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The Top 5 of Everything in 2018

While I also have a top and bottom list of the movies of 2018, I love things outside of movies, too. Indeed, so much of what has happened in 2018 has been outside of movies, or blurring the lines between what movies and television even are with Netflix bringing us things like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, the first of whach was originally planned as a tv miniseries, and the latter is just. . . well, what even is Bandersnatch?

So, regardless of medium, here are my Top 5 favorites of everything.

5. Educated: A Memoir

This book hit a lot of lists of the top books of 2018 (including culture critic Barack Obama’s), but it hit especially close to home for me because, like author Tara Westover, I attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Her story of growing up kept out of public education was too familiar to me, as survivalism and mistrust of public schools were something I encountered too frequently. This is the same anti-intellectual stew that spawned Glenn Beck and the Bundys’ ranch standoff/takeover of the Malheur Bird Refuge. But Westover’s memoir is a testament to what happens when this is taken to the extreme, to the point that as an adult she had never heard of the Holocaust. It’s a great read and my favorite book of the year.

4. Detroit: Become Human

Ok, there may have been “better” games than this in 2018. (God of War, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption II) But this story of a near-future where androids begin to gain sentience and their struggle for equality was my personal favorite. It almost wasn’t a video game– it was an interactive movie.

This is one of those games where the choices you make affect the outcome of the game, and you get to choose the fate of a revolution. Will your quest for equality for androids be violent, or non-violent? What are the consequences for the other characters you’re playing as?

This hit me right in my social-justice and robot-loving heart, and also had beautiful gameplay featuring a spectacular cast of actors.

3. Sorry to Bother You

Spoiler Alert: this was my favorite movie of 2018. First time director Boots Riley delivers a searing indictment of capitalism and racial expectations, exposing a sort of gonzo form of racial exploitation that is a perfect intersectional skewering of the nexus of race and class.

It’s very rare for a movie to surprise me, and this made me literally say to the screen, “What the f@#$?!?!

This was the only film I gave five stars to all year, and it’s something you have to see to believe.

2. Hannah Gadsby – Nanette

I had never heard of Australian comic Hannah Gadsby before this year, so imagine my shock in watching a Netflix special in which she announces her retirement from comedy and then proceeds to deconstruct what comedy is, blow it up, and put it back together again– all told against the backdrop of a heartbreaking childhood story of coming to terms with her queer identity. I never thought anything could make me feel such a rainbow of emotions over such a short period of time. This wasn’t just a comedy special — in the same way Childish Gambino’s “This is America” wasn’t just a music videos. Those were pop culture grenades tossed into the heart of the beast that blew everything up.

1. The Good Place

More than anything else this year, The Good Place ruled my heart and mind. I have not anticipated a broadcast television show like this in a long time, and in between seasons and episodes so many binges of previous seasons.

The best thing about this show that is sorta about the afterlife but kinda mostly about ethics but really just about us dirtbags here on earth and how we treat each other is how it keeps reinventing itself almost every six episodes or so. The show’s writers seem to be laboring under the idea that at some point the network is going to figure out the scam they’ve been running and pull the plug, so we’d better get through as much of this plot as possible. Where most shows would drag out their premise, this races through multiple setups in a single season. It’s refreshing, it’s smart, but it’s also stupid.

You put the Peeps in the chili pot and mix it all up, You put the Peeps in the chili pot and add some M&Ms, You put the Peeps in the chili pot. . .

This season’s episodes “Jeremy Bearimy” and “Janets” deserve ALL THE EMMYS, especially for acting from Janet herself, D’Arcy Cardon. If you saw them, you know why. If you didn’t see them, what are you waiting for?! To Netflix! To Hulu! Begin the binge now!

It’s the best show on tv– fight me. It’s the best thing from 2018– let’s be friends and watch it together, will you please? It will make you laugh and feed your soul. Also, it has its own official podcast, hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, who plays Shawn, who ends every episode asking, “What’s good?”

The Good Place. It is good. And the best for 2018.

So, Who Won the Year?

I also like to look back at the year look for threads, throughlines, trends that indicate something. Invariably there are big winners and losers in the year. I want to quickly celebrate the top winners.

Honorable Mention: Nicholas Cage

Despite being somewhere between an internet meme and a pariah, Nick Cage still gets some pretty amazing work this year. His starring role in Mandy is like a cocaine-fueled horror fantasy made in the 80’s and then set to age for three decades soaking in LSD. But then he also showed up in the cartoons in some of the most unexpected places: as Spider-Man Noir in Into the Spider-Verse and as Superman in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. We’re glad to see him working.

