The Top 20 Movies of 2018

2018 best

The honorable mentions…

Another great year of movies is in the books.

Toward the end of 2018, I realized I actually was able to see nearly all of the movies I wanted to in time (though there are a few I admit I am still on the look out for).

As was the case for the 2017 list, I decided to make a top 20 list , because numbers 11-20 were too good to ignore. If you really want to cut the list in half, gather all six infinity stones, put them in the infinity gauntlet, and…SNAP! (Too soon?)

 

As the title character in the next film would say, “Off we go!”…

 

20.

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The minds at Disney are no strangers to taking risks, and doing a sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins is one of their biggest risks yet. Still, even 54 years later, Mary Poppins Returns is a success due to new original music, fine performances, two amazing cameos, and the practically perfect Emily Blunt.

 

19.

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There is no doubt that The Favourite will not appeal to everyone, as it has a very dark sense of humor. In time, you will be able to see the film for its witty script and impeccable acting.

 

18.

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As 2018’s highest grossing film, Black Panther was also one of the best critical successes in the history of superhero films. Cultural relevance, sublime action, and wonderful acting were sure helpful, as it may become the first superhero flick to be nominated for Best Picture.

 

17.

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Deep, thoughtful, and chilling are some of the best ways one can describe First Reformed. As many great movies do, it provides more questions than answers. Not to mention Ethan Hawke’s uncanny performance.

 

16.

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In one of the biggest surprises of the year, Crazy Rich Asians told us the story of characters that are relatable and worthy to cheer for. Based off of a book, there are more films to come, of which I am looking forward to with a big smile.

 

15.

 

mid90s

 

In his directorial debut, Jonah Hill’s Mid90s explores the lives of kids growing up in the search of someone to look up to. The result is one of the years most authentic films.

 

14.

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Lee Israel was an author who made money by forging fake letters from popular authors, and the portrayal by Melissa McCarthy of her in Can you ever forgive me? is a revelation (Richard E. Grant is great as well). She has had strikeouts in her film career, yet this is a home run that clears the stadium.

 

13.

widows

 

The heat is on blast in Steve Mcqueen’s Widows, with an all-star cast on the top of their game (led by the always wonderful Viola Davis). Just because it is being somewhat overlooked does not take away from its brilliance.

 

12.

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One of the most human love stories in the last couple years of cinema, If Beale Street could talk is one that may not have the outcomes most are wishing for. They are the outcomes that are the right ones.

 

11.

 

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Newcomer (and Golden Globe nominee) Elsie Fisher shines through all of Eighth Grade, another coming of age story that oozes with real authentic material. Gucci, indeed.

 

10.

 

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Your heart may have been rock solid if it wasn’t feeling warm after witnessing Green Book. Both Ali and Mortensen give Oscar caliber performances, giving us the ultimate bromance of 2018.

 

9.

 

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As of this writing, I have yet to meet anyone I have mentioned Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to come back to me saying it was a bad movie. Believe the hype, for this is the best Spidey cinema has produced, the best animated film of 2018, and easily a post credit scene better than anything the MCU has offered.

 

8.

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Sorry if the above image brings back bad memories, but that is how big of a movie Avengers: Infinity War was. Even before the “snap heard round the world”, the film was unlike any superhero film we have seen before. Endgame cannot come soon enough.

 

7.

hereditary

 

A Quiet place had a nice premise, as did the currently popular (but not entirely great) Bird Box, but no film this year left me with such dread as Hereditary did. This movie will leave a unique bitter taste in your mouth for sometime after the credits, and I mean that as a compliment.

 

6.

blackkklansmen

 

In no way would BlacKKKlansmen have been as wonderful as it was if it weren’t directed by Spike Lee. Only he could do justice to a true story about an African America undercover cop (an awesome debut by John David Washington, son of Denzel)  who joins the KKK. Yes, it gets political, but it is super intriguing.

 

5.

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Having a good directorial debut is one thing, but there is another level that Bradley Cooper is on in A Star is Born. He gives one of his best performances, does the fourth remake of a movie, and lets Lady Gaga show she has more than singing talent. Yeah, expect this to be mentioned more than once come Oscar night.

