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No Matter How You Saw Them, These Movies from 2019 Were Worth Remembering

30 Dec

2019 top moviesWhen we look back at the year in movies 2019, chances are good we’re going to see it as a transitional year. Or, if you prefer, an inflection point.

It certainly was a big year, financially: When all is said and done, movie ticket sales in the United States and Canada will total roughly $11.45 billion for the year, according to Comscore. And yet, as significant a number as that is, it’s actually down 4 percent from last year — the largest drop in five years.

Where did that 4 percent go? Streaming, probably.

With Disney taking eight of the top 10 spots in the list of highest-grossing films of 2019 domestically, and 58 features earning the distinction of being “franchise films,” those looking for something different or original often had to look for it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime — or even CNN.

Indeed, when looking at the most memorable films of the year, they weren’t necessarily those with the highest box-office totals, the ones that monopolized theater screens for much of the year. They were films that, often, were just under the radar or could be easily enjoyed in the comfort of your own home, not a movie theater. Continue reading

Let the Memory of the Cats Movie Not Live Again

18 Dec

Cats movie posterFull disclosure: I’m not a fan of Cats the musical. I’ve seen a lot of Broadway shows over the years, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s feline songfest is one show I really didn’t like. I even enjoyed Starlight Express more. Yes, I like the roller-skating show more than I like Cats. If you know anything about Starlight Express, you know that’s really saying something.

But even with that in mind, I wasn’t prepared for just how much I didn’t like Cats the movie. We all knew going into it, based on the trailers, that this wasn’t going to be a good movie. But holy hell, is it bad. Jennifer Hudson is pretty much the only redeeming thing about it. Continue reading

Wrapping Up a Decade at the Movies with 20 Favorite Films

10 Dec

Favorite movies of the decadeJust in case you haven’t heard, we’re now at the end of another decade. Which means it’s time to take stock not just of the year that’s closing, but the nine previous years, too, and what the major highlights and trends were.

Any decade recap in my world has to include a top-movies list. It’s a bit of a herculean task, to be sure, given that, by my math, I saw an average of 71 movies every year of this decade. (My single-year high was 85, a total I reached twice.) If all goes according to plan, I’ll close out the 2010s having seen 715 films.

That’s right: Seven hundred and fifteen films. It’s crazy, I know.

So yes, that creates a bit of a challenge when it comes to narrowing down the list to just a few “favorites.” Continue reading

In Theaters or Streaming, These Netflix Movies Are Well Worth Seeing

25 Nov

Marriage Story and Two PopesI have long been a proponent of seeing movies in a movie theater.

In spite of the possible frustrations — people talking and/or using their cell phones, overpriced food and drink — the communal experience of watching a movie, with good projection on a big screen, and loud, sharp sound can’t be beat. It is far superior to watching something in the comfort of your own home, where there are more distractions and it’s generally a much less immersive experience.

All of that has made the last month or so a bit confusing for me, because some of the best movies I’ve seen — indeed, some of the best movies of the year — have come from Netflix, which, not surprisingly, is prioritizing not the in-theater experience, but the at-home streaming one. Each of Netflix’s big releases this year is receiving just a limited theatrical release (to qualify for awards, natch) before being more widely shared with the public on the streaming platform.

Why would a filmmaker choose to make a movie for a company that does this? Creative freedom is generally the answer. I mean, were he working for a more traditional studio, Martin Scorsese would probably never have been able to make a three-and-a-half-hour epic like The Irishman the way he wanted to make it. Likewise, Alfonso Cuarón was able to be indulgent in his own ways with Roma, one of my favorite movies of 2018 (and a multiple Oscar winner). So obviously, there’s a tradeoff.

Films are supposed to be seen in a theater, on a big screen. I’ll never believe otherwise. But Netflix isn’t making it easy to see their films that way. So, should you make an exception for two of the company’s newest releases — which, admittedly, I did see in a theater? (And should I be okay with it?) Yes. Here’s why. Continue reading

It’s Mister Rogers I Like. The Movie? Not As Much.

