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, Rampage, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Venom, Upgrade

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The Endgame Starts In The First Avengers: Endgame Trailer

The wait for the next Avengers film, the next offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), was quite intense rivaling that of Avengers: Infinity War. But after being delayed by a couple of days the Avengers; Endgame trailer is finally here!

Now the big question is does it live up to the hype? No. That is to be expected because of all the build up following Avengers: Infinity War and what Avengers: Endgame represents. Still, this is a good, solid trailer that is a true teaser.

Basically it sets up what has happened in the aftermath of the Decimation (the official MCU word for Thanos’ Snapture). First we see Tony limping along home in the Benatar, the ship belonging to the Guardians of the Galaxy. He is at the end of his rope, defeated, food and water gone, and he is ready to say his goodbye to the mortal realm. A quick glimpse of Thanos then takes us to Earth where we see the aftermath as people struggle to cope with the fact that half of all life is now gone.

The remaining Avengers mourn the lost including Spider-Man and Shuri, Black Panther’s sister, who many have hoped would have been around to help salvage the situation. From there we witness the return of Hawkeye, missing during Avengers: Infinity War, but now taking up the mantle of Ronin.

The last moments show us a determined Black Widow and Captain America ready to undertake a final, desperate mission…cut to the title reveal. Lastly, a moment of much needed levity arrives. Scott Lang aka Ant-Man literally shows up on the doorstep of the Avengers’ headquarters with the machine that can save everyone. That is the quantum bridge machine that stranded him in the quantum realm as shown in the post-credits scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Obviously, Scott found a way out and thus his importance rises in the MCU. Of course, that is the way it should be: a plucky, underpowered hero will be the key to victory.

The trailer for Avengers: Endgame isn’t explosive or jammed with appearances ofall the MCU heroes as the first Infinity War trailer was. But it shouldn’t have been. It needed to give us a sense of despair and hopelessness and it did so perfectly. Then, it delivered a sliver of hope with Ant-Man’s arrival. It was similar to how the post-credits scene in Avengers: Infinity War ended on a hopfule note the summoning of Captain Marvel. Speaking of her, she was unexpectedly absent from this trailer, as was Rocket Raccoon, one of the survivors of the Snapture. But they’ll probably appear in the next trailer. On a related note, aside from a quick look at Spider-Man (or rather Peter Parker), none of the Decimation victims are shown. This is appropriate because we know in the end they’ll be brought back but the focus should be on the survivors. So kudos to the trailer for not featuring them taking part in some dazzling fight scene and undermining their supposed deaths in Infinity War.

On the whole, it’s not the best trailer, but it’s the one that hits the right note for the mood it sought to convey. Can’t wait for the next one! That’ll probably happen during the Super Bowl. In case you haven’t seen the Avengers: Endgame trailer yet, here it is for your viewing pleasure. But if you’ve seen it before, check it out again, it’s quite awesome.

Top 10 MCU Villains

mcu villains

The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are beloved by many but one complaint lodged against the MCU is over its villains. Critics point out that the main flaw with the MCU films are its lightweight villains. This is a valid criticism since many times the MCU films featured forgettable foes that didn’t resonate with viewers. However, there are some truly outstanding villains in the MCU, and some underrated ones, as well, that have broken this mold lately. Here for your consideration are the best MCU villains. Needless to say spoilers will follow.

Thaddeus Ross

10. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (The Incredible Hulk)

Obsessed and prejudiced against superpowered beings, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) has proved to be a hindrance to superheroes in the MCU. First as a general in The Incredible Hulk, Ross played a Javert-type by relentlessly chasing Bruce Banner throughout the Americas. His actions led to the creation of the Abomination and fractured his relationship with his daughter, Betty.

Ross next turned up in Captain America: Civil War as an obtuse Secretary of State determined to bring all the superpowered beings of the world under control by imposing the Sokovia Accords. This truncation of freedom and individual rights put him at odds with Steve Rogers and his teammates, which ultimately led to the Avengers breaking up.

Hela

9. TIE: Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)/Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)

These two are prime examples of villains crazed with world conquest. Hela is the Asgardian Goddess of Death who destroyed Thor’s hammer, conquered Asgard and helped cause its destruction. More than a match for her half brother, Thor, she was portrayed with great gusto by Cate Blanchett.

Born in the fires of World War II, the Red Skull/Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) outgrew the Nazis and formed the Hydra terrorist organization thanks to his severe nihilistic mindset and access to superweapons. While not as layered as other villains on this list, the Red Skull in the first Captain America film was quite memorable and his recent reintroduction into the MCU sparked new interest in him.

8. Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3)

Despite the controversy surrounding the third Iron Man film, it can’t be denied that Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) was not only the best Iron Man villain to date but one of the MCU’s top foes. Not only was Killian a notorious business competitor to Tony Stark, but he was the mastermind behind A.I.M. and the Mandarin. His machinations to topple the U.S. government and destroy Tony Stark by implementing the Mandarin’s terrorist campaign are nothing short of genius.

However, it was his vendetta against Stark that made Killian somewhat relatable. Years ago, Killian was a nerdy scientist who was dismissed by a pre-Iron Man Stark. This inspired him to achieve Stark’s level of success and fueled his hatred for Stark. This bit of history also illustrated how Stark’s callous past had caught up to him in Iron Man 3 and nearly undid him.

7. Alexander Pierce (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

As the U.S. Secretary of Defense (the MCU is a fertile ground for evil politicians, isn’t it?), Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) developed a S.H.I.E.L.D. project using preemptive strikes that targeted world leaders and important figures like Tony Stark and Stephen Strange.

What is worse is that his actions against Steve Rogers and his supposed friend Nick Fury revealed that Pierce was a Hydra leader who had infiltrated and corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D. to its core. A big factor in his successful infiltration was his charming exterior which hid his cold interior. What made Pierce even more frightening and formidable were his immense resources and clout. He actually had the law on his side, which he used to take out to try to take out Captain America and his allies.

6. The Winter Soldier (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Nowadays it may be difficult to think of Steve Rogers’ BFF as a villain, but that was not the case in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the first Captain America film, James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastain Stan) was Steve’s Depression-era buddy and joined him in World War II before ultimately dying in the line of duty. Or so we thought.

The second Captatin America film resurrected Barnes as a vicious and brainwashed Hydra assassin who was more than a match for Captain America. He even caught Cap’s famed shield in mid-air as it was thrown at him! The level of ruthlessness and deadly skills he displayed was as intimidating for us to watch as it was for the film’s heroes to endure. At the same time we felt for Steve and Bucky because of their past history and the fact that Bucky was forced by Hydra to carry out heinous acts.

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Marvel Studios Welcomes The X-Men And The Fantastic Four

This past Friday, shareholders from both 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company officially approved Disney’s offer to buy a significant portion of 20th Century Fox. There are many reasons and benefits for Disney acquiring the rival entertainment company but one of them especially interests superhero fans. That is that now Disney and Marvel Studios can use the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties whose film rights were held by Fox. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the most formidable shared cinematic universe will now be a superpower and Marvel Studios will take full advantage of its acquisitions. So what lies ahead for Marvel Studios? Let’s explore.

Enter The Mutants

The X-Men are the biggest prize for Marvel Studios since they are very popular with fans and the mutants’ absence in the MCU has been glaring. That didn’t stop the film studio from producing quality films it is just that it annoyed many that the studio, which proved it cared about its characters, were unable to feature the mutants. Meanwhile, while Fox did put out some fine films like Logan and Deadpool, their films were hit or miss. At times it was obvious that Fox did not appreciate or understand the mutants and often the adaptations were not faithful, at best. Other times we were presented with dire schlock like X-Men Origins: Wolverine that did a textbook character assassination on Deadpool.

young x-men

Now that Disney and Marvel have the mutants under their fold, the question is what to do with them? The Disney heads made it clear the mutants would be folded into the MCU though there is a good argument for keeping the mutants in their own separate universe. That is because a core concept of the mutants in the Marvel Comics is that they have existed alongside humanity for a very long time. For obvious reasons there hasn’t been any evidence of mutants to date in the MCU with the closest analogy being the Inhumans as shown on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans. So how could it be that mutants have existed in the MCU all this time? Where were they during the events of Avengers: Infinity War? A separate argument can be made for the MIA characters from the TV side of the MCU like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but that is another story.

The way forward is to have mutants being a recent phenomena in the MCU that came about from the events of Thanos’ finger snap in Avengers: Infinity War. Another is to tie them with the Eternals, a property that the film studio is reportedly exploring. The Eternals storyline about alien Celestials experimenting on prehistoric humans and leaving them with a genetic time bomb that explodes into mutantkind during modern times is an avenue worth considering. Or have it that mutants have existed all along, but are very rare and stay hidden, which would go nicely with Logan/Wolverine and Professor X, and that for some reason more mutants have become more prevalent. This mystery could be explored over several films, perhaps as post-credit scenes. Being that it will take some time to properly redo the X-Men, mutants could be gradually introduced in other films and the fourth MCU phase could culminate in an Avengers vs. X-Men film. That could be a perfect way to launch a new series of X-films.

