Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Best Films of 2019

It is fitting in many ways, that as we reach the end of the decade, that a number of the franchises that have had a massive impact in the last ten years of cinema have been brought to a close. 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gave a very satisfying pay off, the curtain closed on the Skywalker saga for the final time, and the less said about that Game of Thrones finale, the better. Meanwhile, Netflix continues to assert itself in the industry producing some stellar content, all while an exhaustive amount of discourses and debates on a variety of subjects relating to film have raged all year long. It was certainly an eventful year of cinema to close out the decade, and so the time has come for me to rank all that 2019 had to offer on the big screen, at least of the films I saw.

Due to staggered UK release dates, it can be extremely messy to determine what film belongs in what year. Therefore regarding the eligibility of films for this list, I always aim to include films that are listed as 2019 releases on IMDB. Also, some of the films listed here haven’t yet made their way into UK cinemas, but since I was fortunate to be able to catch some of these films at London Film Festival this year, they are eligible for inclusion. On the other hand, there’s a 2019 release that doesn’t get its UK wide release until February 2020, so that film will be deferred for my 2020’s list, and I am absolutely certain that will make an appearance.

Secondly, the grade a film receives does not necessarily determine its place on the list. Getting the perfect grade does not mean it will rank higher than a film that got a lower grade. This is, as is the case for all of us who review films, our one chance to be completely biased about the films that we enjoyed the most, and these are the films that I will remember from 2018.  Before I get into the main list, some honourable mentions need to have their time to shine. These films are excellent that you should definitely check out, but they just didn’t quite make the list. First up…

Ad Astra [review] Many films have illustrated just how terrifying the eternal chasm that is space, and Brad Pitt’s enthralling turn as an astronaut who must venture deep into space in search of his long lost father is another example. It’s a slow burner, but well worth the investment.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood [review coming soon] Tom Hanks is simply put, one of the most charismatic answers in the business, and so the decision to cast him as the legendary TV children’s presenter Fred Rogers was an utter masterstroke. As you’d expect Hanks’s performance is wonderful and Marielle Heller’s direction is so charming, that it’s guaranteed to give you a warm feeling by the time the credits have begun to roll.

Hustlers [review] For women who work in a strip club, it can be a difficult situation to find themselves in. For one group of women however, it’s a situation they choose take full advantage of, by devising a scheme to get back at the wealthy patrons of the strip club that employs them. With an excellent group of actresses at its core, and a fascinating story, the entire show is stolen by an electric, awards worthy performance from Jennifer Lopez.

Harriet [review] Harriet Tubman’s story is nothing short of inspirational, a woman born into slavery who escaped and then daringly made several missions to free people from this appalling institution. This biopic, while told in a very conventional manner, tells her story with sincerity, and boasts a magnificent performance from Cynthia Erivo, whose career as an actor is going from strength to strength.

Captain Marvel [review] It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but 2019 marked the first time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a female led film, and it was certainly worth the wait. While the story was certainly a tad formulaic, it was extremely entertaining and flew its way to a billion dollars at the Worldwide Box Office, firmly shutting up those individuals that tried to derail the film prior to its release.

Honourable mentions have been honoured, time to crack on with the main list, which due to the vast number of great films we have had this year I’ve made it into a top 15 list, and we begin with…

15. Official Secrets

review

Working for the government can put any employee in a difficult position, especially when they handle such confidential information. For one employee, deciding that a confidential memo demands to become public information, she bravely takes on her government by leaking the aforementioned memo to the Press.

The intrigue is maintained throughout thanks to some excellent writing and a sensational lead performance from Keira Knightley who carries the film on her shoulders magnificently. There’s a very important message at the centre of this gripping film that remains very relevant to the world we live in today, namely that governments need to be held to account when they try to sweep such damning information under the rug.

14. Toy Story 4

 review

After Toy Story 3 wrapped up one of the best animated trilogies ever, in beautiful and heart-wrenching fashion, many were left wondering, was there any need for another Toy Story? Fears that this would prove to be a cynical cash grab were soon dismissed as Pixar, as they so often do, delivered the goods with a fourth film that absolutely needed to be told.

While the majority of the old gang, such as Buzz, are very much sidelined throughout, there is a triumphant return to the franchise for Bo Peep and a bunch of likeable new characters were introduced into the mix. Matching the lofty standards set by the previous three films was always going to be a tall order, but it comes mighty close to recapturing that heart-breaking emotion, best captured by the most unlikeliest of sources: a plastic spork named Forky.

