So, 2019’s at its end. And overall, it was a year in cinema where I felt really cynical. More than ever it felt like films were coming out with a rather cynical cash-grab feel. There were bright spots within the bunch, but it also became very clear that there weren’t as many reasons to go to the cinema.
So many mediocre films came out in 2019 and it seemed like this was even more of the standard than usual. A large portion of this is down to a few factors, the major one being Disney’s buyout of 20th Century Fox. Now that they own another one of the biggest studios in the world, it means less and less films are going to be made and less films will be coming out in cinemas. It’s now estimated that one in five tickets you purchase in a cinema, some money goes to Disney. They are beginning to have a monopoly. This has aptly led to more independent productions starting to move to streaming services with very limited runs in cinema if that, and then staying on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which was the case for example in films like The Irishman, The Aeronauts and Marriage Story. A lot of critics and pundits are beginning to speculate that this could be the future of film. If it is, this year is basically going to be the prototype for going forward, and it could result in me changing how I do the Film Society in the future. I may end up scrapping for reviews so loads of small reviews, since if there’s going to be more stuff coming to Netflix than the cinema, I can end up seeing more films as a result. But that was really my thoughts of 2019 as a whole: a rather bland year. But before I go into my best and worst films, I have to once again reiterate what qualifies as a 2019 film. Yes, it has to be released in the UK to a general paying audience in 2019. Films that showed at film festivals in 2019 but won’t see a more full release on either DVD, streaming services or in cinemas do not count. This unfortunately meant I had to take out the Mikoto Shinkai film, Weathering With You, but I will fully explain soon why I think that film is really great and would have easily made my top 10 best films of the year list at another point.
This does mean a bunch of films that played in film festivals in 2018 now do count, but none of them really impact the list. This however does not apply to films that had limited cinema released. And as I already mentioned, films released to screening services do count. However, even then, I didn’t see that many of them, so you won’t be seeing films that got critically panned on Netflix, like Eli and Wounds, both of which I reckon, if I had seen them, probably would have made my ‘Worst of’ list. Ah, let’s just face it, they weren’t very good. The worst films of the year were largely in the camps where the films made me feel even more cynical than usual, but I think you should take many of these with a pinch of salt. I personally didn’t hate many of the films that came out this year, in fact, I really should have made this a top 5 worst list. I only really think the bottom 6 are really awful and almost unredeemed. So, let’s start.
No. 10 – 47 Metres Down Uncaged
I actually reviewed the original Forty-Seven Metres Down but I’d completely skipped on its related sequel. Uncaged, as the title suggests, goes for the idea of being stuck with minimal air in underground catacombs and the idea of sharks that have evolved to be blind. A novel concept but the film doesn’t really do much with it. It clearly hasn’t researched sharks very well since they wouldn’t have much of reason to stick around as much as they do, but let’s face it, shark films in this sense don’t really have much to go with. The cast of characters are even more unlikeable, the films feels like it plods along, and characters are just killed to add to the body count (i.e. everything I really don’t like about horror films in a nutshell). Again, there were definitely worse horror films that came out last year – I certainly saw that in the place where the ______ used for films like Countdown and the previously mentioned, Eli and Wounds. But I didn’t see those films, but I did see this, so it takes the spot. But even then, it’s high on this list because there were parts of it where it had some quite interesting ideas which have to get some credit, and it frankly had a bit more of a sense of humour about itself than the first film. Some of the kills were way better.
No. 9 – Frozen 2
I promised myself I actually wasn’t going to put this film on the list when it initially started but honestly, there were so few films that pissed me off last year as much as Frozen 2. It’s laughable that Disney thought this sequel was ready to go. The fact it’s not been nominated for an Oscar should be nothing short of a miracle because it’s proof that no matter how much money you throw at the Oscars, then can recognize when something is half-arsed. Frozen 2 feels like it undoes a lot of the good will that critics had for the first film, and more than ever feels like it’s designed to sell a soundtrack rather than be an actual movie. It’s at least competently animated and some kids enjoyed it which is why it’s not too far down the list, but it was the culmination of my Disney cynicism by the end of the year. And yeah, we’re going to be talking more about that as this list goes on.
No 8 – Dumbo
Tim Burton has really been phoning it in the last few years, and when Dumbo received bad reviews in the way it has, I really feel like everyone else is kind of getting as sick of him as I am. I really want Burton to evolve his style but with films with Dumbo, it’s very clear he doesn’t want to do that. More to the point, Dumbo has clearly been a clash of Disney’s vision for the film with Tim Burton since it’s a rather confused mess of a movie. Dumbo has a real problem that a lot of the live action remakes of these Disney films have had: they have all the look of those films, but they don’t have anything of what made those films special, and feel like pointless retreads. But Dumbo is really all over the place. It’s so dank and moody and I I’m not the first to publicly say that I really think Disney has a real irony deficiency considering that they’ve made the villain a theme park owner of a place called Dream Land. Did no one at Disney see that this seemed a bit weird, or have they really gone that far up their own arse at this point? I came out of Dumbo feeling really upset and I don’t even really like the original film all that much. It was just really depressing in every sense of the word.
