Luke’s Top 10 Movies of 2018

It’s the start of a new year! Last year was not as strong as 2017, with Logan and Blade Runner 2049 not only making the top of the 2017 but on the top of my all time favorites. This year didn’t have anything as strong as those movies were. However there are a couple of contenders last year that are worth watching none-the-less.

This should go without saying but there are several movies that I’m sure are good that I wasn’t able to watch. Last year as a busy one for me and that affected my theater attendance as well. So Bumblebee, Wreck-It Ralph 2, The Grinch and several others won’t make the list. If there are movies that aren’t on the list that you want to recommend, tweet me @DarthLaric and I’ll try to catch them. Here it goes!

10: Avengers: Infinity War

I had a hard time figuring out my number ten, partly because there were a bunch of movies that were ok but not top ten material. This movie is on the border for me. It was certainly entertaining with the production value you’d expect from the tentpole movie of the year. But I have a hard time loving the Avengers sequels. They tend to get too bloated and ambitious. The first one was novel as it was the first of its kind, but they all lack the strong characterization you get from the standalone films. While I do admit that I am very fond of Civil War, which is Avengers 2.5, that film did have a lot of things going for it other than spectacle. Infinity War is nothing but spectacle.

I will give credit where it’s due though, this movie should have been a much bigger mess than it was. It was messy but I wasn’t as bad as it should have been. The reason why I have this on number ten is the reaction the audience gave to the ending. I haven’t seen anything like it. For that, it does get respect from me. It’s a decent movie, but only lands on number 10 for me.

9. Solo: A Star Wars Story

I’m willing to admit my fatigue for Star Wars right now. The Last Jedi was a major disappointment to say the least. But what happened to Solo wasn’t deserved. It is one the best Disney Star Wars films. I went in expecting it to be a disaster but it kind of won me over. It’s not without its flaws, the cinematography is pretty ugly at parts and the stupid Darth Maul cameo was so jarring and out of place. Only people who have watched The Clone Wars and Rebels will have any understanding as to why he’s in there. Still the characters were well played and Han and Chewy make a great duo.

8. Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Go back to my mini review for my primary thoughts on this movie. It may not be a Miyazaki film, but it is the closest thing we have gotten since The Wind Rises. Gorgeous film with a bit of heart.

7. Aquaman

Yeah, yeah, of course the DC fanboy gives love to the Justice League’s running gag. Still, this movie has the lowest second weekend drop out of all the DC extended universe films (even Wonder Woman), is approaching a billion dollars worldwide and is performing very well despite competition with heavy hitters like Mary Poppins Returns and Bubblebee. This movie is not the failure people have come to expect from the DC films. In fact, I am quite fond of this movie. I’ve been thinking and studying heavily on archetypes, and this movie did those archetypes quite well. But the movie isn’t without its flaws, I pointed them out in my mini reviews. Still, it’s safe to say that this is the second best DC movie to come out next to Wonder Woman. It’s certainly better than Thor (shots have been fired).

6. Black Panther

What can I say? Black Panther is a cool hero with a good story and an excellent villain. But since everyone saw this movie, I don’t think I need to say more than that.

5. Mary Poppins Returns

It’s kinda nice that musicals are making a comeback. It seems like since Les Miserables, there has been a musical film out every year during the Holidays. I don’t mind this new trend, as La La Land was quite a charming movie. Mary Poppins Returns is also a very charming film with excellent set pieces and songs. Emily Blunt does a very solid Mary Poppins as well.

4. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

Another Sony surprise (they also co-produced Blade Runner 2049), this animated take on Marvel’s favorite hero has been said to be the best rendition of the web slinger on the big screen. I don’t know if I can say that as Homecoming as also a very solid movie. Still, a unique take on Spiderman with the humor. charm and action you expect from a Spiderman film.

3. Incredibles 2

Just barely beating out Spiderman as my top computer-animated movie, this one only gets higher because its a bit more philosophically sophisticated than Spiderman was. This one deals on the surface about the responsibility of fatherhood, but deeper it goes into the power of media on influencing others. Something I’m obviously very interested in.

2. Isle of Dogs

Ok here’s the top animated movie of the year. I have a soft spot for stop-motion animation, because one there’s a certain organic feel that you don’t get with computer animated films, and secondly it’s super hard and time consuming. Add to the fact that this is Wes Anderson’s love letter to Japanese cinema, you can bet that I’m totally in.

1. The Death of Stalin

Why do we go to see movies? When we go to the theater to see a movie, what is the expectation? Many of you might say that it depends on the movie. That is certainly true, but I would have to say that we go to the films to feel something. What that feeling is depends on the type of movie it is. We want to feel thrills, we go to action films. If we want to feel intimacy, we see a romance. We want to laugh, we go to a comedy.

