Ryan’s Top 10 Films of 2019

Ryan's Top 10 Films of 2019 (1)Here it is! My Top 10 Films of 2019. Last week, I published my Top 10 Films of the Decade, but here is my selection for Best Films of 2019. It’s been quite the banner year for cinema, and it was so difficult to narrow my list down to 10 plus a handful of honorable mentions, but I am ready to share it with the world.

10. Last Christmas: Paul Feig’s Last Christmas, written by Emma Thompson, is a heartwarming Christmas movie that is surprisingly deep and thought-provoking. I appreciate the unconventional approach to Christmas movies this one takes. It doesn’t hold back on the cynicism that many people have about life or about the holiday season. The movie depicts true-to-life people that experience real struggles within the family unit and from the outside. 

9. Ready or Not: Outstanding! Ready or Not is a brilliant horror comedy from start to finish. Fantastic screenplay, cast, direction, effects, everything works flawlessly. Probably the most fun movie of the summer. It’s a no holds barred dark comedy full of entertaining, campy dialogue and gruesome kills. Not since the cult classic Clue, has there been such an excellent horror comedy heavily influenced by the concept of a game. Samara Weaving slays audiences as the wedding dress wearing Grace as she transforms into this movie’s answer to Kill Bill.

8. Bombshell: Explosive! Bombshell is a brilliantly orchestrated and riveting film that takes you behind the scenes at Fox News in the months leading up to the oust of news business mogul Roger Ailes. Follow Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and (fictionalized) Kayla as they battle the courts of public opinion and the seemingly impenetrable fortress of Fox News to take down the repulsive Roger Ailes. I went into this film prepared for a snark-filled satire, but what I was presented with was a meticulously written and directed docudrama that struck a fantastic balance between feature news story, so to speak, and motion picture.

7. Knives Out: Spectacularly crafted Whodunit! The kind of movie that would make J.B. Fletcher proud. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Knives Out is a sleek modern interpretation of the a classic murder-mystery movie. He pays homage to Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries in terms of premise, but subverts what audiences expect out of a Christie mystery with his original expression, told through an outstanding screenplay complete with everything you want to get out of a Whodunit. You get it all: virtually everyone has a strong motive, plenty of deception, and a fortune at stake.

6. Doctor Sleep: A brilliantly unsettling and crisp horror film! Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep is both an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, by the same name, and a direct sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Although many unplanned sequels to iconic classics are challenged to justify their own existence, and often fail to live up to the magic of the original, Flanagan defies the fate that so often befalls sequels and delivers a compelling film worthy to be connected to Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece. Whereas the storytelling could have taken the easy way out, knowing that you would blindly accept virtually everything as long as you get to check back into The Overlook, it still offers a compelling, challenging narrative that brilliantly sets up the showdown at the most infamous hotel in all literature.

5. Jojo Rabbit: A complex film about a complex subject, but finds a delicate balance between humor and respect for the subject matter. Taika Waititi is offering a new perspective through the mind of a child of Nazi Germany. If Cabaret depicted the age of innocence that ended with the rise of the Third Reich, then JoJo Rabbit depicts innocence and disillusionment in the final days of the war. On the surface, this film comments on how Jojo’s worldview of the Jews transforms; however, there are nods to other groups that were also seen as undesirables such as gays. The fact that is wasn’t only the Jews whom found themselves targets for annihilation is often forgotten by the masses. Though there are times that Waititi comes close to crossing the fine line that he is dancing, he never crosses it, which allows the film to be enjoyable and comment on coming of age in a rather provocative way.

4. Little Women: Familiar yet fresh! Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is modern story of the complex emotions, societal expectations, and ambitions of women masquerading around as a period drama. It feels both “of its time” and “today.” While to the casual observer, this may seem like a story for women, young and older alike, it is a powerful story for anyone that has dreams but feels trapped by whatever societal or familial forces. Little Women is incredibly heartfelt and uplifts the human spirit. There is something for everyone in this movie that remains committed to its literary roots, yet plants itself in a modern garden to be appreciated by and inspire all those whom choose to watch it. Greta Gerwig’s masterful storytelling is evident from beginning to end, and all the performances are excellent. You will undoubtedly fall in love with this story all over again, or will fall in love for the first time.

