Best Films of 2018

I don’t need a long introduction anymore, I have done a few of these already! I don’t even have a significant list of missing films to talk about, even better!

So you know the drill, here are some honorable mentions. Honorable what?

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Like every year, I had quite a few 4 out of 4’s to choose from. Top 15 lists are more exciting and besides, 10 is an arbitrary number. But what films couldn’t make the list? Things like Love, Simon, Widows, and Isle of Dogs. Officially only three honorable mentions, keeping it little this year.

There are no foreign films in the top this year, but that is because I only saw two major ones, and neither were 4 out of 4s for me. I also will say I didn’t get to see Beautiful Boy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A Private War, Destroyer, At Eternity’s Gate, and Mirai.

And click on the title to get the original review of the movie!


15) American Animals

I always try to make sure there are a few weirder films in my top 15, and this year was harder than most. I didn’t think we had as many strong weird films, because there were so many great films. And this year, American Animals is probably my only real surprise.

American Animals is a film I expected nothing out of, and barely even watched it to review as it was an online screener. I had some time, sat down, and was floored by the story and its presentation of facts versus the real situation. It was done so creatively, and it makes the viewer think. What more could you want?

American Animals


14) RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has grown to fame over the last few years as being someone who is unmoving in her convictions and always willing to fight for the oppressed. But it turns out, she has been doing it her whole life, coming from hard beginnings, a law school that didn’t care about women, and over a decade of being unable to even join a law firm despite wild talent and smarts.

This is a story that we should be showing our daughters when encouraging them to be anything in the face of oppression. This is a story that hits all of the right notes and gives a powerful role model still doing as much to change the world as she can in her 90s.

Although RBG is here and amazing, and a must watch (more so than On The Basis Of Sex) it is not the best documentary of 2018.

RBG


13) If Beale Street Could Talk

In the making of the list, If Beale Street Could Talk was the last film I watched before deciding on the final block of 15. It is so fresh in my mind that I still haven’t wrote a regular review about it. I just knew I had to see it from its Spirit and other awards accolade, and needed to make up my own mind before it was on DVD.

And it is a powerful movie in a year of powerful film. It is about race, love, and family. Another portrait of how the black man is never given a fair shake at things, but putting it set further back when it was more common to see these injustices. It was a story we could relate to, while also focusing firmly on the characters involved and what they were going through during the events. I loved everything about this movie, and even more notable was the soundtrack. A nice collection of jazz to fully embrace the viewer in this setting.

if beale street could talk


12) Hearts Beat Loud

Hearts Beat Loud is one of those breath of fresh air movies. I went in seeing it and I didn’t even know I was seeing it, as it was a mystery screening. This is the perfect sequel to Sing Street, despite having nothing in common creatively from Sing Street.

It is just about a father. And a daughter. Trying to make some music before they have to separate and go on with their lives, in a scary world. Change is hard. But family bonds can last forever. And the feelings I felt with Hearts Beat Loud I hope I can experience again and again with every new viewing.

Hearts beat loud


11) Avengers: Infinity War

For those that hate superheroes, might want to skip the next three entries. Avengers: Infinity War is meant to be a cross over to end all cross overs. Well, the first Avengers was that ambitious goal, the second one was more of the same, but this one? This was like times three, so many more people, from parts across the galaxies, gotta team up and go after this bad guy.

And it was beautiful. It had the action scenes, humor, real struggles, and of course, the ending. The snap.

The only thing that takes away from it is knowing that the snap itself, which can make a grown nerd cry, is temporary and thus, a little bit meaningless. Once we see who is lost, and with the movies coming out, we know that it doesn’t fully matter. Only a little. And so it does feel like a bit of an annoying cliffhanger.

But what do I know? Maybe with the new one in 2019, it will elevate the first half even more.

avengers infinity war


10) Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse

In 2017, the animated movies were mostly shit. Deal with it, it is true. In 2018, we have a lot of duds as well, from our trusted companies. Must be playing it safe.

Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse is the opposite of playing it safe. Tons of main characters, a weird stylistic approach, meta humor, comedy, and strange aspects of the Spiderman lore to devote a whole film around on the first go. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t, well, that doesn’t exist. It always works.

From start to finish this is the best Spider-man film in some time, and was almost nearly the best Superhero movie of the year, but instead will just be the best Animated film of the year.

spiderman into the spiderverse


9) Black Panther

Black Panther was the first superhero movie of 2018, coming out in February (you know, Black History Month) and felt like a breath of fresh air in the superhero world. It told a powerful story, with a memorable non-throwaway villain, and of course, a cast of characters celebrating cultures not normally celebrated on the big screen.

It was an early favorite of mine, and it became a tent pole to judge other super hero movies by. And at the end of the year, I still think it is on the top. I have to ding Avengers a little bit for having a plot that I know won’t fully matter in a year. But Black Panther is a secluded story that is important and will be the gift that keeps on giving for Marvel in a few years.

