2018: The Pieper Review

by redhotchilipieper | created - 24 Feb 2018 | updated - 5 months ago | Public

Shortlists So Far...

Best Picture First Reformed

Best Director Paul Schrader, First Reformed Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here Panos Cosmatos, Mandy Spike Lee, BlackkKlansman Russo Brothers, Avengers: Infinity War

Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted) First Reformed, Paul Schrader Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley The Death of Stalin, Arnando Iannucci Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham BlackkKlansman, Spike Lee

Best Female Performances Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade Tilda Swinton, Suspiria Amandla Stenberg, The Hate U Give Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace Toni Collette, Hereditary

Best Supporting Female Performances Cynthia Erivo, Bad Times at the El Royale Olivia Cooke, Thoroughbreds Andrea Riseborough, Mandy Olwen Fouere, Mandy Danai Gurira, Black Panther & Avengers: Infinity War

Best Male Performances Ethan Hawke, First Reformed Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Nicolas Cage, Mandy Jeff Bridges, Bad Times at the El Royale

Best Supporting Male Performances Hugh Grant, Paddington 2 Simon Russell Beale, The Death of Stalin Josh Hamilton, Eighth Grade Jesse Plemons, Game Night Russell Hornsby, The Hate U Give

Best Original Score Mandy, Jóhann Jóhannsson You Were Never Really Here, Jonny Greenwood Suspiria, Thom Yorke Hereditary, Colin Stetson Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat

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1. First Reformed (2017)

R | 113 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

85 Metascore

A minister of a small congregation in upstate New York grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.

Director: Paul Schrader | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, Victoria Hill

Votes: 32,005 | Gross: $3.45M

In a world where nothing is sacred, a priest tries to reconcile his devotion to the church with the challenges and oppression of today's America. Ethan Hawke is the best he has ever been as Rev. Toller, the priest of the titular First Reformed church. It is a worthy successor to classic Schrader scripts like Taxi Driver and Bringing Out the Dead (okay, I haven't seen any of his other movies yet...) and is able to incorporate thought-provoking discussions with the suspense elements of a thriller. Paired with John Michael McDonagh's similarly splendid 2014 film Calvary, First Reformed is a source of truth in a time when even the extolled virtues of religion cannot be trusted.

My Grade: A RT: 8.4

2. Mandy (2018)

Not Rated | 121 min | Action, Fantasy, Horror

81 Metascore

The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiraling, surreal rampage of vengeance.

Director: Panos Cosmatos | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy

Votes: 42,164 | Gross: $1.21M

For the first time ever, Nicolas Cage is not the craziest thing in his own movie. Mandy is a gorgeous, neon-drenched nightmare of nigh indescribable majesty. The revenge thrills of Tarantino, the art of Kubrick and Tarkovsky, combined with the Refn lights and Lynchian dread. All with a heavy slathering of Sam Raimi's violent glee. An instant cult classic and the only film in history to feature Nicolas Cage in a chainsaw fight. If that isn't worth your time, we'll have a difficult go of it as roommates. It is as if Cosmatos dropped acid and committed a death metal concept album to the silver screen.

My Grade: A- RTA: 7.5

3. BlacKkKlansman (2018)

R | 135 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

83 Metascore

Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, CO, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace

Votes: 136,221 | Gross: $48.69M

Spike Lee's latest is a much-needed reflection on societal progress, political rebellion, and ideological toxicity packed into a razor-sharp historical biopic. Seldom has a sermon preaching positive progress in divisive times been this affably entertaining. I find it interesting to see Spike's case of how he sees himself as similar to Ron in his own profession.

My Grade: A- RTA: 8.2

4. Eighth Grade (2018)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Drama

90 Metascore

An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.

Director: Bo Burnham | Stars: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan

Votes: 39,782 | Gross: $13.54M

In its own deceptively simple way, Eighth Grade is the call-to-arms film we need in the #metoo era. Many critics have said that every girl and their mother should see this film, but in reality, they will only find more of the same. While it will be riveting for middle school girls to see themselves on screen in the same way that young African-Americans all across the nation felt seeing T'Challa in Black Panther, this film, if discussed thoughtfully, could be a truly seminal empathy generator for young males. The truth or dare scene about midway through the film is fertile ground for a discussion about how young men should treat young women. Burnham and Fisher are able to put us into the trembling shoes of a girl in what could turn into a sexual assault. More men need to feel that way and the earlier that they start having more empathy for the experience of women and girls, the better.

