Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Decade Roundup: The BEST 30 FILIPINO FILMS of the 2010s That I Had Seen

December 24, 2019

In order of the year released, these are the 30 best Filipino films that I had seen and written about in the last 10 years:

1. RPG METANOIA by Luis C. Suarez (2010) (FULL REVIEW)

This first full-length Filipino 3D computer animated film tells about Nico (Zaijan Jaranilla) and his friends who are computer-game addicts to an RPG called Metanoia. When an evil force that was destroying the world of Metanoia also threatens the real world, they need to band together in order to beat the common foe. I liked the Filipino imagery like Vigan houses, the Moriones mask (as the villain's avatar), the Filipino street games and the warning to kids about addiction to computer games.

2. ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK by Marlon Rivera (2011) (FULL REVIEW)

This is a unique look inside the processes of movie-making which we as laymen are not usually privy. We were walked through a script in progress from the brainstorming, to the problems and eventual compromising involved in the areas of casting, production design and location by young director Rainier (Kean Cipriano) and producer Bingbong (JM de Guzman). As their "star", Eugene Domingo goes to town playing herself with over-the-top comic flair and perfect timing. 

3. I DO BIDOO BIDOO by Chris Martinez (2012) (FULL REVIEW

Told via the Filipino pop songs of the APO Hiking Society, this is a story about two families.  The Polotan family is lower middle class, while the Fuentebella family is super rich. Rock Polotan (Sam Concepcion) falls in love with Tracy Fuentebella (Tippy dos Santos), leading to an unexpected teenage pregnancy.  The obviously radical class difference of course led to a very disastrous "pamamanhikan." Will love prevail in the end?

4. THY WOMB by Brillante Mendoza (2012) (FULL REVIEW)

A middle-aged childless Moslem Badjao woman named Shaleha (Nora Aunor) living in Tawi-tawi finds a suitable second wife for her husband Bangas-An (Bembol Roco) to have a child of his own, unmindful of the consequences this decision might impose on her. Director Mendoza intertwines very colorful scenes of daily Badjao life and culture to beef up the sparse story line, creating a brilliant visual spectacle that would educate us about how our Badjao countrymen live. 

5. BADIL by Chito S. Rono (2013) (FULL REVIEW)

In a small island barangay in Samar on the day before local elections, Mang Ponso (Dick Israel) is working hard to ensure his candidate, the incumbent Mayor Del Mundo, wins by making sure their sworn supporters vote as they promise.  Because of Ponso's physical disabilities brought about by a recent stroke, his eldest son Lando (Jhong Hilario) has to fill in his father's duties, exposing him to the seedy underbelly of local grassroots politics, where MONEY does all the talking.

6. ON THE JOB by Erik Matti (2013) (FULL REVIEW)

Mario (Joel Torre) and Daniel (Gerald Anderson) are convicts who are being sneaked out of prison and hired as hitmen by a powerful highly-connected syndicate. After they bungle a job to execute a policeman, the secure web of protection around them begin to unravel as an idealistic NBI lawyer Francis Coronel Jr. (Piolo Pascual) and a maverick but sincere policeman PO1 Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez) threaten to throw this assassination ring wide open up to its highest levels.

7. 10,000 HOURS by Joyce Bernal (2013) (FULL REVIEW)

As his warrant of arrest was being served, Sen. Gabriel Alcaraz (Robin Padilla) was able to elude authorities led by Gen. Dante Cristobal (Michael de Mesa) with the help of an aggressive news reporter Maya Limchauco (Bela Padilla). He manages to make his way to Amsterdam to hide out, but back home, his wife Anna (Mylene Dizon) and children bear the consequential backlash of his controversial escape. The title "10,000 Hours" refers to the number of hours Alcaraz was on the lam.  

8. EKSTRA by Jeffrey Jeturian (2013) (FULL REVIEW

Through Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos), we see every indignity bit players had to endure in order to earn their seemingly measly living. They have no privacy, not enough food nor rest while on the set. They were at the constant beck, call and mercy of the director. the assistant director, the casting director. They had to wait for long periods of time under harsh conditions inflicted by weather, technical difficulties, and the inconsiderate diva behavior of the lead stars.


