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Thread: BEST MOVIES of 2018

  1. #1
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    BEST MOVIES of 2018

    First is my ten best list sent to Indiewire, but that's not necessarily final. Below is a working list of some of my faves. Many are foreign and some unreleased. NYAFF=New York Asian Film Festival; SFIFF=San Francisco Film Festival.

    1. BURNING
    Other favorites (listed alphabetically):
    306 Hollywood (Elan & Jonathan Bogarín)
    Alpha ( Albert Hughes 2018)
    Asako I & II (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
    Ash Is Purest White / 江湖儿女) (Jia Zhang-Ke)
    Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer, Dexter Fletcher)
    Boom for Real (Sara Driver 2017)
    Capernaum/Capharnaüm (dir: Nadine Labaki)
    Chef Flynn (Cameron Yates 2018)
    Cold War/Zimna wojna (Pawel Pawlikowski)
    Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu 2018)
    Daniel and the Mountain (Felipe Barbosa 2017)
    Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)
    A Faithful Man / L’Homme fidèle (Louis Garrel)
    Foxtrot (Maoz)
    Free Solo (Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi 2018)
    Girl (Lukas Dhont)
    The Guilty (Gustav Möller)
    Jane Fonda in Five Acts (Susan Field 2018)
    John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection (Julien Faraut)
    Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)
    Let the Sun Shine In/Un beau soleil intérieur (Claire Denis)
    Mandy (Panos Cosmatos 2018) - Nicolas Cage, horror
    The Marriage (Blerta Zeqiri 2017)
    McQueen (Peter Ettedgui, Ian Bonhôte 2018)
    Non-Fiction / Doubles vies (Olivier Assayas)
    The Old Man and the Gun (David Lowery)
    Petit Paysan (Thomas Chaluret) RENDEZ-VOUS
    A Quiet Place (John Krasinski 2018)
    The Rider (Chloe Zhao)
    Roma (Alfoso Cuarón )
    Shoplifters/ 万引き家族 Manbiki Kazoku, (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
    Sunset (László Nemes)
    Support the Girls ( Andrew Bujalski 2018)
    Tea With the Dames (Roger Michell)
    Three Identical Strangers (Tim Wardle 2018)
    Transit (Christian Petzold)
    The Twinning Reaction (Lori Shinseki 2017)
    Wajib (Annemarie Jacir 2017)
    We the Animals (Jeremiah Zagar 2018)
    Won't You Be My Neighbor? (Morgan Neville 2018)
    Yomeddine (A.B. Shawky)
    You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey)

    Not Released Yet in US:
    LOOK UP by Fulvio Risuleo (New Italian Cinema series)
    PURE HEARTS/CUORI PURI by Roberto De Paolis (N.I.C.)
    The Looming Storm (Doug Yue) NYAFF
    One Cut of the Dead (Shin'ichirô Ueda 2017) - NYAFF
    Sad Beauty (Bongkod Bencharongkul 2018) - NYAFF
    Respeto (Treb Monteras 2017)-NYAFF
    Crossroads (Ron Yassen 2018) - SFIFF

    I Am Waiting to See:
    Dogman (Matteo Garrone)
    If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) - reviewed Dec. 2018
    In My Room (Ulrich Köhler)
    Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher) - reviewed 27 Dec. 2018
    Loro (Paolo Sorrentino)
    Peterloo (Mike Leigh ) April 2019
    Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell)
    The Wild Pear Tree (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

    These Mean More to Other People:
    Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)
    First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
    The Favourite (Yourgos Lanthimos)
    Private Life (Tamara Jenkins)
    A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-09-2019 at 09:12 PM.

  2. #2
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    Best Actress (my Indiewire poll)
    1. Zhao Tao - Ash Is Purest Whilte
    2. Carey Mulligan - Wildlife
    3. Dlizebeth Debicki - Widows
    4. Lady Gaga - A Star Is Born
    5. Juliette Binoche - Let the Sun Shine In

    Best Actor
    1. Yoo Ah-in - Burning
    2. Charlie Plummer - Lean on Pete
    5. Brady Jhandreau - The Rider

    Best Documentaries (There are lots more).

  3. #3
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    The NYTimes: Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott's lists. For their discussions of their choices go HERE.


    1. “Roma” (Alfonso Cuarón)
    2.“Burning” (Lee Chang-dong)
    3. “Shoplifters” (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
    4. “Zama” (Lucrecia Martel)
    5. “Happy as Lazzaro” (Alice Rohrwacher)
    6. “BlacKkKlansman” (Spike Lee)
    7. “First Reformed” (Paul Schrader)
    8. “The Death of Stalin” (Armando Iannucci)
    9. “Monrovia, Indiana” (Frederick Wiseman)
    10. “Colophon (for the Arboretum Cycle)” (Nathaniel Dorsky)

    1. “Monrovia, Indiana” (Frederick Wiseman); “Bisbee ’17” (Robert Greene); “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” (RaMell Ross); “Minding the Gap” (Bing Liu)
    2. “Happy as Lazzaro” (Alice Rohrwacher)
    3. “First Reformed” (Paul Schrader)
    4. “Private Life” (Tamara Jenkins)
    5. “Roma” (Alfonso Cuarón)
    6. “Let the Sunshine In” (Claire Denis)
    7. “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Marielle Heller)
    8. “BlacKkKlansman” (Spike Lee)
    9. “Capernaum” (Nadine Labaki)
    10. “The Favourite” (Yorgos Lanthimos)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-07-2018 at 08:13 PM.

  4. #4
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    FILM COMMENT'S lists for 2018.

    Most of the first list have been reported on in Filmleaf from the NYFF or other FSLC presentations. Of the second list, I've only seen #4.

    Film Comment’s Top 20 Films Released in 2018:
    1. Zama Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/Brazil/Spain
    2. Burning Lee Chang-dong, South Korea
    3. First Reformed Paul Schrader, USA
    4. ROMA Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico
    5. Western Valeska Grisebach, Germany/Bulgaria
    6. Shoplifters Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan
    7. Let the Sunshine In Claire Denis, France
    8. The Other Side of the Wind Orson Welles, USA
    9. Happy as Lazzaro Alice Rohrwacher, Italy
    10. Hale County This Morning, This Evening RaMell Ross, USA
    11. Sorry to Bother You Boots Riley, USA
    12. If Beale Street Could Talk Barry Jenkins, USA
    13. The Rider Chloé Zhao, USA
    14. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Joel & Ethan Coen, USA
    15. Support the Girls Andrew Bujalski, USA
    16. You Were Never Really Here Lynne Ramsay, UK/France/USA
    17. Monrovia, Indiana Frederick Wiseman, USA
    18. Personal Problems Bill Gunn, USA
    19. The Favourite Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/USA
    20. BlacKkKlansman Spike Lee, USA
    Film Comment’s Top 20 Unreleased Films of 2018:
    1. What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? Roberto Minervini, Italy/USA/France
    2. La Flor Mariano Llinás, Argentina
    3. Black Mother Khalik Allah, USA
    4. A Family Tour Ying Liang, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Singapore/Malaysia
    5. Feast of the Epiphany Michael Koresky, Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman, USA
    6. América Claus Drexel, France
    7. Donbass Sergei Loznitsa, Germany/Ukraine/France/Netherlands/Romania
    8. The Grand Bizarre Jodie Mack, USA
    9. Your Face Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan
    10. Casanova Gene Luise Donschen, Germany
    11. Shakedown Leilah Weinraub, USA
    12. The Task Leigh Ledare, USA
    13. Sophia Antipolis Virgil Vernier, France
    14. Second Time Around Dora García, Belgium/Norway
    15. Manta Ray Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand/France/China
    16. Flight of a Bullet Beata Bubenets, Russia/Latvia
    17. Our Time Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Germany/Denmark/Sweden
    18. Reason Anand Patwardhan, India
    19. Season of the Devil Lav Diaz, Philippines
    20. A Wild Stream Nuria Ibáñez Castañeda, Mexico
    The complete list of films and participants can be found on
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-12-2018 at 10:27 AM.

  5. #5
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    Golden Globe nominations.

