop culture history.

You can stream Playdate With Destiny exclusively on Disney Plus.

15. Spenser Confidential


Middle of the road, serviceable action movies used to be the bread and butter of cable TV movies and video store rental deals. Now they are the substance of streaming services, and Spenser Confidential proves that. I might be kinder to this film than those that read the books, but Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke serve a fun mystery/action crime flick. There are worse ways to pass the time. While a predictable plot and forgettable, cookie cutter characters bog it down, there is still enough here to be enjoyable. If you want a fun action movie that appeals to your senses more than of your brain, look no further.

You can stream Spenser Confidential exclusively on Netflix.

14. Stargirl


A feel good movie if there ever was one, Star Girl shows the bond of two kids who need each other more than they think. The formula of "nerdy boy has crush on strange girl" has been done before, but this has the Disney charm and talent of the cast to back it up. Grace VanderWaal is an uber talented songwriter who won America's Got Talent. Well it turns out she can act too. You laugh when she's whimsical, and you cry when she's upset. Stargirl's pure heart is not something you see very often, and it can be a bit jarring yet endearing when you see some of the decisions she makes. Still, Stargirl will make you smile, and might even make you emotional too.

You can stream Stargirl exclusively on Disney Plus.

13. The Vast Of Night


Every now and then, little sci-fi movies creep up on you and make an impression. Last year it was I Am Mother. This year, it was The Vast Of Night. This movie won't be for everyone. It is a very meticulously slow film. It is also framed as if it were an episode of a knock off of The Twilight Zone. The direction and camera work are unique, which is hard to pull off in this day and age. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue to be had, and the way the story unfolds is quite cool. But the ending is ambiguous and might leave something to be desired to some people. But if you can make your own interpretations without having anything spelled out for you, then The Vast Of Night might intrigue you. I enjoyed the ride, and think sci-fi junkies ought to give this a shot.

You can stream The Vast Of Night exclusively on Amazon Prime.

12. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga


Will Ferrell has his own brand of comedy that people are either instantly in for, or instantly turned off by. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga will be no different. It is silly, irreverent, and very on brand with what Ferrell tries to deliver every time he makes a film (with mixed results). However, the third act changes all that and the film becomes surprisingly heartfelt. Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, Doctor Strange) does most of this work, and she is absolutely spectacular in it. As is Dan Stevens (Beauty and The Beast), who seems to be having the time of his life. This is far from the best thing Will Ferrell has made, but there is some charm to it. McAdams performance alone makes the film worth a watch.

You can stream Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga exclusively on Netflix.

11. Extraction


Chris Hemsworth as a John Wick style Mercenary? Yes please. Extraction offers exactly that. Whether you want something more than that is up to you. While the film doesn't have as strong of an action beat as the Wick films, it still has plenty to offer. The action is solid, and Hemsworth does a sufficient job in bringing the character to life. It is a bit cookie-cutter, and the ending is a bit of a cop out, but there is fun to be had.

You can stream Extraction exclusively on Netflix.

10. SCOOB!


With shared universes being all the craze, it is kind of insane how long a Hanna-Barbera one took to come to fruition. Well it is finally here, in the form of a new Scooby-Doo project. If you want a traditional Scooby-Doo adventure, this isn't it. But it takes the material, adds some Hanna-Barbera characters like Dick Dastardly and Dynomutt and still gives a fun adventure to enjoy on family movie night. The film gets lost in some of the shoe-horned pop culture references throughout, but has all the heart of a classic Scooby-Doo adventure. It also lays the groundwork for future installments, and the introduction of other classic Hanna-Barbera characters if they so choose. Your kids will probably enjoy this, and there is a lot to love if you are able to get over the non-traditional vibe it gives off. It still respects the franchise's history, and give a lot of fun easter eggs for die hard fans.

You can stream SCOOB! exclusively on HBO Max.

9. My Spy


There are a lot of "tough guy interacts with determined kid and shenanigans ensue" movies. Things like The Tooth Fairy, The Pacifier and Playing With Fire. My Spy is one of the better versions of that formula, though it is still very much that formula. The film hits every common beat you can think of, but does so very entertainingly through its charismatic cast. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Avengers: Infinity War) anchors the cast as a CIA agent tasks with surveilling a mother and daughter. Yes, it is predictable. Yes it is cookie cutter. But it is still a fun ride. Director Peter Segal has done some legendary comedies (namely Tommy Boy, which gets a nice reference in the film). The man knows how to make a movie. While something seems lost in the edit (the film was delayed a few times even before the pandemic), it still manages to tell a serviceable story.

You can stream My Spy exclusively on Amazon Prime.

8. Troop Zero


Coming of age stories are always nice. When someone goes on a journey to find their way in life, the story always resonates. Troop Zero does just that. It takes a bunch of misfit kids, puts them together against the "perfect" kids, and shows that all they really need is each other. Each kid has their own unique story, and you can feel that a lot of their lives were not easy. Viola Davis is a gift to acting, and young McKenna Grace has a very strong screen presence. Her performance brought the whimsical film to another level. She hold her own opposite Davis, and really shines through.

You can stream Troop Zero exclusively on Amazon Prime.

