Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2019

Hello once again!

2019 was crazy. The end of another decade! Another year where everything in my personal and professional life. Now, as we awkwardly segue into a new decade, let’s take a look back at the year that was in film. If you enjoy reading my list, give a listen to St. Paul Filmcast, where Nick Palodichuk counted down the best of 2019, the best of the decade, and more!

Now for our obligatory stipulations and notes:

-I did not see every film that was released in 2019. That would be an impossibility, but I did see quite a few. Of course, as always, life happens and some films were missed. So if you don’t see something on this list, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong. It just means I may have missed something it…or it doesn’t belong.

-These are my personal selections of films from the year. These are not predictions for Best Picture at the Oscars or films that are undeniably the 10 best films of the year, hands down, full stop. Some films have different placements at the end of the year than they would have based on their initial scoring, and even though some of them had major flaws, enjoyment can go a long way.

 

Alright, no more fluff. Let’s just do this thing…

 

Honorable Mentions:

Alita: Battle Angel, Ready or Not, Knives Out, Shazam!, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

 

10. Us

I said in my initial review for Us that, while I think Get Out is an overall better film for Jordan Peele, Us is the one I find myself going back to more often. Peele takes a classic story of doppelgangers and turns it into a story of classes and the versions of ourselves that we hide away. Us is a great example that it’s not the story you tell but how you tell it that creates a truly great film. It’s the best horror film of 2019, a year where the gems were tougher to find. It’s genuinely one of the more enjoyable experiences of the year as well, mining everything from its premise.

 

9. Jojo Rabbit

Director Taika Waititi had a nearly impossible task of creating a film about Nazi Germany starring a Nazi child who has an imaginary friend who happens to be Adolf Hitler that pokes fun and also creates a worthy narrative. He succeeded in ways I never would have thought with Jojo Rabbit. It isn’t as funny as other Waititi films but it certainly has heart in all the right places. The film takes a story that starts celebrating hate and turns it into a story that celebrates love. It’s truly a cinematic achievement that proves Waititi can do just about anything.

 

8. Toy Story 4

I can’t believe how much I loved Toy Story 4. I’ve never been a giant Toy Story fan but I found myself being won over by Toy Story 3, and while I felt it was a great film with a serviceable ending to the series, I now realize how much better Toy Story 4 is at ending the story. What Toy Story 4 does better is that it understands that Andy’s never been the character we’ve been following. It’s always been Woody. The focus of this fourth installment is paying off the character beats that the first three films set up for Woody. It’s a heartfelt, emotional, and very funny new film in a franchise that has continued to impress audiences.

 

7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Can You Ever Forgive Me? surprised the hell out of me when it came out last year. Not only was it the best performance of Melissa McCarthy’s career, but it was also a great showcase for director Marielle Heller, who crafted a film that, on the outset, sounds kind of boring. When she decided to tackle a Mr. Rogers biopic, I was unsure, but the inspired choice to cast Tom Hanks as the legendary television personality worked incredibly well. Hanks elected to play the essence of Mr. Rogers and not do an impression, and that decision also paid off nicely. There’s one specific scene in the film that pushed it past mere biographical film and into a life-changing experience, and if you’ve seen it, I think you’ll know which one: the diner scene. I won’t get any further into it so you can enjoy it for yourself, but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, like the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, was a life-changing experience.

 

6. Rocketman

Rocketman was the first film this year that I felt could have been my favorite of the year, and it outlasted quite a few as the year went on. This Elton John biopic is really more a musical based on John’s work than a 100% true-to-life biopic. Again, it gets more of the essence of Elton than a certifiable account, and for that, it’s all the more magical. Dexter Fletcher showcases his unique voice once again with his second collaboration with Taron Egerton, who may miss out on the awards love this year, but he’s on the path to being a true superstar performer. If the film has any one problem, it’s that its framing device, a very Dewey Cox-inspired look back at his whole life, is a bit simple, but it works. Check out Rocketman. Absolutely.

 

5. Parasite

Just like a parasite itself, this movie stayed with me, feeding off me. I simply cannot stop thinking about it. Bong Joon Ho creates a strange amalgam of comedy, horror, suspense, and drama in this unique and singular experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Parasite is better when you don’t know as much, so I’ll leave the details out of it, but this movie, like Us, is a film about many things, most notably and powerfully class, the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-notes, and its title is evocative of so many element in the film. Parasite deserves to be on everyone’s Top Ten of the year.

