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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Best and Worst Films of 2018

Dec 27, 2018 09:47AM ● By Dan Metcalf

The Best

2018 wasn’t exactly a banner year for great films, in the sense that there were only a handful of truly exceptional ones. At the end of most years, I usually have a tough time narrowing my list down to a top ten, painfully leaving a few films off that could have been swapped for any of the other films on the list.

So, here it is. My list of the ten best films of 2018.

1.     Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Like most people, I was experiencing a little Spider-Man fatigue, with 6 major releases based on Stan Lee’s comic book creation in the past 17 years. I was astounded to discover Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as an innovative, inclusive and exciting animated film that is not only visually stunning but funny, heartfelt and poignant. It’s one of the only films I’d pay to see more than once.

2.     Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I can think of no other film released in 2018 that spoke to my heart as much as the documentary about the late Fred Rogers, a man who devoted his life to teaching kindness. More often than not, heralded documentaries shed light on so many of the world’s problems. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the rare documentary that provides a solution for society’s ills. As Fred is quoted in the film, “Love is at the root of everything; all learning, all relationships; love, or the lack of it.” What could be a better message for a society that seems bent on destroying all civility?

3.     Green Book

Racial issues in film are always problematic, and depicting such themes is a risky venture. Peter Farelly’s Green Book has been controversial to some, but I thoroughly bought into the idea that the fight for racial equality has been won and will continue to be won one relationship at a time. Viggo Mortensen’s performance and the chemistry he had with Mahershala Ali made Green Book one of my favorite films of the year.   

4.     Roma

Alfonso Cuarón could have made a self-serving autobiographical film about his childhood, but he opted to make an homage to the nanny/housekeeper as he remembered her instead. Roma is a beautiful film with incredible cinematography. It is perhaps Cuarón’s greatest cinematic achievement and ends with one of the most gut-wrenching and beautiful scenes of the year. Yes, it was shot in black and white and it’s entirely in Spanish, but Roma’s appeal is universal.

5.     The Favourite

There’s a lot of wicked fun in Yorgos Lanthimos’ love triangle between Queen Anne and two rivals competing for her attention in The Favourite, an English period piece/comedy. The script is perfect for the talents of Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and especially Olivia Colman, who plays the manic queen to perfection.

6.     Black Panther

There have been a lot of good superhero movies that get passed over, simply because they are big budget, special effects-driven stories based on comic books, often seen as “lower” literature. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther has all those elements, but at its heart, there’s a real Shakespearean tragedy and compelling story of power and the moral obligations that come with it. Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the Wakandan king is bolstered by a villain that is more than a worthy opponent for the protagonist. Michael B. Jordan’s supporting performance as “Killmonger” makes Black Panther deeper than a few cool fights and big explosions.

7.     First Man

After the runaway success of La La Land, it seems odd that Damien Chazelle would choose to make a movie about Neil Armstrong’s Moon landing in 1969. First Man isn’t just a historical reenactment of one of the greatest technological achievements of our time. It’s a very personal angle about the man who overcame a lot of odds to make it happen.

8.     Ben is Back

Opioid addiction and abuse are the scourge of our generation, and no film drives this point home better than Ben is Back. Julia Roberts gives the performance of her career in a movie that presents an accurate and personal angle of this epidemic.

9.     Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson continues to provide whimsy and clever comedy, finding humor in characters driven by a sense of pride, justice, and persistence. Isle of Dogs is Anderson’s second stop-motion animated film in the style of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson’s unique style and artistry are once again on full display here.

10.  Mission: Impossible – Fallout

You’d think that by now, we’d all be tired of Mission: Impossible movies, now that there are six of them. Christopher McQuarrie’s second film in the series is one of the better ones, and that’s saying something, considering the list of other talented directors in the franchise, including Brian DePalma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird. Fallout is enhanced by a credible villain (Henry Cavill) and a lot of non-stop action. There’s also some closure for Ian Hunt in this one.

Honorable mention: Ant-Man and the Wasp, A Quiet Place, Instant Family, Boy Erased, Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The Worst

There was a considerably larger list of really bad films to choose from in 2018. Since I tried to forget most of these movies, please keep in mind that I actually had to suffer through them, and I hope you all appreciate the sacrifice I went through to get here.

Here are the worst films of 2018, according to me:

1.     A Wrinkle in Time

Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the beloved children’s book was the most pretentious and overdone film of the year, giving it the distinction of topping my “worst” list. This big-budget flop’s less-than conspicuous “woke” messages are overshadowed by the film’s attention given to Oprah, who overshadows whatever life lessons that were intended for kids. Those lessons are force-fed, like coercing kids to eat their vegetables.    

2.     Life Itself

Speaking of pretentious garbage, Life Itself deserves special attention. This convoluted story of various characters and their “coincidental” connections are further shackled by Writer-Director Dan Fogleman’s insistent urge to explain exactly how the audience should feel, instead of presenting a narrative to prompt such feelings spontaneously.

3.     The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Trying to turn a classic ballet and obscure children’s story into an epic film turned out to be an epic disaster for Disney. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an exhausting experience with no moral, no purpose and no enjoyment.   

4.     The Spy Who Dumped Me

This is a very unfunny, uninteresting spy comedy that may have looked good in the planning stages, but most of the action, gags and humor fall way, way short. A majority of the “comedy” is Kate McKinnon freelancing with silly faces while riffing on some very raunchy material. The chemistry between Mila Kunis and McKinnon flops pretty hard, too.

5.     The 15:17 To Paris

Besides the terrible choice of having “real” people play leading roles in The 15:17 to Paris, Clint Eastwood’s movie about a few Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack in France feels like a long tourism brochure, followed by a few minutes of action. The 15:17 to Paris might have been presented more appropriately as a network TV special or a History Channel reenactment (and it probably would have been better).

6.     The Happytime Murders

The late Jim Henson’s son Brian gives us a film that is something akin to a really bad episode of any TV cop drama from the 1980s or any number of forgettable “cop buddy” movies, only with a lot of really obscene humor performed by puppets. That humor (for me) was gauged by the number of groans I had over the laughs (hint: groans won by a big margin).

7.     Robin Hood

This one is a trite, overdone waste of one hour and 56 minutes (and it feels even longer). Robin Hood’s script is ridden with clichés, the costumes appear to be stolen from the set of Hunger Games and the special effects are overly distracting. The entire movie seems to be some sort of repudiation of government and religion, along with a shaky premise that taking back your taxes is equivalent to the redistribution of wealth, missing the point of the legend entirely (hint: Robin Hood’s mission was to take back taxes stolen from the people by a corrupt government, not “the rich”)

8.     Hotel Artemis

The main problem with Hotel Artemis is a flaky story that makes no sense and offers no reason to care about the outcomes for a bunch of people who deserve to die. It’s a huge, bloody mess with little redeeming value.

9.     Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The latest “Jurassic” movie has some scary and humorous moments, but they are few and far between in a story burdened by the same plot points of all other Jurassic movies. The paint-by-the-numbers formula is getting old, and it seems like the JW franchise is headed for some kind of ridiculous “Sharknado” scenario, as they keep piling on the dinosaurs.

10.  Rampage

While the special effects are impressive in Rampage, the rest of the movie lacks any semblance of character or fun. It’s cinematic “junk food,” but if you’re going to indulge, it might as well taste good. Rampage does not. It’s a movie that dulls the senses and leaves you with little if any satisfaction.     

Dishonorable Mention: Peppermint, Mile 22, Equalizer 2, Skyscraper, The Meg, The Predator, Gringo, Red Sparrow