Welcome to 2019 and the first post in it on this site! What better way to greet this year than looking back at movies that came out last year? Similar to my annual music post from last week, it has become part of my yearly routine to assess the success of the films I saw throughout the year in the hopes that what I got out of each selection of the silver screen I saw within the 365.25 day span will guide potential viewers toward the good stuff and allow them to skip the not-so-good stuff. Obviously, the following list is based upon my opinion, and you may love something that I did not! What I like is not a metric of film quality across the board, but the sentiment of a cinephile, yet I hope that it can help introduce you to a gem you may have otherwise missed, or steer clear of a stinker that you should skip. As I always do, I have split these movies into block categories based on my determination of their dopeness, and here I have actually ranked them in inverse order, so that you will experience my least favorite film from 2018 first, and work your way to my favorite! It should go without saying, but I did not see every film this year – crazy, I know! I did get to see a bunch though, thanks in large part to my brief possession of a MoviePass before their “I’ve made a huge mistake” moment that prompted some crazy changes and a mass exodus of subscribers like myself. Oh well! Thanks for the memories and the movies!
If you want to check back on my lists from the past, then look here:
And now, I present the list for
Movies that I wish were never greenlit because they kinda Green Lanterned
Tag – This looked like it was going to be a goofy comedy, and for the most part it was. Loosely based on the oddball antics of a group of long-time friends from Washington state who have played a month-long game of tag for decades since their college days at Gonzaga, the movie takes inspiration from the absurd disguises and scenarios actually devised by the real players. Unsurprisingly, the movie’s events are exaggerated, which is fine and at times funny, but this thing is sunk by a a major ill-placed serious situation that is insulting to people who have experienced such a tragedy. If you don’t mind me spoiling, I will explain (highlight the following paragraph to more easily see the spoils):
The situation that sets up the climax of the story is a fake pregnancy and ensuing false miscarriage all manufactured so that the main tag target can avoid being “it”. This is followed up by the revelation that the character who is the driving force of the movie’s tag team-up is suffering from a serious illness. This goofy comedy just took a turn for the dark and deceptive and ruined the fun that I had been having because I left wondering what the real group of friends who still tag it up every February think of their unique means of keeping in touch throughout the years being turned into a movie that features a truly awful friend marrying a woman who is as insane as he is. The group of wacky, but stable buddies should avoid them, just as the prospective viewers of this movie should probably avoid it.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – For my first list in 2015, I put Jurassic World on my top ten from that year. I have since mellowed some on it, but I still enjoy that dinosaur-filled film in spite of its shallowness. Such was never the case with this dino dumpster fire, which might have been a more apt title for a movie that features a stampede of dinosaurs running away from an erupting volcano. I confess that I was worried about Fallen Kingdom from the first preview and only became more concerned with each 30 second spot on TV as June approached. Nevertheless, I’m not skipping on dinosaurs, and I’m not the only one who saw the movie for this. Unfortunately, I’m also not the only way who wished he had skipped it, and that the filmmakers had skipped on making it. There is so much wrong here, from overplayed nostalgia, to cliche horror tropes, to a serious question of how did we get here?
The great disappointment of this movie is not that it is the latest in a series that feels like its mojo went extinct long ago (sorry, couldn’t resist), but that this could have been the most profound film in the series. Wisecrack, one of my perennial favorites to recommend on this site did a great breakdown of how Fallen Kingdom broke down. I disagree that the visual effects of the 1993 original are vastly inferior (in fact I prefer them), but the rest of the points made in this “What Went Wrong” video are spot on:
The Jurassic Park saga has had a lot of weird potential directions that it could have been pulled along, but this is the one we got and we’ll live with it, I guess, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. I almost feel like this movie could have been shortened to a cold open for the movie they really wanted to make that is inevitably coming out in a future summer.
Movies that were missing something, maybe paprika? While we’re on the subject, have you tried smoked paprika? Oh my goodness – change your life!