This is the best superhero movie of 2018.

black panther


8) Searching

When Searching came out, there were only a handful of examples of films that were done in this way. Basically, some horror ones, and like, a TV episode. The ideas were sound, and cool, but never were they fully great and up to the level people were hoping for.

Searching said no, let’s do it right. Let’s use the technology correctly so that there are no (or extremely few) technical issues. Let’s make it a thriller/mystery, so that the audience is on the edge of the screen with them. And let’s let John Cho do his thing and act like a worried dad.

And acting he did. A film was created. And an amazing experience was had. Take a ticket for this ride. This is the best “computer based” movie of 2018.

searching


7) Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

And then there was Rogers. Fred Rogers. The manliest gentleman ever to be on television. He had a vision in the 60s for TV that was heartfelt and not stupid, and he carried his passion with him for decades. In hard moments, he became the person to address the youth about hard times, and he always accepted the mantle when the time was right.

It is easy to see his passion through the archival footage, and coming from someone who never watched the show in his own youth, this is a documentary that will make you cry.

They got everything right about this documentary, making it the best documentary of 2018.

wont you be my neighbor


6) The Hate U Give

What can we say about The Hate U Give that wasn’t said by most people when it came out? Powerful, modern, topical, well acted, and of course, a family film. Or as family centric as a film on this topic can get, since most of the films that would deal with racial inequalities and problems will easily earn R ratings, despite being felt by people under 10 all the time.

I cannot wait to show my family this film, and it should be really soon after the posting of this article. It is easy to see all the different perspectives, and although not based on a real event, it is clearly a combination of similar events and a buildup to the natural conclusion. Shit getting real.

Also, I think Russell Hornsby should get an award for this movie.

the hate u give


5) Bodied

It is very hard to talk about Bodied and why it deserves to be on a best of the year list. It has no A-listers in it, it is relatively strange, and it is probably the first movie I have ever seen that had its premier on YouTube Red. And last, because it has been re-branded already.

But despite its strangest, it goes hard into the political, and PC nature of our changing environment. It deals with very hard topics, like race appropriation and culture vultures, while making the viewer uncomfortable and not sure who to root for. It is a sports movie in a sense, without a clear answer or best case scenario. It is a musical, more than anything else on this list, with the how much of the film is focused on rap battles (and seriously, it is most of it).

The last half hour had me spell bound, and I didn’t want it to end, while cringing all over the place at the same time. Making something like Bodied takes a lot of passion, and a lot of courage. And it is a movie that should be seen.

Bodied is the best musical of 2018. And its the best sports film…?

Bodied


4) Hereditary

From watching the trailers, early in the year, audiences should have expected something special from Hereditary. Well, audiences who weren’t expecting jump scares.

I didn’t see any of the trailers for Hereditary, but with the title, my mind went a lot of different places, and somehow it didn’t go anywhere I could ever expect. It was dark, and it got on every last of my nerves, and it is one of those movies I just could not bring myself to rewatch before making this list. Hell, its been out forever now, but I knew it just wouldn’t be the same as my first experience, and I don’t want to think less of it due to distractions.

I do want to think more about how Toni Collette nailed her role, and how she clearly gave the best Actress performance of her life, and of the year. The next two movies on this list feature four very strong actress performances, but this one is definitely on the tops. Completely unnerving.

Hereditary is the best horror film of 2018.

hereditary


3) Ben Is Back

My theme for most of these top films is great acting, as you have seen, and will seen, and few films have a better pairing than Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges in Ben Is Back. Not to diminish the other actors in it, who are also fine, but hot damn, these two are so fine, you couldn’t seen their individual grains with a scanning electron microscope.

That was fun to write, and Ben Is Back was not fun to watch. It was downright depressing. It was great critically, and to be amazed at how the two carried themselves and these characters. How we get to learn about so much history and weight bearing down on them to get them to this point. So much that they have to go on their journey as a way of maybe, finally, getting closure.

And despite it all, Ben Is Back isn’t even the best drama of the year. Although, this is the best drama if drama’s are not allowed to have humor.

ben is back


2) The Favourite

When it comes to Yorgos Lanthimos, every year I say I need to see his earlier work, and this year I might finally mean it. The Favourite is only his third movie I have seen, and it is by far MY favourite, and almost my favorite movie of 2018.

It has everything I could love in a movie: history, witty dialogue, comedy, amazing outfits/scenes, and an excellent cinematography that is going for something special in the movie. It is also led by three terrific actresses who showcase that they can be masters of their craft.

Goodness, I better see Dogtooth this year, or else…you know, 2020. The Favourite is the best comedy of 2018.

the favourite


1) Blindspotting

I don’t want to sound too preachy or too political (just kidding, lets do it), but this has been an amazing year for showcasing black talents and cinema, accurately representing the struggles they face in America in a variety of ways. We already talked about the subtle (and not so subtle) nature of it decades ago, and we talked about it on a more family friendly level. Hell, we almost talked about it on this list with the bizarre with Sorry To Bother You, but it just didn’t make my top.

