Hello there, and welcome back to The Friendly Film Fan! I hope you all have enjoyed getting to read my reviews and rankings all across the year of 2019, and hopefully, if I did my job right, you were able to come across some gems you might not otherwise have caught and avoided spending your money on some disappointments with my help. As happens every year, I’m not always able to see some movies I’d hoped to catch during their theatrical runs; this can be due to seeing other (often more high-profile) releases at the time, those movies not showing near me, or the simple lack of time in my personal life to devote to seeing them. In addition, I sometimes see films in theaters for which I don’t have the time to devote a full review. As a result, I often cover these particular pictures with “Mini Review” segments, which include a paragraph or two (usually not more than one) about the film and how I felt about it, along with my usual numeric score on a scale of 0-10. The first installment of Mini Reviews for 2019 is already up (and you can read it here), but I still have movies to discuss, so let’s dive in to my second batch on Mini Reviews for this cinematic year (Small disclaimer: Unfortunately or otherwise, I did miss 47 Meters Down: Uncaged in theaters, so that will have to be moved to Mini Reviews #3…whenever that installment comes out).
This comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani as an Uber driver lugging around Dave Bautista’s massive cop to wherever he needs to go to finish a case after eye surgery is funnier than you’d expect, but not nearly as much as it should be, and doesn’t challenge either of its leads in the performance department. The whole thing start to fall apart near the middle when one realizes that no Uber or Lyft driver in their right minds would ever keep giving Bautista rides to increasingly dangerous situations just to get five stars (I’ve been a Lyft driver; I know how it works), and the whole police betrayal subplot comes out of absolutely nowhere. 5.6/10.
A high art concept horror with a painting that kills those in possession of it, each in more mysterious ways, that stars Jake Gyllenhaal, and is directed by Dan Gilroy? Sign me up! Unfortunately, while the reflection on how empty the lives of the decadent can often be works, and Gyllenhaal turns in typically great work, the film is too unfocused and devoid of horror or tension to leave any lasting impact, and refuses to have anything to say about art; curators can let this one go. 4.7/10.
I’ll give it some points for clever puzzles, but unfortunately, this semi-slasher thriller starring Daredevil heroine Deborah Ann Woll moves outside of its admittedly simplistic premise to tease at something greater, which only makes this film weaker in the process. It’s a decent little throwaway bargain bin rental, but the sequel it attempts to set up probably shouldn’t happen, especially given the notion that this premise is (by nature) kind of a one-and-done thing. 4.8/10.
A Dog’s Way Home
No, this isn’t the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose (that’s A Dog’s Journey, which I haven’t caught up to yet), but this little drama about a lost dog trying to make it home actually hid the majority of its good stuff from the trailer, which is likely why it looked much worse than it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, more than a few of the visual effects are pretty awful in execution, but A Dog’s Way Home actually has a surprisingly thoughtful message about the unfair discrimination Pitbulls face as a dog breed, and it does have enough sweet moments to make it worth at least one watch. 6.5/10.
As much as I would love to tell the Keanussance remains in full effect, Replicas is like someone stretching an entire first act to feature length because whoever came up with it never thought farther than the premise. It boasts some interesting (if familiar) ideas, but the whole thing takes way too long to get going, and everything surrounding Keanu is too vague and ill-defined to care about even in a small way. What a loss. 3.8/10.
The Kid Who Would Be King
Joe Cornish follows up his hit Attack the Block (still need to see that one myself) with this new spin on the tales of King Arthur and his round table knights by making something shockingly more charming and sincere than any of its marketing told us about. The performances are solid all around, especially from Angus Imrie as a disguised Merlin, and Louis Ashbourne Serkis as the lead, Alex. The whole thing is chock-full of clever writing and sincere, earnest direction, and while it may not exactly try anything new, this is one family film the whole family really can enjoy. Most people missed this one in theaters, so see it if you can. 8.2/10.
No one (least of all me) knows how exactly Serenity managed to keep its big central twist a secret given that it’s a January movie that didn’t need to hide spoilers people weren’t looking for, but it’s nonetheless impressive that a major studio can still put out something this ambitious, even if the results are a little too lackluster for its all-star cast. It’s not exactly as bad as you’ve heard, but it’s still pretty bad overall, and the central twist doesn’t really pay off at all. 3.8/10.
Isolation thrillers aren’t as common now as they used to be, especially as wide releases during awards season, but Joe Penna’s Arctic features some fantastic solo work by Mads Mikkelsen (one of the greatest actors we don’t see enough of), as well as a sincere feeling of dread each time his character is set back from escaping the freezing arctic circle, whether by his own broken leg or a downed helicopter with no survivors. It’s not much, and I would have like a little more on the back end, but it’s nice that we can still get contained movies like this with performances like Mikkelsen’s. 8/10.
The most recently released entry on this list, Bennett’s War is about an injured Army ranger who’s put on medical discharge and attempts to ride motocross again, which he quit doing beforehand in order to go and serve, and it’s a better movie than anyone probably thought it was going to be. Sure, it has its major flaws, like high contrast cinematography that looks like a teenager made an Army recruitment campaign ad, some brutally unfunny racist/misogynistic jokes, and an unfortunately stilted performance by lead Michael Roark, but the supporting turns by country music star Trace Adkins and actress Allison Paige ar actually somewhat impressive, and the racing scenes themselves (few as they are, unfortunately) are actually quite thrilling. One more re-write or two and this could have been one of the year’s most underrated indies. 6.5/10.
The Angry Birds Movie 2
No, I haven’t seen the first Angry Birds; yes, I tried to before seeing this one, but time just wasn’t on my side in that regard, and while there are certainly some major things this sequel carries over from the original film, Angry Birds 2 boasts some pretty solid character development for its lead Red, and some genuinely clever jokes and character beats, even if it’s all hampered by an unnecessary subplot that ultimately isn’t relevant and editing that’s all over the place. Hey, at least you won’t completely hate watching this with your kids. 6.7/10.
And that’ll do it for my second installment of Mini Reviews in 2019! What movies did you see on this list? Any you feel you should catch up on now? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading, and keep it right here at The Friendly Film Fan for more reviews, news, rankings, and more!
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.