    Best Motion Picture - Drama
    A Star Is Born
    Black Panther
    Bohemian Rhapsody
    If Beale Street Could Talk

    Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
    Glenn Close (“The Wife”)
    Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”)
    Nicole Kidman (“Destroyer”)
    Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
    Rosamund Pike (“A Private War”)

    Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
    Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”)
    Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”)
    Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”)
    Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)
    John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”)

    Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
    “Crazy Rich Asians”
    “The Favourite”
    “Green Book”
    “Mary Poppins Returns”

    Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
    Emily Blunt (“Mary Poppins Returns”)
    Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”)
    Elsie Fisher (“Eighth Grade”)
    Charlize Theron (“Tully”)
    Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich Asians”)

  6. #6
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    Favorite short trailer of the year:

    This belongs in a supplemental Best List for the year, which I am working on.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    The Indiewire Poll
    is completed. You can find it all HERE

    ROMA(1,086 points, 26% of first-place votes)
    FIRST REFORMED (599, 6.7%)
    BURNING (548, 7.1%)
    THE FAVOURITE (520, 2.9%)
    COLD WAR (493, 2.9%)
    SHOPLIFTERS (401, 1%)
    BLACKKKLANSMAN (391, 2.9%)
    ZAMA (333, 4.2%)
    (316, 1.7%%)

    Note: “First Reformed” ultimately placed higher in this ranking, even though it received fewer first place votes than “Burning,” because it had more second, third, fourth, and fifth place votes. The same math applies to why “Zama” received more first-place votes than “The Favourite,” “Cold War,” “Shoplifters” and “BlacKkKlansman.”
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2019 at 10:37 PM.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    Those people are dutiful or, I don't know what, but Guy Lodge started a list on Twitter of worst or most unsatisfactory "prestige" films of the year and it included for some, ROMA, Shoplifters, BlackKKlansman and Zama. I can understand these, though I admired them, and liked BKKK too. Some question about what is or insn't a "prestige" film. Widows, Beautiful Boy included.

    See the Twitter feed HERE.

    VICE was frequently mentioned, which is ominous. I'm waiting to see it.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-23-2018 at 02:08 PM.

  9. #9
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    Barack Obama has published his fourth annual set of personal best lists including books, film, and music (see the Guardian article). Here is his (alphabetical) best movie list. It's a good and very savvy list, including four of the key African-American-related titles, BlacKKKlansman, Black Panther, Blindspotting and If Beale Street Could Talk - but omitting the most politically radical of those, Sorry to Bother You. He includes my favorite, Lee Chang-dong's Burning.

    Black Panther
    The Death of Stalin
    Eighth Grade
    If Beale Street Could Talk
    Leave No Trace
    Minding the Gap
    The Rider
    Support the Girls
    Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2019 at 10:38 PM.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    Mark Kermode's best of 2018 (veteran Guardian film critic)
    (Some films come out earlier or later in England than the USA.)
    The 10 best films of 2018

    1. Leave No Trace
    Debra Granik’s low-key gem is a textbook example of show-don’t-tell film-making; perfect.

    2. The Breadwinner
    A young girl battles the Taliban in Nora Twomey’s superb animated adaptation of Deborah Ellis’s bestseller.

    3. Widows
    Davis heads up an ensemble cast to die for in Steve McQueen’s ultra-stylish update of Lynda La Plante’s 80s TV thriller.

    4. Cold War
    Paweł Pawlikowski’s tale of star-crossed lovers falling together and apart through the iron curtain of postwar Europe.

    5. You Were Never Really Here
    Lynne Ramsay’s psychological anti-thriller, starring Joaquin Phoenix, reconfirms her position as a unique visual poet.

    6. A Fantastic Woman
    Daniela Vega shines in Sebastián Lelio’s deserving winner of the Oscar for foreign language film.

    7. The Shape of Water
    Splash meets Creature from the Black Lagoon in Guillermo del Toro’s magical fantasy.

    8. Jeune Femme
    One of the real surprise treats of the year – an invigorating and unvarnished character study from Léonor Serraille.

    9. BlacKkKlansman
    Spike Lee’s stranger-than-fiction tale may be set in the 1970s but it felt urgently relevant and contemporary in 2018.

    10. They Shall Not Grow Old
    Peter Jackson breathes new life into 100-year-old footage of the first world war with awe-inspiring results.

    Show Dogs
    The most misjudged comedy of the year. Remember: no dogs is better than Show Dogs!
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-05-2019 at 03:34 AM.

  11. #11
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw's 2018 Movie Best Lists.

    Tireless at festivals, he's thorough in his list-making.
    Remember, these are UK 2018 releases.

    Best film
    Roma (dir Alfonso Cuarón)
    A Star Is Born (dir Bradley Cooper)
    Cold War (dir Paweł Pawlikowski)
    Leave No Trace (dir Debra Granik)
    Western (dir Valeska Grisebach)
    Zama (dir Lucrecia Martel)
    Hereditary (dir Ari Aster)
    Coco (dirs Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina)
    Widows (dir Steve McQueen)
    Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

    Best director
    Alfonso Cuarón for Roma
    Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born
    Mike Leigh for Peterloo
    Bart Layton for American Animals
    Andrey Zvyagintsev for Loveless
    Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird
    Ryan Coogler for Black Panther
    Nuri Bilge Ceylan for The Wild Pear Tree
    Hirokazu Kore-eda for Shoplifters
    Chloé Zhao for The Rider

    Best actor
    Rupert Everett for The Happy Prince (dir Rupert Everett)
    Marcello Fonte for Dogman (dir Matteo Garrone)
    Justin Salinger for Crowhurst (dir Simon Rumley)
    Daniel Day Lewis for Phantom Thread (dir Paul Thomas Anderson)
    Joaquin Phoenix for You Were Never Really Here (dir Lynne Ramsay)
    Ethan Hawke for First Reformed (dir Paul Schrader)
    John David Washington for BlacKkKlansman (dir Spike Lee)
    Lakeith Stanfield for Sorry to Bother You (dir Boots Riley)
    Steve Coogan for Stan & Ollie (dir Jon S Baird)
    John C Reilly for Stan & Ollie (dir Jon S Baird)
    Tim Blake Nelson as the title character in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

    Best supporting actor
    Tim Blake Nelson for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dirs Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
    Nahuel Pérez Biscayart for BPM: 120 Beats Per Minute (dir Robin Campillo)
    Sam Elliott for A Star Is Born (dir Bradley Cooper)
    Craig Robinson for An Evening With Beverly Luff Lin (dir Jim Hosking)
    Brian Tyree Henry for Widows (dir Steve McQueen)
    Daniel Kaluuya for Widows (dir Steve McQueen)
    Gérard Depardieu for Let the Sunshine In (dir Claire Denis)
    Jonathan Pryce for The Wife (dir Björn Runge)
    Paul Bettany for Journey’s End (dir Saul Dibb)
    Benicio Del Toro for Sicario 2: Soldado (dir Stefano Sollima)

    Best actress
    Yalitza Aparicio for Roma (dir Alfonso Cuarón)
    Toni Collette for Hereditary (dir Ari Aster)
    Glenn Close for The Wife (dir Björn Junge)
    Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born (dir Bradley Cooper)
    Viola Davis for Widows (dir Steve McQueen)
    Carey Mulligan for Wildlife (dir Paul Dano)
    Daniela Vega for A Fantastic Woman (dir Sebastián Lelio)
    Joanna Scanlan for Pin Cushion (dir Deborah Haywood)
    Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (dir Martin McDonagh)
    Juliette Binoche for Let the Sunshine In (dir Claire Denis)
    Michelle Yeoh in Crazy Rich Asians.