And with Blindspotting we get to talk about it in a new way. About areas changing, gentrification, and perceptions of white and black men who can be very similar, and very different, yet perceived in completely different ways.

Our two leads are amazing, even if Casal is annoying, he is played to be that way. Diggs and Casal made this passion project after years of work, and it really shows, as this is the first time Diggs has gotten to showcase his talent since he was Jefferson in Hamilton.

Blindspotting is real, uncomfortable, and tells a strong message, with not a simple answer. I loved it, and want to show it to as many people as I can. This is the best movie of the year, and the Best Drama of the year. A few more raps and it could have been musical of the year.

blindspotting

Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site!

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Ben Is Back

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Ben is Back! And tell a friend!

Speaking of Ben, Lucas Hedges is also back, ready to rock out another amazing performance. Starring in too many Oscar nominated films last year wasn’t good enough for him. He needs more, again, now.

And for this film he has the help of other award winning actors and actresses, because he is tired of helping others win stuff.

SHRUG
He is doing his best here to look like he doesn’t care about awards.

Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) is a hardworking woman, who wants to make sure her home is safe, her community is happy, and that everyone everywhere is just happy. An extreme housewife like role, you know? Her daughter (Kathryn Newton) is almost done with high school and a great singer. Her other two kids with her new husband (Courtney B. Vance) are well behaved and free spirited, not yet ready for life to strike them down.

And then there is Ben (Lucas Hedges). He is in rehab, for not the first time in his life. When he comes home, bad things happen. Things go messing, questionable people come around, and of course we get a relapse, and when people are on drugs they are wild cards.

Will this time be different? Because surprise, Ben is back! Unexpectedly, for Christmas. Did he have permission? Is he done with the program? Has he actually gotten better this time? Or will his life spiral down, causing more destruction just like the last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.

Also starring Rachel Bay Jones, David Zaldivar, Michael Esper, and Jakari Fraser and Mia Fowler as the little brother and sister.

cAR
This is how happy people drive their cars.

Ben is Back is about two people. And Vance is really not one of those two. He is fine in the film, but very limited, just like the sister character played by Newton. This is about a mom and her addicted to drugs son. This is about Roberts and Hedges.

First of all, I finally have an answer to why Hedges is in so many amazing movies the last few years, coming out of nowhere. And no, the answer is only partially because he is an amazing actor. It is because of his dad, Peter Hedges, a writer/director, who also wrote and directed this movie. He has some Hollywood connections and probably some acting money. Hedges delivered a hell of a script, taking place basically over a single day before Christmas. There is so much tension in this family, so much past alluded to and shown on the screen, and it hard to not feel anguish for the characters. That is both Hedges and Roberts. Rarely do these films give us a fair side to the addicted person, despite it being a disease.

And holy shit, Roberts is great. She is a ticking time bomb, trying to hold so many things together, to keep a straight face, and do what she thinks is the right thing. In the face of despair she is trying to smile her way through it because that is what her character must have been told and learned growing up. She is an island and a ball of emotion. She is everything in this film.

This is a movie about two people, and it is about two amazing acting performances.

4 out of 4.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“At least the DC animated films are great!” says some internet people when it comes to the great movie comic wars.

And sure, that might have been true. I haven’t seen like any of them. Except The Killing Joke, which apparently was an exception to that rule.

But why not some Marvel animated films finally? Not Marvel Studios, but at least one of their superheroes. Sony has had a lot of terrible ideas lately on what to do with this franchise they own, and they figure, screw it, why not just throw a bunch of Spider-people in a movie and hope it works. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. People not familiar with Spider-man will probably think it is a joke.

A joke eh? Let’s get those joke people to do the movie, they do solid work. You know, The LEGO Movie guys, yeah! Well, at least Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are producers, and that might lead to a solid product.

Basically, this might be the first good move Sony has made besides teaming up with the MCU to get some of that ad money.

Woods
An idea that is maybe crazy enough to work. Like two spiderpeople.

The movie begins with an intro by our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Chris Pine), who goes over his past decade plus of success. He has a wife, has saved the day countless times, and apparently, he is the same one from the Sam Raimi films. Fun!

But this movie is only a little about him. Really, it is about Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a young man who is still in school, with a lot of emotions. He lives in the hood, but goes to a nice school. His dad is a cop, but he wants to be a graffiti artist. His uncle is really cool and helps him, but might have some law problems as well. And he is just extremely emotional and nervous, despite being a smart kid.

Needless to say, he likes Spider-Man too. Everyone does. And Miles gets bit by a different fucked up spider. Not the same one, a different one. One that grants similar, yet different abilities.

And thanks to some villains, they are making a big dimensional portal vortex thing, because they want to mess up the multi-verse. Or change the past. Either way, this brings in a lot of confusion, unwanted death, and some more power/responsibility things.

Featuring other various Spider-men from different dimensions, like SpiderGwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson)!

Also the voices of Zoë Kravitz, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Liev Schrieber, Lake Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Mahershala Ali, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Gwen
Two is not enough. We need diversity. Ladies. Cartoons. Animals. Time travel. All of it, damn it.

