Going Back To The Theater
I love the movies. But, in the last few years, I haven’t been going to the movies as much because of family, work and life.
For Christmas last year, my wife got me a MoviePass and that got me going to the theater again. I stopped using MoviePass after my April 30, 2018 screening of Avengers: Infinity War because of the changes in terms that were being implemented. I switched to Cinemark’s Movie Club.
The one thing that made going back to the movies easier was reserved seating. Early in the year, the only theater near me that had reserved seating was CineLux Theaters. Their seating wasn’t great, their projectors and screens were dim. But, the convenience of reserved seating had me going there. The Century 20 Oakridge started converting to reserved seating and I switched to going there for movies – I even saw Woz there a few times.
The first 2018 release I saw was The Commuter. A list of 2018 releases that I saw this year is at the end of this post.
I used to write long reviews about the movies I saw, but I don’t have time for that anymore. I do take notes (sometimes very detailed notes) about movies after I see them. These are my “Best of…” movies for 2018. I do have a very specific taste in movies – action-adventure – but, I do see other genres from time to time too. This list will be skewed a bit towards the action-adventure genre though.
These are excerpts from my notes for each film.
These movies are the best films for 2018 because they are great films. The diversity in cast and crew just makes them even better
Black Panther (2018)
By far one of my favorite Marvel films, it is right up there with Captain America: Winter Soldier.
What this film does right is that while the title character gets a lot of focus, the film really focuses on two other characters, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger and Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia.
The Killmonger is a particularly fascinating character because unlike other antagonists, this one is built around a motivation that is rooted in something that is completely relatable. The writers were able to show that his approach to solving the problem is disagreeable, but the problem itself is one that is noble.
I particularly love how the film’s title character is a King, but the women around him, especially Nakia are the ones that are wise and powerful.
Marvel has taken a seemingly three-pronged approach to its films. The big end-of-the-world films like Avengers; the wacky films like Guardians and Thor Ragnarok; and then the serious films like Black Panther and Winter Soldier. Of the three, I enjoy the later two the most because they focus on characters and not a world-ending event. Marvel films are at their best when they center around characters, this is most evident with Black Panther.
Black Panther is a highly entertaining and thought provoking film.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
The art direction in the film needs to be applauded. The visual style and animation style of the film makes the film a feast for the eyes. I can’t wait to see this film a few more times because of the art direction only.
The score by Daniel Pemberton is great.
The best kind of film is the one that makes the audience want to spend more time with the characters. This film is one of those kinds of films. I liked each and every Spider-people that showed up and I want them all to have their own films so that I can see what happened to them.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
I loved this movie, not just because it is funny and romantic, but because it resonated with me and my experiences with my family. My family is not rich, but there is something about being Chinese that crosses all economic lines. The dumpling making, the large family celebrations, reverence for the mother of the family, mahjong and other Chinese traditions shown in the film all resonated with me.
Everyone in the film is great. Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh and Gemma Chan are excellent. Awkwafina steals every scene she’s in. There is not one bad performance in the whole film.
The script is tight and moves along at a good pace. The writing is sharp, funny and touching.
I loved the music in the film and it was great to see Kina Grannis making a cameo and singing in the film.
Most Fun to Watch Over and Over
Don’t judge me, but there are certain films I just like watching over and over again. Yes, I enjoy watching Oscar-worthy films, but usually only once. There is a class of films that are fun to watch over and over again. These are my picks from this year – I have these films on Blu-ray and have seen them multiple times.
Ocean’s 8 (2018)
Ocean’s 8 is a very entertaining film by itself, it is a decent entry into the Ocean’s franchise. There are some slow spots in the film, but otherwise, the film is great and left me with a smile on my face as the credits roll.
The big star of the film is not Sandra Bullock nor Cate Blanchett – no, the star of the film is Anne Hathaway who steals the show the minute she shows up on screen. Her character is hilarious and Hathaway plays it all very well. That’s not to say that Bullock and Blanchett are bad, they are excellent in the film also. The supporting cast are good too and I liked that James Corden made an appearance.
