borg’s Best of 2018–The Year’s Best Movies

When we created last year’s preview of 2018 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best Movies of 2018.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this month for our TV and print media picks, and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our movie picks for 2018:

Best Film, Best Drama – Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox).  For the epic historical costume drama category, this biopic was something fresh and new, even among dozens of movies about bands that came before it.  Gary Busey played a great Buddy Holly and Val Kilmer a perfect Jim Morrison, and we can add Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee’s work as Freddie Mercury and Brian May to the same rare league.  But it wasn’t only the actors that made it work.  Incredible cinematography, costume and set recreations, and an inspiring story spoke to legions of moviegoers.  This wasn’t just another biopic, but an engaging drama about misfits that came out on top.  Honorable mention: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Retro Fix, Best Easter EggsSolo: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm).  Put aside the noise surrounding the mid-year release of Solo before fans had recovered yet from The Last Jedi, and the resulting film was the best sequel (or prequel) in the franchise since the original trilogy (we rate it right after The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars as #3 overall).  All the scenes with Han and Chewbacca were faithful to George Lucas’s original vision, and the new characters were as cool and exciting, and played by exceptional talent, as found in the originals, including sets that looked like they were created in the 1970s of the original trilogy.  The Easter Eggs scattered all over provided dozens of callbacks to earlier films.  This was an easy choice: no other science fiction film came close to the rip-roaring rollercoaster of this film, and special effects and space battles to match.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Movie: Orbiter 9 (Netflix).

Best Superhero Movie, Best Crossover, Best Re-Imagining on Film Avengers: Infinity War (Disney/Marvel).  For all its faults, and there were many, the culmination of ten years of careful planning and tens of thousands of creative inputs delivered something no fan of comics has ever seen before:  multiple, fleshed out superheroes played by A-list actors with intertwined stories with a plot that wasn’t all that convoluted.  Is it the best superhero move ever?  To many fans, yes.  But even if it isn’t the best, its scope was as great as any envisioned before it, and the movie was filled with more great sequences than can be found in several other superhero movies of the past few years combined.  But teaming up Thor with Rocket?  And Spider-Man with Doctor Strange and Iron Man?  That beat all the prior Avengers team-ups that came before (and anything offered up from the other studios).  It’s easy to brush off any given film with so many superhero movies arriving these days, but this one was the biggest, grandest, and greatest made yet and deserves all the recognition.  Honorable mention: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures Animation), Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Columbia Pictures).  No movie provided more laugh-out-loud moments this year than last winter’s surprise hit, a sequel that didn’t need to be a sequel, and a video game tie-in for a fake video game.  A funny script and four super leads made this an easy pick in the humor category, but the Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired adventure ride made for a great fantasy film, too.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Movie: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel), Ready Player One (Warner Bros./Amblin).

Best Movie Borg, Best Borg Film – Josh Brolin’s Cable, Deadpool 2 (20th Century Fox).  Brolin’s take on Cable ended up as one of those great borgs on par with the Terminator from the standpoint of “coolness” factor.  But the trick that he wasn’t really the villain of the movie made him that much more compelling in the film’s final moments.  Ryan Reynolds was back and equal to his last Deadpool film, and his Magnificent Seven/Samurai Seven round-up of a team was great fun.  If not for all that unwinding of what happened in the movie in the coda, this might have made the top superhero movie spot.  But Deadpool 2 was a good reminder there is something other than Disney’s MCU to make good superhero flicks.

