Movie Midterm - My Favorite Movies of the First Half of 2019
The first half of 2019 had some interesting films released, both theatrically and on streaming platforms. There was a 5 or 6 week stretch that I was at the movies every weekend - sometimes twice in the same weekend. Below are my favorite films from the first half of the year. There are 3 honorable mentions, and then my 10 favorite.
Quick Note: Due to my location and/or financial situation, I haven't been able to watch every movie released this year that I wanted to, so there will be gaps in this list. Some of the films were limited runs that don't play around here, and others I just simply couldn't afford to drive to or go see at the time.
Honorable Mention 1 - Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
I had floor level expectations going into this, however I am a fan of the Pokemon franchise as a whole and was excited for a live action take. Detective Pikachu is simple and predictable. But the world building is where the film really shines. It feels like Star Wars in that way. The first time you watch A New Hope, the world that George Lucas created felt lived in and real. You get that with this film as well. It feels like there is a real city filled with Pokemon out there somewhere. The charm of Ryan Reynolds plus the potential for what can be done with this world is what makes Detective Pikachu a bit of a slept on gem.
You can read my full review of Pokemon: Detective Pikachu right here.
Honorable Mention 2 - Always Be My Maybe
Netflix Original movies are very hit and miss, but they seem to have found a niche in the romantic comedy genre. They have had several good ones. The latest, Always Be My Maybe is an inherently Asian love story, but it still resonates with all sorts of people. The story feels organic, and both main characters have emotional journeys that make sense. The film also contains one of the best cameos of the year, from someone who stars in a movie that also made this list. The charming cast makes it easy to invest in the characters. If you have a Netflix account, and enjoy when this genre is done correctly, Always Be My Maybe is worth checking out.
Honorable Mention 3 - Late Night
Emma Thompson plays one of the most unrealistic characters in all of fiction - a long-running female late night talk show host! Late Night explores the "Boys Club" mentality. Written by and co-starring The Office's Mindy Kaling, the film plays with the Devil Wears Prada formula, while adding more depth and heart to it. The message of "be yourself" with the commentary of always feeling the pressure of being "on" for the camera comes off very well in this age of Instagram and vlogging. While this is fiction, it doesn't feel too far off from what would actually happen if a woman tried to enter an all male writer's room. Kaling is a talented writer, and it shows at almost every facet of Late Night.
There are some movies that stick with you after you watch them. Paddleton is one of them. While I always associate Ray Romano with comedy, his dramatic turn as a friend of a man who wants to commit suicide after a cancer diagnosis is award worthy. Mark Duplass wrote and incredibly poignant and powerful film. Whether directly or indirectly, cancer has affected everyone's lives. Duplass leans into that, and turned a standard road trip movie into something more. This is one of Netflix's better films, and worth watching if you want to feel something.
You can read my full review of Paddleton right here.
9. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
Some movies do the important task of informing as well as entertaining. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind is a true story that should be taught in schools. The story of William Kamkwamba bringing electricity to his village in Africa so they didn't starve to death is truly remarkable. Academy Award winner Chiwetel Ejiofor directed the powerful film. While the character of William might have discovered how to generate electricity, Ejiofor discovered William's actor Maxwell Simba. Simba is a wonderful actor, and will have a long career ahead of him if he wants it.
This is the most fun a DC movie has been in a long time. Director David F. Sandberg made sure that was felt throughout the entire movie. The disconnect between adult Billy and child Billy hurts the film, but Zachary Levi is a ton of fun in the role. Think Big starring Tom Hanks, except with superpowers. The movie isn't afraid to make fun of itself or the larger DC universe, but also has a lot of heart and is serious when it needs to be. It did a good job building the mythology and setting up the future for sequels.
You can read my full review of Shazam! right here.
7. Captain Marvel
The first solo female adventure of the MCU is formulaic, but fun. It takes things from a well established universe and puts a twist on them. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. But an effective twist and the anticipation for Avengers: Endgame make this a fun Marvel appetizer. The special effects, and the supporting cast that includes a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson and Goose the cat are some of Marvel's best. While a movie like Avengers: Endgame takes homework to fully appreciate, you can jump into Captain Marvel cold and it's perfectly enjoyable. The movie is hurt by being too beholden to the universe it belongs in, but still offers the fun that the Marvel formula is known for.
