Tom Jolliffe offers an alternative list of must watch films in 2019…
We’re just beginning the new year, and as per normal, there are a lot of looks ahead to what we should watch this year. Blockbusters generally rule the world as far as the majority of Most Anticipated because of course on the other side, they pull in the most buckeroos. It goes without saying that Avengers: Endgame is high up on just about everyone’s list. It’s even fairly high up on mine, and I say that as someone a tad indifferent to comic book franchises (through fatigue more than anything). Captain Marvel is also very much on the radar too and whilst the Solo film last year (and The Last Jedi backlash) suggested Star Wars burnout, Star Wars: Episode IX is going to be the Christmas season event. Then, even looking at the streaming market, The Irishman is the big one, not just because they spent an enormous amount on it, but it’s Martin Scorsese, and it’s also De Niro, Pacino and Joe Pesci coming together too.
Still, I’m going to offer an alternative look at some exciting films that might slip under your radar. Firstly, I’ll look at one that’s teetering. It’s a big film, but it’s spawned from a sleeper hit, to a big hit and is beginning to gain the kind of cult status that Liam Neeson’s Taken series did a decade ago. That being said, John Wick is superior. There are bigger tentpoles coming for sure, but for me, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is THE balls out action film to watch. Keanu Reeves has been superb in the franchise up until now and the way the last instalment descended into ever snowballing chaos, until a denouement that promises action of epic proportions, means that the third film is destined to be immense. Throw in a great cast including the returnees as well as Anjelica Huston, Halle Berry and Jason Mantzoukis. Then go further and appease an 80’s/90’s video action aficionado like myself, and throw Mark Dacascos into the mix and you know the team here have encyclopaedic action knowledge. The prospect of Reeves facing off against Dacascos (among all his other throw downs) is very exciting.
On the subject of balls to the wall action, Triple Threat is a dream team of some of the best Martial arts action stars of the modern era, bringing together Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Celina Jade. Carnage is inevitable, and all under the watchful eye of Jesse V Johnson who has toiled in straight to video action for well over a decade, valiantly battling budget constraints (and occasionally producers I’d wager) to instil some passion and artistry into films that would generally have been churned out without care otherwise. 2018 was a good year for Johnson (check Accident Man and The Debt Collector with Scott Adkins in full flow), and Triple Threat could pave the way for John Wick level gigs (hopefully).
I’ve often bemoaned a slight lack in the new century of really interesting, engaging cinema. If I think of my top 100 list (I can’t think too hard about that as I’d lose weeks, months) then there wouldn’t be a huge selection of 21st century films vying for a spot. One of those, a piece that really struck me as intense, engaging and interesting (with inspired performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo) was Nightcrawler. It seemed to get pretty criminally ignored by several award ceremonies, but none more than The Oscars (with only one Best Screenplay nod).
Whilst Whiplash and Birdman were excellent from that year, Nightcrawler is the one that sticks with me, and Gyllenhaal not taking at least an Oscar nom was a huge omission (Ditto Russo). So it was surprise to me, that Velvet Buzzsaw really came out of the blue to me having been forwarded the trailer. Writer/Director Dan Gilroy re-teams with Gyllenhaal and Russo (his wife). The film looks bonkers, but very different. As art appears to take on a threatening life form in a melding of horror and fantasy with a cast to die for. This one hits Netflix very soon as one of their early tentpoles. It looks potentially divisive (part of what piques my interest too) and whether it becomes the new Bird Box (have you seen? Have you seen?) remains to be seen (unlikely, as it’s not as ‘safe’).
Polar is another Netflix title which looks interesting. The trailer suggests this could be an engaging and visceral action flick, or a complete mess. Director Jonas Akerlund’s work is definitely scattershot. Inspired moments among misfired shots. I enjoyed Small Apartments, which despite an odd humour which didn’t entirely translate, featured some good performances among a cobbled collection of vignettes. Polar does have an ace in the pack though, with Mads Mikkelsen leading as a retired assassin, forced back in the game. He’s an actor I never find less than engaging to watch, and even if he’s fighting auteur inconsistency, there’s a chance he has the chops to steady the ship. This one is just around the corner too.
Bergman Island may not jump out as particularly mouth watering and enticing but for myself, as a Bergman fan (and aspiring writer) this has a really interesting concept. A pair of struggling writers head to an island which inspired Bergman himself, as a pilgrimage, in an attempt to write their respective screenplays. Fiction and reality begins to blur. Little more is known about this but this French made, English language, Swedish set film, promises something very interesting if they can nail it. Writer/Director Mia Hansen-Love has a solid indie track record. Mia Wasikowska is a fantastic lead to have on board, so colour me interested for this one.
Click below to continue on to the second page…