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What to watch: 2018 in movies

10. The Eggplant Emoji Movie

Disclaimer: This movie is rated R and on Netflix. Do not let your children watch this movie without supervision.

This was my favorite Netflix movie of the year. It’s not the best movie by any means but it made the best movie night for me and my chums.

On the surface, this movie is a tale of five high school friends on a camping trip that goes terribly wrong, but that is an understatement. I firmly believe that no critic could of predicted the events that transpire in this film.

For the sake of having the ultimate experience of watching the film, I strongly recommend that you watch the trailer for the movie first. Once you watch the film you will know why I recommend this.

I feel this film needs to be treated with secrecy. To quote the wizard philosopher Gandalf,

“Keep it secret, keep it safe.”

9. A Star is Born

Remakes can be hit or miss.

For example, Planet of the Apes, Arthur, Psycho — I could go on. Far to often Hollywood tries to fix something that isn’t broken. A Star is Born has been remade five times. While previous versions of the film were great, Bradley Cooper’s reimagining of the tale might be an impossible act to follow.

Cooper directs and stars in this classic love story opposite Lady Gaga. The movie is an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. Both Cooper and Gaga deliver career defining performances.

Seasoned musician Jackson Maine, (Cooper), discovers and eventually falls in love with struggling artist Ally, (Gaga). Throughout the film we get to see their relationship grow and fall apart while both deal with fame and their inner demons.

You are glued right from the start as Cooper sings to a crowd of thousands of people. His voice was a pleasant surprise. The man can sing.

This is also a new side to Lady Gaga we haven’t really seen before. Gaga is known for her outlandish costumes and makeup for her music videos and performances. But her character Ally is the polar opposite of her Gaga persona.

It’s funny. I remember my dad telling me when she first became famous that he believed she put on the big elaborate act because she can’t sing well. So to distract everyone one from that she would dress up and be a “freak”.

I showed him the soundtrack to the movie and didn’t tell him who was singing. When he asked who the singers, I thought I was going to have to take him to the hospital because I could of sworn I heard something crack when his jaw dropped to the floor.

Needless to say, the soundtrack is top notch. Cooper shows off his smokey smooth chops and Gaga shows us that she isn’t a just a shock factor stage performer. The girl can wail.

8. Bohemian Rhapsody

Speaking of career defining performances. Rami Malek’s performance in Bohemian Rhapsody makes you wonder why Queen is touring with Adam Lambert instead of Maleck.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic about the British rock band Queen. It follows the evolution of the band up until their Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985.

While this is a Queen biopic, nobody can deny that it is the Rami Malek show. The film does focus on the band as a whole, but besides Freddie Mercury, his other bandmates are nowhere near as fleshed out as Mercury.

Maleks eccentric performance of Freddie Mercury is the best part of the film. It was a little eerie how well he was able to mimic Mercury. As I said, Queen really should consider using Malek for some future shows. It would literally be the closest thing to seeing the original lineup we will ever get.

Maleks performance has earned him numerous best actor nominations including a Golden Globe nominations and the studio will be pushing for an Oscar nomination.

In typical biopic fashion, the film does have its inaccuracies. Typical things like, dates, places, when people met, how people met, things that are often changed slightly when writing a script. None of the inaccuracies are that drastic that it changes my mind about the film.

The film ends with a full recreation of Queens Live Aid performance and if you haven’t seen it already, do yourself a favor and YouTube it. It’s considered the greatest live performance of all time — a must see.

The only thing that may rival Malecks performance is the soundtrack. Which I feel is understandable, I mean, it’s Queen.

7. Black Panther

Black Panther was one of the surprise hits of the year.

Since it’s a MCU film, I knew I would enjoy it going into it due to the MCUs track record. But what I didn’t expect was the world director Ryan Coogler created. The Wakandan culture that we get to see in this movie could easily fool adults that Wakanada is in fact a real nation. It has the much realism to it.

The story centers around T’Challa aka the Black Panther who has just become king after the death of his father. Throughout the film he struggles with what he should do as far as keeping Wakandas strict border laws in place and sharing the advanced technology Wakanda has created with the rest of the world.

It has an excellent balance of action and drama. Covering issues that our society still struggles with today.

One thing this film also did well that previous MCU films have not succeeded at, is create a good villain. Michael B Jordan play the movies villain Killmonger and what a performance to have on a resume. Jordan gives us a villain that we hate to love. His motive is great and relatable. Personally, I would have liked to see more of Andy Serkis’s character, Klaw, as the title villain. But with the performance Jordan gave, I won’t complain.

Another soundtrack that has been praised. Kendrick Lamar was a big part of the success of the soundtrack producing a majority of the tracks. However, If you aren’t into rap or hip hop, it probably won’t be your cup of tea.

One objection I feel some people will have about this film is that since it’s part of the MCU, you have to watch two or three other films to know what’s going on.

Not the case for Black Panther.

It is probably the first MCU movie post Avengers that can act as a stand alone film. One could argue that the third Captain America movie is a must see before Black Panther due to the fact he is introduced into the MCU in it. But any references to Captain America or any other Avenger are miniscule and won’t catch unless you’re a big Marvel fan.