Pacific Rim: Uprising – I’ll give John Boyega credit: he has spent his Star Wars money well. Investing in making Pacific Rim a franchise will pay off for him big time. I watched this over the course of two flights; a half each when I only had about an hour left until landing and after I’d already watched a movie I really wanted to see all at once. Not many movies are conducive to splitting up in such a manner without missing something or breaking up the pacing, but this was certainly an exception. While I was far from enamored with it, it did a good job of following up the first film while exploring some new aspects. The characters are mostly forgettable and their introductions and development are too fast and/or nonexistent, but Boyega brings it, and Charlie Day continues to eat up his screentime with relish, this time with extra spicy fervor. I was surprised how psyched I was at the final scene that proudly announces that more monster fighting with giant robots is on the way.
Blockers – Another goofy comedy that never looked like it was going to be the next Some Like It Hot or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, or even the next great teens-losing-their-virginity movie, Blockers has a surprising amount of heart in it that helps it keep mostly upright. It still hits some potholes along the road, but the trio of parents have an amusing enough dynamic to keep us engaged during those dips. Like The Rock before him, John Cena is the next wrestler turned actor with surprisingly good comedic timing, and he does well to give us an overprotective dad with a big heart and even bigger biceps reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comedy performances.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web – A far cry from David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which it is clearly trying to most emulate, this latest film featuring hardcore-hacker-who-can-hack-it-against-the-baddies-who-want-to-hack-her-up Lisbeth Salander has Claire Foy giving a good performance, but the rest of the cast are mostly just kinda there to give her a reason to be running around urgently. There are some cool moments, and the opening sequence (which was essentially used in entirety as a trailer for the film) is badass, but the rest plays out like a Jason Bourne novel while trying its damnedest to be a Jason Bourne movie as it explores the origins of Lisbeth’s life coming back to haunt her. Simply put: it’s okay.
Solo: A Star Wars Story – I considered just writing the shortened title, Solo, but didn’t want it to be left alone hahaha! This is easily the least commercially successful Star Wars film since Wilford Brimley played with Ewoks, but that might not tarnish its reputation forever; The Phantom Menace was universally hailed by fans and critics alike when it came out, and look at it now! Like so much in the Star Wars film franchise, Solo has a number of flaws that hinder it, but it’s far from a bad movie. That being said, it was not a story that we needed, and can serve as an example of why filling in all the blanks isn’t necessarily the best thing to do with our beloved franchises. While the movie may not be awful, it was so poorly received that it forced Disney to put a freeze on their future Star Wars Stories. Typically sending your studio into self-imposed timeout is not a good sign, but there are some positives in Solo, chief among them is Alden Erhenreich who does a great job of portraying a younger version of our favorite suave, swashbuckling, space captain. I just wish he had better material to work with. I also enjoyed Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian, but wished I saw more from the two of them, as well as less Han Solo acting like he already experienced the events of the original movie and was already one of the nice guys. Still, it’s good, and whenever you want any great, witty, snappy, silly Star Wars action, you can check it out. Of course, this works too.
Super Troopers 2 – This was absolutely a movie we asked for, as it set astounding fundraising records on Kickstarter en route to Broken Lizard actually bringing the long-awaited sequel to theaters. While not as good as the original quotable, cult cop comedy, this sequel serves up just enough justification to dish out justice from our most beloved bunch of Vermont State Troopers. We get a good dose of Farva fucking up, Captain O’Hagan angry, and even another memorable bear scene, as well as some new adversarial allies in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I especially like the return of Jim Gaffigan’s Larry Johnson, the man they pulled over to play the meow game in the first film.
Action Point – I enjoyed the trailer for this and anticipated it to be a pretty run-of-the-mill raunchy, slapstick effort from Johnny Knoxville, and I got exactly what I expected with just a pinch of father-daughter relationship growing pains worked in. Like Super Troopers 2, there may not be anything unexpected in this movie, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable as a guilty pleasure David versus Goliath story with a lot of painful spills, crashes, and nut shots.
A couple of months ago I discovered a new favorite YouTube channel called Defunctland that I may well write more upon in the future. Run by Kevin Perjurer, the channel takes deep dives into theme and amusement parks, rides, and other ventures put forth by them that have phased out over the years. In my exploration of this channel (which I highly recommend) I learned that there actually was a real Action Point! Called Action Park, it resided in New Jersey and served as inspiration for the park in the movie.
