2018 was a patchy year for movies for me. I definitely watched fewer than in the past. The pure lists in order of viewing, with my Letterboxd reaction and unranked are at the very bottom.
You can find my Letterboxd here: https://letterboxd.com/mattheimiller/
Before that I’ve got a couple areas to highlight.
Solid Drama: Ladybird, Amateur, I, Tonya, Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale, First Man, The Favourite, Leave No Trace, Eighth Grade, Blindspotting, mid90s, A Star Is Born
Best Time Machines: 2001 A Space Odyssey, JAWS, Rebel Without A Cause
Top Tier Westerns: Hostiles, The Sisters Brothers, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (VERY MIXED and should be evaluated one short at a time, they are all very different)
Easy to Rec: The Marvel Films (Ant Man 2, Black Panther, Avengers Infinity War), A Quiet Place, Mission Impossible, Blackkklansman
Sci Fi that’s Trying Something: Annihilation, Hotel Artemis, Upgrade
Comedy: Game Night, Death of Stalin, Instant Family
Crazy Action: ManHunt and The Night Comes For Us, The First Purge, Bodied
Incredible, Must See Docs: Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Minding the Gap, Generation Wealth (this one is a little bit graphic about how culture of capitalism/materialism can worm its way into our very bodies so be warned it’s not for kids)
Basketball (yes it gets its own category): Uncle Drew, Amateur,
Underrated and Forgotten: Alpha, Ready Player One (the texture is potentially very abrasive but Spielberg doesn’t make bad movies)
Horror Fix: Hereditary, Unfriended Dark Web
Best Fat Suit Performance: 15:17 to Paris
Best Movie That Really Came Out in 2017: Lady Bird
Best Liam Neeson: Widows
Serviceable Genre (no insulting shortcuts, product as advertised): Bumblebee, Deadpool 2/Once Upon A Deadpool, Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, Incredibles 2, Paddington 2
Genre Misses (though with at least some interesting element in the greater overarching failure): Mile 22, Cloverfield Paradox, The Predator, Venom, Overlord, A Private War, Crazy Rich Asians (conventional to a fault), Wreck It Ralph 2, Robin Hood, Creed 2
Genre Regrets (completely forgettable): Fantastic Beasts 2, Aquaman, The Meg
Misc Other Should be Forgotten/Walk Out/Wish I Walked Out (please don’t see these): Christopher Robin, Tag, The Happytime Murders, Flower, Mortal Engines, Mute
Movies Released This Year OR Movies I Saw In Theaters:
- Lady Bird –Everything you have heard is true.
Looking forward to what’s next for all the creative involved.
- 15:17 to Paris –Good moments in this film:
– the stilted portrait of being a kinda dumb but earnest kid in the 2000s
– the little get in shape vignette
– the actual train sequence which seems like the only thing Clint Eastwood actually touched… the rest is second unit quality made worse by non actors but if you know this going in you can look past it for the normies tell their story angle
All in all, not great. In the film’s defense, any biopic is going to have problems, even more because they cast the actual people involved in the focus of the film. So exactly the problem is why it could be interesting. Never got a sense for the people beyond those few moments listed though.
- 12 Strong –The cast is incredible. Could have used more Michael Shannon. Constrained by real events.
The long shadow of the practical Afghanistan horse stunts in Rambo 3 still stretches. Nothing tops that here.
Fine. First half is the better half. Someone in the camera department really liked that Sicario silhouette thing. They try it twice in a helicopter and walking establishing shots. Nothing revolutionary here.
- The Commuter –Falls… off the rails. I’m so sorry.
It’s actually pretty ok. On the level with the other collaborative efforts between Neeson and this director. More here
- Hostiles – A must see
- Black Panther – Solid Marvel. Better on the second watch! You know what the film is, you know all the proper nouns and you can appreciate the comic booky small things!
- The Maze Runner: The Death Cure – Another one better than it had any right to be. The running should be tedious by the third installment but somehow the schlock sticks the landing however that may be possible with this terrible mush mash material.
- Mute –Mute wants to be Blade Runner and Layer Cake but comes off like edgelord doctor who potpourri.
these actors, the production department, this cinematic universe- they all deserved better.
with the exception of the woodworking, Mute is the opposite of Moon
It gets needlessly ultra dark with this child predation subplot that goes nowhere, 90% of it is texture for texture’s sake and while some wacky elements and inspired futurism hit, there’s nothing tethering this movie after they kill the love story and drag our Amish guide past a point where there isn’t any reasonable expectation that his choices matter… if he can even make them in such a world so unsuited to him
I wanted to love this movie but I hate it
- The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix) – I actually had a lot of fun with this one but I won’t be seeing it again. Yeah it’s rough. Kinda watching it while doing something else Netflix fair is going to become its own subset. Honestly liked the last second Cloverfield tie in and wanted more of that. The arm was cool too. Great cast, not worth a theater ticket but fine for its venue.
