2018 was a memorable year in film. From impactful superhero flicks, new horror classics, adrenaline-pumping action, soaring musicals, the return of rom-coms and dazzling animated fare, there was a lot to like about the year in cinema. Tamara and Rebecca look at the best of worst of 2018 as the year fades to black.
Best movie: “First Reformed”
I watched about 90 movies released in 2018, nearly doubling the number I screened in 2017. This summer release, featuring a career-best performance by Ethan Hawke, rocked me to my core weeks later. Set in a small New York town where the area church is about to hit a milestone, Hawke plays a minister whose faith is not in good standing after his son is killed in a war and a parishioner’s husband dies. Projected in a square ratio, there’s always a sense of urgency, internal struggle and, surprisingly, hope. Amanda Seyfried and Cedric Kyles (better known as Cedric the Entertainer) also star.
Honorable mention: “Black Panther” is a cultural explosion, featuring multiple shades of actors and cultures in one film. Ryan Coogler shows how he can make quiet, intimate films like “Fruitvale Station” and large blockbusters like this Marvel masterpiece. “Hereditary” is a cerebral horror flick that cements Toni Collette’s space as a scream queen. It mixes grief, mental illness and darkness into an entertaining brew. 2018 was truly a year in which the whole calendar was filled with great offerings.
Worst movie: “The Kissing Booth”
This teen romance trash was the hit among Generation Z or whatever the young people are calling themselves, and unfortunately, this must have been the most lackluster example of entertainment geared toward them. Starring relatively three unknowns, a girl falls in love with her best friend’s brother, who has obvious anger and trust issues. It takes place in high school. There are no lessons to learn and everyone lives happily ever after. The year offered much better teen heroes, actors and storylines, like “Love, Simon,” “The Hate U Give,” “To All the Boys I Loved Before” and “Eighth Grade,” that didn’t register with young people, but you wished it did.
Honorable mention: “Green Book” is a look at the past through the lens of racism and white saviorship. It was made with 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy” in mind, but shown to an audience that’s more aware of past wrongs and better representations. “I Feel Pretty” is another dangerous example of feminism wrapped up in Amy Schumer, SoulCycle and Target bags. It says in order to love yourself, you must kick yourself in the head. No thanks.
Screen surprise: “Madeline’s Madeline”
After the first few minutes of seeing newcomer Helena Howard throw tantrum after tantrum as Madeline while she is with her mother Regina (a stunning Miranda July), one can see the pain and growing Howard does in this indie. Madeline finds solace with a theater troupe, but her acting teacher encourages her to bring her family drama onto the stage. Being a former fine arts kid, I loved all things theater. It’s great to see July, who is best known for her work behind the camera, in front of it this time.
Honorable mention: I was blown away by “The Incredibles 2.” Unlike 95 percent of movie audiences, I wasn’t a big fan of the original, but I wanted to see if the decade-plus wait was worth the wait. With updated technology, a better plot and more fun, I liked what Disney Pixar has done with the animated superheroes. At the other end of the spectrum, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” was surprisingly dull and not as captivating as its prequel despite its strong leads and supporting actors. Hopefully, if plans to complete the trilogy are still on, there will be closure for this franchise.
Favorite characters: Amanda (Olivia Cooke), “Thoroughbreds,” and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), “Black Panther”
Tamara, how do you like your on-screen psychopaths? I like them to feel nothing and everything. Amanda, an upper-class teen who feels no empathy, and Killmonger, a disadvantaged kid who grows up feeling everyone’s pain and seeks vengeance, are very different but are also two peas in a pod. Killmonger is one of the best cinematic villains Marvel has to offer, and I don’t know anyone who could befriend someone as cold-hearted as Amanda.
Honorable mention: Shuri of “Black Panther” is the Q to T’Challa’s James Bond in “Black Panther” and the perfect spunky sister. No wonder Letitia Wright is 2018’s box office queen. Daniel Kaluuya is a scene-stealer as the conniving Jatemme Manning in “Widows.”
Hidden gem: “Vox Lux”
In between Lady Gaga channeling her “Joanne” days in the fourth version of “A Star is Born” and Rami Malek lip-syncing to Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” is Natalie Portman’s and Raffey Cassidy’s brave performances in “Vox Lux.” The film centers around the meteoric rise of a pop singer in the wake of national tragedy. It’s original, graphic and dynamic; it captures what is a part of excessive, everyday life of America in a short time capsule. New music by Sia and crazy leather jackets add to the feeling of overabundance.