Hands down, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is one of the better superhero films of the last decade. I didn’t say animated films, I said Super-Hero. That is compared to all of the Marvel movies, to all the Fox, the DC, the other Sony ones. At least decade.

I am not saying it is better than The Dark Knights or the early X-Men films, but it is also better than most of the super hero ones in the 2000s.

Now, sure, that is a bold claim for animated films this year. I don’t know if I like it more than Isle of Dogs, but probably, I’d have to watch it again.

Why is this film great? It is just such a game changer and tries so much. It has emotion (I cried), wall to wall comedy, and fantastic fight scenes. Plenty of character development, especially this serves as Morales’ introduction to movies. I assume a lot of people still were unaware of him before this film, and it is a fabulous introduction.

When I say it tries so much, it is not going the safe route. The animation at first was off putting, very out there, reminding me a bit of the Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that premiered on MTV in 2003. But after a little bit, it was easy to go with the flow, and accept the weirdness of the animation. It was also a nice cross with actual comic books, and really immersed the viewer.

The voice acting was great with the large cast. They have award winning actors in roles that suit them, Cage being the best PI Spider-Man ever created, Mulaney with his regular awkward voice handling the pig, and more. Everyone completely morphs into their role. Even though Moore isn’t as young as Morales, it never felt disjointed and I hope he can voice this character for awhile (and be given more roles in more projects!).

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the gift that keeps on giving. For Spider-fans, you will be blown away. For comic fans, you will appreciate the story and craft. For animated fans, you should be stoked that there is something that isn’t another Disney/Pixar sequel. And for everyone else, well, hopefully you like to laugh.

4 out of 4.

The Favourite

At this point in my career as a movie reviewer, I can no longer say I am unfamiliar with Yorgos Lanthimos‘ work. Now, his first few things? Sure. But I have reviews of The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and now, The Favourite, so that is a clear majority of his movies. I can still suck as a person for not seeing the things that got him famous that are apparently great in their own rights, but I am familiar with his work.

Lobster was absurd and social commentary. Deer was creepy and made me panic. And The Favourite would turn out to be just as different as the last two.

The one thing I was most curious about this movie going into it is that it was listed as a “Biography” on IMDB before hand, having never seen the trailers or anything. This…this is a real story? Or at least based on one? That is certainly nothing like Lanthimos’ previous work, so it is good to see him go in strange directions.

Wait
Waiting rooms with no magazines got me like

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is in pain and sad. She lost her husband, she has aches and hurts and she doesn’t want to rule England. She wants people to fix things and for her land to be in peace and to hang out with bunnies. Thankfully she has Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) by her side. Sarah has ambitions and smarts and wealth and is married to the main general. She wants what is best for Anne and best for England. She helps the Queen in every thing, including decision making, and is brutally honest with her. They might even be in love. That would explain all the sex stuff at least.

Things are going well enough, the two political parties disagree about things, and it is all terribly confusing, but whatever.

On the other side, there is Abigail (Emma Stone), who used to be a lady, but had some big problems with her family kind of ruining everything. But she is cousins with Sarah, so she wants to go to their castle and find protection. She is given a job as a very low level maid, not what she is used to, but it is better than nothing. However, she quickly finds that her talents can be better used and makes herself extremely valuable, with the goal of rising up the ranks.

Maybe even winning over the love of the Queen, and screwing over her cousin, who is definitely a b word.

Also starring Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.

Bow
But we are here for the ladies ya’ll, even if Hoult has magical hair.

Going into a Lanthimos film you will never really know what to expect. This film seemed to be an experiment in camera work, from wide angled to fish. Amazing camera work at that. Given a film that will have most people talking about the costumes and acting, it is very important to realize how sexy everything felt. It wasn’t like normal impressive cinematography, it had strange side effects, and there were a lot or risks with it. It helped explain the complex feelings going on in the kingdom at the time and the complexity of these characters.

Okay, now the acting. Stone. Weiss. Colman. All extravagant and showcasing some of the best acting of the year. Apparently Stone/Weiss are both going for supporting roles and will be nominated together in a lot of shows, while they are giving Colman the top acting role and you could argue for all three that they deserve some form of main actress. The men are secondary in this film, they are schemers, they are distractions, but it is about two women who both want power and will do a lot to make sure they maintain their power.

I laughed so much throughout this film, while cringing and hiding at other parts. It really goes to extremes in all levels, never super graphic, but a few intense scenes regardless.

What surprised me was how “accurate” it was to history. Now I am willing to bet none of these conversations are close, and I don’t even think Abigail was real. But we have the same queen, bad health a lot of her life, lady Sarah, changing political allegiances, war, and it had the number of miscarriages correct (which during the movie just seemed like an absurd/uncomfortable joke). Again, I put accurate in quotation marks. It is clearly not accurate, but it is also very much inspired and not drawn out of thin air.

Basically, everything that The Favourite tries, it accomplishes with gold and blue ribbons. Even the jarring and uncomfortable ending makes a lot of sense for this movie. The Favourite came out of nowhere for me, and I could never have guessed it to be so brutal and enjoyable. One of my must see films of the year, and certainly one of the top.

