Half Way There: The Films Of 2018

The world is on fire. Schools are getting shot up at an alarming rate, actresses are leaving Twitter over harassment, children are being locked in cages, the house of mouse is slowly becoming an all powerful conglomerate and a Star Wars film flopped. It’s like pandemonium married anarchy or if Orwell, Gibson and Huxley all had gross sex and the repugnant after birth is now our reality. As a society, we’re starting to regress but the brightside is, life is like one of those cheap plastic zipcars. You have to go backwards to go forwards.

Let’s look at the films that helped distract us from the horrors of the world until that zipcar named life gets going again. These are the films I’ve seen in 2018.

(So far.)

[Ed. Note: I fully realize it’s past the half way point in the year. I got drunk and forgot about it. Don’t judge me]

 

23. The Kissing Booth

Plot: Girl dates the brother of her best friend. Drama ensues.

The only thing worth noting about this film, is the amount of sex the two main characters have throughout. Its never explicitly shown but you hear moans and there’s multiple scenes of them laying in bed together, sweaty. There was a shit ton of sex comedies of the 80’s, so I’ve seen my fair share of boobies n’ bush but, and correct me if I’m wrong, you hardly ever see sex in high school romantic comedies. There’s probably a ton I’m forgetting (I’m teetering on the edge of drunk) but my mind is telling me that shit stopped after American Pie.

Who knows and more importantly, who the fuck cares. This film is God awful. Here’s the entire film in two-ish sentences:

“Me and my buddy have had rules for each other since we wuz kidz. One of them wuz ‘don’t date my brother.’ Uh oh, spaghetti-o’s!”


 

22. Hotel Artemis

Plot: Remember the hotel Continental bits of John Wick? This is that but stretched to feature length but no where near as good.

In my monthly wrap up, I wrote:

“Imagine an adaptation of MacGyver in which the titular tinkerer/hero spends the entire runtime collecting random bits of junk and right when you expect him to piece it all together to make the ultimate machine of kickassery, you realize there is no machine of kickassery coming and you just wasted 90 minutes watching a guy collect junk.

That’s Hotel Artemis.”

I really can’t think of a better way to describe this limp dick of a movie.


 

21. The First Purge

Plot: The government makes all crime legal…blah blah blah. It’s the fourth one in the series. You know the premise.

Jesus, this film takes subtlety behind a shed and beats it to death with a baseball bat covered in anti-authoritarian stickers. It’s 100 minutes of a drunk guy yelling at you that the government is evil and even though you agree with everything he’s saying, he’s so loud and obnoxious, you just want him to shut the fuck up. He might be right but he’s been saying the same goddamn thing for years with nothing new to add to the conversation. That not only describes this film but the entire Purge franchise. They really need to give this thing to Larry Cohen or let it die.


 

20. Victor Crowley

Plot: A survivor from the previous films gets paid a shit ton of money to go back to the scene of the murders for a news documentary. Running concurrent to that, is a group of would-be filmmakers who want to make a movie about Victor Crowley. They read some shit they shouldn’t and the ghost of Victor Crowley rises from the grave to kill again.

I’ve been singing the praises of the first Hatchet since it came out over a decade ago. It’s a fun throwback to a bygone era of horror films but with each subsequent sequel, it became increasingly apparent that the problems I had with it weren’t due to a first time director working with a limited budget. The budget wasn’t the glass ceiling, it was his talent as a filmmaker.

This is no more apparent than Victor Crowley, which is no better than his directorial debut. Which was twelve years ago. The only saving grace is Kane Hodder, who plays the titular character like a vicious rottweiler who not only kills you, but does it in the most brutal way possible. If this series was better, Crowley could give Jason a run for his money.

You can read my review here.


 

19. The Coverfield Paradox

Plot: Scientists aboard an orbiting spaceship rip open a rift between space/time and wacky shit ensues.

It’s ironic that Solo was the film that director/writing duo Lord & Miller got fired from because if I was on a game show, I would’ve bet all my money it was this one. It’s common knowledge that Abrams keeps throwing money at unrelated films to slap some Cloverfield shit in them but there had to be more changes to this script than just tenuous connections to past films. Either the script was originally a comedy and director treated it like a drama or the script was serious and the director decided it needed some silly ass shit. Either way, neither element works.

It’s not dramatic enough to keep you engaged or crazy enough to entertain you. The stuff with the severed arm was a fun bit of lunacy but there’s not enough of it. The ending is so dumb, it almost makes the whole thing worth it. Almost.

You can read my review here.


 

18. Mary and The Witch’s Flower

Plot: Girl accidentally joins a school for wizards and witches and has to stop the bad guys from turning people into animals or some shit. I don’t remember what happens in this film.

