2018 – YEAR IN REVIEW

I’m sure the number will only increase next year, but 2018 is now my new record for over 70 films reviewed. While I have seen more films than the last two years, this year has unfortunately felt much weaker than those. Don’t get me wrong. Just like every other year, there were plenty of excellent films, but it felt like the hard-hitting dramas and side-splitting comedies weren’t in high supply. However, it was an excellent year for genre films, with horror, action, western, and comic book fare ending up being some of the best films of the year.

Even the worst films of the year weren’t completely atrocious, especially compared to some of what we got last year. There were still some big stinkers, but they really only had a mild stench. Nothing this year was so terrible it insulted or irritated me. Most of all, 2018 has felt rather uneventful and forgettable. I still have to talk about those notable ones, though, so let’s get to it.

DISCLAIMER: For various reasons, I have yet to see some of my most anticipated films of 2018, such as Eighth GradeThe FavouriteIf Beale Street Could TalkThe Mule, A Star is Born, and Vice. They could very well make it onto one of these lists, but I wanted to get this published earlier than last year. So, don’t fret and keep an eye out for those reviews!


10 Favorite Films of 2018 
 
10. Mid90s
 
It’s been quite the year for directorial debuts, especially for some actors, but none of them have felt as personal as Mid90s. Written and directed by actor Jonah Hill, we’re invited into a brief window of time following an adolescent boy trying to find any sort of personal connection he can. The title would make you think different, but there’s not a whole lot of nostalgia pandering either, as everything from the skating to the video gaming and musical choices were all naturally integrated into the story. With a cast of primarily unknowns, and shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio that gives off a home video aesthetic, every inch of it feels real and authentic.

9. Overlord 
 
There are many filmmakers out there who grew up with trashy, Z-grade, exploitation cinema and logically, that influences their work, but there are few who can perfectly emulate those films, while also improving on them. With Julius Avery’s Overlord, we’re treated to a wickedly fun homage to B-movies of old, combining silly, fantastical elements, with real, emotionally poignant ones. It’s heavy on the action, but also heavy on pathos and atmosphere, making it one of the more compelling war films in a long time. Part war drama, part thriller, but all fun. 
 

8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 
 
There is absolutely no universe out there where an animated Spider-Man film with the word “Spider-Verse” in the title ends up being any good, but this is a film that deals with multiple dimensions and realities, so I guess that makes anything possible. In the dimension where Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are at the helm, you get the most clever and subversive superhero film ever written, perfectly adapting the comic book multiverse concept to film. What really sold Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verseas the greatest comic book film ever, though, was the groundbreaking animation that makes it look, feel, and even breathe just like a comic book on screen. Simply stunning, or should I say amazing, in every way. 

7. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs 
 
The Coen Brothers are two of the most iconic American filmmakers around and a big reason is because of their incredibly bizarre and unique voice. They’ve done comedies, dramas, and more, now combining all of their unique sensibilities into an anthology of six Western tales. With some stories being hilarious, and some just downright depressing, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is like a sample platter of everything that makes the Coen’s, well, the Coen’s. Just like their career, the stories here are hit and miss, but when they hit, it’s with the force of a wrecking ball. 
 

6. A Quiet Place 
 
Who knew that Jim from The Office would turn out to be such a talented director? Even more, who expected him to be so good at directing horror? I guess all that harassment against Dwight paid off, as he and screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck devise deviously creative horror setpieces that frighten, as well as entertain. The near-complete lack of sound and understated performances just added to the immersion, making you feel like you had to be just as quiet as them. A Quiet Place had the perfect horror film premise and it was executed almost flawlessly. 
 

5. You Were Never Really Here 
 
A movie about a man who beats pedophiles to death with a hammer and rescues kidnapped girls sounds about as trashy as you can get, but Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here is the complete anthesis of that. Quiet and introspective, we basically follow around a disheveled Joaquin Phoenix as he thinks about his life. He proves he’s still one of the best actors working today, using his body language and eyes to great effect in order to portray his damaged, broken character. One of the best parts? It doesn’t overstay its welcome, telling a complete, emotional story in a perfectly paced 89 minutes. The kind film you don’t get very often these days, in more ways than one. 
 

