The summer movie season of 2018 was exciting despite its fluctuating lineup of films. Big blockbusters performed impressively at the box office, but there were also a few intriguing films not in the limelight that are worth revisiting.
Avengers: Infinity War
This giant, $2 billion hit is one of the franchise’s best, and conflict has never felt more palpable or urgent. Instead of bringing Marvel’s 20+ heroes into one giant action set piece, the Russo brothers smartly separated groups of heroes and gave them their own B-plots. This decision helped pace the movie, providing some intriguing pairings, like Thor and Rocket Raccoon or Iron Man and Star-Lord. Josh Brolin’s performance as Thanos is the emotional core that held this somewhat messy film together and elevated it above the franchise’s mundane entries. The first installment of a two-part cinematic event, “Infinity War” is the culmination of Marvel Studios’ first 10 years of cinematic universe building.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Twenty-five years later, the magic of Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” has disappeared, and it appears that the remaining cast and crew are simply going through the motions with this passionless new entry “Fallen Kingdom” isn’t even as nostalgia-pandering as the last movie, which begs why it was made — except for obvious monetary reasons. A few interesting scenes couldn’t save the movie from its one-dimensional stereotypes and hilariously bad dialogue. The film hints at the potential for a franchise that has long overstayed its welcome. Yet, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a must-watch for fans of the original, even if only for another glimpse at its roaring dinosaurs.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Tom Cruise continues to push the boundaries of an action movie star at 56 years old with his own stunts in this franchise’s latest installment. Having previously scaled the Burj Khalifa and hanging on a plane taking off, fans know Cruise can do anything, despite his age. Like many of his movies, however, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” suffers from Cruise’s status as an A-list Hollywood star. Because he mostly relies on his public image, he cannot make Ethan Hunt a compelling character, which is highlighted within the intimate scenes that weigh the movie down to an average one.
Crazy Rich Asians
The $35 million (and counting) romantic comedy hit of the summer, “Crazy Rich Asians” is a breath of fresh air from pulse-pounding action set pieces and intense, introspective dramas. Paired with director Jon M. Chu’s masterful filmmaking, the diverse, talented cast elevates this movie from other romantic comedies. The glamorous scenes of Singapore and nuanced look into themes of cultural tradition, family and sacrifice, made this a breakout movie for so many rising stars, including first-time actor Henry Golding, British actress Gemma Chan, quirky comedian Awkwafina and “Fresh Off the Boat” star Constance Wu.
From the screenwriter of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” “First Reformed” is a deeply intense look at the conflicting relationship between religion and politics. The movie addresses these themes through a slow-burn story and carefully crafted conversations, requiring the audience’s full attention. Director Paul Schrader pushes the cast to their limits and delivers great performances from Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried and Cedric the Entertainer while Alexander Dynan’s cinematography provides the most gorgeous imagery since “Blade Runner 2049.” Not for the faint of heart, “First Reformed” resonates long after.
Former YouTube star and stand-up comedian Bo Burnham provides a snapshot of middle school with this directorial debut. Veering away from the John Hughes 80’s movies, “Eighth Grade” is reminiscent of “Lady Bird,” with its execution as a coming-of-age story. Burnham portrays the students, especially its star Elsie Fisher, as awkward and unsure of life. And Fisher’s dynamic relationship with her on-screen father Josh Hamilton provides the most sincere moments of the film. Audiences will find at least one element in the movie they can relate to through Burnham’s authentic direction.
Sorry to Bother You
After the cultural phenomenon of “Black Panther,” other like-minded individuals crafted love letters to Oakland that were much more authentic and engaging. As one of these love letters, “Sorry to Bother You” is easily one of the most original films of the year, as it is difficult to classify it in one genre. With insane twists and an Oscar-worthy performance from Armie Hammer (who feels reminiscent of Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa), Boots Riley’s voice as a director shines brightly, as he creates a truly bizarre and energetic experience.
A film nine years in the making, “Blindspotting” is the best movie of the year. Childhood friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal delve into current-day Oakland, discussing topics like police brutality and gentrification. They approach these topics with brutal honesty, while balancing the movie’s lighthearted tone. Taking a part from their rap careers, Diggs and Casal create upbeat characters who provide levity as they traverse through the changing environment. Despite underperforming financially, “Blindspotting” deserves more mainstream attention.