It’s that time of year again, and man did I see a lot of crap at the theaters in 2018.
If I have one 2019 resolution when it comes to film its to see as many independent films as I can. My favorite local independent theater closed their doors last year, and I was up against the wall to see many highly regarded films that were on my watch-list (Thank God Mandy came to Shudder, sorry Surprisia, and still waiting for you Widows). As of December 31st, 2018 I saw 36 movies in theaters, and the majority was genre fare or franchise fodder. With all that out-of-the-way my Top 10 Films of 2018 were–
HONORABLE MENTION: Upgrade
The grungy dystopian future of Upgrade is right up my alley, and while the film’s plot seemed like carbon copies of other, better Sci-Fi flicks I was surprised how much I ended up liking NOT-Tom Hardy (Logan Marshall-Green) playing the role of Grey, an analog man living in a digital world who overcomes paralysis thanks to a AI upgrade (GET IT) partnering with his body thanks to a complicated surgery performed by eccentric magnate Eron (NOT-Dane DeHaan actor Harrison Gilbertson). No seriously that wasn’t Dane DeHaan? And that WASN’T Tom Hardy?? Wtf. The white guy factory is really perfecting its T-1000 models.
I had no intentions of Aquaman making my Top 10 list and frankly I wasn’t even interested in seeing it in theaters. A last-minute decision to head to the theater (and Bumblebee’s next showing happening over an hour after my arrival) forced my hand and I headed into a near empty theater for James Wan’s splashtacular.
And as much as I’d like to shit on Aquaman the truth is it was one of the most joyful cinematic experiences I’ve had in a long time. There’s not a hint of irony here, and it’s all the better for it in the wake of the Zack Snyder led DC cinematic offerings. Aquaman is much like Wonder Woman before it, showing how much fun the character could have without all the MURDER, which is especially saying something considering Wonder Woman took place during World War I. What can best be described as “He-Man underwater”, I ended up loving Jason Momoa’s reluctant hero, my MAN Patrick Wilson relishing every ridiculous line of dialogue, and Amber Heard being a total Ariel.
I’m not sure Blockers would have worked if it was just a movie about 3 girls trying to lose their virginity (FEMALE American Pies!?? What’s next FEMALE Ghostbusters??), but thankfully the ace up the movie’s sleeve is the gals’ very capable comedic parents played by Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena (!!!). Mann and Barinholtz play to their strengths and very much their type, but this was the first time Cena really got to play more than the quick cameo or muscle-bound punchline in a film. It’s a movie I actually bought on Blu-Ray, which is a huge thing recommendation considering I barely buy physical media now a days.
#8. Black Panther
You can already look back at my previous ‘Best Of’ lists and find the Marvel movies all over them, but with the amazing Ryan Coogler writing and directing this powerhouse epic starring Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Michael B. Jordan as Kilmonger, the estranged outcast of Wakanda, there was no way this film wasn’t making my Top 10. This film was a juggernaut, and the first Marvel film likely to be nominated for an Academy Award as Coogler put his unique spin on the MCU.
#7. Avengers: Infinity War
While Black Panther may be the better movie, Avengers: Infinity War was always going to be more beloved film for me, the culmination of 10 years of movies and unlimited amounts of speculation between Ruy and myself after we left the theater after a Marvel film.
It’s amazing how easily Joe & Anthony Russo weaved the various characters throughout Infinity War, especially with their decision to make Thanos the primary character (protagonist? I’m not so sure) of the film. And while some of my favorite characters didn’t get their due (Hey Cap! Love the beard!) or were excluded completely (Scott Lang had other things to worry about later that summer) in the end I thought the film was a perfect encapsulation of not only the comics but also of the MCU up to that point.
#6. Creed II
It’s probably heresy that I’m putting Creed II over Black Panther, but while I definitely believe Ryan Coogler is a superior writer and director the fact remains that he helped make me believe the story of Adonis Creed, and Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson (as Bianca) truly sell these characters beyond the archetypes they play. Plus you’ve got to respect a movie as serious as Creed playing off Rocky IV, and then Creed II just leaning into that shit with reckless abandon to bring back Ivan Drago and Kid Drago for the big return fight.
The biggest strike against the sequel seems to be the importance of Rocky himself, but frankly Rocky’s story was done in Creed (and arguably done in Rocky Balboa). I’m just glad they didn’t go for the Mickey ending for Balboa. Let him have his reunion with Peter Petreilli and allow him to have a happy ending.
Plus the song in the training montage is balls out awesome.
