2019 was a year to remember at the cinema. Comic book flicks, laugh-out-loud comedies and clever takes on whodunnits and horror populated the silver screen.
As 2019 fades into the rearview mirror, Rebecca and Joe look at the best and worst of the year in film.
The epic superhero teamup marked the satisfying culmination of 11 years of storytelling over 22 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As much heart as it is spectacle, the epic blockbuster is a love letter to fans, concluding the journey of Earth’s mightiest heroes whom we’ve come to know and love since 2008’s “Iron Man.” I laughed, I cheered and I cried. “Avengers: Endgame” affected me the way no other film has this year. Bravo to the MCU for achieving a cinematic feat unlike any before it, the endgame of its own ambitious experiment.
With its fantastic cast and clever plotting, Rian Johnson’s entertaining whodunnit “Knives Out” reinvigorates the murder mystery for modern audiences.
Featuring a raw performance by Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker” pushes the comic book genre forward by weaving a psychological drama about a mentally ill man who happens to be a comic book character.
As smart as it is flashy, “Hustlers” tells the female-empowered, real-life story about struggling strippers trying to make ends meet in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Tom Hooper’s trippy version of Broadway’s longest-running musical is creepy and uncomfortable. It’s like a train wreck: it’s so bad you can’t help but watch. The off-putting CGI transforms its big-name cast into nightmarish cat-human hybrids. The manic first half also includes people dressed as cockroaches and mice, as well as stars such as James Corden licking bones in alleyways. But once the film settles down, it becomes boring. Jennifer Hudson belts out an excellent rendition of “Memory,” but it’s not enough to restore one of the nine lives I lost to see this movie. “Cats” clawed away any chance it had at being a good film.
Despite a charming cast, the holiday rom com “Last Christmas” took a wacky turn that left moviegoers with a lump of coal.
“In the Tall Grass”
Based on a Stephen King short story, Netflix’s confusing horror flick “In the Tall Grass” made me question why I gave up an hour and 40 minutes of my life to watch a group of people aimlessly wander around shrubbery.
The politically inclined romantic comedy starring unlikely pair Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron is smart, sharp and funny, providing a fresh spin on the genre. Theron and Rogen have great chemistry and excellent comic timing as opposites attract. They become a couple to root for as political agendas and scandals test their relationship.
The adorable cartoon “Abominable” is a heart-warming and emotional tale about a teen girl and her Yeti.
“Happy Death Day 2 U”
Flying under the radar, “Happy Death Day 2 U,” the sequel to 2017’s surprise horror-comedy hit, reunited audiences with lovely star Jessica Roth and dared to take its story in a different direction.
The British actress had a breakout year with strong turns in three films. Pugh convincingly portrayed the identity struggle of WWE wrestler Paige in the engaging biopic “Fighting with My Family.” In a powerful performance, she played a grieving young woman in a toxic relationship in Ari Aster’s mesmerizing folk horror film “Midsommar.” Then she managed to upstage Saiorse Ronan in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” redeeming the often misunderstood character of Amy March. Look out for Pugh this summer when she joins the MCU in “Black Widow.”
Jennifer Lopez gives one of the best performances of her career as the savvy stripper who masterminds a scheme to steal from her Wall Street clients in “Hustlers.”
Ana de Armas
Ana de Armas’ loyal and kind caregiver is the emotional center of “Knives Out.”
In “It Chapter Two,” Bill Hader shines as the closeted Richie comes to terms with his homosexuality.
Tie – Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), “Avengers: Endgame”
Genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist Tony Stark’s journey of redemption began over a decade ago in “Iron Man.” Scrawny kid turned super soldier Steve Rogers’ journey of a man out of time started in World War II in 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The two characters – the main faces of the MCU – have evolved dramatically while working with and against each other, falling out hard in “Captain America: Civil War.” In the end, “Avengers: Endgame” had to reunite the feuding Iron Man and Cap in order to bring their stories to their tearful yet fulfilling conclusions. Maybe this whole time it’s actually been Tony and Steve who have been with each other until “the end of the line.”
Mollie Miles (Caitriona Balfe), “Ford v Ferrari”
Mollie Miles has a passion for cars and propensity for racing that matches her husband Ken (Christian Bale) in “Ford v Ferrari.” Mollie is more than the stereotypical wife character and is depicted as an equal partner in their marriage.
Goose, “Captain Marvel”
The cute yet fierce Goose the cat – er, flerken – stole my heart in “Captain Marvel.”
“The Lion King”
Expectations were high for the live-action remake of Disney’s animated masterpiece, and it looks spectacular. But the CGI-rendered version lacks the soul that made the 1994 film a classic. “The Lion King” is a line-by-line, frame-by-frame remake that doesn’t do anything new. In exchange for photorealistic animation, its iconic characters are unable to emote and the voice performances are flat, hampering what are supposed to be the film’s most powerful scenes. Instead of crowning a new successor, “The Lion King” offers up a soulless cash grab.
The groundbreaking X-Men franchise deserved a better conclusion than the underwhelming “Dark Phoenix.”
Based on the intriguing premise of a world without the Beatles, the musical fantasy “Yesterday” fails to fully explore the concept, pushing a forced romance on moviegoers before the story falls apart.
