2018 Movie Catch-Up: Mini Reviews of Films We Missed This Year
There’s too many movies! Well, I guess that’s a good problem to have for a site like this one. At any rate, as we grow closer to the end of the year, not only are we tabulating our end of the year lists, but we’re catching up on some of the movies we missed when they were first released. It’s pretty hard to see everything out there, no matter how hard we try!
With that in mind, let’s take an abbreviated look at the year that was with a quick discussion of some movies that you — and the site — might have missed. While this won’t be an all-encompassing list, it’ll certainly shed some light on films that you should see…or stay VERY far away from.
All of these mini-reviews will be spoiler free.
The Hurricane Heist
This movie feels the most average, schlocky action film that 1991 could have ever dreamed of making. Combine a few rednecks, some criminals, a serious storm, approximately $600 million in cash, and pretty lackluster acting from a few supporting roles, and you have The Hurricane Heist.
The prologue of this film feels like the best version of what The Hurricane Heist could have been: it’s a silly, broadly satirical depiction of Alabama football lovers that also includes the outline of a skull forming in the eye of a storm (seriously). But after the title comes onto the screen, the film is oddly serious, failing to match a schlocky tone to a schlocky premise. It feels like the makers of the film were afraid to jump the shark and go full-on absurd with this film, and I wish they weren’t. This bland movie severely needs more personality.
In a weird twist of events, Israel later attempted to boycott Foxtrot at a Paris film festival — the same festival that it helped fund — after the festival made Foxtrot its headliner, citing one harrowing scene in particular as the impetus for the move. I won’t spoil that scene here, as it is one of the most affecting moments in the entire film. It caught me by complete surprise.
One thing I’ll always remember about Foxtrot is its ability to shift tone from the deepest depths of sadness to some of the more goofy sequences I’ve seen in 2018. While also being one of the more depressing, tough films of the year, a particular dance scene made me almost fall to the floor with laughter. If you fancy yourself as a fan of world cinema, I strongly urge you to seek out Foxtrot; it’s one of the most effecting movies of the year and will only get better with more time and thought.
My mind immediately went to The Wrestler when watching The Rider. The comparison seems a bit odd at first glance; a gritty drama directed by Darren Aronofsky and a spacious Western aren’t exactly “similar” by a simple description. But as you dig into The Rider, the similarities become very apparent. We see a rodeo rider in the aftermath of a serious injury — one that leaves dozens of staples in his head — attempt to assimilate back into his life, although that’s essentially impossible given his injury.
Brady Jandreau is unbelievably compelling with his minimalist performance and director Chloé Zhao works like she’s a master. This film is pretty familiar in how it handles its themes, but it’s still incredibly effective.
Terminal might win the award for the most pointless movie of 2018 — what the hell was this movie supposed to be about?
The film was shot back in 2016 and is just now seeing the light of day as it is being repurposed as a #MeToo story. That attempt rings so false in the end, however.
Margot Robbie is doing something bizarre in this movie; I can’t tell if she’s bad or not. But the true star here is the direction — or lack thereof. Terminal feels like a douchebag watched Tarantino’s filmography during a wicked cocaine bender, thinking that he could do it better. Characters say the f-word in every sentence in an attempt to seem cool while they sit and talk for what feels like hours. It’s an empty display of style that isn’t at all stylish. In fact, it looks incredibly cheap.
In short, there’s nothing about this movie that you can praise.
None of us want to feel like a victim; the term feels like a serious stigma in of itself. None of us want to feel hopeless or anything less than special. The Tale captures what it feels like to suppress trauma and rewrite your own memories to fit your ideal vision for what happened in your past, allowing you to live your life in oblivious bliss without confronting your demons.
The Tale is a tough hang; detailing an intimate, real story — more specifically, the director’s story — about a thirteen-year-old having an inappropriate relationship with a much older man is incredibly difficult to sit through. But fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), director Jennifer Fox tells this story with impeccable grace and a measured approach with help from Laura Dern and her acting prowess.
This might be the most important movie of the year.
Set It Up
I think just about every single one of Netflix’s 100+ million subscribers lost their minds over Set It Up when it dropped on the streaming service over the summer. This and The Kissing Booth started the Netflix rom-com revolution which was then continued with movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. If you ask me, it’s pretty great that we’re starting to get some more well-written rom-coms again. Audiences have been clamoring for them for quite some time.
I think that Set It Up falls into the same clichés that it’s riffing on by the end of the movie, but there’s no doubting that Glenn Powell and Zoey Deutch are utterly delightful together. Honestly, they’re so good that you can forgive many of Set It Up‘s flaws.