Other honorable mentions: Donald Glover, Streaming Services, Steve Carrell, Mahershala Ali, Dolph Lundgren, Michael B. Jordan

5. Cults

This was a good year for cults in movies and tv. Mandy, Bad Times at the El Royale, Wild Wild Country, and Hereditary. Also, the bizarre stories about real life sex cult NXIVM that involved Smallville‘s Allison Mack. So, way to go, cults? At least you have some diversity here– Jesus, Satan, new age, but all of them were big on sex, So, sex cults. Way to win 2018.

4. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski

These two not only had an amazing year, but they did it together. Blunt killed it as Mary Poppins, Krasinski brought Jack Ryan back, and then you have their on-screen duo in A Quiet Place. That movie was such a revelation– mostly about how terrible mainstream movie audiences are at making noise. But in a year when almost every top-grossing film was a sequel, franchise, or remake, A Quiet Place was a true original. Thanks to both of you. You won the year.

3. Comicsgate and the Alt-Right

Now hear me out. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but the alt-right actually accomplished a decent amount this year, and it’s completely unacceptable. James Gunn is still fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Chuck Wendig was fired from Star Wars/Marvel comics. And, they raised a lot of money through crowdfunding for various ventures.

These guys aren’t playing around. And as long as they keep weaponizing things like offensive tweets, we will lose great creators from our favorite genres.

2. Asian Movie-going Audiences

Look, America, we need to understand that most movies aren’t being made for us anymore. We can decry as braindead anything like The Meg, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Skyscraper, Aquaman, Rampage, or Venom, but those movies kill overseas. There are very specific motifs and types of shots that work there that we as American audiences just aren’t picking up. This is going to have reverberations for years to come.

What’s the major difference? You can make a strong argument for diverse casts and female leads — giving us hits like Black Panther or The Last Jedi — but those movies generally just sort of do ok overseas while overperforming in the US.

That says something comforting about our country and culture at this time. But it says some things that should maybe be concerning that we won’t get complex stories like these in the future while we spit out more Venoms.

Perhaps the biggest irony in all of this is the alt right crusaders who don’t want diversity in our movies, shows, and comics will find common cause with the globalists who will continue to churn out lots of braindead action movies starring heroic dudes. Sigh.

[tie] 1. Disney

The Walt Disney Corporation had an amazing year, which caps off some pretty incredible past few years and is likely to continue into 2019. Why? Disney+ streaming service. The Fox merger. This isn’t necessarily good news for us, but is great news for corporate profits and creeping oligarchy. But, they gave us Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Incredibles 2, Mary Poppins Returns, Ralph Breaks the Internet. . . even the supposedly underperforming Solo: A Star Wars Story ended up making 393 million dollars worldwide. And that was considered by some a failure, even though 18 of my top 20 films of 2018 would love to have sold that many tickets.

But let’s talk about Black Panther for one moment. It’s arguably the most culturally salient and important piece of pop culture of the year, with Infinity War not far behind. For all their evils as a corporate overlord, we got something truly important for a lot of people to see — an authentically black superhero story that deals with identity, a history of violence and oppression towards the African diaspora, and that leaves us remember that “in times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers.”

When the box office receipts went off the charts, you gave back– founding an actual charity to do the work of STEM education and scholarships like T’Challa and Shuri wanted. Thank you, Disney. For an evil corporation, you sure gave us a lot of what we loved this year. You win.

[tie] 1. The City of Oakland

Speaking of Black Panther, one of the most important pieces of the film is how director Ryan Coogler brought his Oakland roots into the film. That moment when you realize the voiceover from the beginning of the film is of young Erik and his dad N’Jobu (“Tell me a story of home.”) and the entire basis for Killmonger’s wrath is based on the economic oppression of being raised in poverty in Oakland and what he had to do to escape it. It ends with a hopeful note in the same building, that future children will not have to face such hardship. “Who are you?”

I already mentioned my love of Sorry to Bother You, but that film is not possible without Oakland as a backdrop. The same is true of another of my favorites, Blindspotting, which takes a similar look at poverty, gentrification, and violence. And then we have Bodied, the rap battle movie produced by Eminem, which plays a major part in the film, but whose setting is split between Berkeley, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Still, Oakland as a force is in that film.

And then there’s real life. The Golden State Warriors win the NBA Championship. A white woman calls the cops on a black family having a cookout at an Oakland city park at Lake Merritt and becomes known as “BBQ Becky.”

And then heartbreak. The Oakland Raiders plan to leave for Las Vegas looking for more corporate pork and handouts.

