Sunday, January 12, 2020

Movies: My top movies of 2019

As Shangrila Towers passes into the futuristic year 2020, I'm recapping my top picks from 2019. Note that these titles weren't necessarily released in the past year, but they're what I happened to enjoy in 2019 - you might like them too...

1917 - We've seen "long take" films before, but never on the scale of Sam Mendes's "1917," a nightmarish odyssey through the Great War. The premise is almost elemental: two British soldiers race through no man's land to stop a regiment from walking into a fatal trap. While the simple plot and thinly drawn characters sometimes make the movie feel like a series of quick time events and cutscenes in a WWI video game, Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins do a fantastic job of depicting the bucolic French countryside and the butchery of the trenches.  Rating: 8/10

The Irishman - Martin Scorsese has correctly called superhero flicks formulaic, but then again, so are most movies. Case in point: Scorsese's "The Irishman" feels like a greatest hits of every wiseguy gangster movie he and stars De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino have ever done. That's not a bad thing! If you liked "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas," you'll like this, though it lacks the former's subtlety and the latter's sprightliness. Turns out that even with digital de-aging technology, you can't disguise the wrinkles in someone's craft. Rating: 9/10

Rocketman - Taron Egerton was destined for bigger and better things after his star-making turn in "Kingsman," and he is being rightfully recognized for his work in this Elton John biopic. Unlike other recent similar films ("Bohemian Rhapsody," "Judy"), "Rocketman" unfolds as a straight-up musical, jettisoning realism in favor of big song-and-dance numbers set to Sir Elton's biggest hits.  The fantasy sequences help leaven what would otherwise be a by-the-numbers musician biography.  Rating: 8/10

Alita: Battle Angel - Blessed with an Oscar-worthy cast and crew (Christoph Waltz! Jennifer Connelly! Mahershala Ali! James Cameron!), this adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's classic cyborg manga was only met with mixed reviews and so-so box office. That's a shame, because it's a lot better than it had any right to be, and is easily one of Robert Rodriguez's best movies.  I doubt we'll ever get a big screen sequel, but an "Alita" follow-up would be a killer series for a streaming service.  Rating: 8/10


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