2019 – YEAR IN REVIEW

Another year down means another annual retrospective of the best and worst films of 2019. I’ve seen a lot of people online complain that 2019 was “a terrible year for film” and I could not possibly disagree more. 2019 just may be the best year for movies of the last decade. There were not just quality dramas, but quality comedy, action, and horror films too. If you only love one certain genre, there’s some great stuff there that made for a great year. If you treat all genres equally, then there were even more great films to enjoy! If you only go out to the generic blockbuster film every three months, then of course you’re going to miss out on the best stuff and consider it a “bad year for movies”. When you have people like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Eggers, Sam Mendes, and Jordan Peele making films, how can it not be a great year?

DISCLAIMER: For various reasons, I have yet to see some of my most anticipated films of 2019, such as Marriage Story and Parasite. They could very well make it onto one of these lists. So, don’t fret and keep an eye out for those reviews!

 

10 Favorite Films of 2019

 

10. Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling

People might say this doesn’t count, as it’s a 45-minute TV special, but the minimum length for a feature is 40 minutes, according to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. So, I look at Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling as any other Netflix film. Rocko’s Modern Life is my favorite show from my childhood and I appreciate it much more as an adult for its biting and absurdist satire on American culture. That trend is continued with this fiilm, taking place 20 years after the series, with a whole host of new things to take aim at. Social media frenzy, modern technology, and best of all, reboots. It may be a reboot itself, but it’s one with heart, hilarious humor, and something to actually say.

9. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a huge Godzilla fan. I grew up watching the films and pitting my Godzilla and King Ghidorah toys against each other, so it’s safe to say I love the big green guy. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is every Godzilla fan’s dream. I know critics and audiences alike have criticized the films for its focus on humans, cheesy acting and dialogue, and a silly plot, but you know what? That’s what makes a Godzilla film! Director and co-writer Michael Doherty is clearly a gigantic Godzilla nerd, with epic monsters fights and references to many past films, making this more for fans, but hey, I’m a fan and I loved it. Long live the king!

8. Us

Jordan Peele’s Get Out was a masterful blend of horror, comedy, and satire, which was especially impressive considering it was his debut. He even won an Academy Award for the screenplay and he only improves his craft with Us. It’s a near perfect horror-comedy that deftly balances the thrills, scares, and laughs, but it also has a great story, as well as a scene stealing Lupita Nyongo in dual roles. Peele knows how to entertain, but knows even better how to use genre elements to achieve that entertainment.

7. 1917

As time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to innovate. When nearly everything has been done in film, where else is there to go? Well, 1917 showed us that shooting the film to give off the illusion of “one-take” is the next big step up. This is one of the most impressive films I’ve ever seen, with the best of the best talent assembled to achieve this amazing technical feat. Not only that, but it has a compelling story and terrific performances to keep you engrossed not just by the spectacle, but because of the story.

6. Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is possibly the laziest talented person I know of, so it’s disheartening that he doesn’t challenge himself as an actor. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s more fun to make movies that are basically you hanging out with your buddies, but it’s good to branch out and try something new every once in a while. Adam Sandler proved he had dramatic chops in some other films, but with Uncut Gems, he becomes a completely different person, like you’re really watching this sleazy gambler screwing everybody over. Like the Safdie Brothers did with their debut Good Time, they not only create an intense, loud, visceral experience, but utilize actors in ways where they can truly shine. Just get ready for a lot of yelling, though.

5. Apollo 11

The moon landing happened over 50 years ago, which means four generations were not there to witness the most monumental achievement in human history. Well, Apollo 11 is the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing the event. Director Todd Douglas Miller puts us right there in the control room, the crowd, the space shuttle, and the moon, all without any sort of narration. It’s just presented how it is from beginning to end and seeing the process of how it all came together and actually worked is incredibly fascinating and inspiring. A documentary that deserves to be shown in classrooms for the rest of human history.

