Burning slowly like a 1970s urban street thriller, “Luke Cage” feels more comfortable in its suits and shades and bullet-riddled sweatshirts than it did in its first season. Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) and his Jamaican cohorts – all of the actors doing a wonderful job with the dialect – are entertaining antagonists, but we slowly realize the uber-villain of Season 2 (2018, Netflix) is slick Harlem councilwoman Mariah Stokes Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Cheo Hodari Coker’s series – after many examples illustrating what powerful people can get away with – morphs into a smart meditation on the cost of holding on to power, and how a few bad decisions can see that power spiral away.
These are the movies and TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year:
Our year-end countdown lists wrap up with Shaune’s picks for the 10 best movies of 2018:
The dominant genre of 2018 continued to be superheroes; even with the “X-Men” Universe and DC Extended Universe releasing only one film each, the three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were impossible to overlook. Still, this was a less blockbustery year than 2017, and by year’s end I had seen at least one really good film in every genre. From a throwback thriller to an arthouse gem, here are my 10 favorite films of 2018.
Maybe it’s because I got more accustomed to the show’s rhythms, but I liked “Jessica Jones” Season 2 (March 2018, Netflix) more than the first. Everyone is established in their roles, and things like Jessica (Krysten Ritter) being perpetually drunk, or someone making reference to that fact, flow in a natural noir-detective-drama way. Even though the overall plot leans more superpowered than hardboiled, Melissa Rosenberg’s series is as comfortable in its genre trappings as Jessica is in her favorite pair of jeans.
After his memorable introduction in “Daredevil” Season 2 (2016) – which could’ve been called “Daredevil and Punisher” – Frank Castle/Punisher (Jon Bernthal) gets the spotlight in his own 13-episode season. The revelation of who killed Frank’s wife and two children at the merry-go-round leads to a conspiracy that goes to the highest levels of the U.S. government and military. One approach for showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s “Punisher” Season 1 (2017) might’ve been 13 mini-“John Wick” movies. That would’ve been viscerally satisfying, but I appreciate the meaty roster of characters. The season is not faced-paced, but nor is it boring.
The MCU’s first crossover TV series, “The Defenders” Season 1 (2017, Netflix), has all the fun of a superhero team-up, along with all the clunkiness. Despite being written by four veterans of “Daredevil” – Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Drew Goddard — it is a notable step down from that bar-setting series.
After watching “Iron Fist” Season 1 (2017, Netflix), I feel like I’ve completed the same hero’s journey as Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones). I’m exhausted not from doing 13 episodes of kung-fu fighting and harnessing my chi into a fist of iron, but simply from watching what is easily the slowest-paced of the Netflix MCU shows to this point.
Do a Google search for “Sequels that are better than the original,” and you’ll be busy for an afternoon, at least until you get tired of reading the 100th list that points out that “The Empire Strikes Back” is better than “Star Wars.”
In the July 2018 Movies in Review episode, John and Michael review:
- “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
- “Eighth Grade”
And Michael reviews:
- “Sorry to Bother You”
- “Mission: Impossible — Fallout”