It’s getting cold outside (depending on where you live). The stores are full of people (regardless where you live). Sales are everywhere. So is frenzy. We’re talking Christmas and the ball dropping on an entirely new year and new decade.
The only films left for premiere this month will a couple of Oscar candidates (e.g., Bombshell, Cats, Little Women), a few uncertainties (e.g., Black Christmas, The Aeronauts, Uncut Gems), and an all-time ender with a certain science fiction flick about some Skywalker family coming on Christmas Day.
To wit, the average person spent approximately $1,656 going to the movies in 2019. And you know what? All of the ones worth your time still haven’t been getting the love they richly deserve. Seats were left empty for some truly good but woefully underrated movies this year.
Here are the Top 10…
Our own Mad Villain Mike already gave this film the just visibility it needs. Was it an indie film destined for award-winning love? Uh, no. But when you see a movie that looks like this, it did precisely what it was meant to do — give you a snoot full of amusement and a couple of jump scares for kicks.
As Mike shared: What starts as a fairly routine creature horror flick, Crawl eventually forms into a film that’s far more entertaining and suspenseful than it has any right to be. Give Crawl a shot. It’s worth the time and a rental.
9. Fighting With My Family
I grew up loving wrestling. Now that I am grown up, I’m too jaded to try to love it again. (Face it, Vince McMahon has ruined the one good thing he ever contributed to society. No, not the XFL.)
So, when the biopic (ish) of now-retired WWE talent Paige came to the screen, I just rolled my eyes deep in my skull like the rest of this target demo. And then I watched it. This is a pleasant surprise of everything you don’t expect in a film dedicated to professional wrestling.
Florence Pugh will surprise you and settle your nerves for investing 90-plus minutes into this film. It really is worth your time for nothing more than simple fun with a manageable plot.
A seemingly simplistic storyline — whack job lady in New York stalking some unknowing goober who finally gets wise to the plot. Yet, within minutes of meeting said nutbar, we discover something genuine and fresh how Greta handles this story and her prey.
Legendary French actress Isabella Huppert portrays sweet, innocent lady gone subway predator with ease. The woman loses her handbag in the most random of places, only to discover they are baited hooks for a stalker’s festivities. Chloe Grace Moretz is the fish we discover getting reeled in and our eyes into Greta’s plot. The endgame is easily guessed but the journey to get there really is quite a fun ride.
7. The Kid Who Would Be King
As we have shared in the Matrix several times before, most movies about Arthurian legend usually stumbles immediately to gain popularity at the Box Office (e.g., Excalibur, King Arthur, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword). Take your pick — they all get ignored, they all prove why they shouldn’t have been.
So, let’s put this story in the 21st century and see what happens. Oh yeah, and “Arthur” is a kid named Alex. He’s your typical school-aged chap, until he discovers he is the only one who can wield a sword strong enough to topple the plan of an evil sorceress.
Move over, Maleficient. This is the movie that should have gotten your misguided marketing budget.
Admittedly, I think Mads Mikkelsen is permanently stuffed in an underrated category. The guy is much more than Kaecilius from Doctor Strange or Galen Erso from Rogue One. He is a talent in Hollywood deserving of more prominent roles. So, he gets one — a movie of his own… and few people saw it.
Arctic is like a Cast Away in the polar regions. Joe Penna’s movie of being removed from civilization and resources to survive is a gripping tale of one man’s fight against the elements. Oh sure, he has a chance for rescue but that helicopter crashes halfway across the Arctic Circle. And that’s where the entertainment begins — does he stay in the warm confines of his makeshift home or trek across the arctic like a good Boy Scout would?
5. The Report
For some, the absolute last thing needed is a generous helping of D.C. ballyhoo. And then, you see Scott Z. Burns’ The Report and easily get over the topical nature — the real-life story of Daniel J. Jones, U.S. Senate Investigator tasked with reviewing the CIA’s use of torture following 9/11.
Much like the aforementioned Mikkelsen, Adam Driver is so much more than the nerd role of Kylo Ren, of which he is usually connected. Dude is a real force of nature. And with Annette Bening as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, this movie should have been a can’t miss. Only it did and it shouldn’t have.
Don’t be surprised if you hear Driver’s name come award season. And no, it won’t be for that movie you will be seeing later this month. The Report is that good.
4. The Nightengale
Ironically, much like Jennifer Kent’s premiere effort, The Babadook, it will take word-of-mouth and a generous helping of streaming to give this long-awaited follow-up the love it deserves.
The Nightengale is a morose journey into the lengths someone will go to ensure justice is served. Anytime a movie is centered around a grueling rape (and a baby’s death is not the worst thing you have to watch), you know a film is about to feel like a barefooted journey in a desert.
Then again, Jennifer Kent doesn’t mind being careful where you step — largely because hidden beartraps are ahead.
Based on a play by J.C. Lee, this is a drama that truly has you second-guessing the antagonist throughout most of the movie. The movie rocks an all-star cast of Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, and Tim Roth, but no more possesses the screen — and your time — is Kelvin Harrison, Jr. Absolutely mesmerizing.
You stay focused throughout the movie, and just when you think who to root for in this film, you encounter a discovery that has you faked out the entire time. Personally, I saw this while thumbing through Amazon Prime. Don’t wait until award season. See this film before they tell you about it.
2. Dolemite Is My Name
His name was Rudy Ray Moore, a real-life mid-’60s actor, comedian, and musician who really wasn’t a triple threat. Then, an epiphany hit and a legend was born as Moore resurrected his career amidst the height of the blaxploitation era with his iconic pimp character named “Dolemite.”
Eddie Murphy is unquestionably marvelous as bringing the man behind the myth to life in this Netflix film. Yes, he’s coming back to SNL for the first time in 30 years. True, he’s getting back into stand-up comedy as well. But, do not miss this fantastic film that will surely have the Academy considering Murphy’s name for the first time since Dreamgirls (who pissed all that respect away with Norbit months later.)
Never underestimate the power of the human spirit — no matter how raunchy that spirit may be.
There is a reason that excellent review by our Michael Colan was published today — this. Bong Joon-ha’s film about caste warfare and societal perception is truly the underdog of the year.
This tragic comedy and unassuming thriller of the ‘Haves and the Have-Not-So-Much’ force you to question the title of the movie. Who are the true parasites among us? Is it the poor because they are simply trying to get more than crust from their piece of the pie? Is it the rich because they seemingly usurp pieces of the poor’s piece without those unfortunate sacks realizing it?
You will second-guess what you know and question what you don’t. This movie deserves its own piece of the award pie. Watch… it’ll happen.