 

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4. Avengers: Endgame

I mean, c’mon! Avengers: Endgame is absolutely incredible. Sure, you can make the argument that it only works as well as it does because of the previous twenty-some films that came before, but it’s an accomplishment that Kevin Feige and the Russo brothers stuck the landing. It’s a big-budget television series and this is the series finale that works especially well. The snappy and quick editing help to gloss over some of the sillier and nonsensical things in the films, and it’s just damn fun. That means a lot. It’s a three-hour movie that rushes by, and even though it’s the twenty-second film, it never feels like a slog or a rehash. A pitch-perfect ending that makes me only more curious for what’s next.

 

3. 1917

I was blessed to see 1917 in 2019 (the film doesn’t open wide until later this month), and it’s a powerhouse World War I film, and one of the best war films ever made. Director Sam Mendes clearly learned a lot from his time with the James Bond franchise, and working with Director of Photography Roger Deakins, he was able to plan out a war epic that’s made to look like a single shot. The amount of work that goes into a movie like 1917 is staggering. I couldn’t make a movie like this. There are few who can. It’s a surprisingly-touching film about wartime brothers and the cost of something as simple as delivering a message. 1917 is an epic experience.

 

2. The Farewell

The Farewell is quite different from 1917 in terms of its overall style, choosing to go small instead of big, but that doesn’t change its overall impact. Lulu Wang takes an interesting story and populates it with layered and warm characters who deal with a problem that there really is no right solution to. The film follows Awkwafina’s Billi as she learns that her grandmother is dying and her family has chosen not to tell her, instead fabricating a family wedding in order to see her one last time. It’s a film about culture clash and ethical questions that is surprisingly funny at the same time, and the ending absolutely broke me. Seriously, Kleenex should have invested in this film. The Farewell flew under some radars in 2019, but it shouldn’t fly under yours. Seek it out immediately.

 

1. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Here we are. My favorite film of the year. I cannot deny how many times I have watched Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. It keeps drawing me back in, and each time I see it, I discover something else I like about it. Quentin Tarantino has crafted the ultimate hangout film that feels like it was pulled right out of the 60s, and some of my earlier criticisms have softened each time I’ve watched it. I get why some out there won’t like this movie. My wife wasn’t big on it, but for me, this movie is built on a central relationship between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, a relationship stronger than just about any other in 2019. It’s an awesomely fun time at the movies, and it’s my favorite film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I’m looking forward to the #2020oscardeathrace to begin, and the list may change a bit once that happens. No one sees everything. So what is your Top Ten Films of 2019? I’d love to hear it. Thanks again for a great 2019 and we will see you in 2020 (which is, of course, right now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Us (2019)

Director: Jordan Peele

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elizabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker

Screenplay: Jordan Peele

116 mins. Rated R for violence/terror, and language.

 

I’m glad I took some time to decompress after Us. There’s a lot to unpack here.

Us, from writer/director Jordan Peele (Get Out), is the story of the Wilson family who, while on their family vacation to Santa Cruz, are beset upon by a family of four red-clad attackers who look exactly like them. The matriarch of the Wilson family, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) learns from her doppelganger Red that the doubles are here to “untether” themselves from the Wilsons, and now Adelaide and husband Gabe (Winston Duke, Black Panther) must protect their family and friends from the growing number of murderous doppelgangers bent on killing them.

It would appear that Jordan Peele is not a one-hit wonder when it comes to his horror films. The man has a keen visual sense and the ability to tell an intelligent story. He, like Quentin Tarantino before him, was baptized and raised by film, and it shows in both Get Out and especially Us. He uses symbols and themes so intricately that Us becomes infinitely more enjoyable upon a second or even a third viewing.

If there are problems with Us, it mostly boils down to two factors in the story. First, there’s a lot of cool mythology building in the film, but the story does have moments where it becomes clear what is happening even if the mythology is not revealed yet. Doppelganger stories sometimes have certain tropes that need to be ticked off, and Us is not exempt from all of them. Secondly, with the mythology and world-building, there are some things that feel like they either aren’t fleshed out enough or don’t make as much sense the more you read into them. There are explanations, but some don’t appear in the film, and if you try to peel away the layers, you might ruin the experience, so just watch it without trying to understand it all, the film will do the heavy lifting for you.

