2019 is out, and with it the 2010s as a decade. Quickly skipping over the existential crisis that the entire concept of time has started giving me and the fact that 2020 does not in any way sound like a real year that exists, let’s talk about movies!
I was admittedly a little lax in staying up to date with the new releases in 2019, being either late to see them (as usual) or not having seen them yet at all. I did, however, finally get around to several other slightly older releases this year that I’d been wanting to see for some time, and most impressively for me, I actually stuck to a resolution I made last New Year’s and gave horror films more of my attention — for better or worse. So I’d like to do a run-down of my viewing experiences of 2019, and talk about what I’m looking forward to from the movies this year. So let’s dive in!
I watched this film at home on DirecTV Cinema. I have to admit, not being a Marvel aficionado, the first 15-20 minutes of this film were vaguely confusing to me to the point of being a bit infuriating. But once the action kicked in, I began to really enjoy it. The interactions between Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson were cute and entertaining, and “I have nothing to prove to you” is absolutely a message to carry into 2020. Solid fun.
I saw this one in the theater. Overall, really liked it. It had the feel of a long episode of The Twilight Zone. What drives this entire film is the performance(s) by Lupita Nyong’o. She did a fantastic job playing a mom determined to protect her family and a terrifying subterranean doppelganger. Shahadi Wright Joseph, who played Lupita’s daughter, also deserves a special shout-out for balancing two distinct characters so well. This movie is fairly open-ended in the questions it raises about people, individually and collectively — the different sides and parts each of us has within ourselves, as well as the different ways we are all treated based on where we come from and where we fall in any given hierarchy. A good sophomore effort from Peele, for sure.
Another home viewing, and I watched this one with my baby boomer parents. It’s a romantic comedy about a down-and-out musician who’s ready to give up on his music. One night after a gig, he gets hit by a car and wakes up to find that he’s the only one who remembers who the Beatles are. Some frantic Googling tells him that the Beatles aren’t and never were. The musical/alternate timeline framing device elevates an otherwise run-of-the-mill rom-com, and Himesh Patel is extremely likeable as the emotionally torn protagonist. Robert Carlyle also does a nice turn as an old, healthy, and happy John Lennon, and it was pretty moving to watch how effective that particular scene was to my parents who grew up with this band.
This movie surprised me (and others, it seems) with how well it performed in the theater. I don’t know if it was franchise fatigue or loyalists of the television series (check and check for Yours Truly) that drove audiences to this film, but it was crowded when I went to see it. Overall, a good time. It’s not great, and it relies pretty heavily on its built-in audience, but it provides a nice bookend to the show (with a sequel already in talks, I hear). Good fun for fans.
Ready or Not
A New Year’s Eve watch! Just under the 2019 wire. I really enjoyed this movie. I gave horror more of a chance this year and found that it still is not my favorite, so turning the horror into macabre humor brought me to this film when I almost certainly wouldn’t have watched it otherwise. The movie belongs pretty entirely to Samara Weaving, the ultimate Final Girl. She is at all times hilarious and compelling. You are absolutely and unequivocally pulling for her to dust every single other character. But everybody in this cast clearly had fun being some mixture of horrifying and horrified. It’s also only an hour and a half in length, which was a welcome surprise in an era of 2.5+ hour epics that tend to underwhelm. The plot is set up and set in motion, and it’s gory, insane fun. Definitely recommend to the non-squeamish. “Fucking rich people,” indeed.
And last and definitely least, the last film I watched in 2019.
It Chapter Two
I really, REALLY hated this movie.
How does it span 30 years and last three hours and still manage not to give a single one of its characters any growth or depth or even some more mature fucking dialogue? How was I bored and irritated and embarrassed all at the same time for every single minute? Why wasn’t camera tilting to create An Effect™ left in the goddamn ’70s?
The dialogue. The dialogue. Every time another tired joke or over-emphasized swear word was delivered, I pictured the writers giggling excitedly to themselves. You like “your mama” jokes and fat jokes and saying the word “fuck.” We get it.
Every single moment with any kind of potential is instantly ruined either by some piss-poor, horribly timed attempt at humor, or by stretching the horror to the point of parody. Every single one! There is not one moment of built-up tension or emotional impact that isn’t immediately dismantled.
It was never good at any point in its ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE MINUTE run-time, but once I reached the moment where the leper barfed on Eddie and “Angel of the Morning” kicked in for literally no discernible reason, I knew I could stop searching for anything of narrative value in this film. It was over. And it was almost a relief to be told so bluntly that there was no need for any more effort on my part.
This was bad. This was really, truly, insultingly bad. I don’t remember the last time I disliked a movie so much. Absolutely delighted to leave this one in the old year. Keep it.
Older Releases I (Finally) Watched in 2019
I liked this. It’s an interesting, well-acted, women-led film. A creative take on the theory of how life may have come to Earth via asteroids and what that would look like if it happened to our modern planet. There’s some very beautiful cinematography and animation in throughout, and strong performances from everybody. Sufficiently unnerving for a sci-fi/horror.
A Simple Favor (2018)
Really, really enjoyed this movie. It is so intentionally over-the-top in every way. It’s got the feel of a dark comedy take on Gone Girl, with a few additional twists and turns. Lively and Kendrick balance each other out perfectly, and Lively in particular is a joy to watch. She’s a trainwreck and kind of terrifying, but still a joy to watch. And look at.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Talk about late. To my great shame, I’d never watched this all the way through before last year, and I really loved it! The story is told entirely from the female protagonist’s perspective, and it’s largely about a woman not being listened to or believed — that’s literally the basis of the horror. The fact that she is being lied to and dismissed in equal measure is as important as the supernatural forces in the film. I immediately understood the staying power and influence of this movie. This one was a huge hit with me. A++.
