Top Ten Films and TV Shows of 2019

2019 proved to be a smorgasbord of genre offerings on film and TV as have been most of the years in this concluding decade. Many of the films and TV shows on this list have been widely acclaimed, one of the films became the highest grossing film of all time, another looks to be revered at the Academy Awards, while a couple of the TV shows have caught the public zeitgeist. Here are the best films and TV shows of 2019. Of course, this list is purely subjective, so apologies to anyone wondering why Cats did not make the list. 😀

Onward to 2020 and the rest of the coming decade!

Films

Mcbride at space elevator

10. Ad Astra

This space drama starring Brad Pitt as an astronaut searching for his father was quietly involving as it took audiences into a tour through the solar system. For the most part, it was a grounded and breathtaking look at space travel in the near future. It stumbles in the third act, but what came before was quite memorable.

9. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Visually arresting while staying focused on its emotional core and story, the third and final How to Train Your Dragon film capped off a wonderful trilogy. Thanks to this film, the trilogy achieved the difficult distinction of being part of a trilogy where all the films in it were great.

8. Alita: Battle Angel

The stylish live-action adaptation of the classic manga became a cult classic for good reason. Stunning visuals and a brilliant mo-cap performance by Rosa Salazar as Alita were the best highlights in this action-packed, cyberpunk epic.

7. Shazam!

In a crowded superhero film landscape, Shazam! managed to be something unique and stood out in the field. Shazam! was witty, genuinely heartfelt and refreshing that worked as a quirky family drama, coming-of-age romp and a fun superhero film that helped to reinvigorate the struggling DCEU.

6. Toy Story 4

The fourth and final Toy Story film was just as funny, whimsical and poignant as the previous films. It introduced charming and hysterical new characters while touching our hearts as our favorite toys moved on with their lives.

5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Big, loud, and explosive like its marque monsters, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was ravaged by critics but enjoyed by the rest. No doubt, the plot, logic and characters were muddled and not essential, but who cared? This was supposed to be a big-budget kaiju throwdown and it delivered that with its jaw dropping effects and sequences of monsters stomping on cities and each other.

4. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

The last (until 2022) of the Star Wars films was a rousing, loud and messy conclusion to the nine-film Skywalker Saga. Director J.J. Abrams had the unenviable task of tying up the Star Wars films, while undoing much of what occurred in the previous Star Wars Saga film. The results were not pretty, but his efforts worked with this fast-paced space fantasy that was flawed but satisfying as it celebrated all that was great about Star Wars.

black and red spidey

3. Spider-Man: Far From Home

The final film in Phase Three of the MCU successfully entertained audiences with the breezy misadventures of everyone’s favorite teenage superhero. The second Spider-Man solo film set in the MCU continued to showcase his angst and mishaps as he went on a European school trip. Aside from the laughs at Spidey’s expense, Spider-Man: Far From Home showcased his emotional growth and maturity as he faced adulthood and the aftermath of the events of Avengers: Endgame. The mid-credits scene was a genuine stunner that left us itching for the next film, which will thankfully happen.

2. Joker

Disturbing and at the same time captivating, Joker echoed other character studies of emotionally broken men like Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. The DC film thoroughly explored the psychological deterioration of the disturbed Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) in his dismal and empty life in the gritty streets of Gotham. The film felt more like a documentary set in the hellish streets that evoked New York City in the 1970s that happened to chronicle the origin of Batman’s greatest villain.

But what struck viewers most was the performance by Phoenix as the man who becomes the Joker (depending on one’s interpretation, Fleck may not even be the actual Joker). His portrayal made Fleck a somewhat sympathetic person, yet terrifying at the same time. The unease culminated during Fleck’s complete breakdown as he embraced anarchy and chaos, which spread like a virus throughout Gotham’s restless populace.