 

4.

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You can name any superhero you want, but none could hold a candle to the bravery of Fred Rogers, even if he is not completely well-known to kids today. Thankfully, the ever charming Won’t you be my Neighbor? is a chance to remind us not just of the man, but (more importantly) his ideals. A lovely day indeed.

 

3.

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Not since 2013’s Gravity has flying seem so realistic. Damien Chazelle’s First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong (an understated Ryan Gosling) walking on the moon, brings tension and grit to the highest of levels. Months later, the sound effects are still giving me the chills of space.

 

2.

roma

 

I have mentioned how Netflix’s original films are not always great, and while I have not seen all of them, I doubt many can come close to Roma. Director Alfonso Cuaron (director of the previously mentioned Gravity) delivers a passion project that is nothing short of sublime. It may be on Netflix, but the film deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can see it on. Hands down 2018 most gorgeous film (even the cleaning of dog crap looked beautiful).

 

1.

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Throughout 2018, I wrestled up and down between my favorite film of the year, and then I came across a hidden treasure, Leave No Trace. The first film in eight years from director Debra Granik (her last film was the masterful 2010 film Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence), the simple story of a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (amazing new comer Thomasin McKenzie) who try to avoid civilization is both heartbreaking and beautiful. It hit me in the feels more than any other film last year. You may not have heard of it, but it is out on DVD, and is more than worth looking for. Scratch that, it is worth buying.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider Man ITSV

A new Spider-Man has arrived, and has brought more than enough thrills along…

If you were to show a graph of the quality of all the films about Marvel’s (arguably) most popular hero, there would be a lot of ups (Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming) and downs (Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Still, just when you thought Tom Holland’s Spider-Man (a wonderful portrayal) was the best film we would get, in comes swinging Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is quite possibly the best Spidey to ever web up the big screen.

If you have seen the trailer, you know there is a good amount of Spiders in this web. The main one is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a local teenager who goes to a private school he hates despite it being the wishes of his police chief dad (Brian Tyree Henry). The only person he does seem to have a positive rapport with is his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). It is with him that, one night he is (spoiler, well not really) bitten by a radioactive spider and senses his new powers.

The other versions of Spider-Man appear after a rip is caused in the quantum realm by Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), better known as Kingpin. The main one is a much older Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), who has left his beloved MJ and is not in the best of shape. We also meet Spider Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Trust me, you don’t want me to say any more about their characters. It is worth witnessing yourself.

Oh, how glad I am this movie was animated. Had the filmmakers tried to make this in the real world, it would not have succeeded. Animation is used to help explore more of the human imagination that live action cannot (I hope those at Disney who like remaking animated films into live action are reading this).

Yet the glorious animation still does not take away from the moving story. It has been some time since tears were in my eyes from both laughing out loud and at moments that truly got me a little choked up.

Parents, the movie can be a little dark, but it should be fine for kids elementary and up. No swearing (despite a few minor ones) or sexual content. Only the mildest of violence.

I close by saying that if there is a better ending post credit scene than the one here, I have not seen it. And I have seen all the movies in the MCU.

So yeah, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is amazing.

Overall: Five Stars *****

Stan Lee (1922-2018)

'Iron Man 3' film premiere, Los Angeles, America - 24 Apr 2013

You don’t need to be a fan of baseball to have heard the name of Babe Ruth, or of basketball to hear the names of Michael Jordan or Lebron James, and you never needed to have read a single comic book to have heard the name Stan Lee, who died today at the age of 95.

In the time when DC comics was king of comic books (with heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), it was Stan Lee (as well as other writers) in the early 1960s who offered more relatable superheroes. They did not come from made up cities (Gotham, Metropolis, etc), but from real world cities (New York seemed to be his favorite). Unlike those in DC, Lee never liked the idea of the “sidekick”: all were heroes in their own right. They also suffered from more than just fighting the bad guy: we got relationship issues as personal as they come.

We got heroes from him like the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Black Panther, Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, and (arguably his most popular) Spider-Man.

The last ten years of Marvel movies have helped Stan Lee become much more than a house hold name among nerds. He appeared in almost all of the movies based on his characters (not just in the MCU), never shy of poking fun at himself.