4. Thoroughbreds 
 
Every year there numerous writers and directors who makes their film debut and no debut was more impressive for me than Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds. Coming from a theater background, he has an excellent command of characterization and dialogue, but he knows how to utilize the medium of film perfectly. It’s creatively shot and although the film is pitch black hilarious, there’s a constant air of unease surrounding it all, with excellent use of editing and music. The performances really sell it all, with Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke viciously working their way up to be prolific actresses and the always wonderful Anton Yelchin giving us one of his unfortunate final performances. 


3. Annihilation 
 
There are a few noteworthy horror films every year that standout in the sea of trash, but it’s incredibly rare when we get science fiction horror like Annihilation. With writer/director Alex Garland creating a heavy, foreboding atmosphere, he doesn’t just want to scare you, but he wants to challenge you. One of our greatest fears as a species is the fear of the unknown and trying to figure out where they come from. Annihilation shows that some things are better left alone and not meant to be explored. You’ll be exploring all of the possibilities in your mind long after watching, though.

2. Mission: Impossible: Fallout 
 
Ever so often, a genre film comes along and shows that when the genre is done well, it can be just as excellent as any other film. Mad Max: Fury Road proved that in 2015, and Mission: Impossible: Fallout proves it again in 2018. With some of the best stuntwork and action staging and choreography I’ve ever seen, it’s a masterpiece in action movie filmmaking from beginning to end. It’s brilliantly paced, has fun performances, and most importantly, the action actually means something. 


1. Blindspotting 
 
There have been quite a few films this year that have tackled race relations in the United States, but none of them even came close to reaching the incredible levels of Blindspotting. Why? Because it felt real, honest, and genuine. Based off the real life friendship of screenwriters and co-stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casael, there’s not an ounce of melodrama, preachiness, or condescension. Couple that with stylish direction, editing, and cinematography, and you have yourself the best film of 2018.


Honorable Mentions: Bad Times at the El Royale, Boy Erased, Creed IIFirst ReformedIncredibles 2, The Night Comes for Us, Sicario: Day of the Soldado


10 Least Favorite Films of 2018 

10. Ready Player One 
 
If there’s one current trend that really irritates me, it’s the desperate attempts from various corporations to pander to our nostalgia. Just look at those Honda commercials trying to get millenial’s attention by using Care Bears. Well, my distaste for nostalgic pandering hit its peak with Spielberg’s Ready Player One. Based off a novel, the entire premise is built around 80’s pop culture and, “Hey, do you remember THAT thing?!” There’s not much appeal, if any at all, beyond that. Spielberg proves that he can still expertly stage and pace and action scene, but the heart he’s known for was just like the VR world in the film: not really there. 
 

9. The Cloverfield Paradox 
 
Any attempt to capitalize on the Marvel’s successful formula of cinematic universes automatically comes off as cynical, but nothing is quite as cynical as Paramount and Bad Robot desperately trying to create a Cloverfield universe with totally different, disconnected stories. They pretty much ruined 10 Cloverfield Lane by shoehorning it into the continuity, and they did it again with The Cloverfield Paradox… which probably didn’t improve it much, because the film just isn’t very good anyway. It has a fascinating sci-fi premise that opens the door to a lot of ideas, but executes them all with tonally inconsistent and confusing results. 
 

8. The Predator 
 
What happens when original Predator screenwriter and actor Shane Black comes back to the franchise to give it the ol’ reboot/sequel/whatever? Why, you get a hilariously bad, non-sensical action film with horribly dated comedy that treats disorders like autism and Tourette’s with cringeworthy ignorance. The Predator feels like it’s written and directed by a child, which is shocking, considering Shane Black is usually a very clever filmmaker. The funniest part of it all? They actually tried to start a new franchise of some sort with this mess. 
 