7. The Lovebirds


Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Issa Rae (Insecure) are two of the most charming and charismatic people on the planet. So putting them together will most definitely yield positive results. They are the highlight of this comedy, and carry the story in places the story can't carry itself. The film is a little bit like Game Night, just not executed as well. One thing is for sure: These two need to pair up on several more projects that would better compliment their outstanding talents. The romantic part of the story gets stifled in favor of jokes, and while some of the jokes are quite good, a better balance would have benefitted the story more. Still, if you are looking for a quarantine date-night movie, this should be considered.

You can stream The Lovebirds exclusively on Netflix.

6. Sonic The Hedgehog


Video game movies are tricky. A lot of them fail because like book adaptations, they cannot compete with what is in your imagination, or your experience with the source material. But Sonic The Hedgehog was always listening to fans (which is why the film got delayed to give its blue protagonist a makeover), and because of that, came up with a solid, entertaining, funny, and heartfelt adaptation of the Sega mascot. Like Detective Pikachu, it has more merit than people initially give it credit for. Jim Carrey turns out another wacky performance, that works very well given who he is playing. It does feel like he is in a different movie than everyone else at times, but stepping back and letting him do his thing is better than trying to stifle him. As video games adapted into movies go, this is high on the list. The sequel tease is also incredible. I hope they are able to pay off that promise.

You can download Sonic The Hedgehog on all major digital retailers.

5. Bad Boys For Life


Any sequel made more than a decade after the last entry always has an uphill battle. Do people care about these characters anymore? What story is possibly good enough to justify their return? Well both questions were answered satisfyingly with Bad Boys For Life. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence both return in a entertaining sequel that deals with middle age, retirement, legacy, and sins of the past. The story justifies the sequels existence. Both Smith and Lawrence slip right back into the roles they've been playing for over 2 decades now. It has a lot of entertaining action, funny humor you expect from the franchise, and a sense of purpose, which sometimes got lost with the Michael Bay-helmed sequel Bad Boys II. Bad Boys For Life is a worthy successor and franchise capper. Though another sequel was teased, this would suffice as a good ending.

You can download Bad Boys For Life on all major digital retailers.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

4. Nobody Knows I'm Here


I feel it is my responsibility to highlight a small little flick like this. There are no superheroes in it. It isn't part of a franchise. There are no aliens, magic, or immortal beings. The fate of the world is not at stake. There is just a guy hiding from his past and longing for something more. The film is mostly in Spanish, so don't get hung up on the subtitles. It is worth watching. The film portrays hope, dread, panic, anxiety, dreams, and ambitions very well. Jorge Garcia gives his best performance ever put to camera. With as somber as most of it is, the ending leaves you with a surprisingly uplifting and hopeful ending.

You can stream Nobody Knows I'm Here exclusively on Netflix.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

3. Birds Of Prey


DC movies post The Dark Knight franchise have been very hit and miss for me. I am not huge on the Snyder films or Suicide Squad, but Wonder Woman and Shazam were great. Birds of Prey continued that trend. This was a perfect vehicle for Margot Robbie to stretch her wings as Harley Quinn. The supporting cast was fun, and the non-linear way of moving the story forward was fresh and exciting. Plus, there is one of the most delectable egg sandwiches ever seen on camera. Ewan McGregor looked like he had an absolute ball playing Black Mask. He was campy, yet dark; funny, but mean. The team had chemistry, and all of them have spinoff potential. I don't think its the last time we will see these characters on the big screen, and hopefully they will be back soon.

You can download Birds Of Prey on all major digital retailers.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

2. Onward


Pixar has a way at tugging at your heartstrings like nobody else can. They've hit a few bumps in the road, but for the most part, they can draw out very strong emotions. Onward continues that trend. 2 brothers find a magic spell that lets them see their dead father for 24 hours. It goes wrong so they have to rush on a quest to get it right before he is gone for good. Anyone who has ever lost a parent, or any loved one for that matter, will instantly be invested in their journey. The story is entertaining, and so is that signature Pixar world buillding they are so good at. But the realization of one of the characters at the end of the movie is so powerful it will knock you right out of your seat. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Far From Home) due incredible voice work, and you can definitely feel the emotions in their voices. Pixar hit a home run here, and definitely has one of the best films of the year.

You can stream Onward exclusively on Disney Plus.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

1. Da 5 Bloods


Spike Lee doesn't just make movies, he makes statements. Like his last film BlackKklansman, Da 5 Bloods tells a story about a moment in history that is absolutely relevant to today's world. Da 5 Bloods focuses on 5 black soldiers who fought in Vietnam, but the world we live in today certainly shapes their reunion when they return there. Yes Lee is politcal. But that doesn't mean he is wrong. The story is captivating at every turn and Delroy Lindo gives an Academy Award winning performance. From a technical standpoint, it is the best shot movie out this year (until Christopher Nolan's Tenet arrives, I'd imagine), and the performances from everyone are stellar. This is not an easy subject to broach, or to digest. But it is worth it once you do.

You can stream Da 5 Bloods exclusively on Netflix.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

***
That's everything from the first half of the year. With such a constantly moving slate due to the state of the world, it will be interesting to see what the second half brings.

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