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The Maniacal Musings Of A Munificent Mammal
2018 Movie List

This is a list of the 2018 movies I’ve seen, in the order in which I liked them. I have trouble getting actual reviews posted these days. So instead I have a couple of brief sentences included here on the list, for lack of anything more. Links on titles go to the movie’s Wikipedia page. The trailer link after each title will load the movie’s trailer in a simple pop-up. For a list of my personal 2018 movie awards by category, click here.

10 Stars

  • Isle Of Dogs (Trailer)
    I’m a Wes Anderson fanboy, and his odd sense of style and story fits the form of stop animation particularly well. Like his first stop animated film from 2009, Fantastic Mr. Fox, this is easily one of my favorites of the year.
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Trailer)
    Possibly my favorite of the Mission: Impossible film franchise. This is the rare big studio film franchise that continues to improve over time. After the solid first film (minus the terrible last 10 minutes), I thought the awful second film might spell the end of the franchise. As a big fan of the series, I was disappointed that it might die on such a downer of a lame movie. Thankfully, JJ Abrams breathed new life into it with the excellent M:I III. After that, Brad Bird proved that Abrams’ entry wasn’t a fluke with his fantastic Ghost Protocol entry. Then Christopher McQuarrie stepped in and wrote and directed the also-fantastic Rogue Nation (well, other than that terrible and ridiculous underwater data vault sequence). McQuarrie returned as the only director to do two movies for this sixth entry, and he really came through with a wildly entertaining and fun film. And, of course, Tom Cruise’s craziness is well utilized to the benefit of the franchise again.
  • Incredibles 2 (Trailer)
    What can one say about a fantastic sequel to a great original film? It may have taken 14 years to finally happen, but when it did it was totally worth the wait. Even better, it’s one of the best action films of the year, animated or not.
  • Overlord (Trailer)
    One of those movies that just leans into exactly the kind of movie that it knows itself to be. In this case, it’s part World War II movie and part action-horror movie. I saw this one a couple times theatrically, cause it was such a crazy blast of a movie.
  • Ant-Man And The Wasp (Trailer)
    Honestly, this might be one of my favorite Marvel films to date, going toe-to-toe with Guardians Of The Galaxy (1 & 2), The Avengers and a few others. The first film was certainly enjoyable and was surprisingly good considering the production issues it overcame. But this sequel shows the Ant-Man franchise really finding its footing. It moves along at a good pace, interweaves multiple stories as it does quite well, and the cast is having a blast with the material. Paul Rudd may end up being one of the most spot-on pieces of casting that Marvel has done. I’m sure I’ll end up being that one weird person who considers this movie to be vastly superior to the other Marvel movies of 2018, Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther. And how can you not enjoy the bonus of Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer together?
  • Eighth Grade (Trailer)
    A starkly realistic coming-of-age story following an awkward introvert. The movie tonally nails every aspect of its story, which is very simple and very real. It’s narratively an “indie” style movie, in that there’s no way Hollywood would make something this grounded and real, without feeling like a low-budget student film. The performances of Elsie Fisher as the main character of Kayla and of Josh Hamilton as her father are absolutely worthy of an Academy Award win. Special mention also goes to the music score by Anna Meredith which sidesteps the usual folksy guitar noodling that films like this typically get. Her score is bold and featured prominently in the film, sounding like something from Mark Mothersbaugh or Giorgio Moroder.

