My Favorite Films of 2019

2019 was an interesting year in film (both in the theater and streaming).  There were some really great films I saw and some meh.  But I wanted to highlight my favorite films of the year.  So here they are (in no particular order):

Modest Heroes

This was actually a set of three short animated films from Studio Ponoc (the same studio that did Mary and the Witch’s Flower) but I would put it on my list.  They each told their own story (one about two young siblings trying to survive without their parents, a kid with a food allergy trying to live a normal life, an seemingly invisible man trying to navigate the world) but had that theme woven throughout of being heroic in lives that on the surface don’t seem pretty heroic.

Apollo 11

A documentary on the Apollo 11 mission leading up to, the actual mission and the return home.  I saw this film in IMAX (which was the best way to see it) and it did not disappoint.  I loved how the film needed no voice over narration.  The footage spoke for itself and brought to life what the mission was all about and the impact it had and continues to have on us.

Wonder Park

This animated film was so much fun (and pretty original too).  It’s about a young girl named June who creates a theme park through imagination called Wonder Park and finds out it’s a real place but is in complete disrepair and it’s up to her and some of her imagined creations coming to life to help restore the park to its glory.

Okko’s Inn

Based on a manga of the same name, Okko’s Inn is the story of a young girl named Okko who loses both her parents in a car accident and is sent to live with her grandmother at an old inn.  While there she’s able to see spirits and interact with them.  She also starts working at the inn and through this learns more about herself and her family.  I loved the animation and the story.

The Sun is Also a Star

Based on a book of the same name, this story tells a love story between two unlikely people over the span of a day.  I loved the story and the cinematography.

The Best of Enemies

Based on the true story of two people who were polar opposites living in Durham, North Carolina in the 1970s: C.P Ellis, a local KKK president and Ann Atwater, an organizer within the local black community. When the issue of school integration came to the forefront in Durham the two were put together on a committee to work through potential solutions. Through this, there developed a friendship and the film shows how their lives (and the lives of the people in Durham are changed).   I feel like this film is getting overlooked for awards season but it is deserving of some recognition.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The next film in the Legendary Monsterverse series, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was all that a kaiju fan like me could want.  Godzilla taking care of business.  The first appearance in American film of Mothra and King Ghidorah  Lots of action and callbacks to old Toho films.  If I had to say the film I was most hyped to see, this would be on the very short list and it didn’t disappoint for me.

Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw

A spinoff of the Fast and the Furious franchise, Hobbs and Shaw was definitely fun and entertaining with two characters who were polar opposites and who seemed to get paired up more often than not.

Blinded by the Light

Based on a true story, Blinded by the Light told the story of a young immigrant in Britain in the 80s who latches onto the music of Bruce Springsteen.  I loved the integration of music into the story and loved how it was in essence a soundtrack throughout the film.

Brian Banks

Also based on a true story, Brian Banks told the story of a young man wrongly accused of assault and who served time and after he got out fought to clear his name of the crime.  I knew the story going in and it was portrayed very honestly and spoke to the heart of the true story.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Based on the book of the same name, the story is about a dog named Enzo and his life with his human Denny and family.  It had a lot of elements I love: sports (with racing), family, a dog, compelling story.  I thoroughly good film.

After the Wedding

This film is a remake of a 2006 Danish film of the same name, After the Wedding tells the story of a young woman who is working in an orphanage in India who gets a call from New York to meet with a donor about money for the orphanage.  When she gets to New York she is invited to a wedding and at that wedding encounters an old lover, who turns out to be married to the executive at the company who is giving the donation to the orphanage.  To me, this is the underrated film of the year.  The performances are tremendous particularly of Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore.

Abominable

A fun animated film that tells the story of Yi, a young girl living in a big city in China who encounters Everest, a Yeti on the run from scientists and a collector and who wants to get home to Mt. Everest.  Yi along with Jin and Peng, set off to help return Everest to his home while also taking in the sights of China.  I loved the story and animation in this film.  Such a great and heartwarming film.

