This list is super late, but I still wanted to publish it since I had the opportunity to watch a lot of great movies in 2018. I log a ton of screen time, but don’t we all anymore? Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Redbox, Vudu, my public library and local movie theaters, there’s no shortage of content, and most of it isn’t that great. But I, like you, have my favorites. Not all of my favorites are 2018 releases, so I’ll include the year they were released along with where I watched them. Just a heads up, no major spoilers ahead.
Hereditary (2018 – Redbox)
This movie. I’m going to start with Hereditary, because it’s stayed with me the longest, and that’s what you want a good story to do. I watched the trailers, read the summary and didn’t really know what this movie was about. But I’ve been on a horror kick lately, and this flick got a lot of praise. Several people had told me the less I knew, the better. They were so right.
This movie is subtle, but it doesn’t drag. It’s paced well for the atmospheric feels it’s going for. And there’s a scene which completely changes this movie from an interesting mystery into a dreadful train wreck. While the “oh shit” moment happens shockingly fast, upon reflection, there are a lot of hints masterfully woven into the story beforehand to justify what we just witnessed. Also, for a horror movie, this story taught me how showing less evil overall makes the evil you do show that much horrifying. This movie has the feel of a Stephen King novel, and because of that one damn scene, the rest of the story had me on the edge of my reclined sofa rocker, and I kept looking over my shoulder during my brief, dark walk home (I watched it at a neighbor’s house), and the remaining few hours it kept me up.
Before I Wake (2016 – Netflix)
Whereas I couldn’t figure out what the hell Hereditary was about from it’s marketing (that was part of it’s allure), I was drawn to this one from it’s premise: when an 8-year-old falls asleep, his dreams and nightmares come to life.
I think the reason I’m drawn to sci-fi, especially the likes of the series Black Mirror, is that you can take an ordinary plot and make it super interesting with the introduction of one difference-maker, whether it be a literal device, or in Before I Wake‘s case, an idea. This movie has the perfect blend of fantasy and horror. And any time you have a horror movie with a monster, it tends to get old real fast, but Before I Wake does a great job of keeping the monster’s screen time limited, which gives it more of an impact when we do catch glimpses. There’s also an overarching mystery with an amazing twist ending, one I didn’t see coming even though when I thought about it, there were hints everywhere, and I think that’s what make it so great. This movie was also jampacked with emotion: the pain of losing a child and the desire to see them again, but at what cost?
Avengers: Infinity War (2018 – Theater)
I tend to walk away from most Marvel movies thinking, “Whelp, add him/her to the growing list of mediocre/shitty villains.” But Thanos posed an actual threat in Infinity War, and even though he wasn’t without flaws, he sure left a lasting impression.
First off, Infinity War did what Age of Ultron couldn’t by juggling dozens of characters. I know we get tons of backstory from these characters in their own movies, team-ups and cameos, but there’s something to be said with taking so many, cramming them into a movie under 3 hours, and having it work so well. It helps when you have a villain worth uniting the entire galaxy.
Thanos was the star of this flick. Even though his reasoning for doing what he did came off a bit silly, he made all of our beloved heroes feel so insignificant, and that really elevated him above all the other villains who came before him. And then there’s the ending which really defies what we’ve come to expect from the standard superhero formula of bad guy starts shit, good guy tries to stop bad guy, bad guy is too strong, but bad guy also laughs too much and stands by idly too long, which gives good guy time to reflect upon why he/she fights, and then good guy wins easily, because why wouldn’t they? That doesn’t happen here, and it’s a massive breath of fresh air and one of the main reasons why I left the theater saying, “Did they really just do that?”
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017 – Netflix)
I’ll be completely honest, I thought the first GotG was super overrated. Which is weird, because I think GotG2 is super underrated. I saw it pop up on Netflix but didn’t have much interest in watching, as I thought it’d be more of the same, only worse. Boy was I wrong.
This movie strung me along with the lingering suspicion that not all was what it seemed–something felt off, especially with one of the characters. But I had no idea the twists GotG2 had in store. The villain was also done flawlessly, you could sense their overwhelming power, and they had a motivation I had yet to see, which was refreshing. It helped that this villain wasn’t a carbon-copy of the hero. I also thought the adventure from point A. to B. was a fun one filled with intrigue, smart humor and vivid worlds.
