I have been summarizing the movies I watched from the past year for eight years. Movies 2018 has the most movies of any of them. Partially, this resulted from watching a handful of films via YouTube playlists. (The quality was fitting the medium.) Yet Movies 2018 also has a excellent slate of trips to the cinema.
Want action? Mission: Impossible: Fallout is bone breakingly good. Want to be scared? A Quiet Place will having you wishing you could scream in terror. Want to know what was the best movie I watched in 2018? You’ll just have to read on…
Mostly just general plot outlines, with fewer plot points than a movie review. Some major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and Suicide Squad (kind of, but who cares about Suicide Squad?).
I recommend all but the *starred.
A Trip to the Movies
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Ant-Man and the Wasp plays much sunnier, wholesome, and cuter than the rest of the Marvel movies. Plot stakes? Who cares! Wasp kicks ass, everyone is having fun, and Louis telling a story is comedy gold. This would be the funniest Marvel movie in not for the gonzo Thor: Ragnarok. Pure fun.
For those keep track at home, this was the twentieth Marvel Cinematic Universe movie and the first with a female lead.
She shared the title with a man. In a sequel.
Avengers: Infinity War
Three acts threes. Just bonkers.
Loki dies in the opening sequence?!
The part that gets me? Star Lord’s a dick. Like objectively his actions don’t make sense and he acts like a petulant child.
Avengers: Infinity War pulls off the near impossible: it provides justification to the villain’s actions. Thanos losses are just as personal to him as to everyone else. Six years in the making, Thanos delivers.
Damn. See Black Panther.
Black Panther is the highest U.S. domestic grossing Marvel movie and it contains no outside Marvel characters. Black Panther succeeds because it is black.
NoApologiesAdvocate and I were privileged to watch the movie in a theater that was 90%+ ethnic minority presenting. Behind us sat two black men older than us. Killmonger’s final line came on the screen: “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.” One of the men behind us whispered, “Ain’t that the truth.”
Blade Runner 2049
I love director Denis Villeneuve because he creates atmospheric films (see Arrival below). Blade Runner 2049 does not disappoint as the colors, the lighting, the extended silences, and the ever present menace mix into a tense tale moving through a fog of remembrance. Until we are awoken with an explosion of violence.
Ryan Gosling is amazing, his performance mesmerizing. The special effects recreating Rachael are jaw dropping. One quibble: the final battle in the car was a little long and ridiculous.
Not quite as perfect as Deadpool (fridging a main character before the title sequence?!) yet very enjoyable in an inappropriate way. Domino steals every scene.
*Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson’s latest animated film did not feel like it contained any stakes for the characters. So why watch? Also, I have never been a fan of stop motion, mostly for the jerky jerky style. While Isle has some smooth portions, it is not Kubo and the Two Strings smooth. Interesting, but pass.
Mission: Impossible: Fallout
Why you should see Fallout: The stunts are real, not CGI and top notch. The spy plot is the right amount of convoluted. The Mission: Impossible homages are excellent. Fallout cost Justice League (dreck, see below) money to digitally remove Henry Cavill’s mustache from reshoots! Tom Cruise broke his ankle filming this! And this:
Worth it for the bathroom fist fight alone.
Once Upon a Deadpool
In case taking your grandmother to see Deadpool 2 was dicey because of the “R” rating, Once Upon a Deadpool was released for the Christmas holiday with a PG-13 rating and Fred Savage reprising his role as the sick grandson from “The Princess Bride” (sort of).
Deadpool 2 holds together better as a movie, but Once Upon a Deadpool has some great additional jokes.
A Quiet Place
Very good, tense thriller.
The opening is brilliant, the ending satisfying, and there are numerous squirm-worthy tense sequences (nail, bathtub, grain elevator). Refreshingly, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The looks between Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, and their children speak more than their silent words.
*Ready Player One
Not good. Ready Player One significantly deviated from the book without a reason and ended up being Spielberg doing a bland imitation of himself.
I appreciated the movie attempting (even if accidentally) to resolve some of the problematic gender issues from the novel. Having Art3mis inside IOI at the climax is more satisfying than Z doing it all. Art3mis and Z meeting earlier provides more credibility to their infatuation as well.
That said, the movie lacked stakes. Z’s characterization failed as an Everyman and with four of the five heroes friends at the start there was little character development. The novel explored themes like the depression that comes with obsession, the awkwardness of making friends when you’re constantly staring into a screen, and dealing with loss when invested in a cause. The movie had the Iron Giant hit Mecha-Godzilla! Disappointing.
*Solo: A Star Wars Story
I wanted to like Solo, but I could feel the retroactive continuity. How did Han and Chewie meet? Not as interesting as you can imagine. How did Han win the Falcon from Lando? The poker game was more exciting in Casino Royale. How was Han given the name Solo?
Wait. He was given the name Solo? Ok, that is a little cool, but also plain unnecessary.
