My Year in Review: 2018 Movie Edition

I normally watch more tv shows than movies, but I am very happy that I was able to watch a variety of different kinds of movies in 2018. I was able to watch movies that were released in 2018 and older, to Asian films. I also was able to watch more Filipino films than before, and was able to catch four of them during particular film festivals. (I am also very happy that Filipino and Asian media is becoming more accessible on a more global scale, and I’m so happy that Filipino films are making their way onto Netflix.) So, without further ado, here’s my list of films that I watched this year in chronological order. (Don’t worry, it’s less massive than the TV Edition Post).

Image Source: Ang Larawan Facebook Page

I started the movie year right with “Ang Larawan” (“The Portrait”), the movie musical adaptation of the musical of the same name that was based off of the iconic play “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino”. This was part of the annually held Metro Manila Film Festival. It was a well made period piece featuring veterans of the stage such as Rachel Alejandro and Joanna Ampil, and a must watch for anyone who wants to watch Filipino films, understand their culture and their history. It was directed by Loy Arcenas, with music by National Artist Ryan Cayabyab.

Image Source: Jumanji Movie Official Facebook Page

Being a big fan of the original “Jumanji” movie, I was cautiously optimistic about this new reboot. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised as “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” was actually a really fun watch, and not a bad second movie of the year for me. I think that what really worked was that aside from adopting the usual tropes of Jumanji and action-adventure movies, it stood apart as it decided to poke fun at tropes that happen within video games, giving it a fresh new twist. Also, the main cast, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas gelled well together and it felt that they had a great time making this movie together. It was directed by Jake Kasdan; with a story by Chris McKenna; and with a screenplay by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner.

Image Source: Lord of the Rings Facebook Page

I am a HUGE fan of “The Lord of the Rings” franchise, from the books to the movies (although most of “The Hobbit” movies weren’t good), so I decided that it was high time for me to actually delve into Middle Earth once more by reading the books, watching the Extended Versions of the entire trilogy, and watching all the bonus DVD material which gave me a crash course into how this cinematic masterpiece was made. Now that I’ve seen the extended versions, I can never go back to watching the theatrical cuts! Embarking on this epic journey just solidified my love for this franchise, and I might just make watching the Extended Trilogy an annual thing.

Image Source: Black Panther Facebook Page

I knew very little about the character of T’Challa or the Black Panther, but I heard enough to get me intrigued about it. This film not only broke barriers with their casting choices, but it gave us a solid supherhero movie with great characters, especially in Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, who is one of the few really great villains in the MARVEL Cinematic Universe. It also starred Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Danai Gurira, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, and Daniel Kaluuya. It was directed by Ryan Coogler, and inspired by Te’Neshi Coates’ run of the character in the comics. The screenplay was written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole.

Image Source: Cinemalaya Official Website

Last February, I was fortunate enough to be able to go attend a screening of Loy Arcenas’ directorial debut work, “Nino”, which was released in 2011, as part of a retrospective film festival about Arcenas’ films. He also directed “Ang Larawan”. He and one of the leading ladies of the film were present, and answered some questions about the film. We got to know the creative process that went into coming up with the film. This movie was highly indicative of his potential and the subject matter that he likes to focus on- family. Here, we see the plight of an elderly brother and sister who used to be wealthy, and how their family begins to break down and secrets come out as the family patriarch slowly dies, and with the impending sale of the estate coming up.

Image Source: Fullmetal Alchemist Official Tumblr

As a fan of the manga and the anime of “Fullmetal Alchemist”, I knew that I had to see this, but also tried to lower my expectations at the same time so that I wouldn’t be too disappointed. The result was that there were some parts that I liked, but there was also a lot to be desired from it as well. Also, Yamada Ryouske was wearing a very ill-fitting wig. The CGI, however, was well done. Not as horrible as I thought it would be, but just an okay adaptation with a lot of improvements needed to be worked on if they do green light a sequel.

Image Source: Tomb Raider Movie Facebook Page

I enjoyed “Tomb Raider” because Alicia Vikander gave us a Lara Croft that wasn’t too sexy like Angelina Jolie, which made for an interesting and refreshing interpretation of the character on the big screen. I also liked that Lara wasn’t as polished yet, as this is just the beginning of her adventures. I enjoyed this movie for what it was, I did feel that it broke the “video game adaptation curse”, and was a fun movie date with my father.

Image Source: A Wrinkle In Time Facebook Page

I have loved the book version of “A Wrinkle in Time” ever since I first read it in grade school, and until now, is one of my favorite books of all time. I was cautiously optimistic about the movie reboot, and was excited about the loaded cast and that Ava DuVernay was going to direct it. However, when I actually saw it on the big screen, I was very disappointed with it, to the point that I spent half of the movie annoyed. I felt like they went too far with their own interpretations and that they missed the actual point that the original author wanted to put across. “A Wrinkle in Time” is one of the most disappointing movies I have seen in quite a long time, and for this year.

