by Kevin Muller
Worst of 2018
10. Forever My Girl
Jessica Rothe is one of the more interesting talents that have come out of Hollywood in the last few years. From Happy Death Day, to her brief stint in La La Land, she is an actress who just has it. Even she couldn’t save this mess of a love story about a selfish musician, who left his pregnant wife at the altar and turned his back on his home town, to chase a life of music, booze, and women. We are presented with so much reason to hate this guy, especially what he did to Rothe’s Josie, but we all know they will end up together. The problem is that she welcomes him back with little to no fight. He uses his fame, charm, and winning looks to melt her into a pool of emotion. Come on, Josie! Put up a better fight than that! Not only for yourself, but for us, the audience, so that this film has some type of real conflict.
9. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The once majestic and awe inspiring world of Jurassic Park, has been replaced with the soulless action orientated Jurassic World. The originals had some amazing action set pieces, so it isn’t a jab against the action genre, but “Kingdom” lacks anything resembling imagination or innovation. It is formulaic film making on the worst level.
8. A Wrinkle in Time
Brie Larson said that this jumbled mess of a film isn’t for forty year old white men, so there legit criticisms why this didn’t work doesn’t mean anything. Sorry, Brie, but a good film is a good film, it doesn’t matter who it is made for or what the subject is. I never read the novel, but something resembling a good idea did appear a few times. Children aren’t going to connect with metaphors this deep or ideas this vast, unless you present them in interesting ways. This doesn’t mean you can just slap a few powerful actresses into the roles to cover any flaws. Children may find this confusing, adult men, including this 36 year old Colombian man, who was raised in a white family, find this pretentious, over the top, and a complete bore.
7. The Nun
Where Hereditary created atmosphere with its horror, The Nun just falls back on every single trope that exists in modern horror: the jump scares, the music, the annoying direction, and the overall cheapness of it all. I don’t know what is more scary, the fact that this thing made millions of dollars or there are more coming that will follow the same guideline.
6. 50 Shades Freed
Even though this is an improvement over the second one, it is still crap. At times, this felt like a parody of actual romance films. Anastasia is still a twit, Christian still gets the pass for being a creep, the sex scenes still lack any type of passion, the acting is still stiff, ice cream is violated, but you know what, its over… so let’s take a breath and move on until Hollywood adapts the next shitty Mommy porn book.
5. Proud Mary
An exploitation movie starring one of the coolest actresses out there kicking ass and taking names? Why the hell is this on here? That is what I thought when I was reading the reviews. Taraji P. Henson just has so much attitude and is a damn good actress. This should’ve worked and created a franchise for her to lead for a few films. She deserves it! For such a bad ass film, it is kind of lame. It’s as the director watched multiple films with strong black female leads and completely missed the point of what made them legendary. The plot here is thin and non-sense, it is a chore to sit through, the worst crime this film commits relates to the action. The director sucks all the life out of the gun battles and fighting. It seriously lacks any energy whatsoever. This may not be the worst movie on the list, but it certainly is the one that wasted so much potential.
4. Tomb Raider
I really thought nothing would top the awfulness of the original Tomb Raider with Angelia Jolie. As with the video games, the movie got the same overhaul with making heroine, Lara Croft, a novice in the ways of survival. As with Proud Mary, the movie is just chore to sit through since the adventure part is done so shoddily. Alicia Viklander, who has an Oscar and was an interesting choice to play Croft, seems to be sleepwalking through the role.
3. Night School
Annoying, infantile, lazy, and any other adjective you’d like to throw in there, is a perfect way to describe this “comedy” that stars Kevin Hart. The actor is very hit or miss with his films. There are times that is perfectly utilized and adds so much energy and top notch comic timing to projects he is a part of. Then you have the flipside, like this film, where he acts like a sugar induced child who is let loose on the set. First off, there are so many illogical things that happen here that throw off the plot, but it is also terribly directed. This shouldn’t be the case since Girls Trip director, Malcolm D. Lee, is here to captain the ship. He is capable of creating something funny with a little extra. This thing has absolutely no vision or purpose than to just try to make you laugh with any idiotic trick it has up its sleeve.