Lupita Nyong’o proves her abilities here are just as strong as any other genre. The way she plays both Adelaide and Red are so unique and different. Adelaide is a woman who has grown up being terrified of an experience she had in Santa Cruz as a child, and so she almost isn’t surprised when these doppelgangers show up to start wreaking havoc upon them. It’s like she’s prepared for something, anything, horrible to happen, and it appears to be a blessing that she did. Red, though, hasn’t used her voice in so long that it appears that she is struggling to use correct speech patterns, her vocal cords straining due to not being flexed in a long time.

Winston Duke is also tremendous as both Gabe and the doppelganger Abraham. Gabe is seemingly nonviolent outside of his wit and the way he acts. On the flipside, it seems like Abraham only knows violence and anger, and it’s interesting to see the way Gabe tries to work around a solution.

Also like Tarantino, Peele has a terrific sense of music, and he uses it to great effect here, giving the film both catchy tunes to exude the fun of the horror, while also staging his serious sequences with more disturbing and unsettling music. His use of I Got 5 On It (he added it to the finished film after it performed with audiences in the trailer) is absolutely incredible.

Us is quite the powerhouse second feature for Jordan Peele, and while I think Get Out might be the better film, Us is my personal preference and the one I will probably go back to more often. Us is Peele swinging for the fences, and he takes a lot of risks that pay off quite well. It’s just a damn fun time at the movies and is one of the best horror films of the year.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, click here.

Candyman Reboot Inspired by Toxic Fandom

Jordan Peele is an incredibly exciting filmmaker and storyteller who has hit the ground running with horror films Get Out and Us, and up next, he seems to have his heart set on producing the reboot to Candyman, a fantastic horror character made famous by Tony Todd in the 90s. With his production company Monkeypaw, Peels has also bring forth series like the new incarnation of The Twilight Zone and the coming-soon Lovecraft Country. Monkeypaw’s Creative Director Ian Cooper recently spoke of the concept for the new Candyman being centered on toxic fandom.

If you haven’t heard the term, it’s one that has been a hot topic of conversation among the film community as of late, with trolls attacking films like The Last Jedi or shows like Game of Thrones for not giving the audience exactly what they want.

Cooper was quoted as saying:

“I think what we’re trying to do with ‘Candyman’ is both be mischievous in how we address the relationship to the first film but also be very satisfying.”

This quote came from an interesting discussion on fandom and the problem of toxicity, so it will be interesting to see exactly where the new Candyman goes.

What’s great about this property is that it is perfect for the reboot treatment. While the characters and franchise are regarded quite well among horror fans, the term classic hasn’t been really applied to them. It feels like a franchise you wouldn’t have to be afraid to play around with and try something new, and it seems from both Peele’s previous comments and Cooper’s new ones that there is a complex take on where to go with this new installment, one that has been cloaked in mystery and some confusion. I’m ecstatic to see that Peele and Cooper seem to know exactly what they want to do with this property.

So what do you think? Have you experienced toxic fandom? Are you excited to see this new take on the Candyman franchise and mythos? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

Candyman returns on June 12, 2020.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Yesterday (2019)

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran

Screenplay: Richard Curtis

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language.

 

Yesterday is kind of a strange movie. Ever since I first heard bits and pieces about its story and style, I found myself to be a bit confused. I wasn’t really sure what a film like this could say about anything, and I didn’t really see where a character-driven journey could go that actually made the film’s existence worth it. Really, the only pure driving force that kept me interested was Danny Boyle (127 Hours, T2 Trainspotting) as director. As my screening grew closer, though, I found my curiosity building and my excitement rising, though I couldn’t really tell you why. Upon seeing the film, I still think it’s rather strange, but I cannot fault it for finding a very human and moving story through the eyes of a struggling artist, and it’s a film definitely worth trying.