Which sums up Solo: A Star Wars Story. Some neat things, a lot of muddying of your childhood memories and imagination of Han Solo ,and mostly unnecessary.
Some stories push plot to the background and instead move at the pace of life, pausing to show both the mundane and the spectacular while not defining which is which. Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away moves at that pace. There are no lapses in logic because the illogical is simply something to be faced and experienced. A calming story of one girl, and her friend No-Face, growing up.
Shown as part of the Downer Theatre’s Almost Midnight series.
*A Star is Born
A Star is Born is an impressive directorial debut by Bradley Cooper, acting debut by Lady Gaga, and performance by Sam Elliot.
But it is not a “good” movie. I did not enjoy it. I do not recommend it.
The first half wanders as if searching for the pace of life (see Spirited Away), and then (no spoilers) the movie becomes about Bradley Cooper’s character. If you have seen any of the four previous versions of this movie this will not be a surprise, but it should be. The titular character is not the character the movie is about.
Then I read this article which argues A Star is Born is a tired retread of society anti-consent patriarchy. (Sigh)
A Night on the Couch
Beautiful. Touching. Thoughtful. Well acted.
This is the best movie I saw in 2018. Black Panther has greater social relevance, and Spirited Away is more unique, but I was moved more by Arrival. Director Denis Villeneuve again wraps his characters and audience in an atmospheric mix of memory and stress (see Blade Runner 2049 above), but this time colors it with discovery and love. Arrival pays tribute to Contact, the movie staring Jodie Foster based on the book by Carl Sagan, and manages to exceed both.
Where to begin on this mess of a movie?
- The villains are a mess. The cosmic villain is amorphous. Yes, it came from space, but give us sometime tangible to hate (see Thanos, the perfect villain from Avengers: Infinity War above). The human villain’s motivations lack justification. And why is he ugly?
- The action is bland. Show us more lantern training.
- Tim Robbins is killed. Early DC Murderverse?
- So. Many. Leaps. In. Logic.
- Ultimately, I do not care about any of these characters. I do not remember most of their names.
- I watched this as a series of YouTube clips. That’s what this is worth.
- Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds met on set, so something good came out of this mess.
*Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
This is not a good movie.
- Tom Cruise does his own stunts.
- Colby Smolders is a woman with grit and competence.
- Dialogue is atrocious.
- Direction stymies credibility.
- Interesting scenes occur offstage.
- Movie captures none of the fun of the first film.
Not worth free streaming.
- The Amazons (movie’s opening).
- Parademons, Steppenwolf, resurrecting Superman, misuse or non-use of basically every non-superhero, nonsensical set pieces, lip service to saving civilians, …
But at least the Justice League smiled.
#TheDCMurderverseIsDead #LongLiveTheDCMurderverse #YouTubeWatched
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
A production from DC Animated, which more than the DC Murderverse, captures the fun, enjoyment, and stakes of the DC cannon. Basically:
- DC Murderverse: Bad movies (exception: Wonder Woman)
- DC Animated: Good movies
Also, enterprising YouTubers have made playlists of the DC Animated movies so you can watch them in sequence. Yay.
I am a sucker for alternate universes, and Crisis has, as the name suggests: Two. Owlman (the evil twin to Batman) is the gem here, and his nihilism could have fueled a few Batman adventures. Batman’s parting quip to Owlman is a laconic summary of the Dark Knight.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Did I mention I really enjoy alternate universes?
The Flashpoint Paradox is basically alternate universe candy. Another DC Animated I watched on YouTube, there is a plot here, and it is enough for an animated superhero film, however Flashpoint Paradox is basically just a way to show alternative versions of every superhero and villain for an hour and a half. As usual, Batman is the best.
Ocean’s 8 was probably marketed on release as an all-female Ocean’s 11. That’s accurate, but misleading. Ocean’s 11 is a great heist film following the formula of the earlier Ocean’s films (complex double-crosses, a cheeky style, all business until it’s personal, and a cavalcade of stars) that happens to be all women. Love it.
Some movies do not make sense. Some movie are bad. And then some movies do not make sense and are bad. Suicide Squad is worse.
Will Smith deserves props for bringing humanity to any sci-fi film he touches, which, unfortunately, includes this pile of dreck. However, neither he nor Margot Robbie can make Suicide Squad enjoyable to watch.
Summation: Suicide Squad is a part of the DC Murderverse. Yet despite being members of a Suicide Squad in a Murderverse only two of the squad die.
Oh, and Jerad Leto’s Joker was awful AND he violated his fellow actors. Gross.
The Taming of the Shrew
Shrew is a Shakespeare that did not age well, but this recorded stage production captures the comedy and adds zany physical slapstick while showing how a troupe at their peak can astound. Worth the watch from an acting study standpoint. Because, well, misogyny.
You can watch this on YouTube if you do not have a friend with a rare DVD copy of the 1976 production.
(Read about previous years’ movies.)