4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino has received criticism from some that he always makes “the same movie”. While I don’t agree, as directors have their own distinct styles that carry over through their work, there’s absolutely no way anybody can say Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is just him retreading old ground. It has plenty of ultraviolence at the end, but this is a far more introspective, melancholic, and slow paced compared to his other work. You can tell Tarantino isn’t just reflecting on classic Hollywood, but his own career, as he gets up in age. I know he said he wants to retire after his next film, because old men apparently “don’t make good movies,” but if this is the movies he’ll be making when he’s old, I wish he’d keep pumping them out.

3. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

The first John Wick film showed that not only was Keanu Reeves still a force to be reckoned with, but that quality action films were still alive and well. Surprisingly, the sequel was even better, and even more surprisingly, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the best one yet. Somehow, these filmmakers keep topping themselves without going too far, keeping the essence of the John Wick world intact. Like its predecessors, it has a strong narrative, intriguing worldbuilding, and colorful characters, all making for a rollicking good time. Let’s just see if they can pull it off again with Chapter 4. Let’s hope.

2. The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers made quite possibly the most impressive horror film debut with The VVitch: A New England Folktale. He has such a strong grasp on tension and atmosphere, with meticulous attention to detail to achieve all of that. Everything he proved with The VVItch, he proves even more with The Lighthouse. While more bizarre and open to interpretation than his former film, just like The VVitch, he crafts a compelling story with layered characters, both brought to life by two of today’s greatest actors giving career best performances. Couple that with the stunning black and white cinematography and you’re right there trapped in claustrophobic isolation with the characters.

1. The Irishman

What happens when you cross three of the greatest actors of all time with one of the greatest filmmakers of all time? A 3-and-a-half-hour crime epic that explores the mobster and hitman life like no other film has before. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have been phoning it in for years, but when Martin Scorsese is at the helm, they show once again why they’re two of the most revered actors of all time. Even Joe Pesci came out of retirement to give us an amazing performance, which shows Pesci isn’t always loud and abrasive. It’s the completion of Scorsese’s trilogy, which began with Goodfellas and Casino. Not only that, I believe The Irishman is Scorsese’s magnum opus, and solidifies him as the greatest American filmmaker of all time.

 

Honorable Mentions: Avengers: Endgame, CrawlDoctor SleepEl Camino: A Breaking Bad MovieFord v FerrariGood BoysHoney Boy, Hustlers, Jojo RabbitJoker, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Little WomenLong ShotMissing LinkReady or NotRocketmanScary Stories to Tell in the DarkToy Story 4Waves

 

 

10 Least Favorite Films of 2019

 

10. The Intruder

Dennis Quaid is one of those actors I respect because he never seems to phone it in. Whether he’s in drama, comedy, horror, or even commercials, he has a certain charisma and charm to him. He loses that charm playing The Intruder, but makes up for it in pure scenery chewing goodness. His line deliveries, mannerisms, and facial expressions are all so hysterical, it felt like Quaid knew what garbage he was in and hammed it up. I’m thankful he did, because without him, The Intruder would have been a big bore.

9. Serenity (2019)

For the first half-hour or so of Serenity (2019), I was actually enjoying it. It was campy and didn’t take itself too seriously, with a plot right out of a Lifetime Movie or a cheap romance novel. It was well made and well-acted silliness, but then a twist happens midway through that recontexulizes the whole movie. It’s a twist so absolutely hilariously absurd and idiotic, that it almost circles back around to brilliance. I’m not sure what everybody involved with this project was thinking, but they were clearly out of their minds.

8. Replicas

There were plenty of great comedies over the past 12 months, but none of them even came close to the hilarity that is Replicas. Keanu Reeves has made a big comeback lately with the John Wick films, showing he’s still a star to be reckoned with, but he’s clearly out of his element here. It’s not like the writing or direction was strong anyway, but when Reeves tries to convey grief and scientific intrigue, he’s as unnatural and stilted as any human can be. It’s the annual “direct to video movie that somehow made its way into theaters”, but those movies tend to be the best bad ones.