It’s a movie that you can flip on at any time and enjoy without reservations. We need more like it!
Many of our inner cities are changing rapidly, and while that may seem like a fun thing for many people, those that are getting displaced in this change have a different perspective.
Screenwriters and stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal are the standouts of this film, tackling gentrification in hilarious and eccentric fashion. Where some films choose to have their characters speak in long, strenuous monologues, Blindspotting chooses to have its talented leads start freestyling and share their thoughts through some rolling verses. The banter between these two is what makes this movie work so well. Although it gets a bit heavy-handed, Blindspotting is a poignant, highly-entertaining time.
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Based on the not-so-funny cartoon, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies doesn’t fail to disappoint with a terrible plot, unoriginal jokes, a primitive sense of humor, and idiotic characters. Avoid this one like a plague unless you want to time travel your mind back to when you were five years old. Warner Bros. somehow managed to make a movie that doesn’t even reach the standard 90 minutes feel like 2 hours.
At least the musical numbers saved this thing from putting me to sleep.
(Ghost-written by the talented Olaf Lesniak)
Sometimes all a movie needs is to showcase its great actors acting, and that’s exactly what Juliet, Naked does. Ethan Hawke and Rose Byrne are two of our most underappreciated actors working today. They have such a natural feel to their performance, making everything look incredibly easy. Honestly, these two are a matched made in heaven.
There’s a wonderful improv logic to Juliet, Naked at times; things keep compounding on each other and situations become more and more heightened. Chris O’Dowd is pretty wonderful in this respect as an obsessed groupie of the indie recording artist played by Hawke.
I felt a bit of wasted potential in how quickly this story wraps without a true feeling of catharsis, but it’s still undeniably delightful and charming.
Support the Girls
With so many studio executives looking for properties that will score BIG at the box office and bankroll 50 other, smaller projects, we’re losing the low-stakes drama. It’s truly a shame if you ask me.
Thankfully, we have Support the Girls.
The film follows Regina Hall as the manager of what is essentially a knock-off Hooters who is simply trying to be a good person. It’s 90 minutes of Hall subtly fighting frustration. That’s it! But, it is one of the most delightful movies of the entire year. Director Andrew Bujalski finds so much delight in shooting the mundane and figuring out a way to make it feel like something more.
Regina Hall is pretty fantastic in this role — and she deserves more roles like it — but a special shout-out goes to Haley Lu Richardson who plays a spunky, overly friendly waitress. I was fairly lukewarm on Richardson before Support the Girls. Now I’m all in!
Support the Girls is unbelievably relatable, touching, and funny. Please seek it out!
Many are praising Glenn Close and The Wife as a whole, but I just don’t see it. I think Close is perfectly acceptable in the lead the role, it’s just that everything around her is either cheap, boring, or hammy.
Let’s start with that story. A woman living in the shadow of her husband? Seen it. Watching everyone come to realize that a once brilliant man is actually a hack? Been there. What about a bratty, disheveled son that just wants his father’s approval? Too many times to count. I didn’t find anything new or insightful in The Wife, and its parts aren’t good enough to help me overlook that notion.
Personally, what really sinks The Wife is subpar acting within diluted relationships, most notably from Max Irons whose character and performance comes off as an annoying brat and nothing else. (Irons also played a key role in Terminal. You could say that 2018 wasn’t exactly kind to him.) I really despise singling out actors, but in this case, I think Irons’ work acts as a microcosm for the film as a whole: it just isn’t good enough.
2018 has been an AMAZING year for documentaries. Free Solo is the most tense movie experience I had all year, bar none. While filming Alex Honnold as he attempted to free solo climb El Capitan (i.e. climb by himself without the use of a rope or any other safety device), director Jimmy Chin and his crew also suspended themselves on this rock formation, providing an up, close, and personal experience as you see every crack in El Capitan and a complete breakdown of the climbing process. I was on the edge of my seat, sweating out every second of this film.
This feat of strength is nothing short of insane and Free Solo knows it, which is why it is also one of the best character studies of the year. Alex Honnold is a peculiar guy. He’s rational to a fault, unflinchingly calm, and outrageously honest. Free Solo tackles why he would want to complete such an insane climb, and just how different free solo climbers are from you and me. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
Be prepared to know the name Jim Cummings; he’s going to become a force in the industry in the years to come if he wants that kind of legacy. Cummings wrote, directed, produced, and starred in Thunder Road. And on top of that, he looks EXACTLY like Henry Cavill if Cavill lost about 50 pounds.