While it may not be the best movie in the franchise or the film with the most quality in 2019, “Avengers: Endgame” is the most satisfying film of the year and the perfect ending to the Avengers saga 11 years in the making. It is my favorite film of the year. The stakes were so high and with so many characters and movies to balance the Russo brothers stuck the landing perfectly for loyal fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Any other year, this might have taken the top spot. “Knives Out” is the perfect film for what it is trying to accomplish as its execution is flawless.
This satire will have you rolling on the floor laughing, but won’t hesitate to punch you in the gut when you least expect it. The humor really works and the acting is phenomenal.
This movie should have been called “Strolling on Sidewalks” because that is all the leads do in this bland nightmare. I think when I reviewed it, I called it the most deceptively bad film of the year and that still stands. It isn’t actively bad, but nothing happens. This is the biggest waste of talent of the year as incredible actresses Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss serve as one-note characters.
With the all pieces in place and the addition of the great Jessica Chastain, “Dark Phoenix” somehow became the worst film in the franchise since “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
Released early in the summer movie season against some major blockbusters, “Long Shot” got a little lost in the shuffle. It doesn’t help when one of those movies (“Avengers: Endgame”) became the highest grossing film of all time. Moviegoers should have seen both as “Long Shot” is the best romantic comedy I saw this year. Fueled by the chemistry between Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, “Long Shot” is a safe bet if you’re looking for something to watch at home.
“Ready or Not”
The horror comedy was a blast at the theater as Samara Weaving shined in a breakout leading performance.
Highly inappropriate but incredibly funny, “Good Boys” had me laughing throughout. Jacob Tremblay proved he also has comedic chops. At 13 years old, Tremblay will be working for a very long time.
“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”
For fans of “Breaking Bad,” this is a great continuation of the best series of all time.
She was already a huge star, but this is the best year of her career. She kicked off 2019 with her best and most layered performance as Black Widow in “Avengers: Endgame” since she started playing the character in 2010. Johansson followed that up with an award-worthy performance as a supporting actress in “Jojo Rabbit.” Not to be outdone by … herself, she was then nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in “Marriage Story.” There could be more nominations to come. Let’s not forget the trailer for 2020’s “Black Widow,” only the second MCU film with a female lead, was released in 2019, too.
I forgot J.Lo could act and I’d like to apologize to her right now. She makes “Hustlers” and deserves the awards attention she has received. Tack her return to “Saturday Night Live” and the announcement of her taking the stage with Shakira for the Super Bowl Halftime Show and there’s no doubt she is still Jenny from the block.
I hadn’t seen an Adam Sandler movie since 2012’s “That’s My Boy” and I hadn’t liked an Adam Sandler movie since 2011’s “Just Go with It.” Like J.Lo, Sandler reminded all of us he could act when he wants to in “Uncut Gems.”
Benoit Blanc as portrayed by Daniel Craig, “Knives Out”
Funny, smart and caring, Benoit Blanc is the person you’d want in your corner if all signs pointed to you in a crime you didn’t commit. I loved him mostly for his humor, fueled by Craig’s phenomenal comedic timing and ability to replace his 007 swagger with a southern drawl. People also underestimate him, but he does not care. He judges character before working the case, quickly understanding who he can trust. While he is not the heart of the film (That is Ana de Armas’ Marta), Blanc has the most memorable lines, serves as the glue that keeps the plot and characters together and elevates the film to one of the best of the year. Every time he was on screen, I was on the edge of my seat wondering what he was going to say or do next.
Mysterio as portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, “Spider-Man: Far from Home”
Gyllenhaal’s impressive range makes Mysterio one of the best MCU villains of all time.
Lance as portrayed by O’Shea Jackson Jr., “Long Shot”
We all need a best friend as loyal as O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s Lance is to Seth Rogen’s character in “Long Shot.” His unconditional love for him is a beautiful and hilarious thing to watch.
Halle Berry’s dogs in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”
I really enjoyed “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” but Halle Berry’s dogs are what take that film to the next level. They make a scene, which is one of my favorite action sequences of the year.
Maybe I was clouded by “The Beatles” music in the trailer, but “Yesterday” had a great concept and an Academy Award-winning director attached to it. I was extremely excited for this movie. However, it decided to not explore its concept at all, and became an excuse to put a bunch of songs by “The Beatles” in the movie. The film was very meh to begin with, but then it decided to horrify us with a choice it makes toward the end. What I thought would be a slam dunk turned into one of the worst films of the year.
I actually thought this movie was good, but with the star power and talent of Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, I expected one of the best films of the year.
This is another film I generally enjoyed, but its poor plot twist leaves you a bit empty inside.
The follow-up to 2017’s “Split” and 2000’s “Unbreakable” didn’t come close to sticking the landing to become the trilogy’s only blemish.
Rebecca Kivak and Joe Baress write about movies for Take 2 blog. Together, they review current flicks and offer their insights into the latest movie news. Rebecca is a copy editor and page designer at The Times-Tribune. She started her career with Times-Shamrock Newspapers in 2005 and has won several professional journalism awards for page design and headline writing. She also covers NASCAR races from Pocono Raceway. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5126; @TTRebeccaKivak