    Best supporting actress
    Cynthia Erivo for Widows (dir Steve McQueen) and Bad Times at the El Royale (dir. Drew Goddard)
    Allison Janney for I, Tonya (dir Craig Gillespie)
    Elisabeth Moss for The Square (dir Ruben Östlund)
    Michelle Yeoh for Crazy Rich Asians (dir Jon M Chu)
    Siobhan Finneran for Apostasy (dir Daniel Kokotajlo)
    Michelle Pfeiffer for Ant-Man and the Wasp (dir Peyton Reed)
    Ana Ivanova for The Heiresses (dir Marcelo Martinessi)
    Kirin Kiki for Shoplifters (dir Hirokazu Kore-eda)
    Adele Haenel for BPM: 120 Beats Per Minute (dir Robin Campillo)
    Zoe Kazan for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dirs Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)

    Best screenplay
    Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dirs Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
    Hirokazu Kore-eda for Shoplifters (dir Hirokazu Kore-eda)
    Nick Park, Mark Burton and James Higginson for Early Man (dir Nick Park)
    Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe for Blockers (dir Kay Cannon)
    Liz Hannah for The Post (dir Steven Spielberg)
    Carla Simón for Summer 1993 (dir Carla Simón)
    Lucinda Coxon for The Little Stranger (dir Lenny Abrahamson)
    Lucrecia Martel for Zama (dir Lucrecia Martel)
    Jim Hosking and David Wike for An Evening With Beverly Luff Lin (dir Jim Hosking)
    Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird (dir Greta Gerwig)

    Best documentary
    The Shall Not Grow Old (dir Peter Jackson)
    Faces Places (dirs Agnès Varda, JR)
    Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (dir Alexandra Dean)
    The Rape of Recy Taylor (dir Nancy Buirski)
    The Eyes of Orson Welles (dir Mark Cousins)
    A Northern Soul (dir Sean McAllister)
    Nothing Like a Dame (dir Roger Michell)
    That Summer (dir Göran Hugo Olsson)
    Arcadia (dir. Paul Wright)
    Voyageuse (dir May Miles Thomas)

    Best cinematography
    Alfonso Cuarón for Roma (dir Alfonso Cuarón)
    Benjamin Loeb for Mandy (dir. Panos Cosmatos)
    Benoît Debie for Climax (dir Gaspar Noé)
    Laurie Rose for The Escape (dir Dominic Savage) and Journey’s End (dir Saul Dibb)
    Rachel Morrison for Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler)
    Agnès Godard for Let the Sunshine In (dir. Claire Denis)
    Charlotte Bruus Christensen for A Quiet Place (dir John Krasinski)
    Linus Sandgren for First Man (dir Damien Chazelle)
    Rui Poças for Zama (dir Lucrecia Martel)
    Andrew Dunn for The Children Act (dir Richard Eyre)

    Best directorial debut
    Paul Dano for Wildlife
    Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias for Cocote
    Marcelo Martinessi for The Heiresses
    Michael Pearce for Beast
    John Trengove for The Wound
    Coralie Fargeat for Revenge
    Léonor Serraille for Jeune Femme
    Carla Simón for Summer 1993
    Daniel Kokotajlo for Apostasy
    Kogonada for Columbus

    Special Braddie award
    … for the quirky film overlooked by the complacent MSM gatekeeper-establishment which might be a future cult classic:
    Every Day (dir Michael Sucsy)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-01-2019 at 12:57 AM.

  12. #12
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    Best Documentary Features - 2019 Oscar contenders

    The 2019 documentary Oscar shortlist is now being presented (as the short films and animations are) in around 15 urban areas nation-wide. Previous Filmleaf reviews of 9 of the 15 are linked below. Several were omitted earlier in this tread because they weren't really theatrical releases, and some, which are unlinked, have not been seen by yours truly. (Jan. 4, 2019):

    CHARM CITY - Marilyn Ness [about Baltimore's three recent most violent years]

    COMMUNION/KOMOUNIA - Anna Zamecka [children taking on adult family burdens, in Poland]

    CRIME + PUNISHMENT - Stephen Maing [NYPD cops reveal illegal quota practices]

    DARK MONEY - Kimberly Read

    THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS - Simon Lereng Wilmont (SFIFF)

    FREE SOLO - (Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi



    OF FATHERS AND SONS/KINDER DES KALIFATS (2017) - Talal Derki [Following a radical Islamist family in Syria]

    ON HER SHOULDERS - Alexandra Bombach

    RBG - Julie Cohn, Betsy West

    SHIRKERS - Sandi Tan - [Available on Netflix] [A lost feature film found]

    THE SILENCE OF OTHERS/EL SILENCIO DE OTROS/ Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar [About the Franco regime in Spain]


    WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR - Morgan Neville
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-05-2019 at 10:31 AM.

  13. #13
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    Aug 2002
    Utah, USA

    Tab Uno's Common Man Best List

    My Top 2018 Movies (Tab L. Uno)

    1. First Man (2018). Historical. Ryan Gosling, was a pretty sure bet for an Oscar nomination for director and his movie for cinematography, editing, and sound before its poor box office results. Nevertheless, Ryan has elevated the art of film-making with large close ups, a fusion of documentary style photography along with an authentic loud crisp sound design. He has borrowed some of the class elements of photography, sound, and music from Stanley Kubrick’s sci fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). There are also some film techniques that lifted the sci fi space epic Interstellar (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan to another realm of true authentic realism. And more intriguing his Ryan’s decision to use a naturalistic approach to his directing reminiscent of Lars von Trier’s sci fi drama Melancholia (2011). The only weaknesses in this movie were perhaps the inevitable and unavoidable difficulty of providing sufficient background explanations and allowances for the sudden transitions occurring with gaps as years are necessarily skipped. The density and storyline was probably more than enough for a television event covering four or seven six hours’ worth of material, but the little screen would have been too diminutive for the amazing impact of the big screen display of this epic historical event. [Reviewed 10/16/2018]. 9/10.

    2. A Private War (2018). War Drama. Rosamond Pike as Marie Colvin, a war correspondent for The Sunday Times shines in this very raw, graphic, and harsh look at both the personal cost of war on both the innocent civilians and those who cover the war. Not since The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), has a journalistic film been so gritty and emotionally charged. Whether it was Regal theatre in Taylorsville, Utah and its 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound system, the audio, sound effects of A Private War resonated deeply throughout the auditorium. Rosamond’s performance was unsympathetic revealing a human persona’s flaws in authentic holistic anguish and triumph. Unlike the journalist comedy war drama of Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot (2016), a cute mainstream, feelgood movie, A Private War is reveals a personal war within the mind of the real life Marie Colvin and the terrible consequences of war on the people who suffer from its devastation the most and Marie’s addictive obsession to capture its human cost for the world back home and hoping to some compassionate change. Unlike Privates of Somalia (2017), A Private War takes its subject matter completely seriously without any cute scriptwriter dialogue interjections. The movie’s editing is tight and is able to tell the story in a nice comprehensible fashion. An interesting contrasting movie would be Richard Gere’s The Hunting Party (2007) seems to have capture most of the elements of all the rest of these movies, except A Private War which seems like in a class all by itself. [Reviewed 11/16/2018]. 9/10.

    3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). This animated film’s creative and new look has put a sparkling and dazzling allure to the animated movie universe that hasn’t been seen before by the mainstream public. The brilliant living comic-book experience of Spider-Verse came alive in our imaginations and enhanced and upgraded the colorful pages comic books for a whole new generation. The storyline of alternative Spiderman possibilities while definitely not new in the sci fi movie industry, it finally brought out the quantum possibilities described in superhero comic books that have been around for decades with a pizzazz and an excitement. The humor incorporated into movie’s dialogue is like a live comedic act that brings continuous smiles throughout the movie while its emotional drama and bittersweet edginess offers up a refined balance to the entire film. There is a human genuineness and emotional connection to the audience with a surprising focus on father-son relationships. In sum, this movie elevates animation to a new level using fantastic animated visualization, a solid script, and soothing voices of actors that inject a powerful inflection to the movie. [Reviewed 1/29/2019]. 9/10.

    4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018). Documentary. This biography of Fred Rogers who created Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on television directed towards young child is great primarily because all it had to accomplish was to reveal the background and the message of heart-felt spiritual honesty and Mr. Roger’s genuine connection to the children he met. This documentary smoothly and captivates and captures both his live story (including a riveting Congressional hearing scene) as well as his long-running children’s television show. His simple message of love involving some of the most complex, heart-felt topics from assassinations and divorce ring as true and perhaps more so for today’s youth and societal leaders than ever. A potent documentary that resonates deeply its emotional and human message, its universal expression is sorely needed and will likely be of value for most of eternity. [Reviewed 6/24/2018]. 10/10.

