We enjoy reviewing all sorts of movies, from the big budget and comic-book to the more indie and festival fare. Between these four of our movie writers we have seen a lot of movies, and have a few different opinions.
Now let’s sit back and review the year that was with our favorites of 2018!
Cole’s Top 5 Films of 2018:
Hi, my name is Cole (you: hi Cole) and I watch horror movies. Just outside my top five for the year is A Quiet Place. It’s a movie that gave me my favorite kill of the year within the first ten minutes of the runtime. Uh. Spoilers. It committed itself to its concept of silence and was my favorite overall experience at the theaters this year too. Some horror works really well to watch alone in your room on a laptop, but I’ll never forget how an entire theater filled with people could go so quiet. Also the Halloween franchise came back this year in a big way. It suffered a little from 2018 humor at the wrong spots, but when it got down to its mono e womono climax, I was hooked. And for horror with laughs and fun throughout, check out Chance the Rapper’s acting debut where he plays a chinese takeout delivery guy werewolf in a town built on a hell dimension in Slice. Outside horror, Three Identical Strangers was my favorite documentary in a year full of them. And for 2018 being the most ambitious comic book year to date, my favorite movie based on a superhero was James Wan’s Aquaman. But all these greats fall short to my…
The trend I saw this year in my favorite movies was the less I knew about them, the more I liked them. That being said, I’m going to tell you too much about these movies. Saying Tully has a twist at all kind of ruins it because ¾ into the movie it still just feels like grown-up Juno. Which is a complement, and by the way of course it does, it’s got the same director and writer. So if you like these also check out Young Adult if you missed that one back in 2011. Tully has such a warmth to her character and that defines the movie. It’s nice.
4. Mission Impossible: Fallout
The best straight action movie of this year, last year, or maybe any year since Fast Five. And like that Fast & Furious franchise, the Missions Impossible are getting better as they go. The bathroom scene certainly stands out in terms of blunt action, but the whole movie moves with momentum that so many others miss. Also, this is the exception to the rule I stated above. I had high expectations for this movie after seeing the trailer (aside: best trailers of 2018 went MI6 ft. Imagine Dragons, Bumblebee, and Cloverfield Paradox during the Super Bowl in that order). Tom Cruise still got it.
3. Mary Poppins Returns
It was a joy seeing the same Mary Poppins bring her whimsy to a new generation of Banks kids. This time instead of settling down two unruly children, she teaches a hardened and more grown-up generation to still have fun. It was also a breath of life to Disney. After slogging through the callback laiden, wink-winkiest, product placement infestation that was Ralph Breaks the Internet I thought I would never get another Disney movie that could get through the runtime without asking if I understood that reference. Turns out the very next one I saw could do it, all inside a plot that lifts EVERY SINGLE BEAT from the original. And that’s okay because they don’t look at the camera telling you it’s from the first one. It’s a genuine fun movie. Oh, and of course with amazing songs and dance.
2. Eighth Grade
I often think my parents are old and lame. Because they are. Their taste in movies follows suit. But movies like this remind me how fast generations move. Director Bo Burnham (not coincidentally to me loving this movie, my favorite stand up comic) is my age, yet he directed a movie that felt honest to Gen Z. He didn’t make fun of them for being tech-y. He didn’t look down on them for being young or naive. He told an amazing story brought to life by the best performance of the year Elsie Fisher. This is not my parents’ type of movie, but the first thing I did when walking out of the theater is tell them to watch it. Hopefully whether you are 66, 28, or a 13-year-old eighth grader yourself, you can enjoy this movie.
Holy balls this movie was rad. Bringing the list full circle, I didn’t know anything about Overlord before I sat my butt in a theater seat and I’m glad. I didn’t have the expectation of the next zombie horde movie hanging over my head. What I got was a seriously shot war drama that explores the insanity and science-fiction side of Nazi human experimentation. The visuals were off the charts and the characters were funny and real. The upper and middle crust of horror is divided by how stupid your group of kids in a cabin are, and this group was amazing. They each had a role to play. No one was immune to death. And the main POV guy has an arc of growth. 2018 was the year where I became a professional movie critic. It doesn’t take long to start dissecting every scene and moment when it’s your job to do so. But there were still a few movies that let me have fun in the theater, which is why I started doing this anyway.