Joker

A retelling of sorts of the origin story of one of the most well known super villains, Joker is in one word: intense.  Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is intense.  The cinematography is intense.  The score at times is intense.  It is simply an intense film.

The Current War – The Director’s Cut

Based on the story of three men who helped changed America through their work in bringing electricity to the masses: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.  I loved the performances here with Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult.  They were tremendous and the story was well told and compelling.

Midway

Based on the true story of the events leading up to and the actual Battle of Midway, Midway was an epic war film.  Though I prefer the 1970s version better than this one.  I did enjoy a lot of the performances and the visuals were very stunning.

Ford v Ferrari

Based on the true story of the big rivalry between Ford and Ferrari and the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Ford v Ferrari to me is my film of the year.  Matt Damon gave his best performance as Carroll Shelby.  Christian Bale is tremendous as Ken Miles.  The visuals are stunning  The story is compelling.  Overall, this is my film of the year.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

“Inspired” by a true story (weird but that’s what it says in the film) of a Esquire reporter and the interview and budding relationship that took place between him and Fred Rogers.  Tim Hanks was tremendous as Mr. Rogers and the film was so emotional.  There were moments throughout were I was welling up with tears because it was so moving.

The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts is the story of two people who in the late 1800s set about to break the world flying altitude record in a balloon.  This was such a fun film.  Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were great in their roles.

Little Women

A new adaptation to the classic book, Little Women tells the story of the March family and the highs and lows they experience growing up together.  I loved the film.  I thought it did a great job of telling the story and making it its own while not losing sight of what makes the story real and compelling.

My Favorite Films of 2018

I have been for the last couple of years sharing what have been my favorite films of the year.  This will be tough because there were so many good films I saw, especially in the theater.  They are in no particular order except from around the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

A film with a definite Studio Ghibli vibe, this was the first film I saw in a theater in 2018 and immediately was one of my favorites.  The animation, the voice acting, it was all top notch.

I Can Only Imagine

Based on the life of MercyMe lead singer Mark Millard, it is one of the best film depicting the Christian faith I have seen.  There were several really good Christian films in 2018 but this one was the best and my personal favorite.

Ready Player One

I still need to read the book but the film version is tremendous.  Lots of good 80s and video game references and callbacks and the visual effects were great.  It was such a fun journey through the story.

The Miracle Season

Based on the true story of a girl’s volleyball team in Iowa that overcome the tragic loss of their team captain to win a state title.  It was so good I saw it twice in the theater.  One of my top five favorite sports films of all time.

Avengers: Infinity War

The culmination of ten years of Marvel Studio films, this first part of a two part saga was tremendous.  To see all the superheroes in one film was something I wouldn’t have ever imagined ten years ago but it was real and it was awesome.  I’m looking forward to next year and Avengers: Endgame

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

One of the best documentaries and probably my favorite of 2018, the story of Fred Rogers is one that is always good to remember and share with others.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Sequel to one of my favorite films of 2015, this one did not disappoint.  I love how not only they did a great job continuing the storyline of the first film but also brought a fresh aspect to it with new characters and maturing of old characters.

Mission:  Impossible Fallout

The Mission: Impossible film series has seemed to have gotten better with each film especially the last couple of ones.  Fallout is not only right at the top of the series but one of my favorite films period.  It not only called back to previous films and tied up storylines from them but also sets the stage for always going forward with new stories.

Christopher Robin

This was a very fun movie (though I still think that Tigger looks off in this version).  It feels almost like an alternate reality of the real life Christopher Robin Milne that was portrayed in last year’s Goodbye Christopher Robin but I do love the story of this film and I always have a soft spot for Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood gang in my heart.

Operation Finale

Based on the true story of the capture of Adolf Eichmann, the acting in this film is top notch.  Both Oscar Isaac and Sir Ben Kingsley give award winning performances.