No 7 – The Lion King
If Dumbo was the biggest of this idea of having all the look but none of the soul, The Lion King is the complete personification of it. Frozen and Dumbo were always potentially not going to be on this list; The Lion King always was going to be on this list. I hated this remake! It has no reason to exist. It’s the exact same goddamn film the first time except now we have realistic-looking animals that barely have any expression, terrible renditions of the songs and a film that’s been padded as hell. This film is thirteen minutes longer than the Anime movie and it has absolutely no reason to be. Good God, what was up with this one? Yeah, the effects are great and the actors are giving decent performances, but the whole execution of everything leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t think this is as bad as the Beauty and The Beast remake but it’s nearly there.
No 6 – IT: Chapter 2
The only reason IT: Chapter 2 didn’t make the top 5 considering how much it dropped the ball in a writing sense and isn’t nearly as creepy as the first film is the fact it’s actually confirmed what I’ve been saying about Stephen King for years (and what they even say in the film): the man has no idea how to end his stories! He just knows how to set them up. Dr Sleep had its bad moments in the sense that it trying to juggle between two versions of a story, but that at least had portions where it really worked. It: Chapter 2 really doesn’t have that. It was actually going to be higher on this list, but I decided at the last minute that I thought, ‘Hang on, I have a lot more to complain about with this film.’ I actually went back and read my review on it and realized I actually had a lot more complaining about this film at the time than I did about many of the others. It: Chapter 2 feels like it deserved to be a bottom at the Box Office and was one of the most disappointing conclusions I saw all year. It’s hilarious that they thought this was a good way to end the franchise.
No 5 – Glass
Glass took whatever good will M Night Shyamalan had given back with his recent films that had actually been turning out alright and flushed them down the toilet. Glass is one of the first films I saw this year and it I really anticipated it. I actually really liked Split for the most part and Unbreakable is arguably one of his best films, if not his best. But the way he concludes this now unexpected trilogy is laughably bad. This is one of the most boring films I saw all year. This film has a beginning and an end but absolutely no middle. The actors all feel like they’re phoning it in, some of the effects are laughable and the cinematography is appalling. M N Shyamalan doesn’t really get how much the superhero genre has changed, and it’s to the film’s detriment. He still acts like comic films are in the state they were in during the time Unbreakable came out. In a post-NCU world, this it doesn’t work, and as a result, Glass is a film that’s all over the place. I’m not even going to get into what they did with the characters from Split. Jesus!
No 4 – X Men: Dark Phoenix
Dark Phoenix is the crappest way they could have ended this X Men franchise that’s been going on since the early 2000s and Christ, it was boring. This film is so all over the place and was clearly compromised by the Disney Box merger. This has clearly made by writers who have no idea if this is meant to be a conclusion to the franchise or not and as a result, they made one of the most boring versions of the Dark Phoenix saga to date. Everyone’s performance is crap, no one has great motivations to do what they do, and I’m really concerned with half of the decisions made is regard s to if this is going to effect how we’re going forward with the X Men in the MCU. It’s also appalling when you think about how this is actually worse than X Men: The Last Stand. Give that film credit – at least there were some good moments in that one. I can’t think of a single good moment in Dark Phoenix. I actually think Dark Phoenix might well be a contender but the worst X-Men film, up there with Origins: Wolverine. It’s a sad sight that this is the last we’re going to see of this Universe. Here’s hoping Marvel will do a better job now they own the rights to it… Again.
No 3 – The Dead Don’t Die
I actually forgot I saw this film until I went checking through my list. Good God, this film pissed me off. There is no reason to have this all-star cast in this bleak and depressing zombie film. This film feels like it was made by someone who was completely stoned watching back to back George Ramero films and Deadpool didn’t understand what made those films work, unnecessarily merged them together and they accidentally submitted the script and didn’t realise he had done so until he sobered up. The fourth wall jokes are appalling. I fucking hated the way they did the whole ‘we are all Zombies’ message that George Ramero did a lot better years earlier with better special effects. This films really should be called, ‘Unnecessary Cameos Featuring Zombies’ and none of the jokes made me laugh. I also never want to hear that crap theme song ever, ever again. It was bad enough they played it like five or sex times throughout the entire film.