Ocean’s 8 is super entertaining, well-made and polished. The cast is impeccable; the music is spot on; and the edit and camerawork does a good job of mimicking the original film. It is well-worth a watch.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Did we really need an origin story for Han Solo? Not really. After seeing the film, am I glad that they did make this film? Kinda. Did I like the film? Yes, a lot actually. The film captures something that the first three Disney-led Star Wars films did not: A sense of fun. This is a Star Wars film I can watch over and over again without being bored.
Solo never rises to the sheer brilliance of The Empire Strikes Back nor does it have the powerful emotional punch of Rogue One. Solo does not tread over the same tropes and pay fan-service as The Force Awakens nor does it get too deep in thought like The Last Jedi. Solo is much like the very first Star Wars film, a fun popcorn flick that moves along at a quick pace and has enough to make me smile and be happy.
It took me a little to get use to Alden Ehrenreich in Harrison Ford’s iconic Han Solo character, but once I did, Ehrenreich was fantastic in the role – after the first reel, he really makes the character his own and I applaud him for that. Donald Glover absolutely steals every scene he is in as Lando Calrissian. It is a bit unfortunate that talents like Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany and Woody Harrelson are given characters that are woefully underdeveloped. They do what they can, but it could have been better.
The one thing I did not like much in the film was the droid L3-37. While she was not as bad as Jar Jar Binks, she came borderline close to being that annoying. If I had one piece of advice for Disney and those tasked with writing the scripts for future Star Wars films, it would be this: Not every film needs a droid for comedy relief.
The special effects in the film were fantastic – this is a given. There were some minor effects that didn’t work. The one that sticks out in my mind is when Thandie Newton’s character shoots a cable and then swings away from a platform. That effect was laughably bad. The train sequence was great as was the Kessel Run sequence.
I am glad that the film had very little dealings with the Empire. I am also happy that there were no mentions of that troublesome family, the Skywalkers. This film was solely focused on Han and Chewy.
The score by John Powell was good. It weaved enough of the themes from John Williams’s scores to make it a Star Wars score, but he added enough of his own personality to make it his own. I will have to listen to it more, but on a whole the score sounded more like a Star Wars score than Michael Giacchino’s score for Rogue One (which was a great score, but just didn’t capture Star Wars as well).
Overall, I really enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
Run Tom, Run.
This is hands down my favorite of the series. The film is two and a half hours long, but it never felt like it. The film is paced superbly with enough spy’ish stuff to string the story along between action sequences.
The movie is packed with action sequences and what I have come to enjoy about the McQuarrie films in this series is the nearly obsessive adherence to shooting stunts for real on camera and employing as little digital effects as possible. The action sequences are thrilling because of this and there is a palpable feeling of danger when watching the action on screen. There were quite a few sequences in the film and all were shot well, without an overuse of shaky-cam or quick-cuts to try to “enhance” the action. The action sequences were easy to follow and in some places harrowing – the helicopter sequence at the end of the film was brilliant, as was the HALO jump near the end of the first reel.
The entire ensemble cast is great in the film. Tom Cruise, who has said that he loves to entertain continues to do just that. When this man is committed to a film, the film is just that much better. I do worry about him though, at 56 he might want to pass the baton on the Mission: Impossible films. But, given that, the stunt work that he did himself was incredible. Ving Rhames, who other than Tom Cruise, is the only cast member that has appeared in all six films, is given an excellent scene near the middle of the film with Rebecca Fergusson – he nails it and it is one of the standout quiet moments of the film. Fergusson is great in the film also, as is Pegg. Henry Cavill turns in an excellent performance also with just enough charm and sneer to make his character what Ethan Hunt quaintly describes as a “prick”. I am sad that Alec Baldwin won’t be returning to the series, we only just got to meet him and his character was so happy in his last scene.
