Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2018

This year had a splendid offering of memorable films and TV shows. We are truly living in a golden age of geekdom with so many films and TV shows to choose from. These are the best of 2018; keep in mind this list is purely subjective and if you have your own list, be sure to leave a comment.

Films

10. Incredibles 2:

incredibles 2

It took over a decade but it was worth the wait! Like the original film, Incredibles 2 delighted us and had us laughing with its family situations and high-octane superheroics.

9. Hereditary:

The creepiest horror film of the year unsettled us with its haunting imagery and scenes. This tale of demonic forces assaulting a fragile family will keep you up late into the night.

8. Ralph Wrecks the Internet:

This joyful sequel to Wreck-It Ralph takes the oversized and loveable video game titular character to new digital frontiers. His humorous journey into the Internet was fantastic to watch with all the puns and satires about the world wide web.

7. Black Panther:

black panther at wakanda

Marvel Studios delivered another stirring superhero film that was highlighted with its political/royal drama and was a genuine cultural phenomenon when it was released. Michael B. Jordan’s turned in a bravura performance as Killmonger, the bitter challenger to King T’Challa/Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) throne.

6. Solo: A Star Wars Story:

solo and chewie at bar

Too bad the backlash over The Last Jedi and other factors doomed this Star Wars spinoff film that explored Han Solo’s early days. It captured the adventurous spirit of Star Wars that was missing lately thanks to its adventurous tone, Ron Howard’s expert direction and inspired performances. This included Alden Ehrenreich who pulled off a near impossible task of emulating a younger version of our favorite space pirate.

5. Aquaman:

Aquaman and Mera

The DCEU’s sole superhero film of 2018 was bold, splashy, action-packed, outrageous (cue the octopus playing drums!), but most of all fun. Aquaman singlehandedly resurrected the DCEU with this sprawling epic.

Its bright color palate, sweeping underwater landscapes, and breakneck pace made it stand out from the other DCEU films with imagery that captured the spirit of Avatar and Star Wars. Aquaman proved that DC and Warner Bros. can deliver a popular and crowd-pleasing superhero movie just like their competitor.

4. A Quiet Place:

Director and star John Krasinski kept audiences petrified in their seats with this sci-fi/horror classic about a family living in an Earth overrun by voracious alien creatures that hunt by sound. The premise of the family not being able to make noise underlined the unbearable tension throughout the film.

At the same time, A Quiet Place was memorable because it endeared us to the family in the film as they struggled to survive such a situation.

3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:

The greatest animated film of the year was a true surprise given how little it was regarded when it was first announced. After all, this was not Disney who was behind this film. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse popped out immediately with unique animation that literally brought a comic book story to life.

However, its involving story about Spider-Man’s successor, Miles Morales, learning the ropes and struggling to live up to a legend just crushed it. Hands down, it’s one of the best Spider-Man films to date.

2. Ready Player One:

Director Steven Spielberg shows us that he still is the master of cinema with this adaptation of Ernest Cline’s book about a young man adventures in the virtual world that is bursting with countless pop culture references and Easter eggs. How many viewings will it take to spot them all?

Ready Player One is a loving ode to geek and gaming culture that respects and celebrates it. The film is also a noteworthy addition to Spielberg’s impressive library of genre films as it displayed many of his visual touches and directing techniques that catapulted Spielberg to prominence.

1. Avengers: Infinity War:

The culmination of ten years of the MCU was certainly an unforgettable epic. It captured the mood of those sweeping comic book epic storylines with its all-star cast of actors and characters that was any fanboy and fangirl’s dream come true.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo pulled off a miracle by keeping the pace smooth and intense while giving the heroes their own engaging moments. Any praise for Avengers: Infinity War is not complete without mentioning the chilling, menacing presence of the film’s villain, Thanos. Josh Brolin and the effects masters brought to life one of the greatest comic book film villains with an unforgettable mo-cap performance. More importantly Avengers: Infinity War presented a complex character study with Thanos’ mad quest to kill half the universe.

Honorable Mentions:

Annihilation, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Bumblebee, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Isle of Dogs, Overlord, Rampage, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Venom, Upgrade

Continue reading

One Reason Why Fear The Walking Dead Failed

The bloom is off the rose for The Walking Dead as a franchise while ratings continue to slide. But the franchise is in even more dire straits when considering its spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, which is a failure. The fourth season begins this weekend and the marketing is hyping up that it will feature a crossover with the addition of Morgan (Lennie James) from The Walking Dead. Ages ago, that would have created intense online activity among fans, but there is hardly any buzz going on about the show and its latest developments. The ratings are anemic, especially when compared to its sister series.

There are many reasons for why the spinoff has been poorly received and they are valid. They include unlikeable characters, uninteresting scripts and a failure to reproduce the tension and thrills of the classic seasons of The Walking Dead. Keeping that in mind, there is one main reason why Fear the Walking Dead does not work and it is because it fails as a proper prequel.

