Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Reel Opinion: The Best & Worst Films of 2018 - Part 2



More than any other year, 2018 was dominated by superhero movies. With offerings from Marvel, DC Comics, and Pixar…seven of the top 11 domestic box office earners were all of the caped and masked crusading type. Those superheroes led the way for a very healthy overall box office; attendance was up 7% from 2017 thanks to not only comic book movies but a very diverse slate of films. The numbers dispel two persistent myths: superhero fatigue is setting in, and that the theatre business is dying because of home streaming. 

This Blogger screened nearly 40 films in 2018, and whittling the list down to just 10 was, as it is every year, a challenge. Some honorable mention needs to be given to Wes Anderson’s ISLE OF DOGS, Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA, Adam McKay’s VICE, Disney and Ron Howard’s SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, Alex Garland’s ANNIHILATION, Ari Aster’s HEREDITARY, and Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER…all excellent experiences at the theatre. 

Now this is where the fun begins. The absolute Best of 2018.

10. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR



No movie sent audiences staggering out of the theatre in shock, disbelief, and emotional bludgeoning like Marvel’s first part of their conclusion to their 10-year series. The directing team of Joe and Anthony Russo brought Earth’s mightiest heroes together on an epic scale spanning galaxies and harked back to the WWII films of old where one war is fought on several fronts. The idea to make super-villain Thanos the central, tragic character was brilliant, and most importantly, our heroes were shown as characters firstand heroes second…just like creator Stan Lee would have wanted. 

9. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT



In an age where CGI dominates action films, the 6thentry in this 20-year-old film series was a breath of fresh air with its stunning and breathtaking practical effects; with star Tom Cruise doing things that no human should be doing. Possibly the best film in the franchise, FALLOUT was a clever maze of deception, misdirection, and big twists and surprises which left audiences breathless more than once. 

8. A QUIET PLACE



Director John Krasinski not only brought us a clever and scary horror film, but also one of the best performances of the year belonging to Emily Blunt. Blunt’s performance in which she goes into labor while needing to keep absolutely silent for fear of attracting killer creatures was astounding to see…and added to the tension-filled film which was as smart as it was scary. 

7. BLACKKKLANSMAN



The unbelievable true story of an African-American undercover detective who somehow manages to infiltrate a KKK chapter could have easily leaned towards a zany comedy or intended for laughs, but director Spike Lee took the material and turned it into one of the most profound statements on race relations in America we’ve ever seen on the big screen. 

6. THE OLD MAN & THE GUN



If the legend known as Robert Redford does indeed make good on his promise to retire, then he could not have picked a better film to go out with. David Lowery’s combo of cops-and-robbers and a love story gave Redford the chance to revisit the rascally-rabbit type characters he had played in the past, and the result was a charming and timeless tale that felt like the type of story told around a campfire. 

5. MARY POPPINS RETURNS



This sequel to the beloved MARY POPPINS was so faithful to the spirit of that classic it could have been made in the 1960’s. The storyline actually improved on the original in many ways, and Emily Blunt’s performance was every bit of the charm and mystery that the world loves about Mary Poppins. A grand achievement for Disney…and for Emily Blunt, who owns two of the best performances of the year. 

4. GREEN BOOK



Another true-life story which was stranger than fiction was not only another look at race in America, but an opportunity for class actors Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali to turn in career-best performances. It’s the odd couple on a road trip, and the isolation offered some unique storytelling for director Peter Farrelly of the famed Farrelly Brothers. It was character-strong and provided the best laughs of the year without getting dumb or ridiculous. 

3. WIDOWS



In his first film since he took home Oscars for 12 YEARS A SLAVE in 2013, director Steve McQueen returned with a powerful thriller which saw the widows of high-profile criminals taking on a high-stakes job to pay off a debt. The technical achievements the film displayed were very impressive, and the performances were equally great; especially from Viola Davis and Liam Neeson. It was a simple story beefed up with great character moments, a weaving plot, and plenty of shocking twists. 

2. FIRST MAN



Director Damien Chazelle literally drops us right into the helmet of astronaut Neil Armstrong in this gritty and grounded look at the first men who walked on the moon. Space travel is a dangerous and scary business, and that’s an element Hollywood has often traded in for bravado and spectacle. FIRST MAN keeps it human and real, and the flight scenes shown here are terrifying, just as they really were. And the moon landing sequence was one of the best edited and scored sequences of the year. 

1. A STAR IS BORN 



In the last 10 years, Bradley Cooper has acted in front of the camera for big-name directors such as Clint Eastwood, David O. Russell, Derek Cianfrance, and Joe Carnahan…and looking at his directorial debut, it’s clear he’s been paying attention. A STAR IS BORN, the fifth film to carry that title since 1937, was a human story with the elements that speak to us all; dreaming, wanting, achieving, and holding on to it for better or for worse. There is a subtle power behind Cooper’s steady direction, one that sneaks up on us by the powerful ending. Cooper acted his best, and the acting performance by Lady Gaga was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2018. Marvel’s INFINITY WAR may have sent audiences staggering out of the theatre, but A STAR IS BORN sent us home weeping, and struck that strong emotional chord that the great films always play. 

THE BEST FILMS OF 2018

  1. A STAR IS BORN
  2. FIRST MAN
  3. WIDOWS
  4. GREEN BOOK
  5. MARY POPPINS RETURNS
  6. THE OLD MAN & THE GUN
  7. BLACKKKLANSMAN
  8. A QUIET PLACE
  9. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT
  10. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
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Read Reel Speaks' Worst of 2018 HERE 




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