4 out of 4.

Widows

Being a Widow must suck. You know, getting married, being in love maybe, marriage for decades possibly! And then your spouse dies. I also learned recently that the term widow only refers to a woman who lost their partner. I guess that is good, because then I never have to be a widow. And you know, I just talked about how that must suck.

Widows is a movie brought to us by Steve McQueen, who has not been too busy since he had a movie win best picture. He famously directed 12 Years A Slave for a 2012 release, and since then this is his first theater film. Someone clever might say 6 Years NotInTheSpotlight for McQueen. Does this mean that Widows is going to be 3 times as good as 12 Years A Slave (because 12 Years came out 2 years after his previous film)? Yes. It has to mean that.

You can’t argue with science.

Funeral
Having the funeral really cements in the widow status.

Veronica (Viola Davis) is wealthy, giving, and in love with her husband (Liam Neeson). He might be into some corrupt shit, working with political campaigns an doing jobs, but she doesn’t know the specifics and it does put her life in a good place. And then? Well, a job goes poorly, and he gets killed dead along with three other men, leaving her to feel quite sad, notably poorer, and alone.

But she isn’t given time to grieve. It turns out in this final job, her husband stole from some powerful people, and they know who robbed them. So they have to now harass Veronica, to look into their savings accounts or whatever to pay it back. Or else.

Unfortunately, nothing like that really exists, as far as she knows. She does end up finding a notebook, with plans on robbing an even bigger fortune. If she can pull off this heist, she will be able to pay off the goons and have a lot left over to live comfortable and worry free after that. She just needs a team, and she isn’t the type to know about this sort of stuff.

There is an idea for a team though. She wants to find the other women who just lost their husbands. They are probably hurt and need funds as well. Maybe they are all desperate enough to join her.

Starring Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo. Also starring Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Molly Kunz, Jon Bernthal, and Robert Duvall.

Gang
It is impossible for the guy in purple to be a Widow. We talked about this.

If you are thinking about 12 Years A Slave still, which scene do you think about? It is likely the one where the main character is being hanged by his neck for a few minutes, with kids playing in the background, him struggling to breath, and of course, eventually not dying. It was scary, and intense, and the camera did not move away.

I love a long scene that doesn’t cut, and there is one very exciting scene in Widows that is similar. It doesn’t show violence, and it isn’t scary, but it is just a long cut of a very short car ride in Chicago, showing how quickly it takes for one to go from a poor to a rich district. During this scene is a conversation as well, and it would be one of the best scenes of 2018, if we got to see the characters talking as the drive occurred. The camera didn’t focus on them, just on the scenery, so it is most likely that they did the conversation later and just edited it on top. But it is still a great scene and shows that McQueen has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.

Davis is the star of this film and has to carry a lot of it with her face and eyes. There is no doubt she is a great actress and does a fantastic job in this one. I do want to point out another actress though, because it was a surprise. Debicki, who has been in plenty of films, and never been the one reason you want to see it. Her character had a lot more going on than her normal characters, and by golly, she felt like a real actress and not just a model who is in a bunch of movies. Hell, she could have a best supporting from this for all I know. It was also great to see Erivo in this film, who was one of the best parts of Bad Times At El Royale. She is having a great year and she came out of nowhere.

To highlight one male actor, I will point out that Kaluuya was scary. He felt like a wildcard in the realest sense of the word, and I loved seeing him on the screen.

Widows is suspenseful, with a few twists that I didn’t fully expect. It hits hard and is not afraid to throw any punches. It could have been better, but the over two hour film just flew by and it was good enough for me to just love.

4 out of 4.

Bodied

With a film called Bodied, I really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, it seems like a horror film, doesn’t it?

Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies) was a comedy/romance, so this could be going in that direction.

Or maybe like, an action film? Or a boxing film. That would work.

But a street rap battle film? One that is sort of a musical, sort of a comedy, and sort of a anger inducing suspense? All in one?

Well, you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.

Crew
This is not a group of people waiting at attention.

Way back in [Current Year], a man was trying to turn his love of street rap battles into a dissertation for college. That man was Adam (Calum Worthy) and he was extremely white. How white is he? Well, he wants to write scholarly about rap, that is one thing. Adam so white, his dad (Anthony Michael Hall) is a professor at a university, and is like, the best professor at poetry and stuff. Adam so white, he feels bad about his whiteness. Adam so white, he cannot come up with a good nickname.

Adam is attending one of these street rap battles with his uninterested girlfriend, Maya (Rory Uphold), when he gets to have an interview with Behn Grymm (Jackie Long), his favorite rap artist. Adam knows everything about the different rapper’s rhyme schemes, how they can build up a diss, and all of that. The only thing missing is actually competing in the rap game.

But Adam is white. Super white. If he jumps in, and is successful, he doesn’t want to seem like a culture vulture. Even if it is his dream, it would shame in from his family and friends, all of which are very liberal (like him).

