Check out the two full galleries from Liquid Stranger’s live performance at El Rey on March 3rd, 2020. Find more photos from the show in Gallery 2[Read more…]
By Nichole Harwood
ABQ-Live took to the road on February 28th to explore the neighboring state of Texas and to cover indie rock band The Protomen!
Performing at the Mohawk in Austin, Texas, The Protomen delivered a dynamic performance that lit up the state’s sky as they dove into popular tracks from their self-titled album: “The Protomen;” as well as the popular prequel follow-up “Act II: The Father of Death.”
Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, the band has always stood out in any show; they are known to cosplay as the characters reflected in their music, burying their own identity in an effort to amplify fan experience. Two of their three albums paint a darker story based on the popular video game series Megaman. Unlike the games, however, the characters created by The Protomen reflect a much more broken dystopian society, forcing characters from the game, such as Dr. Light, into hiding, and heroic characters, such as Protoman and Megaman, are shunned and deserted by those they try to save.
The Protomen found no shortage of fans in the southwest as the crowd partook in multiple songs, seamlessly taking a part in the dark story. One particularly stand-out moment of the concert was the crowd chanting the chilling lines, voiced originally by a choir, from the track “The Will of One” as the lead singer stood front center wearing a version of Megaman’s iconic helmet, all while the crowd swarmed the stage.
“We keep you safe. We are your hope. We are in control,” the crowd chanted just moments before the lead singer swore to continue the fight of the iconic character “Protoman” whose death was delivered in earlier songs. While members of the dedicated fanbase certainly comprised a large part of the crowd, new fans were made that night. Many individuals who didn’t know the storyline were excitedly sucked into the experience. As the lights dimmed on stage the crowd eagerly shouted for an encore with their hopes delivered only moments later as the band took to the stage delivering one more performance for the night.
By Hector Valverde
Let’s cut to the chase: Pixar’s latest, Onward, is good. But just how good? Sporting an awesome fantasy world alongside the studio’s patented mix of humor and heart, I’d say Onward happily sits somewhere in the middle tier of Pixar’s body of work. That is to say, it’s an early contender for one of the year’s best films.
Monster University’s Dan Scanlon helms this tale of a fantasy world where magic has long been supplanted by urban technology. Centaurs drive around in cars, the legendary manticore tends bar at a family tavern, and the sorcery of wizards is old, outdated news with the convenience of smartphones and electricity. In the wake of it all, Marvel bros Tom Holland and Chris Pratt voice elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot who, on Ian’s sixteenth birthday, receive a wizard’s staff belonging to their late father, along with a rare crystal with the ability to resurrect him for a day.
Eager to meet the father they never knew, Ian and Barley cast the corresponding spell but, in a panic, only manage to bring back his legs. With the 24-hour timer running, the two brothers rush off on a quest to find another crystal and complete the spell to see their father one final time.
The world of Onward is a real treat all around, popping with wonderful creativity that makes the more niche reaches of high fantasy painlessly accessible. Everything about the magical suburban land just clicks, dishing out gag after clever gag from an endless bag of comedy bits drawing inspiration from D&D, Tolkien, and other like classics. The animation itself additionally looks incredible, though the recurring CGI dilemma of detailed, but cartoony character models against jarringly photoreal environments once more rears its head here.
The film could have coasted by on its rich world alone, but its sweet story of brotherly love elevates it with that special Pixar touch. The mature message and resolution at its heart are surprising even for a Pixar film, and Holland and Pratt build the siblings’ relationship with warm, genuine chemistry that you don’t see land very often. As always, bring tissues and prepare yourself for impending waterworks, especially if you’re a brother, sibling, or even part of a tight fraternal pair.
Additionally, a theme/message/critique concerning society’s relinquishment of effort and mastery in the name of convenience lightly circulates throughout the film, though it never quite makes its stamp fully. It’s there just enough to tease further substance but just doesn’t deliver enough to really confirm it. It’s not a big complaint, especially with the film’s world opening itself so naturally for future installments to address these themes, but it’s a little frustrating all the same.
I emerged from Onward smacking my lips from the film’s flavorful world of rocking potential, and I’m already salivating for a sequel. Packing all the ingredients of Pixar magic, it’s another instant classic in the studio’s acclaimed repertoire, and I can’t wait to see more.
By ABQ-Live Staff
Hungry? Below is a list of local restaurants in the Albuquerque area open for delivery
JC New York Pizza – offering FREE delivery and carryout
Located in: Albuquerque
Address: 215 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone: (505) 766-6973
Japanese Kitchen Sushi Bar & Steakhouse – offering curbside pick up and delivery through Selflane.
Address: 6511 Americas Pkwy, Albuquerque, NM 87110
Menu : Selflane.com
Phone: (505) 872-1166
Two Cranes Bistro and Brew – offering delivery through GrubHub, Selflane as well as curbside pick-up. Any order over $10 receives a free roll of toilet paper and you can buy 6 rolls for 4.50.