7. Men in Black: International

The Men in Black series is your typical situation of having a great first film followed up by lackluster sequels. Well, those sequels look just as great as the original when compared to the vapid and joyless Men in Black: International. Chris Hemsworth can be quite funny and I love Tessa Thompson, but they’re stuck navigating the most pathetic excuse for a plot that makes no sense. The Men in Black series is all about the chemistry between the two stars, and while Hemsworth and Thompson do have some chemistry, the script does them no favors with a lack of funny dialogue or any kind of interesting characterization. I never thought I’d say it, but they would have been better off with that terrible MIB23 idea, because at least that would have been interesting.

6. Countdown

Do you know what’s scary? Smart phone apps! At least the makers of Countdown seem to think so, because this was a hilariously bad ride from beginning to end. The premise of a phone app killing you can work (it worked for The Ring and video tapes, I guess), but it’s never suspenseful or interesting. Just characters aimlessly running around, trying to prevent their deaths from a cell phone app that harasses them. If there’s anybody who legitimately finds this movie scary, I don’t see how they could handle owning a phone in the first place.

5. Captive State

Captive State has an intriguing premise when it comes to alien invasions, showing the world after the fact, years after the aliens arrived on Earth. Unfortunately, this neat premise is squandered by a complete lack of focus with too many characters and plot threads, with no general story to go along with it. It’s just a bunch of people running around with no rhyme or reason, with hardly any context as to what’s happening. It’s also a waste of great actors like Ashton Sanders, John Goodman, and Vera Farmiga, who also don’t seem to know what’s going on. I don’t even think the filmmakers did.

4. 6 Underground

Michael Bay is easily one of my most hated filmmakers, second to only Roland Emmerich. I try to avoid his movies at all costs, but I got roped into this one, and I would have rather used that rope to hang myself, because 6 Underground is an irritating and incoherent experience. It makes absolutely no sense. The characters are bland and mostly annoying. The action is horrendously directed and it’s chockful of Bay’s signature humor, which only makes me cringe and roll my eyes. Easily one of the worst action films I’ve ever seen.

3. Cats

Cats was a film that was basically doomed from the very beginning. It’s based off a bizarre musical with no real story or depth that everybody has made fun of over decades. I love musicals, but when they’re totally boring, nonsensical, and at times uncomfortable to watch, no amount of great songs, choreography, or committed (if miscast) performers can save it. Director Tom Hooper clearly tried to replicate his success that was Les Misérables, but that actually had a story, depth, and human characters that didn’t look like uncanny valley anthropomorphic cats. It’s a rare cinematic misfire in every single department that you only get once in a blue moon.

2. Playmobil: The Movie

What exactly is Playmobil? Who knows and more importantly, who cares? Well, apparently not many people, because this is one of the biggest box office bombs of all time and for good reason. It’s a cheap knock-off of The LEGO Movie, but with none of the intelligence or heart. Instead, Playmobil: The Movie is bottom of the barrel, generic kid’s movie garbage.

1. Pilgrim

Pilgrim is part of Hulu’s Into the Dark holiday themed horror anthology series produced by Jason Blum. Blum is known for financing projects with miniscule budgets, while the filmmakers get free range to do whatever they want. Well, free range doesn’t always yield positive results and the results here are abysmal. This is one of the worst excuses of a “movie” I’ve ever seen. The worst part? It’s not even bad in a fun way. It’s just boring and inept.

 

Dishonorable Mentions: Alita: Battle AngelAnnabelle Comes HomeGemini ManHellboy (2019)Miss Bala (2019)Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

 

Check out my podcast Movie Talkers, where fellow movie critic Grant McClean and I discuss new and old films!

 

Also, check out my list for 2016, 2017, and 2018!

Leave a Reply


Connect Online