This movie has been a great step forward for diversity in the movie industry and hopefully will wake up the academy when it comes to award season.

6. Annihilation

Annihilation is the unsung sci fi suspense thriller of the year.

Twelve months have passed since a covert operation was sent to investigate a anomalous iridescent electromagnetic field called “The Shimmer” which has been mutating the landscape and wildlife inside of of it.

Lena, played by Natalie Portman, awaits the return of her husband, played by Oscar Isaac, who was part of the covert operation. But after he mysteriously returns and goes into a coma, Lena is recruited to go into the Shimmer to reach the Lighthouse where the phenomenon started.

The special effects in this movie are haunting.The creatures and fauna are my favorite part of the movie. Some of the creatures they created look like they come from the a fairy tail, while others might of haunted you in your dreams at some point in your life.

The score for this movie is incredible. It complements everything that happens on screen perfectly. Which believe it or not, is still a rarity in cinema.

This movie can be a little slow pace at times, but it’s only to help build the atmosphere and suspense.

The performances by Portman, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason-Leigh are solid. The whole cast for that matter was stellar. No performance really our does the other but if I did have to pick a performance that stands out ever so slightly, I would say Oscar Isaac scenes tend to steal the show.

All in all, the movie is a must watch if you’re a lover of suspense, sci fi or films with great special effects.

5. Avengers: Infinity War

The movie Marvel fans have been waiting for since 2012 and boy did it not disappoint.

Ten years of Marvel films have all come to this point. The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy vs Thanos.

Game on!

The objective for the Avengers and Guardians is to prevent Thanos from getting all six infinity stones to prevent him from causing genocide on an intergalactic scale.

The Russo Brothers balanced this star studded cast and story lines perfectly. Which isn’t surprising sense every Marvel film they do they get to introduce several new characters.

Some heroes get more screen time than others, but everyone shines in their moments they are given. The new characters we meet were interesting and some such as Ebony Maw, played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor made me want to see more from the character moving forward in the MCU.

We also got to see some interesting character interactions. From Thor’s hilarious scenes with members of the Guardians to Iron Man meeting the masters of the mystic arts.

The cast played off each other beautifully. The two that stood out the most were Doctor Strange and Iron Man and Thor and Rocket Racoon.

The Russo Brothers decision to make Thanos, the villain, the main character was genius plan. Typically in a these movies you expect the superheros to be the main characters.

Not in Infinity War

In a movie where damn near every character is a superhero making the villain the main character just makes sense. Making Thanos the main character works because he is fighting everyone. He literally has to interact with all of the superheroes at some point.

It’s also good to see that the MCU has finally mastered the art of creating quality villains. Something that has been a sore spot of the MCU for most of the decade. For the third MCU film in a row we get an excellent villain. Josh Brolin gives us a performance that makes us hate but understand Thanos.

Oh, and it made a shit ton of money. Becoming the fourth movie to gross two billion dollars making it the fourth highest grossing film of all time behind Star Wars: Force Awakens, Avatar and Titanic.

It will make you laugh, cheer and emotionally scar you if you have been a Marvel fan since the beginning of the MCU.

I will say, if you haven’t been following or keeping up with the MCU, you will need to do some homework.

But if you want to get to it as fast as you can then watch the following movies and you should be caught up enough to where you can follow the film:

The Avengers Guardians of the Galaxy Avengers: Age of Ultron Captain America: Civil War Doctor Strange Thor: Ragnarok

The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was the cliffhanger ending. It will leave you with a thousand questions. But alas, it helped hype up the sequel.

Also there’s no Ant-Man or Hawkeye in this movie. Sorry Paul Rudd and Jeremy Renner fans.

4. A Quiet Place

John Krazinski’s, A Quiet Place, will do more than give you jump scares for those looking for a quality suspense horror movie.

A Quiet Place has made its mark on the horror genre with a new concept towards suspense horror that hasn’t been explored much in the genre. How someone with a disability can get by in a post apocalyptic world.

When sightless creatures with hypersensitive hearing suddenly appear, the origin of which is still a mystery, humanity doesn’t know what to do. Except be quiet.

The monsters attack and kill anything that makes to much noise. Making the world a quieter place.

The main characters are director John Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt who are living with their children, one of whom is deaf, and have seemingly adapted to life without sound.

Since one of their children is deaf the family communicates via sign language through the majority of the film. Despite their efforts, the family finds that staying quiet is damn near impossible.

Krasinski and Blunt have natural chemistry, I mean, they are married in real life. Millicent Simmons, who plays the deaf daughter Regan, is easily one of the best newcomers of the year. Her performance is easily the most powerful in the film.

Simmons is also deaf in real life, adding a great sense of realism to the movie.

Now, do you remember the scene from Jurassic Park with the raptors in the kitchen hunting the children? The suspense that scene brought to you, knowing that at any moment one of the kids will be to loud and blow their cover. You could cut the tension with a knife.