Located: 901 Rio Grande Boulevard Northwest Suite
Phone: (505) 295-3970
Filling Philly’s Downtown – offering delivery and carryout
Address: 301 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone: (505) 208-0228
Christi Maes – is offering curbside and take out
Address: 1400 San Pedro Dr NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110
Phone: (505) 255-4740
Cocina Azul – is offering delivery through Grubhub and carryout
Address: 5916 Holly Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113
Menu: Cocina Azul Menu
Phone: (505) 831-4500
Rio Bravo Brewing Company – open from 12-8 pm for to go (carryout and curbside delivery) orders as well as 6 Packs, Kegs and New Growler Fills
Address: 1912 2nd St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone: (505) 900-3909
Monroes – open for carryout, delivery, and curbside. In addition, any purchase of 3 jars of Chile or $25 or more gift card gets you a free roll of toilet paper.
Address: 1025 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone: (505) 242-1111
Rock and Brews ABQ – offering carryout and delivery.
Address: 4800 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109
Phone: (505) 340-2953
Yanni’s Modern Mediterranean -open for Grubhub and carryout
Address: 3109 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
Phone: (505) 268-9250
Two Fools Tavern – doing to go from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. People can call 505-265-7447
Address: 3211 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
Menu: Two Fools Menu
Phone: (505) 265-7447
Frontier Restaurant – offering take-out orders placed in-store and orders placed over the phone.
Address: 2400 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
Menu: Frontier Menu
Phone: (505) 266-0550
O’Hare’s Grille & Pub – carryout available
Address: 4100 Southern Blvd SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124
Menu: O Hare’s Menu
Phone: (505) 896-0123
El Patio – carryout and delivery
Address: 10500 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114
Phone: (505) 898-1771
The Last Call – Carryout and delivery
Address: 420 Central Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
Menu: Last Call Menu
Phone: (505) 300-4911
Gino’s Pizza – carryout and delivery
Phone: (505) 883-6000
Fork and Fig – carryout and delivery
6904 Menaul Blvd NE C, Albuquerque, NM 87110
Menu: Fork and Fig Menu
Phone: (505) 881-5293
Asian Pear – carryout available through phone
Address: 8101 San Pedro Dr NE d, Albuquerque, NM 87113
Menu: Asian Pear Menu
Phone: (505) 766-9405
M’tuccis Italian Restaurant – carryout and delivery
Address: 6001 Winter Haven Rd NW M, Albuquerque, NM 87120
Menu: M’Tuccis Menu
Phone: (505) 503-7327
Five Star Burgers– carryout and delivery
Address: 5901 Wyoming Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109
Menu: Five Star Burger Menu
Phone: (505) 821-1909
Oak Tree Cafe – carryout and delivery
Address: 4545 Alameda Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87117
Menu : Oak Tree Cafe Menu
Phone: (505) 830-2233
Desert Valley Brewing Company– open for carryout and local delivery
Address: 3700 Ellison Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114
Phone: (505) 899-8494
Chile Chicken Nashville Hot Chicken– open for carryout and local delivery
Address: 3105 Eubank Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111
Phone: (505) 293-1700
La Reforma – open for carryout and delivery
Address: 8900 San Mateo Blvd NE suite i, Albuquerque, NM 87113
Phone: (505) 717-1361
Los Compadres Restaurant– open for carryout and delivery
Address: 2437 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104
Phone: (505) 452-8091
Cinnamon Cafe – curbside pick-up
Address: 5809 Juan Tabo Blvd NE Suite A, Albuquerque, NM 87111
Phone: (505) 492-2119
Additional lists can be found here courtesy of AroundABQ505. If you know of more restaurant lists email them to email@example.com.
By Hector Valverde
Ah, the Dark Universe. Universal Pictures’ disastrous attempts to launch a modern interconnected horror franchise with Dracula Untold and The Mummy (2017) will forever go down as one of the most dunkable failures in recent movie history. Well, the third time’s the charm, I guess, because Leigh Whannell and Blumhouse Productions may have just paved another way forward with their inspired reimagining of The Invisible Man.
Ditching the material of H.G. Wells’ novel and its classic (?) 1933 adaption, this new tale of transparent terror opens to a panicked woman, Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss), running away from her billionaire boyfriend, Adrian, after years of psychological manipulation and abuse. Just as she’s beginning to recover from their traumatic relationship, Cecilia receives news of Adrian’s suicide, along with a $5 million parting gift from him. Though initially eager to move on with her life free from his controlling grasp, uncomfortable bumps in the night leave Cecilia convinced that Adrian’s not only still alive but tormenting her in a newly invisible form.
Along with a riveting score from Benjamin Wallfisch, Whannell breathes new life into this reboot with clever writing and directing that always keeps you at edge. Elizabeth Moss’ raw, all-in performance would be enough to carry the film’s spooky conceit in its own right (Aldis Hodge also kills it in a warm, charismatic supporting role). Still, Whannell takes it a step further by wickedly manipulating his audience’s perception of the events onscreen.
Excessive empty space envelops each frame as if to taunt you, filling the screen with an unnerving presence that extends the film’s thrills into a personally-involving nightmare. Turning The Invisible Man into a story about gaslighting was a genius move on Whannell’s part. Though a little modern horror rote at times, his directing worked so well on me I was frequently questioning my and Cecilia’s sanity as the film progressed.