    5. A Wrinkle in Time (2018). Science Fiction. Director Ava DuVernay has brought to the big screen a visionary and imaginative feature film into the world that brings familial love into dazzling, primary focus. This emotionally riveting fantasy is rich in cinematic photography reminiscent of the multi-million dollar blockbuster Avatar (2009) and the creative spectacle of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). At the same time, this movie incorporates the powerful and uneasy confrontation with betrayal and evil with its parallelism to the fascinating fantasy world of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and the darker horror classic The Omen (1976). But more poignant comparisons might be the quantum transpersonal love of Interstellar (2014) or The Neverending Story (1984) based on an international best seller novel by German writer Michael Ende that addresses a fat boy who is bullied and finds himself transported into fantasy world to face “the nothingness.” This amazing movie besides tapping into the female power of Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, a young female starlet, Storm Reid, as Meg gets to be front and center in coping with school bullying and the grief of the sudden and unexplained disappearance four years ago of her scientist father played by Chris Pine. A sometimes difficult movie to experience because of its sharp inclusion of the insidious power of evil, the uneasy transformation from a light hearted fantasy into the clutches of an ominous, unbalancing sense of dread, A Wrinkle in Time presents its important belief in family and love in a time of societal turmoil when good and evil seems to be present in America today. Perhaps this movie touches too close to home for some, but nevertheless, this movie can offer up a vital and essential experience and message to address today’s conflicted populace with hope and vision of a possible tomorrow. [Reviewed 4/1/2018]. 9/10.

    6. Welcome to Warwen (2018). This film based on true events starring Steve Carell depicts a stunning presentation of post traumatic stress disorder and for other individuals who suffer from schizophrenia. The fusion of live action with stop motion action effects is amazingly seamless in their visual and artistic display. Carell is marvelous in his dramatic role and the script flows in a serious emotionally sensitive way, especially in how the new female neighbor’s relationship evolves. Welcome to Warwen is creatively ingenious, in part, a reflection of the artist Mark Hogancamp’s own true life story and the director’s vision in bringing his life story to the big screen. Overall, this movie is a genuinely awesome production that reveals the mental and emotional trauma, the nightmares, the stigma, the suffering, drug addiction, and consequences of human brutality and in some cases the amazing capacity of human recovery and the power of friendship. [Reviewed 1/18/2019]. 9/10.

    7. Isle of Dogs (2018). Animated. This star-studded voiced animation feature combines both American and Japanese talent for this this compelling story about a young Japanese boy’s search for his beloved dog who has been exiled to an outcast island where dogs have been quarantined. The American cast includes Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Liev Schreiber, and Anjelica Huston. What really makes this movie stand out is its strikingly animated visual look as powerful as Coraline (2009), WALL*E (2008), Spirited Away (2001), and La planète sauvage (1973). The story and its message has emotive resonance found in The Incredibles (2004) and Inside Out (2015) and has a special poignancy as the singular focus is the connection between a boy and his dog. Isle of Dogs is a captivating cinematic experience and an innovative, refreshing approach to storyteller. One of the writers, Roman Coppola, the son of Frances Ford Coppola and brother of Sophia Coppola also is credited with and startling creative Moonrise Kingdom (2012). This movie has the same theatrical impact as the imaginative design of Dogville (2004), Being John Malkovich (2000), and Bunraku (2010). Additional with the paranoid conspiracy theme incorporated in Aeon Flux (2005), The Giver (2014), The Host (2013) offers the audience a more adult flavored animation movie. Other outstanding imaginative movies include The Truman Show (1998), Bolt (2008), A Boy and His Dog (1975) and this year’s contemporary A Wrinkle in Time (2018). [Reviewed 5/11/2018]. 9/10.

    8. Time Trap (2018). Science Fiction/Time Displacement. There is something refreshingly authentic along with a creative use of concurrent flashback and flashforward segments at the beginning of the movie. While some critics have problems with some of the characters, especially the young boy who seems pretty obnoxious, he really doesn’t completely fall into the repulsive stereotype and instead seems to reflect a pretty normal, above average intelligent pre-adolescent fixation on the opposite sex. The beginning twist of the movie is quite ingenious as two simultaneous film plots weave in and out of an actually logical sequence rarely scripted in other time travel movies, though the passage of time seems to be unbelievably unnoticed by our educated professor. In the tradition of the little known Peter Fonda’s Idaho Transfer (1973) time travel movie, Time Trap has an even more subdued but yet strong psychological substrate that makes this movie really powerful in its depiction of time dilation without all the exotic bells and whistles, amazing special effects, and action thrillers which really in some ways detracts from the real experience of time travel. The lost found video technique is well used in this movie and is very convincing and effective in moving the story and ominous movie tone forward. At almost the midpoint of the movie, there is a shocking and wonderfully creepy scene that is amazingly good, a reveal at this point that is gorgeously exquisite in the same visionary mold of Interstellar (2014). This loosely updated version of The Time Machine (1960) really hangs together all they way through to the exciting climax. A great low-budget movie that really works and excels in presenting time dilation in a creative, exciting, and actually uplifting manner – well worth the price and time of viewing. This rare movie captures both the popular mainstream of youthful exuberance for its target audience along with the serious, smooth flowing science fiction theme to the very end. Well done. [Reviewed 12/17/2018]. 9/10.

    9. I Feel Pretty (2018). Comedy. Amy Schumer portrays what might be well herself in this new romantic comedy about a regularly shaped woman who comes to believe she’s physical great looking after a hit on her head. In a daring movie about women’s self-image and society’s ideal image of physical beauty, this commentary from a script with sometimes biting language and a strong performance from Schumer offers up an important narrative on the role of female appearance and our community’s role in how it may impact on our senses of attraction, of relational importance, and beauty. With familiar echoes of The Devil Wears Prada (2006) without the gorgeous musical soundtrack nor Meryl Streep’s boss from hell character, I feel Pretty has a much more edgy tone to its overall emotional tension in both its comedy and drama. Sometimes hard to sit through for its revealing underbelly into our own societally created sense of values, stabbing at our own discriminatory and prejudices, this uneasy but entertaining movie offers up value experiences for its audience about the human condition. [Reviewed 5/28/2018]. 9/10.

    10. Incredibles 2 (2018). Animation. Yes, this Disney Pixar production broke the box office record for animated feature, amassing $180 millions its first weekend out. As expected, this full feature animated film contains the emotional buttons that rivet the audience to self-reflection on issues of parenting, self-determination, responsibility, adolescent relationships, family, ostracization, and technological manipulation. The humor is well placed and potent. The 3-D animation substantially enhances the visual experience, unlike most real live action films in which the technology still hasn’t quite caught up with reality. While the movie’s plot is potentially predictable for an astute, careful observer, it actually serves to reduce the negative angst of the movie to promote the summer entertainment quotient of the movie in a most successful way. The only two weaknesses that seem to arise occur earlier in the movie with the sustained action pack opening sequence while engaging its audience veers the movie more towards a series of action montages that resemble more action thriller block blusters and there’s an over-extended scene reminiscent of chipmunks and acorns from Ice Age. [Reviewed 6/17/2018]. 9/10.

    11. Christopher Robin (2018). Children’s. From the opening credits, the reverence to the original artwork of A.A. Milne’s children’s book, there is a quaint charm, tone, style to the movie. The creative fusion of book and film offers up a fun introduction to this family drama of a beloved animal character and his human companion. The entirely predictable but comfort food movie is good because it relies on basic human relational elements and using special effects not to impress, but to become a solid background element to enhance the primary experience of the characters and the plot themselves. Unlike the impressively explosively artistic brilliance of Isle of Dogs (2018), Christopher Robin attains its strength from the refreshing retro-tradition of movies. And unlike Paddington (2015), the movie avoids overt pranks and instead mirrors ourselves as playful, innocence of youth and at the same time plays more like a like light drama with plenty of emotional waterworks. [Reviewed 8/5/2018]. 9/10.