I’m not being cute, I honestly can not recall a single aspect of this film. I know flowers are involved and Kate Winslet is in it* but just like algebra and the state capitals, that information is long gone. I do remember it looking pretty, so I guess that’s something.


 

17. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

Plot: Steampunk Batman vs Jack the Ripper.

Setting Batman (and his various side characters) in turn of the century England during the Jack the Ripper murders should be the easiest slam dunk in history but while the ball still gets in the net, it’s more like a layup. I’m assuming those are less impressive or worth less points. Sports are dumb.

The animation is solid, if a bit too clean and the voice cast is superb but the story just isn’t engaging. The who-dunnit isn’t hard to piece together almost immediately and it doesn’t take advantage of its setting or steampunk aesthetic.

You can read my full review here.


 

16. Lowlife

Plot: An insane luchador, a desperate hotel maid and a recently released from prison ex nazi, cross paths in this Tarantino inspired crime thriller.

On the scale of Tarantino knock offs, Lowlife is right around the middle of the pack. It’s light years away from Guy Ritchie but is a masterpiece compared to others *cough* The Boondock Saints *cough*. It’s biggest flaw is it’s anthology structure because the luchador is easily the most entertaining character in the film and would’ve worked far better if he was the sole lead.

You can read my review here.


 

15. Revenge

Plot: After being savagely attacked and left for dead, she’s back and hungry for revenge.

In my monthly wrap up, I wrote:

“A revenge thriller that’s damn near impossible not to nitpick to death. There’s some great gore but the film forsakes realism in favor of the gag, each and every time (I mean, who the fuck would operate a break pad with a gaping wound on their foot??) But if you can turn your brain off, its a good time.”


 

14. Black Panther

Plot: Iron Man but in Africa! Not really but kind of.

Now that the hype has died down considerably, it’s easier to appreciate this film for what it is– an important kids film that isn’t the Shakespearean masterpiece that some have claimed but is still fun regardless. Eliminating both villains is still a terrible decision in my opinion. Michael B. Jordan‘s Killmonger had the potential to be as great as Loki but they screwed the pooch on that one.

You can read my review here.


 

13. Annihilation

Plot: Scientists investigate an alien anomaly that looks like a soap bubble. Creepy shit happens.

In the film Stalker, a small group of men go inside an alien anomaly in the hope that they’ll find a room that supposedly grants you your hearts desire. It’s not hard to make a comparison between that film and Annihilation considering they have damn near identical premises but there’s one huge difference that separates the two and it’s the exact same  thing that separates the original The Haunting (’63), from The Haunting (’99). One is a slow, methodical thriller that builds tension without ever showing you anything. Neither Stalker or The Haunting (’63) show any element of the otherworldly or supernatural but they both cultivate dread and mystery through brilliant set design and ambiance.

And the other is The Haunting (’99) and Annihilation, which are the exact opposite. They show you everything and while that certainly isn’t a problem in and of itself, everything they show you is constantly being undermined by one rotten apple. Without getting too much into spoilers but there’s a character who, once they lose their shit, singlehandedly turns the film into a terrible horror film. Everything they do and/or say is beyond ridiculous and could’ve been easily fixed. The bear scene would’ve been so much more effective if the explanation wasn’t mind numbingly dumb.

It baffles me that Garland made the decision to include such a pointless character because the film could’ve easily worked without them or the unnecessary cheating scene. If the script was tighter, it could’ve been a goddamn classic. As it stands, it’s fine.

Oh and Jennifer Jason Leigh is terrible in it. She doesn’t ruin the film but man, she’s not good.


 

12. Upgrade

Plot: After an attack that leaves him paralyzed and his wife dead, Tom Hardy‘s Doppelganger signs up for an experimental operation that will fix his floppy appendages with the power of science magic. He immediately seeks revenge.

I wrote in my monthly write up:

“A fun little action flick that’s one big set piece away from being an all timer. The ending almost makes up for it though.”

The only thing I’d add is the camerawork, most notably during the action scenes. The camera moves with every punch, kick or flip and is one of the more memorable aspects of the film.


 

11. The Road Movie

Plot: A film comprised entirely of Russian car cam footage.

It’s really hard to write a film that’s nothing but dashboard footage because it’s not exactly a film you watch. You soak it in like a sponge. It’s the kind of film you put on in the background like one of those artificial aquarium DVD’s they sell exclusively to dentist offices. But instead of gupper fish, it’s Russian prostitutes and insane locales.


 

 

10. Deadpool 2

Plot: Deadpool has to save a fat kid from an angry old man. So, it’s essentially a sequel to Up.

