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2018 ROUND-UP

My favorite (and least favorite) things I saw in 2018

 

MY FAVORITE STUFF

(in no particular order at all)

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When you’re updating a relatively classic film like A Star Is Born, you’d better hope you have a couple people with star power. Fortunately, this one did, and we ended up with a tour-de-force performance from Lady Gaga and a fresh, modern imagining worthy of the same name as the original films.

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Ten years ago, the idea of taking a relatively minor C-List superhero and turning them into a cultural milestone would have been ridiculous… and then there was Black Panther. A giant blockbuster with themes about colonization, inequality in the third world, and the black American experience? And there’s punching? Black Panther was rad.

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Divisive, complicated, and stunningly beautiful, Annihilation hopefully receives the same treatment that Arrival last year: being somewhat ignored by an audience who didn’t understand it, and then loved a few months later when the nerds tear into it a little. Poignant and thought-provoking, but definitely challenging.

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Touching, powerful, and sometimes hard to watch, Eighth Grade was a trip through your memories of Junior High, updated for the modern age. The lead actress, Elsie Fisher, delivers a crazy performance for a kid, and makes the movie human and relatable in a way that I didn’t expect.

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Objectively just an OK movie from a technical perspective, and flat out fraudulent from a historical perspective, Bohemian Rhapsody instead presents an audience pleasing good time, with a final act that is worth the price of admission to the theater alone.

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Both a technical achievement and a fun, heartfelt movie, Isle of Dogs flew under a lot of people’s radar because of the unusual-looking stop motion animation and audience unfriendly sections without subtitles. Open-minded viewers will find a lot to love here, however.

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Revamping a treasured franchise is difficult, but Halloween 2018 did it. Tightly paced, frightening, and interestingly plotted, Halloween does a great job of providing a modern slasher movie that still feels relevant today.

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Another great film from an African-American filmmaker in a year with a lot of strong African-American films, Sorry To Bother You is bold, brash (in all the right ways), and confrontationally funny. A subversive, scathing good time that will definitely make some audiences very uncomfortable.

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Charming and surprisingly dark, Christopher Robin aimed to connect with adult audiences who grew up loving Winnie the Pooh, and succeeded fairly well. Despite some minor plot issues, a great Pooh movie made primarily for adults.

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Twisting and twisted, A Simple Favor is the understated crime thriller that nobody expected this year. Half the fun is guessing what you think is happening, only to have your expectations subverted almost immediately.

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Duh, punchy superhero movie fights big purple space man was of course going to be on here. Who didn’t see this movie this year, seriously?

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Another incredibly subversive but fascinating movie, BlacKkKlansman offered an incredibly sharp rebuke of white supremacy in a time when Americans grappled with the issue themselves. The movie is dripping with style, and Topher Grace turns in an unexpectedly genius performance.

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Creed II is interesting as a continuation of Creed’s story, but provides some unexpected depth and strength from closing up Ivan Drago’s storyline from thirty years ago. Very much in the spirit of the original Rocky films.

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I read an interview with the director where he said he wasn’t trying to make a movie everyone liked, he wanted to make a movie that was one dude’s favorite movie ever. That’s a pretty good synopsis of this one. If you liked the John Wick movies but wanted them to be weirder, this is right up your alley.

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Tense, suspenseful, and dramatic, A Quiet Place is the only film where I’ve heard the audience be 100% silent the entire running time. Despite a couple goofy plot elements, an exciting watch.

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Certainly not a masterful movie, but an unexpectedly funny and twisty comedy at a time when flat-out entertainment is highly appreciated.

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A lot of viewers dismissed this as ‘the computer movie’ because so much of the film is told via a PC desktop. Don’t let that scare you away, this movie is a fascinating challenge to the traditional form of filmmaking, and offers a story worth paying attention to.

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Tully is, strangely, a movie that benefits from me not telling you much about it, other than that it captures the frustrations of being an adult and a parent better than any other movie this year.

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Darkly scary and deeply disturbing, Hereditary is a horror movie that benefits from a couple viewings, but is terrifying enough to let a single viewing stand on its own. Highly recommended for a particular sequence of events midway through the movie that completely change everything that follows in an unpredictable, insane way.

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology movie (which I tend to love), and offers such a varied range of experiences and themes that I think anyone who likes western movies will find something to love here.

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Another movie that’s not a masterpiece but is very, very entertaining, Overlord is the gory, action-packed WW2 horror thriller you didn’t know you were waiting for. Flawed, but deeply enjoyable.

 

THE SUPER DUMB STUFF

(in no particular order at all)

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I’ve been asked a few times this year what the worst movie I’ve ever seen was, and I think it genuinely might be this one. Abysmal acting (that’s what happens when you don’t hire actors), poor pacing, and a script that’s kinda insulting to one of the main characters (an actual, real person), this movie was terrible. Oh lord, so terrible.

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Crass, dumb, and tone deaf, Death Wish might have been fun had it been more… well, fun… but instead it came off as kinda gross in a year with a record number of public shootings and violence. Willis seemingly didn’t give a shit about being in this movie, so you don’t need to care about it either.

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An almost offensive waste of a premise and a charismatic lead actor, Skyscraper is the most cookie-cutter action movie you can think of. Grab a piece of paper and write down the first ten things that come to your mind when you read ‘The Rock trapped in a burning building’. Every one of those ideas happens in this movie. Absolutely zero tension, zero risks, and ultimately zero interest in this one.

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Remember that King Arthur movie that came out last year that nobody cared about? Now its a Robin Hood one! This one made me angry, because I like every member of this cast, but what an uninteresting mess of a movie.

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So, so bad. Have you ever seen a movie that went from over-the-top to boring within the span of about thirty seconds? That’s Gotti. I saw this movie for free and am still pissed that I saw it. Travolta phones it in with a script that is convinced simply saying the name ‘Gotti’ is enough to keep audiences interested. It is not.

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There is nothing in this movie that I haven’t seen done better in an amateur YouTube fan film for Slender Man. Don’t even bother.

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A real hot mess of a movie. I mean, I enjoyed parts of it, but an unfocused and lackadaisical script that insists on focusing on the wrong characters means that The Nun was just mediocre all around.

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Yes, I saw this. The main characters still have whatever the opposite of chemistry is, the dialogue is still terrible, and the whole thing looks like a Nissan commercial. At least the damn series is over, right?

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Does anybody in 2018 need a movie where a well-intentioned politician gets railroaded by outside forces? No? You could really just watch the news and skip this forgettable retelling of Hart’s failed Presidential campaign.

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Crass and generally unfunny (with the few semi-clever jokes dumped into the trailer), this seems like a movie that could have been a modern Roger Rabbit, but instead ends up like a really bad SNL skit that goes on entirely too long.