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.
Having seen the latest “Rocky”/ “Creed” film, “Creed II,” it’s time to rank all eight films of the saga from worst to first. There are no outright bad films in this series, and a case could be made for any order between No. 2 and No. 7. Just thinking back on the 42 years of “Rocky” films is enough to make me want to blast “Gonna Fly Now” and take a run up the museum steps. Here we go. Ding. Ding.
We’re not supposed to heap praise on sequels, since they are standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, but something should be said about how skillfully “Creed II” continues the story from “Creed” (2015) and “Rocky IV” (1985). Suffice it to say, director Steve Caple Jr.’s film will please fans of this franchise that has become a safe haven for grown men to cry in the theater over themes of fathers and sons (real or makeshift) and overcoming the odds.
Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” (2015) was a surprisingly well-executed and welcome addition to the “Rocky” franchise. Working as a reboot of sorts, it brings “Rocky” to a new generation. With “Creed II,” Steve Caple Jr. directs a fairly by-the-numbers sequel that works, but doesn’t have near the impact that “Creed” does.
In “All American” (9 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays on The CW), Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) gets a chance to move from gang territory to a safe neighborhood to play football, coached by a former NFL player, Billy Baker (Taye Diggs). After taking three buses to Beverly Hills, he hits it off with the coach’s daughter, the star receiver’s girlfriend, and even the coach’s son after some initial tension. Cue the theme music.
For some reason, I had somewhat high expectations for “Uncle Drew.” Now, I say that with the understanding that the movie consists of NBA players in prosthetic makeup to appear as old men. So it isn’t like I was expecting something phenomenal, but I did think it could be funny. What we get is a fine movie, but it’s forgettable and not something I plan on revisiting.
There are more good shows on TV than ever, but the traditional fall season has become the dumping ground for the least exciting new series – perhaps because they need the extra buzz of Fall TV Previews more than something with the cachet of an “Atlanta” or a “Fargo.” Still, some quality series rise to the surface: Recent years have given us “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “This Is Us,” along with glitzy franchise entries like “The Gifted” and assorted MCU efforts (“Iron Fist” and “Daredevil” boast new seasons this fall).
The Netflix series “GLOW” (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) is intriguing to me because of its ’80s pop look and feel. Apparently based on true events, the show centers on a down-and-out director and a cast of nobody actresses who are enlisted to create a ladies wrestling TV show. With just 10 half-hour episodes, we were able to burn through Season 1 fairly quickly when it premiered. It’s solid, with some pacing issues while the characters and stories are established, but overall it rates a 3/5.
The fall movie season arguably looks better than the summer season this year, with a nice mix of traditional fall films and a few scattered blockbusters – although a look at each film’s pedigree reveals this to still be the season of the auteur. Here are my picks for the top 10 movies to see:
If there’s an award for set design successfully mimicking reality, “Borg vs McEnroe” – now available on home video – should win it. I’ve seen the 1980 Wimbledon final on DVD, so I couldn’t help but watch the film’s final act with a technical eye. The art department obviously pored over the footage to re-create the details: the white tennis balls (even though they don’t show up well on screen), the wheelchair seats being practically on the court, the way the players’ chairs are at 90-degree angles to one another. Unfortunately, the film didn’t get a Coke sponsorship, so we miss out on the now-bizarre fact that players drank soda on changeovers.