To understand what is going on in Oakland in film and culture is to understand a microcosm of what is happening in so many cities across the country facing gentrification and economic pressures that are displacing historically black populations. It is why I recommend to everyone they see each of these films I mentioned here and think about what is actually happening.

To 2018, the year of the Oakland Renaissance.

The Nun Scares Up a Franchise Best Opening to Take First

The Nun shows again that people don’t hate sequels. It set a franchise best for The Conjuring series of films with an estimated $53.5 million, beating the first film’s $41.8 million. That’s the second largest opening in September ever. It’s also the second highest opening ever for an R-rated horror film.

The film played to an audience that was 51% mae and 44% were 25 years or older. It’s the first film in that universe that hasn’t played to a majority female audience.

The film had success overseas as well with an estimated $77.5 million from 60 markets for a $131 million global debut. With a budget of just $22 million, the studio and creators must be happy with this one already.

Warner Bros. continues its streak of hits marking the fifth week the studio has held the top spot. It has found success with The Meg and Crazy Rich Asians as well. It also held the #2 spot for the weekend. That’s the fourth straight week for that, an achievement that hasn’t happened in over 25 years.

In second place was Crazy Rich Asians which was the champ for the previous three weekends. The film brought in an estimated $13.6 million to bring its domestic total to $136.2 million. It also added $5.6 million in 23 markets to brings its overseas total to $28.5 million. The film opens in the UK this coming weekend, Mexico on September 21, and Japan on September 28.

Peppermint debuted in third place with an estimated $13.3 million on a $25 million budget. The film also opened in 17 markets overseas grossing an estimated $1.4 million. It continues a rollout that goes well into January 2019.

In fourth place was The Meg which earned an estimated $6 million to bring its domestic total to $131.6 million. It also brought in an estimated $11.3 million from 67 territories to bring its international total to $360.4 million and a global total of $492 million.

Searching rounded out the top five with an estimated $4.5 million domestically and $7.5 million internationally. The film has earned $14.3 million domestically, $17.7 million at the foreign box office for a total of $32 million worldwide after three weeks.

In comic film news….

Ant-Man and the Wasp came in at #21 at the weekend box office with an estimated $608,000 to bring its domestic total to $214.8 million.

Avengers: Infinity War is still bringing in the dollars. That movie was #41 and added $19,000 to its domestic total which now stands at $678.8 million.

We’ll be back in an hour for a deeper dive into 2018’s comic adaptations.

Crazy Rich Asians Repeats for a Third Weekend at the Box Office

Crazy Rich Asians is an end of summer bang and kicking off the fall movie season right with a third weekend at the top of the box office. The film has passed $110 million domestically after this weekend. It earned an estimated $22.2 million for the three days, a 10% drop compared to the previous week. It’ll earn about $28 million for the four day holiday weekend. The film is getting rolling overseas and has earned just shy of $20 million after earning $10.4 million from 24 markets.

The Meg repeated again in third place, also for the third weekend. Again, Warner Bros. has the one-two punch between these two films and has shown a smart move having the films released at similar times for some counter programming. The film earned an estimated $10.5 million to bring its domestic total to over $120 million. It’ll earn an estimated $13 million for the four days. Internationally, the film brought in $17.7 million from 65 markets for an foreign box office total of $342 million and worldwide total of $463 million.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout has shown sequels still rule with a 13.4% drop from the previous weekend an estimated $7 million over the three days. It’s expected to earn $9 million for the four day weekend. Domestically the film is over $206 million. Internationally, the film added $89.1 million to bring that total to nearly $443 million and worldwide total of $647 million. It’ll easily become the highest grossing film of the franchise.

In fourth place was Operation Finale which brought in an estimated $6 million for the three days and expted to be $7.7 million for four days. It’ll have a six day total for around $9.5 million.

Rounding out the top five was Searching with an estimated $5.7 million for three days and around $7 million for the four days.

When it comes to comic adaptations…

Ant-Man and the Wasp dropped to #19 for the weekend with an estimated $1.3 million to bring its domestic total to $213.5 million after nine weeks.

Avengers: Infinity War is #33 despite home release and has brought in $62,000 to bring its domestic total to $678.8 million. The film is the top grossing film of the year so far but is second when it comes to domestic earnings. Black Panther still holds that crown and is one of a few films to have crossed $700 million domestically.

We’ll be back in an hour for a deeper dive into this year’s comic film adaptations.

Crazy Rich Asians Repeats at #1 With Less than 6% Drop From the Previous Week

Crazy Rich Asians repeating in first place at the weekend box office isn’t a surprise due to the lack of new competition (lets face it, new films tend to challenge for first). What is a surprise is how well the film did and how little it dropped from the previous week. The movie was first at the weekend box office with an estimated $25 million which is just a 5.7% drop from the previous week. That’s one of the smallest of all-time.

