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.

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 ****

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Baby Groot

I have stated before that I never grew up reading a single comic book. My childhood knowledge of Marvel (as well as DC) came from movies and TV shows. Perhaps this maybe the reason why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 did not appeal to me as much as the first (though it is still worth watching).

GOTG V2 starts off with all the Guardians (Peter/Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot) defending a battery source from a giant monster. This is all done as Groot dances to ELOs “Mr. Blue Sky”, providing one of the movies many pleasant scenes.

Eventually, the Guardians are persued by a group of Golden people called the Sovereigns, led by their High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). They are after batteries stolen from them by Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper, who gives us an even deeper character this time around). The Guardians are forced to crash-land, and are met by Peter’s (Chris Pratt) long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell).

Ego takes Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista, who gives the film some of its most immortal quotes) to his home planet with his assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Staying with the ship is Rocket and (the ever cute) Baby Groot (still voiced by Vin Diesel) as they watch over Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Eventually, they are tracked down by the familiar face of Yondu (the always underappreciated Michael Rooker). He is still after Quill, after being denounced by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone).

What made the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie so endearing was the humor, and Vol. 2 is no different (the same can also be said for the immaculate soundtrack). I won’t ruin any moments, except to say the scene stealing belongs (again) to Groot. When sent to find an item, what he returns with goes from hilarious to even a bit disturbing.

My main issue with the movie is the villain. Without saying who it is (thought it will become rather obvious), the actor is indeed a far talented one. It just seems like the Guardians have more than enough character and spunk to deserve a much menacing villian. In Vol. 2, the villian is downright forgettable.

Parents, if you kids have seen the first movie, they are fine with this one. There is some action/violence (mild), swearing, and one awkward (though funny) scene about where babies come from.

I know there are probably a lot of nods to the comics that would make GOTG V2 very appreciated by comic book fans. Good for them. I am more of a movie fan. That being said, the movie does give us some good slow moments of reflection (especially at the end, which took me off guard).

While it is not as good as the first one, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has certainly started the 2017 movie season with a bang.

 

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

Logan (2017)

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Hugh Jackman unleashes the claws one last time.

Not to start anything here, but who needs a wall on the Mexican border when we have Wolverine?

 

Wolverine was one of my favorite superheroes growing up for one main reason: the claws. I mean, I would look at my hands sometimes as a kid and thought to myself, “How cool would it be to have three metal knifes just come out of my hand whenever I want?” Logan‘s Hugh Jackman has been donning the claws since 2000’s X-Men, and now, in his final performance (he has stated that skin cancer and age are why he is stepping down), he gives a truly stellar and even subtle performance as the self-healing mutant (though not always healing on the inside).

The movie starts out at a gas station in 2029, where most mutants are long gone. The opening scene is how the director (James Mangold) will show us that this is no kiddie movie by any means. Logan/Wolverine has used his claws before, but this is one of the times we get to see the aftermath. Living off the Mexican border, Logan is accompanied by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) as they both look after Logan’s old mentor, Charles (that always subliminal thespian Patrick Stewart), who was once known as Professor X. Thru mere chance (ok, not really) one day, Logan comes across Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who is helping a child mutant escape from the authorities. Her name is Laura, and is played by newcomer Dafne Keen, and she gives one heck of a knockout performance (literally). She is one of many child mutants who are trying to make it to a safe place in North Dakota.

Parents, as stated before, this is no kid movie. It deserves its R rating (though not as bad as Deadpool, who may or may not pop up for about five minutes). There is swearing, violence (though in these days with The Walking Dead, there is not much worse you can see on TV,) and one very brief scene of nudity (it happens in the back of a limo when someone flashes Logan, but it is very quick and over in only a second or two). Nevertheless, High School and above only.

Even at a run time of 2 hours and 17 minutes, this movie does not seem to drag on (for the most part). My only really qualm with the film is not having that great of a villain (at least when measured against the greats like the Joker, Doc Ock, and Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor). One way or the other, the film is sure to delight all, comic book fans or not.

Possibly the best thing about Logan is it reminds us of the most important element needed in any superhero/comic book movie.

 

That element is human.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Deadpool (2016)

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Deadpool fears no one, especially the fourth wall…

It could be argued that Ryan Reynolds may not have just been born to play Wade Wilson/Deadpool, but he was playing him not long after he was out of the womb.

He and director Tim Miller really understand the character, one of the best anti-hero examples of recent years. It is Reynolds that is the real reason to see the film. I only wish the movie gave us a better script that was not completely by the book.

For those who don’t know about the character, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is diagnosed with multiple cancers. He is offered a chance to beat it, so he leaves his new girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) one night to be subjected to treatment. Not all goes well, and, hence, Deadpool is born.

There are definitely many funny moments (a lot of which I will not quote here, for fear of young eyes reading). Ok, I will say one good one. While being taken by Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) to see Professor X, Deadpool asks, “Stewart or McAvoy?”

Parents, if there were ever a superhero movie not made for children, this is definitely it. Lots of violence, profanity, and sex. Trust the R rating.

I admit I did not laugh as much as I wanted. The story timeline jumping back and forth were unneeded in my mind, and the villain was not very memorable. Still, Reynolds makes the movie worth seeing.

Note: I just had a weird idea of Deadpool hosting the Oscars. Or, more likely, crashing it.

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 ****