That being said, the narrative lacks that extra insightful thematic touch in the screenplay to push the film beyond a surface level reading. Nothing about gaslighting, abuse, or their toll on the victim and assailant’s psyches is really said beyond the obvious, which is a shame given how openly the material lends itself to be thoughtfully expanded upon. As a simple horror movie, it more than works, but you can’t help but think about how much more The Invisible Man could have been with a little more substance put in.
Additionally, the film slightly screws itself over with an unneeded fourth act/epilogue that carries on well after it reaches its satisfying and logical conclusion. The ending felt like it undid the one bit of narrative substance it earned with a supporting character in the back and, to say the least, left a bad taste in my mouth in how it treated Cecilia.
Inventively written and directed by Leigh Whannell, the high quality of The Invisible Man makes for a solid standalone monster movie with a promising future ahead of it. With bated breath, we’ll see.
By Calgary Maez
DC has had some highs and lows with the DC Extended Universe; with 2019 including some of their highest highs. So how does Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) rank among its predecessors? Like the film’s title: an over-the-top mess.
Birds of Prey stars Margot Robbie as anti-heroine Harley Quinn, who goes through a dramatic breakup with The Joker and now has a target painted on her back by Roman Sionis, A.K.A. Black Mask, who is played by Ewan McGregor.
The lead actor and actress definitely have fun within their roles and have a decent supporting cast, such as Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary. However, their supporting roles fall short with Huntress’ very limited screen time and Black Canary’s very limited abilities.
Director Cathy Yan tries to take a unique approach by telling the film from Quinn’s point of view, and portrays her overly jumbled thought process. However, this technique doesn’t pay off. The film takes about an hour to introduce all of its characters through heavy flashback scenes and heavy exposition dialogue.
At one point, you forget what the overall plot is because the film juggles all of the characters’ backstories so much. It’s also worth pointing out that it seems as though it’s more of a Harley Quinn spin-off than it is a Birds of Prey film.
The film does have some scenes with great action and funny dialogue mixed within, especially in the third act.
Overall, Birds of Prey feels like a glorified breakup film through the eyes of the psychotic Harley Quinn with members of the actual Birds of Prey mixed in. Although it does have some moments of cool action and funny dialogue, it’s not worth the price of admission because of its poorly written story and messy set-up of characters, accompanied by their poor overall development.
Photos Courtesy of IMDB.
Check out great films at Icon Cinema today!
By Nichole Harwood
Albuquerque locals are coming together to change the lives of the city’s most impressionable youth. Kingdom Builders Daycare is located in the International District, in Albuquerque’s Southeast side of town. Over the years it has had severe damage to their fences surrounding the playground. Local members of the community have risen up, hoping to change the conditions for children of the daycare.
Partnering with Last Ditch Effort’s owner, Alec “Cam” Fergeson, the management of Kingdom Builders Daycare is working hard to build a better environment for their children. This spring, the daycare will be adding several music classes, gardening, a nutrition program, and a pottery course to the existing daycare curriculum. The final addition to the project will be a brand new playground for all the children to enjoy!
James Landry of Kingdom Builders Daycare said the goal is to not only improve the daycare playground but also enrich the curriculum for their students. Many of the children who attend the daycare are CYFD funded, Landry said, pulling from many cultural backgrounds, including the African refugee community that is growing in Albuquerque. Kingdom Builders Daycare is one of the only daycares that has hired Swahili speakers to help communicate with the new students.
“We have this amazing eclectic group of kids that are being raised together,” Landry said. “We have this opportunity to work with these kids at the youngest level to break some of the cycles of poverty, of the drug abuse and physical abuse that are rampant in this neighborhood.”
Landry hopes to improve local Albuquerque children’s lives and also bring the children of refugees into a positive environment by improving the conditions for the children at the daycare. They wish to honor their culture while introducing them to Albuquerque’s own.
Pastor Pete Myers will be joining the project, spearheading a free music program to enrich the environment further for the children.
“We’re trying to recognize the needs the community has and the kids have and adapt our program to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the families,” Myers said.
The gardening program, Myers said, will help show the children the importance of nutritional value and agriculture, while letting them interact in a fun, safe environment. Alongside this program, Myers hopes the music program will help to improve the lives of the children in the long run, as schools with music programs have a higher graduation rate regardless of income, he said.
“The truth is a lot of the families in this neighborhood do not have the money for what it costs for quality music education—they don’t have the money to buy instruments to even teach themselves to play,” Myers said. “So that is something that we have the people around who are gifted in those areas that can help. Our hope is to use those people, and make connections in the community, to make this program even bigger and better.”
In addition to helping the children through this program, Myers said Kingdom Builders Daycare has also reached out to the adults within the community by hiring them to work at the daycare while pursuing a degree. Myers said this way they can invest in their own future, becoming an example for the youth they are surrounded by.
Myers said it’s fulfilling to see lives change and lives turn around; he hopes to see people’s situations improve by first not being in need and then being able to help others in need.
Landry agreed with Myers, explaining many of the adults within the community they hired do not always have the mindset or innate hope, drive, or belief in themselves. Landry said by helping both children and adults grow they are teaching their staff their work is more than just a job, but a mission as well.
