Your family’s Elf DVD is worn down to the label. You can recite The Santa Clause from memory. The same list of holiday specials run on repeat every winter season. Klaus (2019), an animated Santa Claus origin story from director Sergio Pablos, is a fresh-cut Douglas fir in your living room. Lighthearted, earnest, and brimming with more holiday cheer than a warm cup of hot chocolate, Klaus is a worthy addition to the Christmas movie rotation.
The end of a console generation usually signals a wave of indelible experiences. After years of learning a system’s capabilities, resourceful game developers craft the console’s grandiose swan songs.
Sony’s body-swapping adventure returned in 2019 for another nostalgic romp through the untamed frontier. Jumanji: The Next Level, the second Jumanji movie in as many years and the fourth since 1995, added Awkwafina, Danny DeVito, and Danny Glover, but the rest of the nostalgic franchise remains frozen in stasis.
The Aeronauts, a historical adventure of meteorology, frostbite, and hot air ballooning, dropped on Amazon Prime Video without fanfare last December. The film marks the second 2019 release—after Wild Rose—by director Tom Harper (not to be confused with director Tom Hooper of Les Misérables, The King’s Speech, and Cats fame). In spite of historical inaccuracies, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than with leads Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in their second biopic together (The Theory of Everything).
2019’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette is the nineteenth film from Richard Linklater, and one of the few women-led films in the writer-director’s catalog. Where’d You Go, Bernadette, adapted from a 2012 novel of the same name by Maria Semple, opts to change the novel’s narrative structure. The movie’s fresh framework kills the book’s central mystery and most of the resulting conflict. Not quite deep enough to serve as a character study, Where’d You Go must settle for an affable tale about an architect’s midlife crisis.
The third, and supposedly final, entry in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was released in February 2019. Although series writer-director Dean DeBlois returned for the final third of the trilogy, the finale lacks the heart and charm of its predecessors. Apparently, cat-like dragons and their cute Viking owners are a gimmick that only has the staying power of two movies.
Two years after the release of the pulse-pounding Good Time, Josh and Benny Safdie return to the theater with Uncut Gems, their second respectable genre outing in as many years. Led by Adam Sandler giving the performance of a lifetime, breakout talent Julia Fox, and former NBA MVP Kevin Garnett, Uncut Gems is a modern thriller shot by vintage filmmakers. Fair warning: you’ll be using your jeans to dry your sweat-slicked palms.
The Two Popes draws a distinction between the reign of Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and his successor, Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce). Relative to Benedict, the movie positions Francis as benevolent, modern, and liberal. Under even the lightest of scrutiny, this intellectual dishonesty crumbles like the Eucharist in sacramental wine. As an artistic endeavor, The Two Popes doesn’t fare any better.
Based on a 1998 Esquire article by journalist Tom Junod, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the second film about television entertainer Fred Rogers released in the last two years. With a cast that includes The Americans star Matthew Rhys, the reliably great Chris Cooper, and American icon Tom Hanks, the film is less than the sum of its parts.
Queen and Slim’s title characters (Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya, respectively) are billed as the black Bonnie & Clyde. Screenwriter Lena Waithe (Master of None) draws parallels to the infamous outlaw couple throughout the film; although both parties are fugitive lovers on the run, the circumstances surrounding their most-wanted statuses are determined by the racial history of the country hunting them.