Despite this, Adam gets challenged on the streets, and despite being awkwardly white, he destroys the playa who tried to front and becomes somewhat of a viral sensation. So what is a white boy to do? Follow his dreams and throw away his family and former friends? Or go abck to his paper writing and always wander what if?

Or maybe a third option. Follow his dreams and throw away his family, former friends, and new friends too! A weird option, but an option nonetheless.

Also starring Jonathan Park, Shoniqua Shandai, Walter Perez, Charlamagne Tha God, and Dizaster.

Argument
Adam so white, he doesn’t respect people’s personal space.

Bodied is a hard film to sell and a harder film to describe. It is the type of film that seems to have way too many problems associated with it and to be a disaster. And maybe because the film is constantly on the edge of disaster is why the movie works in the first place.

My best description of this movie is like watching Breaking Bad. Not the entire series mind you, but the end of season four. Walter White had done some desperate things things in the show, and despite them being deplorable, they seemed to still be related to his general survival. But by the end of season four, you certainly know that things have changed by now. This is not the man you remember from season one. He is a bad guy, and you have been sort of rooting for a bad guy this whole time. Bodied is like the first four seasons of Breaking Bad.

And yes, that implies it ends before the various arcs we get in season five. And that is okay.

Our main character is not the nice guy he claimed to be. This film tackles so many subjects in such a unique and fresh way. Like cultural appropriation, systematic racism and oppression, and what is fair and not fair. What it means to be a friend and what someone is willing to sacrifice to win it all. Thanos would approve of our main character.

I didn’t know that a film with so much rap battling and recklessness could hold my attention. But the two hour run time just flew by me and was captivating, despite being about a topic I never cared about before. I am so conflicted at the end by so many characters. My wife came to talk to me during one of the final rap battles, and I had to shoo her away because “this is important”. I was cringing and almost crying, not sure how I should be reacting to what was on the screen.

In the end, Bodied is unique, both in terms of plot and how it chooses to tell a story and make its characters feel fresh. it is a wonderful addition to film and something you should not overlook.

4 out of 4.

The Hate U Give

I have heard about The Hate U Give at least two years ago as a teacher in middle school. I had not read it yet, but I did want to read it. I just never got around to it. You know, movies and all.

I knew I had to wait until after I saw the movie. Maybe it would be like this year´s Wonder, in terms of book lovers all excited. Wonder was decent, and the book was decent. I assume there were a lot of fears about turning this allegedly very great book into a mediocre or shit movie. It has a big uphill battle, but at least its subject matter has been making good strides in cinema lately.

This year we already got Blindspotting and Sorry To Bother You, but neither of them are from the kid perspective. Of course, if there are already great movies on similar topics, it has a lot to live up to.

The Hate U Give has a lot of battles to climb, so on its own, it is its own representation of race relations. Another way to examine this is the IMDB rating, which at the time of writing is a 4.6, weeks before it comes out. Why? Oh, almost 200 votes for 1/10. Either this movie is very polarizing, or you know, racism.

Stare
Pretty sure we all know what she thinks.

A few years ago, the Carter family had to have ¨the talk.¨ So Lisa (Regina Hall) and Mav (Russell Hornsby) sat down their three kids, Seven (Lamar Johnson), Starr (Amandla Stenberg), and Sekani (TJ Wright). The oldest are just in their pre-teens, but it is time. No, this talk isn´t about sex. It is about what to do if they are in a situation where they are detained or pulled over by the cops.

This is a real talk that black families are starting to have to talk to, due to the violence and targeting that is going on in our country. It is not a great talk, but for families that care for each other, who know they cannot always be there to protect them, it is necessary.

It is the type of loving family that Starr grew up in, full of knowledge and strength. And now she goes to school outside of the hood she lives in. It is a white school, with white friends, white boyfriends (K.J. Apa) who won´t ever understand what she is going through at home. She has to balance these two lives. But it is when tragedy strikes her life and her friend Khalil (Algee Smith), she has her worlds start to crash together, giving her a whole new insight to this thing called life.

Also starring Common, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Dominique Fishback, Megan Lawless, and Anthony Mackie as a bad guy drug dealer. Been awhile since he has turned south in his roles.

Hands Up
Hands up won´t protect her on its own, but that Carolina Blue shirt will help.

The Hate U Give is a powerhouse from start to finish. From ¨the talk¨ at the start of the film, to the different worlds, to the cop tragedy, to the protests, to the speeches, to the riots. It is full of emotion from unexpected places. My first cry was because the father was by his daughters side after a nightmare. She wasn´t screaming causing him to run in the door. No, she woke up panicked and he was already there. Just subtle clues to show that clearly he had fallen asleep in a chair by her side to protect her, to help her with the morning after, and just be a goddamn amazing father. And that is the type of stuff that gets me.

Sure, I did cry a few other times, not just a one and done deal. It is hard not to get wrapped up in the story. Hell, at over 2 hours it almost doesn´t feel long enough. I need more of the story, I need to be there to help comfort the characters, to rage against the machine or whatever it takes. I am definitely going to grab the book, and it is going to make me upset just like the movie.