The movie is gorgeously shot. Each frame a painting in motion with the camera moving in just the right way to keep the eyes interested in what is happening. The camera lingers on wide shots and is not afraid to leave characters as small figures on a larger background. The use of long lenses to shoot the helicopter chase scene further enhanced the thrill of the chase. There is a shot of Hunt arriving in a car to an airfield that could have been shot staticly, but the camera is mounted on a follow vehicle that is moving a tad slower than Hunt’s car, letting the camera soak up the whole scene and framing the interesting objects in the frame.
The score by Lorne Balfe is good and captures the feel of a Mission: Impossible score. I am not sure it is as good as the Elfman (Mission: Impossible) or Kraemer (Rogue Nation) scores. I will need to listen to it a few more times.
Overall, I loved this movie. It is very watchable and exciting. I love how McQuarrie’s script is able to bring together so many of the threads that ran through films 3-5.
Tomb Raider (2018)
I was not disappointed by the film. The casting of Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft was a brilliant move. Not only can she act, but she can also be a badass at the same time. Her Lara Croft couldn’t be more different that Jolie’s and I like Vikander’s Lara much better. She is grounded in reality, she has feelings and doesn’t speak completely in one-liners. She is vulnerable, yet she kicks some serious ass. Vikander is what makes Tomb Raider so watchable.
The story is a reboot/origin story for Lara Croft and while it had enough to keep the film moving, there were some parts that were just slow and the pacing of the film was a little bit uneven. I did like how they squeezed in the iconic shot of Lara leaping off a sinking ship, that was a nice gimme for gamers. The film is very derivative and takes from many sources – the biggest being Raiders of the Lost Ark. But, when the film gets into gear for action scenes, it really doesn’t matter – the action scenes have a nice sense of urgency and energy to them.
Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
A super fun film that the kids and I all enjoyed. The special effects in the film were mind-blowingly good. The film is really funny. I wish Marvel would make more movies where the world is not in danger of being destroyed. The best thing about Ant-Man and The Wasp is that the story is focused and personal.
These are the movies that were surprises for me. Every one of these films, I went into without knowing much about them. They are films that, in the past, I would not have seen. But, because I was going to the theaters so much, I found time to watch these ones and I am happy that I did.
Game Night (2018)
A surprisingly fun and funny movie. I went to see this movie because the trailer looked slightly interesting and there was no other movies that looked good this week. I am glad that I saw the film, the short running time (one hour and forty minutes) was perfect for this film.
All the leads in the film are good, but it’s Jesse Plemons as the police neighbor that steals the show. Rachel McAdams is the best thing in the film, playing against any expectations of herself from previous roles.
The score by Cliff Martinez works very well with the film. I have the score separately and listen to it, it works by itself, but much better with the film.
The film moves at such a quick pace that it keeps things enjoyable.
A surprisingly good movie. I laughed a lot during the film, which I expected. There was quite a bit of sentimentality at the end of the film, which worked very well and I did not expect that coming. It was a good way for the film to wrap things up and I appreciated that the film makers and writers did not go over-the-top with the film.
The thing that made Tag work was the ensemble cast whom all were absolutely great. The best cast member though is Isla Fisher who is just hilarious every time she is onscreen.
The film’s short running time helped it greatly, it never over stayed its visit and it moved along at a quick pace.
Instant Family (2018)
I had seen the trailers for this film a couple of times and it looked interesting, but I wasn’t really motivated to go see it. Today, I wanted to see a movie and there wasn’t much out, it came down to Instant Family and Creed II. I picked Instant Family and it was a pleasant surprise of a film. I really enjoyed the film.
I liked that it was a dramedy and that there were both serious and funny parts of the film that integrated perfectly together. The film works because of the wonderful cast who all turn out great performances.
I did find myself teary-eyed a couple of times during the film.
I am glad that I saw this movie, it was a wonderful film.
This is a movie that I probably would have not watched if I didn’t have my MoviePass – and probably one I wouldn’t have watched even after release on home video. That would have been a crime because I was surprised by the film.
The film was equally hilarious and sentimental. There are endless jokes throughout the film and for the most part the jokes are funny. The chugging bit which was shown in the trailers is even funnier in the movie. John Cena, whom I have become a fan of recently, gets a lot of the best and memorable stuff in the movie.
