Bob’s 2019 Retrospective (200 Mini Reviews) -Part 3: The Best and the Worst

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Happy New Year fellow geeks!

Introduction (repeated on all parts)

I can’t believe another year has passed!

I watch a lot of movies. This year I banked just around 210 2019 films. If you count, you’ll see this list is little shorter than that. I removed festival films that will be wide released in 2020 and those I watched for Crypticon Film Festival that haven’t received distribution. (hey, go to Crypticon!)

And because I love you all (except for one of you… you know who you are), I went through all all of those movies and wrote up a short statement for EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Some of the statements are direct copies from my 100 Days of Horror notes or from the Short Review section (I’ll get that going again next week). If I did a review for anything, it’ll be linked here too.

There are still many I want and need to see, as I watch them over coming years, I’ll update and leave a note for them.

Curious of 2018? Did the same write-ups then too!

Want more thoughts from the rest of the crew? Our year-end podcast!

Part 1: The Average; Part 2: the Pretty Good and Pretty Bad.

How I did it

At the end of the year I took all those movies and separated out into a 1 through 5 ranking overall. Hard picks to do – five seems right, but often a 3 can be a bad movie with just enough good to push up, or a good feature with some issues. Thus, the little write up. Sometimes they may be wildly different than my “just saw it” review in looking back in comparison to what came after or just revisiting later.

It is in order but as we have wildly different genres, I’ll admit may be different if I ranked them tomorrow. This list is worst to best. It is not numbered as easier when I do updates.

Without further ado: I present…

The 1s out of 5s: The Bottom of the Barrel. (around 170 to the End) (Letterboxd)

This list goes from “best” to worst.

The Curse of La Llorona – An early shot, sweeping through a house shows promise in what ultimately falls flat with very repetitious jump scares and a very by-the-numbers ghost story of a much more interesting legend. Negative points for a ghost who looks like she was borrowed from a JayCee haunted house. REVIEW

Berlin I love You- Ten underwhelming short stories make up this anthology of the [City], I love You series (after Paris, they’ve all been bad). None have any real drive and no one really seems like they want to be there.

Don’t Let Go – Frustrating is the word we all used for this after the screening. Great idea and a really dull execution that plots along about 30 minutes behind the audience’s understanding of of the story. Not to mention one of the worst villain turns of the year. REVIEW 

Dead Ant – One I’ve been hearing about for a while, always with high praise. Found it to be a painful experience with grating humor that was moving through molasses.

Slaughterhouse Rulez – Fracking next to a failing boarding school unleashes monsters to attack the school body….two thirds of the way through this waste of the talents of Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Michael Sheen, and Margot Robbie (didn’t expect her in this). The screenplay thinks it is funnier and edgier than it is, forcing us to shove through an hour of incredibly unlikable characters before the not-good version of Attack the Block starts. I seem to recall digging the gore, but I could be incorrect and I don’t care to go back to find out. 

Dumbo – Awful CG, the worst children actors I’ve ever seen and a slog of a movie. Best part is Michael Keaton apparently gathered all the energy the rest of cast refused to use to play the wildly over the top Walt Disneyesque villain. Worst part is it never has Danny DeVito ride Dumbo. REVIEW

After – Two pieces of wood gain sentience and spout cliches at eachother for 90 minutes. That is all.

Jacob’s Ladder – A remake that takes everything interesting out in the adaptation. Dull and plodding, wastes what could have been a good update on PTSD for the modern wars. REVIEW

Then Came You – Maisie Williams, you are better than this. Much better than playing the worst of the Manic Pixie Dream Girls, who is forced to be Dying but Pretty Girl too. Insufferable twee and annoying film.

The Intruder – Only Dennis Quaid seems to realize how ridiculous this movie is. He swings for the fences, chewing every ounce of scenery. His off the wall performance is necessary to give some sort of interest compared to the dull couple who move into his house. They have to be the dumbest people ever to get this movie to move as it does, completely ignoring what is directly in front of their face. Like there are shotgun marks and dried blood in one of their bedrooms. And a secret passage in their closet that should have opened the first time a towel was put in. Ridiculous but there is fun to be had.