3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Outstanding motion picture that celebrates the power of kindness in a real tangible way. Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and Matthew Rhys as the skeptical journalist Lloyd Vogel. While you may think that this is a movie about the beloved children’s television host, Mister Rogers is a supporting character in this move that is truly about Lloyd Vogel’s personal journey through grief, forgiveness, and learning kindness. It’s a portrait about being human, and all the struggles and obstacles that come with it. Perhaps there has been no greater (non-documentary/bio pic) motion picture that has so accurately captured the human kindness at its best. Mister Rogers was not only an influential children’s television host, but he left a powerful legacy for everyone.

2. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood: “The Hollywood that never was, and always will be” in this QT film that subverts expectations and delivers in spades. The ninth film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino is a brilliant historical fiction inspired by real events and people in film/television and Hollywood history. If you’ve been to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll recognize the opening quote. For the cinephile or film/TV/Hollywood history geek, this film will sweep you up in the story and setting; however, general audiences may find it difficult to connect to the otherwise fantastic story. Thankfully, the performances from the three leads DiCaprio, Pitt, and Robbie and strong supporting cast will keep you entertained for the rather lengthy runtime regardless if historic Hollywood is of interest to you or not. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood represents a brilliantly entertaining homage to what is largely considered the end of the Golden Age in Hollywood.

Before I reveal my No.1 pick, here are some honorable mentions:

And the No.1 film of the year is…Judy: A truly gripping motion picture that will bring you to tears during this somewhere over the rainbow redemption story. Bring tissues. Renee Zellweger is captivating as Judy Garland, and you’ll swear that you’re watching Garland on the big screen. Although we may be familiar with the broad strokes career of the legendary entertainer, this film goes beyond the headlines and tabloids to deliver a true life story that could ironically be titled A Star is Born, or perhaps reborn. Ironic in that this film shows the life of a movie star after the lights have faded and the offers stop coming in, much like the movie she starred in. It’s a rise and fall story, of sorts, but is more precisely a fall and rise story as the movie focusses in on the last year of Judy Garland’s life. Whether you are a fan of the iconic diva or not, if you love command performances, then you do not want to miss the uncanny performance of Zellweger as Judy. All the way down to the mannerisms, vocal inflections, and over all behavior, she IS Judy. Although we all know of the tragic ending, no mistaking it, this film is an inspirational story of redemption.

There you have it, folks! My Top 10 of 2019. It’s been a great year at the cinema, and I look forward to what 2020 has in store for us.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! You can catch Ryan most weeks at Studio Movie Grill Tampa, so if you’re in the area, feel free to catch a movie with him!

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“Long Shot” full movie review

Old fashioned rom-com meets political satire in this reverse Pretty Women that’s clever, heartwarming–oh yeah–and hilarious! After years of absence, the American romantic comedy has been slowly making a comeback in recent times; take last year’s Crazy Rich Asians for example. Directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Dan Sterling and Elizabeth Hannah, this edgy, smart comedy uses its two charming yet unlikely lovers as a conduit through which the socio-political state of America is explored in unapologetic, candid ways. Starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, this movie demonstrates that real issues facing us today can be acknowledged but never become the central focus of the movie. It is the superb chemistry and character development of Theron and Rogen that carries this movie. Simple plot, complex characters. Although there are very Rogian moments, Theron and supporting actor O’Shea Jackson Jr, playing Rogen’s best friend, help to balance him out. Thanks to the outstanding comedic writing powered by external and internal conflict, this movie elevates the rom-com to rise above the predictable to deliver an endearing story that is equal parts whimsical and plausible. Theron and Rogen deliver stellar performances that carry the movie from start to finish. And you know what, it looks like they are having a great time!

When Fred Flarsky (Rogen) learns that his independent newspaper has been bought out by a media conglomerate, he quits instead of having his voice silenced or conformed to fit the new business model. By sheer happenstance, Fred runs into his childhood babysitter Charlotte Field (Theron) the current Secretary of State at a party to which his best friend (Jackson Jr.) brought him to cheer him up. When Field decides to prepare for a presidential run, she hires Flarsky to punch up her speeches because she likes his honesty and chutzpah. Little did either know that this business partnership would ignite old flames that would give way to political and relational conflict.