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, The Fox, TV’s EastEnders) is a struggling musician trying to find an audience. He knows there’s something special in his music. His manager and close friend, Ellie (Lily James, Cinderella, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), knows it too, but for some reason, he just cannot find the fame he’s been looking for. He’s decided to give up on his dream, but that night, a major power outage occurs across the entire Earth and he is accidentally hit by a bus that doesn’t see him in the dark streets. When Jack wakes up, he discovers that he is in an alternate history where The Beatles never existed. He remembers them perfectly, but no one else does. Now, everyone has fallen in love with Jack’s songs, but they aren’t really his, and he finds that the fame he’s been seeking doesn’t mean much if you aren’t happy with yourself. Jack is in a situation where he must decide if a career of fortunes surrounding a lie is worth losing the woman he loves in the process.

The central relationship between Himesh Patel’s Jack and Lily James’s Ellie is so great and pure. She’s been his biggest supporter for fifteen years, loving him from afar and showing it with her belief and dedication and he fails to see what she needs from him. Sometimes, those relationships between friends really strain because both parties aren’t getting what they need from each other, and Ellie has ended up in a friend/manager column of his life instead of a love column. Now, I fail to see how any person wouldn’t fall in love with Lily James instantly, but for the purposes of this review, I will say that Jack’s eyes are set on the eventual fame and career he wants, and it makes for a moving struggle between two people who obviously love each other but just cannot get their paths to come together in the right way to make it work.

Now, there’s some logic issues to the film that I was hoping wouldn’t keep coming to mind, but Jack wakes up in a version of the world where The Beatles never existed as a band. As the story progresses, we see that their non-existence has an effect on more than just their music’s absence, so the question arises as to how Ed Sheeran (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Pop Star) became a musician if his primary influence never existed. Would he have pursued music? The Beatles aren’t the only band that doesn’t exist. Oasis never became a band and sang Wonderwall. There are writers that didn’t exist. There are products that were never invented. It never really explains what the central break in these timelines is or how it affected certain things but not others. Would Coldplay have existed? The film reminded me of Us or Avengers: Endgame where, if you let the logic gaps or questions bother you then you’ll miss out on the journey itself, so it’s best not to think about it. But the question did come up for me.

In that same vein, there are questions raised about the nature of a song like Back in the USSR, which Jack claims to have written the day of a concert in Russia. Ed Sheeran points out that it hasn’t been called the USSR since before Jack was born, and it’s a funny scene because it does point out the potential for problems in making music at a different time than was intended, or if you didn’t live the life of the person who wrote it. It comes up again with Hey Jude later on. I really liked when Jack’s narrative was tested; I just wanted more of it. For example, later in the film, Jack sings I Saw Her Standing There, which starts with the lyric “She was just seventeen…” and when I heard him sing it, I thought to myself that a song like that probably wouldn’t exist in this timeframe without some controversy. It’s something I wish Boyle and screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually, About Time) would have delved into more.

Then there’s Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, TV’s Saturday Night Live), who in the film essentially plays Kate McKinnon. She’s a very capable actress but sometimes she is used to excess, and the film struggles to find a use for her near the end, causing her to turn into a quite an annoyance by the end. I get what she’s trying to do, but the narrative doesn’t need it.

If the central relationship and moral quandary of the film didn’t work, Yesterday would be a bit of a mess. Thankfully, those two elements make for an extremely satisfying film, one that created conflict even among the people watching the film with me. It isn’t exactly going to leave you in a place you expect, but the film overall is surprisingly enjoyable and a good example of uniquely interesting ideas, even if they aren’t fully fleshed out. This is one I’ll be recommending for some time.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Jordan Peele’s Candyman Casts Aquaman Villain

According to Variety, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is in talks to star in the rebooted Candyman from Producer Jordan Peele. Nothing has been officially confirmed, but the Aquaman actor has experience with Peele from the upcoming Us, which hits theaters in March.

The film, a “spiritual sequel” to the original 1992 film, is set to release in 2020. The 1992 film starred Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, followed a graduate student who discovers the Candyman legend while writing a thesis.

Nothing in the report states explicitly if Abdul-Mateen will be taking over the role of the Candyman from Todd or perhaps be cast alongside him as a principal lead. Nia DaCosta is set to direct.

I only recently saw the original Candyman, but I really enjoyed the story and would like to see it more further explored in a present-day setting, and with Jordan Peele set to produce, that only excited me more coming off his recent Oscar nomination for producing BlacKkKlansman.

I know Abdul-Mateen from his turn as the villainous Manta in last year’s Aquaman, and I liked what he did with the character. Overall, if Peele liked him enough from Us to try to court him for Candyman, that only spells good signs for this one.

