27 Movie Reviews for 2019

This year I started going to the movie theater every Tuesday night. There are some great 2019 movies unmentioned here, either because I saw them before I started doing this, or because I just missed them. As far as scoring goes, I probably liked a 7-10 and disliked a 0-4. It’s more what score feels right in the moment than it is anything analytical. Here is every movie review I wrote this year:

Aladdin (2019) is a really good time. Hard not to compare scenes remade from the classic, none of which attain to the legacy of what they try to imitate, and a lot of it seemed more like a stage play interpretation of the story rather than a believable, fully-conceived world. However, Jasmine’s extra stuff is inspiring and beautiful, Will Smith is hard not to like, and the production quality is best-in-the-biz.

7.2/10 – Worth A Watch

John Wick 3 is light on plot and heavy on awesome gun sound effects. This whole film is stupid nonsense. Keanu Reeves does a great job playing Keanu Reeves. This movie knows exactly what it is, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. You do need to see the other two before this one, but you better hurry because those gunshots won’t sound nearly as cool on your wimpy home theater speakers.

8.8/10 – “I get it.”

Yesterday is a film that made me really uncomfortable, in a good way, in that I really felt the main character’s discomfort through the whole thing, and I kinda often feel exactly like that in real life. I don’t care about The Beatles, I just expected a silly good time seeing a fantasy I really do have lived out. My version has me going back in time and being revered for sharing vastly inferior versions of copied artistry and knowledge with the past. This movie exposes that daydream of admiration, wealth, and fame for the delusion it is, and it leaves you desiring simple human joy that is most easily found in an unremarkable life. Sure, the penultimate scene was a big letdown and felt very forced, but apart from that this movie gave me something unexpected, demanding my full attention, making me feel and reflect, with a few good knee-slappers along the way. For me, the outstanding, low-key, believable, relatable performances by Himesh Patel and by Lily James in a truly unique and meaningful story save this movie from its mediocrity.

7.0/10 – Imperfectly Relatable

Spider-Man: Far From Home is toward the bottom of the MCU tier list for me. Thing is, I love ‘em all! (Yep, even Thor: The Dark World.) The humor didn’t land very well for me for some reason most of the time. I think Spider-Man: Homecoming was a better movie. Mysterio was pretty cool, but where was Iron Man?! Just kidding, I remember. This movie didn’t have anything that quite lived up to the RDJ/Holland dynamic. It was a fun movie worthy of the MCU for sure, just not the best movie I’ve seen all year like I was hoping it would be. Wha…?! Is that…?! It IS the same actor! After that cameo you’ve GOT to give us that Holland/Maguire/Garfield multi-verse crossover we all want!

8.0/10 – Worthy

Toy Story 4 was unnecessary, but who doesn’t like to smile through an entire movie?

8.5/10 – Great

Crawl does a nice job portraying alligators the way people who know nothing about alligators imagine them to be. That’s good, because while real Florida alligators do look like man-hungry monsters, they are actually pretty chill. I mean, you probably shouldn’t swim with one, but even if you do, you’re probably going to be fine. It makes me think that perhaps carnivorous dinosaurs were in reality less like Spielberg’s kaiju at Jurassic Park and more like the Komodo dragons you see basking in the sun at the zoo. Good pacing, believable performances, and perfectly produced fake tears help overcome a stupid premise and script, but you aren’t watching this for the story. Watch the trailer. If you like the trailer, you’ll likely enjoy this film. I did.