13. Midsommar

review

After terrifying audiences with his debut feature Hereditary, Ari Aster has reinforced his growing reputation as a horror maestro with his sophomore feature. Telling the story of a woman goes with her boyfriend to a Swedish Pagan festival, and some dark and disturbing events soon start to unfold.

With a magnificent, haunting, awards worthy lead performance from Florence Pugh, that captures raw grief and pain in such a powerful manner. One of the best directed films of the year, filled with some thought provoking themes and imagery, with plenty of scenes that I will certainly not be forgetting in a hurry.

12. Ford V Ferrari

review

The mark of a great film, especially one about a sporting event, is that you shouldn’t have to be the most devout follower of said sport to be thoroughly invested in it. The 24 Hour Race of Le Mans isn’t the most glamorous, or indeed the most iconic of sporting events, but that didn’t prevent James Mangold from crafting an extremely compelling film about it.

With a truly excellent cast full of excellent performances, the best work comes from Matt Damon, and especially Christian Bale. Mixing in the back and forth between company head honchos and the absorbing, immaculately crafted racing scenes ensures that makes for extremely compelling storytelling, that helps this film hit race past the finishing line in flying colours.

11. Marriage Story

review

The day the two people tie the knot is so often the happiest day of those people’s lives, but sometimes, that loving relationship can be soured, causing people to go their separate ways. The pain of the divorce process is captured so powerfully by director Noah Baumbach, as two people go through a problematic and painful divorce that will push both both parents to the limits, whilst trying to do what’s best for their son.

With awards worthy performances from just about everyone, though without any doubt, the spotlight shines brightest on Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. The performances of these two are arguably the best performances of the year. To go from a funny moment, to a remorseful moment in a heartbeat is a skill, and it’s a testament to the strength of Baumbach’s screenplay that he combines these two contrasting emotions so strongly, without tainting the experience.

Now for the top 10…

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Image is property of Sony and Columbia Pictures

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: Set in 1960s Hollywood, amid fears that the industry is leaving him behind, actor Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Clith Booth (Pitt), try to reignite Dalton’s career, all the while new actors like Sharon Tate (Robbie) are becoming the new faces of the industry…

Review: There are certain directors who, whenever they come out with a new film, it becomes subject of much anticipation and hype in the build up to the film’s release, and Quentin Tarantino’s films definitely fall under that bracket. As he so often does, Tarantino fuses his passion for the craft of film-making, and blends that with his passion for a bygone era of Hollywood, as for his ninth and seemingly penultimate film, takes the viewers on a journey to 1960s Tinseltown.

It’s 1969 and after starring in a hugely popular TV show, actor Rick Dalton’s career has hit the rocks. He has a moment where reality bites hard, and he realises that his days as a leading man are seemingly drawing to a close, as the industry is leaving him by the wayside with other actors on their way to becoming the star that Rick used to be. Determined to stay relevant, alongside his stunt double and great friend Cliff Booth, Rick strives to pick himself up and reinvent his career.

Tarantino scripts of the past have thrived on the dialogue to drive the film forward, and in many cases given that it is superbly written dialogue, it serves the story extremely well. Through the sharp dialogue, it makes the lives of the charismatic characters that Tarantino so often brings to the screen absolutely worth investing in. Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are both on excellent form as Rick and Cliff. Though they might be as A list as you can get in present day Hollywood, both have excellent charisma and they form a solid friendship with one another. It’s not quite a Vincent Vega and Jules Winfield level of camaraderie, but it comes mighty close.

As well as the sharply written dialogue, a QT movie is known for being a touch on the violent side. However, in this instance the violence is dialled back significantly as Tarantino gives us a much more dialogue driven film. One that takes a nuanced, in-depth, fascinating look at the Golden Age of Hollywood, that has the careers of Rick and Cliff front and centre, with this era as the backdrop in all of its glory. Though these men are both fictionalised characters, there’s something about both their performances that makes them feel like they were cut from the same cloth as the stars that dominated the industry at this time. In a cast that is well stacked with considerable talent, the standouts besides DiCaprio and Pitt, are Margaret Qualley’s Manson family member, and a scene stealing performance from a young actor who gives Rick a damn good run for his money.

