2019 Film Recap: The Best

Last year I ranked the films I watched in three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year’s film recap, I only watched 23 films that released during 2019. Because of that, I am categorizing this year’s list into two halves: The Worst and the Best. So, without any further ado, here are the top ten. Or as I like to call them… the best of 2019.
Since these films were released in the last year I will caution about spoilers.

Shazam10. Shazam
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 90%/83%

It’s strange, yet really enjoyable that Zachary Levi can such a great child trapped in a man’s body. Shazam reminds me of Tom Hanks in Big. DC Comics should stick to single hero franchises and not try to create a crossover like Justice League. Shazam, for those that don’t know, is about a kid that gets superhuman powers from a wizard. It’s just weird to me that the kid has to shout out the wizard’s name whenever he wants to use them. I know it’s magic, but, come on. Creepy. The movie has some heartfelt moments and some really sad ones when the kid gets rejected by his own mom. That’s cold. Overall, it’s a really nice, fun, and action-packed superhero movie with a strong family message. However, it suffers from a pretty adult themed bad guy that utilizes demonic seven-deadly sins smoke monsters. This has got to be one of my favorite DC superhero films.

brightburn9. Brightburn
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 57%/67%

What would happen if Superman went bad? What if it happened when he was a child? These questions are explored in this film by James Gunn. I’ve been a fan of Gunn’s since I watched Super (2010) and Slither (2006). Brightburn really is one of those films where you may or may not like it because it’s not about a good guy. It’s about a bad guy. A villain’s origin story. And it’s a great one too. By the end of the film, you start feeling that Anakin was justified in killing all of the younglings. The kills are gory and messy. There’s one moment where this shard of glass sticks out of a waitress’s eye and you see her pull it out. It makes me cringe even now remembering it in my head. Plus, it sets up for a combined movie universe of bad guys including Rainn Wilson’s character from Super using a J. Jonah Jamison type character. It’s like that meme with Fassbender… perfection.

It chapter two8. It Chapter Two
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 63%/78%

Pennywise the Dancing Clown is back for a second round. This is the continuing chapter to the prior film, in case the title didn’t give that away. The first film focused on the children’s tale, but it also focused on physical terror. Now that the children have grown into adults, Pennywise is focusing on emotional and mental terror. This works out pretty well for the sequel. We already know what and who Pennywise is so there isn’t any use trying to mask what he can do in the film. The casting choices made were great and the CGI was too. However, I didn’t like the ending. It basically says that in order to defeat the bully you have to become the bully. Not such a good message.

 
captain marvel7. Captain Marvel
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 78%/49%
It seems in the previous article and this article my scores heavily differ from the audience score. Because I really enjoyed the origin film of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. I thought that the nostalgia of the 90’s was present but didn’t bash the audience over the head. The twist at the end where the Skrulls were actually good guys was nice. I liked Jude Law being the bad guy. Even better, I liked his portrayal of Yon-Rogg and at the end when he was trying to goad Danvers into a fair fight and Carol just shot him into a wall. I’ve heard the critique about Brie Larson and her stony portrayal of the superhero. I’m alright with it simply because she was trained to suppress her emotions. The de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson was nicely done but having said that I chuckle because when you watch him fight it looks like an old man trying to perform an action sequence. Seeing Clark Gregg reprise his role of Agent Coulson was also a nice touch.

star wars episode nine6. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 55%/86%

Personally, I really enjoyed this last entry of the Skywalker Saga. It did a great job of handling the poorly received Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. I say poorly received because it received a 43% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. In reference to the rest of the episodic Star Wars films, that’s the worst audience score, even worse than Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I’ve always thought that when you’re making films like the sequel trilogy, Ghostbusters, and other rebooted franchises you have to be able to please your fanbase. Even if you liked Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, you have to admit it split the fanbase like Obi-Wan defeating Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. In my opinion, J.J. Abrams did the best he could do in what he was handed. The thing that I didn’t enjoy about the film was that it heavily lent from Return of the Jedi. Rey verse Palpatine had that “On your left” and “And I am Iron Man” scenes from Avengers: Endgame. Because of those two things, I couldn’t give The Rise of Skywalker a 9/10.

spiderman ffs5. Spider-Man: Far from Home
My Score 8/10
IMDb Score: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 91%/95%

Never in a million years did I think that Sony and Disney could strike a deal to share the Spider-Man property. But they did and because they did, we had five great movies that had an appearance of the web-slinger. Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man. Acting as the epilogue of The Infinity Saga, Spider-Man: Far from Home gives us a glimpse of the next Tony Stark. Maybe that’s why some people didn’t like this film as much as others, but I liked Peter Parker growing into his big boy webs and tackling global events. I get that Spider-Man is supposed to be the friendly neighborhood protector, but you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. Spider-Man is global now after the events of Endgame and Infinity War. Get used to it people. Plus, that end credit scene with J. Jonah Jamison.