- Early Man –a conventional sports film (how many of those do we even get anymore!) wrapped in a pg hand animation spectacular (how many of those do we get anymore!) that doesn’t transcend either genre.
I hate to say it’s fine, but it’s fine. Go watch this animation house’s catalog, even the most recent Shaun The Sheep film has a bit more going on. Wish there were more of these period, hard to make the case to general audiences when this is all that comes out once every three years.
- Annihilation – It’s fun to look at, the characters are sketched and performed well regardless of the sci-fi and cumulative meaning of the film, but the ultimate pay off was a little bit Indiana Jones 4/Day The Earth Stood Still for me. More here
- Game Night –A real throwback, you’d almost wish it would stay closer to farce. The practical action stunts sing though.
Date night movie for sure.
- I, Tonya – Best you can hope for when it comes to biopics, what a traumatic life
- Good Time – a picture of low life poverty scumbag crime, one wild night with a mumblecore ending that makes you ask, “what was all this for?”
- Ready Player One – the popcorn movie’s popcorn movie, the only good video game movie?
- Chappaquiddick – wow these were terrible people
- A Quiet Place – So simple so solid
- Amateur (Netflix) – solid basketball photography, such spot on coach performance. The answer to corrupt fake education sports system’s is competition from markets in Europe???
- The Death of Stalin – Dark
- Avengers: infinity war –
A good time for sure. Comic book af
Spider-Man’s “I’m sorry” still gets me. What’s this the fourth time I’ve seen it
- ManHunt (Netflix) – such Woo
- Deadpool 2 – Absolute trash but you know what you’re in for because this is the second one. Josh Brolin doing way way better work than he ever needs to do
- Ocean’s 8 – fine but not as good as the other films, you just can’t replace Soderbergh
- Hotel Artemis –At its best when the characters just get to talk.
Where is the train passengers/bottle murder masterpiece Renaissance we all want and need
- Hereditary –Uhhh, the naked cultists got some laughs in my theater
Excellently made of course
- Upgrade – A solid genre entry, we’ll have to see how the object tracked action ages.
- The Incredibles 2 –the short before this film Bao, even better the second time.
Thematics of the feature are more noticeably mixed on second viewing
- Superfly – the costuming and guns were good! The dirtbag white trash cops are something you never see because even like, David Ayer is too reverent.
- Tag – Go rent Game Night instead
- Adrift – ultimately walked out because of audience trouble, slow and by the numbers but great if you want to watch attractive people fall in love on a boat
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – all I can think about is how much money this movie will make… I guess that means I think it’s pretty not great
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor – It’ll destroy you
- Uncle Drew – 9 times out of 10 they go for something sincere rather than a joke????
- Ant Man and the Wasp – between this and Deadpool 2 we’ve attained the perfect equivalent disposability of a comic book
- The First Purge – best one yet and the action! The breakout star! The conservative values!
- Unfriended: Dark Web – Liked the supernatural take of the first better
- The Equalizer 2 – Like Jack Reacher 2, a redundancy the world could have done without.
- Sorry To Bother You – Wow they went full horse people
- Mission Impossible: Fallout – Viewing 1: Bathroom fight goes in the canon. The rest is fine. Some of the interiors are sexy as hell – Viewing 2: Better the second time for sure. After the London escape the film kinda falls down, relying on the “I am the master of all your pain” and tech mumbo jumbo to secure a happy ending disconnected from the excellent film that came before. The helicopter stuff doesn’t ever quite crosscut well. This ending and the ex wife continuity due diligence could be excised for a much shorter and crisper film but nobody wants the bad guys to win soooooAlso, once you know this is coming you can largely turn your brain off for that portion. I can’t help but think drawing attention to the surreptitiousness of Ethan Hunt’s successes so literally in the text helps the series. The rope fight as well in the last portion occupies time I wish the film spent saying something.
Like a Nolan bros film if they weren’t preoccupied with throwing in whatever philosophical, political and semiotic snarl has caught them in a given phase.