“They’re starting to see that their investment in the community actually pays back in dividends,” Landry said. “We get to see these adults developing and the children developing at the same time.”
Fergeson said his company is honored to be a part of the ongoing effort to improve Kingdom Builders Daycare. When he was first shown the playground, Fergeson said he was sad it was surrounded by a bullet-riddled fence. After seeing that he became determined to make the daycare a beacon of hope.
“My biggest thing is being the change they want to see,” Fergeson said. “If you don’t like something, do something to change it. You can’t just sit there and complain about it and expect things to change. You have to get out there and do it. And I think starting with this program is beautiful
He said this is a long-term project starting with the younger generation and molding them into positive, productive members of society.
The work has just begun, but Fergeson, Landry, and Myers are looking to the future, determined to make a positive change on the community. This includes, according to Fergeson, changing how the area they’re working in is referred to. Fergeson believes that continuing to refer to the International District as the “War Zone” only continues to perpetuate the stigma and the mindset of the people who live there. Fergeson said changing the way the district is viewed, along with impacting the area with positive change, he hopes to see a brighter future for the district.
“I can’t prevent crime. I’m not a superhero; however, I think by doing the things we’re discussing now would be a big deterrent,” he said. “I think by creating and instilling a sense of pride in this beautiful place is just going to change the culture and community around it.”
For more information on the continuing effort here
By ABQ-Live Staff
The baddest little show is coming to The Dirty Bourbon Tuesday, March 3, from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Extreme Midget Wrestling is bringing their tour to Albuquerque in a fight for the title. This Pro Wrestling War is one of a kind and is sure to shock and awe.
Frank Roberts of Dallas, Texas, said in a review, “I have always been an avid WWE fan, so, when I heard Extreme Midget Wrestling was coming to town, I had to go. Listen, these little guys bring just as much action as the big guys do! These guys are incredible.”
Don’t wait to get a seat, grab your tickets online now! General admission is $20 in advance, an additional $5 if purchasing at the door. Want to get closer to the action? For $30, you can get ringside seating! Ringside doesn’t have numbered seating, but you are guaranteed a closer view of the action.
Want to get even closer? For $40, you can get the V.I.P. package that includes 1st-row seating, a meet and greet pass, and photos with the wrestlers before the show. You must be at The Dirty Bourbon at 7 p.m. to redeem the package.
Photos Courtesy of extrememidgetwrestling.com
By Hector Valverde
The Oscars have spoken! But with so many weird selections and searing omissions, just how much can the Academy be trusted? What really were the finest movies, performances, and cinematic exploits of last year? I’ve got you covered with hand-picked selections of the best of the best in film of 2019.
Taylor Russell (Waves)
Halfway into the film’s runtime, Taylor Russell emerges from the sidelines to pick up the entire remaining narrative of Waves on her back. It’s a lot to ask, but she never skips a beat, completing the story about grief, tragedy, and healing with a somber presence full of soft, blossoming hope.
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Ringing with an arrestingly expressive timbre only matched this decade by her own work in Her, you’d be hard-pressed to find a performance as genuine, poignant, or ranged as Scarlett Johansson’s in Marriage Story. The tenderness of the film’s opening narration alone cements Johansson’s work as some of the best of 2019.
Cate Blanchett (Where’d You Go, Bernadette)
Firing on all cylinders with a manically hot and cold performance, Cate Blanchett is phenomenal in Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Blanchett chugs along at full blast as the film’s titular grouch, feverishly switching between sluggish sarcasm and endearingly maniacal rants at the flip or turn of a dime.
Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)
Little Women has been adapted across the stage and screens dozens of times, yet Saoirse Ronan makes Jo March all her own in her wonderfully vivacious take on the treasured character. Ronan leaves a trail of dazzling sparks as she zestfully inhabits seven eventful years of Jo’s life, impeccably capturing the tumultuous ups and downs of young adulthood with wit, spirit, and emotional depth to spare.
Ana de Armas (Knives Out)
In a film teeming with over-the-top performances from an all-star cast, Ana de Armas anchors everything back down with pure heart and soul. She gives the murder-mystery stakes that truly matter, communicating an investing sense of panic and remorse through the cutting stare of her super-expressive eyes.
Best Supporting Actress
Imogen Poots (The Art of Self-Defense)
An intense, palpable fury seethes through every fiber of Imogen Poots’ being in The Art of Self-Defense. Beaten, resigned, but ready to savagely pounce at the tip of a hat, it’s a brooding portrait of a woman pushed well past her breaking point, as well as one of the finest performances of the year.
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
From her introduction as a bratty pre-teen all the way through her progression into an ambitious but embittered young woman, Florence Pugh goes all in portraying every step of Amy March’s coming-of-age. Against a crowded and very talented cast, it’s an excellent performance that closes out an impressive breakout year for the up-and-coming actress.
Rebecca Ferguson (Doctor Sleep)
Come for the hat, stay for Rebecca Ferguson’s delectably villainous performance. Seductive and menacing, Ferguson chews through the scenery of Doctor Sleep with a sumptuous crunchiness that only gets more interesting as the film goes on.
