5. Love, Simon
Love, Simon never looked flat-out bad, but it did look a little generic. For being the first wide-released movie putting a gay teen front and center, there was something about the movie that seemed uninspired. Maybe it’s the fact that this cynical writer sees every young adult romance as the same thing. Or maybe, just maybe, it legitimately didn’t look all that special.
Regardless, this movie did everything in its power to defy expectations. It may not look special, but it is pretty darn special. A few young adult cliches don’t stop this from being one of 2018’s best overall releases.
With a timely script and solid mix of drama and comedy, Love, Simon is the perfect movie for any teenager struggling with an identity crisis. While it’s specifically marketed at gay teens, the message remains universal for anyone who has ever felt different in their lives. Hell, this message isn’t just aimed at teenagers. Although this is undoubtedly a movie aimed at the younger crowd, the strong themes are powerful regardless of the viewer’s age.
That’s the magic of Love, Simon. It has an audience in mind but it still manages to work for pretty much any type of viewer. Regardless of age or gender, the film is funny and relatable in all the right ways. Coming-of-age young adult movies are often handled so poorly. It’s a relief that someone put the source material in the right hands this time around.
Bay may have left the director’s chair for this one, but it would take a whole lot more to convince people that any Transformers movie could be good after that abominable franchise was milked to death. Prior to release, people had Bumblebee pegged as a movie that could potentially improve upon previous entries, but few people actually thought it would course correct to this extent. After all, “Better than The Last Knight” isn’t exactly a compliment.
Then the movie came out, and it was so much better than what people had anticipated. Simply saying it’s better than the previous movies would be an injustice. The bar was set so low that anything remotely watchable would be considered an improvement. Instead, let’s just call Bumblebee what it really is: a good movie.
Visually, it looks like a movie in the Bayformers universe, but that’s where the comparisons stop. Unlike Bay’s movies, this one has a whole lot of heart. It’d be easier to compare it to something from Spielberg or John Hughes. It’s not just one big cacophony of explosions. On the contrary, it’s a movie that puts emotion first and action second.
This isn’t to say the movie is devoid of action. In fact, the opening scene is a fanboy’s wet dream precisely because of the large-scale battle. The point is, there’s a balance here. Bumblebee features a cohesive story with focused action scenes. It succeeds because it’s not countless mismatched parts bound together by loud explosions. Basically, it feels like a whole movie.
Unfortunately, franchise fatigue set in at the wrong time. Bumblebee is, ironically, the least successful movie in the series financially. Hopefully, producers realize that an upward trajectory in quality could boost ticket sales. This is a fantastic start to a live action Transformers series that actually resonates with people. Let’s hope it keeps going.
3. Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians got an SAG nomination for best ensemble. Crazy Rich Asians got a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy. Crazy Rich Asians won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Comedy. Noticing a pattern? People freaking love Crazy Rich Asians, a romantic comedy that didn’t look that different from the average romantic comedy.
Okay, it had a few promising factors. The cast looked great and the source material was well received. At the same time, it came from a director with a spotty track record and it still looked like it followed plenty of the genre conventions that tend to wear moviegoers out. Luckily, and perhaps miraculously, there wasn’t a whole lot to complain about.
Not only was Crazy Rich Asians funny – it was also heartwarming from beginning to end. There’s definitely some drama, but overall, this is a feel-good date movie that should leave viewers feeling positive by the time the credits roll.
With strong reviews all around and a solid awards season track record, it’s looking like Crazy Rich Asians will actually be remembered far down the road. This is a surprise considering the fact that most romantic comedies are immediately forgotten. Even well-received rom-coms like Friends with Benefits don’t get this kind of positive publicity. That must mean this thing is really special.
Upgrade is a cult classic in the making. With a $5 million budget and a modest-at-best box office return, this isn’t a movie with the same kind of staying power as other modern sci-fi classics. Then again, it doesn’t really need to be. The people who will love Upgrade will really really love Upgrade, and that’s all that matters.
This is a movie that knows its audience and has fun winning them over every step of the way. It’s an ultra-violent gut punch that will leave sci-fi fans breathless from start to finish. It’s also one of the most exhilarating movies of 2018.
There was so little to talk about Upgrade prior to the film’s release. The trailer made it look fun but potentially forgetful, and that’s about all that was given to people. The trailer lied. Upgrade is anything but forgetful. While it’s not shy when it comes to borrowing elements from other movies, this still feels like a completely unique experience.
It’s not unusual to shower the more intelligent sci-fi movies with praise, but it’s rare that audiences get a good movie that puts the fun first. No, this isn’t anything like Arrival or Source Code. It doesn’t want to be though. It wants to be 95 minutes of pulse pounding action and torn off limbs. Mission success.
Like most years, there’s sure to be a big award-winning sci-fi movie that’ll sneak its way into the Oscars. Upgrade isn’t that movie, but it’s still likely to be one of the best movies in the genre to come out this year. No other science fiction movie could do grindhouse fun in the same way as Upgrade. This is a movie that only comes around once every few years. Be sure to savor it.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Sony has always had a hit-or-miss track record when it comes to the Spider-Man franchise. Raimi’s series started out excellent, but the finale left an awful lot to be desired. Webb’s series, on the other hand, garnered lackluster reviews overall. Because of this, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came with a bit of baggage. The trailers were impressive and the screenplay came from the consistently solid Phil Lord, but none of this guaranteed a success.
Even the people that anticipated a good movie didn’t anticipate something like this. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is, arguably, the best superhero movie of the year. Now, there are varying opinions about this considering the success of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. At the same time, it’s incredible that people are even able to compare this movie with two Marvel mega-hits. Based solely on numbers and scores from users provided by IMDb, Cinemascore, and Rotten Tomatoes, this is the definitive superhero movie.
Now, there are plenty of variables to discredit these sources, so maybe take the “best of the year” claim with a grain of salt. Instead, just be aware that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is far more than just a fun superhero movie. It’s an innovative movie that redefines what it means to be a superhero movie. It’s funny, action-packed, and above all, smart.
People really just wanted a Miles Morales movie that didn’t totally suck. Few people expected a movie capable of rivaling the best of the best. Considering the critical beating taken by Venom, it’s comforting to see a Spider-Verse movie that really cares about the fans. Hopefully a strong franchise can be built.