top10_2018

2018 was a big year for me personally. In many ways it was the most significant of my life so far. In May I got engaged, and recorded the first full-length album with my band. In October, I got married. Went on my honeymoon. Navigated the first holiday season as a member of a new family. It was wonderful. It was also a lot.

With so many major life events demanding my time, energy, and focus, it’s only natural that the hobby of movie watching and reviewing fell by the wayside, at least somewhat. 2018 was the year in which MoviePass ran out of favor (and money) roughly a year after its historic price drop brought an unprecedented number of subscribers to the service. It was the year FilmStruck left us. So not only was my movie viewing down by sheer numbers, but the avenues by which to explore it were narrowing as well.

All this is to say that I didn’t see as many movies as usual in 2018, and as such I don’t feel that my annual top list is as meaningful is it might have been. I know there’s so much that I missed. And I know, therefore, that this list isn’t likely to turn anyone on to any small movies that flew under their radar. So I can’t help but feel my excitement about this annual effort isn’t what it usually is. That said, I can’t break with tradition; and my discussion of movies is always about what they mean to me and not about any supposed social import or insider clout. So it is without pretense or ego that I offer you the 10 movies I liked most from last year.

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Prometheus (2012)
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron
Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min
Rated: R


Review by Brother Reed

Thrilling. Beautiful. Ambitious. Messy. Frustrating. Captivating. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, an original science fiction epic set in the Alien universe and tangentially related to that seminal film, is all of these things and more. Scott himself helped shape the genre 30+ years ago when he helmed Blade Runner and Alien – both now considered sci-fi classics – and his return to form is exciting to behold. It’s a spectacle of both practical and computer effects as well as a gallimaufry of the unsearchable ideas with which sci-fi must eternally contend. And it’s the best film of its kind in a decade. READ FULL REVIEW

Avatar (2009)
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Running Time: 2 hrs, 42 min
Rated: PG-13


Review by Brother Reed

The story for James Cameron’s record-breaking 3-D adventure extravaganza, Avatar, is a mosaic of elements from countless different movies; including but not limited to Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, Fern Gully, this year’s Surrogates (though the idea for Avatar likely pre-dates that film), and even Cameron’s own Aliens. Yet despite not having an original bone in its 10-foot-tall blue body, Avatar is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. READ FULL REVIEW

Knowing (2009)
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury
Running Time: 2 hrs, 1 min
Rated: PG-13


Review by Brother Reed

I just can’t take Nicolas Cage seriously any more. I’m not sure exactly why. Oh, who am I kidding? I know why. It’s the whole “Wicker Man” fiasco. Now that I have seen this man running around in a bear suit punching women in the face (a questionable career move but undoubtedly amusing) it’s just harder to picture him in a serious dramatic role. That’s too bad, too, because Cage has actually been in some great movies since he got started in the early 80’s and turned in a few notable performances as well. Even in this decade he’s done Adaptation, Matchstick Men, and Lord of War, all of which should have elevated his career to the point where Ghost Rider, Next, and Bangkok Dangerous would not have been necessary. Perhaps they weren’t. Perhaps even in his pre-castle-crisis days he simply enjoyed B-movies and undercooked sci-fi. But I made a mistake, too. I didn’t have enough respect for the influence said B movies and undercooked sci-fi have on me. I’m a sucker for a great idea so when I heard about Knowing I turned a blind eye to Cage’s concerned-looking visage on the poster and bought a ticket anyway. READ FULL REVIEW

The Box (2009)
Director: Richard Kelly
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella
Running Time: 1 hr, 55 min
Rated: PG-13


Review by Brother Reed

Imagine that a mysterious package shows up on your doorstep one day. It contains a simple box with one identifiable feature: a large, red button on the top. The deal is this. If you press the button, two things will happen. First, somewhere in the world, someone whom you don’t know will die. Second, you will receive a payment of one million US dollars. In cash. No taxes. Should you press the button? Perhaps a better question: would you? That’s the premise behind The Box, a confounding speculative thriller with more ideas than it has sense. The Box is certainly high-concept, and the pitch drew me to the theater over other more prominent movies like 2012 that promised predictable structures and events. In that measure I choose well. The Box is not a predictable film, and I can pretty much guarantee you won’t expect most of what happens in the last two-thirds. I also suspect that if you put any thought into the film – and it wants you to – it will give you and whoever you see it with a lot to chew over. However, that is about as far as my praise for the movie extends. If you have to see this, don’t see it alone. But better yet, don’t see it at all.  READ FULL REVIEW

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeouf
Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min
Rated: PG-13


Indiana Jones: The Animated Adventures

How do you know when your movie franchise has really taken off? How do you know that it has mass appeal? That it’s really going to stick around? That it has something to offer every member of the family? Happy Meal toys are a great start, but sometimes they just aren’t enough for fans who have fallen deeply, strangely in love with your characters and their universe so that they feel the need to extend it in any way possible. Countless viewings of a sacred trilogy, for instance, will only take you so far. Sometimes authors will write expanded universe books on the subject, but honestly who reads books? This is the 21st century after all. FULL REVIEW

Star Trek (2009)
Director: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana
Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min
Rated: PG-13


Review by Brother Reed

When I heard they were remaking Star Trek, or rebooting it, or whatever it was, I was none too pleased. The commercials came on advertising young upstarts who looked awkwardly unlike their 60’s series counterparts, lots of laser blasts and explosions, some sensual images to increase appeal, and Simon Pegg. Not that I have any real attachment to the original television show. My father likes it, but I always sort of respected it and not much more. I have never read a Star Trek book, and probably couldn’t tell you the names of the crew. If anything, I was more of a Next Generation guy, ‘cause they had Jean Luc and the guy from Reading Rainbow. FULL REVIEW