Image Source: Annihilation Facebook Page

“Annihilation”, hands down, is one of the best films that I watched in 2018, and the second movie since 2017’s “Blade Runner 2049” that got me excited about hard core sci fi movies. I loved everything about this film, and there was something just mesmerizing about it. However, aside from the metaphors that were rife in this film, I particularly loved that surreal little dance number somewhere towards the end.

Image Source: Birdshot Facebook Page

Before a whole slew of Filipino movies came out late last year, “Birdshot” was one of the first few Filipino movies to come out on Netflix. It was directed by Mikhail Red, and is jam packed with powerful performances, a great story, great cinematography and direction. This coming of age thriller tells the story of a young girl who kills a Philippine Eagle, and two cops who end up on the case after being removed from a big case that the higher ups are covering up. The result is a film that juxtaposes the beauty of nature with the harsh brutalities of life and corruption, subjects that are always tackled in Filipino films, but done in a very different way. Definitely a must watch!

Image Source: Ready Player One Facebook Page

While not a perfect movie, the movie adaptation of “Ready Player One” was a fun roller coaster ride of nostalgia and geek references. Aside from trying put across a very relevant message, this movie saw the return of form for Steven Spielberg. It was a fun film that fully engaged its audience, and I can’t for what he’ll be doing next.

Image Source: Roman J. Israel, Esq. Facebook Page

For the month of April, as it was Autism Acceptance/Awareness Month, I decided to a mini little project involving my other blog, The Asian Aspergirl, by taking a look at how Asperger’s Syndrome is portrayed in movies, starting with Dan Gilroy’s “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”. Denzel Washington was nominated for an Oscar for this role, and I agree with that as his performance was amazing! However, unfortunately, this movie was more of a character study than a great film.

Image Source: Mary and Max Facebook Page

Aside from the beauty that this old school stop motion film had, “Mary and Max” was raw, powerful, and had one of the best interpretations of Asperger’s Syndrome I have seen in a film. Aside from that, it was a beautiful film, technically speaking, and the lifelong friendship between these two misfits was nothing short of beautiful.

Image Source: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Facebook Page

A refreshing and different take on the aftermath of 9/11, this film followed a young boy on the spectrum as he embarks on a journey after discovering a mysterious key in his father’s closet. Afterwards, not only is he finally able to let go of his father, but discovers a long lost family member, and is able to help the others he meets along the way. This portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome is the one I identified with the most, and I loved how they built up the dramatic tension to one big meltdown during the turning point of the film. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was directed by Stephen Daldry.

Image Source: Asperger’s Are Us Facebook Page

Watching this documentary, “Asperger’s Are Us”, for the second time was just as amazing as when I watched it for the very first time. It follows four friends with Asperger’s who have a comedy troupe, and incorporate that in their humor as well. It’s a very different way of coping and accepting it, while at the same time shows us how our strengths can be used to make something great.

Image Source: My Name is Khan Facebook Page

“My Name is Khan” was the last film I watched for Autism Awareness Month in April. It was directed by Karan Johar, and starred two top Bollywood actors. While I felt that the portrayal of Asperger’s here was a little bit over the top at times, I found it interesting that it also showed us how 9/11 deeply affected the Muslim community in America.

Image Source: Avengers Facebook Page

“Avengers: Infinity War” was probably one of the most anticipated films of 2018, as it saw the beginning of the end of the first decade of the MARVEL Cinematic Universe’s existence. It was a fun, roller-coaster ride of a movie that was more a Thanos (Josh Brolin) movie, and it was just amazing to see the Russo brothers balance that many characters in one massive film. It was a film that people still talk about until today, especially with that ending. As soon as the movie ended, I needed the second part ASAP. Thank goodness we are getting it soon!

Image Source: Warner Bros Korea Instagram

As I’ve been following Lee Jong Suk since I first started getting back into Korean dramas again a few years back, I decided to take a chance on his 2017 movie, “V.I.P.”, as he goes against type and plays a villain. While he does make a great villain, something I’m not used to seeing from him, I felt that it suffered from what usually happens in Korean movies- it was too long. Also, I agree with most reviewers in saying that some of the violence, especially during the start, was unnecessarily gratuitous.