1. Avengers: Endgame

Some may think of Avengers: Endgame as just a direct sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, but it was much more than that. Avengers Endgame was the epic, grand finale of the massive Infinity Saga which spanned over 20 films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Featuring most of the characters from the past MCU films (many of them played by high-caliber thespians), the fourth Avengers film powerfully concluded the Infinity Saga that started back in 2008 when Tony Stark first emerged from a cave wearing a suit of armor.

Avengers: Endgame is so much more than your typical comic book film with topnotch effects and fight scenes. Though it has plenty of those! This film took the time to explore the emotional aftermath of the heroes’ failures during Avengers: Infinity War and their long road back to redemption. From there, the film becomes a hysterical and exciting time travel romp rivaling the best of the Back to the Future films before culminating in an action-jammed third act. The final act of the film was already renowned for having the greatest superhero battle ever shown on film that doubles as a who’s who of superheroes against the forces of Thanos. However, Avengers: Endgame’s heart-tugging and fitting coda left an everlasting impression among viewers as it reflected on and ultimately celebrated the heroes and achievement of the MCU.

Honorable Mentions:

Brightburn; Captain Marvel; Crawl; Dark Phoenix; Doctor Sleep; Glass; It: Chapter Two; Jumanji: The Next Level; Replicas; Us; Zombieland: Double Tap

TV Shows

10. Undone

A beautifully animated and captivating series used rotoscoping to illustrate the fluid reality experienced by its main character Alma (Rosa Salazar). After a near-death experience, she gains the ability to move through time and reality as she helps her dead father solve his murder. The animation was quite unique, but its character study was even more provocative.

9. Watchmen

Less of a sequel to Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ seminal comic book and more of a spinoff, Watchmen was highlighted by its timely and relevant storylines set in an alternate world that surprised audiences.

8. The Handmaid’s Tale

The third season of this dystopian look at America under a brutal theocratic rule was as haunting as ever. Still, despite its harshness, the show changed gears with new characters and new aspects of society while providing glimmers of hope to keep us watching.

jon kills daenerys

7. Game of Thrones

Yes, the final season of Game of Thrones was a letdown compared to the other seasons of this landmark fantasy show. It was rushed and left many unanswered questions. Nevertheless, Game of Thrones’ final season managed to conclude its sprawling epic tale of warring kingdoms with terrific, unmatched production values, effects and acting.

6. Stranger Things

The loving tribute to 1980s genre flicks continued to entertain viewers in its third season. The characters, including Eleven, were allowed to grow and mature as they faced off against interdimensional threats to their small town in Indiana. This growth and breakout new characters were the true stars of Stranger Things, not the monsters.

5. The Expanse

The decade’s best sci-fi TV show got a new lease on life in its fourth season thanks to Amazon Prime. The story of mankind’s first clumsy steps into becoming an interstellar civilization was just as enthralling as previous seasons thanks to above-par scripts, excellent special effects and its grounded and realistic aspect.

4. The Boys

Amazon Prime’s entry into superhero TV shows popped out with its black humor and graphic violence as it illustrated the seedier and more cynical side of superheroes. Graphic nature aside, The Boys was well put together and offered an engrossing behind-the-scenes look at superheroes (if you can call them that).

3. Doom Patrol

Superhero TV shows have stepped up their game and pushed boundaries. Then there is Doom Patrol, which as the best superhero TV show of 2019 added the weird to weirdness. Doom Patrol embraced its quirky and bizarre comic book roots and enthralled us with goofy, misfit characters and outrageous and unconventional scripts.

baby yoda and mando

2. The Mandalorian

The first live-action Star Wars TV show is easily the flagship show on the Disney+ streaming service and for good reason as it has caught the attention of the world thanks to Baby Yoda. The Mandalorian will help keep interest alive in the Star Wars franchise thanks to its simple and effective story of an enigmatic bounty hunter and the infant child he cares for.

As an ode to Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and Lone Wolf and Cub, The Mandalorian is a mesmerizing space western with intriguing characters, namely the mysterious Mandalorian with no name, and exciting stories. And that Baby Yoda is so adorable!