Replicas –. The first unflushed turd of the year. Keanu Reeves gives the best performance in an awfully scripted sci-fi thriller from NINETEEN producers Plot points come and go without any consideration, Alice Eve acts like a robot (or a clone? The movie uses both), and nothing adds up at all. Directed with random shots and awful cuts, it’s no good.REVIEW

Domino – Brian DePalma’s new flick feels like a made-for-TBS movie that brought in DePalma to film a few action sequences. There are times where his style comes through but other than that, his highly Islamaphobic action film is a gorram mess. 

Velvet Buzzsaw – A big disappointment after the amazing Nightcrawler from Dan Gilroy. Jake Gillenhall and Rene Russo lead an aimless story of artists and art critics stabbing each other in the back, and the haunted art that stabs them literally. It meanders its way through the empty and vapid people, occasionally remembering its own plot. 

The Dead Don’t Die – Third movie in a row on this list with a real shit movie from a great director. Jim Jarmusch’s shallow satire on the zombie genre offers nothing new to the conversation except two dozen characters that go no where, empty references, and a severe lack of any sort of energy. Part of me thinks the film is more of a satire of satires, but even then still doesn’t’ excuse it. Liked Adam Driver and the the theme song though. Shame after Jarmusch gave us the 2nd best vampire movie.

The Lion King – Empty and devoid of any of the soul of the 1994 classic. I’ll be straight-forward, anything you felt watching this version was merely the porting of the motions felt for the original onto the blank canvas of beautifully rendered animals.Turns out making the animals photorealistic – thus really devoid of emotion – wasn’t the best for a highly emotive film. Disney could have recut African Cats and had the same film. All the performers sound bored, and I was as well.

UglyDolls – Absolutely standard “be yourself” kids movie with even more cynicism behind the camera than normal.

The Reliant – Was Red Dawn not right-wing and Jesusy for you? And made too competently? Then The Reliant is for you! After a fuzzy detailed collapse of society a few bad acting teens head into their backyard to argue about Jesus and guns. A preachy mess. Group Review

The Banana Splits Movie – Incredibly cheap and low-energy with some decent kills. 

Among the Shadows – Aka the Werewolf movie featuring Lindsay Lohan greenscreened into other scenes. We laughed at the trailer earlier this year and then promptly forgot about it until I got it from Netflix. This is boring shit film that feels like they filmed it in 2002 (blue filters! eastern europe!) and edited in Lindsay Lohan and Brexit references this year. Everything has been done before better. Vampires and werewolves exist and are in a uneasy truce and are in power situations across Europe. A PM is murdered and grumbly vampire lady in leather has to solve the easy mystery. And as we reach climax of the film, it ends… before the climax.” REVIEW

Poms – Painfully unfunny comedy of olden women trying to be cheerleaders. Diane Keaton looks ashamed this is what she’s offered at the moment. But gotta pay the mortgage right? Maybe I’m not the audience, but every joke seemed to land flat on its face.

Serenity – take note that while this movie is the #9 from the bottom for overall quality in my eyes, it’s damned near close to the top for sheer entertainment value. Watching this with Cody and 4 other people we didn’t know was one of the best theatrical experiences I had this year. The laughs at each inane line, development or even camera move (a 180 degree sweep around a McConaughey and Hathaway has a swwwish soundeffect). And the WORST TWIST OF ALL TIME. one so bad I exclaimed “Oh fuck off” loudly in that screening. I don’t talk during movies but it was so incredibly stupid I couldn’t help it. Luckily, the crowd was already in the same mood. On that twist – it became a Ring-like curse of people watching the movie because i told them what it was. And they didn’t believe me, so they saw it too. And told others. Damn, I want to watch this 1995 script dusted off in 2019 again. REVIEW

Gemini Man – Maybe I need to see this again NOT in 60fps 3D. Seeing it in that manner made the movie flat, dull, and really took me out of it. Maybe the idea and execution would have landed better seeing in a standard format.  As I saw it, the action was awful, the reveals even worse and the young Will Smith is a weird CG that sometimes works but usually doesn’t. REVIEW

Corporate Animals –another unfunny comedy. Unfunny dramas become comedies. Unfunny comedies become slogs. This horror comedy (so they think at least) takes several comic actors and Demi Moore and puts them in a cave to bicker with and eat each other. Fuck I hated this movie.

Polar – Goddamn this movie is ugly. And just plain awful. How the hell did Mads get wrapped up in this? (funny enough coming out the same weekend as the Mads-led Arctic. Similar title. Different movie.)

