To read Part One (Comedies and Action Movies) click here.
- BlacKkKlansman – Spike Lee’s best film in years. Not quite up there with Do the Right Thing or Malcom X, but still fires on all four spikey cylinders (and, yes, he uses his patented floating people bit. Why, Spike, why?).
- A Star is Born – Two wonderfully compelling lead performances justify this well-directed but otherwise formulaic re-re-re-make. Oscar for best song? Probably.
- The Hate U Give – More attention has gone to the similarly-themed If Beale Street Could Talk, but for my money The Hate U Give is a more urgent, better told story, with a powerful message.
- Tully – Another highly original film from Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult). We think we know where it’s going until it (quite intentionally) doesn’t. Charlize Theron’s Oscar-worthy performance is fearless and raw.
- Searching – Critically-acclaimed but nomination-ignored, this story of a father’s (John Cho) search for his missing daughter—told almost entirely via computer and smart phone screens—is unpredictable and heart-wrenching.
- Roma – An ultimately moving drama, but it takes sooo long to get there. Many found this film perfect. I found it hiding under 30 minutes of excess footage.
- The Favourite – Meaningful thematic content, terrifically acted. But The Favourite left me wishing there was someone I could care about. Still, it stimulates great post-show espresso conversation.
- Bohemian Rhapsody – Rami Malek gives a first-class performance (although he lacks Freddie’s charisma) in this rambling, un-focused biopic.
- If Beale Street Could Talk – A beautifully cinematic Romeo & Juliet story bogged down by too many longing looks and not enough story. Pretty, but its plot and characters are underdeveloped. (See The Hate U Give.)
- Crazy Rich Asians – Fun, but frequently over-the-top to the point of grating. Still, it’s a glitzy lark featuring bajillions of talented Asian actors!
- First Man – A thoughtful, expertly made drama that my wife and I experienced under surreal circumstances.
- Downsizing – One of the year’s (2017, actually) most misunderstood films. Like Tully, it starts out one kind of movie (high concept comedy), then turns into something completely different. Most critics saw this as a flaw; I found it intriguing.
- Bird Box – Sandra Bullock, fascinating premise, invisible monsters. I’m there!
- Bad Times at the El Royale – Overlong (with a hard R for language and violence), but one of the smartest, most distinctive films of the year, featuring a phenomenal acting ensemble (and Jeff Bridges doesn’t stick his jaw out once!).
Worthy if Imperfect Sequels
- Incredibles 2 – A solid sequel, but not up there with the inimitable original.
- Ralph Breaks the Internet – Well done, and with a meaningful message, but the original Ralph stands Wrecks alone!
- Paddington 2 – Delightful (especially the prison sequence), but Paddington 1 is unsurpassable. See both!
- Mary Poppins Returns – Liked it, but wanted to love it. Still, Emily Blunt.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – If you can follow the convoluted storyline (I actually managed to), there are some magical moments here.