I'm selecting one obscure movie from every year since I was born to watch and recommend.
This is an ongoing post listing out the movies from 2019 that I’ve seen so far, ranked from my preference of them, best down to worst. I’m sure there are a few that I’ve accidentally failed to include on the list.
Ever since the general setup of this film was reveal during mid-2019 and details were given at Comic-Con, this was immediately at the top of my most anticipated movie list. Sam Mendes has always been a top notch director, even when the script needed a little work, so I knew he could likely handle the challenge this movie would present. And knowing that he would again be working with the incredible Roger Deakins as director of photography on such a technically challenging idea, I had my fingers crossed. I did the rare drive into the city to be able to see it in limited release before it went wide, hoping it could live up to expectations. Most of the time, such high expectations are bad to have, but this time it completely lived up to expectations, one hundred percent. I loved this movie. It’s the rare example where if somebody asked me to pick one thing to nitpick about, I don’t think anything would come to mind. As far as I care, this is a masterpiece of film-making. At the time I’m writing this (January 1, 2020), it has not yet gone wide. I cannot wait to see this on an IMAX or Dolby Cinema screen.
Jojo Rabbit (10)
A fantastic, satirical morality tale told through the imagination of a 10-year-old in a not-so-ideal situation. It’s hard to describe why this movie works so well without giving away spoilers. While I’m linking to the trailer here, I recommend not watching it and just seeing the movie. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it features its fair share of Wes Anderson qualities.
Toy Story 4 (10)
When they announced they were going to make a fourth Toy Story movie, my first reaction was, “no, please don’t risk harming a perfect trilogy!” Once the first teasers and clips started to role, I held out tentative hope. Thankfully, they totally pulled it off. They found a proper new chapter of the story to tell, and they did it wonderfully. They even added a few great new characters into the franchise in the process. For as great as Forky is, I think Duke Caboom is my favorite new addition (and casting Keanu Reeves in the role is perfect).
Ford v Ferrari (10)
A fantastic movie. It’s a combination of a solid script, top-notch production, confident direction (by the great James Mangold, trying his hand at yet another genre), fun humor and one of the greatest array of ensemble casting I can think of in recent years. I was only vaguely familiar with Carroll Shelby and Ford’s transition to racing back in the day. It’s pretty weird to have Ford, as a company, playing the underdog in a story. Granted, they are also antagonists as well, but they oddly work as both, thanks largely to Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca and Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II. But the central key of what elevates this movie to true greatness is Matt Damon & Christian Bale as Shelby & Miles. I stopped underestimating both of them as actors long ago. They can pull off anything, and this is yet another example of that. They work extremely well together in this movie, with very different performances. Easily one of the best movies of the year. See it on an IMAX if you are able, as I did.
Apollo 11 (10)
If you want to step into a time machine to 50 years ago and be a fly on the wall to one of history’s biggest moments, this is the movie for you. Utilizing newly-found 65mm film for a good chunk of the film, it looks amazing. And the approach of not using narration or talking heads and just letting it all play out is a great choice.
Knives Out (10)
A wonderfully fun throw-back mystery movie featuring a clever and playful script, a wonderful ensemble cast, solid production, great pacing and fun humor. I was looking forward to seeing this one, but definitely enjoyed it more than I expected to. One of my favorites of the year.
Like a number of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, this one seems to be one that you either like or you don’t. Thinking it was so-so doesn’t seem to be a common thing with it. Well, put me in the camp of liking it. It’s certainly my favorite of Tarantino’s movies since Inglorious Basterds. And it’s definitely the way Tarantino would tell a fairy tale…
While it may not be as great as the original (a movie I love), this sequel does a very good job coming close. It has fun surprises, the characters feel like a natural evolution 10 years after the original and it’s just plain lots of fun and gets lots of laughs from me. They need to just make a new Zombieland every 10 years on the 9’s (2009, 2019, etc).
