Listen, y’all, making movies is hard. A lot of people put a lot of effort into the movies, and sometimes that comes through very clearly, and other times it is less readily apparent. Either way, people work hard on these things for months, and calling something “one of the worst” isn’t something I’m looking to do, especially when, at times, the movie failed enough already, why should some random blogger who has spent literally zero days on an actual movie set need to kick it while it’s down.
So, instead, I’m going to try to remain positive. I saw a solid handful of movies this year, and, obviously, not all of them could make my Top 20 list. I’ve compiled those that didn’t in the alphabetical list below (so as to not give away any kind of potential ranking) and will say one thing nice about each one. For some movies, this will be easier. For others, less so. But either way, you’d assume even the worst movie can get at least one thing right.
Ant-Man And The Wasp
This is one of the difficult ones in trying to determine which part is the one I want to focus on, but I’ll go with the portrayal of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), as a woman who will do whatever it takes to deal with the chronic pain she deals with because of a research incident years prior. Seeing people online who deal with chronic pain discussing how this character allowed them to feel more seen is not something you hear a lot of from superhero movies, so giving that one more quick shout-out feels like the best use of this space.
Avengers: Infinity War
This one is going to be pretty general, but I think this movie should still get praise for doing what really felt like an impossibility, which was to tell a story with this many characters and have it feel mostly coherent. Yes, if you are not really into the entirety of the MCU, then you might be confused, but also if you really aren’t into the entirety of the MCU, why are you seeing this? Stop complaining, you aren’t better than me because you don’t like these movies. The Russo Brothers and their writing team (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) not only compiled the characters well but took a fairly noteworthy risk at film’s end by basically killing the people we know to be safe in the long-term, setting high expectations for how they’ll stick the landing in April.
Had it not been for the countless A Quiet Place comparisons, which seemed to be what Netflix was going for when they’re advertising campaign focused predominantly on Sandra Bullock in a blindfold, this movie might have been able to crack the top 20. Alas, here it is. I will give this movie credit for getting strong performances out of its principal cast, including the always game Sandra Bullock, the easy on the eyes Trevante Rhodes, and the gloriously over-the-top John Malkovich. Malkovich relishes every second of playing the insufferable ashole in this movie and even though I hated his character, it was a genuine joy getting to hate him throughout his time in the movie. It’s a role tailor made for the intensely talented actor, and I’m glad I got to see it.
It’s rare that teenage girls get a smart and careful movie about their active decision to embrace their sexuality, and that’s exactly what Blockers does. We get three different stories, one of a girl whose virginity is important to her and is certain she’s found the right person to lose it to, another who is just excited by the idea of sex, and a third who feels like she needs to have sex in order to get rid of her homosexual preferences. We get to know each of the girls and understand their respective decisions, and it’s all done with a wonderful amount of heart thanks to writers Brian and Jim Kehoe and director Kay Cannon.
Throughout the movie, we would get teases of performances from the band, but never anything that really went on for a notable amount of time. That is until the end when we finally get to see most of the Live Aid concert that is teased with the film’s opening moments. The ten minutes we spend with Malek and company onstage as Queen is one of the most effective scenes I saw in a movie this year, and as each song neared its end, I remember thinking to myself “God, please don’t let this end.” Here’s the real version, which still rocks so hard.
The time that we spend with the creatures of the Hundred Acre Wood is genuinely endearing, even if I was initially creeped out by their overly realistic design. In particular, the vocal work by Jim Cummings, falling back into Winnie the Pooh and Tigger’s voices with ease, and Brad Garrett, a pitch-perfect casting decision as Eeyore, helps the audience genuinely fall for the creatures from Christopher Robin’s forgotten past. The human stuff was much less interesting for me, but getting to see Eeyore experience something vaguely similar to joy can brighten even the darkest of days.
The Cloverfield Paradox
If I wanted to do this one ironically, the one nice thing I’d say is how much damned funny Chris O’Dowd reacting to a missing limb is to me, because, woof, what a terrible take they used there. In reality, this is the another one of the performance-centered sections. Not Chris O’Dowd, although, God he is unintentionally funny in this movie. It’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Her performance is the only movie that really seems to hold this cluster of a film together, with a heart-breaking monologue delivered down the barrel of the camera lens giving the film more heart than anything else around her deserved.
