Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Best Movies of 2018

At this point, the only thing more cliché than being thankful that the preceding year has finally come to a close is whiny Star Wars fans being wrong about The Last Jedi. Yes, I am in fact THANKFUL that we have finally gotten out of the horror show that was 2018, but 2019 looks to be a lot more of the same, albeit with a SLIGHTLY less destructive Congress and a lot more speculation on the 2020 election.  Jeez, the idea is so deflating to me that I’m actually kind of glad to take one last look at the preceding year before charging face first into whatever nightmares 2019 will surely have for us.  Anyway!  Let’s take a look at the GOOD movies that came out and hope that the year ahead of us will bring us even more great films to love!  ON WITH THE LIST!!

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Honorable Mentions: Black Panther & Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Black Panther Review; Ant-Man and the Wasp Review

While Marvel’s usual output is at a consistently decent quality, this was a year of great highs and one PHENOMENAL low for the company which we’ll get to on the bad list.  On the good side though, these are the first two movies they’ve released since I’ve started doing these lists that have come close to making it on the top ten, and frankly they are my favorite films that they’ve released in some time with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which arguably should have been included on last year’s list.  Black Panther, while still feeling a bit too conventional to the Marvel Formula and having a few oddly placed ideas here and there (how does a civilization THIS advanced still determine their leader through DEATH MATCHES!?) was quite the revelation and became something of a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the year which we’ll get to further down on this list, and while I’m not quite on board with it winning for Best Picture, I do see where a lot of people who are advocating for it are coming from.  Ant-Man and the Wasp on the other hand felt like something new as well, albeit in a much less radical way as Black Panther, and is the template I’d like to see from Marvel films going forward; where there’s room for films that don’t take themselves QUITE as seriously and don’t hinge the fate of the world on the outcome of their adventure.  Sony and WB might be gathering a bit of steam with their recent films, but this year showed once again that it’s gonna take a lot more to unseat Marvel and Disney from their well-deserved throne of money, and hopefully THESE are the kind of films we’ll be getting from them going forward instead of… well we’ll get to that one later.

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10. A Wrinkle in Time

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Full Review

Black Panther was ALMOST at this spot on the list but A Wrinkle in Time just barely edged it out.  Sure, some of it is due to the fact that Black Panther got ALL the praise while this one languished under lukewarm reviews and a mediocre box office, but there’s a lot of brilliance in this movie that shouldn’t be overlooked.  The visuals are elegant and grandiose in a way that few blockbusters can accomplish, and it’s one of those cases like Jupiter Ascending where the film’s story and scope probably didn’t NEED the extravagant budget on display but is made all the better for it.  It’s about saving the world to be sure, but it’s on a much more personal level than something that requires buildings to explode to get the point across.  It’s a movie about ideas and finding ways to visualize them in ways that before now could only be conceived in our imaginations, and while some of it drags a bit and not everything works perfectly, it’s an admirable and eminently enjoyable effort from one of the more interesting filmmakers working her way into the spotlight.  I hope the failure of this one doesn’t interfere with or hamper her vision for DC’s New Gods movie which is a franchise that could certainly benefit from a director with her vision, and hopefully this film gets a serious reappraisal once it finds its audience outside of theaters.  I know I didn’t see some of the most influential movies of my childhood in the theaters, and I get the feeling that there are a lot of kids out there who are gonna glom onto this the way Gen Xers fell in love with oddities like Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal.  Now that I think about it, this movie probably could have used a lot more puppets…

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9. Welcome to Marwen

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Full Review

Coming in right at the end of the year as this one did, there hasn’t been a lot of time for me to ruminate on it or for there to be much in depth critical analysis of this films failings, but right now looking at it a week later, I still really enjoyed the heck out of this movie and feel that it manages to discuss issues of toxic masculinity in a way that we rarely ever see in film, and do so without diminishing or compromising the film’s message about trauma, coping, and eventually healing.  Mark’s journey is not a straightforward one as the things that are helping him deal with his trauma and disabilities is also holding him back from real growth and change, and on top of that he may not have been a perfect guy to begin with; not to mention that it seems this fictional world he’s created has exacerbated those flaws.  Sure it feels a bit Hollywood Sanitized, especially looking at bits and pieces of Mark Hogancamp’s work after seeing the movie, and the film has a some trouble clarifying its message at the end what with almost everything being pinned on the rather unspecified pills that he’s taking throughout the movie, but looking at it as more of a fictionalized story than a straightforward retelling of a person’s life, I think there’s a lot of power to this movie that shines through in Zemeckis’s film making even if he IS perhaps a bit too obsessed with the doll segments.  I certainly found them entertaining at least and they felt thematically relevant to Hogancamp’s psychological state that it never felt tangential to the real world drama.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and I related a bit TOO much to Mark’s plight as it was presented here, but I found it to be a great time nonetheless.  I still need to see that documentary though and maybe THAT’S gonna give me the perspective I need to see what everyone else says is wrong about this, but I still kind of doubt it.  What can I say?  I like happy endings, dolls, and lots of violence!  Where else am I gonna see all three in one place!?