Yeah, my opinion is biased on this one. I’m a huge DS9 nerd (it’s my favorite Trek series). The movie spent years in gestation, including a couple of years after launching their IndieGogo campaign (for which I was a day-one backer). The end result is a very well made documentary that was very well worth the wait.
They pulled it off. Dean DeBlois can take a bow for guiding the trilogy from a great start through to a worthy conclusion. And the animators got to show off with some incredible footage yet again. And another lavish and great score from John Powell. Overall, a great closing to a wonderful animated trilogy. Easily the best franchise that DreamWorks Animation has produced.
This movie won’t be for everybody (stay away if you’re easily offended), but I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. The cast, particularly the two lead actresses (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein), is wonderful. The story is kinda typical for the genre, but it finds fun ways to subvert expectations in the process. And the direction from Olivia Wilde (in her feature directing debut) is playful and solid.
One of those little low-budget movies that come along every so often, flying under the RADAR, that ends up being a wonderfully pleasant surprise. It’s also one of those movie-going experiences I love where I see a movie knowing almost nothing about it and end up liking it. These are the roles that Shia LaBeouf needs to be seeking out. The rest of the cast is great, too, including the always-great Thomas Haden Church and the legendary Bruce Dern in small-but-nice supporting roles.
Ready Or Not (9)
This is my kinda dark humor horror/thriller movie. I don’t wanna give much away, but I not only enjoyed the warped sense of humor but the way it played both sides of the story. It manages to pull off the laughs, even in the ending, of buying into its own mythology as well as being realistic about it. The production is solid, the script is fun and the cast is having a ball with it all. Plus, why isn’t Henry Czerny in more movies?
A very worthy third entry to a most unexpected of franchises. They are certainly having fun continuing their odd world-building, and clearly setting up the upcoming 2021 release of the fourth film. Fun that Keanu would be in two different movies in the top part of this list for such very different roles.
The first movie was an unexpectedly great surprise. I very much enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie but didn’t like The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Thankfully, this one is lots of fun and lives up to the original quite well. Chris Pratt gets major props for perfectly channeling Kurt Russell. Oh, and stick around for the fun end credits.
My favorite kind of moviegoing experience. Took a look at the listings before I headed home from work and noticed one on the list I’d never heard of that had a showtime that lined up nicely. Took a look at the poster, saw an excellent actor like Mads Mikkelsen as the star, glanced at the 88% on the tomato meter and read no other description or comment. Had never heard of the movie, and saw it knowing nothing about it other than the title, the star, the poster and the tomato meter percentage. And I very much enjoyed it.
A solid thriller with devious social commentary and a dark sense of humor. Featuring stylish production, solid camera work and a nice cast, this is definitely an interesting movie with more ideas and subtext than your average thriller.
The Cold Blue (9)
A very nice restoration effort and a fresh presentation that works well. It features remarkably good interviews from the nine remaining WWII 8th Air Force members, all in their 90s, and puts you in their daring shoes for the crazy things they experienced.
A delightful drama film to go along with last year’s delightful documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Tom Hanks was an easy casting choice for the role of the legendary Fred Rogers, and he does a marvelous job with it. The movie is quite simple, but that’s kind of the whole charm of Fred Rogers in general. I imagine that for somebody completely unfamiliar with Fred Rogers, the style probably comes off like a Spike Jonze movie.
The previous Jumanji film was quite the surprise. Not just for the fact that after all these years they made a follow-up, but that it was actually great. The cast is a big part of what makes it work. This sequel was just as fun for me, if maybe even a bit more so thanks to the addition of Danny Devito and Danny Glover to the mix (both their performances and the other cast members channeling their characters).
Very easily the best DC movie in a long time. Wonder Woman is the only one that comes close. The plot structure is solid, characters are good, action scenes are well done and it drops tons of comedy moments, nearly all of which actually work. The always-fun Zach Levi gets to add another charming character to his resume.