1. Star Trek: Discovery

2019 had many memorable and outstanding genre TV shows. Many of which will stand the test of time. But Star Trek: Discovery comes out on top simply for exceeding expectations after its mixed first season. In its sophomore season, Star Trek: Discovery went back to basics and embraced its traditional Star Trek roots. By doing so, the TV show delivered many standout episodes, some of which can be considered to be classic Star Trek stories.

Star Trek: Discovery was also buoyed by a breakout performance by Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, cinema-level effects and photography and fascinating storylines. Not every episode was great but they were solid entertainment, while others were instant classics. This season also confirmed beyond doubt that the show was clearly set in the actual prime Star Trek universe, which was a relief for many. In many ways, the second season of Star Trek: Discovery helped revive interest in the Star Trek franchise, which will hopefully be fueled by the upcoming Star Trek: Picard.

Honorable Mentions:

Arrow; Carnival Row; Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance; For All Mankind; Legion; Lost in Space; Love, Death & Robots; Runaways; Star Trek: Short Treks; Titans; The Twilight Zone; The Witcher; Years and Years

Best Of The 2010s Decade

As this decade draws to a close very soon, it’s time to quickly look back at all the wonderful films and TV shows that came out in the 2010s. Like many other decades, there were many genuine classics and game changing offerings that will stay with us for years to come. This best of the 2010s post will only list the top ten shows/films for various categories due to time constraints. Feel free to pipe in with your own lists because after all, these lists are subjective and part of the fun with these lists is comparing them to your own!

Best Science Fiction Films

1. Guardians of the Galaxy

2. The new Planet of the Apes trilogy

(A. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes B. Rise of the Planet of the Apes C. War for the Planet of the Apes)

3. Edge of Tomorrow

4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

5. Ready Player One

6. Gravity

7. Interstellar

8. Pacific Rim

9. Jurassic World

10. Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Fantasy Films

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

2. The Shape of Water

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

4. Trollhunter

5. The Jungle Book

6. Doctor Strange

7. Shazam!

8. Pete’s Dragon

9. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Horror Films

1. The Cabin in the Woods

2. It

3. Hereditary

4. The Babadook

5. A Quiet Place

6. It Follows

7. V/H/S/2

8. Get Out

9. The Witch

10. Train to Busan

Best Animated Films

1 Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse

2 The Lego Movie

3 Rise of the Guardians

4. Toy Story 4

5 The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy

(A. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, B. How to Train Your Dragon 2, C. How to Train Your Dragon)