7. The Hurricane Heist 
 
I love me some fun, over the top, ludicrous action films, but fun is the keyword there, which The Hurricane Heist absolutely isn’t. Taking itself far too seriously and not playing with the hurricane concept enough, it’s nowhere near as entertaining as the title suggests it should be. There were a couple moments where I was laughing out loud, nearly on the verge of tears, but they were too far and few between a bunch of stuff not worth caring about. 
 

6. Insidious: The Last Key 
 
The Insidious franchise is pretty much the epitome of “excellent idea, poor execution” to me. As much as I enjoy most of his work, screenwriter Leigh Whannel really fumbled the execution with Insidious: The Last Key. A prequel to Insidious Chapter 3, which was also a prequel, it does nothing to add to or expand on the mythos in any creative way. There’s a twist in the middle that was quite surprising and would have improved the film, but they don’t stick with it. Who needs something creative when you have ghosts with key fingers to give you jump scares, am I right? 
 

5. Pacific Rim: Uprising 
 
I know it has quite the cult following, but to me, the original Pacific Rim was mostly a failure of a monster movie that was held up by its zany action, excellent effects, and director Guillermo del Toro’s unique brand of weirdness. Well, what happens when you take away all of those elements for the sequel? You take away its identity, leaving a convoluted mess with terrible performances, even worse dialogue, and absolutely embarrassing attempts at pandering to Chinese audiences. In fact, Pacific Rim: Uprising only exists because Universal thought it would be a hit with the foreigners. I’m glad they were wrong, because it bombed horrendously, as it deserved. 
 

4. Breaking In 
 
The concept of burglars breaking into a home, kidnapping children, and forcing a desperate mother to save them sounds like a wonderfully entertaining, cheesy concept. Nothing very creative is really done with it, though, leaving Breaking In to be a derivative, predictable, suspense-free thriller that more than wears out its welcome 45 minutes in. Gabrielle Union gives a committed performance, being one of the lone bright spots in this mess, but even the best actor can’t save this Lifetime movie that somehow snuck its way into theaters. After watching this, my main takeaway was “she deserves better than this.” 
 

3. Show Dogs 
 
Aside from Babe, I don’t think there’s ever been a decent live-action talking animal movie, and Show Dogs does absolutely nothing to try and break that trend. Completely witless with dirty humor that’s too juvenile for adults, yet too mature (I use that word very loosely) where kids won’t understand it, and with a boilerplate script, there’s nothing for anybody except the youngest child to like. I know it sounds silly to be critical of a film aimed at three-year old’s, but even toddlers deserve quality films. The most amusing aspect was that this film is the exact kind BoJack Horseman, which also stars lead actor Will Arnett, would satirize. 
 

2. Mile 22 
 
The fourth collaboration between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg, Mile 22 breaks their previous trend of intense action movies based off real events. It’s all fictional here and it proves that if Berg doesn’t have an already pre-established story to go off, he has no idea what he’s doing. Running at only 94 minutes, it feels three hours long, as the plot is convoluted, the characters are obnoxious, the dialogue cliché, and the direction headache inducing, filled with quick cuts and shaky camera movements galore. One of the worst action films I’ve ever seen. 
 

1. Best F(r)iends: Volume 1 
 
Tommy Wiseau turned himself into the schlock cinema sensation The Room and basically has rode that wave ever since. He’s not the only one to ride that wave, as his co-star Greg Sestero has also coasted on that fame. Well, 15 years later, Wiseau and Sestero starred in Best F(r)iends: Volume 1, also written by Sestero. Did this film prove that they’re actually talented? No. Not one bit. There are some occasionally clever moments to be found, but it’s mostly just a slog of bad acting, direction, writing, and everything else. I didn’t even see the conclusion with Volume 2 because honestly, who cares? 
 

Dishonorable Mentions: Death Wish (2018), Night School, Venom

Check out my 2016 and 2017 lists as well!

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