It’s a very simple setup: a father fails as everything comes crashing down around him. His mother just died; his relationship with his ex-wife and daughter continues to crumble; and his performance at work deteriorates. He just can’t take it anymore.
Cummings is responsible for some of the best movie freak-outs that I’ve seen in quite some time. During these moments, you’ll have the urge to laugh and cry at the same time. That’s also Thunder Road in a nutshell: it combines many different tones and emotions together in a way that shouldn’t work but does at every turn.
Thunder Road is the best film of 2018 that you haven’t heard of. You can be sure that it’ll make an appearance on my upcoming best of the year list.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
There’s a growing feeling among movie fans that Melissa McCarthy is a hack. To those people, I present you Can You Ever Forgive Me?
This might be McCarthy’s best performance of her career. She essentially plays a misanthrope whose only companion in life has been her cat. All of her relationships have failed miserably as she keeps everyone at a distance. She’s also always bitter because less talented writers like Tom Clancy are getting paid six figures for their works while she is struggling to keep up on her rent payments. Naturally, McCarthy’s character turns to crime as she starts to embellish literary letters and pass them off as real works to collectors. Yes, the irony of that situation makes for some great comedy and drama.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? manages to make this self-fueling cycle of mental and literal poverty incredibly watchable and touching, focusing on outcasts as they try to make something of themselves and find meaning.
Simply put: I love this movie.
The Other Side of the Wind
Honestly, I’m just shocked that this movie exists.
If you don’t know by now, The Other Side of the Wind is comprised of footage that Orson Welles failed to edit and turn into a completed movie. But thanks to Netflix, Welles’ work has now seen the light of day.
The film is meant to act as a bit of a satire of Orson himself and others like him, following an over-the-hill director that is attempting to finish his next film. In theory, this film is right up my alley. But, in execution, I found it a bit nauseating. The film is rapidly cut together as a mockumentary in a way that I found quite frustrating, although I admit that’s sort of the point to it all. I acknowledge that this film is well-done, but I probably will not ever watch it again.
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
This companion documentary to The Other Side of the Wind is far more approachable and fascinating than the actual movie. In fact, it helps to show just how personal of a story the feature film was to Welles himself. We learn of how The Other Side of the Wind came to be and the struggles that Welles endured as an independent creator. This is must-see for cineastes.
The newest version of the Hood isn’t nearly as bad as you’ve heard, but it’s also not good.
I’m a sucker for Taron Egerton. I think he’s one of the best, young stars we currently have. There are some really great moments of that signature Egerton charm and cockiness in here that would been a great accent to a solidly written and staged tale, but he doesn’t have much with which to work.
I was shocked to learn that Robin Hood had a budget of about $100 million. Thunder Road looks far better than Robin Hood and it has a reported budget of less than $300,000.
If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would probably be “lame.” It’s unbelievably formulaic with its only dramatic flairs being the slo-mo-ramp-up action that Zack Snyder stopped utilizing a decade ago. Back to the franchise-building drawing board for you, Lionsgate!
The Front Runner
Jason Reitman’s latest film came and went without much fanfare mostly due to its horrible release plan. As a stunt, Sony released the movie on Election Day in the U.S. as a cute nod to its story of Gary Hart’s downfall during the 1988 election race. But what the studio failed to realize is that almost everyone is focused on the election itself on Election Day, and those that aren’t certainly don’t want to see a politically based movie.
As for the film itself, it’s merely fine. Hugh Jackman is expectedly solid as Gary Hart, but I left the film feeling rather cold. It’s well-shot and well-acted, but I wasn’t sure what to take away from the film. It feels like The Front Runner is unsure of itself in that respect too. Though very watchable, it’s unable to reach any sort of conclusion that feels satisfying or deservedly unsatisfying.
Ben is Back
I’m fearful that Ben is Back is going to get lost in the year-end shuffle of movies that are hoping for some sort of awards recognition. While a tad unremarkable, this is an incredibly effective drama.
Though she’s been acting pretty regularly in recent years, Julia Roberts has not had this meaty of a role in some time. As a slightly overbearing mother that simply wants to help out her son with his addiction problem, Roberts dials up the emotion, teetering on the edge of overacting without ever tipping over said edge.
The main show here is seeing Roberts and Lucas Hedges — who is quickly coming one of the best young actors working today — act off each other. It’s great stuff.
Holmes & Watson
Thank you for reading! What do you think about these 2018 movies? Comment down below!
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