Although the skydiving scene is a wonderful bit of set-up and punchline, all praise for this movie should be centered on the great work from Julian Dennison. His character Firefist demands a lot from the young actor, with the film’s emotional arc landing predominantly on him (even if the movie wants to believe it’s based more on Deadpool’s relationship with his murdered fiance), and Dennison is more than game to do exactly what the movie needs him to do. He is funny when he is used for comedy, and you sympathize with him when you need to sympathize with him and fear him when you need to fear him. If it weren’t for Dennison, this movie would feel like a forgettable but similar film to the original, but Dennison’s work makes it stand out a bit more.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Even though he gets next to nothing to do, Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore is an inspired bit of casting that I am excited to see play out over the course of the next *heavy sigh* three movies. Again, his presence here is mostly pointless, as he does nothing that Dumbledore has to do, but he makes the most of what he is given, and truly looks the part (until you think about how quickly and severely he ages, but, whatever, Ewan McGregor turns into Sir Alec Guinness in 20 years, so there have been worse).
This movie should have been way more fun than it actually ended up being, with a really enjoyable cast (featuring Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella and Jeff Goldblum) all inside a hotel/hospital for criminals. That said, it was not a totally worthless venture, as Jodie Foster does what you expect from Jodie Foster, giving a really moving performance as a nurse who lost her son and locked herself away from the rest of the world afterward. When she finally leaves the hotel towards the end of the movie, the gravity of the moment is all over her expression and her body language, and it’s a moment that hits in just the right way, in a movie where very little lands the way that it should.
Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom
This one is going to be at least a little bit sarcastic because this is the movie on the list that I enjoyed for how unintentionally silly that it is. This movie has an ultimate big game hunter played by Ted Levine (he is not keeping any women in wells in this movie) who likes to collect the teeth of dinosaurs (sure). Towards the end of the movie, after everything has gone to shirt, he sneaks into the cage of an “unconscious” super-dinosaur (The Indominus Rex, already part raptor, mixed with more raptor, for some damned reason) to take his prize. And then what proceeds is some of the most nonsensical, Road Runner style trickery, as the dinosaur uses its tail to distract Levine’s character, and then when Levine turns to look at what he saw out of the corner of his eye, we see the dinosaur open its eye and smirk. The dinosaur forkin’ smirks. This movie is so stupid, and I’m so glad I saw it.
Based on a popular novel, Love, Simon stands out among other romantic comedies from this year as being one that shows an LGBT relationship, and handles the titular character’s coming out story with important care (this coming from a cisgendered heterosexual, so mileage may vary on this). Although the book does a better job of keeping the plot’s central mystery (who is Blue?) a mystery, the film balances it well, while still showing Simon’s struggle with telling people the truth about himself (in the moments where he controls that narrative, at least). The end of the film does get a little schmaltzy, and we don’t get to spend as much time with Simon and Blue as a couple as we do in the book, but the lead-up to it all works well enough, while telling a common story that really needs more attention.
This is a very strange film that feels experimental in ways that I fear I do not have the words to truly describe. Although the overall tone and story of the film is not something that entirely clicked with me, it is nearly impossible to deny the magnetic performance by Helena Howard as the titular Madeline. She demands your attention throughout the film, and it never really feels like a performance, amplified by the fact that this is Howard’s film debut, so we have no other performance to fall back on. Howard simply is Madeline, as troubling and as uncomfortable as that may, at times, make us. It’s a peculiar movie about a peculiar young woman finally taking control of her own story, and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before, and even if that didn’t truly work for me, it felt like a blessing to get to watch Howard control Madeline’s story, and, in a way, her own.
I’ve written this post in kind of a scattered way, jumping between different movies as different good things stand out to me, or as I remember one thing over another. This movie is one of the last one’s I got around to, just because the movie is overall a fine movie, with nothing that stands out in particular to me. Then I remember how much fun it is to watch Cate Blanchett act, and how much fun the costume department must have had dressing her in this movie. Almost every outfit she wears in this movie stands out from the rest of the cast, as this collection shows (the title of the article may not apply to me, but the overall truth of it is still true), and I know that’s a weird thing to use as the main takeaway of a movie, but, for real, Cate Blanchett looks gorgeous in outfits most normal people would never have the courage to wear.
Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
I can tell you the one nice thing about this movie is not going to be its title, which is terrible and should have never made it to the film’s official release, and everyone at Disney should feel bad for letting it be something genuine film reviewers and random trolls like me have to type out in its entirety. That said, this is a mostly worth follow-up to the pleasant surprise of the first film, even ascending it in some ways, particularly its message (instead of the trite, but important, “accept yourself!” of the first film, this one manages the much more complex balance of being able to accept how friendships change but don’t need to fade because of distance). Perhaps the most striking thing about this is the character design on a giant Ralph, made out of, plausibly millions, of normal sized Ralph’s. The design is necessarily horrifying, as you can see each individual Ralph shifting position in order to maintain the overall design of the big boss character. Even if the first movie is generally better than this worthwhile follow-up, this image alone is one of the more striking things I have seen in almost any animated movie I’ve seen in some time (my final countdown shows why the qualifier of “one of” is essential).
Ready Player One
Even though Stanley Kubrick would probably hate it, the sequence where our heroes drop into The Shining is one of the best things I’ve seen in a movie all year. The second our heroes land in the movie, I can remember taking a sharp breath by how well everything was recreated, just with CGI characters dropped into it. From there, it’s a mishmash of references, including Lena Waithe’s Aech (pronounced like the letter H) riding a river of blood, and other characters running from a giant madman with an axe, but nothing in the full movie quite captures that initial moment of them landing in a classic horror film. Although, a friend told me the story of how her uncle was an extra on the movie, and how one of the best directors ever said “it’s Cheeto time” to him, and that honestly is better than most of this movie, which is a movie I liked. I just love that story this much.
Although I had issues with this movie, particularly with the ending not really feeling nearly cathartic enough considering what our lead character goes through, it’s hard to deny the strength of Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in it. Her character, a ballerina whose is sent to a school where she learns to use the power of seduction in order to get closer to the Russian government’s targets, has to deal with several sexual assault attempts, and just the overall difficulty of feeling like her body and sexuality are not her own, but instead an asset to the Soviet regime. Lawrence plays everything perfectly, which honestly makes the movie that much harder to watch. The fact that, in some ways, this movie can be seen as Lawrence, who has several nude scenes throughout the film, taking back her own body after she was one of the most notable victims of the iCloud leaks from 2014, which led to the release of several nude photos and videos of her being released on the internet, should give the audience a deeper appreciation of the work that she does here.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Keeping a chunk of the tension, but zero of the moral quandary from the first film, this is a bit of a frustrating movie, but it’s a frustrating movie that has Benicio Del Toro in it, so that’s something to praise. In one of the film’s final scenes, a badly beaten and barely alive Del Toro is trying to drive towards freedom and a doctor when a couple of young gang members try to take him out. Without ever showing a sign of hesitation of concern, he lurches over, unpins a grenade, and throws it into the attacking car. It’s all done in one quick little shot, and Del Toro looks beaten to hell during it, and something about seeing a character that beaten still somehow be that calm is a genuinely enjoyable moment in film tragically bereft of them.
The commercial for Jack’s Perfect Pizza at the end of the movie. This A24-distributed horror comedy starring Chance The Rapper and Zazie Beetz never lives up to that logline, but in its closing moments, it delivers a wonderful blend of its comedic tone and supernatural elements. Chance, Beetz, and Paul Scheer all deliver their lines for the pizza commercial in an entertainingly stilted way, giving their characters a charming discomfort in front of a camera, and it makes for a memorable conclusion to a movie that’s kind of a mess otherwise.
After having seen Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, it’s really hard to think back on this movie and not wonder what could have been had Disney/Kathleen Kennedy just let Phil Lord and Chris Miller be Phil Lord and Chris Miller, instead of firing them and having Ron Howard finish everything up. Even with the lackluster final product we received, there are glimpses of interesting stories, including that of the boilings of a rebellion being led by the teenager, Enfys Nest. The reveal of her character’s age and skill is one of the few moments that truly captured my attention throughout this movie, and it left me wanting more of her story.
Sorry To Bother You
When I wrote my review for this movie back in July, I had to dance around a major topic of the movie, because it is a reveal that really makes this movie special, and having it spoiled would be a genuine bummer. Now, almost six months since I’ve seen it, I feel a little more comfortable noting it, so if you haven’t seen this movie, go ahead and skip down and wait until you’ve seen it. That said, the movie’s reveal of Equisapiens, the part-human/part-horse creation of Armie Hammer’s insane CEO character takes this already kind of strange movie into another realm, and really propels the film into something truly special, especially considering it was the writing/directing debut of Boots Riley. To not only have this idea, but to have the courage to push forward with it as your first film is something truly remarkable, and this movie should have received more attention than it did for that very reason.