The Lighthouse (8)
It’s official: Robert Pattinson can actually act. This is a surrealistic and wild throwback story, set completely at a lighthouse with nearly just Pattinson and Willlem Dafoe, who is also very good, as would be expected. While it’s true that if I were a director, I would shoot everything in 2.35 scope aspect ratio. But a special case like this is where I could be talked into making an exception, because this movie uses its nearly 1:1 square aspect very well (a traditional style for silent film, which is clearly a style goal of the movie). The tight aspect lends itself well to the claustrophobic physical space of the lighthouse. The visual design and editing are wonderfully odd, but for me it’s the sound design that really works magic for the production. Overall, a fun and unusual movie from Robert Eggers, the writer/director of the even slightly better The Witch from 2015. I look forward to whatever his next movie is.
Marriage Story (8)
A solid movie from the reliable Noah Baumbach with fantastic performances from Scarlett Johansson & Adam Driver. One of the nicest things is the nice array of supporting cast members like Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Laura Dern, etc. But the best bit of supporting cast is having the wonderful Julie Haggerty in the role of Johansson’s mother. This one is in many top 10 lists for the year. I liked it, but not quite that much. The first half of it is great, but it lost me in a few scenes later in the movie. If nothing else, it helps reinforce my complete lack of interest in ever being married. :)
It’s certainly over the top a bit too often (particularly the last 10 minutes), but it’s very well produced and performed, and it doesn’t feel so stupid as to not work. At the very least, it is exactly what it sets out to be and goes all in to be so.
An unusual documentary. It’s hard to describe the style. It’s a proper documentary with interviews and such, but they use actors like Baldwin and others to do reenactments but it also features a meta level of sorts with the actors being interviewed about the characters in behind-the-scene style. It’s unique and oddly works.
A nice retrospective documentary on the 20th anniversary of the wonderful movie, Galaxy Quest. It’s a bit more simplistic than the excellent What We Left Behind documentary for DS9 that also came out this year, but it’s still quite enjoyable for us fans of Galaxy Quest.
This one gets thumbs up. I mainly saw it for writer/director Lorene Scafaria and thankfully was pleasantly surprised. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu are quite good in it, too. Not a great movie, but pretty good. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lopez manages to snag an acting nomination.
The Current War (8)
OK, so this one was actually made to be released in 2017, and even made an initial run in film festival screenings. However, after the whole Weinstein scandal broke, the movie got shelved when The Weinstein Company went down in flames. After some re-shoots and a director’s cut edit, the movie was finally release in 2019, which is how I’m counting it and including it on this list. Overall, it’s a solid movie, though it falls a bit short of what it probably could have. None of that is the fault of the excellent cast, but mostly in the pacing and scripting. Plus, it’s lacking a bit in Tesla screen time. None of it is bad or anything, it just lacks a bit of punch, and is tonally a bit weak. Still, an enjoyable historical drama. And, while it was great to finally see a decent-quality movie production put “The White City” of the 1893 Chicago’s World’s Fair (“The Colombian Exposition”) on screen, it is only in a couple brief clips. I’m so looking forward to the in-the-works series production of The Devil In The White City…
Long Shot (8)
Sometimes a silly romcom idea gets elevated by inventive and fun casting that somehow works. Such is the case of Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in this goofball story.
While I may not have fallen for the plot twist(s) in this one (unlike the previous Spider-Man movie, which pulled off a great plot twist), I definitely had fun watching this one. That’s thanks largely to the cast and the odd charm in the tone of the movie.
Captain Marvel (8)
An entry in the Marvel cinematic universe that works primarily due to the trademark light Marvel tone and Sam Jackson’s presence. It may not be a top-of-the-list entry for the unstoppable Marvel franchise, but it’s certainly plenty of fun.
I generally liked the first Happy Death Day, but not quite as much as the second. This one is a bit too silly and over the top at times, but it has a lot of fun. It’s my favorite kind of horror movie – one that is having fun with the material and also going for humor.
While it may not be a great movie, it’s a far cry better than the last couple attempts at Terminator films. They were right to drop the non-Cameron films from the franchise when making this one. It’s good to have Hamilton back, and the rest of it (minus the bad manufacturing plant fight near the beginning) is executed well enough.