Little Women

A modern retelling of the classic novel.  I love how the filmmaker stayed true to the heart of the Alcott story while giving it a modern feel.  This was another film I saw twice in the theater because it was so good.

A Star Is Born

I had not seen the previous versions of this film but when the trailers dropped for it I was super interested and it didn’t disappoint.  Loved the performances of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (also Sam Elliott had a great supporting role as well).

The Old Man and The Gun

Based on the true story of career criminal Forrest Tucker, it’s one of the best performances of Robert Redford’s career.  It was both retro (given the time period) and modern at the same time.  I loved it.

The Front Runner

Based on the 1988 Presidental campaign of Gary Hart, it is a film very timely given the nature of politics in America today.  Hugh Jackman gave (in my opinion) an award winning performance and I walked out of the film wondering how things would’ve been different in America had things went differently in that 1988 election

Creed II

Sequel to the first Creed (which was one of my favorite films of 2015).  This one not only built on the legacy of the first film but also into the deeper Rocky franchise.  I loved how it tied a lot into Rocky IV (which is one of my favorite films of all time).  If they wanted to keep it going with a third film I would be more than happy to see it.

Green Book

Based on the true story of the friendship between Dr. Don Shirley and Tony “Lip” Vallelonga.  This was not only a well acted film but a great story told as well.

Mary Poppins Returns

The long (coming? awaited?) sequel to the the 1964 original film, Mary Poppins (this time played by Emily Blunt) returns to help the Banks family (the kids now grown up and one with kids of his own).  It is a fun film and definitely has that vibe that the original film had.

Bumblebee

This is the best live action Transformers film.  It definitely has the vibe of the 80s cartoon and animated film.  I would hope if they make more live action Transformers film, they abandon the canon of the earlier films and just start fresh with this one as the first one.

So that’s my list of favorite films of 2018. What is your list? Do we have similar films or are there other films that you have on your list? I’d love to hear what your films are and I’m excited to see what film will make the list in 2019

My Favorite Films of 2017

I’m keeping up the yearly tradition of sharing my favorite films of the year and so here is my list of favorite films for 2017. They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Kong: Skull Island

This film both reintroduced King Kong back to the big screen but also set up future films involving Godzilla and that line of monsters.  There was a tremendous cast with Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly & John Goodman and a great version of Kong.  I have high hopes for this franchise after 2014 Godzilla and now this one.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

The sequel that did not disappoint.  I blogged earlier this year about this film and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It advanced the story while at the same time developing the characters without losing the charm that made it special.  Another great Marvel film.

Wonder Woman

Probably the first really good film in the DC cinematic universe, Wonder Woman had that heart and hope.  Gal Gadot embodies the role of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.  The film (which is set mainly in World War I era) has a similar feel to the first Captain America film (which is my favorite Captain America film).  Superhero films that have heart and hope are the best ones and Wonder Woman is one of those.

Cars 3

The third film in the Cars franchise (and in feel more a direct sequel to the first Cars film) Lightning McQueen has to deal not only with young upstarts but his own mortality as an athlete.  It has a lot of feels like the first film as well as tells a good story on its own.

The Hero

This is a film that stars Sam Elliott as an aging actor best known for a role decades earlier as “The Hero”.  It’s a film that deals with fame, mortality, loss, love and life.  I blogged earlier this year more in depth that goes into more detail.

Dunkirk

Set during the heart of World War II, Dunkirk tells the story of one of the biggest rescue missions in history.  The British army was trapped in the city of Dunkirk and it took 800 civilian ships to save the day.  Christopher Nolan directed the film and it covers the land see  and air aspects of this battle.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

The first Spider-Man film in the MCU, Spider-Man: Homecoming was really well done.  Going back to Peter Parker in high school along with having it be the “Tony Stark Redemption film” was a good touch by Marvel Studios.

Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to the 1982 film, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen.  Starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, the film is set 30 years past the first film.  Like the first film, it asks what does it mean to be human?