The Death of Stalin is one of the funniest movies I have ever watched. I must preface that the humor in this film isn’t for everyone. I admittedly can have a very dark sense of humor. If, like me, you like dark humor and irony, this is the movie for you. So this film made me laugh, that fulfills it’s purpose as a comedy, but what elevates this movie (and other great films) further is that it adds something more.

With this film, it was exploring the minds of the leadership of the most brutal and oppressive government of the twentieth century, and exposing the source of its corruption. That source was the fact that everyone lied. The psychological exploration feed into the ironic humor seamlessly as the humor came from people acting contradictory to what they believed. This is also keeping with the observations made by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great soviet writer and Gulag survivor. To recapitulate, this movie is both hilarious, smart and my favorite movie of the year.

2018 Year in Reviews (Part 5)

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

I had a couple of doubts going into this movie. The art style looked too extreme, the frame-rate looked terrible and wasn’t sure how well Sony could handle a solo Spiderman venture. My doubts were not an issue at all. The film was terrific. The art style brought out a unique comic book look, the animation was top notch and the story didn’t suck! Sony was able to make a good Spiderman movie, thank goodness! It’s too soon to tell exactly where it falls in relation to other Spiderman films, but it is one of the best ones easily.

Aquaman

The reviews for Aquaman has been fairly mixed. Many agree that it was one of the better DC movies as of late but not quite to the level of Wonder Woman. I agree to that point but I must say that I rather liked this movie. The special effects were top notch, and the story although not super original, did tell the reluctant king story better than many other movies, including Thor. The archetypes were correctly implemented in this story and because of that, it ringed true to me. Not a perfect movie though, Ocean Master was a rather bland villain (Black Manta was much more interesting). Still, much better of a movie than anyone would expect from Aquaman.

Mary Poppins Returns

I must admit that it’s been a very long time since watching the original. The original wasn’t ever my favorite growing up, something about it didn’t click with me. That might change with a viewing with modern eyes, I can say that the new Mary Poppins was “practically perfect in every way.” While that might be said with some hyperbole, this movie knew of the legacy it followed and kept true to the spirit of the original. This is full-on musical and it was a good one too. The songs were catchy and meaningful, the set pieces were creative and expertly executed and the story was heart-warming. The actors sung very well, with Emily Blunt as a convincing Mary Poppins. Nothing really negative about this one, come watch it to help you feel like a child again.

Crazy Rich Asians

Another movie I saw outside the theater. It seems to be a huge hit for many people. I liked it for the most part, with some interesting characters, emotion and a glamorous look at the life of upper-class Singapore. I generally don’t care for romantic comedies, but it has the same charm that was shown in a movie like My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Those are the movies that I got to watch this year. I don’t know if I can get another one in today but this is it for now. I do plan on posting my top 10 sometime soon. See you then and Happy New Year!

2018 Year in Reviews (Part 4)

Venom

Venom feels like a movie that was released in the 2000’s, pre-Batman Begins. It was tonally all over the place with a dark carnivorous parasite that takes over hosts that would crack corny one-liners in a brutal fight scene. I can’t really say that this is a good movie, but it is an anomaly from a bygone era when superhero movies weren’t taken seriously. There’s a certain charm about that. Tom Hardy knew the time of movie he was in and acted accordingly. This isn’t the edgey hard R Venom movie that people were expecting, it feels like an reboot to Spiderman 3’s least interesting villain, and more in the same vein as Sam Raimi’s movie than anything else that has come out. Overall it is a dumb bromantic comedy that does a better good bad movie than Jurassic World 2 did.

Peter Rabbit

I didn’t see this in theaters, my niece made me watch this. But was a charming little movie. I got invested into the story, the animal animation was solid and has a couple good laughs. It’s a good family comedy devoid of cynicism and forced pop-culture jokes. For that reason, it has a much better chance of becoming timeless than other kid movie offerings.

Fantastic Beasts 2

I’m sorry I’m not going to type out the whole title. I can’t say that I loved the Fantastic beast movie like I did the Harry Potter movies, but it was still pretty good with some legitimate plot twists that made the film more than just a cash grab. The pulled off the plot twist perfectly in the first one as after being revealed, the plot made more sense and it was more illuminating than confusing. I can’t say the same for the Fantastic Beasts, the plot twist in there just left us all with more questions. I like the fact that the first one didn’t have to rely on a cliff hanger but rather a loose end that could evolve to something big. Still I didn’t hate this movie, it was exciting at times, and had some really dark moments that took a lot of guts to put into a Potterverse blockbuster.

