Netflix's "The Two Popes"

Top Netflix Original films of 2019

These Netflix Original films of 2019 informed, inspired and enlightened us. It goes beyond movies to include stand-up comedy – I hope that qualifies as film – “Kevin Hart: Irresponsible” is an hour-long. Also included are documentary films, action- comedy, romantic comedy and drama.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Ted Bundy, a law student meets single mother Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), a secretary and single mother in 1960s Seatle. They begin dating. Several years later, Bundy is named as the suspect in a number of serial killings. However, Liz struggles to reconcile the events with the man she thinks she knows.

This biographical crime thriller is based on Bundy’s former girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall’s memoir, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. And Zac Effron was absolutely phenomenal in his role as the serial killer, Bundy. He delivered on Michael Werwie’s screenplay, scene-after-scene compellingly. And as the film’s title suggests, until the very last act, one is at a loss as to whether Bundy is evil.

The Great Hack

The summary of this Netflix film is how Cambridge Analytical data has been using Facebook data to persuade people, suppress turnout of certain voters, whose votes could make a difference, and increase turnout of a different group.

Developing countries, including Nigeria, were the guinea pigs for this experiment. And when it had been we tested in the developing world, it was applied in the US 2016 elections and Brexit.

It was particularly heartbreaking to see how easy it was to persuade the black youth in Trinidad and Tobago so sit at home rather than vote. The tool for persuasion was music and dance. The campaign was called “Do So.” Whilst the blacks were “doing so,” and sharing their videos on YouTube, the Indians went out en masse to vote. That could very well have been Nigeria.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The movie is a great inspirational story that shows the ingenuity and survival instincts of Africans. Chiwetel Ejiofor did Africans proud with this movie and “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” resonated across Africa because we could easily ourselves in the relationship between William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba) and his father, Trywell (Ejiofor). Read full review here.

Triple Frontier

“Triple Frontier” is based on the idea that morally upright people could be tempted into wrongdoing. They just have to justify it by saying it’s for a good cause. Special operations soldier, Santiago is the mastermind behind a plan to rob a Brazilian drug lord. He lures his ex-colleagues out of retirement for the job.

The soldiers Tom (Ben Affleck), Santiago (Oscar Isaac), William (Charlie Hunnam), Ben (Garrett Hedlund) and Francisco (Pedro Pascal) are all highly skilled so the operation is expected to be smooth. Yet, it proves more difficult than they imagined. It is literarily an uphill task. Some become greedy. Tempers rise. Loyalty is tested. But that is as predictable as this movie gets. The casst actions during the mission help us get a true picture of their morals and values. The end of the movie is however a pleasant surprise.

Kevin Hart: Irresponsible

Kevin Hart “Irresponsible” is all shades of irresponsible. It’s 60-minutes long and 100 per cent uncensored. So, if you can’t handle it, don’t bother watching it. You have been forewarned!

Kevin Hart jumps right into it, no holds barred. He warns, ‘Whatever happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.’ There is also the hilarious “Great Baby” joke amongst others. True Kevin Hart fans will also enjoy seeing him laugh at his own jokes. Although naughty as the stand-up comedy TV event was, it is loved for living up to its name. But somewhere in there is a big speech about imperfection and we loved it.

Homecoming: A film by Beyonce

“Homecoming” is an in-depth look at Beyoncé’s celebrated 2018 Coachella performance, from creative concept to cultural movement. In the film, Beyonce takes us into her world sharing some very intimate personal challenges. But she surmounted them and in the end, proves how hardworking, talented and creative she is. And why she is befitting of the title “Queen Bey.”

Always Be My Maybe

“Always Be My Maybe” is a romantic comedy that will make you laugh a lot and cry, at the same time. This could have been just another romcom but the film stands out for its underlying story of handing down Asian traditions. Read full review here.

