Wednesday, August 14, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Six 2019 Movies You Need To Catch Up On

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

If you're like me, then there's plenty of 2019 cinema you need to catch up on. Me personally, I'm still trying to watch High Life and Fast Color as well as a whole trove of new foreign-language films that never came remotely near me during their theatrical release. As for your own 2019 cinema catch-up voyage, I thought I could try and help be helpful by compiling six 2019 titles that I feel deserve far more love and attention than they've gotten. I've made sure to list with each title where you can rent or purchase them as well as if they're streaming for free on any of the many streaming services out there.

Let's start this look at 2019 films you need to catch up on with a movie that hits a high note and then some!

Wild Rose
We've all got dreams. We've all also got responsibilities we have to do. How do you balance those two? Wild Rose is a feature contemplating that through the story of Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley), an aspiring country singer recently released from prison and try to raise her two kids in Glasgow, Scotland. If that all just sounds like a pile of quirkiness with no humanity to be found, fret not, Nicole Taylor's remarkable script brings the tale to life with surprisingly nuanced results, Rose-Lynn's struggle to juggle her ambitions with the responsibilities of realities immediately captures your emotional investment and never lets go. It's hard not to become enamored with this character given how she's brought to life through Jessie Buckley's outstanding talents as both an actor and a singer. One of the most heartwarming gems of the summer because of the way it never lets its story go down the easiest possible path. Having a number of great tunes, including an unforgettable closing number entitled Glasgow (No Place Like Home), doesn't hurt either!

Wild Rose is still playing in a handful of locations theatrically and will be available on DVD on September 17th.
Director Wanuri Kahiu does the likes of Wong Kar-Wai and Barry Jenkins proud in how she's able to lend her movie Rafiki a visual style that so effectively evokes the emotional sensation of being in love. Through her direction and the cinematography of Christopher Wessells, the blossoming romance between Rafiki's lead characters Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) is made all the more powerful by a bright color scheme and intimate camerawork that viscerally communicates the romantic affection the two women share for one another. Rafiki sweeps you up in its primary romantic storyline, which ends up making its depiction of the many ways, both subtle and overt, that homphobia surrounds the lives of the protagonists all the more gut-wrenching to watch. But it's the joyous sensation of romantic infatuation that really get the spotlight in Rafiki, especially in terms of visuals and atmosphere, and focusing on that element makes this Wanuri Kahiu directorial effort a tremendously moving endeavor.

Rafiki is now available on DVD and to rent or purchase digitally.
Fighting with My Family
It's easy to see why some of these movies on this list weren't bigger hits but how come inspirational sports movie Fighting with My Family never took off at the box office? This is a classic example of a crowdpleaser movie, one that's well-made and whose triumphant moments ring as actually exhilarating rather than forced. Even as someone who has next to no exposure to the WWE beyond internet memes, this adaptation of the true story of wrestler Paige (Florence Pugh) chasing her dream of being in the WWE totally hooked me. Stephen Merchant's screenplay (Merchant also directs) just makes Paige and her wrestling-addicted family so much fun to watch while both the families love for the sport and their realistically messy relationships with one another touch your heart. Doesn't hurt to have Florence Pugh on hand to deliver a knockout performance as Paige. How about we all give this delightful sports tale a whole lot more love now that it's on home video?

Fighting with My Family is now available on Blu-Ray and for rental or purchase on Digital.
Unicorn Store
Unicorn Store very much feels like a movie aimed at my generation, or at least a portion of it, and I mean that as a mighty high compliment. It's the story of an aspiring artist named Kit (Brie Larson) working to meet the requirements necessary to buy a unicorn from Samuel L. Jackson's The Salesman all while navigating a proper adulthood job, the usual Hollywood storyline. Such a tale and its refreshingly nuanced approach on how to balance a sense of child-like creativity with the world of adulthood totally resonates as relevant to my generation trying to make their way through a confusing world on the brink of collapse with the aid of glitter and bright colors. Beyond just being feeling relevant, Brie Larson's directorial debut carries a delightfully unique sense of humor that results in a number of memorable comedic moments like Larson's protagonist casually dumping a cup of pens into her purse. There's really no other movie this year like Unicorn Store and it makes for a promising showcase of what Larson can accomplish as a filmmaker.

Unicorn Store can only be viewed on Netflix streaming.
Wild Nights with Emily
This isn't the first feature film to revolve around Emily Dickinson, but Wild Nights with Emily certainly stands out among that pack for a number of reasons. For one thing, Molly Shannon is fantastic in the lead role, her multi-faceted take on Dickinson perfectly realizes writer/director Madeleine Olnek's ambition to portray Dickinson as a complex human being rather than a one-note historical caricature. Equally impressive is Olnek's ability to go all-in when it comes to moments both comedic and dark. We get pieces of comedy in here that feels akin to the sort of gags you'd see in a David Wain movie while the bleakest moments of the production use some truly creative visuals to capture the pain of how historical revisionism removed the humanity and queerness of Emily Dickinson.

Wild Nights with Emily is now available for purchase on DVD.
Little Woods
Currently tied with The Farewell for the spot of my favorite movie of 2019 so far, Little Woods is an utterly remarkable thriller. This story of two sisters, Ollie (Tessa Thompson) and Deb (Lily James), trying through whatever means necessary to stay afloat financially gets you so immersed into the plight of its protagonists that it's able to create an immense amount of tension through subdued means. Just having Ollie's parole officer (played by an always welcome Lance Reddick) casually look around a house that secretly has pills stashed away in a closet had me clutching my breath in frightened anticipation and several other quiet sequences have a similar effect of leaving one on the edge of their seat. Writer/director Nia DaCosta's impressive work behind the camera adds a lot to this tense atmosphere as do the two gangbusters lead performances who lend so much humanity to their respective roles. Thompson especially delivers some of her finest work yet as a performer in portraying all the directions that former drug dealer Ollie is pulled in as she tries to save her families house. Her performance conveys Ollie's internal struggles in a richly humanistic manner, with just a tilt of the head or a subtle piece of body language, Thompson always makes it clear what's informing Ollie's assortment of decisions which include getting back into the drug dealing business. Thompson's work as Ollie is one of the many outstanding traits of Little Woods that coalesce to make this feature such an enormously harrowing watch.

Little Woods is now available for purchase on DVD and for rental or purchase on digital.

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