Venom – Sony may have sold off the main man Spider-Man back to Marvel, but they held onto creative control of a few from his rogues gallery in the hopes of making movies featuring their antics. This is the first of what will probably become a cinematic universe itself thanks to its big bucks return as the top grossing movie of October, and one of the top for the year. Venom is clunky at times, and almost always crazy, but Tom Hardy is clearly having fun bringing the best version of Eddie Brock to life on film (admittedly not a high bar). My biggest issue with Eddie is that he’s kind of overly kooky well before he even bonds with the alien symbiote. The best part is the almost final and surprisingly touching scene where a remarkably aware Stan Lee offers encouragement.
Incredibles 2 -The supers are back! Another long-awaited sequel, yet unfortunately, another that fails to recapture the magic of the first. For a movie with a few high flying folks it is ironic that it never really gets off the ground. The biggest disappointment is that it clearly could have been something more. There is brilliance in the flip situation of Elastigirl being sent out to beat up bad guys while Mr. incredible stays home and battles the changes to math, teenage love troubles, and a baby who is much more than a handful. These home life scenes with the family are the most interesting, and I wish we could get more of the family doing their superheroics and mundane daily life together. And more Edna because who doesn’t want that?
Movies that have got a solid foundation like film bedrock, but not Bedrock like the Flintstone’s town. Ugh, so many rock puns – and don’t even get me started on the movies; instead get me started on these movies!
Annihilation – A cerebral science fiction film riding in the wake of Arrival, Annihilation is similar, but places more emphasis on horror as its protagonist takes a figurative journey of self-exploration while she and a crew of fellow females with personal demons take a literal journey of external exploration. As they venture farther into the alien altered biozone called “the shimmer”, we learn more about Natalie Portman’s Lena and her strained relationship with husband Kane (never a good name to have around extraterrestrials) played by Oscar Isaac. He took a previous team into the shimmer and is the only person to ever return, but he’s having a tough time with that. Lena joins the next suicide squad up (not the DC kind thankfully) in a desperate attempt to save him, and maybe atone for her sins.
Another YouTube favorite of mine, Lessons From The Screenplay did, a good piece about how the film showcases character self-destruction.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado – Another sequel to another great film from a few years ago, this second look at the United States’ battle with Mexico’s drug cartels focuses more on Benecio del Toro’s sicario as he gets sent on a mission to intimidate one of the cartels by kidnapping his daughter. Shockingly, things do not go according to plan! Never fear though, for Benecio is on the job, and he gets more of a chance to show why he has earned the reputation he has as he escorts the young girl across the barren Mexican landscape where the least of their worries are the natural threats.
Once again, the previous film offers a lot more, and this particular movie would be a lot better if it cut the first and last 10 minutes out completely as they are unnecessary and only muddle the plot. Still, I look forward to see if we get another round of chaos in the war waged against the cartels in the future.
Operation Finale – Oscar Isaac is back on this list again (he will be again too!) and this time he’s got help from Shoshana from Inglorious Basterds, and Nick Kroll? Yep, he’s here too, and doing really well in a dramatic role! Yet the main story in this movie is the dynamic between Isaac’s Peter Malkin and Ben Kingsley’s potrayal of Adolph Eichmann. The real Eichmann was one of the main orchestrators of the Holocaust. After World War II, he hid away in Argentina, and the young Israeli government sent a special ops team to apprehend him and bring him to Israel to face justice for his crimes. This film shows that operation through its planning and execution. As a film, it is a little routine and the thrills are lessened a bit because we know how this story ends – something that any historical film must contend with. However, the film does well to offer what it needs to to tell the true story while also developing its main character though memories of a loved one he lost in the unnecessary tragedy Eichmann help arrange. Gotta love any movie where Nazis get theirs, but this does well to show that just because the good guys won the war does not mean that all the bad guys magically went away. The scene of the not-so-secret Nazi meeting is jarring, especially as we contend with prominent race-based hatred in the United States.
