The Final Stretch: My 2020 Year InReview | Column from the Critic

It goes without saying that 2020 has taken a toll on a lot of us, and the plans I’ve had for writing for this site was no exception. Back in March, I had the whole month planned and was excited to get a year full of content out. But during the early days of the pandemic, I had to scramble my plans and I got burned out and I had to fight against that. And while I wish I had a better hold of it, when I looked at my work here, I was reminded of this quote from “Rocky Balboa” and tried to hold it to heart: “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.” But whatever we’ve had to deal with, I’m happy to have kept strong throughout the chaos.

But that’s not to say everything about this year was entirely bad. Like last year, InReview has seen greater growth in views and content, and this year it became affiliated with the Large Association of Movie Blogs (the LAMB), and has grown its following all around. And as I do this little retrospect of films I’ve covered this year, I’m happy to say that there are no “F Tier movies” on this list. Like last year, I’ve ranked each of the film’s I’ve reviewed this year in tiers with links to the full review for each one.

D Tier

Cocktail: I’ve always heard this movie was bad; but after watching it, it seemed like it had the potential to be a cult film. Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue give solid performances, while Bryan Brown plays Coughlin as a hybrid of Gordon Gekko and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The biggest thing dragging it down is the story; and in a world of endless remakes and reboots, this is definitely worthy of getting that treatment.

Krampus: I was interested with this after watching the trailer in 2015, but then it slipped away from me. And after Nothing to Fear covered this in their podcast, I decided to check it out. Five years later and my interest was reward with some good ideas, with so-so execution. The tension is good in some parts and the cast gives solid performances.

C Tier

A Simple Wish: After watching this movie, it feels like I thought this was only bad because of a Nostalgia Critic review. While it’s not the best in Mara Wilson or Martin Shorts’ filmographies, they both give solid performances that feel genuine. And some ideas aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, it worked for the film it was.

Beetlejuice: Tim Burton is one of those directors I’ve meant to see, but never got around here. But after watching one of his most celebrated films, I can see the elements of his style. Along with great performances from Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, and a pre-Thomas and the Magic Railroad Alec Baldwin, the movie is an enjoyable trip.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000): This is a movie that is not only nostalgic for me, but also one I hated for a time, because of a Nostalgia Critic Review. But when I came back to, I found it to be a festive joy and loved Jim Carrey’s hammy performance and a creative setting that captures the spirit of Seuss.

B Tier

Birds of Prey: “Suicide Squad” is one of those movies I’ll watch and make fun of. But this movie, I’ll watch because of how fun it is. Margot Robbie is a kick-ass lead and the rest of the cast compliments her. The story feels so empowering as it breaks from the problematic elements of the Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship with Harley being something of a break up icon. And the action sequences are engaging enough to satiated my taste for a “Saints Row” movie.

Sonic the Hedgehog: This is the last movie I saw in theaters before the pandemic and I’m happy have done so. It’s a fun romp that with great action and an energetic Jim Carrey. It, like “Detective Pikachu,” has me hopeful for future video game movies.

Shattered Glass: One of the worst things about the Star Wars prequels was many great actors were stifled. And while I can’t describe Hayden Christensen as “great,” he proves his acting chops in this film. Christensen works as an unreliable narrator as he keeps his cool against Peter Saarsgard. Like Christensen, this movie is worth a second look.

Ghostbusters 2016: When it first came out, I assumed that most of the flak it got was coming from insecure fanboys making mountains out of molehills. And for the most part, I was right; the cast gives solid performances, with Kate McKinnon and Melissa McCarthy stealing the show. While the story overall could have been stronger, the translations between this and the original were creative enough that it can respect the original while standing out as its own thing.

Jingle All the Way: This movie is the epitome of festive fun. Schwarzenegger and Sinbad are big personalities, Phil Hartman gives a stellar performances, and even Jake Lloyd does a job so good, you feel bad that Star Wars fans showed how terrible they were to him. And with a heartwarming message about family during the holidays and engaging action scenes, this belongs right up with the classics.

A Tier

Uncut Gems: This was the first movie I saw this year and it makes me wish that the year was up to the same caliber as this movie. Adam Sandler gives a performance that feels completely different to his more popular ones, that it makes the fact that he didn’t get nominated for an Oscar feel like some felony. And the cinematography feels claustrophobic but keeps you engaged simultaneously.

Parasite: Bong Joon-Ho is a director who’s been on my radar for some time, and it wasn’t until his latest film swept the Oscars like a street sweeper on a Dust Bowl road. The cinematography is brilliant and feels like a more stylistic version of “Shameless.” And the commentary about class inequality is biting hits audience hard. As the director said, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich: I was initially hesitant to check this out, assuming it would be fodder for conspiracy theorists. But after a recommendation from a friend, I gave it and chance and was happy I did so. The miniseries is gripping and intense, and watching footage of Epstein’s flippancy to his crimes packs a punch. And perhaps the best thing about it is that the mysterious circumstances surrounding the predator’s death isn’t given too much time; this is about the victims and their fight for justice.

Looking for Alaska: It took me till I was twenty to start reading John Green. And of all the adaptations, this was one that I was legitimately excited for. Well casted and having a story that works as a faithful adaption, and subplots that feel right in the world.

Wonder Woman 1984: And as the year wraps up, I can’t think of a better movie to wrap up this year with. Everything from the cast to the action scenes to the story were amazing to watch. And it left me with a dash of hope that I wish the rest of the year had.

And so we wrap up the stuff I’ve covered in this tumultuous year. I can’t promise that 2021 will be good, I can promise that I’ll work harder in providing content and nuance looks at films covered.

Keep safe and strong! And thank you for your support!

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