What’s wrong with Polar – at one time the worst reviewed movie of 2019, sharing a “19” on metacritic with the more enjoyable Replicas? Polar is like a 12 year old watched a bunch of Tarantino knock offs, Smoking Aces, and John Wick and tried to write a movie.  What’s it about? About two hours too long! ba-da-cha! Mads is a retiring hitman, and to save paying him, Matt Lucas sends other assassins after him, killing their way down the path to his hiding spot. At said spot, a cabin in a polar region, he connects with Vanessa Hudgens in the next cabin over.

The movie is garish, with needless over-saturation of color, leering close-ups, and annoying hit people, each having their shtick.  It’s the type of movie that thinks squishy noises for blood, food, and sex is funny. The creative team thinking they are funnier and cleverer than they are, just coming of like trying way too hard.

Skip this and watch John Wick again

Cats – The Tom Hooper helmed adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway adaptation of TS Eliot poems, that in turn presumingly based on nightmares Eliot had of size-changing anthropomorphic cats with human hands and feet. I’m going to write a longer review soon so I don’t want to show my hand – but I had a great time with this trainwreck. It’s jaw-dropping insane. I will admit the Cat People (hey great movie) looked pretty good separated out, the whole of it is incomprehensibly weird and off putting. CODY’S REVIEW.

NOW FOR THE BOTTOM FIVE, as heard ranted about on the Podcast.

Hellboy – A film where you can feel the behind-the-scenes shit-show while watching due to the clashing of tones, obvious reshoots and ADR, and a severely annoyed cast. Pull it up on Amazon Prime and listen to Ian McShane run through his voiceover as fast as he can though the backstory of the wasted villain Milla Jovavich. If you can’t hear his disdain, you’re a better man than I. When McShane can’t be bothered to care, you got a problem. I can see it working on paper, a darker take than DelToro’s, hewing closer to the source with David Harbor as Hellboy (he tries so hard, no fault to him on this trainwreck) and Neil Marshall helming. Sure, I’d rather have Del Toro’s Hellboy 3, but that sounds okay. But the result is a hulking mess. REVIEW

The Fanatic – Co-written and (solely) directed by Fred Durst. And I don’t know if it was his or John Travolta’s idea to play the titular character (Moose) in having every mental disorder at once. This makes this awful horror film kinda hard to laugh at, as it gets really cringey. An awful script with inane dialog, easily hateable characters – tell me if moose or Devan Sawa is the hero – and some really odd voiceover. This is one bad decision after another. Fans of bad movies, check it out as there is enough outside the cringe.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate – A despicable retelling of the Sharon Tate murders that makes up Tate foreseeing her death and adds in a regrettable addition of essentially stating if she tried harder to fight she would have lived. Add in bottom of the barrel acting and slapdash editing, and you have one of the year’s biggest turkeys. Makes whatever issues I had with Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a positive by comparison.

The Hustle – See what I said above about unfunny comdies about Poms above. Even worse is working from a nearly the same script of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but somehow devoid of anything positive. With this and Serenity we have the year of Anne Hathaway trying her damnnest to be as awful as possible – I see no reason for how bad she is in this except on purpose. Rebel Wilson is hers normal molasses line readings. I was actually angry in how dreadfully unfunny this was. 

NUMBER ONE WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

X-Men Dark Phoenix – Like Hellboy, this is a sutido hack job where you can feel the addition of the reshoots. Most studio films have reshoots, but most don’t use them to reconfigure the back half (apparently it was too close to Captain Marvel). A nonsensical plot that regresses all the somehow unaging characters, removing all traits and interest. Good to great actors clearly not giving a shit with a infuriatingly underwritten villain in Jessica Chastain. Best part of that is after a fight and grandstanding to cross two lanes of traffic (yup), Professor X rolls in and has a conversation with Jean before realizing Chastain is standing there as well (reshoot?). And are just going to forget Jean had the Phoenix powers in the last movie?

We made it through the worst – and now for the Top of the Top. 43 Titles. Letterboxd.

You might notice, if you listened to the podcast that the top 10 has one difference…..