Image Source: Star Wars Facebook Page

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” was perfectly cast with Alden Ahrenreich and Donald Glover portraying our favorite space smuggler Han Solo and Lando Calrissian respectively. This movie gave us a little breather when it comes to “Star Wars” movies by bringing in the humor and by giving us a fun adventure space story set within the “Star Wars” canon. However, this movie also showed us that a little too much “Star Wars” every single year isn’t that great of a good idea, and didn’t really bring much to the actual table. However, that surprise cameo at the end was great, and I hope that more can be done to explore that part of the “Star Wars” universe in other media.

Image Source: Citizen Jake Facebook Page

“Citizen Jake” was directed and produced by veteran Filipino film maker Mike De Leon, and starred Atom Araullo, who is more known for his work as a journalist. This was Araullo’s movie acting debut, in which he did a good job in. Set against the idyllic backdrop of Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines, this mystery story sees Jake wrestle with his own inner demons after his investigation into a murdered college student is connected with his politician father’s friends. Araullo and most middle class Filipinos can relate to the struggle and frustrations that he feels in the end, and most of us do behave this way even in the face of the injustices and the corruption going on around us. The cinematography was beautiful, and is definitely drives its ultimate message home to its Filipino audience.

Image Source: The Incredibles Facebook Page

“The Incredibles 2” was a sequel fourteen years in the making, and definitely worth the wait. It was chock full of great character moments, especially with Jack-Jack, and it was also full of deep and meaningful themes as well. It was a great sequel as it built upon the foundation that the first movie gave us, and was a fun ride all the way through.

Image Source: Ocean’s 8 Facebook Page

As a fan of the “Ocean’s Trilogy”, I was excited for this one to come out, given the stellar cast, and that Sandra Bullock was going to play Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) brother. This movie was a fun summer blockbuster that didn’t fall into the pitfalls of what happened with the latest “Ghostbusters” movie, but didn’t hold a candle to both “Ocean’s 11” and “Ocean’s 13”. However, “Ocean’s 8” was a really fun watch.

Image Source: Mission Impossible Facebook Page

I only got invested in this series very late in the game, but I have to admit that the “Mission Impossible” movies are one of my guilty pleasures. “Mission Impossible: Fallout” has some moments which I wasn’t fond of, but all in all, I loved every single part of this movie. It was a great pure action movie with everything that I expected from a “Mission Impossible” movie, and was not disappointed at all. I can’t wait for the next one!

Image Source: Antman & the Wasp Facebook Page

I have a soft spot both for the character of AntMan (Scott Lang) and Paul Rudd, so I’m very glad that I very much enjoyed both “Antman” and its sequel, “AntMan and the Wasp”. It was a much needed breath of fresh air after everything that happened in “Infinity War”, and it also stood on its own without relying on that movie that much either. It wasn’t a perfect movie, but it was fun and charming in the way only the AntMan movies can give, and it did also open some interesting possibilities that will probably come to play in the next “Avengers” film.

Image Source: Buy Bust Facebook Page

Ever since I heard about “Buy Bust”, I was determined to watch it, and I’m so glad that it didn’t disappoint. Directed by Erik Matti and starring Anne Curtis, this film took on the ambitious challenge of being the biggest action film in terms of production in Filipino cinema history, and I think he achieved it- there were a lot of pyrotechnics involved, and entire city slum area was built just for the film itself, and the fight scenes were epic, brutal and visceral. Set against the backdrop of the extra judicial killings that have been happening lately in the Philippines, this movie sees a government raid gone wrong, ending up with a government military squad trapped in a city slum for one whole night. The result was brutal and visceral, and almost surreal at some times, which showcased the sickening never ending cycle of violence running rampant in our country today.

Image Source: Disney’s Christopher Robin Facebook Page

“Christopher Robin” was more of nostalgia in a box for me, as I grew up watching “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” as a child. The nostalgia factor gave this movie most of its magic, and Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell are great in this family movie that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. However, I do believe that its message, and the movie itself is more for the adults who grew up with these characters, and its impact might be lost on those encountering these iconic characters for the very first time.

Image Source: Reality Entertainment Facebook Page

After watching “Buy Bust”, I was given the right excuse to actually go and watch the movie that made Erik Matti a name in the local film industry, his 2013 action movie, “On the Job”. This film starred the likes of Joel Torre, Gerald Anderson, Angel Aquino, Joey Marquez, and Piolo Pascual. This film had a tighter plot than “Buy Bust”, and is still relevant until today. This film really did change the game in terms of the crime/action thriller genre and is a must watch for any Filipino cinema buff.

Image Source: We Will Not Die Tonight Facebook Page

The first entry in last August’s “Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino” (Festival of Filipino Films) that I watched was Richard Sommes’ action film, “We Will Not Die Tonight”. After watching “Buy Bust”, it was interesting to see another female take the lead in an action film, and Erich Gonzales proved to be more than up to the challenge. The fight sequences were good, but unfortunately, there were moments which were just too long, the music wasn’t that great, and the script was campy at some moments. However, this movie did have some potential.