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8. Ocean’s 8

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Full Review

This movie is just fun!  Not much more to unpack here other than I had a great time watching these actors interacting with each other and watching how they pulled off the heist!    I imagine this is also what made the other Oceans movies popular, but it’s been so long since I saw the first one (and none of the others) that I can’t really say how well this stacks up or even excels past what was done in those films.  I liked everyone in this who give fantastic and unique performances (with this and Crazy Rich Asians, we’ll certainly be seeing more of Awkwafina) and the fact that this is in fact an all-female cast is still a point in its favor as far as I’m concerned which thankfully doesn’t seem to be a controversial point for this all female reboot, but really the biggest strength here is just how well the elements all blend together seamlessly and are polished to a mirror shine.  It’s a film about elegance, class, and wit, which is proudly on display in every shot, every plot twist, and every clever moment the writers came up with as well as just how whole heartedly each of the actors threw themselves into this material.  I hope they do make another one of these, but hopefully they’ll wait until the third one for the Danny Ocean and Debbie Ocean crossover heist because frankly, they don’t need to jump THAT shark quite yet.  And no, I didn’t pick this spot for it just to be cute.  OR DID I!?

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7. Searching

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Full Review

Earlier in the year I gave a whole lot of praise to Unfriended: Dark Web for doing such a magnificent job of telling a story through computer screens even if the story itself turned into utter garbage.  Unbeknownst to me a movie that ACTUALLY did all that right be even BETTER and with a GOOD story was merely a month away, so next time I guess I’ll hold my praise for brilliantly executed movies in the hopes that a superior film is right around the corner.  In any case, while this obviously wasn’t first to the party (I remember this style being used as far back as V/H/S) no other movie has been able to pull this off as effectively as director Aneesh Chaganty does here with an understanding of computers and cinematic storytelling to rival any other movie about the subject.  Too often movies and television shows will try to compensate for either their lack of knowledge or lack of creativity when it comes to technology like this and will resort to over the top theatrics to try and sell us on something that so many of us innately understand; creating something of an uncanny valley whenever a computer shows up on screen.  These interfaces and the software on display here are things that we use on a day to day basis the same way we use cars, televisions, and dishwashers, so at some point the visual language was going to be introduced into film making, but this movie (and a few of the earlier attempts) have taken it a step further and have crafted whole senses of mood, tension, and emotional impact with these technological devices and with this movie we’ve finally gotten our first unquestionable success in telling an entire story through it.  Can these kinds of movies evolve past what we see here?  I’m not sure, but if filmmakers even half as talented as the ones who worked on this film wanted to give it a shot, I’d be more than happy to see it!  Just make sure you have an ACTUAL story to go with it instead of just a series of exponentially unbelievable twists that make no darn sense!  ARE YOU LISTENING, UNFRIENDED!?

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6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Full Review

This has been one heck of a year for Melissa McCarthy and I hope she gets some awards consideration for her performance in this wonderful little movie!  I mean I still think her career highlight is Ghostbusters, but this is the kind of movie that certainly has a shot of getting awards and frankly it really does deserve it.  Not only is the story itself quite fascinating, but McCarthy fills this role with such dimension and pathos that you can buy her as both a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around while also being courteous and fun to be around given the right circumstances (and the right booze).  If there’s one thing to criticize the movie for its  that the rest of it feels a bit overshadowed by McCarthy’s performance (especially whenever she gets to interact with Richard E Grant) but there’s still a fun sense of style to this movie that replicates a version of New York that may or may not have ever truly existed (its’ set in the nineties and ANY piece of art about the past has some degree of artistic license) but is the kind of place that I’d certainly love to one day find myself in even if I’ll never be able to afford it in this day and age.  It’s not bombastic, it won’t get your heart racing or so tense that you grip the seats, and it’s not even that complicated of a narrative, but it is a nice little journey through someone’s life who never really amounted to anything until they tried to be someone else; and even THEN their infamy isn’t that wide spread considering it took them over two decades to make a movie about her!  Still, it’s nice to see that there are a lot of people out there whose stories may not have changed the world but are interesting enough to be worth listening to for an hour and a half.  If anyone’s looking to tell my life story by the way, it’s VERY cheap and I can do all sorts of things to spice it up if need be!