My Grade: A- RT: 8.8

5. Isle of Dogs (2018)

PG-13 | 101 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

82 Metascore

Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy's odyssey in search of his lost dog.

Director: Wes Anderson | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban

Votes: 104,269 | Gross: $32.02M

Wes Anderson reached what may be the peak of his filmmaking career with The Grand Budapest Hotel, so Isle of Dogs is beautifully crafted piece of art from a master in his prime. I have to see this one again to appreciate all of the visual details and possible allegorical readings, but you don't have to be a film buff or a critic to appreciate the story on its most basic level: A boy searching for his dog in a corrupt world.

My Grade: A- RT: 8.1

6. You Were Never Really Here (2017)

R | 89 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

84 Metascore

A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe's nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.

Director: Lynne Ramsay | Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov, John Doman

Votes: 68,955 | Gross: $2.52M

Despite Phoenix's powerful performance, Ramsay's latest is, admittedly, emotionally cold. It is much closer to Morvern Callar than Ratcatcher. For non-Ramsay fans looking for a Man on Fire or Taken style kidnapping thriller (absolutely nothing wrong with that), look elsewhere. If you are looking for tour de force editing, fascinating character psychology, and a delightfully dissonant score from Jonny Greenwood, You Were Never Really Here is a must see.

My Grade: B+ RT: 8.2

7. Hereditary (2018)

R | 127 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

87 Metascore

After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.

Director: Ari Aster | Stars: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff

Votes: 144,217 | Gross: $44.07M

While there are little moments of unique horror tics and some wonderful sound design and lighting, Hereditary feels like the basic blueprint for an "arty" 2010s horror film. That blueprint? Crib as many shots from The Shining as possible with a little Rosemary's Baby peppered in. That being said, the film will unsettle and unnerve you. It just doesn't really feel like it all adds up by the end - unlike recent horror masterworks like The Babadook, It Follows, and Get Out. However, I am left both wanting to watch it again and fearing another viewing. This, surely, is a mark of artistic success. In any case, Aster is an astute film literate and is worth keeping an eye on.

My Grade: B+ RTA: 8.3

8. Suspiria (I) (2018)

R | 152 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

64 Metascore

A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

Director: Luca Guadagnino | Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton, Doris Hick, Malgorzata Bela

Votes: 32,076 | Gross: $2.47M

A thematically rich remake that suffers from a bland central performance from Dakota Johnson.

My Grade: B+ RT: 6.7

9. Sorry to Bother You (2018)

R | 111 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

80 Metascore

In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed.

Director: Boots Riley | Stars: LaKeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick

Votes: 37,986 | Gross: $17.49M

What do you get when a Marxist nerd combines Brazil and Being John Malkovich with a dash of Edgar Wright? The year's most gonzo satire. Boots Riley is a name to watch. Hopefully, his next effort will be a little less dazed and a bit more pointed, but this film should not be missed.

My Grade: B+/B RTA: 7.8

10. Paddington 2 (2017)

PG | 103 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

88 Metascore

Paddington, now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community, picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy's 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen.

Director: Paul King | Stars: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins

Votes: 45,099 | Gross: $40.44M

A sequel being better than the original is nearly unheard of (except perhaps, The Dark Knight and X-Men: Days of Future Past -- sorry Godfather II), but a sequel to a children's movie being better than the original is nearly impossible. For now, the reigning ruler is Paddington 2. Paul King's delightfully pleasant family adventure doesn't just have the fact that it contains no toilet humor going for it, but also has the full commitment of an engaged cast, film literacy, and an understanding of what a sequel's maximum potential can be. Plus, the messages the film imparts are as sweet and sincere as a marmalade sandwich. Hugh Grant deserved the BAFTA nomination (and, hopefully, could snag an Oscar nomination next year) for his portrayal of Shakespearean actor turned dog food commercial cast member turned master criminal, Phoenix Buchanan.