6.4/10 – Bloody Decent

Hobbs & Shaw continues the Fast & Furious tradition of being very, very stupid. After seeing the trailer for this movie, having only ever seen the first movie in the franchise before, I watched all eight of the previous films in about three weeks. This proved mostly unnecessary since the movie contextualizes itself well enough, but I also wanted to know how this silly franchise could eventually produce some of highest grossing films of all time. They are a definitely a mixed bag, but they consistently each had me laughing and shaking my head at their stupidity. The Fast & Furious movies are all just vehicles (yep) for muscle flexing, muscle car flexing, and bad-boy/bad-girl ego standoffs alongside impossible, incredible stunts, ridiculous action sequences, and stakes that incrementally progress with each movie from don’t-get-caught-by-the-cops to save-the-world-from-nuclear-attacks. This one has most of the same tropes, and stakes that continue to approach Avengers-level magnitude. Other than carrying forward the theme of standing by your “family” at all costs, this spin-off story has almost nothing to do with the nonsensical overarching plot from the other movies. Instead, it zooms in on the hilarious quipping chemistry of Jason Statham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing characters so stereotypical to these two men and their acting career histories that it’s even overtly joked about several times in the film itself. These guys weren’t type-casted, rather the entire script and every line of dialogue was type-written specifically for them. And that’s why this film is so good – because everyone already loves these jokers. For all the violence (and there’s a lot of it), there’s not really anything that gratuitous, and for all the innuendo (and there’s a whole lot of it too) there is less explicit sexual content than a Bond film from the 60s. This film will probably be forgotten, but I think it’s going to end up being one of the more enjoyable movies I’ll have seen this year.

8.0/10 – So Stupid

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark shows way too much in the trailers. Actually, I think the shocking images from the trailers scared me more than the movie itself did. If you have seen a trailer for this, you’ve pretty much seen every scare this movie has to offer. I still enjoyed seeing it, but the marketing team really botched this one. I haven’t seen a lot of horror movies. Knowing I was going to see this one tonight, this week I decided to watch a couple other horror films I’d heard were actually very scary, It (2017) and Hereditary, to get a little more exposure to the genre. Those two movies were skin-crawlingly horrific. This one isn’t, but it probably would have been if I was 12. And since this production is based on a book that was sold in scholastic book fairs at elementary schools alongside the Goosebumps series, my expectations were probably a little off. As such, it may have lived up to its source material, but it was just okay.

5.8/10 – Not Really Scary

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is childish. It’s got poop jokes and a talking masked fox. 20 years ago, every bit of humor probably would have landed for me. About 65% of it still did. That’s enough for a good time.

7.1/10 – Good Enough

Overcomer contains some powerful truths. It has some touching moments. It even made me chuckle once or twice. I actually did enjoy it. Well, some of it. A little bit. As a movie, it’s bad. Like, substantially worse than Hallmark-movie bad. Actually, if you like Hallmark movies, you might like it. Even criticizing this movie feels bad. It’s a little bit like criticizing a campfire devotional talk, but even really good campfire devotional talks generally probably shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes. As a 15 minute short film, this might have been great. But a two hour long movie shown in a movie theater should offer much more than your average campfire devotional talk. The Kendrick Brothers have done better.

2.9/10 – Overbummer

The Peanut Butter Falcon didn’t try to make me cry like I expected it would. It made me laugh quite a bit, but it wasn’t a comedy. It mostly respected the people and cultures it portrayed, which is good, because it reminded me of people I have known. Maybe many of the things we feel are so important actually aren’t, and instead of anxiously pursuing them, we should live life a little more recklessly. I’m not really brave enough to do it, but it’s fun to watch a story about people who do, who run away from all their troubles, and just… party.