Deadpool 2 – Yet another sequel with a little less of the loveliness of its predecessor. Its difficult to make a good sequel, and even the merc with the mouth can’t fourth wall break his way out of this. Now I haven’t seen the Christmas, PG-13 recut where Deadpool apparently kidnaps Fred Savage, so I am only referencing the summer original here. The subject of Deadpool’s saving in this film, a young boy named Russell who goes by Firefist, is annoying. It’s part of his character, but it’s still annoying. However, more Colossus and the great additions of Domino and Yukio, plus plenty of excellent jokes make this worth the watch. I haven’t laughed as hard at anything in years the way I lost it during the parachuting sequence. Hilarious!
Hotel Artemis – One of my movie buddies asked me to come along to see this and despite my apprehension I did, and I’m glad I did! This movie feels like it takes place in the same world as John Wick and the actors who play the assassins, robbers, and general not-so-good outlaws hiding out and recovering at the hospital/safehouse for criminals who can pay are all great. Jodie Foster is a smash and gives one of her best performances in years, while Dave Bautista smashes it up as her muscle. Not to mention, Charlie Day makes the most out of his sleazy, fast-talkin’ weapons dealer even more than he did in Pacific Rim. There is an unexpected depth to the characters, especially Foster’s, and this movie is certainly one to check out.
Isle of Dogs – I didn’t mention it, but Jeff Goldlbum is in Hotel Artemis too. I say that because he is even more present in this one, alongside of Ed Norton, Bill Murray, and Bob Balaban. Bryan Cranston voices Duke, the main dog, who learns a lot about himself as he reluctantly helps a boy find his lost dog on the vast quarantined island in Japan. As they bond, and Wes Anderson-esque hijinks of hilarity ensue, they also uncover that the quarantine may not be all that it claims to be. This is classic Anderson and another worthy entry into his quirky repertoire.
Ant-Man and the Wasp – Scott Lang is back and making house arrest look like the most fun ever as he plays with his daughter, runs his new company, and pays his dues to society. He’s just about to be released from the sentence he incurred for his role in helping Captain America draw on the walls in Germany in Civil War (man, I love Randall Park), when he has a bizarre dream that may be the key to what Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym have been up to.
This is a refreshing reprieve to the emotional gut punch given by Avengers: Infinity War two months earlier. Lighthearted, and not ever really dire in stakes, Ant-Man and the Wasp is both helped and hurt by its levity. It is really helped though by Evangeline Lily’s Hope kicking some serious ass as the Wasp as she fights to find her mother who held that title decades earlier. Sure, the movie bandies the word “quantum” around too much, and the conflict is essentially a series of inconvenient misunderstandings, but Paul Rudd’s comedy is a treat, especially when bouncing off of best friend and equally hilarious Luis, played by Michael Pena, and their ex-con business buds.
The shrinking and enlarging of everyday objects into tools and weapons for our heroes is fun, and so is this movie, another magnificent entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Best of the Rest which is the Best of the Best of This Year
Game Night – I went to see this in theaters thinking it would be funny, and it is, but it is so much more too! This is one of the best comedies that I have seen in a while thanks to some great acting, jokes, and moments that subvert expectations. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are excellent as are the other actors who play their friends… and enemies. This one is absolutely worthwhile.
Mission Impossible: Fallout – Wow! These just keep getting better, ramping up the stakes and stunts so that this franchise is not too much James Bond or Jason Bourne, but more akin to the Fast and Furious of espionage action. I mean that in the sense that they know their audience and how to meet the demand for an easily digestible popcorn blockbuster with thrills and chills. Building off of the last film in the series, 2015’s Rouge Nation, Fallout has even more intense action, some truly amazing stunts and fight choreography, and plenty of Tom Cruise sprinting. Plus, it has Henry Cavill cocking his fists mid-fight. He throws a guy through a mirror, gets hit by a bathroom pipe, and responds by getting up and cocking his motherfucking fists like they’re guns! Honestly, my greatest disappointment in this movie is that they didn’t leave in the gun reload sound they played over this moment in the trailer. The Mission Impossible franchise continues to excel and just may be the best action franchise today.