Set in Ilocos Norte, Fabian (Sid Lucero) was a topnotch law student who quit law school because of his highfalutin philosophical ideas of a society beyond existentialism and anarchy. Joaquin (Archie Alemania) and Eliza (Angeli Bayani) were a poor couple who fell deep into debt after an accident. After a heinous crime was committed in their small town of La Paz, these lives of these three people intersected and were thrown into a major maelstrom. 

10. BARBER'S TALES by Jun Lana (2013) (FULL REVIEW)

The year is 1975. Marilou (Eugene Domingo) is the lonely wife of the village barber, Jose Aguallo, who treated her like a doormat. When her husband unexpectedly passes away one night, Marilou decides to continue the family trade. Customers though tend not to trust a female barber. However, when the parish priest Fr. Arturo and the town mayor Alfredo Bartolome become her avowed customers, her new career gets going.

11. THAT THING CALLED TADHANA by Antoniette Jadaone (2014) (FULL REVIEW)

Mace Castillo was desperately trying to deal with her excess luggage at the Rome airport when when a total stranger Anthony Lagdameo gallantly offered to help her out. Both of them are recovering from recent relationship break-ups. That chance meeting led to watching "One More Chance" on the plane, a drunken videoke session singing a Whitney song in Manila, a random trip to Baguio City, and a breathtaking sojourn in Sagada. Does destiny have something up its sleeve for them?

12. HENERAL LUNA by Jerrold Tarog (2015) (FULL REVIEW)

Even from his intense penetrating gaze and formidable mustache in the poster alone, you already know John Arcilla will be excellent in this film. His comic timing was impeccable. It was a most vibrant performance of a most vivid man, making him really loom larger than life. He was over-the-top in his explosiveness, just the way Tarog wanted him to be. The way he was built up, we were ready for that climactic assassination scene, however outrageous the savagery. 

13. MANANG BIRING by Carl Joseph Papa (2015) (FULL REVIEW)

Rendered in rotoscopic animation, Manang Biring has been diagnosed to have breast cancer, stage IV, and had been given only six months to live. One day, she receives a letter from her estranged daughter Nita stating her plan to visit her mother on Christmas Day that year. Funds drained by chemotherapy, Biring, together with her wacky friends Eva and Terrence, concoct the wildest plans to be able to prepare the best Christmas reunion party. Biring did these things even when knew she may not even live to see that day.

14. APOCALYPSE CHILD by Mario Cornejo (2015) (FULL REVIEW)

In the late 1970s, some scenes of US movie "Apocalypse Now" were shot in Baler. Rumors say 14-year old Chona (Ana Abad Santos) allegedly got pregnant by the director himself. Her son Ford (Sid Lucero) is now a surfing instructor in the beaches of Baler. Ford's old childhood friend Rich, now congressman, encouraged his fiancee Serena to take surfing lessons from Ford. These lessons trigger a cascade of events that lead to explosive revelations and bitter betrayals.


The year is 1993, in Marag Valley, where there was a civil war. Nardo (Anthony Falcon) and wife Emma (LJ Reyes) are among those forcefully uprooted from their homes and brought to live in another place by the military. However, they eventually met and made friends with a genial soldier named Joel (Luis Alandy). One night marked by a lunar eclipse, Joel visited Nardo and Emma. As the night progressed, the visit eventually progresses to comparing notes and surprise revelations. 


This was a more accessible Lav Diaz work being just under four hours. It had a clear-cut and concrete story line about social injustice, the initial premise of which was inspired by Leo Tolstoi's short story entitled "God Sees the Truth But Waits". Ms. Charo Santos as the tomboyish Renata clearly channeled the iconic action star Fernando Poe Jr., which was quite delightful to watch. John Lloyd Cruz's performance as the damaged transgender Hollanda was truly riveting. 

17. IGNACIO DE LOYOLA by Paolo Dy (2016) (FULL REVIEW)

This was an excellent distillation of life highlights based on the autobiography of the saint himself. The first half may feel slow on the build up, but it escalated its pace steadily and surely. By the second half that detailed his spiritual transformation, the words were so beautifully written and so inspirational to listen to. You may worry a religious film like this may be boring, but this was not. It was engaging, and got better as the film went on. 

