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The best movies (and worst, and weirdest) of 2019 so far

The Keanu Reeves comeback, creepy dolls and fake-news documentaries are all part of our midyear recap.

Keanu Reeves steals scenes as the daredevil Duke Caboom in “Toy Story 4,’ one of the best movies of 2019 so far.

Raise your hand if you remember these relatively recent movies: “Exposed,” “The Neon Demon,” “The Bad Batch,” “To the Bone,” “Knock Knock” and “A Happening of Monumental Proportions.”

Or how about “Replicas” from earlier this year, which was considered such a throwaway it wasn’t even screened for critics?

Not to worry. I wouldn’t be surprised if Keanu Reeves couldn’t immediately recall every one of those titles — and he was IN those films.

For most of the last decade, with the exception of the “John Wick” movies, Keanu was doing his Keanu thing: appearing in under-the-radar films of varying quality, content to stay under the Social Media/Pop Culture Radar. He never really went away, but he wasn’t exactly dominating the landscape.

Cut to the year 2019, and who’s having a bigger year than Keanu Reeves?

“John Wick 3” solidified the title character’s standing as the most entertaining action franchise character this side of Ethan Hunt. Reeves did scene-stealing voice work as the daredevil Duke Caboom in “Toy Story 4,” and he hit a cameo home run as a d-bag version of himself in the Netflix original romantic comedy “Always Be My Maybe.” (“The only stars that matter, are the ones you look at when you dream.”)

Keanu Reeves gives chase on horseback in “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”
Summit Entertainment

And excitement continues to build for the 2020 release of “Bill & Ted Face the Music.”


The “Keanussance,” as the Washington Post calls it, is just one of the intriguing storylines from the year in movies and television so far. Yes, it’s time again for the Halftime Report Card, in which we look at some of the best, worst, weirdest, funniest and most surprising moments from the first six months of the year.

Hello, dolly.

Creepy dolls were everywhere, from “Annabelle Comes Home” to “Child’s Play” to …“Toy Story 4”??

In arguably the most WTF plot line in Pixar history, our beloved Woody (Tom Hanks) is targeted by the spooky-looking Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), who was born with a damaged voice box and wants to literally rip out Woody’s and have it inserted in her own “body.” If that’s not chilling enough, Gabby Gabby’s henchmen are ventriloquist’s dolls that look like they could have been stunt doubles on the 1978 horror classic “Magic.”

Havin’ a great year already!

Zendaya — “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the HBO series “Euphoria”

Jessie Buckley — “Wild Rose,” the HBO series “Chernobyl”

Florence Pugh — “Fighting With My Family,” “Midsommar”

Jordan Peele — “Us” (writer-director), “Toy Story 4” (voice of Bunny), the CBS All Access series “The Twilight Zone” (narrator-executive producer)

You know nothing, John Reid!

In 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” music manager John Reid was played by Aidan Gillen, aka Littlefinger in “Game of Thrones.”

In “Rocketman,” Reid was played by Richard Madden, aka Robb Stark in “Game of Thrones.”

Richard Madden as John Reid in “Rocketman.”
Paramount Pictures

The John Reid of “Rocketman” has considerably more screen time than the John Reid of “Rhapsody,” which stands to reason given Reid was Queen’s manager for only three years in the mid-1970s, whereas he was John’s manager for a quarter-century before they parted ways in bitter fashion in the late 1990s.

Neither portrayal paints Reid in a flattering light.

“Fake” Views.

“Rolling Thunder Revue,” the Martin Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan’s 1975 tour, included a sprinkling of purely fictional characters, including Michael Murphy reprising his “Jack Tanner” character from the HBO political satire series of the late 1980s and one “Stefan van Dorp,” who is identified as a petulant cameraman/director who shot most of the concert and backstage footage used in the film, but is in fact a completely made-up character, portrayed by one Martin von Haselberg — Bette Midler’s husband.

