The 5 Worst Movies of 2019

This is the time of year where we celebrate the best films and best performances from the year that was. This post is not that. Instead today I’m taking time to give 2019’s biggest stinkers their moment to…..shine. While it ended up being a good year for movies it wasn’t without its blemishes. Here are the five worst films *I SAW* in 2018.

#5 – “Isn’t it Romantic”

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Tell me if you’ve heard this before: a character bumps their noggin, wakes up to some wacky side effects, has a life-changing epiphany, and then all is right in the world. Well, “Isn’t it Romantic” is another one of those. It’s main comedy conceit is that Rebel Wilson is caught in a romcom. But in the process of satirizing the genre, it becomes the very thing it’s spoofing (and not a very good one).

#4 – “The Fanatic”

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To say it has been a rocky time for John Travolta’s career may be the understatement of the century. This 2019 disaster is an uncomfortably ugly and seemingly pointless look at celebrity obsession. Along the way the film dabbles in some toothless black humor (I think), fails to generate an ounce of tension, and features a cringe-worthy portrayal of autism/mental health. Not sure how this movie got off the ground but it sure landed with a thud.

#3 – “Booksmart”

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After hearing so much buzz I went into this film with high hopes. I left feeling I had sat through yet another galling, unoriginal raunchy teen comedy dependent on the same tired cliches and full of recycled stock characters, many of them dialed up to 10. There are a couple of emotionally strong moments, but they’re lost within a mire of teen movie tropes, rehashed raunch, and boring caricatures. I know, I know, “Booksmart” is loved by many. I saw it as a sloppy Superbad 2.0 wannabe, and a poor one at that.

#2 – “Polar”

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This movie had all the pieces in place to be something really, really cool (no pun intended). But as its presence on this list indicates, “Polar” wasn’t cool. It wasn’t fun. In fact it was barely watchable. How can you get the terrific Mads Mikkelsen onboard playing a patch-wearing ex-assassin yet still botch this movie so badly. Far too much time was wasted on mindless, gratuitous, and trashy nonsense and in the end no amount of stylized action or slick camera work could make up for it.

#1 – “The Haunting of Sharon Tate”

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Nothing sounded right about this movie from the very start. Taking the horrific real-life murder of Sharon Tate and four others by the Manson family and infusing it with fictional nonsense about premonitions and supernatural mumbo-jumbo seemed to be in bad taste. It turned out to be even worse – exploitative, soulless, and without an ounce a shame. And even if you could look past its offense, the shoddy performances, vapid dialogue, and complete lack of tension would be enough to earn it a spot on this list.

 

First Glance: “The New Mutants”

New Mutants

In case someone was under the impression that comic book movies were on the decline (and who on earth would actually think that) the 20th Century Fox division of Disney’s Marvel movies has a new one right around the corner. “The New Mutants” was first pitched back in 2014 but has had a pretty drastic change of direction since. That said, it was never a movie on my radar.

“The New Mutants” moved from being a simple X-Men spin-off picture to a superhero horror movie, something that makes its potentially dull concept at least a little interesting. A new batch of young mutants are discovering their powers but instead of finding the compassionate Charles Xavier and his school for the gifted they find themselves being held in a secret test facility ran by people who (obviously) don’t have their best intentions in mind.

The new trailer is now out in the wild and shows a mix of teen horror and mutant discovery. We’ve seen them both before but never together like this. I can’t say I’m all that excited but let’s see where it goes. The film hits theaters April 3rd. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

Random Thoughts: The 2020 Golden Globes Awards

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Last night saw the Hollywood Foreign Press rev up the awards season intrigue with the 77th Golden Globes. It was a show that did something I certainly wasn’t expecting – It got almost all of its movie categories right! I found myself actually cheering throughout and now I’m even more excited than usual for next month’s Academy Awards. Of course there were a few surprises, some…peculiar speeches, and (once again) Ricky Gervais. Here are a few Random Thoughts.

  • Let’s get the big surprise out of the way first – NOTHING for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”. I have to admit I was pretty surprised and I’m not sure anyone saw that coming.
  • Nothing for Pesci. Nothing for Pacino. Nothing for Steven Zaillian’s incredible screenplay. NOTHING.
  • I pretty much zoned out during the television stuff. Turns out this is yet another year where I haven’t seen a single nominated TV series. I know, it really is pathetic. That’s why I’m sticking to the movies.
  • Ricky Gervais was in full “look at what a bad boy of comedy I am” mode. The opening monologue was scathing, but he was stuck in his schtick all night and it got old by the end. That said there were a few real zingers in there and this morning’s headlines show that a few egos were bruised.
  • “1917” had one heck of a night. The film won one of the night’s biggest prize, Best Picture – Drama. That’s really exciting because the movie looks tremendous. Sadly the majority of us haven’t been able to see it. But that changes Thursday night!
  • The other big prize went to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” which thrilled me. I really like “Jojo Rabbit” and “Knives Out”. But let’s be honest, Tarantino’s latest was the film to beat.
  • Sam Mendes took home Best Director for “1917” in a category that was absolutely stacked. Every single nominated director deserves their spot on the list. Scorsese, Tarantino, Mendes, Phillips, Bong. What a group!
  • I actually felt Mendes and Phillips were long shots to win. Scorsese and Tarantino eat up a lot of the conversation. But it was great seeing Phillips and Bong nominated. Again, they deserved it.
  • Jason Momoa being Jason Momoa and I love it. I mean who needs a tux?