18. PAMILYA ORDINARYO by Eduardo Roy, Jr. (2016) (FULL REVIEW)

Director Eduardo Roy Jr. creates a masterpiece of cinema verite with this feature. All the while as we watch these two foolishly callow kids trying to survive on the tough streets, we feel we are right there with them, inhaling the same grime and stench and rugby with them. The starkly realistic performances of Ronwaldo Martin and Hasmine Killip in their breakthrough roles as Aries and Jane actually look like the street urchins we see on the grimy sidewalks everyday. 

19. PATAY NA SI HESUS by Victor Villanueva (2016) (FULL REVIEW)

This Cebuano dark comedy is about a mother Iyay who got her three adult kids together on a long drive from Cebu to Dumaguete to attend the funeral of their long-estranged father Hesus. Ms. Jaclyn Jose's astutely sharp comic timing displayed in this film as Iyay was a delightful discovery. This film is a roller coaster ride full of the irreverent and idiotic yet tempered with depth and heart. It highlights close family ties that all Filipinos can identify with and consider precious.

20. ANG LARAWAN by Loy Arcenas (2017) (FULL REVIEW)

This is the musical Filipino film version of the classic Nick Joaquin play "Portrait of the Artist as Filipino" as translated by Rolando Tinio, and put into music by Ryan Cayabyab. Joanna Ampil was stern and pragmatic as Candida, while Rachel Alejandro was the younger, more vulnerable Paula. The technical aspects of this film -- lush cinematography (with those tight closeups) by Boy Yniguez and meticulous period production design by Gino Gonzales -- definitely deserve award recognition

22. RESPETO by Treb Monteras II (2017) (FULL REVIEW)

Hendrix (Abra) is a young man from the tough slums of Pandacan. One day, he went to join a rap battle league match, choked and lost money big time. In order to pay back the money he lost, Hendrix decided to break into and rob a bookshop owned by an old man they called Doc (Dido dela Paz). Its intensity was driven by its powerful musical soundtrack (by Jay Oliver Durias) of pulsating beats and hardcore, graphic, curse-ridden rapping by rival rap stars Abra and Loonie.


The film version of this crime novel by FH Batacan was riveting from beginning to end. The script (by Ria Limjap and Moira Lang) used Filipino for more realism but wisely retained the sharply-worded English lines where they mattered most. The carefully detailed production design (by Ericson Navarro) brought us back twenty years ago to 1997. The nuanced acting of Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero as partners Fr. Gus and Fr. Jerome really brought the novel's fascinating characters to life. 

23. THE CHANTERS by James Mayo (2017) (FULL REVIEW)

James Mayo used an unusually smaller of screen projection (1:1 aspect ratio) that gave the film additional character. The film proudly proclaimed their Sugidanon heritage in their colorful tribal attire and accessories, and especially those glorious chants. Jally Nae Gilbaliga was so natural in her portrayal of Sarah Mae, so young and carefree and resilient. Romulo Caballero was even more remarkable as Lolo Ramon, with his mesmerizing chanting and evocative portrayal of dementia.

24. CHANGING PARTNERS by Dan Villegas (2017) (FULL REVIEW)

Since I had already seen "Changing Partners" as a staged reading and as a full-length stage musical, I knew its uniquely ingenious storytelling style very well. I know for a fact that Vincent de Jesus' words in both spoken dialogue and in the song lyrics were all impeccably chosen to convey their intended messages in the most heartbreaking ways possible. Dan Villegas did not disappoint when he translated this intricate web of human relationships into the film medium.

25. SIGNAL ROCK by Chito S. Rono (2018) (FULL REVIEW)

Intoy Abakan (Christian Bables) regularly climbed the rocks so he can use his trusty Nokia 6110 to keep in touch with his sister Vicky, who now lived in Finland. One day, Intoy received an alarming call from Vicky that she was now battling for custody of their daughter Sarah and needed his help to get documents to help her prove that she can support her child on her own. The scene where Daria Ramirez (as Intoy's mother) appealing to the consul was simply so moving, poignant and funny. 

26. GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL by Jerrold Tarog (2018) (FULL REVIEW)

The "boy general" Gregorio del Pilar (Paolo Avelino) was fiercely loyal to Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo. Together with his trusted men, Goyo sought to eliminate Aguinaldo's enemies, making him known as a gallant hero. His good looks also earned him a reputation as a ladies' man whereever he went. However, when the Americans suddenly launched simultaneous attacks in several towns in Central Luzon. Goyo had to plan and execute a mighty defensive stand on the mountain pass on Mt. Tirad. 

27. BUYBUST by Erik Matti (2018) (FULL REVIEW)

Agent Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) has been taken in by drug enforcement officer Bernie Lacson under his team. They were assigned to join a buy-bust operation to apprehend big-time drug lord Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). When the venue of the bust was suddenly moved to the slum area of Gracia ni Maria, Manigan immediately knew something fishy was up. But getting her team out alive from that convoluted maze-like enclosure was not going to be easy.

28. TANABATA'S WIFE by Lito Casaje, Choy Pangilinan, Charlson L. Ong (2018) (FULL REVIEW)

Tanabata was a lonely Japanese farmer who immigrated from Okinawa to run his own farm in Trinidad Valley in the Mountain Province back in the 1920s. One day, he hired a young and pretty Bontoc tribeswoman Fas-ang to help him in his house and farm. Eventually, Tanabata and Fas-ang fell in love and lived together as husband and wife. Even if they soon have an infant son Kato, differences in their culture eventually crept its way into their relationship and threatened it.

29. QUEZON'S GAME by Matthew E. Rosen (2019) (FULL REVIEW)

"Quezon's Game" was set during the days of Manuel L. Quezon as the president of our country when it was a Commonwealth under the jurisdiction of the United States. In 1938, Quezon worked out how he could save as many of these Jews as he could by granting them asylum in Manila. Raymond Bagatsing played President Manuel L. Quezon as a very charismatic man and leader. This is an incredible tale of humanity which should not be forgotten, and this movie now made sure we don't. 

30. CLEANERS by Glenn Barit (2019) (FULL REVIEW)

Director Glenn Barit chose to present his stories via 30,000 photocopied black and white images painstakingly edited together at a rate of 8 frames per second to animate them. The clothes of the main characters were colored with highlighters to make them stand out. This gave the whole project a sense of nostalgia as we have never seen before. The awkward attempts of these kids (and teachers) at acting created a most authentic vibe of high school life -- all its silliness and its frustrations.

Monday, December 23, 2019

My Yearend Roundup: The BEST 25 FILIPINO FILMS of 2019 That I Have Seen

December 23, 2019

For the year 2019, I was able to watch 74 Filipino films (up from 70 in 2017).  I was able to catch 5/5 entries of the Sinag Manila Filmfest in April;  6/10 in the Cinemalaya in August; 6/10 in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino in September; 3/3 in the QCinema in October; 4/8 in the CinemaOne Originals in November; and 2/8 entries in the MMFF in December. 


25 Sila-sila by Giancarlo Abrahan  (My Full Review)
24 My Letters to Happy by Pertee Brinas  (My Full Review)
23 Between Maybes by Jason Paul Laxamana  (My Full Review)
22 Last Fool Show by Eduardo Roy, Jr.  (My Full Review)
21 Akin ang Korona by Zig Madamba Dulay  (My Full Review)

20 Elise by Joel Ferrer  (My Full Review)
19 Dead Kids by Mikhail Red  (My Full Review)
18 Kalel, 15 by Jun Lana  (My Full Review)
17 Clarita by Roderick Cabrido  (My Full Review)
16 Alone/Together by Antoinette Jadaone  (My Full Review)

15 Ulan by Irene Villamor  (My Full Review)
14 Write About Love by Crisanto B. Aquino  (My Full Review)
13 Lola Igna by Eduardo Roy, Jr.  (My Full Review)
12 Verdict by Raymund Ribay Gutierrez  (My Full Review)
11 Untrue by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo  (My Full Review)

Here are the 10 best Filipino films that I was able to see and write about this year:

10. MARIA by Pedring Lopez  (My Full Review)

Cristine Reyes went over and above my expectations of her. Despite how delicate she may look, she was very credible as a kick-ass action star. As wife and mother Maria, she was all-feminine in dress and manner. However, when pushed to a fight, she faced her enemies head on with her deadly skills in fighting and with weapons. She could wipe out an entire swarm of bad guys with her bare hands or whatever random items she can get her hands on, even in a dress with high heels.

