Number 5
Ready Or Not

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Writer: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy
Cinematographer: Brett Jutkiewicz
Staring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien
Release Date: August 21, 2019

Ready Or Not came out of nowhere for me. Just an absolute clobber-knocker of a good time. It’s comedy, action, thrills, and gore wrapped into a story that’s absurdly simple. I mean it takes hide-and-go seek and throws gasoline fire on it.

Samara Weaving plays the part of Grace, a poor women who has found herself in a dangerous game of life-and-death after marrying the love of her life, Alex Le Domas. She must fight to survive the night and all the crazy Domas family members.

Weaving is charismatic as hell embracing the lunacy of Ready Or Not. Writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy write a tale that speeds by any possible plot holes and instead focuses on the environment of quick wit of the story’s hero. Also, like a film soon to be mentioned, the side characters all play a part and have enough uniqueness to make every interaction enjoyable.

Overall, this movie cracks onto my favorite movies of the year because it surprised me the most. It was a great time at the movie theater, and it’s worth a watch on any screen. Embrace Ready Or Not’s tone and have a great time.

Stanko Rating: A- (4.0/5.0 Stars)
“Ready Or Not” | A Game Worth Replaying Multiple Times

“Ready Or Not” IMDB
“Ready Or Not” Rotten Tomatoes

Number 4
Knives Out

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Cinematographer: Steve Yedlin
Staring: Danial Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford
Release Date: November 27, 2019

THIS IS GETTING THE AWARD RECOGNITION IT DESERVES! YES!

I hope Knives Out starts a who-dun-it reemergence. Bring a ton of movie stars together, give them a wonderful script and let them cook. If it’s under the guidance of a great director, then that’s ever better.

Danial Craig as Mr. Blanc and Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera headline the murder mystery tale and carry the story as the Drysdale family argues amongst itself in a hilariously selfish way. Chris Evans playing the asshole is a welcomed change to his recent filmography. The entire cast is strong, but Knives Out’s strongest weapon is its story and pace.

In an interview with Sean Fennessey of The Ringer, director and writer Rian Johnson says he had the idea for Knives Out for almost a decade. The dedication to perfecting the script paid off because the movie sizzles with twists. It has enough unique keystones while still using the hallmark scene setters like the discovery of the murder and big detective speech.

This movie of any on this list is the most universal. It’s hard to hate it. It’s easy and deserving of love.

STANKO RATING: A- (4.5/5.0 Stars)
“Knives Out” | Rian Johnson Has Really Done It

“Knives Out” IMDB
“Knives Out” Rotten Tomatoes

Number 3
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Director: Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Colling, Marc Abrams, Derek Kolstad
Cinematographer: Dan Lausten
Staring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane
Release Date: May 17, 2019

Guns. Guns. Guns.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum only continues my love for the John Wick franchise. Continuing directly after the conclusion of John Wick: Chapter 2, Keanu Reeves does whatever he can to continue kicking as much ass he can. Boy does he succeed.

The knives fit in the old weapons museum is one of the best scenes of the entire year. The choreography is absurd and the natural sound that takes over during the fight adds to its tenacity. The audience is immediately reminded that this franchise continues to have some of the best action set pieces. I mean how utter bad badass is it when Wick is doling of knives into the bodies of every single oncoming baddy? Oh, and it ends with an axe throw.

Oh, then there is the gun fight with Wick and Halle Berry’s Sofia character…with some killer dogs. I don’t know whose hair looks better while flinging bullets in Casablanca, but neither’s can distract from the deadly teamwork they display. They take on all comers, kill them all, and manage to keep the dogs safe the entire way.

Oh, we aren’t done. Then there is the showdown at The Continental. In a classic video-game like tough boss level where the bad guys have leveled up, Wick AND CHARON just grab every gun they can and try and kill as many super-armored and well trained killers dare invade the excommunicated hotel.

Some may say the ending to John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the first time Wick was made to seem too invincible…but really, who cares. Our hero goes through kung-fu fights, sword duels and a betrayal all on the way to securing a undoubtably gleefully violent sequel. You can bet I’ll be seeing it alone at The Alamo Drafthouse again.