The world has truly lost one of the most unique imaginations it has known.

Excelsior!

 

Venom (2018)

Venom

The plot of Venom is more slippery than infectious.

It isn’t that Venom is a terrible movie, but it most certainly is a disappointing one, especially when you have a great talent like Tom Hardy in the lead role. He himself is really the only thing worth seeing in this film (and, admittedly, some unexpected laughs I was not expecting).

Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a reporter who one day is in over his head as he tries to uncover the mystery behind a suspicious company of scientists (or something like that) run by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). He blows the assignment, is fired by his boss (Ron Chephas Jones from This is Us), and is dumped by his fiancée Anne Weying (the always reliable Michelle Williams). He is given a second chance when one of the doctors (Jenny Slate) sneaks Brock into the facility, where the mysterious goo (the symbiote) meshes with Eddie and makes him become the title character.

Eddie is clearly down on his luck but I am not sure if I would call him a total loser. He does try to do the right thing, even if he fails at it, such as being there for the local store clerk Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu) after she is being harassed by a gang member. Still, despite the very good performance by Hardy, I can’t help but wonder how much better this Venom would have been if he were the villain of the MCU (where his enemy Spider-Man now resides).

Speaking of villains, anyone will tell you how a comic book movie baddie needs to be great if the film can have some success, and that is easily the biggest flaw of the film. Riz Ahmed (who is a good actor I am sure) approaches his character with no charm or menace, two of the most important things a cinema comic book character needs.

Another problem I had was with some of the special effects. When Venom does appear, it is (for the most part) convincing, yet the action sequences are so fast paced that we don’t get much time to revel at them. I am referring to a specific car chase scene. I truly would hate to fault director Ruben Fleischer, mainly since he made 2009’s highly underrated Zombieland. There is a fight scene, however, in Brock’s apartment that is rather fun to watch.

Parents, while the movie could have easily been given an R rating (Venom’s appetite has nearly no limits), the PG-13 rating is mainly for horrific images (for kids) and swearing (some S words, plus one F bomb). Nothing sexual (though some kissing), so I would say middle school and up. Maybe younger.

I can say without a doubt that Venom is not the worst comic book movie ever (I would take Tom Hardy over Topher Grace in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 any day of the week), but I just can’t recommend it. I only wish the studios would get along so we could get all the characters in one universe, but that is wishful thinking.

No surprise that the film does have a post credit scene, suggesting that there will be a sequel (Hardy has apparently signed on for two more films). While I am not sure it will happen, I do totally support the actor they have as the next villain. Especially if they moved this to the MCU.

 

Again, just wishful thinking.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp

It turns out size does matter.

When compared to Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp seems like a step back to for us to catch our breath. It is not as good as the previously mentioned films, but it is still another hit for the titan Marvel team (and an improvement from the first film back in 2015).

It is such an improvement that I am willing to sit through the original again to make sure I did not miss anything (I was not a fan). It is required to see before hand, as Ant-Man and the Wasp is one of those sequels where you will be too confused going into without prior knowledge. We pick up a few years after Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, who is ideally cast) had helped in Civil War. He is on house arrest, but is still able to spend some time with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Lang is only a few days away from getting rid of the ankle bracelet before he is kidnapped by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), now known as the Wasp. Once it is discovered that Scott had a dream linked to Hank’s long-lost wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), there is the possibility of bringing her back.

Other characters return such as Scott’s ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new hubby Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), who no longer hate Scott. There is also the return of Scott’s friend Luis (Michael Pena), who gets more into the action scenes than before.

The new characters include Hank’s old work associate/rival Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) with his own hidden agendas, and the mysterious Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), also known as Ghost. While she is not the most memorable villain, she does become more than a match for the two title heroes. There is also Walton Goggins as Sonny, a mob man after Pym’s lab (Ghost is as well, but for other reasons).

I forgot to mention about the lab. By now, we know Hank has made the technology to change the size of any object, and his lab is no exception. How convenient it is to just carry literally not only your work, but the location as well wherever you want! He also has a collection of cars he can pick from to drive at his leisure (now that I think of it, he should have had a tank, but oh well).