Good Manners – This Brazilian film offers many great surprises in it’s tale of motherhood and lycanthropy. A poor woman is hired to be a nurse to a pregnant rich woman who was recently bit by a creature during a full moon. It does not go where you’d expect. REVIEW

Britany Runs a Marathon – Jillian Belle is a revelation as Brittany, an adult-woman-child who does her late-coming-of-age by deciding to run a marathon. Refreshing in his humor as it’s all character based, with little to zero perhaps humor based around her weight or “fall down go boom” that you’d often expect to find in this set up. Instead, we get strong, fully-realized characters and a hell of a lot of heart. May have cried a few times.

One Cut of the Dead – The first 40 minutes may be a basic zombie movie, notable in the one-shot nature, impressive but standard, but after that look forward to an exploration of movie making. Of all the troubles, trials, and tribulations of putting something together to get the first act. Although a fictionaliztion, feels very true to life and the last act is brilliance in revisiting the first. Think Noises Off! but with zombies. REVIEW

The Art of Self-Defence. Jesse Eisenburg leads this dark-as-midnight deadpan comedy of toxic masculinity, but Imogen Poots is the standout. I love comedies of people who are really into something to the point of losing any focus elsewhere – awkward comedies and this fits that bill too. Fully into watching each level of toxicity take Eisenberg in. 

Toy Story 4 – A worthy successor to the great Pixar series, Toy Story 4 is stretched in some ways to get a story but creates a solid enough tale of finding a new lease on life in old age. Christina Hendrix is a compelling villain that feels like the next step to Lotso of part 3. Annie Pott’s return as Bo Peep steals the show- although Keanu Reeves threatens to. Not entirely necessary but still damned good

Child’s Play – I was skeptical of this reboot to the long running series (and the first not directed by Don Mancini), but let me tell you – this is how you update the property. Tyler Burton Smith updates Chucky to a malfunctioning SmartDoll instead of a possessed by a killer, making it fresh and able to approach the idea from a new standpoint that is up with today’s technology. Mark Hammill’s voicework is superb, and he helps make an oddly sympathetic Chucky. The script allows us to feel bad for Chucky while still rooting for Andy, creating a good balance from the clever notion of everything Chucky does – he does it because he saw Andy do it or mention it. If you’re pushing it off for remaking a beloved title, put that notion away and give it a chance.And the kills are rather mean which is nice. REVIEW

Terminator: Dark Fate – I think many people didn’t really give this semi-reboot of Terminator a chance. It’s no surprise after several lackluster sequels (I do have a soft spot for much of Rise of the Machines), but in deleting everything after Judgement Day. But this Tim Miller directed sequel offers amazing action-sequences, and a great way to bring back Linda Hamilton and Arnold logically. I straight up had a blast.

Haunt – Teens go into a haunted house to find it’s really filled with killers is a concept being used a good deal lately, and often doesn’t work. But Haunt works in it’s gleeful sadistic way. The whole of this movie made my horror loving heart pound. It’s tense as hell in its’ claustrophobia and makes you care for the characters, a rarity in this subgenre. Offering many genuine surprises and a solid mean streak, I suggest you go watch this on Shudder.

Nightmare Cinema – Mick Garris brings together 4 other horror directors in this incredible anthology. Each story is vastly different and all worthy of your attention. I particularly loved the story that starts like the 3rd act of a cabin in the woods slasher and soon becomes something else and the heavily-influenced by Italian cinema parochial school. The down side comes in the needless wraparound. I’m still sure they just found Mickey Rourke already there and put in him the movie.

The Changeover – A teenage girl’s brother is targeted by a witch played by Timothy Spall. In order to save him, after unable to convince anyone of the magic causing his illness has to go through a ritual to gain her own powers with the help of Lucy Lawless. Sometimes the paranormal-YA-novel source shines through but otherwise very wise really well done. Never feels cheap or going through the motions for the younger audience, real care is given to to the characters and relationships. Ten points to bad guy Timothy Spall, so damned menacing. REVIEW

The Nightingale – Jennifer Kent’s sophomore film after The Babadook is brutal and unrelenting. I note this is very different than the Babadook, so don’t expect that film in style or tone again. In 19th century Tasmania, a woman and an aboriginal man traverse the island to seek revenge after a devastating attack to herself and family. Heart-wrenching and beautiful it’ll be a hard watch for many but still important.