And more importantly, it is going to get me more upset about real life. I am white, if my writing doesn´t make that obvious. I am a man, if you cannot tell with my boob tags. And this is the type of movie that can get people to see the other side of the fence if they come to it with any amount of openness.

Stenberg was fantastic in the lead role. She wasn´t great in The Darkest Minds, but no one was. She was good in Everything, Everything despite the fact that I didn´t like the movie. But she was outstanding in this film. She carries a lot of weight and emotion in her face. Hornsby as the dad is my goddamn hero. I hope I can one day grow into a worldly intelligent and caring man like him.

Just so much of this film is relevant, at this point, it is practically essential viewing. It deals with heavy topics that kids in their pre-teens can better handle unlike other films and will be seen in schools throughout the nation within the next year.

4 out of 4.

Searching

If you have seen my reviews in the past, you might know that I love the concept of the computer screen movie. (If you haven’t seen my reviews in the past, welcome! Read more please?). Not that there is a whole lot of these mind you.

We have Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web, an episode of Modern Family, and uhhh…I am sure there are more. Maybe. Maybe I’ve even seen them.

The biggest issues I have had with these things in the past, aside from bad plot or acting, was that they failed at the details. We would have characters start music, and the music would just go away when the movie felt like it. They would be Skyping, and everyone wouldn’t talk at all on Skype while the character had to google something. Just dumb shit like that.

I just want it to be really accurate to a real computer. Every one of us knows what a computer looks like and how they work (mostly). So don’t give us non working computers, damn it. I want Searching to rise above the rest and give me a work of art.

Search1
I want you to have 10 tabs open that you will totally get to eventually.

David Kim (John Cho) and his wife Pam (Sara Sohn) had a little girl, and named her Margot (Michelle La). They introduced her to piano. They recorded videos of her for a digital scrapbook. They have her first days of school, they gave her an account on their old windows machine. And really, Pam was better at all of this.

David is good with computers too, but he worked more, and loved his family, and took more videos, but she was the one who helped Margot fall in love with piano and keep track of their schedules.

And then one day, Pamela finally succumbed to cancer. This of course changed their whole family, and David didn’t really know how to handle it. He still raised his daughter, making sure she had her piano lessons, went to her things, and communicated, but maybe it wasn’t enough.

Because one night, she didn’t come home. He had some missed calls while sleeping. And after a few excuses were checked, she still wasn’t there. And now with the help of his brother (Joseph Lee) and the Detective assigned to his case (Debra Messing), he has to realize how much he didn’t know about his daughter the last couple of years, find her friends, do his own searching (movie title) in order to hopefully find her daughter alive.

Search
“Fucking Millennials, always putting themselves on the camera, allowing them to maybe be found by their parents in the future. ” – Parents of Millennials.

Searching is good, like really really good.

I could go talk about in detail about how I cried three times, including the first 10 minutes (good news for you Up fans). How real Cho felt as the dad. How smart the movie unfolded. How tense I was and how well it flowed together.

But really, I just want to talk about the specific details I mentioned above. We saw Cho open tabs and not read them. Hell yeah. We saw him have to pause music or videos in order to use his face times. Hell, we saw him do this at work too.

And best of all, BEST OF ALL. When a character messages a character, we see that they indeed have talked in the past, and there are past conversations. This keeps happening to quite an annoying level. He had past conversations with his daughter, with other people, and she had them with others as well. His little apple phone app that showed he called people changed throughout the film (because it takes place over almost a week for the most part) changed over time, and looked realistic in that regard.

Oh, and the plot is awesome, Cho is awesome, this was great. All other computer screen films I liked in the past are now shit (which most people agreed with already). This is a gold standard. I can’t wait to see how this genre evolves and of course, quickly becomes shit.

4 out of 4.

Blindspotting

I first saw the trailer for (and heard about) Blindspotting before Upgrade. That is also when I first saw a Sorry To Bother You trailer. A pretty intense set of movies.

From absurd to realistic, they all have similar themes. Okay. Upgrade really doesn’t. But Sorry To Bother You deals with race, acceptance, and fucked up governments. Maybe in a more extreme manner. Blindspotting is aiming to be more realistic.

And I was very excited to see it starting Daveed Diggs. Like most people, I was introduced to him from Hamilton as Lafayette/Jefferson. Since then he has been in a good amount, which is surprising of Broadway actors. He had a role in Wonder, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Black-Ish, and Ferdinand. But these are all straight up comedies, or who cares roles. This is a movie where Diggs should be acting and maybe making us cry.

Hair
He would make me cry if he ever cut that hair off.

Collin (Daveed Diggs) was in jail for two months for a felony charge. It involved a fight, and some fire. After jail, he has a whole year of probation. You know, staying in the county that houses Oakland, California (where he was already living, and his mother lives, thankfully). He has curfew. He can’t be involved in any criminal activity. He has to live at a halfway house as well. Just normal probationary things.