2018 Year in Reviews (Part 3)

Incredibles 2

The long awaited sequel to one of the best Pixar films to date has a high bar to climb. Is it a worthy sequel? I think it is, I can’t say it’ll have the same impact that the first one had, but the movie was fun, funny and has some depth to it. The antagonist in this movie is one that I love, because one: I’m a video technician and second, how media influences our psychology is something I want to study in the future. Plus the monologue sounded like Baudrillard which is also a big plus for me.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I had my issues with the first one but even I admit that it was a fun and entertaining movie (the ending alone is worth it). With Jurassic World being the biggest movie of 2015 (until Star Wars VII), there was some high expectations for the follow up. Did it pull a Lost World? Yes it did, the story beats and structure were very similar for one, but overall the movie lacked the charm and magic the first movie had. The movie eventually devolves into a Resident Evil story with the cheese included. While it could be considered a “good bad” movie for it’s cheesy moments, it’s more boring than fun overall. They should call the next one Dino Crisis.

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The mission impossible movies have been a solid franchise that has lasted longer than it should. Fallout has kept the standards of the franchise with solid action and set pieces, rubber masks surprise reveals and ticking time bombs. However, this one felt samey to the last one, with the same director and much of the same cast as the last one. They all have a shared continuity, but each movie has a different flavor that made each movie unique. This one felt the most like a direct sequel. However, I think this one is more memorable and fun than the last one was, so it may be sequel but it is a good sequel at least.


2018 Year in Reviews (Part 2)

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

When animation master Hayao Miyasaki “””””””officially”””””” (enough air quotes?) retired after The Wind Rises (Air quotes because he’s developing another movie right now), the future of Studio Ghibli dramatically shifted. I’m unsure about Miyasaki’s next movie, but the decision was made to stop animating original movies in house. Instead Ghibli would be a producer and distributor of other animated films like last years excellent The Red Turtle. So now you have a bunch of the best animators in Japan without a studio. So they created their own, Studio Ponoc, and this is their first feature film. As you can imagine, the animation on this movie is spectacular. It definitely is imaginative but I don’t think the story is as strong as Mayazaki’s works. Still that’s a fairly high benchmark to make, and it’s a charming and beautiful movie nonetheless. If you need a Ghibli fix, Studio Ponoc’s movie is the best thing you can find right now.

Death of Stalin

This movie isn’t for everyone. It is really dark, violent, and yet was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever watched. The movie takes place at the end of Stalin’s reign in Soviet Russia and the succession crisis that preceded his death. Something like this would normally be done in a serious oscar-bait drama. But instead, they turned the death of one of the most ruthless and evil dictators of the 20th century into a comedic farce. This adds a sweetness to the otherwise acerbic subject matter. I cannot recommend it to everyone, but anyone who enjoys dark humor, witty dialogue and irony should really check it out.

Deadpool 2

I didn’t catch the PG-13 re-release so this is based off of the R version. The production value went way up for this one and played out more like a typical superhero movie. For better or for worse, this one feels much more mainstream and dare I say less raunchy than the last one. But there are plenty of gorey bits and F-bombs to maintain an adult rating. I didn’t have any many issues with this one but I didn’t laugh as much with this movie than the last one. It has a much better story than the first one but the first one felt more rebellious and underground. Deadpool was a major risk and that’s what I respected about it, this one felt more safe. Again not a bad movie, but may not have the lasting impact that the first one does.


2018 Year in Reviews (Part 1)

So I’m going to post up a couple of mini reviews in chunks. That way I don’t have you reading a novel all in one day but enjoy a small bite size review ever couple of days. I’ll start with early 2018 movies first, I don’t promise that they are in chronological order though (or for the rest of the reviews for that matter). Also I will probably have to wait until the beginning of next year to do a top ten list since there are 3 big movies coming out all on Friday. And I am still very much behind on everything.

Black Panther

Adam already did a review on this movie, but here’s my thoughts on the movie. I liked it, and set the precedent for great Marvel movie villains. In fact, it’s one of two Marvel movies that has a great antagonist (usually a weaker point for Marvel). The thing that I think will bog down this movie is the politics that people have tried to push on it. Take that away, this movie is one of the best that Marvel has put out.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

The first movie was what a dumb giant robot/monster movie would be like if made by a good director. It doesn’t take itself seriously but it has more depth than your average popcorn movie. But overall it was just a lot of fun, the main characters were fairly bland but more than makes up for it for excellent giant robot fights. This movie is what it would have been if Del Toro didn’t make it. This time though it’s the reverse with John Boyega being the more charismatic with the support characters being completely boring and forgettable. The fight scenes are alright I guess, I just don’t remember too much from this movie.

Isle of Dogs

Finally a movie that I don’t feel “meh” about. I’m not a huge Wes Anderson fan, I know him more for the stop motion he made like Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs. This movie is his love letter to Japanese cinema, and added to the fact that I love Japanese cinema, I was completely on board with this. The movie is charming, inventive and has a stellar voice cast of top Hollywood actors as the dogs and Japanese actors by the humans. One of the best films of the year!