This was the not-amazing-but-perfectly-decent first part of the IT adaptation franchise. This was the only reason I decided to watch the second part. There are good performances from the young actors, and it’s respectably faithful to the novel (the only big difference being that they’ve set the characters’ childhoods in the 1980s rather than the late 1950s). Well, RIP, first part. You deserved a better follow-up, and I definitely did.
The Witch (2015)
This was such a quietly compelling movie! Very much in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby with regard to a female protagonist being ignored and doubted, but with a focus on how the mythology of witches works against this protagonist. The horror builds quite slowly, and it’s very effective. The movie offers really interesting, subtle commentary beneath the plot about what a “witch” typically represents in people’s minds and how a person (a woman) “becomes” one. (Also, if you are a big weenie like me, be aware that animals die in this film.)
Toni Collette. She’s the best thing about this film and the reason to watch this film. The reliance on emotional horror as much as supernatural horror was very effective in this movie, and Collette was absolutely electric here. I don’t know how I feel about the ending, and I think I would have found the movie as a whole more compelling with a better (by which I mean more triumphant) ending for Annie, in particular. I was very much hoping this would be a movie about a family confronting the horror they’d endured and beating it, breaking the cycles that got them there. But I’m a sucker for a heroine coming out on top and I’m well aware that happy(ish) endings are by no means built into horror as a genre, so I’m not surprised it took a different direction. Regardless, there are great performances all around here, and there are some truly horrific images and developments in this film, so go in warned.
The Handmaiden (2016)
I have yet to recover from this movie. At any given moment, whatever you think is happening, you are wrong. There’s beautiful cinematography and amazing performances. I will say this is NOT one to watch with family. Not parents. Definitely not kids. Absolutely not grandparents under any circumstances. Friends at the most. But absolutely, absolutely watch this movie.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
This movie has been having something of a renaissance on social media, and because I didn’t see it when it first came out, I gave it a shot. And I really enjoyed it! It’s equal parts commentary and absurdity. It’s a horror-comedy that has a lot going on and a lot to say, and it’s gained some significance in recent years because of #MeToo. Jennifer’s Body is gross and funny and weird and thoroughly worth a watch.
Executive Suite (1954)
For some reason a movie about the dangers of unchecked corporate greed seemed relevant to me in the year 2019. Weird, huh? This is the definition of an all-star cast, and it’s definitely a movie with an agenda, but it’s well-acted and it’s a good film. And Fredric March is very convincing as a cockroach in a business suit.
So I tried to watch the remake of this and I really, really was not feeling it. But the original was campy fun. There are some legitimately creepy and tense moments, and I think I would have found it creepier than I did if not for the soundtrack. The filmmakers were clearly very proud of the almost non-stop and very loud score (and it actually is good!), but after a while I found it nothing but distracting. Otherwise, the movie is a pretty solid 1970s horror fest.
Okay! That’s about it for 2019. Let’s move on to the films coming out this brand new year that I’m excited about.
2020 Upcoming Releases
This list is malleable and certain to change, but these movies are chief among those that I’m definitely planning to see this year.
The Invisible Man (Feb. 28)
This looks legitimately creepy and very compelling. It seems to be a mixture of science fiction and horror, and also seems to follow in the footsteps of the Woman Who Isn’t Believed trope with metaphors for the way trauma and abuse can hide in plain sight. Looking forward to this one.
A Quiet Place II (Mar. 20)
Sequel-itis is definitely setting in, and I’m honestly not sure this film needed to be made. A Quiet Place was excellent, and the ending was powerful and open-ended. I’m always wary of disappointing sequels diminishing the originals. However! Krasinski & Co. really delivered on the first one, so I’m willing to go on some faith here. Looking forward to being afraid to crunch my popcorn again this March.
Mulan (Mar. 27)
As fed up as I am with Disney live action remakes, this trailer really did grab me. It’s such a powerful story, and making a genuine action/adventure film out of it (minus the musical numbers) offers a lot of potential. I’m hoping for the best with this one!
Antebellum (Apr. 24)
An alternate reality/glitch in the matrix type film where a modern-day black woman finds herself stuck in the antebellum era. This could be really good or really uncomfortably bad. But I love Janelle Monae, and a compelling, female-led story with a black woman at the center would be great, so I’m interested to see this.
The Personal History of David Copperfield (May 8)
This just looks genuinely fun. A somewhat modernized and ridiculous-ized telling of the Dickens novel with a great cast and a lot of humor. I can be a bit of stickler about book adaptations, but this trailer looks pretty great.
The Woman in the Window (May 15)
This looks like it’s going to be very tense but very good. There’s a lot of Hitchcock in the foundation of this movie from what the trailer shows, and Amy Adams always gives her most. I anticipate paying stupid money to get super stressed out!
Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5)
Everything from “Blue Monday” to the 80s neon lights has me completely psyched. And Pedro Pascal as the Reagan era corporate villain looks absolutely perfect and SUPER fun to hate. My body is ready, Diana.
Tenet (July 17)
Another one that looks like it will give my blood pressure a run for its money. Christopher Nolan’s new film seems to deal with espionage and the bending of time itself. I’m a fan of his work from the Memento days, so I’m pretty pumped for his next project. Just… be gentle with me, Christopher.
So that’s got us through the first half of the year, and I’m sure more releases will be announced. In the meantime, goodbye to 2019, hello to 2020. Let’s make it a good one. See you at the movies!