9 Stars

  • Game Night (Trailer)
    This was a surprisingly fun comedy that utilized more style than I was expecting. The cast is marvelous, with Jason Bateman doing what he does best and Rachel McAdams being absolutely adorable (and Jesse Plemons going perfectly over-the-top as their cop neighbor).
  • Ralph Breaks The Internet (Trailer)
    The year of excellent animated movies continues with this wildly fun sequel to the excellent first Wreck-It Ralph movie. This one also has a fun script, great voice performances, fun animation and TONS of great references and in-jokes.
  • Bad Times At The El Royale (Trailer)
    A fantastic cast assembles to play out a fun and dark character thriller. Former Buffy writer, Drew Goddard, who has also written movies like The Martian and written/directed true classics like The Cabin In The Woods, has lots of fun with the material. It features a great production and captures its ’60s era very well.
  • First Man (Trailer)
    An excellent biopic of Neil Armstrong. Not quite as good as The Right Stuff, Apollo 13 or From The Earth To The Moon, but a darn good companion to those films. The cast is excellent and the production is first-rate, absolutely nailing all of the historic detail perfectly. Unfortunately, the non-stop handheld camera work really hurts the movie and is its primary weak spot.
  • A Simple Favor (Trailer)
    Will be one of those wonderful surprise films of the year. I was mainly looking forward to it for the cast, with the wonderful Anna Kendrick and the typically-good Blake Lively. The trailers play up the suspense side of the movie, which is certainly a good aspect of the movie, but unfortunately, the trailers almost completely ignore how funny the movie is. Given that it’s directed by Paul Feig, who is primarily a comedy director, I guess it’s not surprising that it contains a good amount of comedy. But honestly, I laughed at this movie more than most of the recent movies that are straight up comedies. I guess it’s just that thing of most people not liking movies that blend genres, and the studio afraid to advertise that fact. Personally, I love movies that blend genres.
  • Upgrade (Trailer)
    What, you never heard of this movie? Yeah, no surprise there. Neither had I before I saw it. It had essentially no promotion. It was one of my favorite kind of moviegoing experience, seeing a movie on the showtime list, looking up the most basic info about it, and seeing it without really knowing anything in particular about it. In this case, I knew it was a sci-fi action thriller written and directed by Leigh Whannell. Beyond that, I knew nothing. And I ended up really liking it a lot. It’s also one of those conceptually ambitious movies that you can tell is using every dollar of their budget as best as they possibly can.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Trailer)
    An impressively well-assembled documentary on the life of none-other-than Fred Rogers. It assembles plenty of good interviews with cast and crew and it makes no apologies for the idealism that Rogers embodied.
  • Deadpool 2 (Trailer)
    The Deadpool films are a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. I know people on both sides of the fence, which is fine. The irreverent, raunchy humor with Ryan Reynolds’ trademark style and sarcasm isn’t for everybody. Obviously, it works for me. The James Bond opening title sequence alone is worth it. Plus, it has 2 of the best plot summaries in decades.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (Trailer)
    A watered-down telling of the story of Freddie Mercury, to be sure, but a solidly entertaining one. From the simple beginnings to the massive recreation of Queen’s performance at Wembley for 1985’s Live Aid, the movie is an engaging telling of Queen’s story and Mercury in particular. Rami Malek was an easy bit of casting as Mercury.
  • Searching (Trailer)
    A solid thriller with unique production and gimmick that works 98% of the time. The real standout component of the film is John Cho’s performance and some solid work from Debra Messing.
  • Hereditary (Trailer)
    Probably the best horror film I’ve seen since 2005’s The Descent. If David Fincher was ever going to make a horror movie, somebody just beat him to it. This one is highly calculated and takes its time with pacing and build. It takes wonderful left turns and the payoff actually manages to work. Horror isn’t a genre I’m a big fan of (usually just for reasons of cinematography or music score or such), but this is one of the special exceptions to the genre.
  • A Futile And Stupid Gesture (Trailer)
    The origins of National Lampoon as told through the story of Doug Kenny is a weird, wild, crazy story. With a wonderful cast and a fun fanboy approach to the hilarious and somewhat tragic story, the movie manages to do a good job telling the story.
  • Vice (Trailer)
    While not quite as great as The Big Short, this dramedy comes through with great performances and a fun, irreverent script. As was the case in The Big Short, the levels of meta humor involving the true story runs rampant and is quite amusing.
  • A Quiet Place (Trailer)
    Speaking of horror movies that break apart from the pack, this movie takes its central plot concept and mines it for plenty of cinematic fun. The cast is fantastic at portraying roles with nearly no dialog. It may not be a perfect movie (try not to think about the ins-and-outs of such a situation too much), but it’s highly entertaining and a fun thought exercise.
  • Tag (Trailer)
    Another fun and silly conceptual comedy to go along with Game Night for highly enjoyable action-comedy films. Like that one, the cast has a ball with the material and the over-the-top nature of the idea is mined well for comedic potential. The true story that goes along with this one makes it all the more fun (as do the real-life videos accompanying the end credits).