Image Source: Quantum Films Facebook Page

Jay Abello’s “Pinay Beauty: She’s No White” was the second
“Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino” (Festival of Filipino Films) film that I saw this year. While this one had a lot potential to tell an old theme in a different way, it got too bogged down in the comedy and the multiple story threads it wanted to tell. This would have benefited from a tighter story, with more focus on the main two leads.

Image Source: Heneral Luna Facebook Page

Before heading out to watch “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” (“Goyo: The Boy General”), I decided to re-watch the first in Jerrold Tarog’s planned historical film trilogy- “Heneral Luna”. This movie still holds up as a movie that brought back the genre of the epic historical film to the local film scene. Aside from this, it made sure that its message was very much relevant to the Filipino audience of today. I also watched the short film “Angelito”, which acted as a little bit of a prequel to “Goyo”.

Image Source: Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral

“Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” was a coming of age story for the boy general wrapped in the trappings of an epic historical film that was a good deconstruction of General Gregorio “Goyo” Del Pilar. It also directly connected to the events that happened in “Heneral Luna”, and I cannot wait to see the planned third film in this trilogy, which is set years after, and will follow President Manuel Quezon, whose younger self was also very much present in this movie. This movie talked about the problem of blind obedience and idol-worship of your superiors, and boasted good acting. However, there were some fight sequences that I felt could have been much tighter and was too long for my liking.

Image Source: Alimuom Facebook Page

Keith Sicat’s “Alimuom” was the entry in the ToFarm Film Festival that got my interest as it was a hard core science fiction film. It boasted a great cast, and it had a lot of potential as a sci fi film, even though it had a really low budget, and some of the bigger effects felt like we were dealing with an ’80s scifi film. There were some parts of this film that I wasn’t comfortable with, and the music got campy at a certain point, but it wasn’t a bad attempt at doing real science fiction in our local film scene.

Image Source: Searching Facebook Page

Directed by Aneesh Caganty and starring John Cho, this film took the found footage trope and gave us something wholly refreshing and new by having this movie filmed entirely by using computer screens. Also, I love that Asian Americans were the leads here! As it was different in concept, “Searching” stood out to me, and is on my own personal top ten films of the year list for me.

Image Source: Along with the Gods Facebook Page

When this came out in Philippine cinemas, I really wanted to catch it and the sequel, which was released in late 2018, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to as it didn’t have much staying power in local cinemas. I was able to watch the first installment though, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved all the special effects and how epic it was in scope, accompanied by great performances and an emotional story at its core.

Image Source: Fantastic Beasts Facebook Page

“Fantastic Beasts 2” was the second movie that really burned me this year. I was expecting a lot from this movie, since it was going to show us more of the Wizarding World, and more about Grindelwald, but I felt that there was too much going on, which led to the detriment of this film. The emotional beats also didn’t feel earned here at all, and the ending as well was a little bit earth shaking for a hard core Harry Potter fan. I do love Newt Scamander though, so I hope that they course correct and give us a better movie next time around.

Image Source: Wreck it Ralph Facebook Page

I have been excited for “Ralph Breaks the Internet” ever since they announced that this would be happening. I got a little bit worried over the promotional material that Disney shared, but I’m so glad that this movie delivered! It presented us with an interesting take on the inner workings of the internet and actually explains things about it, while giving a meaningful and powerful message that audiences of all ages will be able to appreciate. There were moments that it bordered on dumbing things down for younger audiences, but they were able to toe that line properly. One of my favorites of the year!

Image Source: Aquaman Facebook Page

“Aquaman” was a highly anticipated movie for me as I felt that this and “Shazam!” would show me if the DCEU was still worth following. Even though this wasn’t a perfect movie and definitely had a lot of issues, I loved that this was a fun movie that knew what it was, and had great world building to the point that I do want to return to Atlantis once again in a sequel. Now, I can’t wait to see what “Shazam!” will bring us!

Image Source: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse Facebook Page

As soon as I saw the first trailer to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, I knew that this movie was going to be fantastic. It blew my mind away as it gave me a Spider-Man movie that truly felt like a comic book movie, it was my first introduction to Miles Morales and the myriads of different Spider-People, and it had a different kind of animation. It also had a great story, a great soundtrack, and I cannot wait to see what the Spider-Verse will give us next.

And there you have it! There were two lows for me in last year’s movie watching season, and I hope that I’ll be able to watch more Filipino movies in 2019 as we are celebrating the centennial of Philippine cinema, and I hope to watch more genres of film this year as well.

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