“Framing John DeLorean,” the documentary about the infamous automaker, includes the usual assortment of archival footage, still photos and interviews — but also features scenes in which the actor Alec Baldwin gets made up to look like DeLorean and then portrays DeLorean in vignettes that look like something out of an “SNL” skit.

In “Framing John DeLorean,” Alec Baldwin plays the automaker in re-enactments.
Sundance Selects

“The Raft,” a documentary about a controversial social experiment aboard an excursion across the Atlantic in the 1970s, includes footage of the surviving members of the documentary re-creating some of their adventures on a plywood rendition of the boat erected on a soundstage in Sweden.

Geez, at least we KNOW all the mini-movies in the brilliant “Documentary Now” mockumentary series from Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Myers and Rhys Thomas are works of pure fiction.

At least I think they are.

Wait, who’s that kid standing with all the icons?

Even the most diehard Marvel Universe fans seemed perplexed by the teenage boy who was standing with all the other mourners at a certain funeral in “Avengers: Endgame.”

Turns out that was Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), the kid who was befriended by Tony Stark in “Iron Man 3” (2013).

Let’s be honest, has anyone wondered what happened to the kid from “Iron Man 3” since about five minutes after seeing “Iron Man 3”?

A star is born. And another. And another. And …

If you’re into fictional stories about pop/rock/country/whatever singers, have we got the year for you!

“Teen Spirit”: Elle Fanning plays a shy but talented vocalist who enters an international singing competition.

“Her Smell”: Elisabeth Moss is a Courtney Love-esque musician on a self-destructive path.

“Yesterday”: Himesh Patel plays a struggling singer/songwriter who wakes up from an accident — in a world where the Beatles never existed.

“Wild Rose”: Jessie Buckley is a Scottish ex-convict and single mom with aspirations of becoming a country & western star.

Jessie Buckley plays a singing star in the making in “Wild Rose.”

Conscious Semi-Uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow — who was featured in a montage of interview clips in which she seemed to have almost zero knowledge about the Marvel Universe and is even confused about which of the movies have featured her character of Pepper Potts — also entertained us by revealing she spends four days a week with her husband.

That’s a life choice essentially lifted from the second “Sex and the City” movie, in which Carrie spends two days a week in her own apartment, separate from “Big.”

So where do you keep YOUR trophy?

Three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep joined Academy Award winners Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, along with Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz, for Season 2 of “Big Little Lies,” for the greatest add-on of talent this side of those blasted New York Yankees.

Shailene Woodley (left) of “Big Little Lies” is joined in Season 2 by Meryl Streep.

Once again in 2019, some of the best “movies” around are the cinema-quality episodes of shows such as “Big Little Lies,” “Russian Doll,” “Euphoria,” “Chernobyl,” “Billions” and yeah I’ll say it, “GAME OF THRONES” EVEN THE SERIES FINALE.

Petition this

Of all the dumb and pointless online petitions ever circulated (“We don’t like YOUR casting decision, we want OUR choice!”), the most ridiculous was the “movement” to get HBO to remake the last season of “Game of Thrones.”

The entire last season.

Sure, no problem. Let’s round up the hundreds of actors, writers, set designers, special effects wizards, crew members, etc., etc., who have scattered to the winds and have other commitments, and get them to come back for eight or 10 months. Let’s rebuild the sets and once again secure locations. Let’s write new scripts. Let’s bring in new directors and showrunners. Let’s spend tens of millions of dollars to do it all over again.

And hey, if you don’t like THIS final season, send us another petition and we’ll keep trying until we get it right.

In. San. Ity.

Best movies of the year so far

“Avengers: Endgame”


“Captain Marvel”

“Echo In the Canyon”

“Fast Color”

“Gloria Bell”

“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”


“Toy Story 4”


Worst movies of the year so far

“Alita: Battle Angel”

“The Curse of La Llorona”


“Godzilla: King of the Monsters”

“Hellboy 2019”

“The Hustle”

“The Intruder”

“Pet Sematary”

“The Upside”

“X-Men: Dark Phoenix”