Film reviews from 2019

The old gives way to the new.

Akhil Arora’s movie reviews of 2019 were all about the endgame.

Bumblebee Hailee Steinfeld Charlie Watson


“Both Charlie and Bee have faced loss and are broken in different ways, and the film uses that human-machine connection to craft a well-meaning tale of compassion and friendship.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker poster

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker ultimately plays it so safe that it makes you wonder if it was designed by committee—or a global forum of Star Wars fans who threw everything they love about Star Wars in a blender. It’s too afraid to really commit to anything.”

Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, and Jack Black in Jumanji: The Next Level

Jumanji: The Next Level

“Props to Jumanji: The Next Level for handing out new roles to most of its primary cast members—[Dwayne] Johnson, [Kevin] Hart, and [Jack] Black—who now have to channel a different young adult or one of the two new oldies.”

Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc in Knives Out

Knives Out

“The wonderful thing about [Rian] Johnson is that his films come from a place of admiration for the genre and that he’s willing to push the boundaries on what they have been about. […] With Knives Out, Johnson throws out a story that [Agatha] Christie would have appreciated, but he makes sure to go that step further to subvert it.”

Frozen II Elsa Anna Kristoff

Frozen II

“[Its] new themes, which have to do with environmentalism, indigenous people, historical wrongs, and supportive male partners … aren’t delivered with the same conviction and style of the 2013 original. Its messaging lacks the emotional resonance that was at the heart of Frozen, and ultimately, feels half-baked.”

Jason Schwartzman as Jesper Johanssen in Klaus


“[Made] in the old ways of traditional hand-drawn 2D animation [but] makes use of modern touches such as volumetric lighting, Klaus can easily be mistaken for computer animation, something [Sergio] Pablos knows too well. That means most viewers will overlook the painstaking work that went into it.”

Will Smith and Will Smith in Gemini Man poster

Gemini Man

“Continuing his love for bleeding-edge tech from his previous feature, [Ang] Lee has shot Gemini Man in extra-high frame rate—120fps to be precise, which is five times the standard 24fps—at 4K resolution in 3D. […] But Lee has spent time and money on technology that forget being appreciated, can’t even be seen as intended.”

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck/Joker in Joker (2019)


“[As] an origin story—Arthur is a product of a broken mother, a broken home, and a broken city—it’s unable to meaningfully engage with what it presents. And as a standalone ~superhero~ film, Joker drinks too much from [Martin] Scorsese’s can while presenting a deeply cynical but ultimately empty viewpoint. It’s provocative but sadly, it’s also irresponsible in the handling of that material.”

Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, and Eiza González in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw poster

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

“[The] trouble for the Fast & Furious spin-off is that its set-pieces aren’t cohesive. Rather than a scene that was conceptualised, extensively storyboarded, and then shot and cut to perfection … those in Hobbs & Shaw suffer from a lack of fluidity. And when the action doesn’t flow beat-to-beat, it takes you out of the moment. In other words, you stop caring.”

Simba in The Lion King

The Lion King

“[Some] of the most imaginative and best-looking frames of the original are virtually discarded on the remake, which in turn opts for a more natural feel. Therefore, those who haven’t seen the original will enjoy the remake more, as they’ll have nothing to compare it with.”

Zendaya as MJ, and Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home

“[Amidst] the narrative necessity of the new threat—this is a superhero movie after all—from its introduction to Spider-Man inevitably winning the day, Far From Home doesn’t give itself enough time to properly examine the emotional fallout of the abrupt end of Peter [Parker] and Tony [Stark]’s relationship.”

Toy Story 4 poster

Toy Story 4

“With a new bunch of toys (and a returning favourite) posing big, new questions to the good ol’ ones, and a screenplay … delivering laughs and adventure in equal amounts, Toy Story 4 ends up being a great entry, one that’s self-assured and the most inventive Pixar sequel yet.”

Chris Hemsworth as H, Tessa Thompson as M in Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International can’t recapture the Thor: Ragnarok magic, because the two stars weren’t solely responsible for it. Much of Ragnarok’s success was down to the irreverence of director Taika Waititi […] Unfortunately, F. Gary Gray … can’t catch that lightning in a bottle.”

X-Men Dark Phoenix Sophie Turner Jean Grey

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

“Ultimately, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a wholly disappointing and forgetful culmination of this X-Men run, which brought together a fantastic bunch of young actors but then ran out of steam two movies in.”

Naomi Scott as Jasmine, Mena Massoud as Aladdin, and Will Smith as the Genie in Aladdin poster


“Were Disney interested in something other than a cynical cash-grab, that entertains children with music and dance for a couple of hours and later hopefully sells some merchandise, it could have done well to hire writers who have a deeper respect for Middle Eastern cultures.”

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu poster

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

“[Were] it not for [Ryan] Reynolds, who carries over his Deadpool persona—minus the expletives—in voicing a version of Pikachu that wears a deerstalker hat and has a caffeine addiction, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu would immediately be a lesser film.”

Avengers: Endgame poster

Avengers: Endgame

“It has a three-act structure like most films, but it can also be viewed as three movies in one. The first one offering a meditative reflection on grief and loss, the second giving them hope to get back up and come up with a plan, and a final third that delivers bucket-loads of fan service in true comic book-style fashion. Avengers: Endgame needs the three-hour runtime to honour all that, and along the way, it earns that [wild] length.”

Shazam Zachary Levi


“The fact that its hero is a teenager and isn’t carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders—unlike nearly all his DC counterparts—benefits the film greatly.”

Captain Marvel Brie Larson

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is more a reminder of Marvel’s early work (think the first Captain America or Thor movie) than its more recent output (Black Panther or Infinity War).”

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part poster

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

“[An] ode to sibling rivalry and affection, which stems from wanting to spend time and bond with each other. And from a filmmaking perspective, The Lego Movie 2’s greatest strength is how it makes such a studio vehicle feel like an indie project, true to the roots of the homemade Lego movies that started it all.”

Soni Geetika Vidya Ohlyan Netflix


“[It] takes restraint to depict ingrained societal pressures and injustices without being preachy or didactic, and [debutante director] Ivan Ayr has that in spades.”