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5. Blindspotting & Sorry to Bother You

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Blindspotting Review; Sorry to Bother You Review

I won’t claim to be the most well educated on the topics that these films talk about and it’s probably somewhat problematic that I had these two share a spot on the list instead of giving them each their own spotlight (I decided not to put BlacKkKlansman here as well which admittedly is the lesser of the three films by a thin margin), but while I do see them as VERY different movies, they do feel like two sides of the same coin which is why I think it’s worth talking about them together.  Where Black Panther kicked off this year with a big and powerful celebration of films made by people of color about people of color, these two were the films that I think knocked it out of the park and brought to light issues that SHOULD have been in way more mainstream films before now but finally got the spotlight in 2018.  Sure, neither of these made as much money as Disney did with its film, but impact isn’t exclusively measured in dollars as these films (Sorry to Bother You especially) definitely seem to have struck a nerve with the audiences that saw it.  Both films deal with poverty, racism, institutional barriers, and what have you, but approach them in very different ways with Blindspotting being a contemplative character study in a grounded world and Sorry to Bother You being a revolutionary art piece that barely has enough room for all the ideas it wants to express.  I think both are very valid approaches to tackling this kind of subject matter and hopefully we’ll get more films like it in the future from these very talented filmmakers.  Just throwing this out there, Boots Riley’s creative sense of energy and absurdity combined with Carlos López Estrada, Rafael Casal, and Daveed Diggs’s grounded character sensibilities could make for a decent Static Shock movie!  The same cartoon that had a serious episode about gun violence that ALSO had a musician made out of rubber!?  Tell me that wouldn’t make a billion dollars for DC!!

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4. Hotel Artemis

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Full Review

This really hasn’t been my year for Sci-Fi as the films we got this year that WEREN’T also superhero movies just didn’t click with me such as the overwhelmingly praised Annihilation and the almost just as praised Upgrade.  It makes me all the more thankful that we got this little gem of a movie which I think is SO much better than any other film of its genre this year; including the aforementioned critical darlings.  Now that’s not to say that this film had NO fans (we’re not talking Welcome to Marwen levels of disconnect between me and other critics), but no one seems to be bringing it up when talking about the good movies that came out this year or even the good science fiction films.  The story still feels relevant despite how things have started to change a bit as 2018 came to a close as the idea of just hiding in a corner (one made out of privilege) and just waiting out the apocalypse is one that feels very true to what a lot of people are feeling right now as the world both figuratively and in some cases VERY literally starts to burn around us which on its own would make this an interesting movie, but then we get into the awesome sci-fi action bits which kicks things into overdrive and makes this one of the standout films of the year; not to mention the fantastic performances from everyone involved including those in smaller roles like Jeff Goldblum and Jenny Slate carry that carry this film even further into greatness.  The story’s great, it looks great, and the acting across the board is great!  What more can you say about it than it’s really freaking great!?  Well that and GO SEE IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY!!

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3. A Simple Favor

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Full Review

This was probably the biggest surprise of the year for me as I really had no expectations about the film going into it and was utterly blown away by what I saw!  It’s a brilliant and tightly constructed mystery that manages to keep the tension up and goes to some very dark places without having to make the whole experience utterly miserable in the process (*cough* Gone Girl *cough*) and it has some of the best performances this year with Blake Lively’s self-assured and extraordinarily dangerous Emily toying with Anna Kendrick’s quite skittish Stephanie who is constantly being underestimated in the movie.  It’s a great underdog story as Stephanie not only proves herself to be just as capable and Emily, but manages to do so without becoming a bad person herself.  Flawed to be sure and more than willing to look the other way in certain circumstances, but being fully fleshed out in that way makes her journey all the more engaging to watch, and frankly Emily has just as many shades of gray to herself as well.  It’s a virtuoso set of performances clashes against each other the same way that Holmes and Moriarty’s battle of wills can bring both to the edge of destruction and bring out the best of them in the process.  Okay, I’m probably the only one who’s gonna go there as far as that comparison (and I’m guessing there won’t be NEARLY as much shipping of these two as there is for Holmes and Moriarty), but I think it’s a fair comparison at least in the broad strokes we certainly don’t get enough movies that have that kind of dynamic in any sense of the definition.  If you’re feeling a bit burnt out by all the BIG movies that we got this year (not just in the summer but right at the end as well), then I think this is a great way to cleanse the palate before we start that old song and dance once again, though seeing a movie THIS good may make it that much harder to enjoy the run of the mill fare we get year round.