Marshall

Based on the true story of Thurgood Marshall, Marshall looks into the life of the future Supreme Court judge when he was a trial lawyer and the case of a Connecticut man accused of rape and attempted murder.  Chadwick Boseman was at his best again and the rest of the cast including Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown and Kate Hudson stood out as well.

 

Goodbye Christopher Robin

A film based on the life of writer A.A. Milne and his family, Goodbye Christopher Robin is probably one of the most poignant and bittersweet films I’ve seen.  I grew up (and still do) love Winnie the Pooh and all the characters of the Hundred Acre Woods.  This film shows the ups and downs of the creation of those characters and the lives of the family around that.

Wonder

Wonder is based on the book of the same name.  I will go on record and say it is one of my favorite films ever.  The story of the Pullman family is such a heartwarming film and the story it tells is so needed in this time.

Coco

The second Pixar film released this year, Coco is a story about family and finding one’s place in the world.  It is centered around the holiday of the Day of the Dead.  It is such a lovely story and another example of the Pixar charm.

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour looks into the right before and the first month of Sir Winston Churchill as prime minister of Great Britain.  Gary Oldman was spot on in the role of Churchill and the film as a whole was great storytelling.  It also fit in well with Dunkirk which also released this year since they both are set in this same timeframe.

My Favorite Films of 2016

Last year I shared my favorite films that were released in the past year.  I thought I’d make that a yearly tradition and so here is my list of favorite films for 2016.   They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday

Though Only Yesterday released originally in Japan in 1991, the English dubbed version came to North America this year.  Only Yesterday is the story of Taeko Okajima and her life in two parts.  It tells one part of her life as an 8 year old child in the late 1960s Tokyo as well as an adult in the 1980s.  It was one of the last Studio Ghibli films to be dubbed into English and includes the voicework of Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel and Ashley Eckstein.

I Saw The Light

I Saw The Light

Based on the true story of country singer and legend Hank Williams Sr., I Saw The Light tells the story of his life as a singer just before his big break to right before his tragic death.  Hank Williams is played in the film by Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Olsen plays Audrey Williams, Hank’s first wife.  I’m usually a fan of a good biopic and when it’s a subject like that of Hank Williams I was drawn to it.  I thought the performances in the film were done well especially that of Hiddleston and Olsen.  It is hard to act and sing especially to play an iconic figure but Hiddleston was up to the challenge in my mind.

The Legend of Tarzan

LEGEND OF TARZAN

The Legend of Tarzan is a new take on an old story.  It tells the further adventures of Tarzan and how he and Jane (along with American George Washington Williams) take on some corrupt Belgians who were trying to exploit the Congo.  There are several nods to the classic Tarzan character while telling a story that resonates today.  And while most people this year will look at Margot Robbie’s other big role in 2016 (Harley Quinn), her performance as Jane Clayton is a showstealer.

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

A remake of a classic (which in turn was a remake itself) The Magnificent Seven tells the story of a ragtag group of seven men who help to defend a mining town from a evil and corrupt businessman and his hired army.  The cast for this film included Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio among others.  I enjoyed the original The Magnificent Seven and to me this film honors that film while also telling it’s own story.

Amanda Knox

amanda-knox

Probably the documentary of the year for me in 2016, Amanda Knox was a Netflix film that tells the story of Amanda Know, who is most well known for being found guilty and later acquitted of the death of a fellow student in Italy in 2007.  For this documentary there is lots of archive footage and interviews as well as interviews today from some of the key people including Amanda herself.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Out of the two Marvel movies that released this year, Doctor Strange was my favorite of the two.  Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job as Dr. Stephen Strange.  Strange went from an arrogant doctor over the course of the movie to the Sorcerer Supreme.  It was a good origin story for a character that is not as well known in the Marvel Universe as others.  And it didn’t kill off the main villain at the end of the movie.  It is a good setup for what’s to come in Phase 3 of the MCU.