This one was more accurate than I was expecting. It’s got little inaccuracies like torpedoes being aimed directly at ships rather than leading in front of position to where they WILL be, but that’s surely to get the more satisfying visual of the plane lined up with the ship as it drops the torpedo. Then again, a character criticizes another character for not leading ahead while shooting at planes. The planes and ships are also too close together in a number of sequences, but that’s also likely for getting better shots. As far as characters, ships, planes, plot and events go, things seemed pretty accurate to what I know of Midway (and Pearl and Wake Islands, which are also depicted in the first part of the movie). If all I’m complaining about for accuracy is torpedo aiming and plane & ship formation positioning, I think that means they did a pretty good job. Casting is pretty entertainingly done. You’ve got the likes of Woody Harrelson as Nimitz, Dennis Quaid as Halsey, Aaron Eckhart as Doolittle, and as far as I’m concerned the best bit of casting is Patrick Wilson as Edwin Layton. The pilots are fairly well cast. Ed Skrein takes some getting used to as the arguably main character, Dick Best.
While I did enjoy the movie, it’s the script that has the most trouble. The plot tries to cover too much in too short a time, so everything is either too rushed or is a jumbled up mess. If there was an original cut of this movie that ran at least a half-hour longer, that might kinda fix the problem. The choice to try and cover Pearl Harbor and Wake Islands in leading up to all of the Midway material is a mistake for the running time they have. The war in the pacific was incredibly complex, and they just weren’t going to have the time to try and get it all across. They don’t come anywhere near trying to explain the majority of it, either, so they should have just stuck to Midway. The dialog, however, is what really hurts this movie. It’s awful. All of it. Yeah, sure, some of it may be from another time and feel dated or flat. But for whatever reason they did it, they couldn’t have possibly made the dialog more generic or uninteresting. The actors help save it, but there’s only so much they can do with it.
Final verdict? Thumb up. It’s one I’ll watch again. Not a fantastic movie, but good enough, and better than I expected.
Charlie’s Angels (7)
Did the world need another Charlie’s Angels reboot after the Drew Barrymore films and the semi-recent series relaunch attempt? Probably not. But, this ended up being more enjoyable than I expected, thanks largely to the cast.
Good Boys (7)
This one was a bit better than I expected. Yeah, it plays the whole “shock value comedy” thing too much. But even if you ignore all of that, it’s a pretty fun and cute movie with a good cast and some pretty funny setups.
This one is better than one should probably expect from a franchise that had already kinda overstayed its welcome, particularly after so many years. Part of that is definitely thanks to the cast, the highlight of which is Kumail Nanjiani in a fun little role (so to speak).
I know very little about Pokemon, yet I still had fun watching this one. Yeah, sure, much of that is surely thanks to the fun of Ryan Reynolds. It’s got some good action material and is playful enough in its tone to work pretty well.
Despite them trying to confuse everybody with the naming of the Shaft movies, they are still pulling them off. This one goes after the r-rated side of things and fully embraces the Samuel L. Jacksonality of it all. It is kinda fun to do the three-generation thing.
Cold Pursuit (7)
The ending could definitely use a bit of work, but otherwise I found this one rather enjoyable. It has a subdued and odd sense of humor (a good thing), and of course, it also has Liam Neeson…
Not a fantastic movie, but it’s entertaining and engaging enough. At least Cameron finally got it made, after decades of development. Apparently got too busy to direct it himself, but it still used his script and production. Not sure that it’ll manage to get the sequel it clearly wants to happen, but it does set it up with enough potential to have hopes on setting up a great movie.