The justification for prequels is that they are supposed to help explain the story and characters of the main source. They go into the background of established characters and embellish them and their world.  Like them or not, the Star Wars prequels are excellent examples. Sure they’re derided but they accomplished the goal of delving into the history of Darth Vader and the fall of the Galactic Republic, which were events not shown in the original trilogy.

When it was first announced, it was accepted that Fear the Walking Dead would not examine the backgrounds of the famous characters in The Walking Dead. So Daryl Dixon’s mysterious backstory would remain obscure and any insights into the main characters would only exist as flashback sequences. Instead the prequel would focus on all-new characters in a different locale in a different time.

When Fear the Walking Dead first premiered, there was hope that an explanation would be given for why the dead were reanimating into mindless flesheaters. People wanted to see how civilization actually collapsed, which had already occurred by the time Rick Grimes woke up from his coma and met Morgan in the pilot of The Walking Dead.

But that did not happen with this prequel series. After some dull early episodes that did not give us any answers about the walkers, the show took a time jump to a point where society already disappeared. This left the show looking too much like The Walking Dead as it copied its premise: a bunch of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world full of the undead, only badly done.

Frankly, we get that already in The Walking Dead. Why bother watching Fear the Walking Dead if it only offers the same thing, but less compelling? The prequel is not different enough to justify its existence, which is why it has largely been abandoned by the dwindling fans. Thinking about it, the prequel’s existence can be thought of when the original show started its decline. It could have gone another route if creator Robert Kirkman allowed some kind of explanation for the walker outbreak. But that is not going to happen and despite Morgan’s addition to the castt, it is probably too late to salvage it and the showrunners should concentrate on the original show.

 

The Cloverfield Conundrum

A lot of the buzz generated from the Super Bowl centered on the Netflix premiere of The Cloverfield Paradox. It was anticipated by many fans of the Cloverfield movies since it promised that it would explain the first Cloverfield film. Well, the film left many people confused as to what it all meant. Sure, it was the weakest of the Cloverfield films, but it explained how the three films are connected, though it was done clumsily. Ahead of this will be major spoilers for all three Cloverfield films.

The Cloverfield saga started ten years ago with the release of the first film, which at the time before its release was kept in secrecy. A bunch of clues about the film’s content was teased and after the film came out, many obsessed over the origin of the giant Cloverfield monster that wrecked New York City. As time passed and no sequels appeared, interest died off until a couple of years ago when the film 10 Cloverfield Lane was suddenly released. Originally, the dark, atmospheric thriller did not have any connection to the first film until vague Easter eggs were added. But the sci-fi angle confused fans. The giant kaiju from the first film never appeared, instead the world was threatened by invading aliens.

The Cloverfield Paradox (originally called God Particle) offered an explanation as to what caused these events. As viewers know, The Cloverfield Paradox takes place in a space station that uses a Hadron Collider to solve the world’s energy problems in the near future. This transports the station  into an alternate reality where World War III breaks out on Earth and the crewmembers spend the film figuring this out and trying to find a way back to their own dimension. When the surviving crew returns to their own reality the big reveal at the end is that their world is under attack by a super giant Cloverfield monster.

Many viewers were perplexed. The film takes place in the near future, so how come no one remembered the first Cloverfield film or the alien invasion from the second film? The answer is simple, the experiment on the space station ripped open the barriers between dimensions that affected the past (Cloverfield in 2008), present (10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016 for our present, more or less) and future (The Cloverfield Paradox or the third film’s present). This was foreshadowed early in the film by a conspiracy writer that this event would occur and the world would be invaded by monsters, aliens and demons. Note that the fourth upcoming Cloverfield film, called for now Overlord, takes place in World War II and deals with Nazis and the supernatural, so that writer’s claims about demons and the past being affected could be applied there. Who knows, maybe we’re next?

The Cloverfield Paradox has many problems, not just that the Cloverfield connections were obviously inserted into the film. But at least there’s an explanation for the bizarre sci-fi events in the film anthology.

Waldermann Rivera

Runaways Emphasizes Characters At The Expense Of Superhero Antics

runaways poster

Marvel Studios’ first streaming TV show on Hulu, Runaways, has finished its first 10-episode season.  Now that the show has finished its run (don’t fret, Runaways has been renewed for a second season), it’s time to review the show. In a nutshell, Runaways is enjoyable if not especially outstanding.