Joy

“Joy” is tackles real Nigerian social issues namely, illegal immigration and prostitution. But the film absolutely stands out for realism. Told through the perspective of Joy Ogbeide (Joy Alphonsus), it is a story about the hardships Nigerian women face as commercial sex workers leaving in Austria – and by extension Europe. What’s more important is that the story just doesn’t show the audience what the women sufferring but why these women continue to flock to Europe – in some instances, even after a repatriation. Read full review here.

Shaft

“Shaft” is an absolutely hilarious action-comedy that brings together a father, John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) and his son John Shaft jnr aka JJ (Jessie Usher) after 25 years.

JJ is an FBI data analyst. Prim and proper. He wears plaid shirts and ties. And looks like a model fresh out of GQ. His dad is the at the other extreme, a street-smart private investigator. A murder investigation brings them together, and they do it in the most hilarious yet heartwarming way. Read full review here.

The Laundromat

With a story chronicling the journey of widow Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) in search of answers to an insurance scam leading to an expose about money laundering in a narrative delivered by Anthonio Banderas as Ramón Fonseca and Gary Oldman as Jürgen Mossack, “The Laundromat” is one of the revelatory content released on Netflix in the year 2019.

Inside Bill’s Brain

A lot of us know Bill Gates the inventor and business magnate but not the philanthropist. Inside Bills Brain” gives us a glimpse into this world and how he is tackling some of the world’s toughest health and development problems.

The documentary film leaves the audience with perhaps the most profound answer to the question, ‘What’s your worst fear?’ Bill’s answer, ‘I don’t want my brain to stop working.’

The King

“The King” is a coming-of-age movie in a lot of respect. Henry fondly called Hal the Prince of Wales and eldest son of King Henry IV of England has to fight back when he realises that the throne is about to slip through his fingers. American actor Timothée Chalamet plays King Henry “Hal” V.

From a seemingly uninterested heir to the throne, and a drunken, whoring prince, Hal doesn’t just grow into a warrior and King Henry V of England, but also a man who is not afraid to confront the truth and serve justice where necessary.

Dolemite is My Name

“Dolemite is My Name” brings to together some old faves including Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock and Snoop to tell the story of Rudy Ray Moore a 1970s stand-up comedian turned filmmaker at a time referred to as the Blaxploitation era.

Dolemite had a large following and is believed to have influenced rap. But what’s most important about this story is Moore’s tenacity and the hand of friendship he extended to singer, Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), despite his own struggle.

The Irishman

In “The Irishman,” Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) reminisces about his life from truck driver to hitman of the Bufalino family. And consequently, the price he had to pay. It stars Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino, and Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa. Read full review here.

Marriage Story

“Marriage Story” is about all the ugliness and pain associated with the divorce process. The premise of the movie is not a new one but what’s interesting is that does a good job of explaining the complexities associated with divorce without portraying either of the spouses as the victim.

The cast of “Marriage Story” is very capable. Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver did a phenomenal job. The story will make you sad and you’ll see reason from Nicole’s standpoint just as much as Charlie’s. In the end, the biggest lesson is that Nicole understands why Charlie just couldn’t up and go. In the same vein, Charlie makes the compromise Nicole wanted all the while.

The Two Popes

“The Two Popes,” stars the outstanding Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce aka High Sparrow in “Game of Thrones” as Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (later Pope Francis). It is a beautiful story about two men with different perspectives who find a common ground. Extremely revelatory. For Christians, the film is a great reminder that God is all merciful; sometimes we only need to forgive ourselves. Acting from both men is great.

Unlike in “Game of Thrones” you will love Pryce. That’s what makes a great actor. Being so good at his job that you despise him as one character, but love him as another. Netflix is truly carving a niche with a growing catalogue of originals based on true events.


P.S. These Netflix Original films of 2019 are not listed in order of preference. And are strictly based on what we were opportuned to see.

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About the author

A lover of the arts who sees film and television through the eyes of the Nigerian viewer.