Madison’s Top 5 Films of 2018
My favorite movies this year are the cinematic equivalent of listening to Top 40. I don’t care. I love the movies I love. A big part of how I know what is going to make my list is my post-cinema glow, or how I feel when the credits roll. Which is why Mission Impossible: Fallout and Annihilation are on here. Fallout left me wide-eyed and dumbfounded. It is easily one of the best action films ever made and demonstrates that the MI franchise only gets better with age. And you can read my take on Annihilation, here, but suffice to say that movie left me contemplative, pleasantly confused, and somber. It was on my mind for days afterward which is why I wrote about it. And my final Honorable Mention is Deadpool 2 because duh.
The entirety of Destination Wedding is Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder talking. That’s it. Everyone else in the film is basically a prop for two cynical, piss-n-vinegar people to react to. And, damn, is it enjoyable. Filmed in 10-days on a shoestring budget, Destination Wedding feels like it’s a movie made by a bunch of friends over a weekend — but it’s actually good. Because it lacks pretty much everything that makes a movie big these days (CGI, massive budgets, ensemble casts, etc.), Destination Wedding lives by its writing and acting. It is a middle-finger to every film-studio that thinks that throwing a shit-ton of money and CG at a mediocre script is OK (I’m looking at you Aquaman and Solo). Reeves and Ryder are in excellent form with genuine on-screen chemistry. There are lots of single-takes because if the actors know their lines, why cut away? See this movie.
4. Bad Times at the El Royale
I do not know how there wasn’t more buzz about Bad Times at the El Royal. It was so good. Imagine a bunch of strangers with intersecting secrets and stuff all meet in a seedy hotel. Barely anyone is a traditional good guy and you just know there’s going to be a shoot-out. After discussing the film with the girl I saw it with, I realized that Bad Times is a movie for people who like movies. It is full kibble for cinephiles — long-takes, clever twists, ensemble casts (with great performances by all), good writing, and fresh lighting and cinematography. If you aren’t looking for these things, you’re going to miss how great this film is. With Bad Times, Drew Goddard, basically set-up a ton of dominoes in new and interesting ways. While it isn’t a perfect movie, it is intensely good to watch and I highly recommend it.
3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is proof that the superhero-genre is neither stale nor fatigued. Into the Spider-Verse injects into the Spider-Man franchise and the superhero-genre a freshness that demonstrates the world might never be tired of seeing this character on the silver screen. It was beyond fun to watch and the most comic-y comic-book movie I’ve ever seen on-screen. And have I mentioned how gorgeous nearly every frame of the movie is? The blending of 2-d and 3-d animation styles with the chromatic aberrations and tri-chromatic dots makes everything pop. For anyone still wondering why everyone loves Spider-Man, see this movie.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
What Disney has done with Marvel is nothing short of amazing. In Film History 101 in 3019AD, students will spend a great deal of time talking about Marvel. At our present moment in history, there are few things that are able to dominate and shape our culture with as much force as this era of cinematic superheroes. Credit must be given where credit is due. With Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel begins to deliver on 10 years of promises. Tony Stark in that humvee in Iron Man 1 could not have predicted it would all lead to Thanos’ snap. Ambitious is almost an understatement. Marvel haters be damned, Infinity War was phenomenal.
Black Panther absolutely deserves to be the top film of the year. It captured the American imagination for months. It is the highest grossing movie of the year and the highest grossing superhero film ever. It is the third highest grossing film of all time. It proves, beyond doubt, that films with a racially diverse cast will not just succeed, but financially swamp every other movie for months. And beyond the money, it was a great film independent of being a Marvel movie. Like, I almost don’t care that it exists in a universe with Iron Man. In fact, I nearly forgot it did until a post-credits scene. By far, it was the most intelligent Marvel movie and might be the first of the franchise to actually say something important. It is aware of the personal and cultural horrors of slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism, and the struggles of black America today. And Coogler gave us one of Marvel’s best villains to date in Kilmonger. But even more than all that, Black Panther, and 2018 in general with Sorry to Bother You and Blackkklansmen, demonstrates that the future of cinema is diversity and the voice of black America is powerful, necessary, and healing.