Us4. Us
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 93%/59%

Who knew Jordan Peele could be such a great horror film director? After his debut film Get Out (2017), Peele proved that he could stand in the horror arena just as good as he could stand in the comedy one. The concept is a horrific one. Distorted clones rising up and killing their normal counterparts is crazy. What we find out by the end of the film is even crazier. It’s also more horrific and thought provoking. I knew going into the film that Peele would have some kind of twisty ending because of the twisty ending in his first film. That’s the curse that’s going to follow Peele in his next film. It’s the Shyamalan curse. Going back to Us, this film has such great acting and action that you’ll love this film.

doctor sleep3. Doctor Sleep
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 77%/89%

My third favorite film goes to the sequel to one of the most iconic horror movies of all history: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Adapted from the novel by Stephen King, the narrative follows an adult, troubled, and drunken Danny Torrance as he tries to find redemption. There are some scenes that are recreated from The Shining using different actors and it’s pretty decent. It’s nicely done. The narrative also introduces a new set of villains led by Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson. The villains are a group of vampiric creatures that were once humans that feed on the Shine of others. As Danny and a young child called Abra Stone, played by Kyliegh Curran, develop an uncle/niece relationship, the vampires focus their attention on Abra forcing Danny, aka Doctor Sleep, to come to her defense. Admittedly, it’s not better than The Shining, but it’s a great sequel.

joker2. Joker
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 69%/88%

The second clown film released this year, but it was the better one in my mind. Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the title character, this origin film does something that prior DC films don’t do. They hold nothing back. It’s dirty, it’s visceral, it’s bleak and dark, it’s also bloody and graphic. The Joker is a character that deserves an R rated film. Say what you want about comic book films entering into the R rating territory, but if there was ever a DC Universe character that was dark and gritty it was Joker. Phillips and Phoenix created such a great movie that makes you sympathize with the villain and also hate him at the same time. They did to Joker what Infinity War did for Thanos. It proves that Batman’s nemesis doesn’t need Batman to survive.

 

endgame2

1. Avengers: Endgame
My Score: 9.5/10
IMDb Score: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 94%/90%

By far, the best film I’ve seen in years. There was such a huge expectation for this film because it was the culmination of over twenty films. It managed to wrap up multiple storylines of heroes and, at the same time, managed to cultivate future stories for newer characters. Like I said with my remarks about The of Skywalker, I love when a film pleases the fanbase. From beginning to the end, Endgame managed to payoff a plethora of fan moments. Cap wielding Mjolner against Thanos, Avengers Assemble!, and Cap’s dance with the love of his life. Those moments and more were what made Endgame such a fantastic movie and it’s what makes it my favorite movie of 2019.

endgame4
My favorite shot of the whole film. Captain America is my favorite character in the MCU and was happy to see him represented well in this film.

I can’t begin to tell you the impact movies have on me. The good, the bad, the ugly. Every film I watch has some sort of lesson. Because at the heart of a movie is the story. And that’s what I am: a storyteller.

What did you think of my list? Were there movies that you thought shouldn’t have made this list? What movies are on your favorite list of 2019? Let me know in the comments.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

avengers endgameIn the history of cinema, there are movies that have broke the mold. Movies that change the landscape of the business. Examples include The Great Train Robbery (1903), Modern Times (1936), Jaws (1975), Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), and Iron Man (2008). Don’t get me wrong, there are many others, but the point I’d like to get across is that these films are milestones in history. They are markers to the amazing feats that were once thought impossible in film. This past weekend, audiences witnessed one such film. Avengers: Endgame is a milestone in the history of cinema.

Avengers: Endgame marks the end of the first three phases in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The fourth film to feature a massive cast of superheroes is the culmination of 22 films that span 11 years. It also signifies the end of the story arc of the original cast of Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye.
In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), audiences were shocked when evil doer Thanos fulfilled his destiny to collect the six infinity stones and eradicate half of all the living creatures in the universe. Fan favorites Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and many others were reduced to a pile of dust.

avengers endgame2Now, the remaining Avengers must deal with not only the fallout from half of existence turning to dust, but also the heavy burden of trying to fix what Thanos had done.
Avengers: Endgame is a rather long film. The run time is 182 minutes (3 hours, two minutes). However, the film never feels that long. There wasn’t a moment where I was squirming in my seat, bored, or pulled out of the narrative. For me, the three hours seemed to fly.