Runaways is based on the recent Marvel Comics teenage “superhero” team created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona. Fans of the comic book characters know that the group of teenagers are not actually superheroes. They don’t use code names or wear goofy outfits and there are less fisticuffs in their adventures, which the show faithfully recreates. By the way, this adaptation is supposedly set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) though you would not know it. It has almost no reference to the MCU, not even vague mentions of “The Incident” as in the Netflix Marvel shows. However, how people react to the demonstration of superpowers and wild situations is not consistent in the MCU that has aliens, public superheroes and other fantastic people. It might as well not be set in the MCU. Instead, the emphasis is more on the characters and their immediate world of L.A. The basic story is that several well-off teenagers with wildly different personalities  discover that their parents are actually supervillains. Horrified, the teenagers band together, rebel against their elders and go on the run.

The TV adaptation more or less follows this premise though no one runs away until the final episode that just streamed (“Hostile”). This made the entire first season feel like a set up for the really interesting stuff. For example, “Hostile” featured the best moments between Gertrude Yorkes (Ariela Barer) and her pet raptor and the dinosaur finally had some screen presence. The raptor seemed more like a character than a CG/puppet creation. But putting aside the lack of thrills, Runaways is a different animal than the comic books in that by not having the kids run away until the final episode, it focuses on their relationships with each other and their parents. If that sounds like mopey teenage drama then you are correct. Although, it’s well done and holds your attention.

What helps are the writing and most of the acting. While the kids are newcomers they are surprisingly good in their roles such as Barer, Rhenzy Feliz (as Alex Wilder), Gregg Sulkan (as Chase Stein) and Lyrica Okano (as Nico Minoru), the parents steal the spotlight many times. Instead of presenting the parents as mustache-twirling villains like in the comics, they’re more dimensional and grounded here. You understand that they live in a grey world where they’re forced to make questionable decisions. These were done, for the most part, to provide a good future for everyone, but the consequences of their choices have come to haunt them and alienate their children. There is a mystery of what their true motives are, but that gets a bit muddled. The parents’ machinations and how the Runaways react to them sometimes slows the show’s pace. Adding to the drawbacks is the mid-season introduction of Jonah (Julian McMahon), a mysterious and super-powered person running things for his own purposes. If anyone screams “bad guy” it’s this character. Unlike Jonah, the parents are more nuanced and well acted. Standouts include Annie Wersching, Ryan Sands, Kevin Weisman, Bridgid Brannagh and James Marsters.

Strangely, for a show about teenage superhumans (for the most part), the weakest moments are when they actually go into action. This happens exactly two times in the first season, which will surely disappoint anyone expecting another Daredevil, but it’s for the best. When the Runaways used their superpowers against an opponent, their actions were quite dull and unrealistic. Basically, they would stand around and use their powers one at a time. Blame it on the budget, but this became a drawback. The other episodes are spent with the Runaways dealing with their hormones, parent issues, and your typical teenage angst.

Make no mistake, Runaways is  pretty interesting and put together well, even if it’s not groundbreaking. As these season finales go, this one raised more questions than gave answers. All of it just to set up a second season, though it could leave you feeling frustrated because just as things pick up significantly, the episode ends. Hopefully the second season will be here before we know it and provide satisfying answers while ramping up the dilemmas of the Runaways…and their parents.

Waldermann Rivera

 

The Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2018

Lately, it seems as if there are more and more sci-fi, fantasy and horror films. This year is not any different since we have so many upcoming films to choose from. As usual, superhero fare rules, especially the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, but along with them are other films that make up the top ten most anticipated films of 2018. Some of these films will turn out to be huge disappointments while others, maybe not even mentioned here, will exceed expectations. As always, keep in mind that the release dates for these films might change.

10. Captive State (Aug. 17):  

Very little is known about this film, but the premise and the talent behind it are topnotch. Rupert Wyatt (director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes) directs this look at life in Chicago under alien occupation. The film stars Vera Framiga and John Goodman as part of a human group that includes collaborators and dissidents.

9. Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25):

Ordinarily a Star Wars film would be on the top of highly anticipated film list, but behind-the-scenes mishaps (which included the original directors being fired) and a divisive reception of Star Wars: The Last Jedi have cast a suspicious eye on this production. Still, Lucasfilm veteran Ron Howard is directing it. Maybe he can salvage Solo.

8. A Quiet Place (April 8):

What makes this horror film stand out is the disquieting and nearly silent trailer that features a lone family hiding in a cabin in silence. Why do they have to be quiet? What terror lies outside their home? Let the imagination run wild.

7. Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6):

The sequel to Ant-Man returns the same players that made the first film an unexpected and fun hit. This time out, Hope Pym suits up as the Wasp and takes her place among the pantheons of Marvel Comics’ legendary heroes as she and Ant-Man undertake another perilous mission.

6. Deadpool 2 (June 1):

Pay attention, this could be last, unfiltered version of Deadpool in the big screen before Disney cleans up his foul mouth and tones down the over-the-top violence. Even without that, this film looks like it will continue the same outrageous violence, fourth-wall breaking laughs and adult humor that the first Deadpool reveled in two years ago.