My Grade: B+ RT: 8.7

11. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

PG-13 | 149 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

68 Metascore

The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans

Votes: 622,478 | Gross: $678.82M

Ten years in the making, Infinity War will only appeal to people who have seen the other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but for that audience, it provides an unparalleled superhero epic. Many critics still have no idea how to assess Marvel movies. To grade them as a self-contained narrative film is to miss the point of the MCU. It is more just to grade them on a continuum like TV critics do when considering each episode of a TV season. There are many characters to develop, not all of them are going to experience a full arc in Infinity War. This is bigger than one movie and bigger than one universe. The point of Avengers films, particularly Infinity War, is not to provide neatly packaged Hero's Journey arcs for all characters involved, but rather, to unite this plethora of heroes in the interest of a singular mission. As far as fulfilling that duty goes, Infinity War accomplishes this titanic task with a surprising ease. The best part of the film is Thanos -- an Avengers villain that is finally interesting and formidable.

My Grade: B+ RT: 7.5

12. Black Panther (2018)

PG-13 | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

88 Metascore

T'Challa, heir to the hidden but advanced kingdom of Wakanda, must step forward to lead his people into a new future and must confront a challenger from his country's past.

Director: Ryan Coogler | Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira

Votes: 494,327 | Gross: $700.06M

Following in the footsteps of Wonder Woman, Black Panther marks a milestone in representation for film history. Luckily, the film is equally good, if not better. Director Ryan Coogler is not afraid to add political edges, character arcs, and world building that is nowhere to be found elsewhere in the Marvel universe. Plus: war rhinos. Much like the 2008 election, we should not fall under the illusion of progress and believe that cinema has reached peak representation. Black Panther is merely the herald of an exciting new era of stories, not the peak. That being said, it is still very much a cause for celebration.

My Grade: B+/B RT: 8.2

13. A Star Is Born (2018)

R | 136 min | Drama, Music, Romance

88 Metascore

A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Director: Bradley Cooper | Stars: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Greg Grunberg

Votes: 234,567 | Gross: $215.29M

A very good directorial debut from Bradley Cooper. This will make you feel things whether you like it or not. If you are famous, it will make you feel even more. On the whole, terrific performances. I would be okay with this one getting Oscar attention (which it inevitably will).

My Grade: B/B+ RTA: 8.1

14. Incredibles 2 (2018)

PG | 118 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

80 Metascore

The Incredibles hero family takes on a new mission, which involves a change in family roles: Bob Parr (Mr Incredible) must manage the house while his wife Helen (Elastigirl) goes out to save the world.

Director: Brad Bird | Stars: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner

Votes: 194,962 | Gross: $608.58M

The sequel I have been waiting for for 14 is finally here and fortunately, it was worth the wait. Yes, the Pixar formula is still going strong, but this time around it is used to explore grittier real-world themes that (to my memory bank at least) the company has never explored before. The plot is slightly less strong than the first, but the keenly observed family dynamics, exciting action sequences, gorgeous animation, and hilarity all remain intact. Plus, we FINALLY get to see the Parrs fight the Underminer!

My Grade: B/B+ RT: 7.9

15. Thoroughbreds (2017)

R | 92 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

75 Metascore

Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost.

Director: Cory Finley | Stars: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks

Votes: 24,263 | Gross: $2.83M

A stylish thriller without too much to say. It makes for a nice rainy day afternoon movie though. The soundtrack and sound design is what makes this film worth seeing. Overall, Thoroughbreds is a swell little arthouse thriller boasting a director worth keeping an eye on.

My Grade: B RTA: 7.2

16. The Death of Stalin (2017)

R | 107 min | Comedy, Drama, History

88 Metascore

Moscow, 1953. After being in power for nearly 30 years, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin takes ill and quickly dies. Now the members of the Council of Ministers scramble for power.

Director: Armando Iannucci | Stars: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough

Votes: 61,398 | Gross: $8.04M

A pitch black satire from some of the Veep guys relies, as always, on a little too much profanity, but the performances by a game cast make this a must-see for any political junkie. To quote Mark Twain, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

My Grade: B RT: 8.2

17. The Hate U Give (2018)

PG-13 | 133 min | Crime, Drama

81 Metascore

Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what's right.

Director: George Tillman Jr. | Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie

Votes: 15,953 | Gross: $29.72M

Stellar performances help offer a generally nuanced look into the complexities of American race relations. At times, it feels like an after-school special, but that is exactly what the target audience is. In that case, mission accomplished!

My Grade: B RTA: 8.2

18. The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

PG-13 | 93 min | Biography, Comedy, Crime

80 Metascore

Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker and his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public.