In my monthly wrap up, I wrote:

“….Deadpool is like a chocolate cake made by your significant other who can’t bake. You desperately want to love it because It’s made with passion and a need to please but It’s far too short in some places, way too long in others and shouldn’t be served as an entreé.”

That X-force bit is still one of my favorite moments of the year.

You can read my review here.


 

09. A Quiet Place

Plot: Tremors but instead of finding you based on movement, the monsters hunt by sound. So farts=death.

A mixed bag of incredible suspense, above average world building and an interesting premise coupled with terribly dumb characters and some ridiculous internal logic issues. Thank God Krasinski didn’t turn this into a Cloverfield film but a proposed sequel has me worried that it’ll eventually turn into an action franchise.

You can read my review here.


 

08. King Cohen

Plot: A fantastic doc exploring the life and career of an extremely underappreciated director.

Larry Cohen should be ranked alongside the best of the genre filmmakers but for whatever reason, he’s been relegated to nothing more than “The writer of Maniac Cop.” This documentary does a great job of informing the uninitiated of his accomplishments and reminding the die hard fans of his importance.

Hail to the king, baby.

You can read my review here.


 

07. You Were Never Really Here

Plot: A 21st century Taxi Driver from one of the best directors of the 21st century.

Some films live and die based on the strength of their actors performances and for as great as director Lynne Ramsay is at creating amazing imagery and perfectly staged shots, this film wouldn’t work without Joaquin Phoenix. He’s in every frame of this film for a reason: He’s fucking amazing in it. This story could easily be adapted as a two man stageplay called “a man and his hammer” that starts with a warning that the first two rows a legally required to wear rain ponchos. Because it’s extremely violent and stage blood goes everywhere. I just wish the story did as well.

You can read my review here.


 

06. Isle of Dogs

Plot: A Japanese boy goes to trash island and teams up with plague dogs to help find his missing dog.

It’s ironic that the title of the film, when said fast, sounds like “I love dogs” because although I love me some pups, it would’ve been more accurate if it sounded like “I love Wes Anderson.” He is a director you either get or you don’t and I’m glad I’m on the right side of the equation.

You can read my review here.


 

05. Game Night

Plot: A surprisingly good comedic riff on David Fincher’s The Game.

A rock solid comedy that’s hampered by an unnecessarily long third act. It goes on far too long and gets increasingly ridiculous but the cast is so fucking funny, it doesn’t matter. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams have a natural chemistry and the two other couples have a decent amount to work with but Jesse Plemons is a goddamn murderer. He slays every scene he’s in.


 

04. Batman Ninja

Plot: Batman in 17th century feudal Japan. Plus a shit ton of crazy.

In my monthly wrap up, I wrote:

“The plot is crazier than a shit house rat who’s constantly huffing acetone and I loved every second of it.”

I really don’t have much to add other than, if this was live action, it would be my number 1 film of the year with a bullet. This film laughs in the face of logic. Joker operates a mechanized Arkham that chucks huge ass shurikens at the batmobile, Robin inexplicably has a pet monkey that actually factors into the plot and there’s a scene involving ninjas, robots and a shit ton of monkeys and bats that’s absolute lunacy. This film is non-stop entertainment.

You can read my review here.


 

03. Incredibles 2

Plot: The Incredibles but the next day!

A stellar sequel that trades in the emotion of its predecessor for more action and humor but also loses a compelling villain. It’s a cash grab but since it’s Pixar, it never feels half assed. Oh and the baby vs raccoon bit could’ve been dialed back. That’s the only cartoon-y thing in the film, which is actually impressive considering the subject matter.


 

02. Hereditary

Plot: Family isn’t a word, it’s a sentence. And sometimes that sentence is a curse.

Steven King once referred to The Shinning as “A film designed to hurt people” and while he meant that as a criticism, there’s no better quote to describe Hereditary. Every shot is designed to unsettle you, with images you’ll only understand after a second viewing. The film is paced methodically to slowly draw you into its spell. It’s a slowburn that cultivates dread until the dread turns into nightmare fuel.

And if Toni Collette doesn’t get an Oscar nom, I’m going to flip so many tables, you don’t even know.


 

01. Avengers: Infinity War

Plot: All of your favorite action figures of the last decade punch a lot of things in one of the biggest sandboxes ever made.

The fact that this thing even works is a fucking miracle. Since Superman: The Movie came out over 40 years ago, there have been well over 100 comic book and superhero related films and while there’s a plethora of great ones, there’s only a handful that feel like a comic book. That nail the aesthetic and over the top bombast of funny books.

Infinity War may lack character development and be guilty of sidelining some important characters but its successes far outweigh its negatives and that ending is ballsy as fuck.