The film expanded internationally with 12 new markets for a total of 18. It earned an estimated $6 million to bring its total to $7.1 million internationally. It had the largest opening for a romantic comedy in Singapore where it earned $1.8 million. The movie opens in Australia on August 30 and mid-September in the UK.

Domestically the film has earned $76.8 million and with its $7.1 million earned at the box office the movie has made $83.9 million worldwide off of a $30 million budget after 12 days.

The Meg repeated in second place, giving Warner Bros. another one-two placement, with an estimated $13 million. That brings its domestic total to $105.3 million. Internationally the film brought in $32.7 million from 65 territories to bring that total to $303.3 million and a worldwide total of $408.6 million.

In third place was the debut of The Happytime Murders with a not surprising $10 million. The film was savaged in reviews from critics and moviegoers. This one will likely be an early exit from the theaters.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout earned an estimated $8 million domestically and nears $194 million after five weeks. It also brought in $13 million internationally from 61 markets. Worldwide it has earned $538.7 million.

Rounding out the top five was Disney’s Christopher Robin which added $6.3 million to its domestic total to bring it to $77.6 million. Internationally it has grossed $35.1 million for a worldwide total of $112.7 million.

When it comes to comic adaptations…

Ant-Man and the Wasp came in at #14 for the weekend, slipping two spots from the previous week. It earned an estimated $1.8 million to bring its domestic total to $211.5 million. debuted in China where it brought in an estimated $68 million, the fourth largest opening for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that market. The movie opens in Japan, its final market, next weekend. Internationally the film has earned $332.6 million for a worldwide total of $544.1 million.

Avengers: Infinity War keeps bringing in the dollars earning $51,000 domestically. That total now stands at $678.7 million after 18 weeks, the longest of any film in the top 45. Internationally the film has earned $1.367 billion for a worldwide total of $2.046 billion.

We’ll be back at noon for a deeper dive into this year’s comic adaptations.

Crazy Rich Asians Helps Warner Bros. Deliver a One Two Punch

Crazy Rich Asians won the weekend beating most industry expectations. The film earned an estimated $34 million over its five-day opening. Made on a reported $30 million budget, the film has a strong 74 rating on Metacritic and an “A” Cinemascore.

For the three day weekend, the film earned $25.2 million and will likely cross $100 million before it’s done. The film opened in just six foreign markets where it earned $730,000. The movie is getting a staggered release schedule with Australia opening on August 30 and mid-September in the UK.

The second spot was held by last weekend’s winner, The Meg. The film earned an estimated $21.2 million to bring its domestic total to $83.8 million. Internationally, the film added $67 million from 55 markets to bring the foreign gross to $230.4 million.

Mile 22 opened in third place with a slightly below expectation earning of $13.6 million.

The fourth and fifth place is a photo finish. New film Alpha and Mission: Impossible – Fallout both have an estimated $10.5 million as of reporting. Those totals may change when the final numbers come in.

When it comes to comic film adaptations…

Ant-Man and the Wasp came in at #13 earning an estimated $2.6 million to bring its domestic total to $208.4 million. Internationally the film has earned $257.2 million for a worldwide total of $465.6 million.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies dipped a few spots to come in at #18. The film added $710,000 to its total to bring its domestic earnings to $27.3 million. Internationally the film stands at $5.3 million for a worldwide total of $32.6 million off of a $10 million budget.

Despite its home release, Avengers: Infinity War continues to bring in money. The film was #32 with $97,000 to bring its domestic total to $678.6 million. Worldwide the film has earned $2.046 billion.

Come back in an hour when we’ll have a deeper dive into this year’s comic adaptations.

The Meg Dominates the Weekend with a $44.5 Million Debut

It was a monster of a weekend that shows giant sharks can still drive audiences into the theater. The Meg won the weekend with an estimated $44.5 million debut at 4,118 screens for an average of $10,806. That debut is well above the estimates which expected it to be in the $20s million range.

The film received a “B+” CinemaScore, nothing that really shows this is a film driven by positive word of mouth. But, with a lack of giant monster films, this is one that could just be the right release at the right time.

The film has also earned $97 million at the foreign box office for a worldwide total of $141.5 million, already passing the $130 million budget.

In second place was the box office champ for the past two weekend, Mission: Impossible – Fallout. The movie earned an estimated $20 million to bring its domestic total to $162 million. With $275.6 million at the foreign box office the film is showing sequels can mean success with a worldwide total of $437.6 million on its $178 million budget.