Though she was a perfect choice to play Sharon Tate, Margot Robbie, frustratingly, does not get nearly enough screen-time as her male lead co-stars. What’s more, in the scarce screen-time she is given, she has frustratingly few lines which feels like a scandalous waste of her talent. Nevertheless, Robbie works wonders with the little material she was given that honours the tragic actress. Given that a Tarantino Picture is usually in the realm of three hours, the first act of the film is a bit of a slow burn that, narratively speaking, is a tad uneven. It takes its time to find its footing and truly hit its stride. The excellent production design and costumes ensures that 1960s Hollywood is captured with a real sense of authenticity. Yet even with that, the near 2 hour 40 minute run time does feel somewhat excessive.

Meshing fact with fiction has produced some uproariously entertaining moments in previous Tarantino flicks, and OUATIH‘s best use of this blend of truth and fantasy, is in the film’s enthralling and nail-biting third act. You may know of the tragic fate that befell Sharon Tate on that fateful August night, but to see how those events would play out in Tarantino’s wacky, but brilliant mind is what you pay to see when you come to watch a flick by Quentin Tarantino. It may not be his strongest film that he has made in a glittering career, but like Tarantino reminiscing/pining for the Golden Age of Hollywood, present day Hollywood may find itself reminiscing if, after his tenth picture, Tarantino does decide to hang up the director’s chair for good.

A passionate love letter to the Hollywood of yesteryear, fused with the typical well written QT dialogue and a superb pair of leading performances from two of the most charismatic actors in the business.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Happy new year cinephiles! It is 2019, and another year of film is upon us, and it is shaping up to be quite the year for films as we round out the 2010s. There’s lots to look forward to. So without further ado, I present to you my picks for my top 10 most anticipated films that are set to hit UK cinemas in 2019.

Just a quick note to say that certain films that have marketed 2018 releases such as Green Book, Vice etc will not be counted here, even though they are set to arrive into UK cinemas this year. Before we get into the main body of the list, I have a few honourable mentions, that I am looking forward to, but they just didn’t quite make the list. These are:

Dark PhoenixUnpopular opinion coming at you, I don’t think 2016’s X Men Apocalypse was that bad. For sure it wasn’t as good as Days of Future Past, but it was a fun (if a little nonsensical) romp. Which brings me to Dark Phoenix, a film that focuses on a premise I’m sure we have seen before, but cannot remember where (!). Now the continual push backs of this film are a little worrisome, likewise with The New Mutants, but with everyone from Apocalypse back as well as Jessica Chastain in a mysterious role, you have my interest.

Spider-Man: Far From Home,The sequel to 2017’s Homecoming, and yes it is hard to escape that Spider-Man was one of the unfortunate ones who did not escape Thanos’s snap. Yet the presence of this film would suggest he comes back in the Infinity War sequel (more on that later). Tom Holland is once again everyone’s favourite neighbourhood Spider-Man with Jake Gyllenhaal as the villain Mysterio.

Lion King, The Disney mission to remake all their animated classics has now turned its attention to arguably its best. The 1994 animated film is one of the best animated films, ever made. Therefore director Jon Favreau has a simple job of translating this live action remake (if it can really be called that) to the big screen. Whilst the CGI does look great, and the cast is excellent, this remake does seem a bit redundant, but if this takes it place in The Circle of Life and blows audiences away once again, then Hakuna Matata I suppose.

Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been a strange one, starting out promisingly with early cinematic gold before making a few, pretty terrible films, but he came back to form with Split which leads us to the third film in a shared universe that connects the aforementioned Split, with Shyamalan’s 2000 hit Unbreakable. 

The Irishman, Martin Scorsese, a director who needs no introduction, and the director is returning to what people may know him for best, a film focusing on gangsters. His collaboration with Netflix is the most expensive of his career to date, and sees him reunite with Robert De Niro for an incredible ninth collaboration between the duo. If it is as gritty, and as entertaining as his previous ventures into this genre, we could have another classic gangster flick on our hands.

Honourable mentions have been honoured, let’s see what cracked my top 10:

10. Us

Release date: 15th March

For so long, Jordan Peele was one half of the very successful comedy duo, Key & Peele, then he went and made the remarkable and unsettling Get Out, which won him an Oscar. Now for his next film, Peele is going down the horror route once again in this film that looks deeply unnerving to say the least if the new trailer is anything to go by, which hints at a terrifying plot involving some sinister doppelgangers.