- Blackkklansman –The break from reality in this story (the bombing at the end which is fictionalized) acts as a nominal rebuke of conservative black voices (Stallworth/Obama) without being fabricated wholecloth. Bbombings can happen, they did happen. In the final twist, only the dumbness of the Klan was their undoing. The system went unchanged… or at least that seems to be the thesis behind this pro good cop biopic-y piece which counterbalances its triumph and romance with this stunning clarity. At the same time I don’t think it’s cynical which is so important, it lets us have fun with the good cops who get the bad guys.
Spike Lee remains an interesting filmmaker whose films are ALWAYS worth exploring but some mix of the constraint of the often funny true narrative story and the weighty implications of the real villains… idk if you’re going to be happy. It’s not an escape and it’s not a solution.
In my book that means it’s uniquely good.
Great performances, charisma to spare, wildly watchable and quietly humane. Go see it.
- Teen Titans Go: to the movies –It wants to be PG Deadpool and it has one really good batman dead parents joke but the sum total is a feature length Saturday morning cartoon that services “I get that reference” nerd dads while their children suffer through the nonsense (or worse, enjoy it).
I didn’t have a bad time but it’s not a good movie.
- The Meg – It’s like a star wars prequel without the things that make those movies good
- Dog Days – Pretty much a web series, drags like one
- Mile 22 – Peter Berg is more self-aware than people think he is
- Alpha – Better use of comps than most Blockbusters out there. Real simple, real throwback Disney feel. Great underwater photography 👌
- Crazy Rich Asians – Fine, It’s romance mostly, not a yuckster comedy or anything. Very traditional! And American!
- Christopher Robin – hated and walked out, weirdly, needlessly dour with a horror film animation team doing the stuffed characters you are supposed to love
- Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring
- Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers
- The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King
- 2001: A Space Odyssey – Wow ok
- The Happytime Murders –Weirdly, the straightforward noir elements work the best but all the actors think they’re in a The Muppets film so they’re not playing it as straight as the main PI character.
It’s also unforgivable for being not funny
- The Predator –There’s a whole sub genre of way too mythological Nth sequels that really really don’t do much of anything beyond deliver details or texture.
With that said, this movie feels like a relic of 1990 or something, uniquely terrible and the kind of deep cut trashy thing you love to watch but don’t expect anyone to deliberately make in 2018 the year of our lord.
The Transformers: The Last Knight of the predator universe
- (TCM Classic revival) Rebel Without a Cause
- Venom – Ok sure???
- Minding the Gap – Go see this doc: trauma, class and real world 90s an 2000s American masculinity. More than any of that, the individual human being’s choice, feelings, growth and transgression. Also skateboarding but that’s just the beginning.
- Bad Times at the El Royale – a real throwback. Very fragmented and digressive structure. The finale is like if a Tarantino bro did Silence mixed with the “this is fine” meme.
- The Sisters Brothers – 👌👌👌
- First Man – So… Grim
- The Old Man and The Gun – a biopic, Redford charms
- A Star Is Born – Wow yea this was great
- Bodied – DEFINITELY SOMETHING
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – Those shadows 👌👌👌
- Overlord –Overlord… I didn’t read any reviews but everyone probably compared it to a video game adaption
It’s genre, it’s plotty, the characters never really break out of their archetypical roles, there’s not really a point ideologically or anything like that
a couple of conventional set ups, lots of gore make-up, nazi bad guys who are really bad!
but idk if it’s anything more than all those textural elements… and since the action didn’t work for me, the movie doesn’t work
actors trying really hard tho, solid cast could use better script
- A Private War –Idk man, the cynicism that says kinda rightly, “sadbrand neoliberal journalism is just another form of adventurism” kinda runs up against a wall when the film ends with “500,000 innocents killed” because we did not intervene
- Widows –It’s nice to have top shelf genre in theaters.
The distance between this film and a Triple 9 or a Sleepless is not as great as it could have been. A good time for sure with a different perspective
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – just a hair better than Jupiter Ascending! Not good!
- Wreck It Ralph 2 – More learning annex lesson with a simple moral than anything else. Fine I guess
- Robin Hood –Not good! Doesn’t say anything! Isn’t dumb enough!
They start off with this wild, Iraq-War-With-Bow-And-Arrow bit. The arrows explode like bullets. Black hawk down/zero dark thirty vibes just a tiny bit. Never really returns to that, would have loved to see the irreality and that metaphor turned up to 11.