Not to oversimplify, but everything in this movie works. And that is rare for a comedy to work this well for me. If you’re familiar with my writing, you’ll know that I do not watch many romantic comedies, and seldom truly adore one; but, I sincerely enjoyed this movie. Levine demonstrates a commitment to effective directing that builds upon the impeccable casting and solid screenplay. Long Shot is one of those rare comedies that gives us captivating characters from the onset and a plot that, albeit unlikely, could very well exist in real life. Whereas it would have been so easy for the focus of this politically charged fish-out-of-water meets romantic-comedy to be overly concerned with the politics to the point that the characters and plot suffer, the story is consistently character-driven by using the plot to explore socio-political commentary that ultimately fuels the conflict. Topics such as the environment, racism, religion, and feminism are highlighted but never steal the spotlight from the journey of Flarsky and Field. And the screenplay gives us some thought-provoking reversals that go to show that the very group that claims to be the most tolerant of differences might actually be the least tolerant of all. The fact that Field is a woman and must play by different rules than male politicians is acknowledged but doesn’t become the focus either. In short, this movie has a well-defined central character (Charlotte Field) with a clearly defined external goal (to become President), fueled by an internal need (connection, both with herself and a partner) and motivation to achieve the goal (to make a positive difference for the American people). That is why the writing works as well as it does. Everything else is icing on the cake–and it’s delicious icing that is neither too stiff nor too sweet.

Pretty Woman works as well as it does, and has found itself a beloved movie not because of the social commentary but because the audience fell in love with the stars and desired to see them find happiness. The same can be said of Long Shot. I was hesitant going into the screening since I am not usually a fan of Rogen’s comedy; but I was confident that with Theron, an actress I have long since found to be outstanding in talent, beauty, and philanthropy, Rogen’s over-the-top self-deprecating acting would have a equally charismatic actress to balance him out. The relationship between Field and Flarsky is so incredibly genuine. No pretense here. Both of them say precisely what they think, not shying away from feedback or rebuttals that could mean the end of the friendship, partnership, or careers. Combining Field’ workaholic, domineering, savvy Secretary of State turned presidential candidate and Flarsky’s radical, uncouth, abrasive journalist turned speechwriter provides audiences with a refreshing take on a staple genre of motion pictures. They have have different ways of showing it, but both characters are Type As that are stubborn, idealistic, and seek to do the right thing by the American people–Field as a politician and Flarsky as a journalist.

All throughout the movie, conflict arises out of Flarsky’s reactions to Field’s platform and policy changes; furthermore, additional conflict arises out of Field’s reactions to the choices made by Flarsky as they could damage her chances at the presidency. Despite all the conflict, it comes from being committed to a passion, and it’s that unapologetic passion that draws them to on another. That, and the fact they are childhood friends, and are affected by the power of nostalgia. The TV celebrity turned President of the Unites States is definitely built from tropes and characteristics of our current POTUS, but never feels too much or forced. Likewise, the character of the media mogul is clearly derived from Rupert Murdoch. Both these oppositional characters are entertaining without ever going over the top to make a point.

Although it is Rogen who is first billed, and therefore is likely the intended central character (from the perspective of Lionsgate), it is Theron’s Field who is the central character of this story. Just because you are introduced to a character first, doesn’t always mean that they are your central character. In a manner of speaking, Rogen plays the role of Field’s conscience, a sort of moral/ethical compass that doubles as a vessel through which Field rediscovers her ambitious youthful self and all the convictions therein. Rogen is not the only conscience/moral compass in the movie, he too has one in the form of his best friend. The best scenes in the movie are those where heated arguments or passionate disagreements take place. No real surprise there, but these arguments always have something to teach the characters and, by extension, the audience. One of Flarsky’s purposes is to remind Field why she got into politics (even during her time running for student council) at such a young age and that she should never compromise on her convictions–stay true to herself. Furthermore, he is also the vessel through which Field rediscovers and connects with her needs as a human, as a women. A need to reconnect with her playful self that will ultimately unleash who she truly is. Likewise, Flarsky’s successful best friend surprisingly emerges as his conscience. Only instead of providing moral/ethical direction in the world of politics, it is on a more relatable sociological level. Flarsky is confronted on his gross intolerance of all those with whom he disagrees in terms of religion, love and support, and even racism. He buys into the stereotypes just like those he accuses. Great scene!

Thinking of this movie and Pretty Woman, I am left with this one being the superior movie. Not knocking Pretty Woman, I still respect it, but Long Shot takes what Pretty Woman did right, and elevate it to the next level. One of the biggest differences between the two is the style of comedy. Long Shot is definitely a hard R comedy whereas Pretty Woman is more “family friendly.” You can enjoy both equally! A movie about underdogs, this movie may very well be an underdog at the box office in May, but it’s certainly worth the watch if you’re in the mood for an edgy adult comedy.

You can catch Ryan most weeks at Studio Movie Grill Tampa, so if you’re in the area, let him know and you can join him at the cinema.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter!

Follow him!

Twitter: RLTerry1

Instagram: RL_Terry