Director: David Lowery | Stars: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover

Votes: 23,817 | Gross: $11.28M

The film's breeziness is both it's greatest strength and it's greatest weakness. For those of a certain age, the film may exceed the level of good and reach greatness. For everyone else, it's a fun, tonally consistent tribute to an indelible spirit.

My Grade: B RTA: 7.5

19. Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

R | 128 min | Documentary

69 Metascore

Filmmaker Michael Moore examines the current state of American politics, particularly the Donald Trump presidency and gun violence, while highlighting the power of grassroots democratic movements.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Jim Acosta, Roger Ailes, Brooke Baldwin, Ashleigh Banfield

Votes: 10,659 | Gross: $6.35M

An effective call to action in a way that most media outlets and comedians are not going for. Michael Moore remains a singular voice in American film. It is a refreshing takedown of establishment Democrats and offers another reminder of just how biased the major network media machines have become.

My Grade: B/B+ RTA: 6.9

20. A Quiet Place (2018)

PG-13 | 90 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

82 Metascore

In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Director: John Krasinski | Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Votes: 294,026 | Gross: $188.02M

In a Get Out-esque (albeit, less impressive) turn, John Krasinski puts his Office-bred eye acting to the test in his third feature film, A Quiet Place. There is not much thematic depth to offer here compared to other premiere horror films of the 2010s, but the just-above gimmicky premise and the pathos of Krasinski and Blunt make the film undeniably watchable. Plus, young filmmakers could learn a lot from the consistently effective visual storytelling.

**Later Note: Check out the video essay on how the sound design was built into the script on the Lessons from the Screenplay YouTube channel.

My Grade: B RT: 8.2

21. Christopher Robin (2018)

PG | 104 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

60 Metascore

A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.

Director: Marc Forster | Stars: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss

Votes: 49,452 | Gross: $99.22M

A nostalgia trip as thick and gooey as the titular bear's honey. Most of the time, in a good way.

My Grade: B RTA: 6.2

22. Leave No Trace (2018)

PG | 109 min | Drama

88 Metascore

A father and his thirteen year-old daughter are living an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives forever.

Director: Debra Granik | Stars: Thomasin McKenzie, Ben Foster, Jeffery Rifflard, Derek John Drescher

Votes: 31,834 | Gross: $6.05M

Debra Granik's films show a world on the fringes of society that are nothing more than their struggles. This is a personal taste thing, but if I am going to love characters in a realist film, then they better be witty or humorous at some point. People that are not at least a little funny just don't seem full to me. I had the same feeling when I walked out of Granik's Winter's Bone back in 2010. I believe that the lack of humor makes Granik's characters just feel like their struggles and not like human beings. I'm not asking for them all to be comedians. I'm not asking for humor to undercut dramatic moments like in some Marvel movies (a.k.a. bathos). I just feel like characters who are only characterized by their damage and scrappy resourcefulness are simply not as empathetic for me as characters who are shown to have more dimensions to their personalities. I am not saying that this is a bad film, it is quite good. Thomasin McKenzie is especially fantastic.

My Grade: B RTA: 8.5

23. Deadpool 2 (2018)

R | 119 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

66 Metascore

Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA. Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy with supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling cyborg, Cable.

Director: David Leitch | Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison

Votes: 374,955 | Gross: $324.59M

While the first Deadpool tried way too hard to be edgy/snarky in order to prove that an R-rated superhero movie could survive in a world of PG-13 CGI slugfests, Deadpool 2 doesn't have anything to prove due to its established brand and character. Due this newfound comfort, Deadpool 2 is much more enjoyable to watch by eschewing in-your-face spoofiness in favor of stylish action, amiable cast chemistry, and punchlines that land as hard as its punches.

My Grade: B RT: 7.1

24. Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

R | 141 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

60 Metascore

Circa 1969, several strangers, most with a secret to bury, meet by chance at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one night, everyone will show their true colors - before everything goes to hell.

Director: Drew Goddard | Stars: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm

Votes: 78,887 | Gross: $17.84M

Going into Drew Goddard’s new film, I expected a Cabin in the Woods style deconstruction of the Tarantino-inspired revenge thriller. What I walked out with was Goddard’s version of The Hateful Eight (2015). While Goddard’s 2012 masterwork both delivered genre highs and said something about the horror genre as a whole, El Royale (on first viewing) only accomplishes the former. Often, it delivers those genre highs with flying colors but that does not make it feel like anything other than a clever writer making a paint-by-the-numbers movie using one of his (presumably) favorite auteurs as a template.