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  • While I loved the majority of the winners, I stand by my position that “Little Women” should have had a bigger presence. Hopefully Oscar will get that right.
  • Renée Zellweger wins Best Actress – Drama. While she wasn’t my first choice, I have no problems with her win. She was extraordinary.
  • Best Actress – Musical or Comedy went to Awkwafina for her incredible dramatic turn in “The Farewell”. Her performance was truly eye-opening and seeing her win was delightful.
  • Speaking of Awkwafina, her acceptance speech was one of my favorites of the night. How could not root for someone so genuinely surprised and grateful. Those are the speeches I love.
  • Then you have the other type of speech such as the one Michelle Williams gave. It’s 100% their right to spend their time saying whatever they want. But I often tune out the overtly rehearsed attention-grabbing political stuff. And there were several instances of it last night.
  • Man I loved seeing Hildur Guðnadóttir win Best Original Score for “Joker”. Her brilliant arrangements were essential to that film’s menacing and unsettling tone and atmosphere.
  • Did everyone else notice there was no Lupita N’yongo? Yes, I know she wasn’t nominated. This is just my gratuitous reminder that she should have been for her stellar work in “Us”.
  • “Missing Link” wins Best Animated Feature Film? I’m not well versed in this year’s batch of of animated movies but even I know “Missing Link” was one of those head-scratching moments.
  • It still makes me grumpy to think about “A Hidden Life” and “Ad Astra” both completely shutout of the show. No nominations, mentions, nothing. Such a shame.
  • Two of the best moments of the night literally made me shout for joy. Brad Pitt winning Best Supporting Actor for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” was fantastic. He was absolutely the right choice and his speech was great as well.

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  • The second moment was when Joaquin Phoenix was announced the Best Actor – Drama winner. I would have been fine with Adam Driver, but Phoenix delivers a real stand-out performance unlike anything I’ve seen this year. Bravo.
  • But then we get his speech, eccentric and disjointed, kinda what you would expect from Phoenix. But there was also a striking bit of humanity to it. That didn’t make it any easier to follow, but it did make for a truly authentic moment. Too bad we couldn’t hear half of it because of his needless potty mouth.
  • Laura Dern winning for “Marriage Story” was great. She was terrific not just in that film but also “Little Women”. Go ahead and give her the Oscar.
  • Speaking of “Marriage Story”, despite leading the way with six nominations Dern’s win was the only statute Noah Baumbach’s movie would take home. That’s both surprising and disappointing.
  • Think about this, the four Netflix movies combined for 17 total nominations but only took home one lone win. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but could this have anything to do with the industry’s reluctance to embrace Netflix? Asking for a friend.
  • “Parasite” wins Best Foreign Language Film to no one’s surprise. I loved “The Farewell” and enjoyed “Les Miserables”. But let’s be honest, no one was ever going to beat “Parasite”, right?
  • In accepting the award for “Parasite”, writer-director Bong Joon-Ho gave one of my favorite lines of the night. “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Amen!
  • What the heck was Gwyneth Paltrow wearing? It looked like it was cut from a set of curtains out of a 1970’s hippie’s home. Wasn’t a fan.
  • For me the only real misfire was Taron Egerton winning Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for “Rocketman”. Egerton was fine but literally my last choice from that list. And him winning says more about the fascination with these music biopic roles come awards time.

Overall I thought the Hollywood Foreign Press picked some great winners which is something I haven’t been able to say in recent years. Now we march towards to the Oscars. What were your thoughts on last night’s big show? 

First Glance: “A Quiet Place: Part II”

2018’s “A Quiet Place” was an out-of-the-blue $350 million hit for Paramount Pictures. John Krasinski directed, co-wrote, and co-starred in the modestly budgeted sci-fi horror film that also featured his real-life wife, the always good Emily Blunt. It brilliantly exuded edge-of-your-seat tension while telling a genuinely moving and heartfelt family story. I loved it.

The inevitable but welcomed sequel was teased a couple of weeks ago and now we finally get the first full trailer. It opens with an exhilarating perspective shot in the back seat of a car. It’s clearly teasing a flashback to when the aliens first attacked. But then it shifts to the Abbott family trying to survive outside the confines of their once relatively safe farmhouse. Krasinski is back in the director’s chair while Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe all return. Cillian Murphy and Dijimon Hounsou add some intriguing new faces.

I can’t wait for March 20th which is when the film is set to hit theaters. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

Top 10 Films of 2019

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Can you believe another year has come and gone? And you know what that means – it’s time for the obligatory (but admittedly fun) end of the year Top 10 list. 2019 was a peculiar year at the movies. It started slow but really picked up steam before ending with a bang. From a handful of blockbusters to several strong indies, 2019 offered quite the variety of memorable movies. So let’s get going.