9. ISA PA, WITH FEELINGS by Prime Cruz  (My Full Review)

This is a very brave Filipino to have one of its main protagonists Gali to be profoundly deaf. This meant that all his lines will have to be either in text via their mobile phones, or more frequently, in sign language. It taught us how to sign basic words, but there were entire scenes with no spoken dialogue at all. There were even some scenes in complete silence, without musical score. I appreciated those immersive scenes when all the sounds fade to mere beats or murmurs to simulate how the deaf Gali perceived the situation he was in. 

8. HELLO, LOVE, GOODBYE by Cathy Garcia-Molina  (My Full Review)

The title alone already pretty much gave us a gist of the story, but we stay on to enjoy the chemistry of Kathryn and Alden as a new romantic pairing, as well as to find out what Joy's final decision was going to be regarding her dilemma. However, the script also brought to life the various real problems OFWs experience in Hong Kong, especially sacrificing family unity and risking illegal activities. This was a movie that tells us that tough choices need to be made, and these choices need to be respected in the name of love. 

7. METAMORPHOSIS by Jose Tiglao  (My Full Review)

Director Jose Tiglao chose to use the metaphor of a butterfly coming out of its cocoon to illustrate these issues about intersex individuals.Young actor Gold Azeron had his work cut out for him when he played the physically and psychologically-disturbed intersex teenager Adam. He had the right look and build for the role with his face which may look male or female in different scenes. More impressive was his very realistic in his attack on his role with all the confusion and vulnerability of youth. 

6. CHILDREN OF THE RIVER by Maricel Cariaga  (My Full Review)

This was a story about four friends whose fathers were away fighting in the Marawi siege. Ms. Maricel Cabrera-Cariaga has crafted a rare gem -- a coming of age tale of military children told in a most straightforward, sincerely real, positively uplifting way, with no cheap sentimentality or sappy melodrama. With the refreshing river scenery of Quirino province as backdrop, "Children of the River" proved to us that an indie film need not have to be bloody, noisy, dark, dirty, perverse or profane to be current, interesting and outstanding. 

5. JOHN DENVER TRENDING by Arden Rod Condez  (My Full Review)

This film was indeed a very powerful and timely statement against bullying, physically and verbally in person, or virtually online. It talked about the dangerous power of social media in shaping public perception and opinion with biased news or worse, fake news, and its unrelenting negative consequences for the victim involved. New director Arden Rod Condez approached the topic with utmost severity of focus. Several prior scenes may have been foreshadowing the ending, but it will still knock your breath away.  

4. EDWARD by Thop Nazareno  (My Full Review)

The continuous long tracking shots Nazareno used to show the sorry situation in the emergency room, and later in the wards, were so accurate in portraying the chaos which really existed in those places. As Edward, Louise Abuel was as if just being himself. Everything about this guy felt sincere, very natural and unpretentious, quite impressive for a new actor. Being a minor, Edward was helplessly trapped in a situation not of his making and beyond his control, and Abuel was able to reflect the unfairness of it all on his face.  

3. CULION by Alvin Yapan  (My Full Review)

Ana, Ditas and Doris were all strong, independent women who can speak her minds, but had issues with the men in their lives. Behind the prosthetic leprosy lesions on their faces and hands, the three actress playing the central characters all gave beautifully nuanced performances. For the two-hour running time of this film, they held our attention and our sympathy for their plights. All three had their own devastatingly moving scenes, each with barely a word said, but they are guaranteed to melt even the hardest hearts to tears.