8 Stars

  • The Mule (Trailer)
    Ah, the simple, confident, competent work of Clint Eastwood, who will apparently be one of those reliable filmmakers that will keep working until his last breath. Like many of his films, the drama of the film is intertwined with a certain amount of simple comedy to keep a grin on your face. And also like his typical films, the supporting roles are populated by excellent performers.
  • Ready Player One (Trailer)
    I enjoyed this movie when I saw it opening weekend. It’s one that I think will grow on me more over time with repeated viewings. The playful fun that everybody is having while making the movie is hard to not enjoy as a viewer. I’ve yet to read the book, so I’m not judging it against that (and I rarely do with movie adaptations).
  • The Spy Who Dumped Me (Trailer)
    It’s silly and over-the-top, but it’s that over-the-top glee that makes this one work. That, and a cast who is clearly having fun with the material. To be fair, it does feature some genuinely well-done action scenes. The best kinds of satire are ones that actually embrace their target. This one does that fully, both satirizing action spy films and fully trying to be one at the same time. Overall, a fun and enjoyable flick. It also gets a bonus point for one scene that got a sustained, genuine LOL from me in the theater (the “two dumb American girls” sequence).
  • Blockers (Trailer)
    This one succeeds because its characters and plot are more than just a framework to hang raunchy jokes on. The trailers made it seem like just a basic teen sex comedy, but the focus on the parents (and their raucous sequences) really ties it all back rather well. This is turning into a year of comedies that should have been more simple and stupid managing to be surprisingly well made.
  • Welcome To Marwen (Trailer)
    Sadly, this movie didn’t do nearly as well at the box office as it should have. Perhaps some of that is attributable to how strange the movie (and source story) is. Zemeckis uses his typical technical wizardry to blend fantasy and reality quite well, and the cast is more than up to the task. Perhaps this one will be able to eeek out better attention on video over time.
  • Papillon (Trailer)
    A more faithful remake of the Dustin Hoffman / Steve McQueen original than I had expected. While the original isn’t a masterpiece or anything, it’s a solid and bleak film. This remake sticks pretty closely to the framework and style of the original, remaining very minimalistic and restrained. Overall, I think it succeeds as well as the original does. Rami Malek does a fine job with Dustin Hoffman’s original role, perhaps even better. Charlie Hunnam isn’t quite as good as McQueen, but he does a solid enough job. While I have a fondness for Jerry Goldsmith’s score from the original, it’s pretty sparse throughout the movie, so the more somber and also-sparse score in this remake isn’t an inferiority worth overly caring about.
  • Tully (Trailer)
    While this might not be quite as good as some of director Jason Reitman or Diablo Cody’s other movies, it’s still nicely done. It’s a little bit derivative of other movies (from very different genres, like Fight Club), but it works well enough on its own. As always, Charlize Theron is fearless in her performance.
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (Trailer)
    A perfect Star Wars movie? No, not particularly. A highly enjoyable movie that turned out better than I was expecting, particularly given its behind-the-scenes turmoil? Yeah, definitely. I didn’t care for the main performance of Alden whats-his-name, but the rest of the cast was either decent (Emilia Clarke) to very good (Paul Bettany and Woody Harrelson) to excellent (Donald Glover). It also features some of the best action scenes of the new Star Wars films.
  • Overboard (Trailer)
    A remake that works. Yeah, it’s still a farcical plot, and a rather twisted one at that, but it works as well as the original does. This one tweaks a few things, but sticks to the original’s framework pretty well. It also has some fun with the gender reversal.
  • Red Sparrow (Trailer)
    A bit too convoluted for its own good, but I guess that’s a natural hazard for spy movies. There’s no denying that Jennifer Lawrence makes it work well and carries the movie. Definitely not the flashiest of spy films, but solid enough.