And with three days left on his probation, almost a “free” man (with a glaring felony tag that will follow him throughout his life), while returning home he gets to see a police shooting. Right in front of his work vehicle, a cop firing four shots on a running black man who dies quite unceremoniously. And he has to get home before curfew, but he saw a guy get straight up murdered by the police. Was it because he was black? Was it because of an actual threat to society? Was it because he looked at a gentrifying white hipster the wrong way and get involved in stuff way over his head that escalated beyond any one person’s comprehension levels? Is Collin speaking from experience?

Collin just wants to survive. Survive in the city that he was born and raised that is changing for the worse. A city where he feels like he is being kicked out, or killed out, so that others can take his place and make it “better”. He wants to hang out with his life long friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), but Miles might be considered a bad influence on him. And well, he is white and can probably get away with more.

Collin fears the future. Collin doesn’t know where his life is going, but he knows where he wants to be. Safe, alive, and free.

Also starring Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones (the original Peggy from Hamilton), Tisha Campbell-Martin, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Ethan Embry.

Friends
Wanna know how I know where he is from?

Blindspotting is an example of a good comedy drama. It has heightened elements of both without feeling jarring. It is funny, like a good comedy, and it is tense and real, like a good drama. One side does not harm the other in the slightest. It just feels realistic and important and realistic and important.

The director, Carlos López Estrada, hasn’t done anything this big before, but what really sells this movie are the leads, Diggs and Casal. It should be noted that these two are actual real life friends, Diggs from Oakland, Casal from Berkley, wrote this script over almost a decade. They wanted to portray the area in a way that was being overlooked. They wanted to highlight the changing identities of that area of California, the problems with police brutality, racism, and of course gentrification, the latter issue which is in no way subtle.

They hit all of these points and they hit them naturally. This film flows so well, it is like a rap song, if I understood rap songs. Part of me is saying that just because rap is heavily influenced in the script and dialogue.

The ending is really what sells this film. The “final” confrontation that was definitely unexpected. There were plenty of good scenes before that as well, especially the phone call, the post party scene, the flashback, and more. But the ending is powerful and one that will be played over and over again once the film gets to that point of internet digestion.

4 out of 4.

American Animals

American Animals only came up on my radar because the company sent me a link. I almost didn’t watch it. I accidentally had free time because I didn’t feel like leaving the house to watch Incredible 2.

I didn’t know the cast, the story, or anything.

I just knew the shitty title. I haven’t been a big fan of movies American in the front. There are a ton. At this point it lacks any amount of originality. I am not saying that the title makes me hate the film while watching it, but it does make me annoyed. It makes me lose interest before I even start it, which is why I almost decided to skip this film.

And occasionally, I can forgive the film if the title matters.

Old Men
I cannot even confirm all four of these old men are American! Show me your papers!

This story mainly centers around two individuals, Warren Lipka (Evan Peters) and Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan). We are supposed to believe that these friends have are really different people. Warren is more outgoing and reckless. Spencer is reserved and good-natured. Once Spencer met Warren he got into more trouble, but whatever, they are just kids.

And now Spencer is at college, at Transylvania University, hoping to become an artist some day. And while on tour, he is taken with a crowd to the special rare books department, and he sees The Birds of America by John James Audubon, a large book full of very detailed paintings of, well, American birds. And it is incredibly rare and worth millions. So are other books in this tiny room in a library.

Once he mentions this to Warren, Warren wants to steal it. Why not? They just need to get a buyer ahead of time, and work on a plan. It isn’t a very security heavy area, no one would expect it, they could probably get away with it and get super rich. They have to overall bring in two others, Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) as their getaway driver. And then they can work on being infamous. Or at least infamous enough to get a movie made about them.

Also starring Ann Dowd as the rare book collections librarian and Udo Kier as mysterious man. Oh, and the real four thieves, narrating the story and telling their point of views as they recall the events.

Gotyasucker
We know they get caught because we know this story exists.

I loved American Animals. It was captivating, and despite knowing the eventual outcome, it was thrilling nonetheless. And of course, the title technically fit the film, but I can’t help they still chose it because they thought American sounded cool like the other movies.

A lot of the time having the real people involved in the picture means bad news. Did you see Act of Valor or The 15:17 to Paris? Both dreadful. But the real culprits of this act were not acting, they were just telling their story. They added a documentary element to this story, making it a sort of hybrid. Having them tell the story, disagree with each other, changing how the story played out was fun. Also adding in the elements of who can you trust from these various point of views was very well done and added a more ominous tone by the end.

Our actors who played the crew did a very good job, displaying appropriate amounts of angst and fear and young stupidity. I was definitely shocked and a bit afraid during the actual heist, heart pumping and on the edge of my seat.

American Animals took a real story, framed it in a unique way, and created suspense in a story where we already knew the outcome. Needless to say, this film surprised me in all the best ways. It makes since that it was directed by Bart Layton, who has only done documentaries in the past, most famously The Imposter, an amazing documentary.

4 out of 4.

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