2019’s best and worst film offerings

December 21, 2019

While the curtain comes down on another year, it’s time to look back at the year that was in cinema. We have had two franchises come to a close, the birth – and subsequent death – of MoviePass, and the rise in profile for films released directly to streaming, once considered a sign of abject failure. It was also a year dominated by Disney, which now owns a whopping 40 percent of box office since its acquisition of 20th Century Fox.

The future remains uncertain for many of the planned Fox releases that have been placed on hold while the merger took place, and it’s difficult to predict where that may leave consumers in the next decade. Last week, we took a look at some of the most influential films of the past 10 years, so let’s just take a moment to wax nostalgic and celebrate the best (and worst) films from this past year.

The bottom

10. Glass: M. Night Shyamalan shocked us with his comeback “Split” a few years ago, which was teased as a quasi-sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable.” “Glass” was to be the finale, bringing both films together and reuniting the casts of both in the ultimate showdown. It was fitting that the finale took place in a puddle.

9. Replicas: Getting on screens purely on the coattails of the “John Wick”-inspired Keanu-ssance, this sci-fi mess had Reeves reviving his dead family. Too bad he could not bring the script to life.

8. Shaft: The title is the same as John Singleton’s 2000 reboot/sequel “Shaft,” which was also the same title as the 1971 Richard Roundtree original “Shaft,” except this one introduces Jessie T. Usher as another generation of supersleuth. At least it delivered to audiences what its title promised.

7. Rambo: Last Blood: We can only hope there is a similar truth in advertising for this sad, tired franchise. The anemic Rambo is in desperate need of a transfusion.

6. Wonder Park: After director Dylan Brown was fired from the production, no one decided to take on the task and it was released without a credited director. When a film is this confused, boring and disconcerting, it’s no wonder no one else would want it.

5. Men in Black: International: In an attempt to spark anew the MiB franchise, “International” showed us that while intelligent life may be out there, it’s certainly lacking here on Earth.

4. The Fanatic: Sure, it was odd to watch Robert DeNiro trying not to act his age in “The Irishman,” but even the man with “Dirty Grandpa” on his resume will have more dignity than poor John Travolta playing a murderous man-child in this fascinatingly bad “thriller.”

3. The Hustle: The female-led reboot of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” suffered the same fate as the ill-fated “Ghostbusters” attempt a couple years back. It’s not that the leads were ladies; it was that the writers forgot to bring the funny.

2. Godzilla: King of the Monsters: After “Kong: Skull Island,” expectations were raised for the extra-large lizard to deliver this summer. But in its chaotic attempt to introduce an all-star monster cast, this film forgot to give its human characters the slightest bit of nuance.

1. Serenity: I’m all for twists, but when the impetus for this Matthew McConaughey-Anne Hathaway potboiler is revealed, about halfway in, it raises far more questions that it answers. Foggy when it meant to be steamy, “Serenity” will no doubt pick up a cult following of those who enjoy overcooked bad films.

Let’s take a breather and head for sunnier shores, plus take a look at some of the best films the past year had to offer:

10. The Lighthouse: Director Robert Eggers follows up “The Witch” with this Herman Melville fever dream with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe stuck in a remote outpost in the 1890s and slowly descending into madness. It may be too obtuse for some, but for the adventurous filmgoer, it’s a beacon of wild, weird filmmaking.

9. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: In a time when a president finds it perfectly normal to antagonize a teenage girl on social media, a man like Fred Rogers valuing the voices of all children is needed more than ever. And Tom Hanks is just the right person to play him.

8. Booksmart: Heartfelt, intelligent and honest, “Booksmart” is one of the best teen comedies to emerge in the last few years. Mixing high- and low-brow comedy, “Booksmart” is a rare look at female friendships in that critical time of life.

7. Once Upon A TIme...In Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino creates what feels like his first truly authentic voice in this sweeping salute to fading golden years of film. Both Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio get to demonstrate their respective skills while delivering some of Tarantino’s best dialogue in quite some time.

6. Ready or Not: One of the last films to be released under Fox Searchlight studios, “Ready or Not” demonstrated the bold, visionary gambles that studio would often take. Wickedly wild and commanded by Samara Weaving, “Ready or Not” came ready to play.

5. Us: Jordan Peele once again delivers on his promise. More meditative and ambitious than his “Get Out” breakout hit, “Us” reveals it has much more on its mind than getting under our skin. It wants to creep into our brains.

4. Dolomite is My Name: Eddie Murphy explodes on screen after a three-year absence with what is perhaps his most accomplished role to date. Sweet, sassy and slightly paunchy, Murphy is perhaps more himself than the character of Rudy Ray Moore whom he is playing, but it’s a welcome return, and one with unexpected heart and compassion.

3. Last Black Man in San Francisco: More of a poem than a narrative film, this is an evocative, dreamy and beautifully poignant ode to a city in transition. It captured the hearts of its Sundance crowd, and should continue to enamour all who stumble into its path.

2. Knives Out: Offering one of the most fun evenings at the movies this year, the crackerjack cast and no-fat direction from writer/director Rian Johnson rewrite the typical murder-mystery and keep us equally riotous and riveted.

1. Parasite: Director Bong Joon-ho has always been interested in the corrupting power of wealth, but here he provides us with a labyrinthine residence that feels like the ultimate showdown of his ideas. Darkly comedic in the most unexpected places, and delivering surprises that even the most seasoned movie-goer would not expect, “Parasite” surprises in the best possible ways.

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society. Email him at

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