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Laura Dern’s character in Marriage Story doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know about lawyers, but boy is she great in the role. She’s sleazy, but charming, selfish, yet captivating, and you can’t help but adore the fast-talking hotshot every minute she’s onscreen.
Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit)
Just a real saint all around, Scarlett Johansson’s Rosie Betzler exudes a loving maternal warmth full of patience and compassion for her confused Nazi aspirant son. Paired with Taika Waititi’s delightful script, Johansson rocks the screen with an effortlessly cool swagger you can’t take your eyes off of.
Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems)
Only one person could pull off the concentrated chaos the leading role of Uncut Gems demands, and that actor is Adam Sandler. A smarmily grinning conduit for the hysteria of the Safdie brothers’ panic attack-inducing film, the Sandman makes the impossible possible by making you root for the year’s most unlikeable protagonist. He also wears the heck out of those glasses, hot damn!
George MacKay (1917)
In a film with relatively little dialogue, George MacKay carries 1917 with a laboriously emotional and physical performance. MacKay brings the human element the war epic requires with devoted focus and nobility. additionally landing all the blocking marks demanded of the heavily technical production with thanklessly tight precision.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Luce)
Unsettlingly two-faced and chilling to the bone, Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays with a fire that maliciously burns through the scenery of Luce. Harrison Jr. is more than a match for Octavia Spencer as the disquieting half of their characters’ firecracker rivalry, perpetually toying with one’s perception of his person in the most fascinating, complex, and moving performance of the year.
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
In addition to three other great performances in 2019, Adam Driver proves he’s a top-tier actor with his crowning achievement in Marriage Story. Driver chronicles a father’s divorce and ensuing custody battle with thoroughly gutting desperation, masterfully acting through the entire emotional spectrum in one of the truest, most sincere performances ever put on film.
Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)
Largely built on observation and a respectful rapport with his co-lead, Jimmie Fails, there’s a beautiful tranquility to this gentle performance from Jonathan Majors. He almost melts into the background of most scenes, subtly building towards a show-stopping conclusion that launches at you straight from his heart.
Best Supporting Actor
Jonathan Pryce (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote)
The word “bizarre” doesn’t even begin to describe the delirious meta narrative of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, and while not technically playing the titular mad knight, Jonathan Pryce does his part one better. Pryce plays a deranged man playing a deranged man with the crazed fervor only a deranged man could muster, subtly cracking peaks at the broken soul inside while nailing the essence of Cervantes’ classic character to a tee.
Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
Willem Dafoe is a monologuing monster in The Lighthouse, a salt-beaten curmudgeon who delivers some of the year’s most memorable lines with gruff, unhinged madness. It’s a strange and difficult part to play, but Defoe sells every tricky bit of it; farts have never carried so much rotten gravitas.
Alessandro Nivola (The Art of Self-Defense)
Is he ridiculous? Is he intimidating? How is this man not more in the mainstream? Alessandro Nivola dishes out a wicked deadpan and some of the year’s best comedy in the The Art of Self-Defense, striking a corrosive balance of fraternal male affection and machismo as the film’s beguiling Sensei.
Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit)
In what could have been a cheap joke relying on controversy, Taika Waititi turns in a surprisingly brilliant performance playing—ahem—Adolf Hitler. More accurately, a ten-year-old boy’s projection of the Fuhrer as his imaginary friend. Waititi’s natural disposition for silliness is always a super fun time, but it’s his thoughtful meditation on hate and prejudice that makes this performance something really special.
Daniel Craig (Knives Out)
In a movie full of scene-stealers, Daniel Craig mugs the best and most for the camera as the jib-jabbering ace PI, Benoit Blanc. A fond tribute to Agatha Christie’s detectives of old, Craig galivants across the screen in pure, self-aware delight, relishing every word of his character’s meandering soliloquies in a mesmerizingly smooth southern drawl.
Sly, dry, and ever so wry, the cast of Parasite oozes the mischievous energy of a fiendishly fun scam scheme. As push comes to shove, everyone embraces the darkness the film gradually casts with hungry performances that are as seductive as they are sadistic.
What a cast! Not a single part is wasted in Little Women as the loveliest of leading and supporting performances light up the film in wholesome familial joy.
Bringing back a long-missed sense of optimism and glee, Eddie Murphy triumphantly returns to the silver screen as blaxploitation super-star Rudy Ray Moore. Alongside him is a fabulous troupe of first-rate entertainers that seldom leave a quiet moment to catch one’s breath. Look out for a prime comedic performance from a scene-stealing Wesley Snipes!
Rian Johnson’s sharply-written script is brought to life by a fantastic cast exuberantly leaning into the campier side of the murder mystery genre. No shortage of memorable moments from Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, and more make Knives Out a consistently entertaining pleasure.
The culmination of one of cinema’s most intricate projects of all time, Avengers: Endgame gives every one of its many, many (many) beloved heroes their due. Well worth its decade in the making, we’ll likely never see another cast as tremendously stacked, packed, or on its game as this one.