The movie clearly has a lot of laugh out loud moments (most of which go to Rudd, but everyone has their fair share). Some of the moments, however, are the negative reactions I felt. The main includes Michael Pena (who is undoubtably talented). While he has many scenes with laughs, it is his one that involves “truth serum” that stretches beyond the breaking point.

Director Peyton Reed clearly knows how to meld the action with the comedy (such as the scene where Ant-Man and Wasp need to get a memento from Cassie while she is in school). We hardly think of things like special effects when they happen, because they are so good we are left only to care for the characters, which is what we should do in the first place.

Parents, as stated before, this is a much lighter movie than other Marvel films. There is swearing, action, and some kissing (one scene of extreme making out), but that is it. Middle school and above are totally fine, and even maybe down to age seven or eight.

I end by saying how Marvel movies never get enough credit for their casting choices. Very few (if any) of the casting choices have been wrong for Marvel in the past ten years (who would have thought replacing an actor like Edward Norton with Mark Ruffalo would be the better move?!) In this film, we get the sense of how much fun it was for the elder Pym’s to have been the original Ant-Man and Wasp (obviously, due to thespians like Douglas and Pfieffer). Add in Rudd, Lilly, and the others I won’t mention in the other films, and you see only a glimpse of why this universe has been so dominate, and will continue to do so.

 

Overall: Three and a Half Stars ***1/2

2018 Half Time Report

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I am rather surprised that the first half of 2018 has had a rather good share of quality films, nearly breaking the tradition of having mainly bad films in the first half of a year. It actually made me realize that while I can make a top five of the year so far, I could not do a bottom five (for it would include films I actually enjoy).

That being said, such good movies like Deadpool 2, A Quiet Place, Incredibles 2, Ready Player One, and Set it Up did not make the list.

First, the bottom three…

 

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

After the nice revival of the series in 2015, we are given this let down. Nice visuals, but way too many plot turns and clichés that make you shake your head rather than nod.

2. Irreplaceable you

It is rather sad when there is a romantic movie that tries hard to bring the tears and fails. Too many characters making choices that are really difficult to relate to, let alone agree with.

1. The Cloverfield Paradox

Credit to the film makers for keeping this project a secret up until the release right after the Superbowl. That is really the only positive I can think of. I have not seen any of the other Cloverfield films, but it still does not hide what a waste of time and money this was.

 

Note: The last two films mentioned star actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I point this out because I wish to say she is talented, and I hope she gets better material soon.)

 

Now the best so far…

5. Isle of Dogs

Leave it to Wes Anderson to, as always, give us as fresh an original movie as possible. It is weird, quirky, funny, touching, and has Bill Murray. So, you know, a basic Wes Anderson film.

4. Black Panther

Easily one of Marvel’s top films, the kingdom of Wakanda gives us some of the best action, grit, and realism we have seen in any action film. All the cast is wonderful.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

As if the previous film were not enough, Marvel then proceeded to give us the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. Seriously, think of how bad this movie could have been, and yet there is hardly a fault. Regardless of how you feel, there is no doubt of the wonderful, terrifying screen presence of Thanos (Josh Brolin is definitely having a good 2018).

2. Hereditary

This horror thriller reminded me a lot of 2016’s unseen gem The Witch. With a stellar cast (mainly Toni Colette), this film leaves a taste that I have still not fully gotten out of my system. I don’t think I want to either.

1. Won’t you be my Neighbor?

We still have more action packed films (comic book or otherwise) to endure this year, but they did not come much more humble and respected than Fred Rogers (who took me years to realize his first name). A documentary that is sure to bring tears and cheers, it is as necessary a film as the world needs these days. Like Hereditary, it will leave a taste (albeit a much warmer and comfortable one) in your bones and soul that will not leave you (not to mention make you feel somewhat guilty for the parodies Rogers had to suffer).

 

Now to the second half of 2018…

 

 

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool 2

Wind Advisory: The super-duper group is formed.

 

Obviously, there are too many quips and jokes and one liners to list in a review of Deadpool 2, and would be redundant. As was the case with the original, the sequel has Ryan Reynolds at the core of its cinematic power. While it is not a masterpiece, it is an upgrade from its predesceor.