    Honorable Mention

    Annihilation (2018). Science Fiction. This mystery monster thriller is visually daring in its set design and goes a fair amount towards exploring the more substantive mental gyrations of hard core science fiction. Even with its various weaknesses, this movie’s offers up a refreshing focus on new dazzling images such as evoked in Avatar (2009) ground breaking look and patience in providing screen time for cognitive and emotional insight into humanity as explored in Arrival (2016). The flaws uncovered in this movie include the minor omission of the likely absence of recording keeping even with the field explorers experiencing apparent amnesia, the exploratory team’s surprising lack of team camaraderie for such a venture, surprising weapons ability among all specialists on the team, the allowance for only one person to go on a rescue mission, and the introduction of apparent divergent specialists on the exploratory team and their under-utilized presentation of their different skills. A better presentation of more realistic team building can be found in the sci fi television series Defying Gravity, 2009 and Michael Crichton’s Sphere (1998). The strange creatures that inhabit this movie can be found in a compilation of other movies that in some ways are even more imposing and threatening as depicted in the 2005 sci fi television series Threshold, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) as well as Ghosts of Mars (2001), Serenity (2005), The Devil’s Tomb (2009), Phantoms (1998), and Epoch (2001). The creative and captivating set design and the eerie alien environment has echoes of elements found in Solaris (1972, 2002) and Lost in Space (1998). The ultimate reveal loses some of the power of the feminine presence on screen as the movie seems to fall back into the macho stereotype and the resort to power, panic, and destruction instead of the more relational connection to curiosity and hopefulness as suggested in Alien: Resurrection (1997) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) or even the fascinating progressive evolution as typified in Oblivion (2013) and Moon (2009). For a different type of as sustained creepiness of another kind come in the form of Under The Skin (2013) and Nomads (1986). [Reviewed 2/16/2018]. 8/10.

    Book Club (2018). This romantic comedy about aging females includes a cast of real life famous aging actresses and actors in a delightfully funny movie about being older, sex and romance or the lack of it. Starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Alicia Silverstone, Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley, Jr. all looking much older than their 1960, 1970, 1980 heydays, except for a remarkably young looking Fonda, except when she’s very sad. There is a lot to laugh about especially for a senior audience. Ultimately this entertaining movie shines a great spotlight on being older and is informed by its sensitivity to the importance of human relationships in our later years of life. [Reviewed 5/20/2018]. 8/10.

    Crazy Rich Asians (2018). This comedy romance drama of a distinctly Asian bent, nearly crosses the line of Asian stereotypes in the beginning of the movie, but through a deft hand of a script, allows most of the Americanized Asian tendencies to settle down into a carefully crafted but nevertheless American version of a somewhat poor (though not really) girl meets rich boy and uptight, but elegant Chinese mother. There are some great silent moments in this movie that elevate the emotional and heft of film’s characters. This is definitely a summer, entertaining movie that ultimately avoids the harder, real choices that underlay this relational and cultural density of this movie. More along the lines of The Princess Dairies (2001) but a tad darker, Crazy Rich Asians offers up a succulent taste of Asian sights, food, and culture. In some ways, this singular effort to bring Asian-oriented film into the American mainstream almost tries too hard to get it right for the American taste. The balance of comedy and drama is well accomplished. A great effort, entertaining, but American Asian movies still has more to come. [reviewed 8/16/2018]. 8/10.

    Free Solo (2018). This documentary about the preparations and attempt to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park free solo (without any ropes or equipment) is a powerful story that includes some personal background and the tense interactions between the climber Alex and the camera crew as well as a new love interest. One of the best comparisons to this film might be the 2003 true story of the Peruvian rock climbing drama story Touching the Void (2003). While Free Solo at times necessarily jumps back and forth between three movie strands, Alex, the camera crew and others knowledgeable about climbing and Alex’s relationship, Touching the Void has the dramatic license to focus exclusively on the shorter intense story of climbing and the horrific seeming disaster that befalls two climbers. Both movies are revealing in their emotional intensity, riveting photography and camera work. In the end, it is the nature of the principal character’s personality and emotional empathy that captures and connects to the vivid thrill and engulfing human nature that Touching the Void edges out Free Solo. [Reviewed 10/28/2018]. 8/10.

    The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018). Jack Black helms this children horror-comedy feature film about the mysterious bumps in the night house and a clock that unlike the name of the movie isn’t in the walls. This movie has echoes of the more compelling Hugo (2011) a family adventure movie that was amazing in its 3-D version, the classic horror comedy Ghostbusters (1984) along with a haunting, repetitive thumping reminiscent of the more scary adult sci-fi horror film Under the Skin (2013). The script and Jack Black offer up plenty of the expected and even more tantalizing special effects just in time for Halloween as the movie was released wide on September 21, 2018. Even so the movie has an uneven feel, the male friend in the movie seems to get lost and the potential female girlfriend was never developed that would have made the movie more balanced. Coming in at one hour and forty-five minutes, comments as to the movie being a long movie could suggest that the movie dragged along in places and the pacing could have been improved with even more editing. This is definitely an above average movie with its significant attempts at emotional connections but it also seems to have incorporated some script devices and plots that just seem more by the numbers. [Reviewed 9/24/2018]. 8/10.

    Killing Eve
    (2018, Amazon). Psychological Thriller. Dark Comedy. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer star in this espionage television series thriller. This is an edgy, serious mystery thriller with comical overtones through its use of at times sparkling cute, sly dialogue. The balance between serious spy drama and the softer humorous interplay is uneven with rough edges. By the final episode of the first season, however, it appears that the scriptwriters may have found just the finely-honed edge to the clever sly dialogue and the hardened serious of the assassin’s profession without remorse or moral consciousness. There are some serious plot weaknesses that detract from the otherwise compelling storyline, especially as when an experience intelligence officers seems to lose his intelligence when it comes to surveillance. And the final climatic ending to season one also seems overly and unnecessarily wrought and psychologically unsettling with too many questions and twists to offer up an emotional satisfying but mystifying ending. Jodie Comer as Villanelle takes an acceptable clone of Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter or John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters from Pulp Fiction (1994). Two other movies worth viewing that have similar but bit lighter killer comic overtones with female characters are Daisy & Violet (2011) and Katie Holmes’ Miss Meadows (2014). [Reviewed 11/3/2018]. 8/10.

    The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018). Fantasy. Supposedly it took two directors to finish and wrap up this gorgeous fantasy movie with a lot of post-production editing. Inspired by the short Nutcracker story, this movie would never be a The NeverEnding Story (1984) movie based on Michael Ende’s international best-seller nor The Chronicles of Naria: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) based on C.S. Lewis. Nevertheless, the story outline flows together most likely because of the tight editing. From the very beginning the sweeping camera photography enwraps its audience into a delightful collage of old sites of Victorian England. The set design and amazing landscapes are brilliant. The performance captivating, even the father whose stoic face is betrayed with small poignant pauses and looks of subtle emotional despair. Somewhat predictable along with a harsh but maybe unavoidable twist, the movie seems to transform from magical, fantastic mystery along with the royal flourishes of The Princess Diaries (2001) to a more simple dichotomous clash between good and evil. Nevertheless, the simple ending surprisingly is a pleasant soft surprise with its relational bonding scene along with a delightful series of ballet dance numbers during the closing credits. This was a decent, memorable, if not top brilliant classic of a movie. [Reviewed 11/4/2018]. 8/10.

    Ocean’s 8 (2018). Crime. Starring a high-powered female cast, this Ocean’s 11 spin off has a smooth and simmering summer entertainment value that keeps the audience’s interest with its subtle plot outline without a bipolar, stressed induced action thriller content. In a way, this Ocean’s version is more enjoyable because it doesn’t depend on the high-powered stomach knotting, anxiety inducing, heart-pounded conundrums of most male testosterone, high energy explosive mental distorting storyline. Instead, there is a wily female charm that offers up smart comedy along with a motivating cast with performances that offer power to the story along with two decent twists along with way. In some ways its all in the number 8. [Reviewed 6/10/2018]. 8/10.