That’s the feeling you get through out the entirety of this film. The family is being constantly hunted by these mysterious creatures.

With that said, the creature’s appearance could have been better. They weren’t that intimidating and they just looked generic, like they kind of forgot they needed to add a monster so at the last minute they made these creatures.

The ending was also super cheesy. It was out of place with the rest of the film and left me groaning out loud in the theater.

But minus those two little blemishes, this movie was fantastic. It has already been cited as inspiration behind other suspense and horror movies.

*Cough* Bird Box *cough*

3. Isle of Dogs

I love dogs!

So naturally I loved this movie.

But all bias aside. This movie is still my favorite animated movie of the year.

Wes Anderson gives us another claymation masterpiece. The attention to detail in all of the characters and set pieces is astounding. I have a great appreciation for claymation films because the filming process is so monotonous. The dedication and patience a director and crew have to have for it to work and work well for that matter, is inspiring.

The plot is simple. A disease infects all of the dogs of Japan and while they work on a treatment they exile all of the dogs to a series of trash islands. But one boy journeys to the island to save his dog.

Since the movie is set in Japan the dialogue bounces between Japanese and English. Mostly the dogs speaks english and the majority of the human characters speak Japanese. As I stated earlier the attention to detail for all of the set pieces is a gorgeous and an amazing tribute to Japanese culture.

It has an all star cast of actors including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. All of the cast member voices fit the dogs they were playing. It’s perfect casting.

Norton and Goldblum’s characters were my favorite characters. I wanted so much more of their characters. If this film ever gets a sequel I hope to see more from them. But that isn’t which isn’t likely since Wes Anderson isn’t known for sequels.

The film has been nominated for numerous best animated film awards. I’m really hoping Mr.Anderson’s film will finally break Disney’s current stronghold on the Academy Award for best animated film. Which hasn’t been done since 2005s Wallace and Gromit.

I firmly believe that nobody walk away from this movie disappointed. It will make you want to give your dog a hug and a treat, or potentially go get a new dog.

Even if you are a cat person, you will fall in love with Isle of Dogs.

2. Hereditary

Disclaimer: This movie is rated R. Do not let your children watch this movie without your supervision.

My biggest advice for Hereditary: watch it with a buddy.

This movie creeped me the hell out, which is a good thing for a horror movie.

This movie builds a haunting atmosphere. If a flea farts while you are watching this film it will scare the crap out of you. That’s how engaging this film is.

And whenever you think things can’t get worse for this family, it always does.

The cinematography in this film is top notch. If it doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, I will boycott the academy. The shots are so creative.

Toni Collette gives a performance of a lifetime. The studio has been pushing for an Oscar bid this award season, which would be greatly deserved. Her range in this movie is incredible. It should really be considered the gold standard for any actor looking for advice on how to play a tortured character.

I was concerned when I saw the movie also starred Alex Wolfe from the Nickelodeon kids show The Naked Brothers Band. But my concerns flew out the window by the end of the film. Wolfe absolutely kills it in this film. Going toe to toe with Collette in a couple scenes, I hope to see him in more films in the future.

Milly Shapiro was also another standout in the film. Which isn’t a surprise since the kid has been making a splash on the Broadway scene, starring in Matilda and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

Kind of an odd transition from Broadway child star of happy kid friendly musicals to atmospheric R rated horror film, but all it did was show off her range and prove that she is going to have a bright future in show business.

Watch this movie, get creeped out by this movie, love this movie.

1. Leave No Trace

I’m a huge Indie movie fan. Many of my favorite movies are ones that not to many people have heard of before.

So I was a little hesitant to put an indie film in my top spot, but I couldn’t resist. Leave No Trace was just that moving to me.

Debra Gank, independent film legend and director of Winter’s Bone, has delivered another powerful and moving story.

The film is about a Iraq War veteran who struggles with PTSD and chooses to live in the woods of a state park where he has been raising his daughter. And raised her very well I might add.

Once they are forced to rejoin society again, we learn that Tom is well ahead in her education, but her social skills need improvement.

Ben Foster delivers once again. Foster has been one of the most underrated actors of the last few decades. His portrayal of a struggling war vet with PTSD is a performance anyone who suffers from the disease should watch.

I feel far to often we joke about PTSD and sometimes take it for granted. Foster’s performance is a chilling reminder that PTSD is not a joke and if anything we need to do more to help those suffering from it.

The real highlight of the film is Thomasin McKenzie.

She has been compared to Jennifer Lawrence after her performance in this film and that praise couldn’t be more deserved.

McKenzie is lovable and fierce in her first lead role. You root for her all the way through this movie. Her performance has been getting a lot of recognition in the film fest community. Winning numerous break through performances and has a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award for best Supporting Actress.

Hollywood has also taken notice of McKenzies talents. She is set to star in four movies in 2019 with some of the biggest names in the business such as Russell Crowe, Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell.

I feel it’s also worth noting that it is one of two films to have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes for films released in 2018. This film is my personal favorite of the year and my top recommendation for 2018.