Just like Captain America, this film packs quite the punch in the emotional department. Having seen it on opening weekend, the audience clapped and cheered, sniffled and cried at various moments in the film. The film doesn’t just deliver on an emotional level, it delivers in the action department as well. If you thought the fight scenes in Avengers: Infinity War was amazing. Just wait until you watch Endgame.

Another fascinating thing about the film was the story. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything here. Having spent an entire year crafting theories and listening to others, I was surprised by what actually transpired over those three magnificent hours.
Having said all of this, there were a few things about the story that I felt could’ve been better or handled a little differently. However, I can’t discuss those things without spoiling the plot. Those few miniscule details don’t change my overall feelings about the film.

Avengers endgame3Having grown up reading Marvel Comics, Avengers: Endgame was the closest to actually recreating one of those epic, universe altering comic book series. The amount of fan service, call backs to past films, and nods to the comic books just shows how much care the directors, screenwriters, and producers took in handling the last 22 films.
If you’re a fan of comic book movies, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Avengers: Endgame. Even if you’re not a comic book/superhero fan, you’ll find something to enjoy while watching this epic.

The film is Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language. If you’re wondering whether or not this film would be appropriate to take your children to, then I would suggest that if you’re comfortable letting them watch the other Marvel films then you should be fine.

The Legends of Luke Skywalker

The_Legends_of_Luke_Skywalker_final_coverKen Liu writes an interesting anthology of tales that center around the myth of Luke Skywalker. The story is centered around some passengers on a transport barge on its way to Canto Bight. If you’ve seen the film Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) then this destination will be familiar. In fact, it really shouldn’t be a surprise because the book is included in part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

To pass the time, the passengers tell tales of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. This novel falls between Episode VI and Episode VIII as far as the timeline.

The first thing that I enjoyed about this book is the structure in which it was made. There are six stories about the Jedi Master with interludes in between. Also, the edition I read had fully colored illustrations of the story about to be told that were beautifully drawn by J.G. Jones.

The next thing that I enjoyed about the book was the fact that not all tales about Luke were true. Told by many different characters, the tales of Luke and the Rebellion vary from being saviors of the galaxy to just a bunch of con artists as told in the short story “The Myth Buster.”

If you’re a fan of Star Wars but have never really delved into the cannon/non-cannon books, then this one might be the one to try out. This book is considered cannon, but like I said earlier don’t really count on the legitimacy of what’s being said about Luke Skywalker.

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.29.54 AM.png
Just one example of the artwork in this book crafted by Artist J.G. Jones.

Overall, the book is great in terms of writing. Author Ken Liu does an amazing job crafting these stories and making each sound different in terms of the tones of the narrator that’s telling them. My favorite story is at the very end. It’s titled “Big Inside” and is about Luke and the narrator being trapped in the belly of gigantic monster. In order to get out, Luke and the narrator must accept the sacrifice from another trapped group. “Big Inside” contains the most wisdom in the anthology stating that:

“It was one thing to sacrifice yourself for something you believed in, but how much heavier was the burden of accepting someone else’s sacrifice?”

The genius of this concept for a Star Wars book is that since each story is told by different people, nothing can be considered “true” even if Luke did the things that he did in the book. The writing trick of “the unreliable narrator” is used here to make the reader ponder what really happened in each tale.

As far as what I didn’t like about the book, there wasn’t much. If I had to nitpick and find one negative in this book of positives, then I would have to say that one of the stories dragged on and didn’t really capture my attention. “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” was about the true brains behind the comedic genius in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. That story didn’t quite accelerate until Luke showed up which wasn’t until thirteen pages into the story.

This book can be read by children of all ages. As far as swear words, I didn’t catch any. If you’re looking for a Star Wars book that doesn’t really add to the canon of the films, but does provide some good tales to read then The Legends of Luke Skywalker written by Ken Liu is your book.

If you’re wondering whether or not to purchase the book in hardback or ebook, I would recommend hardback. There is not a book sleeve on it and therefore is just a glossy cover, but the book is extremely durable and has a great feel to it.