No 2 – Angel Has Fallen
Really, was there any surprise? The Olympus Has Fallen series has been really bad up until this point, and Angel Has Fallen is the personification or how crap it all got. Half the cast said they don’t want anything to do with this one and its treatment of PTS as a joke is really getting on my nerves. In interviews, Gerard Butler mentioned that he thought that this was going to be this film’s franchise version of Logan but it’s far from it. The two bear very little relationship. In fact, if anything, it’s closer to a film like The Fugitive which is a much better movie that you should see. But man, the action’s terrible and also, some of it’s barely visible. I keep telling people, “Don’t shoot your action films in the dead of night – it looks crap!”
No 1 – Hellboy
Hellboy is the personification of bad film-making this year. Ian McShane looks bored out of his skull in every scene he’s in and the cast is following a phenomenal terrible plot. The film’s just a drag in every sense of the word; I was begging for this film to end. I was so surprised that this film was directed by Paul W. S. Anderson because it has all of his qualities to it, including the thinly veiled characters, the terrible interpretation of the source material, terrible miscasting and a zero-note villain. God, I hate Milla Jovovich in this film. How does she still have a career at this point? Not to mention that this film really doesn’t understand what makes Hellboy work. I saw a Robbie Collins review that mentioned that Gilma Deltoro when he was working on Hellboy did a modern sort of Frankenstein story and that’s what made that film work, and I think he’s on the money with that one. This one though, I dunno what they think Hellboy is. I think he’s a petulant teenager in this one. And this film is also further proof that just because you make something like its source material doesn’t automatically make it good. Gilma Deltoro when he when off the source material to do his own thing.
And now, let’s talk about the best films of the year because, believe me, I didn’t actually hate a lot of the films that came out this year. In fact, some of the best were really good. There were a few late entries in this one and some good films could have made the list, but here’s the ten that really stood out for me by the end of the year. And again, I didn’t see a lot of the awards contenders so films like Little Women and Marriage Story also won’t be on the list, but I’m sure they’re good films in their own right, and 1917 didn’t receive a general release until 2020 so it doesn’t count either.
No 10 – Blinded By The Light
This film came from the same people as Bend It Like Beckham and is a fictional take on writer, Sarfraz Manzoor on his growing up listening to Bruce Springsteen songs and how it influenced his life. He’s teamed up with writer and director, Gurinder Chadha, to bring that vision to the screen. This film was a real late entry; I didn’t actually review it in cinema but saw it on a flight and it’s a really comforting film. I think it’s a film that anyone can relate to since it’s something that a lot of us go through when you first discover the music that really changes your life and speaks to you, and it’s a really great British film in that comforting sense and giving you a sense of nostalgia. This is one of the few films that I didn’t go to see in the cinema but I really recommend this year. The direction is excellent, and it has a great central performance from Viveik Kalra. If you haven’t had a chance to see this one, seek it out. I think it’s out on DVD at this point.
No 9 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Yeah, I’m going to get a lot of crap for this, but I really liked Star Wars 9 so sod off. Star Wars 9 really feels like it’s a good way to end this trilogy of films, and since I want to still avoid spoilers, I won’t go into much detail about why I really liked it but let’s just say I think this one took a few things I was quite worried about going into Rise of Skywalker and assuaged my fears. I don’t think a lot of the arguments against it hold as much water. It’s now getting to the stage where people are forgetting that the original trilogy is not as perfect as they think it was. I’m expecting some hate mail in the comments so let’s move onto the next one.
No 8 – John Wick: Chapter 3
While it’s not my favourite John Wick film so far, Chapter 3 is still fricking excellent. These things are masterclasses of action films. And I’m hoping we’re going to get more and more from this. Keanu Reeves is excellent, and Ian McShane actually looks like he’s enjoying himself now, unlike in Hellboy. Halle Berry really adds an excellent new part to this franchise. I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen with John Wick going forwards given how John Wick 3 ended.
No 7 – Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
Honestly, when I started the year did not think Detective Pikachu was going to be on my best films of the year list. But it the Pokémon film I didn’t expect to get and make me really love it. I really thought this was an excellent Pokémon film. Some of the effects are a bit ropey here and there but overall, it’s really excellent and it feels a shame that the studio has shut down after doing the redesign for the upcoming Sonic The Hedgehog movie, because in both cases, they did a really good job of capturing the look of the video game characters and making them look like they fit in our world. But it’s more than just great effects. There’s a sort of great Chemistry between Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds and it also does an excellent job paying tribute to a lot of great parts of the Pokémon mythos. It really feels like this film has been made by people that really like Pokémon, and I’d actually like to see this going forward with more movies set in this continuity. Even if you’re not caught on the Pokémon craze, I’d actually recommend trying this one out – it’s surprising how good of a film it really is.