#5. Mission: Impossible- Fallout
Shockingly after 23 years the Mission: Impossible is still one of the most dominant franchises running today, with Tom Cruise killing himself on-screen in the name of completing missions that are potentially impossible. Heading into Part 6 (!!!) Cruise’s IMF specialist Ethan Hunt has amassed a fantastic cast of characters to help him along the way, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I adore Rebecca Ferguson and hopes she’s in EVERY MOVIE EVER so I can be amazed at her beauty and talent. Va Va Voom.
I recently re-watched the original M:I last week, and while I think that’s still my favorite Mission: Impossible (CIA BREAK IN! EMILIO ESTEVEZ! FLOPPY DISKS!) Fallout definitely does the best to recapture the magic of the original with the balls out action of Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol.
#4. Sorry To Bother You
Trying to explain the plot of Sorry To Bother You seems impossible, so I’ll let IMDB do it for me.
In an alternate reality of present-day Oakland, Calif., telemarketer Cassius Green finds himself in a macabre universe after he discovers a magical key that leads to material glory. As Green’s career begins to take off, his friends and co-workers organize a protest against corporate oppression. Cassius soon falls under the spell of Steve Lift, a cocaine-snorting CEO who offers him a salary beyond his wildest dreams.
While that SEEMS pretty straightforward, the alternate reality of Oakland presents a real dream like feeling and that’s before we find Cassius’ magical key is the ability to speak like a white person and Steve Lift (the psychotically great Armie Hammer) reveals his ultimate plan. Before I say anymore just do yourself a favor and check this out ASAP. It’s on Amazon and streaming on Hulu. I can’t justify using words when seeing is believing.
#3. Bohemian Rhapsody
I have a confession to make. Yes, Bohemian Rhapsody is listed as my #3 favorite movie of the year but the truth is this movie was far from my 3rd favorite film of 2018. But JC you might ask, if that’s true then HOW is it listed here at #3? Well this is proof that a single performance can elevate an entire cinematic experience, and take a pretty bad biopic filled with cliches and shoddy screenwriting and make it one of the most captivating times I had at the movies this year. That’s how good Rami Malek is in the role of Freddy Mercury, and I hope he wins every award possible for the way he inhabits the role of Queen’s lead singer. Yes, there was a lot of drama on set, and yes they once again cast Mike Meyers in a British role that nearly tanked the whole thing (yes I’m looking at YOU Inglorious Basterds) but in the end Malek held everything together marvelously. Plus the music was obviously amazing.
Annihilation is an amazing mind fuck of a movie, and stayed with me long after I saw it in the theater. The visuals were phenomenal, and while the performances don’t go beyond their archetypes Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson (three movies in the Top 10!) and the entire cast bring gravitas to Alex Garland’s masterpiece. And while I never got to have those edibles while watching the film again in theaters, I promise you I enjoyed it right in the comforts of home while tripping balls.
#1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
This was a year of surprises for me, and when 2018 started I would never have thought a Sony cartoon featuring Mile Morales’ version of Spider-Man would crack my Top 10 let alone sit at the top of the heap. But here we are, and I can honestly say Into The Spider-Verse is not only my favorite movie of the year it’s my favorite Spider-Man movie ever.
I love Spider-Man. I sat front row watching Sam Raimi’s 2002 smash, opting to break my neck just so I could glimpse at Spider-Man in live action. I hopelessly defended Spider-Man 3 and “evil” Peter Parker dancing like a dork under the spell of the symbiote suit, despite me knowing how dumb it really was. And I absolutely gushed when Tom Holland debuted in Captain America: Civil War with Spidey finally joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the brilliance of Spider-Verse is that they took all that, and through text and subtext made that apart of the narrative while also telling the origin story of Miles Morales in the wake of his Spider-Man’s death.
The voice acting, unbelievable animation, and stirring story all makes this the best movie I watched all year. Please do yourself a favor and see this in theaters. You won’t regret it!
I finally took a chance on NBC’s The Good Place after I continued seeing the hype on the series all over social media and didn’t want to be inevitably spoiled on its fast-moving plot. I binged the entire first season in January, and HOT DAMN this was a show right up my alley. While I wouldn’t call myself religious by any means the Mike Schur produced sitcom had a lot of interesting things to say about the afterlife (and more importantly how we live our every day life), to say nothing about the insane plot twists and amazing cast. I quickly caught up on the second season just in time for the finale and have watched religiously (ha) throughout Season 3 to see what Schur and company will do next. Probably my favorite comedy currently on the air not named Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which is another Schur gem!)
BETTER CALL SAUL.
Ever hear of it? Before the beginning of Season 4 I ranted on the evolution of Saul Goodman and how Jimmy McGill was dying right before our eyes. No one quite knew how it was all going to go down, especially after four years of will they/won’t they. Like Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) I love Jimmy despite all his flaws, and I was blindsided by the final words of the S4 finale… “Better Call Saul!” Heartbreaking.