Arrival

arrival

If there is a “Film of the Year” for me, I would say it’s this film.  From the first trailer to seeing it on the big screen, Arrival was interesting and compelling.  With a cast that included Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whitaker, Arrival tells the story about humankind’s interaction with an alien species and the key to communicating lies with a language professor (played by Adams) and a physicist (played by Renner).  But it’s a different take on that familiar trope.  The visuals are stunning and the story makes you think.  This is a film I’m interested in seeing multiple times because of seeing the all the puzzles pieces in place.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

An interesting film that I found on Netflix, Blue Jay is the story of two high school sweethearts that meet up some 20 years later.  Jim (played by Mark Duplass, who also wrote the screenplay for the film) returns back to his hometown to settle some affairs after his mother passed away.  He runs into Amanda (played by Sarah Paulson) at a grocery store and the two reminisce about old times.  It is a very poignant film and one that deals with heavy issues in a thought provoking way.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue-one

Of course a list of my favorite films would have to include a Star Wars movie.  Rogue One is the first Star Wars anthology film and is set right before A New Hope.  It tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans for the first Death Star and the group that did it.  It had one of the best battle sequences I’ve seen in a Star Wars movie and there were a lot of cool references that tied into the Star Wars universe.  Thought I still have the original trilogy in my top 3 of Star Wars films, this one is right there in the running for 4th along with The Force Awakens.

My Favorite Films of 2015

As we’re coming to the end of 2015, I thought I would share my list of favorite films of 2015.  They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan is the story of two people each at their own crossroads.  Ryan (played by Ben Barnes) is a vagabond musician who rides the rails and stops to make some money playing music.  Jackie (played by Katherine Heigl) is a newly single mom who is trying to rebuild her life after a divorce.  The two meet and each help the other to find the direction that each needs to take.  It wasn’t a well known movie but I really enjoyed it. (Technically this film debuted in Venice in 2014 but wasn’t released in the US until 2015 so it counts as a 2015 movie)

I Am Big Bird

I Am Big Bird

Probably the best documentary of 2015, I Am Big Bird tells the story about the life of Caroll Spinney.  He is best know for his role as Big Bird (as well as Oscar the Grouch) on Sesame Street.  With classic footage, some pretty cool animation as well as interviews from people who know Caroll best (as well as from the man himself), it is a great film and one that any fan of Big Bird and Sesame Street.

I’ll See You In My Dreams

I'll See You In My Dreams

I’ll See You In My Dreams stars Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom) as a widow who in her former life was a musician and songstress.  She is kind of stuck in a rut until she encounters and befriends a young man who fixes pools as well as an older gentlemen (played by Sam Elliott) whom she falls in love with.  Those two relationships help her to see that there’s still more to life and to enjoy the people she is with including her daughter and her close best friends.  I love a good story and this film tells a good story.

Love and Mercy

Love And Mercy

Love and Mercy is the biopic of the co-founder of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson.  The film tells his story in two parts switching back between young Brian Wilson in the 1960s (played by Paul Dano) while he was with the band and the success that he had and older Brian Wilson in the 1980s (played by John Cusack) while he was in the midst of dealing at his lowest point with his mental health and how he helped to overcome that.  Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti also have strong roles in the film.  I’m a fan of a good biopic and this was a really good one.  (This was also a 2014 film with premiere in Toronto International Film Festival but didn’t get released until 2015)

When Marnie Was There

Marnie

When Marnie Was There holds the distinction (for the moment) of being the last Studio Ghibli film to be released (now granted Only Yesterday will finally get a English dubbing & theatrical release in a few months but this so far is the last new feature).  It is adapted from a book by the same name and tells the story of Anna, a 12 year old girl who goes to live with some relatives in the summer to help deal with her asthma.  While she’s there she meets Marnie, a young girl who helps Anna to learn more about herself and that she is truly loved by her family.  I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan and I really enjoyed this film. (Yes I know this is a 2014 film released in Japan but the English dub of the film released this year so it counts)

