Just like my Halloween post is a tradition, one of my others here is my Best and Worst list in film, music, books, and other oddities. Unlike many of the so called critics, who choose many films that most don’t see (or have limited access to), my picks are usually different, and more mainstreamed. I also suggest a few items that deserve a second look, where many have bashed or hated, but weren’t as bad in my opinion as the other “critics” think The music section will not feature hard rock/metal due to the fact that my picks for this genre will be on the site Sleazeroxx (check out their page for my picks there, along with my retro reviews, along with their many great writers) Nonetheless, here are my picks for the best and worst of 2019:
- Alita: Battle Angel – This is a film I would normally not seek out any other time. I am not a huge fan of animation,/computer generated films, more less one that mixes animation and live actors. However, this film has a wonderful script about a futuristic society where a female cyborg who is named after a scientist’s deceased daughter. The film mixed animated action (where if it was not computerized, would be a gruesome live action film), with great actors such as Jennifer Connelly and Christoph Waltz. Rosa Salazar plays the lead character, filled with emotion, doubt, and trying to find a purpose, on top of figuring out who she is. This has a strong female lead that doesn’t offend the men with PC themes. This is my pick of the year. Tons of action mixed with a quality script.
- Captain Marvel. – Many may state that Avengers: End Game or Spider Man Far From Home was the best Marvel film of the year, but I am picking Captain Marvel here. Endgame forces the comedy in parts that it didn’t need to be in, and was long at over three hours. Marvel mixed the action and humor together , without being forced in the jokes. Brie Larson is wonderful in the film, along with Samuel L. Jackson (an actor I’m not a huge fan of). Next to Wonder Woman, this is a film that has a strong female lead without all the PC preaching in it, along with great action scenes. For someone who is burned out on the superhero genre, I found this a fun, entertaining film , with the humor in the right spots and not overdone, and is a film I watch over and over.
- The Banana Splits Movie- This year the horror films have been bland at best. Although many will state the film with the clown as the best of the year (which fell short of my expectations), this film is a must watch. Just like the characters from the TV show, it’s campy, fun , and almost comical about a boy and his family visiting a taping of The Banana Splits TV Show, only to find out that the robot characters have gone rogue and starts an attack on the humans. This film is part KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park, with a horror mix to it. This is a fun watch for fans that want something that’s not just gore ( there are some gory parts), but something mindless and fun. This is retro slasher fun, especially for us older folks, who remember the characters from our childhood.
- Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker- I get the whole “Disney ruined Star Wars” debate that many have said. However, one must realize that those of us that grew up on the original trilogy are not in the Disney geared audience anymore. The franchise is for newer fans, and let’s face it: Disney has to end the Skywalker storyline because they want to do their own thing without us purists comparing it to the originals. People my age are not the Disney target audience. With that said, this film achieved , for the most part, an ending to the original story. It had emotion to it, and wasn’t too cheesy for me as the prequels were. Daisy Ridley is becoming one of my favorite actresses (she was good in Murder On The Orient Express and Ophelia from this past year as well). Rey was one of the better characters in the newer series , and was given depth throughout the three films, as opposed to the wooden acting of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, who has come off unconvincing as a dangerous threat in the universe during the first two films. Although there were plenty of predictable plotlines in the film, it was still entertaining, and I was not offended by how it was wrapped up. Now fans like me, who are rare supporters of the Skywalker saga, can move on without having be obligated to see how the stories would be taken. Although many have picked Knives Out as their favorite of the year, which was very good, I overall enjoyed this (for now) conclusion of the Skywalker series to be in my top 4.
Deserves A Second Chance: Godzilla King Of The Monsters, Escape Room, Crawl, Ready Or Not, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
THE BEST HOLIDAY FILMS- Many have loved the onslaught of Christmas and Holiday films that happen every year. Me, not so much, but two that were really good were The Knight Before Christmas starring the great Vanessa Hudgens, who plays a science teacher in Ohio who meets a time traveling knight that must find is true love quest before Christmas day, and A Christmas Wish with Hilarie Burton, two of my favorite, and under appreciated actors. Burton’s film , where she plays an art teacher, is filled with several former actors from the show One Tree Hill, where she was a star on (and a favorite of mine until she left the show, and her co-star Sophia Bush was amazing in the first several seasons, another underrated actress in my opinion). Her co-star, Tyler Hilton (who played the annoying Chris Keller on One Tree Hill) is actually charming in this. There are also cameos from former Tree Hill alumni Antwon Tanner (“Skills”), Lee Norris (“Mouth”) , Barbara Alyn Woods (” Deb Scott”) , and Colin Fickes (“Jimmy Edwards”) . It is a Tree Hill reunion, but the acting and story are really good, along with an underlying message about the importance of the arts in schools.