7 Stars

  • Oceans 8 (Trailer)
    A solid entry to the Ocean’s franchise with more direct ties to the previous films than I was expecting. Rather than go the remake approach, they did a nice in-universe spin-off. The cast is put together pretty well, with Bullock, Blanchet, and Hathaway being the key highlights. And thankfully, the great Daniel Pemberton was chosen to do the music, and he channels the style of David Holmes’ work on the other films quite well.
  • The Predator (Trailer)
    I like the fact that this treats the first 2 movies as canon, but essentially ignores anything else related to the franchise since (correctly). Writer/director Shane Black gets to come full circle, having acted in the original Predator. The highlight of the movie is the goofy array of characters and the cast the plays them. It almost plays better as an ensemble comedy than as a big sci-fi action movie, which is OK. Not a great film, but plenty entertaining. Bonus points for getting Jake Busey to play the son of Gary Busey’s character from Predator 2.
  • The Equalizer 2 (Trailer)
    It’s interesting that Antoine Fuqua has kinda taken the baton from Tony Scott, utilizing a number of the same crew, genre style, and of course, making multiple movies with Denzel Washington. While this sequel may not be as good as the first, I have little specifically to complain about. It’s kinda paint-by-numbers for the genre, but it does it well. Essentially, it’s a framework for us to watch Denzel do his thing, which pretty much never fails.
  • Bumblebee (Trailer)
    What’s this? A modern Transformers movie that doesn’t suck? Is that even possible? Well, turns out if you kick Michael Bay out of the director’s chair and make it a period piece (back in the ’80s, where it belongs), it actually is possible. The Autobot and Decepticon stuff ain’t great, but at least it isn’t embarrassingly awful. The true reason this movie works, though, is simple: Hailee Steinfeld. She carries this movie along, seemingly with ease.
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (Trailer)
    This one definitely turned out better than I was expecting. The trailers hadn’t done a lot to make me wanna see it, but I gave it a shot, based primarily on word of mouth. It has a decent sense of style and a very fun sense of humor, and the action sequences are pretty well put together.
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Trailer)
    Yeah, this movie is full of plot holes and implausibilities, but I still enjoyed watching it. For all the “rescue the dinos from a volcano” that the trailers showed off, I was kinda pleased that the movie played all of that out in the first act, and it was rather fun stuff, too. The rest of the movie is full of odd choices by the characters, but it somehow pulls it off anyway. Even the kid, which is typically a low point of summer action movies, works well enough (and gets to be a nice twist to the plot and not just a kid in the movie for the sake of a kid in the movie).
  • Annihilation (Trailer)
    Either I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I saw this one or it just didn’t work as well on me as other people I know. I liked it, but didn’t consider it particularly great. Certainly not as good as writer/director Alex Garland’s previous film, Ex Machina.
  • Rampage (Trailer)
    What can I say, I kinda like this one. Yeah, it’s completely ridiculous and silly, but thankfully it embraces that fact and just runs with it. Unlike Dwayne Johnson’s other big action movie this summer, Skyscraper, this one works and is entertaining. As for the video game it’s based on, I’ve always enjoyed the game, but it’s so basic in story and setup that the movie gets to kinda make up whatever it wants for the story, and what they did works well enough. Not a great movie, but certainly enjoyable.
  • Johnny English Strikes Again (Trailer)
    Do we need anything more than an excuse for Rowan Atkinson to do his shtick? It may not be the most clever or sophisticated comedy of the year, but what the heck, it’s fun.
  • Tomb Raider (Trailer)
    For the record, I’ve always enjoyed the “Cradle Of Life” sequel to the original Angelina Jolie film in the Tomb Raider franchise. I’ve never had any particular interest in the games these are based on, so I have no real frame of reference for comparison there. This new film works well enough, and the always-enjoyable Alicia Vikander slips into the role nicely.
  • Mary Poppins Returns (Trailer)
    For context, there are a few conflicting things about the kinds of movies I like and the original Mary Poppins. For starters, I don’t like musicals. But on the other hand, I’m a fan of Dick Van Dyke. And if there’s one person who can make a music number work, it’s Van Dyke. There are a couple of good musical numbers in Mary Poppins, but that’s due just as much to the production and Van Dyke’s performance than anything else. I have no particular opinion of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, one way or the other. So, I had fairly low expectations for the sequel, and the movie turned out a bit better than expected. It’s at least stylistically true to the original production, taking great care to look and feel like the sets and locations. The music, both in the score and musical numbers is definitely inferior, to the point of being instantly forgettable and bland. Emily Blunt’s performance is fine, but like Julie Andrews’ performance, it was simply OK and serviceable. But Lin-Manuel Miranda, however, pales in comparison to Van Dyke, though part of that is due to him being given no material with which to really shine. Overall, the movie gets a meh – which, to be honest, were it not for Van Dyke, so would the original.

6 Stars

  • Avengers: Infinity War (Trailer)
    I didn’t enjoy this one as much as others did. I didn’t dislike it, but I thought it was only mildly entertaining. It’s a jumbled mess of character writing that struggles to jam everybody in. Some characters make terrible choices throughout, and quite frankly they kinda deserve the end result based on those choices, knowing what they knew. Plus, I don’t get why Thanos can’t do a whole heck of a lot more with the stones he had before finally getting his fifth stone. Anyway, to put it simply, by the time it finally got to the end I was in a “yeah, OK, whatever” attitude as the big finale played out. And they played it out way too over-the-top, in that I knew in my franchise production-logic mind that none of this really mattered cause not all of these characters are remaining dead.
  • Black Panther (Trailer)
    Another movie everybody loved that I thought was so-so. Yeah, it’s got some fun production style and decent casting, but so much of it was “well, if you can do such-and-such, then why not also do such-and-such, or why can’t you do such-and-such”. Then there are the “traditions of our people” that are just plain moronic. I found many scenes simply frustrating or stupid. It does have the potential for a sequel that could work much better.
  • The Hurricane Heist (Trailer)
    A paint-by-numbers action heist movie set in the middle of a hurricane. I definitely enjoyed this one more than I should. I have no notions that it isn’t what it is, a lazily-written genre movie that simply put its story into the middle of a hurricane to give it a different spin. The big action finale escaping the wall of the hurricane eye is laughably stupid, but yet again, I enjoyed it for some reason. It’s probably thanks to the solid hand of director Rob Cohen, who has pulled off similar quality with weak action scripts before in the previous decades of his career.
  • The Meg (Trailer)
    Essentially, exactly what I expected. Well produced, solidly directed, decently cast, a good kernel of a plot idea and terribly written from start to finish. I’ve never tried to write a script before, but I’m pretty sure I could do better than that with my first draft. For a movie based around a science station, there’s no sign of scientific intelligence (or accuracy of any kind) to be found. If you want splashy, mindless action, you could do worse (eg: Skyscraper). Unfortunately, this movie falls somewhere between a good action movie and a ridiculous production like Sharknado. Not good enough to be particularly good, not bad enough to be fun in an MST3K/Rifftrax way. If it would have embraced it’s terrible as being more obviously terrible, it probably could have been more fun.