As always I’ll begin by showing love to the fine movies that just missed my top 10. Here are my #11 – 20 picks:

  • #20 – “Avengers: Endgame”
  • #19 – “Clemency”
  • #18 – “Knives Out”
  • #17 – “Arctic”
  • #16 – “Us”
  • #15 – “Doctor Sleep”
  • #14 – “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
  • #13 – “The Farewell”
  • #12 – “Transit”
  • #11 – “The Irishman”

And here are my Top 10 films of 2019:

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#10 – One of the most criminally overlooked movies to come out in 2019 was Julia Hart’s “Fast Color”. It’s part dystopian science-fiction and part superhero origin story. But at its core it’s a touching family drama about three generations of women, the conflicts that tore them apart, and the bonds that bring them back together. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is terrific, once again showing she’s an actress deserving of more attention. The same could be said for the film itself, a victim of a botched distribution but one that should be seen.

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#9 – This may be the the most authentic portrayal of divorce and it’s many devastating complexities ever put on screen. “Marriage Story” is driven by Noah Baumbach’s dense and emotionally detailed script along with two powerhouse performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. They give us characters we genuinely care about which makes watching their relationship disintegrate a heart-wrenching experience. It’s Baumbach’s best movie to date and one that packs a real wallop.

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#8 – One of the biggest treats I discovered out of awards season was this brilliant sci-fi debut from Andrew Patterson. Plucked right out of 1950’s small-town Americana, the movie embraces its influences (“The Twilight Zone”, The X-Files”, etc.). But the film audacious visual approach reveals its own distinct identity. Armed with dense, rapid-fire dialogue from the writing duo of James Montague and Craig W. Sanger and a central friendship brought to life through two fabulous performances from Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz). Don’t let this small gem slip by.

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#7 – I have to admit, I loved the look of “Jojo Rabbit” going into it, but I never expected to be so affected by Taika Waititi’s wacky yet intensely moving “anti-hate satire“. The film walks the tightrope of taste while being both hilarious and heartbreaking, joyous and appalling. And it’s filled with such rich performances from a totally game cast. Youngster Roman Griffin Davis is a revelation while Thomasin McKenzie earns every ounce of empathy. And Waititi bounds it all together with a beautiful and timely message of hope.

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#6 – I dare anyone to try and put Bong Joon Ho’s latest movie in a box or make it fit neatly into any one genre. “Parasite” is filled with delicious black comedy, scathing social commentary, some surprising jolts of heartfelt emotion, and a violent throat punch when you’re least expecting it. The story moves at such an intoxicating pace and just when you think you know where it’s going Bong pulls the rug right out from under you. It’s one heck of a ride and it’s a movie unlike anything else I saw in 2019.

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#5 – Who knew we needed another adaption of “Little Women”? Greta Gerwig convincingly makes the case with her fresh and utterly enchanting version of Louisa May Alcott’s perennial classic novel. This is only Gerwig’s second film behind the camera but you would never know it. She captures every ounce of energy, personality, and period appeal while putting her own impressive stamp onto the story. The film also features one of the best ensemble casts of the year led by Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, and Chris Cooper among others.

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#4 – Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who makes movies I almost always find myself wrestling with. But with “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” I was hooked from the very start. In many ways this is Tarantino’s most mature film to date. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t given those wild flourishes of style and that sharp sense of humor he’s known for. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are outstanding and Margot Robbie’s vision of Sharon Tate provides a ray of light Tarantino’s movies often lack. This is the filmmaker at his very best.

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#3 – The year of Brad Pitt reached its apex with his stellar lead performance in James Gray’s cerebral space adventure “Ad Astra”. This fresh and thoughtful slice of science-fiction is uniquely its own thing and doesn’t pander to any particular genre norm. Better yet it’s a technical marvel rich with evocative imagery and with potent themes of introspection, forgiveness, and individuality. “Ad Astra” may not be for everyone, but I love it for its meditative pacing, stunning visuals, and terrific lead work from Pitt.

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#2 – I never dreamed that a Todd Phillips movie based on the most recognizable villain in DC comics history would come close to my Top 10 list. Yet here we are with “Joker”, not only one of the biggest surprises of the year but for me one of the best films of 2019. Driven by an incredible lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker” is a movie that demands more than a simple surface reading. It is perpetually bleak and our interpretations of it say as much about us as it does Arthur Fleck. A menacing score and gritty visuals are just icing on the cake.

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#1 – Terrence Malick set a high bar for himself with 2011’s “The Tree of Life”. He hasn’t been able to hit that mark since, at least not until now. “A Hidden Life” is a remarkable accomplishment. It takes the very best things from the two sides of Malick’s filmography (the early narrative-driven stories and his later evocative visual meditations) and melds them together in one beautiful and inspirational experience. He tells the story of  Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector who refused to fight for Hitler. Even more, it’s a soulful exploration of faith in the face of unspeakable evil. This is Malick at his very best and it’s the most captivating movie I saw in 2019.