This is a movie where teens, who have been raised right, do the right thing – and the parents are panicked idiots. A nice change for a film.
I was simply thrilled by each of these three well-made films. Each of them had a very unique story to tell and that made each of them so good in the end.
A Simple Favor (2018)
Of the Paul Feig films that I’ve seen before (Bridesmaid, Spy, Ghostbusters) I can’t say that I’ve been a fan of his work. They are occasionally funny, but it’s just not my thing. A Simple Favor on the other hand, I am a fan of. This film is engrossing, thrilling and funny. It sounds weird, but Feig has found a perfect balance of the three and it all works great.
A large part of why the film works, outside of Paul Feig’s direction and Jessica Sharzer’s script based on a novel by Darcey Bell, are the two leads in the film. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are both perfectly cast in their roles.
The story is sharp and twisty and always kept me guessing to what was happening. The use of voice-overs and flashbacks was used to great effect in the film, often with the voice-over and flashback in dissonance.
There has to be something said about the costume design by Renee Ehrlich Kalfus. I usually do not take notice of costuming, especially in a film like A Simple Favor. But, what Kalfus did with Lively was fantastic.
The ending does go a bit off-the-rails, but it still worked within the boundaries of the film.
This film was well worth seeing on the big screen.
The true test of a film that uses a gimmick is if the film would be the same or better without the gimmick. The gimmick for Searching is that the whole film is done via screens – computer screens and phone screens. It’s an interesting idea, one that I don’t think will stand the test of time as technology evolves so quickly – what will this film look like 5 or 10 years from now? Probably outdated.
I think the film would have been just as good without the gimmick – maybe a bit better. But, I don’t think the gimmick of using only computers screens detracted that much from the film, though I don’t think that it made it a better film. I applaud the filmmakers for going all in with it though.
John Cho is great in the film as a widower dealing with how to find his missing daughter. Debra Messing is fantastic in her role.
I loved how the script was written with just enough suspicion thrown at different characters to make them look guilty. Even Messing’s character had some suspicion, throughout the film – and after the plot twist, thinking back to all the small crumbs that were integrated into the film made it all the better.
This was one of the more creative films I have seen in a long time that both was great in its story telling and in the use of some creative way of telling the story.
A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place is quite a masterful piece of filmmaking. The scares are built up naturally based on the premise and each scare is earned. The direction by John Krasinski was solid. All performances in the film were on-point. I really liked this film a lot.
I liked how they started the film in the middle of everything. I liked that they left the alien invasion vague without many details.
So Bad, It Was Good
There are bad movies. There are also bad movies that are so bad they are good – and fun to watch. This year, there was just one of the “So Bad, It Was Good” type movies.
This is a movie that shows that Rotten Tomato scores are sometimes completely wrong. This movie has a scathing 30% Rotten Tomato score, I don’t think it’s that bad. Sure, it’s not a great movie, but it is not exclusively bad either. I do think this film will get a cult following just because of the Venom character.
The first half of the movie, before Eddie and Venom meet is the worst part of the film. It is plodding and slow – and a lot of it doesn’t really add to the film. Once Eddie and Venom are buddies, then things get really good. The symbiosis between the two character works and works well. The humor that is generated between Eddie and Venom in the later parts of the film are great. And the bromance between the two is… heart-warming.
I think this film suffered because of the PG-13 rating, it would have been a much better film if it went for the R rating. The film feels like a throwback 90s style action film that just happens to have 2010’s special effects.
Tom Hardy does what he can with his Eddie Brock character in the first half of the film. But, he really shines in the last half of the film with Venom. Riz Ahmed on the other hand goes too over-the-top with his character.
The film thankfully knows not to overstay its welcome and its running time comes in at under two hours.
Return of DC
I am a huge fan of DC comics and DC characters. After a disappointing slate of post-Nolan DC films (Batman v Superman and Justice League), I am happy to see that there’s some new life in the DC part of the movie world.