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2. The Happytime Murders

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Full Review

Look, I’ve never claimed to be the deepest guy out there which you should have PROBABLY inferred by now considering The Purge: Election Year was my number one film of 2016, but other than what ends up getting the top spot, I really don’t think I had a better time at the theater this year than when I saw this film.  I loved the idea of this movie right off the bat and I think the puppetry is executed phenomenally which is what you should expect from The Jim Henson Company.  Everyone in the film, even those who aren’t big name comedians like Bill Barretta bring a lot of charm and wit to the material that could have been excessively juvenile in less skilled hands.  Sure there’s a lot of gross out humor in this movie which is something I’m usually against, but the gimmick really sells it in a way that we haven’t seen before outside of oddities like Crank Yankers or Meet the Feebles, though I will say that I found this to be a lot better than Peter Jackson’s ode to utter depravity.  Where Meet the Feebles had a certain amount of dark humor to it just from how far they were willing to go with how disturbing it can be, it felt overly excessive and preferred to be gross over clever a lot of the time (not to mention how out of place the racist caricatures feel) which is something that I will give this movie SO much credit for.  Its modest setup as a rather standard noir detective film is a great framework for the brilliant humor throughout; helped immensely by Melissa McCarthy’s fully committed and surprisingly effective performance as a tough as nails detective butting heads with our gruff and fuzzy hero.  It’s not without its problems, particularly the inclusion of Kevin Clash who I really wish wasn’t involved due to how much his presence weighs this movie down, and there’s a joke about incest that takes things one step too far for my liking, but even those issues can’t outweigh just how much fun this movie is and what a unique joy it brought to me.  Everyone else can hate on it all they want (and admittedly some of them do for good reasons), but this is the kind of film that’s so specifically up my alley that I can’t help but give it this much praise!

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1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Full Review

It was a close one between this and The Happytime Murders as I probably enjoyed both of them equally; albeit for much different reasons.  Ultimately The Happytime Murders had a bit too much baggage for it to take the top spot, but honestly this film REALLY does deserve the highest honors possible as everything about it is damn near perfect!  The movie’s look is one of the most brilliantly realized animation styles we’ve gotten in ANY animated movie period, and the characters are just as detailed and engaging to watch as it is to see them move around and throw Spider-Punches!  Miles is a great character and his story in here is right up there with the one in the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie; even managing to surpass it in certain ways!  I don’t know if I can say that any ONE Spider-Man movie is the best, especially with the Sam Raimi films and this one doing things so differently, but there’s no doubt that some of Spider-Man’s most amazing moments in cinema are certainly contained within this film that you all should have already gone out to see!  The only real problem with this movie is that there’s not enough time for them to get to everything they clearly wanted to cover so some of the elements like the three Gimmick-Spiders (as well as a good chunk of the plot if we’re being fair here) feels a bit too truncated, but thankfully the success of this film has already guaranteed a Spider-Gwen movie which will hopefully be a bit more focused and will open the door for further Miles stories as well as Spider-Noir, Peni-Parker, and Spider-Ham films down the road.  Speaking of alternate Spiders is there ANY chance we can get a Mayday Parker movie now!?  I’ve been wishing for that movie for years now, and with this movie doing such a good job and opening so many doors for the future of Spider-Man on film, it might just come true!  Thanks Spider-Verse for giving me a sense of unrealistic hope!  Fingers crossed it isn’t dashed into a million pieces!!

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And that’ll do it for the GOOD films of 2018!  Do you disagree with any of the picks here?  Oh who am I kidding?  Of course you do!  Make sure to let me know just how wrong I am in the comments below!  Also, stay tuned for the BAD list which I’m sure is what you all came here to see anyway!  Who needs positivity when you can just yell at things you don’t like!?

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You can also check out my lists from last year at the links below!!

Best of 2017
Worst of 2017

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