John Wick, Chapter 3- This series is astounding. While this one gets a little lore and spinoff-setup heavy, the action beats we see John Wick for are stepped up a notch. Beautiful and insane in all the best ways. I have to say I adored Mark Dacasco’s fanboy villain, but hated Asia Kate Dillion in an anti-charisma performance.

Spider-man: Far from home. Although every story beat is foreseeable by a long mile, the sheer charm of everyone onboard makes this one of the most enjoyable action films of the year. Tom Holland IS Peter Parker and a great set-up with Jake Glynnahll’s Mysterio. Mysterio is treated with actual menace and it works – the way he fucks with Peter in Berlin and at the climax is astounding and so well put together. The reveals of the end and the returning character are happy-scream worthy.

High-Life – Claire Denis’s first English language film is beautiful in its isolation and madness. On a generation ship with a half dozen criminals, things go where you might excpect  in which things don’t stay safe or sane for the crew but even so is impeciably acted and creates a tone of unease as it falls apart for them. REVIEW

The Perfection – Netflix’s original horror film feels like it should be a remake of South Korean film but it’s not. Filled with unexpected twists and turns, I thought I knew each before it happened but was pleasantly surprised with all the fucked up shit that occurs. This was right up my alley.

Rocketman – Last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody was a absolutely standard rock biopic held up by a damned good performance. Rocketman is a straight up great one all around. Where BR danced around the bad things to keep things on status quo, Rocketman presents an unflinching look at the highs and lows of Elton John with a fantastic but yet not showy despite the source (this is a good thing) performance by Taron Egerton. The film has an amazing energy in every facet, especially the musical numbers. A shout out to the unsung Jamie Bell as Bernie Tauplin.

Heavy Trip. This Scandinavian film is one of the funniest this year. It has such heart and good nature in exploring the lives of a heavy metal band Impaled Rektum, who have been rehearsing with cover songs for 13 years but never have had a gig (nor have they tried). After a series of misunderstandings (as happen in these types of films) they get booked for a huge rock festival, so they must embark on a wild road trip. The road trip is just the back third of the movie and as crazy and funny as it gets, I really appreciated the first two acts of the characters living as the weird rock people in their town. It’s wonderful as just in real life, these heavy metal loving weirdos are also the most kindhearted and good people around. There is a natural flow to all the humor and character in Heavy Trip and it earns the zany climax. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle- Long in development, I’m glad we finally have this Shirley Jackson adaptation after the release of Haunting of Hill House. Less of a horror story – someone at Crypticon called it the backstory to what will be a haunted house later – the beautiful film looks at a family in mental disrepair, pariahs of  town after a dreadful accident – how two sisters and their invalid uncle barely live outside their routines. A routine that is broken when a distant cousin arrives with possibly nefarious reasons. The ambiguity is wonderfully maddening. I’ll not spoil anything but as a fan of the book and Jackson, this worked so well. And good to see you Crispin Glover!

The Wind: Demons of the Prairie A fantastic single-location horror-western, with only five characters and a ton of tension. A woman is left alone in a secluded farm as her husband and a neighbor go to town to sell the neighbor’s home after a tragic event. There she is besieged by whatever she’s been experiencing during the nights as long as she’s been out there. Deft job of melding the past and now (in film time that is) events and getting great scares with little to be seen. Also well done is the questioning over what is real or not, as to be expected with this type of story. REVIEW

Togo – I’m not a dog person, but I am absolutely a Togo Person. The best non Avenger Disney flick this year wasn’t theatrical, but on Disney Plus. Willem DaFoe has great chemistry with Juliette Nicholson and a team of dogs led by Togo. This thrilling adventure tells of the 1925 Serum Run to Nome Alaska. See my review for more. REVIEW

Monster Party – FUCK YES This movie hit all my right button. Hilarious, gory, and gleeful in its manic bloody orgy. Don’t Breathe meets Ready Or Not as three thieves get themselves set up as caterers in a gathering of rich people – they turn out to be serial killers in recovery. When blood is spilled, their bloodlust comes on hard as they fight each other and the thieves. REVIEW

Horror Noire – Insightufl and incredible documentary on Shudder on how black culture has been presented in Horror. Very eye opening in thoughts and takes I hadn’t seen before, with wonderful talking heads from all over the creative end and commentary. My only issue – this should have been a longer form. If Eli Roth can have a series, so can Horror Noire.

