My Top 88 Movies of 2018: 76-73

76. Mom and Dad

You know, this movie reminds me a lot of the first Purge movie. Or at least, it reminded me of the general reception that I kept hearing about it when it originally came out, (since I never saw the movie myself.) Specifically, the fact that this movie has an absolutely fantastic premise (in this case a mysterious signal that makes all parents who hear it want to murder their own children), but rather than take full advantage of the potential craziness that could result, the movie instead narrows its focus way too much and turns what could be something awesome into what feels more like a generic home invasion-esque movie.

Now sure, that probably does sound a little harsh but really this was kind of a disappointing movie to me. There’s a lot of genuinely potential you could’ve gotten out of the premise but most of the time, the movie just sticks to this one mostly generic family (and Nic Cage) and their mostly generic struggles and it all ends up feeling far too safe and by-the-book for such an intriguing premise. It’s not terrible, it gets the job done (barely) and there are neat scenes and ideas here and there, but it’s not nearly as good as I feel like it could’ve been.

In fact, I’ll even go so far as to add something else onto that. This is probably going to sound somewhat weird, but I feel like this movie would’ve been a lot better if it either took its premise way more seriously… or way less seriously. Because as it is, it currently seems to hold a position of being a little bit of both, attempting to mix some level of realism and drama while also having Nic Cage chew the scenery like a bulldog with rabies. And neither really quite works with one another. As a result the movie ends up feeling too boring to be silly/campy and and too silly to really be dramatic.

Fact is, this movie would’ve so much better if it just picked one tone to focus on and stuck with it. Either be a genuinely serious and tense movie about what genuinely could be a very disturbing premise, or go full gonzo black comedy with it and having people punting toddlers into woodchippers and shit, while Nic Cage gibbers in the background. 50/50 ain’t going to cut it.

So yeah, TLDR: This movie needed more toddlers in woodchippers. And please don’t take that out of context.

75. Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors

Good on Marvel for showing that it’s not just DC capable of producing thoroughly ‘meh’ Direct-to-DVD animated movies this year! (Seriously, why do I even bother watching these anymore…)

Honestly, it’s kind of a shame that I was so lukewarm on this movie, because I genuinely do like most of the characters involved. I like Miss Marvel, I like Squirrel Girl, I liked Daisy Johnson when I still watched Agents of SHIELD and the others seemed neat as well. But this entire movie feels more like a subpar animated tv pilot stretched out to feature length (which, to be fair, it kinda is?). And that more or less sums it all up. Subpar writing, meh animation, bland villains, forgettable action, so-so personal conflict, it’s not exactly bad, it’s all just kind of… meh.

Still, it’s better than Batman Ninja and Gotham by Gaslight, so I guess it’s got that going for it?

74. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Okay, while I’m well aware that any Disney Star Wars mention these days seems to inevitably devolve into squabbling, can I just say how glad I am that Colin Trevorrow is no longer writing/directing Episode IX. Because, while J.A. Bayona was technically the director, the story here has Trevorrow‘s fingerprints all over it. And needless to say, his writing here is… not good.

Now, to be honest, I will confess that I did actually enjoy the first Jurassic World as a guilty pleasure (in spite of its many many flaws), but this movie feels like it picks up many of those problems and makes them even worse. I mean, did anybody really watch the first Jurassic World’s whole ‘military applications for raptors’ thing and think ‘Yes, that’s the plot thread we want to see developed in the sequel!’ A running theme in Trevorrow‘s writing seems to be that he has ideas, yes, but it doesn’t seem to recognise that they’re kind of terrible ones and either way doesn’t really do much interesting with them. I’d never call Jurassic Park the most grounded of films/franchises, but it tried to have some level of realism to it. This movie has Chris Pratt crawling away from lava and the world’s least practical laser-pointer-guided dinosaur that looks almost identical to the Indominus but smaller. Plus there’s no flashy T-Rex vs Indominus battle to distract us with this time.

It’s especially frustrating for me because I really like the director, J.A. Bayona. I’ve already really loved a lot of his previous films, like The Orphanage and A Monster Calls (my 2nd favourite movie of 2016) and was interested to see what he’d bring to the franchise. And the answer is not much. There are a few greatly directed, tense or emotionally pulling scenes where he gets to shine but otherwise the rest of the film is just too heavily dragged down by the millstone that is Trevorrow‘s script. I was really hoping for a lot better from him.

Still, it’s not the worst blockbuster I’ve seen this year and there were plenty of scenes that I enjoyed on some level. Plus it wasn’t really something I was hyped enough about to really feel let down by. But overall, this wasn’t really a good film. It had all the flaws of the previous Jurassic World movie and barely any of the strengths to go with. I can’t even say I’m at least interesting in where the franchise goes from here because the note in which this movie left off on was just… silly. Ah well, it’ll probably all be retconned by Jurassic World 3 anyway.

73. The Old Man and the Gun

Whoo! Controversy time! After all, it wouldn’t be one of my lists if I didn’t have at least one highly acclaimed movie near the bottom. At least it’s not a Nolan film this time.

Anyway, for those who’ve not heard of this movie, it’s the story of Forrest Tucker, a geriatric old man who went on a bank-robbing spree while in his 70’s. It’s also in large part gotten a lot of attention for potentially being Robert Redford’s last film role (kinda sorta maybe? He was a bit unclear about it in interviews.) And to his credit, he’s perfectly fine in the role. It’s just the rest of the movie that leaves me feeling incredibly underwhelmed.

It doesn’t help that the movie is clearly intent on portraying Forrest Tucker as a super great guy in spite of, y’know, all the bank robberies. Almost every character seems to randomly start talking at one point or another about how much of a charming and nice gentleman he is, even when holding tellers at gunpoint, and how he practically seduces Sissy Spacek after one simple coffee conversation because he’s that charming a guy and, y’know, he’s not going all the bank robberies to hurt people, he’s simply doing it for the enjoyment and thrill of the chase and how even the policeman chasing doesn’t hate him and so on. It feels a bit too adulatory for my tastes, especially since I’ve seen most of the same kind of themes handled significantly better elsewhere.

Still, I will confess that movie has some good ideas to it. There’s a great little sequence involving Tucker and his gang of elderly robbers managing to quietly rob a bank while Casey Affleck’s policeman character is there, both completely unaware the whole time of the other’s existence. And Robert Redford is kind of a charming son of a bitch. But otherwise, I was just left underwhelmed by the whole thing. The romance is underbaked, the direction needed more energy to it and the script is painfully unsubtle about its themes and ideas.

Not the worst final film Robert Redford could’ve starred in, but he’s been a lot better.

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