My Grade: B RTA: 6.6

25. Game Night (I) (2018)

R | 100 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

66 Metascore

A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves entangled in a real-life mystery when the shady brother of one of them is seemingly kidnapped by dangerous gangsters.

Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein | Stars: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan

Votes: 157,867 | Gross: $69.00M

The movie is fluff, but it is just well-acted enough (especially by the likes of Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons) to rise above the indifferent realm of the "meh" grades like B- or C+. The script is far from perfect, but sheer fun of Game Night is impossible to not get caught up in. This is a perfect little caper to watch with friends or after a few drinks at a game night.

My Grade: B RT: 6.8

26. The Rider (2017)

R | 104 min | Drama, Western

92 Metascore

After suffering a near fatal head injury, a young cowboy undertakes a search for new identity and what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.

Director: Chloé Zhao | Stars: Brady Jandreau, Mooney, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau

Votes: 9,308 | Gross: $2.42M

I wanted to really like this movie. Truly, I did. I would have really enjoyed it had it not been so damn repetitive. As is, the film definitely has its powerful moments, but I couldn't get over the fact that it felt a little irresponsible.

My Grade: B- RT: 8.4

27. Mid90s (2018)

R | 85 min | Comedy, Drama

66 Metascore

Follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 1990s-era Los Angeles who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.

Director: Jonah Hill | Stars: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith

Votes: 18,952 | Gross: $7.36M

A by-the-numbers coming-of-age tale that could have used a longer running time to dive into some of the more interesting issues it raises.

My Grade: B- RT: 6.8

28. Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

PG-13 | 120 min | Comedy, Romance

74 Metascore

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend's family.

Director: Jon M. Chu | Stars: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan

Votes: 88,700 | Gross: $174.53M

I will never fully understand (and always lament) the sick fascination with disgusting excesses and waste of the rich, but I completely understand the satisfaction of a well-formed rom-com (even if it isn't my favorite genre). Crazy Rich Asians will easily satisfy rom-com fans.

My Grade: B- RTA: 7.7

29. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

PG-13 | 118 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

70 Metascore

As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

Director: Peyton Reed | Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins

Votes: 222,270 | Gross: $216.65M

Light Marvel fun. I would love to see David Lynch, Werner Herzog or the Too Many Cooks guys take on the mid-credits and post-credits sequence and make it into a short film. Oh, who am I kidding? make it feature-length.

My Grade: B- RTA: 6.9

30. Halloween (I) (2018)

R | 106 min | Horror, Thriller

67 Metascore

Laurie Strode confronts her long-time foe Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

Director: David Gordon Green | Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney

Votes: 83,859 | Gross: $159.34M

The idea of wiping the slate clean was genius, and there are some wonderful moments that fulfill the feeling of the 1978 classic. However, those moments are too few to warrant a full recommendation. Additionally, there is a feeling of emptiness at the end that lacks the finality I was expecting from this iteration. Hardcore Michael Myers fans may be appeased, general horror nuts will probably feel the same way I do.

My Grade: C+/B- RTA: 6.8

31. Oh Lucy! (2017)

95 min | Comedy, Drama

69 Metascore

A lonely woman living in Tokyo decides to take an English class where she discovers her alter ego, Lucy.

Director: Atsuko Hirayanagi | Stars: Shinobu Terajima, Josh Hartnett, Kaho Minami, Kôji Yakusho

Votes: 2,143 | Gross: $0.38M

I did not know quite what to make of this movie, although I was happy to see a Japanese woman writer-director at the helm. I also enjoyed the actress who portrayed Lucy (Shinobu Terajima) immensely. If her talents were used in a film that was less of a tonal -- I don't know? Game of whack-a-mole? Tonal whack-a-mole? -- then she could really shine. The fact that Terajima still manages to shine despite the overall unevenness makes this film worth seeing via rental though. Glenn Kenny may put it best when he says: “the treatment of its central character veers so wildly between the sympathetic and just plain pathetic that there’s a blur where the movie’s heart ought to be." Couldn't have said it better myself.

My Grade: C+ RT: 6.8

32. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

PG-13 | 128 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

51 Metascore

When the island's dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.

