COVID-19 can’t bring movie-goers down.
Originally published on 10th July. Updated with video.
We’re halfway through the year of 2020, and we’ve already been hit by calamities such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This affected the entertainment industry, with lots of content and events being delayed or cancelled altogether. However, that’s not to say that there wasn’t anything good at all from January to June 2020.
Let’s check out out some of our favourite movies and TV shows from the past six months.
Harley Quinn Season 2
When the Harley Quinn animated series was first announced, I was sceptical about how it was going to turn out, due to how tame the live-action portrayals of the character has been in both 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2020’s Birds Of Prey.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when it turned out to be one of the best shows of the year. Season 2 of the show came out in April 2020, only two months after the end of the first season, and I was blown away by the batshit crazy antics featured in the show.
It makes full use of its R-rating, with gratuitous swearing and violence that complements all the amazing jokes and gags. There have also been plenty of scenes from the show that has gone viral on social media, such as Robin asking Batman about sex and an entire musical sequence that parodies the “Under The Sea” song from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Despite all that, the relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy is a definite highlight, giving emotional weight to the series as well. This is perfect for DC Comics fans and fans of Harley Quinn alike. This version of the character is pure Harley Quinn in all her glory as Paul Dini and Bruce Timm intended; not just trying to imitate Deadpool like in the comics or movies.
Guy Ritchie has been in a bit of a slump recently, with 2017’s King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword and Disney’s Aladdin in 2019. He’s always been best at making British crime movies, focusing on the seedy underbelly of the criminal underworld with all the weird accents and complex characters that come with it.
He made a triumphant return earlier this year with The Gentlemen, a masterful and brilliant crime movie. It’s extremely funny and thrilling, with compelling characters and a giant ensemble cast boasting the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Henry Golding, Colin Farrell, and more. It’s also got all the narrative twists and turns, red herrings and all, that you’d want in a crime movie like this.
You can check out our full review here.
The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man is the start of Universal’s new effort and plans to remake and reimagine their classic movie monsters like Frankenstein and The Wolfman with standalone stories.
This classic has been updated to modern tastes; with the movie showcasing the real terror of trying to escape your abuser. This exploration of abuse in a horror lens is disturbing and distressing, but it makes for a great horror movie that’s more than a collection of cheap jump scares.
Combine that with Elisabeth Moss’ incredible but harrowing performance of abuse victim Cecilia Kass, and we have one of the standout horror sci-fi movies of recent times. Director and writer Leigh Whannell is no stranger to the horror genre too, considering that he wrote the first three Saw movies and the entire Insidious franchise.
You can check out our full review here.
Avenue 5 Season 1
This is probably one of the year’s most underrated comedies. Sci-fi comedies are rare, and it’s easy to see why; they’re difficult to pull off. You’ve got classics like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Red Dwarf but in recent times, there have been little offerings, with the exception of perhaps the Rick And Morty animated series and similarly criminally-underrated The Orville by Seth McFarlane.
HBO debuted Avenue 5 earlier this year, starring comedy giants like Hugh Laurie of medical comedy House fame, Star Trek Voyager alum Ethan Philips, Josh Gad, and more. Admittedly, the first few episodes are rocky and all over the place, but the second half of its first season is where it sticks the landing.
Expect witty and sometimes even dark humour from Avenue 5; it’s a bumpy but fun cruise in space. You can now stream Avenue 5 via HBO Go.
Hunters Season 1
Amazon Prime Video has been responsible for some of the biggest recent sleeper hits like 2019’s The Boys and reviving beloved sci-fi series like The Expanse. Now they’ve created a brand new original series, which is set in 1977 New York City, with legendary actor Al Pacino leading a band of vigilantes against the remnants of Nazis in hiding after World War 2.
If that doesn’t sound like a crazy-ass intriguing premise for a series, I seriously don’t know what is. This anti-Nazi Avengers team comprises of not only Al Pacino as the leader, but also an ensemble of famous stars you probably haven’t seen for a while, such as Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother‘s Ted fame and Logan Lerman, who is best known for the Percy Jackson movie adaptations.
Just like The Boys, Hunters features balls-to-the-walls violence and swearing. It’s not for easily-offended snowflakes, as it also depicts scenes set during the Holocaust, which may upset some.
Locke And Key Season 1
Locke And Key continues the trend of good comic book adaptations by Netflix, as it differentiates itself from other fantasy stories by featuring a realistic family with real issues trying to fix their broken lives while still reeling and grieving over the loss of a family member.
All of that is interspersed with sprinkles of horror and magical moments of fantasy, especially in scenes when the characters discover what each Key can do for the first time. However, one of the flaws of this adaptation is that it fails to reach the fantastical premise of the comics, which means that it feels somewhat toned down, probably to appeal to younger viewers as well.
You can check out our full review here.