The murdered, or kidnapped child being avenged or saved, is becoming a genre within itself with once famous actors in need of a franchise to revitalize their careers. It worked ten years ago with Liam Neeson, and brought him into the spotlight for a bigger audience. It also damned him to a genre that he really hasn’t left since Taken. This time, we have Jennifer Garner stepping up to the plate with a story about a housewife avenging her dead husband and daughter. While these heroes have some type of military or training in their past, all it took for Garner’s character to become an ass kicking/machine gun firing bad ass was a few months away from society. It would’ve been a more interesting story to see how she went from desperate housewife to stone cold killer. The few flashbacks we get don’t justify the radical change she goes through, even for a film like this one. Garner, who made a name for herself, as an ass kicker, on ABC’s Alias, is basically sleepwalking through this paycheck role. Hell, it felt like everyone is walking through this thing with only the paycheck in their eyes. You’ve seen this film done before, and a lot better
John Travolta is bad, but his energy makes this watchable because every decision that director, Kevin Connolly, E from Entourage, makes is terribly misguided. Films about the mobs work for a variety of reasons and this one fails at every single point. It’s a rip off of great films like Goodfellas with its editing and directing. The characters talk in this terrible pseudo Italian talk that would make real mobsters cringe. Connolly desperately tries to do montages, with musical cues, like his obvious inspiration, Martin Scorsese, but they are so clumsy and lack the impact. The story goes back and forth, without any real emotion or excitement. It looks cheaply made too. This has to be the most lifeless mob movie ever which isn’t interesting or truly dives into the completed life of its star. FUHGETABOUTIT
Top 10 of 2018
Claire Foy is slowly becoming one of the most interesting actresses in Hollywood. Even though The Girl in the Spider’s Web was a failure, with a script that reduced her character to an action hero, she played Lisbeth Salander quite well. Foy, who is British, can disappear into any role with ease. Here, she brilliantly plays a woman caught up in one of the worst situations imaginable. Soderbergh’s claustrophobic film was shot with an i-Phone and it gives the project an unique style. Reminiscent of a traditional 90’s thriller, it shows that this director, who was supposed to be in retirement, still has got it.
Films slated as “horror” are a dime a dozen. Each year we are treated to hyperbole about several films being the next iconic one in the genre. While some are worthy, others fall to the wayside, succumbing to horror clichés. This film is a different beast of its own. It cares about its characters, builds suspense, is unforgiving, and well done. Toni Collette is superb as a mother dealing with the loss of a family member, whose death is still burned into my brain, as one of the most disturbing images I saw in 2018. The mysterious quality of the story unfolds nicely and goes to places that will haunt your dreams. Even if you have a high threshold, for this genre, you can’t deny that you are watching something that is incredibly directed, not only for a horror film but just as a film in general.
8. Avengers: Infinity War
Ten years in the making, this was the film that both movie and comic book lovers were waiting to happen. Everything that was wrong with Justice League doesn’t exist here. The Russo Brothers perfectly balance, not only the characters, but the storylines, emotions, and madness that is on screen. Josh Brolin, makes Thanos one of the more interesting characters to grace the silver screen this year. Avengers: Endgame comes out in April, and it will be interesting to see if they could top it. I am betting we are in for one hell of a finale.
Jason Reitman had two films drop this year. One, was the Hugh Jackman film, about disgraced Senator, Gary Hart, which was damn good, despite what the terrible box office tells you. The other was about a mother who is losing her sanity trying to balance being the perfect mother, superb wife, while taking care of her own needs. Enter Tully, a young free spirited girl, who reminds Theron’s Marlo of all that she lost when she got married and had kids. Theron retains that sharp wit and tragedy that she does so well. This is a woman who looks, walks, and acts defeated. It was an underappreciated performance that sadly got overlooked last year. Equally impressive is Mackenzie Davis, who plays the title character. She is a free spirit who brings calmness to Theron’s life that is so infectious. Don’t let anyone spoil the ending the film which is both eye opening and tragic.
6. A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper did it. He remade a film and added such depth, humor, sadness, and truthfulness to the story of an aging, and alcoholic, country music star who both discovers and falls in love with a hot new talent. Everything and everyone here is spot on. Lady Gaga is great as the find. She belts out the tunes with the talent we know she has, but also turns in a damn good performance trying to fix the broken man that she loves. Character actor, Sam Elliot, provides one of the year’s most heart-wrenching moments without uttering a word of dialogue. Above all, this is Cooper’s movie. The actor knocks it out of the park as the director. The decision to film this using handheld cinematography makes the experience more immersive and the emotions hit harder. Cooper also gave an incredible performance that I was actually pulling for at this year’s Oscars. I knew that people went gaga…over Gaga, but I thought Cooper was the heart and soul of this film. This is a romance film that will be remembered and it’s truly magnificent work.
Nicholas Cage is a great actor. That is a fact I will debate until the end of time. The problem is, he attaches himself to everything, and most of that everything is crap, but once in a while he finds material that utilizes him in the right way. You’ve never seen anything like this movie before. The cinematography, score, done by the late and great Johann Johannsson while the directing are all unique and unforgettable. This is a simple revenge tale that looks like a drug induced nightmare. Cage, is off the leash and fully in Nic Cage mode here. Director Panos Cosmatos gives so many opportunities to give his star the right scenes to justify that “Cage Rage.” It’s the perfect midnight movie that is bold, imaginative, frightening, and one of the more original movies to come out in the last few years.
4. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy can make you laugh seven ways to Sunday, but here she displays a great emotional and steady performance that shows that actress is more capable than a lot of people give her credit for. In this true story, Lee Israel, is a failed author who lives a life of squander. When she finds out she can make money by forging documents then selling them off as originals, she starts to taste the life she only dreamed of. McCarthy is absolutely fantastic in this role. She makes Lee a lovable loser who you feel pity for, even though what she did was illegal and wrong, and also makes the character so much damn fun. Lee is on sarcastic son of a bitch, and McCarthy uses her comedic talent to really land those insults. It isn’t until the end of the movie where we see how broken and hurt she is, and McCarthy, looking like the definition of frumpy, lets us inside the mind of this tortured and flawed soul. Oh, her costar Richard E. Grant, who got an Oscar nomination along with his leading lady, brings such a mischievousness to an aged old Queen.
