What a year it has been for cinema! We’ve seen some amazing feats of cinema brought to the big screen this year and now, in what is becoming an annual tradition, we’re counting down our favourite films of 2019.
The life and legacy of one of literature’s greatest ever storytellers, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, was brought to the screen in a tale of beauty and magic in Tolkien and the partnership of director Dome Karukoski and stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins made for something very special. Shot with an enchanting eye for the lavish, Tolkien brought together gorgeous imagery with a powerful story of passion, friendship and love and explored how these themes and experiences shape our lives and make us into who we are as individuals. It was a tribute to the power of creativity and after watching this film you couldn’t help but be inspired to create something by it.
When it comes to live-action adaptations of classic Disney films, Guy Ritchie’s loud and action-packed rendition of Aladdin certainly takes poll position as being the best adaptation so far. Will Smith brought all of his considerable blockbuster star appeal to this cinematic work and absolutely shined in his performance as The Genie with plenty of light and energy. Newcomers Mena Moussad and Naomi Scott had undeniable chemistry as star-crossed lovers Aladdin and Jasmine, and their charming performance and magical vocals put the sparkle into this tale. Packed together with Ritchie’s trademark rock n’ roll flair and bursting with colour, Aladdin sprinkled plenty of magic for audiences and it was an absolute wish come true.
Director James Gray journeyed to the very edge of our solar system and into the soul of one man in this introspective and breathtaking science fiction film that demanded to be seen on the biggest screen possible. A slow-burn tale of man’s quest for knowledge and his truest self, Ad Astra enchanted its viewers with the phenomenal cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema, and Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt has never been better with a character that tested every part of himself as a performer. Ad Astra was a film in the grandest scheme of things and was bound together with innovative and thought-provoking ideas related to man’s search for meaning and a desire to explore the cosmos. It has been some time since I can remember seeing a science fiction film of such power, and Ad Astra certainly achieved its mission of delivering the extraordinary.
The adrenaline kicked in at over 7000 RPM here in Ford v Ferrari and all-star director James Mangold captured the passion, competitiveness and brotherhood of the track in a perfect tribute to the golden age of racing. Stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale were perfectly paired together as racing legends Carrol Shelby and Ken Miles, and their joint pursuit of glory on the track absolutely amped up audiences. The film’s racing scenes were wild and uncontrollable and literally put audiences in the driver’s seat and captured the essence of what it means to go fast.
When it came to cinematic originality this year it doesn’t get more impressive than actress turned director Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart. Packed full of original ideas and some of the best comedy delivered all year, it was a riot of a watch from beginning to end and you were sure to rock out in your seat here. Starring the genius combination of Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as over-achieving know it all’s Molly and Amy who realise that they’ve done high school all wrong and decide to go crazy for one night only, Booksmart delivered all the goods and then some, re-writing the teen comedy genre in the process. Every single frame of this incredible film was packed full of entertaining goodness and you most definitely found your groove with this one.
The hustle was on in this flashy, loud and outrageous true story of a group of women who decided to use their very unique talents to make their own version of the American Dream come true. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu were super-fly in this one and whether they were strutting about the stage, or staging their own unique enrichment schemes you couldn’t look away. Fun, smart, clever, scandalous and incredibly sexy, Hustlers was a film that absolutely took its audience by surprise and made for one of this year’s most memorable film experiences.
When it comes to blockbuster films that will define this last decade then it is easily Avengers: Endgame that will reign as the gold standard of what a blockbuster movie experience is. As the culminating event of just over a decade and 22 feature presentations from Marvel Studios films, Avengers: Endgame was the defining moment of one of modern cinema’s greatest ever sagas. Epic moment after epic moment was brought together in this incredible piece of cinema and when our heroes finally assembled, in one of the great moments of cinema history, we knew we had witnessed the extraordinary. They don’t get much bolder or grander than this and this was a film that tugged at all of your emotions and pulled every string of your heart. It was utterly marvellous in every sense of the word.
They say opposites attract and they certainly don’t get more different than Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen and these two phenomenal performers were an absolute hoot to watch in 2019’s standout romantic comedy Long Shot. Packed together with incredible laughs and plenty of flirtatious moments, Long Shot was a love story that had plenty to say about both attraction and what we should look for in the ones we love…along with that classic comedy that we’ve come to love from Rogen and director Jonathan Levine. Packed full of light and warmth, this one had me in a fit of uncontrollable laughter and I absolutely loved the journey that Charlotte and Fred underwent to find their own special kind of love. Long Shot was a hilarious and impactful watch from beginning to end and it was sure to leave a smile on your face.
Taika Waititi is a director of incredible spirit and warmth and his work on the sensational Jojo Rabbit proves that he is a filmmaker who rapidly deserves to take over Hollywood thanks to his incredible talents. While on the surface Jojo Rabbit presented itself as a light-hearted comedy, there was much more driving this cinematic feat and at its core was a film of amazing depth and power with a strong focus on themes of love, tolerance, acceptance and freedom. It presented a powerful and sincere message in our very turbulent era and is one of the most powerful statements to come from any working artist in Hollywood today. In my opinion, it was far and away the most important film of the year and its impactful story was sure to strike a chord with all who watched it.
But now, the moment that everyone has been waiting for, when it comes to the best film of 2019 there is only one answer…and that answer is of-course Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature film, Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood. This tribute to the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age tracked the fortune of two fading stars in an age of rapid change and was packed full of swinging style and bound together by one incredible narrative. It was a piece of cinema that demanded to be seen on the biggest screen possible. In all, I saw this film four separate times at the cinema and it was a thrilling experience each and every time. Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood is a revelatory piece of cinema and Tarantino was working at the top of his game with this one. It’s as if every part of his career was pointing him in the direction of this masterwork and the revered filmmaker, along with his dynamic duo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt absolutely delivered with this incredible feat of filmmaking. They just don’t get much better than this.
Images: Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Studio Canal, Roadshow Films