6. Big Hero 6

7. Zootopia

8. Kung Fu Panda 2

9. Coco

10. Toy Story 3

Best Superhero/Comic Book Films

1. Avengers: Infinity War

2. Logan

3. Captain America: The Winter Solider

4. Captain America: Civil War

5. Avengers: Endgame

6. The Avengers

7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

8. Man of Steel

9. Joker

10. X-Men: Days of Futures Past

Best Overall Films

1. Avengers: Infinity War

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

3. Logan

4 .The new Planet of the Apes trilogy

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

6. Captain America: Civil War

7. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

9. Edge of Tomorrow

10. The Cabin in the Woods

expanse cast

Best Science Fiction TV Shows

1. The Expanse

2 Westworld

3. The Handmaid’s Tale

4. Star Trek: Discovery

5. The Mandalorian

6. Stranger Things

7. Black Mirror

8. 12 Monkeys

9. Defiance

10. The Orville

Best Horror TV Shows

1. The Walking Dead

2. Stranger Things

3. Ash Vs. Evil Dead

4. The Strain

5. Penny Dreadful

6. Being Human

7. Constantine

8. American Horror Story

9. The Haunting of Hill House

10. Castle Rock

Game of Thrones

Best Fantasy TV Shows

1 Game of Thrones

2. Undone

3. Carnival Row

4. The Witcher

5. The Legend of Korra

6. Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

7. Being Human

8. Russian Doll

9. Adventure Time

10. Outlander

Star-Wars-Rebels-Season-4-Banner

Best Animated TV Shows

1. Star Wars Rebels

2. The Legend of Korra

3. Rick and Morty

4. Young Justice

5. Undone

6 Tron: Uprising

7. Love, Death & Robots

8. Primal

9. Adventure Time

10. Harley Quinn

Best Superhero/Comic Book Shows

1. Daredevil

2. Doom Patrol

3. The Boys

4. Watchmen

5. Titans

6. Legion

7. Jessica Jones

8. Legends of Tomorrow

9. The Flash

10. Arrow

Best Overall TV Shows

1. Game of Thrones

2. The Walking Dead

3. The Expanse

4. Daredevil

5. Stranger Things

6. Westworld

7. The Handmaid’s Tale

8. Black Mirror

9 12 Monkeys

10. Doom Patrol

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Is A Fast, Emotional & Messy Conclusion To The Star Wars Saga

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is the latest and supposedly final Star Wars film dealing with the Skywalkers is now out. As with recent Star Wars films it is already a divisive film among fans and critics alike, who either praise it or deride it for too many reasons. Trying to do an objective review is very difficult for a film like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and that is because of the film franchise’s unique way of permeating throughout time. It is all too easy to offer an opinion on the latest Star Wars film, but come back a year or five later and anyone’s opinion will change.

Look at the prequel films. For the longest time they were so loathed by many fans that George Lucas swore off doing anymore films and could have been a reason why he just up and sold the property and Lucasfilm to Disney. Let them take the heat for the films and boy, are they doing so now. The derision tossed at the Disney-era films is so severe that the prequels are now viewed on a more favorable light by many. The one merit pointed out with the prequels is that at least they had a cohesive vision: the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi. This cohesiveness and vision are obviously missing with the sequel trilogy, which is a handicap the last film in the sequel trilogy had to face.

As many know, director J.J. Abrams created the template for a new trilogy with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. It was expected that the director of the next film, Rian Johnson, would take the themes and plot threads and continue them. Instead, Rian Johnson went off on his own tangent and did a deconstruction of the Star Wars films with Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the reaction was disastrous, divisive, and controversial.

Seeing the hatred Star Wars: The Last Jedi received, Lucasfilm tapped J.J. Abrams to come back and do a course correction. Did it work? Honestly, that is hard to say. On a personal level, to myself, the film was awe inspiring and emotional. It moves with a fast-paced momentum that reeks of desperateness that works! Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a satisfying return to the Star Wars that we all loved that is a heartfelt tribute.

But objectively, there are faults with the film and they come from Abrams and Lucasfilm’s thankless task of trying to undo the damage The Last Jedi did. The first half of the film is spent fixing and retconning characters and developments from The Last Jedi and at the same time it has to tell its own story. This resulted in a film that is constantly moving without a moment to breathe. Plot A occurs and it immediately leads to Plot B, then Plot C happens. The characters jump from planet to planet at a dizzying pace in a frantic scavenger hunt. Along the way, multitude characters, new and old, pop in and out to service the plot. While all this is going on Abrams also has the unenviable task of working in footage of the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa into the film in a way that works. Thankfully he succeeded, and with the overall job of cramming in all the plot points and resolving any threads. It was not easy and quite messy, but somehow it worked.

Thankfully, by the time the second half of the film commences, it is allowed to slow down and proceed at a smoother pace. By this time the emotions do get to you with all the fan services. There are many of those, which include call backs to all past eight films and while they could turn off some viewers, Star Wars fans will be delighted. But in this case, the callbacks are warranted. This is the final film in the trilogy and it was supposed to conclude the expansive story that began with Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. One element from Episode One that is revisited is the evil machinations of Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Some spoilers will start.

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Watching The Watchmen

HBO’s sequel to the famous DC comic book mini-series Watchmen has just concluded its nine-episode run, and now it is time to talk about the series. Spoilers will follow after this for both the original comic book and this TV series.