Director: J.A. Bayona | Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith

Votes: 211,606 | Gross: $417.72M

Typically, the problems with blockbusters sequels derive from "sequelitis" which involves putting everything on a much larger scale, but Jurassic World's shrunk-down setting (a slightly Gothic mansion) was the only aspect of this sequel to the 2015 cash cow that subverted my expectations. Other than that, I had expected Fallen Kingdom to be as well, okay (the first one is a 6/10, B- in my book) as Jurassic World, but the film failed to live up to that low bar. The one saving grace of the entire J.W. series at this point is Blue: the only character in both J.W. movies that has a halfway compelling arc. That being said, it still provides some moments of excitement and genuine entertainment, but it would be a lot better if there were less cliches, or at least if the human characters experiencing and espousing the cliches would be worth giving a damn about.

**Later note: When all is said and done, Jurassic World may be the "better" movie by a hair, but I would rather watch Fallen Kingdom again for all of its stupid mansion fun.

My Grade: C+ RTA: 5.7

33. Annihilation (2018)

R | 115 min | Adventure, Drama, Horror

79 Metascore

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply.

Director: Alex Garland | Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong

Votes: 222,316 | Gross: $32.73M

Despite a promising debut (Ex Machina), Alex Garland's sophomore effort as a writer-director is the kind of film that will find itself atop the favorite film lists of sci-fi die hards and adolescents who are just starting to discover the wide world of movies. From a visual and sound design standpoint, the film deserves recognition. Unfortunately, the film's ideas and themes aim for art house ambiguity, but end up falling into an unengaging mess. It fails to spark any true emotional and intellectual fires. When it is over, it left me wanting to rewatch the masterpieces (Stalker, Arrival, Rashomon) that inspired it and forget the film itself.

**Later Note: I would love to watch this again for a re-evaluation.

My Grade: C RT: 7.6

34. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

PG-13 | 134 min | Biography, Drama, Music

49 Metascore

The story of the legendary rock band Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, leading up to their famous performance at Live Aid (1985).

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy

Votes: 325,431 | Gross: $216.27M

Bohemian Rhapsody is only as good as its music. When Queen isn't playing, we are left with the most generic musical biopic script ever written.

My Grade: C RTA: 6.1

35. The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

PG | 105 min | Comedy, Family, Fantasy

57 Metascore

A young orphan named Lewis Barnavelt aids his magical uncle in locating a clock with the power to bring about the end of the world.

Director: Eli Roth | Stars: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan

Votes: 31,104 | Gross: $68.55M

Eli Roth makes two fatal decisions. (1) Repressing Jack Black. (2) Hinging the film on a shrill, terrible child actor.

My Grade: C RTA: 6

36. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

PG-13 | 135 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

62 Metascore

During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover

Votes: 217,749 | Gross: $213.77M

Even when one is not haunted by the specter of what could have been a rollicking barrel of space fun with Lord and Miller at the helm of the Falcon, Solo is a tonally bland and perversely serviceable piece of work. Debuting after the refreshingly unpredictable Last Jedi doesn't do it any favors either. As far as origin flicks go, it isn't X-Men Origins: Wolverine bad, but it is certainly less memorable. Besides two-thirds of Attack of the Clones and half of The Phantom Menace, Solo may be the least genuinely exciting Star Wars live action franchise film ever.

My Grade: C RTA: 6.5

37. A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

PG | 109 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

53 Metascore

After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.

Director: Ava DuVernay | Stars: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling

Votes: 34,129 | Gross: $100.48M

Admittedly, it may have taken an experience growing up as a young woman to understand and appreciate the journey that Meg takes. Maybe reading the book is essential in order to appreciate the movie. If it is the latter case (I feel it is), then DuVernay's A Wrinke in Time is a decidedly unsuccessful adaptation.

My Grade: C- RT: 5.2

38. First Man (2018)

PG-13 | 141 min | Biography, Drama, History

84 Metascore

A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Director: Damien Chazelle | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler

Votes: 113,482 | Gross: $44.94M

Mind-numbing tedium. There is a not single aspect or shot of this film that you haven't seen before. Ryan Gosling is frustratingly flat, Claire Foy is pathetically Oscar-thirsty, and the supporting cast is dour as all get out. The film's revelatory message? Astronauts can be sad too.

My Grade: D- RTA: 8.1

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