Hudgens is not only stunning and lovable to watch on screen, but she has depth to her acting where many just think of her as a Disney actor from the High School Musical series, which they would be wrong She is multi-talented, and there is very little I have seen of her movies that I did not like (Spring Breakers would be one of the few I didn’t enjoy). I liked her music as well. The only odd aspect in her Christmas story, though, is how nice her house is for being paid an Ohio teacher salary (I live in Ohio by the way). Yes, the story is cheesy, like most of the films in the genre, but her acting makes up for it. Both of these films are well written and are enjoyable, and that’s saying something for someone that does not get excited about the onslaught of Christmas romance films.
The Worst In Film :
- Replicas- This awful Keanu Reeves film is not worth your time, and even though I watched it via DVD, I could not figure out if the film was to be this comical or actually tries to take itself seriously. Reeves plays a character who brings his family back to life after a car accident, almost to clone them, at least that’s what I got out of the bore fest. Reeves and his coworker try and avoid their bosses and the police, while stealing equipment from the company to bring the family back to life in his basement. This is part Frankenstein and part Sci-Fi, but ends up being just bad. The only bright spot is Alice Eve, who plays his wife, but she can’t even save this dud.
- The Haunting of Sharon Tate. Many people still are infatuated with the Sharon Tate murders and Charlie Manson’s role in them. This film, with Hilary Duff playing Tate, is both bad and weird that it is actually offensive. Duff’s take on Tate is that she actually sees the murders before they happen in dreams while staying at her house with her friends before the events. This is a film that not only insults those that lived through the events, but the added twist to it, is just plan dumb. The film is not scary or well acted.
- Child’s Play/ Tolkien (tie) . These two films tie for my list. I liked the original Child’s Play, along with some of its sequels, and really wanted to like this film, with Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky. The problem with this reboot is that it looses the scariness where we are to be afraid of the doll. Instead of the original, where a killer uses dark magic to put himself into the doll, this Chucky is a defected doll, which a man who loses his job, disables the doll’s safety switch, which causes the doll to go rogue. If you want to see rogue dolls, check out Banana Splits instead.
Again, I wanted to like Tolkien, a film about the author’s time in war before he writes the Lord Of The Rings books. Starring Nicholas Hoult (who is wonderful in the X-Men films as “Beast,” my favorite X-Men character) , and Lily Collins (Phil’s daughter) , the film falls flat in everything, from the lack of chemistry between the characters, to the big absence of religion in Tolkien’s life, which was a key ingredient in his biography.
THE WORST (HONORABLE MENTION) : Us, Ma, Joker, 3 From Hell
Best Of :
- Jim Cornette Presents Behind The Curtain-Real Pro Wrestling Stories (Jim Cornette, Brandon Easton. Illustrator : Denis Medri)
This graphic novel/comic book is a wonderful look at several major wrestling stories from the classic wrestling era, from Ric Flair and Johnny Valentine’s plane crash, to the Bret Hart “screw job,” and the crazy wrestlers (and fans) that made the world of professional wrestling so unpredictable, and entertaining. The illustrations are wonderful and well done, along with the well written tales, which is missing in some major comics (not enough detail to the words and pictures). Wrestling and comic fans can enjoy this book (you can find a review of it in the archives here).
- Best Self: Be You, Only Better (Life Coach Mike Bayer). Many Dr. Phil fans will know Bayer as the person who comes on the show and helps people get their lives back in order. Most Self Help books I have read either fail short in its goals, or they assume all things are equal wherever you live. Bayer has some of these faults in the book, but it is overall a great book that helps people try to make each day better than the day before, without ignoring things like religion (some authors of these books ignore a person’s religious upbringings). Bayer’s book is also a workbook, where the best way to get where you want to go is to fill out the exercises at the end of each chapter. This was a pleasant surprise for me in not only in the exercises, but also in the fact that you can actually take something away from the books to apply. This is not over the head of people, and is something that needs to be read.
- Swamp Thing
Many people will pick a Star Wars streaming show for their pick (which I found to be a dumbed -down attempt at the universe), but this show should have been given a better chance. Right after the first two episodes, the producers announced that the show was being cancelled, due to behind the scenes problems. The first episode was a throwback to the classic horror TV shows, like Thriller and other scare shows from the days of the horror hosts. Although I started liking the Creepshow series, it fizzled out for me after the third episode for my horror liking. Swamp Thing had several big names like Ian Ziering (from 90210 and Sharknado fame) , Jennifer Beals, and Adrienne Barbeau (who was in the original 1982 Swamp Thing film). Crystal Reed was wonderful as Abby Arcane, who made me root for her every time she was on screen. The show combines mystery, horror, and the DC characters all into one small season. If you missed this show, seek it out. It’s a shame the show wasn’t given a quality chance with a great up and coming female lead.