That premise alone is very intriguing, but with an exciting cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss, only adds to the excitement/dread that audiences are likely to be greeted with when this one hits cinemas.

 

9. John Wick 3: Parabellum

Release date: 17th May

If you piss off John Wick AKA The Bogeyman, then you better start saying your prayers, cos he WILL make you pay for it. Keanu Reeves’s work as this badass assassin has made Wick one of his most compelling and badass characters, it’s certainly a role he seems to have had a lot of fun with. However, after he broke the absolute unbreakable rule of murdering someone on the grounds of the assassin underworld hotel, it cost John the access he had to the Assassin underworld and all of the accompanying perks. On top of that, he now has a large bounty on his head, which will likely put pretty much every hitman in the world on his trail.

Reeves is once again suiting up as Wick, and Chad Stahelski is back as director. Stahleski has promised that the death count will be considerably higher for this one. The action in the previous two films was as stylish as it was slickly choreographed, and promotional images have seen Reeves riding a horse! What more could you want? Expect the bullets to fly and the bodies to hit the floor cos John Wick is back for one last bloody hurrah.

8. Toy Story 4

Release date: 21st June

“So long, partner,” as Woody uttered those words at the end of Toy Story 3, it undoubtedly caused many tears to be shed by audiences as Woody and co said a fond farewell to their owner Andy for the last time, seemingly closing the book on the Toy Story franchise. It is still one of the best trilogies ever, and so talks of a fourth film were naturally met with some trepidation. However, as Pixar has so often not disappointed, most recently delivering one of their best with Coco, and giving The Incredibles a worthy sequel. One would assume that they know what they’re doing.

A fun mini teaser released late in 2018 confirmed that all of the familiar faces will be back, but what exactly they’re up to remains a complete mystery. But if reports are to be believed, the cast were crying and struggled to record their lines for the ending, which if you have ever seen a Pixar film ever, you’ll know that they have the power to reduce anyone to an absolute emotional wreck. So get the tissues ready cos this is likely to be another tearjerker.

7. Joker

Release date: 4th October

The Joker is one of the most iconic comic book villains, and he has had some memorable portrayals on the big screen from actors like Jack Nicholson and the great performance from Heath Ledger who stole the entire show in The Dark Knight, not forgetting the great work that Mark Hamill has done from an animated perspective to bring the Crown Prince of Crime to the big screen. However, the future of the character in the DCEU is a little bit uncertain since his debut didn’t quite go to plan. Hence, Warner Bros has given the green light for a solo Joker film separate from the DCEU.

We have seen a fair bit of production photos courtesy of director Todd Phillips, which has included Joaquin Phoenix in full costume as the Joker (see above). It all looks super dark and mysterious. Phoenix’s talents as an actor are undisputed and when you have a supporting cast that includes Hollywood legend Robert De Niro, that only adds to the gleeful anticipation as to what mayhem this Joker will unleash upon audiences when it debuts, not expecting any pencils through any eyeballs though…

 

6. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Release date: 31st May

The MonsterVerse has not exactly got off to the greatest start, beginning with 2014’s Godzilla and continuing with 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. Both the aforementioned films suffered in similar respects, some decent action but were bogged down by concentrating too much on the humans and not enough screen time for the titular titans, though the former was much stronger than the latter when it came to the action. A gargantuan clash between these two is expected to stomp into cinemas next year, but before that, Godzilla has got other monsters to deal with.

This new film looks as though it will remedy that problem with a handful of new Titans battling it out for Titan Supremacy, namely Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla’s arch nemesis, the deadly three headed King Ghidorah. A bunch of new humans have joined the cast including Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown, Charles Dance, Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler. Yet, one would hope that this is the film that sees the monsters take centre stage good and proper, and as the trailer teased, we have some exciting battles coming our way.

5. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Release date: 1st February

Outside of Disney and Pixar, Dreamworks Animation Studios have arguably been the studio to compete with when it comes to top tier animation, and and nothing is greater proof of that than the How to Train Your Dragon series. Thus far, this franchise has produced two absolutely stellar pieces of work, and they have a chance to complete their trilogy that, if all goes to plan, would be up there with the likes of the Toy Story trilogy as one of the finest animated trilogies out there.

This new adventure certainly seems to have upped the ante for our characters with Hiccup now the leader of the clan (mighty fine beard and all) facing down a terrifying new threat that puts humans and dragons at risk. Toothless’s attention meanwhile is on a Light Fury dragon he is trying to woo. The trailer promises those epic stakes that the second instalment brought, as well as those really hard hitting emotional moments.

