10. Black Fox
It’s rare that feature length anime will have a theatrical release in the States. Typically if an anime movie does have U.S. screenings, they’re an extremely limited run. So I was was excited to hear that Crunchyroll had acquired streaming rights for the anime movie Black Fox. It’s dumb fun, with a cliche superhero origin story – but even thought the plot is going through familiar beats, the characters are endearing and the action is impressive. It doesn’t surpass the quality of what you’d see in a climactic battle on “My Hero Academia,” but it’s the stakes at the end of a movie that make it feel different than a battle in an episode. It was stylized fun that I was glad to enjoy for its “rule of cool” adventure.
9. Marriage Story
As a son of a divorced couple, I always have a level of skepticism when I hear a movie depicts a divorce. I think I just worry that the topic will be trivialized. “Marriage Story” is an incredibly dramatic depiction of divorce. Engaging performances and an awesome cast made this such an entertaining watch. Family drama can hit close to home, so I don’t always enjoy that kind of premise. The treat of this show was finding out that the characters are both storytellers like myself. The show business elements of the film were a welcome surprise.
8. Avengers: Endgame
Whatever it takes. What a perfect mantra to walk into the theater with. A decade of films lead up to a truly epic finale for the Infinity Saga. This is the movie we all dreamed about since our childhood days – that’s what it was like for me, anyway. Fate of the universe is a heavy wager, and we see it plenty in superhero films – but what’s really at stake in my heart is the fate of the heroes we lost in “Infinity War” who we’re trying to save now. I truly feel like “Endgame” delivered on an immensely entertaining adventure featuring a Time Heist followed by the battle to end all cinematic battles. It’s a great follow-up to “Infinity War,” entertaining through and through.
7. Alita: Battle Angel
I have a special affection for Alita because of several reasons. I was fortunate enough to work as a background actor on this set. It’s directed by one of my earliest filmmaking heroes, Robert Rodriguez. The source material is a sci-fi anime romance which is one of my favorite genre fusions. And if that wasn’t enough, the titular Alita is played by Rosa Salazar, who I really enjoyed as Brenda in the Maze Runner film series. Even for viewers who didn’t watch the anime, it’s a predictable paint-by-number story – but the world feels real and lived-in, and the action is a welcome level of dumb anime fun.
6. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Nobody asked for more “Breaking Bad” story, especially so many years after the show ended. I loved it anyway. “Breaking Bad” was a moment in television history that I was fortunate enough to share with others; my cousins and I watched the show together every week. It’s masterful storytelling and directing, so I was incredibly excited to see more. I am more than happy to look beyond the fact that these actors have aged, and maybe we’re just plugging them back into their younger roles. I didn’t care, because we got a gripping Neo-Western adventure with familiar characters that we were lucky enough to have one last goodbye with.
5. Little Women
I’d heard of Little Women through word of mouth over the years. I know it has been adapted on the stage as well as I past feature film productions, but I’d never heard/read/seen the story through any of those past adaptations. I’m well aware that there are many film classics that I’ve missed out on, but I’m so focused on staying caught up with contemporary films that I forget to make time for the films that came before. I was excited to get the chance to finally experience the story, especially through performances from a fantastic cast. I was moved by the March family’s creative spirit. From a production standpoint I’m also a big fan of period movies, and Little Women is an awesome showcase of costume and set design.
Studio Trigger is one of my favorite anime studios in the industry. Their shows are anime to the max. Anime x Anime x Anime = Studio Trigger. More often than not I’m a fan of light, casual, slice of life shows. But Studio Trigger always hooks me with its breakneck paced stories, stunning visuals, and over the top premises. Promare is no exception. It was truly a treat getting to watch a Studio Trigger production on the big screen. The story is paper-thin, but it’s a roller-coster ride of amazing animation sequences and ridiculous battles. It’s dumb anime fun and I love it.
3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
These are dark days in the Star Wars fandom. Fans are split yet again. I am happy to report that I truly enjoyed this last installment in the Skywalker Saga. I completely understand the criticism people have shared about Episode IX, but I still really enjoyed the film for the ride it was. Plot holes and ret-cons didn’t bother me at all because I was just enjoying the sequel trilogy cast share scenes together. The story hits the ground running and reaches anime levels of plot ridiculousness – but the cast seemed to be having such a good time working together that I was more invested in the spirit of “one last ride” with the Skywalker Saga.
2. The Farewell
I am seen. Those words, although often recited online in jest, is actually the perfect way to describe why I loved this film so much. It’s not often I watch a movie that hits this close to home. The story of Billy and her grandma reminded me so much of the paralysis of wanting to say goodbye on your terms while under scrutiny of the family around you that I felt when my own grandmother passed away years ago. Billy’s disconnect with her parents who don’t understand the millennial struggle of trying to make your way in a career in the arts is almost an exact copy/paste of the same arguments I have with my own immigrant parents. They also don’t understand why the youth today struggle so much to find happiness in a land they were told would provide unlimited opportunity.
1. Steven Universe: The Movie
Rebecca Sugar saved my creative spirit with the launch of her Cartoon Network series “Steven Universe.” The show is one of my favorite series on TV for its positive message, amazing music, emotional characters, and gorgeous art style. This year Steven Universe reached its series finale. The last episode was a fantastic end to the series proper. The story will continue, though, through a limited run sequel series “Steven Universe: Future”. This movie serves as the bridge between the two series. Fans have been mixed on the results, but I absolutely loved this extra adventure with Steven and the Crystal Gems. One of my favorite elements of Steven Universe as a show is the musical element, so it was a treat to get amazing new songs that make up one of my favorite albums of the year as well. The movie delivers on everything the show does: a meaningful message that promotes personal growth, exciting fight sequences, an engaging antagonist and, of course, plenty of comedy.