By Darlene Donloe
Depending on what side of the critic’s choice you’re on, 2019 was either a good year for entertainment or a bad year for entertainment. For me, it was just so-so! It wasn’t stellar, but it also didn’t suck. There were some breakout performances from some actors and some real disappointments from established thespians. Whatever your thoughts, the year was still entertaining.
Below is my list of the “Best” Movies and Theatrical productions of 2019.
US – Jordan Peele’s black cast horror flick causes a big stir this year. Fantastic performance by Lupita Nyong’o.
|Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name|
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME – Eddie Murphy plays the comedian Rudy Ray Moore in this semi-biographical story. This is a hilarious ode to the off-color comedian. The stellar cast includes Craig Robinson, Wesley Snipes, Keegan Michael Key, Mike Epps, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Murphy turns in a terrific, award-winning performance.
1917 - Two British soldiers receive seemingly impossible orders during World War I. In a race against time, they must cross into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades -- including one's own brother.
QUEEN AND SLIM – Lena Waithe’s drama about a man and a woman on a first day, who ultimately become fugitives on the run after the kill a cop – is a brilliant piece of work.
|Cynthia Erivo in Harriet|
HARRIET – Cynthia Erivo inhabits the spirit of the abolitionist Harriet Tubman in this epic bio. From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions, she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman is told.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD – Quentin Tarantino never disappoints. Actor Rick Dalton gained fame and fortune by starring in a 1950s television Western but is now struggling to find meaningful work in a Hollywood that he doesn't recognize anymore. He spends most of his time drinking and palling around with Cliff Booth, his easygoing best friend, and longtime stunt double. Rick also happens to live next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate -- the filmmaker and budding actress whose futures will forever be altered by members of the Manson Family.
BOLDEN – New Orleans cornet player Buddy Bolden becomes a key figure in the birth of jazz, influencing countless musicians for decades to come.
WHEN THEY SEE US - In 1989 a jogger was assaulted and raped in New York's Central Park, and five young people were subsequently charged with the crime. The quintet labeled the Central Park Five, maintained its innocence and spent years fighting the convictions, hoping to be exonerated. This limited series spans a quarter of a century, from when the teens are first questioned about the incident in the spring of 1989, going through their exoneration in 2002 and ultimately the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014. (Netflix)
|(l-r) Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx in 'Just Mercy'|
JUST MERCY – This true story of Bryan Stevenson, a young Black lawyer working on behalf of the poor who have been imprisoned and placed on death row, is riveting. Jamie Foxx and Michael B Jordan star.
THE IRISHMAN – When Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino team up, that’s a lot of star power. The result is a fine film about a man who purportedly killed Jimmy Hoffa. Fantastic film.
KNIVES OUT - When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc arrives at his estate to investigate. From Harlan's dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Thrombey's untimely demise.
JOHN LEGUIZAMO LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS - A night of eye-opening historical narrative courtesy of Tony® and Emmy® Award winner John Leguizamo. The self-professed ghetto scholar schools America on Cinco de Mayo—no, it’s not the Latino Fourth of July—and every other aspect of Latin history they’ve misunderstood and forgotten to create a heartfelt and funny tribute. From a mad recap of the Aztec empire to stories of the unknown Latin patriots who won American independence, Leguizamo breaks down the 3,000 years between the Mayans and Pitbull into 110 irreverent and incisive minutes. (AHMANSON)
BETWEEN RIVERSIDE and CRAZY - You can’t beat City Hall, but you can try. In this 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled New York City apartment on Riverside Drive. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy. (Fountain Theatre)
SUMMER – A look at the career of the queen of disco Donna Summer. The classic music is the star of the show. (PANTAGES)
|Cast of Two Trains Running|
TWO TRAINS RUNNING - It’s 1969 in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, where the regulars of Memphis Lee's restaurant struggle to cope with the turbulence of a world that is rapidly changing around them. With compassion, humor and a superb sense of place and time, Wilson paints a vivid portrait of everyday lives in the shadow of great events. (Matrix)
SKINTIGHT - Hanging on by a thread after her ex-husband gets engaged to a much younger woman, Jodi (Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, Rent, Wicked) retreats to her dad’s swanky Manhattan townhouse. But rather than the comforts of home, she instead finds her aging father’s new live-in boyfriend, Trey—who is 20. In his new comedy, Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews, Significant Other) brings neurotic family drama to the forefront as father and daughter contend with the age-old questions of how to age gracefully in a world obsessed with youth and where love fits into it all. (Geffen)
|Karole Foreman as Lady Day|
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR and GRILL - The place is a seedy bar in Philadelphia. ... Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill is full of heart-melting numbers like "God Bless the Child," "Strange Fruit," and "What a Little Moonlight Can Do". Billie bares her loves and losses in this intimate and stunning Tony Award-winning production. (International City Theatre)
KEY LARGO - This is a bold reimagining of Maxwell Anderson's Broadway hit that became the iconic noir film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Returning from World War II, disillusioned Frank McCloud travels to a hotel in Key Largo to pay his respects to the widow of a fallen friend. (Geffen Playhouse)
LACKAWANNA BLUES - A magical, musical and deeply personal work written and performed by Tony Award-winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson. It's a reminiscence of his 1950s childhood in a small town on the banks of Lake Erie.
MIKE BIRBIGLIA’S THE NEW ONE – The comedian and storyteller didn’t want to become a father so he wrote a postpartum solo show about it. The result is hilarious! (AHMANSON)