MOVIE TOWN — It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is halfway over.
As we look forward to the rest of the summer and into fall let’s take time to look back at the first half of 2019 and pick out some of the best movies of the year — so far, that is.
This has been a year dominated by superheroes, Disney and Disney superheroes. I went through the list of movies that have already been released this year again and again and I kept coming back to these.
There are a few films I have yet to see that I suppose could end up on this list, such as “Yesterday” and “Fast Color.” But based off of what I have seen, this is where I landed, with a few honorable mentions peppered in.
The blockbuster: “Avengers: Endgame”
This one was tough for me because I really enjoyed “Shazam!” and I personally think “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was actually a better movie than “Avengers: Endgame,” but ultimately I had to go with “Endgame.” This movie is a moment in cinematic history and has had a cultural impact few films will ever achieve.
This wrapped up 10 years of storylines and dozens of films into one exciting, funny, clever and emotional film. It’s really quite stunning what “Endgame” achieved, and it deserves a place on this list.
For the family: "Toy Story 4”
Pixar is a juggernaut when it comes to family fare. And even though “Toy Story” has been around for more than two decades, they’re still keeping it fresh and interesting.
I think “Toy Story 4” wins the family category for 2019, and it’s not really that close. “Secret Life of Pets 2” was fine, but nothing special. “Missing Link” is actually a lot of fun, but little kids may find themselves getting bored.
“Toy Story 4” managed to make me laugh harder than I should have, and it got me on the verge of tears, despite my best efforts. My kids have seen it twice and keep asking me when they get to go again and I’m not even dreading it.
The guilty pleasure: “Always Be My Maybe”
There are times you reluctantly watch a film and really enjoy it despite not wanting to and then feel a little embarrassed to let everyone know how much you liked it.
The latest entry on my personal keep-it-quiet list is the Netflix film “Always Be My Maybe.”
Randall Park and Ali Wong co-wrote this romantic comedy about childhood friends who meet up years later in very different stages of life but realize they still need one another. The movie is funny and poignant; and despite being fairly predictable, it still manages to feel original.
Wong and Park have great chemistry and both can be wickedly funny. Even if you have no interest in watching this movie, and maybe don’t like the lead actors, please don’t let that stop you from seeing one of the greatest cameos of all time in the form of Keanu Reeves playing ... Keanu Reeves.
The one no one’s seen: “Arctic”
There are always a few films each year that are criminally underrated. For me that movie for 2019, so far, is “Arctic.” This movie sucks you in and refuses to let you go.
I think “Arctic” will be a tough sell for many, but this survivalist tale is worth your time. The film stars Mads Mikkelsen as a man who has survived a plane crash in the arctic and has been living out in the cold on his own. A helicopter then arrives and his hopes are raised until the aircraft crashes and leaves a wounded survivor for him to care for.
The film is low on dialogue (I mean, really low), but that’s part of the magic of this film. Mikkelsen captivates you through his body language, facial expressions and movements and it’s really incredible to see.
You will be cold watching this film and will be keenly aware of every sound you hear. “Arctic” is an experience more than a film.
The indie: “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”
Indie films can be great or terrible. It’s often a real gamble, but I feel like the gamble paid off with the Sundance selection and Netflix film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.”
It’s very possible you’ve heard of this film but have maybe been reluctant to watch considering its subject matter, and that’s fair. The film stars Zac Efron as the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. It chronicles Bundy’s life throughout his court trials for the murders of several women.
Hearing about a movie retelling Ted Bundy’s life sounds like a violent, graphic and gruesome film, and the title of the movie doesn’t help; but you’ll be surprised to know the film does not focus on the crimes themselves, but rather how manipulative Bundy was during his trial and also the relationship he had with a woman and the toll it took on her.
This isn’t to say the film isn’t disturbing and jarring at times, but rather it’s a character study on a sick man and the woman he tricked for years and the effects that had on her.
Efron is strong as Bundy and Lily Collins is at her best in the film, as well. This is not a film for everyone, but if the material and the story interest you it’s worth a look.
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is rated R for disturbing/violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language. See more details about the content in the film here.