8.4/10 – Recklessly Carefree

IT: Chapter Two kept me interested and engaged for all three hours. Consistent pacing, very high production value, and excellent casting and performances made for a sequel at least as good as its predecessor, except in the amount of clutter present. It was a little unfocused with several sub-plots that felt disjointed from the main narrative. I’ve never read the book, but this felt like a book-to-movie problem that could have probably been made better by either adding or cutting out about 30 minutes. The background mythology was also not quite developed enough to meaningfully justify everyone’s acceptance of it. The main theme, as I understood it anyway, did resonate with me. Life does lasting damage to us, and while we may carry it with us forever, we need not allow that damage to define us. The truly nightmarishly shocking and disturbing moments do all appropriately serve the greater narrative and themes, and that is fortunately what the movie focused on. I was satisfied with way the story ended, other than one particularly problematic plot point involving suicide. [MAJOR SPOILER WARNING] Near the end of the movie, everyone receives a letter from a character who committed suicide explaining that he did it to help them because he believed he was too weak to face IT. By taking himself out of the picture, he thought his friends stood a better chance of defeating the evil. I’m okay with the suicide being there, and through one character’s vision of the future, it actually does serve to inform the group of their inevitable fates should they fail to defeat IT before he disappears for another 27 years. The issue I have here is that this movie is about adults finding closure by confronting the lasting effects of their childhood trauma, insecurities, and fear, but no one ever really suggests that this suicide was the wrong decision. At the very least it should have been left open-ended, which I think through everyone else’s journeys would have implied that Stan could have also successfully stood against IT and overcome his weaknesses should he have had the chance and the determination to. But the scene where Stan’s letter is read made it seem like everyone just accepts that he couldn’t cut it, and that they may even consider his sacrifice to be a noble act of selflessness. It’s a pretty irresponsible inclusion even for a film like this one, and if it wasn’t what was intended, they messed up. The reaction to the letter is really the main problem here, and from what I read, this letter didn’t even exist in Stephen King’s original work. It’s one place that our modern sensibilities and heightened awareness of suicide probably should have kept things closer to the source material.

8.5/10 – Overzealous Yet Compelling

[A side note. This goes without saying I think, but this movie is rated R, and it definitely earns that rating. Also, it’s a horror movie. It’s horrifying. Do your homework before you go. If you’re seeing this you definitely need to have seen the first one, and based on it, you should have a pretty good idea what to expect. I think there is redeeming value here, but not everyone will agree with me.]

Downton Abbey (2019) is probably a hard movie to enjoy if you haven’t already watched the whole TV series. Rather than ever developing any characters, every one has already moved through and past their series arcs. There are a few new people introduced, but all the screen time is given to people fans already love, leaving these newcomers’ arcs pretty shallow. The homosexual character from the show has a mostly unrelated subplot awkwardly thrown in that is very on-the-nose and uncomfortable. It really doesn’t serve the main story at all, and even from a purely filmmaking perspective, it should have been left out. Look it up before you take your kids. No, just don’t take your kids. They’ll be bored. There are a lot of fun moments for fans. In fact, this would have made for a great episode or two, but as a movie, it misses. I still liked it, but only because I already like the show. Let’s face it, if you sat through all 52 episodes of this already, you’re gonna see this. And if you haven’t, there’s probably no reason you would see it unless you’re just keeping someone else company.

5.8/10 – Plain As Pudding

Ad Astra is lonely and slow. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see this twice. It’s full of blank expressions and vast, sustained emptiness. Life can feel that way too sometimes. In pursuit of human progress, we can forget about the essence of life, exchanging it for a constant search for something that doesn’t even exist. What you achieve, what you accomplish, how you are remembered; these things are nothing in themselves. We are better, happier, more fulfilled, to enjoy life’s simplest pleasures, to connect with others, and to love people. If you reach for the stars, don’t strain. They’re just stars. They don’t love you. If you get too close, they’ll consume you. The world around you now is abundant, full of life and love. One of life’s tragedies is the blinding lie of aspiration. I can’t say I enjoyed this movie, but the more I reflect on it the more I appreciate what it’s doing. It challenges the call to “boldly go”. What do you expect to actually find anyway? Happiness? Fulfillment? No. Find a hand to hold. Smile, and enjoy this moment. Live the life you already have. Boldly stay. I’ve never seen a movie quite like this. I really liked the aesthetics and the feeling of realism. The future of space travel has never felt so believable. Nor has it ever felt so depressing. This would have been a really neat short film. Unfortunately it was two hours long. It needed some moments of comic relief at that length, but that probably would have conflicted with its purpose. It just wasn’t very fun to watch, because it wasn’t trying to be. What also really bothered me were several moments of sloppy writing. [MINOR SPOILER WARNING] For example, why, when rushed to arrive at Neptune as quickly as possible and prevent mass catastrophe, did we pass so close by Jupiter and Saturn? That’s not how planets work. They aren’t all lined up out there.