She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power Season 5
It is a testament to the brilliant work by showrunner Noelle Stevenson and the folks at Dreamworks Animation that they have managed to pack so much action, adventure, and complicated character dynamics into a total of 52 episodes in the span of only two years.
The best thing about She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power throughout its five seasons have always been the way that it manages to convey the emotional complexity of its characters. The best comparisons I can mention are to that of the redemption arcs of Darth Vader in Star Wars and Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
At least, you won’t feel horribly-cheated like many of us did with the conclusion of Netflix’s other popular original animated series, Voltron: Legendary Defender. You can check out our full review here.
Superman Red Son
Superman Red Son is one of the most iconic Elseworlds DC Comics IP of all time. Back in 2003, Mark Millar’s seminal comic book miniseries featured an intriguing premise; what if Kal-El/Superman’s shuttle crashed landed in Soviet Russia at the height of communism as a baby, instead of Kansas in the good old US of A?
It strives to prove that Superman fundamentally remains Superman at his core no matter the circumstances, whether that be under the flag of America, Russia, or any political entity/ideology.
While it might not be perfect (what is, really?), Superman Red Son is one of the most ambitious DC Comics animated adaptations yet, which makes for a compelling and memorable entry into its already-massive library. You can check out our full review here.
Onward came out just when the COVID-19 was beginning its full assault on the world, which means that not a lot of people managed to watch it in cinemas. It’s a shame that it was overshadowed by the pandemic, as despite not being as brilliant as the studio’s best works, it’s still an incredible animated movie in its own right.
Featuring a world inspired by fantasy and Dungeons And Dragons trappings, Onward is best when it focuses on the relationship between the two protagonist brothers Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt). It never reaches the emotional heights of Up or Coco, but Onward will still make some (especially those with brothers) to tear up during the climax.
Color Out Of Space
Need more H.P. Lovecraft adaptations in your life? You should check out Richard “Comeback After The Island of Dr. Moreau” Stanley’s adaptation of this short story. Nicholas Cage stars as a father, husband, and farmer who is trying his best to raise alpacas and grow tomatoes. A meteor crash-lands on his family’s rural property, and things go sideways from there.
We’ll say this: it’s well-paced, trippy, gross, and horrifying all at once. Recommended for fans who love films like 1982’s The Thing and 2016’s The Void.
The Vast of Night
What’s the best way for a director’s debut into the world of movie-making? Make something you love that explores a familiar genre in a different perspective. That’s what Andrew Patterson did with the retro sci-fi movie The Vast of Night.
The premise and setup may sound familiar, but its execution and delivery is smart and mesmerizing. This is all thanks to dazzling tracking shots and artistically dark scenes, and the strong authentic performances of its leads Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz. You haven’t lived until you’ve at least seen Andrew and his crew’s long-track shot that showcases the scope of the Southwestern town the show is set in.
This fictional semi-real portrait of what it’s like to live under the roof of famed horror author Shirley Jackson is creepy, surreal, and tense in all the right places. This is all thanks to The Invisible Man’s Elisabeth Moss, who made a committed on-screen performance of the eccentric title character.
If you ever wondered how Shirley added bits about the claustrophobia of small village life and female group treachery in her books like We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House, this movie will give you a visual insight that’s about as accurate as it can get.
The Way Back
Ben Affleck shows us how to do an uplifting underdog basketball team story without being a typical underdog basketball story: have the focus be on the coach struggling with his path to redemption and away from his alcoholism.
The fact that this mirrors Affleck’s real-life drama and battle with his addiction makes his performance all the more personal and real. This film is also made possible with director Gavin O’ Connor and writer Brad Ingelsby’s fine balance in combining the previous story with a portrait of trauma and grief.
Beastars Season 1
Miss Zootopia? Wished it had an R rating? Then Beastars is your jam. Part of it is a love story between a tiny herbivore and a large-ass predator. The other part is a commentary on how two different races can co-exist, and how little things and some rule-breaking can lead to dissonance between the two as a whole.
A few worldbuilding issues aside, the animation and action beats make this 10-episode series worth tuning into.
Star Wars The Clone Wars Season 7
Even if you hate the Star Wars Prequels, we still have them to thank for the epicness that has been seven seasons of Star Wars The Clone Wars by Dave Filoni. This series probably lives up to the name Star WARS more than any other canon property in the franchise, depicting everything that actually happens in a war behind all the glory; the deceit, the horror, and the grit.
Star Wars The Clone Wars Season 7, which is the final season, may not be perfect (that whole Ahsoka adventure with the Martez sisters was unnecessary and pointless), but the final arc that concluded the entire series, the Siege Of Mandalore, was worth the years of waiting and the culmination of the Prequel era.
The four-episode Siege Of Mandalore arc is enough proof that this series is essential watching for any Star Wars fan worth their salt. Ahsoka Tano is the best character in all of Star Wars, and you’ll know why after watching Star Wars The Clone Wars.