Best Animated Movie, Best Movie SoundtrackIsle of Dogs (American Empirical/Fox Searchlight).  For every strange film Wes Anderson creates, you may find a gem like Isle of Dogs.  His second stop motion effort after The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs was even darker and more exciting.  Nothing in cinema is better than the next Aardman film, and the effects studio didn’t miss a beat with all the dogs in the film, emotional, resonating, compelling, and the human characters worked well, too.  The drum beat and heart-pounding score added its own level to the film, and the result was one of the year’s best dramas, in addition to being an animated film that surpassed the rest of the pack.  Honorable mention for Best Animated Movie – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Best Horror Movie – Halloween (Miramax/Universal).  It was the rare film that delivered exactly what fans wanted: More Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode–even if we felt the deja vu of all this 20 years ago– and more Michael Myers scaring the citizens of Haddonfield.  The twists and updates all worked, and beginning with titles that made us feel like we were back in John Carpenter’s original film, the nostalgia for horror fans and mainstream moviegoers delivered as promised: a satisfying final chapter for the series, even though we know someone will keep making more.  Honorable mention: Winchester.

Best Western, Best Cinematography, Best DirectorThe Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Annapurna/Netflix).  The Coen Brothers’ latest film was a big surprise, and a welcome relief for Netflix viewers expecting another direct-to-Netflix low expectation.  But this anthology film paid off, with separate stories with the common link of difficult trials and tribulations in 19th century America.  Each part held its own with great acting and storytelling, and it joined the Coens’ remake of True Grit as the rare new Western that belongs alongside the classics.  Bruno Delbonnel’s camera work was second to none this year–too bad we didn’t see it on the big screen.  Honorable mention for Best Western: Solo: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm).

Best Cameo – Darth Maul appears in Solo: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm).  Finally a secret that made it to the theater.  Who would have thought the surprise villain of the series would have come from George Lucas’s prequels?  And yet it worked.  Ray Park’s villain was the best component of the prequels, and it was a great surprise seeing him back in make-up, even if half the crowd was scratching their heads thinking he was killed in The Phantom Menace.  Honorable mention: Nicolas Cage appears as Spider-Man Noir in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Red Skull appears in Avengers: Infinity War.

Best Superhero/Team-up SceneThor arrives with Rocket and Groot to save the day in Avengers: Infinity War (Disney/Marvel).  Sometimes the best team-ups are unlikely partnerships.  Here that meant Rocket and teen Groot teaming up with Thor to try to save the world.  They almost did it.  The loudest cheer in the theater this year was when Thor arrived in Wakanda as the Avengers & Co. were losing.  Thor and Rocket were successful, but Wanda and Vision’s failure just added to Gamora and Star Lord’s and it wasn’t going to happen this time.  But the visuals, characters, and music all came together to deliver the most fun of the story.

Best Action SceneHelicopter chase sequence, Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Skydance/Bad Robot/Paramount).  The highlight of this year’s Mission: Impossible was this incredible, harrowing, breathtaking chase with Cruise attempting to take out Cavill’s helicopter.  Great effects, great acting, and a great scene!  Honorable mention:  The bathroom fight scene, Mission: Impossible – FalloutThe train heist Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Best Special Effects/CGIReady Player One (Warner Bros./Amblin).  It was hard to beat the surprise of Steven Spielberg re-creating Stanley Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining, with new CGI characters interacting with the new actors, make-up and costumes reflecting characters from 38 years ago.  Along with the CGI work of the virtual reality world of the Oasis, Spielberg created a new view of what future films can look like.

Best Costumes – Black Panther (Disney/Marvel). What is the best way to make an entirely new world look unique yet built upon cultures of the past?  Make incredible costumes like those in Black Panther created by Ruth Carter and Douriean Fletcher and the members of Carter’s design and production team.  We were able to see these in person at San Diego Comic-Con this summer and as exceptional as they appeared on the big screen they are even more ornate and detailed in person.  In the film they made us all believe Wakanda could be real.  Honorable mention:  Avengers: Infinity War incorporated these costumes plus added a great new Spider-Man and some incredible designs for the villainous Children of Thanos.