Emily’s Top 3 Films of 2018:
Lots of good movies this year. Also a lot that were right on the cusp of being great. Solo was one of those ones for me that seriously almost made it to my favorites for the year. Alden Ehrenreich had a lot to live up to depicting the young nerf herder that has become one of the most iconic characters in cinema. That being said, I was really happy with his performance. The only things that put this further down for me were (sorry to say) Emilia Clarke, Lando’s short-lived robot copilot, that surprise cameo at the end…but those Landon Chronicles. So good. Donald Glover nailed that character. It was the cocky Lando we knew from Cloud City, mixed with Glover’s own take. I loved it.
Also, I’ve got to put The Meg in with my honorable mentions for the year. Was it pretty ridiculous? Yeah. Was the acting subpar except for maybe Handsome Rob and his Kiwi compadre? Yeah…But did it still make for a good summer shark flick, made even better when viewed in a theater with other Jaws-fearing movie-goers? Absolutely. It was the easy-going, summer escapist movie I was looking for.
3. Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians would live up to the good things I was hearing about it, and it did. This movie was a game-changer on a lot of levels. Not only was it the most successful romantic comedy in nearly 10 years, it also was the most successful box office hit with an all-Asian cast in nearly a quarter of a century.
Yeah, this movie was one for the books. But beyond the stats, I fell in love with so many of the characters, not to mention the filming locations that made me want to hop on the first plane to Singapore. But this movie also had one of the most satisfying endings that I’ve seen in a long time. A fulfilling wrap-up that actually showed character development rather than just telling it, something that too many rom-coms struggle with. All in all, a great addition to my favorite genre.
2. Christopher Robin
As a fan of Winnie the Pooh and A. A. Milne’s other characters pretty much since I could walk, I knew I needed to see Christopher Robin. Luckily, it did not disappoint. It was the perfect blend of nostalgia for the original characters I had grown up with mixed with a charming new story that keep the movie moving at a good pace. I loved that Jim Cummings reprised his role as the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, his voice being the one I’ve come to associate with the characters. Ewan McGregor, as always, was also great in his role as the film’s titular character, now all grown up and missing out on what matters most. Add in some travel balloons, heffalumps and woozles, and Pooh talking to random strangers on the street and you’ve got the perfect feel-good movie of the year for anyone who’s needed help finding their way back home.
1. A Quiet Place
This may be the first time my favorite movie of the year was a horror film, and yet A Quiet Place wasn’t your traditional horror. Sure you’ve got demogorgons hunting humanity in an apocalyptic world. But at its core you’ve also got a broken family, each member attempting to cope with their own form of trauma. The horror setting only sharpens that study of trauma and the bonds that define family relationships. Plus its use (and lack) of sound was brilliant. Not to mention the film’s color schemes, John Krasinski’s directing, Emily Blunt in that bathtub scene (and pretty much the whole movie)…I could go on and on. This was one movie that was amazing to see in the theaters (I’ve never been in a theater that quiet before, it was an experience in and of itself), but still just as good at home with the lights turned off. I loved it. Definitely my favorite movie of the year.
Tristan’s Top 5 Films of 2018:
I went to over 60 movies in theaters this year. That’s was a good lot for me. I was glad to see everything from Indie to tentpole, Marvel to docudrama. BlacKKKlansman is going to be on a bunch of our lists, and for good reason too. There’s movies that are enjoyable to watch, movies that teach and educate, movies that inspire, and combinations of so many other purposes. Spike Lee went ahead and gave us a film in 2018 that takes us back to the 1970s to see the problems that we’re still facing. BlacKkKlansman is the most impactful movie this year. John K and Emily B took me for a fun ride in A Quiet Place, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a slice of healing pie. These days with so many shouting voices, you can forget about the saint that we had in Fred Rogers. I wish we had Fred around still. Bohemian Rhapsody is a music biopic (something I know my boy Cole hates) and for me it was audiophile heaven. I watch the Queen LiveAid concert clip pretty often, so to see that completely re-enacted was amazing. Rami Malek played Freddie perfectly, and it was so enjoyable I could forget about the speed and shortcuts they took. I’m buying it soon as it’s out. Final one is Green Book, a recent fave of mine. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali knock this buddy film out of the park. It’s like…Planes, Trains, and Automobiles meets The Soloist meets The Prince and the Pauper. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. I laughed and got all warm and fuzzy. That makes a good movie in my book.
5. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot
Let’s start off on the right foot. Or in the case of Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, on the right wheel. Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill, Jack Black and Rooney Mara. What’s not to like? This movie surprised me. I think still about how enjoyable and uplifting it is. In fact, it could be farther down my list if not for its lovable tone, humor, and spiritualist aspects. I wanted to go to AA, find a gay guru, and start drawing comic strips. If that sounds weird, it’s because it is. And yet, it is a story of redemption and finding peace in the midst of tragedy. From director Gus Van Sant, this joins Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, and Milk as one of his best. You need to see it.
4. The Favourite
Let me go ahead and say this: The Favourite is not for everyone. Anyone who needs a list full of “good movies for everyone” can go ahead and read their local mommy blog or city newspaper. *Did I offend enough people yet? The amount of offensively brutal and weird moments in The Favourite far outweigh the normal arc and period drama that you would expect. It is a black comedy, a dark and dirty movie about getting ahead, complicated personalities, and courting…*wait for it*…favour. Next to La La Land this is Emma Stone’s best performance. Yeah, I said it. Better than The Help. Rachel Weisz is hauntingly devious, and Olivia Coleman plays the fictionalized queen perfectly. This fictional period piece will have you wondering why more directors don’t take a chance on something freshly innovative and creative. Then again…you might have that answer if The Favourite isn’t for you. And if it isn’t, well…enjoy your dinner at Applebees.
3. Sorry to Bother You
Here comes Tristan with another weird one. Sorry to Bother You is weird AF. I mean, a drug trip. How else is a wild and funny discussion on classism, capitalism, lower class enslavement to rent and living expenses, greed, selling out your friends, labor unions and laws, brutality, and art supposed to end up like? Director Boots Riley is a music video director so it gives the whole movie a sort of pop-punk-funk overtone that made it an exploration of those themes in Oakland accompanied by great music. For those who didn’t get it, the movie is too odd. I’ve even tried to explain more to parents and friends alike what certain moments and things meant…and it went over their heads. I was at the Q&A with Boots, Terry Crews, Lakeith Stanfield, and Patton Oswalt (which can be found here), so I can understand I’ll have more of an affection than many. My final thought is though: when people first watched Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in 1964, there were presumably tons of people confused and frustrated by it. Fast forward, and it sits at #39 on the AFI Top 100 Movies of all Tiime, ahead of Sound of Music, King Kong, Rear Window, West Side Story, and Jaws.
My take? We have a gem in Sorry to Bother You whether or not you know it yet.
2. A Star is Born
My list can’t be complete without the film that brought me to tears. Yep. Men can shed a few salty drops too. Alex, I’m talkin’ to you. Bradley Cooper shows up to the scene and says “Hey, I’d like to direct.” What does he want to direct? How’s about the 4th iteration of A Star is Born. Who does he recruit? A musician whose life parallels the character in the film in more ways than one. The result? Movie magic and a film primed to snag tons of awards at the Golden Globes and Oscars. A Star is Born has fantastic original music, chemistry fit for a lab, and performances befitting the praise given. I left the movie with my friend in awe. Tyler and I already did a big piece on it that you can read here, so check that out if you want to read more. Loved it. Gaga stole my heart, Bradley Cooper broke it, and Sam Elliott taught me patience. No, Ariana I’m not about that triplet. Thank you, next.
Jonah Hill doesn’t hold back. You always see Jonah Hill doing his thing at the top level. Superbad may have kicked off his career as the zaney, husky, comedic relative of Chris Farley, but Mid90s shatters that one-sided characterization in an instant. I loved Jonah’s performances in both Don’t Worry… and in this Fall’s Maniac. He steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park with Mid90s. It is simple, told from the perspective of a young kid, and portrays the skate culture and lives of 90s adolescence so well. While I really enjoyed Eighth Grade, I didn’t connect with it like I did Mid90s. I wasn’t even the skater kid, I was that accomplice on a bmx bike with front and back pegs. These punk skater kids-turned actors have reminds me of so many of my good friends growing up, down to their undying loyalty even after stupid arguments and picking on each other. Is Mid90s perfect? No way. Does that take away from the wonder and simple magnificence of the film? Not one bit. I saw it a couple times in theaters and will own it soon enough. If you didn’t connect with it, hope you found another movie that did. For me Mid90s was the nostalgic film that brought back the feelings of being a kid, and delivered my favorite movie of 2018.