Climax – Gaspar Noe’s best film by a long shot. Impressive long-shots are mind-blowing with how much work had to go into them, both in the dances or when everything goes to shit in the backhalf. Some of the middle section gets a little college philosophy student but only real issue.  REVIEW

Yesterday – Utterly charming. Danny Boyle and Dan Curtis make a film of a world without The Beatles. Only a failed musician remembers them after a black out that removes the Fab Four from everyone else’s memory. Lovely in exploring the universality of the Beatles’s amazing music and the creative process. Himesh Patel is a star in the making and Lily James continues to be her wonderful self. Many surprises along the way, and many tissues used. Several scenes made me tear up, and one in particular still has that effect thinking of it.

Knives Out – Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi follow up is another subversion of tropes – now in the mystery genre and with a killer ensemble cast and a wicked sense of humor, and so much sass. The comic timing is pitch perfect and the mystery is a hell of a lot of fun to solve. Johnson knows what people are expecting and looking for, so he’s able to craft a twisty but makes-sense story that even the most hardened mystery experts wont’ solve before the explanation. Among the cast, I want to highlight the not-yet-a-name but will be Ana de Armas as the lead. She carries the movie on her shoulders.  Her and Daniel Craig’s outrageous accent. I look forward to seeing both of them in the next Bond film in April.

Ready or Not – Fuck yes. Love a wide release going gleefully violent, bloody, and just damned fun. Samara Weaving is wonderful as the wide-eyed, over-reactive, blood-splattered bride forced to play a deadly game of hide-and-seek with her White-AngloSaxan-Santanist family. Had a freakin’ blast. Like Knives Out the ensemble cast is game and having a ton of fun and it shows. REVIEW

Avengers: Endgame – The end of this phase of the MCU earns it’s massive runtime, cast, and every amazing moment. Captain America with Thor’s Hammer and the sequence that comes after that gave me goosebumps every time I saw it. With nearly two dozen films to build from, Endgame fulfills the promise of 11 years of expectations. It’s astounding this even half worked let alone being massively successful. The three hour runtime just moves with nary a wasted moment both in action and character. Character is why the MCU works. People connect to these flawed heroes and make them their own; it really helps the casting is impeccable. I can’t wait to see where PHase IV goes (I’ve seen that movie… it’s ants!)

Tigers are Not Afraid – Beautiful fairy tale film of kids trying to survive as orphans on crime-ridden streets. Not explicitly horror but talked about in horror circles and is on Shudder. Straight up, one of the most well put together, moving films of the year. I can see why Del Toro is producing the director’s next movie. REVIEW

John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch – This Netflix special needs to be a real show. STAT. A loving send up of the children’s TV variety shows of our (John Mulaney and I are the same age) youth such as Sesame Street, 321 Contact, and the Electric Company (anyone else love Square one?), Sack Lunch Bunch is filled with catchy songs, amazing kid performers, and a hilarious script. Think Wonder Shozen without the nasty meanness. Unlike that, this could be enjoyed by all ages. The kids will find things to like, but the adults will find great joy in remembering what it was like to be a kid as well.  Like similar shows, it’s filled with guest stars including David Bryne, Natasha Lyone and others. The songs are wonderful, but the ones sung by kids do go on a little long. But the two lead by adults – Andre de Shields and Jake Glynnhall steal the show and are just perfect. My wife and I cried tears of laughter for the whole of it, and watched some segments again as soon as it ended. 

US – Jordan Peele’s follow up to the smash hit Get Out isn’t quite at that film’s level but as we’re sitting here at #13, it’s a damned fine film on it’s own. Beautifully shot and scary as hell. Lupita N’yongo continues to show why she’s one of the best actresses out there and Winston Duke threatens to steal the show. I appreciate we didn’t really get an explanation – things just are – reminded me of a very long and bloody Twilight Zone episode. What keeps US from Get out level of working is the script is a little loose in it’s ideas and execution. Tighten that screw a bit and we’d be perfect. 