5 Stars

  • The Girl In The Spider’s Web (Trailer)
    Absolutely everything about this movie feels like an imitation of something better. As a result, everything in it has a “been there, done that” thing going for it. None of it is particularly bad, but it all gets a “meh” reaction from me.

4 Stars

  • Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town (Trailer)
    I saw this mainly for its lead actor, Mackenzie Davis. It’s a very indie movie, in nearly every noticeable way. The production is simple, the plot esoteric and low-key character driven, the direction not particularly imaginative. It has its moments but is mostly so-so. And the character arc from start to finish is just plain weird. At the end you’re like, “really?… REALLY?”

3 Stars

  • Pacific Rim Uprising (Trailer)
    Take all of the weaker generic-action-movie elements of the first film and forget to include any of the fun, unique, higher-quality elements that it had and you end up with this snore-fest of a sci-fi action movie. The one redeeming quality is the solid production quality. The final act of the movie, though it looks great, just goes on for-freaking-ever.
  • Anna And The Apocalypse (Trailer)
    Based on the trailers, I wanted to like this one, but sadly it came off as little more than a weak Britsh ITV production of a High School Musical wannabe. It either needed to lean into the twisted humor more, or have musical numbers that weren’t incredibly generic, or something. It doesn’t help that it lacks the charm of something like Warm Bodies or Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. This one, unfortunately, is instantly forgettable.
  • Venom (Trailer)
    Other than a vague memory about the character from one of the Tobey Maguire ear Spiderman movies, I knew nothing about the existence of this character (I’m not a comic book guy – one of the few nerd qualifications that doesn’t apply to me). This one lived down to my expectations, which were low. So-so action scenes, couldn’t have cared less if either the bad guy or the good guy got killed, or both, etc. Even Tom Hardy couldn’t really make it work, and that’s definitely saying something.
  • Skyscraper (Trailer)
    What a waste. What a complete and total squandering of amazing production design and visual effects effort. The script for this movie is, at best, a boring paint-by-number action movie. At worst, it’s a cliched, overly-serious, boring, steaming pile of you-know-what. It’s such a fantastic looking movie. Honestly, it really is. The building is the only real star of the movie because Dwayne Johnson and Neve Campbell are given utter crap to work with. And that’s a real shame, because this is something of an overdue return of Neve Campbell, and she wasted the opportunity on this.
  • Mandy (Trailer)
    While it has some interesting cinematography, and gives Nicolas Cage an excuse to go crazy on screen, I found this movie to be a boring mess. I imagine it’s a trippy movie for somebody tripping on drugs, but for me it’s a poorly-tossed-together set of horror cliche scenes.

2 Stars

  • The Cloverfield Paradox (Trailer)
    What the heck. After a highly enjoyable original Cloverfield movie and the even-better and excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane, we get this steaming pile of nonsense. The only thing saving this movie in any way is the cinematography, visual effects and solid-enough music score from Bear McCreary (though not nearly as great as his excellent score to 10 Cloverfield Lane). The script on this thing is a joke, and not in a good way. What a mash-up of illogical and stereotypical sci-fi gibberish. Ugh. By the end of this movie, I was just watching the remaining time counter, thankful when it finally got to the end.
  • Roma (Trailer)
    I’ve got no idea what the appeal of this movie is. Is it the fact that it was filmed in black & white? If this movie were made in color, would anybody have cared as much about it? Alfonso Cuaron has made some excellent films that I have enjoyed. This definitely wasn’t one of them. This is going to be one of those movies that everybody seemingly loved that just didn’t resonate with me in the slightest. It’s like Cuaron was trying to make a Robert Altman movie – that’s not a compliment from me, as I couldn’t stand Altman as a director. This movie may have a unique baby delivery scene, but the only moment I enjoyed was when the end credits finally rolled.

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