"Avengers: Endgame" - "Us" - "Relaxer" and "Always Be My Maybe" top the best films of 2019 so far.
From the superhero event of a generation to a gamer staying glued to his couch in order to destroy a historic and longstanding Pac-Man world record before all the mass hysteria of the Y2K movement takes shape, 2019 has given way to some creative outlets for original filmmaking (Jordan Peele’s divisive “Us”) and terrific actors making a bit of a comeback: Keanu Reeves (who finds himself on this list twice!) playing a character of himself in the wonderful Netflix romantic comedy “Always Be My Maybe” and a lethal assassin in the deliriously entertaining “John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum.”
Without further ado, here are my selections for the best films of 2019 thus far.
1: Avengers: Endgame
How would The Russo Brothers bring an end to a 22 movie arch years in the making? The answer is brilliantly. I’m not usually one to give the big studio blockbusters residency as my number one pick of the year so far - perhaps it has more weight for myself because I’m a massive fan of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has accomplished, but “Endgame” proved my investment was no fluke, and the emotional payoff was the perfect conclusion to this saga of films. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
I technically saw this film in 2018 at a film festival here in Michigan, but Joel Potrykus’ insane and trippy “Relaxer” just got released in 2019 and now I can officially give it some much needed love and get the word out. One of the most original films in the last few years, Joshua Burge shines as Abbie, who is in every shot of the film as he tries to conquer an unbeatable level of Pac-Man. The year 2000 is approaching fast and he can’t leave his couch for nothing (not even to use the bathroom) - the results are a weird mix of gross-out gags combined with mind-numbing social commentary. The fact that I have to use both those sayings in a sentence speaks to the volumes of how weird, offbeat, and strange the whole ride is -- and I wouldn't want it any other way.
3: Hotel Mumbai
Talk about edge of your seat. “Hotel Mumbai” recounts the dreadful and horrific 2008 attacks on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, and it’s a film that still shakes me to my core.
4. Little Woods
Tessa Thompson and Lily James give career defining performances in the small indie drama “Little Woods.” Thompson shows real depth playing a parolee trying to save her childhood home from foreclosure. Directed by Nia DaCosta (who is heading to the Marvel cinematic universe) - “Little Woods” has the edge and flare of a stylish western, but at the same time manages to code itself in empathy and raw emotions. Not to be missed.
5: Fyre Fraud
How awful would it be if you spent $10,000 for a concert experience that never happened? Well that’s what the Hulu doc “Fyre Fraud” explores as it follows the doomed Fyre Festival - which was supposed to be the greatest party on earth, except when thousands arrived on the island to partake in festivities they discovered Fema tents, and grungy chicken sandwiches. A true insult to millennial culture, “Fyre Fraud” exposes those who took advantage of the system and the aftermath of one of the greatest cons of the 21st century. There was a competing doc: “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happend” on Netflix that works as a nice companion to this feature, but I give the edge to “Fyre Fraud” because it features an exclusive interview with the ill-fated founder of the Fyre fest: Billy McFarland.
Another stellar doc finds its way on list, as “Screwball” takes aim the the doping scandal that ended hundreds of careers in the MLB, including the legacy of former New York Yankees player Aaron Rodriguez (A-Rod for short). What makes this doc stand out from others in the genre is how the filmmakers decided to use children to help dramatize the events which took place.
Has any film been more divisive in 2019 than Jordan Peele’s “Us?” His intense and noteworthy follow up to his Oscar darling “Get Out” proved the horror director was no joke. Managing to tackle themes of race, abandonment, and the state of our country - “Us” had plenty to say and was daring enough to take some serious risks, but Peele trusts his audience and the more the film sits with you, the better it becomes.
Granted, Olivia Wilde’s stunning directorial debut “Booksmart” has been called “the female Superbad” which seems like a disservice to the raunchy comedy because I could argue it’s far sharper than its comparison. Featuring unforgettable performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, “Booksmart” gives its two lead characters something to chew on, and has a heart worth embracing.
9. Always By My Maybe
The best romantic comedy 2019 has seen thus far comes from Randall Park and Ali Wong as childhood sweethearts who reconnect later in life. Park and Wong both wrote the script for “Maybe” and it’s as sweet, endearing, and hilarious as it would have you believe and features a scene-stealing cameo from (*spoiler alert*) Keanu Reeves and I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
10. John Wick Chapter Three: Parabellum
Long live Keanu Reeves - that is all.
Best Films of 2019 (so far)
Always Be My Maybe
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
How To Train Your Dragon 3
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