So what do you think? Does this casting make you more excited for Candyman to return? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Well, 2018 is done. What do we do now? Talk about 2019.

Just a couple of quick notes again this year:

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to as of right now, so there will be more blockbusters than indies because that’s just how it plays out. With that being said…

NOTE: I’M GOING TO TRY THE COUNTDOWN THIS YEAR RATHER THAN JUST A LIST.

 

10. Captain Marvel

-What excites me so much about Captain Marvel is its timing. This will be Marvel’s second true prequel in setting the film in the 1990s. I like the idea that this film could tie into Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love Brie Larson and I think her addition to this story is very exciting. This just feels like a great space adventure that we are less likely to get for some time now that the third Guardians film has kind of disappeared. This one is a blockbuster want for me.

 

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

-I’m happy that Guillermo del Toro has a Best Picture under his belt so he can do what he wants. One of the exciting projects from him in 2019 is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the popular horror story collections for youths. I grew up reading these stories and they gave me chills and have kept me awake at night. I chose this over Nickelodeon’s big-screen version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? because I think del Toro will push the horror whereas I worry that Nick will not take the horror seriously. We are seeing a small possibility of scary children films due to The House with a Clock in its Walls in 2018. This one excites me.

 

8. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

-This is the batshit crazy film of 2018. Until I saw the trailer, I was not looking forward to it. Why would you choose to make the first live-action Pokemon about Detective Pikachu instead of a traditional Pokemon story? Why would you select Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu? Why? Well, the trailer seemed like a lot of fun. I’m still not sure about the film as a whole, but I want to support a Pokemon film universe, and if that starts with Detective Pikachu, so be it.

 

7. Pet Sematary

-This new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel (it’s my wife’s favorite King novel) is getting me very excited. As much as I enjoy the original adaptation, I have to admit that it didn’t follow the masterful source material as much as it could. This new film features the incredible Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, and the first trailer got me going. I love the look of Church the cat, and I love the visual look of the film overall.

 

6. Glass

-Where the hell did Glass come from? How did this happen? When Split came out, nobody expected the [SPOILER ALERT] twist that Split was connected to Unbreakable. Nobody expected that this would further in a third film called Glass which would bring together Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, and Anya Taylor-Joy for a final confrontation. Glass is one of the most unexpected films of the last few years, and I’m overjoyed to see what it brings.

 

5. It: Chapter 2

It was a film that surprised everyone. I enjoyed the trailer even though the first images were lacking that bite. Director Andy Muschietti brought a much more emotional experience to the film than I expected, and while it doesn’t contain literal translations of some of King’s massive tome, it does translate the feeling and tone of the book quite nicely. Breaking It into 2 films is strange because a bulk of the film is set during the childhood, so I’m curious where it could go with that. The second half of the 1990 miniseries is where it loses me, so Muschietti has a lot on his plate for this follow-up.

 

4. Avengers: Endgame

-Okay, this had to be on here somewhere, right. It’s a testament to the great plate of films we have before us in 2019 that Avengers 4 is below three other films. Yes, we have to find out how this thing finishes. We knew a lot of where Avengers: Infinity War was going to travel, but I have no idea where we go from here. Yes, I feel like we will have a lot of the third film reversed, but I cannot deny the palpable excitement for this one.

 

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

-When Quentin Tarantino makes a film, I get excited. When he sets it in the 1960s, I get more excited. When he compares it to Pulp Fiction, I lose my freaking mind. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie star in this new film from the master which also features Al Pacino in his first collaboration with Tarantino. Not much is known still but I cannot wait.

 

2. Us

-In about 3 minutes, Us became one of my most-anticipated films of 2019. That trailer. That trailer! Oh! I was already looking forward to this follow-up from the director of Get Out, and then I saw that trailer. His usage of popular music in a horror setting with some oozingly creepy imagery is what made me most excited for this film, and it comes out on my birthday too. So much win.

 

1. Star Wars: Episode IX

-C’mon, you had to know this. It’s been called the culmination of the Skywalker saga, and it brings back J.J. Abrams who killed it with The Force Awakens. After The Last Jedi (my favorite of the new films), I simply cannot wait to see where this new film goes, and it just has so much riding on it. It has to be Star Wars. It’s my most anticipated film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. What are you most excited to see in 2019? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

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