5.2/10 – A Meaningful Slog

Abominable is cute. It has moments that are funny, moments that are touching, and moments that are beautiful. But nothing feels like it has any weight to it. It’s shallow. Nearly everything about it is shallow, from uncomfortable animations to generic dialogue to several annoying performances to a forgettable plot to humor that fell flat more often than it landed. Nothing here is lasting, and this movie is fated to the same obscurity most DreamWorks productions face that aren’t Shrek. Yet, I enjoyed myself. That counts for something. I really wanted to eat those pork buns, I cracked up at the whooping snakes, and I was inspired by the sound of the Yeti’s deep song accompanying a soothing violin.

6.6/10 – Fun For Kids

Joker works better as a maniacal mastermind with a sick sense of humor and no backstory. That was just exhausting.

3.4/10 – Nothing To Get

Gemini Man in HFR (High Frame Rate) 3D was a stunning technological marvel. There’s not much to say about the plot. It’s serviceable. And it’s Will Smith, which is pretty much always a good thing. What made this movie incredible was the frame rate and use of 3D. I’m really not a huge fan of 3D generally, but I am a huge fan of creator’s intent. The HFR 3D made this movie feel immersive in a way that only video games have felt to me before, as far as media goes. The hyper realism created by the HFR 3D showing really did help blend the digitally produced faces with the real ones. Even when I’ve seen this done well before, like with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One for example, it has still looked a little bit fake and pasty to me. This movie had the most convincing digitally created human face I’ve ever seen, nearly indistinguishable from a real person. And those HFR 3D action sequences were intense. Unfortunately once this is out of theaters, or once theaters quit showing it in HFR 3D, it will be just okay. This is definitely a movie you want to see as closely as possible to the way the director intended it.

9.1/10 – Wow

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil cheapens an already weak mythology. There was some great tension building for a while, but everywhere everything went eventually felt silly and unconvincing. There’s some decent art direction here I guess, but no lore depth. I didn’t love the first movie either. Maybe some musical numbers or something would have helped. Maleficent is a much better villain than a hero. This franchise lacks the passion of malice, and it feels heartless.

5.5/10 – Unaffecting

Black and Blue creates consistent tensity through very convincing performances in a believable setting. This is not a movie about racial discrimination primarily, but about a cultural conflict that transcends race. There are maybe two or three sloppy moments of overt messaging that use out of place lines and unnecessary scenes, which shows a lack of trust in the audience’s ability to get it. Other than these detractions, I could feel the struggle. I got just enough anxiety to be invested without being uncomfortable. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but I liked it.

7.9/10 – Mostly Great

Countdown is surprisingly good. Not great. Definitely not great, but good. This movie is not memorable. It’s a casual, easy watch targeted at teenagers that maybe even has a pretty good message for victims of sexual harassment. The horror element here is mostly jump scares, but almost all of these moments were spoiled for me in the trailers. Hey, marketing teams! I know you’ve gotta get people to the movie, but I actually think this would have reviewed a little better if the moments that were supposed to shock and surprise actually did!

7.0/10 – Satisfyingly Shallow

Midway was grounded. There are no scandalous romances to get emotional over. There are no gruesome dismemberments to cringe at. There are no substantially caricatured heroes or villains. This is a movie about how real-life war games were played in the Pacific not very long ago. I prefer seeing naval war play out with make-believe spaceships in galaxies far, far away. That way I know it’s just a made up story and no one really died. This isn’t a made up story. This is about how thousands of regular people killed thousands of other regular people and filled the clear, blue ocean with blood, fire, and twisted metal as the world powers struggled for planetary dominance. This movie doesn’t get into the complex reasons and justifications for the conflict it depicts. It gets right to the fight. Why shouldn’t it? None of these soldiers or officers on either side really had any say in the war itself. They all just fought because they thought they had a duty to fight. They thought it was the right thing to do, or maybe they didn’t know what else to do. They were frontline pawns in a conflict that literally consumed them, following orders, for honor, for glory. This movie is presented from an American perspective, but it seeks to honor all the pilots who flew for their respective nations, both for the United States and for Japan. I was raised in a southern family with a Confederate heritage, and maybe because of that, I believe neither side in a war is necessarily right or honorable. War always just plain sucks. Lots of people die. Lots of families are broken and destroyed. Lots of innocent people are slaughtered, and everyone tries to wash their hands of the blood that is spilt and the flesh that is charred. Maybe no one involved is innocent, no matter what sense of duty they believe they are justified to hide behind. This movie makes it fun to watch soldiers battle in their X-wings against TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers disguised as single-propeller airplanes, aircraft carriers, and battleships. I have no idea how accurate the details are, but the presentation is great and it felt like the focus was on keeping it pretty real without being graphic. The homage to The Battle of Midway (1942) with the John Ford cameo is pretty cool too, providing some inadvertently dark war-as-entertainment meta comic relief. I went in to this with no expectations, and I enjoyed myself. It may be a bit formulaic, but sometimes I like that. And whether or not it was intentional, I think there is actually quite a bit of hidden complexity and societal criticism that can be derived from what’s here.