Upgrade (2018 – Redbox)
I loved the trailer for this movie. The song and cuts made to synchronize the film got my blood boiling. I felt an old energy I hadn’t felt since the ’90s when action movies kicked ass and made you feel like you could kick ass, too!Honestly, I was expecting more action from this flick than it actually had. No worries though, because the story was intriguing enough to hold my attention. From the trailer, you know that a man’s girlfriend/wife is murdered, and he’s left for dead but rendered paralyzed from the neck down. He gets an experimental “smart” chip called stem inserted into his brain stem, which talks to him like Alexa and gives him the ability to fully function again. It can also assume control of his body (sort of like autopilot) and kick ass like a ninja, which comes in handy when he goes on a revenge mission to kill all the bad guys who ruined his life. This leads our hero on a mystery of who-dun-it and why, and it touches upon the pitfalls of granting technology too much control over us.
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018 – Redbox)
I watched this movie with my kids, and it was a ton of fun! I think if you looked at this movie at face value, you’d probably write it off as just another kid’s movie. But as an adult, I highly enjoyed this one, mainly because it’s basically a parody of superhero movies (which there’s certainly no lack of or end in sight for).
The superhero market is super crowded, so often times we’re treated to the same song and dance–villain threatens life, hero steps up, throw in a few hurdles, almost kill hero, but hero is too strong-willed, so they swoop in and defeat said villain in the nick of time.
Teen Titans Go! knows and plays with the audience’s expectations. That’s why it’s a good idea to know your competition–so you can learn what your audience expects and blow them away with your unique twist. Teen Titans Go! does a great job landing most of its meta jokes (mostly about D.C. movies), while in the background it hides quite an awesome twist that I at least didn’t see coming. A twist which elevated the movie from pretty good to pretty darn good.
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018 – Theater)
I really liked the first movie, Wreck-It Ralph, because it did the video game genre justice. It was unique, cute, funny, creative, emotional, so when the sequel was announced, I didn’t have high hopes, especially after a few confusing trailers which didn’t give a good sense of what the movie was about. I think that helped, honestly, because I went in with low expectations and walked away with tears in my eyes.
This sequel takes what was great about the first movie and builds upon it, not necessarily doing it bigger, but taking the story deeper. At it’s core, Ralph Breaks the Internet is about growing up, and ultimately, letting go. I have to admit, during the climax, I honestly started to cry. The theme of growing older is perfected here, and we can’t help but feel Ralph’s pain and turmoil. If you want to convey emotions in your writing and evoke all the feels, definitely study this blueprint.
Aquaman (2018 – Theater)
I absolutely loved this movie! Saw it the week of Christmas and had a blast. I wasn’t expecting much, especially since D.C. has been turning out lackluster movies and wandering aimlessly ever since Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but it seems like they finally found a good balance between their dark side and the humor/charisma they’re so desperately lacked the last decade. Jason Momoa killed the title role, and so did Amber Heard as Mera. The two spend most of the film balancing each other out, and I’m not one for love stories, but this one felt natural, and I couldn’t help but root for the duo as their different worlds pulled them apart.
Aquaman was a long-ass movie but it didn’t feel too long. The action sequences were some of the best I’ve seen recently, same with the visuals. The fight scene on land was probably my favorite just for the vibrant colors and the choreographed mayhem which ensued. I do feel like the movie could’ve had a better third act which fell into a few tropes, but all in all, I feel like this is a movie I could watch multiple times just for the fun of it.
Annihilation (2018 – Redbox)
Talk about a slow burn, but the concept piqued my interest–a team heads into a foreign zone created by a meteor impact, and no one that’s ever set foot inside this mysteriously expanding shroud has ever been seen from again. And then there’s the fact that it stars Natalie Portman who was in one of my all-time favorite sci-fi movies, V for Vendetta.
I’ve had to let this movie sit for awhile before deciding I really enjoyed it. I think what stands out is similar to what I enjoyed in Hereditary–several unnerving scenes which still feel so visceral in my mind. The basic concept of this odd foreign zone is that everything inside, over time, gets mixed together, so plants blend with animals, and eventually both blend with humans, and this produces some truly terrifying images, sounds and sequences. The bear scene is something I honestly wish I had dreamt up.
I won’t lie, I didn’t get the ending. I have a guess, but it was so late, I didn’t immediately look it up, and I haven’t had the urge to have the internet explain it to me. The ending, or final showdown, was freaky though. I literally kept looking over my shoulder and wouldn’t want to watch that again.
L.A. Confidential (1997 – Netflix)
I had been meaning to watch this one for a long, long time and finally found the time to a few months ago. So glad I did as it’s surprisingly held up well. I’m a sucker for unpredictable plots, and this movie provides a lot of twists and turns. It follows three policemen during the 1950s as a brutal murder brings out the worst in their corrupt department, and them. This really felt like a character study, and I think the reason I was drawn into it was because of the dark paths everyone goes down. There’s also a central mystery surrounding the murder which slowly unravels as the movie progresses, keeping you guessing. Overall, I felt like I was watching a Tarantino flick where you get the odd feeling everyone’s going to die. And that’s a good thing:)