I went to the movies around 115 times last year. There were a few more movies I saw at home. I may not get out as much as Watson, but I do write up everything I see here. But like any person, I like some things movies more than others. And, after taking a quick look over my reviews, well, I do have a Top Ten List for this year. And hey, this time around, I went with a Bottom Ten as well.
Anyhoo, onto the list.
Tom’s Top 10
10. Leave No Trace
Thomasin McKenzie has a break-out performance in this as Tom, a young girl reaching adulthood who lives in the woods with her PTSD-afflicted father Will (an equally fantastic Ben Foster). It’s a moving coming of age story as a young girl just can’t live outside of any sort of society anymore even as the only relative she has can’t stand to be near people anymore due to whatever happened to him before the movie started. A moving look at moving on when not everyone can.
I didn’t think I was going to like this one at all. The trailers weren’t really doing anything for me. I don’t much care for country music, which seemed to be what the movie would be playing, and I wasn’t sure that actor Bradley Cooper could direct or singer Lady Gaga could act. Well, it turns out both of them were pretty darn good at these sorts of things, even if Gaga may have just been playing herself. Cooper’s final scene hits hard, and I didn’t mind the music so much. Sure, it’s at least the fourth telling of this story, but that didn’t make it a bad retelling at all.
I don’t get to see too many documentaries, but the ones I did see this year were pretty good. That said, I think the best I saw was Won’t You Be My Neighbor? if only because it made me re-evaluate Mr. Rogers. The documentary may have glossed over any “dark side” the man had, but I left the theater wishing we had more people like him in the world today. That kind, soft-spoken man who used to appear on my TV growing up really was that guy, and I think we are worse for people who didn’t listen to what he had to say.
Sure, Black Panther was probably a better movie. But Infinity War was a big comic book crossover brought to life. Most of the various heroes of the MCU pops up to help out, and they all got a decent amount of screentime, acting in character, and interacting with each other in ways I hadn’t seen before. And this was just the first half! It hit the fanboy part of my brain just right, and I loved every second of it.
There were some interesting movies out there in terms of minority representation. The aforementioned Black Panther was a monster hit as was Crazy Rich Asians. Sorry to Bother You looked at both race and capitalism in an incredibly absurdist way. Monsters and Men looked at the complicated effects of a police shooting. I didn’t get to see Blindspotting or The Hate U Give. And Love, Simon could have been any other high school-set romantic comedy except the lead character was gay. But then there was Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman, the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the KKK. Though initially played a bit for laughs, the final minutes of this movie are a real punch to the gut, reminding you that there whatever happened decades ago, we still have a long way to go in the battle against bigots.
The Coen Brothers’ Netflix Western anthology doesn’t have a bad story in it, but that first segment is probably the closest to perfect first few minutes of film I’ve ever seen. Nothing else in the movie can possibly compare with that first story, and if it ended right there, I might have put it higher up on this list. As it is, the rest of the movie was pretty darn good, but that first sequence was damn near spectacular.
John Krasinski of all people made a top notch horror movie. Who saw that coming? Set in a world where some mysterious monsters have wiped out most of the human race, a family knows to stay alive, they have to stay quiet. It’s a movie that sets up some rules for survival and follows them, thinking through the many implications of a world where sound can get you killed. The little details of this one really helped even as the bigger ones told a good story.
A bouncy, clever, fun animated tribute to Spider-Man and his (and sometimes her) many different incarnations. This one was not only a fantastic animated feature, but a clear labor of love from some Spider-Man fans showing what the wall-crawler represents even when he’s a cartoon pig.
I’d read the novel this was based on, and when I learned someone was making a movie out of it, I honestly wondered how. The novel is more impressionistic and low on details for what’s actually happening. Then the movie came out, and it was a surprisingly thoughtful look into what an alien invasion could mean if the aliens were truly alien. It was weird, wonderful, and deep.
