Hello there, and welcome to the very first batch of Mini Review for 2019! Before we get started, here’s a little explainer: as happens year after year, I am unable to see all the movies in theaters that I want to see when I want to see them, and thus am relegated to having to wait for them to be released on home formats or biding my time until the digital copies are rentable. In light of this, I generally put out 2-3 (occasionally 4 or more) batches of what I call “Mini Reviews” per year; essentially, they are lists of movies I’ve seen that have come out that year, but for which I would not be able to do full review write-ups, spoiler-free or otherwise. These “Mini Review” include a short, often single-paragraph summary of my thoughts on each movie, followed by my numerical score out of 10. With all that out of the way, let’s dive into the first installment of 2019 Mini Reviews.
Glass was the sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable that we didn’t even know we were getting until the end of Split, which released in January of 2017. Having just seen the Unbreakable just recently, I went into this movie expecting it to go slow, take its time, and keep a sharp narrative focus on its title character, as the other two had done. And there are a few really great things in this movie (such as the performances and some of the first act), but the usual Shyamalan twist doesn’t really work nearly as well as the previous two did, and that third act is the first time we actually get to see Samuel L. Jackson have any fun, which isn’t great with how long it takes to get there. It’s slow, which is a smart move, but for whatever reason, this trilogy closer is not as smart or engaging as either of its predecessors. 5.7/10.
One of the more underrated movies I’ve seen so far this year, Missing Link is the latest effort from Laika, the animation studio powerhouse behind Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman, and a slew of other truly underappreciated gems. While not quite a Kubo-level film, Missing Link has a nice, subtle charm to it informing some of its more earnest storytelling, and the voice work and animation are excellent for the story they tell. Plus, it did make me chuckle a few times, some of them pretty hard. Check this one out if you haven’t had the chance yet. 7.8/10.
Your love for Seth Rogan’s latest comedy about a female politician running for president of the United States falling for a kid she used to babysit who also happens to be a great campaign speech writer that she hires will somewhat depend on how you gel with Seth Rogan’s particular brand of comedy (i.e. mostly drug and sex jokes). What separates Long Shot from some of the more problematic entries in that genre, though, is that it has a sincere heart set on teaching people that things aren’t always what they look like, and we could even stand to change a few things about ourselves to make the world a better place. It’s not perfect, and sort of runs a little long in the first act, but it’s still a fun time. 8/10.
Isn't It Romantic
This movie from early March of this year stars Rebel Wilson as a young woman stuck in a job where no one respects her who hates romantic comedies, yet “secretly” longs for all the benefits those stories afford their protagonists. Sound confusing? It is. To be sure, the movie’s not a total garbage fire, and does get some pretty decent laughs from time to time, but whereas other people may find it sweet that the one thing she always complains about is the one thing she also really wants in order to move the plot along, I just found it annoying how the movie wants to be a romantic comedy that only ever complains about the things in romantic comedies that it wants us to care about. The whole movie even leads to a message about loving oneself, accepting oneself as worthy of love, and not needing validation or permission for that…and that message immediately gets trampled on 10 minutes later because guess what? A man has loved her this whole time, so she gets the validation anyway. Plus, it’s extremely predictable for a movie that wants to constantly criticize how predictable rom-coms are. 4.4/10.
Fighting With My Family
Yet another vastly underrated movie I caught up on late this year, Fighting With My Family chronicles the journey of WWE wrestler Paige as she attempts to break out of her meager but sincerely charming background with her family’s wrestling company and into the big time. Florence Pugh really kills it as Paige in this movie, as does Vince Vaughn, who plays her wrestling trainer. The humor (while there’s not an overabundance of it) is very organic in the script, and it does a really great job at teaching people to challenge the stereotypes we hold and look at what good we can do with where we are right now. Nice work, Stephen Merchant. Good job. 8.2/10.
This movie sure is lucky that Octavia Spencer is such a great actress, because otherwise it would be just another run-of-the-mill teen party horror movie as far as the story is concerned. There are some genuinely good performances besides hers in here, like those of Diana Silvers (also great in Booksmart) and Juliette Lewis, but the rest of the characters are mostly hollow placeholders to give the movie something to do for an hour and a half. Almost no character in this movie is very likeable besides Maggie, and while I get that’s kind of the point it’s trying to make, that makes it hard to want to get attached to anything that’s happening with any of the other characters. 6/10.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
I never really grew up with Pokémon, so I understand that I wasn’t really the target audience for this movie anyway (which is probably why things didn’t hit me as hard as they did Pokémon fans), but I still had a good deal of fun with it. It’s not perfect, and I think it could have done a better job of explaining some things and fleshing out the villain characters a little more, (especially for those of us who aren’t familiar with this world) but even then it does a good enough job setting up the heroes and making them compelling that I only noticed those flaws afterwards. You could do a lot worse for decent video game movies. 7.2/10.
What if Superman from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was still a kid and got put into a movie where all his material was copyrighted, so the creators had to use alternate names for basically everything? That’s this movie, and while it certainly swings for the fences on some of the violence, the lack of any motivation at all for the lead character to be evil makes it really hard to care about him or anyone around him. He basically just turns evil because the movie says he has to be that way, which doesn’t make for a very compelling story, and since he just knows how to use all his powers immediately, the wind is taken out of any sails he might have to develop as a character by not being able to control them. Plus, the whole plot with the spaceship giving him these dark ideas is so vague, you could take it out the movie, and the film would essentially remain the same. 5.6/10.
This fresh comedy (produced and written by The Office’s Mindy Kaling) about a TV network comedy show writer who’s lost her touch with her core audience is a really sweet and heartfelt letter to what goes into the creation of a show like this. There are some genuinely great laughs in here, although the film could have stood to show a little more of that audience the lead is fighting for outside of the studio guests. There is one point where the movie tries to say something about diversity hires, but seems to be afraid to make a definitive statement, and then sends a conflicting message right at the end of the film. Other than that though, this is a sincere, earnest film with a lot of spirit that showcases once again why Emma Thompson is just the best at what she does. 7.4/10
And that’s it for our first batch of Mini Reviews! What are our all’s thoughts on this list (or the movies on it)? How would you rate these films? Tell me in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.