No 6 – Spiderman: Far From Home
There were 3 MCU films that came out this year, but Captain Marvel didn’t quite make the list. Spiderman: Far From Home, however, definitely would make the list. While it doesn’t reach the heights of last’s Spiderman Into The Spiderverse (which I now realise I should have definitely put on my best films of the year list), I really liked Far From Home – it felt like a nice epilogue after End Game, and it feels like these writers and directors are finally again doing stories where they really get Spiderman. They also do an interesting idea of putting Spiderman in an environment we haven’t see him before by doing this whole European tour thing. The villain’s is actually quite interesting all things considered, if a bit predictable. But the action’s great, Spiderman’s motivations are great and the whole cast really delivers on it. Plus, this film has some of the best mid and post-credit scenes of any of the Marvel films; I’m really wondering where these films are going on the basis of how they ended. Thank God Sony and Marvel worked out a deal for another film because I could not have had this trilogy end on that.
No 5 – Shazam!
Yeah, I did not think Shazam was going to be that good, but man did it prove to be one of my favourite superhero films of the year. Shazam came to us from the director of Lights Out and he really seems like he knows his comics because he gets Shazam and knows exactly how to make it work. It’s actually proved that DC can make these films really work, since this is probably the best film they’ve done since Wonder Woman. The main characters are all very likeable, it fits, its comic’s themed very well and they even brought in some things I thought they were saving for the sequels. Mark Strong’s villain is actually really good, and I like both actors playing Shazam in this one. More to the point, Shazam feels fun. Something that DC films, even the really good ones, haven’t had yet. And while I don’t want that for every single DC franchise, going forwards, I really hope that they’re going to take the success of Shazam and realise exactly what they need to make this material work.
No 4 – Joker
Joker has a few niggles that stop me from putting it higher on this list, but I can’t deny that Joker’s an excellent character piece that really nails its subject matter. It’s no surprise that it’s already been a top contender at the award seasons and has some of the most Oscar nominations. It’s frankly amazing how much effort went into this film. Tom Phillips really nails the character, and backed by a stunning performance by Joaquin Phoenix, this film really nails the subject matter to a T. It’s really amazing where the film goes at points, and it doesn’t rely too heavily on adapting or picking any particular comic to draw inspiration from, leaving this story to be its on particular thing. It’s my pick for best picture at the Oscars at this point, though that might change when I see a few more of the nominees. If you haven’t seen it, you really need to go out and see it – Joker is really excellent.
No 3 – Us
Jordan Peele’s directorial follow-up to his success with Get Out feels like the biggest snub from the awards ceremonies this year. How the hell was this not nominated for best picture? While it’s not as good as Get Out, Us feels like it does an excellent job building suspense and tac(?) was a very interesting subject. It’s open to interpretation for years to come and is capped off by an excellent dual performance from lead actress, Lupita Nyong’o. I won’t go into too much detail about what makes this film so good because I want to avoid spoilers –I think people should go into this film only having seen the first few trailers– but man, it nails this film. It’s a horror film that not only builds suspense but also has a sense of humour about itself and it does it expertly. I didn’t think that was possible! Jordan Peele really has proven with his job that he’s not a one-hit wonder, and he really should have once again been up for best director. It’s frankly astounding he wasn’t.
No 2 – Promare
Yeah, this one’s just for me. I love this movie. It’s a bombastic flash of colour and stunning action scenes with giant robots (but not in a dumb way like the Transformers films). This is the kind of movie I point to when I say that Anime can be bombastic and over the top but with actual genuine themes and feelings. Promare has some excellent messages about segregation and the nature of authority figures, something that feels very apt right now. It is a brilliant feature length debut for Hiroyuki Imaishi, and the staff of Studio Trigger should be really astounded by how well it turned out. This is one you really should see.
No 1 – Avengers: Endgame
I’ve been going on about how much I love this film throughout most of the year and so it should be no surprise it’s my no.1 film of the year. I hate to have an Avengers film two years in a row but once again, this feels like the finale the Marvel Cinematic Universe deserves. While it wasn’t the film I was expecting, I really loved it. It uses the cast of characters great. The Russo brothers really should be up for best director for this film, and Robert Downey Jr should be up for best actor for his portrayal of Tony Stark in this film. It really is clear that Robert Downey Jr cares so much about this character that he’s been playing since 2008, and wanted to do this film to really nail the character once and for all. It’s so amazing in every sense of the word how this film series ended – every cast member gets excellent development, no one feels wasted once again and they play with our expectations to give us a film we weren’t expecting but one we deserved. That’s really all I can say about this one; if you haven’t seen it and you’ve been into the Marvel Universe up to this point, this is one you have to go and check out. I frickin’ love this.
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