Best Animated Feature
Just as good as the original, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a sugary explosion of sweetness with bombardments of side-splitting humor at every turn. The painstakingly rendered LEGO world looks incredible, and the touching narrative about sibling relationships and growing up beautifully ties into the larger story at hand.
We didn’t want it, we didn’t need it, but Toy Story 4 is superb all the same. Pixar’s epilogue to one of the greatest trilogies of all time is funny, thoughtful, and still genuinely surprising after more than twenty years, not to mention tear-jerking.
Stop-motion animation is a sadly dying art form, but thankfully, Laika won’t let it go down without a fight. Missing Link is an exotic visual treat that tickles your eyes alongside your heart, a charming, old-fashioned adventure with a special little something for audiences of all ages.
Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow (Luce)
Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow outdo themselves with this one-of-a-kind score. Led by the rattling “Skyhooker” theme, it’s a propulsive musical marvel that perfectly complements the sinister psychological drama in front of it.
Daniel Lopatin (Uncut Gems)
Disco disco, good good! Daniel Lopatin’s awesome synth score is a great musical composition on its own, but as the explosive pulse of Uncut Gems, additionally ramps the film’s frenetic energy up to a wildly beating eleven.
Alexandre Desplat (Little Women)
Rosy as a sunny spring afternoon, the sprightly strings of Little Women pluck through Alexandre Desplat’s score is pure, euphoric bliss. Desplat’s compositions are exquisite food for the soul, soothing to the core like a big, comforting hug.
Randy Newman (Marriage Story)
Marriage Story’s warm melodies are surgically crafted to split your heart in two. Randy Newman’s score trickles in like the tearful cries of a time long past, a bittersweet reminder of two people’s former love and all the memories it has wrought.
Thomas Newman (1917)
Thomas Newman’s score starts soft, tense, reflective, even, slowly building as our heroes’ mission drives the action forward. Though it comes to hit its powerful swells and crescendos, the score doesn’t push grandiose; it’s always respectful and aware of the solemn material it inhabits.
Dan Lauststen (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum)
Every punch, gunshot, and swipe of the knife in Parabellum is shot in glorious clarity by Dan Lauststen and the film’s stunt team. The best action of the year demands some of the best camera work to truly shine, and Lauststen is more than up to the task with crystal-clear wide shots that up the bone-crunching ante in long, well-realized takes.
Drew Daniels (Waves)
Drew Daniels uses every cinematic technique in (and out of) the book to create a vivid sensory experience in Waves. Each brilliant shot tells a story on its own, all coming together to make the prettiest film of 2019, hands down.
Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse)
A dreadful wave of ambiguity pervades through the imagery of The Lighthouse, something mysterious, something vague. Jarin Blaschke’s hazy monochromatic visuals lull you into an entranced state of terror, depicting the eldritch abstract with bountiful cinematic creativity.
Hoyte van Hoytema (Ad Astra)
The expansive majesty of space is put through a bold new lens in Ad Astra. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is vast, frightening, prismatic, and wonderous, a daring venture into the unknown, an introspective, dreamy cruise through the stars.
Roger Deakins (1917)
The man, the myth, the legend, Roger Deakins, himself, has created another masterful feast for the eyes in 1917. Pressingly intimate, the stakes couldn’t be higher as Deakins places you smack in the middle of the battlefield, creating the illusion of two amazingly choreographed long takes by moving and operating the camera in ways that shouldn’t be possible.
Best Production Design
Henrik Svensson (Midsommar)
In an inspired turn for a horror film, the Swedish daymare of Midsommar is bathed in shimmering whites and pastels. Bright colors and flowers adorn every nook and cranny of Henrik Svensson’s lavish production design, a beautiful, but surreptitiously dark play on the idyllic folk countryside.
Nigel Phelps (Detective Pikachu)
The rainy, neon-lit Pokémon wonderland of Ryme City will leave any fan giddy with excitement, as well as anyone else with an appreciation for grimy neo-noir goodness. The film’s richly detailed city and lush, rural locales look fantastic, a chef’s kiss mix of modern Japanese architecture with a slick futuristic aesthetic.
Jan Roelfs (The Current War: Director’s Cut)
Jan Roelfs’ swanky production design captures the distinguished steampunk sweet spot of the late nineteenth century with a cool, captivating glow. The messy sets strewn with luminescent wires, bulbs, and prototypes look great, galvanizing the eyes in the leadup to the film’s dazzling recreation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Dennis Gassner (1917)
Against bombs, bruises, and blows, 1917 tells a good portion of its story through its ghostly periphery. Dennis Gassner’s ruinous sets haunt the screen in dilapidated magnitude, speaking the horrors and tragedies of war without even a whisper of a word.
Lee Ha-jun (Parasite)
A substantially different take on the traditional horror movie house, Lee Ha-jun’s luxurious modern architecture could be considered a character in its own right. The custom-built home is a ravishing work of art set in sharp blacks and whites, a piece that impresses all the more as shadows and sunlight creep in through the glass.
Best Costume Design/Makeup
Mike Elizalde (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)
Makeup artist Mike Elizalde rips Stephen Gammell’s nightmarish charcoal illustrations right off the page and onto the screen with horrifying results. Only practical effects of this caliber could do justice to Gammell’s iconic designs, and the sheer attention, care, and craftsmanship going into every spooky creature never fail to impress.
