2019: the year in movies

I think I said in my music post I wasn’t going to do one of these this year, but I had to look up some movies for something else, so why not!

jokerI only saw four first-run movies in a theater in 2019, and here they are in order of favorites:

  1. Joker
  2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  3. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  4. Men in Black: International

Joker was a dark, funny, thrilling, horrifying, dramatic movie and I really dug it. Men in Black: International sucked and I found it to be a waste of time and money. The Star Wars and Godzilla franchise entries had good and bad aspects to them but were overall enjoyable.

I saw some other new movies that came out in 2019, but went to streaming services quickly. Here they are in order of favorites:

  1. The Highwaymen (tie for 1st)
  2. Dolemite Is My Name (tie for 1st)
  3. The Report
  4. Captain Marvel
  5. The Irishman
  6. 6 Underground

The Highwaymen and Dolemite Is My Name are both comeback movies of a sort. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson star in Highwaymen as two of the police officers who take down Bonnie and Clyde. It was a well-made movie, a good story (even though you know how it ends) and just excellent all around. Costner is best when he’s not trying too hard, and Harrelson was a great foil for Costner’s character.

Dolemite is Eddie Murphy’s return to form, and he’s a far better dramatic actor than I think anybody gives him credit for. I had never really heard of Rudy Ray Moore before this film, and I really dug it.

I did not enjoy The Irishman, though it was a well-made movie. The de-aging effects they used on Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino were fantastic and hardly looked like effects at all.  The story was boring, the acting was great.  It was gratifying to experience the end of what one of my smart friends called Scorcese’s “mob-adjacent trilogy” – this film plus Goodfellas and Casino.

6 Underground was a typical Michael Bay movie. If you like his movies, you’ll like this one. The story is thin, but the action and explosions are amazing. The opening car chase is a lot of fun, and I watched the movie only because Ryan Reynolds is in it (playing, naturally, Ryan Reynolds), as is Melanie Laurent, who I first encountered in Now You See Me, which is a capable and fun caper movie in which she plays an Interpol officer.

There were a lot of new movies I wanted to see in theaters, but ultimately didn’t pony up the time or cash. They include Shazam!, Booksmart, Yesterday, Hobbs & Shaw, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Ad Astra, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Terminator: Dark Fate, Ford v Ferrari, Uncut Gems, 1917, Tall Girl, John Wick 3, Late Night, Midsommar, Shaft, Rambo: Last Blood, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco. I figure I saved myself close to $350 by not going to the movies too often this year. I’m sure I’ll be able to catch most of them on a streaming service before too long.

As for 2020, we know about a lot of movies that will be coming out next year. Here’s the ones I think I’d like to see, just based on previews and descriptions: Bad Boys for Life, Birds of Prey, No Time To Die, Black Widow, The Personal History of David Copperfield, Greyhound, Wonder Woman 1984, Top Gun: Maverick, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Bob’s Burgers, Jungle Cruise, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Death on the Nile, Ron’s Gone Wrong, Red Notice, Godzilla vs. Kong, Coming 2 America, and Dune.

If I only go see four like I did in 2019, it will likely be No Time To Die (I’m a sucker for James Bond), Greyhound (WW2 naval combat with Tom Hanks? no-brainer), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (it looks awesome from the preview), and Bill & Ted Face the Music because, DUH! Bill & Ted!! Plus also Dune and probably Godzilla vs. Kong, so put me down for six theater movies in 2020. I keep up with my local $5 theater’s listings too, so there’s a good chance I’ll see more theater movies in 2020 than just those, but maybe some slightly older ones.

Enjoy your 2020 in the dark!

2019: The Year in Music

Well folks, it’s about that time again.

2019 kinda sucked music-wise. Yeah, I said it. The whole year I only got 10 new CDs. Compare this to periods in my life when I was bringing home 10 new CDs a month, or even a week. Crazy. I guess I’m just set in my ways.

The lack of new music in my life makes choosing the top albums super easy, though.

1. Dream Theater – Distance Over Time: I stumbled across a three-part documentary on how Dream Theater found their new drummer, Mike Mangini, after they booted Mike Portnoy (or he quit, it depends on who tells the story). I’ve been a Mike Mangini fan for a long time, so I was pretty excited when I found out he was DT’s new drummer. He was in Extreme for a hot minute during the Waiting for the Punchline era, but I mostly knew him from his stint in Steve Vai’s band, which encompassed two albums (Fire Garden and The Ultra Zone) and a couple of tours. He’s a fantastic drummer and frankly the perfect addition to Dream Theater.

