Co-writer and director J.J. Abrams launched the newest trilogy of Star Wars movies with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Writer-director Rian Johnson’s challenging (and somehow controversial) second entry, The Last Jedi, indicated a shift in priorities for the franchise. In The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams returns to bookend the trilogy and nullify Johnson’s efforts to advance the canon.
Disney, the IP empire behind Marvel, Star Wars, and remakes of its own animated classics, was responsible for an asinine, unprecedented 80 percent of box office hits in 2019. The dominance of a single multimedia conglomerate is counter to the oligopoly that we’ve grown accustomed to in the entertainment industry (and, broadly speaking, the United States).
In 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, writer-director Noah Baumbach concentrated on Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), the children of divorcing parents. Returning to the subject of divorce 14 years later, Baumbach turns his camera on the adults. Marriage Story, like some divorces, is the manifestation of the swelling rage and lingering affection between two people who once shared every intimacy.
With stars like Mahershala Ali, Toni Collette, and Meryl Streep slumming it on the small screen, 2019 was another year dominated by miniseries, anthologies, and bite-sized seasons. Although a handful of new faces were able to enter the collective consciousness, the year’s best work came from familiar names and shows.
Knives Out is an intricately spun whodunit starring an eccentric sleuth that would tickle the likes of Dame Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas star as super detective Benoit Blanc and nurse Marta, respectively. Marta is an unwilling, amateur John Watson to Craig’s country-fried Sherlock Holmes to delightful effect.
In contrast with director Martin Scorsese’s last two gangster epics, Casino and Goodfellas, The Irishman is director Martin Scorsese’s first effort in the trilogy without the aid of non-fiction crime author Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi, the scribe of the books and screenplays behind Casino and Goodfellas, was replaced by author Charles Brandt and veteran screenwriter Steve Zaillian. Zaillian’s script is masterful, but the heavily disputed source material raises questions that The Irishman declines to ask.
Jojo Rabbit, an adaptation of Christine Leunens’s book, Caging Skies, is the newest work from writer-director Taika Waititi. A toothless satire that struggles to spit venom at its totalitarian state subject, Jojo Rabbit is the first miss for Waititi.