In The Dark Season 2 AKA the story of Curtis Flowers blew me away with the story of Curtis Flowers and his six (SIX) trials for the murders at Tardy Furniture in 1996. Madeleine Baran pulled no punches when she targeted DA Doug Evans for his inherent racism and bias against Curtis Flowers and the entire black community. Curtis’ story is heartbreaking, and while lots of podcasts and true crime series seem to paint very guilty people as innocent Curtis seems to be the exception to the rule as a man who was completely swallowed up by the system despite an array of evidence stating the opposite.
Speaking of potentially innocent defendants (but probably guilty) Sarah Koenig’s original season of Serial exploded with the case of Adnan Syed, accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Lee. Season One helped usher in this era of True Crime but the second season seemed to flounder in its story of war deserter Bowe Bergdahl no matter how interesting the story was it just didn’t seem as attention grabbing as Adnan’s story. Rather than tackle one case like S1 and S2 Koenig and her partner Emmanuel (!!!) spent a year within the courts of Cincinnati, OH, exposing how the American Justice System is broken and not really justice at all. If I had one complaint about Season 3 of Serial is that I could have listened to another 10 episodes of wildly different stories emanating from the Justice Complex of Cincinnati. It was that good.
I hadn’t heard much about Tim Hornbaker’s book about the wrestling territories of yore and their inevitable demise Death of the Territories, but after reading a few excerpts I quickly realized it was a must have for me. It was a fantastic recounting of how the territories worked back in the day and how unprepared they were for the war Vince K. McMahon was bringing to their doorstep, providing a ton of insight and historical data from his exhaustive research.
Considering the monopoly McMahon has over the world of pro wrestling today, it’s still amazing to read about how the NWA kept all the various territories together in the 50s, 60s, and 70s and how utterly unprepared they were for Vince Jr’s purchase of the World Wrestling Federation from his father in 1982. Seeing 30-year-old Vince be the visionary he was, and seeing 73 year old Vince today being as out of touch as the promoters he put out of business, it almost makes you hope this whole All Elite Wrestling business opens up new doors for the national wrestling landscape.
Are you obsessed with true crime as much as I am? Are you a Murderino? If so I hope you got your paws on I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, Michelle McNamara’s obsessive telling of The Golden State Killer and the quest to uncover his identity. Of course the book is even more powerful when you consider that Michelle passed away before the book could be finished, and that The GSK himself was finally caught in April after decades of evading capture. If it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of Michelle (along with the police and online sleuths) The Killer may have never been found, providing an unwritten gripping epilogue to this meticulous book.
Joe Bob Briggs/Shudder
Did you all know Joe Bob Briggs is back? In Shudder form?! If you read my 24 hours with Joe Bob earlier this summer you’ll know how psyched I was to have our favorite drive-in movie host back on the boob tube. I was even happier to see him back again for Halloween and Christmas Specials (on my birthday no less!) alongside the formal announcement of a new weekly series coming to Shudder in 2019! I was pretty hesitant of Shudder when I signed up for The Last Drive-In, but at $4.99 a month they’ve provided me a lot of decent content including old classics (Prom Night, Halloween 78′) extensive documentaries (Crystal Lake Memories), and original content like Summer of 84′ and You Might Be The Killer.
New music in 2018 was slim pickings to me, as I looked at my Spotify playlist and realized most of the music I was listening to was over a decade old. I am a self-professed emo boy, so that’s where my sensibilities land. Delta, the new Mumford & Sons album was pretty good, though some songs just flat-out didn’t work for me. Babel is still probably their best work and won’t be topped… Which isn’t a bad thing. Babel rocks.
Somehow Saves the Day released a new album in 2019… and it’s pretty ok! Much like The Get Up Kids (who also released an EP in 2018 Kicker) it’s tough to rebel against much when you’re in your mid-30s. That didn’t stop Saves the Day from knocking it out of the park with 29, an amazing 21 minute track closing out their album 9.
While looking back at my previous ‘Best Of’ lists I saw what I wrote two years ago regarding the preceding year, and it struck a nerve with me especially today in 2019 as I mourn one of my closest family members who’s no longer with us.
The year has come to an end, and frankly I couldn’t be happier to put these last twelve months in my rear view. It’s been a year of loss and change, and I realize the older I get the more this will become the norm rather than the exception.
Time is fleeting and I’ll continue to enjoy the things that I love in this world as long as I can. That means movies, music, driving down the open road, running small and silly pro wrestling shows, podcasting with my pals, and spending as much time as I can with the people I love. I hope 2019 is better than last, but if it isn’t I’m gonna make the best of it.