2020 has been an earth-shattering year for film fans with venues closed for several months and many of the most anticipated releases postponed to next year. But over on streaming platforms there have been a number of releases worth seeking out as well as a season ahead of starry works on the big screen. Daily Info has picked out some of the best.
Radioactive (Amazon Prime)
Since her debut, Persepolis, director Marjane Satrapi has made consistently interesting films. And with Radioactive she has a unique take on the biopic, looking at the life and legacy of Marie Curie. With a script written by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, National Treasure, The Aeronauts) and a cast that includes Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley and Simon Russell Beale, this was at one point an awards contender. But with the state of cinematic releases this year it mostly skipped a physical release and can be found on Amazon Prime right now.
Bad Education (Now TV)
Outside of his work in musicals and the X-Men franchise, Hugh Jackman has often picked interesting roles set in the dark underbelly of America. And this is the case with Bad Education, which retells a real-life scandal that rocked a New York school district. Director Cory Finley follows up his fabulous debut Thoroughbreds, and is aided by a career-best turn from Jackman as well as cracking supporting turns from Ray Romano and Allison Janney.
Greyhound (Apple TV)
As 2020 continued to up-end carefully planned cinematic releases Greyhound became one of many that ended up going straight-to-streaming. A taut World War Two-set thriller, it follows the commander of an Allied convoy as they attempt to survive a submarine onslaught. With a lead turn from Tom Hanks, and supporting roles for Stephen Graham and Elisabeth Shue, this is perfect Sunday afternoon fodder.
As the platform with the most frequent releases, there have been a number of recent films worth checking out on Netflix. Enola Holmes is a rollicking adventure yarn about Sherlock Holmes' younger sister with a terrific cast that includes the likes of Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Henry Cavill and Helen Boham Carter. Equally resplendent in its cast (Tom Holland, Jason Clarke, Robert Pattinson, Riley Keough) but notably darker in tone is The Devil All the Time, acclaimed director Antonio Campos’ adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s bleak novel.
Charlie Kaufman’s work is always worth seeking out, even if it can leave audiences somewhat befuddled. And this is certainly the case with his latest, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a head-scratching drama not like any you’ve seen. And featuring one of the last performances from Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods is a fascinating, sprawling war drama from Spike Lee that explores the legacy of one of America’s darkest chapters.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) – October 16th
Aaron Sorkin’s writing credits are… remarkable. The Oscar winner’s work has included A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Moneyball and The West Wing, and he follows up his terrific directorial debut Molly’s Game with The Trial of the Chicago 7. Chronicling the aftermath of political unrest around the 1968 Democratic National Convention, it packs in an impressively eclectic ensemble (Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella) for a topical affair - just in time for November’s US election.
Rebecca (Netflix) – October 21st
Rebecca was famously adapted for an Alfred Hitchcock feature, and now Ben Wheatley (Free Fire, High Rise, Kill List) takes up the directing reigns for a new version of the windswept romance with a beguiling mystery at its core. Lily James and Armie Hammer star this time, with a supporting cast that includes Keeley Hawes, Kristin Scott Thomas and Sam Riley, and this promises to be a delightful autumnal treat.
On the Rocks (Apple TV) – October 23rd
Seventeen years after the release of Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray reunite for this tale of an aging playboy reconnecting with his daughter (Rashida Jones). Coppola has a knack for constructing sumptuous tragicomedies that move at their own pace, giving rich material for the performers and this seems the case with On the Rocks.
The Secret Garden (Now TV) – October 23rd
In another timeline, this latest adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden would have already been released in cinemas. Instead, director Marc Munden (more famous for his TV work with the likes of Utopia, National Treasure and The Third Day) brings a new take on the beloved story to the streaming service Now TV. It promises to be a suitably autumnal treat for the whole family.
Over the Moon (Netflix) – October 23rd
A pair of Oscar-winning directors (Glen Keane for Dear Basketball, John Kahrs for Paperman) partner for Netflix’s latest foray into prestige animated feature. Mixing the everyday with the fantastical, Over the Moon tells the story of a young girl who builds a rocket ship and blasts off in the hope of finding a mythical moon goddess that can bring her deceased mother back. The trailer promises a beautiful work likely to charm children and adults alike.
The state of cinema
This is the second time Daily Info has written this section. In that time blockbusters such as No Time to Die and Dune have retreated to next year, Pixar’s Soul has moved to a Disney+ release (Christmas Day) and Cineworld & Picturehouses have closed their doors for the foreseeable future. There are still blockbusters on the release roster (Peter Rabbit 2, Death on the Nile and Wonder Woman 1984 all still have December dates set) but it's hard not to imagine that these will move like other releases.
Instead there are several releases from smaller studios that, at the time of writing, may be the best bet for film fans who still need a cinematic fix. Shirley (30th October) is a deliciously toxic domestic drama, Blumhouse’s Freaky (13th November) looks to be another inspired horror concept – a serial killer and a teenage girl swap bodies - whilst both Supernova and Another Round (both 20th November) proved deeply affecting watches for Daily Info’s movie buff at this year’s London Film Festival.
Where the traditional studios have withered in their support of cinemas, streaming platforms have continued with theirs, with both Netflix (The Trial of the Chicago 7, Rebecca, Over the Moon) and Apple TV (On the Rocks, Wolfwalkers) releasing films early in cinemas. The next six months may very well consist of advanced previews of streaming big hitters and smaller, independent-focused releases.
But all this comes with the caveat that we do not know what cinemas will be open in the coming months. As the UK’s case count rises it will be more difficult to justify a visit even for those who feel comfortable out and wearing a mask for two hours to watch a film. With the dire situation cinemas find themselves in, if you love a venue you might consider supporting it financially. The likes of the Ultimate Picture Palace and the Abbey Cinema in Abingdon offer memberships, whilst cinemas such as Vue, Curzon and Odeon all have various ways you can support them now to do your part in helping them reach the better times that are ahead.