    (2018). Action. Jennifer Garner of television’s kick-ass Alias (2001-2006) fame and the highly under-rated and overlooked superhero in Elektra (2005) has come roaring back with a surprisingly emotionally sensitive, at times touched with delicate humor, and hard-hitting action that thrills with its raw power and energy. The background story flashback is given a decent amount of screen time to develop a personal, bonding, and critical familial attachment with the audience. Even the inevitable soft-twist avoids having the audience to bring to bear any tremendous amount of mental gyrations to understand what happened in regards to suspenseful surprises. The script and Jennifer Garner’s performance resembles a more rough hewn Jason Bourne from The Bourne Identity (2002). There are echoes of the male-driven assassin genre movies Taken (2008), John Wick (2014), and Jack Reacher (2012). Overall, Peppermint elevates and offers up a bit more substance and energy punch and balance to this action thriller genre. [Reviewed 9/11/2018]. 9/10.

    Ready Player One (2018). Science Fiction. Ready Player One is a mixed bag, but nevertheless offers up a world of exciting possibilities. This high tech, futuristic action adventure relies less on psychological crime thrills such as The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and less on the super blockbuster sci fi action adventure of The Matrix (1999) more of a computerized, virtual reality quest version of magical fantasy of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), including the incorporation of one of the first use of a text-based computer game Colossal Cave Adventure (1976) or the adolescent version of virtual reality of Surrogates (2009) or Inception (2010). This movie attempts to introduce the audience to the visual spectacular and special effects design of the future that Avatar (2009) introduced and boldly surpassed of the original efforts of virtual reality classic Tron (1982). Yet at the same time, the heavy artificial look of much of the movie really diminished the likely futuristic impact of what the real experience is likely to be which still falls behind what was accomplished in Brainstorm (1983), which remains one of the classic standards of virtual reality movie-making. Steven Spielberg offers plenty of references to classic movies such as The Iron Giant (1999), The Shining (1980) and the more obscure but highly rated movies fantasy movie Excalibur (1981) and one of the most bizarre sci fi classics The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) and even the Back to the Future (1985) DeLorean time machine. Overall, Ready One Player is a compelling, entertaining yet strangely not completely satisfying futuristic look at our computer, internet, technological future. [Reviewed 6/30/2018]. 8/10.

    The Red Sparrow (2018). Psychological Thriller. Finally, after many years, the audience gets to enjoy a refreshing return to a decent and exciting psychological espionage thriller instead of the typical action spy thriller. Over the last decade, action espionage has taken up most of the spy genre movies including Enemy of the State (1998); Bourne Identity (2002); Expendables (2010); Haywire (2011); Colombiana (2011); Hanna (2011); November Man (2014); Survivor (2015); The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015); Hitman 47 (2015); The Assignment (2016); and Atomic Blonde (2017). To a lesser extent, there have been more off-beat, lighter espionage fare including Wild Target (2010); Daisy & Violet (2011); Miss Meadows (2014); American Ultra (2015); American Assassin (2017). But perhaps not since Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in Spy Game (2001) has there been released on the big screen a thoughtful and intelligent espionage movie as Red Sparrow. Even though the beginning development of the movie doesn’t quite match up to the French classic La Femme Nikita (1990) or the American version Point of No Return (1993) with Bridget Fonda and Gabriel Bryne, Red Sparrow gets stronger and stronger with psychological intensity in the fashion of The Ipcress File (1965) with Michael Caine; The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965) with Richard Burton; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) with Sir Alec Guinness based on the writings of the spy writer extraordinaire John le Carre; The Russia House (1990) with Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. The cat and mouse game is superbly offered up in Red Sparrow with a great screenplay along with a very satisfying and acceptable resolution with fine performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton. [Reviewed 3/2/2018]. 8/10.

    Second Act (2018). Jennifer Lopez stars in this family drama infused with humor about a wife who ends up in a prestigious job under false pretenses. With some resemblance to her 2002 performance in Maid In Manhattan, Second Act reveals a much more serious and staid content along with a more naturalistic plot and dialogue that breaths refreshing life into this movie that avoids the more traditional romantic comedy performances and pratfalls, except a huge literal one on Lopez’s part in the first half of the movie. The storyline takes on the ambitious focus on employment issues including the absence of a college education, marriage issues, and later on a big reveal about half way into the movie regarding past choices and relationships. The scripted comedy is both funny, outrageous and nevertheless believable in its depiction without becoming truly dumb and stupid. The ending portion of the movie also defies the traditional romantic comedy outcome but instead offers up instead a more naturalistic but satisfying conclusion. At the end, however, Lopez’s character is seen as being a bit too ambivalent in response to an important question from her husband in the context of what has gone on before. Overall, Second Act delivers a more qualitatively mature family drama but with a light touch and a nice sensitivity of a decent presentation of possible satisfying life realities. [Reviewed 1/14/2019]. 8/10.

    Upgrade (2018). An unexpectedly dark sci fi mystery, action thriller about a mechanic who is brutally assaulted and his wife murdered in this futuristic world where a new artificial intelligent device allows the mechanic to seek out the murderers. A well thought out morality plot with a harsh twist includes conceptual and seamlessly integrated possible futurist designs and objects rivalling Blade Runner (1982), Blade Runner 2049 (2017) in scope along with the tonal elements of Ex Machina (2014), Morgan (2016), and even Brazil (1985). A great movie contrast would be The Machine (2013). [12/2/2018]. 9/10.

    Good But Failed to Make the Grade

    2036 Origin Unknown (2018). This sci fi space thriller drips with excessive commentary regarding the competition between artificial and human intelligence which ultimately is important to the ending of the movie. The movie incorporates competent and adequate contemporary visual and set designs as well as an acceptable control mission and space communication dialogue at first. The beginning sequences retain sufficient mystery and pacing to maintain audience interest. However, the plot and character development is sacrificed using reductionist narrative that sometimes seems overly scripted. The thick sarcasm used in the dialogue during the first half of the movie is fraught with overly nauseous inflated egoistic unbelievable and juvenile insults to the human viewer. There seems to be an over reliance on the landing and contact scenes from Alien (1979) nor experience of the spectacular, magnificent introduction of an alien object as in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Unlike the more concise and confined sci fi experience between two primary characters as Source Code (2011) that seems so claustrophobically intense or the more open but nicely refined approach between spatially distant characters as Oblivion (2013), or even the low-budget sci fi mystery thriller Epoch (2001), 2036 becomes just plain chaotic, confusing, pedestrian or too informal, artificial, and stilted through most of the movie. In the movie’s context of an operations center overseen by an Artificial Intelligence and one human, the one human is being depicted as this super wiz kid who can apparently do super math calculations and also speculate on a number of astrophysical phenomena while also supposedly being a supervisor (in name only) over the space operations of a Mars mission. All this phenomenal human ability is so inconsistently unbelievable with the female’s character and behavior in the movie. The subplot of human vs. computer interestingly offers up both a intriguing but also distracting annoyance to the primary mystery of what is going on on Mars in defiance and other successful sci movies that focus their primary attention on the mystery as Sphere (1998) or more recently Arrival (2016) instead of raising the personal issues to the same level of intensity that take away from the mystery. The inclusion of a supposedly mandatory crises segment around the midpoint of the movie like the obligatory meteor strike of the spacecraft in space (so unlikely) movies just seems more like an unnecessary, lazy space filler here. The ethical debate depiction regarding artificial intelligence in this movie is much more refined and better captured as the religious debate setting of the sci fi classic Contact (1997). Compare the more cleanly shot and emotionally intense, simple storyline used in the much under-rated, riveting television series Defying Gravity (2009) or the more intertwined psychological thriller and sci fi of Solaris (1971, 2002) or even the classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The movie 2036 seems to want to fuse The Martian (2015) and Moon (2009) together with Mission to Mars (2000), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the sci fi tech movie Transcendence (2014) or The Machine (2013) while the movie 2036 tries to become some brilliant hybrid but getting to the end doesn’t come across very well nor taste or “feel” that good, just an overloaded, over-extended disjointed, unhinged process to get to a rather above average ending with a nice twist. The primary problem with this movie is the lead character seems to have been miscast until the end and there were too many side diversions detracting from the main story, trying to be more brilliant than need be. A more straight forward serious story development would likely have resulted in a super fun geo-political sci fi mystery movie. For much better focused, singular sci fi movies one would be better off watching the movies referenced in this commentary. Nevertheless, the surprising convoluted but almost original ending enables this movie to barely justify the means and makes watching this movie semi-tolerable and perhaps for some worth watching. [Reviewed 12/27/2018]. 7/10.