Inside Out

Inside Out

One could say now we’re getting to the “big time” films.  Inside Out was the first Pixar film of 2015 and in my opinion was the better film.  It tells the story of a young girl named Riley and the “emotions” that are inside her head.  These emotions (Happy, Sad, Fear, Anger, Disgust) interact and help shape Riley as she grows up.  When a move from Minnesota to San Francisco changes things for Riley and her family, there a lot of changes.  These changes also include the emotions learning to change and grow as well.  It is like many Pixar films in that they work on multiple levels.  I loved it and it’s in my top 5 of favorite Pixar films of all time.

Furious 7

Furious 7

I love the Fast and the Furious series of films all the way back to the first one.  So I was excited to see this film as well and it didn’t disappoint me.  This film, like it’s predecessors, is your blockbuster action type movie.  It was a finale of sorts because of the death of Paul Walker which meant his character’s story arc was ending and they did a good job of finishing that story (without killing the character off).  I know there will be a few more films in this series and hopefully they will do as good a job of sticking to what they’re good at with the series.

Ant-Man

Ant Man

Out of the two Marvel films and all the superhero films that released in 2015, Ant-Man was my favorite.  I loved the story of Scott Lang and how an unlikely guy like him became a superhero.  Paul Rudd did a great job as Scott and was a big fan of his in the film (and like me, Paul is a huge Kansas City Royals fan so it was a very good year for him).  The rest of the cast was great too with Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll and others.  It had a great mix of comedy and drama and I think sets itself up well for what’s going to happen in Phase 3 of the MCU.

The Peanuts Movie

Charlie Brown and Snoopy

I am a huge Peanuts fan.  I grew up watching the cartoons and reading the comic strips.  My first dog I ever had was a beagle named Snoopy.  So I was super excited for this film to release.  Probably out of any film not named Star Wars, I had the most expectations on this film.  And it didn’t disappoint at all.  I loved this film.  It told a story that is very Charlie Brownesque.  It was a Peanuts movie through and through.  It was a classic story told with 21st century technology (CGI animation).  They got it right with the tone and story and it is an example of what people who are telling new stories of classic franchises should do.

Creed

Rocky and Adonis

Speaking of films that get it right of telling a new story with a classic franchise, Creed is another great example.  It is a spiritual successor/sequel to the Rocky franchise.  It tells the story of Adonis Johnson (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan) and his journey to become a boxer.  It’s also the story of how he accepts being the son of Apollo Creed, combatant & friend of Rocky Balboa.  Rocky himself is really the only connection to the previous films (there are a few references and mentions and Apollo’s wife is in the film but a different actress [Phylicia Rashad] plays her in this film) and Stallone does a great job of being the Mickey to Adonis’ Rocky in this film.   It mirrors the first Rocky film but also tells its own story.  To me I feel this film deserves at least a Best Director nomination and at best a Best Picture nomination.  It was the best film not named Star Wars to me in 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens

This was the most anticipated film for me for 2015.  I am a huge Star Wars fan and been one since I could remember.  This was the first film of the franchise that I walked into the theater and had no idea what was going to happen (because I was born the year The Empire Strikes Back released and I was 4 when I saw Return of the Jedi and by the time I saw the Special Editions when I was a teenager I had seen the films numerous times and the prequels I had some kind of idea given that they were prequels).  I loved this film.  Like Creed, this film was it’s own story but yet is connected to the films that came before it.  It had great characters (both new and old) and had a great story.  I am interested in seeing what is in store and hope that Disney and Lucasfilm continue to build on a great start to the next trilogy of the Star Wars saga.

So that’s my list of favorite films of 2015.  What is your list?  Do we have similar films or are there other films that you have on your list?  I’d love to hear what your films are.  I’m looking forward to seeing what good films there will be in 2016