Oh right – Distance Over Time. If you like DT, you’ll love this album. If you hate DT, nothing I say is going to change your mind. Best songs on the album are “Untethered Angel,” “Room 137” and “Pale Blue Dot.”

2. Galactic Cowboys – Long Way Back to the Moon: I had no idea GC put out a new album in 2017, so I kind of freaked out when I found out they did just that. It’s a great album, I love it, and it sounds a lot like their first two albums, Galactic Cowboys and Space in Your Face – mostly because they got their original guitarist back. This is fun, crunchy heavy metal that doesn’t really let up and is enjoyable from beginning to end. Standout tracks include “Zombies,” “Drama” and “Believing the Hype” as well as the title track.

3. I picked up two Wes Montgomery albums to expose myself to classic jazz guitar – Full House (which is fantastic) and Smokin’ at the Half Note (which has an annoying narrator poking in several times for some reason). The guy is a jazz legend for a reason.

4. I got Queen’s Queen on Air two-CD package because duh, Queen! I already had about a third of the material and had heard most of the rest, so it was mostly a case of completing the collection. The ultra standout track is the fast/live version of “We Will Rock You.”

5. The Jelly Jam – Profit: TJJ is a side project of Ty Tabor (guitar & vocals/King’s X), John Myung (bass/Dream Theater) and Rod Morgenstein (drums/Dixie Dregs & Winger) – put out an album called Profit. Like DT, if you already like progressive hard rock/metal, you’ll dig it. It’s more mature than their previous albums, but it’s not better than them. IMO TJJ peaked with their second album.

6. The Quill – Born From Fire: Here’s a Swedish heavy metal band I’ve mentioned before. Their last album, Tiger Blood, wasn’t great. This album is better than that one, almost as good as their best album, In Triumph. The lead track, “Stone Believer,” sounds like a cross between Led Zeppelin and The Cult. Cool track.

7. Roger Taylor – Fun in Space: I went on a Roger Taylor kick this year and listened to all his albums, including the stuff he did with The Cross. Discovered I didn’t have this album, so I needed to take care of that. It’s good. It’s not great. It’s not Queen.

8. Jason Kui – Absence of Words: Somebody told me about this heavy metal/hard rock instrumental album, so I picked it up. Worth the money. He’s no Steve Vai (super progressive & often weird) or Joe Satriani (melodic & accessible), but he’s pretty good. A fun album.

That’s it. I don’t even have a full top 10 for you this year because the last album I got – Larkin Poe’s Venom & Faith – is still in the shrink wrap. I passed on over a dozen albums I probably should have gotten, including two Weezer albums (I just can’t with them any more) and albums from Rival Sons, Queensryche, Megadeth, Sammy Hagar, Baroness, The Black Keys, Tool, KXM and Prong.

Yeah, I still haven’t heard Tool’s first album in a decade, or however long it was. I’m just not sure I give a shit about Tool any more.

As far as what I listened to the most, here’s that list:

20. Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell (down from #5 in 2018)
19. Wes Montgomery – Smokin’ at the Half Note
18. Scale the Summit – The Migration (instrumental prog metal)
17. Nobuki Takamen – The Nobuki Takamen Trio (live guitar-led jazz)
16. Ghost – Popestar (down from #3 in 2018)
15. Josh Fix – Free at Last
14. Booker T & the MGs – The Definitive Soul Collection
13. Black Label Society – Stronger Than Death (down from #4 in 2018)
12. George Thorogood – Baddest Hits
11. Pink Floyd – Animals (absent in 2018, top 10 in previous years)
10. Dead Can Dance – The Serpent’s Egg (up from #14 in 2018)
9. AC/DC – For Those About to Rock (up from #11 in 2018)
8. Sly & the Family Stone – Greatest Hits
7. Black Label Society – Grimmest Hits (not a greatest hits collection)
6. Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (down from #1 in 2018)
5. Galactic Cowboys – Long Way Back to the Moon
4. Muse – Simulation Theory
3. Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
2. John Williams – The Baroque Album (classical guitar)
1. Wes Montgomery – Full House