The film starts (with a nod to Scorsese’s Casino) with Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Reynolds) right where we left him: fighting crime and coming home to his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Caccarin). In fact, one of the best things about this film is that it stands by itself, not requiring you to know much about the first film (though there are some inside jokes you would miss). After a tragic event, Deadpool tries his hand with the X-Men , as they try to help a young mutant named Firefist (a well casted Julian Dennison). They soon find out he is being hunted down by Cable (Josh Brolin), who has traveled back in time after the future Firefist has killed his wife and daughter.

What happens from there is for you to discover. There is more than a fair share of crude humor and fourth wall breaking, as well as other film references such as Say Anything. It is yet to be half way through 2018, and Josh Brolin is already set with this as well as Infinity War, giving two performances of impressive strength. Other returning actors include T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, and Karan Soni as Deadpool’s friends. New characters include Zazie Beetz as Domino (who, despite Deadpool’s unbelief, is lucky), Shioli Kutsuna as Yukio, and a surprise mutant who the credits say plays himself.

The biggest mistake I made was looking at the cast on IMDB before I saw the film. There are a good amount of cameos that I found out about too soon. Don’t look until after the film. Personally, I know there are a few I missed and need to seek out the second time.

Parents, it should be no surprise that you should know this is not a family film (though Deadpool does disagree on that perspective). There is no nudity (aside from some obscure male nudity) or strong sexual content as there was in the first film. There is, however, a lot of swearing and violence. A whole lot. High School and above.

Despite the film’s flaws (the sentimental scene at the end, though funny, does go long), there is no doubt that the credit scenes (which you would expect) are the funniest scenes in the whole film. They are better than any credit scenes in any film of the past decade. They almost make the price worth paying to see the movie itself, which is not to say the movie is bad. Rather the contrary.

Now if you excuse me, I need to watch Yentl.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther

The Black Panther sticks another landing for Marvel

Perhaps it is late for me to say, but Marvel Studios is starting to mirror that of Pixar, in that it is hard for them to have a flop financially or critically (it helps when you partner with Disney). A decade after the universe was launched with Iron Man, Marvel Studios is still going strong, and now delivers one of their very best in Black Panther.

Introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther takes place just after those events, where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is being crowned King of Wakanda. Wakanda is a country steeped in poverty, but only in the eyes of the outside world. We learn it is truly flourishing with technology that is beyond anything we have yet seen in a Marvel movie (or any other). At first, I was afraid it would be too much like Asgard (the home world of Thor), but Wakanda still manages to stand out as its own environment.

Before he can take his place as king, T’Challa/Black Panther must stop Ulysses Klau (the always reliable Andy Serkis) from stealing Vibranium (the key substance to Wakanda and its economy, not to mention weapons and armor). Helping him is Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who manages to make a name for himself along the best of Marvel’s baddies.

What makes Black Panther so wonderful is the same formula that makes nearly all other Marvel films great as well. The actors take the roles seriously, but are still managing to have a lot of fun (especially Andy Serkis). Director Ryan Coogler (who also directed Jordan in Creed and Fruitvale Station) never has moments (well, maybe one or two) that drag on. We are enticed from the word go.

It also helps that, despite lack of screen time, every actor is giving all they got to the roles they play. Such actors include (but are not limited to) Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead‘s Michonne), Daniel Kaluuya (recent Oscar nominee for Get Out), Angela Bassett, and Sterling K. Brown (This is Us). When you see them on-screen, you know talent is erupting.

Parents, this is another Marvel movie, so if your kids have seen at least one (I don’t know many kids who haven’t), they are fine here. There is some swearing and violence, but no sexual content or nudity (despite some female characters wearing some revealing clothing, but nothing bad).

Is Black Panther the best Marvel movie? The vote is still out, but it is definitely in the running. It says a lot about an action/adventure movie when the action free scenes are as engrossing as the action scenes are (which are superb).

It is clear that 2018 now has its first great movie. And what a movie.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars ****1/2

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok

Despite the loss of his hammer (and some hair), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still ready for battle.

Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.

The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.

