I Has Thoughts: Movies of 2019

This is the first time I have put a year-end list together since (checks notes) 2015. It seems longer than that – I was convinced I hadn’t done one of these since 2011. Some of that has to do with the fact that I’m no longer doing the writing thing on a full-time basis. Some of that is because it’s been several years since there was a batch of movies that got me truly excited. That 2015 piece that I wrote? That was not a great batch of flicks. Good, but not great.

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Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level

That the makers of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” could find time in their schedules to write and shoot a sequel, with all eight of the principle characters, two years after the original, is simply unthinkable in this day and age. It took Disney six years to follow up “Frozen,” and it took Sony a decade before “Zombieland: Double Tap” happened. They must have had a can’t-miss idea ready to throw at audiences, right?

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Movie Review: Frozen II

Disney has a ridiculous amount of power at the moment. In addition to owning Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, they also purchased Twentieth Century Fox’s film catalog, which terrified “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fans in particular, who were concerned that the Mouse House would no longer allow late-night screenings of the film. (So far, it appears that Disney will allow business as usual on that front, as they should.) They’re also pulling a lot of their content from streaming sources in order to consolidate their properties at Disney+. They’re basically one or two more moves away from becoming a Bond villain.

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Movie Review: Toy Story 4

There are few, if any, franchises that have ridden off into the sunset quite like the “Toy Story” films did. “Toy Story 3” has a pitch-perfect, if gut-wrenching, ending, and the characters were the frequent subject of Pixar’s short films, which seemed like an ideal post script. Why would any studio risk, um, sullying that? The cynical response is money (it’s always money), but it’s hard to dismiss Pixar founding father Andrew Stanton’s rationale: “Toy Story 3” was a perfect ending for the audience, but for the toys that Bonnie inherited from Andy, their story was starting all over again, and it is through that lens that Pixar would like us to view “Toy Story 4.” That’s nice, but it’s of small comfort when the feeling of familiarity (toy in distress, Woody to the rescue) quickly consumes everything. This is basically “Toy Story 2” in reverse, with more moving parts.

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Movie Review – Men in Black: International

“Men in Black: International” makes so much sense from a marketing standpoint that it’s tempting to dismiss the film as the cynical global box office cash grab that, let’s face it, it probably is. The previous three films took place almost exclusively in or immediately outside of New York City, and that, um, ‘America first’ approach just doesn’t fly in an era where overseas box office is usually two-thirds to three-fourths of the overall box office. It makes perfect sense that there would be MIB field offices all over the world, and considering the fact that Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson’s dance cards have opened up considerably since the end of shooting Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in addition to showcasing great on-screen chemistry in “Thor: Ragnarok,” casting them as the leads is a no-brainer on a number of levels.

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Movie Review: Aladdin

When Disney announced that it would be releasing live action remakes of three of the studio’s most loved animated films, all within the span of four months, that seemed, well, foolish. It’s one thing to release three films that take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in one year; there’s a thread tying those stories together. There is nothing tying “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King” together.

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Movie Review: Dumbo

Tim Burton and Disney have done great things together. Well, perhaps ‘great’ isn’t the right word. Tim Burton and Disney have made boatloads of cash together. Indeed, this whole ‘live action revival’ trend likely never gets off the ground if Burton’s 2010 adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” doesn’t make $1 billion worldwide. Sure, that movie was a hot mess, but $1 billion worldwide! And Johnny Depp at his commercial peak. Ahhhh, simpler times.

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Movie Review: Captain Marvel

Early in the MCU timeline, certain comic book story lines were completely scrapped for the sake of keeping things grounded. The Mandarin, for example, was not a drunken actor pretending to be an all-powerful bogeyman, but an expert martial artist of Chinese and English descent whose power came from alien technology. This switch is arguably the cleverest thing about Shane Black’s script for “Iron Man 3.” It was important, as Phase I of the MCU came to a close, that things didn’t get too ‘out there,’ for lack of a better expression. The characters, heroes and villains alike, needed to be relatable. If they had started arming every bad guy with alien hardware early on, people would have checked out on these movies years ago.

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Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

It’s good to know when to walk away. This is not to say that the “How to Train Your Dragon” series has overstayed its welcome – it couldn’t possibly, they have only made two films up to this point, and both were critical and commercial smashes – but rather that it’s commendable that DreamWorks Animation chose to go out on a relatively high note and preserve the legacy of the franchise as a whole, rather than squeezing the cash cow for every penny before leaving it for dead by the side of the road (ahem, “Pirates of the Caribbean”).

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Movie Review: The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

The first time Phil Lord and Christopher Miller take a whack at a story idea, they tend to knock it out of the park. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street,” “The LEGO Movie,” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (that last one is credited solely to Lord, but Miller executive produced) were all top-notch films, each one funny, heartfelt, clever, and possessing a much larger scale than one would have a right to expect.

Awesome
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