Apollo 11 – For a documentary featuring an event we’ve discussed and described to death in the last 50 years to score this high is a testament to wonder of the film. I never appreciated the largess of the mission at this level until watching this. It’s awe inspiring the sheer volume of people and work needed to get us to the moon, not the mention the insanely large equipment that one feels dwarfed by watching on the IMAX screen. Featuring only footage and sound from the time (outside of time stamps) rather than talking heads or voice over allows one to feel within the mission instead of distanced by time. That footage is beautiful and so well restored it looks like it could be filmed today (see also Disney+’s Imagineering story for that too — no review for that yet as I haven’t finished watching)

Terrified – No, this isn’t the shitty clown movie. That’s Terrifier. But the Argentian Terrified is hands down one of the scariest films I’ve seen in ages. And you can watch it right now on Shudder. Do that. Think Ju-On but better and in a whole neighborhood. I loved the build of the scares and the fucked up world these hapless people have wondered themselves in. Delightfully disturbing and chilling to the bone. This works. This works so well. 

Crawl – Alexandre Aja’s alligator survival movie knows exactly what is it and never tries to be anything bigger, but neither does it treat the concept with contempt. And because of that Aja creates an utterly thrilling, gleefully violent and straight up well made animal attack flick. Loved the sinking set, the house and neighborhood allow many creative and exciting sequences and the cast gives their all while soaked to be bone. This hit me in all the right places. REVIEW

NOW FOR THE BEST OF THE BEST. THE TOP 10!!!

10: Doctor Sleep – Mike Flanagan continues his master-streak (totally a real word… sure) in horror with the adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel novel to the Shining. Flanagans adaption also works as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s iconicly divergent 1980 adaptation. Fantastic character study of how the past keeps knocking at you. I loved the metaphor of Danny having to keep the ghosts locked up in his head. Even in the back of his mind, they are still harming him.

Everyone was excellent, Ewan of course, but Rebecca Ferguson absolutely killed it with Rose The Hat. The girl playing Abra, Kyleigh Curran, is a star in the making. Also excellent were the recreated 1980 characters and sets. Outside of the blood in the elevator shots, all of the 1980 was new.

The Astral Projection sequences were some of my favorite sequences of the year, bar none.

I really enjoyed melding the books to the existing movie. Doing so allowed a more dynamic climax compared to the book, although does slide into the “hey look at this thing you love!” at that point and the showdown of Rose and Danny is too quick. Loved using the lines from the book ending of the Shining.

It’s a shame the movie wasn’t a hit. I hope word of mouth will help in home release, espeically since it’s landing high on many top ten lists. 

9: Booksmart – Many dismissed Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut as “Superbad with girls”, (hell, Beanie Feldstein is Jonah Hill’s sister), but Booksmart is far better than Superbad, as much as I dug that one. I love One Wild Night movies and this may be the best of the batch (in a different manner, see Scorsese’s After Hours or Quick Change). It has a depth of character from both our leads and in the side-characters, situations that while wild as hell feel grounded, and Billie Lourde threatening to steal the whole movie away. Though the insanity, Booksmart has an honesty and it really gives it an extra umph. 

8: The Farewell – With the Golden Globe win last night to back my statement, The Farewell shows an amazing performer in Awkwafina, known up to now for broad scene-stealing supporting characters. Lulu Wang’s family dramady is incredibly honest and true-to-life of families coming together. Their histories and intricacies come on display with a script that can be torn from life it feels so real. It many ways, it is; Wang based the story on her own experience, returning to China to say goodbye to a grandmother Nai Nai. Nai Nai has stage 4 cancer, and in order to ease her, they keep it a secret from her and gather on the ruse of a quick wedding. This makes the film have a bittersweet sadness running underneath. Along the way, she explores differences of culture and experience. 

7: 1917 – Sam Mendes reteams with Roger Deakins to create one of the most technically marvelous experiences of the year. Made like two 50 minute shots, 1917 follows two British soldiers as they cross open land between English and German lines to stop an attack that is doomed to kill 1600 soldiers. The film is an exercise in craft and tension as George McKay and Tommen Lannister have their surreal and harrowing journey through a German bunker, deal with a plane crash, visit a burning town, and more to get their message home. Along they way they meet a stable of British actors to put on the poster. I saw this at a preview screening last month, and have plans lined up for at least 2 more showings. 

6: Midsommar – Ari Aster’s follow up to Hereditary also explores how we process grief, but in a much more positive, cathartic way. For that alone, while I like Hereditary more as film, I’m far more likely to watch Midsommar. In another commanding performance, Florence Pugh goes through an extreme break-up. What better to have one through the lens of Wicker Man and other folk horror? Aster knows what the audience expects with the story and this allows him the freedom to lean into it, creating a continually disturbing experience – despite mostly shot in the daytime – while also creating a film of community and togetherness. Wherein Hereditary had a dark pit of grief through isolation, Midsommar allows to move through it with others, joining together to build up. On top of it all, the film is absolutely beautiful. 