    Anon (2018). Science Fiction. Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried star in this hi-tech crime thriller in some not too distant future. Bringing together elements found in the nascent sci fi hi-tech thriller Brainstorm (1983) and the more recent classic mind-bender Inception (2010) or even the superhero Doctor Strange (2016), Anon is the hacker of the futuristic electronic attachments of the human body. Real murders are occurring but what is sometimes seen is not be believed or is erased. The movie script brings a new twist to electronic hacking of the mind and goes some ways to making a decent movie out of it. Yet, the pacing at times is slow, the action not sustained, and the emotional intimacy or moral conundrum not sufficiently intense like Inception where the action continues to build or Brainstorm which is some ways “knocks your socks off” as Cliff Robertson’s character asks for in that movie. Something really powerful and even more exciting could have come from the movie’s premise than offered. Nice try, but Anon doesn’t quite breakthrough its possible potential. [1/31/2019]. 7/10.

    Ant-Man & The Wasp
    (2018). Superhero. It is a personal preference, but I seem to prefer D.B. Sweeney in the role of Ant-Man instead of Paul Rudd. Nevertheless, this mostly comical super-hero movie is entertaining, but perhaps as the script goes it the strain and effort of making it funny seems to show through. And the emotional drama and serious tones seem to be somewhat overly unbalanced. The special effects are cute for a while, but at times seems to wear thin. Unlike Interstellar (2014), the visual design just isn’t ready to display the quantum realm in any acceptable, real way. The audience has already experienced Honey, I’ve Shrunk the Kids (1989) and there have been some very amazing off-beat movies that have really struck a cord in their stellar visual creativity as Tomorrowland (2015), Ghost Busters (1984), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Spiderman 2 (2004), Colossal (2017), What Dreams May Come (1998), Brainstorm (1983), Being John Malkovich (2000), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Congress (2013), Birdman (2014). Overall, the movie was fun and mostly comically funny and delightfully summer super hero action. [Reviewed 6/6/2018]. 7/10.

    The Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Superhero. As a likely minority in the over-rated super-hero extravaganza, Infinity War as a standalone movie was a disappointment. It pandered to the audience with simple script devices where the superheroes were made to look pretty stupid, uncertainly un-Jason Bourne like in mentality and behavior. The evil ones were able to convenient arrive just in time to continue the storyline that could have easily ended multiple number of times at any number of points if these multitude of conglomerate, almost innumerable superheroes could actually learn to work together and obtain the oneness that comes of Buddhist, Eastern cultural wisdom of the importance of society over the individual. The backstory of Thanos and his daughter was too brief and insufficient to provide a more complex and bonded emotional connection is one problem. And another problem is simply too many superheroes that almost makes the movie more about heroes becoming the norm instead of super. It’s almost now about many people who appear to be super but the movie is populated with so many of them that really it seems that they are normal people with extraordinary differences that the audience has seen so often that they almost appear normal now, nothing really special anymore, something the audience just comes to expect. Overall, the movie substantively is pretty superficial and the plot while challenging includes too many cliques and uneven tone from a chaotic fusion of trying to be so cute and funny, to serious and emotional riveting so much so that it becomes neither. [Reviewed 5/5/2018]. 7/10.

    The Equalizer 2
    (2018). Denzel Washington returns as a retired professional killer. This time he quickly get to rough up some Turkish men, one of whom is a wife abuser and kidnapper, and later he deals with some rich spoiled business men out for kicks, and later he must hand out justice with two personal crises much closer to home. There’s a point where all the rather innovative and refreshing ways to kill someone gets oddly enough old and the screenwriter attempt to incorporate contingency plan “B” and a climax in a much different setting that one might expect from an assassin movie don’t really work well. Kudos to the writer however for somehow making two storylines work decently until it’s overused unnecessarily. Overall, this movie is able to stand out above others in some ways, but it doesn’t succeed in its sustained credibility and high stakes tension as John Wick Chapter Two (2017), Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2017), and even Peppermint (2018) do. [Reviewed 12/26/2018]. 7/10.

    Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! (2018). Musical. There was little possibility that the sequel to Mamma Mia! (2008) that primarily featured Meryl Streep in the lead role would have much of a chance to replicate the original power and display of awesome uplifting musical connection to the audience. Additionally, the complicated and somewhat tortured script and spoiler alert the absence of Donna, played by Meryl Streep, for most of the movie almost guaranteed that the sequel would fail to come close to its original musical hit that was nominated for best Golden Globe comedy or musical and actress in the same. Some of the sequel’s musical pieces were not as well known and didn’t resonate as with as crowd-pleasing recognition as the original. And the darker, more cerebral elements of the sequel’s script also turned the sequel into a more difficult fusion of drama, sadness that resulted in losing some of the eagerly awaited gaiety and comedy found in the original. In some ways, this movie added elements found in the more serious romance of the classic West Side Story (1961). Unlike La La Land (2016) the sequel was unable to hold together the more substantive depth of the singular serious drama of La La Land with the more light-hearted elements found in the intergenerational adventures of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002). The sequel is to be commended for its challenging attempts at innovative musical photography and choreography that builds on similar elements of the brilliant movie adaptation of musical remake of the stage production of Chicago (2002) and the many television musical series of the past decade. Across the Universe (2007) comes closest to being able to truly bring a creative shine to musical film-making. Personally, without the live use of singing as exclusively focused in the epic musical Les Miserable (2012), the more serious scenes of the sequel seemed more of a parody of a musical video instead with lower theatrical standards. Overall, this movie’s challenging compositions and intertwining elements of past and present were truly almost insurmountable obstacles that the sequel made sincere and commendable efforts to address. Entertaining and decently performed in what one might consider a truly daunting and one of the most difficult of musicals to produce and film. Interestingly this is the best 7/10 movie made. [Reviewed 7/20/2018]. 7/10.

    Mary Poppins Returns (2018). The ensemble of musical selections, an overture at the beginning of the original Mary Poppins (1964) sets the memorable tone along with its memorable songs including the charming but potentially haunting song at the beginning by Bert, the chimney sweep. Mrs. Winnifred Banks is dynamically more expressive with energy with even a potent political message about women rights. The original also includes several threads about compassion towards animals (foxes and birds). The lyrics sung in the 1964 movie version were much more clearly understood and comprehensible so that the audience could relax and enjoy the music instead of in the sequel where the audience has to strain and make a mental effort to figure out what was being sung seriously distracting from just being able to experience the movie itself. Mary Poppin Returns misses several great opportunities to build on the themes that the original Poppins incorporated in its movie script such as parenting, child raising, and family structure and roles. The sequel spends too little time on the fascinating and sometimes agonizing but sometimes wonderful child care experiences as did other movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Nanny McPhee (2005). Mary Poppins in 1964 had a lot of attention to details and making sure that each scene and action built on each other and enhanced the entire film experience (such the Bert’s cane and Mary’s umbrella being a crucial part of the outing sequence or when Burt’s dancing and his leg goes over an animated penguin and the penguin ducks its head creating a nice asymmetry in the small chorus line). The tone of the original movie and the acting fit well with the more outlandish characters and their facial expressions really standing out. Even Mary’s earlier reflective mirror scene was extended to create a more entertaining entire mini-funny episode. The music used in the original movie was extended with variation on the melody and instrumentation to flow from one scene (as Bert and Mary alone at tea through to the merry-go-round scene) to another and sometimes reverberated again throughout the entire movie. Additionally, there is a fun mental outmaneuvering that Mary Poppins delivers, especially with Mr. Banks (as in making Mr. Banks agree to take his children to the bank) in the original classic that isn’t carried over with such finesse in the sequel. The problem with this movie is that instead of building on the classic original, the director and script attempts to create an entirely new presentation while incorporating some selected elements from the original movie as perhaps more of an acknowledgement and nod to its predecessor. But in doing so, the movie loses a lot of its charm and magic of the original movie. [Reviewed 1/4/2019]. 7/10.