3. Mid-90’s/Eighth Grade
Most films about adolescents are throw away stories only focusing on the shallow and vapid parts of being a teenager. These two films told two different stories but both directors, Jonah Hill and Bo Burnham, threw in that little extra to make them extraordinary films.
The young skater characters in Jonah Hill’s film are cool as hell, but come from broken homes. It doesn’t matter though because once those wheels hit the ground, they are Gods amongst men. Unlike Captain Marvel, Hill doesn’t drown his movie in constant references of the time period it is based on. Outside of that minor detail, Hill creates a world that feels authentic and lived in. We get to know all these kids in the 90 minutes we spend with them. They are delinquents of society, but Hill never passes judgement on any of them, but instead examines their duality of being kids and skater Gods. Also, serving as the writer, he fills the script of poignant lines and the crass humor we know him for. It is a hell of a debut for the young actor who has come a long way from being the supporting funny fat friend.
Elise Fischer is a God sent for director Bo Burnham. She isn’t a walking stereotype of any teenage archetype. She is just a normal girl who is going through the growing pains and awkwardness of being a teenager. The situations she gets thrown in never move away from being uncomfortable. This is where Burnham shines. He walks the line between making a situation truthful but with the level of anxiety that comes with being an adolescent. This film also takes the cake with having one of the more touching moments in cinema this year. If you finish watching the scene where Kayla and her single father, who is painted as a genuine, but a bit awkward, talking over a camp fire about her inner struggles and insecurities, without feeling some kind of emotion, you are made of stone. The scene perfectly communicates both sides of being an adolescent and raising one. The film is like Kayla: truthful, original, uncomfortable, but extremely genuine.
Spike Lee has never really been my cup of tea. His films have powerful messages but the landing on them is a bit awkward. Sure, he does have great films, but they are scattered over a 30 year long career. That is just my opinion. Well, mark 2018 as the year where he knocked it out of the park. Lee injects his strong commentary into this project, but has a strong script, great actors, and sense of extreme confidence. David Washington, son of Denzel, is just fantastic here and has his father’s bad ass nature to him. Are you surprised? He is Denzel Washington’s son! He also has his father’s ability to become fully immersed in a role. When he is on the screen, you can’t take your eyes off of him. Adam Driver also turns in a worthy performance as the cop who infiltrates the KKK. In a nice bit of casting, That 70’s Show actor Topher Grace, portrays well known Grand Wizard, David Duke. Grace plays the role as an absent minded fool whose fate is even more satisfying since he gets played the entire film. This is Lee’s film though and you feel his attitude in every frame. It is in your face, informative, and flat out hilarious. You may not agree with Lee’s ideas, but art is about looking beyond your own thoughts and opinions, and it is the job of the artist to make it have a lasting effect. Trust me, this will be one that will be remembered.
Here are my number picks from years prior
1994- Pulp Fiction
1996- Everyone Says I Love You
1997- Good Will Hunting
1998- The Truman Show
1999- American Beauty
2001- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
2002- The Hours
2003- Mystic River
2005- Batman Begins
2006- United 93
2009- Up in the Air
2012- The Master
2014- A Most Violent Year
2017- The Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Steven Spielberg has been on a rampage trying to block Netflix movies from getting any awards recognition, despite the fact that Netflix releases their movies in select cities, like major Hollywood movies do with their smaller films. In his opinion, if they are released through a streaming service, they are television movies. Alfonso Cauron’s epic film IS NOT a television movie. It is a large, beautifully realized, tragic, funny, heartbreaking, and masterfully made film. Just the cinematography, which won the Oscar this year, shatters Spielberg’s argument. Based upon the director’s own childhood and experiences, it tells the story of a nanny, who lives in poverty, but works for an affluent family. Despite their riches, the family is falling apart with the Cleo, the young nanny, being in the center of it all. The film is authentic, so that means the entire story is spoken in the native language with English subtitles. It follows Cleo, played with utter perfection by first time actress Yalitza Aparicio, throughout her life that consists of the family and her own troubles. This is a role that any actress would have some fears tackling since the character is in almost every scene. You could’ve fooled me saying that this was her first film. She carries it with ease and confidence. Cauron, who has applied innovative techniques to many of his films, including Gravity, which he won his first Oscar for, then his second for his work here. The Mexican director loves his long takes.He used the technique in the 2006 Science-Fiction film “Children of Men,” in the middle of a war. It was impressive to see explosions, murder, and utter chaos captured with using that style. In Roma, he uses that technique and many more to drive home the emotions of each scene. When young Cleo gives birth to her baby, it is a shot with no breaks, and it makes you feel so much in that entire scene. It is a film that takes a while to hook you, but once it does, it doesn’t let go.