Watchmen was one of the most influential and revolutionary comic books that ever came out. Co-created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the tale was a complex one taking place in an alternate world where superheroes existed since the mid-20th century but were unpowered except for one incredible exception. Based loosely on Captain Atom, Dr. Manhattan was a nuclear scientist who was in an atomic accident and gained the powers of a god. With his existence, history radically changed with Richard Nixon still the U.S. president in 1985, Vietnam conquered by the U.S., and the world is on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. One of the other superheroes, Ozymandias engineers a complex scheme to unite humanity by creating a hoax of an extra-dimensional alien incursion. This works, but at the cost of three million people.

The just-concluded TV series takes place now in 2019, decades after the alien incursion (which links it closer to the comic book unlike the 2009 movie adaptation that changed Ozymandias’ plot) and America has changed just as radically again.

Robert Redford is the U.S. president and like Nixon, overstayed his terms in office, having been inaugurated in 1992. Now, the U.S. is struggling to become a liberal utopia, with African-Americans eligible for reparations and white supremacist terrorist groups fighting against the woke society they’re forced to live in.

Watchmen takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma and centers on Angela Abar (Regina King), a supposedly retired cop who hails from the 51st state of Vietnam and moonlights as the illegal vigilante Sister Night. Her friend, Tulsa’s police chief, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), is killed under mysterious circumstances and her investigation unravels a complex plot. This involves Dr. Manhattan (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is not on Mars as he was supposed to be, Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons), the barbaric architect of world peace in an unusual exile, an elderly Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.), Crawford’s supposed killer, Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), the head of a powerful organization, and FBI agent Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) aka the former Silk Spectre II.

Even though on the surface, Watchmen is about superheroes it really isn’t. Like the comic book it is based on, the TV series is a very complex, non-linear tale involving deeply emotional characters and examines the strange, yet somehow familiar world. The world building is delightful with plenty of Easter eggs and references to the original comic book and tidbits to how different this world is compared to ours. But like any worthwhile story, Watchmen sticks with the plot and characters and slowly hooks in viewers as it unveils more and more jaw dropping revelations.

Starting with the fact that Crawford was a white supremacist to the revelation that the very first superhero was a bi-sexual African-American acting out on frustration to the hidden identity of Dr. Manhattan and his relationship with Angela Abar, Watchmen is a wonderfully presented, worthwhile sequel to the classic comic book. However, it does not seem like a comic book brought to life (a flaw with the movie adaptation), but as its own medium. One could complain that by not feeling like a comic book, this version of Watchmen seems like it was just a sci-fi story that stuck in references to the comic book to allow it to be greenlit. That is open to debate, but nevertheless the product is exemplary.

It is fairly easy to get drawn into the series from the beginning as unanswered peculiarities are shown, such as squid showers and background images which show that 9/11 never happened. However, several episodes are devoted to the origin of several characters, the standouts being “This Extraordinary Being”, which chronicles the tragic back story of Hooded Justice, and “A God Walks Into Abar”, which explores the temporal complexities of Dr. Manhattan while being a love story at the same time.

Much of Watchmen may be upsetting for some due to its subject matter about race relations, but many episodes are very powerful and compelling. While it is not exactly like its comic book predecessor, Watchmen is a worthy sequel and expansion to that comic book. It should be enjoyed by comic book, alternate history and sci-fi fans and others wanting something different with live-action superhero presentations.

 

The Greatest Marvel Hallmark Ornaments

marvel hallmark ornaments

Christmas or Holiday ornaments based on popular IPs have populated Christmas trees for quite some time. Along with the Star Wars and Star Trek ornaments, Hallmark has produced many different ornaments based on superhero properties. One of their most successful lines are ornaments based on Marvel Comics superheroes, whether featured in comic books or on film. Here is a list of the greatest Marvel Hallmark ornaments released by the company.

potted groot ornament

10. Potted Groot (2015):

Sweet, adorable Groot as seen in his seedling form at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy makes for one cute ornament! Although this Groot does not dance, the ornament features the song “I Want You Back”, which Potted Groot dances to behind Drax’s back.