    The Old Man & A Gun (2018). Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, and Ben Affleck star in this low-key crime, comedy, drama. With more informal elements from Heat (1995) starring Al Pacino and Robert de Niro with an interweaving focus on both the criminal and the law enforcement characters and a relational theme reminiscent of The Bridges of Madison County with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, this movie uses what seems like unnecessary experiment uses of the camera resulting in some odd off scene focuses and seems almost too slow in places with its pacing like the aging characters themselves. The strength of the movie though are its reflections on being old and the flashes of elegance as a criminal gentleman from Robert Redford. The storyline has some emotive punch and a bit of drama, yet it also becomes unnecessarily puzzling towards the end with how the criminal justice system metes out justice. The ending itself seems more of a puff ball ending that avoids the more poignant meaningful conclusion to a life of crime. [Reviewed 10/19/2018]. 7/10.


    The Beyond (2018). Science Fiction. A huge, huge missed opportunity. In one of the most visually creative expressions on the screen recently, this low-budget movie falls unfortunately way short because the decision to use a found footage, reality tv, and pseudo-documentary approach to present this wonderful sci fi story. The unfortunate approach to filming this movie only served to relegate the audience to a status of an observer watching what sometimes became more of an educational video for classroom students. While The Beyond avoids most the weaknesses in the deliberate Cloverfield (2008) hand-held real video technique approach, because of the nature of the video presentation used for this movie, it became very jumpy, cutting back and forth, not allowing the audience to really capture any true connection with any consistency with any of the movie’s characters. [Reviewed 1/15/2018]. 6/10.

    Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018). Action Adventure. Unlike most movie critics, apparently they must have been hypnotized by Tom Cruise’s cult-like personal life connections. This latest version of Mission Impossible resembles some of the last Roger Moore’s depiction as James Bond. And in some ways, this movie script might have been better served with Daniel Craig’s character as James Bond. The action and humor sequences have almost become parodies of themselves. The movie plot is also so manipulated with fantastical unlikely coincidental events that the plot becomes an obvious stitched together strands of action shots put together along with the requisite death of an important character and the attempts at serious human emotional bonding that have been much better portrayed elsewhere, that even being on television. See Person of Interest (2011-2016) series with Jim Caviezel. Even Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) had an even more convincing and necessarily even tighter, explosive beginning action sequence. Knowing this is a Mission Impossible movie, the predictable twist in the first half of the movie seems lame. The bad guys seem too obvious too. There are just too many convenient script points that make watching this movie an eventually boring series of reruns just in a new packaging. [Reviewed 7/27/2018]. 6/10.

    (2018). Horror. “Inspired” by true events surrounding the real Winchester widow, this period horror thriller has elements in common with Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Yet unfortunately, there appears to be too many efforts at new, creative ways to frighten its audience without actually doing so. What made Picnic at Hanging Rock so successful was director Peter Weller’s focus more on realism and the day to day occurrences rather than the more stylistic, stereotypical characterization as perhaps found in Winchester. What made the film’s concept very appealing the script doesn’t seem to meet the very high expectations of the rather fascinating concept. Helen Mirren is unable to bring a new and inspiringly captivating persona to her character that really doesn’t reflect more than what Mirren has previously depicted on screen. Perhaps it was the co-directors/co-scriptwriters’ decision to use as a principle foil, a flawed doctor who is supposedly to determine the Winchester’s heiress’s sanity or insanity for the Winchester’s Board of Trustees. The clarity of an alert, unclouded contest between the doctor and the Winchester house is tainted by the doctor being tainted himself. There is a rather interesting attempt to introduce an emotional, enlightening and ghostly revelation into the script that can only go so far to enhance the movie’s integrity that pertains to the doctor’s own personal demons. There just seems too much cuteness and convenience in the script plot points to make this movie an effectively frightening experience. In contrast take Jonathan Harker’s creepy and seemingly powerless experience in Count Dracula’s ominous but atmospheric castle that is even more foreboding than the Winchester’s convoluted home. Count Dracula (1977 TV) as the best and perhaps most faithful Dracula movie made, starring Louis Jourdan as Count Dracula. A fabulous period piece that captures Bram Stoker's atmospherics of the time. What made the sci fi horror classic Alien (1979) so appealing was the so-called purely evolved killing alien versus the seemingly untainted human hero warrior of Ripley. While such a flawed character might work in the detective noir genre, even the science fiction classic Blade Runner (1982), such a character seems ill fitted in a period ghost movie. A good movie comparison would The Legend of Hell House (1973) based on the ghost novel written and screenplay by Richard Matheson. [Reviewed 7/8/2018]. 6/10.


    At First Light (2018). A boring, tedious, plodding, and somewhat rather repulsive beginning of unlikeable characters along with a few attempts at fancy photography which don’t really help and an unmemorable soundtrack. The movie continues to move along ponderously until a rather tame and unsatisfying ending. Definitely not a Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) visually delightful encounter even as old as that movie has become. The movie has little action and numerous logical flaws. Poorly directed, edited along with uneven cinematography. An unconvincing plot with large holes, a movie worth missing. A much more poignant and strangely less professionally produced sci fi movie that really has the immersive thrilling mystery comes in the form of Wavelength (1983) available only on Youtube or tape cassette, supposedly never transferred to a DVD format which is definitely not presented as an E.T. (1982) phone home version even though there are parallel or compare The Signal (2014) for its penetrating sustained emotional intensity and relational connection. [Reviewed 1/6/2019]. 3/10.

    Hellraiser: Judgment
    (2018). The latest in the Hellraiser franchise attempts to raise the bar, but instead descends into a poorly received reveal that is supposed to shock and stun but only serves to frustrate and betray. A slow start to the movie is full of attempts at stimulating gore and is redeemed only by a hopeful, interesting interrogation scene with the protagonist towards the middle of the movie. The Cell (2000) stands out as a morality story fraught with horror images that shock but also maintain a sense of proportion and context to its movie’s storyline. The photography and set designs are decent enough. There are singular moments where there seem to be attempts at a more substantive and qualitative push to lift this movie above the fray. But by end of this movie, the disappointment and rather tame and sudden ending doesn’t really make up for this boring and unimaginative movie. [Reviewed 12/25/2018]. 4/10.

    The Humanity Bureau (2018). This intriguing sci fi concept unfortunately was poorly developed into a movie with numerous illogical, manipulated script devices too many to enumerate. The pacing was slow, many of the scenes illogically and unbelievable presented. One of the most difficult movies to be able to watch all the way through without one's rational mind exploding. [Reviewed 12/27/2018]. 2/10.

    Haven’t Seen Yet

    At Eternity’s Gate (November 16, 2018). Willem Defoe portrays Vincent van Gogh in a dramatic presentation of his life.

    Bad Times at the El Royale (2018). A sordid story about mysterious strangers who gather at a seed motel in search of something dangerous.

    Destroyer (December 21, 2018). Nicole Kidman is purportedly her best performance to date in this gripping, raw crime drama, as a former undercover agent, having to survive in the present.

    London Fields (2018). Amber Heard stars in (this oddly 2nd worst box office debut in history) movie about a woman who knows the future which in turn impacts her intimate relationships with men in a very dark way.

    On The Basis of Sex (2018). Felicity Jones stars as a young Justice Ginsberg in this legal historical drama.

    The Post (January 12, 2018). The dramatic version of the Washington Post’s decision to publicize the Pentagon Papers regarding the Vietnam War.

    A Star is Born (October 6, 2018). Bradley Cooper directs and acts along with Lady Gaga in this third remake of this drama.

    Vox Lux

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Thanks Chris and Tab for the excellent reviews of movies released in 2018. As far as 2019, by far the best film i've seen is Sunset, from hungary. i have finally watched enough movies from 2018 to merit posting a top 10. As follows, in rough order of preference...

    24 Frames
    the other side of the wind
    life & nothing more
    first reformed
    a fantastic woman
    if beale street could talk
    the shape of water

    isle of dogs
    first man
    leave no trace
    cold war
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 08-09-2019 at 05:33 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    You're welcome, and thanks for your list. I particularly agree on Zama, Cold War, and Foxtrot. I can see the unique qualities of Sunset, Beale Street and Wajib.

    Don't you like Asian films?

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