So now that all the films for 2019 have been released its time for our annual review of the best and brain numbing worst of 2019. Now there were some obvious choices here but though some of the films are not critically great they’re ones that we enjoyed greatly and we’ve also included ones that stood out for all the right and also wrong reasons.
Directed by Alexandre Aja whose made his name in horror with some decent remakes under his belt that included Piranha and The Hills have Eyes. Crawl saw him helm an original high concept story – during a storm flood a father and daughter are trapped in the water logged basement of a house with alligators on the loose. Some great set pieces which get audiences legs twitching as the gators started snapping. Hugely enjoyable and at times enjoyably daft it was a monster success earning $91m on its £13m budget.
Another low budget independent film starring Nicole Kidman as an almost skeletal burnt out cop and single parent trying to keep her daughter in check whilst trying to solve a case. Directed by Karyn Kusama , this is Kidman proving what a brilliant actress she is and was rightly Oscar nominated in a film that had some brutal moments.
Starring Vicky Knight as the victim of a acid attack by a vengeful ex boyfriend it follows her as she struggles as a single mother whose life is shattered by her traumatizing facial scars. Another film with a brilliant central performance made all the more remarkable that it’s the acting debut of Knight a real life victim scarred by a tragic accident when she was a child. The film has a raw uncompromising depiction of the effects of living with the fallout of such a hideous assault on a young woman and the story builds to a gut punch of a twist when she tries to rebuild her life. It will be interesting to see what Knight does next.
Anyone familiar with writer / director S. Craig Zahler previous films, ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ will know to expect some brutal violence that puts even Tarantino’s to shame and audiences flinching. Here he casts Mel Gibson on another step on his comeback trail as an old school cop suspended for overstepping the mark on a surveillance job. With his pension in jeopardy along with his cop partner Vince Vaughn they decide to stake out a group of robbers plotting a bank heist with a view to taking the money that the police dept are going to strip them. This is a slow build as the pair chat about rubbish as they stake out the villains and the expected violence is a long time coming but when it comes it is literally stomach turning. We can’t wait for Zahler’s next film.
Though it’s not written by him this is typically Seth Rogen with 10 year old kids swearing and talking about adult matters that they don’t really have any understanding of to hilarious effect. So as the boys have to score drugs for the teenage girls who live next door in order to get their drone back and make their way home for a much anticipated party. Puerile and filthy this actually becomes sweet and endearing as the boys fids themselves in situations they are ill prepared for.
When a DC comic character has a film that goes on to win big at the Venice film festival you know something’s afoot. And so it was with Joaquin Phoenix’s spin on Batman’s nemesis here an underemployed clown down on his luck and a city and colleagues down on him. Already mentally fragile he’s tipped over the edge in writer / director Todd Phillips utterly nihilistic script the film drew kudos and criticism in equal measure. But at the centre of this is Phoenix’s portrayal. In the 80’s Jack Nicholson seemingly gave the definitive portrayal only for it to be superseded by Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning turn and now Phoenix is an extremely strong contender to win an Oscar for the role again. For us Joker was the best film of the year.
Written by Noah Baumbach and based on the breakdown of his own marriage this follows Adam Driver & Scarlett Johansson as, respectively, a director and actress . Parents to their only son they both live and work In New York but she up sticks to LA with her son for a TV series where she prepares for divorce getting embroiled in the grasp of family lawyer Laura Dern in a role that must surely see her Oscar nominated and the whole hideous destructive nature of divorce is laid bare. Adam Drive secures his position as one of the best actors of his generation and is another Oscar contender for his role.
In the same vein as The Big Short this follows the same format with director Adam McKay play with film form to hilarious effect and Christian Bale as vice president Dick Cheney in true method style having piled on the weight and almost unrecognisable. Funny and frightening that he was the puppet master behind a deliriously dim President Bush played superbly by Sam Rockwell. This is eminently re-watcheable.
……And now the worst ……and oh boy were some of these bad and in the words of rappers Run DMC, ‘we mean bad meaning bad not bad meaning good’ .
Films can make you laugh, make you cry, even inspire you. In all the years we’ve been writing about films I don’t think we’ve ever seen a film so unrelentingly downbeat and depressing that on leaving the cinema you ponder the very point of your own existence. It had a great cast and a respected director but was undoubtedly the most profoundly depressing film we’ve ever sat through and we’ve watched several Adam Sandler comedies.
Disney’s long line of live action versions of their animated classics continued with Dumbo. Everything up to this point had performed brilliantly with many breaking the $1billion barrier. Dumbo didn’t. Helmed by master of gothic macabre Tim Burton this was the wrong man for the wrong project. The animated version ran for barely an hour but the live action version doubled that to no benefit. Even worse it misjudged pivotal scenes notably the ‘Baby be Mine’ sequence a 100% certain tear jerker which here seemed almost embarrassed to dwell on this tender moment between Dumbo and his incarcerated mum and seemingly desperate to move onto the next scene. For Disney it was a rare misfire for their live action interpretations.
From the makers of Essex Boys & Rise of the Footsoldier came another load of cockney cobblers. Unfortunately this took an interesting and unknown chapter of London gang crime where anti Semitism played an important role. Unfortunately this focussed on the gangs use of cut throat razors as weapons and the film rapidly degenerated into an increasingly unsavoury slash fest which came over as ill judged in a time when the UK is plagued with tragic knife crime. Though we didn’t enjoy the film we did enjoy the comments from some of our readers who took exception to our quips about anti-semitism in the Labour party…..which revelled in continuing with our Jumanji 2 review just before the 2019 general election.
A respected novel. A well regarded director. A good cast……..all led to make it, incredibly , a boring film.
Take one of Steve Martin’s best comedies Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and update it for the #Time Up movement replace the leads with Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. Allowing Hathaway to use it as a showcase for her command of accents to no humorous effect and Wilson to show that being fat isn’t a sure fire way to get laughs. Wilson is rumoured to have alleged that much was cut from this to lower the certificate. We’re not sure it would have been any better.
The story of the early years of the late ballet dancer Rudoplh Nureyev leading up to his defection to the US. Anyone at the top of their game when it came to creativity has usually wrestled with their inner turmoil but here Nureyev comes across as an arrogant and deeply unpleasant bastard of the highest order and for once the audience find themselves rooting for the Russians to detain him in the USSR rather than the West ending up with the tempestuous tosspot.
…….and lets not forget CATS!!!!!!
We know we’ve missed out The Irishman & Once Upon a Time In Hollywood but we wanted to go for less obvious choices. So those are or likes and hates for 2019…… what were yours?