9. Hulk: Thor: Ragnarok (2017):

The Hulk in his full gladiator regalia as he appears in Thor: Ragnarok, is one of the most colorful and intimidating Marvel Hallmark ornaments. The figure easily captures the enraged mood of the gladiator Hulk as he is ready to pounce on his next victim/opponent.

8. The Avengers: Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man (2012):

These were three separate ornaments featuring the three superheroes from The Avengers. They could be hung separately in a Christmas tree or combined at their bases to created a cool diorama. Plus, this is one of the best Iron Man ornaments.

7. Team Captain America (2016):

The year that Captain America: Civil War featured to opposing separate ornaments, Captain America and Iron Man. While the Iron Man ornament is well crafted, the Captain America ornament is hands-down the best one based on the star-spangled hero. Other Captain America ornaments usually have him in a stationary pose. This one, however, captures him in powerful fighting action.

6. Iron Patriot (2013):

The patriotic red, white and blue colors on a re-branded War Machine from Iron Man 3, make this ornament stand out so vividly. Never mind that the film divided fans, it cannot be denied this ornament is beautifully done.

5. A New Breed of Superheroes (2006):

Actually, this ornament is a collection of mini-ornaments featuring classic Marvel heroes that can be combined at their bases into one. This allowed one to either use all six heroes (Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, Captain America, the Thing, and Iron Man) together or separately. It’s a highly sought-after collector’s item.

4. The Infinity Gauntlet (2019):

The fearsome weapon that Thanos used to wipe out half of all life in the universe as seen in Avengers: Infinity War, is a powerful ornament indeed. Featuring multi-colored lights emanating from the Infinity Stones, this gauntlet fits surprisingly well in a lit-up Christmas tree.

3. Spider-Man and Green Goblin (2010):

This ornament featuring a mighty battle between Spidey and his arch nemesis, the Green Goblin, stood out from other Spider-Man ornaments just for its concept of having a hero fighting an opponent. The two figures are dynamically posed which helped make the ornament one of the very best ones produced by Hallmark. The company should continue this idea with other Spider-Man villains; imagine what one featuring Doctor Octopus would be like!

2. Comic Book Heroes #3 – Incredible Hulk (2010): 

This Marvel ornament was part of an ingenious ornament series from Hallmark. On one side was a 3D figure on a background that recreated a famous comic book. In fact, the ornament was a mini-comic book reprint of the famous issue. In this case, The Incredible Hulk #181, which is renowned for having the first full appearance of Wolverine. It’s too bad, Hallmark discontinued the series after just four ornaments (the final one being the following year’s The Avengers #4), there are so many other classic and iconic comic book covers the series could have recreated.

first spidey ornament

1. Spider-Man (1996): 

There have been many wonderful Spider-Man Hallmark ornaments. Most of them had our favorite Web-Slinger in wild and spindly poses that accurately represented Marvel’s most popular superhero. But the very first ornament is still the best one. It’s so elegantly posed so that this mini-Spider-Man looks so natural hanging from a tree branch. The strings attached to his hands aid with the illusion that he is swinging around a Christmas tree with its lights that could easily stand in for the bright lights of a city.

Honorable Mentions:

The following are pretty terrific Marvel Hallmark ornaments that are worth mentioning and hunting down on Ebay or elsewhere:

A New Kind of Hero: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017); Black Panther (2018); Captain America: Avengers: Endgame (2019); Comic Book Heroes #1 – Amazing Fantasy #15 (2008); Comic Book Heroes #4 – The Avengers #4 (2011); Deadpool (2017); Groot and Rocket (2018); Hulk Smash! (2014); Iron Man (2008); Iron Spider (2019); Slinging and Swinging (Spider-Man, 2016); Spidey Swings Into Action (2018); Thanos (2019); Thor: Thor: Ragnarok (2017); Venom (2016); Web-Slinging Wonder: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

José Soto