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.

mpr

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.

tf

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.

cyefm

 

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.

 

8g

 

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.

 

smitsv

 

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.

asib

 

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.

wybmn

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.

fm

 

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.

LNT.jpg

 

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.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

x-men Apocalypse

The younger versions of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-Mcphee) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan).

X-Men: Apocalypse is sure to dazzle the biggest fanboy (or girl), but it is almost generic in being a summer film, one that may not completly be remembered by the end of the year.

After the brilliance of X-Men: Days of Future Past two years ago (I still have yet to see X-Men: First Class from 2011), we fast foward ten years and are introduced to the biggest baddie in all mutant history (also the first), En Sabah Nur (Oscar Issac), also known as Apocalypse (though I don’t think he is called anything else in the movie). His ability is to move his conscience into other beings, picking up their powers along the way (at least that is what I gathered: I was a fan of X-Men as a nineties kid, but never got around to Apocalypse).

Meanwhile, we see familiar faces such as Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who is still running his school for the gifted with the help of Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) is leading a normal life with a wife and daughter, though still working in a steel mill seems awkward for the man once known as Magneto. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), also known as Mystique, has become kind of a folklore legend, but refuses to be seen as a hero. We also see three young versions of familiar heroes; Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Bush), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). However, Apocalypse has also managed to recruit some mutants of his own, including Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Psylocke (Olivia Munn).

Still, as it was with Days of Future Past, my favorite is still Evan Peters as Quicksilver. It is a difference character than the one we met in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and a better one (and not the because of the reason you think). He is witty, smart, funny, yet still has a tortured soul. He has a scene reminiscant of the one he had in Days of Future Past, and, as was the case in the previous movie, it is the best scene of this film as well.

All actors give strong performances (I did especially enjoy the chemistry between Sheridan, Bush, and Smit-McPhee), and the action sequences were very cool. Still, the story itself was just luke warm to me. Even at nearly two and a half hours (which it did not drag on as much as I thought it would), I feel they could have added a few more levels of depth to each character, as well as give a little more sinister-ness to the villian (though Issac does a fine job here).

Parents, the movie does have some revealing clothing, and some nudity (all Mystique, though the nudity is always her in blue). There is also some swearing (including one F bomb, though it is well placed). Basically, the PG-13 rating is justified, though it could have been rated R.

I will end by saying do still feel I liked this film better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though not nearly as much as Captain America: Civil War. I understand not all comic book stories are light and fun: some can be dark. I feel there is still some room left for another X-Men film or two (which will more than likely happen), but they need to stop looking at the horizon and take a leap of faith.

 

Overall: Three Stars ***

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America Civil War

The Captain leads Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Scarlett Witch, and the Winter Soldier.

After the disappointing two plus hours of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Marvel comes out swinging with Captain America: Civil War. Well, more than swinging. Let’s just say swinging, flying, pulse ray blasting,…you get the idea.

This is easily the best superhero flick since Guardians of the Galaxy. Like that film, Captain America: Civil War was a film I was not expecting much from (the first two films were good, but not great). Star Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson/Falcon, descibed it best when he said it is like “The Avengers 2.5”.

Sure, the movie runs at 2 hours and 26 minutes (the longest Marvel film to date), but even that was not a big hinderence for me. The film starts off with Steve Rodgers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and a few of the Avengers accidently causing damage again to innocent lives while pursuing the evildoers. Enter the Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), who tells the Avengers they must now be under control by the U.N. or to “retire”. This leads to certain Avengers going one way and some the other way. It basically becomes team Captain versus Team Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., who proves again here he may be the best cast actor for any superhero in movie history).

Eventually, the Captain realizes he may still be able to save his old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who is also the winter soldier. He is being controlled by Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). While that storyline is nicely done (and surprisingly easy to follow), the best part of the film is the conflict between the good guys, and there are a lot of them. Missing from the action this time is the Hulk and Thor, but we still have characters such as Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany) Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ant-Man (the always lovable Paul Rudd), and new comer Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

Everyone will have their favorite to root for, and mine was such a clear favorite I feel he deserves his own paragraph. For the third time, we have another actor playing Spider-Man, but this time, it is a very young one. Tom Holland (who I became a fan of the moment I saw him in 2012’s The Impossible), in an all star cast including a good amount of past Oscar nominees, is the scene stealer. The new Spider-Man film can’t come soon enough.

Parents, the movie is long, and a little violent (though not as violent/dark as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was). Still, if your kids have seen at least one other Marvel flick, they should be fine with this one.

I am aware some people may be making references to the politics of today. I personally did not really care to do so (that is a whole matter by itself). I said the loser of the fight of Batman against Superman was the audience. In Captain America: Civil War, the audience is the clear winner. This is one of the best films of the year.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Batman MOTP

Moments before Bruce Wayne dones the mask…

I have come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons why I grew up a Batman fan as a 1990s kid more than Superman was that the caped crusader had more going for him during the decade (the last movie to star Superman, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, came out in 1987, and was beyond words…in a bad way. Also, don’t get me started on the video game disaster that was Superman 64).

Tim Burton’s first two Batflicks are still decent, Batman Forever (1995) is now forgettable, and the less said about Batman & Robin (1997), the better. The one film that is sadly overlooked, however, is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993). While I have not seen any of the times the cape was worn by the legendary Adam West, I would argue that this animated film is the best Batman movie ever made by someone not named Christopher Nolan.