Honorable mention: “The Everything” may be a 30-minute short to promote fashion house KENZO, but it’s one of the year’s most entertaining example of teenage mutants trying to navigate through the world. Take that, X-Men! And for some reason, I have a soft spot for Dwayne Johnson and “Rampage.” That is a silly movie where the stars know it’s silly, and I have a good time watching it.
Best movie: “Avengers: Infinity War”
I believe comic book films are some of the best movies made today, with an incredible depth of storytelling and well-drawn characters often developed over years. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has perfected this formula. Ten years of world- and character-building culminated in “Infinity War,” an epic teamup of superheroes from across all corners of the franchise that gives us some of the best special effects, funniest jokes and most devastating moments of the year. Though the film came out over eight months ago, everyone is still talking about “the Snap” and which Avengers will ultimately survive Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) attempt at population control. “Avengers: Endgame” promises to answer that question.
Honorable mention: “Black Panther” is the rare blockbuster that delivers on the superhero and action front while being driven by its socially conscious story. Its cultural impact has resonated across the world. It also features one of the most well-rounded villains in the MCU in the form of Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” shows Tom Cruise’s spy franchise just keeps on getting better, raising the bar with its breathtaking action sequences and thrilling plot. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” introduces African-American/Puerto Rican teen Miles Morales as the new webslinger and just one of many Spider-people in a moving tale told through glorious, trippy animation.
Worst movie: “Life Itself”
It may be unfair of me to rank this as the worst of the year as I never actually finished the generation-spanning melodrama. After a bizarre opening narration by Samuel L. Jackson that made me question whether I was even watching the right movie, I shut off the alleged tearjerker by “This Is Us” scribe Dan Fogelman after 12 minutes. Watch at your own risk.
Honorable mention: “The Nun” is a boring and disappointing addition to the Conjuring Universe. It manages to take its titular character, the chilling standout in “The Conjuring 2,” and reduce the demonic creature to nothing more than a silhouette who pops up in hallways. The problematic “I Feel Pretty” sends a mixed message about basing self-worth solely on looks.
Screen surprise: Rebirth of rom-coms
2018 was a solid year for the once-fading genre, with a pair of big-screen entries and several that have made their home on Netflix. The dazzling and delightful “Crazy Rich Asians” revitalized the genre and reached a cultural milestone, featuring an all Asian and Asian-American cast led by the charming Constance Wu and Henry Golding. The enjoyable “Book Club” thrives on the lovely and warm camaraderie of veteran actresses Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen.
Honorable mention: The frightening “A Quiet Place” ramps up the tension and scares with its simple premise of a family who must avoid making noise to avoid being killed by a mysterious alien creature. As director and star, John Krasinski masterfully gives us a new horror classic. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a fun foray into the wide expanse of the internet while offering a surprisingly deep and insightful look at friendship, self-discovery and the worth-the-hype reunion of the Disney Princesses.
Favorite character: Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
Having trained to become a superhero since the events of “Ant-Man,” Hope is intelligent, resourceful and more than capable to take on the mantle of the Wasp, the first female superhero featured in the title of an MCU movie. She perfectly complements the smart but reckless Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).
Honorable mention: The women of “Black Panther”: Witty and brilliant scientist Shuri (Letitia Wright), brave and loyal warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) and independent and kind spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) are strong, self-assured women confident in themselves and their abilities. In “Halloween,” the damaged but vindicated Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) comes to terms with decades of post-traumatic stress to protect her family from the “Bogeyman” himself, Michael Myers.
Hidden gem: “Searching”
Told almost entirely on computer screens, the suspenseful “Searching” had me on the edge of my seat as a desperate father (John Cho) relies on technology to try and find his missing 16-year-old daughter.
Honorable mention: “A Simple Favor” weaves a twisted, irresistible mystery with great performances from Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. As brutal as it is beautiful, “Revenge” is a stylish revenge thriller with a feminist slant.
Rebecca Kivak and Joe Baress write about movies for Take 2 blog. Together, they review current flicks and offer their insights into the latest movie news. Rebecca is a copy editor and page designer at The Times-Tribune. She started her career with Times-Shamrock Newspapers in 2005 and has won several professional journalism awards for page design and headline writing. She also covers NASCAR races from Pocono Raceway. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5126; @TTRebeccaKivak