- The Village
Another show that only got one season this year is The Village, which covers a small apartment complex and the lives of the people who live in there, who help each other as their own community. Some of the characters in the drama is a war vet, who is trying to get back into a normal life, a mother with a teenage daughter who is expecting a child at her young age, and a older couple who run the building who are just charming. Just like any drama, secrets are revealed, and not everyone is who they think they are. The great Michaela McManus plays the mother named Sarah, who I am a fan of her acting from One Tree Hill, The Vampire Diaries, and Law & Order : Special Victims Unit. If you are a fan of romance, drama, and well written characters, this needs to be watched, although the masses missed out on this great show.
- NWA POWERRR
For fans that have stopped watching pro wrestling due to the lack of quality action, this is the show for you. Unlike some wrestling shows, where you have to have cable or certain channels to watch, Powerr is available on demand on youtube if you miss the show on Tuesday Nights. This has the classic studio wrestling style, a throwback to the WTBS and Memphis studio days, and focuses on the actual combat first instead of other leagues which everything is about a outrageous story. Stars like Eli Drake, Nick Aldis, Kamille, and Thunder Rosa (along with other great people) mix newer and established stars to create an action packed hour of wrestling the way it used to be (a review of the show can be found in the archives). Other great wrestlers like The Rock and Roll Express help out those that miss the heroes of the past, along with appearances from former NWA wrestlers Nikita Koloff. If you miss the 1980s style wrestling, this is where you need to be.
Worst of TV:
- The Mandalarian – I know this has become a favorite among the Star Wars fans, but for me, this is just dumb enough to keep watching. As I mentioned above, I think this is a dumbed-down story in the Star Wars universe. This so called dangerous bounty hunter has a conscious over a baby Yoda creature, gets beat up almost every episode (where he needs his buddies to help him win most of the battles), while throwing twenty seconds of TV time to almost every creature that has ever been in the Star Wars movies . I am guessing the cute , lovable Child character will actually turn into an evil force in the galaxy. Once again, those die hard fans that state Disney killed the Star Wars films are using the examples for the same reasons they are liking this show: goofy characters (the baby Yoda child) geared towards little kids (like Jar Jar was), and characters that you can’t have emotion for. How can anyone be attached to this vicious bounty hunter when he never takes off his helmet or show emotions? The one bright spot in the acting goes to former UFC fighter Gina Carano, who plays Cara Dune (but who knows how long she’ll be on the show). It is slow moving , almost to the point where you want to turn it off, but it has just enough to keep you watching. I am not a fan of this show, when Swamp Thing was engaging every moment, and got cancelled.
- Lover-Taylor Swift
I was not a major fan of Swift’s early country music songs, until I heard the song “White Horse” sung at an open mike night where I was playing drums weekly at. It wasn’t until I picked up the 2010 Speak Now CD that I really became a fan of Swift’s work. Say what you want about her music or demographic, but she keeps putting out quality music each time (I know some that talk music with me hate the pop genre, but to me, good music is good music regardless of the targeted audience). I do not listen to much new music, but when every time Swift ‘s promotional machine kicks in for a new product, I am interested. I thought her last CD, Reputation, came off short from the wonderful 1989 . Swift has great songwriting on this album, including “I Forgot That You Existed,” a catchy opener to the album , to the title track, which is a mix of Pop/Blues perfection. The contagious “Me!” is great as well (you know it from the credit card commercial and is a song that ones has to sing along to). Although the pop genre is not what I like in general, I can’t dismiss this is Swift’s best work so far.
- Down Home Christmas- The Oak Ridge Boys.
I am not a huge fan of Christmas music. I am not a Scrooge, but there are only so much one can do with the genre(the same songs, arrangements, etc) before one decides not to buy the CDs. With their last Christmas release only a few years earlier (2016’s Celebrate Christmas), I admit my skepticism was here. The singing group, along with producer Dave Cobb, takes a stripped down version of mostly original songs, and makes it as if the singers were sitting in a log cabin in December hanging out with us listeners. The vocals are still as great as ever with the band, but the lack of production musically, as opposed to the last CD, gives a new take on a worn-out genre (a full review on this and Celebrate Christmas can be found here in the archives) . For a group that has done it all several times over, the mighty Oaks still find ways to be refreshing without compromising their values and core audiences. On this CD the voices are the main instruments behind stripped down musicians that gives the appeal that all ages can enjoy.
Just like any review, these are my opinions and will (most likely) be disputed, but I do want to thank everyone who has followed me on this page , or stopped by to read certain posts (Subscribe to really help out! ). Thanks to all the book companies who have helped support the page by sending their titles, and the authors and friends I have made on here because of this page. Hopefully this new year will be just as entertaining to you readers as I have in posting my topics . Here’s to a great 2020, and thanks for the support!