Wednesday, January 15, 2020

12 Movies from 2019 That I Liked Just Fine

42. Night Hunter

Has a great concept about a police task force and a couple of vigilantes all trying to catch an online predator, but the actual solution to the mystery is underwhelming after a ton of build-up. What never fails though is the cast. Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Alexandra Daddario, Stanley Tucci, Brendan Fletcher, Eliana Jones, Emma Tremblay, and Nathan Fillion all make the most of their characters. The casting director deserves an Oscar.

41. The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse has three, really strong things going for it. First is Willem Dafoe as a combination of Captains Ahab and Barbossa (with some amazing soliloquies to help him out). Another is Robert Pattinson's equally engrossing, schizophrenic performance as Dafoe's assistant on a remote, island lighthouse. And the third thing is Robert Eggers' shooting in a black-and-white, square frame to make me feel like I was watching a lost Universal classic. I'd like the film more if I understood what the heck was going on, but subsequent viewings could help with that.

40. Out of Blue

I spent the entire movie afraid that the noir-ish mystery was going to become suddenly, weirdly scifi like Serenity from earlier in the year. Out of Blue keeps threatening to be about cosmic matters, but it stays centered on its murder mystery with Patricia Clarkson as a super flawed detective that I enjoyed spending time with. Not all the acting is as good as hers, but she's strong enough to carry the film through the spots where it's trying to lose its way.

39. Glass

I never got around to seeing this more than once and I feel like I need to before solidifying my opinion. After one viewing, I'm very "split" on it.

There are two things that I absolutely adore. First, bringing back Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn. That was a cool move and it's great that Clark is a fine actor and completely pulls me in. The other thing I love is Casey's (Anya Taylor-Joy) compassion for Kevin (James McAvoy) and its ability to reach through The Horde to connect with the broken child underneath. Taylor-Joy and McAvoy break my heart in those scenes.

Oh, and one other strong like is Shyamalan's making it clear that he was playing the same character in his cameos in both Unbreakable and Split. That was a lot of fun.

My complaints revolve around Shyamalan's telling two different stories, but only really caring about one of them. I imagine that most viewers go into Glass like me, expecting it to be primarily about David Dunn, Mr Glass, and The Horde. And the movie seems to support that expectation for a good long time. The twist is that Glass was never really about these characters at all, but about the supporting characters of Joseph, Casey, and Glass' mother (Charlayne Woodard). I like all of those characters a lot, but I'll need to rewatch the movie to see if I'm satisfied with the arc it gives them. On first watch, I spent so much time focused on the superpowered characters that I was disappointed when the story swerved away from them at the end.

38. Murder Mystery

Modern Adam Sandler isn't as funny as Classic Adam Sandler was, but the bigger problem with Murder Mystery is that his character is a super unlikable guy who barely improves by the end of the film. But slightly improve he does and the rest of the cast rescues the movie for me, starting with the always likable Jennifer Aniston and including Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, John Kani, Adeel Akhtar, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Shioli Kutsuna (who's not in it nearly enough), and Terence Stamp. They're all very funny and/or charming.

37. Terminator: Dark Fate

The plot is ridiculous (like super ridiculous the more I think about it), but I enjoyed Dark Fate. I enjoy all the Terminator movies on some level, but they stopped being important to me pretty much after the first one.

The cast is great - both returning and new members - and the set pieces are all good. It just makes no sense that after the future is saved in T2, a whole other company somehow manages to create a whole new batch of killer robots with the exact same design that the now non-existent first company made and comes up with exactly the same scheme to go into the past to destroy humanity's resistance before it begins.

All praise to Dark Fate for bringing back Linda Hamilton, but I actually like the Genisys plot better.

36. Hellboy

It's way more graphically gory than I need, but I liked it a lot. David Harbour is a great Hellboy and I love the way the story leaves room for mini, side-adventures reminiscent of Mignola's short stories, without ever losing sight of the larger, epic-style tale. It's a near-perfect integration of both types of Hellboy stories.

The Blood Queen isn't an awesome villain, but she's fine. And she doesn't have to carry the whole story thanks to other villains like Baba Yaga, Gruagach, and some others I won't spoil. I'm sorry this didn't do well. I'd love to see another one.

35. Dragged Across Concrete

There's an early scene in Dragged Across Concrete where the dialogue is so on-the-nose and clearly about Mel Gibson's personal issues that I considered turning the movie off. But then I remembered that the attraction of the film for me was actually writer/director S Craig Zahler, whose Bone Tomahawk I love in spite of sections that are hard to sit through. I may not have appreciated his choices in that early scene, but Zahler has proven to me that he knows how to write dialogue. I kept watching and I'm glad I stuck it out.

Like Bone Tomahawk, Dragged Across Concrete is a rough movie. It's gruesomely violent and doesn't reward getting attached to too many characters. But the characters are so good that it's tough not to. Most of them are a fascinating mixture of heroic and selfish traits, and even the most vile are deeply, terrifyingly fascinating.

34. Let It Snow

I'm a sucker for teen movies, Christmas movies, small town settings, Ned from the Spider-Man movies, Netflix' Sabrina the Teenage Witch, teen Dora the Explorer, and Joan Cusack. Let It Snow checks all those boxes while also being really sweet, romantic, and sometimes laugh out loud funny.

33. Cold Pursuit

I went from hoping this would be a full-on comedy to fearing it would be Taken 18. It finds a pleasing middle ground between those though as a darkly comedic crime movie. It spends as much time on the criminals as on Neeson's revenge-seeking father and it's funny.

32. Men in Black: International

I was so prepared not to like it after the reviews, but when one of them said that it fails because it doesn't "capture the magic of the original," hope grew. I don't really see any magic in the original. I see a cool concept and snappy dialogue completely overwhelmed by goofy aliens and body-fluid humor.

My hope for MiB:I was that it would build on the world of the previous three and keep the snappy dialogue, but tell a more or less real adventure spy story in that setting. And that's what it does. It's not as emotionally affecting as MiB3, but it does have heart and is easily my next favorite in the series (give or take a beard-alien).

31. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

A super fun placeholder until we get another Fast/Furious movie. Loved the set pieces; love Vanessa Kirby. One drawback though is that while I'm glad that the series at least acknowledges that Shaw has something to atone for, I'm getting impatient about waiting for him to do it. #JusticeForHan

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