With one-fourth of 2018 completed, it’s time to assess. What was the best film to open between January 1st and March 31st? Although nothing really rang my bell, I was mostly pleased with the last hour of Ryan Coogler‘s Black Panther. With everyone insisting that the hugely successful Disney release has to be ratified as a Best Picture nominee next January, I suppose I could call it 2018’s best film so far without sounding like too much of a whore.
Curious as it sounds, I was a little more admiring of Steven Spielberg‘s Ready Player One — another rousing third act but also with a relatively decent beginning and middle. “I came to scoff but came away placated, and even mildly enthralled by certain portions,” I said the other day. “For what it is, you could do a lot worse than Ready Player One…strange as this sounds there were times when I actually enjoyed the ride.”
But in terms of serious goodness and elemental nutrition, four foreign language releases share the prize — Sebastián Lelio‘s A Fantastic Woman, Andrej Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless and Samuel Maoz‘s Foxtrot (all from Sony Classics) and Ziad Doueiri‘s The Insult (Cohen Media Group).
Armando Ianucci‘s The Death of Stalin may have assembled the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating outside of Black Panther (95%) “I’ve no argument with the critics who are doing handstands and cartwheels,” I wrote on 3.8, “except for the fact that it’s more LQTM funny than the laugh-out-loud kind. There’s nothing wrong with LQTM humor, which I’ve also described as no-laugh funny — you just have to get past the idea of expecting to go ‘hah-hah, ho-ho, hee-hee’ because that never really happens.”
Alex Garland‘s Annihilation was easily the most overpraised film of 2018’s first quarter. “A visually imaginative, microbe-level, deep-in-the-muck monster-alien flick that will bring you down, down, down,” I wrote on 2.21.18. “Inventive in terms of the day-glo tree tumors and in a generally fungal, micro-bacterial, fiendish-mitosis sort of way, but it’s unrelentingly grim…basically a film about lambs to the slaughter.”
The 15:17 to Paris was half-tolerable but mostly underwhelming. “Weak docudrama tea and weirdly Christian to boot, but I didn’t hate it,” I wrote on 2.11. “Most of it felt like I was sitting in the back seat of an Uber or on a high-speed European train, waiting to reach my destination…was it horrifically boring? No, but it wasn’t what anyone would call engaging or riveting…it’s mildly weightless.” I never even saw Sally Potter‘s The Party (no excuse) or, for that matter, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley‘s Game Night.
I admired Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs (“A tidy fable about good, soulful dogs joining forces with good, thoughtful humans in order to push back against the schemes of ugly, scowling humans…it’s about calmness, humanity, compassion and love…I wasn’t enormously transported in a deep-down sense as much as technically impressed by how exactingly composed it all is.”)
And I was more or less okay with Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon (“The first big-screen adaptation of a YA novel that I’ve actually half-liked…smartly written and straight-friendly, but it feels like a professional sell-job, like an advertisement for the way things ought to be in Young Gay Utopia”).
It’s probably fair to call Ava DuVernay‘s A Wrinkle in Time the year’s biggest box-office bomb — at a cost of $100 million-plus without marketing, it’s only earned $105 million worldwide. Distributors generally hope to earn triple the production cost, and so Disney was hoping for $300 million from this puppy — no way.
I called Roar Uthaugh’s Tomb Raider “a third-rate, totally-by-the-numbers, CG-propelled exercise in female adventurer myth-building…a 21st century equivalent of Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.” It only made $50 million and change in the U.S., but the worldwide the total is $247,782,574.
What are the other standouts?