The Lion King (7)
So this one was unexpected for me. It managed to reverse the aspects I liked of the original. The lion characters didn’t work much for me in this “photo real” remake (thanks partially to the limited animation possibilities compared to the original), but the real stars of this one are Timon & Pumba, two characters I didn’t like in the original. Those two, particularly Pumba (played perfectly by Seth Rogen), are surprisingly fun and entertaining. Plus, we get a chance for Hans Zimmer to revisit his fun music score (though I prefer the work on the original). The one new song, “Spirit”, is absolutely awful. Thankfully, that scene in the film is kinda short.
The central plot setup is beyond silly and ridiculous if you give it even the slightest bit of logical thought, but it’s well-executed and fun, nonetheless. This may not be as good as Get Out, but it’s a solid enough sophomore directing effort from Jordan Peele. The cast is also clearly having a field day with it all.
I enjoyed it enough to find it moderately entertaining but don’t consider it a particularly good movie. Great VFX work, a generally good cast and solid production are highlights. Unfortunately they are lost in an abject mess of a script and unusual-for-the-franchise and distractingly-unrelenting pacing. The pacing of this movie is abysmal. But I enjoyed enough of the individual scenes of this movie more than the movie as a whole – enough of them work on their own when taken completely out of whatever insane context for which they are intended. More important than any of that, though, John Williams did it. Hardly his best work for the franchise, but still solid. He finished it off, completing the Ninth Symphony. :)
While it suffers from all manner of plot contrivances and conveniences, and for the most part played out as I expected, I liked the pace and tone of this one enough for it to be better than the third Avengers film, barely. Certainly not a great movie, or even one I’ll likely ever watch again, but it does manage to break the downward trend of the franchise enough for me. Bonus points for the fun bit of Cap revisiting his elevator scene from Civil War, using the genius “Hail Hydra” solution. Unfortunately, this movie also has an endless supply of plot contrivances (having both time travel and the silly infinity stones makes pretty much everything silly and arbitrary).
This movie had lots of potential. The decent Split ended with a great reveal of a franchise and opened up a sudden realm of possibilities to set up this movie. Sadly, despite pulling off some of the material, the movie also drops the ball on too much as well. I’d like to see M. Night Shyamalan claw his way back into making good movies, but unfortunately, this one falls short, yet again.
I want to like this one. I really do. But I can’t. Jaoquin Phoenix is certainly giving it his all. And Warner Brothers is finally trying to break from the Snyder mold, which I really want to support, but too much of this movie either doesn’t work or is too predictable. Worse still, it removes the Joker’s edge, making him simply pathetic. And possibly more problematic, it’s setting up the Waynes as generically thuggish, which paints the franchise into a bit of a corner. I don’t know, for the bits that do work, there’s just too much that doesn’t. As a final indicator, I don’t figure I’ll ever bother watching this one again.
This will surely be one of the biggest movie disappointment of the year. The trailers were great. The reason? They contain all the good stuff from the movie. There are moments of greatness in this movie, and nearly all of them are in the trailers. When the VFX team and Bear McCreary truly cut loose for a moment, you suddenly realize what COULD have been a good movie. But then that moment is over and you’re back to the rest of the movie. If I were feeling charitable, I’d say the script on this thing is at best generic. I’m not feeling charitable, though. It’s an awful script filled with awful, or at best generic, characters. Even worse, the roles are filled by solid actors. Vera Farmiga gets saddled with an excruciatingly terrible role. The one character who gets to speak the real truth of this script is a random soldier in the back seat of a vehicle who states “with you two as parents, I would run away, too.” While there are moments of amazing VFX work here and there in the movie, the visual design of the movie overall is terrible. It’s a murky, generic, dark, overly-weathered mess. 2014’s Godzilla takes place on a realistic Earth at daytime. This movie takes place in a murky CGI realm entirely after dark. The 2014 movie wasn’t a great movie, but sadly it is a better movie than this one. I had high hopes that Warner & Legendary could pull off a good franchise with the Monarch monster movie franchise they’re trying to put together. While I absolutely loved Kong: Skull Island, it’s looking like it may be the exception rather than the rule. At least we get a fun score from Bear McCreary that enjoys bringing back the old character themes from the Toho films.