After the events of Thor: The Dark World (which is shown to us in a play on Asgard) and a battle against evil beings set to Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song”, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) set out to find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), only to discover that he is being pursued by a secret sister of Thor, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett, who, as of this reading, I have yet to see give a bad performance).

The God of Thunder escapes, only to be marooned on a far away planet run by the Grandmaster (a role that could only be played by Jeff Goldblum). It is here where he reunites with his old “friend from work”, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

From his first lines, I have finally began to realize how much of a sense of humor Thor has gained since he first hit the big screen back in 2009. This third film delivers some of the best humor any Marvel film has delivered (or any comic book movie, for that matter). I won’t go spoiling anything, except to say I never saw a movie I can remember that had the term “The Devil’s Anus” before. Yeah, you heard me.

Parents, there is one part in the movie that I felt was a little bit on the queasy side. We learn that the Grandmaster’s space ship is used mainly for orgies (“Don’t touch anything,” Thor orders). Yes, it is funny, but a little awkward. Nevertheless, if your kid has seen a marvel movie, they will like this one.

Even with grand special effects and wise cracking dialogue, the most enduring thing about Thor: Ragnarok is the sense of fun. You can tell all the actors (including the very welcoming Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director Taika Waititi as the heartfelt Korg) are having a blast. It is no wonder why so many actors in Hollywood are jumping on the Marvel express.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Ever the superhero, Spidey still has time to give directions

It is somewhat poetic that the person most excited about a second Spider-Man reboot is Spidey himself in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

After a prelude to the villain (more on him later), we see Peter Parker (Tom Holland) making a video diary of his first big outing as he fought on Team Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War (2016). We get no footage of how Parker got his powers: we know that by now. The movie is a few months after the encounter with Captain America as Peter is relishing in his new suit given to him by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) Despite Stark being busy moving his things from Stark tower up north, he is wanting Parker to keep his web crawling low-key.

He tells Parker “not to do anything I would do….and definatly not anything I wouldn’t do. There is a little gray area in there and that is where you operate.”

The only person who also knows of Peter’s “Stark Internship” is his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), the kind of best friend who still wants to show his awesome self-made Lego Death Star. He is loyal to the core.

The movie also adds a dash of John Hughes, mainly in the area of Peter’s crush, Liz (Laura Harrier), a senior (this is in Peter’s sophomore year of High School). They are part of the decathlon team, about to go to DC for the championship. There is also the fact that a new threat has evolved in the form of Adrian Toomes (a perfectly cast Michael Keaton), a weapons dealer known as the Vulture.

While this is not the best film in Spider-Man’s library (that will always be Spider-Man 2), it has two things that even that one lacked. The first is Tom Holland, who I think is easily the best on-screen Spider-Man to date (something I called out once the Cap’s shield was taken last year). Not only does he look the part (he is the youngest cast in the role), but he gives us the teenage angst we all had at that age. He wants to prove he is not just a kid (though there are times I thought he should have been called Spider-kid or Spider-Boy).

The other blessing is Michael Keaton. I doubt I was the only one smiling when thinking back that this is the same guy who was the title roles in both Batman (1989) and Birdman (2014). Still, Keaton is too smart and great an actor to just do the same performance more than once. We know he can go over the top (Beetlejuice, anyone?), and here, his performance is toned down just enough to the point where it is rather effective. He is probably the best villain Spidey has fought on the big screen so far.

Parents, there is one akward scene in the film. While there is no sex or nudity, there is one instance where Ned is on the computer, helping Spider-Man. Suddenly, he is caught, and, without an aliby, says he is watching pornography. It is played for laughs, but I still feel it should be mentioned just as a warning. Besides that, there is the casual swearing seen in any Marvel movie, so if your kids have seen those, they are fine here.

The movie is not perfect: There is one plot twist that, while affective and threw me off, I now realize is a little far-fetched. It also took me a little time to get used to the character of Michelle (Zendaya).  Still, for those who are recovering from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Andrew Garfield was good, but far too old) and (what was arguably the worst of all) Spider-Man 3, they will be pleasantly refreshed with Spider-Man: Homecoming.

It is a fresh, fun ride.

Overall: Four Stars ****