 

4. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Release date: 26th July

Quentin Tarantino, like Martin Scorsese, is one of those names who just immediately catches the attention of most cinema goers, and for good reason, he makes damn good films. If the man’s name alone wasn’t enough to get people to the cinema, then the cast of his ninth feature film surely will. The likes of Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio all snag leading roles, but the cast list is quite extensive, with Tarantino alumni such as Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Kurt Russell all involved. It’s a cast to die for, and given what we know about the plot, and who some of the cast are playing, it’s gonna get a little bit unpleasant.

Not much else is known about the plot, other than it being centred on the Manson Family Murders, but if there’s one thing to expect from a Tarantino flick, it’s some sharply written dialogue, and juuuuuuuuuust a little bit of violence thrown in there for good measure. With his terrific body of work that he has assembled prior to this, this is looking like it will be another piece of glorious, as well as bloody, piece of work from the director in what might just be his penultimate directorial effort.

 

3. Captain Marvel

Release date: 8th March

The Marvel Cinematic Universe will finally give the world the first MCU female led superhero film in 2019. That superhero in question is Carol Danvers, an air force pilot who becomes the seemingly incredibly powerful Captain Marvel. Though before she can help save the world in the sequel to Infinity War (more on that later), we must venture back in time to the 1990s to see how Captain Marvel came to be.

The presence of Oscar winner Brie Larson in the titular role alone is enough to draw excitement, but she is the lead of an extremely exciting cast that includes Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Gemma Chan and a de-aged Samuel L Jackson as a Nick Fury (also sans eye patch) as well as a de-aged Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, with Lee Pace returning as Ronan, AKA the villain from Guardians of the Galaxy. Also who knew Nick Fury was a cat person? Maybe it’s that cat that takes his eye out after all….

 

2. Star Wars: Episode IX

Release date: December 20th

The concluding chapter to the new trilogy of films ever since Disney seized control of the franchise from George Lucas. Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that the preceding chapter, The Last Jedi, caused quite the divide among the population of the world. Some absolutely adored it, hailing it as the best film in the franchise ever, and some absolutely detested it with every fibre of their being. No pressure then JJ Abrams.

As one would expect, the plot details surrounding this new film are a complete mystery, but what is for sure, is the events of The Last Jedi, whether you liked the film or not, are going to have substantial repercussions for the world of Star Wars going forward. The intrigue to see how they close the book on the stories of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren will be enormous. Furthermore, it will be extremely interesting to see how the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher will have an impact on the story given she was set to play a big role in this closing chapter. Furthermore, in the wake of the box office disappointment of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney really could do with a home run to round out this trilogy. Lightsabres crossed that JJ can steer this ship home to safety.

 

And, my #1 most anticipated film of 2019 is……………………………………………………

.

.

.

.

.

.

1. Avengers: Endgame

Release date: 26th April 

Had to be didn’t it? In the same vein that Episode IX will bring the curtain down on the new Star Wars trilogy, Endgame is going to be the culmination of everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building towards across a remarkable 22 films. With their Cinematic Universe, Marvel really has made cinematic history with what they have achieved, it really is like nothing we have ever really seen before, and after delivering the stunning and heart-breaking Infinity War, the Russo brothers have the mammoth task of giving closure to these characters that for some we have spent a decade following.

Of course, that earth-shattering ending of Infinity War turned half of our heroes into dust after the Mad Titan Thanos collected all six of the Infinity Stones to bring balance to the Universe. Yet, even with that gut punch of an ending, it seems pretty certain that those who disintegrated away at the end will come back somehow. The real question is how? The Russos have hinted that this film could be in the realm of three hours long, and I am more than okay with that.

Yet if it indeed does come to pass that all those who were disintegrated return, who will definitely bite the dust this time around? It seems somewhat unlikely that everyone will return and that will be that and it will be sunshine and rainbows. One particular Titan in particular would be a bit pissed that all of his work would be undone. Some actors (not naming names) have hinted that this is their last hurrah so expect some fireworks as this chapter of the MCU will be brought to what will hopefully be an epic and emotional close.

Thus concludes my picks for the most anticipated films of 2019, What are your most anticipated films for this year? Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on: Twitter, Facebook or Letterbox’d

Thanks for reading and here’s to another great year of cinema!