In third place was Disney’s Christopher Robin which dropped 49.4% from its debut weekend. The film earned an estimated $12.4 million to bring its domestic total to $50 million. Internationally the film has earned $12.1 million for $62.1 million total.

Rounding out the top five were two new films.

Slender Man came in fourth with an estimated $11.3 million off of a $10 million budget. There’s lots of money to be made in low budget horror and the films seem to do well no matter the time of year that they’re released.

Rounding out the top five was BlacKKKlansman from Spike Lee. The film earned an estimated $10.8 million from a $15 million budget. It has also earned $400,000 at the foreign box office. This is on the higher end of openings for Lee whose best was 2006’s Inside Man. It’s close to his second best opening which was The Original Kinds of Comedy’s $11.1 million in 2000. That film went on to earn $38.2 million.

In comic movie earnings…

Ant-Man and the Wasp rounded out the top 10 earning an estimated $4 million to bring its domestic total to $203.5 million. The film has also earned $245.4 million at the foreign box office for a worldwide total of $448.9 million after six weeks. The film is still shy of the original’s total though it has earned $23 million more domestically unadjusted for ticket price inflation. Worldwide the sequel is shy $71 million.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies came in at #15 earning an estimated $1.8 million to bring its domestic total to $25.5 million off of a $10 million budget. The film has also earned $4.5 million at the foreign box office for a total of $30 million.

Despite being released for home, Avengers: Infinity War was #25 for the weekend earning an estimated $196,000 to bring its domestic total to $678.4 million. The film has also earned $1.367 billion for a worldwide total of $2.046 billion.

We’ll have more coverage of this year’s comic film adaptations in an hour.

Movie Review: The Meg

themegposterIt doesn’t get more quintessentially end of summer than a scary shark movie, and The Meg hopes that by upping the size of the shark, the size of the audience thrills will increase proportionately.

Welp . . . we’re gonna need a bigger shark.

While the film delivers on some basic scares, its ridiculous premise (ancient megalodon escapes from previously unexplored area of the ocean and wreaks havoc) and over the top action don’t make for nearly as thrilling an experience as the filmmakers would like. But, it’s slightly smarter than a Sharknado, and its effects budget are equal to at least a half dozen Sharknados, so it’s not unwatchable. But it’s as big as it is stupid. That doesn’t mean it isn’t at least a little fun.

A lot of that fun comes from the main cast, with Jason Statham as the action hero and asian cinema mainstay Li Bingbing as a marine biologist. Funding her research is a rebel billionaire played by Rainn Wilson, who brings some comic relief to the story.  And supporting cast like Ruby Rose and Masi Oka do a good job of being story/character chum in the water. While not used to their full potential, they do their job.

Let me take a moment and address the news that Ruby Rose will be playing Batwoman on the CW crossover event later this fall. She is great in this film — as she is in most things — and this is an opportunity to check out what you’re likely to see. She’s not in the film much, but enough to enjoy, and possibly is even the best performance in the entire thing, or at least in a close contest with Li Bingbing.

This movie is best when it embraces being a big, dumb shark movie. It is at its worst when it veers from that. Yes, there’s a romantic subplot. Yes, there’s an adorable child. There’s even a scene late in the movie with an adorable dog in peril! It has plot holes as big as its prehistoric antagonist. But the worst is when it takes a few moments to give us a very special public service announcement:

While tracking our eponymous Meg, they come upon wreckage from a fishing boat, and are surprised to find dead sharks floating in the water. One of them notes the sharks have had their fins removed — The Meg didn’t do this, evil fishermen did. “All this for a bowl of soup,” one of them laments. All we need is the rainbow flying across the sky to tell us “The More You Know!”

I understand that this message was not meant for me, per se, but for the audiences in China that this film was, evidently, largely made. That’s fine. They’re the world’s largest movie market, and not everything has to be made for US consumption. But it specifically takes us out of the film and out of the moment to remind us that what we’re seeing is fake. For those who complain about “SJWs” “ruining movies/tv shows/comics” with “social justice messages,” here’s a reminder of what that actually looks like when it’s done badly.

There’s a certain type of person who needs to see every shark movie, and for those people this will likely check off a number of boxes of what they want to see. It isn’t Jaws, and it isn’t even Deep Blue Sea, but it has its share of fun. If you’re looking to escape the summer heat in an air-conditioned theater and munch through a giant bucket of buttered corn like a feeding frenzy, you could do worse. (I mean, convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza has a new piece of propaganda out there deifying his man Trump, possibly in return for issuing him that crooked pardon, so that goes without saying) But in order to even attempt to enjoy this movie, you will have to de-evolve your brain to prehistoric shark levels.

2.5 out of 5