A casualty of the Disney acquisition are the upcoming Fox mutant films Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants. Both were supposed to come out this year, but have been delayed until next year. The latest rumors have it that both films are considered by insiders as bad as the infamous Fant4stic and that they may be scrapped altogether or be dumped on streaming services. It’s too early to say but the films now seem like unwanted children without any future. Dark Phoenix will be the swan song of the proper Fox X-Men films and it might not even feature the word “X-Men” in its final title to avoid associations with future MCU X-Men films. The New Mutants has gained the stink of being a troubled film laden with extensive reshoots and that doesn’t bode well. Its fate may depend on how Dark Phoenix fares. If Dark Phoenix fails, whether as a theatrical release or a streaming release, then expect The New Mutants to disappear like the infamous Roger Corman film version of the Fantastic Four.

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Ant-Man And The Wasp Is A Lighthearted MCU Entry With Big Laughs, Adventure And Sight Gags

Ant-Man and the Wasp is the sequel to the better-than-it-should-have-been Ant-Man and the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film after Avengers: Infinity War. Following the somber feeling from that epic MCU film, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a welcome lighthearted film.

Paul Rudd reprises his likeable role of Scott Lang/Ant-Man, a former thief and fledgling superhero who dons a special suit that lets him control his size. Due to his actions in Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang is under house arrest, which explains why he didn’t appear in Avengers: Infinity War.

He is contacted by his former lover, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), and her father, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), for help in rescuing Pym’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). As seen in the first Ant-Man during a flashback and this sequel, Janet used a similar suit like Scott’s to shrink down to subatomic levels and was lost. In Ant-Man, Scott shrunk down to this level but was able to return to our realm and it turns out he has a some kind of link with Janet.

What’s impeding his efforts to help out the Pyms are his complications from his house arrest, dealing with criminals who want to steal the shrinking tech and a mysterious figure called the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). The last character was affected from exposure to the quantum realm and now phases in and out of reality like her namesake. So, now the Ghost wants to steal the tech herself to cure her affliction, and is the primary antagonist.

Honestly, the villains are the main problem with this film. They come off as more like annoyances or obstacles than genuine threats. The film tries to make the Ghost somewhat sympathetic, but it’s hard to feel anything for her. As for the thugs (led by Walton Goggins), they are just one-note villains who do not seem very imposing. This is quite disheartening considering that the MCU films have lately featured interesting foes. It seemed like Marvel Studios was taking to heart the criticisms about the MCU villains being weak, but now this film is a setback in that regard.

It’s a shame because the sequel did not need these villains. At its heart, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fast-paced rescue film with lots of laughs. Much of that humor comes from Paul Rudd’s comedic timing and the scene-stealing Michael Peña, who returns to his role of Luis, Scott’s friend and ex-con. Peña is a breath of fresh air and livens up most of the scenes he appears in. Many scenes with him and Rudd are hysterical and frankly, an entire film could be made with just the two characters interacting with each other.

The other actors also do well with their roles like Paul Rudd, who is a natural choice for playing the slightly silly everyman type. Lily’s Hope Van Dyne more than proves that she is a powerhouse of a hero and we’re left wondering why did it take so long for her to appear as the Wasp in the MCU. A lot of gravitas is added by Douglas, and in smaller roles Pfeiffer and Lawrence Fishburne as Pym’s former colleague.

There are many enjoyable features in this sequel. It moves briskly, exudes adventure, wild sight gags, and as noted before, is quite funny. It’s just too bad that the filmmakers felt the need to shoehorn in the weak villains. They took time away from the narrative flow and the rescue efforts. Also, we don’t see as much of the quantum realm as we would have liked. This mysterious and fascinating reality was teased in Ant-Man and it deserved to be explored more given that it may factor in the next Avengers film.

Perhaps if a third Ant-Man film is produced more time could be spent in the realm. One thing that is worth pointing out is that the stature of Ant-Man has certainly increased since his first outing. He has now become an established hero in his own right within the MCU.

Other than that Ant-Man and the Wasp is a refreshing and goofy pallet-cleanser for the MCU. Some may consider this film to be an inconsequential filler, but it’s a big-hearted change of pace for fans looking for some escape this summer.

Lewis T. Grove