Judianna Makovsky (Avengers: Endgame)
The contributions of countless costumes, makeup, and special effects designers have created modern mythological icons in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s Judianna Makovsky that gets to take the victory lap for the team in Avengers: Endgame. Marvel’s heroes have never looked more tastefully comic book-accurate, and it’s a testament to Makovsky’s vision that she’s able to cohesively weave the appearances of dozens of different characters and genres together so incredibly well.
Jacqueline Durran (Little Women)
The ladies and gentlemen of Little Women have never looked better. From its extravagant dresses down to its humbler attire, Jacqueline Durran’s assortment of period-era clothing handsomely pops with fetching colors and style.
Michael Wilkinson (Aladdin)
If there’s one thing Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin manages to outdo the original in, it’s in its eye-popping visual storm of gorgeous costumes and outfits. Gaudy and flavorful, there’s no shortage of breathtaking design going into every colorful ounce of Michael Wilkinson’s Asian and Middle Eastern-inspired work.
Ruth Carter (Dolemite Is My Name)
The only thing as vibrant as the cast of Dolemite Is My Name is the sweet, sweet costumes their performances are hemmed in. With dapper hats, fuzzy coats, and as many snazzy suits as you could ever ask for, Ruth Carter ensures there’s always at least one piece of wardrobe peacocking onscreen.
Best Special Effects
It wasn’t until well after my screening of Alita: Battle Angel that I realized the movie’s titular character was an entirely CGI creation. Whether it’s in action or dialogue, Alita lives and breathes as much as any real person onscreen, and the rest of the cyberpunk adventure’s robotic creations don’t look half bad either.
Few other films will ever match the sheer spectacle of Avengers: Endgame. Pushing the technical boundaries of what movies can do, often invisibly to the keenest of eyes, the finale to Marvel’s Infinity Saga goes for broke with bombastic, decade-defining action and effects at no expense spared.
The behind-the-scenes framework of 1917 is a top-notch demonstration of cross-departmental synergy. It’s nearly impossible to differentiate between the film’s practical effects and its additional CGI enhancements; the VFX join together with the film’s cinematography, props, sets, and directed to form one seamless cinematic experience.
It’s a small miracle the visual effects teams on Detective Pikachu were able to make the film’s creatures look this good. The huge collection of Pokémon is adapted into live-action with amazing results, each monster and locale bursting with personality, texture, and life.
The landscapes and animals of The Lion King look so convincingly photoreal that Disney couldn’t make its characters look like they could speak. Whether that’s an achievement or folly (or a folly achievement) is up to you.
Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won (Parasite)
“Father. Today I made a plan. A long-term plan. I’m going to make a lot of money.”
David Robert Mitchell (Under the Silver Lake)
“I’ve created so many of the things that you care about… the songs that give your life purpose and joy. When you were fifteen and rebelling… you did that to my music. It wasn’t written on a distorted guitar…I wrote it… on a piano…here… in between a blowjob and an omelette. There’s no rebellion. There’s only me… earning a paycheck.”
Anthony McCarten (The Two Popes)
“It’s here, in confession, where we are forced to look at the vastness of our failures, that we finally see the vastness of His mercy.”
Julius Onah and JC Lee (Luce)
“I don’t like tokenism. What’s the difference between punishing someone for being a stereotype and rewarding them if they’re not? One of the two comes with benefits. What you’d call a benefit, I’d call a responsibility I didn’t ask for.”
Greta Gerwig (Little Women)
“Women have minds and souls as well as hearts, ambition and talent as well as beauty and I’m sick of being told that love is all a woman is fit for.”
Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood revels in the little things, making a sincere joy out of watching TV, emptying a can of dog food, or a late-night stroll through LA. Tarantino digs in and pulls back with fluid, poetic grace; nine movies and nearly thirty years into his filmmaking career, no one directs a scene like the big Q.T.
Greta Gerwig (Little Women)
In addition to squeezing a sublime set of performances out of her cast, Greta Gerwig’s zealous directing style infuses Little Women with a very special touch. Gerwig’s passion for the material radiates all throughout her film, a personal, cherishing celebration of young adulthood you can tell resonates with her deeply.
Sam Mendes (1917)
On top of maneuvering through an insane series of logistical and environmental challenges, Mendes’ grandstanding presentation tells a stirring tale of heroism and duty. The grueling production of 1917 is almost an afterthought with how smoothly Sam Mendes directs against it all, a testament not only to his vision but also his ambition and grit.
Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Endgame)
Twenty-one movies and eleven eventful years in the making, the creation of Avengers: Endgame is a herculean effort that should by no means have been possible. It’s somehow pulled off by the Russo brothers, who don’t just shoot great action, don’t just juggle dozens of character arcs, and don’t just tell a cohesive narrative. No, Joe and Anthony Russo additionally create an entertaining, sentimental, and thoroughly satisfying finale that marvelously pays off the legacy of everything that came before it.
Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
Director Bong has once again proven himself a commanding master of cinema with Parasite. Tightly paced and directed, meticulously drawing connections between even the most flitting of details across all departments, it’s the auteur at the top of his game, ‘nuff said.
Reimagined in a fancy new non-linear narrative, Greta Gerwig has lovingly crafted the definitive edition of Little Women. Gerwig’s modern amendments elevate the best aspects of Louisa May Alcott’s novel to greater heights, capturing the jubilant spirit of youth and womanhood with electric performances and storytelling.
Under the Silver Lake
Only describable as the unholy lovechild of Blue Velvet and They Live, Under the Silver Lake is a hypnotic conspiratorial thriller with hair-raising surprises around every corner. David Robert Mitchell’s screenplay and directing are shocking in the best of ways, traversing through a delirious Lynchian underworld I couldn’t get enough of.
Though it’s set during the First World War, 1917 tells a timeless tale of bravery that goes well beyond its genre roots. Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins’ two take epic is a stunning cinematic feat, one whose incredible technical achievements never overshadow the dire emotions of the story at hand.
Atmospheric and unflinchingly straight-faced, The Art of Self-Defense is one eerie, offbeat hoot of a thriller. Riley Stearns’ darkly humorous study of masculinity scores the awkwardest of laughs alongside the awkwardest of drama, astutely commenting on what it means to be a man and the distorted, destructive measures one will take to prove it.
Marriage Story features not one, but two masterclasses in acting from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. Expertly directed by Noah Baumbach, the thespian duo gives two of the greatest performances of the decade with a gut-wrenching, eye-watering, heart-shattering realism you won’t soon forget.
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is, simply put, a perfect film. Very likely also the best of 2019. No creative choice passes by without a purpose, every single detail contributing to the film’s commentary on the class disparity in some form or other. With an impeccable cast, a smart screenplay, and a dastardly director at its helm, Parasite is filmmaking at its best: engrossing, entertaining, and cross-culturally artful.
Aged like a fine wine, The Irishman brings Martin Scorsese and his muses back together to pensively mull over the fear, violence, and misdemeanors of their cinematic pasts. Scorsese, De Niro, Pesce, and Pacino give some of their best work ever, thoughtfully reflecting on their legacies by riffing on the gangster stories and archetypes that built their careers. It’s a hefty one at a whopping 209 minutes long, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to trim or cut out.
You don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to appreciate the multilingual harmony of The Two Popes. While it does delve into riveting theological discussions concerning faith and the Church’s troubled history, Fernando Meirelles’ charming film is a universal, deeply human story about forgiveness and change anyone should be able to appreciate.
Julius Onah and JC Lee’s subversive exploration of race is also one of the most groundbreaking and impactful of the last decade. Luce fearlessly addresses the belittling effects of tokenism, of being a singled-out stand-in tool for someone else’s gain, with rage and nuance most other films would cower at. There are no easy answers to the film’s rousing narrative, but for the first time in a long time, I felt like my voice was finally being heard.
There’s nothing hidden about this gem. The Safdie brothers’ film is raw and in your face, a full-on, cacophonous assault on the senses charged forward by Adam Sandler at his best. It’s an uncomfortable ordeal well-worth sitting through, a frenzied rollercoaster ride of hard knocks that spectacularly crash into the most perfect ending of 2019.
Agree with these selections? Disagree? What were your favorite movie things last year? Leave your thoughts below! For more current film and television reviews, follow Hector Valverde on Twitter @hpvalverde.
By Hector Valverde
There’s always that one sad movie that gets left out or forgotten in the cascade of prestigious releases rushing to score Oscar nominations at the end of the year. Despite featuring a great cast and a compelling story, Just Mercy is only a mediocre film that gets left in the dust of other, much better movies.
Just Mercy follows the real-life case of Walter McMillian, a black lumberjack put on death row after being wrongfully accused of killing a white woman. After moving to the Deep South to represent convicts without resources, newly graduated lawyer Bryan Stevenson fights to repeal McMillian’s sentence before his execution.
Michael B. Jordan (Stevenson) and Brie Larson (his assistant Eva) are wasted; they’re given the bare minimum amount of personality to pass as characters despite being billed as a big selling point for the film. Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx gives a halfway decent supporting performance as McMillian, but his solid work is mostly lost in a boring, uninspired, blatantly obvious piece of Oscar-bait that seldom bothers to differentiate itself from other similar work.
From its cookie-cutter characters down to its story and general narrative, everything about Just Mercy has already been told dozens of times in significantly more interesting and affecting films; there’s not a lot of moving substance or emotion in its storytelling to compensate. The end stinger paying tribute to the people behind the true story hits harder than anything else preceding it, mostly because the majority of the film goes for the easiest, most overused tropes and emotional appeals in the melodramatic-handbook.
Despite having good intentions and more than solid material to tell a moving, sadly timeless narrative about racial injustice, the film instead comes across as preachy with its forced and lame attempts at greater thematic depth. It’s a shame, too, because writer and director Destin Daniel Cretton has previously proven himself with great work in his two excellent collaborations with Larson, Short Term 12 and The Glass Castle.
For more current film and television reviews, follow Hector Valverde on Twitter @hpvalverde.