Best Actress – Jodie Foster (Hotel Artemis).  Jodie Foster has taken on great Academy Award-level roles in her career, and she’s played characters of various types, but we have never seen her like this before.  As The Nurse in charge of a hospital for criminals in future Los Angeles, Foster became that diehard, seasoned, battle-ready warrior caretaker many have witnessed in real life.  Her no-nonsense approach and her fear of the outside world combined to show how someone can conquer their fears and help others if they put their mind to it.  In the middle of one crazy, outlandish film, Foster’s performance was a standout that kept us watching.  Honorable mention: Clara Lago (Orbiter 9), Helen Mirren (Winchester).

Best Supporting Actress – Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Solo: A Star Wars Story).  The extra features bonus discs with the home release really opened our eyes to how much work went into Waller-Bridge’s performance as the latest droid L3-37 in the Star Wars canon.  She physically performed as the droid, in costume, for the entire film.  Along with Han, Chewbacca, Lando, and Qi’ra, L3-37 became an equal member of their journey, and her movements and voice performance a standout among the series.  Honorable mention: Danai Gurira (Black Panther).

Best ActorRami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody). Pick one:  Either Rami Malek had the magic skill to channel the actual Freddie Mercury or he delivered the best acting performance of the year.  In every way Malek seemed to get it all right, from the accent, the look, the physical stance, the aura, even singing in places, always emulating the style of the revered British musician.  When the British never seem to let Americans portray their icons, Malek proved an American actor could pull off the British roles, too.  And when the people who knew the real guy were sold on him, you know the right guy was selected for the part.  Honorable mention: Tom Waits (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

Best Supporting Actor – Joonas Suotamo (Solo: A Star Wars Story).  His work was so seamlessly performed most audience members had no idea it wasn’t original Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew back as everyone’s favorite co-pilot.  Yet Suotamo became Chewbacca this year, providing us what we always wanted: more of his camaraderie with his scruffy looking sidekick, more of his brute force (finally we know what it’s like when he pulls someone’s arms off), and more of that big huggable lug.  His reactions were the best parts of Solo, despite some great adventures and sci-fi spectacle, like his reaction to Han’s cards in the sabacc game.  Body and kinetic actors never get enough recognition, but Suotamo deserves loads for bringing this iconic character to life again.  Honorable mention: Gwilym Lee (Bohemian Rhapsody), Donald Glover (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther).

Best Movie VillainKillmonger (Black Panther).  The layered backstory of Killmonger made him stand alone among the villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Michael B. Jordan’s passionate performance made us believe this was a sympathetic figure that might have been worthy of the title of King of Wakanda if not for his murderous methods to get there.  Compared to the more strangely realized Thanos, Killmonger elevated his movie into a parable that could inspire.  Honorable mention: Venom (Venom).

Best Retro FixBullitt.  So many classic films have returned to theaters to celebrate anniversaries, we were amazed an action film like Bullitt made the cut.  For the 50th anniversary, Fathom Events came though and put Bullitt and star Steve McQueen back where they should be, big as ever like they never left, with a story that held up just fine over the decades, and a car chase that still is the best any filmmaker ever put on film.

Best Home ReleaseSolo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray or 4K Combo.  The fall-out of The Last Jedi among the fan base and the firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as directors did nothing to help get fans into the theater for the ill-timed, mid-year release of Solo: A Star Wars Story.  Luckily we learned more with the help of the release of script notes by screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan and the deleted scenes and behind-the scenes interviews with Ron Howard and the cast and crew in the features of the home release.  The most loyal to George Lucas’s vision since the original trilogy, the film, and the work done by the production artists and craftspeople, coupled with the home release and features make a great theater experience something we will watch repeatedly at home from here on.

Best 3D Home ReleaseNone.  Unfortunately the studios and distributors were backing off 3D home releases this year, with consumers in other countries still eager to get their hands on the home entertainment media.  So what’s going on in the U.S.?  We’ve reviewed 3D home releases for seven years here at borg, and hope the U.S. gets back with the rest of the world with this enjoyable version of home theater.

Come back this week as we reveal more of the borg Best of 2018!

C.J. Bunce

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