Based off of the highly successful (and still entertaining) animated show, the film focuses on a past relationship Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) had with Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany). Past events catch up, as a masked phantasm (though he is never called that) is killing certain mobsters, and Batman is getting the blame. Things also don’t help when the Joker (Mark Hamill, who, along with Conroy, would voice the same characters the Arkham Asylum games) is involved as well.

I know this film is over twenty years old, but I still don’t want to ruin one of the most underrated films I have seen. What I will say is that this gives the character Bruce Wayne the depth of character that was never seen till Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Every time you see Wayne at the gravestone of his parents, you get chills. You can almost feel the rain.

The film also does something that not even Nolan did as well: it gives Bruce Wayne the most realistic romance he has had on film. There are moments where you feel he may be able to actually have a normal life.

Parents, the film is PG, which means there is fighting, and little blood. There is also some kissing. That is it. If your kids are fans of the Bat like I am, you should not let them miss out on this gem of a film.

It is refreshing that, over twenty years later, the film is still fresh, dark, scary, and has aged rather well.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

An epic meeting of Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

I had a sneaky suspicion that I would not really like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. What I did not expect was how much disappointment I would feel after the credits started rolling.

I was ok with 2013’s Man of Steel (a lot better than Superman Returns), which is where this film starts off. The film begins (after showing the title of the film in a not interesting way, which was one of a number of let downs) showing us what happens to Bruce Wayne’s parents (I doubt there is anyone reading this who did not know they were gunned down in front of young Bruce’s eyes). Flash forward to the ending battle of Man of Steel (with a title card totally not needed) as Superman (Henry Cavill) was battling General Zod (Michael Shannon). It is seen, however, thru the eyes of the adult Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

Fast forward 18 months later, and we see Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in trouble in the middle east, but is saved by Superman. We later see (minor spoiler) that Kent and Lane are living together, meaning she has found out who Clark Kent really is (End minor spoiler). Kent wants to investigate more into the actions of Batman, while Batman (Bruce Wayne, which, again, is not a spoiler) is trying to prove that Superman really could be the destruction of us all.

The cast is not to fault here. There were a lot of haters who were upset that Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. I was not one of them, and am glad I was proven right. There are times when you can catch yourself not seeing him as Ben Affleck but as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Cavill does some equally good work as well. Other actors include Laurence Fishburn as Perry White, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (he is not in Gene Hackman territory but he is still very effective), Holly Hunter as a Senator worried about Superman’s existence, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and Jeremy Irons (who I have yet to see give a bad performance) giving one of my favorite portrayals as Alfred ever put on film. There is also Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (I doubt I am spoiling it, because it is already out there in the ads).

Eventually, we know the fight between the two biggest superheroes in history will happen, and it is rather spectacular to watch. Still, watching the movie was like watching a juggler. Anyone who can juggle three items is more fun to watch that someone who only juggles two. The movie seems to be trying to juggle 14 or so at a time. When you realize why these two icons have to fight, you are not as pumped up as you should be.

Parents, the only real issue is Clark Kent getting into a bathtub with Lois Lane. She is naked (nothing shown below the neck), he has clothes on. They kiss. End scene. Also, the costume Wonder Woman wears is a little revealing, but nothing bad at all. Basically, if you kids want to see the film, they should be fine (ten years old and up).

Like all action films, this one goes on for quiet a long time. It is made by Zach Snyder (who made Man of Steel), a director who is very good at making the frosted topping, but not the rest of the cake. There are obviously good superhero movies for DC (Superman, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and the highly underrated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm). In this film, very little justice is done.

It is not overwhelming, nor completely underwhelming. It is just whelming…still closer to the under part though.

Overall: Two Stars **

 

Ant-Man (2015)

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014

Paul Rudd discovers his future in “Ant-Man”

Back in 5th grade, I was told to do a poem based off of an animal that I was like. My pre-teen, short stature self decided on an ant, who was small, but a hard worker. I thought of this poem while entering “Ant-Man”, hoping for a sleeper of a film to be entertaining and possibly more. Sadly, it was not the case.

Paul Rudd, one of Hollywood’s most charming actors, stars as Scott Lang, a recently released cat-burglar trying to make ends meat and pay child support so he can see his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). His ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) is now dating a cop (Bobby Cannavale), who (surprise!) does not like Scott.

Eventually, Scott steals the Ant-Man suit, only to realize it was planned for him to do so by its creator Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, who can never make a role boring to watch). He is wanting Scott to help steal a piece of armor from Hank’s former partner Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). While I am sure he is a talented actor, Stoll gives us one of the most forgettable villains in recent super hero films, and when a super hero film has a sub par villain, you are in trouble.

Other characters include Hank’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, recently returned from Middle-Earth), who is, of course, opposed to Scott but eventually likes him, and Luis (Michael Pena), a kind hearted friend but, to me, annoying at the end of it all.

Of course, we expect the action (or is it ANTtion?) scenes to be stellar, and they do for the most part. Fighting scenes vary from the inside of a suitcase to a toy train set. We also get a quick cameo from an Avenger, which was nice in its own way.

Paul Rudd does fine as the title character (mainly because there are enough times for him to be Paul Rudd), and Douglas succeeds because, well, he is Michael Douglas for crying out loud! The problem with the film, mainly, is the script. For example, the time to train Scott in the Ant-Man suit is limited (according to Hope) to days, yet the montage (and there has to be one of those, of course) seems to suggest they train for weeks.

Parents, there is some swearing, and action, but nothing else. If your kids have seen any of the other Marvel movies, they would be fine seeing this. I would argue, however, that it is not one of Marvel’s best efforts.

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