A Quiet Place – Despite the hype, I have not watched Bird Box on Netflix, and I don’t think I need to, for I already saw a better monsters are out to get me if I use this part of my face movie. Real-life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski (who also co-wrote and directed! Way to go Big Tuna!) bring a great onscreen chemistry to this post-apocalyptic tale of a world where you have to use your inside voice never because you can’t make any noise at all! Also excellent are the kids, especially Millicent Simmonds who is actually deaf. Her struggle in the film with this and a nagging fear that her father holds resentment toward her lends some relatable drama to a world that fortunately none of us live in. The monsters are scary, and the fear that they could pop out is present in almost every scene. The sequence where Emily Blunt’s matriarch goes into labor is su-spense-ful. Nevertheless, the true achievement of this film is using sound and the lack of it to ramp up this suspense at the perfect time.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The most recent movie that I’ve seen, is also the best animated movie of 2018. This could have been – and considering Sony’s recent track record with Peter Parker – should have been a massive failure. Everything could have been too rushed, too crazy to combine, and probably just bad… but it turns out that it’s not! It’s really great, and if you haven’t seen it yet, then get to the theater and check it out! I highly recommend this film to Spidey fans of all ages. This is a serious contender for the best film focused on a wallcrawler yet. It truly is an amazing Spider-Man. And Girl. And Girl and Robot. And Pig. The one shortcoming that I can think of is that it only has the second best fight with Kingpin I’ve seen this year.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor -Like so many children, I grew up watching and loving Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Whether or not you did too, you can find immense joy in this documentary that tells the story of Fred Rogers from the words of his family, friends, and coworkers – although, I can probably safely included them all as family because everyone loved Fred Rogers, and he loved everyone. It is especially refreshing in this era where so many once revered men and women (but especially men) are revealed to have been monsters all along. Even when they are not monsters, all subjects of documentaries and biopics have dark side to show. All except Fred Rogers. It is incredibly refreshing to see that Mister Rogers really was that nice. He really did care for everyone, and is a true American hero. The best part is a piece that I had already seen and loved before: his testimony before a Senate commitee that was on the verge of essentially axing the then-new Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Rogers was brought in to speak about his show to Senator John Pastore, who was overseeing the committe that was looking to cut PBS’ grant for increased funding because in 1969, the United States was busy with a war in Vietnam. Fred Rogers spoke to Pastore for about six minutes about his show, and that’s all it took. Pastore awarded the full grant funding. Fred Rogers saved PBS!
Avenger’s Infinity War – The culmination of 10 years of films all connected together to reach this point is a daunting prospect, but somehow Marvel Studios delivered with one of their best films yet. Every hero and heroine gets their moment to shine as they battle against Thanos, the big, purple mastermind of almost all the ills that have fallen upon our heroes at one point or another in his quest to collect the infinity stones so that he can have the power to instantly erase half of all the universe’s life. Of course, you knew all of this because, c’mon, like everybody’s seen this already! If you haven’t, roll over to Netflix and pop it on because it really is that good. I have so much to praise about this masterful movie, from its somewhat sympathetic villain, to its incredible effects and choreographer, but really I am amazed that 10 years and 19 films brought me to a point where the coolest thing I have ever seen is the sudden entrance of a Norse god with a teenage tree-being at his side and a talking raccoon with a big laser gun leaping off his shoulder. Thank you so much for making that come to life, Marvel!
There is so much more I want to say about Avengers: Infinity War, and I don’t think there is a better place to start than the amazi~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Black Panther – As awesome as Infinity War is, it still is second to the best superhero film of 2018, the best film from Marvel in 2018, and the best film of 2018: Black Panther. I wrote not once, but twice about this movie earlier this year, so I won’t belabor with another description here, but suffice it to say, I still love this terrific movie and I hope you will enjoy it too!
Thanks for reading and watching! Be sure to hold all your emotions and atoms together so you can return here next week for more fun!
Rest in peace Super Dave!