I really enjoyed Aquaman, even its long running time of 2.5 hours wasn’t a drawback. Unchained from the dour vision of Zack Snyder, this film was able to be one thing that none of Snyder’s films were: Fun.
The movie was immensely entertaining, charming and funny. The action sequences were awesome and the visuals of the film were eye-poppingly good. There is a good amount of humor and levity in the film, which contributed to it being so fun to watch. The movie has some cheese in it and it seems to embrace it, which I admire.
Aquaman is less of a traditional superhero movie and more of a fantasy movie that just happens to have a superhero in it. The underwater kingdom of Atlantis is awe-inspiring with all the sea creatures, fantastical architecture and bright vivid colors.
Jason Momoa is perfect as Arthur Curry, who carried a lot of swagger in Justice League, but here we get to see that the swagger is just an act. When Arthur emerges in the iconic orange and green Aquaman suit, it was an excellent moment – one that is well-earned by Arthur Curry.
Once I got past Amber Heard’s ridiculous red wig – does Hollywood really understand what a red head looks like – she was great as Mera.
Patrick Wilson is in scenery chewing mode and does fine. His underwater hair is…bizarre looking.
James Wan should be commended for giving the DCEU a soft reboot with Aquaman. I can only hope the trend of WB and DC hiring talented directors and letting them run with their visions continues.
The film score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is serviceable, though not particularly memorable.
Had WB/DC not rushed to compete with Marvel and taken their time with the DCEU, they could have released Aquaman before Justice League. This is a proper origin film for Aquaman. Wonder Woman is the best post-Nolan DC film because it was directed by Patty Jenkins who brought a sense of hope and wonder to the film. I hope that Cyborg and Flash get proper origin films and that new directors make those films. The Flash would be a fun film since he is a mix of humor and action.
Teen Titans GO! to the Movies (2018)
What a hilarious and fun movie which was cause for non-stop laughter. The songs were great, the action exciting and the jokes hilarious. The running time of the film was short enough that it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, though it might have been a tad too short. Stan Lee showing up as a cameo was one of the funniest things.
I really liked how this DC movie, which is completely a meta-movie, goes about poking fun at superheroes. And how it tackled the origin stories of different DC superheroes, I’ll never see the origin of Batman the same after seeing this one.
I actually watched a lot more movies in 2018 than new releases – on Blu-ray or streaming. I track what I watch at Trakt and you can follow what I watch here.
Let me know what you think at semicharmed.net.
I’m going to keep going to the theater to watch new releases and I can’t wait to see what Hollywood brings.
- 12 Strong (2018)
- Annihilation (2018)
- Aquaman (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Adrift (2018)
- Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
- Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
- Beirut (2018)
- Blockers (2018)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Batman Ninja (2018)
- The Commuter (2018)
- Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
- The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
- The Death of Superman (2018)
- Death Wish (2018)
- Den of Thieves (2018)
- Deadpool 2 (2018)
- Extinction (2018)
- Early Man (2018)
- First Man (2018)
- Gringo (2018)
- Game Night (2018)
- Hunter Killer (2018)
- The Hurricane Heist (2018)
- I Feel Pretty (2018)
- Incredibles 2 (2018)
- Instant Family (2018)
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
- The Meg (2018)
- Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
- Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)
- Overboard (2018)
- Ocean’s 8 (2018)
- Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)
- The Predator (2018)
- Peter Rabbit (2018)
- A Quiet Place (2018)
- Red Sparrow (2018)
- Rampage (2018)
- Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
- Ready Player One (2018)
- Sherlock Gnomes (2018)
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
- Smallfoot (2018)
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
- Skyscraper (2018)
- Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)
- Searching (2018)
- The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
- A Simple Favor (2018)
- Teen Titans GO! to the Movies (2018)
- Tag (2018)
- Tomb Raider (2018)
- Venom (2018)
- A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
- Widows (2018)
Movies Per Month
- January - 2
- February - 6
- March - 6
- April - 4
- May - 3
- June - 7
- July - 4
- August - 4
- September - 9
- October - 6
- November - 2
- December - 4