Area film critics pick best (and worst) movies of 2018

This image released by Marvel Studios shows, front row from left, Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson and Sebastian Stan in a scene from "Avengers: Infinity War." After a down year in 2017, the box office has been back in a big way, and headed toward a record, thanks to the massive successes of films like Disney's "Black Panther," ''Avengers: Infinity War" and "Incredibles 2." (Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios via AP)

With the holiday movie season still in full swing, Sun-Gazette film critics Quinn Deitrick and Joe Smith present their five best films (and one bomb) from 2018:


5. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

With such a sentimental topic that is more prevalent now than ever, this heartwarming documentary on Mr. Rogers is what everyone needs to see. The great execution and several moments brought me and the rest of the theater to tears; “Wont You be My Neighbor?” is a piece of film that pays quality homage to the iconic man. Undoubtedly, and deservedly, this will walk out of the Oscars with Best Documentary.

4. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

You’ve never seen a film like this; the phrase “comic-book movie” is taken quite literally. Departure from the orthodox style and the arrival of unsmooth, gorgeously grainy animation makes for a one-of-a-kind film. If that isn’t enough originality, the story tackles the interpretation of the many Spider-people, and what happens when worlds collide. This film has it all. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a fresh take that makes the recycled character feel original again.

3. “Mission: Impossible–Fallout”

This long-running franchise has done the impossible. This sixth, yes sixth, installment has proven to be one of the best, not just of the series but ever made. A complex, twisty story paired with beautifully choreographed action is a home run. With a little bump in the road in the middle of the franchise, and subsequent great film after film, “Mission: Impossible–Fallout” shows that there are plenty of missions to accept yet.

2. “BlacKkKlansman”

This surprisingly true story details how Ron Stallworth, a black police officer, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan during the early 1970s. It’s chock-full of impalpable tension and countless laughs — the balance is struck perfectly. With a poignant ending that leaves a lasting impression, it was hard to keep this film out of my mind.

1. “Avengers: Infinity War”

Call me a Marvel fanboy. I’m guilty of loving quality films such as the exceptional “Avengers: Infinity War.” 18 Marvel Cinematic Universe films that have spanned more than a decade led to this first part of the greatest battle the superheroes have faced yet. With so much content and talent to utilize, this film impressively manages to encapsulate all. It went beyond my expectations and was more than a fan like me could ask for.



I went into the theater optimistic. I wasn’t thinking that this was going to be a great film, but I thought I might have fun. What I saw instead was a film that was shameful to be categorized as horror. Incredibly predictable jump scares and a plot with no substance, left me pitying those who also had to endure this terrible film. Leaving the theater, I could not shake this sense of regret from wasting time, other than those few cherished minutes of sleep I got in the middle.


5. “Tully”

Director Jason Reitman, writer Diablo Cody and star Charlize Theron — who worked together on 2011’s excellent “Young Adult” — re-team for this dramedy about an overworked young mom who hires a “night nanny” to help with household chaos. Heartfelt, funny and painful, it reaches an unexpected but very hopeful resolution.

4. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

The wise and gentle Fred Rogers, once the subject of scornful laughs from the teen boys I grew up with, has suddenly become the emotional and spiritual balm we all need in this divisive cultural climate. As Quinn indicated above, you’d best have some tissues handy for this one.

3. “Chappaquiddick”

Spell-binding dramatization of the 1969 tragedy in which presidential hopeful Ted Kennedy drunkenly drove off a Massachusetts bridge and then somehow escaped from the overturned vehicle, leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to die inside the car. Beautifully acted — with a knock-out lead performance by Jason Clarke and excellent support from Bruce Dern, plus a serious Ed Helms as the movie’s conscience; it pulls no punches on Kennedy’s moral culpability and the outrageous shenanigans his staff went through in attempting to salvage his reputation.

2. “Hostiles”

This is technically a 2017 movie, but most folks didn’t see it till early last year; and in any case, I want to call attention to one of the finest Westerns in many years. Christian Bale plays cavalry officer Joseph Blocker, who’s assigned to escort a dying Cheyenne back to his homeland — a task he at first despises … until he begins to develop an unwilling respect for the dignified chief. “Hostiles” is both modern and old-fashioned, with several blazing shoot-outs and a brilliant supporting cast — including Rosamund Pike’s strongest performance as a grieving widow who joins Blocker’s cadre.

1. “Mary Poppins Returns”

With terrific new tunes, old-fashioned animation and a stellar cast, this sequel evokes the 1964 classic more lovingly than any remake ever could. Emily Blunt simply nails Mary’s practically perfect persona, and the rest of the cast is sensational, highlighted by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep and Dick Van Dyke — still singing and dancing at the young old age of 92. Some found the film slow and derivative — but I was on cloud nine the entire time.


“Life Itself”

Writer-director Dan Fogelman has given us the cult-fave “Crazy. Stupid. Love,” the enchanting “Tangled” and TV’s popular “This Is Us”; but virtually no one liked this train-wreck of a movie. Billing itself as a feel-good love story, the film mercilessly assaults us with one catastrophe after another, then tries to resolve it all with goopy, witless metaphysics. Even the solid cast (Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening, Oscar Isaac, Samuel L. Jackson, Olivia Cooke) could not save this “Life,” which deservedly sank without a trace.

Here’s hoping 2019 brings more like the best and fewer of those bombs!