5: Freaks – The unsung hero of the year. Playing in limited release for a mere two weeks amid the summer blockbusters, Freaks is a film I want you to rent right now and watch without looking up anything else. I came in knowing absolutely nothing, and this allowed the film to open up its twisty intricate world to me in surprising way that really kept me on my toes. It’s a film that trusts the audience to come along the journey, though the eyes of a secured seven year old girl as she starts to question her father. She’s kept in a dilapidated house amid an overy cheery outside. Emilie Hirshe and Bruce Dern also star and I’m going to cut myself off here and send you to my spoiler-free review and to note just to see it. REVIEW 

4: JoJo Rabbit – Taiki Waititi continues his run of creative films that weave wonderful stories with vigor and heart, whether it be large MCU blockbusters like Thor Ragnorok or smaller films like Hunt for the wilderpeople (if you haven’t seen that, make it a priority) or JoJo Rabbit. His new film has a tough line to toe, presenting a comedy within the tragedy of Nazi Germany; how to make the Nazi’s buffoons but also show how incredibly dangerous they are. It’s a balancing act Waititi performs perfectly. Through the titular characterize, he’s able to present an 11 year old battling with the propaganda he’s been eating up when he meets a Jewish girl (Thomason Mackenzie), hidden in his attic. There is so much to unpack in everything offered by the sharp satirical script and the amazing performances of Sam Rockwell, ALfie Alden, Rebel Wilson (yes I wrote that right), and a career best for Scarlett Johanssen.  Much of the advertising of the film focused on Waittiti also playing an imaginary Hitler, and he does a hilarious job; and is in it just enough to make his parts very fitting but not overused. 

3: Little Women. I just watched this two hours ago and maybe it is hyperbole to immediately place it so high when I’ve had the time to really think about the others in some form, but this film hit me hard. I’ve not see any previous version nor read the book. The most I know if from culture and playing Mr. Marsh in a truncated high school play version twenty years ago. I’m going to write a few in a day or so, so I don’t want to go into all the details. But I had a tear in my eye the whole film, whether in happiness or sadness. Little Women is a joyous film of life and love – zippy and joyous. The women have amazing chemistry, and everyone gives amazing performances. More Florence Pugh!

2: Parasite – It’s been a year of films looking at class divides and Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is the best of all. In South Korea, a family of poor con-artists work their way into the structure of a rich, but naive family. But there is more going on, so much more and it gets weird and wild but never so much you’re pulled out from the film. It’s a masterclass of pacing, as each new layer is built upon so seamlessly when the climax happens you can’t help but marvel how well it was put together to get us here. Is it comedy? Is it drama? Is it Horror?… Yes. It’s all of these and more, woven tightly together in a masterpiece of filmmaking. BTW, the sound design is astonishing. Something I didn’t’ expect to say with a film like this but you cant’ miss it.  (while you’re at it, watch last years SHOPLIFTERS)

1: Lighthouse – As Tony notes in his top 10 post and on the podcast, this is a year of just as good sophomore features from horror break outs; Us to Get Out, Nightingale to Babadook, Under the Silver Lake to It Follows, Midsommar to Hereditary and The Lighthouse is Robert Egger’s mindbogglingly amazing feature following the Witch. Filmed in a claustrophobic early film 1.19:1 aspect ratio and in black & white, Eggers gives us Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as two lighthouse keepers going mad on a blasted rock off the coast of Canada in 1890. From the ever present seagulls and blast of the fog horn, you’ll go just as mad as the two men, who both look like they stepped from 1890 thanks to the camera highlighting every crack and creg of  their Innsmouth-ish faces. The true to period and people script (complete with much flatulence) immerses us in their lives and blooming insanity. It was one of my favorite film experiences this year gleefully allowing the film to bring me on its wild journey.

Well, citizens. That’s it for the movies. I’ll put up a TV roundup soon enough but the movies are were its at for me. Thank you for reading all these little reviews. Be sure to follow this site for 2020 reviews as they occur, the YouTube, and subsribe to the podcast!

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