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5.0 Stars)

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” IMDB
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” Rotten Tomatoes

Number 2
Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cinematographer: Robert Richardson
Staring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Release Date: July 26, 2019

Any movie that is about Hollywood is going to get my attention in a good way. Throw in Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie and it’s a home run.

Looking back at this movie, the scene at the old Spahn Movie Ranch is one of the more unheralded of Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood. It was a scene built with tension not only from the context in the movie but also in the power of Tarantino. It’s known he loves to mess with history, and this seemed like the moment when he was about to make his power move and kill off the ultimate untrustworthy stunt man Cliff Booth.

As I wrote in my original review, Pitt is effortlessly cool. He has a sense of himself being the ultimate cool guy, as encapsulated with his daydream fighting Bruce Lee. The opposite of that confidence is Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton. He is dealing with a crisis of confidence and his only sense of personal resurrection comes from a young child actress and Booth showing interest in his efforts. Both Pitt and DeCaprio deserve all the award praise that’ll surely be coming their way in the coming weeks.

I need to rewatch Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood to reappraise my love for it. It isn’t like other Tarantino movies that are highlighted by violence and/or banter. Instead its more personal for the acclaimed director. There are more of his personal connections interspersed throughout, whether it be a specific movie theater or restaurant. Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood is Tarantino’s best movie since Inglorious Bastards and it even has better individual performances. Both Pitt and DiCaprio take to Tarantino’s movies like a fish does to water and we the audience are the major beneficiary.

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5.0 Stars)
“Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” | Tarantino’s Visual Love Poem To A Golden Age

“Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” IMDB
“Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” Rotten Tomatoes

Number 1
Parasite

Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writer: Bong Joon Ho, Jin Won Han
Cinematographer: Kyung-pyo Hong
Staring: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi
Release Date: November 8, 2019

I have written about Parasite a ton in the past month, and it’s not enough. I stand for Bong Joon Ho’s film against all else I have seen in 2019 thus far. The most genre-bending, political and socially clever, wonderfully written and symbolically shot story of the year.

In case you missed it, I wrote about it in my “Top 10 Favorite Movies Of The Decade”.

___

The most modern addition to this list, Parasite is the best movie I have seen in 2019. Director and writer Bong Joon Ho bends genres with an ease that’s honestly unnerving. He can blend poignant social commentary with genuine comedy and ghastly horror.

Additionally, Parasite takes the audience on a curvy trail of empathy. It’s like being part of a Rube Goldberg machine. As a viewer, you are the ball that’s being tossed through various obstacles, constantly having your pace and direction switched. How the different contraptions (in a cinematic sense, the story’s checkpoints themselves) work together seems illogical. But come the end, the audience is dropped into a pool of “HOLY CRAP WHAT IS HAPPENING” water.

Parasite is the topsy-turviest movie I have seen, honestly since Cabin In The Woods (2011). You cannot predict it. You cannot anticipate it. Parasite sucks you in, latches on, and doesn’t let go. It drains you in the best possible way.

___

Adding onto that little brief blurb, the way it goes full circle is haunting. It reminds of Stephen King’s conclusion to “The Dark Tower” book series. A journey to accomplish a mission on intangibility (whether it be Parasite’s satisfaction with excess or “The Dark Towers” fulfillment of purpose) only to end with a cycle of personal torment reemerging.

Joon Ho’s writing also puts the audience in a spin cycle is that there are no true “villians” in the story. The wealthy family is not evil or malicious; they are just clueless. The poor family isn’t vicious in its dubiousness; they are thrown into situation that unfurls like a jar of angry bees being let loose.

Looking at all the reviews of Parasite, the best summary of the movie and its main essence comes from Vulture film critic: E. Alex Jung: “Hope is the emotional parasite in the film: the thing that keeps us going but sucks our marrow dry.”

Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5.0 Stars)

“Parasite” IMDB
“Parasite” Rotten Tomatoes

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