- Generation Wealth (Amazon Instant) – wow ok
- Once Upon A Deadpool
- Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse – of the two comic books they are adapting, I have more affection for the Miles Morales origin. That story is give an eighth of the time it needs in service of the drama reducing multiple universes macguffin. The other 7/8s of the story are all other spider-mans who get their own origins. Light and fun but not a coherent synthesis of the two stories they are pulling from, frustrating light and dark tonal shifts. Infinite possibilities and serendipitous lack of actual effective character choice but also incredibly punishing deaths. Not for me, love the characters and goofs tho.
- Aquaman – Absolutely trash, not the good kind
- The Mule –Clint Eastwood looks like he’s about to die, the digital de aging is terrible.
Idk what this is other than kind of the minimum amount of acceptable. Like The Old Man And The Gun but for an old guy who has threesomes with cartel money rather than a monogamous feel good bank robber.
- Bumblebee –a competent blockbuster, the first in the transformers franchise
the current glut of terrible competition and the previous terrible entries might be enough to convince you this one is good, serviceable is the better word
This should be the minimum amount
- The Favourite – an incredibly prescient film about modern dating and how cruel it is
- Mortal Engines – a bunch of new useless meaningless proper nouns, I walked out before the final battle because there’s just no reason to care
- Creed 2 – Unfortunately the script never quite gets past the Wikipedia Plot Summary outlining stage of dramatization but the actors are all very compelling and the good will from Creed brings this sequel into a serviceable, forgettable safe harbor with some stunning images of muscle guys hitting themselves, others, the ground and heavier things.
- Leave No Trace –This is a performances movie that needs time to breathe and grow with the characters.
You might have been able to get away with this feature length film being made merely as a short but in a theater you won’t feel the drag.
If stillness bothers you or the premise offends or confounds, it won’t be for you.
An all time church flag dance scene. A woodsy father daughter delight.
- Eighth Grade – Sicario for relationships and growing up, loved the dumb sweetie chicken nuggets date at the end
- Blindspotting – something else! the depiction of violence is startling and immediate. Heartfelt, funny at times
- Three Identical Strangers – Fine
- Flower –this movie starts at a place way past fucked up.
Just as a comparison, the movie Nightcrawler spends the whole running time making you feel dirtier and dirtier, more and more complicit until you finally understand both the main character and what he does. It’s an incredible film.
THIS MOVIE on the other hand, STARTS way past that films end point in terms of dirtiness and complicity but without all that dramatic work. It’s alienating to say the least.
- mid90s –Everything you’ve heard about it hitting the nostalgia spot, capturing a moment- it’s all true. It’s a great work that, with the exception of a few faces you’ll know, feels delivered from a time machine/capsule.
As to the moral component, the film is wildly clear eyed, maybe to a fault. 8 more paragraphs here
- Paddington 2 – Touch my little heart
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs –Better understood as a series of shorts. I wish they were catalogued that way! Instead it’s a bloated feature presentation when breaks between segments would do them good, focused viewing.
They are pretty dense and the tone shift of connecting the shorts as a single work makes an uninterrupted viewing a bit of a pill.
The craftsmanship is undeniable but the packaging yells “work” to the average viewer. This is not the creative direction’s fault, must watch but feel free to pause in between and come back later.
- The Night Comes For Us –An interesting evolution for this kind of film from this part of the world. You got a heel turn from Iko, a sprawling cast, more women combatants, non-repetitive interesting setups with the firearms.
It’s a muddy plot and imo the action doesn’t take off until the pool table but maybe the best martial arts action we got this year in that final fight.
- Instant Family – Beautiful little film, surprisingly funny
- Lady Bird –Everything you have heard is true.
Movies Not Released This Year:
- The Road Warrior
- The Mask Of Zorro
- The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Miami Vice
- The Informant!
- Doctor Strange
- Ant Man
- Michael Clayton
- Captain America: Civil War
- Speed Racer
- The Big Lebowski
- The Town
- Two Days in the Valley
- Out of Sight
- Bullet to the Head
- The Prince of Egypt
- Treasure Planet
- Welcome to Collinwood
- Be Kind Rewind
- Mission Impossible
- The Carter Effect
- High Fidelity
- The Score
- The Social Network
- Inside Out
- Small Crimes
- The Incredibles
- The Godfather part 3
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Baby Driver
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Space Cop
- Marvel’s The Avengers
- Oceans 12
- Miami Connection
- Warm Bodies
- The Emperor’s New Groove
- Iron Man 3
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
- The Bourne Identity
- The Primary Instinct
- Blood Simple
- A Christmas Story
- The Greatest Showman
- It’s A Wonderful Life