2. CLEANERS by Glenn Barit  (My Full Review)

The first thing you'd notice about this film was its very unique look. Director Glenn Barit chose to present his stories via 30,000 photocopied black and white images painstakingly edited together at a rate of 8 frames per second to animate them. The clothes of the main characters were colored with highlighters to make them stand out. This gave the whole project a sense of nostalgia as we have never seen before. The awkward attempts of these kids (and teachers) at acting created a most authentic vibe of high school life -- all its silliness and its frustrations.

And my Number 1 Filipino movie for 2019 is ...

1. QUEZON'S GAME by Matthew E. Rosen  (My Full Review)

"Quezon's Game" was set during the days of Manuel L. Quezon as the president of our country when it was a Commonwealth under the jurisdiction of the United States. In 1938, Quezon worked out how he could save as many of these Jews as he could by granting them asylum in Manila. Raymond Bagatsing played President Manuel L. Quezon as a very charismatic man and leader. 

Director Matthew Rosen, a British national of Jewish faith, told this interesting, not so well-known historical episode in a most compelling and engaging pace and manner which can readily appeal to all ages. "Quezon's Game" focused on how one noble Filipino man all the way from the other side of the world cared enough, and was brave enough, to do something to save these Jews, when all odds are against him.  This is an incredible tale of humanity which should not be forgotten, and this movie now made sure we don't. 

My Yearend Roundup: The BEST 25 FOREIGN FILMS of 2019 That I Have Seen

December 23, 2019

According to my record, I had written 179 movie reviews this year (down from 180 last year). 74 of these are Filipino films, the rest are foreign films. 

Oscar-winning films of 2018 which I only saw in 2019 were not included. Potential Oscar-winning films of the year 2019 which will only be shown locally 2020 were also not included here. I was able to watch filmfest screenings of excellent films like "Buoyancy" (from Australia) and "Homeward" (from Ukraine) but I was not able to write reviews them. Following "Roma," more Oscar-worthy films are available on Netflix. 


25. HOTEL MUMBAI by Anthony Maras (My Full Review)
24 BUMBLEBEE by Travis Knight (My Full Review)
23  THE LIGHTHOUSE by Robert Eggers (My Full Review)
22 FROZEN 2 by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck (My Full Review)
21 JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM by Chad Stahelski (My Full Review)

20 GLASS by M. Night Shyamalan (My Full Review)
19 US by Jordan Peele (My Full Review)
18 ALADDIN by Guy Ritchie (My Full Review)
17 ROCKETMAN by Dexter Fletcher (My Full Review)
16 YESTERDAY by Danny Boyle (My Full Review)

15 DOWNTON ABBEY by Michael Engler (My Full Review)
14 MIDSOMMAR by Ari Aster (My Full Review)
13 JOKER by Todd Phillips (My Full Review)
12 WEATHERING WITH YOU by Makoto Shinkai (My Full Review)
11 MARRIAGE STORY by Noah Baumbach (My Full Review)

The Top 10 Best Foreign Films I had seen and written about in 2019 are:

10. THE TWO POPES by Fernando Meirelles (My Full Review)

The two veteran actors Jonathan Pryce (as Cardinal Bergoglio) and Anthony Hopkins (as Pope Benedict XVI) truly owned their characters inside and out. They not only approximated how the pontiffs looked and behaved, they also embodied their respective characters and dispositions. Majority of the film was a two-hander with the two characters just talking to each other. Their conversations were part serious (about Church policy, governance and politics), part humorous (about football, the Beatles or pizza), and totally engaging.

9. STAR WARS: RISE OF THE SKYWALKER by J.J. Abrams (My Full Review)

This had everything a grand finale was supposed to have -- action, humor, nostalgia and heart. Sacrifices had to be made for the common good. All the good guys had their dignity intact, while the bad guys got their comeuppance.  Some may complain that there were too many things going on, but hey, J.J. Abrams had to tie up 40-years worth of loose threads to provide proper closure for all the characters and their loyal fans, and I thought he so did very well.

8. KNIVES OUT by Rian Johnson (My Full Review)

With obvious reverence to Dame Agatha Christie, writer-director Rian Johnson has crafted a neat little mystery that got more and more complicated along the way. Despite knowing beforehand some inside information that even Detective Blanc did not know yet, the viewer will still keep on guessing whodunit right up to the final revelation of the full solution. While the cast played it up in high camp fashion for entertaining effect, Johnson unraveled his mystery story masterfully, with suspense and logic fully intact. 

7. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD by Quentin Tarantino (My Full Review)

Tarantino was expounding on how Hollywood was evolving in the 1960s -- the actors and the films. He was taking his sweet time following three separate stories: Dalton and his plummeting career path, Booth crossing paths with the Family, and a third one following Sharon Tate (a luminous Margot Robbie) on a day out to the city to watch her own film "The Wrecking Crew". These three threads only merge together in one extended, super-intense, wildly outrageous sequence of savage events in the last 20 minutes of the film or so.

6. THE IRISHMAN by Martin Scorsese (My Full Review)

This film was yet another cinematic work about American gangsters by Martin Scorsese. This opus may be lengthy at 209 minutes (3-1/2 hours) but it was always engrossing and engaging, not boring at all. The episodic treatment of Sheeran's life events made it alright for me to watch it with a few reasonable breaks, and still not lose the compelling power of Scorsese's storytelling. His major casting coup of getting De Niro, Pesci and Pacino to act together in one big movie was worth every dollar and every minute. 

5. SHAZAM! by David Sandberg (My Full Review)

There is drama, not only with Billy's search for his mother, as well as the scenes in the Vasquez group home with the other foster kids, a different concept of family. There is comedy, and the good, clean, old-fashioned kind, no dirty jokes or profanity. There is a formidable evil villain, equally matched in powers, along with his coterie of grotesque monsters, resulting in high-flying, lightning-fast CGI action scenes. This film had it all, right down to that delightful, totally surprising cameo at the very end.

4. FORD V FERRARI by James Mangold (My Full Review)

I did not know any of the characters nor any of the race results depicted in this sports drama movie. This made the watching these real-life events unfold on the big screen all the more engrossing and thrilling. The cinematography, editing, sound mixing and musical score made the exhilarating race sequences fully-immersive, pulse-racing, breathtaking viewing experiences. That extraordinary finale at LeMans was a nail-biting affair from the initial faulty door to its controversial photo-finish.

3. PARASITE by  Bong Joon-ho (My Full Review)

"Parasite" juxtaposes the poverty of a family living in a dirty sub-basement in stark contrast with a family living in a posh hilltop mansion. Aside from dark comedy and family drama, this was also a sharp social commentary. This film also touched on several other genres in passing -- from edge-of seat suspense, to violent crime thriller, going even sexy at one point. All in all, this one has something for everyone in one thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking package. 

2. SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME by Jon Watts (My Full Review)

This is yet another tale about our web-slinger as he matured another level in the superhero business. There was never a dull moment throughout, as the focus shifted from breathtaking Elementals action to funny classmates comedy and back, ever so fluidly and entertainingly with scintillating special visual effects. There were several surreal scenes where illusion and reality became indistinguishable from each other for both the characters onscreen and us -- this was top-notch film editing in action. 

And my Number 1 foreign movie for 2019 is ...

1. AVENGERS: ENDGAME by  Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (My Full Review

Following the devastating events of "Avengers: Infinity War," our remaining heroes, along with the rest of the 50% of the world, try to cope with the aftermath of Thanos' fateful finger snap with his infinity stone gauntlet. Some fared better than others. Upon a call though, they banded together with other friends, both old and new, to whip up a grand single-shot plan to get their dusted super-colleagues and the rest of humanity back from limbo. 

Not a single minute of its 181 minutes was wasted. It had enormous pressure on coming up with a fitting conclusion to a continuing saga of 21 films, and it delivered way more than expected. A screenplay for this sort of narrative involving time is bound to have some holes, but you won't care to nitpick because of the overall dramatic effect. All the actors poured their hearts and guts out for this. The visual effects as well as the other technical aspects were faultless and spectacular.


My list for 2018 is posted HERE.
My list for 2017 is posted HERE.
My list for 2016 is posted HERE.
My list for 2015 is posted HERE.
My list for 2014 is posted HERE.
My list for 2013 is posted HERE