You can read my full review of Captain Marvel right here.
6. Rim Of The World
Movies like Rim Of The World are a rare breed now. This story hearkens back to 80s sci-fi adventure movies. It is Spielbergian in nature, but has a bit of John Hughes and Richard Donner thrown in there for good measure. Rim Of The World is entertaining, has a ton of heart, and provides a fun summer adventure that is just not seen today. Movies today are either super low budget, or super high budget. The middle budget summer teen movie is a dying breed, so it's very refreshing to see one that works. It's The Goonies meets Aliens and it justifies your higher Netflix subscription cost.
You can read my full review of Rim Of The World right here.
5. Toy Story 4
This movie would have been on the top of my list of "Sequels We Don't Need". But Toy Story 3 delivers what most people are looking for. It is heartfelt and emotional. It offers the remaining closure not found in Toy Story 4. The franchise has always told an existential story, but it doubles down on that premise here, and forces you to think about your place in life. This chapter is Woody's show, and so if arrived for others, the film doesn't do them justice. But it is fantastic closure on characters who have been with us for over 2 decades now.
You can read my full review of Toy Story 4 right here.
4. John Wick: Chapter 3
Pure action movies are easy to find. Pure action movies that also contain intriguing stories, world-building, and star-studded casts are more of a rare breed. The John Wick franchise is one of the best pure-action franchises around. The third chapter took the franchise and simplified it by the end. It did the work of mythology building, and stands as the foundation to build a smaller more intimate outing next time. Halle Berry is a stand out, and if they wanted to expand the world of John Wick, her character would be perfect spinoff potential. John Wick Chapter 3 should win awards for best sound mix, as it is unlike any other action movie you've heard before. Watch this on the biggest, loudest system you can find. It packs a punch and will leave you wanting more.
You can read my full review of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum right here.
3. I Am Mother
It has been a while since the sci-fi genre has had an intelligent, thought-provoking, and original script. I Am Mother offers all of those things, in one Netflix's best movie of the year so far. The entire movie you change what you believe. It is in our inherent nature to believe humans over robots, aliens, or any other foreign sentient being. I Am Mother plays with that notion up until the very end, and the payoff is extraordinary. The film is masterfully edited, incredibly acted, and looks great. There aren't a lot of negatives. For fans of the sci-fi genre, this is one to pay attention to.
Every now and then you realize you are watching something special as you watch it. This year, that movie is Booksmart. There are not enough sex-positive female comedies out there. There are even less that are done well. Booksmart is weird, charming, and hilarious from the very beginning. Written by women, directed by Olivia Wilde, and starring 2 female leads, the story is inherently female, but can speak to everyone. If I had to boil it down to basic terms, Booksmart is a female Superbad with more intelligent jokes. Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd does award winning work in a scene-stealing performance. Little movies like this are often forgotten nowadays, and they need to be supported before they go away completely. It is a gem of a movie, and maybe the best kept secret of 2019. It's a bit raunchy, but Booksmart spins an absolutely delightful tale of friendship, desire, and ambition. Do yourself a favor and seek this one out.
1. Avengers: Endgame
Look, this isn't fair. I know that. This is a list from my point of view. Being a bit more objective, this probably wouldn't be number 1. It only resonates that much when you've done *11 years* of homework that Marvel assigned. Since I did that homework, this takes the top spot. It pleases every geeky desire of your brain. It is fan service from top to bottom. But it is deserved fan service. It is Marvel's curtain call after a decade of consistent storytelling. This movie doesn't work if its the first thing out of the gate. Marvel earned this movie. At times, I still have trouble believing it actually exists. It is an incredible feat, and if you are up to date, it tells an incredibly satisfying, emotional, heartfelt, powerful, cheerful, agonizing, tense, large scale, intimate story. This is Marvel's thank you for sticking with them since Iron Man. I've only seen this 3 hour epic once, but can't wait to put it on a regular weekend rotation. I don't know if it will be in the top spot at the end of the year, but it will definitely still make the list.
You can read my full review of Avengers: Endgame right here.
2019 Films I have seen:
Other 2019 reviews:
- The Last Laugh
- The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
- Godzilla: King of Monsters
- Men In Black: International
If you have any questions or would like more information or a further recommendation, don't hesitate to contact me by Twitter, email (email@example.com), or by commenting below. Thank you!