5. Pacific Rim: Uprising (March 23):

After the first Pacific Rim didn’t perform well in theaters, fans of the kaiju film feared there would not be a sequel. Fortunately, those concerns have been alleviated with this followup that stars John Boyega as the pilot of the gigantic robot Gipsy Avenger against even more dangerous kaijus from another dimension.

4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22):

Chris Pratt returns to his other big-tent genre franchise in this followup to 2015’s Jurassic World, which brought back the Jurassic Park franchise from extinction. Now, the dinosaur island of Isla Nublar is endangered by an active volcano and a new, dangerous hybrid dinosaur. Doesn’t man ever learn? Besides that, the popular character Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) returns to the franchise, and that alone is reason to watch Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Jurassic-World-Fallen-Kingdom-Volcano-and-T-Rex

3. Incredibles 2 (June 15):

The best animated version of the Fantastic Four ever done finally gets a sequel in Pixar’s latest effort. All that is known is that Incredibles 2 takes place right after the first film and features the same superhero family lineup. With original director Brad Bird behind the helm it’s a guarantee that Incredibles 2 will be better received unlike those unwanted sequels to Cars.

2. Ready Player One (March 30):

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg directs this adaptation of Ernest Cline’s book of the same name where a poor teen in the future competes in a virtual reality world for the ultimate prize…control of the VR world. The trailers were astounding with all the imagery and Easter eggs of popular genre characters and vehicles like the Iron Giant and the DeLorean from Back to the Future. This mashup of Tron and Willy Wonka will hopefully blow our eyes and minds.

1. Avengers: Infinity War (May 4):

Marvel Studios celebrates ten years of superhero films with the culmination of its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Epic does not begin to describe the long-awaited teaming up of the MCU heroes against the cosmic threat of Thanos. We’ve been waiting for this moment for ten years when the the MCU came into being and we were teased with the Thanos threat since the end of the first Avengers film. The recently released trailer gave us a hint of the mammoth scale of what our many heroes will face. The idea alone of most, if not all, the MCU heroes to date appearing together in one film is enough to crown Avengers: Infinity War as the most anticipated film of 2018. Just don’t expect any mutants or anyone from the Marvel TV shows to show up in Avengers: Infinity War.

Other Films: Annihilation (Feb. 23), Ex Machina director, Alex Garland, helms this adaption of the Jeff VanderMeer novel about a science team exploring a mysterious land with unknown life;

Black Panther (Feb. 16), the latest Marvel Comics superhero gets his own action-packed solo film after his explosive debut in Captain America: Civil War;

The New Mutants (April 13), Marvel Comics’ young mutants make their big-screen debut in a horror film;

God Particle (April. 20), the mysterious third film in the loose Cloverfield trilogy has had its scheduled release date changed a couple of times already and there are rumors of title change. Sounds alarming, but its premise of stranded astronauts surviving Earth’s destruction sounds promising, so hopefully the film will turn out fine;

Rampage (April 20), The Rock stars in the adaptation of the arcade game about a giant ape (and two other giant animals) causing havoc in a city. Where else would he do this? Anyway, judging from the trailer it looks like mindless fun;

Alita: Battle Angel (July 22), James Cameron produces and Robert Rodriguez directs the long-awaited live-action adaptation of the manga classic. They better hope this one does not become this year’s Ghost in the Shell.

The Predator (Aug. 3), former Predator actor turned director Shane Black brings us the latest entry in the Predator films. Maybe Dutch can finally appear in a cameo;

The Meg (Aug. 10), move over Sharknado! This Jason Statham thriller brings the action star face to face with a prehistoric giant shark;

Alpha (Sept. 14), so how did dog become man’s best friend? This film tells the story of how man and dog first bonded in the prehistoric past;

Venom (Oct. 12), Tom Hardy stars as the title anti-hero in Sony’s attempt to create its own Spider-Man-themed cinematic universe;

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Nov. 2), possibly the final X-Men team film from Fox before Disney folds the mutant superheros into their MCU;

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Nov. 16), the further fantastic adventures of Newt Scamander in the Harry Potter universe;

fantastic beasts 2

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Nov. 21), Disney’s beloved video game villain returns in this sequel to Wreck-It Ralph;

Mortal Engines (Dec. 14), Peter Jackson produces this futuristic tale of giant, mobile cities in a post-apocalyptic landscape;

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Dec. 14), the first Spider-Man animated film features the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man;

Aquaman (Dec. 21), the sole DCEU entry for the year is a solo venture starring Jason Mamoa as the troubled king of Atlantis.

There you have it, a lot of films to look forward to, including some that were left out that could still turn out to be great. Have a wonderful 2018 and enjoy these and other films.

For Oliver

José Soto