It: Chapter Two (3)
This one gets a thumbs down. It’s too predictable, too repetitive, too unfocused, too repetitive, and **WAAAAAY** too long. I have nothing against long running times, but I don’t want the movie to FEEL long. And the entire plot thread involving Bowers should have been removed. Nothing with his character works or is even remotely necessary to the plot in any way. Ultimately, this movie is a waste of a good cast. What a freakin’ mess of a movie.
Gemini Man (3)
A movie I wasn’t super excited to see, and it was pretty much what I expected. It was completely predictable, to the point where I could basically have described the scenes from the end of the movie after about 45 minutes into it. I could have called which characters would die, who would kill them, etc. The VFX were awful, in ways that were even worse and more distracting than if they had less of a budget and just done the younger Will Smith with a cartoon character. The uncanny valley-ness of it was wildly distracting. And it was definitely worse than the VFX work Ang Lee had gotten into Life Of Pie. Almost every moment of young Will Smith felt like it was a from a CG-made video game cut-scene. The action scenes were either awful or completely boring. And every scene with young Will Smith and Clive Owen was, at best, dull and boring. And the bad guys… what can I say about the bad guys? There was maybe – MAYBE – .000005 seconds of thought put into them. Even Clive Owen’s character, outside of one character trait, couldn’t have been a more dull and incompetent bad guy had they tried to make him so. And Lorne Balfe turns in possibly the laziest Bourne-derivative score I’ve heard. Oh, and a super-soldier with a door in his bedroom floor with a go-bag containing guns and what-not doesn’t contain an epi-pen for his death-inducing bee allergy? Thankfully, real Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead were great and worked really well together on screen, despite being cookie-cutter characters. They even pull off their meet-cute scene. Were it not for real Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, it would have been a 2/10, or maybe even a dreaded 1/10. There is one opinion this movie does seem to have, in wildly confident levels – it’s all about nature, not nurture.
Wow, that basically answers the question, “what would it be like to make the darkest Taken movie possible?” The Rambo franchise has been kinda all over the map in quality over the decades. This is probably the worst of the franchise, contending for that status with the third film. Heck, I’m one who actually liked the fourth film. At any rate, at least it was good to hear Brian Tyler roll out Jerry Goldsmith’s “It’s A Long Road” thematic material from the first 3 films again (as he also did at the end of the fourth).
6 Underground (2)
Michael Bay has been 14 years old considerably longer than Bart Simpson has been 10. It’s the only thing that explains his movies. There are only 2 things going for this one. First, there are possibly some very impressive stunts by some highly talented stunt performers buried somewhere in the editing. Second, there’s Ryan Reynolds. His character is cookie-cutter and poorly written, but it’s still Ryan Reynolds getting to be Ryan Reynolds.
If you ever wanted to know what it would be like if Michael Bay made a Mission Impossible movie, here’s your answer. Amazingly, it’d be worse than John Woo’s Mission Impossible 2. In other words, this movie is absolutely awful. The only thing missing from the array of bad guys is Tommy Wiseau. It does have one idea (the magnets) that would be cool if put into a proper Mission Impossible movie that didn’t suck.
Ad Astra (2)
What happens when you combine a moderately decent production with a good cast (that appears to really be trying) and an absolutely awful script that is completely idiotic from start to finish? This movie. That’s what happens. Just read Bill Hunt’s thoughts on the movie. I agree with what he said. If this were a goofy script from a cartoon from 1973 and produced by Filmation, maybe it would work in some stupid way. If it’s an endlessly-ponderous live-action movie I’m supposed to take even slightly seriously, you failed. You 110% failed.
Child’s Play (1)
Aaaaaak. It’s been years since I’ve actively disliked a movie as much as this one. An absolutely terrible movie populated by terrible characters performing a stupid script. Not even a couple of fun music cues from Bear McCreary could help save this abject failure. I don’t think I’ve seen all of the Child’s Play movies, but none of them were as bad as this steaming pile of crap. A rare 1 out of 10 from me.