We’re still a few months away from awards season, but already 2019 has given us a range of must-see movies from blockbusters to biopics and quirky comedies. Here’s our pick of the flicks so far in 2019.
Following the Oscar-winning, zeitgeist-grabbing success of Get Out, Jordan Peele returns with another inventive and ambitious psychological horror film. Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star as the heads of a middle-class black family whose family home is invaded by people who look exactly like them. Spooky af.
The NME review concluded: “Peele shows us horror among the familiar, and it’s all the more scary as a result… Towards the end of the film, the concept becomes a little stretched, even by its own internal logic. But it’s a film that confirms Peele as that rarest of things – a true auteur.”
Dexter Fletcher, the director who completed Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer departed, turns his attention to Sir Elton Hercules John. Taron Egerton stars as the iconic pop star in a movie-musical that doesn’t shy away from showing us Elton’s dark side.
The NME review concluded: “Where Bohemian Rhapsody was cautious, reverent and chaste, this is fearless, honest and sexy (yes, it’s a film about a famous gay man with scenes of actual gay sex)… Rocketman bursts in a storm of glitter and rhinestones. If you don’t adore it, you’re probably no fun.”
‘Liam Gallagher: As It Was’
Liam Gallagher’s impressive post-Beady Eye comeback is definitely worth celebrating, and this documentary film works as both an intimate portrait of the former Oasis frontman’s last 10 years, and as authorised biography timed to promote his new album ‘Why Me? Why Not?’. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, basically.
The NME review concluded: “By the end of the film, you’re left with the impression of a force of nature: compelling, unstoppable and inclined to take everything in its path along for the ride.”
This coming-of-age story from first-time director Bo Burnham is no cheesy teen movie. Starring the naturally sympathetic young actress Elsie Fisher, it’s a vivid and sometimes quietly heartbreaking reminder of how awkward growing up can be.
The NME review concluded: “[This film] is a by turns uplifting and crushing reminder of what it’s like trying to become yourself, and a reason to be grateful you never have to do it again.”
Films don’t come any huger than this: the closing chapter to an 11-year saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, told across some 22 movies. And by the end of its three-hour runtime, there will definitely be tears.
The NME review concluded: ” There really is very little that could be improved about Endgame. There’s certainly no more that could be thrown at it. Whether your heart belongs to the original team or one of the newbies, you’ll see them get their time to shine. You will almost certainly cry. Probably more than once. Is it the best comic-book movie ever? The Dark Knight could give it a very good fight, but Endgame has more fighters on its team. It might just win.”
‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’
Melissa McCarthy stars in this brilliant biopic of Lee Israel, a biographer-turned-literary forger who made a decent living faking letters in the style of greats like Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker. A super-charming Richard E. Grant co-stars as her partner-in-crime, Jack Hock.
The NME review concluded: “Director Marielle Heller (The Diary Of A Teenage Girl) keeps a low-key look throughout. The whole film is set in New York, but she almost never looks up at the grandeur. She’s inside, in shadows, or underground with two people who live without ever really being noticed by anyone but each other. There’s nowhere else you’d want to go when there’s the option of sticking with them.”
Asif Kapadia, director of acclaimed docs about Amy Winehouse and Ayrton Senna, turns his attention to tainted football legend Diego Maradona. The soccer icon himself contributes some fresh insights, but remains a largely inscrutable figure.
The NME review concluded: “This absorbing, entertaining and well-constructed film may fail to expose the man for who he really is, but it certainly adds more allure to his legend. Against all the odds, and with the bar set imposingly high after Senna and Amy, Kapadia can keep the match ball. He has his hat trick.”
‘Rolling Thunder Revue’
Martin Scorsese’s “fever dream” of a film is a lucid and revealing insight into Bob Dylan’s most iconic tour. Just don’t expect a strictly literal approach to telling the story of what actually happened.
The NME review concluded: “The film and its accompanying 14-disc live album provide another yet treasure trove for Dylan acolytes to dive into, categorise and obsess over. For casuals, there’s less to sink your teeth – its basically a plotless film dominated loosely by chronology – but remains a priceless insight into this incarnation of the mysterious vagabond.”
Natalie Portman stars as a jaded former child star in writer-director Brady Corbet’s compelling meditation on the corrosive power of modern pop fame. Jude Law co-star as her long-suffering but all-too-complicit manager,
The NME review concluded: “As a portrait of modern celebrity – entirely detached from ‘real’ life and normal people but breathlessly begged for her uninformed soundbites on complex world issues – Portman’s Celeste is messy and riveting and all too easy to believe. Vox Lux is, just like Celeste and the modern news cycle, kind of depressing, but in a way that’s exciting.”
Major technical issues (and objections from Franklin herself) kept this concert film on the shelf for 47 years. Finally completed by producer Alan Elliot, it captures the Queen of Soul’s two performances at Los Angeles’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in 1972, which were recorded for her iconic live album of the same name.
The NME review concluded: “As the film nears its end, the emotional clout is taken up a level as Pastor Cleveland invites Franklin’s father, the Reverend CL Franklin, to address the congregation. His address is one of fatherly pride, hailing his daughter’s talents and even mopping her brow, a moment of familial intimacy that allows us to instantly forget that we’re watching one of the greatest singers of all time. More than a concert film, Amazing Grace is the ultimate testament to Aretha’s eternal talent.”
‘If Beale Street Could Talk’
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins returns with an emotionally charged adaptation of a classic James Baldwin novel. KiKi Layne stars as a young woman seeking to prove her wrongly accused partner’s innocence before the birth of their child. Regina King is on Oscar-winning form as her mother.
The NME review concluded: “In a film that could so easily feel doom mongering, particular in its final scenes that suggest that between the 70s and now not a whole lot has changed, If Beale Street Could Talk refuses to be dented. Through extreme darkness it always keeps proud hope alight. It’s romantic in several sense of the word. It’s a very easy movie to love.”
Rising star Jessie Buckley shines as Rose-Lynn, an ex-con and wannabe country star from Glasgow, in this affecting British film that’s definitely a bit grittier than A Star Is Born. Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo lead the support cast.
The NME review concluded: “At a time where working class voices are rare in cinema, this narrative feels long overdue. The balance between crowd-pleaser and cliché is a fine one, but Wild Rose manages the former while also delivering a timely message from a voice we desperately needed to hear.”
‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’
Quentin Tarantino’s latest takes place in ’60s Los Angeles in an alternate timeline where an ageing TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the Hollywood film industry. Margot Robbie co-stars as real-life ragic actress Sharon Tate, adding to the film’s ambitious and sprawling narrative.
The NME review concluded: “If this truly is Tarantino’s penultimate film before his mooted retirement then the signs are that he intends to go out with a thunderous bang.”
Simon Amstell’s movie directorial debut stars Colin Morgan as a super-awkward, very Simon Amstell-ish movie director who’s just made a terrible film. Phoenix Brossard co-stars as Noah, a French indie musician that Morgan’s Benjamin finds himself drawn to romantically.
The NME review concluded: “Amstell should feel none of the terror and impending doom of his protagonist because there is one key difference between them: Amstell has made a really excellent film.”