A Star is Born
I could talk about Lady Gaga’s performance, or I could talk about how much I genuinely enjoy the song “Shallow,” particularly the segment where Gaga vocalizes the hell out of it, but instead, I’m going to talk about one singular shot of this movie. Sam Elliot inexplicably plays Bradley Cooper’s older brother in this movie, and their relationship is a bit fraught. Towards the end of the movie, Elliot drops Cooper’s Jackson Maine off at home, and Cooper turns around and apologies to and or thanks Sam Elliot for everything that has happened in their relationship (I don’t remember the exact exchange, nor do I care to look). Elliot turns around to back out of the car, and the expression on his face is utterly heartbreaking, compounded by just the faintest hint of tears in his eyes. This movie has basically become the major directing debut for Cooper, and the real major film debut for Gaga and those stories are the ones getting the focus here, but in one shot, Sam Elliot is able to show us what real genuine talent looks like, and its something that will likely get overlooked in the long run of this movie.
An exceptionally dark comedy about two girls, one emotionally stunted and the other a popular, intelligent girl with a terrible step-father, planning to kill the terrible step-father is something that can really live or die based on how much we liked the likely murderers, and the casting on this was pitch perfect. Olivia Cooke is able to control a surprising amount of empathy for someone who cannot feel it (although her ability to make herself cry is both startling and intensely funny) and the consistently great Anya Taylor-Joy also proves herself capable of creating empathy out of a character who seems to have everything. The two play off each other well, as Cory Finley’s script and direction really allows their strange relationship to grip the audience into wanting them to succeed in their adventures of patricide (having the step-father played by the insufferable author from House of Cards was another inspired piece of casting, at least for me).
Even with a strong lead performance from Claire Foy, this is a gimmick movie that was realistically going to live or die by its gimmick (being shot entirely on director Steven Soderbergh’s iPhone). I’m pleased to say that the gimmick works, and actually is something that goes along way into making this movie work (Foy’s supporting cast, particularly that of the stalker ex-boyfriend, never come particularly close to the skill needed to match the Emmy winner). The lower-quality-than-you’re-used-to really adds to the overall paranoia sensation of the film (even if that word is a bit harsh, as Foy’s character is entirely correct in her fears), particularly in a striking sequence when she is drugged, and several lays of scenes are layered on top of each other to create a dizzying effect, all supported by the uncomfortable effect of the overall visual quality of the film. At the end of the day “shot entirely on an iPhone” is a gimmicky concept, but in the hands of a director like Steven Soderbergh, it ascends from that into something genuinely necessary for the film’s mood.
Tom Hardy’s overly dedicated performance as both Eddie and the voice of Venom makes this dated superhero movie at least worth a watch. The chemistry between the two characters is often times bewildering and, weirdly, romantic, and the fact that Sony elected to advertise the movie’s Blu-Ray release as a romantic comedy makes it all the better.
A Wrinkle In Time
Director Ava DuVernay and screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell took on the difficult task of adapting a decades’ old, fantastical story that many children read in elementary school. The film, for better or worse, is a fairly faithful adaptation that hits the major beats of the book, including its fairly rushed climax and denouement. Along the way, though, we do get some truly striking visuals that help the movie standout, whether it be the bright, lush colors of the world Uriel, which include living flowers running alongside Mindy Kaling, or the dark, but colorful realm that we see as the kids journey between worlds. The story around it has nothing too terribly special about it, including the old trope of love saving the day, but it’s worth seeing at least some of the beautiful screengrabs DuVernay and company create along the way.
Photo Credits You Tried Star https://rlv.zcache.com/you_tried_sticker-rb0c5e2e6426544ce82426acf84ba3a12_v9w09_8byvr_540.jpg Ghost https://www.screengeek.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/hannah-john-kamen-ant-man-and-the-wasp.jpg Dumbledaddy https://www.syfy.com/sites/syfy/files/styles/1200x1200/public/syfywire_blog_post/2018/09/screen_shot_2018-03-13_at_12.16.47_pm.png?itok=SB3YCYIF×tamp=1537826643 Thoroughbreds https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/thoroughbreds.jpg?w=1000&h=563&crop=1 A Wrinkle In Time https://i.ytimg.com/vi/zRwZLOlYisw/maxresdefault.jpg