2019-12-31 02:17:49 UTC
they eventually arrive on TV for free. :-\
From Variety.com ...
The 9 Most Underrated Movies of 2019
Even with stiff competition from Disney - a studio that ruled
multiplexes in 2019 with "Avengers: Endgame," "The Lion King,"
"Toy Story 4," "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" and more -
a healthy number of small and medium-budgeted movies released
this year still managed to find the audiences they were
"Hustlers" and "Knives Out" both grossed more than $100 million
at the domestic box office, a rare occurrence for movies not
based on existing IP. "Parasite," a parable about wealth among
two South Korean families from director Bong Joon Ho, earned
more than $20 million as the highest-performing foreign-language
film of the year. "Harriet," the biopic about the conductor of
the Underground Railroad, made $43 million. "Queen & Slim,"
about a black couple's fatal encounter with a racist cop, was
another winner, with more than $40 million in ticket sales. And
after sold-out showings last week, "Little Women" and "Uncut
Gems" are off to a strong start.
But beyond these success stories, there were still some movies
that fell through the cracks, as many independent distributors
are struggling to keep up with the deep pockets of Netflix and
franchise fever from the studios. Here are nine films that
warranted more accolades and a bigger spotlight:
- "Blinded by the Light"
Domestic box office: $11.9 million
2019 proved to be a banner year for jukebox musicals, from
"Rocketman" to "Yesterday," but the best of the genre was
"Blinded by the Light," directed by Gurinder Chadha ("Bend it
Like Beckham"). This musical comedy, inspired by a memoir set
in 1987 England, is a coming-of-age story that follows a
London teenager, Javid (played by the wonderful Viveik Kalra),
who finds his way as a writer through the lyrics of Bruce
Springsteen. When I saw "Blinded by the Light" at Sundance, it
reminded me of the soulfulness of Cameron Crowe's "Almost
Famous" with a bit of "Boyhood." And when it sold for nearly
$15 million to New Line - the boutique studio owned by Warner
Bros. - after a bidding war, it seemed poised to be one of the
breakout independent movies of the year. But for some reason,
studio executives dumped the movie in August, where many
smaller films struggle to gain traction. "Blinded by the Light"
deserved much better.
- "Wild Rose"
Domestic box office: $1.6 million
And while we're talking about musicals that needed to be heard,
there was also "Wild Rose," which tells the tale of a country
singer in Glasgow who dreams of a fresh start in Nashville.
Jessie Buckley, who plays the film's lead, gives it her all.
Domestic box office: $1.5 million
Trey Edward Shults' sprawling drama about a family in Florida
feels like what you'd get if you asked John Steinbeck to write
an episode of "Euphoria." And it works better than that
description does justice. While "Waves" was championed by
critics on the fall festival circuit - particularly for a
stellar lead performance by newcomer Taylor Russell - it got
lost in movie theaters in November. Hopefully, more people will
discover it at home, when it becomes available for streaming.
- "Long Shot"
Domestic box office: $30.3 million
Yes, "Long Shot" is the kind of romantic comedy that Hollywood
doesn't make anymore. It centers on a U.S. secretary of state
played by Charlize Theron who decides to run for president,
with the help of her old grade-school crush turned journalist
turned speechwriter in the form of Seth Rogen. But it's also
the kind of movie - which harkens back to the '90s vehicles with
Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock - that we wished Hollywood
would make. And it's so much fun watching Theron, who usually
channels grittier parts, having a blast in a more playful role.
While $30 million at the box office isn't nothing, "Long Shot,"
which came out in May after a rapturous premiere at SXSW, should
have made two or three times that.
- "Late Night"
Domestic box office: $15.5 million
Another comedy that I wished more people had seen on the big
screen. Emma Thompson, triumphantly plays a late-night talk show
host who is forced to reinvent herself after she learns the
network wants to cancel her due to lousy ratings. Mindy Kaling,
who wrote the script for "Late Night," is the newly hired female
writer determined to fix the show. After selling at Sundance to
Amazon Studios for $13 million, "Late Night" was billed as the
next "Devil Wears Prada," but it failed to find its footing
during a June theatrical release. As a result of how it
underperformed in theaters, Amazon changed its strategy,
releasing some of its other movies - such as "The Report" - on
fewer screens. But you have to wonder if, with a different
distributor (one that didn't schedule a female-centric movie for
Father's Day weekend), "Late Night" would have made a bigger
- "Hotel Mumbai"
Domestic box office: $9.6 million
As directed by Anthony Maras, "Hotel Mumbai" - about the 2008
terrorist attacks at India's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - could have
been a gripping HBO mini-series. But making it into a two-hour
movie was perhaps a bigger gamble in today's entertainment
landscape, and one that pays off. Everyone in this cast,
particularly Dev Patel as a hotel employee and Nazanin Boniadi
as a tourist, are exceptional.
Domestic box office: N/A
Jamie Bell has never been better as Bryon Widner, a skinhead who
risks his life when he decides to leave a white supremacy group
in Indiana. "Skin," which feels like a relative to "American
History X," was based on the 2011 documentary "Erasing Hate."
I wish enough people had seen it to at least consider Bell for an
Independent Spirit Award.
- "Official Secrets"
Box office: $2 million
From "Begin Again" to "Colette," Keira Knightley has been quietly
acting her heart out in a string of independent films that
haven't received enough praise. Here's another one to add to that
list: in "Official Secrets," Knightley plays real-life British
whistleblower Katharine Gun, who leaked information regarding
illegal spying efforts by the United States tied to the 2003 Iraq
War. Director Gavin Hood constructs his movie like a spy thriller,
with Knightley at the core, giving one of my favorite - and least
appreciated - performances of 2019.
- "Just Mercy"
Domestic box office: $227,000 in limited release
"Just Mercy," which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, is in
some ways an old-fashioned legal drama. But that doesn't make it
any less powerful: set in 1990s Alabama, it's the story of a young
attorney, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) determined to
overturn a guilty verdict for his client, Walter McMillian (Jamie
Foxx), on death row for a murder he didn't commit. When "Just
Mercy" first screened, some critics mentioned it in the same
breath as "To Kill a Mockingbird." And it looked like it would be
a formidable Oscars contender. But somehow, it came up short at
the Golden Globes and SAG nominations, where only Foxx was
recognized (as opposed to its spectacular ensemble, which also
includes Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson and Brie Larson). We'll see
if "Just Mercy" generates more attention when it opens wide from
Warner Bros. in January. But it feels like more people should be
talking about this movie.