8.0/10 – Complexly Straightforward Fun

Ford v Ferrari literally gave me an elevated heart rate, and it wasn’t even the final race. James Mangold, in a short time would you persuade me to be a car enthusiast? You can’t make every lap perfect, but you came close. We’re gonna see some awards for this one. Amazing performances all around, especially from Christian Bale. This is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.

10/10 – Man Oh Mans

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood doesn’t focus on Mr. Rogers. It focuses on a guy who wrote an article about Mr. Rogers. It does explore how Mr. Rogers cared about people, and the potential impact of his piercing perspective and his willingness to share others’ burdens through empathy, acceptance, and validation of their feelings. The scene transitions were nice, but a lot of the other more creative elements in this movie felt strange. I’m normally impressed by Tom Hanks, but this performance is not his best. His vibe wasn’t quite right, like he was a little too melancholy or something. Maybe that’s not his fault. Mr. Rogers was never anything other than his genuine self. His authenticity must be a difficult thing to perform. Something felt off about the whole thing. Maybe it was a better representation of reality than I realize, but it didn’t inspire me to want to find out. What it did do was challenge me to reconsider my demeanor and attitude toward other people, especially strangers and children. It made me want to slow down, carefully deal with my own feelings, and care more about the feelings of both friends and strangers. It made me want to help my own children accept and deal with their feelings. And it made me want to love all people just the way they are. We are neighbors after all.

6.8/10 – Strangely Reflective

Knives Out killed it. You probably shouldn’t know much more than that. I like The Last Jedi, but Disney should have had Rian Johnson direct a who-done-it in the Star Wars universe instead.

9.6/10 – Killed It

Frozen II is two tears better than the original. Anna’s song got me. What a great message. As expected, the animation and art direction were masterful. The music won’t be as beloved as “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” nor nearly as iconic as “Let It Go”, but it’s all still fantastic. Olaf on the other hand really upped his game this time. Disney knows how to take a hit film and do the next right thing with it. This is an adventure worth joining.

8.4/10 – Samantha

21 Bridges has some beautifully gloomy shots of Manhattan, a moody score with sleuthy undertones, and a mysterious dark night aesthetic. It plays on overused 2019 themes with intense action and just beyond believable characterizations so well you can almost forget about how generic it is. There’s not a whole lot of depth to his character, but Chadwick Boseman pulls off this role better than he does T’Challa.

7.8/10 – Unoriginal Quality

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has some plot issues, but it also has Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, and Babu Frik. After seeing it opening weekend, I watched VII and VIII again. I think it actually strengthens the latter. Then I watched it a second time. The good moments are plentiful, and they outweigh the larger problems. I love Star Wars. I’m here to nerd out and have fun. I did. Twice.

8.0/10 – “It’s just people.”

The best movie I saw in theaters was Ford v Ferrari.

The worst movie was Joker.

My favorite movie was Avengers: Endgame. I saw it before I started doing this. It literally made me sob. Saw it a second time. More crying, but also the realization that it is extremely dependent on the rest of the MCU. It’s a nearly perfect culmination, but it is only pretty good by itself.

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