20 Nov

beautiful day in the neighborhood posterAt the recent screening when I saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I was unlucky enough to sit next to a couple of chatty millennials, who spent nearly the entire movie making comments to each other and being a bit of a distraction.

On the one hand, it kinda sucked; those two definitely affected my movie-going experience.

But on the other hand, I really couldn’t blame them.

After all, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood went off the air on August 31, 2001, just before my seatmates were probably old enough to watch and appreciate it. Mister Rogers himself passed away less than two years later, on February 27, 2003. So I chose to attribute these twentysomethings’ lack of engagement in what was going on on-screen to the fact that Mister Rogers hadn’t had the same effect on their lives that he had on mine — and on the lives of so many other people around my age and older, who grew up with him and his daily TV show. Because of this, I suspect my seat mates were just less invested in the movie than I was.

As a result, rather than be angry about the distraction, I found myself feeling sorry for these kids. Continue reading

Who Deserves a Spot in the Winner’s Circle: Charlie or Ferrari?

15 Nov Ford v Ferrari

It’s mid November, which means there’s now an overabundance of options at the movie theater (and streaming on Netflix).

Because time is tight and you likely don’t have as much of it as I do to see every movie, let’s take a look at two new releases. One of them is definitely worth seeing, but I’m going to start with the one that isn’t. Continue reading

I Heard You Like Good Movies

13 Nov

The Irishman - Robert De NiroLet’s get this out of the way: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is a long movie. Three and a half hours long. That’s longer than Avengers: Endgame. Watching it legitimately feels like binging four episodes of a Netflix limited series.

But is it any good? Hell yeah, it is. Continue reading

This Christmas, Give Your Heart to a Better Movie Than Last Christmas

11 Nov

Last Christmas movie reviewI don’t want to ruin Last Christmas for anyone who might see it and not figure out the film’s big twist within the first 10 or 15 minutes, so I won’t.

But I’ll give you this warning: Don’t listen to the George Michael song that inspired this movie, and refresh your memory of the lyrics, because they are a spoiler. A very literal and very big one. D’oh!

Indeed, if you can get through this supposed rom-com without figuring out how it all ends, then you may just enjoy the movie. Continue reading

The Most Bizarre Summer Festival Ever, and 7 Other Movies You Should See (or Not)

30 Jun

Thumbs up, Spider-ManIt’s summer, and if you’re like most people, you’re looking for a good movie to see in a cool, air-conditioned theater. Thankfully, I’ve seen a bunch in recent weeks and I want to tell you about them — starting with one that probably isn’t on your radar, but should be. Continue reading

The Best Movies of 2018 Scaled New Heights

13 Dec

We’re definitely living in a time of resistance (political and otherwise), so it feels like my favorite films of 2018 arrived at the perfect time. Indeed, this year, the best movies I saw pushed back in their own ways against the forces that have been trying to minimize, marginalize, silence, and reduce the impact of those who actually make us great. They are a collection that celebrates diversity, inclusion, truth, familial bonds, our obligations to the world around us, risk-taking, and great storytelling. They are films that will stay with us. And their influence will be felt long after the calendar turns the page to another year.

Which is not to say that every one of this year’s releases had the state-of-the-state on their minds. After all, 2018 was also the year of movies like Game Night, Uncle Drew, and, especially, Tag, three comedies that were better than they had any right to be. It was the year that Michael Myers (the silent killer), the Incredibles, and Mary Poppins all returned to the big screen after long absences, as if not a day (or subpar sequel) had gone by. Yes, of course, Mike Myers the actor was back, too, in Bohemian Rhapsody. There were plenty of superhero movies this year, and that includes not one but two movies about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In fact, speaking of RBG, documentaries about a variety of subjects were legit box-office hits. And one movie, A Quiet Place, even got people in theaters to stop talking and eating popcorn for two hours. A miracle!

Suffice it to say, 2018 was a memorable year for the movies. Of the nearly 85 films I saw (see below for a full list), these are the ones that had the biggest impact on me and left the most lasting impression. Continue reading

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