ST. LOUIS — With the summer ending and the fall movie season beginning, it's a good time to assess the year in film for 2019.
The sensible thing to do would be taking a glance every three months, like a quarterly report. But adulting, hockey, baseball, and more adulting got in the way, so here I am, taking a measure of the good, bad, and ugly in theaters this year.
I will include Netflix Original films, because those are winning Oscars these days, and later this year, a guy named Martin Scorsese is releasing arguably his biggest move in a decade on that streaming platform.
First, let's get into the best of the year, and I can tell you that two of the top three films are true surprises. If you presented a mock draft including these two films on my list back in January, I would have tested you for drugs or at least sugar content. Here we go.
Hotel Mumbai (March)
Equal parts emotional and thrilling, this true story retelling of a terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal is a riveting rush from start to finish. Dev Patel anchors the versatile cast, but it's Anupam Kier (Silver Linings Playbook shrink!) who may break your heart as a heroic chef. You may not know about this unfortunate incident, but you should watch this cinematic adaptation.
High Life (April)
Robert Pattinson's haunting performance anchored Claire Denis' misery in space thriller with a story that preferred to burn slow. A space mission gone terribly wrong is recapped through a series of flashbacks, with Monte (Pattinson) and his daughter clinging to life on an isolated ship. Juliette Binoche lays claim to the most bizarre scene of the year and gives an Oscar worthy performance a conflicted doctor with secret plans. Pattinson really grounds the tale, adding another bravura role to his arsenal. This film took a piece out of you, because Denis dared to paint a realistic picture about human behavior while stranded in outer space.
Avengers: Endgame (April)
The Russo Brothers hit this one out of the park. If Infinity War was a long home run into the parking lot, this finale included a vicious bat flip at the end. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans gave Oscar-worthy performances, and this nearly three-hour epic conclusion was a smooth breeze on the fourth viewing. Marvel doesn't dream big, they simply go big, and this was no exception. If you weren't crying in the end, I don't know what's wrong with you.
John Wick 3: Parabellum (May)
All Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski are doing is redefining how action movies are made. I'm talking about the best fight sequences that I have seen on film. They are better than The Matrix. More brutal and relentless. Reeves goes full throttle in the role, training for months and embodying every quirk, both self-deprecating and bluntly real, Wick has to offer. Halle Berry was a fine addition, and this third chapter showed the series hitting a high note instead of starting to lose tread on the wheel. It's an exhilarating watch.
Before I walked into this movie, The Beatles were a band that I had drifted away from over the years. Their music is timeless but didn't sit in an ivory tower for me. Danny Boyle's film changed that. Featuring a breakout performance by Himesh Patel and a lovely turn from Lily James, this inspiring drama about one struggling musician being the only person on Earth who remembers The Beatles was a treasure to behold. I left the theater humming the tunes and savoring the meanings behind them. You will too.
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood (July)
It took two viewings for Quentin Tarantino's epic ode to old time Hollywood to sink into my brain, but six hours later, I was ready for a third spin through town. It's a film where the casting, direction, writing, production design, sound, and overall feel just blend perfectly together to snatch the viewer up out of his/her world and into a fantasy. Easily his most personal film yet, Tarantino delivered a true cinematic experience. Brad Pitt's work as Cliff Booth left me begging for a spin-off, and Leonardo DiCaprio can't go wrong as Rick Dalton. This one requires patience but has a deliciously vulgar payoff.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (August)
Certain films do their job, show you a good time, and let you go. Others don't make a dent at all. This film, co-written and directed by Tyler Nilsson and Michael Schwartz, sunk its teeth into you, enlivening your spirit in the process. I'm not being melodramatic. Shia LaBeouf's best work yet and a wonderful introduction by Zack Gottsagen as two unlikely friends on a road trip down south in rural Georgia took me on a ride that I will never forget. Equal parts charming, smart, honest, and uplifting, I can easily tell you this film is a pure mood boost. A lived-in look and easy-going story that slowly takes you over.
What Women Want: Let me be quick here. Every concept in film doesn't need a male and female point of view. This film wasn't funny, wasted Taraji P. Henson, and made me mad that I could have stayed home on a cold night. Don't even give it a single thought.
Captive State: John Goodman couldn't save this Chicago apocalyptic thriller about a world where aliens won the war and ruled over humans. A fine concept got downright bad execution.
The Intruder: This film would have been salvageable in the 1980's, but in 2019, it was an unintentional comedy.
Aladdin: I'm not sure what got into Guy Ritchie, but he completely botched this remake. Will Smith dropped the phony accent two lines into the movie, and by the end, this felt like drunk karaoke at the neighborhood bar that wasn't serving you any alcohol.
The Kitchen: So bad. So serious. Melissa McCarthy takes a turn back into bad choice land, and Tiffany Haddish is direly miscast as a Harlem tough wife taking her own. I almost walked out of this movie. It was that bad.
Biggest Surprise of the Year: Triple Frontier, a highly entertaining flick about retired special forces operatives robbing a Mexican drug cartel.
Best Use of a Car Wash: Joe Lynch's Point Blank.
Best Movie that you won't find in theaters or on a streaming device: Deadwood: The Movie. Now that is how you wrap up a series a decade-plus later.
Most Unnecessary Sequel: Men in Black: International.
Film that you missed that deserves tracking down: Ben Bray's El Chicano.
Best Revenge Film: The Nightingale.
Best Performance in a hard-to-watch film: Matthias Schoenaerts in The Mustang.
That's all I have for now. Come back in January when the dust settles. I gave you enough homework for now.