Normally, I don’t much go for horror movies. But if one comes out with enough buzz, I’ll go check it out, and this one, well, it just hit me the right way. Haunting and oppressive, this one was a technical marvel, looking into the process of mourning, mental illness, and guilt. And that’s without getting into anything supernatural. This was the sort of movie that when the horror stuff starts happening, it’s almost a relief after the unending misery that inflicts every frame of this movie. Hereditary wasn’t for everybody, but it really worked for me.
Searching was a brilliant thriller that stuck to its gimmick and paid off. They Shall Not Grow Old and Three Identical Strangers were the other fine documentaries I saw this year. Thoroughbreds was the darkest, most deadpan comedy I’ve seen in ages. And Bad Times at the El Royale was a fantastically plotted crime thriller.
And at the bottom…
Special note: When I started to compile my list, I originally thought Venom would be at the bottom because I really hated it at the time I saw it. But, on reflection, while Venom wasn’t all that good, I felt I’d been a little too hard in my review. Plus, looking over the other reviews I wrote this year, I realized there were a number of movies worse than Venom. Venom had problems, but it was mostly mediocre compared to some other things I saw. Anyway, here are the bottom ten.
I opted to read the book before the movie came out and didn’t really like either. The movie seemed to be going for a lot of forced whimsy that wasn’t really whimsical. And for some reason, we had to have a Giant Oprah.
Melissa McCarthy made some bad movies this year, but this one mostly had me wishing I was watching Back to School.
A long movie where the whole point seemed to be to set up the next one, FB:TCoG took the charm of the first movie in this prequel series, flushed it down the toilet, went on for too long, never had a point, and assumed special effects were enough to tell a story. This was the Batsoup of the Harry Potter world.
7. Welcome to Marwen
My review for this one will go up later this week, but there was so much wrong with this movie, based on a real world subject, that never seemed to know what tone it should have been holding. I actually had no problem checking my email on my phone while this one was playing. What the hell happened to Robert Zemeckis?
6. Proud Mary
I’ve never seen an episode of Empire, but I did see Hidden Figures and figured an action movie starring Taraji P. Henson might be a cool change of pace for the actress. Then I finally saw this one and it was a disorganized mess. I can usually find something good to say about a lot of movies, but there wasn’t much to recommend about this one at all.
5. The Grinch
I could say the usual sorts of things people say about feature-length movies based on the works of Dr. Seuss, but let me just say this: I had to fight to stay awake during this one.
Here’s a terrible idea: take one of the best-known ballets ever made, remove most of the dancing, have the title character be a supporting character to a lead who can’t read emotions off other people, have an Oscar-nominated actress speak in a weird voice for no real reason, and ensure that the Nutcracker basically just be a regular guy in a uniform. The result: this epic mess.
3. Death Wish
Ever wonder what NRA propaganda would look like in cinematic form? Here’s your answer.
Clint Eastwood, for some reason, decided to make a movie about the three Americans who subdued a terrorist on a European train headed to Paris. That could have been fine had Eastwood not cast the three Americans as themselves. And maybe that would have worked if they could act. Or the script was good. Or a director that actually puts some time in on the set was working with them. Instead, we get a movie that screams “AMATEUR” from one of my favorite living directors. Still, if this crap somehow pushed Eastwood to make The Mule, well, at least it did that much and got Eastwood in front of the camera for a better movie. Of course, most movies are better than this one…
This movie, full of unfunny jokes that the people responsible never seem to be able to cut away from, has as of this typing an 8% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 29% audience score. Those numbers are both far too high for this flaming garbage of cinema.
Well, these weren’t the only movies worth avoiding at all costs. Night School wanted to waste a lot of comedic talent on a half-assed movie without anything worth laughing at. Melissa McCarthy thought to bring that Life of the Party (lack of) magic to the R-rated puppet comedy The Happytime Murders. Someone thought to make another Robin Hood but wanted him to be more like Batman or something. Mile 22 took the charismatic action star of The Raid and stuck him in a small supporting role opposite an incredibly obnoxious Mark Wahlberg. And Peppermint tried to be a Taken for star Jennifer Garner and instead just put anything potentially interesting and stuck it off screen.
So, that’s my 2018 list. Let’s see if 2019 can do a bit better.